Friday, October 2, 2009

S.L. Kirloskar on Mahatma Gandhi

Last night, as I was reading some of the blogs I follow, I found this fascinating account of India's history by one of first few entrepreneurs, S. L. Kirloskar. One incident in his life in particular caught my attention – his meeting with Mahatma Gandhi.

Today, October the 2nd is Mahatma Gandhi's birthday and his birthday is being celebrated all over the country – especially in Gujarat which has kept the prohibition on liquor based on Gandhi's ideas, I thought it would be instructive to understand Kirloskar's evaluation of Gandhian philosophy and the reasons for his judgment.

Some background: During the Indian independence movement, Gandhi had popularized a small wooden spinning-wheel known as the Charkha which spun Khaddar cloth. His purpose in doing so was to discourage the use of foreign goods among Indians and promote local, Indian made goods. The Charkha in the early 1920's in India was a real patriotic symbol. Gandhi then introduced a competition in April 1931 to improve the charkha and laid down the rules of competition that the desired charkha "could be run by one person and which would produce 15,000 yards of 40-count yarn within 8 hours of working." An engineer working under Kirloskar's father had though of an ingenious simple machine doing exactly what was required by the competition. However, the engineer later received a letter informing him that Mahatma Gandhi "did not approve of the charkha". Kirloskar, his father, the engineer and an entourage went to meet Gandhi to find out why he had not approved of the Charkha in spite of the fact that it fulfilled all the requirement as laid down in the competition.

The following is the conversation that they had according to Kirloskar:

Gandhi: "Your charkha is good but I felt it is more like a modern machine than a simple device. I did not want a machine."

Mr. X: "You had stipulated how much output you expected from the new charkha, but you never laid down a condition that it should not look like a machine."

Gandhi: "I agree with you. But we must consider that it is the uneducated villager who is going to use this charkha. You know how scared villagers are of anything that looks like a machine."

Kirloskar's dad: "I know how scared the farmers get of new machines. But they also get used to them; and if their experience convinces them of their benefits they enthusiastically use machines. Farmer's now-a-days use bicycles, sewing machines and even pumping sets. So, in my opinion, once they know the benefits of this new charkha they will accept it."

Gandhi: "And supposing, your charkha breaks down?"

Mr. Y: "We guarantee immediate attention for its repairs and will also make the spare parts available"

Gandhi: "I know you would but what I had visualized was a Charkha of my dreams, so simple in construction and operation that even a village carpenter should be able to make one. I don't think your charkha is according to my dream."

Kirloskar: "Then the best way for you was to give us a blue-print of your Dream-charkha."

Kirloskar expands on the conversation elsewhere in his book saying:

"And here lay the heart of my difference of opinion with Mahatma Gandhi and his followers. Like Papa before me, I am, have always been and shall always be, a "machine man". I see the machine as the friend and helper of man, not as a demon devised for man's economic and spiritual destruction, which is the way Gandhians regard it. Our own experience had conclusively proved the benefits which thousands of farmers derived from our ploughs, our pumps, our crushers and shellers and other labour-saving devices. Were we now to scrap all these benefits and revert to the traditional reliance on human and animal muscle-power, with all its slowness and inefficiency? No. a hundred time No! On the contrary I was convinced that India needed machines and prime movers in thousands. And what applied to agriculture, I would equally apply to textiles. If pumps and cane-crushers and groundnut-shellers were good for our economy could spinning-frames and power-looms be bad? I could find no virtue in the slow and tedious spinning of yarn by human finger-power."

Personally, Gandhi has never had any influence on my thinking whatsoever. Call it blasphemy, but I really do think his philosophy is pretty nasty. I do not think that one should offer another cheek when one is slapped right across the face. I think evil should be labeled as evil and fought every step along the way. Imagine the absurdity of telling the Jews during WWII to surrender to Hitler, have their lives wrecked on the hope that Hitler the monster would feel any remorse and based on that remorse would stop the war and leave the Jews alone. Would anybody make such an insane claim? Well, the answer to that question is a resounding "Yes" and the man who offered that advice was unsurprisingly -- Gandhi himself. He said:

"I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions...If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them."

Here is what Ayn Rand had to say about dealing with force and tyranny:

"When someone comes at you with a gun, if you have an ounce of self-esteem, you answer with force, never mind who he is or who's standing behind him. If he's out to destroy you, you owe it to your own life to defend yourself."

If Indians view the occasion of Gandhi Jayanthi with respect and hope – if it represents everything good Indians would like to see their country achieve, one should not only take the time to really get to know the facts about Gandhi but also take the time to understand and put in place a philosophy for living one's own life. My recommendation in the marketplace for a philosophy is definitely Ayn Rand. Pick up Atlas Shrugged and see what you think about it. (For sources on introduction to Ayn Rand's philosophy, go here.)

Without an understanding of the framework of moral principles grounded in reality, there is no way on earth to determine what is good or bad for you, let alone the whole nation. It is philosophy that we need the most today because if we default on that critical issue, there will be a million more Gandhi's on the way offering the same kind of advice they did the last time around. So, on Gandhi Jayanti, as ironic it may seem, do take the time to think who is right – Gandhi or Kirloskar. Do take the time to think as to what makes a thing or an ideology good or bad because in the long run – human life depends on it.

30 comments:

Realist Theorist said...

Good post.

I think that one fundamental reason that Gandhi succeeded in his fight for independence was that he was fighting a "good" enemy. The Brits were not in India fundamentally to enslave Indians; they were there to do business. So, they were the type of enemy on whom the Gandhi's guilt-trip would work pretty well.

Gandhi probably cost India a few decades of lost development and prosperity, just so that brown-skinned masters could replace white skinned ones. In my judgement, he screwed one generation (my parent's generation) out of what would have been a more comfortable life.

khartoum said...

I agree.

People like Gandhi sneak words past people very astutely. The catch word then was "an independent India" but independence from what was seldom asked. As you put it,we simply replaced white skinned masters with brown ones.

Obama is probably the contemporary specialist in using words without an anchor. He promises "change" but change from what and change to what is seldom asked.

Its eerie how these guys manage to sneak bull crap right under our noses.

Insanity said...

Great Post. However, if you watch the movie "Gandhi", and assuming it is historically accurate, it is important to separate the early Gandhi from the late one. The early Gandhi was a political genius and he actually did not demand independence for India but equal membership of the British Empire. As you know, he was an England educated lawyer, and after studying English law he realized that if he forced the English to apply their own law consistently they would reach a contradiction. As Realist said, he knew he was fighting a "good" enemy at some level.

Of course, to extend the same courtesy to Mussolini, Hitler or even a General Dyer is totally monstrous and naive. The later Gandhi turned into a patriot, a martyr and a worshipper of suffering unfortunately. But he remains a personal hero of mine for the way he applied civil disobedience in South Africa to rebel against the English.

Rational Education said...

As a kid growing up in India, the idea of the worship of Gandhi as a figure to be hero-worshipped and someone to be emulated as a moral hero, left me puzzled in my younger years, and filled me with nausea as the years passed, as I was making connections on a very subconscious level of the end that his philosophy lead to. My horror grew as I realized that the entire country held him in such esteem and if I dared to voice my opinion I would perhaps be burned at the stake for commiting blasphemy!

I held Gandhi in utter contempt then and now -my estimation has never changed. This is before I ever read Ayn Rand's novels or her philosophy of Objectivism. It was the sense of life, precursor within me that rebelled against everthing that Gandhi epitomized.

I wish he had stuck to practicing law, instead of opening the dam of altruism wholesale on a culture that was already mired in intense mysticism, superstition and blind faith.
What were his motives I wonder? the power he had over the adulating masses, perhaps?
Jasmine
p.s. My apology to the other commenter for not mincing my words in how I think of Gandhi.

mtnrunner2 said...

Needless to say as an Objectivist, I take sides with S. L. Kirloskar.

However, I enjoyed Gandhi's book titled "The Story of My Experiments With Truth" for 2 reasons: 1) it showed the amazing motive power of moral certainty and 2) it showed the amazing motive power of adherence to the truth. He believed that British rule was wrong, and he believed in the truth of this idea so strongly he was willing to endure much hardship. Since the British were a relatively civilized bunch, his gambit proved successful, and they withdrew. I don't think this strategy would have worked with a more violent colonizer.

The only problem was that he really didn't seem to know what he was FOR. He seems to be for altruism and against success to some degree. When India gained its independence, altruist ideas took over.

