Tony Benn – the Vegetarian

Tony receiving the Lord Parshvanath Award at Trafalgar Square. It is being presented by late Sudha Mehta and Kumudbhai Mehta

Tony receiving the Lord Parshvanath Award at Trafalgar Square from the late Sudha Mehta and Kumudbhai Mehta

Tony Benn passed away on 14th March 2014 aged 86. Tony had been a vegetarian for many years and was present at the Vegetarian rally held on 22nd July 1990 in Hyde Park. The event had massive media coverage. Many newspapers reported the event titled,’Veggie Benn’. Tony became a vegetarian after his son told him about the colossal use of crops used in feeding animals to produce meat. At the rally Tony said that he felt very healthy as a vegetarian and he opposed animal exploitation as much as he opposes human exploitation. Tony often mentioned that he had met Mahatma Gandhi when he was a child. Gandhi had made a great impact on young Tony which shaped his concern for social justice and inequality. He was also a passionate campaigner for stopping all wars and advocated pacifism. The following quote from Tony shows his concern for animals:

‘The case for animal testing is now being directly challenged by scientists and doctors and their judgement must be taken seriously.’

By Nitin Mehta, who is the founder of the Indian Cultural Centre in Croydon and of the Indian Vegetarian Society.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence – a view of the last discussion by Robert Fisher

London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence

The London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence met recently to discuss The Current condition of Women, Feminism and Gandhi. This is a forum to discuss Gandhi and the relevance of his ideals, especially nonviolence, in the contemporary world. Anyone who has an opinion on the subject or has read about Gandhi and wants to share their thoughts is welcome to join. Details of the next discussion forum will be posted on the Gandhi Foundation website, Facebook and Twitter.

GF London Discussion Forum

I came away from this meeting with a number of thoughts on the subject of violence against women which I have set out below in context with some other factors I see at play in this rather complex area and the environment in which we live. That is not to say violence in any form against women is acceptable.

In order for me to put things into perspective I would prefer to adopt a gender-neutral approach to the subject and consider violence against the person rather than against a man or a woman, albeit in the subject of the rape of women, this is a particularly disturbing crime.

The thing that became very apparent to me, were the economic factors in the equation and in particular the commodification of both men and women in an economic system that places a monitory value on all things, dependent on the various attributes that are assigned to it (him or her). “Conflict minerals” and the rape of women to secure control over mined resources and images of very attractive women being used by corporate institutions to enhance & market their particular brand of electronic device, derived from these same Conflict minerals.

I hope & believe these electronic devices will eventually help protect vulnerable communities and individuals everywhere from all types of harm and particularly the types atrocities we see happening in the Congo now & in other places around the world, which will I hope eventually pass.

I also recall the comment made by the (academic) whose name I do not recall, who sat next to me at meetup and who stated that corruption was endemic throughout Indian society.

Corruption being the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

In a competitive open market economy the incentive for those in power to maintain unfair advantage over those under their control can only exist for a limited period of time, especially in a world where all are connected by a computer device of one sort or another.

The empowerment of all strata of humanity being achieved through online learning and education is just one factor to consider in this connected global society.

It is the responsibility of the strong & powerful to help protect the weak and vulnerable in society and in this respect I see the all-pervasive concept of mutual self-interest being of fundamental importance.

Further to the subject of the rape of women, it is important that our criminal justice system is fit for purpose in dealing with these matters and from what I heard at meetup, it is not. As I have already mentioned I am working with others to develop a number of legal and financial services, which will help address some of the issues raised above but for the time being I must bide my time.

You work in compliance and you will know the incidents of bribery and corruption within banking and other corporate sectors around the globe. Others who sat at the table at meetup had many of the skills and knowledge necessary to help develop some of the systems needed to address these challenges.

 By Robert Fisher

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

Indian Elections and Non-Resident Indian Nationals – What would Gandhi do?

Absentee Ballot campaign march in London, conducted by Pravas Bharat in January 2013

Absentee ballot campaign march in London conducted by Pravas Bharat in October 2012

What would Gandhi do?

If Mahatma Gandhi were alive today and happened to be living abroad he would have fallen foul of the Indian election rule which requires non-resident Indians (NRIs) to be physically present in the constituencies where they are registered to be able to exercise their franchise.

NRIs are allowed to vote in Indian elections, but only if they are present at a polling booth. This is unreasonable and impractical. (Other democracies like the UK, USA, Canada, Germany and Philippines have successfully implemented an absentee ballot system). In today’s globalised world, people move across the globe for higher education, work advancement, knowledge and research, among other things. That should not become a drawback. That shouldn’t be a reason for anyone to be refused his or her voting rights.

