“If we want to reap the harvest of peace and justice in the future, we will have to sow seeds of nonviolence, here and now, in the present.”
In the entire history of the human civilization, one common tragedy has run right through – violence. The broad reading of any history is largely a retelling of wars, battles and enmity – between individuals, between communities, between countries. Not just that! Human violence has been waged against other denizens of the earth as well – the animals, plants and the ecosystems. ‘To conquer’ and ‘to dominate’ seems to be the ultimate human predilection. And all conquests have been achieved mostly through violence and destruction. The entire theory and practice of ‘development’, to this day, rests on one or the other form of domination and violent conquests – over people, over nature, over earth, over sky.
Is it in the nature of humans to be violent? Is destructiveness an inert human trait? Does this violence come from our primeval sense of insecurity, the need for self-protection or preservation, which we have not yet evolved away from? Or is violence just an expression of our pride, greed and lust?
Violence is often justified by saying that violence is in nature. Don’t the animals kill and feed on each other? we are told. But animals only kill for survival – never for fun, nor senselessly.
Are we, then, worse than animals! We weren’t supposed to be. Humans were given the faculty of reasoning, which set us apart from the rest of the creatures, to reach a higher plane of evolution and existence. Indeed, we have evolved faster and higher than the other creatures on the earth, and today we stand at a point where we remain unchallenged – except by others of our own fraternity!
In truth, we have actually not gone beyond seeking self-interest, at individual, community, religion and nation levels. Our entire energies seem to be guided to defend this self-interest. In our ingenuity to self-protect, we seek to destroy everything else. Violence has become our scourge.
Importantly, violence is not just war. In the everyday lives of common people, more often than not, violence is inflicted, felt, experienced and suffered in ways that can be explicit or subtle, and at levels beyond just the physical, sexual, emotional and political. The terms ‘violence’ and ‘violation’ are intrinsically linked; and the violations of people’s economic, social, cultural and human rights, so oppressively widespread today, are actually violence. The destruction of forests, the exclusion of people from their lands and other natural resources, the marginalization of people’s knowledge systems, the dominance of the exclusive ‘development’ paradigm, the imposition of alien seeds and foods, the excessive consumption and consumerism, the universalization of people’s lifestyles – all are nothing but violence in one form or other. We do not realize, but we are violent in our thoughts and to even ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Intolerance is violence to the intellect and hatred is violence to the heart.”
But, as humans, we also have hope, which comes from the fact that the overwhelming human violence has always drawn concern and, in fact, never gone unchallenged. Our seers and sages – and even the ordinary people – have time and again, stood up to violence. Countless times, in countless ways, in countless places. Perhaps, we have not observed or read or listened to them closely enough.
Nonviolence – A positive force
At the same time, nonviolence is more than mere negation of violence. It is a positive force with dynamism of its own. The movement for India’s independence, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi was unique in that it practiced nonviolence and civil disobedience as it main mode of protest and struggle. Oppressive regimes can always meet violence with greater violence, of which they are invariably and extremely capable, but persistent and nonviolent civil disobedience in the Indian freedom movement quite unnerved India’s then British rulers, and they could not do anything but relent.
The ‘Long Marches’ in the American Negro movement in the USA under Dr Martin Luther King Jr. is another nonviolent struggle that stirred up the people’s conscience there.
Across the world, there are innumerable examples of people at local or larger levels and scales, using nonviolence as their way of struggle to achieve justice, honour, self-recognition and peace – politically, socially and culturally. And such actions in nonviolence have existed even within the larger chaotic, violent suppression and reactions. In the Palestinian struggle there have been conscious experiments to introduce nonviolence as a practical action. Amos Gvirtz from Israel writes, “Actions such as the display of the Palestinian flag, the declaring of independence in villages, the boycott of Israeli goods and growing of food to replace Israeli produce, self-determination of opening and closing times for shops, and the tax revolt in Beit Sahour, are just a few of the nonviolent actions conducted in the first intifada. Still, for Israelis and apparently for the rest of the world, the throwing of stones came to be seen as the central action of the intifada. The stone photographed better than all the other actions and thus made these less visible.”
Nonviolence unleashes creative synergies, courage and action, it calls upon one’s deeper convictions. It is synonymous with love, peace and humanity. And we need to see it as Human Right. It is a resource, a force and a right that we all need to claim and exercise more and more.
This initiative – “Nonviolence – what does it mean to me” seeks to – (a) make people consciously reflect on nonviolence; (b) juxtapose nonviolence against violence and destruction; (c) promote and enable people’s engagement and involvement with active nonviolence issues and strategies.
Please go through the entry “Quotations“. These are quotations on nonviolence by of some of its eminent practitioners.
What do their words mean to you? How do these words resonate in your own thoughts and lives? How do these reflect or, how would you like these to be reflected in your life, in the life of your community or country?
There would be some quotes you would agree with or which may touch you intimately. Some others may remind you of some experience in your life or that of someone you know. Or there could even be quotes that you do not agree with or your experience differs from. Take your time to read and re-read these quotations, then read once again, and perhaps again. Ponder over them, and discuss with others if you like.
Thereafter, go to the entry “Questions need your response“. Please respond to the questions. Short or long, respond the way that you may wish to.
Thank you for being part of “An Initiative”.
I hope it will lead us to a path that brings peace to ourselves and others.