Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fragment 709

Gandhi said:

They may beat me, they may break my bones, they may even kill me. But then they will only have my dead body. They will not have my obedience.

Admirable sentiments indeed, but only if one assumes that ‘they’ share the same universe of moral absolutes, that ‘they’ in fact want or even care about my obedience. In reality, however, ‘they’ are probably quite happy to have my dead body. After all, as far as ‘they’re’ concerned, living or dead I merely represent an inconvenience, not the other half in a mythical struggle of values. Dead bodies are simply more easy to get rid of, and what good is my continued resistance to me once I am dead?


yarb said...

It depends who you are; there is such a thing as martyrdom. But in general, yes: Gandhi-style posturing is irrelevant.

Murr said...

Martyrdom -death in the service of a religion - is of course the ultimate irrelevance, the totally useless sacrifice par excellence.

James said...

What good is life to me if I am not true to my principles? For Gandhi it was the same as Socrates who, true to his principles drank the hemlock. Neither depended on their opponents' sharing their moral vision. It is a vision, however, that lives still today.

Murr said...

Yes, excellent point.
However, Gandhi was urging his vision on others as a way to defeat 'them', to redress social and political injustices. He saw non-violence as a tool in the struggle. As such, I think it's a useless tool and the attempt is anyway doomed to failure.

Socrates's principles were not of this nature. They were not tools in a struggle, but rather paths to individual enlightenment. He specifically did not urge his views on anyone else.


James said...

Your view of Gandhi is compelling although vitiated somewhat by the continuing success of democratic India.
I prefer to view both thinkers through a more idealistic lens.