Contributed by: Rashi Kaul
WHAT IS ACTIVE NON VIOLENCE?
Violence in today’s world is growing and expanding in all areas, generating an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, asphyxiation and claustrophobia. We experience not only the physical violence of war and crime, but also economic, racial, religious, psychological, domestic-family and internal violence. We may have heard the word non violence but, due to a lack of information, we don’t always have a clear idea of what nonviolence is. Non-violence is not pacifism, and it isn’t just a simple methodology for marches or other actions. More importantly non-violence is not the resigned attitude of those who avoid conflict out of fear. Non-violence is a great life philosophy and method for taking action. It has always been inspired by deep moral and religious convictions, and today it is the only coherent answer to the spiral of violence surrounding us. Let us briefly review what has been said about NV and the Movements inspired by it.
(To feel compassion for a Living being is to feel compassion for one’s self.)
Jainism, together with Hinduism and Buddhism, is one of India’s religions. In Jainism, each living being contains a unique and immortal vital principle. Each act is itself a cause which produces an effect and, therefore, each violent action (himsa) against this vital principle, will strike back against the one committing violence. Only through non-violent action it is possible to reach a place of bliss and peace. For this reason, ahimsa – non-violence – is the foundation of Jainist ethics. Ahimsa is total respect for every form of life. “Killing a Living Being is like killing one’s self; to show compassion towards a living being is like showing it to one’s self. Knowing this principle of Equality, always treat others with Respect and Compassion.”
(Do not do unto others what you would not have done to you.)
Tolstoy was born in 1828 at Jasnaja Poljana in Russia. Between 1860 and 1880 he wrote his two most famous novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina. But it is in his other books, such as “The Kingdom of God is Inside You”, where we find his deep reflections on non-violence. After a spiritual crisis he came to Christianity, trying to grasp its original and genuine sense, which had been lost in the official religion.
According to Tolstoy, the church has forgotten the two simple essential principles of the Gospel: loving humanity and not opposing evil with violence. Therefore, even though Christianity is everywhere around us, it has not entered the hearts and lives of men. “And Christ taught at that time his doctrine which consisted not only in the fact that one must not oppose himself to evil with violence, but also with a new concept of life whose application to social life would have resulted in making fighting among men disappear, not by submitting some of them to certain authorities, but forbidding men, especially those in power, to use violence against anyone, no matter what the situation.” However, this message was really accepted only by few and when States welcomed Christianity, they did so by accepting only the surface of the doctrine, out of pure utility. “The contradiction between conscience and life and, therefore, the split in two of our existence has reached their extreme limit.”
On the one hand we speak of humanity, understanding and justice, and at the same time we silently or explicitly support a society founded on violence. Whoever is in government always uses violence when his power is threatened. War is therefore justified as a need to keep evil from reaching power, but those practicing war are the violent ones, and all they want to do is to protect their apparently advantageous situation. And so they will use public opinion to convince others that they are only using violence against an objective evil which puts everyone in danger.
If we were not blinded by hypocrisy, the simple things in life would be really truly clear to us. “Share what you have with others, do not accumulate richness, do not become haughty, do not steal, do not cause suffering, do not kill, do not do to others what you wouldn’t like to have done to yourself, this has all been said not eighteen centuries, but five thousand years ago, and there could be no doubt on the truth of this law if hypocrisy did not exist. The only meaning of life is to serve humanity, concurring to the institution of God’s Kingdom, which cannot be done if each man does not recognize and profess the truth. “God’s kingdom will not come in a way that can be observed. And it will not be said: Here it is, or there it is. Due to the fact that, there it is, the Kingdom of God is within you.”.
M. K. GANDHI
(Non violence is the greatest power available to humanity.)
Gandhi was born in India in 1869 He moved to London in 1888 to get his law degree. His interests brought him to study religious texts. He discovered Tolstoy’s thought and was especially struck by The Reign of God Is Within You, which he defined as one of the few works capable of immediately transforming someone.
In 1893 he went to the South African Union for work. In South Africa power lay in the hands of a minority of whites, and there was a regime of absolute apartheid which discriminated not only against the natives, but also a small community of Indians. This is where Gandhi, faced with racial segregation and suffering from various offences, started his social work. The Indian community (about 5000 Indians) was forced to face all kinds of injustice: persecutions, disproportionate taxes, restrictions of personal freedom. Gandhi became the leader of this community and in the beginning his battles were based on petitions, reprimands, publications and letters. However, with the worsening of events, he matured and deepened his ideas and fighting methods. In 1906 a new law forced Asians to wear ID, have their fingerprints taken, and submit to a series of humiliations. Gandhi launched a campaign of civil disobedience and Indians refused to register. The prisons became full, and Gandhi himself had his first experience in what he called “Her Majesty’s hotels”. In 1913 most of the discriminatory laws were repealed and Gandhi won his first great victory, showing the efficacy of non-violence.
In 1914 he returned to India, where he had in the meantime become famous. India was a very important British colony. It was militarily, politically and economically subjected. The British exploited India’s natural resources, making great profits, but the country remained poor. Discontent was widespread throughout the country and the Indian Congress had no political power of any kind. Thanks to Gandhi’s leadership, the Congress acquired a different role in what became the process of Indian independence: the Muslim component became a part of it, and most importantly, it changed from an elitist movement to a mass movement. Non violent campaigns launched by Gandhi (which he called Satyagraha that is the force of truth) were supported in the whole country: disobedience to unjust laws, demonstrations, and especially non-collaboration with the English government. Government schools were emptied, conflicts were solved outside the courts, whoever had administrative jobs left them, English products underwent a boycott. Old Indian looms were dusted off to produce clothing, and thus, by not buying from the
English, the colonizers were hit where it was most important to them: the economy.
According to Gandhi, non violence: does not mean docile submission to the will of the evil, but it means the use of all of the soul’s powers against the will of the tyrant. Non violence is not an excuse for the coward, but is the supreme virtue of the brave. The practice of non-violence needs much more courage than the practice of arms. …Vengeance is a symbol of weakness as well… A dog barks and bites when it is scared. A man who is afraid of no one in the world deems it useless to even get angry with those who try, in vain, to offend him. I consider myself a soldier, but a soldier of peace. I’m aware of the value of discipline and truth. The battle ensured with the boycott of salt imported from England: Gandhi taught his people how to extract it from the sea. However, the path was not straight. There was great violence by the English who in a sadly famous episode shot on the pacific and defenseless crowds; and there was violence by the marchers, which made Gandhi stop the Satyagraha and later restart the fight. In general the English responded with a succession of concessions and repression. According to Gandhi, non violence was much more than a form of battle, or a means to reach political ends. Non violence is battle against injustice, affirmation of love for others, search for the Truth.”A long experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth…The small and flighty sparks of Truth which I was able to gather could hardly give the idea of Truth’s splendor, a million times more intense than that of the sun we see every day with our own eyes. In reality, what I have gathered is simply the lightest ray in that powerful blaze. However, based on all of my experience I can say with conviction that a perfect vision of the truth can only derive from a complete realization of ahimsa, of non violence.”.
This difficult path brought India, at the end of the Second World War, to independence. It was not the independence which Gandhi dreamed of: the country divided itself into the Indian Union, with a Hindu majority, and Pakistan, with a Muslim majority. In precisely this atmosphere of religious violence, Gandhi was killed by a Hindu extremist in 1948. However, he had already shown the world the great power of Ahimsa, the great power of non violent struggle.
Martin. Luthar. KING
(Non cooperation with evil is such a moral obligation as the cooperation with good)
Martin Luther King was born in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia in USA; he graduated in Theology and Philosophy, and during his studies he discovered Gandhi, becoming touched and fascinated by the idea of non violence. A Baptist minister, more than a thinker he was a great man of action.
