Sunday, 27 April 2008

Mahatma Gandhi: Saint, racist, or both?


Some time ago I posted about Albert Schweitzer, who spent his life ministering to natives in Africa, and ended up regarding them as a collection of ungrateful primitives. This attracted a lot of comment, not least because such a saintly man could hold such (in today's terms) repulsive views. Mahatma Gandhi is another 20th century saint, who spent most of his early working life in South Africa.

He also of course peacable lead India to independence from Britain, and was assassinated for his trouble. He has since become an international icon of peace, pacifism, tolerance, brotherly love, and by extension, multi-culturalism. Statues are erected to him, his example is taught to Western school children, and Hollywood has even made a film about him starring Ben Kingsley. In all of these instances, Gandhi is portrayed as the ultimate peacemaker, the role model of multi-culturalism.

Westerners take great masochistic joy in endlessly quoting his response to the question “what do you think of Western Civilization”, to which he replied along the lines of “if I ever see it I’ll let you know”.

Ho, ho!
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But there's another side

Such masochists are far less likely to propagate other quotations of his though. And this isn't surprising when they show that this saint was a rabid racist. Now it must be remembered, before we’re too hard on the man, that this was well before the time that racism became the cause du jour, which was sex in thise Victorian times (when even pianos had to have their legs chastely covered lest they frighten the horses).

So it is with great joy I bring you a selection of St. Gandhi’s ruminations on matters racial. These are taken either from his Collected Works, or from the archives of the Indian Opinion which he founded and edited during his time in South Africa.
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Enjoy!

"Ours is one continued struggle against degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the European, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness."
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"Clause 200 makes provision for registration of persons belonging to uncivilized races resident and employed within the Borough. One can understand the necessity of registration of Kaffirs who will not work......?"
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"Now let us turn our attention to another and entirely unrepresented community-the Indian. He is in striking contrast with the native. While the native has been of little benefit to the State, it owes its prosperity largely to the Indians. While native loafers abound on every side, that species of humanity is almost unknown among Indians here."
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"We believe as much in the purity of race. We believe also that the white race of South Africa should be the predominating race. " [Note: This view is entirely consistent with Hindu philosophy, which places Brahmins at the top of the food chain, Sudhras next, and so on down to the Untouchables. Interestingly enough, in India this classification broadly approximates to skin pigmentation, with Brahmins often being indistinguishable from Europeans]

I could provide a lot more, but that's more than enough to make my point. My point is this. Before race and multiculturalism became rigidly-enforced orthodoxy, people spoke openly and freely about race, and the characteristics of differing racial groups. This could often be hurtful and demeaning, and it’s no harm that PC brought in some form of sensitivity.

But PC has completely gone over the top, to the extent that all sensible discussion on race has been foreclosed. This has lead, and leads to, muddled thinking and lousy political and social decisions - decisions that are having, and will continue to have, disastrous impact on millions of lives.

Gandhi called it as he saw it at the time – and as it was at the time. Clearly, had he been alive in 1993 he’d have recoiled at the prospect of giving blacks control of his South Africa. And he’d have been right, as we can now see.

20 comments:

doodler said...

Hi Savant
Reading this caused a rather sardonic smile.
Despite these Gandhi quotes being published in SA, our Marxist ANC government thought it fit to name a large square after him in Johannesburg.....and it caused no uproar, either.
Interestingly, the Zulus absolutely hate the Indians with a passion. There's lots of them in Natal, you see. Around a year or so ago, a Black musician wrote a song about Indians - how the Indians cheat the Zulus and calling for the Zulus to wipe them out. It was very popular...

SAVANT said...

Sounds like multi-culti bliss to me.

Re Gandhi, never let the facts get in the way bof a good story.

Anonymous said...

Have a look at this:
http://www.gandhism.net/gandhiandblacks.php

Chris said...

So to paraphrase you, Gandhi was a racist, but he was right. Wow, that's a new argument at least.

Gandhi was an old fashioned bigot given an excuse to be so due to his religion, and as you said, he lived in a different time, so you can explain away some of his racism if you are so inclined. *Your* racism, however, is a little more difficult to excuse.

SAVANT said...

well Chris, are you saying that Gandhi was a bad man? If so, you're part of a very small club.

My racism is simply a recognition that races differ from one another (do you think you could tell a Nigerian from a Swede?) and that capabilities differ between races.

If you dont believe that i suggest you review my posts on the subject - at least 'IQ Is The Key'.

