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Reader Rabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 08:13 AM
Original message
Gandhi a racist?
I am involved in a discussion on another forum about Mohandas K. Gandhi. One of the posters has made allegations of racism against the man, in particular anti-black sentiment and persecution of Sikhs. I've done quite a bit of online searching, and nearly everything I find supporting this position stems from a book by G. B. Singh called "Behind the Mask of Divinity."

There seems to be no middle ground on this issue. One side seems determined to believe ill of Gandhi and accuses the other of believing the myth of "the Mahatma" created by Western media. The other side denounces the anti-Gandhi side as individuals having a religious or ethnic ax to grind: Sikh separatists, Pakistani Muslims, etc.

Are there any Gandhi scholars out there who can provide a thorough background on this situation? I've no doubt that many of us today view Gandhi as larger than life, rather than as a regular human being with flaws, but I've not seen anything mainstream to back up what the anti-Gandhi forces are saying. But considering how incompetent the mainstream media is, that doesn't mean a heck of a lot!

Any and all commentary, information, or suggestions for further study are greatly appreciated!

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elocs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 08:40 AM
Response to Original message
1. I think the "racist" label has to do with Ghandi's time in South Africa.
Apparently he was concerned about his own rights being abridged as an Indian, but was not as concerned about the rights of the black Africans. Ghandi was human and not a god and therefore had imperfections. That does not diminish the great good he did.
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jwirr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 09:07 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. And is still doing for all of us. I appreciate his wisdom as it applies today.
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MrPrax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 09:13 AM
Response to Reply #1
4. No...
The racist label is because he and his movement were shameless Hindu nationalists that for decades used naked power under the Congress party to smash legitimate opposition to their rule, rig elections and enforce mass sterilization programs.

BTW -- the 'the Mahatma' (Father) tag was not a myth, but in fact one of the fundamental causes of the violent division between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus wanted to give Ghandi, as one of the first acts of independence, this official title. The Muslim minority objected to this as blasphemy. The Hindus said 'fuck you' and I believe Ghandi thought that his honorific title, even though it was causing widespread rioting among extremists, was a very good idea.

But keep in mind -- especially if your a Ghandian critic -- not to be taken in by all the British propaganda written about the guy as he was rebelling against them. They ran the same program as we tend to do with Castro.
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judy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 10:33 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. I don't know where you got your info, MrPrax but...
You don't seem to know very much about M.K.Gandhi.I am not a "Gandhi scholar" but I have studied his life and writings for many years.
First of all, Gandhi opposed nationalism, and this is why he resigned from the Congress Party after independence, and refused to participate in the government. He also strongly objected to his being called the Mahatma ("Great Soul"). He did everything he could to stop Partition, and to bring Mohammed Ali Jinnah to his side. Jinnah betrayed him, and the Hindus eventually assassinated Gandhi because of his opposition to Nationalism, his rejection of the caste system, and his respect of the Muslim community.
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MrPrax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 11:04 AM
Response to Reply #8
12. But during the vote
his strong objections were not forthcoming. He could have refused, he didn't.

Gandhi opposed nationalism = hardly, he didn't spend all that time fighting to build a nation. Now if he wasn't a hindu nationalist, then the British trained lawyer probably shouldn't have been passing himself off as a 'untouchable' in sack cloth to prove some point about the 'kinder, gentler' Hindu-ism he was alleging to be practicing.

he resigned from the Congress Party = or forced out by competing factions which found him a liability...we tend to forget that much of the Gandhi we know came from actions in the early 30s, the post-ww2 political landscape had changed considerably including the British reasons for continuing to remain in charge.

refused to participate in the government = didn't get his way, tested the waters to see if he had 'people power', he didn't

etc etc ...

It really all depends whether you look at Gandhi as an inspiration for 'non-violent' protest or as a shrewd politician -- of which he certainly was.



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judy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 09:26 PM
Response to Reply #12
18. Ha! MrPrax!
I don't know where you get your info, but it is quite funny :)
My favorite:
"refused to participate in the government = didn't get his way, tested the waters to see if he had 'people power', he didn't"
If Gandhi didn't have "people power" at the time of Indian Independence in 1947, then who ever had it?
:rofl:
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MrPrax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-12-07 04:49 AM
Response to Reply #18
24. I would love to continue telling ideologues
that they GOT history wrong but that would keep me away from learning about it...

