Gandhi Essay Passive Resistance or Violence
18 September 2010
Passive Resistance or Violence
Mahatma Gandhi dedicated his mind, body and soul to his nonviolent teachings. His main purpose was to get the world to see that violence is not the proper answer to conflicts and that passive resistance is the ultimate way to go. Gandhi addresses his teachings throughout ???The Theory and Practice of Passive Resistance???, ???Meaning of Satyagraha???, and also in ???Religion of Nonviolence.??? Personally, Gandhi??™s beliefs might actually be the ideal way to go in a world without guns, planes, tanks, and bomb and where wars can be fought with words, but in today??™s world, nonviolence is a practice that is meaningless and futile.
Gandhi??™s teachings focus mostly on achieving a passive resistance and how to resist the urge to react to situations violently. In the ???Religion of Nonviolence???, Gandhi addresses the point of nonviolence when one??™s life is in danger. The poet, Raichandbhai, gave advice to Gandhi saying, ???if he had the courage to see God face to face, I should let myself get bitten by a snake instead of killing it??? (Gandhi 451). Why should someone put their life in danger to just merely let another being live, if it??™s causing danger to themselves I??™m not saying one should kill their alleged attacker, but they should be able to defend themselves in life-threatening situations. After all of his talk on nonviolence, Gandhi then throws in the fact that he let??™s his people of India kill blindly snakes and scorpions. ???I could have prevented them if I had wished. But how could I I did not have the courage to take them up with my own hands and teach my companions a lesson in fearlessness??? (Gandhi 451). It just goes to show how hard it is to physically be able to become passive resistance. No individual is going to sit there and let a snake bite his or her arm without reacting. It??™s almost impossible to resist a human beings brute force. It??™s instinctual, unavoidable.
In ???The Doctrine of the Sword I??? and ???Doctrine of the Sword II???, Gandhi shifts gears and begins addressing the concept of brute force. He claims, ???nonviolence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute??? (Gandhi 455), but then Gandhi says that ???I believe in violence just as much as most people do??? (Gandhi 454). So is giving into brute force actually good then Absolutely. Brute force is what drives human beings to defend themselves. It??™s that fight or flight instinct. When a group of people is being oppressed they will most likely turn to violence to get rid of their oppressor. War only ends when people refuse to fight on both sides. You can??™t just have one side passively resisting a violent oppressor. The revolution between the people of Czechoslovakia and the Soviets is a prime example of passive resistance being the wrong idea. It took the Czechs ???two decades to get their Velvet Revolution??? to work (Kelly 499). Obviously one could argue that passive resistance worked here, but is it worth putting hundreds of thousands of people through twenty plus years of suffering ??“ Absolutely not. Passive resistance can last for years to finally get the message across and really all it brings to the table is suffering. Violent resistance limits the suffering and gets the job done and stops the enemy from completely taking over.
In Gandhi??™s work ???The Law of Suffering???, Gandhi promptly states ???no country has ever risen without being purified through the fire of suffering??? (Gandhi 451). This is extremely true. The American colonists went through periods of suffering with the English during the American Revolution when they were trying to gain their freedom; India also went through a period of suffering concerning the English. In the end, both peoples got what they wanted, but the key to their success ??“ Violent resistance. Gandhi also makes an important point when he says that ???progress is to be measured by the amount of suffering undergone by the sufferer??? (Gandhi 452). Gandhi basically says that people must suffer in order to track progress. Suffering doesn??™t necessarily put an end to oppression nor solve the world??™s problems. People must act on their brute force or violent instinct when being oppressed to achieve what they want.
There have been countless occasions in history where nonviolent protests have tried to make things work but end up back firing. The American Revolution would be a great example of how passive resistance ended up back firing and where violent resistance took over and ended up giving the American colonists what the essentially wanted ??“ freedom and independence. The Americans peacefully rejected Britain??™s authority, wanting to become self-bodying states. The British however, didn??™t like the idea of the colonists not being under the queen??™s rule and started the Navigation Acts. Theses acts ???were intended to regulate commerce in the British interest??? (credoreference.com). Obviously these acts didn??™t keep the colonists under British rule, but pushed them away further. The colonists continued to form their own ideas and rituals on life. Finally the British saw the situation got out of hand and decided to send troops over to the colonies. This pushed the colonists even further until British troops opened fire on the colonists in Boston, the first steps into the violence that followed. After the Boston Massacre, violence broke out, leading to the Revolutionary War that lasted from ???1775-1783??? (Wikipedia). After eight years of war, a treaty was signed allowing the colonists to have their freedom. If the colonies hadn??™t united and fought against the British, today we??™d probably still be living under English rule. To prove my point further, violent resistance is the better way to go; it takes less time to get to an outcome and also the end response is very rewarding. The colonials got their freedom and also their land.
In a world with biological weapons and countries always developing new ways to fight and win against one another, nonviolence isn??™t plausible in today??™s world. As mentioned before, if wars could be fought with words and have feasible outcomes it??™s possible; otherwise the efforts towards nonviolence are impossible. Even Gandhi himself, the one who preaches nonviolence, says that he has not fully achieved passive resistance and he also says ???resort to arms in order to defend honour??? (Gandhi 454). Gandhi is saying that under specific circumstances, if you or your country??™s honor is threatened, you??™re allowed to stand up and fight for it. In the words of Gandhi himself, ???we must win it before we can own it??? (466). We must stand up and fight for what we want.
“American Revolution – Credo Reference Topic.” Credo Reference Home. Web. 22 Sept. 2010.
“American Revolutionary War.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 22 Sept. 2010.
Gandhi, Mahatma. “Law of Suffering.” Cultural Conversations: The Presence of the Past. Bedford/St. Martins, 2001. 451-53.
Gandhi, Mahatma. ???The Doctrine of the Sword I.??? Cultural Conversations: The Presence of the Past. Bedford/St. Martin??™s, 2001. 454-55
Kelly, Petra. ???Nonviolent Social Defense.??? Cultural Conversations: The Presence of the Past. Bedford/St. Martin??™s, 2001. 499.