What We Need To Learn About Gandhi and Nonviolence

I’m so happy Amy Goodman and Norman Finkelstein did this.

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4 responses to “What We Need To Learn About Gandhi and Nonviolence

  1. As Finkelstein reports it i could not disagree more. I reject the notion that violence is cowardly because you have a weapon and therefore and chance to defend yourself. To accept this would mean that Robert Williams, Ida Wells and Malcolm X were cowards unworthy of Ghandi. Self-defense is wise, intelligent, natural. Walking without protection to get your “head cracked” is no more brave than cracking someone’s head. Killing, i guess, I’ve never done it, — so ill say hitting someone — is harder and requires more bravery than walking away. Its easier on the soul too. i remember times I’ve backed down far more than the times i got beat. And the victories, mmmm, those are the most delicious memories of all. So i disagree thoroughly with dear brother Ghandi.

  2. I don’t think Gandhians believe in self-defense. I agree with you that violence requires more bravery, but I’ve never been part of a nonviolent campaign, so I can only go with my socialization and biology. Gandhians define victory in an entirely different way and see the never-ending struggle in and of itself, not the (overpowering) victory, as the sweetest, most delicious time.

  3. I have not seen this episode, but if I were to make Gandhi relevant, I would not debate with Amy Goodman…I think we should simply let Gandhi speak in his defense. Let me say at the outset I am not a Gandhian (besides, unlike both MLK or Gandhi, I have no place for God in my life whereas for Gandhi/MLK spiritual quest was cardinal; likewise I do not endorse all this “manly” and “unmanly” (“I am a Man”) ways of life and I think it is quite fine to aspire to be like a woman and still be full of courage) – but my respect for Gandhi – and for his clarity of thoughts – remains entirely intact. Please allow me to quote Gandhi on nonviolence and self-defense: –

    “I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.
    But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment. Forgiveness adorns a soldier…But abstinence is forgiveness only when there is the power to punish; it is meaningless when it pretends to proceed from a helpless creature….
    I do not believe myself to be a helpless creature….Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will….
    The world is not entirely governed by logic. Life itself involves some kind of violence and we have to choose the path of least violence….
    I want both the Hindus and Mussalmans to cultivate the cool courage to die without killing. But if one has not that courage, I want him to cultivate the art of killing and being killed rather than, in a cowardly manner, flee from danger. For the latter, in spite of his flight, does commit mental himsa. He flees because he has not the courage to be killed in the act of killing.

    My creed of nonviolence is an extremely active force. It has no room for cowardice or even weakness. There is hope for a violent man to be some day non-violent, but there is none for a coward. I have, therefore, said more than once….that, if we do not know how to defend ourselves, our women and our places of worship by the force of suffering, i.e., nonviolence, we must, if we are men, be at least able to defend all these by fighting.

    My nonviolence does admit of people, who cannot or will not be nonviolent, holding and making effective use of arms. Let me repeat for the thousandth time that nonviolence is of the strongest, not of the weak.

    To run away from danger, instead of facing it, is to deny one’s faith in man and God, even one’s own self. It were better for one to drown oneself than live to declare such bankruptcy of faith….
    I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden….

    Whilst I may not actually help anyone to retaliate, I must not let a coward seek shelter behind nonviolence so-called. Not knowing the stuff of which nonviolence is made, many have honestly believed that running away from danger every time was a virtue compared to offering resistance, especially when it was fraught with danger to one’s life.

    Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defence or for the defence of the defenceless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right.”

  4. DAMN! Thanks, Saswat!

    I have read SOME of these quotes before, but not their full context. Typical of the white West who wants to feed people of color spirituality as its weapon while it holds a big-ass gun. 🙂

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