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One quick note this time. There is a lot to absorb in Satyagraha, but I am taking it in slowly (around 2 chapters per day), and the ideas are beginning to stick a little bit.

1. Revisiting a point I made in my last post about Gandhi, it still impresses me how often Gandhi says that non-violence is something a practitioner should die for. The process does not work if you are not laying your life on the line. Otherwise it cannot be taken seriously, and you are not truly committed.

This also applies to arrests and imprisonment. According to Gandhi, a Satyagrahi is not to complain or resist arrest in any way. This seems entirely counter-intuitive to our current conception of non-violent resistance – which seems to largely consist of provoking people until the police arrive, so you can “resist” the police. That’s not what Gandhi’s idea of resistance is about. What a Satyagrahi resists is participation in an unjust system: you are supposed to be demonstrating that you would rather make large sacrifices than cooperate in a government or other organization that uses violence to enforce an unjust set of circumstances. For example, unfair taxation; an occupation of an entire nation by a colonial power; slavery; things like that. You demonstrate your non-participation by giving things up: your privileges, honors, posts and – scary thought these days – your jobs, to convince the offenders that you will not submit to any system that does not fit your morals.

This is not how Occupy Wall Street is (was? is it still going?) operating – or really any modern protest I’ve seen recently, including the protests against SOPA/PIPA. Interestingly, Maddox, of “The Best Page in the Universe” and “Alphabet of Manliness” fame, has offered a plan for action against SOPA that seems to be the closest to Gandhi’s principles. It’s not quite there, as he is essentially suggesting that corporations that support SOPA/PIPA should be punished with boycotts – and punishment is explicitly excluded from Satyagraha – but he is the only person I have yet heard who has insisted that protests are meaningless without personal sacrifice. If there are more, please comment and let me know.

This brings up the question: what kinds of non-violent sacrifices can we make that would really change how our government and society at large work?


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