MAHATMA GANDHI’S CRITIQUE OF WESTERN CIVILISATION                                    Anurag Gangal                Professo...
2. INTRODUCTION       The Western civilisation is modern mechanised industrialising technologicallydeveloped civilisation ...
ii.     Massive use of brute force of State diversely through modern media,        ever modernising conventional armaments...
xii.       It is leading to several dilemmas of development such as population                  explosion and need for edu...
In this technological world, an individual is loosing one’s identity and existenceby becoming a slave to such modern Weste...
Government could provide full employment to our people without the help       of Khadi hand-spinning and hand-weaving indu...
That man I think has had a liberal education who        has been so trained in youth that his body is the ready        ser...
They are trying each division to improve its own status. Wales is a small       portion of England. Great efforts are bein...
6.2 Constructive Programme       Another significant facet of Gandhian philosophy of education is seen in hisConstructive ...
with their own ethics of the corporate world. Where does the individual stand in thisworld of the web of Aridnae’s Thread?...
The fundamental pillars of a civilisation reside in its character building, moralstrength, cultural diversity, equality am...
References and Notes1  S. C. Gangal and Anurag Gangal, Contemporary Global Problems: A Gandhian Perspective, VinodPublishe...
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Mahatma gandhi western civilisation pdf karo

  1. 1. MAHATMA GANDHI’S CRITIQUE OF WESTERN CIVILISATION Anurag Gangal Professor and Head of Department, Political Science and Director, Gandhian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Jammu, Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, India. Gandhi’s critique of Western civilisation is not a blindfolded exposition of a biasof his own predilections. Otherwise, his ideas could not have become ever more relevanteven for the Western world today.1 Gandhi had said that the Western civilisation is a“nine days wonder” and it is on the path of self destruction.2 As such, Gandhi’s relevanceis ever increasing and widening in scope not only for relatively poorer developing andemerging populations but also the apparently developed countries of the comity ofnations and present-day globalising international civil society. This subject of the Gandhian critique in this context needs more methodical anddeeper study in a proper structural format for the purpose of better understanding. Thisstudy may therefore be divided into following contours: 1. Objective 2. Introduction 3. Elements of Western Civilisation 4. Fundamentals of Gandhian Critique 5. Gandhi’s Views on Mechanisation 6. Gandhi’s View on Western Education 7. Some Other Aspects of Western Civilisation 8. Conclusion 9. Summary 1. OBJECTIVE The major objective of this write up is to understand the nature of modernWestern civilisation according to Gandhi. Another aspect is to grasp the meaning ofcivilisation and its interconnections with media, IT, education and other areas of existinglife patterns such as globalisation etc. Therefore, keywords in this essay may be regardedas civilisation, education, globalisation, civilisational domination and exploitation, justworld order and a cohesive order, right not might, civility of human behaviour. Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 1
  2. 2. 2. INTRODUCTION The Western civilisation is modern mechanised industrialising technologicallydeveloped civilisation with primarily democratic and free capitalist globalising marketeconomy. Even India has largely adopted its main features such as its education, livingstyle, political and economic institutions of a parliamentary democracy and mixed andcapitalist economy alongwith continuous upward movement towards present-dayglobalisation. Mahatma Gandhi never wanted such a civilisation to be adopted in India of hisdreams. Yet he knew that his ideal dream would not be practicably realised by his owncountry because India was not ripe for such a realisation and its realistic execution.3Gandhi had therefore settled for the existing parliamentary democratic and economicsystem in our country until the time when India ripens into a nation ready to adopt thehighest ideal of Gandhi in the form of an ideal society where the brute force of the Statewould not be needed due to pervasive and universal permeation of the rule of truth andnonviolence. For Gandhi that state is best which governs the least. Yet for Gandhi, alllarge scale industries, if needed at all, must be nationalised for the benefit of the widerpopulation. 3. ELEMENTS OF WESTERN CIVILISATION Modern or Western civilisation is more dependent on its outward projections suchas its glamour, ostentatious ways, mechanisation, top heavy technology, “irreligion” and“Satanic” nature, superficial standards of knowledge in terms of its external requirementsof automation, efficiency, education and use of modern information technology (IT)along with globalising values and ethics of a civil society, good governance (?) and everwidening canvass of dependence on Internet and Intranet.4 The main elements and features of this Western civilisation in the Gandhianframework of philosophy are: i. Western life style and clothing such as trousers, shirts, skirts, jeans, T- shirts, shoes, tinned food, Internet, sleeping late night, rising late in the morning, non-vegetarianism, regular use of alcohol and intoxications etc. Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 2
