Nihilism and Gandhi’s great soul [Archives:2007/1091/Viewpoint]

October 4 2007

Despite the lure of the recent presidential announcement for constitutional changes I find myself rather tempted to comment on the significant social changes Yemen is going through. Especially that tomorrow Oct. 2, which is the birthday anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, has been declared as the United Nations day of non-violence.

The significant point is that social changes do not require the president to recommend them, referendums to endorse them, or the parliament's approval. They just happen, and cannot be undone, at least easily.

There is continuous violence in Yemen, and this is caused by the state of unrest and pessimism spread around the republic, especially in southern governorates where the people feel most disadvantaged. Yemeni people are religious and committed to traditions and social norms. However, push their buttons and everything becomes meaningless. This is particularly true when the pressure touches the livelihood of people through poverty, and their dignity through discrimination.

History tells more than one example of how extreme pressure on certain people lead to disasters. When people have nothing to lose and become pessimistic, they can turn into killing machines, simply stated. Nihilism or Anomie could be defined as the total rejection of established laws and institutions, or anarchy, terrorism, or other revolutionary activity. It could also be total and absolute destructiveness, esp. toward the world at large and including oneself.

And example of this is suicide bombers not like the ones in Palestine, who believe they have a cause, but rather those who don't have an agenda or a mission. They see their lives are worthless and decide to take the others down with them.

In Russia, nihilism became identified with a loosely organized revolutionary movement (C.1860-1917) that rejected the authority of the state, church, and family

Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical scepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy.

While there are local policies to push Yemenis further into despair, there is an attempt elsewhere to commemorate non-violence leaders in the world who proved that justice and change can be achieved through piece.

Mahatma Gandhi belived that by means of non-violent civil disobedience, India can gain its independence from British rule, and it did. The essence of Gandhi's political philosophy was the empowerment of every individual, irrespective of class, caste, colour, creed or community. To him, extreme poverty was itself a form of violence.

I don't believe that Yemeni people will reach a state of nihilism, or at least that is what I hope. Yet, the unrest Yemen is going through is extremely worrying. Celebrating Mahatma Gandhi on Oct 2 should be a reminder of how taking ways others than his can lead to only destruction. Here is to Gandhi, the great soul.