Book Review: “How Non-Violence Protects the State” by Peter Gelderloos

As a martial artist and advocate of self-defense, violence and non-violence are subjects of great interest to me.  So when I was gifted a copy of “How Non-Violence Protects the State” I devoured it in two sittings.

What I liked:

The gyst of Gelderloos’ argument is that pacifism doesn’t create real change and that the iconic examples of passive resistance are either fantasies, fabrications, or distortions.  In an interesting and convincing way, he provides a thought-provoking counterpoint to the pacifist’s view.  I’m not an expert on the history of struggle, so I can’t promise you that Gelderloos’ history is any more accurate than the popular one but it sounds earnest.  Factual or not, it’s good for us to criticize our idols — even MLK, JFK, and Gandhi.  I’m a believer in the axiom that we are each our own heroes, and this book’s gears mesh okay with that.  It’s a hole-punching good time for anyone who enjoys a good paradigm roast.

What I didn’t like:

Although Gelderloos says activists must embrace all tactics in the struggle for change, I got the distinct impression that he thinks pacifists are pie-in-the-sky ninnies who don’t have the stones to do wet work.  I can’t help imagining that behind the page lurks a slightly less twisted version of  G. Gordon Liddy in a t-shirt with a giant “A” on it.  I hope I’m wrong.

My personal view on the subject of resistance:

Patriarchy goes back to the development of agriculture, when humans started slapping around Mother Nature.  We gave up hunting and gathering, raped Her with a plow, and started taking our food by force.    From this original abuse grew the patriarchal division of labor, patriarchal religions, governments, laws, and all the rest.

As long as rape is the way we feed ourselves, civilization will be patriarchal to the core.  We humans are always imposing our will on Nature.  We’re addicted to the shopping, the T.V., and the carbs.  It’s how we roll.

Democracy, Communism, Fascism, Socialism, etc., are all just different tires on the same old car.  Resistance, violent or non-violent, is only tire slashing.  It’s great to stop the car for a bit.  It’s better than nothing.

But things won’t really change — permanently — until we have the guts to ditch this clunker and go to rehab.  Until then we’re ridin’ dirty.

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