About Enemies and Debates

This was originally requested by and posted to the Council for a Parliament of the World Religions website:  CPWR About Enemies and Debates by Arun Gandhi

About Enemies and Debates

By Arun Gandhi

Arun Gandhi NamasteLately there has been a lot of talk about “enemies” and how to deal with them. Inevitably, this leads to a heated “debate” and I find both these concepts repugnant since they form the foundation of what I call the Culture of Violence.

If there is anything I have learned from Gandhi’s writings and the lessons he taught me as a young boy entering his teens is that humankind is inexorably dominated by a Culture of Violence.  Over generations the roots of this culture have run deep dominating every aspect of human life — from parenting at home to governing nations.  The salvation, according to Gandhi, lies in each of us “becoming the change we wish to see in the world.”

During the struggle for India’s freedom from British Colonialism one rule that was observed strictly was never to dehumanize the British as “enemies”.  Even when someone made a joke Grandfather would admonish the person and insist that we root out all words from our vocabulary that dehumanize people.  Dehumanization is the first step in justifying violence and war.  When we learn to respect everyone as human beings — even those with whom we may have differences of opinion — we will reduce violence. 

Whenever possible Gandhi entered into a “discussion” with the British, never a “debate”.  A discussion implies an openness to understand the other’s point of view and arrive at an amicable understanding whereas a debate implies there is only one Truth and the person with the gift of the gab can overwhelm the other. 

A very potent example of this is religion.  There are endless debates about which religion is the best and everyone claims they have the whole Truth.  This attitude has led to wars, violence, massacres and genocides in the name of God.  Yet, unfortunately, we are unwilling to accept that there are many aspects to one Truth.  If we continue to debate this point we will never arrive at any understanding. 

Religion, my Grandfather used to say, is the spiritual Mount Everest.  All of us are trying to scale this peak and we choose different paths to get to the top.  Since all the paths are equal why should it be a matter of contention which path one chooses to take?  The important objective is for every individual to get to the top by making a sincere and committed effort.  It needs no organization — just individual commitment and dedication. Incidentally, I am offering these thoughts for a discussion, not a debate!

Gandhi’s List: The Seven Blunders or Social Sins

The ‘Seven Blunders of the World‘ (aka the Seven Social Sins) is a list that my Grandfather  gave to me, written on a piece of paper, on our final day together, shortly before his assassination in 1948.

The Seven Blunders  are:

Seven Blunders of the World by Arun Gandhi

This list grew from Gandhi’s search for the roots of violence. He called these acts of passive violence. Preventing these is the best way to prevent oneself or one’s society from reaching a point of violence, he would say.

To this list, I modestly added an eighth blunder, “rights without responsibilities.”

The idea behind the first blunder originates from the feudal practice of Zamindari. The first and the second blunders are interrelated. In the final analysis they are all interrelated, and they lay at the core of the phenomena of violence.  If not resisted, these 7 (or 8) deadly sins can destroy both persons and countries.

“We live in a world in which these social sins flourish as much today as they did in Gandhi’s time; surely the battle against them is still worth waging.”  — Peter Gomes, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus

Violence in the human heart is multifaceted

I learned from my grandfather that violence in the human heart is multifaceted and is often practiced unknowingly.

Ear to the Ground Arun Gandhi

WE Are the Problem …

Source: An Ear to the Ground

Growing violence in the United States and in the world must concern all of us. Little children shooting each other intentionally or accidentally. Little girls becoming mothers when they should be learning to play hopscotch. At thirteen and fourteen young people are becoming drug addicts or drug couriers. By fifteen they are planning their funerals. By eighteen many young people have accomplished more evil than many of us do in eighty years of our lives. Why?

Are young people irresponsible? Are they born evil? The fault is not entirely that of children. We adults have lost sight of our responsibilities. Fifty-one percent of our marriages break up—many are divorced several times. We are more concerned with our careers and our freedom than with love and respect for each other. Sex has become the most important ingredient in marriage and in life. There was a time when marriages were made to raise a family of whom parents would be proud. Parents not only gave birth to children but nurtured them and gave them a foundation on which to build their lives. Children were loved and family life was centered around their needs, their hopes, and their aspirations.

[Read more…]

Why Is Peace Elusive?

Why Is Peace Elusive?

By Arun Gandhi

President: Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute

arun gandhiFor generations human beings around the world worked hard to attain peace but their efforts ended mostly in heart-breaking futility leading to pessimism and worse. There is a wide-spread belief now that peace is unattainable and that civilization is doomed to perish by violence. When peace appears to be won through violence it is very temporary because violence subjugates the opponent. When we seek to control someone through fear of punishment or violence or superior force that control remains only as long as the dominant force is able to exert fear. Since human beings realized in pre-historic times that they could survive in jungles only by using force they developed a whole “culture of violence” that gradually came to dominate every aspect of human life. Our language, our behavior, our relationships, our attitudes, in short almost everything about the human being is now conditioned by the “culture of violence.” Generations have now come to believe that violence is human nature and one just has to live with it. I hope by the time you finish reading this chapter you will be convinced that violence is not human nature.

The question that most people ask is why then is peace so illusive?   Are humans incapable of living in peace?   [Read more…]

My Two Cents on the Aurora Batman Violence by Arun Gandhi

arun gandhi aurora batman violence Aurora Batman Violence: My heart goes out today to the people of Aurora who have suffered this immense and mindless tragedy. To those who have lost their loved ones and to those who escaped with injuries this incident will never make any sense.

The question WHY? will always haunt them. Already the nation is screaming for more protection, more security. And, yes, the Government has already set the security apparatus in motion and we will gladly surrender more of our freedom so that we can feel safe or, at least, enjoy the illusion of safety.

As much as this is the time for sympathy and healing for those who suffered this tragedy it is also a time for national soul-searching. It is easy to isolate this incident as an evil act of a madman and tighten security and move on with life. We have done this over and over again but the scourge of violence refuses to disappear. Why will it, when we find so much joy in violence that we will suffer any inconvenience to see one set of madmen brutalize and destroy another set of madmen?

We are so enamored by violence that we willingly feed our children a strong diet of violence from the time they learn to walk? It is so much fun to kill the bad guys. This mindset takes root as people mature and so we create a justice system that encounters and eliminates those who dare to put into action the fun games they play as children.

By eliminating the bad guys we think we have created a safer society. We blissfully ignore the fact that violence has become so pervasive that it has overtaken our speech, entertainment, relationships, politics, culture, religion and, in fact, every aspect of human life.

We have long since discarded the warning issued by President Eisenhower exhorting us to “beware of the military industrial complex” that is glorifying violence in order to create a market for their weapons. It is one more example in the current tsunami of materialism where profits can easily supersede people. People are dispensable, profits are not.

The NRA will once again remind us of its warped wisdom: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. A majority of us will either accept it or dismiss it. We will pay no heed to the fact that guns enable people to kill people. We will uphold our right to bear arms and gladly surrender our basic freedoms.

The question that comes to my mind today is: ARE WE CIVILIZING SOCIETY OR EVILIZING IT?