A conversation with Arun Gandhi
Frederick News Post (subscription)
By Nicholas C. Stern
The following Q&A interview was conducted with The Frederick News-Post via email with Arun Gandhi, the fifth grandson of Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, aka Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi is an activist for nonviolence and has been a Washington Post columnist, has worked for 30 years as a journalist for The Times of India, and is an author of several books, including "A Patch of White" (1949).
Gandhi will be the keynote speaker at the 10th annual PeaceCrafters event starting at 3 p.m. Sunday at Alexanders of Buckeystown/Auction House, 3617 Buckeystown Pike, in Buckeystown. The PeaceCrafters event is hosted each year by CALM community alternative mediation as a way to honor community members who make peace building an art.
For tickets, $25 for the speaker and $75 for an additional reception that benefits CALM, email CALMPeacecrafters@ gmail.com or call +1 301-631-2256 .
FNP: You've spoken in the past about what the individual can do to live nonviolently in the age of terrorism, American presidential assassination programs and long-distance drone strikes. In general, there appears to be little opposition in mainstream American politics to these practices. For those who are worried about these policies, how do you suggest they work at a local level to help change them?
Gandhi: For centuries we have been brainwashed into believing that violence is the only way we can remain secure. Because of this dependence on violence, we have created a culture of violence that dominates every aspect of human life -- language, entertainment, speech, relationships, etc. Those who believe in nonviolence need to educate through their own life and make people realize that resorting to violence only creates more enemies and more conflicts. We have to live the philosophy and through demonstration inspire people to change.
FNP: Can you explain the differences and similarities between physical and passive violence? You worked as a journalist for 30 years at The Times of India. Do you see passive violence being perpetrated in American mainstream journalism, especially when it comes to coverage of U.S. involvement in conflict throughout the world?
Gandhi: Physical violence is the kind of violence that requires physical force -- wars, murders, rapes, killings, etc. Passive violence is the kind of violence where we do not use any physical force but through our language, attitude, behavior, actions, etc., hurt people. These would be things like discrimination, oppression, exploitation, greed, etc. We practice passive violence in every aspect of our lives and even in journalism. To pinpoint only one example of how passive violence is practiced in journalism is when economic stories are planted to affect the stock market. Another example is when profit becomes the only motive for publishing or not publishing a story.
FNP: You helped found Season for Nonviolence, held each year from the end of January until April. Local churches and groups celebrate this season in Frederick. Do you think that individuals who champion nonviolence at a local level can have a larger impact on the greater society? If so, how?
Gandhi: The Season for Nonviolence is one step towards creating greater awareness of the philosophy and its practice. Change in society can come only from the bottom up, never from the top down. It is only when the people change that the system will change.
FNP: Can you describe a bit about your work with the Gandhi Worldwide Institute and the idea of joining Gandhian philosophy and vocational education?
Gandhi: Although India is making amazing strides in economic growth, the fact remains that half of the population still remains below the poverty line. This is also true of the rest of the world. The rich are getting richer and the poor remain marginalized. The Institute has been started to rescue the children who live in poverty and give them basic education and vocational training and understanding of a nonviolent way of life, in the hope that they will find the means to break the cycle of poverty. This is a model we wish to experiment with, and if it succeeds we hope the model will be replicated in other parts of the world.
FNP: Can you describe some of the frustrations and barriers proponents of nonviolence are likely to encounter along the way?
Gandhi: Proponents of nonviolence face the same difficulties that others who seek to change established norms in society do. For most people, upsetting the apple cart, even if there are a few rotten apples in the pile, is not acceptable. We developed comfort zones and when someone upsets that people don't like it. People need to see the effects of change and only then will they accept it.
FNP: Do you think that the world has, on balance, become more or less violent?
Gandhi: Whether violence has increased or decreased is immaterial. In one year if the number of violent deaths decrease from a million to nine hundred thousand it does not mean anything. In any civilized society even if one person dies a violent death it is one too many. Can we build an ideal society? Unless we try it, we will never know. When we are determined and committed, we have never found anything impossible to achieve.
A very thoughtful and useful interview by Gandhi. These words from Gandhi are true in its every essence.
"....Change in society can come only from the bottom up, never from the top down. It is only when the people change that the system will change....
People need to see the effects of change and only then will they accept it."
The loopholes in the system need not be pointed out every time, instead, needs to be filled with the right actions and rules that perfects the system.