Non-violence – The History of a Dangerous Idea
Title: Non-violence – The History of a Dangerous Idea
Author: Mark Kurlansky
Number of pages: 203
Publisher: Vintage Books
Year of publication: 2007
Genre: Political history, political ideas.
New words I encountered: ahimsa
I could not put this book down! I read it all in two days. I found it fascinating learning about periods and people in history that I had never heard of before. I am very interested in counter-histories that show that non-violent protestors achieved something without violence. The book moves from 4,000 years ago in India and China to Jesus in Israel to Mohammed in Arabia to Europe, North America, New Zealand, back to India and then to South Africa. The main thrust of the book is that practitioners of nonviolence are a huge threat to states and governments. If states cannot get people to do something by force and violence, then it loses its power. This is why it is a dangerous idea. It renders states impotent. History chronicles the major military campaigns and leaders but it does not give near enough attention to non-violent campaigners. Non-violence has been very successful in changing countries and achieving justice. The book explains that Judaism abhorred killing of people and Jesus, as a Jew, preached the same. Early Christians refused to kill or use violence against others. Over time this changed and the Christian church permitted some killing and violence until the point where the Church became a major user of violence.
I would recommend this book to anyone. They will learn so much and their opinions about Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Quakers and many more sects will be changed. Readers will learn more about human life and relations and how we as people have hurt each other so much over the centuries despite it being against human nature to kill people. During the Second World War, only 15% of the soldiers in US army units actually fired and killed. It seems bizarre but many soldiers do not want to deliberately kill other humans. Armies try to get them to do this by training and military culture but human nature still prevails.
It is a fascinating read and worth thinking a lot about. Less violence in the world would change so much in the world.