One of the many things I learned from grandfather, the legendry M. K. Gandhi, is to understand the depth and breadth of nonviolence, and to acknowledge that we are all violent and that we need to bring about a qualitative change in our attitudes. We often don’t acknowledge our violence because we are ignorant about it. We assume we are not violent because our vision of violence is one of fighting, killing, beating, and wars, the type of things that average individuals don’t do.
To bring this home to me, grandfather made me draw a family tree of violence using the same principles as are used for a genealogical tree. His argument was that I would have a better appreciation of nonviolence if I understood and acknowledged the violence that exists in the world. He assisted me every evening to analyze the day’s happenings, everything that I experienced, read about, saw or did to others, and put them down on the tree either under “physical” (if it was violence where physical force was used) or under “passive” (if it was the type of violence where the hurt was more emotional).
Within a few months I covered one wall in my room with acts of “passive" violence that grandfather described as being more insidious than “physical" violence. He then explained that passive violence ultimately generated anger in the victim who, as an individual or as a member of a collective, responded violently. In other words it is passive violence that fuels the fire of physical violence. It is because we don’t understand or appreciate this concept that all our efforts to work for peace have either not fructified, or the peace that we achieved was only temporary. How can we extinguish a fire if we don’t first cut off the fuel that ignites the inferno?
Unless, as he would say, “we become the change we wish to see in the world,” no change will ever take place. We are all, unfortunately, waiting for the other person to change first.
The Troublemaker's Teaparty is an updated and expanded print version of The Citizen's Handbook. It contains all of The Handbook plus additional material on preventing grassroots rot, strategic action, direct action and media advocacy. You can get a copy of The Teaparty from bookstores, Amazon or New Society Publishers.