Gandhi Sets the Task for Our Website

“The way of violence is old and established. It is not so difficult to do research in it. The way of nonviolence is new. The science of nonviolence is yet taking shape. We are still not conversant with all its aspects. There is a wide scope for research and experiment in this field. You can apply all your talents to it.”
M. K. Gandhi



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Seeds of Revolution: The ACRES U.S.A. Interview with Vandana Shiva

by Chris Walters

Photograph of Vandana Shiva courtesy ecofarmingdaily.com

Acres U.S.A.: How should we approach the story of Indian agriculture?

Vandana Shiva: The first thing you need to remember is that India is a land which has been farmed for 10,000 years continuously and sustains more than a billion people on its agriculture. India is the land where the British were the rulers, and in 1891 they sent John Augustus Voelcker to make a survey. He wrote a report on Indian agriculture that was published two years later. He said he could find more ways that Indian farmers could advise Great Britain about how to improve its farming than ways the British could advise India. He wrote that Indian agriculture was not backward, and that in many areas there was little or no room for improvement. Then the imperial British government sent Albert Howard to India in 1905. He arrived to find the fields were fertile. He found no pests damaging the crops, and he decided to make the study of peasant agriculture his profession. The agricultural testament that resulted from his studies became the basis of the organic movement worldwide — the Soil Association in the U.K., Rodale in the United States, all of them came out of Howard’s information, and Howard’s inspiration was ancient Indian agriculture. He so clearly distinguished between, as he said, the agriculture of the Occidental world and the agriculture of the Orient.

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Protecting the Earth with Vandana Shiva

by John Dear 

Photo of Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya organic farm courtesy avery.wellesley.edu

As I follow the regular, dire reports on global warming, I recall my visit two years ago (2007) into the foothills of the Himalayas near the border of China and Nepal, north of Dehradun in India. There I met Dr. Vandana Shiva, a leading anti-globalization and environmental activist, a brilliant, engaging scientist and Gandhian activist.

She has taken up a formidable challenge, a nonviolent civil resistance campaign to resist globalization and protect farmers, not to mention the earth itself. Her strategy is to harvest every endangered seed and indigenous plant, restore the soil to its original richness, and save the seeds from corporate patent theft by creating “seed banks.” She is a modern-day Noah, gathering for the future the plants of the world.

I toured Navdanya Farm, her farming commune and laboratory for biodiversity conservation and farmers’ rights, then moved on to see Bija Vidyapeeth (Earth University), a college she founded to teach sustainable living and global alternatives. There one learns new ways to cook, garden, compost, farm, organize politically, and practice yoga.

The fields of Navdanya Farm teem with every imaginable crop and spice. Over 600 species of plants grow there, along with 250 types of rice. White egrets pace gracefully among the fields. Here agricultural scientists have also embraced Gandhian nonviolent resistance methods to protect the earth.

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The Story of Salt

by Mohinder Singh

Map of Gandhi’s salt march courtesy indiansaltmarch.weebly.com

Editor’s Preface: Gandhi’s Salt March was one of his most significant nonviolent civil resistance campaigns, yet without knowing some of the historical significance of salt his symbolic gesture of gathering a handful cannot be understood. For further reflections on Gandhi and salt see also the article ”Salty Gandhi” by William J. Jackson posted here. The note at the end has further information and acknowledgments. JG

The German scholar M.J. Schleiden in his book Das Salz (Leipzig, 1875) contended that there was a direct correlation between salt taxes and despots. Athens did not tax salt, but China and Mexico were salt-taxing tyrannies. Using the salt-taxation yardstick, British rule in India was patently despotic.

Salt taxation originated in China. The earliest known written text on salt regulation is the Chinese Guanzi: On Weighing and Balancing Economic Factors (c. 300 B.C.). It argued that people cannot do without salt, and in their desperation would be willing to pay a high price; it states ‘Coastal states dependent upon the resources of the ocean should cautiously and reasonably establish a tax on salt.’ In due course, this proposal became the adopted policy of the Chinese emperors and the first known instance of a state-controlled monopoly of a vital commodity. The revenues from salt taxation were used to build not only armies but also defensive structures such as the Great Wall. At one time over half of the state’s revenue was derived from salt. Any popular manifestation of resentment against it was handled with an iron fist.

