On this day in 1930, Mahatma Gandhi started his long march to Dandi on the sea to collect some salt for himself. This seemingly innocuous act was illegal at the time – the salt tax in India brought in lots of cash in olden times for the East India Company and now for the English King. A hundred thousand Indians joined Gandhi along the 400 kilometre walk. On arrival, Gandhi stooped and gathered some grains of salt, a gesture that would lead to his arrest, and presage the doom of the British Raj. It seems the Tommys had forgotten the reaction that stems from taxation without representation – something another English King had found to no little cost in 1776.
Democracy is messy. It is also multi-faceted. Obviously it goes a long way beyond jamming your piece of paper in the ballot box or pulling a lever in your voting booth. Gandhi’s demonstration that civil disobedience could shake the system merely reflected a rich (and ongoing) history of men and women making a point by deeds rather than at the ballot box (e.g Martin Luther nailing his paper to the church door, the Boston Tea Party, the sit-down strike in British Egypt, Rosa Parks keeping her seat in Montgomery Alabama, the Hunger Strike on the Larzac Plateau, the Cape Town Peace March, Tank Man at Tiananmen Square, Estonia’s Singing Revolution, and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.) Brave stuff and we are thankful. All we can hope for is that such brave acts, replicated in the future, retain their most courageous component: Non-violence.