(GIST OF YOJANA) Thinking Beyond the Self and the Other
Thinking Beyond the Self and the Other
One of the contemporary major challenges is multilevel violence that ranges
from micro to macro level. Commonly violence is considered in ‘legal terms.
However, legal terms narrow down the complexity of violence and define it as
punishable acts, thus, simplify the phenomenon of violence. Foucault has rightly
mentioned that ‘what appears obvious to us is not at all so obvious’. Applying
this notion to the concept of violence one may argue, although violence may seem
straightforward and self-evident concept, it is profoundly ambiguous.
In this regard one may agree with Stank who observed, ‘what violence means is
and will always be fluid, not fixed’. In spite of this conceptual problem, one
can explain violence through the typology of Johan Gaining. According to Galtung,
violence is of three kinds, direct, structural and cultural. Here I have
attempted to show how Gandhi’s non-violence responds to the contemporary problem
of violence at this three level; direct, structural and cultural.
Gandhi's Response to Direct Violence
The underlying principle of Gandhi’s non-violence is Advaita. Thus, Gandhi
does not see any separation between the self and others following Advaita, his
non-violence affirms that there are no others there is only the self, or
versions thereof. Thus, violence against others is actually violence against
oneself. Direct or personal violence organised or sporadic, that we observe in
contemporary society and politics, emerges when one considers others as absolute
‘other’. Gandhi challenges such contemporary view and perceives ‘otherness’ as a
relational notion in which sacrifice of diesel gets supremacy to sacrificing
others. He noted in Hind Swaraj that sacrifice of self is infinitely superior to
sacrifice of others'.5 In Gandhi's paradigm, both self and the others are tied
to a relationship of responsibility.
This responsibility is ethical and nonviolent in nature that recognizes each
other’s free will to experiment in the field of society and politics guided by
the truth. On this grounding, to challenge contemporary direct violence, Gandhi
argues that one must have training in non-violence and finally one should
undergo for personal suffering and sacrifice if the situation demands. As a
priori, his non-violence implies self-purification of individual and he
maintains that the power of non-violence is in exact proportion to the ability
of the nonviolent person.
Gandhi's Response to Structural Violence
In the modem world, at the structural level, the problem of violence may be
covered in terms of concentration of power, large scale industrialisation, and
exploitation of one group by another. These have been termed as structural
violence by non-violence and peace scholars.
In Gandhi's views, these are the manifestation of violation of the moral
principles which contemporary society tends to ignore. Here, Gandhi’s idea of
and its institutionalised form trusteeship’, as well as the need for
self-control, are useful today. Gandhi held the view that the modem crisis can
be overcome only by making our institutions more in the line of law of
non-violence’. He recognized centralisation of power, political or economic, as
violence and advocated the decentralised mode of polity (Panchayati Raj) and
economy (Gram Swaraj) to minimize the structural violence in the society.
The moral leadership which Gandhi calls for, to create a society free from
exploitation and marginalization or structural violence, is not the imposition
of one’s will on others, but employing the supremacy of reason and love to one’s
life and related institutions.
In response to the contemporary problem of social-political injustice or
economic inequality, Gandhi proposes a nonviolent mode of protest what he termed
as Satyagraha. Based on the ‘active principle of love’, his Satyagraha takes
various forms according to different situations, such as civil disobedience and
non-cooperation, but the object of all these methods is to awaken the sense of
justice in the wrongdoer. However, he noted that these methods can be adopted
only by those who are self- less, fearless and self-controlled. To modern
society, where ethnic or political conflict has become common, his Satyagraha
offers a method of nonviolent, creative conflict transformation which results in
reconciliation and removal of bitterness between or among the conflicting
parties. On the issue of State and individual, which is a central challenge to
modern polity, Gandhi regarded the individual as the centre of authority and
value. According to him, the State and Government derive their existence and
power from the individuals. He reminded the people that the State and Government
cannot exist for a moment without their cooperation.
Gandhi’s Response to Cultural Violence
Gandhi does not see violence only in overt form. He was well aware that
violence has many dimensions and forms in the contemporary world, for example,
exploitation or marginalization. He also realised that such multi dimensionality
of violence worked together on a particular community or society as in the case
of colonised India. Multi-dimensionality of violence, as Allen points out,
‘signify psychological, linguistic and socio-political and economic violence
indirectly inflicted on a particular community in a society which is not overt
but hidden in the very structure and mechanism of the society’.
Such violence often gets vent when cultural, political or religious war (as
in the case of terrorism) takes place. Similarly, for Gandhi, violence is not
only an act or major violent event but also a sign of deeper socio-political and
economic alienation that a community or group laces or perceives. Thus, in
Gandhi's prescription, as violence is the result of the luminance of the
sociopolitical or economic structure of the society on a particular social group
community, u cannot be analyzed, tackled or solved separately taking it only as
a major violent event. One must view violence in its totality and examine it in
the worldview in which it emerges.
Gandhi’s idea of non-violence attempts to eradicate the root cause of the
present ecological crisis by proposing the idea similar to a notion recently
termed as ‘human ecology’. Human ecology, as Moolakkattu argues, is concerned
with the ecological implications of all what human beings do. In his words, “We
[human beings] are also interested in the generation of resources, their
sustainable use, adaptive growth and development of human beings. All these take
place in an environment in which the crucial inter linkages between human beings
and nature are recognised and reinforced. This implies not doing anything that
can harm our fellow beings, nature and future generations.” As noted, Gandhi
does not sec the environmental crisis in isolation. He intimately links the
environment to the very nature of other human institutions as a polity, economy,
health, and mode of development and calls for essential change in these fields.
He strongly advocates the ‘green thought’ in our day to day life as well as an
economy and developmental model based on natural order to save ourselves from