Friday, June 3, 2011

Key principles of Non violence

Modern Nonviolence as a means of effecting positive transformation of societal realities of oppression or discrimination, owe most of its key principles to Mahatma Gandhi’s 1908 philosophy of Satyagraha – a Gajurati word translated as “truth force”.
Nonviolence takes many forms depending on the reality being confronted and the particular society in which it is practiced; but these key principles contained in Gandhi’s Satyagraha are common to them all. These principles can be discussed as follows:

Truth is one key principle that is common to all nonviolent efforts towards transformation. Firstly, the struggle has to be based on truthful reasons and must promote the use of truthful means for the achievement of the required transformation.
Promotion of nonviolent resistance requires absolute sincerity of purpose and methods to be able to evoke enough followership to make an impact.
Using this alternative method of societal transformation in a condition of oppression or injustice requires that the various efforts must be modeled around the concept of truth.
The concept of Truth in its pure, natural form must be maintained at all stages of the struggle. No matter the temptation, promoters of nonviolent resistance must never condescend to using untruthful means to achieve their aims.
From a religious angle, God is always on the side of the truth and though falsehood may reign for a while, the truth shall certainly prevail in the end.

With proper coordination, civil disobedience can be used to effect the transformation of reality in an oppressive situation. Once it has been decided that the oppressors has no moral authority to make rules or give orders, refusal to obey these rules or orders is a key principle that ensures the success of nonviolent resistance. It could take the form of Acts of Omission (The protester omits actions which the oppressor normal would expect him to perform); or Acts of Commission (The protester committing actions which, if he recognized the authority of the oppressor, would normally not commit).
Care however must be taken to ensure that the slightest amount of violence is not allowed to be used, no matter the provocations. Oppressors over time, use many tactics to provoke violent responses during peaceful civil disobedience actions to grant them excuse to react violently. It is very essential to strictly adhere to the principle of Nonviolence.

When civil disobedience is used as a tool for effecting transformation, it is essential for the people to plan a well organized system of community self assistance between themselves. Sharing must be promoted and upheld throughout the ranks of the participants in all matters. The welfare of the community of nonviolent protesters must be a communal issue, with each member willing to contribute his resources and skills to ensuring the survival and eventual success of the community. Many deprivations will be encountered, but a spirit of “One for all and all for one” can be used to ensure everyone feels cared for.
Individual Physical and material resources as well as skills should be placed at the  disposal of the community to ensure that no matter the deprivations imposed by the authorities, the people can use their collective resources to ensure they survive.

ACCEPTANCE OF CONSEQUENCES (Willingness to persevere without retaliating):
For civil obedience to be effective as a tool for effecting transformation, it is absolutely important for participants to be willing to accept the consequences of their struggle. These consequences will certainly come in different forms, but they will be aimed at breaking the spirit of the protesters, to make them drop their convictions.
This willingness to bear physical, material and psychological deprivations and discomfort in order to prove their conviction in the ideals being promoted; is a very strong weapon which can bring about positive transformation in any situation.
It is not an easy task to convince people to bear risks and discomfort for a cause, but once a cause is well grounded on truthful ideals that the people can relate to, and led by sincere leaders, it has a high likelihood of success. Once the people buy-in to the ideals and are convinced of its direct relation to their lives; they will gladly lay down their lives for its success.
The mindset of most oppressors is fixed on the notion that everyone has a price and that there is a point at which a person’s will break. By showing a willingness to bear physical pain and hunger rather than sell out on their ideals; by showing a willingness to bear incarceration and torture other than giving up their convictions; the nonviolent protester proves himself to be morally superior to the oppressor and confounds the oppressor while raising public sympathy for his cause.
The key point here is that the promoter of non-violent action must be able to see the discomforts and deprivations he suffers today, in the cause of the struggle, as sacrifices being made to ensure a better tomorrow.

One salient thread that runs through the messages of all practitioners of nonviolent change is the fact that the oppressor is not regarded as an enemy; rather, he is regarded as someone who should be engaged to see reason regarding the acts of oppression. It is the evil in the acts of oppression that is being fought against, and the oppressor is actually shown love by attempting to reform his outlook from an oppressive one to a mutually beneficial one. This principle is based on the fact that the oppressed does not seek to disgrace his opponent, but actually wishes to guide him towards enlightenment.
Nonviolence mostly seeks to force the oppressors to critically examine their actions and see the reasons why there should be a transformation of the present reality. It is not a “We Versus You” situation, but one in which the oppressed are trying to make the oppressors realize the wrongness of their actions and as a result of this realization, be willing to work together with oppressed to transform the reality  that is mutually beneficial to all parties.

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This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.