Non-violence was the smartest concept known to man. But nobody truly realises exactly why Gandhi was such a genius.
Firstly, Gandhi shaved his head because he claimed to be in mourning for the soul of India. In India, where my parents come from, when a parent dies, the sons shave their heads. (However, my grandfather made an exception to this rule for my father and uncle before he died.)
Secondly, passive resistance was NOT what Gandhi used. He said it lacked moral fibre. What he used was “Satyagraha”, a new form of non-violent resistance where one willingly submitted to police brutality and prison time, fought cases in court, and refused to co-operate with the government measures like paying taxes and buying foreign goods.
Thirdly, satyagraha has a greater moral angle because it involves speaking directly to a person’s conscience. Satyagraha comes from the Sanskrit ‘satya – truth’ and ágraha – holding on’, so it literally means holding on to the truth. Truth and the strength of the soul was Gandhi’s greatest weapon in his fight against injustice.
Fourthly, Gandhi was entirely against the use of violence because he found it dehumanising and thus worthless and ineffective, and it violated one’s moral integrity by forcing another’s views on him.
Fifthly, satyagraha was no laughing matter. It involved great strength of character and the ability to suffer willingly. Satyagraha was not for everyone. It could be a mass movement or an individual movement. But it required publicity. LOTS of publicity.
Sixthly, satyagraha succeeded because people followed the laws and Gandhi used their own laws against them to expose cracks in their behaviour that went against their laws. That was the only way he could make it work.
In conclusion, Martin Luther King was the first American to use satyagraha when he led his civil rights movement. Satyagraha is a potent tool for social change and it needs to be revived. It is the only way things can really go ahead. Gandhi was centuries ahead of his time when he conceived satyagraha.
The sad thing is, satyagraha will no longer work because nobody believes in anything strongly enough anymore. We really need another Gandhi.