Some Reflections on Violence and

its Remedies


Ranjit Chaudhuri


The beginning of twenty-first century has been witnessing an unprecedented violence. It appears that from the start of the century the world is going to a direction when it can not escape from destruction. Impressive volume of literature has been produced on conflict and violence. But most of it has been futile academic exercise. Generally academic deliberations remain at the level of abstraction and by its nature do not deal with ground realities. They fail to generate meaningful debate and dialogue which can be applied in practice.


There are many forms of conflict. Among the various forms some selective ones can be considered. But the terrorism and arms conflicts are the most important ones. About the sources three appear to be significant. They are - religion, technology and legacy of psychology produced by colonisation. The genesis and historical role of religion, as distinct from spiritualism, have not been sufficiently analysed in the background of conflict and in resolving conflict. The role of religion is to be explained in a wider context. The complexity of danger arises from technology. Technology apparently is used for human benefit. But in deeper sense it leads to human destruction. Technology can not be separated from violence and militarism. The redeeming feature of technology is less prominent than its destructive feature. It has become so complicated that human relations and human psychology appear difficult to comprehend. In the last century most of the non-western countries were colonies of western countries. Those countries which were not colonies were subjected to colonial treatment. Today colonies can not be identified. But two cultures of the colonizers and colonized are persisting. Their minds are different. This duality of psychology created the most complicated problem. The colonial legacy led to the concentration of power on one side and deprivation of power on the other. Colonies are the result of military technology, and concentration of power is an inevitable development of military technology.


Western countries have been enjoying the monopoly of economic and military power. Their power began from Industrial Revolution. Industrial Revolution has been accompanied by superior technological advancement. Technology made them imperialistic power, and the rest of the world colonies of the western countries. Technological superiority has generated military superiority. Second World War and the post-war periods saw the rise of enormous military build-up. In the contemporary world arm race and military preparations have been the most crucial phenomena in all countries. Big and small, developed and developing, all countries irrespective of their size, resources and necessities, were blindly increasing their military budget. The per capita military expenditure has been rapidly and irrationally increasing in all countries. Military export is the single most important item of world trade. All rich countries irrespective of their size are engaged in arm trade and trying to out-manoeuvre each other in this matter. Markets, open and black, are saturated by arms. At the height of their rivalry between the USA and Iran, the USA did not stop supplying weapons to Iran secretly, though it took place at the full knowledge of the President of the USA.


In the post-colonial era of the non-western countries, a peculiar consciousness for power is rapidly capturing the mind of these countries. They want to be powerful. Arms have been creating a sense of false pride in them. Rise of pride, real or false, is very important. Generally neo-elites lean towards terrorism. Terrorism is an act of aggression glorified by their sense of pride. This is enhanced by the possession of sophisticated weapons. Arms create a self-satisfying ego. Terrorism thrives on this ego. Gradually a psychological addiction for sophisticated weapons develop. The sense of self-importance is created by the western countries. The quest of power came from two sources - gun and God. Gun supplied immediate power and God was the ultimate source. Gun power was tangible, Providential power was intangible based on faith. Terrorism is an outcome of desperation created by the sense of deprivation of power on part of the non-western countries.


The non-western countries saw that they were dominated by the advanced countries. The domination of power has been accompanied by the domination of culture. Technocratic advancement of the west has created what is called culture of westernization. Western pattern of life is found prevalent all over the world in contemporary time. Dominance of this culture has brought dissent in the dominated countries. It takes a form of countervailing culture. This has given rise to fundamentalism. The quest for counter culture is very important. Sometimes it is projected as parallel culture of obscurantism. This is symbolised in Osama Bin Laden. The rise of Osama Bin Laden is not an accident. He is a link in the process and is a product of military technology and lust for power. The culture of westernization accompanied by military power of the west are the unconscious tool of history in the rise of Osama Bin Laden.


It was Mao Zedong who said that power used to come from the barrel of the gun. The terrorists wanted to become powerful by acquiring automatic weapons. In their mind they feel an unidentified challenge. At some time they feel glorified by destruction. In their glorification of destruction the terrorists put high value to puritanic religion. Terrorists' notion of puritanic religion does not mean they become more spiritual. Puritanic people have been sticklers of religious rituals. It produces a self-glorifying feeling that they are the true followers of religion. Fundamentalism thrives in this puritanic concept of religion. Puritanism of the terrorists is not a genuine urge. It is designed by necessity. The rise of westernization is considered as an invasion on the culture of non-western countries. They think that by withdrawing to traditional culture they can check the invasion.


