MOHANDAS K. GANDHI: Peace Talks Radio Host Carol Boss talked with Arun Gandhi,
grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi.
BOSS: I've been told the story - I haven't heard you tell it, and I'm sure you've told it many times - about you, doing your lessons and tossing the pencil away. Could you share that with listeners?
GANDHI: Yes! I think that story really brought to me the profundity of his philosophy of nonviolence. Until then, I had a limited understanding of nonviolence - as we all have, today - and that is "nonviolence" being the opposite of "violence." Our concept of violence is the physical use of violence: fighting, killing, murders, rapes and all that.
This incident happened when I was coming back from school. I had a little pencil in my hand and I threw that pencil away because I thought it was too small for me to use. That evening, when I asked him for a new pencil, instead of giving me one, he subjected me to a lot of questions. He wanted to know how the pencil became small. Where did I throw it away: that sort of thing. I could not understand why he was making such a fuss over a little pencil - until he told me to go out and look for it.
I said, "You must be joking! You don't expect me to look for a little pencil in the dark!"
He said, "Oh, yes, I do. Here is a flashlight. Take this and go out. Look for the pencil."
I must have spent about two hours, searching for it.
When I finally found it and brought it to him, he said, "Now, I want you to sit here and learn two, very important lessons. The first lesson is that - even in the making of a simple thing like a pencil - we use a lot of the world's natural resources. When we throw them away, we are throwing away the world's natural resources. That is violence against Nature.
The second lesson is that, in an affluent society, we can afford to buy all these things in bulk. We over consume the resources of the world. Because we over consume them, we are depriving people elsewhere of these resources and they have to live in poverty. That is violence against Humanity."
That was the first time I realized that all these little things that we do, every day, consciously and unconsciously, are all acts of violence: either violence against Nature, or violence against other human beings.
Then, to drive home this message, he made me draw a family tree of violence -- on the same principles as a genealogical tree -- with Violence as the grandparent with two off springs: Physical Violence and Passive Violence. Every day, before I went to bed, I had to examine everything that happened during the day, analyze it and put it in its appropriate places on that tree. If it were the kind of violence where physical force was used, it would go under Physical Violence. If it was the kind of violence where no force is used, and yet I have been able to hurt people, then it would go under Passive Violence.
When I began to do this, within a few months I filled up a whole wall in my room with acts of passive violence. That is when I realized how much passive violence we commit. Then, Grandfather explained to me the connection between the two. He said, "We commit acts of passive violence all the time, every day, consciously and unconsciously. That generates anger in the victim. The victim, then, resorts to physical violence to get justice." Passive violence fuels the fires of physical violence. So, logically, if we want to put out the fire of physical violence, we have to cut off the fuel supply. Since the fuel supply comes from each one of us, we have to become the change we wish to see in the world.
14th DALAI LAMA: The 14th Dalai Lama recorded by PEACE TALKS RADIO in
April of 2008 at Seattle’s QWEST FIELD
Dalai Lama: Whenever we face problems, different interests, disagreements, the realistic method is non-violent dialogue. That is the only way. Basically, today’s world is not like 19th century, 20th century world. Today’s world is something of a new reality. That means every part of the world is heavily interconnected. So under these circumstances, according to this new reality, the very concept of ‘we’ and ‘they’ is no longer there. The whole world should (be) considered part of you. Therefore according to that reality, the concept of war is outdated. And there are those in the audience, in some cases they’ve come to listen, with great expectations. That’s a mistake. I have nothing to offer something very special, just a few empty words. Then, if some people have believed or view that the Dalai Lama has some miracle power, that’s totally nonsense. I am just one human being.
Peace Talks Radio Host Suzanne Kryder talks with Pico Iyer, author of “The Open Road” about the Dalai Lama
Kryder: Pico, you write in your book The Open Road about the different roles that the Dalai Lama has in his life. Talk about some of those roles and which ones you think are most important or inspires people the most.
Iyer: Well, I think the one that’s most important is not necessarily the most inspiring because I think that’s the monastic role and I think the core of him and his sense of identity genuinely as a simple monk and everything he does in the world and outside the world springs out of his philosophical and monastic foundations, but I think part of the fascination of the Dalai Lama for me is that, of course he had a myriad of roles; he’s the defacto Head of State, he’s the head of Tibetan Buddhism, he’s a monk, he’s an amateur scientist, he’s a regular person and yet all of them are absolutely interconnected within him which is of course perfectly consistent with his vision of interconnectedness.
So when he goes to the White House say or talks to the European Parliament, when he is in the midst of these very real and real politic situations, he’s speaking as a monk and I think he’s the one political lead on our planet who brings to the realm of politics, which is such a divisive “us versus them” world, this much more spacious and much more selfless and farsighted vision of a monk.
At the same time, he’s the only monk that I know of who adheres very rigorously to scientific principles and who actually famously says that if new research finds the Buddhists own teaching to be outdated or incomplete, then throw out the Buddhist teachings. Science always trumps faith in his vision of things.
When I travel with him, it’s interesting to see how he very quickly goes between worlds. He’ll talk high philosophy to some monks and he’ll step outside the auditorium and meet a little girl and instantly bend down and make real human contact with her and listen to her as attentively as if you were listening to a head of state and then he’ll get into a car and go across town and talk to a head of state. So he plays these roles in quick succession, but I think the most exciting thing is the way he pushes them together to see how each role can almost light up or liberate the others.
CESAR CHAVEZ & DOLORES HUERTA: PEACE TALKS RADIO Host Carol Boss talked with Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farmworkers’ Union.
Boss: In the summer of 1965, it seemed like strike fever was sweeping California. I wanted to ask you to describe the scene in the meeting halls on the day of the vote to walk out of the vineyard that summer.
Huerta: I want to add to that question because a lot of people think; oh well, Cesar strolled through the fields to talk to farmworkers and everybody came out on strike. It didn’t happen that way at all. We started organizing farmworkers in 1962 when we left the community service organization and the strike did not start until 1965.
During those three years, there was a lot of painstaking organizing; meeting with farmworkers in their homes, meeting with families, convincing them that they had power, convincing them that they could make changes, convincing them that if they didn’t do this, nobody was going to do it for them.
So in 1965 when the strike happened, the workers were already organized. Since the Pilipino farmers came out on strike, then we had to support them. It was of course very thrilling when we got the workers together. They had to take a strike vote and when they did, of course it was very exhilarating.
Boss: It sounded like cries of strike literally rocked the meeting halls.
Huerta: Yes it did. Yes it did. It was very scary for the workers. You’re talking about people who were very poor. When we went on strike in 1965, the wages for farmworkers were like $0.90 per hour. At the initial strike, we said we were going to strike for $1.25 and within a couple of months, the growers raised the wages to $1.25, but then we knew that the real issue was getting recognition. The workers needed the right to representation so that they could have collective bargaining agreements which really bound the growers legally. Not only did they have to raise the wages and the workers could negotiate their wages, but they also had to provide other benefits like drinking water, toilets, unemployment insurance, protection against if they would be fired unjustly, laid off when they shouldn’t have been laid off, things that the workers did not have. They needed these additional protections, not just wages. That’s what a collective bargaining agreement is between employers and their workers and that’s what we were shooting for; getting something that was enforceable by law and it couldn’t just be taken away.
Boss: Of course that strike grew into a national boycott and you directed that national boycott didn’t you?
Huerta: Well, we actually split it up into regions. I ran the boycott from Chicago to New York, from Canada to Florida on the East Coast and then we had other people on the West Coast. When we think of the boycott, we have to think of that as a non-violent economic strategy. Because we couldn’t win in the fields; we were getting arrested, they had court injunctions on us that limited the number of pickets that we could have on a 1,000 acre field, only five people to a field, so that they couldn’t even see us. And that’s why we had to go to the boycott.
