October 21, 2014

What is Constructive Program?

The flag of India with the spinning wheel; the symbol of India's constructive program.
One of the most important elements of nonviolence is the Constructive Program?  What is a Constructive Program and how does it work?

A Constructive Program is a positive effort to create the changes you want to see in the world.  The classic example was used by Gandhi in the struggle for India's independence from the British Empire.  Gandhi encouraged the Indian people to spin cotton on a spinning wheel in order to make their own cloth.  Rather than purchase high priced cloth from the British, making cloth empowered the Indian people with something everyone could do, developed self-sufficiency and created goods to boost local economies.

Even when Gandhi was uncertain what to do strategically for independence, he would spin and ask others to spin.  Regardless of knowing how to proceed with the British, every minute of spinning was contributing to economic self-sufficiency and independence for India.  Spinning became the symbol of Indian empowerment and independence.  That is why the spinning wheel sits in the center of the flag of India.

Nonviolence is not a knee-jerk reaction to take to the streets, or have sit-ins and protests when there is something you see as unjust.  Far from it.  A Constructive Program is a powerful and strategic way to be the positive change you want to see in the world.

In 1964 in Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker and Bob Moses created the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.  African-Americans were not allowed to vote or participate in the democratic process, so they created their own political party that garnered 80,000 members.  This was a kind of Constructive Program.

Simple efforts like buying local, buying organic, shopping regularly at a farmer's market, or riding a bike to work can be part of a Constructive Program.  These efforts also build community, a common purpose and can grow the movement for your cause.

A key question for your own Constructive Program is:
How can you empower people with simple, positive actions that create the solutions you seek?

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