Lessons from Mahatma Gandhi
Being the leader of the people, Mahatma Gandhi did not only inspire Indian masses but the entire world. He advocated for a non-violence end to conflicts as shown in the attitude he had towards his adversaries. He stood for unity, peace, acceptance, and brotherly love. He was a known revolutionist, a bloodless fighter who managed to get his message across using peaceful methods. He believed an individual liberating himself and depending on each other was essential in the given society. From this, he wrote that every person needed to recognize their rights to stage the revolution, their rights to refuse and resist oppressions from tyrant governments, whose inefficiencies were unbearable. Under the British, the Indians learnt to be interdependent and formed a formidable force to take down the British. Gandhi yearned for the support from his followers, the Indians, while in return he provided the leadership needed through guiding and inspirations. For his actions, he was imprisoned, criticized, and even subjected to violence, but he remained true to his strict policy of non-violent confrontation. He even told his supporters to kill their enemy with kindness, implying that if the Indians did not retaliate with violence, then the British would have no reason to counter-attack. Showing his enemies love at that time would have made them think twice and in the future return their love for him, he believed.
Gandhi was not naive when he indulged into the politics – he knew that the world was never united with love and coexistence, but it was full of conflicts. He knew that his people would struggle to find stability but eventually, as he said, the British people had to realize that their empire had ended and the only way to show it to the British was for India to generate power from within to enforce their will. This meant that the Indians were ready to take over the government and they had proper leadership. Gandhi said that the British only responded to force, this did not mean that the Indians would go into an armed conflict. He said this while commencing the 1930-1931 civil mass disobedience campaign. Although Gandhi could have been assumed easy to intimidate for his stance on non-violence tactics, he was never to be compromised. He rejected an appeal by the British to resolve their issues with India by a conference. He wrote that it was not a matter of carrying the conviction by argument, but only matching forces would resolve the matter. Through his understanding of power, Gandhi knew that a country was ungovernable if its people failed to serve it, and that is how British lost its grip in India.
However, the outcome of the struggle was a divided India across the Hindu and Muslim religions. This could not be blamed on Gandhi, as it was the work of the British who used the divide-and-rule principle while in India. They categorized people according to religion and even supported some Muslim institutions that led to the division of the Muslim Pakistan and the Urdu India. These divisions led to the subsequent bloody riots that claimed lives of both Muslims and Hindus and produced gross violations of human rights. Probably, the British were right that it was not wise leaving such a big country to the Hindus and the Muslim, but still, a time would come when they had to grant India her self-rule.
The war in Iraq has had its fair share of criticism due to the manner it was carried out. It was a war waged on suspicion that there were weapons of mass destruction as well as the country’s assumed allegiance with the terrorist group of Al-Qaeda. Iraq was known to have vast oil resources which were of much interest to the United States, the same way the British had interests in Indian resources. To protect their resources, they had to upstage a revolution, but different from what Gandhi had advocated. The Iraqi retaliation was the tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye. This opened the Pandora’s Box of attacks and counterattacks. Terrorism, as the perpetrators believe, is the solution to injustices. Miserable conditions, hopelessness, poverty, and oppression are believed to fuel terrorism. This means that the United States, before invading Iraq, had to understand what was the real reason for terrorism, instead of just unleashing the force to suppress it. This meant that they had to understand the frustrations and sorrows of a so-called terrorist group. On the other side, the extreme Islamists, who were known to lead the terrorist groups, responded to oppression by violence, as was taught in their Holy Book, and the United States should not have stirred the hornet’s nest. Gandhi had said that showing an enemy kindness would have killed them; I believe that if the United States had taken time and tried to show the Iraqis some friendship, the toll that the Iraqi war has claimed would have been minimal. Just like the British who created divisions in India, the United States were alleged to have installed the leadership in Iraq during the 1970s cold war. This leadership is the one that caused oppression to its citizens and posed a threat to international security, eventually inviting warfare.
This war draws the lesson that violence is not an answer to a conflict. The United States has spent trillions of dollars in this war, lost many soldier’s lives, leaving a devastated country and a very fragile government. The Indians used non-violence tactics and the British left. The United States has used violence, yet there is still an imminent threat of terrorist attacks in the United States in addition to the internal conflicts in Iraq. Probably, if United States used other methods apart from the armed combat, maybe the storyline would be different. Gandhi preached non-violence; likewise, the US should have left Iraqis to resolve their own problems, instead of interjecting and fueling the conflict that will take long to end.