Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Accepting, uncritically, the myth that pacifism was an unqualified success for Gandhi

Modern Christian Pacifist Philosophy
This Working Paper, for which comments are solicited, examines the strengths and weaknesses of some leading Christian pacifist religious philosophers. The Article suggests that some intellectual arguments for pacifism are logically solid (once certain premises are granted), while others have serious flaws. The article discusses five influential philosophical advocates of non-violence Thomas Merton, Stanley Hauerwas, Leo Tolstoy, Tony Campolo, and John Howard Yoder. In addition, the Article examines three real-world cases where the practice of non-violence was put into action: the Danish rescue of the Jews during WW II, the American Civil Rights movement in the South in the 1960s, and the invasion of the Chatham Islands—the home of the pacifist Moriori tribes.
The Working Paper is argues that the Tolstoy, Hauerwas, and Campolo arguments for pacifism are seriously flawed, whereas the arguments of Merton and Yoder are much more solid. Trackbacks
john w. (mail):
One problem that I noticed on a quick scanning of the paper is that it seems to be accepting, uncritically, the Gandhi myth -- i.e. the idea that pacifism was an unqualified success for Gandhi. But one needs to keep in mind that:
a.) Non-violence worked for Ghandhi *only* because he was struggling against England which was a relatively civilized society. If he had been up again Stalin or Mao, his pacifism would have gotten him a quick one-way ticket to the Gulag &a bullet in the back of the neck.
b.) Even against England, he would not have been successful if England hadn't already been worn out from WW-2. Hitler & Tojo deserve most of the credit for Ghandhi's success.
c.) Did Gandhi really prevent violence, or did he just postpone it? Wasn't there a semi-genocidal bloodbath in that part of the world immediately after independence??
And, considering the tension that exists right up to the present day between India and Pakistan (both nuclear powers), the worst may be yet to come. 11.9.2007 11:19 am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It's generally agreed that war is a bad idea. You don't need to be a pacifist to think that way. Problem with condemnng war comes when you get into the real world, as usual with pacifism. In war, one side starts it. The other side is, or is not?, justified in resisting. Are both sides equally blameworthy? Do the precepts of pacifism apply equally to each side? Do pacifists demand the victims of aggression cease resisting? I suppose they'd say they condemn the aggressor equally. Problem is that there are different results, depending on who's effing stupid enough to listen to the pacifists. If the aggressor decides to go home in shame, we have status quo ante less a bunch of guys who won't live to see their grandkids. If the victim listens, we have tyranny, oppression, mass murder, possibly genocide, etc. Nutty. Just absolutely nutty to think the victim should down weapons.
The success of Gandhi's campaign to get India free succeeded for all the known reasons. His assertion that the Jews should allow themselves to be killed is down the memory hole. It's sort of like the anthologies of Mark Twain, that funny guy, don't include "The Mysterious Stranger". The reason is that only the insane want to die pacifistically and most pacifists are trying, some honestly, to sell the proposition that pacifism "works" and Gandhi's clear view that dying non-violently is "working" makes the whole thing look bad. And, yes, Elliott123, pacifists are free riders on the willingness of others to use violence on behalf of society. There. I said it. 11.10.2007 10:04pm
Gandhi, through sheer force of will and his undying belief in non-violence, prevented untold bloodshed during the independence movement, both by the British and among the competing factions in India. To claim otherwise is to ignore history.
Gandhi did not prevent "untold bloodshed by the British". They were looking to wash their hands and get out quickly, they were not looking for a reason to stay and break heads. If you want to argue that he prevented "untold bloodshed" among the competing factions in India, you must come to grips with the fact that there was already untold bloodshed during the partition (500,000 to 1 million dead, depending on who you believe), so the question is really "how much more bloodshed would there have been without Gandhi"?
History is not what we'd like to believe about Saint Gandhi the Blessed. History is what can be documented as a fact. In order for "Gandhi prevented untold bloodshed during the partition" to be history, one must establish - with supporting documents - that
(a) the governments of India and Pakistan actually sought to prevent violence during the partition,
(b) this policy was directly influenced by Gandhi's principles, and
(c) the governments actually had the power to prevent violence, and
(d) the governments actually did prevent violence.
In my view, (c) and (d) are certainly not true, and any violence that didn't happen during the partition was fortuitous, and any bloodshed that was prevented was not due to the influence of Gandhi but sheer happenstance. 11.11.2007 6:59pm

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