Saturday, February 25, 2012

Brute Force or Violent Struggle and Passive Resistance - Gandhiji's Comparsion

Non-Violence Based Resistance - Gandhi

The poet Tulsidas has said: “Of religion, pity, or love, is the root, as egotism of
the body. Therefore, we should not abandon pity so long as we are alive.” This appears to me
to be a scientific truth. I believe in it as much as I believe in two and two being four. The force
of love is the same as the force of the soul or truth.


XVI. Brute force

READER: This is a new doctrine, that what is gained through fear is retained only while the fear lasts. Surely, what is given will not be withdrawn?

EDITOR: Not so. The proclamation of 1857 was given at the end of a revolt, and for the purpose of preserving peace. When peace was secured and people became simple-minded its full effect was toned down. If I cease stealing for fear of punishment, I would recommence the operation as soon as the fear is withdrawn from me. This is almost a universal experience. We have assumed that we can get men to do things by force and, therefore, we use force.

READER: Will you not admit that you are arguing against yourself? You know that what the English obtained in their own country they obtained by using brute force. I know you have argued that what they have obtained is useless, but that does not affect my argument. They wanted useless things and they got them. My point is that their desire was fulfilled. What does it matter what means they adopted? Why should we not obtain our goal, which is good, by any means whatsoever, even by using violence? Shall I think of the means when I have to deal with a thief in the house? My duty is to drive him out anyhow. You seem to admit that we have received nothing, and that we shall receive nothing by petitioning. Why, then, may we do not so by using
brute force? And, to retain what we may receive we shall keep up the fear by using the same force to the extent that it may be necessary. You will not find fault with a continuance of force to prevent a child from thrusting its foot into fire. Somehow or other we have to gain our end.

EDITOR: Your reasoning is plausible. It has deluded many. I have used similar arguments before now. But I think I know better now, and I shall endeavour to undeceive you. Let us first take the argument that we are justified in gaining our end by using brute force because the English gained theirs by using similar means. It is perfectly true that they used brute force and that it is possible for us to do likewise, but by using similar means we can get only the same thing that they got. You will admit that we do not want that. Your belief that there is no connection between the means and the end is a great mistake. Through that mistake even men who have been considered religious have committed grievous crimes. Your reasoning is the same as saying that we can get a rose through planting a noxious weed. If I want to cross the ocean, I can do so only
by means of a vessel; if I were to use a cart for that purpose, both the cart and I would soon find the bottom. “As is the God, so is the votary”, is a maxim worth considering. Its meaning has been distorted and men have gone astray. The means may be likened to a seed, the end to a tree; and there is just the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree. I am not likely to obtain the result flowing from the worship of God by laying myself prostrate before Satan. If, therefore, anyone were to say : “I want to worship God; it does not matter that I do so by means of Satan,” it would be set down as ignorant folly. We reap exactly as we sow. The English in 1833 obtained greater voting power by violence. Did they by using brute force better appreciate their duty? They wanted the right of voting, which they obtained by using physical force. But real rights are a result of performance of duty; these rights they have not obtained. We, therefore, have before us in English the force of everybody wanting and insisting on his rights, nobody thinking of his duty. And, where everybody wants rights, who shall give them to whom? I do not wish to imply that they do no duties. They don’t perform the duties corresponding to those rights; and as they do not perform that particular duty, namely, acquire fitness, their rights have proved a burden to them. In other words, what they have obtained is an exact result of the means they adapted. They used the means corresponding to the end. If I want to deprive you of your watch, I shall certainly have to fight for it; if I want to
buy your watch, I shall have to pay you for it; and if I want a gift, I shall have to plead for it; and, according to the means I employ, the watch is stolen property, my own property, or a donation. Thus we see three different results from three different means. Will you still say that means do not matter?

