HOW TO CREATE A REVOLUTION
Through NVI’s Spotlight Series, I spoke with Professor of Politics and Chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, Professor Stephen Zunes. Dr. Zunes has been described as a “leading expert” and is the author of scores of articles on international terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, strategic nonviolent action, and human rights. During our interview we focused on the influence of civil resistance during his youth, the creative process behind designing and implementing training for nonviolence in classrooms, & his expertise in the occupation of Western Sahara.
His introduction to nonviolent revolution was closely connected to growing up in the rural South in the 1960s. Being a first-hand witness to the human rights atrocities that were plaguing the United States opened his eyes to the power of nonviolent action. Raised in a Christian-Pacifist home, Zunes was inherently turned off to the idea of war and violence. He said, “they lived in rural counties where the police and the Klan were very closely operating.” Zunes reinforced the idea that nonviolent action, at the time, was not something to be taken lightly.
We continued to discuss his evolution with revolution through academia. At Cornell University, Zunes reinforced his values as a moderate historic revisionist and morphed from simply an angry, young radical into a serious progressive scholar. Cornell was not just the genesis of his academic career but reshaped his role from a protesting, marching activist into one of a highly sought-after political analyst and educator.
Zunes joined the faculty at the University of San Francisco in 1995. His classes on nonviolent training and civil resistance alternatives were revolutionary in that they were among the first nonviolent training courses to be taught on a higher education campus. Nonviolent activism is at a higher rate than at any time in history. Despite “the very real threat to the planet from climate change, the rise of the very dangerous right-wing populism, and increasing economic inequality,” Zunes finds hope.
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