This essay is the print version of a public talk given on 30 January 2006 at the Gandhi National Memorial, Pune, in honor of the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
We stand on the shoulders of Gandhi. I submit that he would ask, that by standing on his shoulders, we reach higher, that we not pause too long in front of his statues, but that we must work, work, work.
I believe that Gandhi was totally correct when he said "We must be the change we wish to see." The point where change must occur is at the individual, personal level, multiplied by about 6 billion. As the cartoon character Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and they is us."
Once when Gandhi's great friend, the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, was visiting a Bedouin camp in Iraq, the chief told Tagore, "Our prophet has said that a true Muslim is he who, by his words and deeds not the least of his brother-men may ever come to any harm." Tagore then noted in his diary, "I was startled into recognizing in his words the voice of essential humanity."
As I speak, the country of my birth is systematically, in cold-blooded calculation, destroying the Iraq of which Tagore spoke. When the killing will stop, no one knows. I stand before you with a deep sense of shame. My country's actions are a stain upon humanity.
Tagore also wrote "So long as there is any suffering and insult in humanity, no individual man can ever win his escape." As one of the invited speakers has written, in our globalized and inter-connected world, there can be no peace in India so long as there is war in Iraq. Because of war inflation of oil prices, basic foods will cost more, the poor of India will eat less, children will become more malnourished, and more trees will burn in the cooking fires of villagers who cannot afford kerosene.
Arundhati Roy, the Indian winner of the Booker Prize for literature, wrote in The Algebra of Infinite Justice "… a world laid waste by America's foreign policy: its gunboat diplomacy, its nuclear arsenal, its vulgar policy of u2018full spectrum dominance', its chilling disregard for non-American lives, its barbarous military interventions, its support for despotic dictatorial regimes, its merciless economic agenda that has munched though poor countries like a cloud of locusts…The International Coalition Against Terror is largely a cabal of the richest countries in the world. Between them, they manufacture and sell almost all of the world's weapons, they possess the largest stockpile of Weapons of Mass Destruction. They have fought the most wars, account for most of the genocide, subjection, ethnic cleansing, and human rights violations in modern history. They have worshipped, almost deified the cult of violence and war…"
I left my country almost 15 years ago in order to start a new life in Sacred India, so as to be no longer an accomplice to this systematic murder by my payment of income taxes into this ruthless war machine. One of the waypoints that crystallized my decision was a visit to the Museum at Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb. The Temple of Death at the Mother Mandir of the Science of Total Annihilation. How could I ever again be sweat at law in an economy whose best and brightest produce this abominable machinery of mass murder, with my tax support? I joined the river of the dispossessed, the disenfranchised. How can we call this a "civilization" — this mindless Corporate State War Machine in the service of which so many children go to bed hungry, so many shattered lives are lived in silent, burning fury?
But a man cannot escape his humanity…. We are all in the same boat together, like it or not. I hope I can point out some things to you citizens of India by way of a warning of dangers ahead. I am speaking from my American experience; yet I ask you to open your minds to the dangers to India's people that come from adopting the Western profligate consumerist lifestyle.
India has a heavy responsibility to the whole of humanity because of her status as the cradle of human spiritual wisdom. What other land has produced a Krishna, a Mahavir, a Buddha, and Gandhi? There is even a significant body of evidence that Jesus studied here during the eighteen-year gap of His unknown whereabouts. On the destiny of India hangs the fate of mankind.
Who defines the soul of India? When future generations contemplate the footprint of India on the path of Man, what shall they see: a print heavy with death wrought by a consumerism and arms industry matching the American Nuclear Bully? Or a gentle sign, like that of a butterfly on the morning dew, leaving a sweet fragrance of Sanathana Dharma (Eternal Wisdom)? Shall humanity recollect India's responsibility as the keeper of the flame of Eternal Wisdom?
WE ARE THROWING AWAY OUR HUMANITY FOR A PLASTIC TOY
The so-called leader of the free world is a perpetrator of mass murder who should, under terms of the Geneva Convention, be booked and brought to trial for crimes against humanity. He should, under US law, also be tried for fraud because of the lies he used to get the US Congress to approve his war for oil and corporate military profiteering. Sensible and concerned Americans are calling for his impeachment.
Gandhi wrote, "The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from the violence to which it owes its very existence." There was a recent movie "Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara," with theme "We have murdered Gandhi" (by disregarding his message of nonviolence). I left the American Corporate Warfare State Machine in order not to be among those who murdered Gandhi.
In the past 100 years, Nation-States have murdered about 200 million people, many of them their own citizens within their own borders. Ordinary people, your friends and neighbors, don't spontaneously rush to make war on others. Governments must make the most strenuous efforts to mobilize populations for war. Isn't it about time we questioned this way of living together on this small planet? Why is it that we submit to this rampant destruction all around, in fact even paying homage to those who would enslave us and destroy all living beings for their own wealth and power?
How do we lose touch with the core of love deep within each of us? Could it be through conditioning since childhood that the State is God, the final source of security and survival?
How is it that we do not call the State by its true name of organized violence and perpetrator of mass murder? Is it because we live in a sea of lies, deceit, secrecy and hidden agendas? Such that we are expected to believe heads of State when they tell us that war is peace and murder is liberation? Or is it that we have become mentally conditioned to violence by the TV? Language is employed to keep thought at bay.
On the role of State-Controlled Education in the maintenance of Empire, I turn briefly to Dr. Claude Alvares, PhD, President, Organic Farmers Association of India and educationist in Multiversity: "What kind of u2018education' would allow the brutalization of innocent people in Iraq? Which system of learning would justify the open theft of resources from a nation kept forcibly impoverished for a dozen years? Can one ever applaud a high-tech war against a nation of undernourished people, mainly children? The rulers of these highly u2018educated' and so-called advanced societies of the USA and UK have violated every law known to civilized society. They lied, and fabricated documents. By their unilateral use of brute force, the invaders created overnight a country bereft of civic life and education (and a planet emptied of international law as well). The violent American conquest of Iraq symbolizes the failure of education in USA…. These ideals failed in the US where even school children take up guns in senseless bouts of violence. So what can be expected of their political leaders? We may not be able to stop the American war machine in its tracks, because there is today simply no institution large enough to hold the clinically insane, thoroughly schooled individuals who control and direct it. …. We must never surrender our children to a system that can only benefit and strengthen this manic cabal of anti-civilization, anti-culture terrorists and thieves …" (Multiversity Newsletter, 2003).
From the Nobel Lecture of Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1970) I quote, " Violence does not live alone and it is not capable of living alone: it is necessarily interwoven with falsehood. Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood and falsehood its only support in violence. Any man who has once acclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose falsehood as his principle. At its birth violence acts openly and even with pride. But no sooner does it become strong, firmly established than it senses the rarefaction of the air around it and it cannot continue to exist without descending into a fog of lies, clothing them in sweet talk. It does not always openly throttle the throat; more often it demands from its subjects only an oath of allegiance to falsehood, only complicity in falsehood."
Written 35 years ago, is this by Solzhenitsyn not a perfect caricature of the script being followed by the so-called leaders of the free world today?
The State makes it impossible for a man to live honestly and at the same time in reasonable comfort at even a modest level of civic amenities.
HOW CAN A HUMAN SOCIETY SURVIVE WHEN THERE IS NO MORAL GROUND?
We have abdicated our moral sovereignty and outsourced our personal responsibility to corporations and to the State. These are both non-human entities without heart, soul or conscience. They are machines, abstract legal constructs. They cannot feel pain, cannot love, experience empathy, touch the moist grass of this earth with their bare feet, hear a birdsong, or scratch a puppy's ear. Yet, by operation of sovereign immunity and the corporate veil, their anonymous members can make secret decisions that destroy thousands, millions of lives, and they remain personally unaccountable.
