Mahatma Gandhi quotes:
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
“The elephant needs a thousand times more food than the ant, but that is not an indication of equality.”
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
I was listening to NPR and they were interviewing Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson who moved in with him at age 12. The grandson was a troubled young man from South Africa who was persecuted under the South African system of Apartheid and was very angry. In the interview he talked a lot about where violence comes from and how it was all around us. He said Mahatma Gandhi taught him to recognize violence and how to react to violence. There is always a form of violence and persecution at all times around us. We see it with children hitting one another, name calling, sarcasm, punishments, and social stigmas. The best way to react was to acknowledge it and move away from participation in the actions. After all, you can only control yourself and you choose your emotions toward things.
So in a world full of violence and persecution how can we achieve any kind of social equality? Can we eliminate our sarcasm, can we reject Saturday Night Live on television, block Donald Trump’s tweets, are we able to just get along somehow by choice? I feel that we as an American society have a long way to go (especially politically right now). But, as we are exposed to inequality I do believe we can be taught to be aware of it. We can be trained to see it, and how to properly react to it in our society. If a person is having a bad day at the store, let them in line ahead of you and open a door for a stranger. Smiling at everyone sure is a step in the right direction for equality and non violence. We can stand up for others who are the victims of this treatment, and be someone’s personal super hero for the day. I have felt this super hero feeling before, when I stood up for a stranger being ridiculed in public. But, overall we are in control of our awareness and reaction to our societies behaviors. We can teach others how to act by our reactions to their behavior. It is passive and non violent and it works.
As I traveled to Scandinavian countries, who are known for being some of the most expensive and highest taxed countries in the world, I have noticed the equality is very high. Countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland are some of the first to respect differences in their society. They have laws about paternity leave for father’s to stay home and bond with their new baby. They have no bathroom law issues, because they accommodate all in their bathroom designs, so there is no stigma in using the bathroom. Norway is experimenting with a living wage that may go national if the data is showing a more equal approach to living (Elon musk and Mark Cuban have addressed the need for this in the future as technology takes more jobs). Iceland is the first country to require businesses to show proof that gender pay is equal. Denmark allows all citizens to get a free college education or job training and they pay you a living stipend to go to school (Yes, they pay you to go to college!). All the countries offer a month of vacation time, so everyone can recharge and there is little stigma for working 32-35 hours a week. All these Scandinavian countries are moving toward social equality for all members of their society.
So, at what point does America move closer together in our income gaps, in our pay at our jobs, in our rights to be treated equally no matter what? How do we do this in America? The same way Gandhi said it could be done…recognize the problem and teach those around you how to treat one another with our positive reactions. Violence can’t be met with violence and inequality can’t be met with more inequality. Treat everyone you meet and see with respect and demand the same in return. Non violence, equality, and respect for one another will change our world for the best. It has already been done and it can be done again and again throughout other societies and human future history.