Unraveling the secrets of civilization
(An account of Mahathma Gandhi on the effects of his South African experiences)
It is obvious that an ancient and living civilization must have something vital within, which nourishes its growth. It is also not far, to see that a lot of things go together in the making of a group of men who sustain this vitality spanning generations. To find out that something, is the most arduous of all tasks. A careful study of the lives of men who influenced their times, may give some clue to the secrets behind the make-up of such people. Then again the choice of the true representative of the civilization under inquiry, poses its own difficulties. Fortunately, when such men talk about their sources of influences and their impact on the thinking, we are presented with the answers to our troubles on a platter.
The true account of a callow youth leaving the shores of his homeland in search of a livelihood, returning home some 25 years later to a hero's welcome, in itself cannot be a great material for our purpose. But, the story of the transformation of this insignificant young man of little endowments - a one time tongue tied lawyer who could hardly present his case in the courts of Bombay - into a force that galvanized a great mass of heterogeneous population into action against mighty powers, should provide us with the answers we seek. This record of his early days in a hostile alien land, with nobody to count as help, carrying the struggle all alone for his ignorant country men, against an all powerful Sovereign Authority backed by its dominant residents, opens the window for us to see, how great civilizations replenish themselves, time and again.
Millenniums old civilizations retain their relevance through constant review of their values by men of caliber. M.K.Gandhi, who became Mahathma (Great Soul), writes about his experiences in South Africa early in his life in this book. And these understandings formed the foundation of his philosophies, political and social, later in his life in shaping his actions and guiding his country men.
The old civilization acquired new meaning and substance. Religious harmony, international brotherhood, constructive co-operation amongst divergent groups, peaceful means of resistance against all forms of oppressions, conservation of resources, economic independence of marginalized communities, standing up for the rights of individual without hindrance to the common good and other such ideas crystallized during his experiments in South Africa. From the first hand description of the evolution of these philosophies, we can identify the process of the constant review of values that we spoke of earlier.
Especially his encounters with the brutal authorities, the appalling conditions of his fellow men, constraints faced in the execution of his mission, hostile atmosphere and the not so conducive world opinion that he had to tackle, all of them added together in making his task hopelessly difficult. The only ray of hope that shone on him was the collective wisdom of centuries of civilized thought, constantly honed by the exchange and interaction of ideas between nations. Vedas and Epics of his native India, preaching of Prophet Mohamed and Jesus Christ, Works of Ruskin and Tolstoy and such Western minds, supplied him with the materials to work out his course. The inherent good nature of humanity sustained his hopes. The ultimate success is of the Civilization.
This must read quality of book, is titled: SATYAGRAHA IN SOUTH AFRICA
Author: M.K.Gandhi (Original written in Gujarathi)
Translated into English by: VALJI GOVINDHI DESAI
Published by: NAVAJIVAN PUBLISHING HOUSE, AHMEDABAD – 380014, INDIA