Idol-worshipping gone haywire

This is a followup to the comments on my post on Gandhian Self-sufficiency.

It is more than a bit unfortunate that we have a tendency to immediately label any criticism of any person as a sign of disrespect. Any person whose image cannot withstand the harsh glare of honest criticism says something about the fragility of that image. The image takes on a aura of such holiness and awe that any hint of possible flaws is taken as sacrilegious. Taken to an extreme, this sort of idol-worshipping ends up with the worshippers lynching anyone daring to profane the sacred image.

For the record, I do believe that Gandhi was a giant of a man. But for all his greatness, he was still cut from the same cloth as you and I. The same human frailties, the same hopes and ambitions and fears. The difference between a Gandhi and one of us is one of size, not of substance. If we keep that in mind — not just about Gandhi but everyone — I do believe that we would have a useful working hypothesis. Those great big people are magnified images of ourselves. And that which magnifies the virtues, magnifies the flaws as well. An old Chinese saying says that the bigger the front-side, the larger the back-side. Continue reading “Idol-worshipping gone haywire”

On Gandhian Self-sufficiency

I am somewhat familiar with the concepts of Satyagraha and non-violence that Gandhi preached and sometimes practiced. They are interesting tools and can be employed effectively in some circumstances. But, like all tools, they too can’t be employed in every case; they are not easy for mere mortals to employ even under favorable circumstances. In fact, they have severe limitations in that they are not general purpose tools but are rather special purpose tools. The interesting thing is irrespective of whether they work or not, the user gets to occupy the moral high ground.

Occupying moral high ground is well and good if that is one’s objective. But one could be very dead at the end of the day — on high ground but still dead.

Those tools elevate the user in the user’s estimation at least. But the sad fact of this world is that it does not work in those cases where you most desperately want it to work. One needs an effective tool against mass murderers more urgently than against robbers. The former could not care less whether you have an elevated opinion of your own moral standing. Hitler, for instance, would have slaughtered without compunction those who responded to his aggression with non-violence; it would have eased the realization of his megalomanical dreams of world domination. Continue reading “On Gandhian Self-sufficiency”