Thoughts on Hate and Charlottesville

Morning, August 19, 2017
Joe Recchie

“We are a part of everything that is  beneath us, above us, and around us. Our past is our present, our present is our future, and our future is seven generations past and present.”
Haudenosaunee Teaching

The practice of nonviolent communication has never seemed more urgent – or relevant, than it does at the present moment in our history. The reason for this seems to be embodied in the peace practice  of the Haudenosaunee , the great Native American federation of tribes.  They recognized two really important concepts that we would be wise to try to remember, that all things are interconnected, that the past present and future coexist and that in our hearts, in our passions, and in our perspective,  we carry seven generations.

The hateful language, actions and violence which erupted in Charlottesville over an already tumultuous societal surface is fully deserving of the outrage and condemnation that it has received.  But the practice of nonviolent communication asks each of us to do two things, to examine our own unconscious biases, the stories we tell ourselves, and to see that the hateful behavior we have witnessed is a pathway to the unmet needs of these misled and suffering actors.  Yes, the hateful speech is spewing from humans who are suffering and asking for help.  They are asking for it in a way that defines violent speech, speech that harms others and creates further suffering for the hate speaker.

The practice of NVC asks us to guess empathetically at the unmet need of the other, in the hope of reducing suffering and encouraging greater compassion in the world. Most of us are but one or two degrees of separation from people filled with hatred of the other.  Their unmet needs may be for connection, belonging, respect or safety.  In the practice of NVC, we go there, try to help in identifying these unmet needs and address them; at the personal level and at the societal level.  It means listening past the hateful language and actions, of leading with compassion and in focusing on concrete actions we can take in the world.  It is necessary to be available to address the underlying needs of the hateful actors and the victims of hateful action.  In being of service,  we are connected and our practice increases our circle of human concern.

Nonviolent communication is a way to peacefully navigate the world we live in. Yet it is not passive. It is a constant call to action, concrete, measurable action,  done with the fullest intention of connecting fully with everything that is beneath us, above us and around us.


Joe Recchie serves as a board member for Compassionate Communication Center of Ohio.

Posted on May 8, 2019 .