Pravasi Bharat, a UK-based activist group that campaigns for an absentee ballot system for NRIs, believes that this is a denial of a fundamental right of NRIs who are temporarily out of India. The group has been protesting this denial through non-violent demonstrations, protests, petitions and most recently, a hunger strike.

Pravasi Bharat believes in the principles and ideologies of Mahatma Gandhi, and expresses its dissent in Gandhian ways. A citizen’s right to exercise his or her vote is one of the keystones of democracy, and what better way to fight for a democratic right than follow the father of the world’s biggest democracy. Each time this group encounters a roadblock, they ask – What would Gandhi do?

“This is our genuine democratic struggle and we will continue our battle in all democratic ways, following the methods shown by Mahatma Gandhi,” says the group’s co-founder Nagendar Chindam.

Pravasi Bharat was founded in 2012, with the group organising an online petition, writing letters and having peaceful demonstrations. One of the group’s demonstrations was held at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square gardens, London. Since then the statue has continued to be a part of Pravasi Bharat’s initiatives, with the groups of people assembling in front of it growing with each event.

Pravasi Bharat first held a demonstration in August 2012, urging the government of India to provide an absentee voting option for NRIs. The group then submitted a petition to the High Commission of India in London. Neither initiative garnered a response from the Indian government.

In October 2012, taking inspiration from Gandhiji’s Salt March, the group organised a London March as a form of protest against the Indian government’s apathy to their request. The march began at the Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square gardens and ended with a non-violent demonstration outside the High Commission of India.

at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square, London

at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square, London

After another period of silence from the Indian government, the group filed a public interest litigation with the Supreme Court of India in February 2013. Pravasi Bharat’s first victory came when the Supreme Court of India presided by the Chief Justice ordered the Government of India and the Election Commission of India to respond to the matter. As the legal battle continues, the need for an absentee ballot becomes more urgent with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Having all their attempts to get the Indian government’s attention fail only made Pravasi Bharat seek more inspiration from Gandhi’s life. The group’s chairman went on a three-day hunger strike that ended on January 26, 2014, India’s Republic Day. Nagendar Chindam broke his fast in front of the Gandhi statue at Tavistock Square. A group of NRIs stood with him on the rainy, freezing day, pledging their support to Pravasi Bharat’s cause. This time, the High Commission of India in London noticed, and a meeting was set up with the High Commissioner. The High Commissioner heard the group out and promised to forward their request to the government of India.

As a group that promotes equality and democracy, Pravasi Bharat also campaigns against human right violations. The October 2012 death of NRI Savita Halappanavar in Ireland after being denied a necessary abortion was protested at Tavistock Square gardens in London. Pravasi Bharat wrote to the Irish embassy asking for an amendment in Ireland’s Abortion law. Pravasi Bharat protested the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a medical student in Delhi, India and wrote to the Indian government asking for stricter anti-rape laws. The laws in both countries were eventually amended after similar pressure from various other groups.

As it waits, yet again, for a response from the Indian Government, the group continues its campaign among NRI communities across the globe, asking them to fight for their votes. It believes that most NRIs will vote if an absentee ballot system is made available to them.

“Be the change you want to see” said Gandhiji. Pravasi Bharat takes that very seriously.

Article by Preethi Dumpala

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

Susan Denton-Brown

Susan Denton-Brown

Susan Denton-Brown

Susan Denton-Brown who was Chairperson of the Gandhi Foundation in 2009 sadly died on 28 January 2014.
Her career was teaching Religious Studies in schools. From 2010 she was Chair of the British Friends of Neve Shalom Wahatal Salam (http:/www.oasisofpeaceuk.org), a village where Arabs and Jews live together peacefully and the children are educated in both languages.

Current Chair of the Gandhi Foundation, Mark Hoda, recalls her work preparing a pack on Gandhi for use in schools:

Susan was rightly very proud of this piece of work, which she researched and wrote at Oxford University, through a Farmington Fellowship. Susan also worked with my father and Father Joe Collela to roll out “Dealing With Conflict” teaching packs based on her work with the Neve Shalon project to all schools in this country.

My personal memories of Susan will be that she worked tirelessly and passionately to teach children about nonviolent conflict resolution through both her career and her voluntary work. She was a selfless person with a huge, warm heart, and her hospitality was unrivalled!

Trudy Lewis, friend of Susan, Gandhi Foundation member and one of the organisers of the Summer Gathering said:

There are many adjectives I could use to describe Susan – capable, fiercely intelligent, loving, spiritually deep, a force to be reckoned with and, in essence, an immensely gifted human being.

