The consistently brilliant Atanu Dey asks What would Gandhi do and at the end of his answer, says:
“Why does it matter what would Gandhi do? What matters is what we should do,” I said.
“Actually that’s why I ask what would Gandhi do,” CJ said. “I want to figure out what Gandhi would do and do exactly the opposite. It’s like this. Remember in some crime stories the detective asks himself what he would do if he were the criminal? Something like that.
“Sometimes I ask myself what would Manmohan Singh do…Manmohan Singh would want to keep Islamic terrorists like Afzal Guru and Kasab alive and well-fed. The right thing to do would be to starve them for a couple of weeks and then hang them.
As they say, the solution typically lies on the other side of the coin but it doesn’t occur to us to flip the coin because bad things, problems engage the mind for a far longer duration. But first, another quote from that same post:
“Gandhi imposed a cult of pain on India, and how! It appears that pain was central to his worldview. The more pain one suffers, the nobler one becomes…”
A very accurate and insightful observation. Think about this: what was the response of Shivraj Patil’s worthy successor to the latest round of Khelo Diwali that Pakistan played in our capital city?
The response in itself is of no significance and will certainly be of little consequence. White Dhoti talking about taking some real manly action against terrorists is akin to Rajiv Gandhi saying “hum banayenge,” “hum karenge,” “jeetenge ya loosenge….” But go the root of the phenomenon that produces people with White Dhoti mindsets. That root is what Atanu calls the cult of pain. But go further and examine the root of the cult of pain. That root goes by several names in the dictionary: pusillanimity is the first that came to my mind. Look up its synonymns. All of them are equally applicable. And so when outraged citizens of India call Manmohan Singh a Spineless Wonder, this is the principle that subconsciously guides such choice epithets.
Now whether Gandhi himself was pusillanimous is debatable but what is indubitable is that he was—is—responsible for the generations-wide infection of the virus of pusillanimity. The middle class idiots of India who mindlessly continue to support Anna Hazare do so because their five-star careers etc won’t face a serious threat by taking some time off from work to hold placards and form human chains and perform such assorted circus tricks. If you think this is a cynical view, why did it take them so long to wait for a Anna Hazare to become a sort of rallying point or whatever? I mean, any one of these placard-holders and Anna cap-wearers could’ve stuck their necks out first. But they didn’t because as Atanu says, they love to wallow in the reflected glory of Anna’s threat to unleash the Gandhian cult of personal pain upon the entire nation. The Indian Middle Class has neither guts nor class to think of sturdy protest. What’s your bet that several of these protest human-chain links didn’t go back to their cubicles post-protest and fudge a conveyance or travel bill?
This reminds me of a story where there was once a forest inhabited only by herbivores. The sheep in the forest began to eat more than what their appetites demanded. As a result, there was no greenery left in the forest anymore. Rains didn’t come. The threat of drought loomed large. Other animals began to die one by one owing to starvation. Which is when providence came to their rescue in the form of a lion, which when it wandered there, saw an endless supply of feast in the form of the tens of thousands of sheep. It began to wipe them off with gusto and soon, order was restored. This is the nature of corruption prevailing in India. Only, there’s no lion in sight yet.
Gandhianism’s contribution to breeding and fostering these sheep is significant. Apart from very few exceptions, most Congressmen who surrounded Gandhi possessed this sheep-like quality. Mild and meek but immensely greedy. And look where it has led us: for the past 7 years, what we have is a a venal ecosystem, which allows the sheep to have a back-slapping relationship with the wolf. Gandhi’s mantra of “no army no police,” and Nehru’s quest to be seen as the Archangel of World Peace has led to a government that thinks nothing of letting its citizens be slaughtered and the slaughter is cheered on by its butt-kissers in the media, intelligentsia and academia. Gandhi’s ahimsa has kind of come a full circle: back in his time, among others, Gandhi’s ahimsa was one of the major causes that led to the horrifying bloodbath of the Partition. Today, the inheritors of his ill-informed legacy are too cowardly—the cowardice mixed with vileness—to even hit back at wanton aggression wreaked upon the nation, all in the name of peace in the subcontinent.
At the root of Gandhi’s ahimsa was a quest to attain martyrdom, which he eventually attained. Martyrdom brings personal glory usually at the cost of enormous quantities of bloodshed, and suffering because the martyrdom-aspirant is propelled by an immense ego and an indomitable sense of self-righteousness. For about four decades, Gandhi was the Saint who had to be only followed, not questioned. Like Jesus Christ. Gandhi’s idea of liberation through suffering and self-sacrifice is a Christian idea. The moment you adopt suffering and self-sacrifice as a sort of absolute virtue, the door to downfall opens up. The first casualty is the loss of the heroic or martial spirit. Look at the history of Christianity, which had kind of inherited the vast Imperial Roman Empire, and look what happened subsequently. All kinds of tribes and groups tore at that Empire till it was reduced to a tiny fraction of its former glory. The rugged spirit of pre-Christian Greece and Rome were submerged under the impotent spell of Christ’s passion in suffering. Indeed, Europe retained its Christian dominance only because the Church realized—a little late—that heroism, not suffering, was needed to combat the Islamic hordes that came knocking. Even there, it wasn’t heroism per se but fear. Hence the Crusades. From those times till Gandhi, suffering/passivity/compassion as a guiding principle of politics has resulted in large scale disasters.
For all his—genuine—reverence for, and pride in Hinduism, Gandhi’s understanding of it was at best in the nature of grasping at the straws. This shows in his fondness for the specific heroes he chose: Rama, Buddha, and Jesus. He worshipped Rama because Rama always spoke the truth, was a dutiful son and loyal husband. His reverence for Buddha and Jesus owes to obvious reasons. Not surprising that Krishna figured somewhere low in his ranking of great personages.
If that wasn’t the case, Gandhi would’ve understood that Krishna actively sought out injustices for the exclusive purpose of uprooting them using foul means if necessary. He had no personal stake in any war or event that he was part of. The sole goal of every such event was to establish or reestablish Dharma, and if violence and deceit was unavoidable to achieve it, so be it. This kind of seemingly-heartless conviction requires unambiguous clarity of purpose. Gandhi’s clarity of purpose was doubtful at best and it was doubtful because he failed to examine things by elevating them to a philosophical level. What he offered and insisted on putting in practice was endless moralizing whose physical manifestation was the cult of pain, which we live continue to live with.
A doctrine based on suffering and compassion works with people who value these precepts in the same spirit and not with those who regard them as signs of weakness. They work only at the personal, individual level. But because even the latter class of people exist in the world, we need to evolve a precept that keeps them in check and/or fights them effectively. And so when nations declare war, a sermon on non-violence and compassion isn’t the best defense. Gandhi’s prescription of voluntarily laying down lives is just that: a cold-blooded and vulgar sermon. Thank God nobody took it seriously.