Nonetheless, I think we can learn from the fact that a single man moved the history of a country with the conviction that he was right and his unshakable vision of the truth. That is what I took away from the book, and that is applicable to any endeavor.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Thank you for this post. I am not Indian, but in the United States, too, there is an uncritical admiration for Ghandi and he is quoted without consideration to what he actually said. I was dismayed in high school, when we studied the Holocaust and I learned what he said about us. I do not think he would have been able to stand against the Nazis like he did against the Brits. I appreciate knowing that not everyone has deified Ghandi.

Rational Education said...

mtnrunner2 wrote: "1) it showed the amazing motive power of moral certainty and 2) it showed the amazing motive power of adherence to the truth."
My question is that if Gandhi's truth was not from loyalty to an objective reality, what is the meaning that Gandhi gave to "truth"? -he has only stolen the concept with no understanding of its basis in reality. My second question is that one can perhaps give him the benefit of the doubt for innocent mistakes in the conclusions he reached but at some point one has to accept that the man has created a huge, gargantum, cobweb to fit all his rationalizations and inadequecies that he felt from within?

One must not forget the fact that the culture and upbringing was mystical and altruistic to the core and one can only conclude that he never questioned that philosophy ever, but instead went on to give it a prestige that destroyed and destroys India to date.

Superficial observers of the man can perhaps find him worthy of praise -to me he was an ignoramus fool (if I am feeling benevolent) at the least (just look at his poor understanding of 101 economics, also as a student of law he still never got the least idea of the basis of a civil society -the barring of the initiation of force in human relationships -instead he barred the use of force in retaliation and self protection!) and at worst he was a very evil man.

Jasmine

pomponazzi said...

As a Pakistani, i squirm each and every time Jinnah is paraded before us as somebody worth emulating.His statements like,"work, Work and work", ineffect work like package deals. A superficial reader might think that he is commending a life of productivity, but if one studies him a bit deeply, one comes across a complete Kantian who is urging us to do his "Duty".
One reason India and Pakistan are still in the rut is the sort of founders that they had.Of course, India is still better on many many counts than Pakistan.

Sajid said...

"My question is that if Gandhi's truth was not from loyalty to an objective reality, what is the meaning that Gandhi gave to "truth"? -he has only stolen the concept with no understanding of its basis in reality. My second question is that one can perhaps give him the benefit of the doubt for innocent mistakes in the conclusions he reached but at some point one has to accept that the man has created a huge, gargantum, cobweb to fit all his rationalizations and inadequecies that he felt from within?"

Gandhi was certainly not a philosopher and his understanding of truth was indeed incomplete. It still does not change the fact that he understood the concept of logical consistency and moral certainty well enough to realize that these were his most important weapons in the fight against the English and would ultimately more than compensate for the technological backwardness and lack of military force present in India. He also laid down the template for civil disobedience and his speeches in South Africa are inspiring and were devastating to the English.

I really think that an objective analysis of Gandhi has to separate the South African Gandhi from the later Indian Gandhi. In South Africa, I don't think Gandhi could have done much more damage to English interests in any other fashion. His goal was to make it clear to the enemy EXACTLY WHAT THEY STOOD FOR. He knew that when a man who is immoral realizes his immorality, it will defeat his moral certainty and take away his initiative. Ultimately it will break him. In certain situations, especially in a society with a free press and a rational population, this form of dissent is superior and more effective than picking up arms.

I think you more than unfairly characterize him as an evil man. He also did much to raise the status of untouchables by saying "we are all children of God" and while glorifying village life was silly and counterproductive, the general theme was that every life has dignity.

On the other hand, his refusal to pick up arms and come to grips with what violence really means becomes less and less excusable as he grew older. He was a complex man and certainly shouldn't be as venerated as he is. But let us at least give him his due.

pomponazzi said...

Sajid said,"I think you more than unfairly characterize him as an evil man. He also did much to raise the status of untouchables by saying "we are all children of God" and while glorifying village life was silly and counterproductive, the general theme was that every life has dignity."
Well, Kant was in favor of the American Revolution, Was against lying, believed in the conceptual level of functioning etc but would you say that all the hatred that Ayn Rand had for him was thus misplaced? This is an instance of thinking in terms of non- essentials.

