“Progress without exploitation”–Daily Metta

October 5:

gandhi-21“All motion is not progress. We have no reason to believe that the people of Europe are progressing.”

–Gandhi (Young India, February 11, 1920)

The movement for localism–swadeshi–in the Free India Struggle had an enormous purpose at its core: to deracinate exploitation itself, especially as it manifests through the unfettered accumulation of material wealth. Not your run of the mill sort of progress, is it? (Pun noted.) It seemed to always be on his mind, from providing ways and means to engage the constructive angle of swadeshi, to deconstructing the so-called glamour and glitter of the West. He would say time and again, and I paraphrase, “But why should we want to be like the Europeans? Why can we not be ourselves? I think we are a great people without imitating the British,” etc. While they were admiring the British’s power, they were nonetheless aware that it had suffering at its source–including, but not limited to, their own.

There’s a very telling story from his career in that regard. Gandhiji was approached by a British official who asked him, “Once India gains her independence, how long will it take her to reach Britain’s standard of living?” Gandhi responded carefully: “It took Britain half the globe’s resources to reach its current standard of living. How many globes will it take India to reach Britain’s standard of living?” A response to shatter the illusion that such wealth can materialize without exploitation, not to mention the violence needed to enforce it. Basically he was rejecting what some might think had made Europe so great in the first place, its materialism at any cost to others. From this angle, through Gandhi’s eyes, Western claims to “progress” seem to be little more than hyperbole bordering on, if not flat out acting as, cultural and economic propaganda.

And so he puts it to us here, “All motion is not progress,” adding that there seemed to be no sign of meaningful progress in “moral or spiritual values” which he felt was the real strength of the Indian civilization, whose ancients declared, ahimsa paramo dharma, nonviolence is the highest law.


Experiment in Nonviolence:
Visualize a world without exploitation. What is one thing you can do today to contribute positively toward that vision?