Non-Violence. Aldous Huxley Essay. Reintroduced By P S Remesh Chandran
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum
First published: 21st Aug 2012
When national policies conflict, there is war. It always has been so, in spite of the world’s nations’ attempts to settle things amicably. Violence is the sister of war and mighty nations are not shameful to unleash violence on their next door neighbours, next day brothers. Non-violence has been the cherished dream of mankind since the first sunrise after the dawn of civilization. Even then the realization of this dream is remaining far distant due to psychological settings of the world’s mind.
A row of successful non-violent struggles before us to imitate; still we are reluctant to adopt this proven principle.
|Thomas Arnold Teacher, a great grand uncle of Aldous Huxley.|
Here and there a few humanitarians and philosophers have occasionally looked into the prospect of moulding a new world order based on the lines of non-violence. Novelists like Tolstoy, essayists like George Orwell, H.G.Wells, Arnold Toynbee, Aldous Huxley and many others have inculcated the principles of non-violence which is fit to be adopted in international crises management. We have the fine political examples of many mighty empires having been brought down by non-violent revolutions carried out by peasants and agricultural labourers as those led by Gandhi and his contemporaries in India. Still we are reluctant to accept the principles of non-violence as our political problems solving policy. It is due to the devious and treacherous basic traits latent in man as an animal that nations still resort to violence when they have to address a problem, social, political, economical or ethnical.
Aldous Huxley was born into a family of generations of great intellectuals.
|Thomas Huxley, senior brother of Aldous Huxley|
Aldous Huxley was a British essayist, novelist and critic. He belonged to a family of distinguished scientists and thinkers. The celebrated scientist Thomas Huxley was his great grand-father and the famous educationalist Thomas Arnold was his great grand-uncle. Poet Matthew Arnold was his grand uncle. His mother was a distinguished educationalist and his father Leonard Huxley was a writer. The famous biologist Sir. Julian Huxley was his elder brother. The Burning Wheel , Chrome Yellow, Brave New World , Proper Studies and Music At Night are a few of his major works. Aldous Huxley was one of the chief intellectual driving forces of his times. His essays are gentle and imaginative. The present essay discusses how non-violence is applicable to individuals, groups, nations and the people of the new industrial age.
Non-violence comes to prisons and asylums in the nineteenth century in England.
|Bethlehem Mental Hospital in London in 1896.|
Non-violence is the policy of passive resistance. Resistance indeed is there, only that it is not active. It has the power to overcome evil, anger and hatred. The principles of non-violence have been applied systematically in solving social and medical problems which were considered to be completely insoluble. In the past, violence prevailed over the handling of the insane, the criminal and the savage. It made the victim only incurable. Asylums and prisons were places where inmates were treated with cruelty and violence. Asylums were filthy places with dungeons, chains and torture chambers. The insane were subjected to violence as if they were criminals. In 1815 a committee of the British M.P.s investigated the state of Bethlehem Hospital in London and found it appalling. Sine then, non-violent treatment has been adopted, showing kindness and sympathy. Similarly, in prisons, torture made the innocents demoralized and the criminals more criminal. When John Howard began his investigations on prison life in the 18th century, the only decent prisons in Europe were those in Amsterdam, Holland being a country with lesser crimes. Since then, there have been many prison reforms. Thus Huxley adeptly proves that non-violence is applicable in relations of individuals with other individuals.
Anthropologists study the origin, development and social behaviour of mankind. In the past they depended on baseless news given by travelling missionaries, i.e. ‘missionary gossip’ to form their theories. Missionaries returning from foreign lands after failed missions won’t attribute reasons for their failure to their wrong policies but would portray people of those lands as brutal intolerant savages holding pagan beliefs who brought down the missionaries’ works. As a result, colonial administrations remained violent and cruel to their subjects in the conquered lands. But later, the anthropologists practically began living with the objects of their study and learned the realities in those lands. They discovered that intelligent and sympathetic non-violence is the best and most practical policy to be adopted on subjects by an administration. Thus the colonial rule of the Belgian, Dutch, English and French became more humane, non-violent and efficient. Only the Italian Fascist Mussolini remained aggressive. His hideous methods of bombs and poison gas employed in the conquest of Abyssinia were brought to light and condemned by all.
Non-violence is applicable in the relations of populations with governments. Gandhi’s non-violent mass movements in South Africa and India were brilliant successes. He effectively trained very large groups of people in non-violent non-cooperation and boycott, who courageously responded to brutal treatment. This impressed all and gained him favour of public opinion and support of the entire world. In England, in 1920, non-violent non-cooperation successfully prevented a war. Labour Movement declared War Boycott and refused to transport men and materials to war front. Faced with this ultimatum, the Lloyd George government abandoned its plans of war on Russia.
|Spanish Boot in Spis Castle in Slovakia. By Podzemnik.|
In relations of governments with other governments, non-violence is often considered impractical. Examples of genuine non-violent behaviour between governments are rare. This is because of the dual nature and behaviour of man as a private individual and as member of a group. He has two systems of morality. In private life, man is honest, humane and considerate. But as citizens of a nation, he thinks his nation can go to any extreme. We all do. The nation is personified in our imagination as a being, superhuman in power and glory, but sub human in morality.
Standing on a land that is India where the first known poet and philosopher Valmiki wrote Ma Nishada, or You Never Kill, we can certainly speak to the world the gospel of non-violence and human love. The Father of the Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was, along with Rabindranath Tagore and Count Leo Tolstoy, and also George Bernard Shaw, was the greatest proclaimer of the gospel of human love to the world since the time of Jesus Christ. India through the ages disseminated the message of Gods' affection and consideration for man. Even though somewhat diminished in the rush for prospects and physical pleasures, the tendency to sacrifice one’s life for the welfare of others is still prominent and dominant in Indian lives, especially in the lives of the poor people of India. Gandhi also sacrificed his life for his ideal of embracing the divided Indians and the Pakistanis at the same time. When India spends billions on account of preparing a war and defense machinery against the nation of Pakistan and Pakistan diverts precious national revenue for purchasing missiles and war machines against sister India, Pakistanis think how natural the Indian film stars act and the Indians think how majestic and enchanting the Pakistani Ghazal singers sing. Governments in the modern day world no more reflect the will of their people. Objectives of people which could easily and quickly have been realized through art, literature, music, cinema, cricket and football are objected to by governments, for they wish there shall be two governments to rule, two parliaments to spend time in and two judiciaries to pronounce the same universal human law in two conflicting ways. Unification of the divided German nations is their lesson for the future. Why waste precious people's money for running two governments? The world is changing, and eliminating the evils of the ill famous Second World War one by one. Aldous Huxley's thoughts are more important than ever in the present times.
When we read the articles written by many philosophers like Bertrand Russell, Arnold Toynbee, Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley and H.G.Wells, we think how fortunate the world is for having tones of beautiful pages written by learned and tasty geniuses for us all to read without stop. We also will feel lonely at the thought of living at a time, with the total absence of such eminent thinkers and writers continuously conversing to us all around us in our society. It is our solace and luck they wrote profusely before they passed away, so that the intellectually impoverished we can read something refreshing, till the end our days.
Writers like Arnold Toynbee, Robert Lynd, Aldous Huxley and Bertrand Russell produced excellent literature which captivated generations including mine. But the world now does not read them as frequently and regularly as before. I pay them respect in my simple way of reintroducing them in layman's terms, for the sole reason they inspired me, so that they will be continued to be read and read and read. No one shall have to leave them unread. The praise goes to those excellent authors who are now gone from among us. We can only keep the world's interest in them live.
The concept of non-violence works when the concerned opponent is somewhat equal or sophisticated. It did work with the British in India when the British became convinced that India would become the country where the greatest number of dead British are burried if violence in India reached its full manifestation. The Irish Republican Army tried non-violence in British prisons by turning to non-eating fasts but found that they were only weakening their body. After the death of seven of their comrades in a days-long relay fast in Maize prison, they returned to guerrilla warfare and violence.
Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
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Active Resistance, Aldous Huxley, Bloom Books Trivandrum,British Authors, British Writers, Dual Nature Of Man, English Essays, Gandhis Mass Movements, Huxley Family, Incurable Victims, Inter Governmental Relations, John Howard Prison Reforms, Missionary Gossip, National Citizens, Non Violence,Non Violence In Industrial Age, P S Remesh Chandran, Passive Resistance, Reintroduced Literature, Resisting Brutality,Sahyadri Books Trivandrum, Torture Chambers, World Citizens
21st Aug 2012 (#)
Thought provoking post that is more relevant now. There are no victors in violence; even those who live to tell the tale of success carry heavy scars in their psyches - siva
21st Aug 2012 (#)
Thank you dear Sivaramakrishnan A, for your valuable comment, which supplements Aldous Huxley's observations well.
22nd Aug 2012 (#)
Thank you indeed, RC! War is waged by selfish politicians and they use common citizens as their pawns. It is so easy to rouse emotions now, like it was from primeval times! We are easily used by all types of leaders for their ends! Modern technology has made us realise - we are one and the same, but we still go at each other' s throats at the drop of a hat! siva.
A K Rao
21st Aug 2012 (#)
Simply Superb Article Dear Ramesh Chandran Sir!
21st Aug 2012 (#)
Unfortunately I cannot convey your appreciation to Huxley. Thank you for your comment, dear A.K.Rao.
22nd Aug 2012 (#)
Excellent post. Deserved star page
22nd Aug 2012 (#)
Thank you dear Madan for the comment.
23rd Aug 2012 (#)
23rd Aug 2012 (#)
Praise goes to Aldous Huxley really.
Md Rezaul Karim
3rd Sep 2012 (#)
Interestingly when you are equal, the concept of non-violence works. But if the competency or strengths and weaknesses are significant then coercion takes place and the ethics and morality wither away!
3rd Sep 2012 (#)
Thank you dear Md Rezaul Karim for reading and the comment.
Meet the author
Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan : The Intelligent Picture Book.