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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Gandhi heir teaches lessons of peace

By Jay Yaws/reporter

Facing prejudice as a child, Arun Gandhi would train himself to fight back at bullies who persecuted him.

Today, however, he continues in his grandfather’s legacy of nonviolent protest.

The final speaker in Phi Theta Kappa’s seminar series Gold, Gods and Glory: the Global Dynamics of Power, Gandhi, founder of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Memphis, Tenn., described ways to achieve power through nonviolence in his presentation Lessons Learned from My Grandfather.

The grandson of India’s Father of the Nation and world-renowned political activist Mohandas K. Gandhi, Arun Gandhi grew up in South Africa during apartheid and suffered great persecution.

When he was 12, his parents sent him to live with his grandfather in India, where he began learning the philosophy and techniques of nonviolent protest.

Mohandas Gandhi believed that anger is the first step toward nonviolence. While it can lead to violence, if it is recognized and channeled correctly, it will instead lead to peace and understanding.

Likening violence to electricity, Arun Gandhi said violence can be dangerous when it is out of control, yet helpful when suppressed, as when a light switch is turned on and off.

One tactic he described to control anger is keeping an anger journal. The technique, taught to him by his grandfather, should be used to discover what it is that has made people angry and, rather than leaving it at that, to discover a solution for that anger.

“If we have no intent to solve anger,” he said, “then there is no hope for a peaceful solution.”

While he said there is a nonviolent solution for most, if not all, problems, views on peacekeeping have become obscured. Gandhi said that change is evident in the war in Iraq.

“We have become disaster relief,” he said.

The media, which can be used to spread the message of nonviolent protest, focus on what garners ratings.

“[The media] can be positive, but it is up to them to decide which side they’re on,” he said. “If violence sells, it will air.”

Drawing from his own experiences as a child, Gandhi recalled a situation in which his father used the power of nonviolence to influence him.

After a long day of running errands, Gandhi got sidetracked at a movie theater and was late picking his father up from a conference. Knowing his father was worried and not wanting to admit the truth, Gandhi claimed the mechanic did not have their car ready.

His father, having already called the mechanic, told his son, “There is something wrong about the way I brought you up to make you think you can’t tell me the truth.”

With that, his father walked home 18 miles in the dark.

Gandhi said that this tactic worked much more effectively than a traditional punishment would have.

“Instead of punishing, parents should teach, show what was wrong and help reform.”

This tactic worked because Gandhi and his father had a relationship with each other, which is something he said all the world’s countries need to embrace.

“We need to build relationships to pursue nonviolence while, instead, we talk about it as if it is a convenient strategy,” he said. “We are not here by accident; we will only know our purpose when we know our role in creation.”

The biggest problem in the world’s reluctance to relate with one another is not seeing each other as people, but as labels. Gandhi said if people remove the labels, they will see all people are the same.

The United States has proved itself to be a superpower in the world in terms of physical and economic influence, but Gandhi said the nation should be a superpower based on moral strength.

“We need to focus on what’s best for the world, not just us,” he said. “The United States, 3 percent of the world’s population, uses 45 percent of the world’s resources.”

Gandhi said that needs to stop.

“If we preserve our ecology and no one else does, it will be for nothing. We cannot sit idly in our borders while the whole world is going down the drain.”

To build toward nonviolence and relationships with other countries and people, Gandhi said people should act not out of pity, but out of compassion.

Instead of thinking about what one would get out of a relationship, be it support from another nation or the self-gratifying thought of “doing a good deed,” he said people should embrace others because they are people rather than exploit them for one’s own good.

Gandhi said while people constantly exploit one another, they must build positive relationships to achieve a culture of nonviolence.

“Relationships, ideally … must be built on the four positive principals of respect, understanding, acceptance and appreciation,” he said.

Bill Smith, professor of criminal justice, moderated a discussion following the seminar.

“Are we capable, as a society, to be nonviolent?” he asked.

One student responded, “Nonviolence wouldn’t work now since everything has changed.”

“Violence is required to achieve goals,” another said.

Smith said, “Violence should not be used to destroy, but to build.”

Using the example that this generation’s parents and grandparents “stopped [the Vietnam] war,” he said everybody today is a follower.

Drawing upon his personal experiences with nonviolent protest, Smith said he sees validity in the methods, but not enough people willing to take a risk and make a change.

“We have a society of followers,” he said. “We’re missing people who are willing to be leaders.”

Gandhi said he strives for a worldwide society based upon love and respect rather than hate and prejudice.

The optimal way to achieve peace, he said, is through nonviolence, and for those willing to step up and practice it, the best results will come in time.

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