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The Grass-Roots Of World Peace
By G. Ramachandran
It is impossible to believe in the sanctity or in the ultimate validity of nationalism. I think nationalism and what are called Nation States have become largely menaces to the human spirit and to human society. Perhaps in Europe and America there are more mature countries which are willing to go beyond the frontiers of Nation States. But here in Asia, with the newly awakened nationhood of many of its peoples, we are in the grip of nationalism and we are proud of our new Nation States. The European and American peoples are at a great advantage in comparison with the people of India because they can think a little more quickly than we can of the world as a whole; we are much more concerned with the problems inside our own country. But we need not go all the way of the European and American countries to learn the lessons that they have learnt. We should be able to learn from history. I do not believe that these powerful Nation States and their governments will ever make the peace of the world. By their very structure and composition, by the very inner law of their being, I think they are incapable of making the peace of the world. The collapse of Summit Meetings in recent years is no accident. It is inevitable in the history of today. I do not think any Summit will make the peace of the world. It is the base, the common people, that will have to make the peace. I simply cannot understand how anyone can imagine that half a dozen people meeting somewhere in the name of countless millions of people can make the peace of the world.
The War and Peace Makers
Some day little groups, meeting in tens of thousands of places in the world, standing for peace, federating together and creating a people's movement might make the peace of the world. So I am, so far as I can think about it today, a sceptic and I cannot bring myself to believe that big and powerful Nation States are going to make the peace of the world. I think they will not. What then can we do? I foresee that the next great step in peace-making in the world would be for the peoples to turn their faces towards their own governments. No government is standing for peace as we understand peace, not even the Indian Government. The Indian Government is as much armed as any other government, consistent with its resources. If it had more resources, there will be more and bigger arms. Each one of us in our own country must create a people’s movement against the attitudes of governments which consider that war is still a method for settling any problem in the world. This is treading on dangerous ground; this cuts across what is called patriotism and nationalism. I think the peace-makers of the world must get beyond patriotism and nationalism. Man is one. Humanity is one and we are citizens of one world. This is a very difficult concept. But unless we reach up to that level some day, peacemaking will remain a pious dream. If we let our own governments commit our people to war, then where are we? One remembers with gratitude the work that is being done by the peace workers, by those who want to abolish nuclear warfare totally, in England, the United States, and other countries. I wonder if in India we have done even that much to turn our faces towards our own government and to say that we give them no moral right to commit our people to war, for any purpose whatsoever, because we are convinced that war is a total evil. If there is any shadow of a doubt anywhere in our minds, that after all war can do some good, then we destroy our creed. We then commit moral and spiritual suicide within ourselves in regard to this basic problem of world peace. So maybe, if we are treading this path, which is sharp as a razor’s edge, we shall some day have to come in conflict with our own national governments everywhere, refusing them the moral right to commit our peoples to war for any reason or purpose.
But we must remember that the war-makers of the world are a powerful community. They have tremendous material resources at their command, and even the psychological resources for awakening the passions of patriotism and nationalism and working people into a kind of fury against some enemy State. Against that, what have we but our conviction and our faith and our dedication? On the other hand, it is unfortunate that the peacemakers of the world are themselves divided. There has come about a kind of broad division in peace-making, two camps of peace-making. One suspects the other. I think this is not morally right, nor is it good peace strategy. Peace-making is the monopoly of no party, no country, no group in the world. Peace has become today such a terrific and emergent need for bare survival that whoever asks for peace is a friend and an ally. We must not divide the forces of peace-making in the world. We may be as cautious as you like, as circumspect about it as you like, refusing to be taken in by every kind of pretension, but let us not cut the peace-forces of the world into sharp and hostile divisions, glaring at each other, so that peace-makers themselves create a new kind of conflict in the world over the issue of peace. If we do that, we shall weaken ourselves. With open eyes, with open minds, and certainly with clear convictions, we should be able to close our ranks all over the world. All parties, groups and peoples deliberately standing for peace, whatever be the reason, must unite.
Dr. Radhakrishnan, the great Indian philosopher-statesman, has said that the cold war is in some ways even more dangerous than the hot war. The cold war corrodes men’s souls and prepares for the destruction of their bodies. We now see signs of it in our own country, in this country of Gandhi and Vinoba―cold war between Pakistan and India, and between China and India. Maybe, if somebody works up our passions, we in India are as much prone to cold war and hot war as any other people in the world. Maybe the heritage which has come from Gandhi and the inspiration which today comes from Vinoba may help us a little to stand on firm ground. But one has yet to see how far and how long these influences can succeed with the same kind of human material in this country as exists in every other country. We must nevertheless not become parties in any sense to the cold war.
