Gandhian ideals of Truth and Non Violence are relevant even today
Debate Rounds (4)
Truth and Non Violence have no place in the 21st century. It always takes violence and lies to make a difference in this world. We have examples galore in this regard. From the Arab Spring revolution to the Violence over Palestine, violence has been the single most important element to make an impact
Thank you Con for instigating the debate. As Pro, I will argue for the resolution that "Gandhian ideals of truth and non-violence are relevant even today."
Since Con has given only introductory remarks in the opening round, I shall assume that this round is primarily for acceptance, and will wait till the next round to respond to Con's remarks, as well as furnish my own arguments.
I look forward to a civil and engaging debate.
peace27 forfeited this round.
It is a shame that Con has forfeited the last round, as I was looking forward to hear what she has to say in negation of the resolution. I can only hope she will return to participate in the debate in subsequent rounds. Hopefully I will also be able to convince her that these ideals are indeed very much relevant even today.
I’d like to begin by bracketing the first half of the resolution, i.e. “truth”, as Con has not attended to how it “always takes…lies to make a difference.” Both examples she has cited in the previous round pertain to the deployment of violence for particular political agendas, and she has not shown how deception or lying is operative in either of these cases. Since Con appears to be more interested in the centrality of violent acts in today’s scheme of things, and also owing to the practical constraint of word limits in developing my arguments, I will likewise focus my response vis-à-vis violence. If she returns with a case against the relevance of “truth” today, I will be happy to mount a defense of that aspect of the resolution.
It should also be obvious that Con has not provided any rigorous argument to oppose the resolution. Instead, she cites two major political events in the recent past in her attempt to justify that nonviolence is irrelevant today: the Arab Spring, and “violence over Palestine,” by which I assume she refers to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. I will briefly outline two objections to (what I take to be) her argument, before providing my case for the relevance of nonviolence today.
Success of Nonviolent Endeavors
Nonviolent struggles have historically been an important mechanism for social struggle among the masses, and accordingly, nonviolence has been described as “the politics of ordinary people” .
Contrary to what Con seems to think, there are countless instances of recent nonviolent endeavors that have been remarkably successful in agitating for political change. The 1989 “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia was a nonviolent transition of power where popular demonstrations eventually led to the end of communist rule in the country. Similarly, nonviolent campaigns led by the peace activist Leymah Gbowee, too, succeeded in ending a 14-year civil war in Liberia in 2003. There is ample evidence that the effectiveness of nonviolent actions such as peaceful protests and demonstrations has not waned in recent times.
Con raised the counterexample of the Arab Spring to support her case. Yet, the fact of the matter is that the majority of violent acts in the Arab Spring were initiated by the governing authority to suppress what were otherwise nonviolent protests. Tawakkol Karman, one of the three Nobel Peace Prize laureates in 2011, was involved in mobilizing Yemenis to protest against the dictatorship of the Saleh regime during the Arab Spring. As the youngest winner of a Peace Prize, Karman was lauded for her “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work” . Therefore, it would not only be reductive but also deeply misguided for Con to cite the Arab Spring as an instance where violence was intentionally deployed by protestors to serve their political end. If anything, violence was a last-ditch effort for the incumbent to retain power by stifling protests conducted through largely peaceful means.
Threat of violence in a Globalized world
The threat of violence exceeds the very act itself because sustained violence eventually results in the attrition of the rule of law. A dysfunctional legal order that cannot satisfactorily regulate violence will quickly lose the respect and faith of the people, giving rise the further cycles of intergenerational violence. As the political theorist Hannah Arendt reminds us, “the practice of violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is a more violent world” .
It has been suggested that violence should also be understood and neutralized from an epidemiological standpoint, where exposure to persistent violence is likely to lead to a surge in violence in geographically contiguous regions . In the wake of globalization over the last few decades, our world today is more inextricably connected than it ever used to be, and spillover effects from localized acts of violence can be amplified into potentially disastrous transnational conflicts. The interdependence stemming from the highly integrated global network, as well as the increased access to threats that can cause significant harm (e.g. weapons of mass destruction), foreground how crucial it is for violence to be properly managed in the present era. As opposed to what Con asserts, nonviolence and diplomacy have become more relevant today that it has ever been for safeguarding our security in a globalized setting.
The main appeal of violence is, simply, how incredibly effective it actually is. On hindsight, even with 50 more years of technological advancement since the mid 20th century under our belt, we probably still can’t devise a more faster way of ending the Second World War than resorting to a couple of atomic bombs. Crucially though, the effectiveness of violence does not make it legitimate. There seems to be a general confusion in Con’s argument where she unquestioningly conflates the effectiveness of a means to achieve an end with how justifiable and acceptable the means is.
Even if violence may be justifiable in exceptional cases (e.g. in self-defense), it cannot be emphasized enough that there is absolutely no value to violence on its own terms. As Arendt has also noted, violence is “instrumental in nature” and any attempt to justify violence can only do so by attending to short-term goals for the purpose of which violence is deployed . I will provide an oft-invoked and somewhat trite example to illuminate this point. A terrorist holds 60 people hostage in a building, and is willing to neither negotiate nor compromise. The terrorist is on the verge of detonating the building, and a sniper is now in a good position to take him down. I believe that most (if not all) would agree that in such a scenario, it is justifiable for the sniper to shoot. Still, it is imperative to realize that violence here is being “instrumentalized” to prevent what would be an even more catastrophic result. That is, violence can only be justified negatively because violence is something that can never have, in and of itself, positive value. I honestly can’t even start to imagine any metaethical justification for violence (apart from facetious instances of masochism, etc.) that can be taken seriously.
Here is precisely where Con’s position runs into trouble. By rejecting nonviolence as a relevant ideal, she is effectively suggesting that violence should always be the first course of action. This position fails the litmus test of pretty much every normative application anyone can come up with. Suppose I lend my friend my gaming console and he refuses to return it. Clearly, there are numerous ways to resolve the problem. But unfortunately, by Con’s logic, the first course of action I should take is to beat him up and retrieve my console by force. Con might defend her position by saying that the resolution only applies to complex problems on a macro scale, but my analogy can also be easily extrapolated to an international scale where we live in world in which there is virtually no room for diplomatic negotiation—every provocation, disagreement or conflict in general has to be solved by sending one’s army into another’s territory. Our natural aversion to this hypothetical state of unregulated violence is the best evidence that regardless of how effective violence may be, or how it may in certain cases be justifiable, there is nonetheless an irresistible attraction to nonviolence as the morally superior normative standard for resolving a conflict. As long as this remains the case, nonviolence is clearly still an enduringly relevant ideal today.
With this, I affirm the resolution. Thank you.
 Arendt, Hannah. On Violence. New York: Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1970.
peace27 forfeited this round.
Please extend all my arguments.
peace27 forfeited this round.
Please extend my arguments.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by zmikecuber 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF. Conduct to Pro, S/G to Pro, arguments and sources to Pro.
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