Transcript of a recording of Cesar Chavez, made late in his life,
addressing a community group about the power of a boycott.
Chavez: And so we said why go to the politicians? Why not go directly to the marketplace where you can put direct pressure on those corporations that can find a solution for you? We recommend that. We know up until now that it works. You see, we hear the old cliché that ‘politics makes strange bedfellows.’ Boycotts make stranger bedfellows still.
We can learn a lot from Dr. King and from Gandhi. You know, when the bus boycott happened, there was no way in the world that those blacks couldhave ever won it politically. They couldn’t! Politically, they didn’t have any power and they came up with the idea of the boycott and the boycott began to work. Gandhi’s boycotts, some were strokes of genius; he liberated a whole country without war. Shooting wars? That’s not important, but we should reflect on the instances when people get things done without a shooting war. Those are important things to reflect on and understand and appreciate and try to replicate.
NELSON MANDELA: Excerpts from Nelson Mandela’s Inauguration
Speech as President of South Africa, May 10, 1994
Mandela: We are moved by a sense of joy and exhilaration when the grass turns green and the flowers bloom…
The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.
We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.
We succeeded to take our last steps to freedom in conditions of relative peace. We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just and lasting peace….
We are both humbled and elevated by the honour and privilege that you, the people of South Africa, have bestowed on us, as the first President of a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa, to lead our country out of the valley of darkness.
We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.
We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success.
We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.
Let there be justice for all.
Let there be peace for all.
Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.
Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.
Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.
Let freedom reign.
The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!
God bless Africa! Thank you.
PEACE TALKS RADIO HOST Paul Ingles talks with radio documentarian
Joe Richman, who produced “Mandela: An Audio History.”
Ingles: Joe, when you talk to so many people about another person, inevitably a few things are heard consistently. What would you say most all of your interview subjects agreed upon in their assessment or characterization of Nelson Mandela?
Richman: What so many of them would say about Mandela, and it’s been said so often that it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s a cliché that I think is true, is that what he gave to that moment, to the country and to that moment in history was getting out of prison and not feeling bitter, not feeling angry, but being able to go to the negotiating table to be able to look forward.
People may disagree about the pros and cons of how that country emerged from that moment, but the fact that it emerged basically, essentially bloodless and was able to make that transition to democracy was something that no one really expected. The tone was set by Mandela’s feeling of you don’t look back in bitterness, you look forward and try to make something better.
Ingles: What was the most unexpected thing you heard about him that maybe isn’t part of what you have learned to expect to hear about Nelson Mandela?
Richman: We think now of Mandela as this kind of wonderful grandfather, smiling figure and just this loveable old man. If you go back in history, you’re reminded that he was considered a terrorist and by many definitions, he was a terrorist in the sense that he led the movement away from non-violence to start a bombing campaign and to arm the struggle. It’s really hard to separate any moment in history from the context in which it happens, but it’s also important to go back and remember that Mandela was considered a terrorist and he in fact was leading the Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed struggle of the movement. History is never as black and white and as easy as we like to think.
Ingles: What does his story offer to inspire and inform the still oppressed people around the globe?
Richman: It’s just interesting that before the transition, I think everyone would have thought that when South Africa changed, it was going to change in an ugly way. This was happening around the time of the Rwanda genocide and a lot of people, a lot of scholars and historians have pointed out that Rwanda was the case where everyone expected things would happen peacefully and South Africa is where they thought all the bloodshed would happen. So as you look back with 20/20 vision of history, it’s just important to remember that no one expected South Africa to change as peacefully, in a sense, as it did.
“Peacefully” is a relative term. It was ugly in so many ways and so many people were killed and there was a lot of fighting among many groups. Something happened in that country at that time to allow this huge tectonic shift in that country to happen with relatively little bloodshed. There are still so many places where people are fighting for something similar. Anytime that there is a movement that in a sense, over a long period of time, succeeds it’s like historical inspiration.
Ingles: Right, it’s a template, it’s a possibility.
Richman: You just have to know that it has worked before.
Ingles: What do you think this story has to offer to inspire and inform people just trying to manage any conflict in their lives?
Richman: I think that there is the moment where the ANC sat down with the National Party and Pik Botha who was one of the ministers of the National Party, the white-ruling party, and talked about Mandela giving this whole history of the Afrikaner people. That’s how he started, basically saying I understand your history, I understand your issues and I understand where you’re coming from. That obviously made a huge impact on him because, as he said, here I am about to sit down at the negotiating table with someone I’ve spent two decades thinking of as a terrorist and he had studied me, my own grievances and my own history.
I think there’s just something incredibly powerful about understanding your enemy, both tactically and strategically, but much more than that, understanding the other side because nothing is ever simple and black and white and you see the cracks in everyone’s stories and everyone’s history.
I think that trying to understand the other side is what Mandela made a point of doing and I think that’s a lesson that I take away from this whole history; no one is ever so simple. You have these preconceived notions about the way that someone is or the way that some history is, but when you dig a little more, you realize that you were not right. There is always something a little more complicated there.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR: King Remarks from an undated talk in the 1960’s
King: We must continue to delve deeper into the philosophy of non-violent resistance. There is something about this method that has power and I know that there are those who will ridicule it occasionally, but it has worked miracles in the South. It has morality with it because it gives us the opportunity to work to secure moral ends through moral means. This is the morality of it, but it has certain practical consequences; it exposes the moral defenses of the opponent, somehow weakens his morale and all at the same time it works on his conscience. It disarms. He just doesn’t know what to do with it.
If he puts you in jail, that’s alright. If he doesn’t put you in jail, fine. If he beats you up, that’s alright, if he doesn’t beat you up, that’s alright. If he tries to kill you, alright, you develop the quiet courage of dying if necessary without killing. If he tries to threaten, alright. If he doesn’t, there is something about it which causes the opponent not to know what to do.
Now he would know what to do with violence. He could call out the state militia, he could call out the national guard and kill hundreds and hundreds of innocent people and argue that they are inciting a riot. They know how to handle violence, but they proved over and over again that they don’t know how to handle non-violence. They try to handle it by throwing us in jail. But what happens? We go into the jails of Jackson, Mississippi and transform these jails from dungeons of shame to havens of freedom and human dignity. I believe firmly that this is the way.
Now, there is another aspect of it about this method and people ask me about it all the time; what do you mean when you tell us to love these people who are beating on us and bombing our houses and kicking our children around? What in the world do you mean when you say, “love such people”? I always have to stop and try to define the meaning of love in this area.
Interestingly enough, Greek philosophy comes to our aid at this point. There are three words in the Greek language for love, one of them is the word “eros.” Now eros is the sort of aesthetic love, the philosopher Plato talks about it a great deal in his dialogues; the yearning of the soul for the realm of the divine. It has come to us to mean a sort of romantic love and so we all know about eros, we’ve experienced and read about it in the beauties of literature.
Shakespeare was talking about eros when he said, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds or bends with the remover to remove: it is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests, and is never shaken. It is the star to every wandering bark.” You know, I can remember that because I used to quote it to my wife when we were courting!. That’s eros! That’s eros!
Then the Greek language talks about phileo which is another level of love. It is an intimate affection between personal friends, then the Greek language has another word called agape. Agape is more than romantic love, agape is more than friendship. Agape is not something affectionate. Agape is understanding creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return.
Theologians would say that it’s the love of god operating in the human heart. When one rises to love on this level, he loves me not because he likes them, but he loves every man because god loves him. He goes on with that. So he rises to the level of hating the system rather than the individual who is caught up in that system. He loves the person and hates the evil deed. This is the way that we will get out of this dark night of oppression and make of this nation a better nation.
It means that we can stand up and loudly let the opposition know that we will not accept injustice. We will stand up against it with our lives, but we will never stoop down to the level of violence and hatred and we will come to that point when we will be able to convince him that a new world is emerging.