Today in class we had a long discussion about the pros and cons of practicing nonviolence. Sarah brought up a typical example of a kid physically bullying another kid, and whether or not the victim should respond by punching his bully back. The class was surprisingly split almost right down the middle, with some saying that refusing to fight back is a sign of strength because you are not giving into your temptations, while others, including myself, felt that fighting back was necessary in circumstances of self defense. In the case of the Indian Revolution, Ghandi encouraged his supporters to practice nonviolence and to hold back from violently responding to Britain’s actions. To some extent, I agree with Ghandi that self-control and nonviolence is a sing of morality and strength; however, I believe that had the Indians attempted to fight back, the British militia would not have belittled them so much. In fact, had the Indians rebelled, Britain might have listened to them, and given them if not complete self-government, at least some rights. Furthermore, had India defended themselves by attacking back, they could have saved hundreds of lives in the Amritsar Massacre. Though we had this discussion in class, I was interested in it, so I wanted to hear some further opinions. Do you think that Britain was able to so successfully belittle India because of their giving in and nonviolence, or was it for other reasons? Thoughts?

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6 Responses to Nonviolence

  1. ryan says:

    Whether or not the use of violence is beneficial to a cause is highly dependent upon the situation to which it is being applied. In the Indian Revolution, I believe Gandhi was able to use this strategy to his advantage. When Gandhi first started out, he knew very well the strength of his enemy. He was attempting to take on the most powerful empire and strongest military the world knew. Thus, violence would have given them an excuse and justification to suppress any resistance. Furthermore, non-violent revolution helped Gandhi draw more attention to his cause. As opposed to coming off like another leader of an insignificant and small rebellion, Gandhi drew attention to the oppression that Indians faced under British rule. For instance, in the Salt March Gandhi not only reached out to millions of Indians by pointing out that they were being abused by the British Empire even for a simple necessity such as salt, but also drew international sympathy for his cause. Non-violence worked for Gandhi because it put him in the role of the oppressed and the British Empire in the role of an oppressor at a time when the world was watching. While violent revolution may be appropriate for some causes, in the case of Gandhi it likely would have allowed his cause to be suppressed or even hurt his cause by taking it away from his leadership and putting it into the hands of soldiers.

  2. Sheena says:

    I agree with Ryan that India’s choice to use non-violence is what really united India. The unification that India received would not have been the same if violence was a key factor. For example, the salt march forced India to look within their own country for answers to their own problems rather than looking towards the british for help. This sense of self worth is what kept India from further rebellions, and prevented a sense of discomfort within society. By not having violence present India received a greater value instead of Britain to stop belittling India. The belittling was not caused by the lack of violence but instead from age old traditions.

  3. mcolbert says:

    I believe that nonviolence only works if there are people to report on it. Reporters must be present or at least get wind of the story in order for nonviolence to work. The strategy of nonviolence to me seems like you must wear down your oppressors, and paint them in a horrible light in order to win. The oppressors must care if their painted in a horrible light however. For example the revolution I am writing my paper on, South African Apartheid, had major influence from reporters witnessing nonviolent protestors being killed. For example the Soweto massacre was just simple protesting, that resulted in many young children being killed. However, a very famous photo of this massacre was taken by a journalist, of a man running crying and carrying the body of a dead 13 year old boy as his sister runs next to him crying. This photo sparked controversy, and all around the world people were outraged at the South African government and pressured the South African to end apartheid. This was one example I could think of when nonviolence worked incredibly well.

  4. Tanner says:

    I would agree with Madeleine that journalism is a crucial part of non-violent revolutions. One-sided violence touches people in a way that two-sided violence can’t. For example, when people heard of the non-violent revolution taking place in India, and the brutal retaliation of the British, they were appalled. The British attacked the peaceful people and inflicted unjustified punishment, and this showed Britain in a morally-disgusting light. A violent revolution is different however. People see two sides struggling for control of the land, two groups attacking each other for their goal. It’s no longer an unfair attack on peaceful protesters, and it is no longer a government oppressing a non-violent citizenry. While a non-violent revolution tugs on people’s morals, a two-sided, violent revolution is not seen as a cruel slaughter, rather a war over land.

  5. Griffin says:

    I agree that non- violence is the best option, but the circumstances have to be ideal. If there is a large group of people, then non- violence will hopefully enlighten the other side. Though if it is an individual that is the victim of the attacks, he/she could easily be crushed by the oposition if they dont show that they can stand on their own.

  6. Giorgio says:

    I agree with Tanner in that a non-violent revolution is more distinguised and significant than a violent one. However, discussing the previous point of journalism, I think that reporters or journalists or any link to the world outside the revolution is crucial to its success. Many unsuccessful revolutions are largely obscure, such as the Brazilian Revolution of 1930, the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, the Venezuelan Revolution of 1945, and The Egyptian Revolution of 1952, among others, may owe their lack of success to the equal lack of media coverage. Media coverage and international recognition of any revolution is crucial to its success. If a revolution does not have media coverage and remains unknown throughout the world, it is unlikely that it will succeed whether it is violent or non-violent.

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