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Aspects of Nonviolence in American Culture

by Mulford Q. Sibley

Edward Hicks, “William Penn’s Peace Treaty with the Indians”; courtesy en.wikipedia.org

Editor’s Preface: Mulford Sibley wrote this article in the early 1960s as his contribution to the scarce anthology Gandhi: His Relevance for our Times, edited by G. Ramachandran and T. K. Mahadevan, New Delhi: Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1962. Please see the Editor’s Note at the end for further information about Sibley, and acknowledgments. JG

American culture, it is sometimes said, has been peculiarly violent, both in outlook and in practice. It has exalted physical force, praised rough action, and placed in the forefront such cynical statements as “Fear God and keep your powder dry.” One of America’s leading Presidents Theodore Roosevelt is well known for his advice to “speak softly but carry a big stick.” (1) Violence has been associated with the frontier spirit, the Westward movement treatment of the American Indian, the rise of business corporations, and the development of labor organizations. Violent crimes are more numerous proportionately than in most other nations of the world; and the police, by contrast with those in Britain, are heavily armed. Popular culture, moreover, if we are to take radio, television, cinema, and pulp magazines as indicators, exults in violence.

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Nonviolence, Disidentification, and Equality

by Todd May

Logo International Day of Nonviolence; courtesy askideas.com

It started quietly and almost spontaneously. At 4:30 in the afternoon on February 1, 1960, four black college freshmen from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University decided, after some deliberation, to sit down at the Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina whites-only lunch counter, and try to order. The waitress, herself black, refused to serve them. They waited until the Woolworth’s closed for the day and then announced that they would be back the next day. The four students—Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (who later changed his name to Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond—were not trained in civil disobedience. They did not plan their actions in accordance with any wider strategy, although the civil rights movement was blossoming all around them. They did not consider how to react if they were met with violence or arrested. Jibreel Khazan recalled that Franklin McCain said, “We just wanted to sit down and eat like everyone else.” (1)

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Climate Change: Pope Francis’s Encyclical and the Dominion of Religion

by Vinay Lal

“Caring for Our Common Home”; artwork courtesy parochiesintmaarten.nl

The thinking person, as Walter Benjamin had occasion to remark, appears to experience crisis at every juncture of her or his life. How can this not be so if one were to experience the pain of someone else as one’s own? How can this not be so when, amidst growing stockpiles of food in many countries, millions continue to suffer from malnutrition, and the lengthening shadows of poverty give lie to the pious promises and pompous proclamations by the world’s leaders over the last several decades that humanity is determined to achieve victory in its quest to eradicate poverty? With war, violence, disease, and the myriad manifestations of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination which man’s ingenuity has wrought all around us, how might a person not be experiencing crisis? One foundation after another—whether it be named after Bill and Melinda Gates, the Clintons, Ford, Rockefeller, or other tycoons—has claimed to have helped “millions” of people around the world, but the crises appear to be multiplying.

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Guest Editorial: Martin Luther King and the Commitment to Nonviolence

by Vinay Lal

Martin Luther King, at Southern Christian Leadership Conference; courtesy vinaylal.wordpress.com

Whatever the difficulties that Martin Luther King encountered in his relentless struggle to secure equality and justice for black people, and whatever the temptations that were thrown in his way that might have led him to abandon the path that he had chosen to lead his people to the “promised land”, it is remarkable that King’s principled commitment to nonviolence never wavered through the long years of the struggle. “From the very beginning”, he told an audience in 1957, “there was a philosophy undergirding the Montgomery boycott, the philosophy of nonviolent resistance.” His own “pilgrimage to nonviolence” commenced, King wrote in Stride Toward Freedom (1958), with the realization that “the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