  3. 3. ii. Massive use of brute force of State diversely through modern media, ever modernising conventional armaments like Drona of United States, nuclear armaments and biological and chemical armaments as well as spying via satellite communications.iii. Technology and its recurring obsolescence in terms of ever new forms of technology becoming obsolete almost daily. For example, a laptop bought today will become obsolete and old fashioned within a years time. Then even its essential technological parts will also not be available from its company as well.iv. In this sense also technology becomes ever enslaving and exploitative for the common masses.v. It is nearly impossible to ignore this technology in one’s daily life.vi. Governments and nations and civil society start fully depending on the modern Western technological networking beyond which there is no respite. These networks can cause to make and unmake governments in different countries of the world.vii. Labour saving technology leading humanity to utmost comfort and least possible of manual labour.viii. More opportunities for increasing unemployment instead of ever more employment for common masses in poorer and emerging nations.ix. Concentration of wealth and capital in fewer hands.x. Rising ecological threats as a result of Western technological interference with Nature. For example, Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from air conditioners and modern transportation systems leading to recurring depletion of ozone layer resulting in increasing instances of ultraviolet radiation and skin cancers. This is just one example. There are, in effect, endless list of such instances in almost every area of human life today.xi. Western civilisation is such that one needs to be patient and it will be self destroyed. It is like a Frankenstein. Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 3
  4. 4. xii. It is leading to several dilemmas of development such as population explosion and need for education and upliftment of the poor – what should come first? Population control or development efforts? xiii. There is very close relationship between Western civilisation and modern technology. This technology is seldom for an individual. It is always for massive consumption through influencing the minds and psychology of the masses the world over. xiv. Despite above mentioned elements of Western civilisation, it is still believed that the current process of globalisation is permanent and continuous for bringing about a new and just world order! Is it really possible? xv. Western civilisation is blind to larger human values vis-à-vis its need for modern technology. xvi. The Western civilisation is also leading to social and political disruptions through its utter materialism and ever growing quest for armaments and domination of other cultures and civilisations of the world. 4. FUNDAMENTALS OF GANDHIAN CRITIQUE Cornerstones of the political philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi lie in the PanchYama of Patanjali’s Yogpardeep. The principles of truth, nonviolence, non-stealing, non-possession and celibacy are the panch yama. It is on these five principles that entireedifice of Gandhi’s social, political and economic philosophy is based with the centraltheme of the place and role of the individual in every relevant sphere of life. Frombeginning till the end, in all his writings, individual is the main concern. It is this quest for an individual’s peaceful and just life that Gandhi has devotedhis philosophy of life to. Preserving and protecting an individual’s interests versusmodern Western mechanisation, industrialisation and technologicalisation is of graveimportance to Gandhi. Technology must be labour-involving instead of labour saving.The Western civilisation is, on the other hand, primarily based on modern mechanicaland technology superconductors and chips and nanotechnology. Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 4
  5. 5. In this technological world, an individual is loosing one’s identity and existenceby becoming a slave to such modern Western trends of development. This is notacceptable to Gandhi although he appears to be ready to agree to certain dilutions in thismatter especially when he finds a number of modern Western contexts as a necessity forIndia to pursue as a newly independent country and even otherwise in the internationalmarket, economy and polity.5 Therefore, Gandhi is not an impractical person. Instead he is highly mundane anddown to earth “practical idealist”. 5. GANDHI’S VIEW ON MECHANISATION When Gandhian philosophy is studied, one often comes across severalcontradictions relating to various differing statements that Gandhi made from time totime. Gandhi says that whenever such contradictions arise anent his views andphilosophy, it is better to believe in the later ones than the earlier opinions.6 As regards machinery and mechanisation, Gandhi says, “It is machinery that hasimpoverished India.” He further says, “I cannot recall a single good point in connectionwith machinery.” For him, “The workers in the mills … become slaves.”7 On the other hand, Gandhi also says, “Mechanisation is good when hands are toofew for the work intended to be accomplished. It is evil where there are more hands thanrequired…”8 Gandhi further says, “The supreme consideration is man. The machineshould not tend to atrophy the limbs of man. For instance, I would make intelligentexceptions. Take the case of Singer’s Sewing Machine. It is one of the few useful thingsever invented…” Replying to a question whether he was against all machinery, Gandhisaid, “How can I be when I know that even this human body is a most delicate piece ofmachinery? The spinning wheel is a machine; a little toothpick is a machine. What Iobject to is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such.”9 At another place, Gandhi has said that: I entertain no fads in this regard [his avowed opposition to machinery and capital intensive technology] All that I desire is that every able-bodied citizen should be provided with gainful employment. If electricity and even automatic energy could be used without…creating unemployment, I will not raise my little finger against it…. If the Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 5
  6. 6. Government could provide full employment to our people without the help of Khadi hand-spinning and hand-weaving industries, I shall be prepared to wind up my constructive programme in this regard.10 6. GANDHI’S VIEW ON WESTERN EDUCATION In Hind Swaraj, Gandhi provides a vehement criticism of modern Westerncivilisation, education and massive industrialisation. About education, especially Chapter– XVIII entitled “Education”, he says: What is the meaning of education? It simply means a knowledge of letters. It is merely an instrument, and an instrument may be well used or abused. The same instrument that may be used to cure a patient may be used to take his life, and so may a knowledge of letters. We daily observe that many men abuse it and very few make good use of it; and if this is a correct statement, we have proved that more harm has been done by it than good. The ordinary meaning of education is a knowledge of letters. To teach boys reading, writing and arithmetic is called primary education. A peasant earns his bread honestly. He has ordinary knowledge of the world. He knows fairly well how he should behave towards his parents, his wife, his children and his fellow villagers. He understands and observes the rules of morality. But he cannot write his own name. What do you propose to do by giving him a knowledge of letters? Will you add an inch to his happiness? Do you wish to make him discontented with his cottage or his tot? And even if you want to do that, he will not need such an education. Carried away by the flood of western thought we came to the conclusion, without weighing pros and cons, that we should give this kind of education to the people. Now let us take higher education. I have learned Geography, Astronomy, Algebra, Geometry, etc. What of that? In what way have I benefited myself or those around me? Why have I learned these things? …Huxley has thus defined education: Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 6
  7. 7. That man I think has had a liberal education who has been so trained in youth that his body is the ready servant of his will and does with case and pleasure all the work that as a mechanism it is capable of, whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine with all its parts of equal strength and in smooth working order ... whose mind is stored with a knowledge of the fundamental truths of nature.... whose passions are trained to conic to heel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience ... who has learnt to hate all vileness and to respect others as himself. Such a one and no other, I conceive, has had a liberal education, for he is in harmony with nature. He will make the best of her and she of him. If this is true education, I must emphatically say that the sciences Ihave enumerated above I have never been able to use for controlling mysenses. Therefore, whether you take elementary education or highereducation, it is not required for the main thing. It does not make men of us.It does not enable us to do our duty. Moreover, I have not run down a knowledge of letters in allcircumstances. All I have now shown is that we must not make of it afetish… In its place it can be of use and it has its place when we havebrought our senses under subjection and put our ethics on a firmfoundation. And then, if we feel inclined to receive that education, we maymake good use of it. As an ornament it is likely to sit well on us. It nowfollows that it is not necessary to make this education compulsory. Ourancient school system is enough. Character-building has the first place init and that is primary education. A building erected on that foundation willlast. And it is worthy of note that the systems which the Europeans havediscarded are the systems in vogue among us. Their learned mencontinually make changes. We ignorantly adhere to their cast-off systems. Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 7