For information about the teaching resources that Susan created:

A free educational resource pack on Gandhi, designed for school teachers (UK KS3&4), is available in the form of an Adobe PDF file by emailing farmington@hmc.ox.ac.uk and quoting ref. TT186 or click here. Written by Susan, previous Chair of The Gandhi Foundation executive committee, and previously Head of Religious Studies at Tanbridge House School in West Sussex, the resource pack includes six modules which focus on the following aspects of Gandhi’s life and work:

1. Identity
2. Non-violent protest
3. Conflict transformation and mediation
4. Equity in community
5. Environmental issues
6. Exploring spirituality

Each module suggests relevant clips from the movie Gandhi by Richard Attenborough, and then presents a series of exercises for groups and the whole class.

Susan also worked with Mark Hoda’s father, Surur Hoda and Father Joe Collela to roll out “Dealing With Conflict” teaching packs based on her work with the Neve Shalon project to all schools in this country – www.history.org.uk/resources/secondary_news_168.html

 

What Would a Gandhian Business Model Look Like?

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture 2013 was given by Rt Hon Vince Cable MP. photo courtesy of Prem Prakash & Twisha Chandra

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture 2013 was given by
Rt Hon Vince Cable MP
photo courtesy of Prem Prakash & Twisha Chandra

The Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills delivered the Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture in October 2013. The title of his lecture was What Would a Gandhian Business Model Look Like? You can read the full speech by clicking here.

You can read a review by Robert Fisher and analysis by Antony Copley below.

What Would a Gandhian Business Model Look Like?
By Robert Fisher

At the recent Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture, The Rt Hon Vince Cable MP spoke of Mahatma Gandhi as one of the three great 20th century political activists who along with Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King brought to the consciousness of humanity some of the injustices that human kind has heaped upon his fellow man/woman.

At the same time reminding us of three 20th Century tyrants who had brought humanity to the depths of evil and despair, Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong who collectively killed millions in their attempts to control the destinies of many with their ill conceived ideological objectives.

And of the legacies of these six individuals, exemplified by the election of Barack Obama as the president of the United States of America, the emergence of India and China as two of the great economic powers in the world and of the recent joint American and Russian intervention in Syria in bringing about the destruction of its chemical weapons.

The legacies of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong are not forgotten, there are still many within global society who would kill with impunity anyone questioning their authority or ideological beliefs.

Whilst Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela have undoubtedly helped to reduce the incidents of institutional racism and colonialism, sexism, ageism, classism etc. still exist and as was stated by Dr Cable, nonviolent direct action by all, wherever these incidents occur, will eventually bring these prejudices and injustices to an end.

It is noted that Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi were all individuals who fought against their political systems at the time to achieve their moral objectives.

The world of commerce and industry, based on mutual self interest has steadily moved on, perhaps providing some insight as to the way in which finding ways of working together can be more important than seeking to impose one ideological view over another. Politicians around the world will be aware of the impact the Internet has had on the political landscape.

Dr Cable spoke of globalisation, of economics and of ethics and of cultural and subsequent ethical conflicts between those who are the wealth creators in society and some who retain it to create even more money and of the differences between great wealth and deep poverty, inequalities and injustices in society.

Within the bandwidth of ethics that allows for freedom of thought and deed, I believe different and deeper truths and cultural values will emerge as nations converge and collective society moves forward in what I imagine Gandhi’s definition of Sarvodaya to be.

Globalisation, in this digital age, brings with it the hopes and aspirations of many and the potential for all cultures and nation states to collaborate in trying to address the many challenges that face humanity and earth’s subsystems, and the many opportunities in so doing.

Just under 40 years ago the combined intellectual capacity of only a few motivated individuals addressed the challenge of taking humanity to the moon and back.

It is entirely plausible that the combined intellectual capacity of humanity, connected, motivated and focused on addressing the many challenges we undoubtedly will face as we all move forward in eliminating extremes of poverty and injustice in society and the degradation of the natural world will be achieved. Gandhi and those like him have shown the many what only a few can achieve.

True economics, articulated by Vince Cable as social justice, equality and the good of all is not only aspirational it is logical and demonstrable through the concept of mutual self interest.

Whatever our views of capitalism are, laissez-faire or some other form of capitalism, we are part of global economic community and what we do in one part of the world has an impact in another. Dr Cable in his Ministerial capacity in relation to business, innovation and skills will I’m sure be aware of the need of a fine balance between government (regulation, innovation), and economic (stimulation and equilibrium).

