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Look closer. Think harder. Choose the sound argument over the clever one.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Watched the movie Ghandi last night. An amazing man who accomplished amazing things. Seeing what he did in India helps boost my (pretty low) faith in humanity. The movie looks closely at the injustices at the hands of the British, like British General Dyers' massacre (1,516 casualties with 1,650 bullets).
My favorite quotes:
- "If you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth."
- "An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody will see it."
It raises questions, though--questions I don't expect this movie to address, as it's (rightfully) a tribute to this great man.
Can his techniques be universally applied? Or were they specific to the situations in which he found himself? Would non-violent resistance have stopped Adolph Hitler, or Joseph Stalin? I'm convinced it wouldn't. (The movie toys with the idea with Hitler, but can't give an answer.)
Did Hitler, Stalin and Mao commit the mass murders they did because no one thought of applying Ghandi's non-violent resistance (or somehow didn't do it "correctly")? Or did hundreds or thousands of would-be-Ghandis die in obscurity at their hands? I believe the latter.
So then how did Ghandi succeed? Consider these two reasons:
- Though the British were classic imperialists/colonialists, in the final analysis they were reasonable people with a conscience (and a free press). A fundamentally different society/government than those constructed by Hitler, Stalin, or Mao.
- India's massive manpower was a very powerful weapon to wield the way Ghandi did. (And that he was able to have such control, through such a strong moral voice, seems miraculous.)
Where Ghandi may have been wrong or failed...
- "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won." Perhaps, but at horrific cost to the innocent (e.g., 105 million dead at the hands of Communism). Can we really count those as victories?
- "There must be Hindu-Muslim unity - always." The Hindu-Muslim clashes, culminating with the Bangladesh ("East Pakistan") genocide, shows Ghandi's failure here. 1.5 million Hindus murdered, or 1,000 times as many as murdered at the hands of British General Dyer.
- "Secondly, no Indian must be treated as the English treat us so we must remove untouchability from our lives, and from our hearts." Yet the caste system, even though technically illegal, is still a big influence.
- KINNOCH: "With respect, Mr. Gandhi, without British administration, this country would be reduced to chaos." GANDHI: "Mr. Kinnoch, I beg you to accept that there is no people on earth who would not prefer their own bad government to the 'good' government of an alien power." Perhaps the victims of the Bangladeshi or Rwandan genocides would disagree with Ghandi.
- The movie script (here, too).
- The Official Ghandi eArchive & Reference Library, with quotations.
- The Hindu caste system.
- The East Pakistan (Bangladesh) genocide.
PS: To be fair to the movie, it did depict Ghandi's frustration and dispair over the Muslim/Hindu clashes.
(Please keep in mind that each commenter's opinions are only his/her own.)
Mad statistics. Apparently more people died in 6 months during the partition than died in the whole of the second world war.
You like statistics. Read "Freedom at Midnight" if you can, its full of them.
The British having a free press was very significant in Gandhi's success. Also significant, I think, are the Hindu traditions of ahimsa ie. non-violence and vegetarianism etc.
I think the whole Gandhi story played out the way it did very much due to the national characters of the nations involved.
For speculation: WOULD GANDHI-AN NON-VIOLENCE WORK AGAINST THE USA? (In the context of, let's say, the movements to get the US to quit Iraq or Colombia?)
So, giving Iraq back to the fascists, or giving Colombia to FARC (the Khmer Rouge's cousins), would be a good thing?
Surrendering southeast Asia to the Khmer Rouge was one of the most shameful chapters in U.S. history, and ironically, it was accomplished through (mostly) non-violent protest.
Curiously, when things get better in Afghanistan you're skeptical. That you could be exactly wrong every time is remarkable.
As regards US involvement in Saddam's rise to power, I posted a reply to your comment on malung-tv-news here with an instructive link to a BBC story.
The US were happy enough to support the Taliban and their ilk, and also Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (a truly nasty cXXt), when it suited them. On this, I can recommend a book Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid, a correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, a comfortingly right-wing British newspaper. It was written before Sept 11, 2001 and subsequent events involving Afghanistan, but as a history of the Taliban (and US involvement in Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion onwards) it is very readable.
Even more ironically, it was the North Vietnamese invasion which liberated Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge... I use "liberated" in a relative sense here...
The whole Cambodia situation in the 70s was quite messy... According to this article, the US was, bizarrely, arming both sides in the Cambodia conflict, don't know what to make of that.
At any rate, I think there is no doubt that the US was guilty of vast abuses against the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos - on a larger scale than, say, that of the USSR in Afghanistan.
M: "The US were happy enough to support the Taliban and their ilk ... when it suited them."
True. With the Soviets murdering 30 million (or more) of their own, even the mujahedeen must have seemed relatively harmless.
M: "Even more ironically, it was the North Vietnamese invasion which liberated Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge..."
More ironically yet, the North Vietnamese sponsored the Khmer Rouge to begin with. Sydney Schanberg, New York Times, Sept 8, 1974: "...the Communist-led Cambodian insurgents who are tutored by Hanoi [North Vietnam] and provided with arms from Peking [China] and Moscow [Soviet Union]..."
M: "I use 'liberated' in a relative sense here..."
Yes, as FreedomHouse.org's rating didn't move from the lowest (not free) for another ten years.
I'm suspicious of the article you reference. Besides the schizophrenia, it gets its dates confused more than once (1985 - 1989, "1980's and 1990's", when the article itself acknowledges the 1970's timeframe).
There's no doubt that the US was standing in the Khmer Rouge's way in Cambodia--until it stepped aside.
M: "...there is no doubt that the US was guilty of vast abuses against the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos - on a larger scale than, say, that of the USSR in Afghanistan."
Unless you count our withdrawl, just the opposite is true.
Jesus Christ, surely surely you cannot think that anything is worth the wide-spread slaughter and suffering of civilians on such a vast scale?? There are still live munitions maiming children... There are still kids being born with birth defects due to Agent Orange...
What I don't understand is when did conservative political views began to equal an unquestioning acceptance of all the horrors perpetrated in the name of democracy?
I can find no possible justification for this statement. It sounds a little like saying the Nazi party weren't that bad, at least they sorted out unemployment and street crime. Is it so difficult to admit that the Indochina war was one colossal fuck-up which resulted in misery on an unimaginable scale? (Note that I'm not saying it was all the US fault.)
Yeah, I wouldn't consider that article a reliable source myself, although it touched on some interesting points. I think quite often in scenarios like this (the SE Asia war in general), the covert intelligence machine takes on a bizarre life of its own, shadowy machinations for their own sake.
I came across that article while browsing to find something about US support for the Khmer Rouge (yes, it did happen for a short while, I seem to remember learning in history class), as they were enemies of North Vietnam.
But the wide-spread slaughter and suffering you describe were perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge: backed by North Vietnam, armed by China and Soviet Union. Nothing justifies their waging war in the first place. The horror wasn't perpetrated in the name of democracy, but marxism.
M: "What I don't understand is when did conservative political views began to equal an unquestioning acceptance of all the horrors perpetrated in the name of democracy?"
No unquestioning acceptance. War is a tragedy, every life lost. But four times as many people were murdered by their own government in times of "peace" than died in war. That's four times the tragedy--and more than that if you consider that you didn't learn that in history class--they died without a voice.
Just because you learned it in history class doesn't make it true.
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