Some bullies assert their privileges aggressively, regardless of moral rights and wrongs, at the expense of other people and eventually, their own. Privileges obtained by violence are harder to hold onto. In the long run, they are less profitable than those everyone would agree to share peacefully. The worse the friction of conflict, the more waste and the less gain, in the absence of progressive transformation.
Yet Mencius prompted us to forsake simple profit, harmful to us in the long run. Instead, he rallied us to Humanity and Duty, far better for us. I am convinced that excessive profit entails the inevitable sacrifice of the Other. Contrary to the sacrifice induced by profit, humanity and duty would call for celebration.
Celebrate our common Learning, instead of sacrificing Others!
Once these aggressive self-promoters knock each other off, their survivors assemble into elites even more vicious. In most cases, the rest of us submit to their brutal demands in order to maintain the peace. Just because the meek turn the other cheek to violence, that does not disqualify their legitimate demands. On the contrary, their peaceful demands serve a lot more people, including the most powerful. In the meantime, arbitrary and brutal demands induce more expense, conflict and social contradiction.
Note this basic paradox. Totalitarian regimes may seem mighty; but in truth they are rigid, friable and unstable. They may fend off foreign aggression for a while, but the incremental wear and tear of social contradictions weakens them from within. Eventually, they become hollow husks that only seem mighty and collapse for no apparent reason.
On the other hand, the more turbulent a society’s info flow and the more dialogue-hubbub it tolerates, the stronger and more flexible it becomes. Apparently turbulent and shaky societies may invite foreign aggression, but overcome long-term contradictions with greater ease. They may even assimilate their invaders and thrive in the long run, the way China has often managed to do during her long and complex history. The simplistic steadiness of tyranny is illusory; the apparent weakness of intellectual decadence is likewise.
Mark Juergensmeyer’s book, Fighting with Gandhi, is a great primer of conflict resolution. It, too, is out of print. This chapter and the next are summaries of his book, included in this book with his kind permission.
Please study these pages carefully, then go out and learn everything you can about Satyagraha. Our survival may well depend on your effort.
The basis of Gandhian struggle is Satyagraha, (Clutching-at-the-Truth, in Hindi): a fundamental peace management tool. Gandhi coined the phrase “passive resistance” during the first of his social experiments in South Africa; he rejected it thereafter It is a weapon-based misnomer of peace effort, typical of occidental weapon culture.
Gandhi’s first principles of Satyagraha are:
· Satya: truth
· Ahimsa: non-violence
· Tapasya: voluntary suffering for the common good
· Sarvodaya: the common good
You are not only supposed to love your enemy, you are supposed to befriend him through your honesty and non-violence. If you are error-free (a vert difficult task) your enemy will eventually become a loyal friend and act accordingly, no matter what he used to think about you. The process is entirely voluntary on both sides: it should be fearless from the start in your case, and fearless in the end for your fear-freed enemy.
You may judge the acts of your opponent, but may only pity or respect him for himself, as you would a beloved family member who had strayed or shined. Trust your adversary’s good faith. Your enemy’s true friends are safe from his attack.
Your shield is Tapasya: your willingness to accept self-suffering in order to reduce the suffering of others—but not your own. Suffering for your own sake is not Satyagraha.
The only things that honest verifactors need fear are:
· Inevitable stumbles as we feel our way along this rocky path, and
· Unwillingness or inability to amend our errors. Only fear-based failure can delay this all-powerful process.
Compared to almighty Satyagraha, panicky brutality and sickly lies are bound to fail. We may not compromise Satyagraha through personal weakness, fear or inertia. We must resist in suffering instead.
“I must resist in suffering instead.” How easy it is for me to write this down—how much harder to practice it honestly! I fail at it all the time. I keep forgetting this first principle, the moment my anger is aroused. So will you. So did Gandhi, although less often. Satyagraha was his topic of passion and he trained at it all his life. Me, I’m just another not-too-bright bozo satisfying my own wormlike urges.
However, worm that I am, I can spot the genius of Satyagraha and recommend it to you. And you may have the talent and tenacity that I lack, to carry it out honestly. That is my hope.
Satyagraha is like karate, charity or courage: it only gets done by doing it. Reading and writing about it is sweet, simple, obvious, very gratifying and entirely superficial. It is just a preliminary, like the flat icing of a never/always rancid Twinkie.
If we were scarred veterans of Satyagraha, we might achieve something by reading about it; otherwise, not likely. Being taught it by a peace master, over and over again every day; practicing it over and over in the real world; trying and failing, getting thrown, picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off (along with our enemies) and trying again—those steps are tough, grueling and mandatory.
Nowadays, there are no Satyagraha masters to train under. If we practice it in the real world, people will take us for fools and cowards; the charitable will take us for saintly fools. We will suffer for our folly. They will rip off everything we cherish, hit us where it hurts most, and make fun of our incredible stupidity; having learned nothing from the transaction. We could easily become embittered. That should be expected.
The main difference between today’s policies and those in the future of Satyagraha, is that those of today are ultimately arbitrated by psychopaths and sociopaths to their advantage, whereas those to come will be ruled by conscience-driven people like you and me, to benefit the commons. It will be as simple as that.
Gandhi’s foremost lesson is that we must never become impatient for results. Even though I, impatient fool, would opt for miracles from our God of Love, Who might speed up our results by transcendent means.
In the future, there will be as many Satyagraha masters on PeaceWorld as there are karate masters on this world today. Satyagraha will become the keystone of courtesy and social grace. Everyone will acknowledge it and cooperate with enthusiasm. Those who reject it will be deemed insane. Only then may we contemplate Satyagraha in the cool shade of our innermost thoughts and feel genuine contentment. Until then, we shall often fail our ideals or suffer for our convictions.
O bodhisattva! Keep trying. This is hard, but you are brave. Keep trying.
Some conflicts end by force and guile; others, by accommodation and compromise; still more, through arbitration and law. Gandhi was not happy with any of these outcomes. Win-lose and lose-lose outcomes merely prolong resentment, untruth and violence. There cannot be true victory until both sides agree that they have won.
Satyagraha requires that both sides recognize, exchange and embrace each other’s most valid principles. Neither side’s truth is utterly wrong, nor is it wholly correct until it reflects and confirms the truth of the Other. Once both parties have exposed their differing version of the truth, alternate outcomes will emerge. They will confirm (and be confirmed by) both sides’ most dependable principles. Thus, conflict should be a welcome opportunity to reveal both sides of the truth: neither an excuse for coercion nor an evil to be shunned.
1. List each side’s foremost values. Each side claims its own truths: some vital, some less so. Let each side examine the importance of its own claims and pick out the most important ones.
2. Merge, in your heart and mind, both sides’ most vital elements. Create a new side and adopt it with your opponent.
3. Revise your new position as the fight goes on.
According to their formulation, for any number n of people sharing a cake, equal portions will result if 2(n-2) + 1 pieces are cut and chosen in a certain order. Handing out equal portions of dessert may seem like a trivial exercise, but more important applications suggest themselves—also, for you number crunchers out there, please note that the complexity of conflict resolution increases exponentially as more parties join the fray.
Current dispute resolution and other peace practices stagger along by trial and (mostly) error. Our rough and ready decision-making is based on the rule of terror. Learners will expect much subtler precision from their sciences of peace. We will have to invent elegant new forms of negotiation with one another.
I am pretty sure that the French language is more adaptable to this task than “zero-sum, winner-take-all” English. Those who learn to think in French are taught to take their time, crosscheck the links between every element of the sentence they have written, and thus understand and explain themselves more fully. If they fall short, they will neither attract nor influence anyone with their claims (including themselves).
On the other hand, English speakers are trained to seek intellectual ascendancy in the quickest, most immediate way possible, regardless of tone and content. We are taught to argue both sides of a debate equally well, regardless of our personal conviction. Only thereafter may the masters of English speech defend their convictions in a public forum – once they have demonstrated the amphibious nature of their convictions – or perhaps a little later.
“At the age of twenty in Rome, Richelieu had argued a sermon before the Pope in order to prove a particular point. The very next day he was again before the Pope and argued the same sermon in order to prove the opposite point.” John Ralston Saul, Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, Vintage Press, A Division of Random House, 1991, p. 53.
It may be that French children are taught something similar, based on the arid logic of ancient Greek war tribes. But I was not taught that during my fractional French schooling, except unintentionally, by my adoptive grandfather, Maître Auguste Reynaud.
Thus I find in French a purer expression of my true conviction. I may have started out this text in English; but I didn’t uncovered the full truth of it until I had translated first drafts into French, then tried to weave new ideas into the English arbor or else torn it down and rebuilt it simpler and more elegant, based on the clearer, more demanding grammar and syntax of French. As far as I’m concerned, errors and omissions are harder to hide when written in French, and necessary clarifications, more obvious. That may just be my background… Gershwin wrote his American in Paris for people like me.
Is that why French wound up being the preferred language of diplomacy? Why the bitterest foes of French power send their children nowadays to learn it in school? Dominance and winner-take-all are easier to convey in English; more thoughtful, win-win thinking is clearer in French. I’m not sure, but might Mandarin Chinese be even more applicable? See Language.
