Nonviolence has two closely related meanings. It can refer, first, to a general philosophy of abstention from violence because of moral or religious principle and second, it can refer to the behavior of people using nonviolent action. Ethics plays a large role in the nonviolence movement, many people believe in using nonviolence as their only form of resolution because using violence would simply be the wrong solution. The goal of this type of nonviolence is not to defeat the enemy, but to win them over and create love and understanding between all.
Love of the enemy, or the realization of the humanity of all people, is a fundamental concept of philosophical nonviolence. This paper will do its best to evaluate nonviolence in terms of which kinds of intercultural conflicts it is helpful in resolving, how it makes resolving such conflicts possible, and its advantages and disadvantages in comparison with other methods of conflict resolution. Much of the general philosophy of nonviolence has ‘active’ or ‘activist’ elements, in that they accept the need for a means of struggle to achieve political and social change.
People who use nonviolent action tend to have a strong moral drive and a deep sense of humanity. We have currently seen that, nonviolent methods of action have been a powerful tool for social protest and revolutionary social and political change. There are many examples of the social and political change – some of which we’ve seen in our own country. Caesar Chavez’s campaigns of nonviolence in the 1960s to protest the treatment of farm workers in California, Martin Luther King’s adoption of Cote 2
Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent methods in the struggle to win civil rights for African Americans and even the master of nonviolence, Gandhi, who led a decades-long nonviolent struggle against British rule in India. Each of these leaders took the nonviolence approach and gained a lot of momentum in doing so for their specific movements. The Salt March of 1930 was one of Gandhi’s greatest successes in civil disobedience. Salt was necessary to the life of Indian farmers’ cattle, and the British monopoly on salt production had led to massive taxes on the vital substance.
Gandhi’s main tactic in his fight against the British was what he called Satyagraha, which means “Soul-Force” or “The power of truth” (Miller 61). Gandhi developed Satyagraha as the practical extension of ahimsa and love; it meant standing firmly behind one’s ideals, but without hatred. Satyagraha took the form of civil disobedience and non-cooperation with evil. Civil disobedience involved breaking a specific law if it was believed to be unjust, and then facing the consequences. Martin Luther King became such an influential nonviolent figure through his time.
As he was heavily involved in the civil rights movement he strived to teach and bring nonviolent behavior to his followers. “God grant that as men and women all over the world struggle against evil systems they will struggle with love in their hearts, with understanding good will. Agape says you must go on with wise restraint and calm reasonableness but you must keep moving. We have a great opportunity in America to build here a great nation, a nation where all men live together as brothers and respect the dignity and worth of all human personality.
We must keep moving toward that goal” Cote 3 (King). King preached about this agape love, a selfless love that he thought should be shared with all. The nonviolence approach to war held significant advantages. In my opinion, I think that nonviolence teaches patience; nonviolent protestors learned patience by talking issues out and resolving problems with other ways than fighting. Active listening and understanding produce nonviolence. Both these things go along with patience. Nonviolence pushes us as humans to be better and more spiritually in tune with surroundings and ourselves.
If violence were the only option, there would continue to be people attacking one another in an uneducated, distasteful way. The philosophy of nonviolence helps people to dig deeper into themselves – it is a whole new kind of power, power without hurting. Nonviolence is such a wonderful concept and in a world where violence did not exist, it would be a full proof plan. In past history, we have seen that violence builds respect and authority. When violence is replaced with the ideas of nonviolence the authority over the situation becomes wishy-washy.
I believe it takes people to be on a more mature level to be ok with nonviolence and the objectives behind it. Ultimately, the advantages and disadvantages to nonviolent resolution depend on the group of people using the tactic. It really matters whose hands the problem is in and the leadership and ethics of it all. If there is a hasty military on the fence about using nonviolence, it is unlikely for them to follow through due to lack of patience. If there is a military making effort to keep mortality rates low and claims to have high moral standards, then it is more likely for them to stick to the nonviolent plan.
In the end, it really matters where the leadership lies. Cote 4 The three leaders that were talked about earlier all led their followers in the nonviolent direction. They did not show doubt or fear and continued to stay true to what they believed – which was resolving their conflict with nonviolence. Because they shared a firm understanding in the way they believed things should be, there was little questioning to their methods. Many followed them because of the influence they impacted society with. The fact that conflict exists is not necessarily a bad thing.
It can in fact be a growing tool. As long as it is resolved effectively, it can lead to personal and professional maturing. When conflict is between different countries, nonviolent resolution may be difficult because of cultural barriers; however, it can provide better clarity in where the country stands for the future as well as the relationships of the countries for the future. When conflict is resolved with violence, there is a good change there will always be a bitter taste left in the opposing countries mouth – it would be rare to see reconciliation come from a violent war.
Nonviolent resolution provides increased understanding of yourself, increased group cohesion and most importantly, improved self-knowledge. Taking the time to process conflict before unleashing feelings takes a great deal of effort and practice. I’ve found it to be rewarding in my own life and can see its many advantages through relationships I share with friends, co-workers, family and classmates. A world strictly committed to nonviolent resolution would be a beautiful thing, if only.