The first clue, lesson number one from human history on the subject of nonviolence, is that there is no word for it. The concept has been praised by every major religion. Throughout history there have been practitioners of nonviolence. Yet, while every major language has a word for violence, there is no word to express the idea of nonviolence except that it is not another idea; it is not violence. In Sanskrit, the word for violence is himsa, harm, and the negation of himsa, just as nonviolence is the negation of violence, is ahimsa, not doing harm. But if ahimsa is not doing harm, what is it doing?
The only possible explanation for the absence of a proactive word to express nonviolence is that not only the political establishments but the cultural and intellectual establishments of all societies have viewed nonviolence as a marginal point of view, a fanciful rejection of one of society's key components, a repudiation of something important, but not a serious force in itself. It is not an authentic concept but simply the abnegation of something else. It has been marginalized because it is one of the rare truly revolutionary ideas, an idea that seeks to completely change the nature of society, a threat to the established order. and it has always been treated as something profoundly dangerous.
- Mark Kurlansky in his article NonViolence; the hidden history of a revolutionary idea, in the Sept/Oct issue of Orion. (The one complaint I have is that his bio mentions his book on 1968 but leaves out Salt, Cod, and The Big Oyster. I don't think that authoring three best-sellers about culinary history detract from his activist bonafides)