Remedies for gloomy times
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.
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.
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.