There are two recent articles on climate activism and non-violence which are open to challenge. What is the basis of the non-violence and why is it so dominant now?
https://www.truthdig.com/articles/extinction-rebellion/ and another at Counterpunch.
The legacy of MLK and Gandhi both is confusing people. The Civil Rights Movement was a special case and it was as much strategic as anything about the morality of violence. Let us recall that slavery was abolished with the Civil War, not exactly an exercise in non-violence.
The case of Gandhi requires examination to see what a crackpot he was and the way his saintly playacting has turned the issue of non-violence into a kind religious axiom haunting the left, the exceptions being the revolutionary socialists and marxists, and others whose violence was often to be sure excessive.
We can easily overlook the hidden idiocy of Gandhi and his embrace of the Bhagavad Gita which he systematically misread: it is a book that explicitly promotes violence as a duty for a warrior (in the context of Hindu caste law. Gandhi’s reading is the most peculiar nonsense. And we must ask, what is the basis for the tactics of nonviolence? We can’t use Gandhi for anything at this point. He can’t even get straight on caste.
Nothing in Hinduism requires non-violence although it has been influenced by Jainism, and the case of Christ is equally dubious, a lot like that of MLK. We have the sermon on the mount, and also Jesus’ explicit proclamation of a violent extreme. We can’t find a coherent doctrine there. Against the backdrop of the Zealots Jesus is hard to figure: we don’t even know if he existed. As soon as the Christians took over Rome, the putative non-violence of Jesus was dropped in a hurry. Christianity and Islam are both jihadic concoctions, and the idea of jihad was born in the Old Testament. You might well argue that violence/jihad destroyed all three religions, but the question of violence finds little axiomatic force. Frankly the Bible can’t help us anymore: its ethics of Moses from Mt. Sinai is a useless myth. The Bible has long since ceased to guide our values. We must find a new way. You can argue that christianity betrayed Jesus, but in the end that argument assumes with materialists that ‘Jesus’ dead had no further influence on his movement. Those with spiritual beliefs do consider otherwise. Stand back, and we see that christianity staged a slow motion coup d’etat of the Roman monstrosity and then assumed all its powers. Who can say what is the real christianity? The will to power was both cleverly nonviolent and in the end very violent indeed. The point is that christianity in politics was not in the end a non-violent movement. These points may be off the mark, who knows, but the point is that figures like Hedges claim they are following Christ in some way. That’s misleading, and claims false authority.
The real source of Gandhi’s thinking is the Jain religion, where non-violence is born as a religious theme taken to an extreme, but only in the context of Jain yogis who fasted unto death and were reluctant to step on insects sweeping a path before them. Note that this was a path to enlightenment, NOT a political tactic. It was the personal path of yogis who chose that path and renounced the world step one. Gandhi completely muddled the issue, and made a botch of the Gita, jainism, and indian politics. Do our current non-violent politicos intend any of this? NO, they are not Jain yogis, so, indifferent to insects, they have betrayed satyagraha and are hardly non-violent. Jainism had its own inner integrity as a true outlier in the realm of religion, but let’s not pretend that we are following that path. Gandhi is simply in a muddle. Many indian religious figures tried to intervene to restrain him, in vain, but we should not be dazzled by the fake gandhian political drama.
So let us set aside that moral hypocrisy of the religions and consider what is the basis then of nonviolence. Impossible to find as we can see.
One thing is clear, if non-violence had prevailed in the early modern democracy would never have emerged. All the gains of modern freedom are the result of violent revolutions and idea of gandian non-violence is a later impostor.
Now it may be that a non-violent movement might be a useful strategy for the climate crisis but reading Hedges here one can only conclude that what he aims for will likely never happen. Let such a movement make its trial. Others may see to find a more vigorous way. The advantage of non-violent movements is that they can proceed inside a state. Violent methods produce violent suppression. We are not dogmatic and we must judge our situation carefully because we are minutes to midnight.
What is needed, however seemingly impossible, is a revolutionary resolution against the thugs of capitalism that control the climate system and the US government. They won’t even blink confronted with a non-violence movement. We don’t as such advocate this: our point is to be clear that if necessary or possible or appropriate we are not forbidden strong and forceful action.
To pick a somewhat absurd example to make a point and which I am NOT advocating: a thousand men slashing the tires of SUV’s could bring capitalism to its knees…
The case can be made that non-violence is the only option given the immense power of the state. Perhaps, but that was always the case. We should consider the point, but at the same time be ready as the circumstance arises. Our point is that in principle a revolutionary approach might arise or be needed. The correct analog is the various wars that truly served history. Consider Hitler: Gandhi advocated giving up and submitting to him in the name of non-violence. The judgment of that false sage was terrible and his imitators can like Hedges subtly control and undermine what might be needed.
We can draw no final confusion here but we should warn the saintly gandhians that we have only a few decades left and a planet at risk. Best to flush out sentimental gandhian nonsense and think clearly about what is needed.