The State has no ears for Nature, it hears not the cries of earth and her creatures; it cannot respond to Nature. It would be wise for us not to forget, in our pride, that man IS nature. The State responds only to the self-interest of its power, and to money. We expect individuals to lead a life of reasonable morality. The State has no morality.
We must remember that finally this tyranny is grounded on popular acceptance. If government is "of the people, by the people and for the people," when the problems become ugly and dangerous, we had best look to ourselves.
In Gandhi's philosophy, the State must itself be morally illegitimate, because it is based upon a monopoly of force and it operates through coercion only. There is a word that describes our condition. That word is Slavery.
Gandhi: "Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when State becomes lawless and corrupt." As so many writers have emphasized, Gandhi's greatest teaching vehicle was "My life is my message." His first loyalty was always to life, to humanity, a loyalty which he said superseded any other loyalty to nation, race, class, caste. Love is the highest law of life.
Now I refer to news reports and photos of joint India-US Army exercises at Ranikhet, Uttaranchal. I have visited the nearby Anasakti Ashram at Kausani, Uttaranchal, where Gandhi penned some of his most famous lines, and thought I was on holy ground. Look now at the foreign army on your sacred soil, where the waters feed the Holy Ganges. Look now at a foreign military desecrating your land by teaching your Indian army in counter-insurgency, which means bluntly, teaching Indians how to kill each other more efficiently.
More and more the news is reporting mega weapons deals between India and USA: big purchases of aircraft and military hardware along with nuclear weapons cooperation. How many generations must live in the fear spawned by the insanity of the atom bomb and Hiroshima before we wake up to what the Corporate Warfare State is doing to us, to all living beings?
My country did produce one man who made a contribution to India. His name was Henry David Thoreau and his writings on Civil Disobedience helped inspire Gandhi's program to liberate India. Regarding his own imprisonment in South Africa, Gandhi wrote, "Placed in a similar position for refusing to pay his tax, the American citizen Thoreau expressed similar thoughts in 1849." Thoreau was very much anti-war.
Thoreau wrote, "Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why then has every man a conscience? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right."
Gandhi wrote, "What difference does it make to the dead … whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"
All of us on this earth are living under the rule of some Nation State or the other. I believe the Nation State is a bad plan for humanity, based upon flawed concepts which will lead to our ultimate destruction. The most fundamental flaw is moral illegitimacy because of its basis in force and coercion. The State is incapable of appropriate social response; in fact, it cannot even know what appropriate response is. It is a great error to believe that in a world system of all-powerful technology combined with the stress of over-population, we can safely allow the monstrous power of the State to be deployed by the egos of a few men at the center.
I quote a modern Gandhian activist and writer named T.S. Ananthu, a man educated in both India and USA (MSc. Stanford): "Here is where Gandhi's insights are really useful to us. While the American and Soviet models SEEMED to be at odds with each other, they shared something very basic in common: a materialistic notion of life. It has been called, mistakenly, a u2018scientific' view of the world, notwithstanding the fact that both Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics reach a much different conclusion. But in the name of science, both capitalism and communism shared a definition of human progress and success that is exclusively based on the material: income levels in the case of individuals and corporations; GNP in the case of societies. It is this vision that is at the root of all modern development and progress, and also forms the driving force behind the globalization phenomena we are currently witnessing.
"Gandhi had the foresight to predict a century ago that if our worldview is totally materialistic, we will end up with the same kind of seemingly democratic but actually totalitarian structures that are crushing American agriculture, no matter what our dedication to democracy and free enterprise may be. To Gandhi, a civilization based on materialism was no civilization at all, for the greed it forces us to cultivate prevents us from becoming civilized in the deepest sense of the term.