Learning about how this is the 150th anniversary of what many Indians believe was the beginning of the Independence movement and didn't begin at the point when a British trained lawyer! via another British colony arrived to start a party that was advocating a failed tactic of compliance with that same British authority!

I am however aware that this political 'allegory' is popular among elites in the west that really love to discourage open rebellion against their rule -- namely the Congress party, that while savagely consolidating power and smashing any and all independence movements in the immediate post-independence period (like the British before them) liked to use old Gandhi as a symbol head, just like they love to use a hereditary chain of familial rule (as someone clumsily pointed out to explain how Nehru's kids aren't physically related to Gandhi) which if you note, wasn't all that different from 'monarchical' rule.

Please note that in our own culture we accept that most of our freedoms came from a barrel of a gun and have many martyrs to that cause -- why then do we insist that 'other' people (also trapped in a British colony) consider 'non-violence' when their 'freedom' conflicts with our rule? It's especially galling when liberals have made a religion of 'pacifism' simply out of political expedience (lack of popularity) and promote 'non-violence' without ever honestly considering the state's monopoly of violence of which BOTH Gandhi and liberals have an incredible amount of tolerance for as they sing their 'songs'.
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dave_p Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-12-07 06:09 AM
Response to Reply #24
27. You appear to be confusing ideologues ...
... with people who actually know something about the topic.
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dave_p Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-12-07 06:06 AM
Response to Reply #12
26. No
Gandhi was an advocate of Indian nationhood. He recognized no religious basis for nationality. India's Muslims to him were part of the Indian nation. he even proposed an all-Muslim Cabinet as independence approached.

His embrace of the cause of India's Untouchables was a stand against wrongs within Hinduism, not a promotion of it as a feel-good religion.

Gandhi did not regard himself as a politician. That's why he never took part in government. After independence he saw his role as maintaining communal peace.

I don't know what your paragraph about his relationship with Congress is trying to argue.
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nam78_two Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 11:19 PM
Response to Reply #4
20. I think you might be getting him mixed up with Sanjay Gandhi?
Edited on Fri May-11-07 11:34 PM by nam78_two
(Not being snarky btw -genuine question-maybe you are referring to something I am unaware of).

But, I think the mass sterilizations you refer to were during the time Indira Gandhi (Gandhi not Ghandi-thats a common misspelling) who was a wannabe fascist and declared a state of "Emergency" in India prior to an election she seemed to be about to lose. There is a common misconception that the Gandhis who are now a big political force in India, are related to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, when actually there is no relation. Indira Gandhi, who was Nehru's daughter was Prime Minister many times and she was married to one Feroze Gandhi who is unrelated to MKG.
When the state of emergency was declared by Indira Gandhi while she was the PM, her son Sanjay Gandhi, another wannabe tyrant who died in a plane crash, started on those mass sterilization programs you refer to. I am unaware of any that MKG was involved in. That time it wasn't so much a rigging of an election as much as basically cancelling them. It last for a few years I believe. I am of East Indian origin and my parents lived though that. My mom says it was a very scary time and people from opposition parties were thrown in jail and people from the press started protesting and the editors started leaving op-ed columns blank as a sign of suppression of the free press and they were thrown in jail as well.
The Congress isn't the Hindu Nationalist party though-that is BJP.
And imo "Mahatma" doesn't precisely mean father-its loosely translated more as "great one/wise one"-something of that sort.


MKG had his imperfections being human-but he certainly was a very remarkable man regardless. Deification of any human being is kinda iffy, but I do think you might be mixing him up with Sanjay Gandhi, who was -pardon my French- an asshole.
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judy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-12-07 12:42 AM
Response to Reply #20
21. Thank you nam!
For clarifying...You must be right, MrPrax must be confusing Sanjay Gandhi and M.K.Gandhi. That's the only explanation, and it makes sense...Wasn't there also Rajiv Gandhi, related to the very same Indira, who was not particularly good either?
I agree with you that M.K.Gandhi's deification was extemely detrimental to his message, which was always very simple, clear and human. He always said everyone can do what I do, and did not like being called Mahatma, which I think means "Great Soul".
I also think Nehru, whom Gandhi held in such high regard, did betray him somewhat in forgetting how they reached Independence, and in having a military display at his funeral. Urgh.
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nam78_two Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-12-07 01:47 AM
Response to Reply #21
22. True
And yeah Rajiv was Indira's son and yeah that family appears to have had a strong grip on the country's politics. I am fairly certain now, after looking into that a bit more, that MrPrax does indeed seem to have them confused.
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dave_p Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-12-07 05:58 AM
Response to Reply #4
25. No
"The racist label is because he and his movement were shameless Hindu nationalists that for decades used naked power under the Congress party to smash legitimate opposition to their rule, rig elections and enforce mass sterilization programs."

