|Gandhi dressed as satyagrahi, 1913.|
Periodically, I write in praise of satyagraha, firmness for the truth, non-violent action.
It was the means Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi employed to overthrow British rule of India.
Martin Luther King & many others employed it to overthrow official racial discrimination in the USA.
(I had a tiny role.)
But: what would you do about a Hitler, or the Roman legions—aggressive, amoral, immoral, strong—who will kill or enslave you unless you defeat him or them?
You defeat him or them, if you can.
Satyagraha—non-violent action—is not pacifism. It’s an activity, it’s pro-active. If an enemy will kill you, you have a right, & would be stupid or cowardly not to kill him, her, or them first, if you can.
So, what do you do about Russia (since Stalin) or China (since Mao) or, say, Iran under the mullahs & Ahmadinejad?
You learn what you can from whatever sources are available. You don’t believe all you hear from the so-called authorities, but you don’t believe all you hear from those who always oppose the authorities, either.
If you must, you engage in violence, but you try active non-violent action, first, & as continuously as possible.
Art can be one form of, & one part of your non-violent activity (when it’s “mental warfare”).
More frequently art is mere decoration, or posing, either for money, or for approval, or both.
And what do you do about the aggressive madness of the so-called authorities of your nation or your religion or your culture, etc., who demand your cooperation & obedience?
You do what you can non-violently, for justice, for mercy, for truth, for wisdom. When what the so-called authorities require is such that you can comply while serving justice, mercy, truth, wisdom, you do it; otherwise, you resist.
And you do whatever you can non-violently to change the situation—you don’t wait til it’s either kill or be enslaved or killed.
You decide when & how to cooperate & how much, on an on-going basis, & in each particular instance.
If it becomes kill or be enslaved or killed, then, or course, you must kill, if you can.
Having said which: I use satyagraha, non-violent action. The content of my website, & my books, & my album, & my posters, & my letters to & so-called poems submitted to editors are parts of my non-violent action.
Speaking out at public meetings is part of my non-violent action, too. I prepare.
Whatever useful I see that I can do, I do it.
If I have bad habits or attitudes that retard my acting, I act on those habits or attitudes—to the extent that I become aware of them. It’s often very difficult to face up to my failings, & to mobilize myself to change.
What I can’t do, I habilitate myself, in order to be able to do it.
To the extent that I am able to live up to what I am here saying.
I’m lazy, too. I avoid confronting difficult & frightening knowledge, too.
Often, I don’t see what I can do, or am overcome with exhaustion. And, sometimes, I NEED to refresh myself—re-creation, delights, joys.
And, then, I resume satyagraha.
Satyagraha includes providing for yourself, for the moment, for the day, &, if possible, into the future. Buckminster Fuller once defined wealth as the resources to provide for yourself & your activities, into the future.
If you fail to provide for yourself, you can do no one any good.
If you are always struggling merely to provide for yourself, you can’t do anyone any good, either, unless you are providing for yourself by doing something that is of service to others, which is ideal, especially if what you are doing is of great service to others, especially to others also engaged in satyagraha.
Sometimes, as I can well attest, it’s all you can do to provide for yourself. George Washington led his weary troops to Valley Forge. They avoided battle for years, til they were capable (with the help of the imperial French navy) of defeating their imperial British foe, rather than get beaten once & for all.
Satyagraha can be stupid, of course, but it would be stupid to be stupid. And cowardly to give up.
Introducing what he called Mental Warfare, which, if one would avoid Corporeal Warfare, i.e., violence, one must engage in, or be part of the prevailing oppression, William Blake etched into a metal plate, then printed from it:
“Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Eric Chaet, The Turnaround Artist, born Chicago, USA, 1945, raised on rough South Side, pre-computer factory, office, & warehouse jobs. Some teaching, some independent self-taught technical consulting. 1974, Old Buzzard of No-Man’s Land, poems, Toronto, Canada. 1977, Solid and Sound, vinyl LP of songs, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA. Mid-80s to mid-90s, silkscreened, hitchhiked, & stapled 1500 cloth posters to utility poles along American highways. 1990, How To Change the World Forever For Better, brief prose philosophy, Greenleaf, Wisconsin, USA; 2nd edition, 1994. 2001, People I Met Hitchhiking On USA Highways, mostly narrative prose, De Pere, Wisconsin, USA. Lives in Wisconsin, industrialized dairy farms & cows, remnant cheese & paper factories & factory hands & outlaw mammals & birds, post-construction boom, reactionary politics & obsolete machinery, a smattering of professionals & millionaires. Poems published, over 50 years in many USA states, plus Brazil, Cuba, Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Nepal, India, China, Singapore, Korea, & Taiwan, often in translation.
You can contact him at the Leave a Reply box on each page of his website, 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems, <http://www.ericchaet.
Find Chaet’s book, People I Met Hitchhiking USA Highways, and read a review written here. See also, There’s still a little breath in the old American Revolution, On Job Creation, and Get Used To.