Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gandhi v the dragon

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."--J. R. R. Tolkien (pictured)

The dragon of structural violence is what Gandhi wrestled with as he sought justice via the methods that would create the least misery for all. So, while he eschewed violence entirely, he used methods that caused loss of income for some back in England, and, I might add, loss of income for many in India at a few points too.

But he did something that those who commit violence can never do. He went directly, in person, to those most affected, and explained it to them in detail and apologized for their losses. He did that when he asked village headmen, employed by the British government, to quite their jobs as he sought to make India ungovernable. He did that most amazingly and innovatively by insisting that when he traveled to England to negotiate with the government of the empire he stayed in the poorest neighborhoods most affected by his boycott of British cloth, the Manchester mills working class section. He earnestly outreached to them in person, told them about bonfires burning British clothing, and they loved him. There is no record of anyone doing such a thing in human history of conflict until then. Impossible with violence. The enemy general going door-to-door to explain why he needs to kill your son? I don't think so. It was flat-out creative, brilliant, and successful. He told them about the dragon in India, the crushing poverty created by British extraction of human and natural resources, and they understood that he was only trying to create more justice with no violence. They accepted their hit, literally, smiling. Astonishing.

Gandhi and khadi--the original spinmeister.

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