Sunday, April 17, 2005

Gandhi, A real straight shooter

Politics: Sylvester Brown of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tries to weasel his way out of Instapundit and his readers blasting him for saying he didn't recalls speeches by President Bush about bringing democracy to the Middle East. So Brown goes America doesn't have the moral authority to spread democracy and ends up quoting Gandhi.

"This is a country that 40 years ago restricted the right to vote, use public facilities or eat in restaurants to some of its citizens. It's a country with a long-standing record of supporting autocratic regimes and dictatorships and overthrowing democratically elected government officials around the world. When did the United States become the chief exporter of democracy to the Arab world? Sorry, bloggers. When it comes to regime change and nation-building, I can't follow the wisdom of Bush and his crew. I lean more toward the words of a real straight shooter, Mohandas Gandhi: "The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within."

It is interesting he pulls the Gandhi card since Gandhi himself had an attitude towards blacks that mirrors the feelings of America 40 years ago. If America is not good enough to spread democracy because of its past, then neither was Gandhi.

Guardian: "But critics have attacked the gesture for overlooking racist statements attributed to Gandhi, which suggest he viewed black people as lazy savages who were barely human. Newspapers continue to publish letters from indignant readers: "Gandhi had no love for Africans. To [him], Africans were no better than the 'Untouchables' of India," said a correspondent to The Citizen. Others are harsher, claiming the civil rights icon "hated" black people and ignored their suffering at the hands of colonial masters while championing the cause of Indians. Unveiled this month, the statue stands in Gandhi Square in central Johannesburg, not far from the office from which he worked during some of his 21 years in South Africa. The British-trained barrister was supposed to have been on a brief visit in 1893 to represent an Indian company in a legal action, but he stayed to fight racist laws after a conductor kicked him off a train for sitting in a first-class compartment reserved for whites. Outraged, he started defending Indians charged with failing to register for passes and other political offences, founded a newspaper, and formed South Africa's first organised political resistance movement. His tactics of mobilising people for passive resistance and mass protest inspired black people to organise and some historians credit Gandhi as the progenitor of the African National Congress, which formed in 1912, two years before he returned to India to fight British colonial rule. However, the new statue has prompted bitter recollections about some of Gandhi's writings. Forced to share a cell with black people, he wrote: "Many of the native prisoners are only one degree removed from the animal and often created rows and fought among themselves." He was quoted at a meeting in Bombay in 1896 saying that Europeans sought to degrade Indians to the level of the "raw kaffir, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness". The Johannesburg daily This Day said GB Singh, the author of a critical book about Gandhi, had sifted through photos of Gandhi in South Africa and found not one black person in his vicinity.

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