News was that a former editor of the New york times and a former foreign correspondent based in India, Joseph Lelyveld wrote a book on what he thought Gandhi Really was about…I mean really, not like all those people (there have been 86 documented biographies of Gandhi including his Autobiography) have been telling you before….and various people came away with disparate conclusions. The Guardian ‘s review declared that Lelyveld thought gandhi had “a homosexual relationship with Joseph Kallenbach(the dutch philanthroist who gave away his farm to a collective run by Gandhi in South Africa)” The New york times thought Lelyveld, While Implying this , was only commenting on how the 21st century would view a relationship where two men hugged much and called one another by nicknames. Much was also made of Gandhi’s “sleeping with his grand nieces” and his “wet dream at 86” and the New york times reviewer (they found a brownskin to do their dirty job)British Indian Novellist Hari Kunzru who did the review said “any attempt to understand Gandhi as some kind of contemporary liberal humanist avant la lettre is off the mark. He was a disciplined religious ascetic. To a degree unmatched by any modern leader of comparable stature, Gandhi’s politics were played out through his body.” thus bringing the debate to firmly where Lelyveld wants it to be: about Gandhi’s body.
The Mahatma’s Body: Is a huge point of contention. it is the elephant in the Gandhi room. Everything else about the great soul is so cut and dried in clearly hagiographic realpolitik that its boring to talk about it. I mean non violence? negotiating with colonial (and neocon) evil? the embracing of truth in politics? return to simplicity? Boh ..ring! but talk about Gandhi’s erection, and we’re suddenly selling books.
Apart from the schoolboy sensationalism (that Gandhi lived with even when he was alive, and probably was amused enough to feed, sometimes with his eccentricities) there are other reasons for People in power from Britain and America to HATE Gandhi. the symptom of this dislike stem from a very embassy row(chanakyapuri) nature of the foreign correspondent in India , that casts the CIA in the foreign country as a friend and the nationalist movement of the country as a threat. The filter knows which side of its bread is buttered. there is an element of propaganda to a foreign correspondent’s writings.
The timing of this book stinks too. The US is bombing Libya for no reason other than that it wants Gaddafi gone. That and a couple of erstwhile colonial powers want to show their neighbor to the south whose uncle. The only Ideological opposition to the excersice in brainwashing that the colonial powers here are engaging in (“Gaddafi needs to go because he bombed his own people” hey really? heard of suharto or pinochet? ) , is the somewhat Gandhian principle of non intervention in OTHER people’s affairs. Its not your country. Don’t bomb it!
India (and china, for very different reasons) opposed the bombing of Libya by the US and the other colonial powers. It seems to me that its a remarkable coincidence that the former foreign correspondent of the Associated Press/ New York times came out with a book carefully smearing Gandhi with facts we already knew and innuendo updated for the 21st century. (remember Judith miller of the NYT/AP and the weapons of mass destruction during the Bush Iraq war?)
To the Neocon, the pacifist liberal Individual humanist is the enemy. He has ideas of truth and common sense that can not only buck the propaganda and jingo that the neocon needs to have civilian populations of democracies buy , in order to fund colonial wars abroad(and the associated domination/ atrocity cycles) from the budgets of democracies . The Necon also knows that the enemy is not necessarily a morally degenerate or evil state. it is quite simply anyone, fair or foul who stands in the way of his colonial dominance of whichever part of the world he wants. This is his ONLY plan to access scarce resources at the lowest cost . (the lowest cost is FREE). After all, a trillion dollars a year of US’ defense budgets cannot be stopped by merely the truth! Surely Truth is what we manufacture, and deem it to be!.
So Gandhi is a victim of The Great Game.
What can the common distressed Indian/ Gandhian do?
1. Don’t enter the debate. Gandhi never engaged the colonial powers of the day in debates about his personal hygiene or habits, I dont know why today’s Gandhian should.
2. remember Gandhi’s Body is only talked about by those that have a colonial agenda. Even innocents that have no clue, if they are concerned with Gandhi’s sex life, are approaching Gandhi for the wrong reasons. dont help them dig that hole further. disengage from them.Peaceful non cooperation sometimes works best.
3. Find and promote Gandhi’s own words/writings/ historical works that were fairly detailed about Gandhi, his life, his teachings and his history. This way you know at least where the cognitive dissonance of Foreign correspondents lies.
4. In a world gone Neocon from defense budgets and naked capitalist greed, Look for opportunities to engage a debate with the brainwashed that gives them a taste of satyagraha and nonviolence. The path to the acquisition of truth is determined by each individual on his own, and is as satisfying as a natural detox . The right people will find their own Inner Gandhi.
5. Gandhi is not subject to the modern or postmodern western frame or classification as liberal conservative communist leftist or royalist. Gandhi equally serves to help a NAzi stop the genocide and murder as he would help the colonial power stop exploitation and leave a country peacefully. Gandhi is applicable EVERYWHERE.(even on wall street).
6. To quote Gandhi, on Satyagraha, to end my piece,
Satyagraha is a relentless search for truth and a determination to search truth….Satyagraha is an attribute of the spirit within….Satyagraha has been designed as an effective substitute for violence…. Satyagraha is a process of educating public opinion, such that it covers all the elements of the society and makes itself irresistible….The fight of Satyagraha is for the strong in spirit, not the doubter or the timid. Satyagraha teaches us the art of living as well as dying….Satyagraha, of which civil-resistance is but a part, is to me the universal law of life….Satyagraha can rid society of all evils, political, economic, and moral…A genuine Satyagraha should never excite contempt in the opponent even when it fails to command regard or respect….Satyagraha thrives on repression till at last the repressor is tired and the object of Satyagraha is gained….Satyagraha does not depend on the outside [for] help; it derives all its strength from within….The method of Satyagraha requires that the Satyagrahi should never lose hope, so long as there is the slightest ground left for it….In the dictionary of Satyagraha, there is no enemy. Since Satyagraha is a method of conversion and conviction, it seeks never to use the slightest coercion… For a Satyagraha brigade, only those are eligible who believe in ahimsa–nonviolence and satya–truth… A Satyagrahi has infinite patience, abundant faith in others, and ample hope….A Satyagrahi cannot go to law for a personal wrong….In the code of the Satyagrahi, there is no such thing as surrender to brute force.