An essay on non violence

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To win in nuclear terms meant the annihilation of the victors and the defeated alike. As the use of force became fraught with negative, even perverse, consequences, nonviolence became the only real option for insurgent politics. Nonviolent action is a proven way to organise and display political strength and power. Through bodies and action, it reveals where political power truly lies: namely, in the consent and assent of the people. From its very invention, nonviolence was based upon this fundamental insight — that power resides in the people.

Mere force could never, by itself, sustain a government. The implication was clear: any regime could be disrupted by the withdrawal of that consent on a mass scale. This was the logic of non-cooperation. In short, nonviolent politics as practised today organises and displays collective power. In so doing, it demonstrates popular will and consent.

It is seen to be the natural corollary of democracy. For the past generation, Gene Sharp has been the most well-known and effective disseminator of this view. His pamphlets outline nearly techniques of nonviolent resistance and they have popped up in the hands of activists the world over, from the velvet revolutionaries of Eastern Europe to the protestors of Tahrir Square and Wall Street.

The championing of nonviolence as collective power, however, has a longer history. It was one of the first attempts to translate Gandhian politics for the West. It helped to circulate Gandhian methods in the US and aided the emergence of African-American nonviolence. Shridharani, like Sharp, analogised the logic of nonviolence to that of war, as a kind of social combat. O rganised mass action creates an alternative form of power, one capable of matching forces with, and even defeating, state power. This was especially true for organisations and activists for whom nonviolence was a strategic or pragmatic imperative rather than a moral value.

Strategic nonviolence employs an extensive array of tactics that generate and display power as such. Activists accept that, in order to work, these tactics might involve coercion. But ostensibly nonviolent actions can also consciously aim to provoke the police or intimidate the opposition, for example, when crowds jeer at or physically prevent consumers from entering boycotted stores or facilities. A collective power model — tied to a theory of democratic power and legitimacy — approximates well contemporary forms of mass nonviolence such as the occupation of public squares, from Tiananmen to Tahrir.

Mass gatherings display strength through the force of numbers. The larger the crowds, the better it seems to represent the popular will.


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In celebrating nonviolence as a collective and democratic power, some key features of nonviolence as Gandhi and King practised it have fallen away. Gandhi and King both saw the power of suffering or discipline as essential to nonviolence. Suffering not only distinguished nonviolence from armed rebellion, it made nonviolence a unique kind of political action.

But as activists came to prefer strategic nonviolence, suffering lost its central place in nonviolent politics. Sharp sees suffering as part and parcel of principled nonviolence.

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Gandhi and King both held a spiritual commitment to nonviolence. Gandhi, in particular, worried that collective protest, even ostensibly nonviolent protest, can issue forms of coercion and intimidation. Suffering, however, was important politically. It has positive strategic and tactical effects in politics. It changes the tenor and dynamics of political contestation. And it has power: suffering can sway opponents and potential allies more effectively than brute force or outright confrontation. Moreover, suffering is ingrained in the form that nonviolent protest takes.

Nonviolence as collective power tries to match forces with and overwhelm opponents. Instead of intimidating or directly coercing the opposition, suffering aims to persuade and convert it. Persuasion involves its own strategic logic; it works by surprising, undermining, and outmaneuvering the enemy. Neither Gandhi nor King believed persuasion to be an easy or straightforward task. If claims to justice won easy acceptance through rational argument or explanation, there would be no need to employ nonviolent direct action.

Gandhi recognised very clearly the limits of rational debate in politics. He thought that people grew emotionally and psychologically attached to their beliefs as aspects of identity and ego. Emotional investment generates passions, resentment and indignation for example, that make rational debate and agreement very difficult. Suffering can break through to places that reason and argument cannot reach.

Unlike brute force or direct confrontation that can stiffen resistance, Gandhi said that suffering works by:. Nobody has probably drawn up more petitions or espoused more forlorn causes than I, and I have come to this fundamental conclusion that if you want something really important to be done, you must not merely satisfy the reason, you must move the heart also. The appeal of reason is more to the head, but the penetration of the heart comes from suffering.

