Monday, March 16, 2009

Pretexts for Marx, goads for Gandhi

[One pleasure in the rereading of Marx is to savor the trenchancy and aptness of his literary allusions. It was actually Engels who said that a Balzac was worth many Zolas, but Marx who—not always with rigorous consistency—tried to enforce the difference between novelist and pamphleteer. The Revenge of Karl Marx by Christopher Hitchens, April 2009 Atlantic Christopher Hitchens is an Atlantic contributing editor and a Vanity Fair columnist.]

[Among the aspects of Gandhi's nature that emerge most clearly from the Autobiography are his considerable talents as propagandist, pressman, and editor. Gandhi's Collected Works run into a hundred volumes, yet relatively few writings were conceived as independent books – they all made their first appearances as pieces in newspapers and periodicals, often those run by Gandhi himself. Although Gandhi began to read newspapers only in his teens, very early in his career he seems to have become conscious of the enormous power of the printed word to disseminate information, to stoke reflection, to offer considered criticism, and to forge durable relationships on a mass scale without the necessity of reader actually meeting author. But – and this is characteristic of him – he also saw in the written word a means of pinning himself to the highest standards of fairness and justice (which are only other words for what he would have understood as 'truth'). Writing about the journal Indian Opinion, which he ran for over a decade in South Africa, he recalls:
'I cannot recall a word in those articles set down without thought or deliberation, or a word of conscious exaggeration, or anything merely to please. Indeed the journal became for me a training in self-restraint...The critic found very little to which he could object. In fact the tone of Indian Opinion compelled the critic to put a curb on his own pen.' Here, as at many other points in the book, we see Gandhi advance a sophisticated understanding of the dialectical relationship between one's own actions and those of others, such as when he says, 'My experience has shown that we win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party.' And sounded here, too, is the idea of responsible speech and action through self-scrutiny which is one of the root ideas of Gandhian ethics and is explained elsewhere in the book: 'Man is man because he is capable of, and only in so far as he exercises, self-restraint.' Gandhi often asks the impossible of us, but his appeal is in the radical possibilities he opens out before us; he expands our moral arena. We come away from Gandhi with an enhanced view of our relationship to others and to the world.
On Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography My Experiments With Truth
from The Middle Stage by Chandrahas]

Pretexts for Marx, goads for Gandhi. [TNM]

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