Is a Gandhian Revolution the Only Hope for the U.S.?

I spent in the local university library, digging into whatever vein curiosity revealed, and predictably I started out by researching tax resistance. I thumbed through Margaret Hirst’s The Quakers in Peace and War to find out a bit more about how war tax resistance evolved as an element of the Quaker tradition. I read through a couple of sections of Nina Mba’s Nigerian Women Mobilized about the “Women’s War” in Nigeria, which was at least in part a tax revolt and was accompanied by or was in the form of massive tax resistance. I read up on nonviolent resistance and tax resistance in the campaign against apartheid South Africa (I hadn’t really reflected before on how even though the ANC had abandoned nonviolence, it was the nonviolent tactics and campaigns that really won that war). I found the on-line PDF of Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: Lessons from the Past, Ideas for the Future by doing a card catalog search, which is an awfully roundabout way of bypassing Google, but I hadn’t seen this before. Then I did a spin through the stacks leafing through books covering the revolution in India and the satyagraha campaign there.

I’m not exactly confident of its likelihood, but I’m more and more convinced that if a successful and beneficial transformation of American politics and policy happens, it will be as the result of a struggle in the Gandhian mold. I say this as someone who is not a pacifist and who does not have much patience with Gandhi’s religious folderol or with the American peace movement’s cargo cult-like adoption of the trappings of his strategy.

I think that the American opposition, having given the “lesser evil” voting strategy much more of a fighting chance than it deserved, should abandon it now without a backwards-glance, and adopt a Gandhian strategy of non-cooperation with what will of course be an increasingly awful federal government.

By this, I don’t mean to say that we should renounce violence. We don’t need to. We’ve been a goddamned bunch of pantywaists as it is — I’m supposed to waste my breath saying “no more throwing rocks at Starbucks, you naughty punk rockers!”? When I say we should take up a Gandhian strategy I mean exactly the opposite of backing off or throttling down, I mean buckling down and ramping up a sustained campaign of non-cooperation, self-improvement, and social transformation.

And I’m patient. (I’d better be.)

When we’re ready, when this gut anguish we’re feeling today turns into something that motivates us in a sustained way, then we will be able to summon the courage and discipline to engage in such a campaign. And when we do engage in such a campaign, and only then, will we be taken seriously in ways that matter.