"The following five trends are INEVITABLE results of any development effort based purely on materialistic considerations, whether the political model is communism or capitalism:
1. Unchecked urbanization, mushrooming metropolises and a disappearing farming community.
2. Massive heavy industrialization, especially of the capital-intensive variety.
3. Total centralization of power and decision-making, with the ordinary citizen, whether farmer, worker or voter, a helpless spectator to the horrors he is witnessing.
4. Complete monetization, not only of all goods and services, but even of the earth's ecosystems and basic human values.
5. Rampant militarization, both at government and non-government levels including terrorism.
The United States today represents the above trends in action. Should we really be emulating them?"
Back to Gandhi: "Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the State becomes lawless and corrupt."
From the Nobel Prize Lecture of Harold Pinter, December 2005, I quote: "The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant State terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law… We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and we call it u2018bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East.' What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days — conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts, but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others. Is all this dead?"
I commend Pinter's entire lecture to your earnest attention, and Solzhenitsyn as well.
Standing before you as an American runaway slave, I say watch carefully the path you tread. Do not march to the American drum, blindly down the trail of tears into the Valley of Death, surrounded on all sides by agents and slave masters of the Corporate Warfare State, armed with nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, ready on as little as eight minute's notice to scorch the earth on the command of one man, and that too a man who claims that
God spoke to him personally and told him to invade Iraq. Simply by virtue of my presence here as a human being, I have a derivative responsibility for these abominable actions.
That one man, said by some to be psychotic holds at his command the power to unleash the incomprehensibly destructive products of American nuclear weapons R & D is to put every child on this earth under his malevolent influence. As Oppenheimer said at the first atomic test explosion, "I am become death." Americans are showing the world, by where they put their money, that they value the science of death more than the art of living. Hiroshima changed the very meaning of life itself. What, now, does it mean to be human?
They once taxed my bread labor and used it to murder children in the womb yet unborn, a threat to oil and bomb your weddings, and strew the body parts coolly they press the button; death rains from the sky mission accomplished, without breaking a sweat American kids watch cannibals on DVD and drive their parent's SUV your children harvest death-by-cluster-bomb in broken fields there can be no greater act of betrayal than sending young people to death in war on the basis of fraud.
The freest man I know is an Indian villager who has no ID card, no tax ID number, no bank account, no birth registration certificate, and no Big Brother tracking his every move. He earns his bread by labor with mind and body given by God, and he gives thanks for every day of life. He speaks kind words to all he meets. He is a man of peace.
Long live the possibility of this way of life, for it is my belief that the fate of the Indian villager is the "canary in the coal mine," the harbinger of mankind's future. Before the last villager will have been displaced by some big dam, or an express highway, or an IT Park, or cutting the last of his forest, or pumping the last of his water, before his last tree has been cut down, mankind will have become extinct.
Is there hope that we may yet create a society of love and reason? I say yes, and part of the energy behind that u2018yes' comes from messages of eminent Indians expressing themselves about the coming visit of the Emperor: a retired Supreme Court Justice says "…stand for an example to all decent human beings to make visits impossible by warmongers and imperialists masquerading as champions of democracy." A retired Indian Civil Service officer, "GW Bush is a war criminal and I am utterly ashamed that my country has invited him to be a guest here… the shame of our elected government consorting with war criminals."
I say yes, because that hope is in the proof of Gandhi's life, that once before, humanity rose up in response to a call to nobility of character, a call to truth. As one of today's speakers has written earlier, "Gandhi and Tolstoy together created a spiritual crisis for the British. Gandhi's thought, influenced by Tolstoy's book The Kingdom of Heaven Is Within You, his public correspondence with Tolstoy, his personal example, and his call to make manifest in this world the values of Christ presented a spiritual challenge of Christ himself to the British rule."
Again I say yes, because what we have done once, we can do again. By love alone can hatred be overcome. Violence originates in the mind. We can change our mind. May love prevail.
"It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."
February 2, 2006