The Watering Hole; Thursday January 22 2015; Gandhi

Sixty-seven years ago this month, Mohandas K. (Mahatma) Gandhi was assassinated. His death effectively occurred in media res; the Second World War had ended two years and five months earlier on September 2, 1945, and the Korean War which began on June 25 1950 was still two years and five months ahead in the future. Also, India had gained its independence from Britain some six months earlier with ‘Royal Assent’ given on July 18 1947. All was well in the world until that day, January 30, 1948.

Mahatma Gandhi was a famous name, one that popped up regularly in my growing-up years, but it wasn’t until the Academy Award-winning 1982 movie “Gandhi,” starring Ben Kingsley in the title role, that my attention was finally captured. One quote in particular gathered me in and wouldn’t let go. In just nineteen words Gandhi summarized his concept of religious tolerance by saying, to a small crowd engaged in religious argument, “I am a Muslim, and a Hindu, and a Christian and a Jew — and so are all of you.” Stunning words, I thought, and though I still don’t know whether they were simply parcel to the movie’s script or whether they were words that Gandhi actually spoke, the concept implicit continued to pique my curiosity for years to come — to the point where whenever I’d run across a Gandhi quote I’d copy it and file it away for future reference.

So. One day last October my old computer crashed and a whole lot of files were gone for good, or so I thought. While rummaging around and taking a peek at old backup files in a variety of places, however, I stumbled upon my old stash of Gandhi quotes, and when I read them again it struck me that Gandhi was WAY ahead of his class — and way ahead of TODAY’s class as well — all those years ago. For example, in response to the presumably ‘journalistic’ query ‘What do you think of Western Civilisation?’ Gandhi replied, “I think it would be a very good idea.”

Just a guess on my part, but I’d bet if Obama were to propose such an effort today, McConnell and Boehner would each willingly volunteer to crawl across 40 miles of broken glass on their hands and knees just to keep it from coming to a vote. And they’d most certainly enjoy the undying support and cheers of the bulk of the Republican Party in the process!

With that somewhat ridiculous scenario in mind, I offer below a baker’s dozen additional quotes by Mahatma Gandhi, words that still today are descriptive of two worlds: the world that viable minds crave to someday see, to inhabit, and, too, the world that the mental midgets on the power/money ladder will never allow.

Here then is the voice of Bapu (endearing father), the words of Mahatma (‘high souled’ or ‘venerable’) Gandhi:

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always.”

“To answer brutality with brutality is to admit one’s moral and intellectual bankruptcy.”

“Nature can provide for the needs of people; [she] can’t provide for the greed of people.”

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

“The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from the violence to which it owes its very existence.”

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?”

“Violent means will give violent freedom.”

“The moral to be legitimately drawn from the supreme tragedy of the bomb is that it will not be destroyed by counter-bomb, even as violence cannot be by counter-violence. Mankind has to get out of violence only through non-violence. Hatred can be overcome only by love.”

“It is the law of love that rules mankind. Had violence, i.e., hate, ruled us, we should have become extinct long ago. And yet, the tragedy of it is that the so-called civilized men and nations conduct themselves as if the basis of society was violence.”

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind.”

“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.

And finally this insightful concept, spoken well before the undercurrent reality became common knowledge (underlined highlight added):

“My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest shall have the same opportunities as the strongest . . . no country in the world today shows any but patronizing regard for the weak . . . Western democracy, as it functions today, is diluted fascism . . . true democracy cannot be worked by twenty men sitting at the center. It has to be worked from below, by the people of every village.

My only quibble with the highlighted portion is the word “diluted” — it diminishes the current politic of today’s Republican Party, not to mention that of “conservative” movements anywhere on the globe.

Mohandas K. Gandhi: a man of genuine peace, one who cared, who loved, who had no fear, harbored no malice — anathema then, anathema now.

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