Before Mahatma Gandhiji’s clear connotation of the method of non-violence came up, it can be said that non-violent methods in the history of the world remained confined to negotiations between countries, states, and people, to avoid war and conflict. After the onset of industrialisation, these methods popped up periodically, in the form of protests which usually used to turn violent. In case of violent methods, they have existed for many centuries, although with serious repercussions on humankind. As people living in the 21st century, all around the world, we have both options available to achieve our objectives. In my opinion, though, non-violence is the preferred method in the mind of humans, while violence is the instinctive choice for an easy solution. It needs to be understood, that violent methods are nothing but an eyewash on problems.
History, both verbal and written, is filled with accounts of wars glorifying the valour of men, and sometimes women. These wars were primarily fought to increase the land area for ruling, sometimes for women, and at times to satisfy a bruised ego. Rulers maintained a large army to show their strength and many spent years fighting wars. What these war accounts fail to show is the casualties of war. There is a need to ask the question “Does violence serve any purpose”? Whenever and whoever has indulged in war or violence, the direct impact has been great damage to resources, including life. The indirect impact has been continuous disruption of normal life with people unable to enjoy regular family life. Whenever war ensued, it took years to regain stability in these regions. Along with this, there is no mention of the impact on the mental and physical health of the people in general. The army life of men required them to be away from their homes during years of their prime physical strength, leaving women to bring up children alone, and fend for themselves for food and protection.
The next question on violence is: “Does violence brings intended results”? If we simply use the frame of goals without involving humans, then sure. If a ruler wanted to annex some land or acquire some resources, then war has the greatest efficiency. If some ruler or country wanted to prove their superiority or greatness, then war is the best method. But this is where the achievement of results ends. Even if there is the annexation of a large piece of land, there is no irrefutable proof that it brought prosperity. In the fight for greatness, there is only death and annihilation of a generation. In recent centuries, war has failed to produce any concrete results. World War I and World War II results were inconclusive, mostly. What everyone remembers is bloodbath and people running for their lives.
America, who is also a superpower, has been unable to achieve anything using violence. Even wars on Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries have not yielded any great results, other than destabilisation of these countries, which may take years to resolve. When it comes to people living normal lives, the use of violence leads to enmity between generations. Also, the use of violence to maintain discrimination between people of different castes, races, genders or nationalities has brought nothing but endless pain.
When people of a higher caste use violence against the people of a lower caste or vice versa, what do they want to achieve? Do they want to kill all the people of lower castes or higher castes? No! In my opinion, they simply have no idea what violence will change. It just brings unhappiness in all sections of society.
The last question on violence is “Does violence impact people who are not even remotely involved”? The answer is yes, it impacts people who are not involved far more, than people who are involved in acts of violence. There is a term called ‘collateral damage’. It represents the situation in which a military-driven attack leads to the killing of innocent people, along with the targeted individual. The countries which are war-ravaged see large a number of deaths among women and children, in addition, to soldiers. The truth is, acts of violence, when used in the long term, lose their significance and purpose. It just becomes an act of barbarism; when people seek to perpetrate violence.
Physical strength also plays an important role in war and violence. The belief that war can be fought only by the best makes it harder for many people to get involved. Violence does not bring long term results nor solutions that are acceptable to all, as violence never involves all. It is just the act of hatred in which people fail to consider others.
Lastly, violence is cyclical, where one act of violence brings out the violence in others, going down to the next generation; making it never-ending. This is also the basis of terrorism. In contrast to violence, non-violence is against any form of killing. The biggest strength of non-violence is it seeks to involve everyone, even those who are weaker physically or are handicapped.
Non-violence seeks to find solutions which can be applied for longer periods. If one looks at the British imperialism, the method they initially applied to govern countries were non-violent and involved trade and business. This allowed them to bring many countries under their rule. As soon as violent methods were adopted by British imperialism, it became difficult for them to sustain their rule. They could only prolong their rule by adopting non-violent methods, like not allowing the adoptive child to rule or division based on castes. But whenever these activities turned violent, it made it difficult for them to sustain their rule.
Similarly, the cold war between Russia and the USA was also a form of non-violent war, by using trade, culture and resources as a mechanism to prove their greatness. Non-violence involves using brainpower, which is definitely limitless, unlike muscle power. The inherent weakness of non-violence is that it requires a large number of people to be involved so that it can be impactful, but surely if it is for the greater good, people are motivated on their own, to get involved in their own way. The industries and workers have existed cooperatively until now, on the basis of negotiations. The human species, by virtue of their brainpower, have both options; to be violent or non-violent, unlike animal species. But the real question they should ask before seeking violent methods is -“Do we have the right to take another human life without any purpose, or simply for our ambitions or desire, or simply for inability to look for alternative methods?”