Now we shall take the example given by you of the thief to be driven out. I do not agree
with you that the thief may be driven out by any means. If it is my father who has come to steal
I shall use one kind of means. If it is an acquaintance I shall use another; and in the case of a
perfect stranger I shall use a third. If it is a white man, you will perhaps say you will use means
different from those you will adopt with an Indian thief. If it is a weakling, the means will be
different from those to be adopted for dealing with an equal in physical strength; and if the thief
is armed from top to toe, I shall simply remain quiet. Thus we have a variety of means between
the father and the armed man. Again, I fancy that I should pretend to be sleeping whether the
thief was my father or that strong armed man. The reason for this is that my father would also
be armed and I should succumb to the strength possessed by either and allow my things to be
stolen. The strength of my father would make me weep with pity; the strength of the armed man
would rouse in me anger and we should become enemies. Such is the curious situation. From
these examples we may not be able to agree as to the means to be adopted in each case. I myself
seem clearly to see what should be done in all these cases, but the remedy may frighten you. I
therefore hesitate to place it before you. For the time being I will leave you to guess it, and if
you cannot, it is clear you will have to adopt different means in each case. You will also have
seen that any means will not avail to drive away the thief. You will have to adopt means to fit
each case. Hence it follows that your duty is not to drive away the thief by any means you like.
Let us proceed a little further. That well-armed man has stolen your property; you have
harboured the thought of his act; you are filled with anger; you argue that you want to punish
that rogue, not for your own sake, but for the good of your neighbours; you have collected a
number of armed men, you want to take his house by assault; he is duly informed of it, he runs
away; he too is incensed. He collects his brother robbers, and sends you a defiant message
that he will commit robbery in broad daylight. You are strong, you do not fear him, you are
prepared to receive him. Meanwhile the robber pesters your neighbours. They complain before
you. You reply that you are doing all for their sake, you do not mind that your own goods
have been stolen. Your neighbours reply that the robber never pestered them before, and that he
commenced his depredations only after you declared hostilities against him. You are between
Scylla and Charybdis. You are full of pity for the poor men. What they say is true. What are
you to do? You will be disgraced if you now leave the robber alone. You therefore, tell the poor
men: “Never mind. Come, my wealth is yours, I will give you arms, I will teach you how to use
them; you should belabour the rogue; don’t you leave him alone.” And so the battle grows; the
robbers increase in numbers; your neighbours have deliberately put themselves to inconvenience.
Thus the result of wanting to take revenge upon the robber is that you have disturbed your own
peace; you are in perpetual fear of being robbed and assaulted; your courage has given place to
cowardice. If you will patiently examine the argument, you will see that I have not overdrawn
the picture. This is one of the means. Now let us examine the other. You set this armed robber
down as an ignorant brother; you intend to reason with him at a suitable opportunity: you argue
that he is, after all, a fellow-man; you do not know what prompted him to steal. You, therefore,
decide that, when you can, you will destroy the man’s motive for stealing. Whilst you are thus
reasoning with yourself, the man comes again to steal. Instead of being angry with him you take
pity on him. You think that this stealing habit must be a disease with him. Henceforth, you,
therefore, keep your doors and windows open, you change your sleeping-place, and you keep
your things in a manner most accessible to him. The robber comes again and is confused as all
this is new to him; nevertheless, he takes away your things. But his mind is agitated. He inquires
about you in the village, he comes to learn about your broad and loving heart, he repents, he
begs your pardon, returns you your things, and leaves off the stealing habit. He becomes your
servant, and you find for him honourable employment. This is the second method. Thus, you
see, different means have brought about totally different results. I do not wish to deduce from
this that robbers will act in the above manner or that all will have the same pity and love like
you, but I only wish to show that fair means alone can produce fair results, and that, at least in
the majority of cases, if not indeed in all, the force of love and pity is infinitely greater than the
force of arms. There is harm in the exercise of brute force, never in that of pity.
Now we will take the question of petitioning. It is a fact beyond dispute that a petition,
without the backing of force is useless. However, the late Justice Ranade used to say that petitions
served a useful purpose because they were a means of educating people. They give the latter an
idea of their condition and warn the rulers. From this point of view, they are not altogether
useless. A petition of an equal is a sign of courtesy; a petition from a slave is a symbol of his
slavery. A petition backed by force is a petition from an equal and, when he transmits his demand
in the form of a petition, it testifies to his nobility. Two kinds of force can back petitions. “We
shall hurt you if you do not give this,” is one kind of force; it is the force of arms, whose evil
results we have already examined. The second kind of force can thus be stated; “If you do not
concede our demand, we shall be no longer your petitioners. You can govern us only so long as
we remain the governed; we shall no longer have any dealings with you.” The force implied in
this may be described as love-force, soul-force, or, more popularly but less accurately, passive
resistance. This force is indestructible. He who uses it perfectly understands his position. We
have an ancient proverb which literally means; “One negative cures thirty-six diseases.” The
force of arms is powerless when matched against the force of love or the soul.
Now we shall take your last illustration, that of the child thrusting its foot into fire. It will
not avail you. What do you really do to the child? Supposing that it can exert so much physical
force that it renders you powerless and rushes into fire, then you cannot prevent it. There are
only two remedies open to you ? either you must kill it in order to prevent it from perishing in
the flames, or you must give your own life because you do not wish to see it perish before your
very eyes. You will not kill it. If your heart is not quite full of pity, it is possible that you will
not surrender yourself by preceding the child and going into the fire yourself. You, therefore,
helplessly allow it to go into the flames. Thus, at any rate, you are not using physical force. I
hope you will not consider that it is still physical force, though of a low order, when you would
forcibly prevent the child from rushing towards the fire if you could. That force is of a different
order and we have to understand what it is.

