Friday, November 14, 2014

Learning pacifism at the master's feet

Arun Gandhi at the Congress Plaza Hotel
     Someone from the Parliament of the World's Religions suggested I meet with Arun Gandhi, and I did Thursday because, really, how often do you have the chance to talk with someone who lived with Mohandas K. Gandhi? The one detail that I couldn't fit into the column is his saying that Gandhi himself never used the title "Mahatma" that is often associated with him. 
     "He didn't like that," Gandhi said, pointing out that Mahatma is Sanskrit for "saint"—"He would say, 'I'm not a saint; I'm a normal person.' But the people of India decided that one, and he couldn't live it down."
      Twelve is a tough age, and many a struggling preteen has been shipped off to relatives to help him adjust to this whirling ball of woe we call a world.
     In Arun’s case, two things made his relocation unusual. First, the relative he was sent to live with was in India, thousands of miles from his home in South Africa.
     And second, the relative was his grandfather, Mohandas K. Gandhi.
     “We faced the brunt of prejudice and hate,” said Arun Gandhi, in Chicago to help plan the next Parliament of the World’s Religions, to be held in October 2015 in Utah. “Being a young man, I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was very angry and wanted eye-for-eye justice. My parents decided it was time to go to India and give me an opportunity to live with my grandfather.”
     He lived with the world-famous pacifist for more than a year, until late 1947.
     “He taught me some lessons in that period, and in many ways laid the foundation for my life,” Gandhi said.
     What sort of lessons?
     “The first lesson he taught me was understanding anger, to channel it constructively. He didn’t deny anger, didn’t say anger was bad and suppress it. He said, ‘Anger is good.’ Anger is to the human being what oil is to the automobile. If we don’t put fuel into an automobile, it won’t run. If we don’t have anger, we won’t do anything. Anger is good, but what is bad is the way we abuse anger.”
     I had never heard it put that way....

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  1. I read the full Steinberg article several times but am still not sure of Mr. Steinberg’s attitude towards Arun Ghandi. As far as I can tell – and this may be putting words into Mr. Steinberg’s mouth –Mr. Steinberg believes Arun Ghandi to be a well meaning fool.

    I agree with Mr. Steinberg when he asserts :

    “””Actually, the Palestinian situation is because of what has been happening in the Middle East, and anyone who believes otherwise, who dreams that should it by some miracle be settled, then the Middle East will become as placid as the Midwest, is still pointing fingers at Jews, though more slyly. Not to dwell on that. I like the idea that the Israel/Palestinian knot is so twisted that even a hereditary advocate of pacifism can find himself spouting disguised bigotries.’’’’

    But then Mr. Steinberg asserts his own simple minded bigotry towards religion when Mr. Steinberg asserts:

    “””Religion, to me, is not the solution to violence but an expression of the hostility people feel toward one another — conjuring a deity to put His divine thumbprint on your biases. Sure, you can pry religion away from that, just as you can use handguns as paperweights. But it’s using an elaborate device to attempt something very simple.”””

    Marxism – put into practice in the 20th century -- was the avowedly godless experiment that failed miserably. And miserably in almost all – if not all – instances.

    If Israel magically disappeared the Middle East would be as screwed up as it presently is. Israel is merely a scapegoat. If religion magically disappeared the world would not be better but probably far worst as shown by the 20th Century Marxist experiment.

    Throughout the history of mankind the Jews of done immense amounts of “good” and very little bad in the name of religion.

    Let’s not use the Jews as a scapegoat. Let’s not use religion as a scapegoat.

  2. I agree that a naive belief that a peaceful accomodation between Israel and the Palestinians would bring peace to the Middle East -- the Moslem world will continue on with its version of the Hundred Years War regardless -- but there are surely more practical reasons that have nothing to do with anti-Semitism for the U.S. to pursue policies that might help bring it about. A less embattled Israel would require less of our financial support, and would make it easier for the U.S. to disentangle itself from the factional battles of the Moslem world.

    And then there's something a Jewish guy who founded the faith I subscribe to said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."

    As for 20th Century Marxism, it ended up displaying all the characteristics of religious zealotry,
    so I'm not sure there is that great a distinction between religious and secular forms of bigotry. And Hitler was a Catholic until he started promoting paganism as a state religion. I'll take your word for it that Judaism (or any other religion) has done more good than bad, but bigotry is a natural spawn of dogma, and I like what Willian James said about that: "use any stigma to beat a dogma,"

  3. Thomas, you beat me to it. Marxists have certainly displayed religious zeal resembling nothing less than the so-called Spanish Inquisition and even Humanism has its heretics.


  4. is an excellent presentation by the Indian novelist and political activist Arundhati Roy (author of The God of Small Things) on Debunking the Gandhi Myth

  5. Mr. Evans:

    I basically agree with what you have posted above.

    Note – however – that I am dogmatic (but not absolutely so) about the following:

    1) Democracy is the way to go;
    2) The rule of law is the way to go;
    3) Homosexuality should not be criminalized;
    4) Bigotry should be condemned.

    I firmly believe that most “gripes” have some merit and that most issues are more complicated than appear to the simple minded at first blush.

    That is why I am a long-form guy whose lengthy posts are not appreciated by many.

    Pacifism was certainly the way to go for Mohandas Gandhi in India and for Martin Luther King to go in the United States. It succeeded because the British and the Americans were basically decent and moral people. It would not have been the way to go if dealing with Hitler, Stalin, Mao or OBL.


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