The Paradox of Nonviolence
Early in July of 1937, a well-known Nazi journalist, Schutzstaffel (SS) officer, and adviser to Adolf Hitler named Roland von Strunk visited Gandhi at his ashram in Segaon. As befitted a National Socialist concerned with the cultivation of a nation’s health and power, Captain Strunk was interested in the Mahatma’s criticism of machinery and modern medicine. In the course of their conversation, Gandhi pointed out what he thought was the fundamental contradiction in the attention that Europeans paid to the preservation of life:
But the West attaches an exaggerated importance to prolonging man’s earthly existence. Until the man’s last moment on earth you go on drugging him even by injecting. That, I think, is inconsistent with the recklessness with which they will shed their lives in war. Though I am opposed to war, there is no doubt that war induces reckless courage. Well, without ever having to engage in a war I want to learn from you the art of throwing away my life for a noble cause. But I do not want that excessive desire of living that Western medicine seems to encourage in man even at the cost of tenderness for subhuman life.1
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- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, “Interview to Capt. Strunk,” Harijan, 3 July 1937, in The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Electronic Book CD-ROM) (hereafter CWMG-EB) (New Delhi: Publications Division, Government of India, 1999), 71:406.