[Vision2020] Martin Luther King: Six Principles of Non-Violent Action

Nicholas Gier ngier006 at gmail.com
Fri Jan 12 11:43:47 PST 2018

Good Morning Visionaries:

I was preparing my column for next week's Daily News,but I'm posting this
now from a longer article I've written about Gandhi and King.

*Kings’ Six Principles of Non-Violent Action*

King eventually formulated six principles that he adapted from Gandhi’s
ethics of nonviolence and his Christian faith.  He declared that “they were
nothing more and nothing less than Christianity in action” (*Essential
Writings*, p. 86).

(1) *Active Nonviolence*. Rejecting criticism that this was a “method of
cowardice and stagnant passivity,” King described the nonviolent resister
this way: “His mind and emotions are always active, constantly seeking to
persuade this opponent that he is wrong. The method is passive physically,
but strongly active spirituality” (*Essential Writings*, p. 87).

 (2) *Convert the Opponent*. The nonviolent activist does not seek “to
defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and
understanding”(ibid.)  It has as its aim the conversion of the opponent to
your way of thinking. “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the
beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness”
(ibid.) It is significant that the British left as friends of a free,
democratic India, and today Mississippi has the highest number of
African-Americans political office holders in the nation, while Alabama has
the highest percentage.

(3) *Attack the Problem not the Person. *The targets are oppressive laws
and unjust actions and not the oppressors themselves, because they are the
ones you want to convert.  This is a version of Christian motto “hate the
sin but love the sinner.” The battle is between the forces of justice and
those of injustice, not between blacks and whites.  And the victory will be
for all persons not just the minority.

(4)  *The Principle of Self-Suffering.  *This is the willingness to accept
suffering rather than to inflict it.  This is Gandhi’s specific discovery
but it is an eminently Christian concept as well.  King quotes Gandhi on
the redemptive power of suffering: “Rivers of blood must flow may have to
flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood” (ibid., p. 18).

(5) *No Violence of Word or Thought.*  For King the nonviolent resister not
only “avoids external physical violence but also internal violence of
spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you also refuse to hate
him” (ibid, p. 453) The Buddha rejected the Jain idea that karma is
produced only by physical acts; instead, he believed, as Christians do,
that all sin begins in intentions.

(6) *Self-Sacrificing Love* (*agapē*)*. * King is particularly eloquent
about Christian *agapē*: it is “an overflowing love that is purely
spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative.” It is a love that is
not dependent on mutual response of another; *agapē* is an unconditional
love that expects nothing in return. The best way to test whether you are
capable of *agapē* is to try to love someone you hate.

There is a dramatic scene in the movie *Gandhi*, which apparently has no
factual basis, but it nonetheless is a tale that tells truth. It is true
that in early September, 1947, Gandhi agreed to end his fast after the
warring Muslim and Hindu factions signed a truce, which led to the
surrender of their weapons and the halt all hostilities. What the movie
shows is a Hindu man who promises Gandhi that he would take a Muslim orphan
and raise her as his own and a Muslim man who promises to do the same with
a Hindu orphan. This may not be either spontaneous or unmotivated, but it
is a creative love that seeks nothing in return.

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.

-Greek proverb

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.

--Immanuel Kant
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