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American environmentalists successfuilly suppress discussion of Gandhi

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 dslesinger@alum.mit.edu

 


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Dear MR.David,

 

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?

Please donot get upset, silence would be helpful for the moment, you will get the answer dear David.
Dear Sir,

Greetings from Amritapuri, the home of Amma, the `hugging saint'  ( Mata Amritanandamayi ) in Kerala, India.
Our American family has been living here since 1999.  We are concerned citizens, active in India through initiatives of Amma in service to society.  One huge job, part of the Amala Bharatam, a national initiative by Amma  is to bring environmental respect and sanitation into Indian awareness.  This entails picking up the litter cluttering public places, roads, etc., teaching about recycling, reducing and re-using materials, etc. and building public toilets under local management.
In your article you said, "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)."
Can you please explain this a little more to me?  I'm not certain I understand the train of thought that you list as the Gandhian alternative: plead guilty, etc.  Restoring awareness of the Love naturally present in all ( as being the reality that holds our atoms together)  but oft times obscured between parties, entailed compromises...

I have a good list of the waves of action observed in several satyagraha campaigns if you are interested.

We read your article about the DC Power Shift 2011 meeting on Gandhi Topia.   We watched the videos of three speakers, Tim Dechristopher, Al Gore and Bill McKibbon.
What amazed us here was the complete silence about the nuclear radiation disaster that is ongoing, and affecting the USA, the entire northern hemisphere and in fact the whole world and the unborn to come, so terribly.
We find that most of the `alternative choices' for development, are avoiding the main issue, which is that we must unite and collectively turn away, in order to turn off, the polluting engines of modern society, the need for nuclear or oil energy.
I would like to discuss further with you the ways that Gandhi's ideals could be practically applied now.  One of the most profound means we have at our disposal, is simplicity.
The application of any of Gandhi's ideals naturally entail a personal transformation in order to implement them wisely and effectively.  This can be done by degrees, as his work with the mass mind-set in India demonstrated.
We recently published a book on Gandhi, geared to both Indian and Western audiences, called Earth Ethics of M.K. Gandhi with teachings from Holy Mother Amma: an Introduction.   It is our hope that the field of Earth Ethics will become an inquiry for discussion and research at secondary, tertiary and post-graduate levels as well as in community and personal study.  A preview of our books is available at:
and also at:
It may be useful to you.
From our years of living in a densely populated community, we have seen that we have to be very careful what `teeth' we give the `press'.
Recently, an author's very positive work on Gandhi,  Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India, by Joseph Lelyveld,  was wildly misconstrued and villified.  In the unwarranted allegations,  I sensed an ugly hand behind the press seeking to discredit Gandhi through such slanderous sensationalism that had no basis in the book or reality.  There was action and re-action to false allegations, all assisting in spreading a false rumor, and bringing an issue that is not even worthy of our thoughts into the fore-front of many people's thinking.
I don't believe that the power shift represents the environmentalist movement in toto,  but we have to be careful how we reflect back to them their actions.  
We have seen that organizations, movements, are like people, have their own `mind' and also, `soul.'  If they are told they repudiate Gandhi on any level, then, without reasoning or thinking, that feeling may come to pass in many.  As it is, few take the time to analyze or introspect.  Unsubstantiated and repeated rumors can appear to many as `facts'.
 Amma has often commented that when we hear a lie 10 x, we accept it as being true.

I believe that a person of your energy and dynamism has the ability to assist in guiding that ` group mind' to positive ends.    

We are deeply concerned about the directions our country is going in.  We have faith that the American people are blessed with numerous qualities that make them capable of leading America to her destiny as a world leader, but not a financial world leader that is wedded to greed and brute force, but an ethical world leader, of human potentials and unity.
I am sending this to your email as well, and would be happy to continue this discussion here or through email.

In Service to Truth,
Aunty Kamala

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

Bernie,

 

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.

 

Dave

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