Thursday, December 31, 2009

My first twenty page research paper

Gandhi’s Embrace and Rejection of Western Civilization

Gandhi’s relationship with Western civilization was complicated and changed throughout his life. When Gandhi was a young man, he received a three-year formal Western college education in England and enthusiastically to learn Western law, culture and civilization. At the same time, his study of Christianity and Western books of vegetarianism shaped his religious and moral beliefs. Most importantly, Western thinkers provided enormous sources for Gandhi’s political principles such as non-violence, universal love, and civil disobedience. However, while Gandhi’s political thoughts were gradually matured in his middle age, he began to reject many aspects of Western modern civilization. He viewed modern industrial civilization as a sin and severely attacked Western governmental system, railways, lawyers, doctors, and other aspects. Eventually, Gandhi promoted ancient Indian civilization and believed that India could use it as a guide to gain true independence. On the surface, it looks contradictory because of Gandhi’s early embrace and his later rejection of Western civilization. However, on a deeper level, it was a consistent progression that was tightly related to Gandhi’s political concerns. In Gandhi’s early age, he tried to learn from the West to find out the way to solve Indian problems, and Western civilization indeed provided critical elements for his political thought growing; in his later age, he turned to believe that Western civilization was the essential cause that enslaved the Indians under the English rule; thus, rejecting it became an critical step to opening the door of true freedom to the Indians.
Initial Western impacts on Gandhi
When Gandhi was a young man, he passionately embraced Western civilization, urging to learn from it in order to better Indian conditions. It was a prevailing notion that because Europeans ate meat, they were strong, and then they could rule over India. Despite the fact that Gandhi’s parents were strict vegetarians, in Gandhi’s high school years, he started to eat meat and expected to get physically strong. As Gandhi explained, “I wished to be strong and daring and wanted my countrymen also to be such, so that we might defeat the English and make India free.” This experiment lasted more than a year, ending when Gandhi realized that vegetarianism was not the real cause of the weakness of the Indian. “There are many other causes incessantly at work to account for the proverbial weakness.” This incident reflected Gandhi’s initial realization of spiritual force over physical force, a central aspect of Gandhi’s most important political principle, non-violence.
When Gandhi was nineteen years old, his family sent him to study in England. Ambitious to go, Gandhi said, “if I go to England not only shall I become a barrister (of whom I used to think a great deal), but I shall be able to see England, the land of philosophers and poets, the very centre of civilisation.” Gandhi cheerfully described his first glance of Western civilization that “for the first time in my life I saw the electric light in the front of our ship. It appeared like moonlight. The front part of the ship appeared very beautiful.” When Gandhi stayed in England, he started to contact Western people and imitate their customs as closely as possible. He paid attention to details to get into society. For example, he kept a white flannel suit especially for the time when he landed. Also, He recalled, “while in India, the mirror had been a luxury […]. Here I wasted ten minutes every day before a huge mirror, watching myself arranging my tie and parting my hair in the correct fashion.” Despite the fact that he always managed money economically, Gandhi spent a lot of money to buy expensive clothes. He wrote in his autobiography, “[t]he clothes after the Bombay cut that I was wearing were, I thought, unsuitable for English society, and I got new ones at Army and Navy Stores. I also went in for a chimney-pot hat costing nineteen shillings --- an excessive price in those days.”
Studying Western traditions, languages, and music enriched Gandhi’s knowledge and improved his insight of human world. Gandhi studied Latin and French while he studied at the University of London and at the law school. When a friend pointed out that “knowledge of Latin means greater command over the English language,” Gandhi decided to learn it, “no matter how difficult it might be.” He also took dancing lessons and tried to learn to play the violin in order to cultivate an ear for Western music. Gandhi’s initial period in England could be the time he was mostly attracted by Western civilization. However, he quickly realized that he would not spend a lifetime in England, and his goal was to come to study and qualify himself “to join the Inns of Court.” For this reason, he abandoned the idea of being an English gentleman, but concentrated on his legal study. Gandhi’s thought at this time was to learn Western civilization zealously but rationally and thoughtfully to adopt the portion that he really valued.