Dr Cable spoke of the liberalisation of the Indian economy and of the dismantling of state control of its planning processes and what would have been Gandhi’s opposition in the protection of rural industries. I can see both sides to this argument, in the semi rural community within which I live I am aware of a balance that needs to kept in the development of any economy, local, national or international and of the need to support those whose aspirations are to the husbandry of natural / rural environments (you cannot eat software), and there is much more to true economics than generating GDP through irresponsible planning processes and ill thought through economic stimuli. I believe aesthetics and analysis both to be part of this liberalisation and planning process, soul with pragmatism.

The balance between materialism / consumerism / waste in a world of finite resources and the subsequent impact on global ecology I feel sure concerns the majority of people in society today and as set out in Vince Cable’s view of true economics it will be the innovators, scientists, engineers, businesses, social entrepreneurs who will address these challenges, but perhaps equally as important the spiritual / moral dimension to be included in this equation will determine the society in which we all will eventually live.

Dr Cable then commented on the benefits of the “green revolution” and of the efficiencies gained in multiple cropping, fertilizers etc.

Those cultures who have tilled the land responsibly for centuries will already be aware of nature’s natural and sustainable cycles, the green revolution will be nothing new to them. However irrigation and mobile telephony, in ways as yet to be imagined, will transform their lives forever.

Jevon’s paradox however puts forward the view that efficiencies gained through technological progress in accessing resources, tend to increase the rate of consumption and if this is the case I believe humanity must define and find ways of living within a sustainable global budget.

Vince Cable then went on to elaborate on the meaning of Swadeshi, as self-reliant village communities, independent from their neighbours for vital wants.

All modern communities of which I am aware are reliant on some of their vital resources from others. Within my own village community I can see many benefits in the reduction of waste by providing within its borders a balanced local economy and employment for its residents, whatever their aspirations are. In all transactions going forward there should be benefits, financial, social or environmental, but no transaction should be at the expense of the other, the metrics and algorithm developed to measure impact, an important factor in creating a sustainable and equitable society, wherever it exists.

Community cohesion and social mobility, mentioned by Dr Cable, should mean something different to the emergence of ghettoes in the city of London for highly paid bankers, or traveling miles to get to work because a person in his or her chosen occupation cannot afford to live close to their employment. These are complexities any economic system will have to deal with, but not, I feel, insurmountable.

Personally I can see some merits in Gandhi’s Swadeshi that should be nurtured, valued and protected, however this should be in a local / national /international / mutual self-interest context.

We have seen both positive and negative impacts of outsourcing our industrial and other capabilities since the 1970s to places such as the far-east and the impact of this short term bottom line thinking has had on the manufacturing skills base of the United Kingdom. There are now not enough engineers to rebuild our own critical infrastructures.

There is a comfort in the idea of British critical infrastructure being held in trust on behalf of its population by a British institution, built and managed by British engineers and if the money needed to build it comes from abroad I feel sure, within the concept of mutual self interest, this can be achieved.

Protectionism is not a viable option in modern day society, whichever industry people are in, but perhaps as is the current focus of Dr Cable’s attention in the development of government economic policy it will include joined up thinking in areas such as education, infrastructure, employment and planning.

Dr Cable then went on to state that he saw little merit in British Swadeshi, and in terms of international trade I would agree that the sum of the whole, in an international context, is much greater than its individual parts. However I imagine in line with government policy, localism, the decentralization /devolution of government and the organic development of clusters of various activities at a local level will inevitably provide the international community with significantly more parts to the whole, which perhaps will propel all nations, including the United Kingdom, who adopt the same model, into an age of socioeconomic and environmental equilibrium.

Finally Dr Cable went on to state that he wanted to see businesses in the United Kingdom that were socially responsible to customers, supply chains, workers and to the exchequer, by self regulation, by naming and shaming. I would add, naming and shaming, if it is to be effective in the world of classic capitalism, transparency and accountability must be part of this Process.

It was a good lecture and a shared vision for the future.

Where is the Gandhian Business Model?
by Antony Copley

No Gandhian could disagree with Vince Cable’s interpretation of Gandhi’s approach to economics as far as his lecture went. He stopped short of Gandhi’s late visionary hopes for the Indian economy, one that was to be taken forward by the left Gandhians, J P Narayan and Vinobe Bhave. No doubt, however, it would be naïve to expect a Secretary of State for Business to move beyond the conventional paradigms of the market economy and the overriding importance of economic growth.

