Many countries around the world have interesting historical backgrounds, in some wars were fought and blood shed to gain independence. Nevertheless other countries had different problems which were social injustices and racial segregation which defined class in the society. In India there was gross violation of rights of the Indian population, in the United States of America it was racial segregation and discrimination whereas in South Africa it was apartheid. These countries have many things in common as their leaders fought against social injustices that dogged them and the more striking one was the approach of non violence and civil disobedience which drove authoritarian regime of the British out of India and the minority rule of South Africa. In the United States of America equal rights were recognized after peaceful demonstrations and boycotts paralyzed the entire nation that they realized the need to follow the constitution to the letter. Great men who were behind these approaches were Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela in that order. This term paper will analyze some of the theories that were applied by these great leaders to fight against social injustices and evils which forced leaders to listen. Each leader will be separately arrayed.
Non Violent Movements of Gandhi, Luther and Mandela
There are many political theories that have been used by numerous leaders around the world which involves power or authority and influence. These include action theory, administrative theory, and activism and anarchism theories. Socially, action theory generates a belief in something and then the desire to achieve or acquire it. Theorist Davidson puts it clear that a desire and a belief originate an action. This theory very well applies to these renowned leaders of the world; they had something more than a desire to fight for rights of their people. It took a great and deep conviction that just a desire or the two combined. Another theory is the administrative theory which combines organizational structures and relationships for coordinating activities. If it were not this theory then Mahatma Gandhi could not have mobilized millions of Indians to a non violence uprising against the oppressive British regime both politically and socially. Martin Luther King Jr. managed to influence thousands if millions of African Americans if it were not the relationship he had created with then as a pastor. Therefore each leader i.e. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther king Jr. and Nelson Mandela in this order will be scrutinized based on their backgrounds and abilities and how they achieved their quest for social justice.
Mahatma Gandhi to date is an icon not only in the Indian sub continent but all around the world because of his legacy. He fought for independence of his country and won it without bloodshed. He forced the British colonialist to vacate the country after a totalitarian approach and divide and rule that the British used. Gandhi was a man of patience and endurance that was practiced by Martin Luther King junior and Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi was born towards the end of 1860s of the 20th century and grew in a social disorganized environment. He went to school and this taught many people how patience pays. His approach and boycott of duties forced the British to go away. “It is interesting that Gandhi had lived in South Africa for over 20 years to fight for the rights of his fellow Indians and of the indentured laborers. This great Gandhi had had the first hand experience of racial segregation and all sorts of inequity that the minority government had subjected the blacks, Indians and colored people into” Parel (2006). His resolute was unswerving after what he saw and he had a picture of India in the hands of whites.
In the years 1894, Mahatma Gandhi founded the Natal India Congress by which this same year the British Indian committee fought against the restriction of Indian trade. Gandhi was actively involved in organizing a peaceful revolt against the whites by lighting bony fires. The approach of Mahatma Gandhi in India demonstrated humility, patience and life of sacrifice to save Indians from economical and social demise. He managed to mobilize people and kept singing that only peaceful or non violence struggle will see them through. Gandhi and thousands of many other people who were oppressed marched in many occasions. After more than twenty years Gandhi left South Africa. Mahatma wanted respect and honor of his people. The education sector, food and many others were in a mess. He went through jails just like Mandela because the course of their lives was the same and their countries were bleeding in order to attain their independence. Mahatma Gandhi had organized boycotts and strikes which forced the British colonists to back down. Gandhi was freed from jail in 1931 and immediately after his release he associated himself with struggle for India’s independence. Gandhi had a strong conviction of fighting for the course of humanity as Kumarasamy (2006) says following his trends, “And in the midst of all his social calls, Gandhi attended to his main business, the Round Table Conference. He pleaded fervently with the British leaders to give his country freedom, to avoid parting of ways. But they did not listen to him and he left Britain’s shores empty-handed.”
Mahatma Gandhi was very successful and he achieved independence for his country men. Iyer (2000) says that, “Gandhi was the father of political ethics and his concepts of non-violence and diplomatic approach consequently met his obligation”. Civil disobedience halted India into a grinding stop whereby the British found it difficult to operate from this country which in turn forced them to leave the country. Gandhi’s approach theories were three and he managed to juggle them and bore fruits for his beloved country and countrymen.
The founding fathers and mothers fourth in the revolution to liberate the people of this great nation and that is how they made history. Because of the suffering some of them underwent especially the black Americans or African Americans and they started fighting for their rights. Tough American life forced then to fight for their rights and eventually history made them. The revolution was to be remembered many years later expressing the heroic deeds of the founding fathers of the nation. Wood … (109) notes that “This is one of the greatest revolutions the world has ever known; it unleashed the social forces that transformed the American society in the years between 1760 and 1820, the change from a monarchial, deferential and static society to a liberal, democratic and commercial one. It was a revolution of the mind, in which the concept of equality, democracy and private interests were grasped by hundreds of thousands of Americans, transformed a country nearly overnight”. However, after several years Martin Luther King used a non violence but assertive approach in the 1960s to fight for their rights. The non violence gained momentum from a go-slow to complete boycotts which paralyzed every business and operations in the United States of America. This approach forced leaders from states to the central government to respect the rights of every American regardless of race and status. Martin Luther King who was born in the 1920s had gone through the great depression which had impacted every person negatively as King & Carson (2001) say, “the great depression has extended disastrous arms to every corner of the nation and household”. This problem had double trouble to the black population and every passing day Martin Luther King Jr. learned a lesson which forced him to fight and stand for social justice.
