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Gandhi’s Approach

Dr. Thomas Fischbacher
University of Southampton Computational Engineering and Design Group School of Engineering Sciences University of Southampton United Kingdom

06. 03. 2009

Dr. Thomas Fischbacher

Gandhi’s Approach

Why Gandhi is Important
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Lawyer, Farmer, Weaver. Why is he more important than ever? If we are wrong, the world will give us feedback about that. If we go on, feedback will become stronger. If we keep on ignoring these signs, pain and suffering, and ultimately, collapse will make sure our ideas do get realigned with reality.
Image source: Wikipedia

Gandhi’s achievement lies in demonstrating (and hence reminding us of) the power of using an approach towards this problem that is both very ancient and very sophisticated.
Dr. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach

Who is Afraid of the Mahatma?
One of the main reasons why so little is known about Gandhi in our Society is a number of misconceptions about him:
Gandhi’s philosophy is not about extreme asketicism (the “running round in self-spun clothing only and living in a mud hut – and, of course, celibacy” thing). The very name of the concept of non-violence is misleading: in its essence, this is neither about ‘passive resistance’, nor ‘unilateral disarmament’, or any such idea. Gandhi’s ideas were more about economics and resource management than about living the life of a saint (in the strict religious sense). So: this is not “Let us all become saints now and everything will be fine”.

Dr. Thomas Fischbacher

Gandhi’s Approach

“Experiments with Truth”

The title of Gandhi’s autobiography (for reasons that are related to how it got published) is The continued story of my Experiments with Truth. Two key notions: Experiment (“Any number of experiments is too small”) and Truth (“God is Truth”). If sticking too long with a stupid idea is what causes (maybe even most of?) the pain and suffering in the world, how do we minimize that problem? Evidently, we human beings are very prone to holding on to beliefs that ultimately turn out to be in conflict with reality – so getting that right is a bit tricky.

Dr. Thomas Fischbacher

Gandhi’s Approach

We are actually equipped with a number of useful internal sensors that can tell us whether something seems not right – but our society is ‘too loud’ for us to cultivate and develop our skills in taking much notice of them. Can I do it that way? Adopting an experimental attitude is the key strategy for acquiring self-reliance. Most problems one has to face are at the ‘personal/household’ level – and hence open to an experimental approach.. .How to know early when we are wrong (I) Simple logic dictates that we would be well advised to learn to utilize every source that can give us early feedback on whether our ideas are in conflict with reality. In some situations. “order of magnitude” guesstimations work well.. This is what meditation and fasting can address. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . Dr.

. So. the following approach also works: What often keeps us from seeing the truth is the confabulatory predisposition of our ‘internal monologue’. This “levels the playing field in the brain a bit”. shamanic experience is very different from ordinary reality.. more like dreaming. as needed.How to know early when we are wrong (II) Surprisingly. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . so if we can temporarily ‘deliberately sabotage’ that. (“Sonic driving”). . The non-verbal departments of the brain “talk in (often strange) images”. that unfortunately have little to do with reality”. by making the work of those departments more difficult that are involved in “spinning on more and more of the confabulatory explanations. Dr. One very efficient technique to do so is exposing oneself to a loud regular acoustic rhythm (“shamanic drumming”) in the range of 4-7 Hz. this may open up entirely new perspectives.

you have stopped following Truth”: Truth is a pathless land (J.How to know early when we are wrong (III) .. J. their value often lies in generating new perspectives to overcome mental blockades.. Therefore. As a related issue: there is one known case where a religious leader dissolved his own order as he saw that “as soon as you follow organized belief. “The empire hates the drum”. For sure. oppressive ideologies that claim truth for themselves cannot allow people to have access to independent means of getting an idea about when something is seriously wrong. While such dreams easily can be wrong. Krishnamurti). Shamanism will not be covered here! Dr. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .

they all stem from one common root: Advanced protocols for Truth-Seeking. he did quite much of his important work in South Africa (cf. (Remember: As we have seen. including healthcare. “Satyagraha in South Africa”). While his many achievements superficially encompass a range of very different issues.Truth Back to Gandhi: While he is most well known for his role in India’s process of achieving independence from Great Britain. knowing that this is a permanently elusive task. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . nothing makes as blind for Truth as firmly believing to “Finally Have found Truth”!) Dr.

Truth and Conflict As Orwell observed. truth-seeking is intimately linked with dealing with conflict – and. this often happens on the battlefield. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . So. not surprisingly. Dr. when a deeply held false belief bumps into reality. Gandhi often was involved in sorting out conflicts.

