Some bullies assert their privileges aggressively, regardless of moral right and wrong, at the immediate expense of others and eventually of 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. As the friction of conflict worsens in the absence of progressive transformation, communal prosperity shrinks.
Yet Mencius prompted us to forsake a simple profit and rallied us instead to Humanity (Compassion) and Duty, far better for us. I am convinced that excessive profit lead inevitably to the sacrifice of the Other. Contrary to the sacrifice induced by profit, humanity and duty call for celebration.
Celebrate Learning instead of sacrificing the Other!
Once these aggressive self-promoters have knocked off most of their opponents, the survivors assemble into elites even more vicious. In most cases, the rest of us submit to their brutal demands in order to regain the peace. Just because the meek turn the other cheek to violence, that does not disqualify their legitimate demands. On the contrary, legitimate requirements benefit a lot more people including the most powerful, whereas 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 might fend off foreign aggression for a while, but the incremental wear and tear of their social contradictions weaken them from within. Eventually, they become hollow husks only seemingly mighty, which 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 more dependably. They may even assimilate their invaders and thrive in the long run, as China has often managed to do during her long and complex history. The simplistic steadiness of tyranny is as illusory as the apparent weakness of cosmopolitan decadence.
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 with his kind permission.
Please study these pages carefully, then go out and learn everything you can about Satyagraha. Our survival may 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. This phrase is a weapon-based misnomer of peace effort, typical of occidental weapon culture. Likewise, the title “Mahatma” or great soul displeased him no end.
Gandhi’s first principles of Satyagraha are:
· Satya: truth ;
· Ahimsa: non-violence ;
· Tapasya: voluntary suffering for the common good ; and
· Sarvodaya: the common good
You are not only supposed to love your enemy, you are supposed to befriend him with your honesty and harmlessness. If you are error-free (a very 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 onset 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 family member whether exasperating or inspiring. Trust in your adversary’s good faith. His best friends are safe from his attack.
Also noteworthy: this rule may not apply to individual psychopaths (even though Gandhi had a personal success with his prison guard and other brutes). But it will certainly be so for random agglomerations of conscientious humans who will eventually seize control from a minority of psychopaths.
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? Inevitable stumbles as we feel our way along this rocky trail, and our unwillingness or inability to amend errors. Only fear-based failures 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 this is to write down and reread—how much harder to practice it honestly! I fail all the time. I keep losing it, dropping my first principles the moment my anger takes off. So will you, no doubt. So did Gandhi, but less often. Satyagraha was his topic of passion and he trained at it all his life. Me, I’m just another bozo gratifying my wormlike urges.
Whatever I may be, I can spot the genius of Satyagraha and recommend it to you. And you may have the passion for it 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, gratifying and entirely superficial. It is just a preliminary, like the empty filling of a never/always rancid Twinkie.
If we were scarred veterans of Satyagraha, we might achieve something useful by reading about it; otherwise, not likely. Learning it from a peace master over and over again every day; practicing it 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 with whom to practice. If we did so it in the real world, people would take us for cowards; the charitable, for saintly fools. We will suffer for our folly. They will rip off everything we value, hit us where it hurts and make a mockery of our stupidity; having learned nothing from the transaction. It would be easy to become embittered. That should be expected and taken into account.
The principal difference between today’s policies and those of a future run under the rules of Satyagraha, is that those of today are ultimately ruled by psychopaths and sociopaths to their advantage, whereas those to come will be ruled by conscience-driven people like you and me, for the ultimate benefit of the commons. It will be as simple as that.
Gandhi’s foremost lesson is that delayed results must not discourage us. Even though I, impatient fool that I am, fantasize that the God of Love will lend miraculous rapidity to our highest aspirations.
In the future, there will be as many Satyagraha masters on PeaceWorld as there are karate masters on WeaponWorld today. Satyagraha will become the keystone concept of courtesy and social grace. Most will acknowledge and assist it 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 fail our ideals and suffer for our convictions.
O bodhisattva! Keep trying. This is hard, but you are obstinate. Keep trying.
