Tonight I returned from making a 5 minute presentation to a third of the nonviolent direct action workshop at Powershift 2011 at the DC Convention Center. I had expected to speak to the whole session.
My point was that all of practitioners of nonviolent resistance in the US stand strongly against discussion of how Gandhi's approach to resistance differs from theirs. It is not that Bapu is always right and Americans are always wrong. It's that anyone even relatively knowledgeable about nonviolence shouldn't make it so difficult to present the Gandhian alternative (plead guilty, don't seek mercy,suffer to touch the heart of the adversary).
Powershift2011 is thousands of college students in Washington DC for training and meeting to address climate change.
I applied to do a workshop on Gandhian Restance. They turned me down.
I told them I would make them arrest me over this issue. I waited a week and emailed the person of responsibility reiterating my intention to make them arrest me. I proposed they give me 2 minutes during the training and I would take off work to assist them in any way I could the rest of the time. She said the main trainer was willing to give me the 2 minutes and she did not require my other assistance.
When I had a hard time getting time and place from the main trainer, I reminded them I still could do the CD if I was shut out, the trainer did get in touch to say he couldn't give up the time. I went to the event before it started, spoke to those in charge. While waiting for the call from the main trainer, I leafletted arriving conferencees for 3 hours. Then he called, accusing me of bullying them, and assured me I would get to talk. I went home.
He emailed me the time and room. I came early and arranged when in the seesion I would speak. As we approached that time, they told me they would shut me out. I interrupted just before the end noting that no American practitioners of nonviolent resistance use Gandhi's approach. I said I would speak for 5 minutes at the end. About one third of the people stayed. A couple dozen spoke to me at some length afterwards.
I am so ashamed to be an American. My country is filled with people who are proud of the fact we are ignorant.
Please note I don't claim to practice satyagraha, believing that to include vegetarianisn, bramacharya, and living in community, none of which I do.
To be in touch over this issue, search facebook for Gandhian resistance and click that you like it.
Or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Your experience with the reality is true and is not uncommon. Gandhi stands for Nature and preserved the utmost natural environment during his lifetime.
Let us hope and keep the faith on Bapuji that this unfriendly and unGandhian climate would change in the near future!
Thanks for you kind words. You asked me a month or so ago to discuss my efforts in the US. I thought of you during this effort of mine.
Ultimately my criticism of my countrymen is more a criticism of American advocates of nonviolent resistance than just those in the environmental movement. I can't expect such a materialistic culture as my own to fully embrace such a stringent example as that example set by Gandhi. I can, however, expect them to stop suppressing advocacy of that example. Are there any from my country on this forum who will comment?
Great to hear from you. I must soon go to the hospital with cellulitis from my diabetes. I was swimming a half mile a day until my life turned upside down and I stopped swimming. I also cannot afford the insulin I need.
Thus I will be concise.My understanding is that Gandhiji always pleaded guilty when arrested. You might know better than I if that is true. Americans see the value of the protest in the news coverage of its size. In the recent White House Tar sands action, where I made a positive connection with Bill McKibben, most people paid a $100 fine and left town. Americans are willing to serve time, but they use legitimate legal maneuvering to avoid that. This is not wrong, just weak.
Most of my 30 plus arrests have been over nuclear power. When I could no longer afford my storage in Seabrook,NH the last 2 years of Clamshell Alliance meeting records were lost. I was active there for 15 years.The reason the Powershift folks ignore N power is they consider global warming a more important issue. I do too, but I would prefer we be forced to use less energy rather than use nukes. This is not a popular position.
Please do continue to dialog
Your conviction on your stand shall make it clear to your peace movement but it need not be a positive response from them just like the government arrests you everytime you venture into protest. All the thirty times, you might be right in proving your point but the oppponent(be it the government or the peace movement), was helpless and hopeless as their beliefs are different from you even though they all united with you for a cause.
You might be happy to conserve energy but not all the members of the peace movement. Yours is a Gandhian way but they got other ways and clues to handle the situation.
The question of acceptance is always ridiculous as it favours only the opponent. More time you take for proving, the opponent gains so much of time to do their own things.
Peace and calmness is the solution. For example, I speak aloud in the forum about many things. Yet, I never speak out my own case!
Dear David, I am sorry to hear that you had this discouraging experience. It sounds unusual to me and I hope not too common.
I am a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation USA, an international peace organization which was begun in 1914. Gandhi is one of the few ideal leaders FOR holds up. Martin Luther King Jr used Gandhi's way to lead the civil rights movement and MLK was a member of FOR too. There are other examples. I became a portrayer of Gandhi with FOR's request for almost 10 years now, including five years in India. My experience shows much ignorance about the life and message of Gandhi in the general population, but there are many who honor him and his messsage of nonviolence.
Like Gandhi, let the experience go and keep on "truckin."
Peace, Bernie Meyer
Thanks for your response. I know MLK saw the value in staying in jail rather than being bailed out in Albany. Can you think of other examples where a FOR member chose to serve time rather than avoid it?
I am a great admirer of Gandhiji personally, but understanding what he stood for allows one to slough of any attacks on Gandhi the man.