Today I have a quick read for your consideration.
The late Richard Grenier – a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, foreign correspondent, movie script-writer and syndicated columnist – wrote a slender volume (originally published in 1983) entitled The Gandhi Nobody Knows. This survey of Gandhi’s beliefs and political activities came out in the wake of, and as an attempted antidote to, the hagiographical movie produced and directed by Sir Richard Attenborough. It is a fact-based dash of cold water thrown in the faces of those who have come to see Gandhi “as a kind of Indian St. Francis of Assissi.”
To take just one example of the gap between the reality of the actual life, and the plaster saint depicted in the movie, there is Gandhi’s adherence to non-violence:
It is something of an anomaly that Gandhi, held in popular myth to be a pure pacifist (a myth which governments of India have always been at great pains to sustain in the belief that it will reflect credit on India itself, and to which the present movie adheres slavishly), was until fifty not ill-disposed to war at all. As I have already noted, in three wars, no sooner had the bugles sounded than Gandhi not only gave his support, but was clamoring for arms. To form new regiments! To fight! To destroy the enemies of empire! Regular Indian army units fought in both the Boer War and World War I, but this was not enough for Gandhi. He wanted to raise new troops, even, in the case of the Boer and Kaffir Wars, from the tiny Indian colony in South Africa…There is much more, pertaining to other aspects of Gandhi’s life, such as his obsession with bowel movements, his “monstrous behavior to his own family”, his call for the Jews of Europe to submit meekly to Hitler’s genocide, and the striking lack of consistency that led this critic of modern technology and advocate of an idyllic village life to hand-pick “as the first Prime Minister of an independent India Pandit Nehru, who was committed to a policy of industrialization and for whom the last word in the politic-economic organization of the state was (and remained) Beatrice Webb.”
But it is not widely realized (nor will this film tell you) how much violence was associated with Gandhi’s so-called “nonviolent” movement from the very beginning. India’s Nobel Prize-winning poet, Rabindranath Tagore, had sensed a strong current of nihilism in Gandhi almost from his first days, and as early as 1920 wrote of Gandhi’s “fierce joy of annihilation,” which Tagore feared would lead India into hideous orgies of devastation – which ultimately proved to be the case.
Also quite fascinating, and refreshing, is Grenier’s introduction, in which he unapologetically expresses his belief in the superiority of liberal democracy.
I at no time, for even the blink of an eye, have ever admired Moscow, Havana or Hanoi. I have been given the red carpet treatment in totalitarian countries, been fed caviar and driven about in luxurious government limousines, but for some reason it has never taken. I have also been treated less ceremoniously, being arrested by Soviet paratroops during the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968. But for all the courtesy shown me by these paratroopers (not shooting me, for example), and despite unrelenting efforts on my part to keep my mind open, I have found all the societies I have visited frankly inferior to our own.There are some choice observations on the political fallacies of our intelligentsia, too, like the woman who told the author that “socialism ‘really works in North Korea’”, and the person who, when challenged by Grenier to name a society superior to our own, “just to set a standard of comparison,” suggested Angola.
This is a small volume (only 118 pages), but it contains much food for thought.