Some conflicts end by force and guile; others by accommodation and compromise; still more through arbitration and law. Gandhi was dissatisfied with all of these outcomes. Win-lose and lose-lose outcomes merely prolong resentment, deceit and violence. There cannot be true victory until both sides agree that they have won together.
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 versions of the truth, alternate outcomes will confirm (and be confirmed by) both sides’ most dependable principles. Thus, we should welcome conflict as an opportunity to analyze and embrace both faces 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 and some less so.
2. Let each side examine the importance of its own claims and pick out the most important ones.
3. Merge, in your heart and mind, both sides’ most vital elements. Create a new side and adopt it with your opponent.
4. 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, note that the complexity of conflict resolution increases exponentially as more parties join the fray.
Nowadays, dispute resolution and other peace practices stumble along by trial and (mostly) error. Our rough and tumble decision-making is based on the rule of terror. Learners will expect much subtler precision from the science of peace. We will have to invent elegant new ways to negotiate.
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 write in French are taught to take their time, crosscheck the links between every element of the sentence they draft, 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 achieve intellectual dominance as quickly as 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 rhetoric defend their convictions in the public forum—once they have certified the amphibious nature of their convictions or perhaps a little later.
“At the age of twenty in Rome, Richelieu argued a sermon before the Pope to prove a certain point. The next day, he was once again before the Pope to argue the same sermon proving 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 the same arid logic of ancient Greek war tribes. Perhaps all the children educated on WeaponWorld are. But I was not taught that during my fractional French schooling, except inadvertently by my adoptive grandfather, Maître Auguste Reynaud.
I find in French a better expression of my true conviction. I may have begun writing this text in English, but I didn’t draw the full truth from it until I had translated first drafts into French then woven new ideas into the English arbor, or else tore 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 of thought are harder to hide when written in French, and necessary clarifications more obvious. That may just be my background… Gershwin wrote An American in Paris for people like me.
Is that why French wound up being the canonical language of diplomacy? Why the bitterest foes of French dominance send their children nowadays to learn it in school? Power grabs and winner-take-all are easier to convey in English; more thoughtful, win-win thinking is clearer in French. I’m not sure, but Mandarin Chinese might be even more appropriate. See Language.
It may be that the process of translation forces my subconscious to triangulate between two points of view, the same way stereoscopic vision can determine distance and dimension with greater precision? 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 almost anyone could learn 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 appear to require some further elucidation to stanch the flow of blood that Allah must abominate as much among His Faithful as those who should be.
Karl E. Meyer, in The Dust of Empire: The Race for Mastery in the Asian Heartland, Public Affairs, The Century Foundation, New York, 2003, p. 103-4, talks about Mukilika Banerjee’s investigation (The Pathan Unarmed) of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as the “Frontier Gandhi.” He and his Punjabi Red Shirts or Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God) fought alongside Gandhi and his Congress Party in the 1920’s for a single, free and secular India.
His followers, clad in cheap cloth dyed with brick dust, had to pledge: “I shall never use violence. I shall not retaliate or take revenge, and shall forgive anyone who indulges in oppression and excesses against me.” Announcing this nonviolent form of Jihad, he recruited 100,000 followers who endured arrest and torture by the Raj, then won elections in Punjab to form a series of provincial governments under Chief Minister Dr. Khan Sahib, the British-educated brother of Abdul Ghaffar.
Both the Muslim League and the British found Ghaffar Khan’s political success very alarming, based on his non-violent demand for Pashtun independence; the former because his open-minded Muslim movement denied its hysterical claim that Islam was in danger, the latter because he threatened to deprive them of a prime military recruiting ground in their jewel of Empire.
In some sense, the Taliban are the morally bankrupt political descendants of a popular nonviolent movement for political independence among the Pashtun people. It has been systematically suppressed, infected with systematic terrorism and proven sterile, divisive and futile. Despite the blood shed to oppose it, Islam’s non-violent holy war can claim a long and glorious history with an even brighter outlook.
