The means are consistent with the ends (Principles of nonviolence 4)

This is a part of series on principles of nonviolence. The ten principles are listed here.

Within a philosophy of nonviolence, the means used to bring about social change should be consistent with the desired ends. As the Australian Nonviolence Network (Ochre & Burrowes, 1995) states, “the means we use to bring about change must be consistent with our vision of a nonviolent world” (para. 4). If a just and peaceful society is to be created, then the ways in which it is created need to be just and nonviolent.

The means may be likened to a seed, the end to a tree; and there is just the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree… We reap exactly as we sow (Gandhi, 1951, p. 10).

Gandhi believed that nonviolence was both a means and an end: it was not only a means of bringing about social change but it was also his desired end point (Walz, et al., 1990, pp. 8-9). King believed that the means and ends should not be separated, even in extreme situations (Moses, 1997, p. 145) and that, “returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” (King, 1967, pp. 62-63).

Adapted from
Stuart, G. (2003). Nonviolence and youth work practice in Australia. Unpublished PhD, University of Newcastle, Newcastle.

The reference list will be available after principle 10.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
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