Tag Archives: satyagraha

Thanksgiving Service for Lord Attenborough – A Personal View by John Rowley 22nd March 2015

Richard Attenborough at Kingsley Hall 1996

Richard Attenborough at Kingsley Hall 1996

Poppy, Judith and I arrived in The Abbey Forecourt at 11am. It was already seething with people laughing and smiling and a long queue snaking through security. William Rhind was there and took our spare ticket for Mark Hoda. Martin Polden was already in the queue and Diana Schumacher had taken her seat right in the front row at the Crossing [where the nave intersects the transept].

I am on two missions. The first is to spot members of the theatrical elite and, if the moment occurs, get into a conversation. Poppy has her card. Didn’t happen then but did later. My second was to ask as many as I politely could, what do you think of Trevor Griffith’s screen play for “Tom Paine”? Do you think the funds could be raised now?” This was Richard’s last but sadly not completed project. Michael Grade reckons he spent more time on this than he did on “Gandhi”. The script has been universally praised [including Tom Stoppard, David Puttnam and Kurt Vonnegut]. I have since learned that there are now two films due on Tom Paine: one is in the final stages of production in Hollywood and the other, to be directed by Dick Fontaine, is being offered to potential funders. Let’s hope both prove to be the urgently needed reminder of the power of democracy.

You are transformed the moment you walk through The Abbey’s portal. You are suddenly enveloped in a sacred space. Its stupendous vault almost sucks your eyes up, the grace of the falling ribs drawing them down, down, down the elegant, heaven-reaching arcade of columns and slim sunlit windows to the polished nave stones beneath your feet. Just above the heads of those in front, you glimpse the glistening gold of the altar, far away and tiny through the sparkling gold rood screen. You begin your approach to the sacred centre; the holiest of the holy which explains all to believers. The quiet murmurings around you are respectful of this, the fleeting eye contacts are open, welcoming and bonding, dress codes and uniforms of the humblest best.

You follow the others slowly down the aisle, scanning the hundreds of faces on either side, many already gazing at you. Do I recognise any? Not until Michael Caine sitting front row right in the transept. Diana must have been on the left because my eyes were glued on him! The lives you can see in that face in seconds…

‘Only connect’ and here you can. ‘The Times’ published a complete list the next day.

We three were sat some 20 rows behind them and we had the most extraordinary encounters. First of all, there was William Blake looking right at us, the light on the bronze making him scowl and thoughtful at the same time. I was a Trustee of The Blake Society for a few years. In 1791, Tom Paine followed William Blake’s advice to give the manuscript of “The Rights of Man” to the brave printer, J S Jordan, and to then quickly leave for Paris where he was welcomed into the ‘inner circle’.

A laugh behind me made me turn and was happily included. He turns out to be Lord Watson, previously Financial Correspondent for the BBC but, for decades, Richard’s next door neighbour in Richmond.

Then Greg Dyke sat down next to Judith and we four had a great little chat. He said he had seriously considered making the film when he was at the BBC and would still love to see it made.

At 11:40, the organ begins to play excerpts from Bach, Handel, Howells, Mendelssohn, Elgar and Vaughan Williams. I turn to my left and meet Mary Connolly. Believe this: she turns out to be Sussex University’s Special Projects director responsible for The Attenborough Centre which is opening in September! I had no idea of this. She offered to look at my photos of Richard – “It’s so difficult to find unpublished ones” – and the proposal I made to Richard for a Peace Studies Institute. Looks like another re-write coming up.

On the dot of noon of this St Patrick’s Day, SILENCE descends. We are all abruptly totally focused, egos quickly draining away. The Collegiate Procession, in their magnificence, ‘moves to places in Quire and Sacrarium’. George Fenton’s “Shadowlands” theme is played on trumpet and organ. After the Bidding, we sang Bunyan’s “He who would valiant be..”. Now I am involved, body and soul.

David Attenborough then read Richard’s Maiden Speech [22-11-94]. I give it to you now:

“I have it on the best authority – from a not too distant relative – that we are related to apes. But it is surely not only the ability to stand on our hind legs that sets us so singularly apart from the animal kingdom. The crucial difference must lie in what we call ‘soul’ and creativity.

From the very earliest of times, the arts have been an instinctive essential of our humanity. They are a miraculous sleight of hand which reveals the truth; and a glorious passport to greater understanding between the peoples of the world. The arts not only enrich our lives but also grant us the opportunity to challenge accepted practices and assumptions. They give us a means of protest against that which we believe unjust; a voice to condemn the brute and the bully; a brief to advocate the cause of human dignity and self-respect; a rich and varied language through which we can express our national identity.

Today, as a nation, we face daunting problems – problems which are obliging us to examine the very fabric of our society. And the role of the arts in healing a nation divided, a nation in which too many lack work, lack self-esteem, lack belief and direction, cannot be over-estimated.

The arts are not a luxury. They are as crucial to our well-being, to our very existence, as eating and breathing. Access to them should not be restricted to a privileged few. Nor are they the playground of the intelligentsia. The arts are for everyone – and failure to include everyone diminishes us all.”

