Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Mourning the passing of strategic nonviolence scholar and icon Gene Sharp.

"Using violence is a stupid decision." - Dr. Gene Sharp, February 5, 2012

Gene Sharp 1928 - 2018
Today I learned of the passing of Dr. Gene Sharp. He is the theoretician of nonviolent action, that thanks to Jose Basulto, in June of 1996 was able to meet him and learn from him over a series of lectures and conversations at Florida International University. This encounter marked a before and after in my life. This blog has cited him time and time again and promoted the South Florida premiere of the documentary about his life, How to Start a Revolution, back in 2011. He taught generations that there was an alternative to bloody conflict and that it was non-violent armed conflict. He demonstrated that there was nothing passive about nonviolent resistance and that it also required strategy to increase the odds of success in a struggle. In 1990 at the National Conference on Nonviolent Sanctions and Defense in Boston, Gene Sharp succinctly outlined his argument.
"I say nonviolent struggle is armed struggle. And we have to take back that term from those advocates of violence who seek to justify with pretty words that kind of combat. Only with this type of struggle one fights with psychological weapons, social weapons, economic weapons and political weapons. And that this is ultimately more powerful against oppression, injustice and tyranny then violence."
Gene Sharp listening to Coretta Scott King
Gene Sharp, who had exchanged letters with Albert Einstein, would go on to found an institution named after the physicist dedicated to studying nonviolence and providing a theoretical grounding.

Yesterday, seventy years to the day Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated, the Albert Einstein Institution issued a press release announcing the passing of their founder, Gene Sharp two days earlier on January 28 which is reproduced below.

January 30, 2018

Statement from the Albert Einstein Institution on the death of our founder Dr. Gene Sharp 

The Albert Einstein Institution is greatly saddened to announce the passing of our founder, mentor, and friend Dr. Gene Sharp, who passed away peacefully on January 28, 2018, at his home in East Boston. He had recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

Widely recognized by scholars, practitioners, organizers, and activists worldwide as the greatest theoretician of nonviolent action since Mohandas K. Gandhi, Sharp founded the field of academic research on the theory and strategic practice of nonviolent action.

A four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and the winner of the 2012 Right Livelihood Award, Sharp devoted his life to studying nonviolent struggle, deeply researching and documenting its use in human history, analyzing how the technique operates cross-culturally, and sharing the results of his research with other scholars, practitioners, organizers, government institutions, and citizens and civil - society groups on every continent. His numerous books and articles on the subject have been translated into more than 50 languages, and are disseminated worldwide. Hi s work continues to inspire and enable people engaged in struggle to wield social power by building on and learning from the experience, results, bravery, and sacrifice of those who have come before them.

Sharp is survived by a brother, nieces, nephews, and cousins, and by a large national and international family of friends and colleagues. His legacy lives on in the Albert Einstein Institution, which he founded in 1983 to advance the study and use of strategic nonviolent action as a pragmatic alternative to violence in acute conflict. He refused to retire and worked up until his death.

A rare collection of orchids on the top floor of his home were his joy and respite, along with his dogs and exploring the wild spaces of Mexico, Norway, and Canada.

He is loved and was loved, and leaves behind generations of students and adherents of his work all over the world, who are as a result of his findings better able to win political freedom and resist oppression. He has set down his pen for the last time; yet his work will live on forever.

Memorial donations in Gene Sharp’s name may be made to the Albert Einstein Institution, . A memorial service to celebrate Gene Sharp’s life and work will be held later this spring .
 On the internet one can find decades of presentations by Gene Sharp on nonviolence. Below is a sampling of some of his lectures, and the lectures and speeches of other nonviolent scholars, theoreticians and activists. Today I mourn the passing of this scholar and theoretician of strategic nonviolence. Dr. Sharp's scholarship on nonviolence will continue to inspire many around the world. Requiescat in pace.

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