I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any
– Mohandas K Gandhi
Today when the whole country is talking about FDI and Walmarts, there comes a big Irony.
It seems ironic that world wide anti-globalisation movements often portray Gandhi as someone who shared the same side of the ideological spectrum, when Gandhi himself was clearly a product of globalization. He was educated in London, started his political activities in South Africa before he even joined the political arena in India and was greatly influenced by western figures such as Jesus, Tolstoy, Thoreau and Ruskin. Gandhi himself identifies globalisation as an ancient phenomenon, whereby he claimed that it was not a bigger threat to India as various races starting from the Greeks and Huns to the British had invaded India but ended up being a part of the nation. He believed that the mingling of cultures in India would not be a threat to India’s own customs and culture. However, he did identify that the establishment of a global society would carry certain dangers for the sovereign nations such as colonialism, both cultural and political, industrialisation and commercialisation of the economy leading to class antagonism and environmental hazards. Today, we see many of those problems emerge clearly in our lives and hence, Gandhi’s relationship with globalization remains extremely important and his ideas valid even today.
Gandhi’s movements to earn rights for Indians through strictly non-violent movements both in South Africa and India have been an invaluable component of the globalisation of the civil rights movement. There is little doubt that the civil rights movement in the USA in the 1960s led by ‘one of the greatest American leaders of our time’ was the echo of ‘the forces unleashed by Gandhi in 1930s’. The strict adherence to non-violent means by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., despite various provocations, portrays the depth of Gandhian beliefs in the American Negroes’ civil rights movement. At the risk of oversimplification, we can claim that it was Gandhian ideology that prevented this movement to turn into another West Bank.
The Gandhian satyagraha was also adopted in South Africa firstly by the Natal Indian Congress and later personified by Nelson Mandela. In this age of violence, many of the most important civil rights movements throughout the world have been remarkably Gandhian in practice. The most notable ones include the Iranian Revolution of 1978-9, overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and pro-democracy movements in Nepal, Indonesia, Burma, Taiwan, Thailand, and South Korea. The recent revolution in Georgia is another example of non-violent populist powers prevailing over a minority elite. These movements have often met with violent resistance, as in Tienanmen Square, yet haven’t changed their own nature.