The fog from jetlag/sickness is lifting, so I’m finally ready to dig into my memories (and notes!) for blogging.
During my time in India, I visited two sites connected to Mahatma Gandhi: his temporary residence in Delhi where he lived the final weeks of his life before being assassinated in 1948 and his permanent residence in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Gandhi was a complicated man, and his way with words continues to resonate with anyone seeking possibilities for addressing the woes of society. Poverty. Injustice. Prejudice. Unmitigated control.
The museum that has been established in Delhi is particularly powerful. Dioramas depicting the phases of Gandhi’s life line the entryway before opening up into a series of hallways filled with biographical sketches, photos, and other memorabilia.
I was drawn to one commentary focusing on “The Journalist Gandhi” including a quote from one of many writings by Gandhi in Indian Opinion:
Gandhi writes, “In the very first month of Indian Opinion, I realized that the sole aim of journalism should be service. The newspaper press is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges whole country sides [sic] and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only when exercised from within. If this line of reasoning is correct, how many of the journals in the world would stand the test? But who would stop those that are useless? The useful and the useless must, like good and evil generally, go on together, and man must make his choice.” (June 9, 1907)
My first thought upon reading Gandhi’s words was how Gandhi would respond to the onslaught of useless information splayed 24/7 across television, the Internet, and a plethora of other media outlets in 2013. He’d be appalled.
For Gandhi, control from “within” refers to the human spirit, the soul of the writer/man. Control from “without” means listening to naysayers, politicians and pundits whose views are accessible and familiar–but without merit.
In the same article in June 1907, Gandhi also expressed his decision to take up a journalist’s pen: “I have taken up journalism, not for its own sake but mainly as an aid to what I have conceived to be my mission in life.” Those words gave me chills, as I’m sure they would for anyone who writes to make sense of the world.