Wow! Poppy shakes a metaphorical fist in total agreement, whispering “Yes!”.

Penelope Wilton followed with verses from St John [I 4:7-9, 11-12, 18, 20]:

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for Gos is love. In the was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

After the Choir had sung the spiritual “Steal Away”, St Matthew 5: 1-10 was read by the apparently gorgeous, but out of sight, Tom Hiddlestone. We then sang Vaughan Williams’ hymn “Come down, O Love divine…” and Ben Kingsley and Geraldine James mounted the two pulpits, alternating with each other. Sir Ben began, but not in voice, to read:

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether mad destruction is wrought in the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty and democracy?
There are many causes I would die for. Not one I would kill for. An eye for an eye turns the whole world blind.
Poverty is the worst form of violence.
Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal, as his abuse of the better half of humanity: the female sex.
Terrorism is a weapon not of the strong but of the weak.
Civilisation is the encouragement of differences.
The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always
won. There have been tyrants and murderers and, for a time, they can seem invincible but, in
the end, they always fall. Think of it – always.
There are no goodbyes.
Wherever you’ll be, you’ll be in my heart.

This led seamlessly into a heavenly sound that seemed to capture the whole building in its palm. Unnati Dasgupta sang from the Organ Loft:

Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram
Patita Pavana Sita Ram
Sita Ram jaya Sita Ram
Bhaja Pyare tu Sita Ram
Ishawara Allah tero naam
Saab ko Sanamati De Bhagavan.

From Shri Nama Ramayanam
Vishnu Digambar Paluskar [1872 – 1931]
Based on a mantra by Ramdas [1608 – 1681]
Sung by Gandhi and his followers on the Salt March to Dandi.

Stunning!

Lord Puttnam delivered The Address. People all around me laughed at his anecdotes of Richard but, unfortunately, I couldn’t hear any of the punch lines. I shall ask him for a copy. Judith writes: “A moving address by David Puttnam reminded us how Dickie, throughout his life and work, brought human virtues of courage, compassion, a lifelong commitment to human rights and reaching out rather than closing in to all peoples”.

He was immediately followed by the voice of Richard himself. Tears leapt to my eyes and I instinctively clutched my heart – what a wuss! He was reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 17. You know: “Who will believe my verse in time to come…”

The silence that followed was palpable. He was here again and then he was gone, our thanksgiving finally bringing it home. But I am still here but not for that long. We felt our fleeting mortality in Richard’s.

To rouse us back up from our gloom, they gave us Elgar’s “Nimrod”, to which the Choir sang The Anthem:

“Lux aeterna luceat eis Domine cum sanctis tuis in aeternum: quia pius es.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Cum sanctis tuis in aeternum quia pius es.”

No wonder Melvyn Bragg chose John Wycliffe, alongside John Ball and Tom Paine, as one of his great British heroes in his BBC television series.

How about Blake next, Melvyn? Which allows me to segue into the Finale – which was, of course, “Jerusalem”. Singing your heart out, your Soul soars again and wants to ascend yet further.

The three of us and, I’m sure nearly everybody else, were in mild, post-awe shock, euphoric as the hour comes to an end. Was it really that short? The beauty of the music, the words, the architecture, the people are still vibrating within you as you shuffle towards the sun-lit portal back into the so-called real world. It is as if you are gliding. With heightened awareness, you see only Brothers and Sisters around you, a whole community swimming in a sea of smiles and joy. The organisers, the speakers, the performers – people – created this for him, for us and for themselves. We had all participated and made it so. Thank you. “Human beings – they can really be something, can’t they?”

Together, we had honoured rightly this great man and done so in one of our most sacred spaces and the one closest to the most holy place of participative democracy on the planet. When will they bronze his bust? For this man was a saint by any measure. Thousands loved him personally, millions felt their well-being enhanced by his life, love and generosity, many changing themselves because of what he did and became. Bless you, my Lord.

For me, he achieved satyagraha. But, then, what do I know about that?

John Rowley is a Trustee and Executive Member of the Gandhi Foundation.

Inspired by Gandhi 2015 – An International Writing Competition

gandhi book2

An International Writing Competition organised by Sampad
– South Asian Arts Development

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”
~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

Mahatma Gandhi is a towering figure in history whose philosophy of non-violence, passion for equality and independence and socio-political intelligence continues to be an inspiration for many leaders.

Sampad’s latest international writing competition provides an opportunity for aspiring writers to connect with this immensely philosophical and influential thinker and leader, and express their own response through inspired writing.

Key motivations for delivering this project:

  • Stimulate research into Gandhi’s life and philosophy
  • Motivate young and old to express themselves through creative writing
  • Inform new and uninformed generations about this amazing personality
  • Engage with wide audiences and participants across the globe as an on-line project

The publication which will be produced at the end of the competition will be a valuable educational tool and source of inspiration for young people in schools and colleges and beyond, helping to keep Gandhi’s message alive for future generations.

More details of how to enter the competition can be found at:
http://www.sampad.org.uk/special-projects/inspired-by/gandhi/

Gandhi: An Inspiration for All

Gandhi: An Inspiration for All
by Krystalia Keramida

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It is undeniable that Gandhi is one of the world’s greatest political and spiritual leaders. In India he is honoured as the father of the nation. He inspired his compatriots to fight for peace, freedom and democracy. He upheld the importance of human rights and non-discrimination. This is why he was named ‘Mahatma’, which means great soul.

Gandhi promoted Human Rights, which are part of every human being, independent of origin, religion, age, gender or social status. They are not just a history lesson or words without meaning, but include the essence of every single person all over the world. They allow us to live with safety, dignity, unity, love and of course peace. This latter is another word with deep meaning, because peace is not just a situation, it is the only way to joy, respect for diversity, and democracy.

But his influence has not ended. Gandhi was the light-guide for thousands of people, in order to fight against war, especially using his method of protest – ‘satyagraha’. Acceptance of suffering for the sake of truth and resistance to violence with nonviolence became a powerful movement all over the world and also a way of life. The first condition of nonviolence is justice all round, in every department of life. Justice, respect for diversity, unity and solidarity, love of nature, are the keys for a better world, according to Gandhi.

The question is how someone can achieve the complete development of body, soul and mind. Gandhi answered that it was through education. Only the right and congruous combination of these three elements could lead to an integrated person. The key is the growth of the five senses. Through the conscious exercise of the senses of touch, hearing, vision, smell and taste, a person acquires better contact with others, observes, meditates and feels, looks and discovers the essence of things. Education is important for everyone, regardless of age or lifestyle.

His theory of complete development of body, soul and mind was inspired by Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, three of the most significant Greek philosophers, who changed the history of the world and became founding figures in Western philosophy. Gandhi was always looking for historical figures who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of truth, so these Greek philosophers were a natural choice for him. Gandhi translated Plato’s Apology into Gujarati and titled the story of Socrates as The Story of a Soldier of Truth. In his translation summary, he described Socrates as a “heroic, extraordinary person with a fine moral character.” “We must learn to live and die like Socrates”, these were Gandhi’s words.

Socrates lived in Athens in the fourth century BCE. He altered Western thought, because he devoted his life to the search for Truth, existing in everyone’s soul. This Truth could become the ultimate knowledge and change the way we live. Gandhi called him a great Satyagrahi and emphasized, like Socrates, that we should not spend our time in finding faults with others, because only a pure person can fight evil with courage.

Plato, the student of Socrates and founder of the Academy in Athens, often characterized as the first university in Europe, developed a theory of knowledge that goes deep into the nature of knowledge itself. This is the true knowledge and it is permanent, unlike the knowledge based on appearance which is the untruth. This theory was adopted by Gandhi.

Last but not least, Aristotle, born in Macedonia and a member of Plato’s Academy, considered psychology to be the study of the soul and claimed that everything has a multitude of causes. These thoughts were the basis for Gandhi to say that hard work is necessary to succeed at anything in life and to be a socially active citizen, because nothing could be achieved on one’s own.

These were the inspiring reasons for UNESCO in Serres, a city in the north of Greece, which is a Club of people of different ages but with the same goal to promote culture, education, human rights, environment and innovation, to organize an educational program about Gandhi’s legacy. We want to help students of primary and elementary schools come close to Gandhi’s philosophy and understand the importance and the values of him, especially nowadays in a society that suffers from the economic, political and also moral crisis. As a team, we cooperate with Greek universities and significant institutions about Gandhi worldwide, because we believe that no one could achieve everything alone, but together we can move forward. Besides, as Gandhi claimed “the whole world is like the human body with its various members. Pain in one member is always felt in the whole body.”

Moreover, we think that in the century of knowledge, being racist only proves how low in society you really are. This is why Gandhi and his words inspire us to help children, who are the basis of every society, understand that humane education is the only way to overcome racism, discrimination, war and to broaden your horizons.

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In order to achieve these goals and also make it fun for the students, we prepare different actions, such as music, theatre, painting, and writing. Every time, based on each one of the ten most important moral values of Gandhi, we plan one action. For example, according to the value “Learn to forgive”, we ask the students to play a role game. If someone hurts you, could you forgive him ? If not, why ? And if you hurt him, would you ask him to forgive you then ? Why ? Moreover, these actions aim to connect Gandhi’s values to the moral intelligence of the children. Creativity, self-control, respect, consciousness, justice are the parts of moral intelligence which helps children understand and express their feelings and have self-esteem.

Finally, this educational program is the tool to make clear that philosophy is one, commonly shared value that could change the way you think and live every day. So, despite the current difficult situation in Greece, we must look forward, try to be reborn from the ashes and get inspired by Gandhi and our ancestors in order to build the foundations of a world where peace, democracy and human rights will be the reality for all and not just a dream for a few.

Krystalia Keramida is a lawyer, a member of UNESCO in Serres, Greece, specializing in the field of Human Rights and project manager of the educational program for Gandhi.

Was this Gandhi’s worst decision? By George Paxton

Gandhi in the Boer War

Gandhi in the Boer War

2014 has been chosen by the British Government to commemorate the start of the Great War. The idea strikes me as very odd, unless its aim is to encourage a determined effort to avoid war in the future. But there is little sign of that in the everyday business of government. However the commemoration does give opponents of war the opportunity to present their different approaches and peace organisations are attempting to do that this year. [See www.noglory.org for some events planned]

But what about Gandhi and WWI ? Let’s start with Gandhi’s first experience of war, namely the Anglo-Boer War. Although critical of the treatment of Indians by the white South Africans, he believed at this stage in his development that the influence of the British Empire was generally benign. So, although sympathetic to the Boers, he offered to form an ambulance corps of Indian volunteers to serve in the British army. The corps was 1,100 strong and for 6 weeks it served in the battlefield removing the wounded to field hospitals. Gandhi also felt that this support would improve the standing of the Indians in the eyes of the British. In 1906 fighting broke out between Zulus and the British and this time Gandhi gathered a smaller corps to serve with the British under his command as a sergeant-major. The corps in fact helped to treat Zulus who had either been flogged as a punishment or were ‘friendlies’ who had been shot by mistake. In both cases Gandhi believed that as the SA Indians accepted the protection of the British Empire they should be prepared to defend it when it was under threat.

Leaving South Africa in 1914 for the last time Gandhi called in at London before returning to India but the European war broke out just two days before the ship reached port and so once more he felt called on to establish an ambulance unit, this time made up of Indians in Britain, including many students. Gandhi’s health was poor during his stay but the corps was able to give aid to wounded Indians when they started to arrive from the front although they were not given permission to go to France. In all three cases the Indians led by Gandhi were non-combatants but his actions were now criticised by some of his colleagues and friends. His close friends and colleagues Henry Polak and his wife Millie Graham Polak objected to this support for the war as being inconsistent with ahimsa. Olive Schreiner, the South African writer who knew Gandhi wrote to him saying that she had been “struck to the heart … with sorrow to see that you … had offered to serve the English government in this evil war in any way they might demand of you. Surely you, who would not take up arms even in the cause of your own oppressed people cannot be willing to shed blood in this wicked cause.” [Olive Schreiner by Ruth First and Ann Scott]

The issue of participation in war was to arise more dramatically when he was back in India. The war was not going well for the Allies early in 1918 and the Viceroy hoped to recruit more Indians for the war in Europe. For this purpose he convened a War Conference to which prominent Indians were invited. At first Gandhi thought of boycotting it but then decided to attend. He was persuaded to support recruitment. The argument put forward on the previous occasions still stood. Gandhi always greatly admired bravery – perhaps having been a timid child had something to do with that – and he perceived soldiers as displaying bravery. But he also thought that by supporting Britain now it could lead to the politicians taking a more generous attitude to Indian political aspirations after the war.

Gandhi then threw himself into a recruiting campaign in the Kheda district of Gujarat, significant because only a few months earlier he had launched an anti-tax campaign there. But the villagers could see more clearly than Gandhi. The contradiction in the votary of nonviolence recruiting for a war that had already led to the slaughter of tens of millions of human beings was clear to them and they refused to join up. Not only that but villagers did not greet Gandhi and Vallabhbhai Patel who accompanied him, nor feed them nor provide carts for the journey and so the recruiters often had to walk 20 miles a day. Gandhi now experienced non-cooperation used against himself. His actions were also once again opposed by friends and colleagues including C F Andrews.

The physical and mental strain on Gandhi led to a severe illness that was to last for months. It is clear that there was serious conflict in his mind and Erik Erikson the psychoanalyst attributes his physical collapse at least in part to a nervous breakdown at this time.

By the following year the war had ended but the Government had decided to pass the Rowlatt Acts which were perceived by Indians as oppressive, the very opposite of what Gandhi had expected following his support for the Government. So he launched the first all-India satyagraha and when a peaceful crowd in Amritsar were massacred by the Army his hope for a generous attitude by the Government was finally shattered.

Over the next decade or so Gandhi’s past attitude to war continued to puzzle Western pacifists and some like the noted Dutch pacifist Bart de Ligt and the Russian Vladimir Tchertkov, Tolstoy’s former secretary, argued with him through correspondence. Gandhi gave the reasons for his participation that he had given at the time, reasons that did not satisfy his correspondents. However Gandhi spoke and wrote increasingly strongly against war during the rest of his life. There was still occasional room for confusion over his positions as, although he would not participate in war himself, he knew that most people did not share his belief in nonviolence and so he believed there were circumstances when such people should fight. On the other hand in the 1930s and 40s he advocated only nonviolent resistance against the forces of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan. As on other issues Gandhi could be inconsistent, or at least apparently so. But certainly he believed that satyagraha was universally applicable and that was the direction in which humankind should move and ultimately war should be completely replaced by nonviolent action and the willingness to suffer rather than kill.

Below are some quotations from Gandhi which reveal something of his evolving views over the last 30 years of his life, although this did not follow a straight unwavering line but rather a clear direction.

I hear and read many charges of inconsistency about myself.
…. Not only did I offer my services at the time of the Zulu revolt but before that, at the time of the Boer War, and not only did I raise recruits in India during the late war, but I raised an ambulance corps in 1914 in London. If, therefore, I have sinned the cup of my sins is full to the brim. I lost no occasion of serving the Government at all times. Two questions presented themselves to me during all those crises. What was my duty as a citizen of the Empire as I then believed myself to be, and what was my duty as an out-and-out believer in the religion of Ahimsa – nonviolence?
… Under Swaraj of my dream there is no necessity for arms at all. But I do not expect that dream to materialise in its fulness as a result of the present effort. Young India 17/11/1921

I am an uncompromising opponent of violent methods even to serve the noblest causes. Young India 11/12/1924

I should be against compulsory military training in every case and even under a national Government. Young India 24/9/1925

I do justify entire nonviolence, and consider it possible in relation between man and man and nations and nations; but it is not “a resignation from all real fighting against wickedness”. On the contrary, the nonviolence of my conception is a more active and more real fighting against wickedness than retaliation whose very nature is to increase wickedness. Young India 8/10/1925

By enlisting men for ambulance work in South Africa and in England, and recruits for field service in India, I helped not the cause of war, but I helped the institution called the British Empire in whose ultimate beneficial character I then believed. My repugnance to war was as strong as it is today; and I could not then have, and would not have, shouldered a rifle. Young India 5/11/1925

…. But that still does not solve the riddle. If there was a national Government, whilst I should not take any direct part in any war, I can conceive occasions when it would be my duty to vote for the military training of those who wish to take it. For I know that all its members do not believe in nonviolence to the extent I do. It is not possible to make a person or society nonviolent by compulsion.
… But the light within me is steady and clear. There is no escape for any of us save through truth and nonviolence. I know that war is wrong, is an unmitigated evil. I know too that it has to go. I firmly believe that freedom won through bloodshed or fraud is no freedom. Would that all the acts alleged against me were found to be wholly indefensible rather than that by any act nonviolence was held to be compromised or that I was ever thought to be in favour of violence or untruth in any shape or form. Young India 13/9/1928

I would not yield to anyone in my detestation of war. Young India 7/2/1929

Czechoslovakia has a lesson for me and us in India. The Czechs could not have done anything else when they found themselves deserted by their two powerful allies. And yet I have the hardihood to say that, if they had known the use of nonviolence as a weapon for the defence of national honour, they would have faced the whole might of Germany with that of Italy thrown in. They would have spared England and France the humiliation of suing for a peace which was no peace; and to save their honour they would have died to a man without shedding the blood of the robber. I must refuse to think that such heroism, or call it restraint, is beyond human nature. Human nature will only find itself when it fully realises that to be human it has to cease to be beastly or brutal. Harijan 8/10/1938

I do not think that the sufferings of Pastor Niemoeller and others have been in vain. They have preserved their self-respect intact. They have proved that their faith was equal to any suffering. That they have not proved sufficient for melting Herr Hitler’s heart merely shows that it is made of harder stuff than stone. But the hardest metal yields to sufficient heat. Even so must the hardest heart melt before sufficiency of the heat of nonviolence. And there is no limit to the capacity of nonviolence to generate heat.
… Herr Hitler is but one man enjoying no more than the average span of life. He would be a spent force, if he had not the backing of his people. I do not despair of his responding to human suffering even though caused by him. But I must refuse to believe that the Germans as a nation have no heart or markedly less than the other nations of the earth. They will some day or other rebel against their own adored hero. If he does not wake up betimes. And when he or they do, we shall find that the sufferings of the Pastor and his fellow-workers had not a little to do with the awakening. Harijan 7/1/1939

My personal reaction towards this war is one of greater horror than ever before. I was not so disconsolate before as I am today. But the greater horror would prevent me today from becoming the self-appointed recruiting sergeant that I had become during the last war. Harijan 30/9/1939

As against this imagine the state of Europe today if the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the French and the English had all said to Hitler: “You need not make your scientific preparation for destruction. We will meet your violence with nonviolence. You will, therefore be able to destroy our nonviolent army without tanks, battle ships and airships”. It may be retorted that the only difference would be that Hitler would have got without fighting what he gained after a bloody fight. Exactly. The history of Europe would then have been written differently. Possession might (but only might) have been then taken under nonviolent resistance., as it has been taken now after perpetration of untold barbarities. Under nonviolence only those would have been killed who had trained themselves to be killed, if need be, but without killing anyone and without bearing malice towards anybody. I dare say that in that case Europe would have added several inches to its moral stature. And in the end I expect it is the moral worth that will count. All else is dross. Harijan 22/6/1940

