It’s interesting the way that Gandhi learned the strategies of non-cooperation only after having lived the consequences of not doing so. In this instance when he used the above language, for example, he is in India planning his first major non-cooperation campaign against the British Raj (rule), and the lesson from which he is drawing has very likely to do with a friendship he had as a young man.
Gandhi was driven by the intention to help his friend, and all he did was get into trouble with him. He later realized that if he had really wanted to help his friend, he needed to resist him. He felt that arriving at this understanding was a turning point in his life. He learned that we can be “for” a person and still against their behavior and actions, and the only way to show that we are “for” that person’s well-being is to resist them. And if it applies to individuals, for Gandhi, it has to also work in society (and hence our personal lives become training grounds in lessons about humanity and the laws that govern us!).
Still, with a statement such as this one about non-cooperation, some might misunderstand its full implications. It is important that we understand Gandhi for who he was. Gandhi would never tell us not to support a person as a person. Rule Numero Uno in nonviolence: never degrade a human being; and everyone is a human being, even those who are doing major harm are people. Secondly, he would not in any way advise us to scapegoat an individual for an entire system of wrongs, even if that person is perpetuating a wrong. He would encourage us, by his example even, to support that person in every way except in their exploitation or violence. Nurture the part of the person that is the weakest in order to strengthen it. Then, make room for them to be reintegrated into the fabric of the community that they were helping to tear apart. This takes, Gandhi forewarns us, a willingness to take on some of the suffering of a situation in order to transform it: respond to inhumanity by resisting it on all levels; thus showing the true power of our full humanity.
Do you have a friend–or a government– who you need to resist in order to show that you care for their well-being? What strategies could you take to engage this resistance with care and compassion?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com