Mahatma Gandhi Statue at Union Square

Mahatma Gandhi Statue at Union Square

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the key figure of the Indian independence movement. He is known as the father of nonviolent form of civil disobedience. Gandhi fought against poverty and untouchability, and for women's rights, economic self-reliance and independence from British imperialism. He influenced many civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and continues to influence nonviolent activist all over the world.

How is nonviolent activism supposed to work? I recently read an interesting book titled Seeds of Destruction by a Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. In it, he describes a situation in Birmingham, Alabama during the nonviolent Civil Rights Protests where a number of African American children were jailed simply for singing hymns. The innocent children continued to sing their songs in jail, which frightened their captors: "The truth is that they had very good reason to fear. The action of the children was aimed at them, and aimed directly at them. It was an attack not upon their property, their jobs, their social status, but upon their inmost conscience. And unless that attack could be met and deflected, these people would not be able to continue as they were".

The problem with the above example is the assumption that the oppressor has a conscience. How about psychopaths who lack any conscience. Can nonviolence be effective against them? Or, is the sword always mightier than the pen? If we look at history, violence, usually in the hand of governments, is frighteningly effective - at least for some period. But, violence begets violence; Violence directed at "others" ends up coming home to "us". They call that cycle, history repeating itself. Nonviolence - as a force for social change - works when there is an informed and conscious population that will not tolerate injustice. That is why the misinformation machine is hard at work, pushing people into ignorance...

Song of the Day: All I Need (MTV Exit) - Radiohead (2008)
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