Collateral Healing

Collateral healing is a term coined by Michael Nagler as a counter to the euphemism “collateral damage” used by the military to refer to civilians who are killed or injured in increasing numbers in modern armed conflict.  Collateral healing refers to the fact that because nonviolent action injects positive energy into a situation it will always produce positive results of some kind, although we cannot always tell exactly what these results will be.  So unlike collateral damage the results of collateral healing will be constructive.

An example of collateral healing occurred when 35,000 Americans sent letters to the White House requesting the President to “feed your enemy” when during the Korean War there was a severe famine in China.  There was no reply at the time but it was revealed much later that those 35,000 messages moved President Eisenhower to deny a request by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to commence bombing beyond the Yalu River, in China.  The letters did not work to feed the Chinese, but “worked” to stop the proposed escalation of the war (see work vs. “work”).

Whether a nonviolent action succeeds or fails in the short term with respect to explicit goals it always induces positive changes, or collateral healing.