JuicyLesson #81: Mandela, King and Gandhi — Part 2

Hi y’all.

Hope all is good. Today’s lesson is divided into three sections.

Section 1: The philosophy of the Social Contract as applied to the work of Mandela, King and Gandhi.

Section 2: My working notes on the topic being reviewed in today’s JuicyLesson.

Section 3: Three videos on Gandhi and King. These videos pretty much speak for themselves but please allow me to interject one point here. That is that the videos are all related to the non-violent approach undertaken by these two great men. In Gandhi’s case, it was his famous Salt March protesting the British plan to impose a salt tax on the Indian people as well as to demonstrate passive resistance to the British salt monopoly.

The very short video re-enacts events related to the salt works ‘demonstration’ which is described in today’s first video.

Mandela, also a great hero, took an alternate route towards achieving his goal – eradicating the racist policy of apartheid practised by the government.

Yesterday we began comparing and contrasting the lives and methodologies of the three biggest heroes of the twentieth century – Nelson Mandela, Reverend Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Gandhi.

I said that King and Gandhi were into passive resistance and non-violence to achieve racial equality in the United States and Indian independence from the British Empire respectively. Both of these men believed that civil disobedience was justifiable in the case of unjust laws or actions committed by the ruling class. Yesterday I suggested that they were not the first to support this kind of ideology. John Locke the seventeenth century British empiricist and Jean-Jacques Rousseau the eighteenth century French philosopher both stated in no uncertain terms that what Locke referred to as a Social Contract existed between the rulers and the ruled in any society.

In those days monarchs ruled according to a doctrine known as the Divine Right of Kings, whereby the kings believed that since they had been appointed to rule by the good Lord, they were answerable to Him and Him alone.

The Social Contract stood diametrically opposed to the notion of Divine Right. It stated that if the ruler broke this social contract, his oppressed subjects had not only the right to revolt against their king, but also the duty to do so. In other words, according to Locke and Rousseau the theory of the Divine Right of Kings did not empower monarchs to do as they pleased regarding their subjects. As long as these kings operated rightfully, everything was cool. But as soon as their people felt morally or otherwise wronged by their king or queen, they had the right as well as the obligation to rise up against corrupt or otherwise overly self-centred monarchs.

Thomas Hobbes differed from Locke and Rousseau. These philosophers all discussed Social Contract theory in terms of the people being ultimately sovereign but Hobbes, in his Leviathan, argues that people surrender their power to a dictatorial monarch for their own protection and have little if any recourse if their king acts unjustly or like a complete tool in any other way.

The British in India, and the whites in both South Africa and the United States obviously were more Hobbesian in their orientation than either Lockeian or Rouaseauian. In other words these regimes/demographic groups obviously believed that once they had the power they were under no obligation to surrender it in any way, shape or form. So Gandhi, Mandela and King respectively had to fight the power, as it were. King and Gandhi took a non-violent route highlighted by acts of passive resistance while Mandela refused to turn the other cheek and eventually sanctioned and may have actually taken part in acts of sabotage. (See notes.)

*Taken from Wikipedia on Nelson Mandela

*Mandela stated that the ANC had “no alternative to armed and violent resistance” — so unlike Gandhi and King, he did not espouse non-violence although he did support this doctrine until the 1950’s. At this point, he planned and may have taken part in acts of sabotage.

*Mandela was arrested a number of times, serving smaller sentences than the life sentence he received in 1963. After serving twenty-three years, he was finally released in 1990, signalling the death knell for Apartheid.

*One of his trials for treason (1955-’61) led to a not guilty verdict after a trial lasting for six years, during which Mandela was out on bail; this was embarrassing for the government.

*Police fired on demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, killing 69 protesters some of whom were burning passes that Blacks were obliged to carry. In solidarity, Mandela publicly burned his pass, leading to rioting across the country. As a result the government declared martial law and, associated with it, a State of Emergency.
*While in prison, Mandela and some of the other political prisoners went on hunger strikes (Gandhi parallel) to get unsanitary conditions in prison improved.

*Initially, while working in lime quarry Mandela was not permitted to wear sunglasses leading to permanent eye damage from the sun’s glare on the lime.

*Some of his white jailers were abusive

*President P.W. Botha of S. Africa offered to release Mandela in 1985 on the condition that he “unconditionally renounce violence as a political weapon”. Mandela spurned this offer and was to remain in a different prison (Pullsmoor) for an additional five years.

*Robben Island 1964-1982
Pollsmoor Prison 1982-1988


Peace out.

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