Passive Resistance vs Violence

Topics: Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, Tiananmen Square, Bhagavad Gita Pages: 5 (1693 words) Published: October 9, 2013

Imagine gathering in a city with thousands of others protesting the government when all of a sudden tanks come rolling through the city and open firing on the crowd of protesters. These people were using Gandhi’s practice of nonviolence in order to achieve a higher goal. Gandhi believes that passive resistance is the way to better ourselves and our government. Passive resistance though has many rules to it in order to fully work, but sometimes you need violence and force, not Passive Resistance to attain your goal.

Gandhi teaches us that Satyagraha means Truth Force. The main point of Satyagraha is that it admits no violence whatsoever, and it is ever insistent on the truth. Passive Resistance is seen as conscious suffering“ Nonviolence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means the pitting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant.”(“Doctrine 1” 455) Gandhi talks about nonviolence being a conscious suffering instead of a physical one. It is important to act against the tyrant or wrongdoer in order to achieve your goal. If you act out in violence against the tyrant that will only cause the tyrant to retaliate against you. “If a government does a grave injustice, the subject must withdraw cooperation wholly or partially, sufficiently to wean the ruler of his wickedness” (Gandhi “Suffering” 453). If you don’t participate in the unjust actions of the government then you are weakening the tyrants will against you.

But will nonviolence really affect the will of the tyrant? According to Gandhi it will but the historical Event at Tiananmen Square says otherwise. For several weeks thousands of protesters were gathered around Tiananmen Square for a pro-democracy demonstration. In the early morning of June 4, 1989 People’s Liberation Army tanks and soldiers came into the square and open fired on the thousands of protesters. It is unknown how many people were actually killed but the estimates range from 300-3,000 people. The government stopped the protesters using violence and killed and wounded thousands. If passive resistance really worked there would have been no violence involved at all in the protests.

In order for passive resistance to work Gandhi claims that “ It should be an essential of real education that a child should learn that in the struggle of life it can easily conquer hate by love, untruth by truth, violence by self suffering” (“Passive Resistance” 447). Tolstoy reinforces this message by saying “He knew as every sensible man must know that the use of force is incompatible with love as the fundamental law of life; that as soon as violence is permitted, in whichever case it may be, the insufficiency of the law of love is acknowledgeable , and by this the very law of love is denied. The whole Christian civilization, so brilliant outwardly, grew up on this self-evident and strange misunderstanding and contradiction, sometimes conscious but mostly unconscious” (“Letter to Gandhi” 464). If we try to force others to love one another then there is no more real love. In order to practice Passive Resistance you need to be insistent on truth coming from a place of love, if there is no real love then you cannot really practice Passive Resistance. The protesters in Tiananmen Square truly loved their country and that was why they did not resort to violence to get their message across. The Chinese government obviously did not love their people because they came and massacred thousands.

Gandhi says that you need love to win over an enemy “But man has the power of distinguishing between good and evil and can also know the self. One animal subdues another simply by its physical might. Its world is ruled by that law, but not so the human world. The law which is most in harmony with human nature is that of winning over others by the power of love- - by soul-force. When, therefore, a man wins over an enemy through love, he...

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Gandhi. “The Law of Suffering.” Cultural Conversations: Presence of the Past. eds: Stephen Dilks, Regina Hansen, and Matthew Parfitt. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. print. 451-3.
Gandhi. “The Theory and Practice of Passive Resistance.” Cultural Conversations: Presence of the Past. eds: Stephen Dilks, Regina Hansen, and Matthew Parfitt. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. print. 445-7.
Gandhi. “The Doctrine of the Sword II.” Cultural Conversations: Presence of the Past. eds: Stephen Dilks, Regina Hansen, and Matthew Parfitt. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. print. 456-9.
Leo Tolstoy. “Letter to Gandhi” Cultural Conversations: Presence of the Past. eds: Stephen Dilks, Regina Hansen, and Matthew Parfitt. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. print. 464-6.
Rabindranath Tagore. “Letter the Gandhi and Accompanying Poems.” Cultural Conversations: Presence of the Past. eds: Stephen Dilks, Regina Hansen, and Matthew Parfitt. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. print. 466-7.
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Hayes, Jeffery. “Tiananmen Square Massacre.” Facts and Details. Feb. 2011. Web. 7 Feb. 2011.
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