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City of Banjul
Thursday, September 29, 2022

Nonviolence or nonexistence

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With Aisha Jallow

“We no longer have a choice between violence and non-violence.

The choice today stands between non-violence or non-existence.”

This is a quote by the great Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. He was known as ”the Father of the Nation”, of India. Mr Gandhi led the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule by using the tools of nonviolent civil disobedience.

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Mr Gandhi inspired Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who later transferred Gandhi’s teachings and tactics to the Civil Rights Movement. In honor of Gandhi’s birthday, the United Nations declares every October 2 the International Day of Nonviolence and calls global citizens to renew commitments to nonviolence and peace-making.

Tragically, we hear of new violent actions every day, everything from domestic violence to mass killings by deadly weapons. The largest numbers of victims are in the US and as long as they have more weapons than citizens, there is not much one can do. The second amandment in their constitution states that every American citizen has the right to own a weapon to defend themselves. I wonder how many enemies the American people have as they need so many weapons. Not every American is ”trigger-happy”, but many enough to make life unsure for the rest.

The American constitution was written a very long time ago, 1787, and a lot has changed in the world since then but it doesn’t seem as the Americans are able to adapt to the change.

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In 1787 America was considered as the New World with endless natural resources for the daring Europeans who crossed the great seas to get there. Europe was crowded and in strict control by the church. Adventurous men sailed with large ships, carrying foodstuff, horses, equipment and weapons enough so they could explore America. Something else the ships carried was deseases no one had heard of and for which there was no cure. When the indigenous people got exposed with deseases for which they had no resilience, many of them died as there was no medication to cure them.

The Europeans were used to their own bacterial flora, so they didn’t become as ill as the indigenous people of America. Not that the Europeans cared much about the fatalities, death was a normal part of life back then and less indigenous people meant less enemies. Coming to America back then was not a holiday trip, it was a long and dangerous journey. First you had to survive on the sea and then you had to fight deseases, starvation and indigenous people with bows and arrows. The Europeans considered America as theirs, as they had ”discovered” it. It had always been there, but unknown by the Europeans. That fact didn’t matter, nope, the Europeans landed on the American coast and in their minds they had discovered a new country. Logics was not their forte, so perhaps we should forget that part and move on in the story.

The indigenous people of America didn’t agree with the white folks that came and claimed their land. According to the indigenous, no one can own land, it can only be shared with each other. Greed has always been a strong force, so when the Europeans discovered all the forests, the lakes and the land, they decided that this was theirs and the ones that disagreed were in deep trouble. Life was tough and dangerous, only the strongest survived and to protect the life of yourself and your family you had a weapon. This was normal back then, just as normal as having a smartphone nowadays. We couldn’t consider going anywhere without our smartphone now, we would feel as naked and vulnerable as a cowboy without his gun.

Non-violence or non-existence – what does that mean and does that mean anything to you? Nineteen school children and 2 teachers don’t exist anymore in the small town of Uvalde in Texas, USA. They were murdered by a young man who bought his first gun as soon as he had turned 18. This was an automatic gun that spits out bullets like a machine gun. Some of the children were so damaged that the only way for the parents to identify them was through a DNA-test. Imagine that! The children were shot in pieces, and their families will never recover from this trauma. The young man who first shot his grandma in the face, then stole her car and drove to the school where he decided to do his act of utter evil. The children there were not his enemies, he didn’t have to defend himself against them. He didn’t know the kids and they didn’t know him.

This young man had been bullied when he was in school, he was a loner and many described him as a strange person. He tried to solve his problems by causing others problems, but that is not the right way to go. Violence is never the answer in a conflict, it can only be a tool, but it should never be the first alternative as soon as you end up in a conflict. The problem is that if there is an endless access to weapons, it is too easy to shoot first and ask questions afterwards. When it is too easy to get hold of a weapon, it is also a too big temptation to use it. A weapon can of course be a lot more than a gun. Violence can also mean a lot of different things and when we begin to dig deeper in that area, we will find that using violence will always lead to more violence.

Let us look at the problem from different angles, and let us begin in our homes. How do we solve the problems that occur there? What happens between the spouses? How do we raise our children? Is it considered as normal to beat the wife when the food is not good enough or if she is of different opinion than the husband ? Is it considered as normal to spank the children when they disobey or if the parent is tired and irritated? Are there alternative ways of treating each other? Of course there are, but we need to do some soul searching and find new paths. Not until we understand the consequences of our actions we can begin to change them. As long as we don’t care, nothing will change.

Violence never solves any problems, it will always lead to more violence. It begins in the homes and trickles into every other area. Habits can be changed with determination. Old systems can be replaced by new systems that are better and up to date. Communication and understanding is the only way to change our own lives, our society, our country and our world. Pain is felt the same way all over the world. The blood is red no matter the colour of one’s skin. The choice is between non-violence or non-existence, the choice shouldn’t be hard so what are we waiting for?

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