What Made Gandhi's Non-violent Movement Work: Essay

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There are several important factors that influence the world to be a more peaceful and caring place for both humans and non-humans alike. This is an important point by several influential figures throughout history, notably Gandhi, who argues we should cherish and respect all life forms, not just humans (Davey, 2016). This essay will discuss the ways in which a more peaceful and caring world can be created, considering the importance of human rights, the promotion of nonviolence, the reformation of violent nation-states and totalitarianism, and the emphasis on protecting the environment as a whole, including non-humans and all forms of life on the planet.

Firstly, the fundamental factor for creating a more peaceful and caring world would be the continuation of human rights. The 1948 Declaration of Human Rights is seen as a milestone document in human rights history, setting out documentation enforcing the universal protection of human rights across the world, translated into over 500 languages to ensure the solidarity of the rights (United Nations, 2021). They do not just include matters of freedom or dignity, but also human solidarity, with examples of this including the conversations surrounding human rights that appeared after the Holocaust (Geras, 2011). More questions regarding human rights emerge when the Guantanamo Bay detention center is discussed, which uses methods of torture including waterboarding stress positions, sleep deprivation, confinement in a cramped box, slapping and slamming detainees into walls (Watkins, Landay, and Taylor, 2014 in Armalite et al, 2015). This outrageous treatment of civilians is often gone unrecognized, especially as the location of the detention facility is outside of the jurisdiction of any detainee's native country. This essentially allows for anything to happen to them, which has evidently not created a more peaceful and caring world considering the torture treatment that the prisoners have to endure. Situations like this are what have inspired several human rights campaigns that focus on all aspects of the human rights agenda, such as Amnesty International and their emphasis on state cruelty, the Refugee Council, Greenpeace, and campaigns against nuclear weapons and the arms trade. Ultimately, although the fight for a universal human rights basis has improved greatly since the declaration of 1948, there are still several potholes that contribute to the destruction of human dignity and solidarity. The globalization of human rights would therefore create a more peaceful and caring world in which there are universal rights that defend every citizen of the world. The globalization process is one that has sparked many questions regarding its benefits to a kinder world that has interconnections and a shared humanity throughout. Linking with human rights, this global solidarity allows for cosmopolitanism to form, in which there are universal principles that can both shape and limit all human activity (Held, 2010). In a world of cosmopolitan agreement, human rights and peace are best secured, thus ensuring a more caring world.

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The next factor to consider is the importance of nonviolence in promoting a more peaceful world. Mark Kurlansky (2007) outlines the importance of the distinction between nonviolence and pacifism while pacifism is passive, nonviolence is active. Giving a couple of stories of Jesus Christ as an example, Kurlansky states that when Jesus told victims to turn the other cheek, he was promoting pacifism, but when he said that an enemy should be won over through love, that is promoting nonviolence. Nonviolence is therefore an active form of persuasion, and examples of this remain throughout history, specifically in the life of Gandhi. Kurlansky continues this discussion, arguing that Gandhi insists that nonviolence must never come from weakness but from strength (2007:18). Using violence is therefore seen as the easy way out, as Gandhi writes, it is a barbaric retrogressive trait (Kurlansky, 2007:17), whereas promoting nonviolence is a true mark of civilization. The use of nonviolent forms of protests is popular among contemporary protests, most notably the attempts of Extinction Rebellion (XR), at outlining the climate crisis of the 21st century. Having done their research, XR discovered that nonviolent protests enhanced the legitimacy of campaigns and helped build support from security forces and authorities (Mansfield, 2020), and thus began this nonviolent approach to the awareness of our climate emergency. Promoting nonviolence is notably an obvious example of how the world can be more peaceful and caring, but with the power of violent nation-states that will be discussed shortly, nonviolence is rarely seen as being influential. However, the words of peace promoters like Gandhi paired with the appearance of nonviolent movements such as the Extinction Rebellion can begin the advocacy of a nonviolent world, based on strength, civilization, and peace.

As previously mentioned, the power of violent nation-states is hugely influential in the difficulty of promoting a more peaceful and caring world. Max Weber famously defines the state as a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory (1946:7). It is therefore almost impossible to have a state that is not embedded in violence, with Schell (2004) arguing that every state or empire seeks to hide the violence that it is so deeply rooted in. Schell claims that since 911, the world has become more violent, with states potentially being the greatest threat to human rights in modern society. Using nonviolence allows the violent state to become more apparent, enabling a form of critical reflection to appear and potentially change the way of thinking about the violent state. Therefore, reforming the state may lead to less violent forms of control, enabling a more peaceful and caring world to appear.

