While there is no reason to believe solutions to all problems flow from the barrel of a gun, there is no reason to believe all problems can be solved peacefully. My grandfather, Mohandas K. Gandhi, an undisputed votary of peace and nonviolence in the modern world, wrote in 1934: "The world is not entirely governed by logic. Life itself involves some kind of violence, but we have to chose the path of least violence."
Civilization to Gandhi meant peaceful co-existence. Instead, the more our civilization progresses, the more violent human society appears to become. Consequently, the question humanity faces is not the relevance of violence or nonviolence but the stark reality of nonviolence or nonexistence. Our capacity to kill has become frighteningly sophisticated, and the sharper our weapons become the shorter our tolerance.
If the peace movement wants to gain momentum and support, it must remember its struggle is not against people but policies; that the work for peace is a continuous exercise and not just when war becomes imminent; that there are some issues that cannot be solved peacefully; that in a peaceful struggle there is no room for anger, hate, taunting or any action that would evoke disgust; that the only weapons in the armory of a pacifist are love and suffering.
Gandhi once wrote to my father, Mailal, his second son entrusted with leading the nonviolent struggle in South Africa:
"To understand nonviolence one must first understand violence and its two distinct aspects -- physical and passive. Passive violence in the form of discrimination, oppression, exploitation, hate, anger and all the subtle ways in which it manifests itself gives rise to physical violence in society. To rid society of this physical violence, we must act now to eliminate passive violence."
It may seem strange to many pacifists, but appearance and dress play just as important a role in a nonviolent struggle as proper strategy. Take Gandhi, for example, or even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Gandhi changed to a skimpy loin cloth, because he wanted to be one with the poorest whom he was leading in the struggle for independence and social change. If he had attempted to lead the impoverished masses of India in Western clothes or even in fashionable Indian clothes, he would not have been acceptable to the people. The masses need a leader they can identify with, making dress and appearance as important as sincerity and honesty.
Dr. King faced the same dilemma when he returned from India after studying Gandhi's techniques. He wanted to adopt a simple dress as Gandhi had done but quickly realized he would become an outcast in his society instead of a leader. Gandhi used to say dress and discipline are as important in a peace army as they are in a regular army. Millions are spent on the dress and appearance of soldiers in an army for good reason. They must appear pleasing to the eye and command respect, an objective the peace army cannot ignore.
While many experts have been called upon to analyze various aspects of the Gulf war, no one has given significant thought to the most pertinent question: Why does the world periodically give birth to Saddam Husseins and Hitlers? It would be naive to assume that they are born evil. Hindu philosophy denies that anyone can be born evil. People are made evil by forces and circumstances that prevail.
The United States, with its tremendous resources, would do the world a great service if it were to initiate an international dialogue to find out what forces have been unleashed to make the world so wicked and violent. During the 20th century alone, the world consumed more than 300 million lives in known and recorded wars. How many died in frequent rioting and street violence is not known. The world is on the threshold of the 21st century and also on the brink of a violent conflagration.
Can we effectively counter this violence with more violence? Can the power to survive flow from the barrel of a gun? Conversely, can peace be wrought merely by prayer? A thousand questions defy logical answers.
Gandhi had the optimism to believe we can achieve the goal where love and law are one. He wrote categorically: "The world of tomorrow will be, must be, a society based on nonviolence. It may seem a distant goal, an unpractical Utopia. But it is not in the least unobtainable. An individual can adopt the way of life of the future -- the nonviolent way -- without having to wait for others to do so. And if an individual can do it, cannot whole groups of individuals? Human beings often hesitate to make a beginning because they feel the objective cannot be achieved. This attitude of mind is precisely our greatest obstacle to progress." The writer is director of the M. K. Gandhi Foundation.