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Position Statement on Nonviolent and Passive Resistance

April 15, 2009

For Immediate Release [first published on April 15, 2009]

The League to Fight Neurelitism, a public sociology and an advocacy journalism project, engages in activism to support the direct application of United Nations values on human rights and social justice to all Autistics.

The terms, nonviolent resistance, passive resistance, and civil disobedience are often treated as relatively synonymous. Strictly speaking, however, they are defined differently. In this brief paper, The League to Fight Neurelitism will set forth what it considers to be the distinctions between these concepts. It will then suggest possible strategies for Autistic praxis (activism grounded in reflection) which do not involve breaking the laws within many modern societies.

Passive resistance is essentially synonymous with a broad usage of pacifism. Johan Galtung (1965) defined the former term as stabilization “at a very low level of interaction” and as “noncooperation.” Passive resistors are individuals who decide not to participate in an activity or who refuse to follow a directive.

Nonviolent resistance, which may also be termed nonviolent revolution, takes this process a step further by actually engaging in positive actions and protests. Such revolutionary resistance or praxis may consist of nothing more elaborate than an activist use of music, theatre, poetry, and other creative arts. It can also include blogging and direct acts of civil disobedience, such as the campus sit-ins of the 1960s (later mirrored by some protesters at abortion clinics), strikes, Rosa Parks’ resusal to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger, and the burning of draft cards.

Consequently, passive resistance and nonviolent resistance may be understood as two overarching categories for a variety of strategies and tactics. These twin rubrics were delineated by no less a person than Mahatma Gandhi, the great advocate of nonviolent resistance, who stated, “Passive resistance, unlike nonviolence, has no power to change men’s hearts.” Although we may not share Gandhi’s evident distaste for passive resistance, his negative evaluation of it supports our claim regarding the distinction between these approaches.

Nevertheless, in this position statement, we will suggest a pragmatic relevance for nonviolent resistance, not of passive resistance. We feel as though an application of the former construct is more practical in addition to being consistent with dominant modes of activism which are currently employed within the online Autistic community.

Pointedly, many Autistics are currently participating in nonviolent resistance without labeling it as such. The terms nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience have become so interconnected in popular discourse that a significant proportion of people might not even realize that civil disobedience is only a single subset of nonviolent resistance. By way of illustration, here is a brief listing of actions which, in addition to civil disobedience, would qualify as nonviolent resistance:

  1. writing protest letters
  2. encouraging boycotts
  3. online consciousness-raising (conscientization)
  4. waging information wars against “curebie” groups
  5. expressing oneself through blogging and use of the creative arts

To reiterate, The League to Fight Neurelitism strongly encourages a participation in lawful nonviolent resistance or revolution. We do not promote civil disobedience and other illegal activities.

Respectfully submitted,

Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.
Founding Director,
The League to Fight Neurelitism


Galtung, Johan. “On the Meaning of Nonviolence” Journal of Peace Research. 1965 (2:228). Retrieved April 15, 2009. (http://jpr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/2/3/228).

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Originally published to: http://resistance.neurelitism.com

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