No, the accusation relates to his failure to defend African rights in South Africa, as others have said. Gandhi was long dead when a later incarnation of Congress (by now just a political party rather than a national independence movement did any of those things.

"BTW -- the 'the Mahatma' (Father) tag was not a myth, but in fact one of the fundamental causes of the violent division between Hindus and Muslims."

Mahatma means Great Soul, as Judy points out. The tag wasn't a fundamental cause of the division, the Muslim League's embrace of religion-based separatism was. Gandhi never liked the term, because his soul was no greater than anyone else's. Colleagues and most supporters called him Gandhiji. I've never even seen the word Mahatma in a contemporary Congress source. It's more common in British and US materials.
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jobycom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 09:21 AM
Response to Reply #1
6. He was also still forming his beliefs at that stage.
South Africa was early in his life, and helped shape his beliefs. They were not fully formed yet.

Thomas Jefferson once proclaimed that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites. Abraham Lincoln once claimed that when the slaves were freed they should be sent back to Africa (so did Thomas Jefferson). Both men were trying to do the right thing when they expressed these beliefs, and both were reflecting conventional wisdom of their time. More importantly, both later rejected these views completely, as their own true characters helped them see past their earlier teachings. All of us have been given beliefs at an early age that we later rejected as wrong. We are ashamed of our earlier beliefs, usually.

Ghandi was educated in England at a time when science taught that white people were intellectually superior to black people, and to all other races, and that mixing of races weakened racial purity. Hitler took those views to an extreme, and they are now rejected, but at the time even Americans like Woodrow Wilson believed they were scientific and correct. So maybe Ghandi had some of these assumptions earlier in his life, especially pre-Hitler. He does not seem to have had them later, though.

I don't know all of GHandi's thoughts on Africans while he was in Africa, but I do know that the man he became, and the man he was beginning to become even then, would reject any view that one individual was superior to another based on a racial or religious grouping.
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judy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 10:57 AM
Response to Reply #6
11. Gandhi, on the day he was kicked off a train for being a dark man,
Had a revelation, and understood the meaning and injustice of racism in all its forms. This is when he decided to start his work in South Africa. While he was working with the community he knew best, everyone was always welcome at Tolstoy Farm, blacks included. Gandhi never seemed to have been a racist, or a believer in white supremacy at any time in his life however, Hitler or not.
And you might have heard his famous quote: "What do you think Mr. Gandhi about Western Civilizatin?" Gandhi: "Oh, I think it would be a very good idea!".
He was a very sophisticated thinker, a pragmatist, with a deep dislike for injustice. He might have somewhat neglected his family because of his involvement in the struggle for independence, but he was never a racist.
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jobycom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 09:07 AM
Response to Original message
3. No.
You'll have to do your own research, but it's easy to examine Ghandi's life and see that he was not. His first introduction to civil rights and legal discrimination came while he worked as a lawyer in South Africa, and experienced first-hand what black Africans went through. Every aspect of his life was about teaching and practicing tolerance and harmony of all people. He opposed splitting India and Pakistan because he believed segregation weakened everyone. To argue that he was a racist is so far beyond reality that it doesn't deserve a debate.

He apparently used the word "kaffir" when discussing blacks in South Africa, and this has been interpreted by some as being a racist slur, but the term was not derogatory during Ghandi's life. Some have misinterpreted some things he said because they misunderstood his use of the word. He also made comments supporting Palestineans against the occupation by Israel, and some have considered those anti-Semetic, though Ghandi's long history of defense of Jews proves otherwise. I don't know about his attitudes to the Sikhs, but does it really make sense that Ghandi, who studied all religions and tried to achieve harmony and balance even with people who wanted to kill them would have a racist attitude against the Sikhs?

