Gandhi for the Post-Truth Age

Though my own study of Gandhi isn’t as thorough as I’d like, I found that Pankaj Mishra’s summary of the philosopher’s thought hit on many of the points that have most strongly struck me. Some excerpts:

Satyagraha, literally translated as “holding fast to truth,” obliged protesters to “always keep an open mind and be ever ready to find that what we believed to be truth was, after all, untruth.” Gandhi recognized early on that societies with diverse populations inhabit a post-truth age.

“Industrialism,” he argued in 1931, “depends entirely on your capacity to exploit, on foreign markets being open to you, and on the absence of competitors.” But intensified competition from Asian and African countries could change everything, he warned presciently, decades before the rise of China and India as capitalist economies plunged once powerful nations of the West into irreversible economic decline and political crisis.

Indeed, Gandhi’s critique of modern civilization hinged on what he saw as its refusal to recognize limits. To a civilization shaped by unappeasable human will and ambition Gandhi counterposed a civilization organized around self-limitation and ethical conduct. [emphasis added]

Satyagraha, which presumed a basic commitment to dialogue on all sides, was likely to be impotent against Nazism or any other genocidal ideology. But it remains a matchless political means to reconcile clashing interests in diverse and fractious societies, largely because it accommodates Gandhi’s proto-postmodern view that truths in politics are invariably partial and contingent. [emphasis added]

Moreover, a profound philosophical conviction lay behind the communal endurance of pain and the refusal to retaliate. Gandhi believed that society is much more than a social contract between self-seeking individuals underpinned by the rule of law and structured by institutions; it is actually founded upon sacrificial relationships, whether between lovers, friends, or parents and children.

12:00 pm on December 2, 2018