Gandhi was a package deal.The bad side of him was juxtaposed with the allegedly better side,to wit,there was no better side.

Rational Education said...

Khartoum,
Your post has sparked neigh a stormy discussion!
I would like to request your permission as blog owner to further continue the discussion with some of the other commenters.
Also it does seem the discussion may perhaps be moving a little off the essential theme of your post.
Thanks.
Jasmine

Sajid said...

"Well, Kant was in favor of the American Revolution, Was against lying, believed in the conceptual level of functioning etc but would you say that all the hatred that Ayn Rand had for him was thus misplaced? This is an instance of thinking in terms of non- essentials."

Sorry, the comparison with Kant is not completely apt. Gandhi did not just believe in things but put his actions where his words are. It is one thing to be "for the American revolution" and another thing to actually fight in a revolution like Gandhi did in South Africa. I do not understand why pointing out the logical fallacies in British law so as to push for a more just and humane society is not a significant achievement. Especially when you basically spark the entire revolution all on your own.

pomponazzi said...

Sajid says,"Sorry, the comparison with Kant is not completely apt. Gandhi did not just believe in things but put his actions where his words are. It is one thing to be "for the American revolution" and another thing to actually fight in a revolution like Gandhi did in South Africa. I do not understand why pointing out the logical fallacies in British law so as to push for a more just and humane society is not a significant achievement. Especially when you basically spark the entire revolution all on your own."
Well, suppose Kant had gone to fight shoulder to shoulder with the American revolutionaries against the British Red coats.Would his critiques lose their destructive character thus? Not by a scintilla.Would you be willing to say that since the prophet of islam liberated a few slaves, and believed that women should get property rights, he
thereby should be considered one of the heroes of mankind?

This would be tantamount to dropping the context of this entire debate.You are still thinking in terms of non-essentials.Listen to Dr.Peikoff's lecture course, "The Art of Thinking", lecture 4:Thinking in Essentials.

pomponazzi said...

That Gandhi's evil does not equal that of Kant's, i would readily concede. But this doesn't mean that we should judge him by what concrete actions he took while he was in S.Africa.
Gandhi is a symbol of ascetic virtues, renunciation, sexual abstinence etc.These are not just relics to which people perfunctorily show reverence, rather these ideas are the soil from which the indian nation got sustenance throughout its long experiment with socialism. The extent to which India has progressed in the past few years is the extent to which Gandhian thinking has been pushed to the background.The trouble is that they are still in the background, awaiting any thug who wishes to use them and thus hoodwink the gullible masses. To paraphrase Nietzche , "His was a revolt against everything that crawls against everything that has height," nobility and grandeur.

khartoum said...

Hi all,

I was between exams so I didn't see this earlier. This post has really sparked up a debate, hasn't it!?

I am going to take Jasmine's advice and do my best to have a great discussion and keep the place free from personal attacks and its likes.

For the record, I agree Jasmine and pompanazzi. Granted that Gandhi opposed discrimination in South Africa but as a lawyer he should have known the founding basis of a civilized society. I am not contending that he should have gone as far out to discover Objectivism but S. L. Kirlosakar seemed to have managed pretty well.

Also, assuming Kant did fight the war, it would not absolve him for what the man stood really stood for. The fact Nazi's had a social security system [assuming it is a "noble" thing], doesn't absolve them of their crimes against humanity.

Moreover, what simply disgusts me about Gandhi is well put by pompanazzi in his comment:

"The extent to which India has progressed in the past few years is the extent to which Gandhian thinking has been pushed to the background"

It is disgusting to me to support a man who has opposed all the requirement of human survival and progress. I don't know if he had intended these effects, but as a lawyer and an adult, he ought to have known the effects of such monstrous theories. His theory of liquor prohibition by the State is still in force in Gujarat. I mean, it is not even the case that people have somehow distorted what he said and ripped his ideas out of context. They have implemented his ideas of prohibition and as a result countless people have been forced to drink adulterated liquor and have died. And this is just one of those things as apart from sexual abstinence, his advice to the British people and whatnot.

I am completely opposed to Gandhi being emulated and praised. We did that and we got what we asked for. I don't know if he was as evil as Kant was but I think that is just a question of measurement with the principle conceded.

