Thursday, 28 November 2013

Gandhi as negotiator

'Mahatma Gandhi is possibly one of the best negotiators the world has seen. He accomplished many incredible things in his own way and managed to rally people together for a cause.' Prof Peter. Hiddema.

Suppose we are neighbors. I say to you 'if you dig a ditch, my garden won't get flooded.'

You reply- 'if you let me use your parking space, I wouldn't keep getting tickets.'
Clearly, there is a possibility for some sort of deal to be struck here. I might be prepared to sacrifice my parking space so as not to have my garden flooded. You may be prepared to accept occasional use of my parking space in return for digging the ditch. There is a 'contract curve' describing feasible mutually beneficial deals we can make. Negotiations is about getting the best deal for oneself.

Was Gandhi a good negotiator?

Gokhale and Smuts thought he was a good man but a poor negotiator because he wouldn't press his advantage when he had the upper hand.
However, on the occasion when he could have got 'Swaraj'- i.e. self-rule for India along the lines Allenby had granted the Egyptians- he messed up in a manner which suggested that he wasn't a good man at all.
To see why, let us go back to story about my flooded garden and your coveting my parking space.
Suppose we have agreed that my parking space is worth much more in money than the cost of your digging the ditch and that whatever agreement we make is going to include an additional douceur.
Yet, next time we meet, you say to me 'I'm glad you've realized your moral obligation to give me your parking space. It is sad that you only came to the realization of the terrible injustice you were doing me by reason of your selfish interest in saving your garden from being flooded. Still, because I'm a truly charitable and morally exceptional person, I'm going to forget all about our negotiations and simply use your...I mean my parking space, without giving a thought to the sordid motives which led to your handing it over to me.'
My response is to get your car towed and to bring a suit against you for damages caused to my garden by flooding due to your negligence in not attending to the proper drainage of your property. You promptly run around the neighborhood telling everybody I'm a thief and a rapist and Satanist and so on. I bring an action for libel. You refuse to pay and so your assets are sold. You are now homeless but squat in your old property. I get you arrested for trespass and property damages. You begin a campaign of Civil Disobedience in the Court room. You get done for Contempt and languish in prison because you refuse to purge yourself of contempt.  Your baby starves, your wife goes mad, your daughter becomes a prostitute but gets knifed by a sicko, your sons become terrorists and are either shot or shipped off to Gitmo. You, however, are supremely happy. You have acted righteously. The parking space was yours because I said I was prepared to give it to you for a consideration. But it is immoral to do something for a consideration. The fact that I was prepared to give it to you meant I was morally obliged to give it to you. For you to offer a douceur to me to fulfill this moral obligation would be a corrupt practice on your part. The path of virtue, of non violence, of Christian Charity and Moral Righteousness, forbade you any course of action other than the one you have taken. You are truly a 'Mahatma'- a great soul.

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