Studying law in England itself could be the strongest proof for Gandhi’s deep involvement in Western civilization. Law was one of the greatest accomplishments of Western civilization that was related to the fundamental framework of a society. To study law was to explore the heart of Western civilization, and being a lawyer was to represent Western civilization. Gandhi showed himself “remarkably conscientious” on legal study, and he “strove to improve his English and his general educational qualifications.” Gandhi took much effort to read the common law of England, including Herbert Broom’s Common Law, Edmund H. T. Snell’s Equity, Frederick Thomas White and Owen Davies Tudor’s Leading Cases and Louis Arthur Goodeve’s Personal Property. He thus gained a profound and wide understanding of Western civilization. However, Gandhi eventually became a unique political leader rather than a lawyer, because he possessed the goal of searching the ultimate truth and solving the problems of India, but not focusing on his personal success.
Gandhi’s embrace of Western civilization included learning about Christianity when he was in England and in South Africa. Before Gandhi came to England, he resented Christianity for it seemed to compel individuals to eat meat and drink liquor. Nevertheless, when Gandhi stayed in England, he gradually came in contact with Christianity. In 1889, a vegetarian friend first suggested that Gandhi read the Bible. He was bored by the Old Testament, but “the New Testament produced a different impression, especially the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to [his] heart”; the Sermon reminded Gandhi of some ideas from the Indian holy book, Bhagavad Gita, which he “regarded as the gospel preaching selfless non-violent action.” He “tried to unify the teaching of the Gita, The Light of Asia and the Sermon on the Mount. That renunciation was the highest form of religion appealed to [him] greatly.” The idea of “renunciation” that Gandhi grasped from Christianity as well as other sources became one of the fundamental tenets of his ideology of self-realization and non-violence.
Gandhi’s exploration of Christianity eventually guided him to a universal thinking of religion. During his South Africa period, he remained an interest in Christianity. He not only joined Christian meetings, prayed, and debated with Christian friends, but also expanded his knowledge of Christianity by reading a wide range of books about this religion, including “Commentary of Dr. Parker of the City Temple, Pearson’s Many Infallible Proofs and Butler’s Analogy”; also, he enjoyed to give his religious diary to Christian friends and discussed the impression the Christian books had left on him. Nevertheless, Gandhi did not convert to Christianity; in contrast, he expressed that “it was impossible for [him] to believe that [he] could go to heaven or attain salvation only by becoming a Christian.” Gandhi asserted that “[t]he soul of religions is one, but it is encased in a multitude forms.” It was acceptable that there were many religions in the world since various religions were merely different tools that would bring all human beings to a same end. In addition, it is important that individuals have the faith in the God and Love as well as equal love for all mankind. Gandhi claimed that “[w]e can only win over the opponent by love, never by hate. Hate is the subtlest form of violence. We cannot be really non-violent and yet have hate in us.” For this reason, politics could not be separated from religion, and the infinitive power of love was absolute from both religious and political perspectives.
Being an extreme vegetarian was an important factor contributing to Gandhi’s charisma and was relevant to his political career. Surprisingly, Western writers, rather than Indian traditions, inspired Gandhi’s faith in vegetarianism. When Gandhi arrived to England, he rejected to eat meat for following the family tradition and his vow to his mother. After encountering many objections and difficulties, Gandhi finally found a vegetarian restaurant in London, made vegetarian friends, and joined a vegetarian club. More importantly, after he read Western books about vegetarianism, his understanding of vegetarianism moved to a higher stage. Gandhi claimed that he become a vegetarian by choice after reading Henry S. Salt’s Plea for Vegetarianism. Also, Howard William’s The Ethics of Diet and Dr. Anna Kingsford’s The Perfect Way in Diet were examples of those books that enhanced Gandhi’s faith in vegetarianism. Gandhi stated, “I had gone there a convinced meat-eater, and was intellectually converted to vegetarianism.” In a letter to his brother from London, Gandhi expressed his enjoyment of being a vegetarian: “in spite of the cold I have no need of meat or liquor, which fills my heart with joy and thankfulness.”
Vegetarianism was primarily based on the concepts of universal love and the equality of all living beings, which had significance for Gandhi’s political thinking as well. Henry Salt was the English writer who influenced Gandhi the most about vegetarianism. In his essay “The Rights of Animal”, Salt quoted E. P. Evans that “man is as truly a part and product of Nature as any other animal.” In other words, human beings were not a higher race than other animals, nor had more value than them. Salt further asserted that “an animal has his proper work to do in the world, his own life to live, as surely as a man.” Salt’s opinions were consistent with Indian traditional belief that not only human beings, but also all living beings had soul; people were supposed to expand universal love to all living beings. Gandhi’s strict vegetarian diet impacted not only his physical body, but his mental and spiritual development as well. Since the idea of universal love was also a critical element of Gandhi’s political idea of non-violence, Gandhi’s acceptance of vegetarianism was certainly significant to his consideration and later acceptance of the idea of non-violence. Judith M. Brown commented, “[Gandhi’s] own movement through vegetarianism towards non-violence and compassion for all life.”