There has been some criticism that Indian peace-workers look at European and American peace-workers and say they are not doing enough constructive work. I think we have outlived such a view now. We have realised that European and American and other peace-workers do a lot of constructive work along their own lines. Having said that, I do not hesitate to say that all of us peace-workers all over the world are not doing sufficient day-to-day work which alone can lead to the peace of the world. Peace-making begins from the roots of life, it is not something that merely flowers at the top. How we order our economic life together is part of peace-making. You cannot have an exploiting society building for peace. You cannot evade the issue of injustice and then talk of peace. I think peace without justice will be a complete fraud. Gandhi used prophetic words. He said he did not want “the peace of the grave-yard”. It is easy to have the peace of the grave-yard. If we are thinking of the peace of human beings living together, on terms of equal rights and privileges and sharing everything justly together, then our present society has to be completely transformed before it can become the crucible which can hold the fiery lava of the peace which lives and throbs in the hearts of men and women. We want a radical change of social conditions effected peacefully. Here again is a challenge to each one of us peace-workers in our own countries. As we go back to our work, let us look at the society in which we live, discover the roots of injustice and apply nonviolent pressure to pluck them out. Every little nonviolent struggle to turn injustice into justice is a token for peace. If we do that we gather more strength, more unity, and we grow towards a just and lasting world peace.
A Discussion on Gandhi
Somebody once asked me, “What do you think was the greatest thing that came from Mahatma Gandhi?” and a few friends who were sitting with me thought at once that I would mouth the word “nonviolence”. I did not. I said the greatest thing that came from Gandhi was his challenge that we must act here and now, for justice, wherever we are. You may put on hand-spun cloth, you may carry out all the hundred and one commandments of the Gandhian creed, but if when you saw injustice you evaded its challenge, then you have committed moral and spiritual suicide. To evade an issue is to run away from truth and therefore from the whole possibility of nonviolence. The greatest thing about Gandhi was his teaching and example that we must act here and now to bring about justice, and then immediately, of course, followed the next teaching that all action must be nonviolent. The essential thing for Gandhi was that there must be action and no evasion of a challenge. To Gandhi inaction was violence.
Gandhi has sometimes been misinterpreted in certain Pacifist and Quaker circles. For instance, once Gandhi did say if the only choice before him was between violence and cowardice he would advice violence. This indicates no preference at all for violence. If you knew the life of Gandhi, the basic teaching of Gandhi, the whole work of Gandhi, this would fit like a perfect piece into what he stood for. Action was first with him, but with the inevitable corollary that all action must be nonviolent, because every other action was self-defeating. I think unless we understand this about Gandhi, we do not understand Gandhi at all. Act now, act today, act here, act in the present living moment when there is an issue facing you. If you turn your face away from the issue mouthing big words, and maybe even following all the other virtues, then you betray nonviolence. You will then stand naked before your Maker as somebody who has committed moral and spiritual suicide.
We are fond of talking about unilateral disarmament. The Indian says to the Englishman, you are the fittest for unilateral disarmament and the Englishman turns round and says to the Indian, you are from the country of Gandhi and Vinoba and so you start the game. I think not one of us has the right to ask anybody else to unilaterally disarm. If we are not prepared to do it, let us at least keep our mouths shut and not ask other people to do this. We can unilaterally disarm only ourselves.
Then we come to the Shanti-Sena. This is the most positive thing which emerges from the whole of this background. The usual argument is―I have heard this even from people who are dedicated to nonviolence―that we have not built up the Shanti-Sena, that we have not yet organised the people for nonviolent action (they don’t say how long it will take) and so, in the mean time, if there is aggression what can we do except meet it in the traditional military way. I think when we say this, we completely give up the case for nonviolence. Anyone wishing to defend his country violently against a violent aggression is taking a tremendous risk today. Now take India. Can India stand a real great attack from one of the major powers? Our defence will crumble in a few days against a major onslaught of a major power. Even as between the most powerful States, defence is now a mockery. You can only destroy, you cannot defend.
Now in such a world, to take recourse to violent defence under the plea that we are not yet fully prepared for nonviolence is to make nonsense of nonviolence. If you are not prepared today, you are not going to be prepared tomorrow. You must take risks in this tremendous venture of faith here and now. Gandhi was willing to take the risk. You may say there is no Gandhi in India today. I know there is no Gandhi. But why cut at the roots of Gandhi which are still with us? No man is too small, no man is too disorganised, no man is too weak to put his faith in God and in himself and to say, “I believe in nonviolence and will take a risk here and now”. My thesis, in brief, is that no country today will run greater risks by accepting non-violence than by turning to violence for self-protection.