I ask you to approach it with an open mind. It took me many many years to get my mind sufficiently open

Anonymous said...

Savant,

Those who know the truth about Gandhi the racist casteist hindu fascist bigot is not a small club. Count 300 million followers of Amedkar in them.

Not everyone in this world is taken by Ben Kingsley style lies.

Anonymous said...

This is the epitome of ignorance. Yes, Gandhi did say these things. But your facts about the Indian caste system and Hindu religion are so very wrong. Please get your facts straight before you write nonsense. Gandhi may have exhibited racist thinking but that does not discount all the work he did for India and his great philosophical thought and life. I suggest that instead of critisizing others for thinking in a way that you yourself dont know you wouldn't have thought in a time where this racist thought was so prevalent, you should try to live a life as great as Mahatma Gandhi's.

SAVANT said...

anonymous 5.56. Like so many who disagree with this site, you provide no facts or evidence to support your view, just say you're worng, ignorant etc.

I can only assume that you dont have such facts. The Hindu caste system of its essence has most desirable/good down to the least desirable/bad (Untouchables). You cant wriggle out of that.

Jasmine said...

On a very basic level, every man is a bigot. Lincoln, who fought for abolishing slavery, but not to abolish separatism. It is unfair to judge those times from the 21st century, for you were not influenced by their culture, nor did you walk in their shoes. Both Gandhi and Lincoln, although not perfect, made giant leaps in obtaining freedom for many oppressed people. Gandhi fought to make the untouchables caste disappear, by renaming them to "harijan" which means children of God. He lived in a time where the caste system wasn't only about a class, but about marital rites, land, occupations etc. Whether we like it or not, one day should the future bring a society which lacks capitalism, they will look back in disgust as well for the exploitation of workers in other countries for mere "decorative accents". Gandhi, created more bridges to rights for all people in India and abroad in an unprecedented non-violent stance then any other human being. He freed almost 500 million Indian slaves from the British, among many other campaigns. I am surprised you haven't mentioned the injustices the British imposed on the Irish, sending almost 130,000 to slavery in the Americas and West Indies. A great many hated the British (aka Europeans), and for pretty good reason, including your kind.

Jasmine said...

On a very basic level, every man is a bigot. Lincoln, who fought for abolishing slavery, but not to abolish separatism, was comparable to Gandhi's racism. It is unfair to judge those times from the 21st century, for you were not influenced by their culture, nor did you walk in their shoes. Both Gandhi and Lincoln, although not perfect, made giant leaps in obtaining freedom for many oppressed people. Gandhi fought to make the untouchables caste disappear, by renaming them to "harijan" which means children of God. He lived in a time where the caste system wasn't only about a class, but about marital rites, land, occupations etc. Whether we like it or not, one day should the future bring a society which lacks capitalism, they will look back in disgust as well for the exploitation of workers in other countries for mere "decorative accents". Gandhi, created more bridges to rights for all people in India and abroad in an unprecedented non-violent stance then any other human being. He freed almost 500 million Indian slaves from the British, among many other campaigns. I am surprised you haven't mentioned the injustices the British imposed on the Irish, sending almost 130,000 to slavery in the Americas and West Indies. A great many hated the British (aka Europeans), and for pretty good reason, including your kind.

Anonymous said...

Jasmine,

You are correct in what you say about Gandhi but from what I read of the post, Savant wasnt saying really the opposite.

The point is that Gandhi recognized the nature of the Africans and based his views accordingly.

Tiswas Palmer said...

Hey Savant, I have Indian blood in me and I am very proud of the fact. I also have British blood too.
Hey Ghandi was just a sign for his time and not all Indian people worship him.

Olda said...

I had not known this about Ghandi and your post just underlines the fact that we're being presented with a totally false picture of reality. I am not a racist although a reader of your blog. I read it because it gives me so many insights into things that I am being lied about.

Anonymous said...

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/the-real-mahatma-gandhi/8550/2/

This is about Mohandas Gandhi ;)

Krishna Pandit Bhanji is only a Padma and not a Padawan :(

Anonymous said...

Gandhi's troubles with blacks would have occured in the Kape Kolony of desparatrely looking for another K and not South Afirka proper.

Anonymous said...

The Gooseman fares badly in a book dealing with the end of empire and partition. Hunger strikes for ? Other vainglorious stuff by the guy who was the inspiration of the cartoon liberator of "The British are coming fame" fame.

