We often associate “Fearless” with daring feats of courage displayed through actions you can see. It might be in times of war where personal courage is put to the test. During an accident or emergency when you’re faced with saving yourself or someone else. “Fearless” most often seems tangible. Heroism that you want to emulate because it tugs at the masculine desire in you.
I have to admit that Gandhi does not do this for me. Martin Luther King Jr was Fearless to me. Mahatma Gandhi not so much. But why the huge disparity? Were they that different? Martin Luther King Jr was a student of Gandhi and his peaceful Civil Rights movement. As messed up as this may sound, the Fearless I saw in Gandhi grew when I learned that he was also assassinated. Everything I knew about him changed right there. The peace protests known as Satyagraha took on a new form for me. Under this new light is when I realized that Mahatma Gandhi had a Fearless way (trait) that most men will never understand or possess. It is this trait that ultimately led to him being the decisive factor in a nation being freed after a century of colonization. That’s no small feat there!
India was a Colony of England from 1850 to 1947 and it was during this time that Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2nd, 1869. Before becoming the “Father of the Nation” he studied law in England, practiced for a few years in South Africa and raised a family. In South Africa is when he first witnessed social inequality. Even though he purchased 1st Class tickets he was told to move to 3rd class seating. When he refused they threw him off the train and he was stranded. I actually find this comical but only because this would never be allowed here in the US. At least not by law and he would of got a refund. But 100 years ago he has a 1st class ticket in hand and is thrown off. No one is yelling at this injustice or for his refund! But this is the least of his worries and a start to civil rights. Whoever it was that threw Mahatma Gandhi off that train had no idea what movement he was about to start and how history would be changed.
So let’s look at this Satyagraha (Soul Force) and how is it that peaceful means would free a country. Let’s find the Fearless in Satyagraha. Mahatma Gandhi believed in moral power over physical power. He would seek the truth that opponents could agree on. He wasn’t looking for a winner or loser, but a common understanding and goal. He would never exploit or take advantage of an opponent’s problem or suffering. If he did the opponent would not be willingly agreeing, but it would be forced. He didn’t want to use a stance of power or authority because he knew this would bring unwilling change or only being done out of fear. In practice Satyagraha was a peaceful protest against any particular injustice. Don’t mistake peaceful to mean a weak protest. It was very forceful and focused. There was determination there with a strong following that held strong. He was trying to free a country from colonization so he knew persistence was the key. He knew this would take time and small victory’s until the final victory had been won. He knew this required strength of character and belief in something more than himself. He needed a common ground of morality that the English could understand. He had to remain fearless until the end.
It didn’t come quick. It actually took 20 years of persistence from Mahatma Gandhi. There would be outbreaks of violence between Indians and the British. Sometimes the British and Indian police would beat the non-violent protesters. There would be outrage across the world but still no change in equality. There was violence between Hindus and Muslims. Twice he fasted to stop these religious parties from killing each other. Yep, they were literally murdering the other side. Once in 1924 when he fasted for 21 days and it became known as the “Great Fast”. Later when England gave India it’s freedom but split them into two countries, India and Pakistan, and the Hindu’s traveled south and the Muslim’s traveled north they started killing each other again. Mahatma Gandhi did another fast starting on January 13th, 1948. By the 18th both sides agreed to peace so that he’d stop fasting. That’s some powerful stuff there. He was pretty much saying I’m not eating until you millions of people stop fighting.
The fortitude this man had was Fearless! And he ultimately died for it. That’s a lot more heroic than the images that normally run through my mind of heroic acts. Numerous times he could have given in. Can you imagine starving because your country is fighting? I’d probably be sneaking in some snicker bars around the corner. I also think our natural tendency is to be quick to rise to anger and power. We’d take advantage of an opponent’s slip up. But we all know where that gets us. You might win that argument but in the long run you lost. Sometimes you’ll end up on the no-friend list, and other times in the dog house. When it comes to the ethics we live by and the values we hold ourselves and others to, it isn’t about winning or losing but about unity and a common purpose. Mahatma Gandhi knew this, and he liberated a nation without firing a single bullet.