His social action took place in the 50’s and 60’s, years during which, in the democratic United States of America, a very harsh segregationist regime was in place, a regime which pushed black people to the bottom of society. In all public places, including transportation, there were segregated areas for blacks. They did not have the same rights as white people, their salary was less, and they were surrounded by a venomous atmosphere of violence and discrimination, mostly relegated to ghettoes. In 1954 M. L. King moved to Montgomery in Alabama. There he began his social-political activity, becoming a leader in the protest movement against racial segregation in the city’s transportation system. Protest sparks began after Mrs. Rosa Parks was arrested for sitting down, in a bus, in a place reserved for whites and refusing to stand up. A successful boycott of transportation was then carried out. The protest lasted for more than a year and the blacks of Montgomery displayed great conviction, stability and maturity, putting M. L. King’s ideas into practice: non violence, not responding to provocation. And there were all sorts of provocation; M. L. King was arrested and sentenced, he was threatened and attempts were made on his life, mass arrests were executed, false information was given to the authorities and the media to try to divide the Movement. This is the way that we will get out of this dark night of oppression make this nation a better nation means we can stand up and allow the opposition to know that we will not accept injustice we will stand up against it with our lives We will never stoop down to the level of violence and hate, and we will come to that point and we will be able to convince him that a new world is emerging After a year of protests the Supreme Court declared segregation in transportation illegal. There were strong, violent reactions to the Supreme Court ruling, including protests by the Ku Klux Klan, but the Movement’s responses were also firm. One of the great glories of the America democracy is that we have the rights to protest for our rights this is a non violent protest we are depending on moral and spiritual forces using the method of passive resistance even if we have to receive violence we will not return violence. The black movement had grown among students as well: non-collaboration, protests, and sit-ins were the methods most often used against segregation. An important goal was obtaining real voting rights for the black population. M. L. King continued to be abused, arrested without cause, threatened, and put in danger. Negotiations finally began and the first agreements were made to abolish segregation.
The struggle spread to the Northern States, climaxing in the March on Washington of 1964, where M. L. King made his famous speech “I Have a Dream”. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! In the following years, during the continuing struggle, the reaction of segregationists worsened and various leaders of the Non violent Movement died. M. L. King understood more and more deeply how his struggle was not just the struggle of blacks in America, but that of all human kind. He also understood that violence was to be found in society itself, in its rules and philosophy. This depth of understanding led him to take a stand against the war in Vietnam, and be criticized by the allegedly democratic and Christian world, which slowly was beginning to accept and recognize him as a spokesman. God is not interested merely in the Freedom of black man brown man and yellow men but god is interested in the freedom of the whole human race and in the creation of a society where all men will live together with his brothers where we need not hate we need not use violence that is another way. As modern as Gandhi saying….non cooperation with evil is such a moral obligation as the cooperation with good that is another way…
M. L. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, but nothing could ever stop what he started. The day before he gave a speech: Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I do not fear any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
(Love the reality you build, and not even death with halt you flight!)
Silo, the literary pseudonym of Mario Rodriguez Cobos (1938-2010), was born in Mendoza, Argentina.
His first attempts to make his ideas public were repressed by the cruel military regime which had imposed itself in Argentina in the ’60s. Silo and some of the young persons who diffused his ideas were arrested and persecuted. Only in 1969 did it became possible for him to make a public speech, but at an altitude of 3,000 meters on Aconcagua Mountain, surrounded by military vehicles and machine guns. “Do not think that when I talk of violence I am speaking only about the armed act of war, where some men destroy others. That is only one form of physical violence. There is also economic violence. Economic violence is the violence through which you exploit other people; economic violence occurs when you steal from another, when you are no longer a brother or sister to others but a bird of prey feeding upon them. There is also racial violence. Or do you think that you are not being violent when you persecute someone because that person is not of your own race? Do you think that you are not engaging in violence when you malign that person for being of a race different from your own? And there is religious violence.
