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"Some people, like Sophie Scholl, have willingly died for their belief in the power of non- violence..."

 

Choosing Life,
Choosing Nonviolence


Jan Slakov

Nova Scotia
August 1999

m.gif (555 bytes) My daughter is named Sophie. One of the reasons I wanted this name is to honour and in some way bring back to this earth a young woman, 21 years old, named Sophie Scholl.

rose.gif (87655 bytes)
(photo: WhiteRoseInternational)

Sophie Scholl was 21 in 1943 when she was executed by the Nazis for having been a member of the White Rose resistance group. Had she grown up in a saner world, Sophie would surely have enriched it with more of her writings and artwork. She would have enjoyed watching things grow, probably have had a husband, a family, happy grandchildren. She loved and was loved. Knowing love, she could not bear to remain silent as her government ripped families apart, sending the "useless" ones to gas chambers and those who could be used, to work camps.

In many ways, the Canada of today is not unlike Nazi Germany. We know that we are burning fuel, destroying forests, the ocean, poisoning the earth - that the way we live now condemns others to death and misery. We know that our tax money is used to build and distribute weapons, that to pretend these weapons are protecting us is a lie: they are being used essentially to make the world safe for big business. As one champion of the New World Order wrote:

"The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist -- McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."

Thomas L. Friedman,
Two-time Pulitzer winning NY Times columnist from A Manifesto for the Fast World
New York Times, March 28 1999 

Just as there were people like Sophie Scholl in Nazi Germany, who were prepared to give their lives for the cause of God or love, and refused to allow their lives to be used for evil, there are resisters living among us in Canada today. Some withhold the portion of their taxes that is used to support the military and send it to be held in trust for non-military means of security by the group called Conscience Canada (Box 8601, Victoria Central PO, Victoria, BC V8W 3S2).

Here in Nova Scotia we are lucky to have several examples of families or communities living in ways that honour and respect the beauty and life that surrounds us. One such community is Gandhi Farm, in Queens County, quite probably the only open, off-the-grid, radical, organic, vegan community in North America, and possibly the world. (GF, Brookfield Mines, NS B0T 1X0.  It was founded by a young man who grew up in the Shelburne area, Derek Bower, who, along with others who have chosen the Gandhi Farm lifestyle, show us how we could live happy and healthy lives without using disposable items, without killing other animals, without burning fossil fuels, without contributing to an economy which is causing obscene disparity between rich and poor people. (While multi-billionaires Bill Gates, the Walton family who own the Wal-mart empire, and the Sultan of Brunei have a combined worth of $135 billion, 1.3 billion people live on less than a dollar a day. - Guardian Weekly, Vol. 161/No. 3, pg. 1)

It is all too easy for people to dismiss the efforts of the people at Gandhi Farm as idealistic and naive. Indeed, some people living near Gandhi Farm have felt threatened and resentful of the radical experiment in nonviolence at their doorstep. Recently some local youths on ATVs came roaring up to Gandhi Farm in the middle of the night, swearing at the "faggots" sleeping in the house, driving through the garden, trying to provoke the people there into fist fights. The situation was frightening; someone could easily have been hurt. As it was, a beer bottle came within inches of a Gandhi Farm resident's head, and one fellow on his ATV was rear-ended and ended up rolling his machine over a woman's legs. (Luckily she was unhurt!)

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(photo:Museum of Tolerence)

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Sophie advocated resistance to the Hitler regime ...  She died courageously in 1943

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I think most of us have been brought up to believe that in a threatening situation such as this, we must fight back (or get the police to do the retaliation for us); that if we don't, our adversaries will see us as weak and take advantage of our weak- ness. But the people at Gandhi Farm know that power to inflict violence is a false strength. Our most valuable power is the power of love, the power to reach "that of God" or the basic humanity in each of us.

I am thrilled that, for the people at Gandhi Farm, the power of nonviolence has triumphed, at least for now.

That first night of the ATV invasion ended with residents of Gandhi Farm and local youths singing country and western songs together! We hoped this would be the beginning of better relations between the people at Gandhi Farm and the local community.  But the next night the youths were back, drunk and rowdy as before, although not so much in danger of doing bodily harm to the "dirty hippies" at Gandhi Farm.

I happened to be there that night. It felt very sad to think that this harassment would probably drive the people at Gandhi Farm away... I reflected that it had taken years for the local youths to become as violent and destructive as they had become; we could not expect them to change overnight.  But I have been proven wrong! I'm sure the potential for conflict between the people at Gandhi Farm and the local people has not been resolved forever. But those kids on ATVs are not so closed to love and goodness as I at first thought. They returned a week later to apologize and, who knows, maybe they even stayed to share a vegan meal with the Gandhi Farm crowd!

I have told this story for a reason. Even though many of us attend churches which preach "the power of love", very few of us believe in that power enough to be willing to rely on it, instead of the power of violence and destruction, to bring security and well-being.

Some people, like Sophie Scholl, have willingly died for their belief in the power of nonviolence; others, like those at Gandhi Farm, have been able to show us that the power of nonviolence can "win" - in a world where "winning" has become so important. But think: even though Sophie Scholl and so many others "lost" their lives (or their jobs or their homes, etc.) because of their commitment to the power of love, maybe the truth is that they are "winners" - for they die knowing they have lived well - and that the world is a better place for their having been here.