"...nonviolence is not sterile passivity". What does "sterile" mean in this context? what does it mean by "sterile passivity"?


2 Answers

Virginia Lou Profile
Virginia Lou answered

Dear Menari,

Martin Luther King, Jr. had an unusually clear understanding of the dynamics of human power, and here is his quote...

"Non-violence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation."

The principle is that when you are aligned with the laws of nature, which is the law of Oneness (or love) rather than the jungle law of tooth and claw, then your power becomes infinite.

* * *

Here is an example from the Vietnam War: Three US soldiers in a helicopter looked down and saw a massacre; Americans who had lost it, one of those My Lai situations where they just killed everyone - old men, babies...

Well those three boys, I think they were 17, 18 and 20 or something - they landed their helicopter, went unarmed and stood between the soldiers and their victims - and stopped the massacre. One of these guys lived in the Skagit near me in Washington State and the newspaper interviewed him maybe 2002, which is how I learned of this.

It's the power of the human heart when we are aligned with the finest within ourselves, and it is the opposite of sterile passivity. Again Dr. King, "Non-violence is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the one who wields it."

Tom  Jackson Profile
Tom Jackson answered

In this case, it means "non-productive."

Passivity is allowing others to do things to you without complaining or pushing back.

So in this case, passivity "does no good."

But don't forget the "not" in the quote.

King was of course eloquent, but he's essentially saying that "non-violence" is not a useless response.

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