Peaceful Means for Peaceful Ends
By Andy Wistreich
Recently the opera Satyagraha by Philip Glass was broadcast live to 57 different countries around the world from the New York Met. Glass, soon to be 75 is seen by many as the greatest composer alive. He wrote this opera in honour of Gandhi’s non-violent protest movement named Satyagraha, which is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘insistence on truth’.
On the BBC’s World at One programme the day before the screening, Glass pointed out that Gandhi’s non-violent movement against the British in India is mirrored in the current protests of the Occupy movement. Although the police in Oakland and New York have used force to evict protesters, the protesters themselves have consistently used non-violent resistance to communicate their message.
The same principles underlie the Occupy Bristol protest at College Green, according to Mark, one of the original protesters who I spoke to when I visited recently. He told me that even if force is eventually used to evict them from College Green, the intention of the protesters is not to use violence in retaliation. He told me that it is integral to their message, that the world coming through the changes they seek in the economic system should be peaceful. Like me he seems to believe that the means used conditions the nature of the end results.
In explaining the meaning of Satyagraha Mahatma Gandhi said that satya meaning Truth indicates love, while agraha meaning firmness brings about force for change. He began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, by which he meant “the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence.”
Maybe we can bring about the necessary changes to make our world a better place through just this loving truth and firmness, and so create a society based on the needs of all of humanity rather than on the interests of the rich and powerful.