MAHATMA GANDHI, SOMEONE WE CAN LOOK UP TO
One of my heroes is Gandhi. Yes, I’ll admit it. It was Gandhi’s birthday a couple days ago, and it’s a good time to reflect on his achievements and influence, even up to the present. His influence and legacy continues to have a profound effect on the world, even until this day.
Mohandas Gandhi lived from between 1869 to 1948, at a time when India was under British rule. The British at that time had been bullying the nations of the world, or at least a big chunk of them, for decades and decades. In the name of Christ and King, the Brits and their counterparts from France, Holland, Austria and other industrially developed countries expanded their empires worldwide to benefit from other nations’ natural resources and cheap labour. The colonisers did such a thoroughly effective job that few nationals dared to stand up to the Europeans for any length of time. In this dark, oppressive atmosphere, a few luminaries such as Gandhi rose up to defend their nations against the barbaric grip of their overlords.
Gandhi and his spinning wheel to make his own clothing instead of buying British-made import
Gandhi’s “school” for opposing imperialists was South Africa. This is where he learned to stand up against the Dutch and British who had invaded, captured and brutalised the southernmost nation of the African continent. After 21 years of working as a lawyer and activist in South Africa, Gandhi returned to India in 1915. He already had a reputation around the world as a leader skilled both in theorising and organising resistance against colonial powers. He took some time to travel around India and become reacquainted with the complexity of issues that he and other activists faced in arranging an effective opposition to challenge British rule.
Gandhi and his wife Kasturbhai
One thing Gandhi was certain about is that radical social change must come through non-violence. He knew that the British, although relatively few in comparison to the millions of Indians, had the military manpower and weapons to crush any dissent. Thus, results-oriented resistance had to happen through channels that did not directly attack the industrial-military complex of the British.
In addition, Gandhi knew that he would have to appeal to a broad base of people. He networked and partnered with Muslims in an effort to build solidarity among Indian nationals to face off against Britain’s representatives in India. In his ongoing efforts, he met with both successes and failures on the way. When Gandhi and his colleagues in the Congress Party had finally won their independence in 1947, India was divided by the British in their Partition of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Gandhi was understandably devastated with these results, although there seemed to be little he could do about it. Nevertheless, he set an admirable example of trying to work with different religious and ethnic communities. Some loved him, others hated him, but Gandhi managed to command the respect of most Indians, and foreigners who were familiar with India’s situation.
Mahatma Gandhi with Lord Pethwick Lawrence, British Secretary of State for India – April 18, 1946
Years later, looking back on Gandhi’s legacy, people from all around the world are grateful for the role model of passion and firm, non-violent resistance against oppression. We all can learn a lot by studying Gandhi’s life and philosophy. Check out some resources that discuss Gandhi and his influence:
- The Wikipedia entry
- Time Magazine
- Biography.com with a video documentary
- A comprehensive site
- “Gandhi”, a 1982 movie international co-production between Indian and the UK. You can watch the entire movie on Youtube right here.
- “Gandhi, My Father”, a 2007 film documenting Gandhi’s relationship with his son Harilal. See it on Youtube here.
- “The Making of the Mahatma”, a 1996 joint venture film between India and South Africa, regarding his 21 years spent in South Africa. Here‘s a trailer for it on Youtube.
- “Mahatma: Life of Gandhi, 1869 – 1948”, a 1968 Indian documentary with 14 chapters, running for five and a half hours. Check it out on Youtube here.
- Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth, written by the man himself, covering his early childhood until 1920.
- Soul Force: Gandhi’s Writings on Peace
- And the list goes on . . . Check out Amazon’s comprehensive listing of many books about Gandhi here.
WISE QUOTES FROM GANDHI, mostly from Wikiquote:
- “The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not for every man’s greed”. – Quoted by Pyarelal Nayyar in Mahatma Gandhi : The Last Phase (Volume 10), page 552 (1958)
- “Truth alone will endure, all the rest will be swept away before the tide of time. I must continue to bear testimony to truth even if I am forsaken by all. Mine may today be a voice in the wilderness, but it will be heard when all other voices are silenced, if it is the voice of Truth”. – Basic Education (1951) p. 89
- “Poverty is the worst kind of violence”. – A Just Peace through Transformation : Cultural, Economic, and Political Foundations for Change (1988) by the International Peace Association
- “A man of truth must also be a man of care”. – An Autobiography, Part I, Chapter 5, At the High School
- “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes”. -In Ethical Religion, (Madras: S. Ganesan, 1922), Chapter 6, p. 61.
- In discussing the perils of rapid modernisation and industrialism: “I claim that in losing the spinning wheel we lost our left lung. We are, therefore, suffering from galloping consumption. The restoration of the wheel arrests the progress of the fell disease”. – The Great Sentinel in Young India (13 October 1921)
- “Seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice”. – From a list closing an article in Young India (22 October 1925); Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi Vol. 33 (PDF) p. 135
- “The cry for peace will be a cry in the wilderness, so long as the spirit of nonviolence does not dominate millions of men and women. An armed conflict between nations horrifies us. But the economic war is no better than an armed conflict. This is like a surgical operation. An economic war is prolonged torture. And its ravages are no less terrible than those depicted in the literature on war properly so called. We think nothing of the other because we are used to its deadly effects . . . The movement against war is sound. I pray for its success. But I cannot help the gnawing fear that the movement will fail if it does not touch the root of all evil — man’s greed”. – “Non-Violence — The Greatest Force” in The World Tomorrow (5 October 1926)
- “My ambition is much higher than independence. Through the deliverance of India, I seek to deliver the so-called weaker races of the Earth from the crushing heels of Western exploitation in which England is the greatest partner”. – Young India (12 January 1928). Quoted in The Essential Writings of Gandhi, edited by Judith Brown. Oxford University Press, 2008, (p. 153).
- “The ideally non-violent state will be an ordered anarchy. That State is the best governed which is governed the least”. – From Discussion with BG Kher and others, August 15, 1940. Gandhi’s Wisdom Box (1942), edited by Dewan Ram Parkash, p. 67 also in Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi Vol. 79 (PDF), p. 122.
- “A good person will resist an evil system with his whole soul. Disobedience of the laws of an evil state is therefore a duty”. – Non-Violent Resistance
HOW WE CAN APPLY GANDHI’S EXAMPLE TO OUR OWN LIVES:
- Gandhi was not a nerd or pushover: He was not simply a passive pacifist who just got lucky, but he was a principled man of action. He got the results he was looking for, with the minimum of wasted time and resources.
- Gandhi was a Contrarian, a Counter-Cultural Non-Conformist, a Rebel: He stood up for core values of truth, social justice and the belief that all people should be free. He did not give in to the System, but used his time and talents to win people over and develop strategies that would promote the best results for the most people. He used innovative methods to get everyone to reconsider traditional notions of community, religion and social class. And he managed to send the Brits back home.
- Gandhi appeared weak, but was in fact a tower of strength: He had determination, perseverance and an indomitable spirit. While some criticised him for his kindness to the British, Gandhi held to his belief that forgiveness was a sign of strength.
- Gandhi was very up-to-date in his philosophy: In his day, non-violence was not a common strategy for taking down governments. Additionally, Gandhi’s stances on equal rights for untouchables, women, and various religious communities and classes prefigured many civil rights struggles around the world.
- Gandhi struggled with many failures: He had to try, try and try again in order to win the gains that he saw in his lifetime. He made many mistakes, and was willing to admit to them. He never gave up in fighting his own inter struggles to overcome his weaknesses and become a better person.
- Gandhi identified with the poor: Instead of showing off and living the life of a king, he preferred to dress, live and speak as a modest man who could relate to the majority of India’s population who suffered extreme poverty. This is despite the fact that he was a well educated, upper class leader with an impressive Curriculum Vitae!
Let us all study Gandhi’s words and deeds and apply whatever useful principle we can discover from his life. In the battle against the increasingly Fascist systems of control and oppression in Canada, the U.S. and internationally, we can take hope in Gandhi’s example of strong yet peaceful resistance to the imperialistic powers that have their boots on our necks.
Contact me at: dimitri.pravdin(*a*)mail.ru