President Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, India
Mr. Tushar A. Gandhi is the President and Founder of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation established in India in 1997. Mr. Gandhi is the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and son of Journalist Arun Manilal Gandhi. The Foundation works to continue the legacy of equality, empowerment, and justice for the “have nothing” constituents of our society. Mr. Gandhi is associated with organizations like Lok Seva Trust, Australia India Rural Development Foundation, and the Gandhi Research Foundation.
He is a peace and human rights activist and strives for a world without violence. Mr. Tushar writes and speaks on peace, nonviolence, justice and compassion and liberal ideals and stands against extremism and bigotry. His first book, “Let’s Kill Gandhi!”, a chronicle of the conspiracy and murder of Mahatma Gandhi published in 2007.
|Event Title: Inclusive Social Development in Achieving the Global Goals 2030||Date: September 25, 2019|
Transforming our world is such an attractive notion, everyone wants to transform the world. Some want to change it for personal gains, some want to change it to suit their needs, some for their ambitions and some for their aggrandisement, what is common amongst al these is the selfish self seeking motive. Hitler and Milosevick also wished to transform the world, turn it into something to suit their own vision of the world, as they wished it to be. what is also common in all these desires is to transform everyone else, but true transformation happens when one transforms one’s self, changes the self to become better and then inspires others to emulate the transformation. This is the ethical and sustainable kind of transformation.
In the not too distant past we saw how the movement of transformation disguised as ‘Civilising the savages’ gave birth to slavery and colonisation and subjected humanity to brutal imperialism and oppression. These were all selfish transformations. The industrial revolution too subjected economic imperialism on humanity, today the communications revolution and Artificial Intelligence are exposing us to technological imperialism of the corporates and curbing of fundamental rights by Governments. All these are examples of self seeking and self serving transformation. They all suffer from the flaw of wanting to oppress and subjugate others in one way or another, but not transforming one’s self, not being the change.
Today we talk of sustainability and inclusiveness but in the past couple of decades we have created more parochial exclusivist nations and societies that exclude more than they include or embrace. Globally we have created inequalities of such magnitude that they now appear unbridgeable. Culturally too we are in a contest of cultures, each trying to show itself better and superior. A mere declaration of intent towards equality and inclusiveness is not going to bring about transformation. Transformation will have to become an individual responsibility, if we change as individuals, we will be able to change society, nations and finally humanity. The new catch phrase of this century has been Global Village, where is this global village? More and more nations are building walls, fences, barriers and breaking out of unions, isolating and insulating themselves under the garb of security. We as a society are becoming more and more exclusive, isolationist. We label one another and generalise in our prejudices, one race is labelled criminal, another is labelled savage yet another is called terrorists, we look at each other with such tainted hate filled and generalised prejudices. We merely tolerate each other, tolerate our differences. How can tolerance become a virtue? Doesn’t tolerance mean we merely suppress our anger till it becomes unbearable and then explode and cause violence and strife. It is time we stop tolerating and start understanding, and through that understanding start respecting our differences, only then will we be able to bring about true and sustainable transformation. No two individuals are identical everyone is different, in appearances, behaviour, habits, nature and way of life, relationships are formed and sustained when we understand and than accept and respect our differences. Only those relationships are sustained which are based on understanding, respect and acceptance it is through this that love happens. A relationship based on compromise or subjugation can not be sustained and will not survive. Transformation must also be mutual otherwise it becomes one sided and is a form of subjugation. Subjugation does not create relationships it perpetuates opression.
Transformation must also be based on achieving equality. Today in our consumption of the earth’s resources itself there is criminal inequality. Some nations and societies have so much and waste so much that it is a sin and then there are nations and societies who live amongst such scarcity and poverty that it is inhuman and unimaginable. But we have conditioned ourself to be oblivious to it. We exist in our own comfort zone and have insulated ourselves to the suffering of humanity in another country, continent or of another race. Our collective conscience is aroused only when we see pictures of the infant Alan Kurdi’s dead body washed up on a beach, or images of the vulture stalking the skeleton of the Ethiopian child dying of starvation due to a man made famine, even then our collective outrage about such horrifying occurrences is short lived. As long as these tragedies happen in other nations other continents other races we remain unmoved. When we are so uncaring how honest is it to talk about inclusiveness?
