It has been a few weeks since Arun Gandhi visited campus, but believe it or not, it’s taken me that much time to actually process all that he shared with us. At the close of the event, I wasn’t sure what to take from it; I wasn’t sure what was valuable, and what wasn’t. Above all, I started thinking more idealistically about the world around me, and most importantly, my place in it. I just wasn’t sure if I liked the speech or not.

I discussed the Gandhi lecture with the three visiting novelists that joined us on campus the week after, as well as our own Kathlene Postma, to try and form coherent opinions from the muddled confusion that resulted at the event’s close. I didn’t hate the speech, I decided. I just wasn’t comfortable about the way it was presented.

At one point during the lecture, Arun Gandhi mentioned that when people tell us that violence is natural, it is they who are misguided, that we are inherently peaceful creatures. I couldn’t follow him after that.

It’s not that I don’t agree with the idea of non-violent social movements. I think they’re amazing. It takes so much courage to lead a quiet revolution, to rely on introspection instead of blaming, and to focus on an idealized future rather than the wrongs of the past. It takes an enlightened individual.

It is this respect for the determination and spiritual strength of Arun Gandhi’s grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, that urges me to disagree with the notion that peacefulness and acceptance already exist inside us all.

President Barack Obama repeatedly notes that in reference to the rising costs of oil, there are “no easy fixes, no silver bullet.” In this day and age, it’s difficult to find a social issue that this can’t be applied to. For the sake of this discussion, take diversity and inclusivity as an example. We thought the silver bullet would be the abolishment of slavery, but that was only the first step. Then came separate but equal, followed by the next bullet, integration.

Yet we still see racism played out every day in our lives. It’s clear now that there is no silver bullet, that the battle against prejudice is one we will fight day after day, and if we take Gandhi’s teachings into consideration, it is a tiring battle that we cannot fight with violence or anger, but that must be fought with kindness and understanding. And it’s no secret that it’s much harder that way. There’s a reason the saying goes “be the bigger man” when it comes to forgiveness: it requires effort.

It requires effort. That was my largest concern with Arun Gandhi’s notion of inherent peace. It places the blame on societal constructs and history, and allows individuals to feel that by simply returning to their roots, the social issues that face us will fade into irrelevance. But as history and Mahatma Gandhi himself proves, creating a peaceful and inclusive atmosphere is a never-ending struggle that asks a lot of people. But the point that I believe Arun Gandhi attempted to get across was that this struggle is a necessary one.

We simply cannot pretend it will be easy. We cannot deny that when we ask someone to consider their privilege, to be more cautious about their remarks, that we are asking them to put effort into the social movement for peace and inclusivity. It is not natural. It is the next step for humanity; growth comes through struggle.

Through the years, we have evolved as a species, developing local civilizations and community, exploring and conquering. Then came this age, this point in humanity’s arc of growth and development, one that needs to recognize and contribute to the global village. It will require effort. But as Arun Gandhi’s ideals and visions suggest, that effort will one day be worth it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *