An Interview with Satish Kumar
As a young man, Satish Kumar walked 8,000 miles for peace. Tuesday Satish, now in his mid sixties, found himself in New York, witness to the demolition of the World Trade Center by hijacked airliners. This man of peace shares with Utne Reader Online his unique perspective on the September 11 attack. He challenges Americans to retaliate with compassion and to end the spiral of violence.
'I think the whole world is filled with compassion and sympathy and sorrow,' he says. Beyond the tragedy is an opportunity for America to rise above the West’s tradition of violence.
'America should respond with wisdom and grace and statesmanship…America being the most powerful in terms of wealth and power and weapons, has the potential to be the flagship and lead [the world] in a different direction,' he says quickly, emphatically. Because of America’s status, he feels that it’s the only country capable of responding differently. If it doesn’t, he warns, there will be another World Trade Center and another Pentagon attacked, if not here, then elsewhere. He condemns the hijackers’ use of innocent women, children and seniors as weapons of mass destruction.
However, instead of focusing on this one event, Satish emphasizes the need to look at the larger issue. He sees Tuesday’s attack as evidence of a deeper trend of violence and injustice that can be connected to the protests in Seattle and Genoa, Satish says. This is part of that same problem.
As much as he recognizes the necessity of supporting the CIA, FBI and Secret Service, Satish says he hopes that America can somehow balance them with an equally powerful push to end the world of the root causes of violence: hunger and poverty. 'I would propose that America lead the way and use the forum of the United Nations to bring together all nations… [to show that] not only will we suppress terrorism, but we’ll not tolerate violence in any form.' He challenges America to eradicate all violence. For 50 years he listened to countries speak of removing poverty. 'Words, words, words,' he says. 'In the meantime, countries like us, become richer, richer, richer.' This is one of the most overt acts of violence he sees today. He sees no reason why, with all the food, technology and science, we do not erase hunger and poverty from the earth. Ending violence, he argues, will bring about peace, 'the ultimate security,' he says.
As a follower of Gandhi and editor of the spiritual magazine Resurgence, he believes that violence will only beget more violence. He says: 'If there is a fire you do not put more fire or wood or oil, you use water,' he says. 'You will overcome violence with compassion, with peace; that is a the missing element.'
For more thoughtful responses to Tuesday's tragedy, see Utne's compendium of articles from alternative sources on the web.