Barbara Deming

Something seems wrong to most people engaged in struggle when they see more people hurt on their own side than on the other side. They are used to reading this as an indication of defeat, and a complete mental readjustment is required of them. Within the new terms of struggle, victory has nothing to do with their being able to give more punishment than they take (quite the reverse); victory has nothing to do with their being able to punish the other at all; it has to do simply with being able, finally, to make the other move… Vengeance is not the point; change is.

Balance and control come from healthy anger. This is just as aggressive as the unhealthy kind. But it is based on a belief and hope for change in social roles and institutions. Healthy anger demands change and creates the confrontations needed for change to occur. It also gives the other an opportunity to help make that change. “Our task, of course, is to transmute the anger that is affliction into the anger that is determination to bring about change. I think, in fact, that one could give that as a definition of revolution.

To resort to power one need not be violent, and to speak to conscience one need not be meek. The most effective action both resorts to power and engages conscience. Nonviolent actions does not have to get others to be nice. It can in effect force them to consult their consciences. Nor does it have to petition those in power to do something about a situation. It can face the authorities with a new fact and say: Accept this new situation which we have created.

It is not as mirrors reflect us but, rather, as our dreams do, that movies most truly reveal the times. If the dreams we have been dreaming provide a sad picture of us, it should be remembered that – like that first book of Dante’s Comedy – they show forth only one region of the psyche. Through them we can read with a peculiar accuracy the fears and confusions that assail us – we can read, in caricature, the Hell in which we are bound. But we cannot read the best hopes of the time.