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 away, the handiwork of ungodly human animals on both sides. Terror has never converted a non-believer nor has it ever helped the Faithful. Islamic non-violence will empower the Faithful, powerless otherwise, and convert billions more… Irhaab haram: terrorism is forbidden.
Allah is just waiting to be obeyed. Mighty are His patience and 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 and recited them to the faithful who later compiled the Q’ran.
Even though nowadays, way too many fanatics earn their salt by preaching massacre in the name of Allah: a priesthood that evolved just like all the others in history. From the little of it I understand, classic Islam would prefer one had a paying job rather than preachifying in this manner.
Everyone is expected to learn to read the Koran and memorize as many of its splendid verses as they can. I am told it contains the finest Arabic poetry, no contest. This is a miracle, since Mohammed could barely read and write.
I wonder if you realize how revolutionary those notions were, back during the 7th century CE? Every peasant boy was expected to become a Koranic scholar (a Learner). Christians wouldn’t achieve the same level of Learning until the 19th century. Thank God, we include little girls nowadays.
Nobody can save you, only you. You can do so by following five simple rules as long as you are able (Allah is infinitely merciful):
· Shahada: Once during your lifetime, say with full understanding and absolute conviction: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet.”
· Salat: 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. Clean yourself first. Muslim societies have organized themselves to facilitate the task.
· Zakat: Give alms generously—and then more than generously. Again, Muslim societies have converted these alms into official taxes, for better or for worse.
· Sawm: Sustain a daytime fast during the month of Ramadan (whose date shifts every year according to a calendar of lunar months), eat and drink only after dark.
· Hajj: Once during your lifetime – if you are able; God is infinitely merciful – make a pilgrimage to Mecca. During your Hajj, you may 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 alady’s sewing circle—so savage were local customs. I wonder if that is why fanatical Muslims and Americans hate each other so fervently: because they are so similar in spirit?
Desert nomads are among the hardiest individualists on Earth. I know; having met some, I’ve admired them. No one can get them to do what they don’t want to do, and there is no nobler host for those they call a friend or even an innocent passer-by. After all, some random guest might be an angel sent by God to test their honor.
Most of the ground-down, back-strained peasants (Pagan, Christian, Zoroastrian, Hindu, you name it) whom Muslim conquerors absorbed, grasped the advantages of Islam soon enough. Islam makes every Muslim man the 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, according 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, shared with their masters on their knees before Allah, at least in the mosque on Friday afternoon; 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?
Just as Christ’s Sermon of the Mount calls on Christians to submit to the equality of the human condition; Allah, through Mohammed’s recitation, calls on all Muslims to submit to equality of their condition before God. Direct political democracy is obligatory in both cases, since it alone can satisfy this shared equality. There can be no dispute between Muslims and Christians as to this religious principle of direct democracy, except by the lying dictate of their respective psychopaths.
As to the call for organized violence in the Koran, I direct your attention to http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/, an article both bleak and hopeless. Without further comment on my part, except to turn my back on this topic and its psychopathic advocates in disgust.
As for the lines of the Qran 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.
Excuse me if I left out key Surats on these topics, that any bright child raised in Islam would know. If you catch me missing some, please contact me and I will make amends in complete humility.
Satyagraha would ask for nothing more and demand nothing less.
Finally, just as I have committed my soul to reincarnate into the life of Jesus the next time I die, so Muslims could commit to reincarnate into the life of Mohammed or another Muslim saint after their next death, a fate more worthy for a departed soul than mere houris. Also, no excuse to fight between Shia and Sunni, blow oneself to pieces among innocents or set back little girls: practices the righteous Mohammed would certainly have scourged.
While Jesus said He was the only way into Heaven, so Mohammed said he was the last Prophet of God. What mortal man could untangle such a divine contradiction? Yet such a reincarnation could prove to be just as worthwhile for its believer. We could wait there, safe in our soul, whatever ultimate salvation God contemplates. Let the psychopaths murder each other and innocent victims in His Name on Earth; let our last refuge doggedly harbor those remaining. Once and for all, our complicity could favor the good.
A tidbit for good believers to contemplate in Peace.
Allah Akhbar! God is Great!