Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Tyranny and twitter pacifism

Chris Blattman raises the question {at: Tyranny and twitter pacifism}.
That is George Orwell discussing Gandhi in 1949. I’ve been reading Orwell’s Collection of Essays. A few weeks ago, on a long flight home, I watched the 1982 Gandhi biography and shared the same thought. Would Gandhi have been as successful under true tyranny?
A question that I have wondered also. Gandhi had the advantages of being taught in a British system including Gandhi traveled to London, England, to study law at University College London and to train as a barrister. But the question is whether Gandhi knew enough about the German system in the 1930s to make the same recommendations. I always found the following short essays so enlightening with the first portion at the link The Scorpion.
Gandhi succeeded in his variation on the prisoner's dilemma because the British were not willing to resort to the ultimate defection. A player, like the Nazis, willing to stop at nothing, creates an illogical loop much like the one that results when two players play a series for a known number of moves. Since, on the last move, the future has no shadow, I might as well defect. Since the other player will certainly be smart enough to defect on that move as well, I may as well defect on the move before, when he may still be cooperating. But, since he is smart enough to reason this through the way I did, he will probably defect on that move too. So again I will consider defecting a move earlier. But so will he. The result: we both defect on the first move and each move afterwards.
The link then goes to a more detail about "The Gandhi Game" with some important excerpts below.
Mahatma Gandhi invented a unique variation on the prisoner's dilemma: a move that was neither cooperation or defection, but which fell in between (we will call it noncooperation).
It is a significant limitation of noncooperation that it can only succeed if one's adversary, no matter how harsh, unjust and imperialist, is also somewhat honorable and is reluctant to use or endorse violence. Gandhi was successful with the British who (with a few exceptions such as Amritsar) did not commit massacres; but he would have died on the first day of opposition against the amoral, treacherous and violent Nazis, who would have executed him and all his followers and thrown them in a pit. In other words, there must be something about the adversary that makes it clear that the grounds for cooperation already exist. If the adversary will not stop short of any act of cruelty or murder, noncooperation is not an option and the only available responses are violence or silence.
Gandhi said, "we must be the change we wish to see in the world." Following him, millions of people, at the same moment that they played the noncooperation card against the British, were playing "All Cooperate" in a game with each other.

Nonviolence is better when the preconditions for it exist.
Then what did Gandhi recommend to back then to the Jews concerning the Nazis and the Palestinians. For that I use the following article: 'THE JEWS', BY GANDHI - FROM HARIJAN, NOVEMBER 26, 1938
But my sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me. The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and the tenacity with which the Jews have hankered after return to Palestine. Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood?

Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.

The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France are French. If the Jews have no home but Palestine, will they relish the idea of being forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are settled? Or do they want a double home where they can remain at will? This cry for the national home affords a colourable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.
Can the Jews resist this organised and shameless persecution? Is there a way to preserve their self-respect, and not to feel helpless, neglected and forlorn? I submit there is. No person who has faith in a living God need feel helpless or forlorn. Jehovah of the Jews is a God more personal than the God of the Christians, the Mussalmans or the Hindus, though as a matter of fact in essence, He is common to all and one without a second and beyond description. But as the Jews attribute personality to God and believe that He rules every action of theirs, they ought not to feel helpless. If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German may, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this, I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance but would have confidence that in the end the rest are bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy which no number of resolutions of sympathy passed in the world outside Germany can. Indeed, even if Britain, France and America were to declare hostilities against Germany, they can bring no inner joy, no inner strength. The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the godfearing, death has no terror. It is a joyful sleep to be followed by a waking that would be all the more refreshing for the long sleep.
But the Jews of Germany can offer satyagraha under infinitely better auspices than the Indians of South Africa. The Jews are a compact, homogeneous community in Germany. They are far more gifted than the Indians of South Africa. And they have organised world opinion behind them. I am convinced that if someone with courage and vision can arise among them to lead them in non-violent action, the winter of their despair can in the twinkling of an eye be turned into the summer of hope. And what has today become a degrading man-hunt can be turned into a calm and determined stand offered by unarmed men and women possessing the strength of suffering given to them by Jehovah. It will be then a truly religious resistance offered against the godless fury of dehumanised man. The German Jews will score a lasting victory over the German gentiles in the sense that they will have converted the latter to an appreciation of human dignity. They will have rendered service to fellow-Germans and proved their title to be the real Germans as against those who are today dragging, however unknowingly, the German name into the mire.
And now a word to the Jews in Palestine. I have no doubt that they are going about it in the wrong way. The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. They should seek to convert the Arab heart. The same God rules the Arab heart who rules the Jewish heart. They can offer satyagraha in front of the Arabs and offer themselves to be shot or thrown into the Dead Sea without raising a little finger against them. They will find the world opinion in their favour in their religious aspiration. There are hundreds of ways of reasoning with the Arabs, if they will only discard the help of the British bayonet. As it is, they are co-shares with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them.

I bolded that one sentence because when I first read that it shocked me since no sane person would state that after seeing what the Jews did suffer as a result of being passive. If the opponent is a Scorpion then that will only lead to the genocide or democide of the peoples in question. And to define Satyagraha more distinctly from Wiki link:
Satyagraha (Sanskrit: सत्याग्रह satyāgraha) is a philosophy and practice of nonviolent resistance developed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (also known as "Mahatma" Gandhi). Gandhi deployed satyagraha in campaigns for Indian independence and also during his earlier struggles in South Africa. Satyagraha theory also influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. during the campaigns he led during the civil rights movement in the United States, and many other social justice and similar movements.

Anyway, we can never turn back the clock and check out whether Gandhi's concepts would have worked but against a "scorpion" that does not think "rationally" the prospects are quite low of success. And finally back to Blattman's blog post:
But tyrannical control over mass media is slipping away. From Tehran to Harare, the opposition has used twitter, texts, and the web to bring mass movements into being. Is a new age of pacifism possible?
For certain states that is true even if China is trying to censor the internet for its citizens, that will only lead to being more creative. People are still more clever than machines now and just because you censor something like political freedom as in this case: China has previously altered the words of U.S. officials. A 2004 speech in Shanghai by former Vice President Dick Cheney was broadcast live on state-run television at the insistence of U.S. officials, but the Chinese transcript of the remarks deleted references to political freedom.
There are a million ways to talk about "political freedom" without using those key words.

True enough that the internet and technology does make pacifism more possible as the Gandhi Game helped explain how broad appeal is more likely under his ideals. But there is always the possibility that authoritarian regimes will see the internet as what it is and clamp down hard on its use. The two examples are Cuba and North Korea. If they had freedom of access to the internets and Twitter and the same technologies as the Iranians, I am sure they would be rapid changes for progress on freedoms.



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