How did Gandhi do it ?
by SevenStrings, Sat Mar 15, 2008 at 01:59:51 PM EDT
I was very angry at Obama yesterday, I am still angry at him today; but somewhat less so. And so today, I can think at other parallels in history. There have been other situations where a militant movement for social justice has had to coexist with a peaceful one. There have been other situations where a militant movement for social justice has evolved into a peaceful one. Two famous examples of this are India and South Africa.
Let me use India ~ the example is better documented, and South Africa is much more recent. The example can best be told by the story of two men: Gandhi and Bose.
I am sure you all know who Gandhi is. The nerds amongst you may assume that Bose refers to a certain JC Bose, who was a scientist/engineer of remarkable accomplishment. Some of you may think that the Bose refers to the speakers in your living room. However, the Bose in this instance refers to a firebrand leader named Subhash Chandra Bose. Bose and Gandhi overlapped and paralled each other much like Obama and Rev. Wright have.
Bose was a leader in the Indian National Congress ~ this is the party that Gandhi had joined. For a long time, Bose was more popular than Gandhi, even within the Congress. And his suggested path (that of militancy) was favored by most Congressmen over that of Gandhi's peaceful non-cooperation. Bose was elected President of the Indian National Congress in 1938, despite strong opposition from Gandhi's faction. It was only later that year that Gandhi managed to get the upper hand, and Bose ended up leaving the Congress party.
History is witness that Gandhi went on to lead a peaceful non-cooperation movement against the British; ultimately resulting in Indian Independence in 1947. Bose allied first with the Germans, and then with the Japanese. He raised the "Indian National Army" from Indian POWs captured by the Japanese, and managed to capture small portions of British India before the tide of WW II turned against Japan and Germany. Bose perished on a flight while enroute from Burma to Japan in 1944.
History is witness that Gandhi's method worked, and Bose's didn't . Historians argue whether Gandhi would have succeeded without Bose, but I leave that question aside.
The important point to remember is that all though this process, the two men (Gandhi and Bose) respected each other; even though the paths they had chosen were radically different. They never repudiated one another, and never doubted each other's patriotism. This process was fairly painful for Gandhi initially ~ Bose and his compadres were branded as "terrorists" by the British, and Gandhi was often accused of not doing enough to help them as the British prosecuted some of them for various acts of terrorism.
This story resembles the Obama/Rev. Wright fracas. I do not doubt that Rev. Wright is representing a community that has genuine grievances. The methods he advocates is ruinous to his cause, however ~ as Gandhi would have pointed out. Obama's approach of unity, hope and inclusiveness is much more in the Gandhian mold. And I admire Obama for that (even though I am not going to support him this cycle).
There is one difference, however: Gandhi never ignored what Bose was saying. He actively fought and campaigned against the militant approach favored by Bose, even when Bose's approach was favored by large majorities, and even when Gandhi's opposition was politically expensive.
That is where Obama failed!