“Nonviolence does not mean acceptance, but resistance, not waiting, but acting. It is not at all passive; it involves strikes, boycotts, non-cooperation, mass demonstrations and sabotage, as well as appeals to the conscience of the world—even the individuals in the oppressing group who might break away from their past.”
—Howard Zinn, Declarations of Independence
let lesser men
win hearts and minds
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Today, we find ourselves at a global tipping point facing the extremes of political upheaval, class inequality and climate catastrophe. In an attempt to answer the question: What can we do in times such as these? I am calling for tanka which address all forms—individual and collective—of nonviolent resistance and peaceful protest. While we are all surely familiar with iconic examples, such as Mahatma Gandhi’s salt-making trek to the sea and Dr. Martin Luther King’s Selma March for Civil Rights, I am more interested in current acts of resistance and protest taking place around the globe today. Some notable large-scale examples to consider include Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis’ Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival currently gathering momentum throughout the United States; France’s Yellow Vest Movement protesting gas tax increases and the decline in the working-class’ standard-of-living; Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbrook’s UK-based Extinction Rebellion mounting an international response to the global climate emergency; Dominion, the vegan protest movement lead by Australian Chris Delforce; and Seed Freedom, Vandana Shiva’s resistance against Monsanto’s corporate incursion (which has claimed farmer’s lives by the thousands in India and beyond).
AND, while such mass-movements are momentous, please do not forget the significant effect individuals can have engaging in independent resistance and protest. Consider 16-year-old Swedish climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg’s ongoing school strike movement, single-handed dressing down of the entire Plenary at the December 2018 COP24 conference, and more recent public rebuke of the EU. Consider as well the small, seemingly insignificant actions each of us might engage in daily: adopting a plant-based diet to protest the industrial food system and animal cruelty, or planting trees to sequester carbon and flowers to attract pollinators, or boycotting social media in defense of personal liberty and privacy, or eschewing Mainstream Media to challenge corporate-controlled news, or refusing airline travel to reduce carbon emissions, or participating in the salvage economy (be it thrift-store shopping, garage sale-ing or dumpster diving) to “vote with our dollars” against global capitalism—even quiet personal choices such as meditating to raise our individual conscious awareness, insisting on green cleaning products to counter chemical contamination, or providing our own reusable shopping bags to eliminate plastics in our landfills and seas are valid contributions; and the list goes on. Collectively, these individual sacrifices/acts can combine to create the momentum which often results in vast impact and change.
Civilization has been a continuous struggle of the individual or of groups of individuals against the State and even against “society,” that is, against the majority subdued and hypnotized by the State and State worship.
This is NOT the Special Feature for imaginary or speculative poems. I am seeking truth-based tanka which passionately and poetically express current reality and authentic lived experience. As with M. Kei’s ground-breaking Bright Stars Organic Tanka Anthology series, tanka should embody the Japanese aesthetic of “akarui”—an active, brilliant, illuminating, unbounded energy.
IN-HAND DEADLINE: July 31, 2019
All tanka must be the original, unpublished work of the author—poems previously posted on social media will NOT be considered. Please include your tanka, a 75-word bio, your full name and location IN THE BODY of your email (no attachments). All languages are welcome, but please include the side-by-side English translation at the time of submission. Please see Atlas Poetica Guidelines for specific tanka criteria https://atlaspoetica.org/?page_id=6.
In keeping with past Special Features criteria, the 25 selected tanka will comprise no more than ONE tanka from each poet. All contributors will be notified of acceptance or decline NLT September 15, 2019.
Publication goal: October 2, 2019 International Day of Nonviolence