Ghandi had a specific political agenda, and no matter how correct, wise, and even beautiful it was, it went against what some people wanted. It still offends those who have plans and goals contrary to his vision of peace and harmony. Conservatives like to argue he was a racist because they feel it undermines his entire message, somehow, and proves them right. Take Iraq--Ghandi wold have certainly opposed our invasion of Iraq, and his saintly image and his ultimate success using peaceful methods to change the world both are implicit criticisms of the conservative support of the Iraq invasion. Conservatives have to discredit Ghandi, or he discredits them and proves them ineffective. By labeling him a racist, conservatives can then argue "See, he didn't have the best interest of everyone at heart, and that's why he preached non-violence. He only wanted what was best for India or Hinduism. We saintly conservatives are much better, wanting what is best for Iraqis, and therefore our invasion is better than Ghandi's non-violence."

It's screwed up reasoning that makes no sense, but they did the same thing to Gore and Kerry. And MLK and Jesse Jackson. Remember when Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize, and they began a campaign to discredit him and claim that Bush was a greater champion for peace (echoing exactly the arguments of those who wanted to give Hitler the Nobel in the 30s). To a conservative, proving that those who are obviously much better than them were really racist or somehow personally bad people proves, in their minds, that conservatives are really better people, and therefore are right. It's not easy being a conservative. The weight of all history and all morality it against them. They have to create fantasies to make themselves look better.
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stray cat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 09:14 AM
Response to Original message
5. My understanding was he still favored the Indian Cast system
which at that time had a racist element and perhaps a subservient spot for women as well
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Reader Rabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 10:25 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. I'm pretty sure he was *against* subsurvience for women
This is one of the few things where I've found information myself, from his own writings. His re-evaluation of his relationship with his own wife, which began as a traditional arrangement of the time, was one of the things that led him to question dominance and subservience in all human interaction.

I'll see if I can find the actual passage to cite.
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judy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 10:44 AM
Response to Reply #5
9. This is absolutely false...
Gandhi, who refused to be part of the new Congress Party after independence, spent the rest of his life fighting the caste system. He called intouchables Harijans ("Children of God") and tirelessly campaigned to make them full fledged members of Indian Society. He lived with them, did their jobs (such as cleaning latrines, etc.), published the "H
The campaign was interrupted with Gandhi's assassination by a Nationalist Hindu in 1948.
Gandhi was an educated pragmatist, who believed that all human beings are equal and should be treated with dignity whether they were women (there were a lot of women with him at the ashram, Mrs.Naidu, Mirabehn, and his wife Kasturbai), blacks, whites, British dignitaries, he treated everyone with the same love and respect.
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Jim Warren Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 11:11 AM
Response to Reply #9
13. Absolutely correct
A dear friend of mine is from Madras, his father was an associate and tireless life-long supporter of Gandhi and human rights in India. Both Gandhi and his father, as well as my friend detested the caste system.
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judy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 10:52 AM
Response to Original message
10. Whoever called Gandhi a racist, must not have known very much
about him, his campaign in South Africa, his life in India, and his writings on NonViolence (Satyagraha) and every day life.
The persecution of Sikhs comes from the Hindu fundamentalists (who by the way assassinated Gandhi), and I guess since Gandhi became a symbol for the new Indian state (his spinning wheel is on the flag, and his face is on the rupee bank note), Mr.Singh can easily confuse Gandhi and the politics of the Indian government.
In South Africa, Gandhi had a bad experience on a train on his way to Durban, which made him understand what racism was and what was wrong about treating any human being as an inferior.
His struggles in South Africa addressed the problems of Indian indentured laborers, because he knew exactly what to do to help them as he was a member of their community. His idea was that all communities, including the native community should follow the example of the indians and free themselves from the grip of colonialism.
Yet he understood that only a member of a given community could generate the kind of dedication to be able to create change against the forces of imperialism.
It is strange to hear a man who fought racism and injustice all his life, being called a racist. Ah, the magic of spin!
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Reader Rabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 01:13 PM
Response to Original message
14. Can anyone speak to Singh's book and/or motivation?
Or at the very least point to the sources he cites? If one could read the original material from which he makes his claims, it would certainly help to shed light on the situation.
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dave_p Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-12-07 07:49 AM
Response to Reply #14
30. It seems a polemical piece
Edited on Sat May-12-07 07:51 AM by dave_p
Haven't read it - I'm a broader history rather than a biography guy: to know the man/woman, know the time and place.

