Gandhi, Nonviolence and Taking Peace Education Seriously

Below are two interviews with proponents of nonviolence as a tribute to Gandhi’s birthday today.

The first was a person I met by chance who had actually met Gandhi.  He speaks of his experience in politics, Indian history and his personal experience of Gandhi.  He cried when I spoke to him as he recalled the power of this wonderful man.  Many have forgotten Gandhi for he is a historical figure but for those who knew him he will never be forgotten for there is real power in love and truth.

The second interviewee is an academic from the University of Dublin speaking about peace education, socialisation and the importance of nonviolence.  This is a solution to the conflict we seek in the world.  We have to revive nonviolence not as an absence of violence but the presence of true peace.    I always remember Lao Tzu saying ‘It is for those who know to tell the blind horseman on the blind horse that he is heading towards the abyss’.  Here are a few more:

“One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


“When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” – Peace Pilgrim


“There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” – A.J. Muste


“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha


“Peace is its own reward.” – Mahatma Gandhi


“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” – Jimi Hendrix


“We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.” – William Gladstone

 

May we wake up to truths that are true always.  Here is another interesting interview with a man who actually met Gandhi…


Interview with Dr. Kunwar Singh: The Gandhian Politics of serving a cause versus the politics of serving a career

KS: …So the tradition in my life was the politics of Gandhi and Nehru who went to jail, who were totally nonviolent and taught me to stand for a cause and work for a cause. One of the phrases that Nehru used in his book … was that: ‘We are little men working for the great cause, if the cause is great something of greatness falls upon us too’. We are not great, we are nobody actually, it is the cause that makes us big or a small or great. So if you simply say I am here for myself for a job, like one person I will not name here, he lost the election twice. Here I am asking for a job from you. This totally completely different from what I was trained to hear from leaders of a nation. Who would never say I want a job from you. They would say, ‘What can I do for you? How can I serve your interests. This is the way I think you should go ahead, please guide me and tell me. I offer you, I support you, your suffering is my suffering’, that is what Gandhi said. I found it totally missing in Australian political life or in the social life, everybody seems to be for themselves. It is better than America, I’ve been many times. I have studied American history, culture, constitution, geography, political systems where individualism along with capitalism has taken its very high stride. It is the media that rules the American society in thinking today. Very few people, even intellectuals, are left to think for themselves freely. We are all conditioned in a way in life; we are more conditioned by the media that is bombarding your mind all the time with certain messages which are not necessarily healthy for the whole human society…

SC:   Gandhi said his life is his message, now you are one of the few people alive today who have seen him, can you recount the experience when you met Gandhi, can you describe a bit about him and his presence?

KS:  1946 and 1947 I was studying at intermediate just below graduate level.  …I had met most of the leaders at the time and was with the Student’s Congress and I was a follower of Gandhi. I walked in 1942 movement for the freedom of India as a student leader. 

SC:   So you were walking with Gandhi?

KS:  Not at that time but I walked with him later, he came to my home town in the Mussoorie in the Himalayas and the place was called Silverton it was a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains and trees, he used to hold his prayer meetings there. Gandhi would hold prayer meetings in the evening which were attended by record crowds, he was a great inspiration. I knew most of the leaders I had met them Nehru, …Prashad … Patel all of them. So I went to his meetings. I was young and rather good looking and impressive sort of student leader, everywhere I got a seat. So what happened – I go to the meeting there were thousand and thousand of people there so I walk straight to the rostrum where Gandhi was sitting there were two or four girls that walk with him …. He would walk with both of them on either side … when I went there and he invited me and I sat with him and heard him. His voice (pause) came out of his heart. (I can see you’ve got tears in your eyes you really felt it). It inspired you. It moved you. It shook you. You felt like opening your heart before him. He was the man, totally guileless who had his intelligence, judgement totally without pollution, a very pure heart in tune with God, completely. He believed in God. I have believed in God as inspiration … If you believe in God it will make you very strong it will give you inspiration in life. You will never feel …  depression, the illness of western society today. So I spent some moments with Gandhi,  walked with him, sat with him and heard his voice. 

You ask me what happened. In 1947 when India was free, I was in the place I was born, I was a follower of Gandhi… I was sleeping in my room, about 4 o’clock I saw a dream that somebody had shot Mahatma Gandhi I woke up and my younger brother was sleeping with me, he was opposed to me in politics he belong to the Hindu RS organisation so I told him, he loved Gandhi also, he said it couldn’t happen. I started crying and couldn’t stop for the whole day, my mother and father consoled me. (I can see you are still feeling that, was that a year before?) No it was a week before. It was a premonition it was clairvoyance. I am a bit of a clairvoyant I can see things. So after a week I saw he was really shot dead. The news was announced of Gandhi’s death. I came out of my house into the street the whole city was empty. Later there was Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, men and women all walking with tears in their eyes.

SC:  Must have been an incredible time?

KS:  Unforgettable. There are many unforgettable moments in life that I will put in my book now which involve events all over the world ….that was a day of Gandhi and it hurt me tremendously. Since you asked me about Gandhi specifically that is what I can tell you.

 

Interview with Dr. Linda Hogan:  Taking Peace Seriously

 

I always remember an interview I conducted with Dr. Linda Hogan an expert on Peace and Conflict Issues, from the University of Dublin. Dr. Hogan was a visiting lecturer at the Ecumenical Summer School in Melbourne when I met her.

