An­ti­dote to the seven social sins

Post - - GANDHI ANNIVERSARY - ■ Satish Dhu­pelia is a great-grand­son of Ma­hatma Gandhi

ONE man’s phi­los­o­phy and teach­ings can make a dif­fer­ence to the world we live in to­day.

The world is not a to­tally happy place and there is so much go­ing on that has a neg­a­tive im­pact on the av­er­age man and his fam­ily. In our own coun­try, South Africa, we reg­u­larly see vi­o­lent protests and we know how cor­rup­tion has im­pacted neg­a­tively on the coun­try, and our peo­ple.

We share a proud and pro­found his­tory when it comes to Mo­han­das Karam­c­hand Gandhi, who ar­rived here as a bar­ris­ter and spent 21 years here be­fore re­turn­ing to In­dia. Our revered Madiba, on a visit to In­dia, once said:

“You gave us Mo­han­das; we re­turned him to you as Ma­hatma.”

Gandhi’s use of non-violence and peace­ful protest, known as Satya­graha, started first in South Africa and was suc­cess­fully used in many protests. Later, us­ing this very same phi­los­o­phy, Gandhi led In­dia to free­dom from Bri­tish rule.

Later on in South Africa, or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Natal In­dian Congress, the UDF and many trade unions adopted the very same phi­los­o­phy, and were suc­cess­ful in their protests. This earned them the re­spect of the rest of other coun­tries and they moved, from be­ing ob­servers, to im­pos­ing sanc­tions on apartheid South Africa.

Lead­ers such as Chief Al­bert Luthuli, who went on to be­come Africa’s first No­bel Peace prize win­ner, Nel­son Man­dela and Martin Luther King used Gandhi’s teach­ings with great success.

Now, in our ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, we study this kind of his­tory but per­haps our great­est prob­lem is that we do not use that knowl­edge to suc­cess­fully and pos­i­tively find so­lu­tions for to­day’s prob­lems.

What was done then can be done to­day but it is not and that is very ev­i­dent from re­ports in the me­dia. In fact we have had stu­dents, adults and com­mu­ni­ties re­sort­ing to vi­o­lent protest, and in such cases there are of­ten tragic out­comes and no real win­ners.

More im­por­tantly, the cause be­comes for­got­ten as ev­ery­one tends to fo­cus on the neg­a­tiv­ity of the violence. Why then are we ig­nor­ing past lessons that served our coun­try and oth­ers well?

How­ever, Gandhi had sev­eral other philoso­phies and teach­ings that are also just as rel­e­vant as Satya­graha is.

In one of his newspaper publi­ca­tions Gandhi pub­lished the seven deadly social sins which are:

1. Wealth with­out work.

2. Plea­sure with­out con­science.

3. Knowl­edge with­out char­ac­ter.

4. Com­merce with­out moral­ity.

5. Sci­ence with­out hu­man­ity.

6. Re­li­gion with­out sac­ri­fice.

7. Pol­i­tics with­out prin­ci­ple.

If bro­ken down and ex­am­ined, all the above social sins con­trib­ute to much of the is­sues we are fac­ing to­day. In fact, the grow­ing cry from the masses is for those in power to move away from such deadly social sins and to com­mit them­selves to serv­ing the peo­ple. We need, more than ever in to­day’s world, the an­ti­dote to the seven social sins – which sim­ply is ser­vice to oth­ers with benev­o­lence and a com­mit­ment to im­prov­ing the life of oth­ers with­out per­sonal gain. Our cur­rent pres­i­dent’s ac­tions, in do­nat­ing half his salary to char­ity, is in­deed a no­ble one and needs to be com­mended.

How­ever, there are more of Gandhi’s teach­ings which can fo­cus on other is­sues that plague the world at large. Gandhi was a great en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and ex­pressed great con­cern about it in many speeches.

He said: “The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an in­her­i­tance from our fore­fa­thers but on loan from our chil­dren. So we have to hand over to them, at least as it was handed over to us.”

While it is re­fresh­ing to note that we in South Africa have taken some steps towards pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, it is just not enough and it is a global is­sue. Or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Green­peace, Peta, Sea Shep­herds and oth­ers play a ma­jor role in prod­ding gov­ern­ments and peo­ple in a non-vi­o­lent way to stop their de­struc­tion of our nat­u­ral re­sources.

In his words Gandhi de­scribed non-violence as: “Non-violence is com­plete ab­sence of ill will to­ward all that lives. Non-violence in its ac­tive form, is good will to all liv­ing things. It is per­fect love.”

Durban-born Kumi Naidoo and Njeri Kabeberi from Jo­han­nes­burg are some of the few that have taken up the strug­gle to con­serve our en­vi­ron­ment. Such peo­ple and their or­gan­i­sa­tions need our sup­port in the same man­ner that the masses sup­ported Gandhi be­cause ul­ti­mately what they are do­ing is not for per­sonal gain but for the ben­e­fit of ev­ery­one.

Gandhi said: “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

One of the great­est hur­dles fac­ing South Africa, now that it has at­tained democ­racy, is that of poverty. We should not be im­mune to the plight of those who are poorer and less for­tu­nate than some of us and, if ev­ery one of us plays a role in help­ing up­lift other peo­ple, we will con­trib­ute to a much better world. This can be done in many ways – we can help to ed­u­cate, clothe, feed, im­prove liv­ing and work­ing con­di­tions, and show af­fec­tion and un­der­stand­ing to oth­ers.

Af­ter all, as Gandhi said: “Earth pro­vides enough to sat­isfy ev­ery man’s needs, but not ev­ery man’s greed.”

There is no doubt that Gandhi was a hu­man be­ing like all of us, and he made mis­takes and drew con­clu­sions about things that later proved to be in­cor­rect.

How­ever, his great­ness lay in his abil­ity to per­ceive his er­rors and en­deav­our to cor­rect them, and that is a les­son for all of us to learn from. From be­ing a young lawyer who, in his first ap­pear­ance at court, could not ut­ter a sin­gle word – he be­came a leader who ad­dressed millions of peo­ple. This shows us that we, too, can over­come weak­nesses and go on to greater things if we ap­ply our minds to do­ing so.

These two quotes of Gandhi demon­strate his change in his think­ing and un­der­stand­ing of the treatment of the African pop­u­la­tion, from when he ar­rived in South Africa as a young lawyer to when he left 21 years later as an ac­tivist:

“If we look into the fu­ture, is it not a her­itage we have to leave to pos­ter­ity that all the dif­fer­ent races com­min­gle and pro­duce a civil­i­sa­tion that per­haps the world has not yet seen?”

And: “It has re­peat­edly been proved that given equal op­por­tu­nity a man, be he of any colour or coun­try, is fully equal to any other.”

He has of­ten been de­scribed as a com­plex per­son but his teach­ings were very sim­ple and to the point. They have proven to be suc­cess­ful when used by other great lead­ers in dif­fer­ent parts of the world and in South Africa.

The mes­sage is there – tried and tested suc­cess­fully by oth­ers: it is time to say to ourselves – let us show Gandhi’s rel­e­vance in to­day’s world by prac­ti­cally im­ple­ment­ing his teach­ings and philoso­phies, and not just read­ing or learn­ing about them.

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