Remember that, in thus preventing the child, you are minding entirely its own interest, you are exercising authority for its sole benefit. Your example does not apply to the English. In using brute force against the English you consult entirely your own, that is the national, interest. There is no question here either of pity or of love. If you say that the actions of the English, being evil, represent fire, and that they proceed to their actions through ignorance, and that therefore they occupy the position of a child and that you want to protect such a child, then you will have to overtake every evil action of that kind by whomsoever committed and, as in the case of the evil child, you will have to sacrifice yourself. If you are capable of such immeasurable pity, I wish you well in its exercise.

XVII. Passive resistance

READER: Is there any historical evidence as to the success of what you have called soulforce
or truth-force? No instance seems to have happened of any nation having risen through
soul-force. I still think that the evil-doers will not cease doing evil without physical punishment.

EDITOR: The poet Tulsidas has said: “Of religion, pity, or love, is the root, as egotism of
the body. Therefore, we should not abandon pity so long as we are alive.” This appears to me
to be a scientific truth. I believe in it as much as I believe in two and two being four. The force
of love is the same as the force of the soul or truth. We have evidence of its working at every
step. The universe would disappear without the existence of that force. But you ask for historical
evidence. It is, therefore, necessary to know what history means. The Gujarati equivalent means:
“It so happened”. If that is the meaning of history, it is possible to give copious evidence. But, if
it means the doings of the kings and emperors, there can be no evidence of soul-force or passive
resistance in such history. You cannot expect silver ore in a tin mine. History, as we know it, is a
record of the wars of the world, and so there is a proverb among Englishmen that a nation which
has no history, that is, no wars, is a happy nation. How kings played, how they became enemies
of one another, how they murdered one another, is found accurately recorded in history, and if
this were all that had happened in the world, it would have been ended long ago. If the story of
the universe had commenced with wars, not a man would have been found alive today. Those
people who have been warred against have disappeared as, for instance, the natives of Australia
of whom hardly a man was left alive by the intruders. Mark, please, that these natives did not use
soul-force in self-defence, and it does not require much foresight to know that the Australians
will share the same fate as their victims. “Those that take the sword shall perish by the sword.”
With us the proverb is that professional swimmers will find a watery grave.