He might have opposed discrimination but, in my book, that is by far a minor relevant consideration than the major one -- upholding the principles of human survival.

pomponazzi said...

Khartoum writes,"I don't know if he was as evil as Kant was but I think that is just a question of measurement with the principle conceded."
I didn't say this (although i don't think you are attributing it to me necessarily.)My last post starts with this qualification:That Gandhi's evil does not equal that of Kant's, i would readily concede.
just for the record.

Anonymous said...

Khartoum,
A great post. I think that Insanity hit on the single point of Gandhi's greatness; his civil disobedience forced the English to confront the contradictions between their politics and their moral convictions. In effect, he was inviting them to take a closer look at their actions vis a vis their morality.

But it was utter hubris for him to think that such an approach would work with people whose morality celebrated the destruction of individuals (Mussolini) or members of a race (Hitler) such as himself. Whether his death would be public or private, fast or excruciating would depend upon the whim of the whatever monster happened upon him first, perhaps as dictated by the immediate needs of the State.

Whether it was Thoreau or Gandhi or King (the latter two acknowledging their debt to the first) it is absurd to think that the civil disobedience which would focus the aggressors' attention on the conflict between their brutality and their quasi-enlightenment morality would have any effect on the moral descendants of Hegel.

While civil disobedience has its place in a civil society, the closer a society approaches the total state, the more sacrificial and useless civil disobedience becomes. As Mao demonstrated with "The Great Leap Forward" and "Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom" all it does is let the state more easily identify those who would resist.

C. Andrew

Sajid said...

"Well, suppose Kant had gone to fight shoulder to shoulder with the American revolutionaries against the British Red coats.Would his critiques lose their destructive character thus? Not by a scintilla.Would you be willing to say that since the prophet of islam liberated a few slaves, and believed that women should get property rights, he
thereby should be considered one of the heroes of mankind? "

The analogy from Gandhi to Kant is completely ridiculous as one was a philosopher and the other was a political figure. If Kant had fought shoulder to shoulder in the American revolution I almost guarantee you he wouldn't be the same person. It is easy to say you support something. Actually putting it into practice is something completely different. Regardless of his personal philosophy (which, by the way, Indians could have disregarded but voluntarily CHOSE not to) his actions in South Africa are those of a hero by any meaningful standards, Objectivist included.

I really don't understand all these comparisons of Gandhi to Kant and the Nazis. Gandhi is revered throughout the world for his political contributions, Not his philosphical contributions. I will concede he is overrated and, as Reddie's post describes, some aspects of his philosophy are downright evil. But everyman should get his due for his accomplishments and so should Gandhi. I think the world has been a richer, not a poorer place because of Gandhi.

Rational Education said...

Sajid, you wrote:
"Gandhi is revered throughout the world for his political contributions"
Could you possibly enumerate Gandhi's contributions to political philosophy?
I am not sure I would be able to understand any leader's "politics" as such in the absence of the philosophical system it is based on (whether that is explicitly stated or implicit philosophy).

Also we need to bear in mind and keep the context that at the time of Gandhi's leadership which started perhaps around 1920's, the greatest political achievement of a moral society-the founding of the Unites States of America was more than a 100 years old -as a lawyer educated in England he could not possibly claim ignorance of that or for that matter the English Magna Carta.

If I have made a serious error all these years in my estimation of Gandhi and if he does have achievements that deserve credit, I would definitely want to hear facts to the contrary, so that in justice I can give the man his due.

Jasmine

pomponazzi said...

Sajid writes,"The analogy from Gandhi to Kant is completely ridiculous as one was a philosopher and the other was a political figure".

This is a complete non sequitur. The fact that Gandhi is revered for his ethical insights and his implicit metaphysics and epistemology is so obvious that mentioning them here would be superfluous.Yes, he was a political figure, a statesman if you will, but that doesn't mean we should myopically judge him merely qua politician.Gandhi was revered because his political stance was couched in the quintessential hindu religious views, and smacked of mysticism, asceticism and the primacy of consciousness metaphysics ( passive spiritual resistance would somehow order matter to snap into line.)

Again Sajid says,"Regardless of his personal philosophy (which, by the way, Indians could have disregarded but voluntarily CHOSE not to)..."

