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Gandhi, King, and Mandela: What Made Non-Violence Work?

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  1. Gandhi, King, and Mandela: What Made Non-Violence Work?
  2.         There is ultimately a single overall explanation behind the success of non-violent protests by Gandhi, King, and Mandela: Non-violence is the clear distinguisher between right and wrong. When violence repeats itself there is not always an end in sight and it’s difficult to see understand the reasoning behind either side. But when violence is followed by non-violence there is only so much fighting that can go on without purpose for so much aggression without retaliation. What made Gandhi’s, King’s, and Mandela’s non-violent protests successful is that they put their opponent’s economic profits at risk, willingly accepted punishments, and embraced their enemies.
  3.         “Money makes the world go round” describes why disturbing their opponent’s economic gain worked so well for Gandhi, King, and Mandela. As long as people are able to profit then society manages to function. But when there is a disruption in how money is obtained then sooner or later the conflict has to be resolved. Gandhi, King, and Mandela all recognized this and were intelligent about how they went about practicing it. In fact Mohandas Gandhi was probably the most intelligent. He came up with the idea to mask the real objective of costing the British government money with a holiday. Not only was a Hartal a day of fasting and prayer among the Indian people, but all labor and business came to a standstill which also meant any profits to be gained by the British were also lost. (Doc. A) This peaceful day of protest was a form of passive resistance that sent the message to the British colonizers that the Indian people were able to stand up against their oppression in an organized, non-violent, but costly manner. Martin Luther King and his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott was a little bit more open as to the intentions were. This non-violent movement was a direct result of the arrest of Rosa Parks and the people of Montgomery knew it. The boycotters wanted to make it very clear to not only the bus company, but to anyone who fueled the drive of segregation that they weren’t going to continue accepting the unjust conditions (Doc. B).
  4.         No one ever said that non-violence didn’t come with a criminal record. Gandhi, King, and Mandela all had their fair share of R.A.P. sheets. Each man spent great amounts of time in a jail cell just because of their peaceful opposing of laws they felt were not fair to their people. Accepting sacrifice was much more of a mental benefit to the victims than it was to the punishers. When Gandhi learned that his followers in Johannesburg, South Africa were jailed simply because of supporting his ideals he knew that his punishment had to be much greater than theirs and didn’t hesitate to surrender himself to whatever sentence awaited him (Doc. J). The environment at the Montgomery, Alabama jailhouse was that of a celebration among the prisoners. People were voluntarily turning themselves in, proud to be arrested for fighting for what they believed in (Doc. K). In Rivonia, South Africa Nelson Mandela was willing to accept the ultimate sacrifice, death (Doc. L). He spent nearly a third of his overall life in imprisonment and to regret it would question his pride and faith in freedom for the people of South Africa. What Gandhi, King, and Mandela all had in common was that they were willing to pay the costs for the laws that they broke even if they felt that they were unjust. There was no debt too large in condition or length that wasn’t worth their cause.
  5.         War is defined as a period of conflict, hostility, and active combat between two or more parties. But Gandhi’s Satyagraha, King’s Civil Rights Movement, and Mandela’s transitioning of the South African government were all wars that very few people can say they have witnessed in their time on Earth. These were fights with “no enemies”. This was because rather than rejecting and taunting their oppressors, these men endorsed the idea that everyone would benefit from the concepts that were being fought for. By treating the Indian people humane and allowing them to live and work in sensible conditions, the British government would be even more satisfied in the long run (Doc. P). Demonstrations like the March on Washington in the summer of 1963 welcomed people of all backgrounds, not just those who were being discriminated upon. Martin Luther King’s dream was for people who once had tension between one another to put aside their differences for the greater gain of all (Doc. Q). When Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and helped establish a new democratic government in South Africa there was no one-sided celebration, no specific beneficiaries. It even took decades of thinking in prison for Mandela to realize the fight he had started so long ago was for the better of society as a whole (Doc. R). In the end, everyone had come to the open passageway of freedom.  
  6.         Gandhi, King, and Mandela all accomplished what some of the most powerful governments have failed to achieve and that’s shift the entire state of a society in a way free of combat, hatred, and aggression. These leaders were able to passively undermine their governments of Great Britain, United States, and South Africa with common morals that proved to be more effective than any results that would of came of militant rebellion against their oppressors. Despite the different time periods, situations, and places, these men all saw how economic pressure, accepting sacrifice for their cause, and embracing their “enemy” would lead them to the outcomes that they sought.
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