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Volume 11 Issue 3
Sept/October 2005

Slow Food: Take Time to Savour the Flavour
International Slow Food® Movement

Cookin' With Kale!

Reflexology in the New Millennium

Why is Peace So Elusive?

Renewing the Sacred Balance;
Transforming and Healing the Whole Earth Community

Editorial

Why is Peace So Elusive?
by Arun Gandhi, President, M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
Martin Krátky


Often when this question is directed to me the image that pops up in my mind is that of a fireman attempting to put out a conflagration with a water-hose in one hand and a gasoline-hose in the other and wonders why the fire continues to rage. Similarly, we work for peace while feeding the culture of violence that dominates human relationships and wonder why peace is elusive. Indeed violence pervades every aspect of our lives, from justice, economics, education, religion, and culture to our relationships with each other, with our parents, siblings, children, and spouses.

I recall the story of my grandfather, M. K. Gandhi, when, as a 24-year-old struggling lawyer, he landed in racist South Africa totally unaware of the depth of racial hatred that existed. On several occasions during his 22-year stay he was mercilessly beaten by white South Africans, but each time the police invited him to file charges against his assailants he refused. His argument was: “Punishing will not teach them anything, whereas forgiving may open a door in their heart for some love and understanding to pour out.” And, it worked! Several of his assailants joined his struggle and became his followers.

Gandhi was convinced the only way out of the culture of violence that manifests itself in all human beings in the form of hate, prejudice, anger, frustration, jealousies, and so many other negative attributes is to change this culture to that of nonviolence. Violence breeds negativity, while nonviolence succeeds only when one is imbued with love, respect, understanding, appreciation, acceptance, and other positive attributes. Peace is not the absence of war and violence; it is the absence of exploitation, discrimination, oppression, and aggression. Hence, he concluded: “We must become the change we wish to see in the world.”

As I grew up in his shadow, he always impressed upon me the importance of self-examination. “You must always remember,” he would say, “that you don’t live in isolation. All our actions have corresponding reactions and impact society positively or negatively.”

He started ashram communities where people learned to live in peace and harmony with each other and with nature. Life was simple, and everything that had to be done was done as a community. Cooking, cleaning, sleeping, eating, and all other chores were commonly done by all. Gandhi expanded the concept of family from the nuclear to include all of creation.

Gandhi was a regular, ordinary child born into a regular, ordinary family. Up to the time he went to South Africa and became a victim of prejudice and hate he had paid no attention to either violence or nonviolence. The only incident that left a lasting impression on him was something that happened at the age of 13. Following the practice of the time, he was married at that age to a 13-year-old girl who had never been to school but was well-tutored at home.

Gandhi was naïve about this relationship, and so he visited the local library to read books on married life which, obviously, were written by male chauvinists because they all advised that the man must lay down the rules and enforce them strictly.

That evening Gandhi came home and told his wife, “You will not stir out of this house without my permission. That is an order and you will obey it diligently. I want no arguments.” Amused by this show of arrogance, my grandmother went to bed without a word of protest. Several days later Gandhi realized that she was not obeying his order and that she was still going out without his permission. That night he confronted her again. “How dare you disobey my order,” he demanded.

Very cool and collected, Grandmother said: “I was taught by my parents that we must always obey the elders in the house. I believe the elders in this house are your parents. Are you suggesting that I do not obey your mother but obey you instead? Do you want me to go tell your mother that I will not obey her any more?”
Gandhi was speechless. Of course, he could not tell his wife to disobey his mother, and so the matter was settled without a fight. Later, he conceded this was the most powerful lesson in nonviolent conflict resolution that he learned. If anything, it brought home to him the importance of anger in perpetuating the culture of violence.

His life was impacted by little everyday experiences—the kind that we often ignore. Life must not be a mundane, day-to-day existence. It must be more meaningful and enlightening, not just in the material sense, but more important, in the spiritual and ethical sense. Can we leave this world a little better than we found it? Is this possible? Of course, that is why we have organized the Gandhian Nonviolence Conference on October 14 and 15 in Memphis, Tennessee. We will have workshops and lectures by eminent people who have transformed their lives and brought into them more substance and meaning. For more information on the conference and on the institute visit www.gandhiinstitute.org/2005conference.cfm.

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, founded the Gandhi Institute in 1991. Gandhi started the Institute to teach individuals about conflict prevention, anger management, diversity training, and relationship- and community-building. For the past five years, Gandhi has travelled with the Renaissance Weekend Deliberators to share his message of peace. See the above paragraph for the institute website or call (901) 452-2824.

 

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