This means that Kant was not as bad as most would have us believe.Afterall, people have free will, and could have chosen not to accept his precepts. This is a textbook example of the fallacy of dropping the context. What context? The fact that in a division of labour society people necessarily count on others to come to conclusions. What would you say if a doctor prescribed medicine and someone said, "well, how do i know whether this doctor is right? I have free will and if he turns out to be wrong then the blame would lie squarely on my shoulders.Afterall, i was not forced to accept his diagnosis"?( assuming he had checked the authority of the doctor in question by assessing his credentials using an objective method.)
You would say that free will isn't omnipotence. This shows that the person in question completely lacked the concept of "OBJECTIVITY".

Gandhi was a philosopher.The fact that he didn't write critiques or taught at universities doesn't mean he was merely a politician.In the oriental context the equivalent of philosophers were the sages, the sadhus, the pirs, faqirs, sufis etc.The mere fact that nobody in the subcontinent mentioned Plato, Aristotle or Aquinas doesn't mean that there were no philosophers, only that there were almost no rational philosophers (remember, religion is a primitive form of philosophy).
Ask yourself, would Gandhi be given the same status as now if he was born in a secular, primacy of existence society? Would anybody using special pleading on his behalf be taken seriously.The only reason someone might have doubts vis a vis this topic can only be because he is straddling the philosophical fence, with one feet in reality and the other in the noumenal dimension.Thank you

khartoum said...

Sajid writes, "I think the world has been a richer, not a poorer place because of Gandhi."

Among other things, I find myself majorly objecting to that statement. Its not only about Gandhi's way of fighting enemies but also the policies he pursued during peace time in his own country. Maybe did he did fight against discrimination in SA but his hate for industrialization, free market, developed cities, sex, wine, a hearty meal, good clothes and all things "materialistic" have definitely cost India a few decades. His prohibition policy, for instance, has ended up killing people. Period.

What weakens his case all the more is that America was established by then to which he could look to for guidance.Instead, he took the American ideal and turned it on its head by making a virtue out of sacrifice.

If I had to weigh Gandhi and decide if he did more good than bad, I would definitely say he's hurt more than he's helped.

pomponazzi said...

As i said, Gandhi is a package deal.The bad in the package far outweighs the good(if any).Remember Ayn Rand's example of a painting depicting a beautiful woman with a sore on her lips. She used it in an aesthetic context showing how anything in an art work aquires importance and metaphysical significance by the mere fact of being included.That is because selectivity on the part of the artist is guided by his metaphysical value-judgments.

Now ask yourself. what kind of metaphysical value-judgments are,in effect, proffered by Gandhi's langot, his charkha, his revulsion of all things mechanical etc. Do you think that the Indian populace was blind to this philosophical poison oozing out of him? No he thrived because he gave voice to the zeitgeist.In a better philosophic climate the sobriquet that Churchill gave him (the half naked fakir.Read thug) would have been on the lips of every Indian.But the Indians called him the Mahatma not for nothing. He was a concretization of a specific philosophy for which the Indians fell hook, line and sinker.Gandhi was taken as the Rama fighting Rawan (the Brits) and the lesson was not lost upon the Indians. They saw the whole struggle as another enactment of an age old drama.And can anyone say that Gandhi didn't realize this? well, the principle of charity has its limits.

Sajid said...

Gandhi does come as a package deal and for now I still have him in the positive for what he accomplished in South Africa. I don't really appreciate him for his mysticism, religion or ascetic lifestyle; I admire him for his principled and courageous political accomplishments in South Africa which were very real and not noumenal in the least.

"In a better philosophic climate the sobriquet that Churchill gave him (the half naked fakir.Read thug)"

Some quotes by Gandhi:

"There is surely often more violence in burning a man’s property than doing him physical injury."

"You can govern us only so long as we remain the governed"

"I think it would be a good idea." (Regarding Western Civilization)

But the most revealing:

"Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes."

and

"Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right."

In my mind Gandhi really wanted a nation in which India had a choice to discover modern civilization in its own way and I don't fault him for this since you can't force someone to embrace modernity. His prime struggle was for self-determination and the problem, of course, was with the self that he was trying to determine. If Gandhi had only been a philosopher I would agree unequivocally with the negative analysis by other posters. But he wasn't.