Japan is knocking at our gates. What are we to do in a nonviolent way ? If we were a free country, things could be done nonviolently to prevent the Japanese from entering the country. As it is, nonviolent resistance could commence the moment they effected a landing. Thus nonviolent resisters would refuse them any help, even water. For it is no part of their duty to help anyone to steal their country. But if a Japanese has missed his way and was dying of thirst and sought help as a human being, a nonviolent resister, who may not regard anyone as his enemy, would give water to the thirsty one. Suppose the Japanese compel resisters to give them water, the resisters must die in the act of resistance. It is conceivable that they will exterminate all resisters. The underlying belief in such nonviolent resistance is that the aggressor will, in time, be mentally and even physically tired of killing nonviolent resisters. He will begin to search what this new (for him) force is which refuses co-operation without seeking to hurt, and will probably desist from further slaughter. But the resisters may find that the Japanese are utterly heartless and that they do not care how many they kill. The nonviolent resisters will have won the day inasmuch as they will have preferred extermination to submission. Harijan 12/4/1942

George Paxton is a Trustee of the Gandhi Foundation, Editor of the Gandhi Way and an author of several books on Gandhi.

When Chaplin Met Gandhi educational workshop at Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry School for Girls invited Jim Kenworth to run a When Chaplin Met Gandhi drama workshop at their prestigious Mulberry Youth Conference recently.

Over a decade ago, a group of students concerned about growing tensions around the world and in Britain following September 11th, launched our Youth Conference. The conference has gained a reputation for its challenging discussion and powerful speakers through which students consider the means of becoming active in their communities. We have received the Philip Lawrence Award for excellence in citizenship and a prize in the highly commended category in the Anne Frank Awards. This year’s topic was ‘The Power of Voice’. Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian, and Lucy-Anne Holmes, founder of the No More Page 3 campaign, were confirmed as speakers.

For more information visit: http://www.mulyouth.org/

The play When Gandhi Met Chaplin by Jim Kenworth was performed in Kingsley Hall (where Gandhi stayed in 1931) and other venues in East London in 2012. The participants were both professional actors and young people from schools in the East End of London. An Education Resource Pack inspired by the meeting of the two famous figures has been produced by Jim Kenworth and the Royal Docks Trust, with some help from the Gandhi Foundation.

You can read more details and access further resources by clicking: http://gandhifoundation.org/2013/11/04/when-chaplin-met-gandhi-school-resource-pack/

A World of Limited Resources – The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2013 by Natasha Lewis

The Abbey, in the little village of Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, was again the setting for this year’s Gathering, a week of attempting to live in the style of one of Gandhi’s ashrams whilst allowing a space for discussion into applying his principles to issues faced in the modern world. The building itself is a perfect facilitator for this event, providing several cosy sitting rooms, a kitchen and dining room dating to the 13th century, and a large Great Hall which has windows that open out into the main garden. The grounds give ample space for camping and sports including badminton, as well as a large kitchen garden which provides much of the delicious food for the week! The surrounding countryside also provides several beautiful walks along the river Thames.

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The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2013

Although some rooms are available in the Abbey itself, most Gatherers stay in the guest house annexe, which has the advantage of 20th rather than 13th century plumbing and heating! The braver amongst us, mostly families, camped and this year a camper van was also used for accommodation. Thirty Seven people attended over the first weekend, with people coming and going over the next week.

The premise of Gandhi’s ashram means that a great communal spirit is built up throughout the week, with teams taking turns to help prepare meals and keep communal spaces clean. The kitchen is usually the focal point, where children’s (and adult’s!) baking and craft takes place, as well as some of the most interesting discussions about the year’s theme.

After a help-yourself breakfast, the morning session begins with a brief meditation and sharing of information, then continues into the main discussion topic for the day. There is normally a short introductory presentation followed by discussion in small groups and then feedback. This leads into Shramdana, meaning ‘sharing of one’s time, thought and energy for the welfare of all’ in accordance with the way Gandhi’s ashrams were run. Lunch is eaten and, after a digestion break, craft activities begin later in the afternoon. It was Gandhi’s belief that time should be spent on useful tasks, and this period is used to follow his guidance. Crafts available this year were varied, including collage making, art using dried flowers, crochet and watercolour painting. One particularly interesting activity was spinning thread from a sheep’s fleece: we set up a production line including carding the wool, using the spinning wheel to turn the wool into thread and winding the finished wool into balls (and untangling it!). The spinning wheel was a bit trickier to use than I expected and unfortunately my wool alternated between being much too thick and snapping because it was too thin! After supper Gatherers are invited to contribute to the evening’s entertainment which included animal noises, poetry readings, slideshows and circle dancing. Then meditation and time for sleep before it all begins again in the morning!

The topic for this year’s Gathering was “A World of Limited Resources: Inspirations and Challenges in Sharing the Planet” which attracted many external speakers as well as new participants. This meant that there was often a talk in the afternoon in addition to the morning session. The first of these was given by an architect, Sandra Piesik, who is running a project reviewing renewable resources as construction materials, involving over 120 scientists and professionals. Her talk mainly focussed on developing architecture using palm leaves in the United Arab Emirates, and her efforts to rescue indigenous technology from the extinction imposed by the advent of globalisation and modern building practices. She highlighted the fact that concrete is not always the most suitable building material in every environment on Earth, and that there is a huge untapped source of building materials from the palm leaves from plants used for date production, which are currently wasted in the UAE.

