Tyranny and twitter pacifism

there is reason to think that Gandhi, who after all was born in 1869, did not understand the nature of totalitarianism and saw everything in terms of his own struggle against the British government. …It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary.

Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing? The Russian masses could only practise civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to all of them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukraine famine, it would make no difference.

But let it be granted that non-violent resistance can be effective against one’s own government, or against an occupying power: even so, how does one put it into practise internationally? Gandhi’s various conflicting statements on the late war seem to show that he felt the difficulty of this. Applied to foreign politics, pacifism either stops being pacifist or becomes appeasement.

That is George Orwell discussing Gandhi in 1949. I’ve been reading Orwell’s Collection of Essays. A few weeks ago, on a long flight home, I watched the 1982 Gandhi biography and shared the same thought. Would Gandhi have been as successful under true tyranny?

But tyrannical control over mass media is slipping away. From Tehran to Harare, the opposition has used twitter, texts, and the web to bring mass movements into being. Is a new age of pacifism possible?

7 thoughts on “Tyranny and twitter pacifism

  1. Pingback: EconTech » Links for 2009.10.01

  2. Well, one thing about Gandhi is that he was probably fully aware that his actions would cause violent reactions. To understand the Quit India campaign without reference to other, violent, groups involved or the violent resistance of the British is to look at it with one eye.

    For an alternative approach, see the Wretched of the Earth. Or history – how have most tyrannies been overthrown? From within the political structure (which includes the military in such places), through external intervention or through mass action, which normally either provokes or actively embraces violence. From within usually replaces tyranny with tyranny; foreign intervention has unintended (or intended) consequences with a terrible human cost, as we see today; and through mass action and usually mass violence causes chaos and large scale loss of life. There is very unlikely to be a clean, win-win response to tyranny.

  3. Would Gandhi have been as successful under true tyranny?
    Does that question imply that the Indians were not living under a tyranny? We tend to make judgment using the West template that describe word with pejorative connotation by always seeing the others as the bad guy. Given the context in which Gandhi was fighting, I would have been successful no matter what. The British were a mere shadow of themselves after WWII. The country was in shamble and indebted through its neck; the country becomes a second rate power. It was futile to oppose any resistance o the Indians aspiration to self determination. The only credit that we can give the British is that they know when the balance of power is not in they favor, the next strategic step is to back off to avoid being sunk. However, in the process they wreck havoc the sub-continent by dividing it into two countries along religious line. Gandhi was aware of the atrocity that the British committed while he was a public servant of his Majesty in South Africa. I think that his non violence struggle was a tactic before moving to the next step.