Philosophy of non-violent coercion
The term ‘non-violent coercion’ is used to denote the attempts to destroy or limit the freedom of choice which are not directed to use threats and physical force towards people or their property. Two types of non-violent coercion, direct and indirect, are singed out.
It can be claimed that a boycott broken out in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 initiated the movement of non-violent coercion worked out by Martin Luther King Jr. A twenty seven-year-old man who had just taken the gown and was working on his philosophy inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s writings and the New Testament became the leader of the opposition. Luther insisted that according to the God’s law love and patience can win over everything and with the help of ‘non-violent direct action’ social injustices and drawbacks can be challenged.
However, the society did not accept the new movement and Martin together with Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth was put in jail for protesting in Birmingham, Alabama. A group of local clergymen wrote a letter to the convict accusing him of troubling the society and propagandizing the violent forms of resistance. Being in jail, King responded to the accusation, having written to them back and explaining in the letter the notion and significance of the non-violent movement.
In his ‘Philosophy of non-violent coercion’ Martin Luther King explains the policy of non-violence in the following way: ‘We had to make it clear that nonviolent resistance is not a method of cowardice. It does resist. It is not a method of stagnant passivity and deadening complacency. The nonviolent resister is just as opposed to the evil that he is standing against as the violent resister but he resists without violence. This method is nonaggressive physically but strongly aggressive spiritually’ (King).
King firmly believed that all troubles come from three main sources or evils: poverty, racism and militarism which together form a vicious circle and induce people to act violently. The notion of poverty comprises such factors as homelessness, hunger and unemployment; racism is usually represented by ethic conflicts, anti-Semitism, discrimination against disabled people and ageism; and militarism is expressed in wars, terrorism, human trafficking and the like. And thus, King describes six basic principles of non-violence and offers six steps to achieve the aim.
The six basics include the belief that only courageous people have power to follow the non-violence way of life creating a framework of the community where all its residents live according to justice and have opportunities to express their potential. Apart from that, King stated that the cause and motives of the conflict can be understood only using the nonviolent method. The philosopher does not exclude the notion of self-suffering and even considers that it helps ‘to grow in a spiritual as well as a humanitarian dimension’ (King). And finally, Martin Luther states that the whole universe and humanity as its constituent part tends to the sense of order and peace. According to his doctrine the universe is drawn towards justice and a nonviolence follower should take this truth as the basic one in his activity.
Thus, Martin Luther King formed the new ideological conception of non-violent coercion mainly based on the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, which is used today as the means for peaceful resolution of personal, economic, social and political conflicts in the world’s community.
Martin Luther King. ‘The Philosophy of Non-Violent Coercion’. 17 November 2013.