The fact that there are so many men still alive in the world shows that it is based not on the
force of arms but on the force of truth or love. Therefore, the greatest and most unimpeachable
evidence of the success of this force is to be found in the fact that, in spite of the wars of the
world, it still lives on.

Thousands, indeed tens of thousands, depend for their existence on a very active working of
this force. Little quarrels of millions of families in their daily lives disappear before the exercise
of this force. Hundreds of nations live in peace. History does not and cannot take note of this
fact. History is really a record of every interruption of the even working of the force of love or
of the soul. Two brothers quarrel; one of them repents and re-awakens the love that was lying
dormant in him; the two again begin to live in peace; nobody takes note of this. But if the two
brothers, through the intervention of solicitors or some other reason take up arms or go to law
? which is another form of the exhibition of brute force, ? their doings would be immediately
noticed in the press, they would be the talk of their neighbours and would probably go down to
history. And what is true of families and communities is true of nations. There is no reason to
believe that there is one law for families and another for nations. History, then, is a record of an
interruption of the course of nature. Soul-force, being natural, is not noted in history.

READER: According to what you say, it is plain that instances of this kind of passive resistance
are not to be found in history. It is necessary to understand this passive resistance more
fully. It will be better, therefore, if you enlarge upon it.
EDITOR: Passive resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is the
reverse of resistance by arms. When I refuse to do a thing that is repugnant to my conscience,
I use soul-force. For instance, the Government of the day has passed a law which is applicable
to me. I do not like it. If by using violence I force the Government to repeal the law. I am
employing what may be termed body-force. If I do not obey the law and accept the penalty for
its breach, I use soul-force. It involves sacrifice of self.

Everybody admits that sacrifice of self is infinitely superior to sacrifice of others. Moreover,
if this kind of force is used in a cause that is unjust, only the person using it suffers. He does
not make others suffer for his mistakes. Men have before now done many things which were
subsequently found to have been wrong. No man can claim that he is absolutely in the right or
that a particular thing is wrong because he thinks so, but it is wrong for him so long as that is his
deliberate judgment. It is therefore meet that he should not do that which he knows to be wrong,
and suffer the consequence whetever it may be. This is the key to the use of soul-force.

READER: You would then disregard laws ? this is rank disloyalty. We have always been
considered a law-abiding nation. You seem to be going even beyond the extremists. They say
that we must obey the laws that have been passed, but that if the laws be bad, we must drive out
the law- givers even by force.

EDITOR: Whether I go beyond them or whether I do not is a matter of no consequence to
either of us. We simply want to find out what is right and to act accordingly. The real meaning
of the statement that we are a law-abiding nation is that we are passive resisters. When we do
not like certain laws, we do not break the heads of law-givers but we suffer and do not submit
to the laws. That we should obey laws whether good or bad is a newfangled nation. There was
no such thing in former days. The people disregarded those laws they did not like and suffered
the penalties for their breach. It is contrary to our manhood if we obey laws repugnant to our
conscience. Such teaching is opposed to a religion and means slavery. If the Government were
to ask us to go about without any clothing, should we do so? If I were a passive resister, I would
say to them that I would have nothing to do with their law. But we have so forgotten ourselves
and become so compliant that we do not mind degrading law.

A man who has realized his manhood, who fears only God, will fear no one else. Man-made
laws are not necessarily binding on him. Even the Government does not expect any such things
from us. They do not say: “You must do such and such a thing.” but they say: “If you do not
do it, we will punish you.” We are sunk so low that we fancy that it is our duty and our religion
to do what the law lays down. If man will only realize that it is unmanly to obey laws that are
unjust, no man’s tyranny will enslave him. This is the key to self-rule or home-rule.
It is a superstition and ungodly thing to believe that an act of a majority binds a minority.
Many examples can be given in which acts of majorities will be found to have been wrong and
those of minorities to have been right. All reforms owe their origin to the initiation of minorities
in opposition to majorities. If among a band of robbers a knowledge of robbing is obligatory, is
a pious man to accept the obligation? So long as the superstition that men should obey unjust
laws exists, so long will their slavery exist. And a passive resister alone can remove such a

