“I see no courage or sacrifice in destroying life or property for offense or defense.” ~ Gandhi, Mahatma 6.67
I’m revisiting this statement (see yesterday’s post) because in it Gandhi refers offhandedly to something that is quite controversial in contemporary nonviolence practice: property destruction. There are circumstances—for example breaking into a military base and destroying a missile’s nose cone—that definitely involve “courage and sacrifice,” and I imagine Gandhi would approve of them to that extent. But we should never tell ourselves that property destruction, even of this kind, is enough. The problem is that while it may express our disapproval, e.g. of missiles, it does not, in itself, persuade the will of the people who built or are guarding them. The decision is taken out of their hands, we’ve not given them agency in the matter. Ideally we would work on them until they put down those weapons voluntarily. But of course, we have to do a lot that’s short of the ideal in this world. Even the Gita says as much (XVIII. 48).
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Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide.
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