With repeated thanks to Mark Juergensmeyer who let me copy them from his book, Fighting with Gandhi.
I cling to Satyagraha, even though I understand it less well than a Sudanese mother might, the vaccine for which she will take great pains to save her child. We have this in common: we have something precious to save, we know it works, and neither of us cares whether we understand it or not—be it vaccine or Satyagraha. Expert medics may save her child; expert verifactors may save the world. We lay people can only hope. Bring it on at any cost!
· Do not avoid confrontation. Avoidance merely prolongs the underlying conflict. Instead, welcome peaceful contradiction and the light it may cast on your truth.
· Stay open to communication and criticism. Each side has only a partial view. The perspective of the Other is essential to sort truth from untruth.
· Find a resolution and hold onto it. Once a better alternative makes itself apparent, seize it and base your strategies on it. But be willing to challenge it as well.
· Consider your opponent an ally. Do nothing to harm and alienate those who oppose you. If you do so by accident or bad habit, seek forgiveness as soon as possible and make generous amends. Remember, your common goal is to struggle together against anti-truth. [Author’s note: avoidance, accusation and confrontation are my worst weaknesses—see the items below, at which I fail altogether too consistently].
· Make your tactics consistent with your goal. When possible, use the goal itself as a weapon. When not, use only those actions that are consistent with it.
· Be flexible. Be willing to change tactics, alter short-term goals, and revise your notion of the opponent as well as your conception of the truth.
· Be temperate. Escalate your actions by degrees. The idea is to keep your opponents from feeling intimidated. Their response should be communicative rather than defensive. You want to attract them into friendship and allegiance, not alienate them, as we have been indoctrinated to deal with the fearsome Other.
· Be proportionate. Determine which issues are trivial and which are worthy of your time and energy. The basis for judgment is the degree to which life and the quality of life are abused. Mount a campaign whose strength is equal to that of your opponent and appropriate to the issue.
· Be agonizingly disciplined. Especially when many activists are involved in a collective effort, make certain that your position is coherent and that your side is committed to nonviolence. Consistency is one of your major strengths.
· Know when to quit. A deadlocked campaign, or one with negative results, may require that you revise your tactics and even change your goals. There is no victory in concession to your prejudices without agreement in principle. In a Gandhian fight, you may not claim victory until your ex-opponents also claim it.
· Be circumspect. Mass movements should practice Satyagraha as a last resort. They should use it only after every other acceptable method of combating untruth and violence has failed. Only individuals may do so on any occasion, once self-qualified through legitimate suffering.
Once you have absorbed these rules, (and I recommend that you review them attentively), you will begin to grasp the enormous moral reeducation we require.
Several times? What am I thinking! At least five times a day for a full year under a peace master’s watchful gaze. That would be the millionth part of the weapons indoctrination we have submitted to since childhood, that has taught us the exact opposite of everything you just read. Good luck with that!
How can we turn enemies into best friends? How can we defuse the automatic reflexes of distrust and pre-emptive assault? Our Learning prerequisites are staggering; they surpass by far this poor scribe’s shallow intellect, self-indulgent sermonizing, off-the-wall temper and craven desire to make those who disagree submit or perish.
I kid you not. We have a long, hard road to travel.
Mark Juergensmeyer’s excellent bibliography covers Gandhi’s writings and those of his principal analysts and biographers. He questions Gandhian tactics as they apply to cold-blooded ideologues and weapons elites who have come to dominate current events and history. He studies the apparent fatalism and saintly patience required to practice Gandhian principles against Hell worshipers like Hitler and Pol Pot. Those moral ogres seem to be immune to common appeals to reason that might sway a fellow Learner, even if we disagree.
Wouldn’t it take decades of immense suffering to verifact successfully with their descendants slightly less crazed? Unless total annihilation at their hands intervened in the meantime. Which is how faith in reincarnation might re-emerge with its implicit perpetuation of the Truth, whatever harm might befall in the meantime.
He pushes Gandhian logic to its extreme. Should we make an exception for benign coercion? Could we force people to behave better in their own best interest? Wasn’t that the error of the Grand Inquisitor? Can we succeed if we believe ourselves weaker than our antagonists? Gandhi thought not, lest we risk the Grand Inquisitor’s moral pitfalls.
Gandhi was seen as a Hindu saint, a political moralist, a religious ethicist, a rational mystic, a peaceful revolutionary, etc. These labels didn’t fit him at all. His heart dominated his head. Gandhi was the ultimate Tragic Lover: a cartoon hero rushing headlong over cliffs and crushed under rock falls in pursuit of his beloved. Using his body as a stylus and his beloved India as a slate, he composed endless psalms to his Beloved, the way Solomon wrote his Song of Songs.
During his last moments on Earth – having held Kali at arm’s length for a lifetime and in despair over the incarnation of his Beloved whose teeth were red with the blood of a million Hindu and Muslim dead – he nodded at Her latest fanatical emissary who shot him dead. You can see it on film; Gandhi greeted his assassin as if he had foreseen his fate all along.