Thursday, March 27, 2008

Back to some political philosophy

Our class finished reading some writings by Mahatma Gandhi. The readings are remarkable. I may be at odds with him I imagine as far as the role of violence and even economics (he's more of the school of economic equality). Then again I take to the idea of non-violence and we should know non-violence was important because it was practiced by people such as Dr. Martin Luther King as a tactic in the civil rights movement. Of course this is still being used by civil rights activists today of course it seems like it's their only tactics among other more coercive methods.

BTW, Dr. King is a political philosopher apparently. I'm going to learn more next week as our class reads his book, Why We Can't Wait.

Anyway the stakes for Gandhi was the freedom and independence of India from British imperial rule. He wanted self-determination for India. Not only that, he wanted general societal change. He wanted to abolish the caste system. He didn't want to keep at the lower rung a group of people outside of the caste system known as the untouchables. He wanted swaraj - freedom in a spiritual & political sense - for everyone in India. In other words in freeing India from the British he wanted everyone to participate. He wanted equality for women as well, since women in India had the same status as the untouchables in Indian society.

Oh you might ask who are these untouchables. These untouchables took jobs that most Indians didn't want to perform. They would perform menial dirty jobs. They would be janitors for instance. They may be the ones who will will kill and dispose of animal cadavers. It wasn't expected that they were to interact with the rest of Indian society because they were seen as dirty so in general they were segregated from the rest of society. This to Gandhi was something of an injustice and he wanted to gain status for these untouchables and eliminate the caste system. This was something he was unsuccessful at although the caste system is illegal in India. Still old customs still persist unfortunately.

I can agree with him on "violent shortcuts" as what happened in Russia with the Bolshevik revolution. He believed in non-violence and in his case it was successful in securing independence for India. Independence wasn't his only goal if you read up on Gandhi, hopefully more extensively than I have so far, you might see is that he had a program for Indian independence and freedom. This involves for one thing eliminating the caste system, securing rights for women and the untouchables, and to eliminate the gulf between the very rich and the poor.

Well far be it for be to advocate for violent revolution. I think it would be hard to not resort to violence. Non-violence doesn't do any good if a regime is going to maintain its power and control by any means necessary. Sometimes that means you might have to resort to violence if it must mean self-defense. It's probably disturbing to people to think that way, but being strictly non-violent isn't an answer.

I would imagine however, that if one was engaged in a peaceful demonstration and was meant with violence by government authorities. An example might be the march on Selma in 1965 where on March 7th these marchers were beaten up by state and local police. In that case peaceful demonstration was met with violence by authorities and unfortunately the authorities couldn't spin this since TV cameras were right there to record the clash! In a free nation do you not expect to be shocked when police beats and tear gases a group of non-violent protesters who are only engaging in their constitutional right to demonstrate against something or petition the government.

You know I may have to rethink something. Sometimes non-violence can be a great tool, but it can't be accepted as the only tool. Gandhi swears by it and it worked for him and for Dr. King it worked for him as well. It's safe to say that if non-violence was used as a tool only to be wet with violent resistance by authorities then there can certainly be sympathy. Especially if they resort to having to use the court system and even the media to address and record their grievances.

Oh yeah another thing we can say about Gandhi and even Dr. King. America is supposed to be a free nation and Britain has a tradition of liberalism, yet neither nation lived up to their highest ideas. Both no doubt used these ideas against America and the Britain. Gandhi address this in my readings because apparently he knows that while America believes that all men are created equal, there is a double standard when it comes to how they treated the "Negroes" even though America abolished slavery after the civil war.

I'd like to read more of Gandhi, it's some good stuff. Oh and don't think I'm race baiting, because I don't believe that was what Gandhi was about and ideally neither should these so-called "black leaders" today. I'm not playing the racial grievance card either, something that unfortunately came up in Obama's campaign. It's OK to have a grievance against a government for past treatment, but it's another if racial grievance is the only agenda or platform

If you were able to read this long convoluted blog post, soon I will discuss another old unit. Last week we read a little about Karl Marx. I can hear the collective gasps out there already, but it's worth discussing. I'll be sure to keep it short as well.

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