Banning a Book on Gandhi — Part 2

The freedom of speech and expression is not only a good in itself but it is also instrumental in human civilizational progress. It is therefore puzzling that quite a significant segment of humanity is ever ready to ban expression whenever there’s something said or written that goes against their cherished beliefs. What makes it worse is that another segment which does not fully comprehend what freedom of expression actually means. Usually they go, “I am for freedom of speech but . . . ”
Continue reading “Banning a Book on Gandhi — Part 2”

Banning a Book on Gandhi

Here we go again. The first impulse from the troglodytes on seeing something that is troubling is to shut their own eyes and insist that others be prevented from seeing it also. Apparently their conception of the good society is one in which the people are rendered blind and mute, and where they get to dictate to the people what is allowed to be said, heard, written or read, and by whom. At the center of the current turmoil among the troglodytes is a book by Joseph Lelyveld, “Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India.”
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A Wild Conjecture (or ‘What would Gandhi Do?’)

I have often wondered if there is a way to confirm whether or not someone was (is) genuinely good for India, or just inconsequential window dressing, or positively harmful. I have a tentative test. The test has to be tested. Exceptions prove the rule, they say. That is, exceptions test the test. So I am looking not just for instances that confirm the hypothesis but also those exceptions that test the soundness of the hypothesis. But first the hypothesis or what can be termed as a wild paranoid conjecture. Continue reading “A Wild Conjecture (or ‘What would Gandhi Do?’)”

The Resurrection of Gandhi

Arvind Lavakare in an article titled The Myth of Mahatma Gandhi notes that the Gandhi icon had been losing its sheen for years until the present government began giving it a nice new varnish. Maybe it is an attempt to “to fuse the original Gandhi image with the Italian one” he hints. I am convinced of that, however. Reading the comments on that article is instructive. Many of them are the equivalent of sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and loudly repeating “I am not listening. nana nana nana.” If people who are literate and supposedly educated are brainwashed enough to not even entertain an argument supported by evidence, what hope is there for the vast majority who have no access to alternative viewpoints to ever recover from the effects of the constant barrage of images promoting Gandhi as the sole savior of India?

If I were an illiterate person, I would be convinced that Gandhi is goodness personified. After all, doesn’t Indian money carry his image? Isn’t he the father of the nation? And should I not vote for Gandhi’s children — Rajiv, Sonia, Rahul, whoever? And should I not vote for the party that Gandhi founded? And should I not believe everything from a person who says he is a Gandhian?

Anyway, I must admit that the Congress party of India has a winning formula and they know it. Gandhi is the biggest brand name in the world — forget Coca Cola and McDonalds. Mera Bharat Mahan!

M K Gandhi’s Autobiography

I have started on Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography. Absolutely fascinating. No doubt that he was a remarkable man. I find the book un-putdown-able. The reason I started on it is rather pedestrian: I am out of reading material and went to the Crosswords bookstore around the corner and found it to be the cheapest among the lot that I wanted to read. It was only Rs 30 (about $0.70.) Amazing window into the mind of a man who casts such a long shadow onto India. More about this man later.

Post script: Over the years I have written a bit about the man. Here’s the category link on Mohandas K. Gandhi.

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”

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