But to the author's credit, he's fairly open about his motivation:
"Only through a methodical probing can we expose Gandhi's campaign of deception: the lies, the propaganda, the misinformation, the half-truths, and the efforts to hide behind religion. Where Gandhi left off, his followers have picked up"

So he's explicity attacking what he sees as distortions in the legend, rather than claiming any balanced evaluation. Of course many authors have pointed to Gandhi's faults: the suggestion that it's something new is mere sales pitch.

The assertion that "Where Gandhi left off, his followers have picked up" is more interesting. It seems from what the OP wrote that this relates to Congress after independence. That's certainly a different matter to Gandhi's vision, as he never won the free, undivided India he'd longed for.
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HiFructosePronSyrup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 01:16 PM
Response to Original message
15. He also beat his wife, slept with teenage girls...
and called Hitler his friend.

:shrug:
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Neoma Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 05:27 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. Ha ha.
True sarcasm there.
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Neoma Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 05:30 PM
Response to Original message
17. As a person who just read a Gandhi book:
Good gawd no, he was probably more tolerant than Jesus.
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 10:25 PM
Response to Original message
19. The most overrated 20th century "hero"
Edited on Fri May-11-07 10:27 PM by ZombyWoof
He wasn't just racist, he was a sexist, a pederast, and a hypocrite of the lowest kind. It makes people feel good to utter niceties about his alleged pacifism. He's a warm and fuzzy (or perhaps fuzzless in his case) icon for a lot of well-meaning but misguided progressives. But truly, he was a wretched human being.

From a DU Journal entry of mine:


I've never been quick to deify Gandhi or hold him up as an example of pure pacifism. Cited below are some sources on this matter...


From Richard Shenkman's Legends, Lies, and Myths of World History:

Gandhi, for starters, had some very strange beliefs. When he was older, he preached that a couple should have sex only three of four times in their lives - although he engaged in a lot of sex when he was younger. He liked to sleep in the nude with naked young women to test his vow of chastity - apparently, sleeping nude with his wife wasn't much of a test. History doesn't record what she thought of this, but I can imagine my wife having a few choice words to say about such a situation.

Speaking of his wife, she died when he refused to allow her to get life saving shot of penicillin after she contracted pneumonia. He was, you see, opposed to modern medicine. But not fanatically opposed, since after her death he allowed himself to be treated with quinine for his malaria and allowed his appendix to be removed by surgeons. Nice guy, huh?

There's a lot more, like the fact that he wasn't always the pacifist that he has been made out to be and his odd fascination for bowel movements - I'll spare you the details of that last one.


Ibid, and culled from The Gandhi Nobody Knows by Richard Grenier:

Gandhi the part-time pacifist:

Although Gandhi became famous for his pacifism, his beliefs here evolved considerably over the years. In fact, until the British massacred hundreds of peaceful Indians at Amritsar, Gandhi was such a faithful British subject that he served in the imperial army.

In the Boer War, Gandhi led the Natal Indian Ambulance Corps and, in one of those weird coincidences, was one of the three future world leaders at the Battle of Spioenkop, along with Winston Churchill and Louis Botha. For his good work, Gandhi eventually won the War Medal and was promoted to sergeant major.

Gandhi also volunteered to serve in World War I, one of the few Indian activists to support England unconditionally. A bad case of pleurisy prevented him from serving, and in fact forced him to leave England and return to India.

Gandhi and World War II:

Gandhi never quite seemed to realize that the non-violence he urged against the British would have failed horribly if applied to the Nazis. He urged the British to surrender, and suggested that the Czechs and even the Jews would have been better off committing heroic mass suicide.

Even as late as June 1946, when the extent of the Holocaust had emerged, Gandhi told biographer Louis Fisher: "The Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs."

As the Japanese advanced into Burma (now called Myanmar), there was a real possibility of an Axis invasion of India. Gandhi thought it was best to let the Japanese take as much of India as they wanted, and that the best way to resist would be to "make them feel unwanted."

(In fact, the Axis was helping a buddy of Gandhi's to raise an army of Indians that would have seized the country from the Brits, but that's another story.)

Gandhi, family man:

He described his wife as looking like a "meek cow."

He refused to allow his sons to get a formal education, and also tried to force his oddball sexual ideas on them. He so disapproved of the wife of his eldest son that the Mahatma disowned him. This son broke from the family and became an alcoholic. In rebellion against everything his father stood for, Harilal Gandhi even announced at one point that he had converted to Islam.

