A wise and timely note from Gandhi on election day…


A note from my friend George Dunn, via Facebook, writing all the way from Ningbo, China:

Here’s a new New Yorker essay from Age of Anger author Pankaj Mishra, in which he argues for the contemporary relevance of Mahatma Gandhi. His importance, according to Mishra, lies not just in his elevation of non-violence as political tactic, but also in his critique of modern liberalism. He saw self-restraint and the imposition of ethical limits, rather than the celebration of individual liberty and the emancipation of human desire, as the foundations of a healthy political community. He clearly saw that a society predicated on self-exaltation and the perpetual manufacturing of new desires was courting disaster.

“At every point,” writes Mishra, “Gandhi still upends modern assumptions, insisting on the primacy of self-sacrifice over self-interest, individual obligations over individual rights, renunciation over consumption, and dying over killing.”

Like René Girard, he believed that the alternative to self-sacrifice was sacrificing others. And, like Girard, his principle teachers were the Western religious tradition and contemporary thinkers who had been deeply shaped by it.

But what makes Gandhi’s thought especially timely is the understanding of truth and dialogue contained in his doctrine of Satyagraha. In addition to encouraging humility and obliging us always to remain open to the possibility that we may be wrong and our adversaries right, it entails the recognition that “we shall always see truth in fragments and from different angles of vision.” Understood in this way, Satyagraha leaves no room whatsoever for moral or political dogmatism. Can we imagine a world where our progressive activists and devoted conservatives take that lesson to heart?

Read the article here.

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