By Arun Gandhi
President, M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, Rochester, NY
It is a pity that much of humanity never did learn the art of Forgiving because they were brought up on the misguided notion that one must "forgive and forget." No wonder the reaction of victims of violence such as the Families of 9/11 is one of anger, frustration and the desire for vegeance. The true meaning of forgiveness is to build a society where such violence would never occur again. To understand this concept it is important that we understand the difference between the Culture of Violence and the Culture of Nonviolence. |
On this day (9/11, 2006) a hundred years ago Mohandas K. Gandhi came to the conclusion that to preserve humanity we must abandon the culture of violence and adopt the culture of nonviolence. He launched a nonviolent civil campaign in Johannesburg, South Africa, as a small step towards sanity and a major leap towards discovering a civilized form of conflict resolution.
The culture of violence has its roots in the materialistic/capitalistic society that has become the preferred choice of the nations of the world. Gandhi said that a concept so heavily dependent on exploitation of human and natural resources and everything else in between is hardly conducive to building a civilized society or, for that matter, building peace in the world. It is like attempting to put out a raging fire with equal parts of gasoline and water. The fire rages ravenously and humanity comes to the conclusion that this is what life is all about. To ensure the preservation of "our nation" everyone has poured precious resources to invent more potent and more deadly weapons of mass destruction. Anything that is built to destroy other human beings ultimately destroys all human beings. Recall the Biblical injunction? "Those who live by the sword……."
Conversely, if we had spent all those resources on discovering civilized ways of conflict resolution mankind would not be so full of hate, prejudice and the desire to kill each other. The kinds of societies that we have chosen to build depend on the law of the jungle: survival of the fittest. Gandhi said violence may seem to resolve conflicts but when it does it is only temporary. Ultimately, in violence no one wins because the winner leaves behind a bitter enemy. In the present war on terrorism this fact is becoming increasingly more evident. For every "terrorist" killed we have raised a hundred new ones. Power is said to corrupt but it also makes one arrogant and arrogance leads to miscalculations as the United States discovered in Iraq and Israel in Lebanon. Violence may end all conflicts but only after eliminating all of humanity.
It is still not too late to wake up on this significant day of September 11 to pledge our allegiance to nonviolence. In the name of all those who died on this day five years ago and all those who died in violence over the centuries let us pledge to eliminate conflict without sacrificing more human lives.
On this day let us pledge to improve relationships between individuals and between nations by ending exploitation. Let us recognize that the pain of even one individual must become the pain of all individuals everywhere.
The security of any nation is, in the final analysis, linked to the security of the world and the security of all is contingent upon the welfare of all. Those who say that they can secure the borders of one nation with sophisticated armaments have a narrow vision of the world. This retrograde policy that pulls humanity deeper and deeper into a pit has only enriched the military industrial complex while it leaves average citizens in perpetual fear. In a culture of violence politicians justify allegiance to a flag and patriotism to a nation. It is not a piece of cloth or a plot of land that is important to a civilization. Patriotism should mean the love of all humanity and the allegiance of every individual should be to the welfare of every living being.
The eminent Will Rogers once said: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Humankind is in a hole today and the more we dig the deeper we will sink. Forgiving in the Gandhian tradition is about laying aside the anger and frustration of the loss and dedicating oneself to changing the ways of the world. Let us not get bogged down in the belief that an eye for an eye is the only form of justice. It is rapidly making all of us blind and insane. To become the change that we wish to see in the world all it requires is for every individual to replace the anger, hate, prejudice, frustration and such negative attributes with love, respect, understanding, appreciation, acceptance and the positive attitude that these positive emotions generate. Is this too much?
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