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Peace on Earth: The Street Spirit Interview with Country Joe McDonald, Part Three

by Terry Messman

Album cover art courtesy allmusic.com

We’re still struggling as a species with how we can stop war. The families (of Vietnam veterans) were so grateful that anybody would acknowledge their sacrifice. And I don’t mean sacrifice in a clichéd way. The war had reached out and struck their family in a horrible, terrible way.” Country Joe McDonald

Street Spirit: You have been deeply involved in supporting military veterans, but there’s a saying that no good deed goes unpunished. Did Bill O’Reilly of Fox News actually compare you to Fidel Castro because you organized a Veteran’s Day event in 2005 that involved the Gold Star Families for Peace?

Country Joe McDonald: Yeah, he did that! He did say that! He said on his show that me doing a Veteran’s Day event in Berkeley was like having Fidel Castro in charge of it, after we got publicity because we wanted to have a Gold Star father speak in one of our Veteran’s Day events.

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Singing of Liberation: The Street Spirit Interview with Country Joe McDonald, Part Four

by Terry Messman

Woody Guthrie poster courtesy countryjoe.com

I knew a lot of the people had to escape or they were killed by the junta in Chile. It was just tragic and terrible. I had grown up with a full knowledge of the viciousness of imperialism from my socialist parents. So I knew that, but I was still shocked.” Country Joe McDonald

Street Spirit: Robert W. Service called his poems about war “songs from the slaughter mill.” How did it happen that an acid-rock musician of the Vietnam era transformed poems written about World War I into a powerful musical statement in your album War War War?

Country Joe McDonald: When I got out of the Navy and was going to Los Angeles State College, I got a job working in East L.A. at a breaded fish factory. When I was coming home from work, I stopped at a used bookstore, and I saw a book called Rhymes of a Red Cross Man. I took it home and read the poems by Robert W. Service. His brother was killed in World War I and he himself was a Red Cross man during the war — a stretcher-bearer and ambulance driver. I knew about his frivolous, entertaining poems set in the Yukon, like “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” But I was really struck by his poems about war; they’re very different. I just thought they were great.

Spirit: Why were his poems so meaningful to you?

McDonald: They were poignant or humorous poems that were approaching war from different points of view. I just liked them and I thought they were really good. And I liked the little watercolor paintings that illustrated it. One particular poem, “The Ballad of Jean Desprez,” really affected me.

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Carrying on the Spirit of Peace and Love

by Terry Messman

Cover of Country Joe’s album, designed by Jane Fonda, sold for benefit of Free The Army’s anti-war performance troupe; courtesy thestreetspirit.org

Country Joe McDonald has carried on the spirit of the 1960s by singing for peace and justice, speaking against war and environmental damage, and advocating fair treatment for military veterans and homeless people.

The summer of 1967 was a moment when a utopian vision of peace and love seemed to be just over the horizon — or even down the next aisle in a record store. On June 1, 1967, the Beatles released the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, It seemed to herald a new day when love would overcome the injustices and cruelty of a world plagued by war, poverty and racial discrimination. “With our love, with our love, we could save the world — if they only knew,” George Harrison sang on “Within You Without You.”

Only two weeks later (June 16-18, 1967) the Monterey International Pop Festival brought together an extraordinary gathering of some of the most creative and innovative musical artists in the world, including Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MGs, Ravi Shankar, Canned Heat, the Electric Flag, the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds, the Animals, and Country Joe and the Fish.

Taken together, those two momentous events — the Beatles’ imaginative and beautiful album, and the epochal gathering of legendary artists at Monterey — seemed to announce the dawning of a rebellious and visionary counterculture. The first rays of sunlight in the darkness of a world at war. It now may seem like a half-remembered fragment of a dream, but those days were filled with the hope that momentous social change might emerge suddenly from almost any protest, and breathtaking moments of beauty could be found in almost any music store or concert hall.

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hrule
“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi