Sunday, July 27, 2008
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 10 Comments
Few would seriously argue that had Gandhi been facing Imperial Japan (whose brutal conquest of Asia he briefly supported) or Nazi Germany or even the British Empire of the 19th century, that non-violence would have been nothing more than an invitation to a bullet. Yet that is exactly what first world nations are expected to do when confronted with terrorism. Not long after 9/11 slogans were already appearing on posters challenging, "What would Gandhi do?"
We can hazard a guess at what the man who urged Britain to surrender to Hitler and told the Jews to walk into the gas chambers, would do. We can do better than guess at the outcome. The same outcome that surrender to tyranny always brings, whether in the name of non-violence, cowardice or political appeasement, a great heap of skulls shining in the sun.
Gandhi's non-violence or Tolstoy's more honestly named, Non-Resistance to Evil through Violence who heavily influenced Gandhi or Tolstoy's own influence through the writings of Rousseau represent a pacifist strain that runs through Western civilization. It is a particularly futile and dangerous strain that values internal nobility over the lives and welfare of others.
Had Martin Luther King tried his tactics in the early 19th century South, he would have gotten nowhere. Had Gandhi pitted himself against Imperial Japan, he would have been beheaded. Clearly non-violence is a tactic that can only work against essentially peaceful opponents who are easily embarrassed by a few jailed protesters. It fails utterly against opponents who genuinely want to conquer or kill you and are willing to do whatever it takes to see that it happens.
Had the application of non-violence been limited to a form of civil protest in democracies, there would be no objection. It is when Gandhi is cited as a model for confronting dictatorships and tyrannies that we reach the fundamental gap between reality and the ideology of non-violence.
Can non-violence stop an enemy bent on your destruction? The answer is no. Non-violence can only enable such an enemy. But the nasty trap in the philosophy of non-violence is that it presumes that a source of the violence is in the victims themselves.
The self-destructive nature of non-violence is that it only works when the source of the violence really is within the individual practicing it. Non-violence only works therefore when non-violently confronting those whose goals are ultimately non-violent. It is self-destructively useless when confronting those whose goals are violent. But because it teaches that we are the source of the violence, it repeatedly blames the target of the violence for doing anything whatsoever to resist the violence.
In Gandhi's non-violence, a rape victim who screamed for help would be guilty of practicing violence rather than non-violence. In Tolstoy's rendering of non-violence, there is no difference in moral culpability between attacked and attacker. This simplistic picture leaves no room for self-defense and no place for a society that seeks to protect its own people. When viewed this way it exposes the ideology of non-violence for what it really is, a self-indulgent selfish form of martyrdom that emphasizes inner nobility over social utility.
At the heart of non-violence is hypocrisy. Quaker non-violence prevented them from funding a militia to protect colonial settlers against attacks. It prevented them from serving on either side in WW2. It did not however prevent them from composing lists of victims for the Nazis. It has not prevented them from agitating on behalf of terrorists today.
Tolstoy's non-violence did not prevent him from distributing and promoting the writings of violent anarchists, it did however prevent him from condemning the Pogroms. Gandhi's non-violence did not prevent him from self-interestedly welcoming a Japanese occupation of Asia or urging a British surrender to Hitler.
For the democracy confronting a destructive ideology, non-violence is nothing more than a suicide pact. The refusal to resist evil grants hegemony to evil. But the refusal of the philosophers of non-violence to admit the necessity of violence instead drives them to demonize those who would resist evil with violence, as the source of the violence.