It opens up the inner understanding in man. Suffering can weaken entrenched positions. It, unusually, can reach the heart of the opponent in ways that might lead to the rethinking of commitments. Suffering often conjures up images of moving and exceptional feats of self-sacrifice, for example the Gandhian hunger-strike or the US Civil Rights activists enduring beatings. Both campaigns used the power of suffering to dramatic effect. Nonviolent protestors were subjected to brutal police responses.

Iconic images and accounts of the violence circulated throughout the world. Suffering exposed the violence of the state and shifted public opinion against it. Though usually unstated, this kind of confrontation, and the sympathy it produces, is often the goal of nonviolent protest politics. What mattered most for Gandhi and King was less the suffering inflicted than the discipline protestors displayed in the face of provocation and assault.

The ability to dramatise and display tapasya was paramount to the success of nonviolent protest. Discipline mattered both in the organisation of the protest and in the comportment — and constraint — of the protestors. The need for discipline imposed a strict form and code on nonviolent action. Gandhi and King formulated a plethora of rules for nonviolent activists.

They circulated rules for how to dress, how to walk, and how to talk during nonviolent marches, strikes, pickets and boycotts. In both the Salt March and the Birmingham campaign, for example, protestors had to explicitly assent to these rules in the form of a vow or pledge in order to participate. Allegiance to these rules showed that activists were willing to bear the costs and burdens of protest themselves, from the costs of self-organisation to willingly accepting punishment for breaking the law. Most importantly, the rules were meant to help muster and exhibit stoic discipline in the face of threats, intimidation and outright violence.

H ow does this tapasya work to persuade recalcitrant opponents? The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, another important early interpreter of Gandhi, offered one of the most insightful accounts of the positive political effects of nonviolent suffering. Like Shridharani, Niebuhr also had an influence on the Civil Rights movement.

What made Niebuhr such a canny analyst of nonviolence was that he, like Gandhi, saw politics to be riven by irrational sentiments, drives and passions. Niebuhr was a political realist, perhaps the most influential realist of the 20th century. As such, he argued that political conflict was rooted in struggles of and over power. At the same time, political contestation generates and is exacerbated by resentments and egoistic sentiments.

People take criticism of their political beliefs and position very personally, as insults and unjust accusations. Movements that question privilege will be met by indignation, animosity and resistance.

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Moreover, insurgent movements, movements that question the status quo, suffer a triple burden. They have to fight a better-resourced and entrenched opposition. They face the impassioned hostility that the contestation of privilege provokes. Protestors are readily branded as criminals, anarchists and inciters of violence.

Disciplined nonviolence can disrupt these natural presumptions and dynamics.


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  • Niebuhr saw that nonviolent protests, like all protests, involve coercion, intimidation and disruption. Protest in the form of economic boycott or a nonviolent march or demonstration will understandably be resented by those against whom it is aimed. But more neutral bystanders whom the protest incidentally disturbs and inconveniences might also respond with hostility and misunderstanding. The Occupy movements, for example, generated criticism as public nuisances.

    Gandhi and King saw that it would not be morally and politically wise to make resentment the face of political action. Successful movements try to mitigate these negative consequences through the style and structure of nonviolent protest enacted. Its discipline displays a moral purpose beyond resentment and selfish ambition. Together, goodwill and the repression of personal resentment temper the passionate resistance of opponents. More often, it has a salutary effect on potential allies of the movement, the neutral observers and the public at large. When protestors adopt discipline in their comportment and dress, this negates portrayals of them as criminal elements or enemies of public order.

    The jeering opposition is now exposed as irrational and uncivil in their response to the civility of the protestors. Disciplined, temperate protestors can divert and reduce hostilities to help the public to see beyond the inflamed situation to the underlying dispute. The history of nonviolent politics has revealed and confirmed the transformative power of coordinated mass action.

    It has also shown that force alone can neither induce popular consent nor reliably secure political victory.

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    In line with these findings, the political scientists Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth in their award-winning book Why Civil Resistance Works show nonviolent collective action to be especially effective against authoritarian governments, overturning a longstanding assumption that nonviolence can be viable only in and against liberal regimes. These findings might also point to qualifications of nonviolence as collective power.

