November 11, 2008

was Gandhi right?

Right or wrong in his non-violent approach Gandhi helped to win independence for the people of India without guns or bombs and with remarkably few casualties, bringing active non-violent resistance into the full view of the world. Now a recent study written by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth has gone a long way in demonstrating that non-violent resistance is by far more effective than the violent variety. The two studied violent and non-violent resistance campaigns from 1900-2006 and focus in their article primarily on uprisings in Burma, the Philippines, and East Timor. Their conclusion is, non-violent resistance has a 53% success rate while violent resistance is effective a mere 26% of the time. I am personally overjoyed to see that what the Mahatma knew intuitively or through his religious/humanitarian faith, has now been corroborated by statistical analysis. This provides some hope that we are a species moved by justice and equality.

Reading this study brought to mind the ongoing struggle of the Tibetan people in what may be one of the largest contemporary global tests of our humanity (not forgetting here, the struggles of people in Darfur and countless others). Will we allow commerce and trade with the Chinese semi-superpower to blind us to the sufferings of the people of Tibet? According to the study on non-violence, a movements success is based upon its ability to meet its desired aims. When Charlie Rose interviewed the Dalai Lama back in the summer of 2007 His Holiness laid out the desires of the Tibetan people. Their aspirations have obviously not yet been made manifest, not through any lack of trying but perhaps as a result of the western world’s unwillingness to rebuke the Chinese government in any substantial way. Thankfully the Dalai Lama has always called for peaceful negotiation, but what will happen in his absence?

Here in the States under a new administration perhaps we can begin working for more non-violence in the world through the development of programs and departments focused on the spread of peace and not war. Programs that will support non-violent struggles against oppression.

And here’s a video link to Aung San Suu Kyi giving a fantastic assessment why non-violence is so important.

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