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  • Writer's pictureLiana Guegan

A Politics of Love

Updated: Jul 14, 2018

In Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Rosenberg (2005:17-18) writes that [i]n 75 percent of the television programs shown during the hours when American children are most likely to be watching, the hero either kills people or beats them up. This violence typically constitutes the ‘climax’ of the show. Viewers, having been taught that bad guys deserve to be punished, take pleasure in watching the violence’. Across the planet, children are given messages by adults that murder and physical abuse are acceptable if deserved. People murdering and injuring are, depending on circumstance, loving and caring.

Violence is tolerated in homes worldwide, and is sanctioned with feelings of righteousness and well-being. These messages are absorbed by us at cellular level and are what have underpinned our comfort with war. Rosenberg (2005:18) points to the cold war where he writes, ‘[o]ur leaders viewed Russia as an “evil empire” bent on destroying the American way of life. Russian people referred to the people of the United States as “imperialist oppressors” who were trying to subjugate them. Though most of us today preach peace to our children, and though statistics show that children are unlikely to resolve conflicts with the same kind of physical violence the characters in their computer games do (unless growing up in abusive circumstance), insidious messages of tolerance are left within.

Rosenberg (2005:17) argues that our acceptance of violence is cultural and lives within the way we view the world. He distinguishes understandings that dichotomise the world in terms of right and wrong, good and bad (moralistic judgement), and understandings that instead view the world from a needs based and value judgements perspective. When we view the world from the dichotomy of good and bad, punishment is acceptable, and even though this may not manifest in war or physical violence, it can and does colour our language. Moralistic judgement surfaces as labeling, comparison, denial of responsibility, blame, criticism etc. It is these less visible hurts that are kept alive by the violence our children see and read in film, computer games, books, board games etc - the violence the WE give them and write off as harmless.

The alternative, a needs based worldview, sees past right and wrongdoing to a place of human need. It asks how we can enrich the life of a person in pain instead of demanding that wrongdoing be punished. It takes great mindfulness to step into such a place. It is not easy to retrain neural pathways grown in reward/punishment mentality. Yet there is a world of compassionate communication out there that believes we can. I wonder what our world would look like if what we so unquestioningly give our children was replaced with nonviolent and collaborative entertainment? I wonder how our children would communicate with each other in light of such a change? I wonder if neural pathways satisfied with a politics of love could change the world?

Rosenberg, M. R. (2005) Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Encinitas: PuddleDancer Press

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