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It is not lost upon us that the major contribution to stopping bombs is our withdrawal from the economic and political structures of the death culture. As individuals, many of us engage in war-tax resistance; as an organization, we operate outside the dominant economic paradigm. We do not operate for profit; in fact, we operate with very little money compared with the value of the food that we distribute. Because we generally ignore the authorities, we allow them as little contact with us as possible; but, as we want exposure for our life-affirming alternatives, we never hide what we are doing. We might protest directly in front of an oppressive bank, but the contact is on our terms. 

Nonviolence in Theory 

Nonviolence means responding to situations of injustice with action. The key to nonviolence is the ability to see potential violence in a situation before it becomes violent and act to de-escalate that potential. If we cannot stop it from happening, we can at least work to minimize the effects. 

It is extremely important that we act in a manner consistent with our values. It is never in our interest to use violence against the police or others. On the practical side, they usually can muster significantly more violent force than we could. But, more philosophically, we don't want to use power to dominate in our efforts for social change. We want to create a society based on human rights and human needs, not the threat and use of violence. We do not want to dominate; we want to seek the truth and to support each other as we resolve conflicts without violence. 

Even the food we choose to serve is an expression of our commitment to nonviolence. We try to avoid using any animal products, because we see the damage it does not only to the animal but to ourselves, the environment, and the economy. Mainstream food production is an inherently violent process, involving the slaughter of millions of animals and the poisoning of our air, water, soil, and bodies with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The meat and dairy industries control government policies that primarily serve their own financial interests and not those of the public. 

Nonviolence in Practice 

As an organization, we strive to be very inclusive. There is room for all progressive political perspectives and for everyone to express themselves. For some, the decision to work for food, not bombs, is a total change in lifestyle. For others, the decision is expressed through a commitment to life-affirming values while continuing to work at a job for pay in mainstream society. We try to value individuals for the contributions they offer, without any expectation that they be completely divorced from the status quo. 

Our world is multicultural, and social and political structures need to be sensitive to this reality. Challenging racism, classism, gender bias, homophobia, and other oppressive behaviors is essential to creating a life-affirming, self-sustaining world. Everyone needs to be engaged in multicultural work, and this includes the members of Food Not Bombs as well as those with whom we come in contact, both on the street and within the other service and political organizations with which we work. 

Civic Center Plaza, 1990. Photograph by S. Kasumi.

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