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Creating a Culture of Nonviolence (in 2015)
A Conversation with Arun Gandhi

An Interview by Tiffany Meyer
 

In this interview conversation, Mr. Arun Gandhi, fifth grandson of the legendary leader, Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi, offers unique insight into the global peace movement - providing peace activists of all levels hope and guidance in how to affect nonviolent change. Advice as timely today as during the original 2005 interview.
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NVC Quote of the Month

 

"In our culture, most of
us have been trained to
ignore our own wants and
to discount our needs."

 

"Social change involves
helping people see new
options for making life
wonderful that are less
costly to get needs met."

 

"The spirituality that we need to develop for
social change is one
that mobilizes us for
social change."

 

 
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A Culture of Nonviolence ...continued

In partnership with his wife Sunanda, Arun Gandhi is the co-founder of the MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence. Born in 1934 in Durban, South Africa, Arun is a world-renowned speaker, author and social change leader, Arun shares the lessons of nonviolence instilled by his grandfather all around the world.

TM: Looking back on your own legacy, are there some major accomplishments that stand out in your mind? How do these accomplishments relate to the global movement?

I have always done what I do with the intention of planting seeds and make people think of alternatives. I am content to that where ever I go. I believe in all these years I have planted many seeds. I am sure many must be blossoming now. But results are not my concern. Grandfather used to tell us that when you become overly concerned about the results then you will not do what you have to do because half of your mind is occupied by what with the result be. So I don't bother about that at all. I just go about doing what I can in the best way I can and hope it eventually makes a difference in someone's life.

TM: What do you believe are some of the ongoing challenges that nonviolent activists face today?

I think the biggest challenge that nonviolent activists face is the proper understanding of the philosophy of nonviolence. So long as we understand this to be a strategy to be used when convenient we will fail to make any tangible impact. There will be some successes no doubt but they will not be lasting.

The emphasis needs to be not on conflict resolution but how to avoid conflicts. Thus nonviolence must become a way of life. We must begin to replace the culture of violence that dominates all aspects of our lives today with a culture of nonviolence. Violence thrives on negativity - anger, hate, discrimination, selfishness, and so on whereas nonviolence thrives on positive attitudes - compassion, understanding, acceptance, love, respect and so on. We are so dominated by negativity that it drags us deeper and deeper into the mire of violence. We must work towards understanding and assimilating the culture of nonviolence.

TM: Are these challenges unique or do they carry similar elements to what your grandfather faced, what you face?

I think they are similar. Grandfather was concerned first with the freedom of India and then with the idea of replacing the culture of violence in India with the culture of nonviolence. However after the success of the first part of this mission his friends and colleagues decided that a living Gandhi would make life miserable for them but a martyred Gandhi could be exploited. So he was assassinated and India resorted to the culture of violence.

What grandfather expected from India in terms of showing a nonviolent path to the rest of the world was abandoned and they adopted the culture of violence and became the most violent nation in the world. I do not have the charisma that he had so my reach is limited so within those limitations I do what I can to influence as many as I can.

TM: What key issues permeate the global peace movement today? Are these issues we can all relate to, or are they specific to a certain socioeconomic or ethnic group?

I think it is obvious the world has become very selfish; self-centered; greedy and violent. We do it in little ways in societies where we live and others do it on a larger scale involving nations. The belief that the United States or Britain or even India for that matter can survive on their own while the rest of the world destroys itself is ridiculous.

Our futures are all intertwined and if one perishes we all eventually perish. This false sense of nationalism and national pride has made people so narrow minded that they overlook the vision of the world. We need to make them aware that our survival is linked with the survival of the world and so we must take as much interest in what is happening in Darfur and Sierra Leone as what is happening in our backyard.

TM: How does Nonviolent Communication (as both a process and a consciousness) relate to the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolence?

I think Nonviolent Communication is a very significant part of the culture of nonviolence. We cannot use abusive language and expect to convince people of the effectiveness of nonviolence.

TM: How does the language we use affect our activism? What does it mean to "be the change you wish to see in the world"?

The language makes a big difference. The first thing a nonviolent activist is required to do is to understand that in this struggle there are no enemies. There is nothing like "us and them." We are all one and some of us need to be changed. Butt we cannot convince anyone to change if we do not show the change in our own attitude.

For instance we cannot convince people not to treat others as enemies if we ourselves are treating some people as enemies. We must live what we want others to learn. People learn more from what we do than what we tell them.

TM: What does NVC offer individuals and leaders who wish to affect peaceful change?

Nonviolent Communication offers one tool from the set that is required to repair a community. We need to look at nonviolence as a set of tools which will be effective if we are able to use all of them for the various needs in repairing the damage done.

TM: The Center for Nonviolent Communication is affiliated with activist, decision-makers and global leaders in some of the most violent and impoverished regions of the world. What hope can you grant these individuals as they work to affect peaceful change over time?

