Relevance of Gandhism in the 21st century
As I commence writing this essay, it is the 69th anniversary of Gandhiji’s martyrdom. Today, we observed a minute’s silence in his memory, as has always been customary, but the question is – what is it that makes us remember him after all these years? Most people only know him as a great man, someone who existed in the past, both of which are absolutely true; but is it enough if we know just that much? The man had very many aspects to his personality, so much so that he inspired the coining of a term after him – Gandhism! (About which, he in all humility stated, “I have nothing new to teach the world – Truth and Non-Violence are as old as the hills.”) While truth and nonviolence are no doubt the pillars of Gandhism, it consists of a lot more, such as true secularism, advocating equality, promotion of cottage industries etc.
So, why is it that we need to understand Gandhism in today’s day and time? Is it relevant at all, given the fact that nearly seven decades have passed since his time? The answer to that question is, most certainly yes! Times have changed, there is absolutely no doubt about it, and so have the issues plaguing the world, but the moral values which we have begun associating with Gandhism are the same, simply because they are timeless! They are as applicable today as they were a century or more ago, and they will continue to be applicable a century from now! Let us not forget that before becoming a “Mahatma” or a “great soul” (again something he disliked being called, as he considered himself unworthy of the title), he was also an ordinary man, just like you and me! The world is in constant need of leaders, people who can show the right way to others by setting an example, and Gandhiji was one such leader.
There is a common misconception that Gandhism is relevant only to India, as Gandhiji was an Indian, but this is as far away from the truth as can be – simply because the very first “Satyagraha” wasn’t on Indian soil, but was in fact in distant South Africa! Much the same way, Gandhi never claimed that his methods were only for the Indian people, in fact, we can see that he appealed to the British to refrain from fighting in the World War and instead invite the “enemy” to take over their land, he advised the British to win the war by means of love instead of bloodshed, showing thereby that he believed that his values were truly applicable for humanity as a whole, and not just the Indian people. It also shows that he cared just as much for the common people in Britain as he cared for people back home in India. It is this attitude, considering all of humanity as one, that the world is in dire need of at present, what with people distrusting others on some basis or the other – right from doubting a friend, to an entire country doubting another! All such problems create conflicts, which in the worst case scenario leads to war.
Often, we come across leaders who are celebrated by one faction of people as their hero, and equally loathed by the other. However, Gandhiji was a person who was equally respected even by those whom he opposed, simply because they were in awe of his ways!
One of the major issues plaguing the world today is misconceptions surrounding people practising a religion different from our own. It is interesting to note that while the other problems have changed and have been resolved in various ways over time, this continues to be as big an issue as it was in Gandhi’s time, thereby making his methods equally relevant in today’s age. Gandhiji respected all religions and this was evident from his speeches and writings. If only people were to read the religious scriptures of all major religions before criticising them (something which Gandhi did), the world would be a much better place to live in, for in the end, all religions preach the same – love for God. It would greatly help the world at large if people were to read and understand Gandhi’s writings on this topic.
Gandhiji popularised homespun cloth and to this day we associate khadi products with an image of him spinning on the charkha. However the sad thing is that now the purpose for which he promoted the use of khadi has been lost – he intended it as a means for the people of India to be self-sufficient, but how many of us can claim to be able to use the charkha? Only a handful! Khadi was supposed to be the inexpensive alternative to foreign goods, however now things have changed to such an extent that khadi is as expensive as foreign goods!
We see Gandhi’s image being used in currency notes and these in turn are used for activities he would certainly not approve of! We see Gandhi’s photographs displayed prominently in government offices, but very few people actually follow his ways. If they did, then the functioning of the country would be much better.
Gandhiji preached equality for all, irrespective of their ethnicity or cultural background, and these ideas have been incorporated into the constitution of India, which continues to be the guiding light for our country. Thus in effect, his ideals will remain relevant forever.
In today’s time, ideas such as the boycott of foreign goods may not seem practical, and we must acknowledge this fact as most people have adopted western attire. However, we can modify some of these ideas to suit our times, i.e., we can wear western clothes if we are comfortable in them, but must also not lose touch with our traditional clothing. In fact, this idea can be extended to many other spheres as well – we can take some aspect of Gandhism and alter it to suit our times. In short, we must, when faced with a dilemma, think what Gandhiji would have done in a similar situation and if it is still possible, do the same, and if not, do the next best thing on similar lines. These methods help keep Gandhism relevant.
Each one of us is capable of initiating a positive change in the world at large, if we start from our own self. Gandhiji may be long gone, but he continues to be a figure we all look up to, as the very embodiment of Truth! ‘Satyameva jayate’ is the motto of India, meaning “Truth alone triumphs”, so no matter how hard it may seem, let us not give up on the Truth, for, in the long run, that is what will triumph!
While Gandhiji, as a person may have had his flaws (after all, nothing and no one is perfect), the values which he stood for and the methods he employed, were, and will always remain flawless! If each citizen of the world were to live by Gandhian values, the world would be devoid of most social and political problems, and well on the way to becoming a peaceful place to live in, and therefore that is what each human being ought to strive to achieve!
I would like to conclude by stating – “A world devoid of Gandhian values, would mean a world devoid of peace.”
By: Shivansh A.S.(3rd year,Biotechnology)