Reme­dies for gloomy times

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP - BY GURDIAL SINGH NIJAR

as­teroid hit the earth, with cat­a­strophic con­se­quences. We, the evolved homo sapi­ens, are act­ing in the same way as the as­teroid did. A de­fi­ance of Gandhi Ji’s sus­tained pro­nounce­ments on pre­serv­ing Mother Earth – the sixth ex­tinc­tion? Are we not, the suc­cess­ful species, har­ness­ing the qual­i­ties that make us suc­cess­ful (smart, cre­ative, mo­bile) to de­stroy the nat­u­ral world?

On nu­clear war

Gandhi’s re­sponse to the news of Hiroshima was as fol­lows: “Un­less now the world adopts non-vi­o­lence, it will spell cer­tain sui­cide for mankind.”

Martin Luther King, who em­braced Gandhi’s non-vi­o­lence Satya­graha legacy said, four days be­fore he was cru­elly mur­dered: “… the al­ter­na­tive to a greater sus­pen­sion of nu­clear tests, … may well be a civil­i­sa­tion plunged into the abyss of an­ni­hi­la­tion, and our earthly habi­tat … trans­formed into an in­ferno that even the mind of Dante could not imag­ine.”

The Dooms­day Clock, es­tab­lished by atomic sci­en­tists, shows how much closer we are to­day to the hour when all species will ter­mi­nate be­cause of these two threats: nu­clear war and global warm­ing!

Make no mis­take: the nu­clear weapons race is es­ca­lat­ing. Nato on the Rus­sian bor­der, Rus­sia’s nu­clear moderni­sa­tion and US plans to spend hun­dreds of bil­lions to up­date its nu­clear arse­nal and pur­sue an ir­ra­tional nu­clear com­pe­ti­tion.

Wil­liam Perry, a re­spected nu­clear spe­cial­ist, a former US de­fence sec­re­tary, re­cently es­ti­mated that the nu­clear threat is higher than it was dur­ing the 1980s.

On cor­rup­tion Gandhi said: “Cor­rup­tion and hypocrisy ought not to be in­evitable prod­ucts of democ­racy, as they un­doubt­edly are to­day.” And the fa­mous: “There is suf­fi­ciency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.”

Gandhi Ji’s mes­sage, taken cu­mu­la­tively, is this. A func­tion­ing democ­racy re­quires un­cor­rupted gov­er­nance. Breach this and rulers lose their right to gov­ern.

We in Malaysia are all too fa­mil­iar with this in­flic­tion. It has been lit up for us of late by a thou­sand spot­lights.

Cor­rup­tion, es­pe­cially by klep­to­crats, drive in­dig­nant pop­u­la­tions to ex­tremes. So­ci­ety’s ethos is harmed, warned the 17th cen­tury po­lit­i­cal thinker John Locke: “Where an ap­peal to law, and con­sti­tuted judges, lies open, but the rem­edy is de­nied by a man­i­fest per­vert­ing of jus­tice, and the barefaced wrest­ing of the laws to pro­tect or in­dem­nify the vi­o­lence or in­juries of some men or party of men …”

Cor­rup­tion is a cause – not a re­sult – of global in­sta­bil­ity, notes award-win­ning jour­nal­ist, Sarah Chayes, in Thieves of State.

On dis­crim­i­na­tion

Gandhi’s quest against dis­crim­i­na­tion came alive when he re­named In­dia’s “un­touch­ables” as “Har­i­jans” or “Chil­dren of God”; and ad­mit­ted them into his ashrams. Equal to the task was his fight against re­li­gious dishar­mony. The mass killings in the wake of the par­ti­tion of In­dia to cre­ate Pak­istan (which he op­posed), trou­bled him deeply. He went on a “fast unto death” un­less and un­til the vi­o­lence stopped. It did. For this he paid dearly with his life. A few days later he was as­sas­si­nated.

Mere mouthing of unity slo­gans is mean­ing­less when the acts of those who per­sis­tently threaten to wreck so­cial, eth­nic and re­li­gious har­mony, are rou­tinely ig­nored or treated with kid-gloves.

Con­clu­sion

Gandhi had even greater lessons for our ac­tivists. He walked 390km (the Salt March) to protest against colo­nial rule. Bri­tain’s Salt Acts pro­hib­ited In­di­ans from col­lect­ing or sell­ing salt, a sta­ple in the In­dian diet. Cit­i­zens were forced to buy the vi­tal min­eral from the Bri­tish, who, in ad­di­tion to ex­er­cis­ing a monopoly over the man­u­fac­ture and sale of salt, also ex­erted a heavy salt tax.

A to­tal of 60,000 In­di­ans in­clud­ing Gandhi were ar­rested – amid threats more se­vere than those to dis­rupt the Dataran gath­er­ings. Gandhi was also pros­e­cuted un­der the per­ni­cious Sedi­tion Act; in form and spirit vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to our colo­nially-in­her­ited Sedi­tion Act.

He ac­knowl­edged his right to chal­lenge colo­nial rule and re­store In­dia’s dig­nity. If that be a crime, he gladly pleaded guilty. The English Judge Brom­field promptly jailed him for six years.

Per­haps the best we can do is to lis­ten to Gandhi. Im­bue his val­ues in our own life and in­ter­ac­tion. He talks to us. And in a sense, he cer­tainly walks with us. To usher in a new dawn.

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