The real implication of equal distribution is that each man shall have the wherewithal to supply all his natural needs and no more. For example, if one man has a weak digestion and requires only a quarter of a pound of flour for his bread and another needs a pound, both should be in a position to satisfy their wants. To bring this ideal into being the entire social order has got to be reconstructed. A society based on non-violence cannot nurture any other ideal. We may not perhaps be able to realize the goal, but we must bear it in mind and work unceasingly to near it. To the same extent as we progress towards our goal we shall find contentment and happiness, and to that extent too shall we have contributed towards the bringing into being of a non-violent society.
It is perfectly possible for an
individual to adopt this way of life without having to wait for
others to do so. And if an individual can observe a certain rule
of conduct, it follows that a group of individuals can do likewise.
It is necessary for me to emphasize the fact that no one need wait
for anyone else in order to adopt a right course. Men generally
hesitate to make a beginning if they feel that the objective cannot
be had in its entirety. Such an attitude of mind is in reality a
bar to progress.
Now let us consider how equal
distribution can be brought about through non-violence. The first
step towards it is for him who has made this ideal part of his
being to bring about the necessary changes in his personal life. He
would reduce his wants to a minimum, bearing in mind the poverty of
India. His earnings would be free of dishonesty. The desire for
speculation would be renounced. His habitation would be in keeping
with the new mode of life. There would be self-restraint exercised
in every sphere of life. When he has done all that is possible in
his own life, then only will he be in a position to preach this
ideal among his associates and neighbours.
Indeed at the root of this
doctrine of equal distribution must lie that of the trusteeship of
the wealthy for the superfluous wealth possessed by them. For
according to the doctrine they may not possess a rupee more than
their neighbours. How is this to be brought about? Non-violently?
Or should the wealthy be dispossessed of their possessions? To do
this we would naturally have to resort to violence. This violent
action cannot benefit society. Society will be the poorer, for it
will lose the gifts of a man who knows how to accumulate wealth.
Therefore the non-violent way is evidently superior. The rich man
will be left in possession of his wealth, of which he will use what
he reasonably requires for his personal needs and will act as a
trustee for the remainder to be used for society. In this argument
honesty on the part of the trustee is assumed.
As soon as a man looks upon
himself as a servant of society, earns for its sake, spends for its
benefit, then purity enters into his earnings and
there is Ahimsa in his venture. Moreover, if menís minds turn towards
this way of life, there will come about a peaceful revolution in
society, and that without any bitterness.
It may be asked whether
history at any time records such a change in human nature. Such
changes have certainly taken place in individuals. One may not
perhaps be able to point to them in a whole society. But this
only means that up till now there has never been an experiment on
a large scale on non-violence. Somehow or other the wrong belief
has taken possession of us that Ahimsa is pre-eminently a weapon for
individuals and its use should, therefore, be limited to that sphere.
In fact this is not the case. Ahimsa is definitely an attribute of
society. To convince people of this truth is at once my effort and
my experiment. In this age of wonders no one will say that a
thing or idea is worthless because it is new. To say it is
impossible because it is difficult, is again not in consonance with
the spirit of the age. Things undreamt of are daily being seen, the
impossible is ever becoming possible. We are constantly being
astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of
violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly
impossible discoveries will be made in the field of non-violence.
The history of religion is full of such examples.
If, however, in spite of the
utmost effort, the rich do not become guardians of the poor in the
true sense of the term and the latter are more and more crushed
and die of hunger, what is to be done? In trying to find the
solution to this riddle I have lighted on non-violent non-co-operation
and civil disobedience as the right and infallible means. The
rich cannot accumulate wealth without the co-operation of the poor in
society. Man has been conversant with violence from the beginning,
for he has inherited this strength from the animal in his nature.
It was only when he rose from the state of a quadruped (animal) to
that of a biped (man) that the knowledge of the strength of Ahimsa
entered into his soul. This knowledge has grown within him slowly
but surely. If this knowledge were to penetrate to and spread
amongst the poor, they would become strong and would learn how to
free themselves by means of non-violence from the crushing
inequalities which have brought them to the verge of starvation.