The control of others over individuals' lives creating a less peaceful and caring world continues with ideas of totalitarianism. Bell (2013) defines totalitarianism as a system of centralized government in which the State has total authority over society and manipulates all aspects of culture including the arts, in order to control the private lives and morality of its citizens. Totalitarian movements allowed elites to assert their superiority in a way that they would take possession of man as a whole (Arendt, 2017:279), to suggest that they were the superior race was continued throughout 18th-century race thinking and through the 19th century, Social Darwinist thought of survival of the fittest. Arendt`s three-step approach to total domination involves depriving individuals of their legal rights, the murder of the moral person, and removing any sense of their individuality. The first step involves the arbitrary exclusion of certain categories of people from the protection of the law, thus rendering these individuals utterly rightless (Aharony, 2010). This stripping of human rights quite straightforwardly acknowledges the lack of care towards citizens that totalitarianism is based on. Aharony continues to explain Arendt`s stages of total domination, the next one being the destruction of moral agency, and then finally, in Arendt`swords, the final stage involves destroying the differentiation of the individual, his unique identity (Arendt, 1979:453 in Aharony, 2010). These stages are clear examples of control that certainly do not promote a peaceful and caring environment, thus, the rejection of and disregard for totalitarianism and its detrimental impacts create a kinder world as an individual are not controlled by the ruling superior who seek to regulate anything that they lay their eyes on.

A more peaceful and caring world cannot be considered solely on the attitudes of the human species: the treatment of other species and life forms should also be considered and acknowledged. Therefore, the ecological crisis is crucial when considering how we can create a more caring world. Taking a green perspective allows attention to be drawn to crimes affecting the environment, human and non-human life, and the planet itself (Higgins et al, 2013). There are several examples of this that Higgins et al touch on, including but not limited to industrial pollution, the disposal of toxic waste, and the impact and legacy of military operations on landscapes, water supply, air quality, and living organisms that populate these areas. Higgins is an advocate for the creation of a law to prevent ecocide, meaning killing the environment, the theory behind Higgins's belief is that nobody should go unpunished for destroying the environment (Yeo, 2020). There is a need to develop, adopt and implement radical laws to stop and criminalize the (wanton) destruction of our environment (and that of other living forms) and planetary habitat (Kotter, 2014). A plethora of instances regarding the destruction of the environment have gone almost entirely unpunished, however, the introduction of the legal protection of nature in countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia can begin to signal the need for this protection. However, as Cullinan argues, most contemporary legal systems do not recognize that any indigenous inhabitants other than humans are capable of having rights (2010:144), continuing the discussion that the law directly defines land, water, other species, and genetic material and information as property, thus allowing for the exploitation of such and entering nature into the pursuit of profit, which can only be overcome by creating a Right to the Commons (Weston and Bollier, 2012). Introducing a Human Right to the Commons, paired with a law of ecocide, will ultimately bring much more peace and care to our world. Protecting nature and elements of our life that we are so dependent on is crucial for the present as well as future generations to come.

Linking in with the protection of the environment comes the idea of deep green ecology, with its key principles involving the well-being and the flourishing of all human and non-human life on Earth that have value in themselves, and that these values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes; richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves; humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs; the flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population; present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening; policies must therefore be changed; the ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living; and those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes (N`ss and Sessions, 1984). The formation of Greenpeace was a result of this movement, whose vision is to create a greener, healthier, and more peaceful planet that can sustain life for generations to come (Greenpeace, 2021). Joanna Macy (2007) takes this deep green approach, arguing that through the power of caring, we need to explore the connection that humans have with nature. Although there are some criticisms of this approach, such as its biocentric egalitarianism roots that some find difficult to acknowledge as establishing the equal importance of human and non-human life can be difficult, this green ecology approach does promote a more caring and peaceful world. By protecting the environment and treating it as an equal, less harm is done, and more opportunities will arise for generations in the future. We are therefore taking responsibility for the planet and our environment, creating a more caring world.

To conclude, although there are several factors that have the ability to create a more peaceful and caring world, none will be achieved without the full contribution of society. These mentioned factors that can influence the changing appearance of the world can ultimately lead to a more peaceful and caring place, a world that can be sustained for generations to come. By taking responsibility now, we are therefore caring for the world that our descendants will live in.

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What Made Gandhi’s Non-violent Movement Work: Essay. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-made-gandhis-non-violent-movement-work-essay/
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