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The theme of the first morning session (Sunday) was Sarvodaya. This is a term coined by Gandhi to mean ‘universal uplift’ or ‘progress of all’ and was a fundamental principle of his political philosophy. We discussed some of Gandhi’s other main principles: Swaraj, self-rule;  Swadeshi, self-sufficiency; and Satyagraha, “truth force”, Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance strategy.

Monday’s theme was resource depletion: examining the effects of diminishing stocks of non-renewable gas, oil, coal and minerals on the world. We discussed particular industries’ impacts on the earth and its people, and possible substitutes.

Tuesday focussed on climate change and population from a biological perspective, as the talk was given by an ecologist. Human culture has gradually evolved from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle through small scale agriculture to the globalised economy we see today. However, this has occurred in a period of relatively stable climatic conditions for the past 5000 years, which has lulled us into a sense of false security. We were divided into three groups and attempted to answer three questions. The question for my group was: What attributes from our hunter gatherer and agricultural ancestors should we cultivate and which should we reject? We were also asked to talk about steps we could take to reduce our energy usage both on a personal and national/global scale. 
Ruth gave a presentation originally aimed at actuaries to show that in the economic world it is vital to take into account risks of climate change and resource depletion.

The World Economic System was Wednesday’s subject. Alan Sloan presented us with a thought-provoking presentation on a potential new economic system based on ecological footprints. Conventional money is not directly related to the material world, and he suggested that if the new currency were based on the resources available from the earth then this would help to solve the resource depletion crises we are currently facing, as well as relieving poverty in the developing world.

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Four participants gave presentations on four ‘prophets’ on Thursday. John Muir was an American naturalist whose activism helped to preserve national parks such as Sequoia National Park and the Yosemite Valley. Ishpriya is a Catholic nun who founded the International Satsang Organisation. The Reverend Horace Dammers was the founder of the Lifestyle Movement. Frances Moore Lappé is the author of the bestseller Diet for a Small Planet, which advocated a plant-based diet as being much more conducive to food security.

On Friday we welcomed another guest speaker, a representative of Traidcraft. He gave a presentation on the organisation and their efforts to ensure that workers are paid a fair price for their products.

On the last evening we held a party, which was a sort of variety show with everyone offering their best party pieces. We had old home videos, games, singing, jokes, poetry, a small flute recital and some improvised circle dancing. The evening ended with a small tribute to the victims of the atom bomb in 1945, as it was Nagasaki Day. We went out into the garden and floated tea lights in little paper boats in a large baking tray filled with water, as incense smoke floated up into the night sky. It was a lovely way to end the week, which has been one of the most thought-provoking I have attended.

Book Review – What Gandhi Says about Nonviolence, Resistance and Courage by Norman Finkelstein

What Gandhi Says about Nonviolence, Resistance and Courage

Norman G Finkelstein

Norman Finkelstein at Suffolk University in Massachusetts 2005 by Miguel de Icaza

Norman Finkelstein at Suffolk University in Massachusetts 2005 by Miguel de Icaza

OR Books: New York and London 2012 pp100

$10/£6

Reviewed by Antony Copley

Thinking through how a nonviolent protest might free the West Bank from Israeli occupation led the author to take a close look at Gandhi’s own writings to see just what he did say about nonviolence. One of his complaints is that Gandhi scholars in fact rarely do take a close look at the Collected Works, though surely this is transparently unfair in the case of Anthony Parel and, indeed, our own editor, George Paxton. As one would expect of a close friend of Noam Chomsky a razor-sharp intelligence is brought to bear on those writings. Finkelstein has written extensively on the Israel-Palestine conflict and maybe predictably his major critique of Gandhi’s ideas lies in their ineffectiveness for dealing with Hitler and the Holocaust. But this is a highly sophisticated analysis and is far more ambivalent in the ways it looks at such questions as Gandhi’s consistency and at the psychology underlying these ideas, other historical conflicts, above all the freedom struggle, and this is a measured recommendation for a nonviolent approach at the time of the Arab spring and the Occupy movement.

It is easy enough for Finkelstein to expose Gandhi’s inconsistencies. Gandhi wrote of the hobgoblin of consistency and the author concedes that, for all the apparent contradictions, there were underlying core beliefs: “he probably never consciously lied. ” (p20 ). Finkelstein sees a fatal weakness in Gandhi’s reliance on intuition,his inner voice, and though I don’t wholly see the logic of his conclusion, sees this as bound to lead to authoritarianism: “to doubt Gandhi was to doubt God.” (p23) But then he corrects himself and sees Gandhi’s ideas as less abstract and incoherent and open to rational explication.

