Research Paper: Gandhi as the Figure

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[. . .] His strategies thus resolved to take hold of violence under whatever form it constituted itself, whether corruption, moral evil, etc. His societal vision comprised of individualistic scenarios which is to say that each individual was to be actively engaged and permanently vivid of the environment around him. But it also included centralities of daily societal concerns which were brought about by certain external factors of economic, cultural, ideological concerns by which the mere individual was affected. Gandhi believed that the more individuals seek to acquire luxury the difficult it becomes to maintain a state of peace and mutual caring as people become immersed into a process of wanting more rather than living. He noted: I have found that life persists in the midst of destruction and therefore there must be a higher law than that of destruction. Only under that law would a well-ordered society be intelligible and life worth living. (Gandhi, 1969, p. 86) The ?way of life? he assumed himself involved sacrifice for the good of others which, in his opinion, was the model that leaders generally must adhere to in order to protect the people under their governance. It has been noted that Gandhi's ?rejection of all 'normal' pleasures, acquisitive and sensual, and his oft-repeated retreat from the brink of victory can best be understood in light of his passionate resolve to suffer and experience in daily life all the pain and deepest sorrow sustained by India's poorest peasants and outcastes. (Wolpert, 2001, p. 4) Thus, what Gandhi did was to present a model of sacrifice that, in his opinion, was required of leaders who wanted to partake in the citizens' model of life. He believed that a leader could not understand the issues that society was confronted with unless he was willing to behold the multitude of factors affecting the individuals within it. The decentralization of power was required in order to achieve equality and unity. A peasant and a leader could never meet in unity, Gandhi believed, if they are not bound by the same truth. Therefore, for Gandhi, the discovering of truth was the end and the practice of non-violence was the means by which to achieve the former. Moreover, to reach an understanding of the truth, Gandhi was able to practice personal sacrifices as means to uncover the truth.

About his experiences in South Africa, Gandhi (1969) noted:

If I found myself entirely absorbed in the service of the community, the reason behind it was my desire for self-realization. I had made the religion of service my own, as I felt that God could be realized only through service. […] I had gone to South Africa for travel, for finding an escape from Kathiawad intrigues and for gaining my own livelihood. But as I have said, I found myself in search of God and striving for self-realization. (p. 19)

When Gandhi returned in India, in 1914, much of his leadership foundation had been established due to his ensuing collaborative efforts to foreground rights for the Indian community in Africa and batter unfair legislation. By the time of his return home from Africa, he had already become a prominent political figure for the British as well as the overall European scene and, within the following years, he will also establish himself as India's nationalist leader. However, while his sense of self-realization had only been satisfied with merely a few successes, some great, others less prominent, and a number of failures also, his work in South Africa merely constituted the first step toward his mission. Gandhi became convinced that this mission involved far greater dimensions: My mission is not merely brotherhood of Indian humanity. My mission is not merely freedom of India, though today it undoubtedly engrosses practically the whole of my life and whole of my time. But through realization of freedom of India I hope to realize and carry on the mission of the brotherhood of man. (1969, p. 119) Now that he had accumulated the knowledge as well as the practice of social and political reform, he felt capable to fulfill his self-realization. His image of a leader was by now comprised of his philosophy and tactics of non-violence, love, civil disobedience, spiritual truths. These concepts and practices of Satyagraha stood at the basis of the campaigns led by Gandhi in India until the rest of his life.

The two world wars brought into attention the need to address international conflicts. However, Gandhi's approach, partly at least, aimed at addressing the general causes which lead to the unfolding of armed conflicts. In this sense, he believed that societies should resort to mutual support of economic upheaval that will ultimately lead to states' self-confidence and a voluntary disarming because there would be no reason to fear. Nevertheless, he did not promote economic prosperity because he believed this to lead to a demoralized society. To his knowledge and experience, material prosperity brought about an abuse, whether moral or practical by the rich inflicted upon the poor. He opposed capitalism and industrialization generally and favored less the Western civilization over the ways of the Indian nation, the latter of whom he believed laid intrinsically on moral law as perpetuated by its religious traditions. His vision on the economy of India relied on principles of ethicality in that economic objectives deter one's sense of unity. And when economy results in engaging a competitive race of acquiring financial prospects, the ethical principles dissolve to give way to selfishness. Because of this, ?it can be clearly seen that his reservation was with regard to limitless material prosperity in the society. (Iyengar, 2005, n.p.) Indeed, this perception on Gandhi's economic thought has often been disputed and widely disapproved. However, it cannot be denied that Gandhi sought to solve India's problems by speaking through the voice of its peasants rather than of the economically superior class. The economics he had in view was one that would allow each individual to ensure basic needs and comfort. Therefore, this included some sort of economic development but not the development of industrialized countries which history has shown to favor the ruling and rich class rather than the poor. It was not the dismissal of economic development that constitutes the premises for Gandhi as an effective leader but that ?under a Gandhian scheme, reduction of inequalities, provision of full employment, and the eradication of poverty would be the dominant goals, and economic growth would not be a separate growth objective. (Charles, n.y., n.p.) Therefore, Gandhi actually perpetuated the premises and achievable, for that matter, for the constructing of a society that is not ruled by selfish economic purposes but rather economic development coming about naturally after leading figures have resolved to address imminent societal difficulties of the twentieth century world.

Limitations to the society that Gandhi envisioned existed precisely because of his anti-political position. Indeed, ?in Gandhi's idealized stated there would be no representative government, no constitution, no army or police force; there would be no industrialization, no machines and certainly no modern cities. There would be no capitalism, no communism, no exploitation, and no religious violence. (Friedman, 2008, p. 55) The reason this in itself was a limitation is represented by the very nature of our societies which is political. Moreover, the nonviolence that Gandhi promoted was not an attribute of societies within which public order comes about as the result of public punishment such as deprivation of liberty. And this nonviolence was addressed by Gandhi in the concept of having an effect firstly on an individual basis and only ultimately on the world as a whole which depends on the former intrinsically. This is indeed why Gandhi represents the figure of an ideal leader, because he had sought to eradicate the very causes that lead to disruptions within society. Merely mending the effects, he believed, will lead to a continuation of disparities.

Reference List

Brown, J.M., & Parel, A.J. (Eds.). (2011). The Cambridge companion to Gandhi. Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, S-o Paulo, Delhi, Dubai, Tokyo, Mexico City: Cambridge University Press.

Charles, K.J. (n.y.). Five myths about Gandhian economics. Transnational Perspectives. Retrieved from

Cohen, E. (2002). Gandhi's concept of nonviolence in international relations. Glendon Journal of International Studies, 2. Retrieved from

Cohen, W.I. (2009). Profiles in humanity: The battle for peace, freedom, equality, and human rights. Plymouth: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Gardner, H.E. (1993). Creating minds: An anatomy of creativity seen through the lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, H.E. (1997). Extraordinary minds: Portraits of 4 exceptional individuals and an examination of our own extraordinariness. NT: Basic Books.

Gandhi, M. (1969). All men are brothers: Life and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi as told in his own words. Krishna Kripalani (Ed.). Paris: UNESCO.

Gregg, R.B. (1960). The power of nonviolence. Canton, Maine: Greenleaf Books.

Friedman, J.S. (2008). Mahatman Gandhi's vision for the future of India: The… [END OF PREVIEW]

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