Hence the key notion of Strategy. This way of thinking leads to the idea of applying Truth-Finding Protocols to conflict. ideas flow such as What do I need to know in order to understand why the opposing party believes to have a valid point? Dr. Thomas Schelling won the “Bank of Sweden Prize in honour of Alfred Nobel” (often called the “Nobel Prize in Economics”) for work related to his book “The Strategy of Conflict”. ideas flow such as How do we use our nuclear arsenal as a diplomatic tool to maximize the pressure on “the Russians”? A very different perspective is that Conflicts arise for a reason (which may – and often is – quite non-obvious to the parties involved). ultimately aiming at getting both parties to collaborate on finding out what it actually is they are at war about. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .Conflict Protocols In 2005. This essentially is based on the view of “Conflict-as-a-game-to-be-played” (to maximize personal outcome). From this. From this approach.

Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . as claimed.Conflict and Human Nature: “Non-Violence” We will see that. The fundamental idea is to ally with the strongest force present in any conflict. the term “non-violence” is a misnomer and leads to a number of misleading interpretations. Dr. So. which is the opponent’s need to keep up a positive self-image. an interesting radical alternative to the way we usually think about behaving in a conflict is to behave in such a way that the opponent must choose between using violence at the cost of getting into serious conflict with their positive self-image and starting to work with one’s own party to find out what the deeper nature of the problem is that started the conflict – and how to address this.

some Indians were very industrious and also competent enterpreneurs. Unfortunately to them.Example: The “Three Pound Tax” When Britain tried to produce sugarcane in South Africa. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . they had to use a different source of labour and used indentured labourers from India. men taking care of livestock). Dr. they encountered the problem that they could not use Zulu men to do field labour (“women’s work” in Zulu culture. so the risk of being outperformed economically was very real to the British (a small minority in numbers in South Africa. So. This is. Getting rid of the “Three Pound Tax” was one of Gandhi’s major achievements in South Africa and helped him refine the details of his “non-violent” approach to conflict resulution. of course the Indian interpretation of the situation only (as provided by Gandhi). after all) – so they tried to address this problem by introducing a (financially crippling) tax to be paid by the Indians. An interesting question certainly is how the British self-justified this tax.

one makes sure that should any violence be used in the conflict.02. a number of specific rules immediately flow from the adoption of the principle of behaving in such a way that.Rules for Non-Violent Campaigns When striving to abolish grave injustice (a highly relevant issue these days!). this will hurt the opposing party’s self-image of “being the good guys”.1930. with respect to how they follow from the basic principle. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach 1 . while standing firm1 to one’s point. Note: there is an important but slightly subtle distinction between firm and stubborn 2 “Some Rules of Young India. 23. one after another. and why they are necessary. as quoted from the Wikipedia article on “Satyagraha” Dr. Let us hence briefly evaluate each of the 19 ‘guidelines’ given2 . Gandhi articulated such a set of rules. which are readily understood with this underlying idea in mind.

Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Harbour no anger Dr.

Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Suffer the anger of the opponent Dr.

Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Never retaliate to assaults or punishment. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . but do not submit. to an order given in anger Dr. out of fear of punishment or assault.

Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Voluntarily submit to arrest or confiscation of your own property Dr. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .

defend that property (non-violently) from confiscation with your life Dr.Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns If you are a trustee of property. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .

Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Do not curse or swear Dr. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .

Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Do not insult the opponent Dr. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .

Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Neither salute nor insult the flag of your opponent or your opponent’s leaders Dr.

Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns If anyone attempts to insult or assault your opponent. defend your opponent (non-violently) with your life Dr. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .

Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns As a prisoner. behave courteously and obey prison regulations (except any that are contrary to self-respect) Dr. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .

Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . do not ask for special favourable treatment Dr.Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns As a prisoner.

Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . do not fast in an attempt to gain conveniences whose deprivation does not involve any injury to your self-respect Dr.Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns As a prisoner.

Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Joyfully obey the orders of the leaders of the civil disobedience action Dr.

Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Do not pick and choose amongst the orders you obey. if you find the action as a whole improper or immoral. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . sever your connection with the action entirely Dr.

do not expect them to provide such support Dr. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Do not make your participation conditional on your comrades taking care of your dependents while you are engaging in the campaign or are in prison.

Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Do not become a cause of communal quarrels Dr. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .

in the case of inter-religious conflict. but assist only that party which is demonstrably in the right. give your life to protect (non-violently) those in danger on either side Dr.Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Do not take sides in such quarrels. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .

Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Avoid occasions that may give rise to communal quarrels Dr. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .

Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .Rules for Satyagraha Campaigns Do not take part in processions that would wound the religious sensibilities of any community Dr.

and has nothing whatsoever to do with “passive resistance” (with which it frequently gets confused). this utilised insult. the activists – wrongly – believed what they did to be “non-violent”. this is not for the cowardly.) The non-violent approach – in extreme cases – exposes participants to as much risk of being maimed and killed due to violent opponent action as does the violent approach. . so while no physical harm was done. in essence. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach 3 ... (Still. is about: When a group of activists climbed onto the German Reichstag to unroll a banner “Der Deutschen Wirtschaft” (“For The German Economy”)3 on top of the inscription “Dem Deutschen Volke” (“For The German People”). Dr. ‘Industry’ would convey the idea better how native speakers interpret this message. Maybe. this would not qualify as adhering to the principles of non-violence. So.Widespread (False) Perception of Non-Violence (I) The view presented in this talk exhibits a number of issues where our culture generally seems to mis-understand what “non-violence”.

(Because everybody freaks out fairly soon if confronted with the task of having to find some excuse that explains why. This is accepted. and unreliable. the own party is the only one causing any harm: It would appear more promising trying to resist gravity than the conflict between the self-image and observed self-behaviour. (as Gandhi demonstrated many times over). There is a difference between justice and law. When adhering to the principles of non-violence. one possible outcome of striving for justice when the law is unjust is ending up in jail. and usually lasting ones. then.. However. it is an extremely reliable method that quickly leads to solutions.Widespread (False) Perception of Non-Violence (II) .) Dr. for it shines a strong light on the problems with the legal system. Non-violence may seem slow to work. in a conflict. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach ..

Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .So. . what. after all. If non-violence is such a strong tool. . would happen if the non-violent protocol to approach conflicts were adopted by both sides. ? Dr. . .

but a “method to get the opponent to jointly work towards finding root causes and productive solutions”. but handles it in such a way that it cannot see the fundamental issue upon which the opposing party’s interpretation rests. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . Dr. suggestions for joint ways forward. originally completely unexpected. one is usually safe to assume that each side got something right that is quite fundamental. In a bitter conflict. but still seriously confused) understanding of the deeper nature of conflict). it is important to realize (and remind oneself) that non-violence is not a “strategy for defeating the enemy” (in Schelling’s (celebrated. How can they get together to join up their incomplete views onto a complex situation to get a more complete picture – which may lead to very surprising.What examples from history say Here.

it collapses due to desertation of its followers. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . There is no value in unnecesarily staying on the wrong path – certainly not for the purpose of “staying consistent with former (false) beliefs” Dr. if a campaign has gone badly wrong.On Being Wrong Note that the Satyagraha Rules contain a ‘mechanism for apoptosis’: They try to ensure that.

how the Amish came into existence). always look out for those who get attacked by both sides.A word of advice In any bitter struggle.g. (Consider e. Dr. and how they can be reconciled. for that may well be because they are actually the ones that have an idea about what part of each side’s interpretation is valid. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .

. such as health. Using our primitive ways of reasoning. . Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . the perspective is that. 4 Still in need of a better name. ”’ But – as Gandhi demonstrated – the principle of “Seeking Truth as a Journey” is applicable to very different aspects of life as well. Here. ‘Organic Warfare’.Truth: An alternative perspective The application of “the non-violent principle”4 towards conflict tends to emphasize the idea “Truth is something very real. we are discovering a small number of these. anyone? Dr. things are as they are for particular reasons (very often: the co-evolutionary context that multiple parts of the world provide to one another). and strong enough to mercilessly break your neck should you keep on stubbornly ignoring each and every sort of feedback you get. we human beings comprehend these interactions very imperfectly – but may reasonably assume that there are plenty of subtle harmonious interactions in the living world. in this world. and piece by piece.

color. If some of these properties give us a clue how things could fit together. Dr. Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach . and how the world around us behaves. may be governed by cooperation principles mostly unknown to us. then getting our affairs sorted out becomes an activity much like solving a jigsaw puzzle (but with more than one possible solution): we have to look closely for minute hints (shape. So. we can deduce that studying details to find out what could match with what in which way can bring great benefits. we usually find that the other properties match up as well – even if we would have had much more difficulty spotting this straightway. keeping in mind that what we are and how we behave. pattern of individual pieces).Consequences of the alternative perspective If we can expect most aspects of the world to “click in place” to form a harmonious total if allowed to.

. But does that work? There are striking examples that strongly indicate that such a “philosophy of hidden harmony” is a viable basis for – in particular – designing low-maintenance-effort systems: Masanobu Fukuoka: Natural Farming Bill Mollison: Permaculture Dr. . . Thomas Fischbacher Gandhi’s Approach .