Cable led us through a perfectly plausible account of the way Gandhi had to work within the constraints of a colonial economy, rejecting laissez-faire, the imperial policy which of course advantaged British exports, and a nationalist demand for protectionism, the wish of Indian business interests to play a significant role in shaping Congress policy. This would shelter emergent indigenous capitalist growth, a protectionism most strikingly expressed in the doctrine of swadeshi, the clarion cry of the nationalist movement in its outraged rejection of the partition of Bengal in 1905. I’m not sure if Gandhi ever actually endorsed swadeshi, his concern being to protect artisan industry against both foreign and Indian factory production. I think Cable’s may be special pleading in speculating that Gandhi would have gone along with a globalisation that saw Indian handloom products being sold as luxury items abroad. It would be interesting to read his exposition of this in a jointly authored book with Gandhian L C Jain. But one can agree that Gandhi would have rejected the economic nationalism of the Hindutva movement and the BJP, despite their claims that he was one of their own.

And of course he is surely right to argue that Gandhi engaged in this debate not so much as an economist, for he was no expert in this field, but as a moralist. His concerns were ethical. Cable overlooks the profound influence of John Ruskin’s ideas on Gandhi, above all on the sacred nature of work. Here was one reason for Gandhi’s championing of khadi, his high evaluation of the skills of artisan workers through his constructive programme. The relevant concept here is sarvodaya. It was a policy that did indeed look to the self-sufficiency of the village community. This was nothing to do with the highly regressive programme of autarchy pursued by the Axis powers and such latterday totalitarian states as North Korea. Cable, at the end, advocates forms of decentralisation and here he is seemingly on Gandhi’s wavelength. But something much more far reaching than local autonomy is encompassed in Gandhi’s vision.

Maybe this late Gandhian outlook was never coherently expressed, with his life so tragically cut short. The left Gandhians teased out the quasi-socialist implications of Gandhi’s vision of a new social structure which would radiate outwards from the village, inspired by an oceanic, quasi-mystical sense. So Bhave took up a national crusade of land redistribution, the bhoodan movement, though this was to be on a voluntary basis, appealing to landlords to hand over land to the poor. Narayan of course moved into left-wing politics and was a critical figure in challenging Mrs Gandhi’s increasingly autocratic rule that led to the Emergency regime of 1975-77. Sadly, Bhave and Narayan stood on different sides in that crisis. This possibly reflected the ambiguities in Gandhi’s own outlook.

Arguably Gandhi’s late vision represented a new paradigm on how the economy was to based. All along he had opposed the liberal capitalist insistence on growth above all. His was an economic vision of reaching out to abject levels of poverty but seeking no more than the meeting of basic human needs, a view that rejected a merely materialist approach and was inherently ascetic. This was the way of life in his ashrams. Really and truly here lay Gandhi’s new business model and Cable was way off target. Are Gandhi’s panchayats [small elected body governing a village] indeed so irrelevant?

When the banking crisis struck in 2010 many believed this exposed the inherently flawed nature of capitalism and the opportunity to move from its endlessly preached mantra of growth to an entirely new paradigm of a sustainable economy. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wrote eloquently of the need to respect our environment and not to exploit and abuse its resources. Of course all this was to tap into a long lament on such abuse from Rachel Carson to James Lovelock and many others. All this has taken on a horrible urgency with the recognition of the threat from climate change. A recent article in the New Statesman by Naomi Klein, ‘Science says: Revolt!’ (25-31 October 2013) describes how leading scientists reinforce this search for a new paradigm, the way government see the revolutionary implications of this new paradigm and are trying to suppress the scientists, and the need for direct action. In this context the ideas of Gandhi, far from seeming utopian, have an all too urgent relevance.

The way the Gandhian ashram and panchayat have been brought up to date and prove that they are not pie in the sky is demonstrated in an astonishing experiment in Gandhian-style communitarian living in Andalucia. In 1979 one Sanchez Gordillo was the first elected mayor of the pueblo of Marinaleda, today with but 2,700 citizens. In 1980 he led a hunger strike ‘against hunger’. In 1991 the 1,200 hectare El Humoso farm was taken over by the Marinaleda co-operative. It chose to develop an agriculture which maximised the use of labour and provide much needed employment. It was a rejection of a wheat based economy that used little labour and pursued mere economic efficiency. Profits of the co-operative are used to create ever newer employment. It is an anti-capitalist example which is catching on. Neighbouring Somante has set up its own co-operative on government owned land. Admittedly the Andalucian Workers Union were initially evicted in March 2012 but returned the next day and never left. Here, argues Dan Hancox, is just the kind of new economy that the indignados are seeking. (See his essay ‘Since the Financial Crisis, the Spanish Economy has been on its Knees. But one Village Stood and Fought’, The Observer 20/10/13 and his book The Village Against the World, Verso). Gandhi is certainly one source for Sanchez Gordillo’s visionary new economy. (Others are Jesus Christ, Marx, Lenin, and Che Guevara.) Gandhi’s attitude to labour, the need for both full employment and a shared labour within the community, is brilliantly realised in these two pueblos. It is of course equally a fulfilment of the ideals of Spanish anarchism.