Interview with Dr. Linda Hogan

LH:  I was invited back to the Ecumenical Summer School and I taught for a week in Sydney at their summer school and came to Melbourne to do the same thing again.

SC:   Can you tell us about the subject you teach and what issues come up?

LH:  What we are interested in, in the school I belong to, is creating context in which peace issues are taken seriously and peace is taken as a viable alternative to violence in this world. We recognise that peace very often involves the defence of the innocent and it involves a fight for justice. What we are interested in pursuing in our school is exploring nonviolent options for pursuing justice in this world.

SC:   What do you say to people who think nonviolence is ineffective and that the only way to protect yourself is to take the line of building a bigger military in order to create a sense of fear in the other so they won’t attack you and that creates a stable world. what do you think of that?

LH:  Our history has shown us this is actually wrong. What our history has shown us, force and violence leads to more violence, that we are now in a cycle where violence is presented to us as the only alternative. And yet all we can see is when revolutions, revolutionary activity through violence, there is a cycle of violence that follows it. I would say at the historical level this argument is incorrect, we are in the situation now where we are highly militarised purely because of the failures of those many centuries where military options were only chosen. So I very strongly believe that there are many examples in our histories in our different nations of nonviolent action that has been successful. Very often it is at a local level, very often it has been hidden, very often it has been preventative. In fact the success of preventative action and preventative diplomacy we are not in a situation where we need to evoke military power. So, I really think we have been fed a lie about the way in which we need a military, I’ve been talking about an extraordinary book, the book is called ‘The Unconquerable World: Power of Nonviolence and the Will of the People’, that is the title, it is by an American writer called Jonathon Shell. What he does in this book is make a very strong argument about the power of nonviolence in history, he says very clearly that force now will only lead to more force that is what history has told us. He also says that if we look carefully we find another tradition in our histories as well, that is the history of empires overcome by people power of people choosing the path of nonviolence of people resolving conflict non-violently and peacefully. And really what we need to do at this juncture in history is reclaim that history to recognise its significance and draw hope from it. We know that nonviolence has been effective in many places, even when it’s only barely resourced or under resourced. What would it be like if we were prepared to put in the energy, the huge financial resources, the commitment over a long period of time to nonviolent resolution of our conflicts? The world would definitely be a different place.

SC:   So if you were the person deemed with the responsibility of being the change in this way, how would you practically do it?

LH:  What we need is people working at a whole host of levels to change the mindsets, our schools, our history books, telling the successful stories of nonviolence, the situations that give us hope, in our art and music we need to be celebrating peace rather than glorifying violence. I think in the movies and the games children play we need to be cultivating respect and mutuality rather than again this glorification of the big bangs, the spectacle of violence. We are enthralled to violence; our culture endlessly presents it to us as valuable, wonderful, extraordinary. We need to recognise that all we see is the big bang, the spectacle the fireworks, what we don’t see on our screens, and what we really do need to see is the casualties of that violence. Our culture has completely obliterated the consequences of violence from its screens, comprehension from its imagination. Those things in particular I think are important if we are to shift the mindset.

SC:   Going back to the idea of violent games, particularly with children, there will be people out there will say look it doesn’t affect my child at all, I can put my child in front of a violent game they are not going to go out and kill someone.

LH:  They are probably right, they are probably not going to go out and kill someone. I think that violence goes deeper than the idea of the most extreme version of taking another person’s life. Our culture is premised on this idea that if we want to gain something, if we want to be successful, then we have got to be strong, hard, disregarding other people, we’ve got to go after what we want at all costs. That is a form of violence. What our culture doesn’t encourage us to do, and what many of these games completely ignore is the importance of cooperative power. So the person may well be right, a video game about violence does not send someone out to kill. But what does it do to the person’s approach to their life, their relationships, their immediate relationships, their family? Does it promote this idea that if you want something you go out and take it, or does it encourage young children to think cooperatively and act cooperatively? That is the question, not will it send someone out to kill.

SC:   I will ask you an interesting question I met a famous woman here in Australia and based in the United States who is actively involved in the anti-nuclear area. I went and visited her at her place. She said: ‘You know what the problem with the world is?’ I said, ‘No’, she said, ‘Men’.

LH:  I wouldn’t have said that to you, what she is putting her finger on is something about the way in which men and young boys in particular are socialised into a particular mindset that makes them believe that the best way, and the most valuable way to express their masculinity, is through violence or through some kind of expression of power over. So I think she may have put her finger on something there by drawing attention to the link between the way in which men are socialised in many many cultures to believe that they will only truly be fulfilling their masculine identities if they operate in this way. But I would say that really the hazards exist for all people. We can recognise in ourselves very easily and quickly when we are prone to anger when we are likely to lash out, when we are likely to blame someone for something that is really our own fault, to externalise the things rather than to try and deal with them. So we can recognise in our experience how we can be inclined to violence ourselves. I think that is a hazard for human beings, it is part of the ambiguity of being human. So when our culture promotes that or even condones it, it is very difficult to resist, and it is more difficult to resist when we don’t see this is the way in which we are socialised. I would say that violence is a hazard that everybody encounters and everybody is prone to, I would think the task of peacemaking and peace building is the task for all human beings not just for men or for women.

 

Mohandas Gandhi

“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”

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