Peace Activist Gruzalski Speaks on Non-Violence

Non-violence activist and former Professor at Northeastern University Bart Gruzalski presented a lecture that centered on the five tenets of Gandhian nonviolence on Tuesday night in Kemper Auditorium. His lecture was entitled “Why Nonviolence Is A Better Way to Fight Terrorism.” He also visited three Religion and Philosophy classes on Tuesday and Wednesday. Invited to speak at Phillips Academy as a guest of the Office of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) and Instructor in Religion and Philosophy Dr. Diane Moore, Mr. Gruzalski arrived in Andover last weekend and participated in Martin Luther King activities with the Phillips Academy campus on Monday. He led a workshop discussing non-violent ways of fighting terrorism, which mirrored his speech the following night. Mr. Gruzalski stated in his lecture, “The events of September 11th were horrific and a terrible atrocity and to be fully condemned.” Consequently, he remarked, “The goal for which we are striving is a safer world with as little violence in it as possible.” Describing the five vital characteristics of “Gandhian Nonviolence,” Mr. Gruzalski explained that nonviolence does not mean passivity, but active confrontation. He stated that nonviolent activists should take the “burden of change” upon themselves to “convert, not criticize.” “Courage is absolutely essential to expose wrongs and injustices… Gandhi condemned cowardice worse than violence,” Mr. Gruzalski said, deferring to the philosophy of the renowned non-violent activist Mohatma Gandhi, who helped, through nonviolent means, citizens of India in their pursuit for equality. He also emphasized the “transformative” nature of Gandhian nonviolence and the tremendous potential it had for creating change within a society. He quoted Martin Luther King: “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community; the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.” The visiting professor further castigated those who believe that the only way to fight violence was with “ruthlessness, brutality, and retributive fury.” He stated that violence only encourages further violence, while providing numerous examples from history when a nonviolent approach led to positive change, including the American Civil Rights Movement, revolutions in Poland, the Philippines, and in South Africa, among others. He then suggested numerous ways to fight a “nonviolent war on terrorism.” He mentioned such strategies as “cutting off funds [to known supporters of terrorists] and breaking up terrorist cells” have been used in the United States. He noted that “public trials, joining the European Nations in fighting Afghan starvation, an even-handed approach with the Israelis and the Palestinians, and a consistent approach with all countries with ‘weapons of mass destruction,’” are strategies that have not been used to fight the latest war that this nation is engaged in. Concluding his speech, Mr. Gruzalski listed a number of activities that students at Phillips Academy can partake in to discourage the war on Iraq- a possible course of action for the US that many supporters of nonviolence staunchly oppose. He encouraged a nonviolent approach instead. “Focus on the world around you. Organize, march, sign petitions, hold rallies, call your Senators and Representatives, write letters to newspapers, work for and vote for peace-loving candidates,… and most importantly stay informed,” he said. He also recommended that students not rely on such “commercial media” sources as The New York Times and CNN, but instead, advocated independent news sources such as the radio show, “Democracy Now,” which is broadcast in the Boston area on 1670 AM, Mondays through Fridays at 9 am. Following the lecture, Chair of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department Susan McCaslin reflected on the night and Mr. Gruzalski’s lecture, “The topic he addressed was especially important because we need to be mindful that there is always an alternative to violence. His talk in reminding us that violence and war is not often effective against violence was especially powerful.” Students in attendance at the lecture expressed a wide range of opinions with Professor Gruzalski’s speech. Lily Kelting ’04 remarked that she enjoyed the speech, but found it “too philosophical and hard to apply to real life… When I asked him how to apply what he said about nonviolence, he talked about different levels of involvement. He didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know.” Others felt that Professor Gruzalski’s argument was flawed. Bob Yamartino ’03 found fault in the speakers’ logic. Yamartino, an opponent of nonviolence, remarked, “I thought that the concepts presented by Professor Gruzalski, while they were interesting, were inherently flawed, specifically his assumption that violence begets violence.” After obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, Mr. Gruzalski taught at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He then became a tenured Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Northeastern University in Boston for sixteen years. Several years ago, he chose to leave his tenured position at Northeastern to help start the Pacific Center for Sustainable Living. He has written two books, On the Buddha that was published in 2000, and On Ghandi that was published in 2001. Since the September 11th attacks, Mr. Gruzalski has traveled across the country lecturing on the importance of nonviolence. He has spoken on other academic campuses and in other public settings.