TERRORISM AND NONVIOLENCE
BY Arun Gandhi
Understandably, after the tragedy
in New York and Washington DC onSeptember 11 many have written or called
the office to find out what would be an appropriate nonviolent response
to such an unbelievably inhuman act of violence.
First, we must understand that nonviolence
is not a strategy that we can use in a moment of crisis and discard
in times of peace. Nonviolence is about personal attitudes, about becoming
the change we wish to see in the world. Because, a nation's collective
attitude is based on the attitude of the individual. Nonviolence is
about building positive relationships with all human beings - relationships
that are based on love, compassion, respect, understanding and appreciation.
Nonviolence is also about not judging people as we perceive them to
be -that is, a murderer is not born a murderer; a terrorist is not born
a terrorist. People become murderers, robbers and terrorists because
of circumstances and experiences in life. Killing or confining murders,
robbers, terrorists, or the like is not going to rid this world of them.
For every one we kill or confine we create another hundred to take their
place. What we need to do is to analyze dispassionately what are those
circumstances that create such monsters and how can we help eliminate
those circumstances, not the monsters. Justice should mean reformatio
and not revenge.
We saw some people in Iraq and Palestine
and I dare say many other countries rejoice in the blowing up of the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It horrified us, as it should.
But, let us not forget that we do the same thing. When Israel bombs
the Palestinians we either rejoice or show no compassion. Our attitude
is they deserve what they get. When the Palestinians bomb the Israelis
we are indignant and condemn them as vermin who need to be eliminated.
We reacted without compassion when
we bombed the cities of Iraq. I was among the millions in the United
States who sat glued to the television and watched the drama as though
it was a made for television film. The television had desensitized us.
Thousands of innocent men, women and children were being blown to bits
and instead of feeling sorry for them we marveled at the efficiency
of our military. For more than ten years we have continued to wreak
havoc in Iraq - an estimated 50,000 children die every year because
of sanctions that we have imposed - and it hasn't moved us to compassion.
All this is done, we are told, because we want to get rid of the Satan
called Sadam Hussein.
Now we are getting ready to do this
all over again to get rid of another Satan called Osama Bin Laden. We
will bomb the cities of Afghanistan because they harbor the Satan and
in the process we will help create a thousand other bin Ladens.
Some might say "we don't care what
the world thinks of us as long as they respect our strength. " After
all we have the means to blow this world to pieces since we are the
only surviving super-power. Do we want the world to respect us the way
school children respect a bully? Is that our role in the world? If a
bully is what we want to be then we must be prepared to face the same
consequences a school-yard bully faces. On the other hand we cannot
tell the world "leave us alone." Isolationism is not what this world
is built for. All of this brings us back to the question: How do we
respond nonviolently to terrorism?
The consequences of a military response
are not very rosy. Many thousands of innocent people will die both here
and in the country or countries we attack. Militancy will increase exponentially
and, ultimately, we will be faced with another, more pertinent, moral
question: what will we gain by destroying half the world? Will we be
able to live with a clear conscience?
We must acknowledge our role in helping
create monsters in the world and then find ways to contain these monsters
without hurting more innocent people and then redefine our role in the
world. I think we must move from seeking to be respected for our military
strength to being respected for our moral strength.
We need to appreciate that we are
in a position to play a powerful role in helping the "other half" of
the world attain a better standard of life not by throwing a few crumbs
but by significantly involving ourselves in constructive economic programs.
For too long our foreign policy has
been based on "what is good for the United States." It smacks of selfishness.
Our foreign policy should now be based on what is good for the world
and how can we do the right thing to help the world become more peaceful.
To those who have lost loved ones
in this and other terrorist acts I say I share your grief. I am sorry
that you have become victims of senseless violence. But let this sad
episode not make you vengeful because no amount of violence and killing
is going to bring you inner peace. Anger and hate never do. The memory
of those victims who have died in this and other violent incidents around
the world will be better preserved and meaningfully commemorated if
we all learn to forgive and dedicate our lives to helping create a peaceful,
respectful and understanding world.
Founder Director M.K.Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
650 East Parkway South
Memphis TN 38104
Tel:(901)452-2824; FAX: (901)452-2775