Intellegence and Compassion

I’ve written about Burmese peace activist Aung San Suu Kyi in an earlier post – and we’ve been reading a great deal lately about her role in current protest movement in that country. I recently came across this interview clip from 1999 in which she offers her definition of non-violence. You’re not likely to find a more elegant or eloquent advocate for human dignity…

One thought on “Intellegence and Compassion

  1. I’ve been thinking about this issue of non-violence as I make my way through Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, “A Long Walk Home.” As Mandela tells it, the ANC was initially committed to non-violent activism against apartheid in South Africa. However, after decades of non-violent activism yielded no results, and with a government enemy that was perfectly comfortable using violence to achieve its aims, ANC leaders decided they had to fight fire with fire. They formed a separate organization (known by the shorthand MK) that was open to using violent means to achieve the aims of freedom and democracy. The ANC itself, I believe, remained nonviolent, although there was clearly significant overlap between the organizations’ leaders.

    Ultimately, apartheid in South Africa was dismantled. Did MK’s sabotage, bombings and preparations of a militia contribute to the victory of freedom and democracy in South Africa? Or detract from it? Mandela’s autobiography (so far) doesn’t tell us. That’s not surprising. He was in prison for virtually all of the time MK operated and his goal is to tell his story, not to do a historical analysis. I guess I’ll have to read some histories of the freedom movement in South Africa to understand! But Mandela argues that being open to violence was an important – and necessary — tactic to fight a violent enemy. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but the argument seems worthy of consideration.

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