Repression and media silence notwithstanding, Silo’s thought spread from Latin America to the rest of the planet. In meetings and conferences carried out in various countries and continents, he publicly explained his ideas. Many young people were enthusiastic about his proposals, and slowly a current of thought and action known as the Humanist Movement began to grow. Our moral is based on this principle: treat others as you would like to be treated. Silo’s philosophy has been defined as New Humanism, or Universalistic Humanism. His proposals do not target conflicts and injustice faced by only one specific culture, but to the entire planet, where people in all latitudes suffer because of the violence of a minority which dominates and imposes its inhuman model. So-called globalization is nothing more than the extension of the American empire’s influence which imposes its models. Diversity is very important; it is the richness of humanity.and which must converge towards a universal human nation. Humanism, because the essential preoccupation of Silo’s thought was human life, actual real human being. All human beings have the right to ask themselves about the meaning of life, about love, about friendship… about all those things that make up the poetry and the greatness of human existence, and which that stupid and small materialist culture attempts to denigrate, dragging everything toward anti-values and disintegration”.
In the 90’s the Humanist Movement reached its full development. Today it fights for the real defense of human rights in society, politics, and culture, in different regions of the planet. These proposals – considering the human being as the central value, affirming equality of opportunities for all, recognizing diversity and opposing all discrimination, promoting freedom of thought, and struggling against violence in all its forms – characterize our thought and our action in their most general aspects. At the same time, these proposals come to configure a style of life and a way of relating to others embodying the highest of moral values, which can be expressed in this way: “Treat others as you want them to treat you!” Silo’s literary production is intense: he has published many books where his ideas are stated. In 1999, at the same place where, 30 years before, he had made his first speech, he declared the failure of the ideals of New Humanism, which could not be carried out. If today we must declare our failure, we must also announce a new civilization that is being born: the first planetary civilization in human history”.
Five years later, during the first celebration of Silo’s Message, he explains: We have failed… but we keep insisting! We have failed but keep insisting with our project of humanizing the world. We have failed and we will continue to fail not just once but a thousand times again, because we ride on the wings of a bird named Intent that soars above frustration, weakness and pettiness… This is the intent worth living because it is the continuation of the best aspirations of the good people who came before us. It is the intent worth living because it is the precursor of future generations who will transform the world. In a world where the lack of prospects for the future chokes the present, Silo clearly states his analysis and proposals: In this unfortunate world where force and injustice reign over the countryside and the cities, how are they thinking of ending the violence? Perhaps they think they are an inspiring example for new generations when they rant against the world in the guise of a video game; when they threaten like the worst kind of bully; and when finally they send their children to invade, to kill, and to die in distant lands. This is not a good path, nor is it a good example……We will work from today on, all over the world, to put pressure on the decision makers, to disseminate the ideals of peace based on the methodology of non-violence so as to prepare the way for the new times. Yes, it is worthwhile that this Message and that this Universal Humanism gain strength. Silo’s message inspires a deep religiosity: Finally, my friends, I want to share with all of you this profound certainty that says: “The Sacred is within us and nothing bad can happen in this profound search for the Un-nameable.” I believe that something very good will happen when human beings find the Meaning, so many times lost and so many times found again in the twists and turns of History. Friends, I would like this Message of the Profound to be heard. It is not a strident Message; it is a quiet message that cannot be heard when one tries to trap it. Friends, I would like to transmit the certainty of immortality. But, how could what is mortal generate something immortal? Perhaps we should rather ask ourselves, how it is possible for the immortal to generate the illusion of mortality.
It’s hard to say what the future developments of Silo’s message will be.
There have been many in history who have given Hope to humanity, always showing non-violence as the path to be taken. They also show us how true power is inside the people, when they fight for a better future with unity, solidarity and firmness. They also show that inside each one of us there are Kindness, Strength and Wisdom the only things we really need. Our future depends on the choices we make today.