I tell folks looking to make South Dakota truly progressive that they need to build their political organizing skills. But maybe we could all use some re-organization of our worldviews.
The new South Dakota-based Satyagraha Institute seeks to promote the promote the principles of Mohandes Gandhi, known as satyagraha:
Mohandas Gandhi, who famously experimented with the possibilities of nonviolence, coined the Sanskrit term satyagraha to identify a method of social change. Gandhi proposed that satya (truth) combined with agraha (firmness) creates a useful social power that does not rely on harming others. Gandhi often referred to this power as “truth-force.”
Satyagraha is an adherence to truth as it unfolds. Since many perspectives are necessary in order to see what is true, satyagraha offers a way to create change that recognizes both our incomplete understanding of any given situation and the wisdom that others have to share. It is a way of directly engaging with others to work out the difficult aspects of life without resorting to coercion, harm, or ill intention. Satyagraha is the social power which arises when we act with kindness, respect, patience, generosity, and service [Sayagraha Institute, home page, downloaded 2015.04.23].
Putting truth-force into practice takes more than a couple paragraphs. Thus, the Satyagraha Institute is offering its first workshop this summer, August 4–18, at the Placerville Camp in the Black Hills. (Hmmm… folks learning non-violence in the Black Hills amidst the roar the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally… I see a metaphor, and an opportunity for reflection). For $700, you get two weeks of thoughtful study of Gandhi’s experience as well as “indigenous spirituality, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker movement, and other spiritual and cultural traditions.” Participants will interact with a diverse faculty:
- M.P. Mathai, a well-known Gandhian scholar from India
- Darlene Pipeboy, a Dakota elder and pipe keeper
- Amelia Parker, Executive Director of Peace Brigades International
- Priscilla Prutzman, Executive Director of Creative Response to Conflict
- Clare Hanrahan, an author and organizer with the New South Network of War Resisters
- Fernando Ferrara, founder Mesa de Paz in Mexico.
I would be intrigued to see how these two weeks of study of nonviolence, as well as engagement with the arts, community life (participants do “bread labor,” basic manual labor, as Gandhi practiced), and discussions about and meditation on inner life could affect the strategies and tactics of political leaders and the nature of our political discourse. But the Satyagraha Institute expects that participants “limit internet use, email, texting, and phone conversations as much as possible throughout the program.” I don’t know if bloggers could survive! (And while I’m thinking of it, I would love to contemplate what the Mahatma would think of blogging as a tool for nonviolent resistance.)