  8. 8. They are trying each division to improve its own status. Wales is a small portion of England. Great efforts are being made to revive a knowledge of Welsh among Welshmen. The English Chancellor, Mr. Lloyd George is taking a leading part in the movement to make Welsh children speak Welsh. And what is our condition? We write to each other in faulty English, and from this even our M.A.s are not free; our best thoughts are expressed in English., the proceedings of our Congress are conducted in English; our best newspapers are printed in English. If this state of things continues for a long time, posterity will - it is my firm opinion - condemn, and curse us. Is it not a painful thing that, if I want to go to a court of justice, I must employ the English language as a medium and that when I become a barrister. I may not speak my mother tongue and that someone else should have to translate to me from my own language? Is not this absolutely absurd? Is it not a sign of slavery? Am I to blame the English for it or myself? It is we, the English-knowing Indians that have enslaved India. The curse of the nation will rest not upon the English but upon us. 6.1 Nai Taleem or Basic Education Another feature of Gandhian philosophy of education concerns Gandhi’s stress onhis New or Basic Education in 3Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic along with theprinciple of learning and earning through regular practice including extra-curricularactivities for children, adolescents, youth and adults alike. Gandhi’s experiments in hisTolstoy Farm -- at Phoenix in South Africa in 1904 - 1913 -- are replete with this featureof basic education involving daily manual work and vocational training also.11 Hygiene;manual work; learning and earning; extra curricular activities; reading, writing andarithmetic; vocational training; and character building are to be given top priority. Theessence of this philosophy of education rests in self-sufficiency, confidence and characterbuilding of an individual and the nation alike. One must begin from the smallest unit ofhumanity. Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 8
  9. 9. 6.2 Constructive Programme Another significant facet of Gandhian philosophy of education is seen in hisConstructive Programme and also in his magnum opus, namely, Hind Swaraj or IndianHome Rule. In his Constructive Programme, Gandhi lays focus on discipline of a civildisobedient nonviolent soldier, communal unity, removal of untouchability, training forpromotion of khadi and other village industries, village sanitation, adult education,women as equal partners, economic equality, patriotism, prohibition, bravery andhonesty. This constructive programme has to be put in its right Gandhian perspective oflocal, regional, national, international and global contexts. 6.3 Eleven Vows Gandhi points out eleven vows as absolutely necessary rudiments for propereducation in ethical values, imbibing Indian culture, personality development andcharacter building. He has taken up these so-called eleven commandments fromPatanjali’s ancient work Yogapradeepta. These eleven vows are satya (truth), ahimsa(nonviolence), asteya (non-stealing), aparigraha (non-possession), brahmcharya(selfcontrol, self-discipline and celibacy), sharirshrama (bread-labour), aswada (palatecontrol), sarvtra bhayavarjana (fearlessness and bravery), sarva dharma samantva(equality of all religions), swadeshi (using locally available resources and producedgoods), sparsha bhavana (removal of untouchability). The first five vows, among theseeleven, are also known as the panchyama of Patanjali. 7. SOME OTHER ASPECTS OF WESTERN CIVILISATION Gandhi is very critical of the immoralities inherent in the Western civilisationsuch as utter materialistic thinking and behaviour leading to braking of families andsocially ostracised old aged persons. There are so many other aspects and dimensions ofmodern Westernised behaviour and tendencies in this world of ‘knowledge bloom’ andInternautian culture of a ‘free world’. Such Western civilisation is moving towards complete doom and destruction ofsocial cohesiveness and order. Even ethical standards are becoming more commercial andtechnological than personal and social in nature. New money churning educational andother professions – finance, management and information technology – are emerging Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 9
  10. 10. with their own ethics of the corporate world. Where does the individual stand in thisworld of the web of Aridnae’s Thread? In addition, the modern Western modes of transportation spreading all over theworld are also becoming carriers of ever new type of diseases and viruses like immunedeficiency syndrome etc. How really inhuman civilisation is the widespread Westerncivilisation today? Yet, its comfort and glamour attract us and we remain stuck in its web. 8. CONCLUSION Main perspectives of Gandhi’s critique of the Western civilisation have beendiscussed here. The focus of this essay is primarily on what Gandhi has to say in thismatter. This is the major frame of reference in this research paper. However, the Gandhian type of Indian civilisation is possible in the twenty-firstcentury only when individuals and nations alike keep away from absolute personalaggrandizement of political and economic power in the interest of public welfare orientedpolitical will, proper intention and societal commitment. In the interest of mere humansurvival, one has to end certain practices and start anew with what Mahatma Gandhi hassuggested in his Hind Swaraj. Ethical principles and character building provide the realbases to every human action – on individual, national and international planes. Thedirection of not only the Indian education but also global education system has to be setright through root and branch transformation. What if materialism of the West andspiritualism of the East meet! Otherwise there cannot be any respite from the continuedonslaught of the Western civilisation all over the world. 