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Monday, March 10, 2014

Restraint

We pretend to believe that retaliation is the law of our being, whereas in every scripture we find that retaliation is nowhere obligatory but only permissible. It is restraint that is obligatory. Retaliation is indulgence requiring elaborate regulating. Restraint is the law of our being.

 - MK Gandhi, Young India, March 9, 1922

 

One way to refuse cooperation with a regime is to engage in Method 122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance:

In many situations, the making of speeches and the publication and distribution of literature which call on people to undertake some form of nonviolent noncooperation or nonviolent intervention themselves become acts of defiance and resistance.  This is especially so in those countries where any call for resistance, especially for illegals acts of resistance, is itself illegal or seditious.

Now sedition is a rather subjective thing, and often used too loosely to describe a variety of acts.  I think colloquially it is taken to mean "advocating stuff that upsets the status quo."  Sometimes it's criminal.

We in the US have had a long history, from the Alien and Sedition Acts passed in during John Adams' tenure in 1798 to the Sedition Act of 1918 under Woodrow Wilson to the Smith Act that was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt (and remains on the books to this day).  Sadly, there are plenty of examples of trying to suppress dissent in the recent past, too.

You most likely know where I'm headed with this.  On the same date that Gandhi wrote in Young India about non-violence, he also instructed people what to do in case he was arrested:

The rumour has been revived that my arrest is imminent. It is said to be regarded as a mistake by some officials that I was not arrested when I was to be...It is said, too, that it is now no longer possible for the Government to withstand the ever-rising agitation in London for my arrest and deportation. I myself cannot see how the Government can avoid arresting me if they want a permanent abandonment of civil disobedience, whether individual or mass.

I advised the Working Committee to suspend mass civil disobedience...becauae that disobedience would not have been civil, and if I am now advising all provincial workers to suspend even individual civil disobedience, it is because I know that any disobedience at the present stage will be not civil but criminal. A tranquil atmosphere is an indispensable condition of civil disobedience. It is humiliating for me to discover that there is a spirit of violence abroad and that the Government of the United Provinces has been obliged to enlist additional police...

He also admonished his followers to not engage in any demonstrations or hartal upon his arrest, nor should they revive mass civil disobedience, and they should strictly adhere to the principles of non-violence.  

Gandhi was, in fact, arrested at Ahmedabad late at night on March 10, under Section 124, Indian Penal Code.  His parting words were that "all who bore patriotism and love for India should strain every nerve to propagate peace and goodwill all over India, among all communities."

The authorities charged Gandhi with sedition for writing three articles in Young India:

Fans of Attenborough's movie might remember a stirring court scene that encapsulated the "Great Trial" which ended with this statement (necessarily summarized in the film) on March 18:

I know that I was playing with fire. I ran the risk, and if I were set free I would still do the same. Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also last article of my creed. I know that my people have sometimes gone mad. I am sorry for it. Their crime consisted in the love of their country.

I am here to submit not to a light penalty but to the highest Penalty. In my opinion, non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good Nonviolence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-co-operation with evil. I am here to invite and submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be the inflected upon me for what in law is a deliberated crime and what appears to me be the highest duty of a citizen.

The only cause open to, judge, is either to resign post and thus dissociate yourself from evil if you feel that the law you are called upon to administer is evil and that I am innocent or to inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this country and that my activity is therefore injurious to the public weal.

He was sentenced to six years in prison, though he was released early because of illness (he was 53 at that point and had an appendectomy two years into his prison term).  Wonder if the CEO of Hobby Lobby would be willing to demand the harshest penalty of law to defend his principles and effect change...

ntodd

March 10, 2014 in Conscience, Pax Americana | Permalink

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Comments

Gandhi was fighting against privilege; the CEO of Hobby Lobby is fighting for it.

And to defend his misunderstanding about the nature of one particular form of birth control. So he's also fighting for his own facts, as well as his own law.

Posted by: Rmj | Mar 11, 2014 7:49:27 AM

Wait, you're saying that David Green is NOT so principled as Gandhi? But I thought he was defending FREEEEEEEDOM!

Posted by: NTodd | Mar 11, 2014 8:31:21 AM

Yeah, we've really got to nail that concept down a bit tighter.

It's starting to flap in the breeze.

Posted by: Rmj | Mar 11, 2014 12:54:37 PM

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