Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film Gandhi presents a realistic and mostly chronological account of the Indian political activist’s life. The film “Gandhi” begins at the end, however, and shows Gandhi being shot by an assassin at a public event. This is followed by a scene with thousands of mourners, making it clear that when Gandhi died it was a national tragedy. Let me state, at the outset, that I probably possess the minimum credentials for writing about Gandhi. Yes, I have seen Richard Attenborough's movie, but I have not read a single book written by the Mahatma, or even one about him. It would be pretentious - and false - to declare that Gandhi has been a source of inspiration throughout my life or even now, he is just a man. He has entered my thoughts on only a very few occasions (school, and the movie). There is no doubt that Gandhi was one of the towering personalities of the twentieth century. When you consider that, in the present time, the world's sole superpower - with all the financial and military resources at its disposal - is unable to control a country that is a fraction of its size and wealth - Gandhi's achievement becomes truly remarkable. That he had the resourcefulness to take on what was then the world's mightiest empire; that, too, without any conventional weapons or a standing army, is amazing. That he succeeding in driving the British out of his country is astonishing beyond belief. It is doubtful if India will ever see the likes of him again. The Movie Gandhi was very interesting. The story of his non-violence movement was incredibly well done. From South Africa to his death, it was filled with points that incited thought. Though it does make him seem exceptional by the way every word from his mouth was reflective, it does present his ideals in a way that contrasts against those so ready to go to violence.
I am not a pacifist, and in fact I believe it the duty of every man to protect the weak. It is the duty of every man to protect his family and sacrifice himself for their sake. This movie however, makes me wonder when I would be willing to use non-violence against an aggressor. Would it be only against an enemy as civilized as the British? Only against an enemy with a free press? Or are there other limits that I’ve not considered or that I’d be willing to go beyond. It is at first very clear to me that I would kill any man that pursues the death of my family. For my own life, however, it is not immediately evident what I would do. Though I also see that I could be convinced that my life could be sacrificed for something greater, and perhaps a nonviolent movement where the aggressors are acting to kill/beat only me and neighbors and not my family is a case where I’d participate, perhaps.
I find his method fascinating. But I also wonder how unique it is to India. In the United States, MLK was not seeking an independent nation, but was suing for equality. This is a victory for nonviolence, but is it the same victory as India? I tend to think not. India was a revolution against a civil occupant, the civil rights movement was a demand for equal rights from a government considered their own. They seem very similar, but I still see critical differences, the demand for native rule (because of civil rights and severe poverty) and the demand for equality in the government differ. Though I think both are appropriate actions, both were dependent on the situation, and I think they were both only possible because of the democratic civil society they both developed in.
In a situation such as China I think a nonviolent movement could be victorious if given a specific goal, and perhaps democracy is such a goal that could be achieved, but the details of the movement must come from the people and be inspired by their history, common culture, and their national strengths. In situations such as Sudan, Ruanda and other developing African nations, I have great doubt that a nonviolent