Gandhi and Western thinkers
Gandhi’s philosophy was formed by mixed factors, including Indian traditions and Christian ideas, specifically, The Bhagavad Gita and the Sermon on the Mount. However, his dominant political principles and his economic thinking were shaped by the three Western thinkers: Leo Tolstoy, Henry David Thoreau and John Ruskin. Gandhi stated the “persons who have influenced [his] life as a whole in a general way [were] Tolstoy, Ruskin, Thoreau and Raychandbhai.” Despite this fact, it is important to bear in mind that Western philosophy played a role in developing Gandhi’s political ideology based on his previous knowledge and beliefs, rather than providing complete new concepts to him. Ronald Duncan observed that “these writers only awakened a spiritual strength which was already there.”
Russian writer and thinker Tolstoy impressed on Gandhi the ideas of non-violence and universal love. Not too long after Gandhi settled down in South Africa, his Christian friends introduced him to Tolstoy. Gandhi later wrote in his autobiography, “Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You overwhelmed me. It left an abiding impression on me.” Although Gandhi was much younger than Tolstoy, they shared many heart-to-heart letters; Tolstoy’s last long letter was to Gandhi. The correspondence between them was full of Tolstoy’s stress on the concepts of universal love and nonviolence. Tolstoy wrote to Gandhi in 1910, “the teaching of love […] is the highest and only law of human life.” Tolstoy believed because Christian civilization permitted violence, it was full of contradiction. He stated that “this contradiction always grew with the development of the people of the Christian world, and lately it reached the highest stage.” Tolstoy felt that social disorder and conflicts were due to “internal contradiction which must be solved and cannot remain unsolved” and predicted that those problems would be “solved in the sense of acknowledging the law of love and denying violence.” Specifically, in this Letter to a Hindu, Tolstoy warned Indian revolutionaries against employing terrorist methods of agitation, and urged them to stay true to their native traditions of nonviolence, which had an even more profound effect upon Gandhi.
Under the influence of Tolstoy, Gandhi developed nonviolence into a universal principle. Gandhi believed that “all men were essentially one and that love and good will, not hatred and ill-will, were the only valid bases of human relationships.” Nonviolence, or “ahimsa”, means “the largest love” and being a follower of ahimsa, “[one] must love [his] enemy.” The force of love always wins over the force of violence, and love one’s enemy is the only way to win their hearts. Because of this belief, Gandhi put Churchill and Hitler in the category that supported violence and sharply criticized both of them. “Churchill and Hitler are striving to change the nature of their respective countrymen by forcing and hammering violent methods on them. Man may be suppressed in this manner but he cannot be changed. Ahimsa, on the other hand, can change human nature and sooner than men like Churchill and Hitler can.” In addition, Satyagraha was a vital term that was regarded as the means to achieve Swaraj, Indian independence. It basically meant struggling for truth, or soul force, and it originally came from the force of love and was inseparably from the concept of nonviolence. Gandhi emphasized that passive resistance must mean Satyagraha, and wrote “there are not many cases in history of passive resistance in that sense. One of these is that of the Doukhobors of Russia cited by Tolstoy.” It is true that Tolstoy and Gandhi “both made the ‘law of love’ and non-violence the very kernel of their moral philosophy.”
Except advocating non-violence and universal love, Tolstoy and Gandhi both promoted a simple lifestyle. In the article “Count Tolstoy” published on Indian Opinion in 1905, Gandhi summarized Tolstoy’s life, his religious study and moral accomplishment with a respectful tone. “He gave up his wealth and took to a life of poverty. He had lived like a peasant for many years now and earns his needs by his own labour.” Gandhi admired Tolstoy that “[t]hough a millionaire, he lives an extremely austere life.” Similarly, Gandhi was well-known by his extremely simple clothes, diet, and lifestyle. His external appearance indicated his spiritual conviction on simplicity. In South Africa, “Gandhi was making at that time about five or six thousand pounds a year. [But] he gave it up to espouse poverty, […] to live the life of the persecuted Indians, to share their trials.” Martin Burgess Green commented that “the faith in nonviolent action and self-simplification, which Tolstoy passed to Gandhi, like a torch from one runner to another.”
