Remembering Another September 11


September 11, 2006 | bpfna

On September 11, 1906, Mohandas Gandhi convened a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, to mobilize his community to oppose racially degrading legislation. On that September 11, more than 3,000 people solemnly pledged to disobey the proposed law. So began the "Satyagraha" (or truth-force) movement of organized nonviolent action, and the rest is an unfolding history of people-power movements.

From Encyclopædia Britannica:

Satyagraha may be translated from Hindi as “the devotion to truth,” or as “truth force.” A satyagrahi—a person practicing satyagraha—achieves correct insight into the real nature of an evil situation by observing a nonviolence of the mind, by seeking truth in a spirit of peace and love. In so doing, the satyagrahi encounters truth in the absolute. By his refusal to submit to the wrong or to cooperate with it in any way, the satyagrahi asserts this truth. Throughout his confrontation with the evil, he must adhere to nonviolence, for to employ violence would be to lose correct insight. A satyagrahi always warns his opponents of his intentions; satyagraha forbids any tactic suggesting the use of secrecy to one's advantage. Satyagraha includes more than civil disobedience; its full range of application extends from the details of correct daily living to the construction of alternative political and economic institutions. Satyagraha seeks to conquer through conversion; in the end, there is no defeat and no victory but rather a new harmony.

Gandhi drew from the writings of Leo Tolstoy and Henry David Thoreau, from the Christian Bible, and from the Bhagavadgita and other Hindu writings in his formulation of the concept of satyagraha. Satyagraha is also rooted in ahimsa, the Hindu concept of nonviolence. Gandhi first conceived satyagraha in 1906 in response to a law discriminating against Asians that was passed by the colonial government of the Transvaal in South Africa. In 1917 the first satyagraha campaign in India was mounted in the indigo-growing district of Champaran. Over the following years, fasting and economic boycotts were employed as methods of satyagraha.

Pragmatically, the efficacy of satyagraha as a universal philosophy has been questioned. Satyagraha implicitly appears to assume that the opposition will adhere to a certain level of morality to which the satyagrahi's truth may ultimately appeal. Gandhi himself maintained, however, that satyagraha could prevail anywhere because it could convert anyone. 
satyagraha. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved September 11, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9065872

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