Anonymous said...

There is no reason why one cannot be a pacifist and racist at the same time. That, after all was the attempt of the South African Government. What aggression that government exhibited was forced upon it by aggressive demands from the black population. Those same demands continue, with the claims for "service delivery", effectively the demand for the utilities of life without contemplating the need to create.

LPSP said...

This is a very old post but it's extremely good and I have something to add. My father was born and raised in South Africa. His grandfather, a norwegian whaler, moved to South Africa and raised his family there. My father told me a very powerful story once about how he singly cut through a crowd of black rioters to retrieve a pair of hindus that worked for him. The two were holed up in a warehouse, and the black crowd wanted their blood. Everyone was absolutely racist to everyone. It helps that my great-grandfather had a reputation for anger and violence and was about 6'5" if memory recalls.

When I went to university I shared this story with my fellow students. I wasn't turned in to the hate police remarkably. Most of them just sort of stared like confused puppy-dogs at a wall afterwards, mentally proned by the notion of non-whites noticing race. This sort-of gives me hope.

ss said...

My parents are from India. My Mom's family was Brahmin and she "looks white" - her Dad had red hair and he and my Mom sunburn easily. Anyway, her Dad actually marched with Gandhi against the British.

Gandhi was a human being which meant he had good and bad traits. Indians in general can be quite racist against Africans. Part of this was due to history and culture - Indian males are trained to be industrious. African males are not. In traditional African villages the women do the farming, while the men lounge about. There wasn't a lot of commerce. When Indians got to Africa they'd notice that the "shops" were blankets laid out with produce and stuff on them. The Indians started up actual stores. They understood how to manage money and understood things like supply/demand and amortization and how to make a profit.

When Africans kicked Indians out of several African countries during the 20th century they sorta cut off their nose to spite their face. After the Indians left the Africans took over the shops but didn't know how to run them. So countries that used to have thriving shopping districts have devolved back to produce sold on blankets. This is the same type of thing that happened when Africans kicked out white farmers - farms that used to be quite productive are now failing and countries that used to export food are now facing starvation.

This kind of thing also happens in the United States among black ghettos - a person from India or Korea or Vietnam comes along and opens up a grocery store. The blacks resent this because, after all, it's not a black person who is "profiting off the backs of the poor blacks". And they resent the fact the Asians, not plagued by white guilt won't let the blacks shoplift unhindered. Also, in Asian cultures children don't talk back to adults so Asians don't react well to disrespect from black teens. Of course the blacks resent all this so sometimes they will destroy the Asian's store. Then they complain because they have to walk several miles to buy groceries since there are no grocery stores in their neighborhood!

Anyway, back to Gandhi - from what my grandfather and Mom told me, he had many good qualities. He was friends with Christians, Jews, Muslims and so on, had many European friends and he tried to help out the lower castes. At his ashram, he himself would take his turn doing work that was normally reserved for the "untouchables" and he really was serious about non-violence. He took many a beating without ever hitting back and he fasted and so on to bring about change - in other words he visited violence upon his own body but not on others. Which I admire personally though I am less committed to non-violence. (I live in Texas and I would have no problem shooting someone who attacked me or another innocent person.)

ss said...

To continue...

Gandhi also had bad traits. He was a horrible father, for example. He was so committed to the cause of Indian independence that he neglected his own children. And he mistreated his wife early in their marriage, but he greatly regretted this later and became a much kinder and better husband as he matured. He also was racist against blacks but that was based on his own experience with them as a group - he was not mean or cruel to individual blacks.

For me personally I think it's fine to generalize about populations based on data but it's abhorrent to mistreat any individual. Each individual has inherent rights that should be respected in any civilized society. But different populations are obviously - well, different.

India itself has a lower IQ than I personally would like and that will hurt the country. I mean, as someone of Indian heritage I would love to proclaim the superiority of India, but as an honest person who has seen the studies, I can't do that. Brahmins have a high IQ. Southern Brahmins who are very dark skinned have an even higher IQ so skin color is not the determining factor. But the country as a whole does not. However, I think part of the problem is due to things like malnutrition and a lack of hygiene. I think if everyone in India had access to clean water and decent food then the IQ of the country would probably be higher, but who knows by how much? The reality is that there will always be a subset of the population that would not be able to manage modern technology. The best thing to help those people would not be to deny this but to create a society where they could still have the dignity of work that would allow them to support themselves and have self-respect.