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How relevant is Mahatma Gandhi's binary, zero sum beliefs in today's world?
According to Mahatma Gandhi there are seven deadly social sins and they are politics without principles, wealth without work, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, education without character, science without humility and worship without sacrifice.

Before I analyse each one separately let me discuss whether the world is improving its lot or is it heading towards darkness. In other words is it, as per Hindu beliefs, an age of winning; Krta yuga or an age of loosing; Kali yuga?  The answer to this question is that till date on the issues about rights, freedom and dignity, the world as a whole and in totality is improving as per the written history of anthropocene, though according to Hinduism, whose follower Gandhi was, the present age is the age of Loosing.

The moralists and ethicists would point towards the downward trends in the righteousness and morality, rise in diverse and alternative sexual activities, corruption, violence, criminality and the list is indeed very long.

But the fact is that humans have also made great scientific and technological advancement since nineteenth century; good enough for them to survive, if continued, as long as the relevant laws permit. All major religions of the world were taught in relatively low conscious era and they were the need of different times. They helped believers develop higher consciousness and by distinguishing between ‘us’ and ‘they’, religions lead to competition, production and consumption, sometimes healthy, sometimes not so.

Religions helped a lot in gluing heterogeneous and diverse people and they are equally relevant even today to be one of the guides in deciding the future course of evolution. But then materialism is as much required because with time, consciousness, genetics, biology, senses, behaviour, libido and ids etc all change and one needs to be updated with it. Some of the changes are positive and required while others are not so. Religious principles, if properly applied, can help humans decide and filter the right options.

Now lets discus about each of the sevens sins, one by one in the same order.

There just cannot be politics without principles no matter what those principles are and what the flavors of political discourse are. Simply because one does not agree with others’ political opinion does not mean that except him and his likings all others are wrong. What would Gandhi think about Republicans and Democrats? He could hardly have ever agreed with Republicans though they also supported India’s freedom from the Britishers.

It does not mean that there should not be absolute standards but relativism also matters. If one preaches tolerance then diversity of the views should also be appreciated and accepted. Again, it should not lead to appreciating holocaust, civil strife, violence and their likes because of absurd emphasis on relativism and related consistency.

There are very few, who can generate wealth without work. People need to be statistics and data conscious. Now if the movies; particularly Bollywood movies are to be believed then, generally speaking, rich people are not studious at all. This is not true. Rich people as a group are, frankly speaking more intelligent and more careful than others. They are the most updated people on earth. Richness should be appreciated by all and so should be wealth generators.     

Nowadays proper trade requires treaties, derived institutions and relevant structures. Morality many times come by following laws though not always. While relating commerce with morality, probably Gandhi was talking about the caste Vish but that had nothing to do with the rest of the globe. Moreover, in the present complex times even the traditional Vish communities in India are trying to become modern and updated.

Feeling and happening pleasure does not necessarily require heeding to conscience but if it is consistent with decent laws of time then it is still better than overt wildness. It is even better if the feeling and enjoying pleasure is accompanied by concerns about others, though that should not be binding on majority as a rule.

Educated people have to be responsible and accountable. I think that usage of word character is outdated, culture-specific and very Eastern. It does not have to be universally true in the same sense for all people. Moreover, even today the West is the major source of almost all innovations. Worse still, the world is increasingly becoming more dependent on it despite of the growing vocal nationalism.

Science does not require humility in order to find facts and probe this Universe and beyond, if one exists. One has to be precise and up to the point, rational and objective and does not have to bow down before the authority of nature. Humans shall have to conquer nature in order to survive the longest possible time and highly correlated co-evolution is not always possible. No society and culture would wait for others to bridge the gap and co-evolve in phase.

Worshiping without any kind of sacrifice is also possible if materialism is accompanied by decency. This is a world where a win-win situation, above zero-sum game, for many are possible; one just have to be consumerist, selfish and considerate.

Gandhi also said the following:

“When every hope is gone, 'when helpers fail and comforts flee,' I find that help arrives somehow, from I know not where. Supplication, worship, prayer are no superstition; they are acts more real than the acts of eating, drinking, sitting or walking. It is no exaggeration to say that they alone are real, all else is unreal.”

This is an extreme example of self-denial and tells at the ascetic nationalism that Gandhi taught to Indians of his time. Gandhi was just following the asceticism and renunciation that Krishna preached during his time. Gandhi’s age was different and he should have been rather comfortable with consumption. Though Indians followed him blindly but they did it so because the level of consciousness was still low as compared to present time and a significant majority among them at that time was illiterate.

What Gandhi believed were mostly Manichean beliefs and he emphasized too much on zero-sum game and saturating fatalistic theories. All those concepts may be outdated and things of the past now. But one thing that needs to be emphasized is that religions are indeed great ideas and Gods the best creations ever for each society. All should try to continue the traditions and religious practices as much as they are possible.

If modern societies can evolve in-phase keeping religions with them, then it is excellent. But again aiming to survive for the maximum possible duration is the best theory and is the most required in present times. So are selfishness and solipsism. But sure, one should be careful before senselessly copying the Western principles. Gandhi is hardly postmodern but he is indeed a great Hindu.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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Now that Gandhian Economics has been given good-buy, we must modernise ourselves.This is the era of computerisation and software computerised machines are going to replace the heavy machines. The emphasis has shifted from hardware to software. Taking note of this, we must go in for development of software computerised machines in a big way. For this, we need a great deal of Research and Development in Information Technology (IT). Fortunately, we have a large workforce in IT. We must utilise this workforce in a big way and export our software engineering manpower. Secondly, we must change from non-renewable sources of energy of which we have acute dearth to renewable sources of energy like solar energy, wind energy and sea power. We must also change from building big dams to small dams which can be built in a shorter period of time and can give rapid results. These small dams would also be more security-oriented. Most of our land is unirrigated and we have to depend on rains. We must irrigate all our land by harvesting rain water in a big way and by utilising desalinated sea water by setting up more and more desalination plants. These plants would also give us potable water which would be safe for drinking. At present, we have only one plant at Chennai. We should also go in for interlinking of the rivers to see to it that all our land is irrigated. We must not depend on chemical fertilisers but replace them by bio-chemical fertilisers and in place of chemical pesticides, we should go in for bio-pesticides. We must do a lot of Research and Development in agriculture to push our agricultural growth. We also have to strengthen our economic system by doing more and more Research and Development in import substitution so that we export more and import less so that balance of payment is in our favour. We must strengthen our macro-economic system. More importantly, we need to become honest and shun corruption so that we do not deal in black money and need currency for each transaction but do every transaction on-line to save the need for printing a lot of currency. This way, we can really develop our nation.
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