To use brute force, to use gunpowder, is contrary to passive resistance, for it means that we
want our opponent to do by force that which we desire but he does not. And if such a use of
force is justifiable, surely he is entitled to do likewise by us. And so we should never come to
an agreement. We may simply fancy, like the blind horse moving in a circle round a mill, that
we are making progress. Those who believe that they are not bound to obey laws which are
repugnant to their consience have only the remedy of passive resistance open to them. Any other
must lead to disaster.

READER: From what you say I deduce that passive resistance is a splendid weapon of the
weak, but that when they are strong they may take up arms.

EDITOR: This is gross ignorance. Passive resistance, that is, soul-force, is matchless. It
is superior to the force of arms. How, then, can it be considered only a weapon of the weak?
Physical-force men are strangers to the courage that is requisite in a passive resister. Do you
believe that a coward can ever disobey a law that he dislikes? Extremists are considered to be
advocates of brute force. Why do they, then, talk about obeying laws? I do not blame them. They
can say nothing else. When they succeed in driving out the English and they themselves become
governors, they will want you and me to obey their laws. And that is a fitting thing for their
constitution. But a passive resister will say he will not obey a law that is against his conscience,
even though he may be blown to pieces at the mouth of a cannon.

What do you think? Wherein is courage required ? in blowing others to pieces from behind
a cannon, or with a smiling face to approach a cannon and be blown to pieces? Who is the true
warrior ? he who keeps death always as a bosom-friend, or he who controls the death of others?
Believe me that a man devoid of courage and manhood can never be a passive resister.
This however, I will admit : that even a man weak in body is capable of offering this resistance.
One man can offer it just as well as millions. Both men and women can indulge in it.
It does not require the training of an army; it needs no jiujitsu. Control over the mind is alone
necessary, and when that is attained, man is free like the king of the forest and his very glance
withers the enemy.

Passive resistance is an all-sided sword, it can be used anyhow; it blesses him who uses it and
him against whom it is used. Without drawing a drop of blood it produces far-reaching results.
It never rusts and cannot be stolen. Competition between passive resisters does not exhaust. The
sword of passive resistance does not require a scabbard. It is strange indeed that you should
consider such a weapon to be a weapon merely of the weak.

READER: You have said that passive resistance is a speciality of India. Have cannons never
been used in India?

EDITOR: Evidently, in your opinion, India means its few princes. To me it means its teeming
millions on whom depends the existence of its princes and our own.

Kings will always use their kingly weapons. To use force is bred in them. They want to
command, but those who have to obey commands do not want guns; and these are in a majority
throughout the would. They have to learn either body-force or soul-force. Where they learn
the former, both the rulers and the ruled become like so many madmen: but where they learn
soul-force, the commands of the rulers do not go beyond the point of their swords, for true men
disregard unjust commands. Peasants have never been subdued by the sword, and never will be.
They do not know the use of the sword, and they are not frightened by the use of it by others.
That nation is great which rests its head upon death as its pillow. Those who defy death are
free from all fear. For those who are labouring under the delusive charms of brute-force, this
picture is not overdrawn. The fact is that, in India, the nation at large has generally used passive
resistance in all departments of life. We cease to co-operate with our rulers when they displease
us. This is passive resistance.
I remember an instance when, in a small principality, the villagers were offended by some
command issued by the prince. The former immediately began vacating the village. The prince
became nervous, apologized to his subjects and withdrew his command. Many such instances
can be found in India. Real Home Rule is possible only where passive resistance is the guiding
force of the people. Any other rule is foreign rule.

READER: Then you will say that it is not at all necessary for us to train the body?

