Monday, September 24, 2012

Gandhi for President?

Obviously, Mohandas Gandhi would not make the best President of the United States. It would be tough to get him elected. First of all, there's the nebulous religious background, plus the criminal record, the vegetarianism, the non-violence - not to mention his distinct lack of a birth certificate. Then, of course, the largest hurdle: he's dead.

In any event, Gandhi was dedicated to the welfare of society. It would be difficult to place him in a partisan category in the US - there's some educated, elite stereotypes there, but he also fought hard for the right of people to work and be unconstrained by the government. He believed in people and in people working together. I don't think any politician could argue with that.

One of the most intriguing things about Gandhi's life (and there are many) is the enduring legacy of his "Seven Social Sins." They are, in his view, the deadly sins of a society - violation of such will result in the failure of society. Important stuff, in other words.

Gandhi believed that violence was the premier destructive force in the world and that ignorance of these seven principles incites violence. He talked of them often, but there remains little printed, recorded evidence of how he explained them.

It seems to me, in this time of deeply divided rhetoric and partisan battles surrounding the US Presidential election, it might be interesting to examine these social sins more closely. They speak prophetically into the false divide created by current US politics.

Perhaps that's precisely what's addressed by the first sin: Politics without Principles.

We live in a system in which re-election is more important than governing. Power has become the only goal and preserving or regaining power the only principle. Nobody stands for anything besides whatever the other guy is against. Our politics is one of division.

This may not be true of each individual, but we've allowed the whole to become a game. We do not enter politics with an interest in getting along and living together, in building a world where everyone is at peace. We enter politics to win.

I suppose it could be argued that making everyone come to my side or bend to my will is a principle in itself, or that there are real principles behind the battles - I'm just not that sure what it says about those principles. It certainly says that the principle of winning, of self-determination is more important than anything else we believe.

That may be true for some, but it results in little more than "convert or die."

No comments: