Sociology and Non-Violence

Like Du Bois, King and Gandhi were social scientific in their approach to the problem of evil, which both viewed as the doing of man. While Du Bois rigorously questioned the idea of God, the concept of God is fundamental to the sociological viewpoint shared King and Gandhi. Both believed that it is man who creates evil and in doing so deceives not only others but ultimately himself. We are all made perfect by a Creator who loves us; and yet, why do we forget His love? What causes the ignorance which causes us to injure one another and how is it self-created? God is not Machiavellian. It is we who act in a way where our means are out of tune with our ends.

In truth, science asks us to question our perceptions by making hypotheses and testing them through experiment. This, modern medicine has prided itself on developing cures for all manner of illnesses, nature has been artificially manipulated to suit human interests, and so forth. Through science, we gain control of nature. Likewise, in religion, we learn that our soul is greater than nature transcending earthly life. The world of the senses is not reliable. Our desires cloud our judgment; our thoughts are prone to change; and our emotions are often fickle. Together, the constitute the lower ego which keeps us bound to nature. And yet, we strive for more: as Sw. Vivekananda said “man is man so long as he is struggling to rise above nature and this nature is both internal and external.” Religion, too, allows us to gain control of our nature–human nature. So why the division?

In their approach to sociology, King and Gandhi sought to transform human behavior by controlling internal desires which are the source of violence. The Sermon on the Mount’s call to turn the other cheek, Christ’s point that we must be “passers by,” the idea of witnessing and detachment in the Gita are all but variations on the same theme: we are souls in transit; this world is not our habitation.

Desire is rooted in the fear of death. When this fear no longer exists, desire becomes love for love is not bound to body; desire, on the other hand, is. Violence is the byproduct of unfulfilled desire; the oppressor violates the oppressed because he desires control and possession over him. As such, violence is rooted in the fear of death. What would change about human behavior if we looked at society in this way?

Gandhi’s understanding of socialism is thus very different from the Soviet and Chinese iterations. Likewise, King too disagreed with most Communists on the question of God. For both, God is necessary in the organization of society for without Him or Her, man becomes merely a tool for “society” and not the end of it. As King put it, man is not made for the state. Rather, the state is made for man.

For instance, Gandhi practiced brahmacharya and did not hold property because he sought to live life knowing that nothing on this earth truly belongs to us, for all is the creation of a God. As Shankara said “endless is my wealth” for nothing belongs to me. It is the notion that a person, place, or an object is “mine” that creates endless misery and violence as we see in the bitter conflicts over land and resources today. Under slavery and colonialism, white people felt that they could lay a claim over the darker races. But this view only robs them of their own humanity for human beings are inherently free. Our soul is free and bound to God alone.

Published by minervasperch

All offerings by R. Divya Nair

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