Gandhi believed that non-violent resistors can act as mirrors to their opponents and awaken their sense of moral shame. The opponent will then act with justice and both sides will reach agreement....

Gandhi believed that non-violent resistors can act as mirrors to their opponents and awaken their sense of moral shame. The opponent will then act with justice and both sides will reach agreement. Do you agree that this is true? What problem do you see with this philosophy?  

Asked on by inuseproxy

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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This philosophy is one that is very idealistic in its assumptions about human nature. It is grounded within a long Indian religious tradition (especially Buddhist, although Gandhi himself was Hindu) of non-violence. When Mahatma Gandhi applied this philosophy in India, he was successful, but it can be argued that the success was primarily due to the leverage India had during World War II, namely the ability to demand independence as the price of supporting the Allies. 

This philosophy of non-violent resistance has also been successful in the process of ending apartheid in South Africa (under the leadership of Nelson Mandela) and in the efforts of Martin Luther King to end racial segregation in the United States. Although neither of these efforts has been an unqualified success, they do prove that non-violent resistance can succeed.

The limitations of this philosophy are that its success depends on one's oppressor being inherently rational and moral. Many of the white South Africans, British, and Americans who were the targets of non-violent resistance already had moral qualms about their actions. The same tactics might not be effective against a Hitler or Stalin, who would be more likely to slaughter opponents than to use them as moral mirrors.

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