Khadi and Spectacles

“The body itself is the purest piece of mechanism but if it is a hindrance to highest flights of soul, it is to be rejected” – GANDHI

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Wearing Khadi and spectacles he went on to become a great name in history. He led many freedom movements against the British colonial rule in India and his path of truth and non-violence has inspired many non-violent movements worldwide. Hind Swaraj and Experiments with Truth are some of his works that still continues to be of interest to many around the world. Many scholars disagree with Gandhi that non-violence can be quickly exhausted and is used only as a technique of political pressure.

Gandhi advocated the concept of Swaraj in his writings, be it Personal Swaraj, Parliamentary Swaraj or Indian home rule(Hind Swaraj). It was published in the Indian opinion In Natal and was soon banned by the government in India due to the content but Gandhi as a response to it published the book in English. The ban was finally lifted on December 1938.

Gandhi always believed that it is the natives who gave place to Englishmen at first place to take over their land and economy and it was not taken by them. While princes of different provinces in India fought among themselves they sought assistance and it cleared way for English to enter India. But Gandhi did not object the presence of Englishmen in India as he considered them to be our ancestors who helped shaped India to a certain extent provided that we remain strong on our roots and culture. He certainly believed that doing away with the Englishmen would not ensure Swaraj as they have contributed to the Indian economy in many ways. He stressed on the importance of ancestral traditions and culture which should not be forgotten. There are many other ideas that Gandhi propagated in his writings which are listed below. 

“I am socialist enough to say that such factories should be nationalized and human controlled”

Some western scholars believe that Gandhi condemned the use of machinery for the development of the civilization. Any mechanism can be misused and it is the moral evil of man who misuses it. Scholars also go on to argue that that the very hand loom that Gandhi uses is a machine and that machinery is a necessary evil which is required for any civilization development.  He stresses on the fact that the supreme consideration is man and that machinery only cuts the man’s limbs. He gives the perfect example of railways calling it as the carrier of plague germs and the reason for the impoverishment of the country. This very thought might be a little outdated in today’s era as machine plays a very crucial role in the development of the country. 

“Civilization is a disease intoxicated by modern civilization”

Civilization according to Gandhi now constitutes only physical compulsion and enslavement. It does not take note of either morality or religion according to him. For Gandhi a civilization would be formed only with good conduct and stresses on the importance of the ancestors. For any civilization to prosper the people need to develop a moral code of conduct and discipline which is completely irrelevant to machinery. He condemns the idea of cities and calls it useless since India has been an agricultural nation with common people having always lived independently and following agricultural occupation. He draws a major distinction with the western civilization as propagator of immorality while civilization would only be formed by the elevation of moral being.

“My firm opinion is that lawyers have enslaved India, have accentuated Hindu Mahomedan dissensions and have confirmed English authority”

Despite been a lawyer by profession Gandhi strongly launches a direct attack on lawyers and doctors saying that these professions are all inter linked to the whole modern system and refers to them as parasitical professions. Gandhi warns that when two people quarrel they should not go to the law court as lawyers only advance quarrels instead of repressing them. Although he agrees that there have been few great names in the field of law who have helped the poor but he says that this profession is exposed to temptation from which only few are saved. Gandhi goes on to criticize the doctors as an immoral profession and hospitals as institution for propagating sins. It takes less care of the body and kills thousands of animals and they practice vivisection which no religion sanctions. It is true that our ancestors always treated these professions as secondary but with the growth of modern civilization it is been seen as a high strata professional job who are no less than gods.

“Your duty is not to drive away thief by any means you like”

While talking about Dhingra he mentions that such patriotism for the country is blind patriotism. Even though he admits that such violent acts did shake the English to a certain extent but the effect of such act was always short lived that is only till the fear lasts. Brute force is always assumed to get things done by force .But Gandhi gives the example of rights of individuals and says that rights that are acquired by force can be real rights but real rights can only be acquired by performance of duty. Performance of duty would include good conduct towards the society and the country. According to him “courage gives place to cowardice”. Fair results can only be produced by fair means which is force of love and pity that is infinitely greater than force of arms. Gandhi greatly believed that violence would have short term effects while non-violent methods were far more effective and had long term effects.

“Talking shop of the world”

Gandhi talks about the condition of the English parliament and calls it pitiable as the parliament is not completely free and is always subjected to outside pressure. It is always the educated and the best men who are elected to the parliament but the parliament according to him is run without a real master because the Prime minister is only worried for the party success. Only time and money wasted by the parliament which is entrusted to few men cannot ensure a developed civilization. Gandhi here stresses on parliamentary Swaraj where the parliament is free from any pressure and entrusted in good hands who work towards better civilization keeping aside personal or party agendas. Gandhi warns that if India copies such a model then it would be ruined.

“It is Swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves”

Personal Swaraj can be achieved when one drowning man saves another but Gandhi admits that it is difficult to achieve. According to Philip Mumford violent tactics like military methods that employ thousands of guiltless people to fight who are sacrificed to achieve the ambitions of the country but if nonviolent tactics are employed it can be far more successful. But many scholars point out to the limitation of personal Swaraj as bowing to tyrant might invite further horrors whereas killing the enemy would be considered more appropriate than subjugation.

“Knowledge of letters”

The foundation and prosperity of any civilization would depend on the education system. According to Gandhi education would mean knowledge of letters and the main purpose of any primary education is to provide a foundation and help in character building. More importantly he points out to the fact that English education has only enslaved the people and that the disease of civilization cannot do without English education. The importance of ethical education and language oriented education has been washed away by English education in the modern civilization. We have to certain extent failed to preserve the ancient school system that ensured an education close to our roots and culture as Gandhi says that to restore India we have to return to it.

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There are many views of Gandhi that would seem in contrast to the modern civilization including his views on personal Swaraj and passive resistance where his idea of self-sacrifice and non-violence seems more philosophical than practical as self-sacrifice may not prove beneficial especially when we are currently surrounded by nuclear arms. Although some non-violent movements have produced far reaching results there are many such examples on the other hand where such movements were easily suppressed and forgotten overtime.

At the same time we cannot dismiss his views on education and culture that teach us to preserve our roots and culture as a stronghold on culture would not allow subjugation to foreign authority. However he does accept the fact that we were the ones that handed over the authority to the Englishmen. Even though many of Gandhi’s movements were not so successful and few ideas of his might seem superficial like the one where he discards machinery which is a necessary evil for any nation’s development. But his arguments on civilization, religion, English occupation, and education are worth noting as he stresses the importance of culture,non-violence and good conduct.


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