I believe it is very good for them to learn the art of Nonviolent Communication but then they must learn also about the rest of the philosophy and implement it wholly. Someone once said that you can kill people with kindness too and that is not what we want.

We want to stop the killings so along with the language we need to change our attitudes and our behavior to reflect more compassion and understanding and look at everything from the point of view of how is what I am about to do good for everyone concerned and not just how is it good for me and my company.

We need to create a society where everyone works for the good of all and not just the good of a few.

TM: Many people around the world affiliate activism with protest, or even engaging in dissent on a national or global scale - and this may feel impersonal, even overly daunting. In your opinion, how does NVC personalize our activism?

Activism and protest have their place in the culture of nonviolence, but they must be designed to transform the people and not to provoke them. Much of the activism today is provocative and the language used reflects a lot of anger and disrespect for the other. This should not happen because we are not there to alienate them but to transform them.

TM: What do you believe are the hallmarks of effective nonviolent activism (in terms of specific strategies, values, vision, etc.)?

I think every situation requires a specific approach. It would be difficult to say that this would work in specific situations and that in another. Gandhi always first studied the problem from all perspectives, even sometimes wearing the shoe of the opponent. Then, when he was satisfied he would start a correspondence with the other to try and reach an understanding. The correspondence would first be private, then he would make it public and then he would say to the person that since we have reached a stalemate I will have to resort to public campaigns to force the issue. However, he did this with extreme politeness and with no intentions of inconveniencing the opposition in any way.

Once in South Africa he suspended his campaign against the apartheid government because the workers of the railway went on a strike. He said it is wrong to put pressure on the government at a time when they are occupied with a national calamity. Then once the strike was over he relaunched his movement

TM: January 30th marks the beginning of the Season for Nonviolence. Why is it important for individuals and organizations to get involved in the Season?

I think it is important because the Season is designed to help people understand the philosophy and implement the culture of nonviolence so that we can transform the world before it destroys itself.

........................................................................

The mission of the MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence is to promote and apply the principles of nonviolence locally, nationally, and globally, to prevent violence and resolve personal and public conflicts through research, education, and programming. The institute was founded by Arun Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi's grandson) and his wife Sunanda. Learn more at GandhiInstitute.org

Learn more about the Season for Nonviolence.

 

Tiffany Meyer is the past editor and a contributing writer to the NVC Quick Connect e-Newsletter, the founder of the Help Share NVC Project, past marketing director for PuddleDancer Press, founder/president of Numa Marketing, author of Writing a Results-Driven Marketing Plan: The Nonprofit's Guide to Making Every Dollar Count - 2nd Edition, The official workbook companion to Results-Driven Marketing Mastery online training program. She has been learning and practicing NVC for more than a decade and remains committed to integrating it into her personal and professional life.

 

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"I would like us to look
at the structures we've created, the governmental
structures, business structures and other
structures, and to look
at whether they support
peaceful connections
between us and if not,
to transform those structures."

 

"Unless we as social
change agents come
from a certain kind of
spirituality, we're likely
to create more harm
than good."

 

"We have to make sure
that we have liberated
ourselves from how we
have been educated and make sure we are coming
from a spirituality of our
own choosing."

 

TITLE

Practical Spirituality
by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD
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News from PuddleDancer Press / the NVC Network... continued

Yogi Times Article - Interview with Marshall

Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication
by william stierle

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Marshall's Birthday Celebration and Gratitude

In October we sent a special message asking the NVC community to help celebrate Marshall's 80th birthday by sending him greeting cards and email messages.

Over 200 of you responded with heartfelt expressions of gratitude and celebrations for Marshall's contributions to your lives and to the world. We collected these cards, printed out the email messages and forward the entire package to him.

We heard from him that he was deeply moved by these messages and that receiving these was a beautiful, joyful experience.

We are extremely grateful for those of you who contributed to making his life more wonderful in this way. Thank You!

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New NVC Titles in Foreign Languages for 2014

In 2014 PuddleDancer Press either made new agreements for the following titles or these titles were published in the following languages.

LANGUAGE TITLE CUSTOMER NAME
Chinese Traditional Words That Work in Business Kuangchi Cultural Group
English NVC 2nd Ed Banyan Tree
French Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids Editions La Decouverte
German Connecting Across Differences 2ed Junfermann Verlag
Hebrew Raising Children Compassionately Melamed Publishing
Korean Words That Work in Business Korean Center for Nonviolent Communication
Spanish Parenting From Your Heart Editorial Acanto
Spanish The Surprising Purpose of Anger Editorial Acanto
Spanish What\'s Making You Angry Editorial Acanto

 

You can find contact information for these publishers on our website in the NVC Foreign Rights Directory