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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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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The Practice of Satyagraha

by M. K. Gandhi

Poster image courtesy mkgandhi-sarvodaya.blogspot.nl

Editor’s Preface: Gandhi did not expound his philosophy of satyagraha in any organized way; there are scattered discussions, remarks and definitions throughout his work. Although there have been anthologies of some of these writings, such as Schocken Books’s, M. K. Gandhi Non-Violent Resistance (New York, 1961), the three extracts below from journals that Gandhi edited have not been anthologized. Please consult the note on the text at the end for an explanation of our editing procedure and acknowledgments. JG

[Extract One] The principles of satyagraha, as I know it today, constitute a gradual evolution. Satyagraha differs from Passive Resistance as the North Pole from the South. The latter has been conceived as a weapon of the weak and does not exclude the use of physical force or violence for the purpose of gaining one’s end, whereas satyagraha has been conceived as a weapon of the strongest and excludes the use of violence in any shape or form.

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‘Does Economic Progress Clash with Real Progress?’

by M.K. Gandhi

Poster art courtesy quotefancy.com

Editor’s Preface: This is the text of a speech, which Gandhi delivered in 1916. It is increasingly being cited as a key statement of his economic philosophy, most recently by Anthony J. Parel in his influential study, Gandhi’s Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 81). It continues our series of making available important documents by Gandhi that we see increasingly cited in the literature. Please click on Gandhi’s byline above for easy access to our other postings, and please also see the Endnotes, and the note on the text, for acknowledgments and further information. JG

‘Does economic progress clash with real progress?’ When I accepted Mr. Kapildeva Malaviya’s invitation to speak to you upon the subject of this evening, I was painfully conscious of my limitations. (1) You are an economic society. You have chosen distinguished specialists for the subjects included in your syllabus for this year and the next. I seem to be the only speaker ill fitted for the task set before him.

Frankly and truly, I know very little of economics, as you naturally understand them. Only the other day, sitting at an evening meal, a civilian friend deluged me with a series of questions on my crankisms. As he proceeded in his cross-examination, I being a willing victim, he found no difficulty in discovering my gross ignorance of the matter. I appeared to him to be handling with a cocksureness worthy only of a man who knows not that he knows not. To his horror and even indignation, I suppose, he found that I had not even read books on economics by such well-known authorities as Mill, Marshall, Adam Smith and a host of such other authors. (1) In despair, he ended by advising me to read these works before experimenting in matters economic at the expense of the public. He little knew that I was a sinner past redemption. My experiments continue at the expense of trusting friends. For, there come to us moments in life when about some things we need no proof from without. A little voice within us tells us, ‘You are on the right track, move neither to your left nor right, but keep to the straight and narrow way.’ With such help we march forward slowly indeed, but surely and steadily. That is my position.

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Book Review: Nonviolent Resistance to the Nazis

by Gertjan Cobelens

Dustwrapper art courtesy youcaxton.co.uk

But what about World War II? It is considered the ultimate trump card in any debate on the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance. Not entirely by accident, it is also the title of an IFOR brochure on this very question. (1) It was President Obama’s main defense for his justification of the use of force in his acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize. It was one of the main stumbling blocks for Martin Luther King Jr. towards embracing nonviolence, and it is the standard reaction of most people involved in government and the military to suggestions of implementing forms of nonviolent civil defense. The implication, of course, is that the Nazi regime was so violent and abhorrent that it could only be stopped by brute force. The other side of the coin, though, is that if one could argue successfully that some forms of nonviolent resistance did prove viable during WWII, it would follow that these strategies would be effective under most circumstances.

That was what the War Resisters’ International set out to demonstrate when, in 1952, they embarked on the idea to put together a book on accounts of nonviolent resistance. Although the WRI succeeded in amassing some first-class examples, the amount of material collected was deemed insufficient to be published as a book. (2) Others followed suit, such as Gene Sharp in his 1958 Peace News Pamphlet Tyranny Could Not Quell Them, in which he detailed the successful non-cooperation campaign by the teachers of Norway, and Jacques Sémelin’s Unarmed Against Hitler: Civilian Resistance in Europe 1939-1943. (3).

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Satyagraha as a Mirror

by Richard B. Gregg

Dustwrapper art, 1960 James Clarke & Co edition, courtesy abebooks.com

Editor’s Preface: Richard Gregg (1885-1974) is often credited with being the first American theorist of nonviolent civil resistance (satyagraha).  While a student at Harvard in the early 1920s he attended a guest lecture about Gandhi and Gandhi’s nonviolence theories. Upon graduating in 1925 he set sail for India, and lived for several years in various Gandhian ashrams. In 1934 he published the work he is best known for, The Power of Non-violence. The book was to have a great influence on Martin Luther King, Jr. and other of the civil rights leaders, and has remained an essential text in the study of nonviolence, and the influence of nonviolence on American politics. Gregg’s Wikipedia page deserves expanding, but has, nonetheless, some useful links. The Quaker website quakersintheworld.org also has a brief biography. This article is dated c. 1963. Please see the note at the end for acknowledgments, and further textual details.  JG

On the faculty of the University of Wisconsin there is a psychiatrist, Dr. Carl R. Rogers, who has spent years giving counsel to those who are in personal emotional or mental trouble and cannot seem to solve their problems unaided. As a result of his professional experience he has come to believe that nobody will change his habits of thinking, feeling or acting until something happens to change his own picture or concept of himself. Other things being equal, for example, a student will give up preparing to become a journalist and begin to study for the law only when he can see himself as a practicing lawyer. A thief will abandon that way of life only if he can see himself as happier in a different way of life and know how he can attain it. For most people, the matter of self-regard is of primary importance.

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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