It might be that the process of translation forces my subconscious to triangulate from two points of view; the same way stereoscopic vision determines distance and dimension with greater accuracy? In that case, everyone should learn to think in at least two languages. The fact that I am dyslexic, and yet learned two of them more or less fluently, confirms that anyone could be taught the trick.
This enhanced social competence will mark the end of the bloody chaos we have come to expect from weapon mentality. May its applied cowardice be banished forever!
There follows my summary of the teachings of the Qran, Koran. I hope Mohammed would not have disapproved, even though he condemns those who dare supplement his text. These are difficult times and we seem to need more elucidations to stanch the flow of blood that Allah must abominate as much among His Faithful as those who should be.
“Yet this is scarcely the whole truth. Forgotten is the paradoxical fact that the foremost Pashtun leader in the struggle against British rule was a dedicated pacifist, Abdul Ghaffar Kahn, once famous as the “Frontier Gandhi.” His followers, nicknamed the Red Shirts, had first to swear, “I shall never use violence. I shall not retaliate or take revenge, and shall forgive anyone who indulges in oppression and excesses against me.” For upwards of two decades, Ghaffar Khan and his Khudai Khidmatgar (“Servants of God”) fought alongside Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress Party for a united, democratic and secular India. Nearly everybody who has looked into this history has been fascinated, moved and astonished. Mukilika Banerjee first heard of the Red Shirts in the 1990s while a graduate student in New Delhi. Impressed and curious, she settled on the Frontier, learned Pashto, and managed to interview seventy surviving ex-Servants of God for her study, The Pathan Unarmed. She found that Ghaffar Khan’s pacifism derived from his concept of Jihad, or holy war. “Nonviolent civil disobedience offered the chance of martyrdom in its purest form, since putting one’s life conspicuously in one’s enemy’s hands was itself the key act, and death incurred in the process was not a defeat or a tragedy: rather the act of witness to an enemy’s injustice … In his recruiting speeches, therefore [Ghaffar Khan] was offering to each and every Pathan not the mere possibility of death, but rather the opportunity of glorious sacrifice and martyrdom.”
[Author’s note: And he offered it, I suspect, to other noble Jihadi who stepped up besides the Pathan (Pashto, the people we are fighting now; get a clue)].
“Like her incredulous predecessors, Banerjee discovered that Ghaffar Khan, starting in the 1920s, managed to recruit a nonviolent army of 100,000 followers, who shared a uniform frugally stained with brick dust. The army’s power was confirmed in 1930, when its general strike paralyzed Peshawar, the provincial capital, for five days, its supporters having braved arrest and torture by the Raj’s police. Initially, because they were deemed so intractable, Pashtuns were denied even the limited franchise granted in the early 1920’s elsewhere in British India, but this changed with the passage of the 1935 Government of India Act. In successive elections, the Red Shirts prevailed, forming provincial governments under Chief Minister Dr. Khan Sahib (as he is usually styled, the British-educated physician brother of Ghaffar Khan). Meanwhile, Ghaffar, standing six feet, three inches, instantly recognizable with his knobby nose and homely features, became an arm-in-arm companion to Mahatma Gandhi, who pronounced the Red Shirt movement a miracle. Notwithstanding his pacifism and his liberal views on secularism and women’s rights, Ghaffar Khan became a Pashtun folk hero, acclaimed as Badshah Khan, or khan of khans. This is documented in a recent book by the Indian historian Parchotam Mehra, The North-West Frontier Drama, 1945-47. Combing through long unexamined records, the author found that in 1912, the NWFP, with a population of just 3 million, accounted for 5,557 convictions for civil disobedience compared with 1,620 in the Punjab, which had five times as many inhabitants.
“Muslims constituted so overwhelming a majority on the Frontier that the Muslim League’s cry of “Islam is in danger!” failed to resonate. This helps explain why a movement allied with Gandhi’s Hindu-led Congress took root. No less important, Ghaffar Khan had tapped into a sense of frustrated common identity among Pashtuns living on both sides of the Afghan border. He and his movement talked of a “Pashtunistan,” an independent or quasi-autonomous Pashtun homeland, the content of the idea varying from time to time. It was the aspect of the movement that most troubled the British and, even more, the Muslim League. It led to Ghaffar Kan’s encounter with another important if forgotten figure, Sir Olaf Caroe.” Karl E. Meyer, The Dust of Empire: The Race for Mastery in the Asian Heartland, Public Affairs, The Century Foundation, New York, 2003, p. 103-4.
Once the Umma (the community of Islam) takes up the Jihad of non-violence for the greater glory of Allah, all this dead-end terrorism will fall by the wayside: the work of ungodly human animals on both sides. Terror never converted anyone among the non-believers, nor has it ever helped the Faithful or its victims. Islamic non-violence will empower the Faithful, powerless otherwise, and convert billions more…
Allah is just waiting to be obeyed. Mighty is the patience of His mercy!
First of all, Islam is a religion of personal salvation and social revolution. There are no priests, only gifted interpreters of Allah’s words recited by His angel Gabriel or Gibril to Mohammed who memorized them and recited them to the faithful who later compiled the Q’ran. Everyone is expected to learn to read the Koran and memorize as many of its splendid verses as they can. I am told the Koran contains the finest Arabic verse, no contest. This is a miracle, since Mohammed could barely read and write.
I wonder if you realize how revolutionary that notion was, back during the 7th century CE? Every peasant boy was expected to become a Koranic scholar (a Learner). Christians wouldn’t reach the same level of Learning until the 19th century. Thank God, now we include smart little girls.
Nobody else can save you, only you. You can do so by following five simple rules, as long as you are able (Allah is infinitely merciful):
1. Shahada: Once during your lifetime, you must say with full understanding and absolute acceptance: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet.”
2. Salat: You must pray five times a day (at first, it was twice; later, dozens of times; finally, five): at dawn, at noon, in the afternoon, at dusk and once it is dark outside. You must cleanse yourself first. Muslim societies have been organized to facilitate this task.
3. Zakat: You must give alms generously—and then more than generously. Again, Muslim societies have converted these alms into official taxes, for better or for worse.
4. Sawm: You must sustain a daytime fast during the month of Ramadan (whose date shifts every year, according to a calendar of lunar months), eating and drinking only after dark.
5. Hajj: Once during your lifetime – if you are able; God is infinitely merciful – you must make a pilgrimage to Mecca. During your Hajj, you can witness the family of humanity under Allah’s tutelage.
That’s it. The rest is up to the infinite mercy of Allah, blessed be His Name. Like I said, Islam is a revolutionary religion of personal salvation. Either you choose to submit to God or you don’t. The Koran forbids Muslims to coerce your belief, which must be pure and spontaneous.
It is not surprising that Islam is a religion of rugged individualists, since the Mecca/Medina region in Mohammed’s day would have made the American Wild West seem like a lady’s sewing circle—so savage were local customs. I wonder if that is why fanatical Muslims and Americans hate each other so passionately: because they are so similar in spirit?
Desert nomads are among the hardiest individualists on Earth. I know; I’ve met some and admired them. No one can get them to do what they don’t want to, and there is no nobler host for those they call a friend or even an innocent stranger. After all, some random guest might be an angel sent by God to test their honor.
Most of the ground-down, back-broken peasants (Pagan, Christian, Zoroastrian, Hindu, you name it) whom Muslim conquerors absorbed, grasped the advantages of Islam soon enough. Islam makes every man the absolute equal of every other in the eyes of God. Nobility, wealth, the willingness and ability to hurt people bad; what are those worth? Less than nothing, to God.
Can Euro-Americans claim they taught the same thing to the American Indians they conquered? Can any Christian or non-believing conqueror?
Besides, everyone got five refreshing breaks a day from their backbreaking toil, which their masters shared on their knees before Allah. Plus universal literacy and bountiful alms for the poor. What more benefits could you ask from a religion, back during the Age of royal shadism?
During my last rereading of the Qran, one idea struck me. Mohammed invokes peace at least sixty times during his recitation of the words of God. In most instances, he indicates something like this.
The House of Allah is the House of Peace; the House of War is an abomination to Him. Resist fiercely those who attack you from the House of War, for living in the House of Peace like good Muslims. Never fight a fellow Muslim, always assist him. Accept in peace those who allow you to submit to Allah, regardless of their belief. You may not even attack those who might mislead you. Instead, turn your back on them and tell them, ‘Peace.’ Share Allah’s House of Peace with everyone who lets you. Thus will you praise Islam and Allah; otherwise, you may dishonor them in the sight of potential converts, at the risk of your soul.
As for the lines of the Qran that I invoke, here they are, for your personal review:
Say “Peace” to those who might delude you.
004-090-099, especially 095
Concerning non-Muslims who could just as well be beloved of Allah.
Being kind to harmless unbelievers, for the greater glory of Islam.
On the non-coercion of submission.
I am sorry if I left out key Surats dealing with these topics, that any bright child raised in Islam would know. If you catch me missing some, please contact me and I will make humble amends.
Satyagraha would ask for nothing more, and demand nothing less.
Allah Akhbar! God is Great!
LEARNERS: On the Move from WeaponWorld to PeaceWorld