The most worrying inconsistency is the way Gandhi wavers between nonviolence and the need in certain circumstances to resort to violence. In some ways the whole play between nonviolence and violence could be recast in terms of courage versus cowardice. Gandhi surely rightly saw it as the highest form of courage to meet violence with nonviolence, even a readiness to die. Finkelstein sees Gandhi taking this to an extreme and encouraging a positive cult of death, almost revelling in the number of those who might lose their lives, say in a communal conflict with Muslims. Nothing was so shameful in his eyes than cowardice. Better to resort to violence than to be cowardly. To quote Finkelstein: “Gandhi’s Collected Works are filled with, on the one hand, scalding condemnations of ersatz nonviolence, and on the other, exhortations to violence if the only other option is craven retreat.” (p35) Gandhi is seen as almost sharing Nietzsche’s contempt for Christian passivity, its turning the other cheek.

Oddly the reason for such concern is staring us in the face. Gandhi’s was surely a response to an imperialist rhetoric which spoke of the lack of manliness, the effeminacy of Indians. The Raj here had the Bengalis in mind in contrast to the Indian martial races. Here was one way the Raj met the challenge of a nationalist movement initially inspired by the Bengalis. In many ways Gandhi had bought into the martial values of the Rajputs. Evidently the charge of effeminacy stung Gandhi and possibly he overcompensated. Of course there are more complex psychoanalytic explorations possible and Gandhi’s complex attitudes to sexuality, evidenced in brahmacharya, inevitably exposes him to such enquiry.

Finkelstein’s real concern is to test the effectiveness of nonviolence. The example he takes is the plight of European Jews in the Holocaust. Gandhi was obviously not alone in floundering before such crimes against humanity. Might he yet appeal to Hitler’s good nature ? Might mass nonviolent passive resistance by the Jews work on the conscience of the Nazis ? Finkelsteins’s argument is that the coercive power of satyagraha, its capacity to change minds, cannot work against a mind set such as the Nazi. They were impervious to such moral pressure. There is no evidence that the sight of millions of Jews being led to the crematoria ‘like lambs to the slaughter house’ had the slightest affect on the conscience of the Nazis. Noncooperation simply would not work in this case. He concludes, somewhat ambiguously, that Gandhi’s own unique moral force could prevail and “this was his great personal triumph, but also his great political failure. The tactic had no generalised value.” (p57) Gandhi himself, to quote his own words, believed “human nature in its essence is open and therefore unfailingly responds to the advances of love.” (quoted p69) Finkelstein does not share this optimism. At this juncture he chooses not to explore the alternative tactic of violent Jewish resistance, both in the camps and ghettoes, a violence of course played up today by Israel itself, gripped by a rhetoric of survival. Nor does he mention Gandhi’s Jewish friends, Polak and Kallenbach, and Kallenbach’s failure to win Gandhi over in the 1930s to a more militant stand.

But then Finkelstein proceeds, along different lines, to try and explain how in fact a coercive nonviolent strategy does work. It is of course controversial to see nonviolence as morally coercive, which Gandhi always denied, for it seems in flat contradiction to its moral nature. A Gandhian strategy will only work, it is argued, if there is some susceptibility in the opponent either to its moral case or, just as probably, to a sense of its being in its own self interest. Finkelstein puts this well: “the thrust of his campaign was clearly to energize a latently sympathetic public via selfsuffering.” (pp61-2) Gandhi might prevail in a temperance campaign, for the Indian public saw the ravages of alcohol, but not against gambling, for here the Indian public were far too committed to gambling for any campaign to work. And of course the classic campaign was the nonviolent freedom struggle itself. But here once again Finkelstein takes a controversial line. He does not believe that it was ‘love power’ that persuaded the British to leave. There was no successful appeal to their moral conscience. Gandhi himself realised that the way to get the British to leave was to make India ungovernable and hence unprofitable. It was not a case of melting British hearts: “instead he set out to coerce them, albeit non-violently, into submission.” “It was not the power of love but the juggernaut of power that cleared the path to India’s independence.” (p78) Of course this is to overlook metropolitan British moral disquiet at the Amritsar massacre and the Christian conscience of the Viceroy, Lord Irwin.

This short, incisive work has to be taken very seriously. In the end Finkelstein, however ambiguous his whole interpretation, seems to come down on Gandhi’s side. He looks at the world today and decides on balance a nonviolent struggle leads to less loss of life than a violent. (cf the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt compared to what happened in Libya.) But does it set the bar of courage too high ? Is it necessarily more ethical than a violent struggle ? (Obviously here he has the Second World War in mind). But he proceeds: “but what can be said with confidence is that the results of violent resistance have at best been mixed.” So just how far will a nonviolent struggle take us ? He argues: “the further along it gets nonviolently, the more likely it is that the new world will be a better one.” (pp79-81)

Finkelstein’s interpretation of the limitations of Gandhism confronting Nazism reminds me of Ernest Gellner’s critique of moral relativism. Confronted by Nazism one has no alternative but to believe in an absolute right and wrong. You cannot in anyway qualify Hitlerism. And the debateover the need for fearlessness, Gandhi’s belief that could the British overcometheir fear of loss of Empire they would happily surrender, reminds me of Aung San Suu Kyi’s belief that could the Army in Burma lose its fear of the loss of power, they would come into line with more progressive policies. It is in Burma that the Gandhian ideal is currently being put most critically to the test.

Antony Copley is Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Kent and Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation

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