Passive Resistance as a Powerful Tool for Social and Political Change
Passive resistance, simply defined as “peaceful resistance by fasting or refusing to cooperate,” (hyper-dictionary) is a complex issue, and potent tool to attain a means through absolutely zero violence. As Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, have argued, passive resistance is a noble means to a peaceful end, in which only the followers of a movement risk themselves and bring no harm to those whom they oppose. “Passive resistance,” according to Mahatma Gandhi, “is an all sided sword; it can be used anyhow; it blesses him who uses it and him against whom it is used. Without drawing a drop of blood it produces far-reaching results. It never rusts and cannot be stolen.” Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi both knew that police forces could not stifle those who would not fight against them. Likewise, no matter how powerful a government, the hearts of those fighting for a just cause could not be quelled. Others are also moved by those who fight passionately for their cause without using violence, and that independence from those who oppress is a key to developing a change in social and political structure.
While soldiers are easily rallied to fight an enemy who will kill one of their own, they cannot be so easily pressured to kill innocents who merely oppose them without ever resorting to violence. It is a basic human instinct to react to a physical threat, (usually by eliminating it) but if no physical threat exists, it is impossible to justify the elimination of a life. Police forces are faced with this dilemma when encountering passive resisters. Although passive resisters may be in the way of a regime, government, or society, it is hardly justifiable to use violence to remove them when they will apply no hostility against the controlling power. Martin Luther King Jr. capitalized on this knowledge, he rallied people together by stating, “We aren’t going to let any mace stop us. We are the masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don’t know what to do, I’ve seen it so often.” In this speech to a Memphis audience Mr. King was making the point that police forces who use violence and are met with passivity wonder how they can use brutality against innocents. Mahatma Gandhi requested his audience to consider; “when we challenge him (enforcement) to walk over us, knowing that he will not, we place him in a most awkward and humiliating position.” Mr. Gandhi knew, especially in the British case of India, that pride is a huge part of human existence, and that rather than placing themselves in a position where they knew not what to do, the British would think it better to succumb to the majority of Satyagrahi (passive resisters) who fight a just battle.
Pride of the foe, opinions of the public, and the numbers of the resisters, prove that no matter how powerful the foe, passive resistance (if followed by enough for a just cause) can defeat the...