We are now on the verge of self destruction caused by our own greed and self serving nature. We can change, we must change, if we change individually, one at a time. We need a ‘Me First’ movement of transformation. this world has been given to us to hold in trust for the future and it is our responsibility to ensure that when it is time to hand over this world to future generations we give it, if not better, definitely not worse than what was given to us. An Indian philosopher saint Kabeer has said, ‘Jheeni Jheeni Bini Chadariya, Das Kabeer Jatan Kari Odhi, Jyon ki tyon dhar deeni chadariya.’ It means ‘ delicate very delicately woven is the cloth of life, The servant Kabeer draped it with care and when it came time to hand it back ensured that it was as it had been gifted to him.’
For this to happen we must create a just, inclusive and understanding world of equality, of frugality, consuming enough for sustenance, not indulgence. Gandhi said ‘Nature provides enough for everyone’s needs but cannot provide for anyone’s greed’. In every aspect we must become consumers by need and not by greed.
To transform humanity we must begin with children, they are the inheritors off the world, education is what will empower our children to become capable of inheriting the world and holding it in trust for the future. Today education instils selfishness, instils the habit of self seeking, becoming an uninhibited consumer. Education will have to change, become more enlightening not merely a method of transfer of knowledge. But medium of enlightenment. A fountain of learning.
We as individuals will have to obey our responsibilities not just our rights but our duties too. And perform them to the best of our abilities and with honesty. There are many examples of civil society bringing about a transformation for the better but its not enough, much more is required we must form a global collective of good intentions and individually strive for collective success.
Anuradha Bhosale, was forced into becoming a child labourer because of the poverty her family was enslaved by. Through dint of hard work and some benefactors, Anuradha educated herself and is today heading an organisation AVANI in Kolhapur a city South of Mumbai. Anuradha has rescued more than 5 thousand children forced into hazardous labour and susceptible to exploitation and has rehabilitated them and is providing education, nourishment and security to them and making them aware of their rights. This is the kind of transformation that matters. More than organisation it requires a commitment passion and responsibility.
Ila Bhatt was a Union Leader, she started working with women who worked as rag pickers and started organising them, from it was born a collective of women SEWA, Self Employed Women’s Association, a union of women. Today SEWA is a Nation wide Bank Of women, By Women and For women. SEWA has economically and socially transformed millions of women in India and in scores off countries across four continents and is one of the fastest growing collective of women globally empowering women and bringing about a transformation in their lives and their societies. There are many like Anuradha and Ilaben, individuals and organisations, but much and many more are required urgently.
Today we have a surfeit of self serving ‘Me and only Me’ Leaders, we need selfless servers, servants of humanity, in the service of the needy. Not for Me and I, but for Us and All. Our greed has put life at peril. Since we have placed it in jeopardy only we will be able to save it, conserve it.
Cultures have more often than not created conflicts and strife, because cultures have always fallen prey to superiority and supremacy, My way has always been thought to be the better one. We must bring about a culture of nonviolence and peace. We must create a culture of understanding, accepting and respecting our difference, a culture of justice, peace and compassion, only then true transformation will occur. We must create a humanity which holds life as a trust and us as its trustees. Time, talent and ability along with wealth must be held and used in trust for a better present and future, beyond the borders of nation, beyond regions, race and religions, we must create a system of compassionate commerce and benevolent governance. Global village and exclusive sovereignty are mutually contradictory concepts and in today’s time are unsustainable. Humanity, if it is to survive will have to become compassionately inclusive, equal and just, the responsibility of achieving this is ours, individually.
In 1930 on the eve of breaking the Salt Tax imposed by the British. A Canadian journalist asked Gandhi if he had a message for the world. Gandhi’s message to the world was ‘I want world sympathy in this battle of right against might’. Today too, the battle of right against might is waged around the world, we must unite in sympathy and solidarity in all such battles, not remain mute spectators to rights being trampled, denied and persecuted.
The UN must become more equal and less subserviant, only then can it become a truly inclusive grouping of nations an organisation serving humanity and life compassionately and humbly, equality and justice must become its creed, it is not today.
I repeat, A trust for Life must be formed which is beyond parochial nationhood, beyond race and religion based on understanding, compassion, trust, justice and equality for all. And all of us must become its trustees, its servants.
If we change individually the result will be a global transformation but it must start with ‘Me First’.