Saturday, October 02, 2010

Yglesias is with Gandhi

I remember seeing in the library a novel about what would have happened had Gandhi headed the resistance to Hitler. I just scanned through it, I think Gandhi is summarily shot, and Hitler rolls over the world.

But on Gandhi's birthday, Yglesias writes:
I think the general moral of the story is that non-violence is a tactic whose potency people pretty systematically underrate. When the force being resisted is one you also sympathize with, it gets easy to see that non-violence would work better. But when the force being resisted is one you’re both frightened of and embittered against, the tendency is to be blind to this.

Over the years I’ve come to adopt a pretty extremist view on this, and I think I’m even prepared to accept the reductio ad Hitler case. Had it been feasible to coordinate the population of Poland, Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc. into a mass campaign of non-violent resistance to German occupation I think that would have brought even Hitler down. The problem there is essentially about how difficult it is to sustain collective action rather than about the need to fight evil with violence.