Mohandas Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi was an inspiration, to say the least. Gandhi was used as a model for the Civil Rights Movement because of his non violent protests. His leadership was modeled by Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Lawson, the students of SNCC, and many others. Gandhi's role as a leader came unexpected during hard times, but he rose up as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century.

Some Background on Gandhi
Mohandas Gandhi was born in 1869 in Western India. During his schooling years in India, Gandhi had developed his wanting for a free India from the British. After finishing his initial schooling, he traveled to England to pursue an education in law. In England, he read old Indian literature and the New Testament of the Bible. From these two works, Gandhi began to form his own ideologies about nonviolence. Upon returning to India, Gandhi found himself without a job and worked odd jobs for his brother and other family. After a few years, he went to South Africa to work. It was in South Africa that things changed for Gandhi. After being humiliated on several occasions by the racist British colonnials there, he formed a team to start to fight for rights and freedom for the South African Indians who were being discriminated against. He worked and helped all that he could. It was in South Africa that his nonviolence tactics first began to attract followers and Gandhi began to rise as a leader for the oppressed. It took years for Gandhi to effectively find victory for South Africa, but he did it. He returned to India to begin fighting for an independent India from the British who had been there since the 17th century. After several instances of violence, Gandhi organized a silent protest of noncooperation to defy the British Government. After more violence broke out, Gandhi canceled his mass campaign because he realized that the people in India were not ready and not educated enough in nonviolence. Gandhi was sentenced to prison for 6 years but only stayed in for 2 due to health complications. After leaving prison, Gandhi worked on not the freedom of his country, but working to strengthen India from within. He traveled all across the country meeting with different people and giving speeches about nonviolence as a means to gain cooperation and freedom. After years of nonviolent protests and fasting Gandhi had grown into an old man and a leader for those who believed in a peaceful and free India. In 1948, Gandhi was assassinated by a member of a radical group who was convinced Gandhi stood in the way of India independence. Gandhi's legacy still lives on to this day.

"Means and Ends In Politics" By Raghawan N. Iyer
Iyer writes about Gandhi's perception on the idea of the ends justifying the means. Gandhi's ideas: there is no ends justifying the means, it's the means that justify the ends. Gandhi is quoted as saying, "For me it is enough to know the means. Means and end are convertible terms in my philosophy of life". Iyer goes on to explain that Gandhi did not see why means had to justify ends in politics. In politics, the means were more about moral understanding of what possible ends may lay ahead of them. It was not about finding the end and looking back at the means that had created that end. Everything always ended, but it was the means in which it happened that really mattered. Thus directly conflicting with the idea of consequentialism that we had been discussing in class. From Iyer's article we get an idea of Gandhi's political views on not only what it meant to find means and ends from everyday life, but also to look at how things differed from Gandhi's time and circumstances to previous thinkers times and ends.

"Gandhi's Political Significance Today" By Gene Sharp
Gene Sharp's article goes about finding out what lasting impressions Gandhi's life made on our world and political stances. She identifies that nonviolent action has made one of the most lasting impacts especially during the 20th century. Sure it had been there before she argues, but Gandhi was able to use it, mold it, and make it into something much more effective and more passionate. It was no longer just a tool that different groups could use, it was now a tool and a way of life. Gandhi changed it into a weapon of truth and using moral and truth to find the true meaning of something. Sharp sights the Civil Rights Movement as one of the best examples of another group using and effectively using Gandhi's new methods of nonviolence. This ties in with our discussions on "The Children" by David Halberstam. With that book we were able to identify key figures who used nonviolence, or in Hannah Arendt's word "action" to fight with speech and deed to gain something: freedom. Just as Mohandas Gandhi had done for South Africa and India. Today, Gandhi's legacy lives on not only with the Civil Rights Movement but with a number of other movements from around the world during the last 60 some years since Gandhi's death. While Gandhi hadn't had any formal political schooling, he possessed a certain type of politician inside of him: a nonviolent advocate.

"Violence and Power Politics" By Stephen King-Hall
This article, while it makes no real mention of Gandhi, I find very interesting. Stephen King-Hall writes that the reason violence is so widely used in power politics to assert that governments power in the first place. He uses World War I and World War II as examples of this. After the first world war, Germany had everything stripped from it: it's military, it's money, it's economy, and it's pride. The allies felt victorious, they felt powerful. They had fought violence with violence to achieve this. Then during the second world war, the allies again had to fight with violence and this time even more so since Hitler's violence was considered a new type of violence. Fighting violence with violence reminds me of one part of Gandhi's biography. While trying to campaign with nonviolent tactics, violence had broken out in a town in India and hundreds were killed. Gandhi was so upset about the violence he had called off his whole campaign and instead tried to work on the infrastructure of his country before trying to find it's freedom. This article also brings to mind David Halberstam's "The Children". The idea that fighting violence with violence, while it may lead to a more powerful political front, can in the end also destroy so much more. What Jim Lawson and students such as Diane Nash did was not only fight for freedom but also the violence of power politics within the United States. Just as Gandhi had done fighting the power politics of the British control over India and the power struggle between the Hindu's and Muslims within India.

"Gandhi's Ashes Rest, but Not His Message" By John F. Burns
This article from the New York Times describes how Gandhi's ashes were found in a bank vault that had been there for almost 50 years. His ashes brought up the idea that even though many had praised Gandhi's work with nonviolence and civil disobedience, there were many figures, mostly with political ties, who thought and still think that Gandhi caused more trouble than he did good. This sort of argument is not uncommon. Every great leader to some is the worst person ever to others. For example, some Germans believed that Hitler was the greatest man to ever rule Germany. People of other countries or people Hitler persecuted, thought otherwise. Same with Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and others. No matter what an individual does in this world, they cannot convince everyone that something sounds like a good idea. In "Radical Hope", Plenty Coups was trying to preserve his tribe by agreeing to do things the way the invading colonists insisted upon. To other tribes, such as the Sioux, this was like treason to the Native American way of life. No matter what argument Plenty Coups might have been able to make, Sitting Bull would never be able to see eye to eye with him. Such is the case with Gandhi and his opposition which was mostly radical groups within India and not so much the British government.

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