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Gandhi's view on western civilization - Essay Example

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Gandhi’s view on western civilization. Mohandas Gandhi wrote his famous book Hind Swaraj Or Indian Home Rule in 1908. This is a time when the British were at the height of their military and economic power, and were in control of India. Inside India many people were beginning to resist this colonial power, and this resulted in terrible uprisings in which many people were killed when the British used firearms to quell the rebellion…
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Gandhis view on western civilization
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Download file to see previous pages The phrase “Home Rule” is an English explanation of the previous word “swaraj” which is in the Gujarati language and means the self-rule of the people, both as individuals and as local communities, free from the rule of the British. Gandhi rejects the idea that western countries are civilized and India is not. Things which are treasured in the west, like technology and high levels of education are seen as being only good for the rich because they never reach the poor, and even when they are used in poor areas, the poor people suffer from them. One example he uses is the way that machinery takes away the jobs of the poorest people: “Machinery is the chief symbol of civilization; it represents a great sin.” (Chapter 19, page 63) He compares machinery to “a snake-hole which may contain from one to a hundred snakes” (Chapter 19, page 64) He sees the negative effects of modern scientific progress and argues for a more human and less extreme kind of progress that takes account of the needs of all the people, and not just the profits of the wealthy industrialists. There is one thing missing in western civilisation, when it is seen from an Indian point of view, and that is the spiritual or moral dimension. Christianity was seen as part of the conquering colonial culture, and Gandhi prefers the gentle way of Hindu morality, which stresses individual conduct in harmony with society and the world around. He sees western civilization as pure materialism: “Many problems can be solved by remembering that money is their God…They wish to convert the whole world into a vast market for their goods.” (Chapter 13, page 32) In contrast, the concept of duty is important to Indians, and Gandhi links this with his idea of what civilization should be: “Civilisation is that mode of conduct which points out to a man the path of duty” (Chapter 13, page 45) Gandhi uses the dialog form to debate issues, since the two speakers ask each other questions and answers them, showing two sides to every argument. This approach uses reason to show how harmful western civilization is. Another method is to use images and parables from Indian culture which illustrate the dangerous nature of western people and ideas, for example: “When a tiger changes his nature, Englishmen will change theirs.” (Chapter 4, page 25). Some of this danger is a moral danger: “the Mother of Parliaments is like a sterile woman and a prostitute.” (Chapter 4, page 27) The power of western civilization is called a vortex which hypnotizes people and draws them in (Chapter 4, page 29). Gandhi argues that the concept of civilization that the western nations have is not healthy for the people, and mechanized industry allows great exploitation of workers so that “Their condition is worse than that of beasts” (Chapter 4, page 30) The provision of material goods in huge quantities is described as a form of slavery, because people toil to get them, but they have to endure terrible working conditions to get even a tiny portion of them. Other words describing modern westernized civilization are “monster” (Chapter 8, page 33); “cursed” (Chapter 13, page 46); and “godless.” (Chapter 13, page 46) Some of criticisms of western civilization are very harsh, for example he notes that Muslims call it “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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