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Case #749

Terrorism and the Practical Idealist


A contemporary Quaker reflects on Gandhi's political philosophy and strategies. He speculates on how we could lay aside our (USA) empire building ambitions and become peaceful and accountable leaders in today's post 9/11 world.


THE STRATEGY: "As a Quaker attender, I was introduced to Gandhi, another practical idealist, who was determined to put "the ploughshare of normative principle into the hard soil of political reality," as Martin Buber put it. These days we might say Gandhi thought outside the box. No one could say Gandhi was an idealist removed from the power struggles of his time. How can the USA build on Gandhi's ideas and actions to create a more peaceful leadership role in the world?

WHAT WOULD WORK: (1) Organize nonviolently locally and spread to a national level. (2) Grieve deeply and set aside time for praying and searching. (Gandhi's style was "from the inside out"; he expected wisdom to emerge from the inner surrender to Truth, and he found that this spiritual work could be a collective process as well as individual.) (3) Put the (USA) response to al-Qaida in the framework of law enforcement rather than war. (It is obvious that normal conditions for law enforcement don't exist for this case, and Gandhi might see that as both a challenge and an opportunity. Gandhi's genius as a visionary leader was to make his immediate actions point toward the emergence of something-not-yet-realized (4) Believe in the consistency of ends and means. (Gandhi knew that without a vision the people perish. And he insisted on the means/ends linkage; he saw means or methods of action as ingredients that largely determine the future.) (5) Be able to perceive the possibility of a new emergent order in the midst of chaos first; and second, to refuse to undermine that possibility by means that make the emergence impossible. (6) Operate politically from the moral high ground. (The US lost this position following 9/11 with the decision to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.) (7) Like Gandhi, bring humor to the table. (8) The USA should become an accountable state among states. (9) (Let's) forge a new relationship that's not about the Cold War, not about oil, but about the interdependence that provides the only path to security for all our peoples. (10) In Afghanistan, support the creation of a peace zone throughout the country, where the focus is on food, shelter, healthcare, and infrastructure. (11) Remember, the success of terror depends on the reaction of the opponent, a condition the U.S. power holders are dutifully satisfying. (12) Ask, "Are we really willing to do whatever it takes to shift away from the paradigm of rule by reliance on violence and the protection of privilege? What about getting out of the box, giving up the dominator role, addressing poverty, and supporting the growth of world community rather than empire?" (13) If the power holders continue to cling to empire, I propose that a representative group of U.S. Friends gather to consider how to ground ourselves as Quakers who are willing to let go of empire while remaining U.S. citizens.

IMPORTANT POINTS: (1) Human security is a basic need; perhaps it could prevail over power and greed. (2) Also read by George Lakey, "Grassroots and Nonprofit Leadership: A Guide for Organizations in Changing Times," 2002. Also, read any of the readily available works by and about Gandhi.
Location: US
Action: Political, Education/P.R.
Setting: Developed World
Extent of Action: Personal
Issues: Human Rights, Peace/Conflict Resolution
Year(s): 2001
Outcome concept (promising but not tried)
Source: Friends Journal, February 2002, p. 8


George Lakey, Training for Change, www.trainingforchange.org
Prepared By: sl, 4/06
Rating: 1
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