Leung Ying, 29
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Certainly, Duc broke these precepts when he killed himself, but his act raises the question of larger purposes. Of course, the fact that Duc did not physically hurt anyone else besides himself makes this kind of violence distinctly different from when others are affected.
I was put into a jail once on this account, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of solid stone, two or three feet thick, the door of wood and iron, a foot thick, and the iron grating which strained the light, I could not help being struck with the foolishness of that institution which treated my as if I were mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up. I wondered that it should have concluded at length that this was the best use it could put me to, and had never thought to avail itself of my services in some way. I saw that, if there was a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break through before they could get to be as free as I was. I did nor for a moment feel confined, and the walls seemed a great waste of stone and mortar. I felt as if I alone of all my townsmen had paid my tax. They plainly did not know how to treat me, but behaved like persons who are underbred. In every threat and in every compliment there was a blunder; for they thought that my chief desire was to stand the other side of that stone wall. I could not but smile to see how industriously they locked the door on my meditations, which followed them out again without let or hindrance, and they were really all that was dangerous. As they could not reach me, they had resolved to punish my body; just as boys, if they cannot come at some person against whom they have a spite, will abuse his dog.
I'm not sure Gandhi would have agreed with Thích Quảng Đức's choice to immolate himself. But who knows? Perhaps someone can comment if they know his views of suicide. On the other hand, Gandhi did favor hunger strikes as a method of non-violent political protest, which is a form of killing oneself, albeit slowly. What's the difference?
What Gandhi could agree on is that Duc's suicide required the supreme quantity of self-suffering. And this self-suffering, by Gandhi and his followers, was the key force that led to India's independence. In the United States, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) used non-violent resistance to raise awareness about the violence of segregation and to bring about civil rights for African Americans and other ethnic minorities in the 1960s.
Even in the 21st Century, social media has enabled even broader and more instantaneous manifestations of non-violent resistance. The "Arab Spring," including the non-violent protests and revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Iran, and elsewhere in the Middle East, testifies to the power of this practice to bring down despots, dictators, and immoral governments. In fact, the peaceful revolution in Tunisia was begun by an act of immolation like that of Thich Quang Duc. Click here to read more of the story of Mohamed Bouazizi, the 26 year-old street vendor who set himself on fire.