LAKHINDER SINGH | 25 JUNE, 2017
Gandhi Vs Goebbels
NEW DELHI: The problem with Gandhi is that he does not fit easily in 21st century India. For many in India”s elite and Middle class he would be somebody like Banquos ghost in Macbeth.
He draws our attention to the eternal verities and norms of life and who wants to be reminded of them.In an age of get rich quick philosophies,corporate packages, education transfomed into hard currency,plausible and scientific deniability and managed and organised dishonesty and deception he is best left alone,untouched and at rest.
The rituals on October 2. and January 30 are more than sufficient for the purpose. It gives one a nice feeling to show foreign tourists his place of martyrdom ---- Birla house or his samadhi at Rajghat. In a cheap and economical way the tourists seem reasonably happy.
Surprisingly, non Indians think much more about Gandhi than we in India ---his countrymen. Like Ivan Illich noted thinker said “India has got Gandhi cheap”. He further remarked that the planners ,middlemen and politicians will have no use for Gandhi”s system. For both the politicians --- and businessmen plus middlemen, a good part of success depends on managing , modifying or tampering with the Truth.
For this, Gandhi has to be kept at a suitable distance with only a cosmetic adherence to his values or by means of sophisticated belittling or calumny or innuendo which seems to be the rage in this age of post-truth and alternate facts.After all post –truth and alternate factuality is the universally practised strategy of the political and social elite in the 21st century--- which is only a more sophisticated and intelligent handling of falsehood and dishonesty.
One concomitant effect of the Modern Age has been the exponential growth of arrogance and hubris. The capacity of Man to practise oppression, cruelty and violence has increased a hundredfold . Dr Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler”s propaganda chief who who should really be considered as the standard bearer of the Modern Age has set the tone for the entire political history of the modern age by advancing the science of dishonesty and deception (no longer a fine art but a full fledged science like Quantum Mechanics or Nuclear physics).
Seriously speaking ---does Gandhi with his emphasis on Ethics, Means and Ends , Non violence and Love really fit here. He is there with the Dinosaur, the horse cart and the wooden plough and the barter system .
In India today as we look around, the polity and the bureaucracy and the lower and middle classes are in a state of high corruption, a high degree of avarice---- a high level of greed and selfishness. For the common man, ethics and morality is strictly circumstantial and a variable option --- dependent on his grim struggle for survival and existence ----. As such in the struggle of Good versus Evil the scenario for India is very bleak akin to a horror movie. Our middle class is 18th century(not even 19th century) in its thinking , intelligence. and ethics.
Speaking of Intelligence and Ethics the political and social picture of India in the20 th and 21 st century shows a shortage of brain power and morality. In such a bleak scenario what role can the image or example or the lessons of the life of Gandhi play.
Gandhi defined himself as a politician trying to be a saint, in some ways the half naked Fakir of Churchill”s arrogant description. His opponents and critics would tend to focus on his political ideology or actions while rigidly ignoring his example as the most developed personality of the Modern era.
The combination of the two goals is what enables him to make the very powerful impact on 20th century history. If he had omitted politics he would have been in the league of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa,Swami Vivekananda or Mother Teresa. Focussing on politics alone would have brought into play his skills as a”chatur baniya” as described by the BJP President.He however tried to make the two parallel lines meet ---something never attempted before in world history, something that has an awesome and stunning impact, something contrary to the laws of mathematics and plain common sense ( many things he attempted or tackled were against the grain of common sense like single handed trying to control the violence and riots in 1946 and 1947which different governments and state actors were failing miserably to stop).
Describing him as a Chatur Baniya is like calling Mount Everest a heap of ice or snow, or the Mediterranian sea as an indoor lake.
We in India find safety and security in caste or communal descriptions something we can handle easily and which is a part of our world view. It simplifies the effect of Gandhi but totally fails to give the essence of his achievement .
As the movie song of our childhood says “aandhi may bhi hai jalti Gandhi teri Mashhal .Sabarmati ke sant tune kar diya kamal. It is not easy to describe his impact on World history and the Human race, and only giants like Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell can understand the nature of his influence.
On the chessboard of life and politics he simply outplays his opponents making their ideas seem weak and antiquated and unnatural in the Cosmic scheme of things. Madam De Stael –a great opponent of Napoleon once said about him that”he was an able chessplayer and the opponent he hoped to checkmate was the human race”. Gandhi was a far more able player than Napoleon His goal was the welfare and happiness of the entire Human race and the Master of Europe seems quite pallid and diminished compared to him.
Perhaps this is the real “chaturai “ of the chatur baniya. Fast food in ideas we can get at any street corner or Panwala shop.For the real nourishment of life and our role in ithe cosmic scheme of things we have to go to Gandhi. Whether anyone likes it or not a mere “chatur baniya could hardly have made the impact on India and the world that he managed to do.
A mere cast description of Gandhi will never get off the ground .
It is a depressing effect to discover the unthinking and semi-educated nature of India’s elite and middle classes, totally obsessed with the factor of immediate and instant success .125 billion people in India alone, and many others in the rest of the world, if motivated only by an immoral or amoral agenda and an unethical or non ethical philosophy of life, can be a frightening and terrifying proposition.
Putting it in a plain manner- Gandhi does have a somewhat countering or confrontational effect on forces of Evil, Hatred and Conflict as was witnessed by a lot of people in 1947, something hardly any other political leader of the Modern Age barring possibly Lincoln, has.
Perhaps we might need Gandhi much more now and in the coming years than when he was alive and struggling for the freedom of his people. As Nehru said on January 30,1948 --the Light that shone on this land will continue to shine in the future and to guide us on our path.
Possibly Gandhi was the luckiest and best thing that happened to India in the Modern age.
(Lakhinder Singh is a retired Chief Commissioner of the Customs and Central Excise ,Government of India .He is a very keen student of History)