Antidote to the seven social sins
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.