Quite obviously Vince Cable could not have advocated such a radical new paradigm. He has no option but to stick with the mantra of growth. But here is in fact where a truly Gandhian business model lies.

Antony Copley is an honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Kent and a Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation
 
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2013

Jeremy Corbyn with The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2013

Jeremy Corbyn with The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2013

The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award for 2013 was awarded to Jeremy Corbyn, MP Islington North on 26th November 2013 at Portcullis House.

Thank you to all who attended

You can read Jeremy Corbyn’s speech by clicking here
You can also view photographs of the event by scrolling down the right hand column of our homepage to reach the Photo Gallery

The Trustees of The Gandhi Foundation agreed to offer him our International Peace Award in recognition of his consistent efforts over a 30 year Parliamentary career to uphold the Gandhian values of social justice and non‐violence. Besides being a popular and hard‐working constituency MP he has made time to speak and write extensively in support of human rights at home and world‐wide. His committed opposition to neocolonial wars and to nuclear weapons has repeatedly shown the lack of truth in the arguments of those who have opposed him.

http://www.jeremycorbyn.org.uk/

http://www.stopwar.org.uk/

Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi

NM

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The death of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95 has moved people all over the world. The outpouring of grief is similar to the one when Mahatma Gandhi died. It is one of those inexplicable quirks of history that both these giants who shaped the modern world started their long march for justice in South Africa. As a young man looking for a better future Gandhi could have found any of the many countries of South and East Africa that he could have settled in as did many Indians in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. But it seems some divine force brought Gandhi to South Africa which at the time epitomized the oppression of a people in their own country in the form of apartheid. It is in South Africa that Gandhi started a struggle against injustice and his experiences there were of immense importance in his strategy to confront the British Raj in India. Gandhiʼs nascent movement for justice in South Africa inspired and galvanized a whole generation of South African freedom fighters like Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Desmond Tutu and many others. After Gandhi departed for India he left his son Manilal back in South Africa to continue the struggle. Manilal was present at a crucial meeting of the ANC in 1949, where he pressed the party to unconditionally adopt nonviolence but with little success. The attitude of the party toward the Gandhian ideal of nonviolence was in subsequent years best summarized by Desmond Tutu. He said: “Gandhi was to influence greatly Martin Luther King Jr., the leading light in the American Civil Rights Movement, as well as the South African National Congress of Nelson Mandela. So many, many people expected our country to go up in flames, enveloped by a catastrophe, a racial bloodbath. It never happened. It never happened because in the struggle against an evil of injustice, ultimately it did not take recourse to violence, and because you and so many others in the international community supported the struggle.” Nelson Mandela wrote a wonderful article for the 3rd January 2000 issue of TIME magazine. The issue celebrated People of the Century. Mandela wrote about one of his teachers: Gandhi. His story was called The Sacred Warrior and shows some of the ways Gandhi influenced him. This is what he wrote: Gandhi dared to exhort nonviolence in a time when the violence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had exploded on us; he exhorted morality when science, technology and the capitalist order had made it redundant; he replaced self-interest with group interest without minimizing the importance of self. India is Gandhi’s country of birth; South Africa his country of adoption. He was both an Indian and a South African citizen. Both countries contributed to his intellectual and moral genius, and he shaped the liberation movements in both colonial theatres. He was the archetypal anticolonial revolutionary. His strategy of noncooperation, his assertion that we can be dominated only if we cooperate with our dominators and his nonviolent resistance inspired anticolonial and antiracist movements internationally and in our century. Both Gandhi and I suffered colonial oppression and both of us mobilized our respective peoples against governments that violated our freedoms. The Gandhian influence dominated freedom struggles on the African continent right up to the 1960s because of the power it generated and the unity it forged amongst the apparently powerless. Nonviolence was the official stance of all major African coalitions, and the South African ANC remained implacably opposed to violence for most of its existence. Gandhi remained committed to nonviolence; I followed the Gandhian strategy for as long as I could but then there came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone. We founded Unkhonto we Sizwe and added a military dimension to our struggle. Even then we chose sabotage because it did not involve the loss of life and it offered the best hope for future race relations. Militant action became part of the African agenda officially supported by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) following my address to the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) in 1962, in which I stated, “Force is the only language the imperialists can hear, and no country became free without some sort of violence.” Gandhi himself never ruled out violence absolutely and unreservedly. He conceded the necessity of arms in certain situations. He said, “Where choice is set between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I prefer to use arms in defense of honour rather than remain the vile witness of dishonour …” Violence and nonviolence are not mutually exclusive; it is the predominance of the one or the other that labels a struggle.

Nelson Mandela was indeed a great soul as even though his people suffered so much under the apartheid regime and he himself spent 27 years in jail in conditions that could destroy most people, he was able to forgive the oppressors and establish a rainbow nation of peace and harmony. It is the small and often many insignificant episodes in the lives of great souls that separates them from the rest and here is one such moving incident in the life of Nelson Mandela. In around June 1961 Mandela spent some time in a farm at Liliesleaf in Rivonia a suburb of Johannesburg. His then wife Winnie brought him an old rifle for target practice. One day he shot a sparrow with it and was mortified when the five year old son of a friend rounded on him saying: “Why did you kill that bird? Its mother will be sad”. Mandela said, “My mood immediately shifted from one of pride to shame. I felt this small boy had far greater humanity than I did.” It was an odd sensation for a man who was the leader of a nascent guerilla army. That regret he felt at his action and his willingness to learn from a five year old is the making of a great man. It is a matter of great pride for Indians that Mahatma Gandhi has had such a enormous impact on so many people all over the world. Mahatma Gandhi was able to articulate the glorious heritage of India which had been stifled by invading armies for around a thousand years. Newly independent India also played an active role in bringing freedom to other numerous colonized countries.

Nitin Mehta
8th December 2013
 
 

Father Alec Reid – 2008 Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award recipient

Father Alec Reid

Father Alec Reid

Sadly Father Alec Reid, who received The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award in 2008 along with Rev. Harold Good, died on 22nd November 2013 aged 82 years. His role in the disarmament process in Northern Ireland, the victory of non-violence over violence, and the bringing together of the Catholic and Protestant communities with Rev. Harold Good were significant milestones on the road to peace. You can read an account of the 2008 award and speeches by clicking:

http://gandhifoundation.org/2008/10/30/2008-peace-award-annual-lecture-harold-good-alec-reid/

The Daily Telegraph obituary can be read here:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10468267/Father-Alec-Reid-Obituary.html

A World of Limited Resources – The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2013 by Natasha Lewis

The Abbey, in the little village of Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, was again the setting for this year’s Gathering, a week of attempting to live in the style of one of Gandhi’s ashrams whilst allowing a space for discussion into applying his principles to issues faced in the modern world. The building itself is a perfect facilitator for this event, providing several cosy sitting rooms, a kitchen and dining room dating to the 13th century, and a large Great Hall which has windows that open out into the main garden. The grounds give ample space for camping and sports including badminton, as well as a large kitchen garden which provides much of the delicious food for the week! The surrounding countryside also provides several beautiful walks along the river Thames.

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The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2013

Although some rooms are available in the Abbey itself, most Gatherers stay in the guest house annexe, which has the advantage of 20th rather than 13th century plumbing and heating! The braver amongst us, mostly families, camped and this year a camper van was also used for accommodation. Thirty Seven people attended over the first weekend, with people coming and going over the next week.

The premise of Gandhi’s ashram means that a great communal spirit is built up throughout the week, with teams taking turns to help prepare meals and keep communal spaces clean. The kitchen is usually the focal point, where children’s (and adult’s!) baking and craft takes place, as well as some of the most interesting discussions about the year’s theme.

After a help-yourself breakfast, the morning session begins with a brief meditation and sharing of information, then continues into the main discussion topic for the day. There is normally a short introductory presentation followed by discussion in small groups and then feedback. This leads into Shramdana, meaning ‘sharing of one’s time, thought and energy for the welfare of all’ in accordance with the way Gandhi’s ashrams were run. Lunch is eaten and, after a digestion break, craft activities begin later in the afternoon. It was Gandhi’s belief that time should be spent on useful tasks, and this period is used to follow his guidance. Crafts available this year were varied, including collage making, art using dried flowers, crochet and watercolour painting. One particularly interesting activity was spinning thread from a sheep’s fleece: we set up a production line including carding the wool, using the spinning wheel to turn the wool into thread and winding the finished wool into balls (and untangling it!). The spinning wheel was a bit trickier to use than I expected and unfortunately my wool alternated between being much too thick and snapping because it was too thin! After supper Gatherers are invited to contribute to the evening’s entertainment which included animal noises, poetry readings, slideshows and circle dancing. Then meditation and time for sleep before it all begins again in the morning!

The topic for this year’s Gathering was “A World of Limited Resources: Inspirations and Challenges in Sharing the Planet” which attracted many external speakers as well as new participants. This meant that there was often a talk in the afternoon in addition to the morning session. The first of these was given by an architect, Sandra Piesik, who is running a project reviewing renewable resources as construction materials, involving over 120 scientists and professionals. Her talk mainly focussed on developing architecture using palm leaves in the United Arab Emirates, and her efforts to rescue indigenous technology from the extinction imposed by the advent of globalisation and modern building practices. She highlighted the fact that concrete is not always the most suitable building material in every environment on Earth, and that there is a huge untapped source of building materials from the palm leaves from plants used for date production, which are currently wasted in the UAE.

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The theme of the first morning session (Sunday) was Sarvodaya. This is a term coined by Gandhi to mean ‘universal uplift’ or ‘progress of all’ and was a fundamental principle of his political philosophy. We discussed some of Gandhi’s other main principles: Swaraj, self-rule;  Swadeshi, self-sufficiency; and Satyagraha, “truth force”, Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance strategy.

Monday’s theme was resource depletion: examining the effects of diminishing stocks of non-renewable gas, oil, coal and minerals on the world. We discussed particular industries’ impacts on the earth and its people, and possible substitutes.

Tuesday focussed on climate change and population from a biological perspective, as the talk was given by an ecologist. Human culture has gradually evolved from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle through small scale agriculture to the globalised economy we see today. However, this has occurred in a period of relatively stable climatic conditions for the past 5000 years, which has lulled us into a sense of false security. We were divided into three groups and attempted to answer three questions. The question for my group was: What attributes from our hunter gatherer and agricultural ancestors should we cultivate and which should we reject? We were also asked to talk about steps we could take to reduce our energy usage both on a personal and national/global scale. 
Ruth gave a presentation originally aimed at actuaries to show that in the economic world it is vital to take into account risks of climate change and resource depletion.

The World Economic System was Wednesday’s subject. Alan Sloan presented us with a thought-provoking presentation on a potential new economic system based on ecological footprints. Conventional money is not directly related to the material world, and he suggested that if the new currency were based on the resources available from the earth then this would help to solve the resource depletion crises we are currently facing, as well as relieving poverty in the developing world.

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Four participants gave presentations on four ‘prophets’ on Thursday. John Muir was an American naturalist whose activism helped to preserve national parks such as Sequoia National Park and the Yosemite Valley. Ishpriya is a Catholic nun who founded the International Satsang Organisation. The Reverend Horace Dammers was the founder of the Lifestyle Movement. Frances Moore Lappé is the author of the bestseller Diet for a Small Planet, which advocated a plant-based diet as being much more conducive to food security.

On Friday we welcomed another guest speaker, a representative of Traidcraft. He gave a presentation on the organisation and their efforts to ensure that workers are paid a fair price for their products.

On the last evening we held a party, which was a sort of variety show with everyone offering their best party pieces. We had old home videos, games, singing, jokes, poetry, a small flute recital and some improvised circle dancing. The evening ended with a small tribute to the victims of the atom bomb in 1945, as it was Nagasaki Day. We went out into the garden and floated tea lights in little paper boats in a large baking tray filled with water, as incense smoke floated up into the night sky. It was a lovely way to end the week, which has been one of the most thought-provoking I have attended.

New Book – Ecology Economy by Felix Padel, Ajay Dandekar & Jeemol Unni

Ecology Economyecology economy

- Quest for a socially informed connection

By Felix Padel, Ajay Dandekar and Jeemol Unni

orientblackswan logo

 

 

 

 

About the book, courtesy of Orient Black Swan:

Ecology, Economy is an elaborate argument to establish society as central in policy-making for holistic development. The book presents cases of the adverse effects of resource utilisation—water, metals, power, land—on Adivasi communities in particular. It presents an overview of the paradoxes inherent in ‘development’ projects, emphasising the drastic drop in the standard of living of rural communities, and the immeasurable damage to India’s ecosystems and resource base.

The authors highlight the tussle between real growth and the rule of law, the informalisation of labour under a neoliberal economy, and current threats to ‘Adivasi Economics’—the little monetised systems based on a long-term symbiosis with the natural environment, based on taking from the ecosystem without intrinsically damaging it.

It asks: what is real development? How can we transform present developmental patterns to achieve a more truly sustainable path towards collective well-being? Is there any politically feasible path out of the multidimensional economic, environmental, social and climate change cataclysms facing us now in India and worldwide? Contrary to seeing dissent as ‘anti-development’, this book puts a face to the people on whom ‘development’ is imposed.

A product of the confluence of anthropology, policy analysis and rural economics, this volume also comes with an extensive Bibliography to lead researchers and every interested reader towards a rich body of work. It will be useful for students and scholars of sociology, economics, anthropology, ecology and environmental studies, development studies, political science, law and international affairs.

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