    But when more people support the dialogue it becomes an issue that cannot be ignored. By , there were 10, farm workers from California that became apart of the UFW. Nonviolence tactics make the most crucial impacts economically and emotionally, but most importantly peacefully. A crucial moment in history because workers rights and conditions were not ignored.

    The elements of nonviolence are driven by peace and social justice. These elements help others see the humanity of the protesters. The introduction of video footage that taped the violence done against the peaceful protesters, captured law enforcement or other violent aggressors beating and killing peaceful protesters for exercising their constitutional right. This footage allowed people to see the cruelty of the government and law officials, as well as the injustice that the protesters had been enduring while peacefully assembling.

    Which eventually allowed many U. Violent acts are committed under quick thinking, and result in consequences one may regret later. Under violent protests, people are hurt, and even worse the protesters become the aggressors. When one becomes the aggressor, people will become afraid of that person, and begin to see that person as a troublemaker and will be less likely to take their side. The cause would never be fulfilled. Violence invites more violence. Violent protesters are viewed as close minded, hot tempered, and dangerous.

    MLK Jr. From the discriminatory speech on Mexican immigrants, to the recent travel ban, both have resulted in violence including bomb threats, separation of families and hate crimes. All of these surfaced because the policies are unclear, and are morally wrong which go against the values for nonviolent actions. When there is moral support there is strength. Non violence requires people to reflect on their lifestyles instead of thoughtlessly fighting those who disagree with you. The strength and power of nonviolence organization is still possible and should never be underestimated. Mahatma Gandhi said: "Non-violence is the most powerful force available to mankind.

    It is even more powerful than the most complex weapon of destruction devised by man's naive ability. If this force were used, we might be able to change society, since non-violence is both an ideology and an ethical-political practice that rejects the use of violence and aggression in any form, opposing the use of violence in all its manifestations, either as a protest, social struggle, or as a response to the same violence, which would help to achieve social or political change, since it considers that any act of violence is to generate more violence and what the non-violent method aims at is to achieve a more humane society.

    Non-violence is part of society's lifestyle, it describing everything we do in our lives, how the people handle their problems, how they treat people around them, what they say, what they choose to do with their lives. With oneself, the manifestation of non-violence is observed in having the self respect and proper self-esteem, which allows each person to recognize themselves as a different person. Non-violence with other human beings is to recognize them as persons as valuable and respectable as oneself, to respect them in spite of their differences with oneself, with tolerance, respect, mental openness, and peaceful negotiation of controversies.

    With Nature you can also reflect non-violence, assuming the defense of all living things, and promoting the preservation of the natural environment that is the material source of everyone's life.

    Essay on Non-Violence

    Non-violence is to practice procedures for peaceful, negotiable and serene solutions to all kinds of conflicts, whether personal, interpersonal, family, local, national, international or global. Non-violence questions all forms of injustice, oppression, abuse and violence, and it is the way to resolve conflicts, their practice may make it possible to transform the adversary into a partner rather than seeing him as an enemy.

    Non-violence is seen utopian by many people given the forms of violence and destruction that are observed every day, but there are many historical examples that show that not only is possible but if you can change the society and that is worth a try. The independence of India is an example of this method, since it was achieved by Gandhi in this way. Another example is provided by Martin Luther King with his revolution for civil rights. We can also see reflected this method in the person of Nelson Mandela who achieved the end of apartheid in South Africa and who during his presidency united the country, eliminating the wounds of racism, and he promoting forgiveness thus avoiding the civil war that was looming.

    Cesar Chavez is one great example of how can nonviolence change a society. Chavez became the best known Latino American civil rights activist. He founded the National Farm Workers Association.

    Essay on Nonviolence | Bartleby

    As a labor leader, Chavez employed nonviolent means to bring attention to the plight of farm. In conclusion, adequate and effective social changes must be inspired by non-violence. If, on the contrary, we only encourage hatred, revenge, threats, abuse and envy, we will only be collecting more serious conflicts, destruction and violence. Non-violence is the way forward to build a better society, based on Gandhi's philosophy of absolute respect, being the starting point of non-violence the human rights of the person, his reason, and dignity. It is a way not always fast, but it is effective for conflicts to be resolved; It is action, it is a struggle but without violence that can change a society.