The American constitution clearly stated that all men were equal and they should enjoy the freedom, liberty and pursue happiness. Unfortunately this was not to be, black Americans faced even greater dangers and discrimination better known as racial segregation. They did not enjoy the freedom to pursue the happiness the constitution had provided for them that is from Independence Day to the mid 20th century, how too long it was? However, the civil movement had started early in the 19th century but the tempo was slow until the mid of the century when it went off full blast led by an eloquent orator and pastor, the Reverend Martin Luther King junior who delivered one of the most memorable speeches on the American soil ‘I Have a Dream’. His speech urged the black Americans who where under siege from racial segregation not to use any kind of violence but employ all diplomatic ways and civil disobedience to subdue the supremacy of the whites so that they respect the tenets of the constitution of the United States. This worked well and during this time there was no single case of death or injuries because of this non violence uprising as it happens in many countries. In his co-authored book The Autography of Martin Luther King, Jr. King & Carson (2001) they say that, “we can not have an enlightened democracy when one great group living in ignorance and we can not have a nation orderly and sound with one group do ground down and thwarted that it is almost forced into unsocial attitudes and crime”.
Fortunately, the preamble of the American constitution was based on God’s blessings for America and the Americans. But it was not the case, people were not equal and yet the constitution had provided for that, blacks could not join or go to white schools and the whites could not go to black schools. Hotels, universities, suburbs, transport systems and everything were divided into two, for whites and blacks, but the blacks suffered the blunt of this racial segregation. The blacks started agitating for equal rights and they were led by Dr. Martin Luther King and other leaders. Furthermore their urge was geared by the Bible Verse from Colossians chapter 3:11(Tyndale 1997) which says, “Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all”. This verse was the force behind the Civil Rights Movement and if the tenets of the American constitution were based on Godly blessings, then there was need for all the oppressed to stand up and fight for their rights. The agitators were brotherly, friendly and their patience was revealed and displayed by their peaceful demonstrations throughout the nation. Dr. Martin in his speech ‘I have a Dream’ said that a time will come when the daughters and sons of the land will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content in their brains. This was not only a strong message but demonstrated how deep the problem had penetrated the American society and which needed urgent solution. Through the vision and legacy of reverend Martin Luther King Junior, the objective of equal rights was achieved.
Dr. Martin Luther King did not live to see and enjoy the freedom and equality he earnestly fought for, but a few days later after his assassination in 1968 all Americans were free and equal up to date, the freedom is felt and the speech elicited feeling of really emancipation.
South Africa is another country that had undergone through turmoil and fire of racial segregation and many other social injustices. International pressure mounted on South Africa and many sanctions were imposed on the apartheid ruling elites. All these did not cow the white leaders but the course of Nelson Mandela was unstoppable. He suffered the blunt of the white rulers for decades. He had sent shock waves that shook the white rulers when he refused to accept and compromise with the evils he experienced and saw. He put his life in line to fight for social justice and freedom of the black and colored people even when imprisonment was staring him in the face. Nelson Mandela’s approach was peaceful and non violent even though there was an armed wing of his political party the African National Congress. Mandela in his autography, Mandela (2000) he openly said before court that, “during my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” His approach did not segregate either of the two sides, whites and blacks. This is the speech among the many he delivered even while in prison and he ended up being isolated in a rock island prison.
At one time Mandela said that he was ready to die for his people, and being one of the first African lawyers in the republic of South Africa, he new the what the laws of the apartheid regime that were so hellish and more so towards the Afrikaners or the black people. For the reason of his struggle, Mandela was jailed for 27 years, denied encounters with other political prisoners and separated from his family. He made friends even when and while he was imprisoned. After the release of Mandela from jail or prison, he got the opportunity rule his people and this is the time Mandela’s great humanity and humility not to revenge his tormentors. Being the president of this divided nation, his approach was the ever best and soft in the whole world. Moreover, he is termed as one of the best and brilliant man of the 21st
century. During his rule he never incited his fellow Africans to avenge their tormentors but he took a wonderful and different approach of national healing that worked. The reconciliation process that Mandela supported was led by the retired Arch-Bishop Desmond Tutu. Tutu was also a man of God who supported Mandela’s approach. At one time Desmond Tutu in his memoirs No Future Without Forgiveness of (2000) he believes and says that, “we can not indeed transcend the conflicts of the past, we can hold hands as we realize our common humanity”. He only ruled for one term of five years and retired to his private life; this way stunned the whole world and confirmed his quest for equality and equal opportunities for all people in South Africa. The peaceful transition that Mandela presided over was applauded by all and sundry.
Mandela’s approach of non violent was mind boggling for many whites even though the armed wing of the African National Congress had his blessings. Mandela did assume all the ills that befell his people for many decades that have had the impact to this day. After attaining independence Mandela forgot that past which professor Thompson (2001) says that, “the black people in extension population faced all dehumanizing encounters and broken social systems which included the very basic ones of education and health.” South Africa could have plunged into a civil in the lifetime of Nelson Mandela, but his wisdom has seen South Africa emerge as an African superpower even though the ills are not yet finished. Furthermore the minority rulers ceded power respectively and peacefully to be extended an olive hand when they are out of power. Mandela’s reconciliatory speeches have also acted as a weapon against a few enemies that do not recognize the majority rule of the black South Africans as Mandela (2000) quotes himself in a speech, “the Constitution of south African and the culture of respect and tolerance which it embodies, are among the reason, we do now, that South Africa has been supported from as far as even before independence.”
Non-violence and civil disobedience practices in many countries apart from India, United States of America and South Africa forced authoritarian leaders or despots to resign or quit office. In the present times these practices have an impact and many leaders have left office. These approaches have been recommended to avoid bloody confrontations and coups. Unfortunately and of late we have not heard leaders of the same caliber as Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther. However, this great orators and eloquent speaker that moved masses will be role models throughout history.