I was wide awake after reading an illuminating article Gandhi for the Post-Truth Age on Matahma Gandhi by Pankaj Mishra. Discussing recent biographies on the Indian activist, it also centres on the revanchist debate in contemporary politics, most notably of statues being defaced or removed in South Africa (where Gandhi spent over twenty years) and other African nations due to public disapproval.
The article was a wake-up call for me, a reminder of teachings that I studied in High School and imbibed in Richard Attenborough’s classic epic Gandhi from the nineteen-eighties. More importantly it offered life lessons on how to conduct yourself in a world where the facts aren’t enough anymore. His sentiments concerning democracy and the Western world are as woke as ever.
“People in the West, Gandhi argued, merely ‘imagine they have a voice in their own government’; instead, they were ‘being exploited by the ruling class or caste under the sacred name of democracy.’ Moreover, a regime in which ‘the weakest go to the wall’ and ‘a few capitalist owners’ thrive ‘cannot be sustained except by violence, veiled if not open.’”
And yet as we’ve come to learn, it wasn’t George Orwell’s 1984 that we needed to prepare against. It was Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. While violence still persists in some small measure, the masses have been sedated with the gift of propaganda and narcotics; twenty-four hour cycles of content and mind-altering prescription medicine that help us to indulge the pain away.
I really took to Gandhi’s impressions on the discourse surrounding human rights. He speaks to the importance of humility, of understanding that we are a very small cog in an infinite universe. “The very right to live accrues to us only when we do the duty of citizenship of the world.” Only those with the courage to stand up and give back are worthy of enjoying a seat at the table of humanity.
It left me chewing on a much larger idea. Is the world nothing more than warring factions of scarcity and abundance? Much like the current leader of the free world, those that preach the truths of scarcity warp the truth and invoke fear as a way to rally their base, to ‘take it back’ before it’s gone.
Those that sit on the other side of the aisle take a different tack. Much like Gandhi, they teach us the values of humility, of overcoming hate with love and understanding and eschewing any compulsion to violence. As the science behind climate change continues to remind us that we’re fast approaching a new era on planet earth, I fear the logic of abundance may be drawing its final breath.