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Gandhi: an approach to nonviolent social change

The book ``Conquest of Violence'' by Joan V. Bondurant (University of California Press, 1965, ISBN 0-520-00145-1) is an excellent summary of both the why and the how of satyagraha, Gandhi's science of social change.

Although nonviolence is the core of satyagraha, there is a lot more to it than that. Here are some relevant points; quoted material is from Bondurant's book.

Gandhi's autobiography is, of course, highly recommended, and I also thought Richard Attenborough's movie ``Gandhi'' was an excellent introduction to the topic.

Once a man came to Gandhi and admitted that he had killed a Muslim in a religious conflict. He felt badly that he had orphaned the Muslim's son. Gandhi suggested that he raise the orphaned son as his own, but insisted that the boy be raised Muslim. This story, to me, sums up the method in a nutshell, especially the principal of respecting the other's point of view.

It is all too easy to demonize the opponent. So often, though, when I find myself hating, later I realize that I am at war with some aspect of myself that I see in the opponent. So this important work, of trying to understand other points of view, ultimately leads to better integration with some of the exiled parts of my own psyche.

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John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 1996/01/21 20:43:30