Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gandhi GWOT

Mohandas Gandhi was devoted to Hindu-Muslim comity and based on that, he really launched the notion of what he called a 'peace army.' His love of Muslim-Hindu siblinghood is indeed what signed his death warrant.

As is often the case, his desire to get along with others caused those of his own group the most consternation. He was murdered not by jihadis but by a fellow Hindu who was acting on behalf of a larger Hindu fundamentalist organization. Yitzak Rabin was murdered by an Israeli for his role in the Oslo peace with Palestinians. Nonviolence is a very threatening concept to some, as is one element of nonviolence, forgiveness.

So Gandhi founded the Shanti Dals to try to bring peace to rioting Hindus and Muslims in India (Weber, 1996). Individually, he achieved remarkable success, going door-to-door in the poorest, most violent, most fundamentalist neighborhoods of both groups and begging them to abstain from further violence.

It is likely that Gandhi's final project, the formation of a Shanti Sena, or peace army, would have served two functions; it would have been organized toward providing internal peace in India and would have been a sort of civilian-based defense of the country from foreign forces. He may have also hoped that Shanti Sena would have been an international world police force designed to prevent war.

It is possible. It is the dream of those who believe in nonviolence. On a small scale, it is underway in some ways already, with valuable organizations like Nonviolent Peaceforce, Sri Lankan Sarvodaya, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Muslim Peacemaker Teams, and so forth.

Ultimately, however, we must choose. We cannot have Obama's increasing military and a nonviolent initiative in any way associated with the American government, unless we are willing to sacrifice the volunteers on the nonviolent side. We cannot show the world a fearsome and lethal military and expect that world to be loving and friendly toward any nonviolent parties who don't also oppose the US military.

This is part of why nonviolence is almost always going to be a challenger method. In our era of massive military, choosing nonviolence makes us a counter-hegemonic movement almost no matter where we are, in opposition to the terrorists who strap themselves with explosive belts or who strap themselves into military aircraft. Nonviolence means opposition and it's not an easy path, but it's the only one worth taking if you wish to live recognizing the only tyrant with legitimacy--your conscience.

Weber, Thomas, Gandhi’s Peace Army: The Shanti Sena and Unarmed Peacekeeping. Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996.

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