Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gandhi's Legacy

A tribute to Mahatma Gandhi

Sixty years ago today, January 30th, Gandhi was assassinated. Yet Gandhi’s teachings of social, political and ecologic non-violence, small scale local economy and production by the masses rather than mass production, are just still relevant.
Now, we see the influence of Gandhi being revived through the rise of interest in ecology, peace and social justice.

Mahatma Gandhi held no office, pursued no career, accumulated no wealth and desired no fame. Yet millions of people in India and around the world are captivated by his life and his achievements. Gandhi inspired so many because he practised what he preached: he lived the change he wanted to see in the world and his message was none other than his life itself. He was an honest seeker of truth, a fearless defender of the weak, and an uncompromising practitioner of nonviolence.

- A template for ecology, peace and social justice.

Illustration: Jane Ray

Illustration: Jane Ray

...So Gandhi designed a new trinity to achieve his vision of a new nonviolent social order for a truly free India.

1. The first part of this trinity was Sarvodaya: Upliftment of All. The Western system of governance is based on the rule of the majority, so-called democracy. This was not good enough for Gandhi. He wanted no division between the majority and the minority. He wanted to serve the interests of each and every one: of all. Democracy is also limited to care for the interests of human beings. Democracy working with capitalism favours the few who have capital. Democracy together with socialism favours the majority, but is still limited to humans. Sarvodaya includes the care of the Earth: of animals, forests, rivers and land as well as all people. For Gandhi, life is sacred and so he advocated reverence for all life, humans as well as other than humans.

2. The second part of the Gandhian trinity is Swaraj: Self Government. Swaraj works to bring about a social transformation through small-scale, decentralised and participatory structures of government on the one hand, and, on the other, Swaraj implies self-transformation, self-discipline and self-restraint on a personal level. “There is enough in the world for everybody’s need, but not enough for anybody’s greed,” said Gandhi. So a moral, ethical, ecological and spiritual foundation in the personal, social and political sphere is necessary to build good governance.

3. The third part of the trinity is Swadeshi: Local Economy. Gandhi opposed mass production and favoured production by the masses. Work for him is as much a spiritual necessity as it is economic. So he insisted on the principle that every member of society should be engaged in manual work. Manufacturing in small workshops and adherence to arts and crafts feeds the body as well as the soul, professed Gandhi. He believed that long-distance transportation of goods, competitive trading and relentless economic growth would destroy the fabric of human communities as well as the integrity of the natural world.

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by Satish Kumar