Watching Gandhi and Open Questions for Today

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Nonviolent solutions to a violent world.

In 1982 Ben Kingsley played Mahatma Gandhi in a story reflecting on Gandhi’s life. As I watched the story, I looked at history to see the alignment along with materials that Gandhi created and some thoughts on his overall impact today.

I’ve come to a point of confusion vs conclusion due to some inconsistencies and some reports about the man himself vs the man deity we as a society want him to be. A few things I’ve come to wonder based are

  1. Is India actually better off today than it would have been without Gandhi?
  2. His life was based on principles and values of integrity but some reports indicate that he was unethical in his personal life and had moral perversions.
  3. His influence on people has great historical relevance but placed in a larger perspective, is the world better, worse or indifferent to Gandhi?

I ask these questions now because of how historically close Gandhi is to us today. What of the idea of nonviolent solutions?

In a letter to Hitler Gandhi writes:

As at Wardha, C. P., INDIA,
July 23, 1939

DEAR FRIEND,

Friends have been urging me to write to you for the sake of humanity. But I have resisted their request, because of the feeling that any letter from me would be an impertinence. Something tells me that I must not calculate and that I must make my appeal for whatever it may be worth.

It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to a savage state. Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success? Any way I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you.

I remain,
Your sincere friend,
M. K. Gandhi

HERR HITLER,
BERLIN,
GERMANY

Appealing to the Heart

I had a realization that Gandhi’s approach may have done more harm than good. Appealing to the heart of people is an effective mechanism and approach to gaining their attention and persuading them to take some action. While effective in the moment, it doesn’t seem to stand the test of time and the actions taken through this mechanism of persuasion may not net a good outcome.

There are historical leaders who have inspired us by speaking to our hearts. These people created change and they had an agenda. This doesn’t mean the change worked out for the people. Hitler spoke to the hearts and minds of people and that didn’t work out well for the Jewish people. The Jewish people believe in nonviolence and in 1930’s Hayim Greenberg https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/a-letter-to-gandhi-by-hayim-greenberg-1937 wrote this letter to Gandhi which may have been one of many appeals for his voice.

There are a ton of questions here but I’ll seek to simplify. I do believe these are relevant for us right now and I think we should be asking these as opposed to ignoring them.

What good did nonviolent resistance do? If it makes us feel better that we march peacefully but the end result is death, how does this make sense?

If it makes us feel better that we take the moral high ground at the moment but the overall result is immoral, how does this make sense? You may ask how the overall result is immoral and to that I say, Gandhi’s perception of right and wrong were on the social surface compelling but the outcome overall was driven by his version of right and wrong. I’ll make this more real for today.

Many people are marching for many reasons. People die at these marches and rallies for no real reason and they aren’t martyrs for the cause. While we have access to more information on history than ever before, we don’t talk about and we don’t learn from it. We don’t challenge each other to think. We just accept the book titles and look for the abstract theme. It’s a peaceful march for George Floyd while large cities have ongoing indefinite violence. I wonder today what Gandhi would say. Based on my readings, I don’t think he’d answer with much other than “do what I say to do and you will be good.”

AND

Many people believe that the United States and other countries should not be in Afghanistan or in many other nations they reside today. It’s a great thought at a high level but the problem is the US and allied nations maintain global stability. If the US and her allies backed out of these countries, there would be war. There is another facet here that we must recognize. Machiavelli shared the two basic ways to win wars and govern people is either to destroy them or live in their space. Gandhi made it seemingly intolerable for Great Britain but I don’t think that he was the reason that the British actually left India. Not unlike Afghanistan Gandhi was asking for the British to leave for over 30 years. They didn’t really start to take any real action until 1939 which is when they felt a lot of real pressure due to the second world war. The US physically left Afghanistan because it seemingly doesn’t make sense to tie up resources for an indefinite war when you can find other reasons for the government to spend money at home without having to splain’ anything to the American people. War is tied to only a few things and these are most concerned with wealth, prosperity and some idea or perception of control. The question remains if the nonviolent Gandhi even mattered in this sense.

If we were to actually look to solve issues across our globe and create stability it would only be done through a few ways. The greatest teacher of this historically is Kublai Khan the grandson of Genghis Khan who normally gets all the fanfare. It was through bloodshed, social campaigns, psychological warfare, inspiration, nation building and centralization that the empire was unified and sustained. There wasn’t a passive movement and this isn’t how we work as humans. In our own world today, we catch and release countries like we do fish in a lake. We seek to control these until there is an invasive species that we can’t control. There isn’t a passive nonviolent approach to taming an invasive species because they will kill, eat, and live any place they can consume and grow.

Many people forget that we are animals.

What do you think?

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