DANDI SALT MARCH 75TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, PUNE, INDIA 6 APRIL 2005
Inspired by Gandhiji, I left my native country and came to India to learn, and to try to practice a life of satyagraha (adherence to truth), ahimsa (compassionate non-violence) and sarvodaya (welfare of all). And thus led by Gandhiji, I met the woman who was to become my wife when she invited me to speak at a Gandhi Seminar here in Pune.
It is astounding to me that I find myself addressing this group of eminent people; I hope I can do justice to the occasion. Please understand that I represent no organization and speak only for myself.
In observing the human condition and history of the last 90 years, I feel moved to question the future of the human race, and for this I would like to place some considerations before you. The baseline fact is that the various Nation-States of this small and lonely planet have murdered around 200 million people in wars and internal conflicts during these years. They have indirectly destroyed many millions more lives through Corporate-State institutionalized economic exploitation and ecological destruction.
From these facts arise the questions: Who are we?
What do we think we are doing?
Being proud of our bombs, missiles and kill-at-a-distance weapons systems, might not the death of humanity be our reward?
What, really, does it mean to be human?
What was Gandhiji doing at Dandi? Of course we know it was a protest against taxes imposed by the State, which were used to finance further exploitation and oppression of the people.
Gandhi taught Ahimsa, compassionate non-violence. Taxation is the expropriation of private property under threat of violence. What is this if not theft? What is theft if not violence? Is this what Gandhi taught?
History tells us that the American, Henry David Thoreau, had some influence on Gandhi’s development of civil disobedience as a tactic to fight oppression. This is what Thoreau said about taxes during the American imperialist war against Mexico (1846–48): "If a thousand people would not pay their taxes this year, that would not be so violent and bloody as it would be to pay the taxes and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood."
In more modem times, "civilization" having devolved to a state of totaI war, U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig said (1982) regarding war protesters: "Let them march all they want, as long as they continue to pay their taxes."
From whence comes the finance for Nation-States to murder 200 million people in the past 90 years? It comes from taxes mostly. Who paid the taxes? Was it not us as citizens? So, who financed the murder and who is responsible?
Gandhi said, "The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from the violence to which it owes its very existence." Who owns the individual? Who owns my body? Do I own my body and the product of its labor, or does it belong to the State? Who really owns your property, that is, the product of your labor?
So long as there are taxes obtained through threat of violence by a State which holds monopoly on the use of force, I do not, as a matter of public law, own my body or the product of my labor.
Is not my moral sovereignty inalienable? Is not my will inalienable? Can I assign my will to another person, give it away to him? It is impossible. Then what right does the State have to the product of my labor, which is the extension of my personality? Are not taxes then a form of enslavement?
Nehru said of Gandhi’s march to Dandi: "There is a fire of great resolve in him, and love of truth and love of freedom that inspires." LOVE OF TRUTH. LOVE OF FREEDOM. Does anyone capable of reading a newspaper believe that any State at any time upholds TRUTH? When the State can take your property by threat of force, where is FREEDOM?
Gandhi said means is to end as seed is to tree. A good end is not possible through evil means. Therefore, how can we expect a good outcome from the use of force to take property from people? Violence always begets violence. It is the obvious outcome of Law of Cause and Effect.
Peace is, at minimum, the absence of violence or threat of violence against persons and their property. The State uses threats of force against my person and property if I don’t pay taxes. Then it uses my tax money to murder innocent women and children in far away lands. This is the breeding cycle of State-Corporate–sponsored escalating violence, opposite of Gandhi’s humane non-violence, opposite of the moral choice promulgated by all great wisdom teachings of humanity.
Power, especially power in a centralized government, promotes violence. "War is the health of the State." Only Liberty promotes non-violence. Gandhi was a revolutionary for Liberty.
Now, we in democracies are meeting the final enemy and recognizing that it is us. It is now we who are desecrating all life through consumerism and militarism. Now we need an Inner Revolution:
From fear to love, from greed to generosity From selfishness to compassion, deceit to truth From dependence to self-reliance, war to peace From enslavement to Liberty
To think one thing, say another and do a third is to lie, to disintegrate the pysche. Gandhi was integrity personified. He did not lie and he did not engage in secrecy. Contrast that to the world leaders of today. We live in a sea of lies. How can we navigate? Only by the compass of Moral Courage.
Gandhi lived and taught Truth, non-violence, integrity, self-reliance. Is it not self-evident, based upon our common experience, that these Beatitudes of life require Liberty?
Historical Footnote: The Dandi Salt March of 1930 was undertaken by Gandhi to protest the British tax on salt, which was a great hardship imposed upon the poor. Gandhi and a hardy band of followers marched 241 miles in the heat of Indian summer to reach the sea coast at Dandi. Gandhi addressed large crowds along the way, and each day more people joined him. Upon reaching the sea, prayers were offered and Gandhi harvested a lump of natural salt, thus breaking the law. Many others followed suit and soon the jails were full and Gandhi himself was jailed.
April 14, 2005