I took the quotes from this website:

http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Mahatma_Gandhi/

There are plenty of negative quotes on there as well and in reality, especially after reading Jasmines, reddies and pomponazzi's comments, I am more torn over how to give him his due. For now, I guess I just have to divide him into a political figure and a public intellectual, appreciate one for his real contribution to Indian freedom and dignity and unequivocally denounce what the latter stood for.

pomponazzi said...

Ayn Rand once said that reason is primarily only one thing: Context Keeping.The sundering of Gandhi into political figure and "public intellectual" smacks of non-integration on a brobdingnagian scale.
Concepts such as integrity, honesty, principled are inapplicable in Gandhi's case.Remember, Integrity means loyalty to RATIONAL principles, not an emotional-existentialist "Commitment" to whatever your sub-conscious feeds you.Honesty is refusal to fake reality.Gandhi's life is a concretization of dishonesty.What fact of reality can justify the Gandhian philosophy? Taking a stand for rational principles is commendable provided your principles are objectively arrived at.Were Gandhi's principles of said nature?

Thought is Integration.How can you claim to understand someone, let alone respect him, if you can't integrate all the threads that go into fashioning a seemless personality? In your case Gandhi the politician is juxtaposed with Gandhi the "public Intellectual".Ask yourself which comes first in the hierarchy of knowledge,Ethics or politics? If you do just this much,and without dropping the context, apply all the implications deriving from your answer to this question, it would be blatantly obvious who Gandhi really was.

pomponazzi said...

Sajid writes,"and in reality, especially after reading Jasmines, reddies and pomponazzi's comments, I am more torn over how to give him his due."
Why turn yourself into a pretzel for nothing.You don't have to, "give him his due". That's precisely what we all were trying to do.
The S.Africa episode isn't as significant as what he did in India.For if he had remained in S.Africa he would not have been the Mahatma that we know.At best, he would have earned himself a footnote in Indian history, perhaps.
Your myopic gaze has you mesmerized by a tiny flea crawling on the bark of the tree of history while the philosophical forest is yelling and shrieking for your attention.

khartoum said...

"As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice."

"He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future."

"Sooner will a camel pass through a needle's eye than a great man be "discovered" by an election. "

Great quotes actually. The only problem is that they come straight from Adolf Hitler. I think any person can be quoted out of context to mean anything anybody wishes.

Do you seriously expect me to believe that Gandhi was interested in "freedom to err"? Well, that somehow failed to show up in his prohibition policy or for that matter on the issue of food, sex, industry and whatnot.

Gandhi halted progress and helped killing people. Period.

I don't know if he really intended it or not but that what he ended up doing.

P.S. Dude, pompanazzi, you write really well!

pomponazzi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pomponazzi said...

Thank you Khartoum for giving me the opportunity to comment, as well as for your treasured compliment. It gives me great pleasure that rational minds like you are in the neighborhood, so to speak.I live in Pakistan

Rational Education said...

This may be of interest to read (or re-read) what Ayn Rand clarified about civil disobedience:
http://aynrandlexicon.com/
lexicon/civil_disobedience.html

In my opinion Gandhi's actions in S Africa in response to the discrimination came from a very mixed up and inconsistent understanding of the irrationality involved. This confusion later showed up clearly in how he approached the issue of the entrenched caste system in India. (As an aside comment please bear in mind that the caste system had been established for hundreds of years in the sub-continent, firmly in place before the Britishers every set foot in India.) How come Gandhi never raised issue about the type of collectivist horror involved in the birth castes and did not make the connection that the discimination he was meted in S Africa came from the same tree from which the caste system arises -collectivism -a thinking that one's achievements or lack thereof are based not on one's individual efforts but on that of the group. The contradiction is too glaring to overlook.
In his later life he fought against the caste system and raised the cause of lowest caste whom he named Harijans.

In my opinion one has to apply discrimination in judging a person at the individual level and appraise his achievements. There are bums and losers born in the entire spectrum of the social ladder. Also while it is no fault of the person born in a lower social rung, neither can one inculcate metaphysical guilt and blame someone for being born in a wealthy family -that would be absurd. But that is precisely what Gandhi tried -it became a virtue to be born a Harijan -a virtue one derived without any effort on one's effort -that again in justice is an absurd idea!

Jasmine

Gauri said...
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