Ghandi says that “Ahisma is nonviolent love and mutual commitment to each other as human beings.” He believed that “violence itself is a tactic of failure and of State power; not real power.” By this he’s saying that the act of violence itself, is void of any real power. It’s because of the lack of power that people resort to violence; people feel as if they need it to have power or control over whatever it is they want power and control over. He’s basically saying if you have to resort to violence, you’ve failed because there’s never any reason to resort to that. When people begin to fail or lose at something they are basically already in flight or fight mode, and resorting to “fight” mode means you’ve failed- not only yourself but mankind.
Ghandi says that in order to be “actively” non-violent, means to have “willingness to inflict violence only on one’s self.” This means that even if someone or something intentionally causes harm to you or an affiliation, you do not inflict harm onto them. This means if someone comes up to you and starts punching and kicking you repeatedly, you just stand there and take it. His theory is that eventually, because you aren’t retaliating and giving the reaction that is expected from the violent intendor, they will realize the inhumanity of their actions and see that violence does nothing. Often times the reason people do something is for the reaction. People who commit violent acts or cause harm intentionally are usually doing it for the reaction, or the response that usually follows. By not reinforcing their actions with the expected response, their actions lose their meaning; or in other words, inflicting harm or violence stops working for them. They are forced to see that violence is not a means of getting the desired outcome or response. This shows that they are in fact, the enemy.
To summarize, Ghandi’s definition of non-violence states “willingness to put one’s body in harm’s’ way- an insistence to put one’s body in harm’s way- is the strength required, but not for the cowardly.” By this he means that you have to be comfortable with the notion of sacrificing your well being for the well being of others. It’s a selfless act, that is not for those who can’t handle the idea of giving up something vital- like your life- in order to save others. He also believes that by retaliating to violence, or returning the violence, validates the initial violence.
One problem with this is how we (westerners) view individual rights. This concept that Ghandi gives us goes against what most people believe about national sovereignty, which is basically saying you can say whatever you want, do whatever you want until you hit a legal limit so to speak, or threshold of what’s acceptable and what’s not. However, Ghandi disagrees with this. He says that this is not how reality is, that it is a “non-truth.” It’s notions like these that go against what Ghandi believes and stands for.
Another issue brought to our attention is how we get to this point of non-violence after thousands of years of mutually returned violence? Ever since the dawn of time, war has been the response to most of mankind’s problems. War has been the staple of our nation’s since before our nations were even created. The big question here is how do we get to a point where someone, or something, is willing to take the hit. Someone has to break the cycle of reciprocating violence in order to get to a point where someone finally says enough is enough. It’s difficult for our nation’s especially now with all the tensions going on. Nobody wants to make themselves vulnerable by not being on the offense, or even retaliating against an attack. It’s the idea that your home has to have the biggest, baddest militia in order to be safe. This kind of ideology is what keeps us in a never ending cycle of war. No one wants to take the abuse without returning it, or getting some sort of justice for the crimes done against them.
One last problem we face with this ideology is whether contemporary life and history get in the way of the requisite recognition of mutual humanity in nonviolent fighter and violent perpetrator? Basically this is saying how do we remove ourselves from the moment? How do we take ourselves out of our normal paradigm in order to conceive this concept that goes against what some would consider “human nature?” It’s concerning how we remove ourselves from our culture, or our “smaller unit.”
I absolutely believe that Ghandi’s contributions are tenable to reality and world conflicts in the 21st century. We as a society, or rather as a race, have come long enough to be educated and civilized enough to know that violence is no longer a reputable outlet for change. The majority of people on this earth would agree that problems and conflicts can be resolved without violent action being taken. It’s the hidden business and agendas that lie beneath the justifications for war and other violent acts that hinder us from removing violence as a means of resolving issues or “getting what we want.” War is unfortunately an industry, that many people and entities profit off of. Ghandi see’s this, and he see’s how we’ve let this get in the way of removing violence from social movements and any aspect of life. No one could ever win an argument based off of violence being the answer, and he supports his claim with pure logic and reasoning. Non-violence is the alternative, it’s the alternative to violence. I can say that most people who are mentally healthy would say that nonviolence will always be a better choice than violence.