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August 3, 2008 / calebdresser

The Tragedy of Gandhi

British rule was not a pleasant thing, to hear my friends talk about it. There were massacres, beatings, and all the cruel manifestations of a racist and exploitative system, and its a good thing its over. Still, I look around and I wonder how much has really changed. There are fewer foreigners involved, to be sure, and there is little overt day-to-day violence. However, most things of substance reflect a system that continues to be wildly unjust. I hear the educated talk down to lower-class people as though they are children. Afterwards they will sometimes explain to me that it does not matter, that man is immature, he has the mind of a child. Perhaps – but it does not make it right. Tremendous income gaps remain the norm, and the wealthy are now on a well-funded quest to wall themselves into complexes of modern condominiums, rather than put any effort into cleaning up the cities around them. Though money exists for a range of social projects, it is eaten up by corrupt politicians and the poor are left to their own devices.

The tragedy of Gandhi is that for all his victories, the spirit of his vision has not yet taken hold in the minds of the people. Yes, there are plenty of institutional manifestations. You get to vote for which politician you want to have stealing your money. Education is now a major asset, so the smart and hardworking can play king over the stupid and lazy. There is legal equality and even affirmative action – but all this misses the point. A society is the sum of the individual attitudes and actions of the people that make it up, not the glossy institutions that stand grandly in the background. It does not matter whether you are laughed at and called a child by the British or your own countrymen. The hurt is just as real. It does not really matter whether you die of malnutrition and neglect in a slum or gunshot wounds in a peaceful street protest. You are just as dead. The only difference is that today the violence is better camouflaged and less easily attributable. What is needed – not just here but in many, many countries – is some genuine respect and a smidge of honesty, with ourselves as well as with others. What exists right now is only a more egalitarian way of determining who the oppressors will be.

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One Comment

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  1. Amy / Aug 16 2008 12:07 pm

    How does the caste system play a role in all of this… isn’t that still more or less a formal structure even with Ghandi’s more progressive laws?

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