9. SUMMARY The Western civilisation revolves around materialism and massive consumeristculture through multimedia, information technology, modern education, globalisednetworking and liberal market economy with international corporate norms andfunctioning. Gandhi calls this civilisation as immoral and merely a “nine days wonder”.Western civilisation itself has now started realising its limitations and inherent follieswhile Gandhi had predicted and analysed them about a hundred years ago. Just look at the visionary nature of Gandhi’s understanding of the national andglobal affairs not only in his own time but also much beyond of what anyone else can seeand visualise! Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 10
  11. 11. The fundamental pillars of a civilisation reside in its character building, moralstrength, cultural diversity, equality among its citizens, least power to the State,decentralisation of political and economic power, suitable education, near fullemployment, social security and balanced development and education system. Onecivilisation must not impose its nature and salient features upon other civilisationsthrough domination and exploitation. A civilisation must be nonviolent. Withoutnonviolence, by definition, a civilisation cannot be called as such. Civility is a must forany civilisation and it must not be borne on sleeves only. It must be truly human. Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 11
  12. 12. References and Notes1 S. C. Gangal and Anurag Gangal, Contemporary Global Problems: A Gandhian Perspective, VinodPublishers, Jammu, 1995, pp. 2-3, 2-28.2 M. K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, Twentiethreprint, 2008, p. 33.3 Ibid, pp. 25-36.4 Ibid, p. 33; Anurag Gangal, Contemporary Issues: Gandhian Relevance, Pothi Publishers, Hyderabad,2010, pp. 50-60. V. A. Patil and D. Gopal, Politics of Globalisation, (Authors Press, Delhi: 2002), pp. 01 –11. “The term ‘globalisation’ was first coined in the 1980s, but the concept stretches back decades, andeven centuries, if you count the trading empires by Spain, Portugal, Britain and Holland. The resolve ofWestern states to build and strengthen international ties in the aftermath of World War II laid thegroundwork for today’s globalisation. It has brought diminishing national borders and the fusing ofindividual national markets. The fall of protectionist barriers has stimulated free movement of capital andpaved the way for companies to set up several bases around the world. …. Supporters of globalisation say ithas promoted information exchange, led to greater understanding of other cultures and allowed democracyto triumph over autocracy. Critics say that even in developed world, not everyone has been a winner. Thefreedoms granted by globalisation are leading to increased insecurity in workplace….. Many seeglobalisation as a primarily economic phenomenon, involving the increasing interaction, or integration, ofnational economic systems through the growth in international trade, investment and capital flows…, onecan also point to rapid increase in cross-border social, cultural and technological exchange as part of thephenomenon of globalisation. The sociologist, Anthony Giddens, defines globalisation as a decoupling ofspace and time, emphasising … instantaneous communication, knowledge and culture … shared around theworld simultaneously.” See pp 01 – 02. World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund(IMF), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development IBRD) or World Bank, United Nations(UN) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) etcetera are a few majorinternational organisations regulating the process of globalisation. Mahatma Gandhi places an individual ata prime spot in the social, political and economic setup in society. There is a widespread misconceptionthat Gandhi stresses “de-emphasis of individual self in pursuit of higher goals.” David P. Brash andCharles P. Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies (Sage, California: 2002), p. 05. Individual’s self-knowledgeis the highest goal and the best instrument to bring inner, national and global peace and development forGandhi. G. N. Dhawan, The Political Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi (Navajivan, Ahmedabad: 1957),Chapters 03 – 07 and pp. 312 – 351.5 M. K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, Twentiethreprint, 2008, pp. 25-38. Harijan, 16 November 1939. Ram K. Vepa, New Technology: A GandhianConcept, New Delhi, 1975, p. 70. M. K. Gandhi, From Yervada Mandir, Navajivan, Ahmedabad, 1933, pp.96-97.6 Harijan, 29.04.1933, p.2. Hind Swaraj, Ibid, p. 4.7 Hind Swaraj, Ibid, pp. 80-84.8 Op. cit. n. 5.9 M. K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, Twentiethreprint, 2008, pp. 7-9.10 Ram K. Vepa, Op. cit. n. 5.11 Gandhi, An Autobiography or The Story of my Experiments with Truth, Part – III, Chapter – V; Part – IV,Chapters – XIX – XXIII and XXXII; Harijan, 18 September 1937. Anurag Gangal, Gandhi’s Critique of Western Civilisation 12

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