EDITOR: I will certainly not say any such thing. It is difficult to become a passive resister
unless the body is trained. As a rule, the mind, residing in a body that has become weakened by
pampering, is also weak, and where there is no strength of mind there can be no strength of soul.
We shall have to improve our physique by getting rid of infant marriages and luxurious living. If
I were to ask a man with a shattered body to face a cannon’s mouth I should make a laughingstock
of myself.

READER: From what you say, then, it would appear that it is not a small thing to become a
passive resister, and, if that is so, I should like you to explain how a man may become one.

EDITOR: To become a passive resister is easy enough but it is also equally difficult. I have
known a lad of fourteen years become a passive resister; I have known also sick people do
likewise: and I have also known physically strong and otherwise happy people unable to take
up passive resistance. After a great deal of experience it seems to me that those who want to
become passive resisters for the service of the country have to observe perfect chastity, adopt
poverty, follow truth, and cultivate fearlessness.

Chastity is one of the greatest disciplines without which the mind cannot attain requisite
firmness. A man who is unchaste loses stamina, becomes emasculated and cowardly. He whose
mind is given over to animal passions is not capable of any great effort. This can be proved by
innumerable instances. What, then, is a married person to do is the question that arises naturally;
and yet it need not. When a husband and wife gratify the passions. it is no less an animal
indulgence on that account. Such an indulgence, except for perpetuating the race, is strictly
prohibited. But a passive resister has to avoid even that very limited indulgence because he can
have no desire for progeny. A married man, therefore, can observe perfect chastity. This subject
is not capable of being treated at greater length. Several questions arise: How is one to carry
one’s wife with one, what are her rights, and other similar questions. Yet those who wish to take
part in a great work are bound to solve these puzzles.

Just as there is necessity for chastity, so is there for poverty. Pecuniary ambition and passive
resistance cannot well go together. Those who have money are not expected to throw it away,
but they are expected to be indifferent about it. They must be prepared to lose every penny rather
than give up passive resistance.

Passive resistance has been described in the course of our discussion as truth-force. Truth,
therefore, has necessarily to be followed and that at any cost. In this connection. academic
questions such as whether a man may not lie in order to save a life, etc., arise, but these questions
occur only to those who wish to justify lying. Those who want to follow truth every time are not
placed in such a quandary; and if they are, they are still saved from a false position.
Passive resistance cannot proceed a step without fearlessness. Those alone can follow the
path of passive resistance who are free from fear, whether as to their possessions, false honour.
their relatives, the government, bodily injuries or death.

These observances are not to be abandoned in the belief that they are difficult. Nature has
implanted in the human breast ability to cope with any difficulty or suffering that may come to
man unprovoked. These qualities are worth having, even for those who do not wish to serve the
country. Let there be no mistake, as those who want to train themselves in the use of arms are
also obliged to have these qualities more or less. Everybody does not become a warrior for the
wish. A would-be warrior will have to observe chastity and to be satisfied with poverty as his
lot. A warrior without fearlessness cannot be conceived of. It may be thought that he would
not need to be exactly truthful, but that quality follows real fearlessness. When a man abandons
truth, he does so owing to fear in some shape or form. The above four attributes, then, need not
frighten anyone. It may be as well here to note that a physical-force man has to have many other
useless qualities which a passive resister never needs. And you will find that whatever extra
effort a swordsman needs is due to lack of fearlessness. If he is an embodiment of the latter,
the sword will drop from his hand that very moment. He does not need its support. One who is
free from hatred requires no sword. A man with a stick suddenly came face to face with a lion
and instinctively raised his weapon in self-defence. The man saw that he had only prated about
fearlessness when there was none in him. That moment he dropped the stick and found himself
free from all fear.
Chapter 16 and 17 of HIND SWARAJ OR INDIAN HOME RULE, M.K.Gandhi, 1909
Originally posted in Knol 2045

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