Opinion | WEEKEND

Mantras for Midnight’s Grandchildren:

In the universe of fake news, Trumpism and tweets, and other varieties of velleities, one wonders whether one is living in the age of post-truth, post-racial politics or simply post-history
04 Sep 2017 19:32
Mantras for Midnight’s Grandchildren:

In the universe of fake news, Trumpism and tweets, and other varieties of velleities, one wonders whether one is living in the age of post-truth, post-racial politics or simply post-history and post-humanity.

Today falsehood not only triumphs, but is ac­cepted as our daily diet for survival in the world of manufactures and merchants of many varie­ties, aided and abetted by the people with mega­phones and monetary-military muscles.

These pessimistic thoughts came to my mind as I was reading to prepare a Gandhi Oration I’ve been invited to give at the National Press Club in Canberra on October 3.

Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, is de­clared and designated as United Nations Day of non-violence in a very volatile and violent world where even climate changes are seen with a sense of karmic justice: you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.

This would be too cynical a view of human his­tory.

Peace still remains the great human quest: Oum Shanti.

Non-violence is not necessarily peace. As Christ, in his most radical message, said: I bring sword of truth with the word.

The struggle between God and evil is really the eternal struggle in which so much good is wast­ed. That is the real human tragedy. But a deeper tragedy is when truth itself is lost.

Gandhi tried to show its vital importance when the world was on the brink of a holocaust.

He demonstrated that non-violence is active and positive human condition – it’s a mistake to see it as passive resistance. There’s nothing passive about it; certainly in Gandhi’s concep­tion of the method and means to fight all kinds of man’s evil to men and women and children at every level.

His was not a voice in wilderness – he was firm­ly rooted in the very midst of life, in the heart of the battle of Kuruchetra, so to speak, so power­fully delineated in the epic the Mahabharata.

It’s the ultimate battle between good and evil, God and the devil.

That’s is how the most original idea in the hu­man consciousness took form: the idea of God.

Gandhi was always rebelling against some cause, occasionally even against his own self, family, flesh and bones. He was a born rebel with many causes.

People who couldn’t emulate his high stand­ards made him into a mahatma. It was easier to worship.

But every time someone asked him about his Mahatmahood, his answer was a question: Ask Mrs Gandhi?

No man is a perfect person or untainted hero to his wife: that is a universal truth – perhaps that’s why Gautama left his kingdom and Jesus never married!

The writer, who understood the falsification of our history through power and tyranny, with a razor-sharp clarity of vision, was George Or­well.

Mr Orwell had seen what British imperialism was doing in India. After the death of Gandhi, he wrote a most reflective essay on ‘Reflections on Gandhi’. His final comment was: what a clean smell he left behind in politics when compared to his contemporaries.

Mr Orwell wrote his famous satire on Stalin­ism in ‘Animal Farm’. I read it as a young stu­dent – it was taught as an animal fable where pigs dominate and ruin things with their greed and bullying after a revolution.

Of course one didn’t know much European his­tory to understand how brilliantly Mr Orwell had satirised the terrible epoch of Stalinism.

Even in England the book was rejected by many publishers because no-one wanted to an­noy the Russians.

It was only in 1987, after the coups, that I began to understand its full and profound impact when many literate people began talking about Fiji as an ‘Animal Farm’. We laughed in our strangled inner cries.

But the power of literature came with its full force of laughter and tears much later: a sense of unbridled sorrow: what we had done, may al­lowed it to be done,to ourselves and to the happy isles.

But Mr Orwell had written a bigger and more prophetic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Pub­lished in 1948, it painted a picture of propa­ganda and deception of frightening potency and prophetic accuracy.

It’s central strand, though, is the falsification of history that is now being done in several countries, including India, the USA, Australia and Britain – the countries I care for, countries which continue to shape our consciousness, cul­tures which have given us so much.

Donald Trump became a president through it; in India, one of the conspirators, who plotted the assassination of the Mahatma so soon after India gained her tragic independence, his por­trait today is hung in the Indian Parliament.

It must look like the picture of Pauline Hanson with a burka in the Australian Senate – it makes Pauline look quite attractive, I think, though it was an appalling act or what one might call a ‘Pauline act’ of political stunt.

Such things are now commonplace and many people from Charlottesville to Barcelona and in many other cities are marching with placards proclaiming identity politics under the garb of many complexions, creeds, cant and mantras.

Ancient mantras from our ancestors have be­come the chorus for the Great Chaos.

And yet we wish to live in the 21st century. We’re today 7.5 billion souls, and the same num­ber of stomachs to fill, employ and educate and care for.

From time to time we’re threatened by mad men with their fingers not far from the nuclear arsenal button of which they have no knowledge or its devastating consequences, once pressed.

One mad man is enough – we, alas, now have several in democracies and dictatorships. And some not unlike the abominable Adolf got elect­ed.

Here the Great Soul comes in. Gandhi first said God was truth; later truth was God. Like Christ he was crucified by his own people. Now he’s be­ing deleted from the new history books that are being written and prescribed in certain states of India.

The new ‘heroes’ of independent India are some of the most nasty characters who supported Na­zism before India gained her independence.

But to call them Nazis is to absolve ourselves from taking responsibilities for the acts of our own citizens. We should call them by their na­tionalistic names and recognise them for what they are: our responsibility as citizens of the shared national culture and community in which we’re complicit.

But because of the legacy of Gandhi-Nehru-Patel- Azad and Swami Vivekananda, etc, I feel, they will fail and the rich, discursive argumen­tative tradition of Indian thought will survive and be triumphant, once again.

This of course is the great gift of the Indian subcontinent. No idea of narrowing that various and ever creative consciousness – from cosmic to the comic – can be contained in any ideology.

They run like rivers across the vast, varied In­dian thought escape.

After seven eventful decades, we cannot keep blaming the British. Great Britain itself has be­come little England, searching for independence from its imperial hubris.

Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India, has said that India has many holy texts, but the holiest of them all is the Indian constitu­tion.

It’s interesting to contemplate that Mohandas Gandhi, the great soul, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the great leader and Narendra Modi, whose greatness may yet lie in the future, were all born in Gujarat.

And Gujarat, by the seashores, has had more dealings with the wider world than people of any other states of the subcontinent. After all, the English too were called a nation of shop­keepers! And they built the largest empire.

Maybe therein lies the hope of at least four bil­lion people touched by the two oceans, Indian and the Pacific and the two seas, the Arabian and the Chinese.

The waters of the seas can wrought miracles. And we must learn to walk on the waves–it’s been done before our sad times.

After all life came out of the waters.

India could send the message of the Mahatma as in ancient times the Buddha’s message was taken to so many parts of the world.

The world more than ever needs this light of Asia to illumine an ever darkening world.

Satyamevjayte–truth will triumph- may still be more meaningful to most men and women.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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