On Nonviolence

We are deceived into believing that we can get the kind of world we seek by doing the very things we are trying to get rid of.  “Just a little more violence to end violence.” “Just a little more hatred to end hatred.” “Just a little more oppression to end oppression” — and on and on.

We are taken in because good people are doing these things, sincere and brave people.  And this is why the finer their qualities, the more dangerous they are, the more thoroughly we are fooled.

All the finest qualities in the world cannot change the simple, immutable fact that the ends cannot justify the  means, but, on the contrary, the means determine the ends.  In all of human history this stands out clearly and intellectually indisputable; yet it has been perversely, insistently, sentimentally and tragically ignored.  In this universe the means always and everywhere, without doubt and without exception, cannot, in the very nature of things, but determine the ends.  This cannot be repeated often enough.

We get what we do; not what we intend, dream or desire.  We simply get what we do. Recognizing this and applying it would, in a generation, bring about the transformation that alone can put an end to the fear, suspicion, and misery which at present holds such terrible sway over all our lives.

If we see and act upon this (I will say again, unabashedly, what it is  — the means determine the ends!), then what the prophets of all ages have wistfully called utopia will become a reality.

“Nation shall no more lift sword against nation” nor unloose napalm, nerve gas or nuclear weapons.  “Neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid.” Because they will have at last understood, because we will all have at least understood, what is required of us. “To do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly” with the knowledge that all our means are but temporary ends and that all our ends are but new beginnings.  We will have learned what every flower has never forgotten and what all oceans patiently remind us of.

– Ira Sandperl, 1974

Excerpted from A Little Kinder,
Published by Science and Behavior Books

NOTE: Currently out of print, but used copies can be found here: