Essay on The Power of Nonviolent Resistance (NVR)

Essay on The Power of Nonviolent Resistance (NVR)

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In 1963, as protest to the authoritarian regime of President Ngo Dinh Diem, Buddhist monks began to go to public places in Vietnam and commit suicide, by drenching themselves in gasoline and setting themselves on fire. They did this as an act of civil disobedience, defined as an act of defiance of specific laws or policies of a formal structure which the individual or group believes to be unjust. The Buddhist civilization in Vietnam was not apparent to the Americans until the Buddhists began sacrificing themselves in Saigon’s public streets. The pictures of the monks engulfed in flames made world headlines and caused American intervention; and later the capture and killing of Diem and his brother. In contrast to these acts of civil disobedience, one can observe the actions of suicide bombers. In the Palestinian territories, those who support suicide bombing claim that it is merely a tactic of war in defense of their land and homes. Without superior weaponry, they see it as “a heroic act of martyrdom, a final act of resistance, stemming from desperation”(Suicide Bombers). Both the Buddhist monks and the “suicide bombers” in Palestine resort to self-sacrificial actions as their form of violent civil disobedience. Violent forms of civil disobedience should only be necessary to counter violence but never if it inhibits upon the liberties of the innocent. By this definition, the actions of the Buddhist monks are more justifiable than those of suicide bombers in the Middle East.
Both the Buddhist monks and suicide bombers resort to violent means to try and enact a certain social change. The Buddhist monks that sacrificed their own lives believed they were just and right in fighting the religiously discriminatory government. If someone believes their fight is just and right and that their life is worth what they believe in, then violence on oneself in acts of civil disobedience is permissible. However, the actions of suicide bombers in the Middle East are not right because their suicides inhibit on the liberties of innocent people.
When contrasting violent and non-violent forms of civil disobedience, one can look at the contrasting doctrines of civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Martin Luther King’s tactics of protest involved non-violent passive resistance to racial injustice. He once said, “unearned suffering is redemptive. Suffering,...


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...nly if it is the last resort and only against violent circumstances.
Gandhi once said “An eye for an eye and the whole world is blind.” This is true in most circumstances but there are exceptions. By comparing acts of nonviolent civil disobedience with acts of violent civil disobedience it is apparent that force or violence is only necessary to combat violence but never if it effects the lives of the innocent. A recurrent theme in each of these examples is that there is a genuine desire to achieve equality and liberty. However, one cannot take away the liberties of others in order to gain their own. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that political change would come faster through nonviolent methods and one can not argue his results as many of the Jim Crow laws were repealed. Similarly, through nonviolent resistance Gandhi was able to eventually free India from the rule of Britain. It is true that sometimes the only way to fight violence is through violence, but as is apparent, much can be said of peaceful demonstrations in order to enact change. Thus, it is the responsibility of we as individuals to understand that nonviolence is often a more viable means to an end than violence.

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