Oct. 2 will be Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birthday anniversary. Why should people, old or young, rich or poor, have an interest in learning more about the many international and local activities marking Gandhi’s contribution to non-violence, truth and peace?
In the United States today, and increasingly around the world, politics has become part of every aspect of our lives. Two decades ago one who had little interest in politics only had to avoid watching the news. Now it has seeped into our interactions on social media, movies, Internet browsing, sports, etc. Politics has become unavoidable and had we told some people in the past that this would become the case, it may seem like a positive outcome that would lead to more informed citizens, increased civic engagement and productive discourse. Of course anyone reading this knows that is far from what is actually happening. Our populace has become more entrenched in its position and more divided than ever before with people on the left and the right viewing those on the opposite side as evil, stupid or both. Name-calling, low blows, hate and incivility are the norm now with violence and riots at political events becoming more commonplace. So it may be wise to look for solutions from leaders of the past rather than the ones we have now.
One such leader was Mahatma Gandhi. The term “Mahatma” means “great soul,” and he was given the title because people felt a sense of peace and well-being in his presence. Satyagraha was his method for fighting injustices and for political engagement. The term means “insistence on truth,” and Gandhi believed that through dedication to truth, love and nonviolence, even the hardest hearts and most stubborn minds could be changed. He advised to love political adversaries rather than demonize them. Many of the principles of Satyagraha like “Approach the perpetrator of injustice in good faith,” “Always leave the door open for negotiation,” “Directly communicate with the adversary” and “Celebrate victory in humility and in spirit of thanks giving” would be a great remedy to the very unharmonious polarized state our society is currently in.
In the process of Satyagraha, Gandhi believed that “soul force,” the power of truth, love and non-violence, would build up throughout the populace and that it was enough to overcome any obstacle. The idea of “soul force” may seem a bit far-fetched, but Gandhi was able to prove its effectiveness in miraculous ways. During the partition of India, there were levels of internal violence and chaos that haven’t ever been seen in this country. At one point the eastern and western borders of India were in complete chaos and a 500,000-man army was sent to pacify the west, while in the east Gandhi went alone to quell the disturbances. Miraculously Gandhi alone was able to decrease the violence more than the massive army as the east became relatively peaceful in Gandhi’s presence, while the west had thousands of deaths.
Gandhi not only believed, but proved that love of the adversary, nonviolence and truth are the most effective ways to create positive political change in a society. He showed that relying on the power of love and steadfastness of spirit could create harmony where entire armies had failed. In these days and times, we should do the same.
Events are being held worldwide to celebrate Gandhi’s 150th birthday and his impact on world leaders and many others who have embraced his dedication to truth, love and non-violence. The local Gandhi Committee for Truth and Non-Violence has been coordinating a series of celebrations honoring Gandhi’s legacy and will continue throughout 2019. To start the year, the Academy Award-winning film “Gandhi” will be shown free to the public 2 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Fox Theater. For information, visit www.thebakersfieldfox.com/event/Gandhi. To find out about all the local Gandhi events visit Facebook.com/tributetoGandhi.
Amar Patel is a member of the local Gandhi Committee for Truth and Non-Violence.