Need for revisiting Gandhi at this critical juncture

Need for revisiting Gandhi at this critical juncture

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought ugly realities into focus; this is when Gandhi and his thoughts become even more relevant

When the whole world had accepted the indentured labour as a social system, Gandhi opposed it. When the whole world accepted that the might is the right, Gandhi proved that Right is Might. When the whole world waged violent wars, he waged a non-violent war.

He has changed the course of history from violence to non-violence. Hitherto violence was the ultimate weapon to resolve the political conflicts but after his contribution through non-violent resistance ie Satyagraha, non-violence has occupied the centre stage of the recent political struggles all over the world.

Gandhi was well aware of the ill effects of the act of violence. He himself associated with war during Boer War and Zulu Rebellion in South Africa and witnessed two world wars. 1915 to 1945 was the crucial period in the history of the world. The whole world believed the violent way was the only method to settle the disputes. War was accepted as an instrument for settling the issues. 

The world leaders at that time engaged in the First and the Second World Wars and many others in Europe. During the Cold War too they supported violence and preparations for war.

But in the same period, when the whole world believed in violence, Gandhiji was alone who thought there should be more constructive alternative to war and violence.

Therefore Gandhi launched the Satyagraha, the non-violent direct action first in South Africa against racial discrimination. He successfully demonstrated the power of truth and non-violence to the whole world.

Gandhiji evolved carefully and presented to the world the new form of non-violence, the most pragmatic and potent technique of conflict resolution for a civilised society — as an alternative to war and violence. Gandhi’s nonviolence is not static, it evolves and adapts to changing situations. He used his non-violent resistance against racial discrimination in South Africa; and in India, he used non-violent methods to fight against the British Raj.

“Violence can deter or diminish an enemy, but it cannot force people to embrace its agenda. Shooting your way to power may destroy the old order, but you cannot free your people until they give you their consent.”

A poor man feels he is out of sight of other, groping in the dark. Mankind takes no notice of him. Gandhi was very much concerned with the plight of the common man. He felt that we must change the current state of affairs so that the poor man too can raise his head with dignity.

He found three ways to do this first; the gospel of love should be followed in place of that of hate. Second, violence should be preplaced by self-suffering. Third, do put soul force against that of brute force. Therefore, replace greed by love and everything will be all right. If this is followed in the true spirit it will enhance the value of professional task to work with the people.

Therefore the value of love and compassion should replace the anger and hate. Anger and hate residue in our mind and instigate constantly to act violently. Gandhi gave a formula to overcome this destructive instinct. Reasoning comes from the Brain. Empathy resides in Heart.

We have to drive the truth home, so that from the brain it may percolate to the Heart. So long as it remains in the brain, it is a dead weight on it. Any truth received by the brain must immediately be sent down to the heart. When it is not sent down, it poisons the brain, poisons the whole system.

Hence, the necessity of using the brain, as it should be, merely as a transmitting station. Whatever is received should be transmitted to the heart for immediate action, or it is to be rejected then and there as being unfit for transmission.

With compassion and love and without hate or anger towards opponent, we can generate creative energy: “The Unity of the human species is not only a biological and physiological fact; it is, when wisely fully asserted and acted upon, a great power.”

There is no weapon more efficient than nonviolence when it is handled with conviction, with courage, with perseverance, with faith. It is not enough that we acquire the art of reading, writing, etc, but it is necessary that we should also learn the art of living and art of loving our fellow creatures.

We have to move from the concept of  struggle for existence and survival of the fittest to mutual aid and cooperation. The pragmatic thoughts of Gandhi has given a new vision to harmonise nature with the needs of people. His ideas of truth and non-violence, simple living and high thinking, and holistic development reveal how sustainable development is possible without destroying nature and our fellow living beings.

He was clear in his ideas about man and nature and her understood the symbiotic relationship between all living and nonliving creatures. His idea that “nature has enough to satisfy every one’s needs, but not to satisfy anybody’s greed” became a one-line ethic to modern environmentalism.

Gandhi considered the earth a living organism. His thought can be characterised by two fundamental laws in nature, one is the universal law and other one is the law of species. The Universal law views the entire universe as a single, interconnected, interrelated and interpenetrated system. He believed that the universe was structured and informed by the cosmic spirit, that all men, all life and indeed all creation were one.

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has opened up our eyes to ugly realities. Cities and urban areas are more vulnerable than the rural areas. How our development model are fundamentally wrong. In this context, we are compel to revisit the ideas of development proposed by Gandhi. His economic philosophy is not static but vibrant and ever widening. 

It is not techno-centred, but people-centred.  Development of handful of cities cannot solve our economic problems. In fact it will create and increase our problems.  Therefore Gandhi concentrated on economic development of the villages. Instead of mass production, he suggested production by masses. Instead of centralised industries, he suggested decentralised small industries. 

Mass production is only concerned with the product, whereas production by the masses is concerned with the product as well as the producers, and the process involved in it. He had a dream of an ideal village. Mass production leads people to leave their villages, their land, their crafts, and go to work in the factories.

Instead of dignified human beings and members of a self-respecting village community, people become cogs in the machine, standing at the conveyor belt, living in crowded towns, and depending on the mercy of the bosses.

We have also witnessed how we treated the migrant worker during this period. What a inhuman treatment! We needed them for constructing our Metros and bridges but we through them off we do not need them. Because we have followed the use-and-through culture even for our own brothers and sisters who made our life easy. This disastrous developmental model generates migrant people as rootless and jobless millions, living as dependants of the state or beggers in the streets of the metros.

Today, when there has been deep erosion of moral values in our public life as well as our private life and when ethical principles have virtually disappeared from politics, Gandhian values appear to be as an effective alternative. In his time Gandhi provided not only political but also moral leadership to the country, something which is missing in today’s World.

As rightly pointed out by Martin Luther King Jr: “Gandhi was inevitable. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore Gandhi at our own risk.”

Down To Earth