Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

The very pillars supporting our society’s magnificent economic, cultural and political structures are being assaulted on the state and Federal levels. Employment opportunities, educational opportunities, advancement opportunities in our markets, medical care opportunities, and even our basic infrastructures are being assaulted by this newest of neo-conservative movements.

Foreign wars are strangling us as a nation.

Fear of ‘terrorist activities’ originating both outside and inside our country are strangling us as a nation.

Religious factionalism and religious fanaticism are strangling us as a nation.

Corporate propaganda as well as corporate entitlements is strangling us as a nation.

Of course, I am not claiming that the end of days is upon us. I have been warned of the coming Armageddon for six decades.

But I have seen the creation of a caste system that is becoming more and more rigid as time goes on and I become despondent.

It is this last avatar that interests Joseph Lelyveld most. “Great Soul” concentrates on what he calls Gandhi’s “evolving sense of his constituency and social vision,” and his subsequent struggle to impose that vision on an India at once “worshipful and obdurate.” Lelyveld is especially qualified to write about Gandhi’s career on both sides of the Indian Ocean: he covered South Africa for The New York Times (winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for his book about apartheid, “Move Your Shadow”), and spent several years in the late 1960s reporting from India. He brings to his subject a reporter’s healthy skepticism and an old India hand’s stubborn fascination with the subcontinent and its people.
Sometimes, Gandhi said Indian freedom would never come until untouchability was expunged; sometimes he argued that untouchability could be eliminated only after independence was won. He was unapologetic about that kind of inconsistency. “I can’t devote myself entirely to untouchability and say, ‘Neglect Hindu-Muslim unity or swaraj,’ ” he told a friend. “All these things run into one another and are interdependent. You will find at one time in my life an emphasis on one thing, at another time on [an]other. But that is just like a pianist, now emphasizing one note and now [an]other.” It was also like the politician he said he was, always careful to balance the demands of one group of constituents against those of another. ..

So Gandhi had three major goals and hundreds of minor goals.

He wished to end British occupation of his country.

He wished peace among the several religious factions in his country.

He wished to end the caste system.

The Brits might have represented a few hundred years of rule. 

But religion and caste represented issues present in India for thousands of years.

The Mahatma believed that he had left India in the 1890’s as a member of a higher Indian Caste; as an attorney; and as a full citizen of the British Empire at the age of 23.

Twenty years later he arrived at his home with an entirely different ethos. 

Twenty years of schoolin and they put you on the day shift. Another twenty years of real world study and you might become a giant.

Gandhi learned realities with which he had not been aware; he learned how to organize a community; he learned the sins of the individual factions within his Indian Community. It was as if he had been studying to be the greatest living Indian.

I was just struck by the amount of time involved in his schooling as well as the time involved in his struggle for his nation when I first studied about this man.

I am writing this piece because I was struck by the piano metaphor.

All things cannot be accomplished at once!

More than 70 years following the Mahatma’s death, the Brits do not control India.

But Gandhi could not stop the creation of Pakistan.

And religious tension and caste consciousness still rules the day on the subcontinent as the article points out.

India has a strong middle class though and the ‘flat world’ has been the source of many economic developments in that land.

I wonder also if the international corporation has taken the place of the Brits after all of these decades in ruling India, just as that model has done here.

The only point to be made here concerns leadership.

All things cannot be accomplished at once.

I lose confidence in our Democratic system, let alone my Democratic Party.  How our bicameral Congress ever accomplishes anything is beyond me!

I also lose confidence in my President from time to time.

But I think Barack Obama is doing the best anyone could under the circumstances.

He may even be seen as a great leader a decade from now.

I mean George W. Bush sure made Bill Clinton look a lot better!

A true leader must work on a number of issues; a number of projects. But that is just like a pianist, now emphasizing one note and now [an]other.


Alan said...

Thank you for this.

I wrote this paragraph elsewhere, in reference to something else. It also applies here:

And this is a model for how America is moving forward, haltingly, sometimes with maddening slowness, on multiple fronts. And your mention of a knowledge of history is vital there. Broad-front advances are ultimately far more effective than deep, narrow salients, and though progress may seem to come in too-small steps, those gains are far more secure and thus lasting.

Would that America had the same hunger for learning that served Gandhi so well. The only thing America learns from history is that it does not learn from history.


Oh Alan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisc....

The putrid legislation enacted or about to be enacted in 20 states? just sickens me.
Like a tsunami.

The struggles that the Mahatma went through in his 'becoming' were unending.

Alan said...

This always helps:

Alan said...

And this one: