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Issues In Culture Of Peace And Non-violence

By C. S. Dharmadhikari

The United nations has declared this decade as the Decade of Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the children of the world.  This declaration pinpoints certain basic questions before us today and they will also help to understand the philosophy of Gandhi.  In my own way, I have classified the various problems, which the world is facing in terms of four P’s – population, poverty pollution and power politics or power game.  I also classify the remedies for these in terms of four M’s viz. money power, muscle power, mafia power; and media power, the way people in general tend to see them.

As it is rightly said by the Director of UNICEF, “the gulf between the young and adults seems to be growing every day not only in universities, but in society as a whole.  With their needs for absolutes the young are less then ever able to tolerate injustice and disorders of the world”.  Thus, the difference between the capacity of younger and older generations to tolerate injustice and corruption is a real generation gap.  There is no use in condemning and criticizing the younger generation, when my generation has failed to reach the values of life as propagated by Gandhi.  It is true that on 15th August 1947, we achieved political independence.  But Gandhi always used the word ‘swaraj’ and not ‘independence’.  There is a vast difference between independence and freedom.  Political independence we did get, but can it be said that we got freedom from inequality or freedom from exploitation of all kinds, that is, economic, religious, social and political?  Unless this is achieved, there cannot be peace in the world.  When, therefore, the youth or students revolt, though many times wrongly, we have no right to condemn them.  As rightly said by Oscar Wilde, “disobedience in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man’s original virtue, it is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and rebellion.”

The well-known report of the United Nations on human environment tells us that, “the emotional attachment to our prized diversity need not interfere with out attempts to develop the global state of mind which will generate the rational loyalty to the planet as a whole.  As enter the global phase of human evolution, it becomes obvious, that each man has two countries, his own, and the planet earth.  Now that all habitable parts of the globe are occupied, the careful husbandry of the earth is sine qua non for the survival of the human species and for creation of decent ways life for all the people of the world”.  But unfortunately even today, people are exploiting nature.  The moot question is whether nature is our ally or enemy.  The very word ‘exploit’ is explosive.  If we treat nature as our enemy, the man cannot survive on this planet.  The last century was a century of conquering nature.  I am told, though I am not an expert in the field, that small birds, like sparrows are vanishing because of widespread use of mobile phones.  Modernization has become the latest orthodoxy.  We are forgetting that modernization is not necessarily modernity.  In this process of modernization, ‘horse power’ is valued more than ‘man power’.  The ‘standard of spending’ is equated with the ‘standard of living’. Gresham’s law that ‘bad money drives good money out of the market’ is not only prevalent in the market but is also in vogue in social and political circles.  I am not dealing with Globalization or arm twisting market economy.  But I must draw your attention to the conclusion reached by the ‘Wisdom Bank’ of Japan, that Japan is manufacturing artificial wisdom so that  men need not use their brains.  It is also manufacturing artificial needs so that greed should not become need.

It was on 11th September, 1906, a Movement was started in South Africa by Gandhi, which ultimately came to be known as “Satyagraha”.  Initially the name give to this movement was “Passive resistance”.  This was resorted by the people, who had either no right to vote or were otherwise, weak.  They were not averse to the use of arms, if possible, for the attainment of their aims.  On the other hand, Satyagraha is soul force, pure and simple.  Satyagrahis never use physical force, and that too although there were occasions, and when they were in a position to use it effectively.  In a sense this was non-violent assistance in the right direction.

We may call it coincidence or destiny, it was on 11th September, that the World Trade Centre was demolished.  After this demolition US President, George Bush, remembered Gandhi.  After the tragedy a new youth organization has been founded in the United States, named as, ”We want Peace, not War”.  There is another organization known as “Seeds of Peace”.  There is also one more organization of Muslim Youth, who wonders as to whether, it is just and fair to call every Muslim a friend of Bin Laden?  They also observed that it is very easy to live as a Hindu, as a Muslim, as a Buddhist, as a Christian, but it has become very difficult to live as a pure and simple human being.  A point is also raised by these organizations that after nine/eleven, though it is difficult to forget the destruction and demolition of the World Trade Centre in New York the backlash of hatred can not end terrorism.  It is not possible to forget this atrocity, but will it be correct to hate a person whom we did not know, whom we have never seen, about whom we have never heard?  If this hatred is possible, they why it is not possible to love the unseen, unknown and unheard person?  This is a moot question, which is relevant even today.

The 20th century was the most violent period in human history.  More people have suffered and have been killed by organized violence than any other time before.  The wars, the genocides, the weapons of mass destruction have created such an enormous mass misery and agony that it is difficult to find any trace of hope.  Therefore, Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence are most relevant today.  This is the reason why amidst report of increasing teenage violence across the United States, a Bill has been introduced in the New Jersey Assembly seeking to include Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence in the school curriculum.  On 12 May, 2000, on Mother’s Day in New York, several thousand mothers resolved and demanded a ban on the manufacture of arms, and its use.  Therefore, in my view the teachings of Gandhi are not only relevant but also the only alternative.  If we follow Gandhi’s principle, then it is my belief that this century will be the century of peace.  Recently, Wolfowitiz, U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary has suggested and advised that Palestinians should adopt Gandhian Principles.  He further said, “If they adopt Gandhian way, they could in fact, make an enormous change very quickly.  I believe the power of individuals demonstrating peacefully is enormous”.  It is a different thing that USA is not following this, as the advice is meant for others only.

Gandhi said, “There is no half way between truth and non-violence on the one hand and untruth and violence on the other.  We may never be strong enough to be entirely non-violent in thought, word and deed.  But we must keep non-violence as our goal and make steady progress towards it.  The attainment of freedom, whether of man, a nation or the world, must be in exact proportion to the attainment of non-violence by each”.  Elsewhere he stated: “Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will, its seat is in the heart and it must be inseparable part of our very being”.  According to Gandhi, the concept of non-violence is not a negative concept, but it is a positive approach to ‘Life’.  Gandhi did not resort to non-violent resistance because he was unarmed, he resorted to non-violent resistance, or call it assistance, because he had shed fear of all arms.  Gandhi had also realized the futility of arms.  He knew that the best can not be achieved by fear, because ‘fear is a dark room, where only negatives are developed’.  He also realized that all arms become powerless once the man has shed the fear of arms.  This was the concept of non-violence of Gandhi which was positive, and dynamic.  It provided metaphysical foundation to the concept of morality.  Just as we have little reason to expect less violence in a country if all of its citizens are armed with guns, even if they all have the same kind of guns and the same number of bullets, so we have little reason to expect less violence in the world, if all of its nations are armed with weapons of mass destruction, not even if there is some ‘balance’ or even equality among these weapons.  In short, to adopt non-violence is to adopt a new way of coming to terms with our vulnerability, a new way of dealing with the fear to which we are subject and the fear which we can inspire in others.

Contrary to misconception held by some people, however non-violence is not a matter of substituting non-violent means of defence.  Probably even more basic is the transformations of our social and economic institutions so that they are not the source of violence and exploitation, to certain segments of society and they do not create conditions to which violence in the expectable response.  The strength of a non-violent society does not lie in weapons of destruction, it lies in the degree to which humane values are embodied in its social institutions.  These social institutions involve not only the relations of human beings to our natural environment and to other forms of life.  If our goal is non-violence, we cannot consume and destroy, destroy and consume, as if it made no difference.  For Gandhi, non-violence, in the negative sense is not non-violence.  Non-violence is not merely a ‘live and let live’, formula, but it involves a Principle of ‘Live and help others to live’, and these others should include human beings, animals and nature.

In the present day economy, animals have no place and it is our desire to include animals as members of our family and society.  In the Indian Constitution, we have made a solemn declaration that al least one animal, that is, cow shall not be killed fro any purpose whatsoever.  But it must be understood that animals should not be man’s toy nor mere pets, because pets and toys are kept as long as they amuse us.  They day we chose to regard one animal as sacred and not a mere pet, we took a great stride forward in the direction of cultural progress.  Ultimately, what is culture?  Culture is the art of living with others, living with nature, with the animal world, and with fellow human beings.  The word culture is most important.  We want culture of peace or non-violence to be established.  Can there be a Culture of Peace and Non-violence, is again a moot question; and what do we mean by culture; such a culture will not be Western or Eastern, but can be global, only.

The earth is called ‘Vasundhara’ or ‘Vasumati’.  Vasu means wealth.  We intend to search the wealth, not to exploit it, but to make our lives gratifying and blessed.  Therefore, the first article of this revolutionary creed should be that ‘man is the measure of all things’.  Any you cannot preserve the dignity of man on charity.  The underlying principle is reverence for life.  This is true for all lives and that should b e our watch-word.  The reverence for human life first, then animals, and then for nature.  This is known in our ancient lores as ‘Vibhuti Yoga’ – the worship of all, and relationship with everybody that makes life rich.  We believe in ‘Advyata’, that is, oneness, harmony, co-ordination and mutual co-operation.

I want to as question to myself, whether Gandhi has become out of date?  There is a misunderstanding about the very concept of Gandhi’s non-violence.  One armed man can be conquered by 10, 10 x 20, and so on, but not all the armies of the world can not conquer the spirit on one true man.  This was Gandhi’s dynamic non-violence.  But today, a question is raised as to whether this instrument of non-violence has got any use?  While dealing with a person who does not believe in non-violence, but believes in only race of arms.  We are expecting a positive reply from this seminar to this question which is posed today at every corner of the street.  It is true that we can our governmental departments dealing with the arms and military as ‘defence department’.  Everybody claims that the arms are being manufactured for defence.  Is this true and can this create peace and harmony in the whole world?  Is if possible that the Shanti Sena as envisaged by Gandhi could be a solution where people will gather not to kill each other, but will stake their own lives to establish peace and harmony.

Whether we want ‘Yuddha or Buddha’ War or Peace?  Or peace through war?  I do not propose to deal these questions.

In this context, it is worthwhile to note that on the 27th of September 1984, while addressing the U.N. Assembly the then President of America Ronald Reagan remembered Gandhi and said that “all problems could be peacefully resolved, if adversaries talk to each other on the basis love and truth.  All through history the way of truth and love has always won.  This was the belief of Gandhi and his vision and its remains good and true even today.”  It was true in 1984, but it appears that America feels that it is not true today.

I must remind this august gathering that women are the silent victims of most of the conflicts and are real targets.  We generally talk about empowering women, but do we really mean it, or want it?  In my so called religious country, the birth of the girl child is not welcomed.  Further all over the world, atrocities on women are increasing in geometric proportion.  Domestic violence is rampant.  It was a UNICEF Report which said “They (women) already bear and care for the third world’s children.  They make, wash and mend the third world’s clothes.  They clean the third world’s houses, collect their fuel, cook the third world’s food, fetch the third world’s water, and look after the third world’s sick.”

The modernization and mechanization are tending to marginalize women in many sectors.  They are either pushed down or are thrown out of the work force.  The media has reduced woman to a commodity.  Women all over the world are worried about it.  Therefore a movement has started in the name of ‘women against pornography’.  They said that ‘it is one thing women can unite upon because we all get raped and we all get beaten’.  Women are constantly living under the fear of rape.  As it is rightly said by Brown Miller, ‘Rape is a social and political instrument invented by man to oppress women socially, economically and politically’.  Noted Scholar, Elizabeth Bartinder says, ‘maternal instinct is just a myth invented several years ago to subjugate women.  Women gain no glory by being mothers.  The instinct is simply oppressive fiction’.  Therefore, women in Western liberalization movement have gone to the extent of saying that ‘paternal instinct is a taboo waiting to be born, criticized and killed.  Therefore, ‘down with motherhood’.  This is an extreme approach but we cannot ignore it, while dealing with the problem of Culture of Peace and Non-violence.  Gandhi spoke about ‘Stri Shakti’, what exactly does it mean in the present day context?

The United Nations has declared 2001 to 2010 as the decade of Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the children of the world.  Unfortunately we treat our children as our property.  We want them to be our carbon copies or pocket edition.  This is nothing but cruelty. 

It was Kahlil Gibran who said:

Your children are not your children. 

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. 

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. 

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts. 

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you can not visit, not even in your dreams. 

You may strive to be like them, but seek not

to make them like you. 

For life goes not backwards nor tarries with yesterday. 

You are the bows from which your children as living

arrows are sent forth. 

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite and

He bends you with His might and His arrows may

go swift and far. 

Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrows that flies, He loves

also the bow that is stable.

This view is also expressed by Rabindra Nath Tagore in his ‘Snehagrass’.  However, it is a mood question as to whether we are living for the children?  Are we planning for the next generation?  Or we want to grab everything for ourselves, ignoring future generation or their destiny.  And, therefore, it appears that United Nations feel that the Culture of non-violence and peace should be for the children of the world, who represent future of mankind.  But they are abused exploited in every possible sense and way.

Now, though late, there is a realization that there is no other alternative to the principle of non-violence.  Otherwise this Century and Millennium might witness unprecedented, proliferation of violence, because history of wars and human destruction clearly tells us that people have not learnt anything from destruction.  Therefore, it should be specifically emphasized that non-violence is to be accepted as the basis of personal life and social life and also as the only feasible and desirable technique of resolving conflicts, and those who advocate peace should practice what they preach.

Future of mankind depends upon its adopting non-violence as the principle of life on which depends a happy union of science and spirituality.  I call it S+G that is Science plus Gandhi.