As one aspect of the idea of simplicity, physical labor was stressed by both Tolstoy and Gandhi. Although the term “bread labour” was what the Russian writer T. M. Bondoref first stressed, Tolstoy gave it wider publicity. “The divine law that man must earn his bread by labouring with his own hands.” Gandhi connected this idea to Indian tradition, saying “[i]n my view, the same principle has been set froth in Chapter III of the Gita where we are told that he who eats without offering sacrifice eats stolen food. Sacrifice here can only mean bread labour.” Gandhi also agreed with Tolstoy that “agriculture is the true occupation of man. It is therefore contrary to divine law to establish large cities, to employ hundreds of thousands for minding machines in factories so that a few can wallow in riches by exploiting the helplessness and poverty of the many.” As a result, in 1910, Gandhi and his friends set up an ashram, or Satyagrahis community, near Johannesburg, South Africa. It was called Tolstoy Farm because its principles were based on Tolstoy’s ideas of the basic moral value of physical labor and of natural diet. Families of Satyagrahis lived in Tolstoy Farm and experimented with simple life--- with vegetarianism, fasting, reformed dress, physical labor, nature cure, and so on. At Tolstoy Farm, Gandhi’s philosophy of simplicity, social equality, anti-material and anti-modern industrial civilization became visible.
In addition to learning from Tolstoy, Gandhi appreciated the American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who advocated individual value and power. In his essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”, Thoreau wrote that “[t]here will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.” Likewise, Gandhi emphasized individual moral and spiritual force. Through individual self-restraint and self-scarification, everyone could achieve a high moral standard and the realization of God and Truth. Self-governed individual and limited government constituted a perfect society that Gandhi valued. During the colonial period, Indian people had neither military force nor control of the government; thus, the mass population must become an important force to resist the British. It was a logical choice that Gandhi, a political genius, encouraged and depended on individual forces to launch social and political movements.
In fact, Thoreau’s and Gandhi’s emphasis on individual importance was based on their belief in the positive potential of human nature. Fundamentally, if one individual could achieve a moral stage, everybody could imitate him or her and achieve this same stage too. If one social movement at one location could win success, other movements in a nation could possibly win as well. Confronting the difficulty of slavery in America, Thoreau argued that even though only one honest man who ceased to hold slaves, it would be the abolition of slavery. Similarly, Gandhi constantly put individual morality as his greatest concern. He carried out a serious practice of purification and simplification on the physical as well as spiritual level by himself, and demonstrated himself as an example that everybody could imitate. When Gandhi worked on his political and social movements, he noted and adopted each successful strategy. In a New York Times report in 1921, Gandhi “foreshadowed the starting of the disobedience movement in the Gugerat district within a fortnight, which he said would set an example for achievement for the rest of India.” Erik H. Erikson commented, “it is hard to believe that at that time [Gandhi] was not familiar with Thoreau’s statement that ‘[f]or it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what it once well done is done forever.’”
Thoreau developed the principle of civil disobedience, and Gandhi inherited it and adopted it into his central political practice. Thoreau focused on government that was unjust, but was physically strong. “Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then?” He added, “I think we should be men first, and subjects afterward.” For Gandhi, the realization of oneself was the central issue for every individual as well. Following by one’s consciousness, everybody could realize God and Truth. In addition, Thoreau encouraged that “all men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.” Compared to a government, individuals are indeed physically fragile and vulnerable. However, on the spiritual stage, a single person could be as strong as any institution; if he could not do the things he thinks right, at least, he could refuse to do the things he thinks wrong. Thoreau analyzed that “[i]t is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.” Given the specific situation of colonial India, the Indians were unable to fight directly with the British. However, civil disobedience appeared to be a suitable strategy for Indians, and it in fact greatly contributed to Indian independence.
In comparison with Tolstoy and Thoreau, John Ruskin’s influence on Gandhi primarily focused on economic thinking. In his book, A Joy for Ever and Its Price in the Market, Ruskin criticized modern industrial civilization. He believed if a nation’s labor was managed, it would be able to provide all the citizens with “the basic needs for food, shelter and clothing, pleasant objects of minimum luxury, healthful rest, and serviceable leisure; [however], while the new political economy provides for the luxury of the few, it does not seem capable of satisfying the basic needs of the many.” This opinion was consistent with Gandhi’s stress on simplification and equality. Given the fact that natural resources were limited, if one took more, another might obtain less than enough. Considering the desperate poverty of the Indian peasants, it is not surprising that Gandhi advocated economic equality in India. In the introduction of Hind Swaraj, Anthony J. Parel wrote, “[t]here can be little doubt that Gandhi adapts Ruskin’s dictum to India in the form of his doctrine of appropriate technology.”
From Ruskin’s another works, Unto This Last, Gandhi grasped Ruskin’s fundamental economic theories. In 1904, Gandhi’s English friend Henry Polak introduced him to this book, and Gandhi was fascinated by it immediately. Gandhi wrote later, “I believe that I discovered some of my deepest convictions reflected in this great book of Ruskin, and that is why it so captured me and made me transform my life.” Gandhi found the idea that “the good of the individual is contained in the good of all”, which was similar to what Gandhi acquired from Thoreau. More importantly, Gandhi was impressed by Ruskin’s beliefs that “a lawyer’s work has the same value as the barber’s inasmuch as all have the same right of earning their livelihood from their work. […]That a life a labour, i.e., the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living.” Ruskin believed that all occupations could be equally valuable and honorable. “If the clergyman or the soldier could work for honour, not profit, why not the businessman or the industrialist?” Thus, his final concern turned to be “the supremely desirable life is one of labour, whether as a farmer or a craftsman.” Likewise, Gandhi articulated, “I want the rich to hold their riches in trust for the poor or to give them up for them. Do you know that I gave up all my property when I founded Tolstoy Farm? Ruskin’s Unto This Last inspired me and I built my farm on those lines.” “Finally, Ruskin saw the value of handicrafts even in an industrial society; Gandhi saw the value of the spinning-wheel and handicrafts for the whole of India.” Since Gandhi absorbed so many elements from Ruskin and presented great similarities on economic thoughts with Ruskin’s, Ruskin was referred “main economic teacher” of Gandhi.
Gandhi not only sincerely agreed with Ruskin’s theories, but also put them into practice. The establishment of Phoenix Settlement in South Africa in 1904 was a direct consequence of Ruskin’s impact on Gandhi. Gandhi claimed that he determined to change his life “in accordance with the ideals of the book” and “ready to reduce these principles to practice.” In Phoenix Settlement, Gandhi’s first Satyagrahis community, Gandhi promoted physical labor, simple lifestyle and equality among all members. Phoenix Settlement and later established Tolstoy Farm were both the communities that attempted to remove “as far as possible from the standards of materialistic civilization and its modes of productions.” Moreover, Gandhi “translated [Ruskin’s Unto This Last] later into Gujarati, entitling it Sarvodaya (the welfare of all).” He paraphrased Ruskin’s ideas “as a pamphlet under the title Sarvodaya, a name which he also gave to his newly formulated economic philosophy.” Those actions strongly proved Gandhi’s fondness of Ruskin’s ideas.
Gandhi’s Rejection of Western Civilization
During his England and early South Africa periods, Gandhi widely studied Western philosophy. He absorbed certain elements that supported his thoughts about Indian problems that were initially formed by Indian traditions and religions. However, during his later years in South Africa, Gandhi realized that “Western civilization [was] India’s real enemy,” and his rejection of it became explicit, strong and persistent. Specifically, in 1909, Gandhi published Hind Swaraj, in which he not only determinedly attacked modern industrial civilization, but elevated Indian ancient civilization and believed that was the only way to achieve Indian Self Rule.
By Western civilization I mean the ideals which people in the Western have embraced in modern times and the pursuits based on these ideals. The supremacy of brute force, worshipping money as God, spending most of one’s time in seeking worldly happiness, breathtaking risks in pursuit of worldly enjoyments of all kinds, the expenditure of limitless mental energy on efforts to multiply the power of machinery, the expenditure of crores on the invention of means of destruction, the moral righteousness which looks down upon people outside Europe, ---this civilization, in my view, deserves to be altogether rejected.
For Gandhi, exposing the evil aspects of Western civilization to the Indians was the initial steps to achieve Swaraj, or Indian Self Rule. Gandhi claimed that Swaraj was the highest and the most urgent goal of India. “[Swaraj] is what India wants and needs above everything else. […] India is sick unto death of British rule, which has proved rapacious and inept. It has pauperized, exploited and demoralized the people.” It is important to make the Indians “discontent” and “unrest”. Gandhi explained that “so long as a man is contented with his present lot, so long is it difficult to persuade him to come out of it. Therefore it is that every reform must be preceded by discontent. We throw away things we have, only when we cease to like them.” If an Indian enjoyed English lifestyle and English products, it was most likely that he could not reject the English rule in a determined manner. However, if he understood that neither Western civilization was as moral as he assumed, nor were modern industrial goods beneficial to one’s spiritual improvement at all, then he would begin to be discontent and unrest. This was the first step to waking the Indians up and walking towards Swaraj.
Gandhi had learned the significance of physical labor and simplification for individuals from both Tolstoy and Ruskin; however, modern civilization was directly against these principles. In Hind Swaraj, Gandhi described the evil aspects of modern civilization that he observed. In the civilization, people lived in better built houses and had excessive clothing. They ploughed land by steam-engines instead of manual labor. They formerly worked in open air, but now in factories and mines with terrible conditions. Soldiers did not fight between their bodily strength, but thousands of lives could be taken away by a gun in a battlefield. Gandhi pointed out that Industrial factories produced mass products to indulge people’s unlimited desires for materials and stimulated human greed. The reason of the diseases of the civilization was its emphasis on physical content and ignorance of spiritual self-restraint. “Civilisation seeks to increase bodily comforts, and it fails miserably even in doing so.” Individuals turned out to be “lack[ing] real physical strength or courage.” Gandhi asserted that human beings were not supposed to consume and possess more products than necessary. Individuals who indulged themselves in material life would decrease their spiritual strength and finally impede them to realize Truth. Gandhi affirmed that “[s]uffering confers spiritual strength; suffering is holy; therefore the national struggle was holy.” Furthermore, according to the doctrine of non-violence, violence is in fact unavoidable in the human world; however, limiting food consumption to sustain the body could minimize violent actions. For this reason, Gandhi proclaimed him “an uncompromising enemy of the present-day civilization of Europe.”
Gandhi rejected almost all the aspects of modern civilization because he thought they not only were morally defective, but also assisted the English to rule over the Indians. Gandhi rejected railways in India and argued that through railways the English could control India. Without railways, the English could neither mobilize its military force quickly, nor easily spread its force to remote villages. Also, after people were used to traveling by train, they no longer used their hands and feet. For Gandhi, it was a serious issue if one discarded physical labor; he or she would gradually lose the ability of self-control and degrade moral standards. Last, Gandhi argued that railways spread plague germs while people moved from places to places quickly and frequently and “increased the frequency of famines”. When people were able to move grains, they turned to be careless, which resulted “the pressure of famine increases.”
Gandhi also attacked one of the most important professions of Western civilization: lawyers. Gandhi believed that lawyers worked for money and possessed no honorable traits at all. “[M]en take up that profession, not in order to help others out of their miseries, but to enrich themselves.” Gandhi asked “if they have done anything for the country for the sake of money, how shall it be counted as good?” More importantly, Gandhi asserted that lawyers were the crucial tool that the English held to rule India. He stated, “[m]y firm opinion is that the lawyers have enslaved India, and they have accentuated the Hindu-Mahomedan dissensions, and have confirmed English authority.” Gandhi argued that the courts did not really benefit the Indians but helped the English rule. “Without lawyers, courts could not have been established or conducted, and without the latter the English could not rule.” For this reason, Gandhi encouraged the Indians to settle their disputes by themselves, and then “a third party would not be able to exercise any authority over them.”
Likewise, Gandhi attacked doctors and Western medicine because he thought they were useless for individual spiritual improvement. First of all, Gandhi believed that a person wanted to be a doctor only because he could “obtain honours and riches.” Gandhi pointed out the fact that the body of diseases arose was because of negligence or indulgence. He illustrated the harmful process between the patient and the doctor. “I over-eat, I have indigestion, I go to a doctor, he gives me medicine, I am cured, I over-eat again, and I take his pills again. […] The doctor intervened and helped me to indulge myself,” finally resulting in “loss of control over the mind.” Doctors and medicine cured diseases on the external level but failed to find out the real cause of diseases or to suggest a healthy way for people to live. Moreover, since people knew they could depend on doctors and medicine, they became even more careless about their bodies. Thus, doctors and medicine inevitably turned into a tool to stimulate people to indulge rather than to control themselves. From the religious perspective, Gandhi condemned “[f]or the sake of a mistaken care of the human body, [doctors] kill annually thousands of animals. They practise vivisection. No religion sanctions this. All say that it is not necessary to take so many lives for the sake of our bodies.” Since Gandhi was a strict vegetarian and valued universal love and equality between all living beings, his rejection modern medicine on this point was understandable.
Most importantly, Gandhi condemned Western civilization as causing the degeneration of human moral qualities. Gandhi considered the English governmental system a victim of Western civilization. He criticized English politicians who lacked moral qualities and were concerned about the benefits of their faction only. “The members are hypocritical and selfish. […]. Members vote for their party without a thought.” He called the Prime Ministers who “have neither real honesty nor a living conscience,” and compared Parliament to “a sterile woman and a prostitute,” because “Parliament has not yet of its own accord done a single good thing, hence I have compared it to a sterile woman. […] It is like a prostitute because it is under the control of ministers who change from time to time.” He claimed that “the tyranny of Parliament is much greater than that of Chengiz Khan, Tamerlane and others. […] Modern tyranny is a trap of temptation and therefore does greater mischief.” Conversely, Gandhi valued a society with lofty ideals, in which individuals ruled themselves capably, and the government needed to wield little power. Although Gandhi himself was a Western trained lawyer and had admired Western accomplishment, now, he was the opinion that “man-made laws are not necessarily binding.”
Nevertheless, while Gandhi considered modern civilization absolutely evil and firmly rejected it, he drew a distinction between Western people and modern Western civilization. According to Gandhi, “rejection of Western civilization doesn’t mean avoid everything English or hate the British.” He emphasized that the English’s “mode of thought is not inherently immoral. Neither are they bad at heart.” In fact, he sympathized with the English people and noticed that “[t]he writings of Englishmen themselves often tell us how wicked Western civilization is” and “[t]here was a storm of protest in England.” He articulated that it was modern civilization rather than the Englishmen which was the real cause of Indian problems and urged all Indians to understand how India was ruined by modern civilization. Logically, it was not true Indian independence if Indians ruled India in the English way, even if the Englishmen were driven away. “[T]hat we want English rule without the Englishman. […] This is not the Swaraj that I want.” Gandhi warned that if the India ruled their country like the Englishmen did, they were following “a suicidal policy.” According to a New York Times article in 1924, Gandhi’s “ideals and activities were neither military nor political. What he refused to co-operate with was less the British Government in India than the entire scheme of Western civilization.”
Eventually, Gandhi promoted Indian ancient civilization over modern Western civilization and concluded that was the very path towards Indian Self Rule. The British ruled India not only depended on its advanced military and political power, but also because of the influence of modern civilization. It was necessary to promote Indian tradition and civilization in order to increase the confidence of India. Gandhi compared Western modern civilization and Indian ancient civilization as “the Kingdom of Satan” with “the God of War” and “the Kingdom of God” with “the God of Love.” While he predicted modern Western civilization would be “self-destroyed,” he claimed that the ancient civilization of India was “the best that the world has ever seen.” Gandhi argued that “[i]t was not that [the Indian people] did not know how to invent machinery, but our forefathers knew that, if we set our hearts after such things, we would become slaves and lose our moral fibre.” He added that “our real happiness and health consisted in a proper use of our hands and feet,” and “worldly pursuits should give way to ethical living.” Gandhi believed that a real civilization was “[a] mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty,” and hoped that “[t]he common people lived independently, and followed their agricultural occupation. They enjoyed true Home Rule.”
When Gandhi enthusiastically embraced Western civilization in his youth, his ambition was to accomplish personal success and family honor. The determination of improving Indian condition was already there but rather obscure. His England studying period expanded his general knowledge of the West. Most importantly, studying abroad provided him with great opportunities to learn enlightening thoughts from Western thinkers, which became a very important factor of the development of his political ideology. However, after many years struggling with the real difficulties of Indians in the British colony South Africa, his political thoughts gradually reached its maturity and his thinking on Western civilization was altered. Gandhi asserted Western civilization was immoral; it played an evil role to assist the English to enslave India. He believed that the products of modern civilization, such as railways, lawyers and doctors not only contradicted the ethical concepts on the theoretic level, but benefited India little in reality. The only way that the Indian could achieve true independence was to reject modern Western civilization and retake Indian ancient civilization. Thus, from the perspective of the development of Gandhi’s political ideology and his really political practice, the contradiction of his embrace and rejection of Western civilization has been explained.


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farewell 2009

The last day of 2009. I still remembered when I was a kid, 2000 appeared how far away from me. But now 2010 is tomorrow.

I received an A- on History 701, Introduction to History Research. I am satisfied by this grade. This was my first semester in the graduate school. I’ll do better later. I am waiting for another grade from Professor Sen.

I am upset by my Chinese student Hayli. She doesn’t like me at all, and the tutoring session turns to be a torturing time to me. I’ll stay one or two times longer. If the situation goes to be worse, I think I may quit the tutoring job.

Brian, his friends and I are planning a one-day hiking in the New Year day. I found a very good website that lists more hundred state parks of NY. It also identifies the locations of each park, which is very helpful to us to get an idea of the distance from our home to the park we planed to go.

I’ll going to practice calligraphy the rest of today, that is one of the most pleasure things I could enjoy in my life.

New York parks

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter is coming

I finished my two papers last week and have already submitted them in. Winter is here now. I am allowed to continue working in Queens borough College in the winter. I appreciate my boss, Dr Jean-pearria’s kindness.
I am looking forward the final grades of my two courses. I guess they might be B+ or A-. I really have no confidence. I wish I would not be disappointed.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The court jugdment

My husband and I went the court this Monday. I prepared a lot of materials and practiced how to response all the possible questions at home. However, the hearing took only around one minute and asking a very few questions. When I was called, I tried to explain the whole happening. But the judge stopped me, directly asking why I asked the amount of payment. I answered that I bought an Iphone but it did not work. He said, “Return it.” I said, “I want to return, but the store refused. They said that is my responsibility.” Then the judge asked me saying no more. He wrote down the court decision, and told me the written judgment will send to my home in ten days. It is done.

I know the Chinese store would be very unhappy about that. However, they can do nothing. It would not be a pleasure to see them again by returning the Iphone to them. But they must be more upset than me. Anymore, in this case, I am at least not the loser.