The issue of violence and terrorism is not simply a question of power. Deep under it there is a question of role of unconscious in human society. The formation of unconscious and its importance in human society need to be understood. It was Carl Gustav Jung who said that unconscious had been an integral part of human activity. Collective unconscious unfolds itself in religious experience of collectivity. In a collectivity unconscious may move away from normativity and act in an irrational way. Moving away from normativity the collective unconscious may act in a pathological manner. Lust for power becomes one of the important characteristics of pathological mind. By destruction it draws wider attention. Then sacrifice of life gets a special meaning. Death acquires a mystique. Mystique is surrounded by an ideology.


At the same time non-western colonized mind has been suffering from the sense of lack of masculinity. This was one of the potent causes of dissent. Physical suffering under colonization was not so much important. Psychological impotency of the colonized people and their feeling of lack of masculinity remained a constant source of dissent. In his early age Gandhi also suffered from it. Colonized people wanted to escape from that. Terrorism is an easy way to prove and establish their masculinity.


Terrorists generally believe in Hero and some times in Messiah. The Hero-Messiah complex is an important trait of the terrorist mind. Their Hero consciously believes that he is playing a historical role for a cause which is legitimate for him. That is why terrorist movement is a cult-based movement. Messiah of the Orient is an anti-thesis of western masculinity. It is based on blind faith. Ethics play a minor role in terrorism. To the believers of terrorism there existed a double standard and bi-cultural universe where no moral values were so important as their rooted cause. Following Lewis Mumford the true sources of violence could be searched in human values. The crisis of values leads to problem of terrorism. Intensive search should be made in the role of religion. Oriental mind can not be understood outside religious values.



What is the way out ? The approach open to humanity is to adopt the path of Dharma. Dharma, the near translation of which is religion, is an effective method of conflict resolution. Apparently it is a source of conflict. If we try to understand in a deeper sense it will be open to us that Dharma has been an integrating factor. Dharma came to existence for human unity. It was distorted historically. Buddhism tried to find out the cause of an action, its solution lies in the cause. Buddha's effort was not theological. It remained within the nature of human beings. He was aware of autonomy of human character. Dr. Radhakrishnan thinks that Buddhism is a religion based on ethics and psychology. Buddha's attempt was to change the nature of humankind by imparting consciousness. He advocated practice of six Paramitas or Perfections, which are giving, moral conduct, patience, endeavour, concentration, and wisdom. The six Perfections should be followed in a right path. Dharma is the right path. One must notice that six Paramitas are not peculiar to any one religion. They are true for all religions. They are ingrained in all human beings. They should be practiced regularly. At the same time one must avoid intentionally harming any living creature. There is one more thing, that is, Enlightenment. It means that for the benefit of all sentient beings one must attain Enlightenment. Practice of Dharma is the primary source of Enlightenment. In order to get Enlightenment one must practice Dharma. The final object is to get benefit for all living beings. Benefit to all can come only through Ahimsa.

It appears that from the Buddhist perception it may not be difficult to reach a point of agreement. We can also arrive at the Gandhian concept of universalism and equality of religion. When Gandhi advocates equal respect for all religions he not only removes differentiation between religions, but also establishes universal equality. Compassion comes when everybody is taken as equal. Buddhists believe that no matter what the action looks like on the surface if one's mind is always filled with compassion then the 'applied Bodhicitta' will arise by itself. By generating Bodhicitta one can generate compassion for all. Then welfare for all rises not only in the beginning, it comes in the middle and also at the end.


Following Buddhist position Gandhi also advocated universal religion. Gandhi detested parochial approach to religion. In spite of our best intention our religious tool failed. It is a human failure. The failure is taken to be a collective failure of human group behind each religion. In that sense it can be taken as a collective failure of Hindus but not of Hinduism, it is again collective failure of the Christians but not of Christianity, it is the collective failure of the Mussalmans not of Islam, it is a collective failure of the Buddhists but not of Buddhism.


Every religion has two aspects - actual and ideal. Gandhi realised that since human beings are imperfect they can not have ideal religion. The greatest task is to move towards ideal religion. All ideal religions lead to one goal. It is necessary to make all religions equal in the operative sense. To make all religions conceptually equal is not difficult. But to make them equal in practice is not easy.


Gandhi's method was to integrate prayers of all religions and to pray on one platform. Truth was his God. That is why Gandhi said, "Some form of common worship, and a common place of worship appear to be a human necessity." Gandhi believed that, "... all the great religions of the world are true more or less." They are not absolutely infallible. Religions are advocated by human beings. So they are bound to be imperfect. Considering this a common place of worship or a meeting place for all religions is essential. It may be called a World Congress of Religions. Then religions tend to become secular. Satis Chandra Mukherjee, a profound scholar turned into an ascetic, wrote long ago in the Danish journal Nye Vege, in 1929, Not only should secular activities be pervaded and permeated by the spirit of religion; but Gandhi would seek in a way to wipe out the distinction between the secular and religious. For, according to Gandhi, if we are to be truly religious, we must not feel that our lives could be split up into separate categories which either antagonize one another, or pursue parallel paths.