The Mahatma also had trouble with his second son, Manilal, who had an affair with a married woman. Dad made the matter a public scandal and pushed the woman involved to shave her head. Manilal was also briefly exiled from the family for lending money to fellow black sheep Harilal.
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judy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-12-07 01:53 AM
Response to Reply #19
23. Zomby, I would not say overrated...
But more like underrated around most of the world and mostly forgotten.

I know enough about him to recognize that there is a little bit of truth to what Mr.Shenkman and Mr.Grenier say about the old man and his weird habits and the fact that he was not exactly a family man.(By the way, the operation was performed at the request of the host at the house where he was staying and it was not Gandhi's wish. At the time however, he was a commodity and they felt they could not afford to lose him)

As nam78 said above, he was not perfect just human. He had a lot of enemies, after all they did assassinate him, and they are still around...

But he did lead the most populated colony in the world to independence without firing a single bullet and without preaching hate and revenge. I like his principle of Satyagraha or truth force, not because he was God like or that it is the way to goodness, but because I believe it works. I don't believe in deifying anyone, but I do appreciate a good idea.

As for his comment to Fisher, I did read the book. I am the descendent of a family of European Jews, many of them died in the Holocaust. In Europe at the time, people accepted as normal that someone might be forcibly taken from their home and their life just because they were Jews or Gypsies or homosexuals. To accept something like that is like accepting their deaths, but people did not see that. In context, I think that he meant that people should have been shown the reality of what they were accepting, before it was too late. He himself was ready to give his life for his principles, and he did.
But that's just me :)


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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-12-07 06:39 AM
Response to Reply #23
29. Right.
Great men have great faults.

I like to read a wide range of books, even when I do not share the beliefs of the author. For example, among the "new" books I bought last weekend, on a semi-annual trip to the best regional bookstore, was David Garrow's "Bearing the Cross" (Perennial; 1999). The book presents Martin as,in Arthus Schlesinger Jr's review, "a great leader in all of his frailty and all of his valor."

Time's review of the book calls it, "Provocative .... a complex and convincing portrait." And that is important. For as one of Martin's family members said, he wasn't a "saint," he was a human being. When we take away a Martin or a Gandhi's humanity, and turn them into what Martin's co-workers called a "plaster saint," or place them on a stained-glass window, separate from human beings, we do both them and ourselves a terrible disservice.

Great men have great faults. There is a section in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, where Malcolm's world has come undone, and he is searching for evidence in the sacred texts, to show that great men have great faults. He finds evidence in the bibical stories of Noah, Lot, and others. He understands that when we look at and admire the lives of great men, it is because of their ability to overcome their human weaknesses, and accomplish things requiring great inner strength.

Yet in "Make It Plain," one of the most important books about Malcolm, one of the women who knew and loved Malcolm said that we must not allow ourselves to make Malcolm a mere projection of our own hopes and needs. He was a great man, but he was a human being. Every school student should learn of Malcolm, and to realize that he had much more in common with them, than that which separates them.

It's the same with Martin and Mohandas. Exactly the same. And just as Malcolm, in a discussion of the Dead Sea Scrolls with CBS's Mike Wallace, said that we need to take the prophet Jesus off those stained-glass windows, and keep him in the context of the human family if he is to have real meaning, the same holds for Gandhi.

Did he have many of the faults described in this thread? Absolutely! Yet these faults do not take away from his greatness; exactly the opposite. The "weakness" lies entirely in the inability of some to grasp that truth. But that particular "weakness" is nothing for us to frown upon .... no one starts at the finish line.
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dave_p Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-12-07 06:36 AM
Response to Reply #19
28. Unfair
Gandhi certainly did have some cranky ideas: his exploration of spiritiality was steeped in a 300-year-old religion. But as others have said, his ideas were constantly evolving.

His wartime ambulance service needs to be seen in the context of the time: such activity (saving lives, even of active fighters) wouln't have been considered incompatible with pacifism - I think it generally still isn't.

As for letting the Japanese take India in 1942, I concur with radical nationalists in seeing no Indian interest in defending British rule. There's a good case that freedom from an overstretched Japan would have been easier than from Britain, perhaps avoiding the horrors of partition.

On pacifism generally, Gandhi was trying to change human behavior. The pacifist position is that if war and killing were simply not part of what we consider acceptable actions, events like the Holocaust wouldn't happen. Our readiness to kill hasn't done us much good so far.
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