Saturday, September 25, 2004

About non-violence

I've been reading texts from two major theorists of non-violence this week. I read a few web-pages on Gandhi and M. Luther King

A few questions can be asked about non-violence:
1. Is non-violence cowardice?
2. What power has non-violence to stop violence?
3. What power has non-violence to beat "evil"?
4. Isn't history and social change driven by violence (war/revolution)?

Here is what I think after reading these web-sites:
1. Non-violence is the opposite of cowardice. It is letting your opponent know that you disagree without showing that you may strike back if attacked. In other words, you expose yourself to being hurt.
However, If I don't strike back simply because I don't have the ability to win over my opponent, I am simply protecting myself and I will probably no longer say that I disagree with this person. If I would have the ability to win over my opponent, I would do it anyway. Why? Because of my fear to be hurt, I'd rather silence my opponent through violence.
This is cowardice.

2. The power of non-violence can be very high if I know how to communicate my ideas. Why? By controlling myself and avoiding violence, my protest remains credible. I don't do anything illegal and I show that I believe in what I do. Non-violence can be even more powerful nowadays thanks to the media and modern communication technology.

3. Non-violence's power to "beat evil" can be demonstrated that way. Nobody is fundamentally evil. Nobody can pretend to know the absolute truth about something as our knowledge has limits. One conclusion to this logic is winning our opponents over is preferable to winning over our opponents (quote from a US policeman following Kingian philosophy). If our opponents get killed, they will not criticize us anymore but if they knew something about the "Truth", then we would have lost one opportunity to "beat evil" with them.
The opposite logic is violence causes more violence. By trying to eradicate one "evil", we create more of them.

4. Is violence the motor of history (social change)? This is a difficult question. However, we should remember that the media only remembers outbursts of violence in world history, it tends to underestimate the impact of non-violent actions on social change. Let us think about the victories of Gandhi in India, M. Luther King in the USA, Father Popielusko in Poland or Nelson Mandela in South Africa. These victories did create a lot of social change.
What about the second world war and the victories of democracies over Hitler? For sure, massive military operations helped win over Hitler. However these operations were self-defense operations against widespread military invasions. Besides, we will never know to what extent some acts of non-violence did have an impact during the conflict. I would just point to one remark: The nazi ideology was a culture of violence. This culture of violence made the nazi lose their credibility in the occupied territories. Non-cooperation of the local population was the norm in most of these territories.

I would conclude by saying that Gandhi was not a pacifist. He would rather use violence that being a coward. He was just using non-violence whenever it was still possible. This can be read in the following website:


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