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Will the USA Continue to be a Democracy?

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by Vijaya Chandrasoma

The much vaunted constitution of the USA was written and ratified in the late 18th century by white colonists, when the United States consisted of 13 Southern “colonies”. An era of white supremacy when slavery was legal and taken for granted. The Founding Fathers framed the constitution with ironclad clauses to ensure the perpetual dominance of white supremacists over black slaves and the few native Americans they had neglected to kill in the most comprehensive genocide in history.

The US constitution is globally hailed as a model to be emulated by any nation with aspirations of democratic governance. However, the original constitution was framed with democratic principles to benefit only a section of its population, which defies the very definition of the ideology.

Changes in the structure of American society and its diversity have been recognized over the past 200 years, and the constitution amended to accommodate these changes. African men are now deemed to be 100% human. Blacks are allowed to study and work in the same schools and workplaces as their white counterparts, and even allowed to drink from the same water fountains.

More progressive reforms, like access to contraception, reproductive freedom for women, homosexuality, interracial and gay marriage have been legalized in recent times by the Supreme Court. However, these rulings can be reversed, depending on the political opinions of the current president and/or the ruling party in Congress. As was proved by the recent reversal, in the face of national furore, of women’s reproductive freedom, which had been the law of the land since 1973.

There are a few clauses in the constitution which have not kept up with changing times and traditions, and remain entrenched in a different era. The most undemocratic of these is the Electoral College. The original clause was designed so that the Electoral College “would keep misinformed/poorly educated people from making a mistake and choosing the wrong president”.

These guard-rails to ensure that the presidency would be available only to a specified section of the people – the very antithesis of the Great Experiment of democracy – was betrayed in 2008. American voters had suffered a temporary episode of political amnesia, making white supremacists lower their guard. The unthinkable happened. A black man slipped through the cracks of the Electoral College and was elected to the White House.

The President and the Vice President of the United States of America are not, as in every other democracy, elected by all its voters. These posts are filled not by the candidate who wins the national popular vote, but by the winners of the “Electors” of the 50 individual states.The Electoral College presently consists of 538 Electors, composed of 435 members of the House of Representatives, 100 members of the Senate and three for the national capital of Washington D.C.

The inequities behind this method of election are obvious. The Senate is represented by two Senators of each of the 50 states, regardless of population and racial diversity. Wyoming, with an almost exclusively white population of 580,000, is represented by two Senators, as is California, with a racially diverse population of 39 million. Vermont, with a similar white electorate of 620,000, gets two Senators, as does nearby New York, with an ethnically diverse population of 19 million. These are just two examples of electoral inequity. There are many others.

The House of Representatives is also under-represented for minorities through gerrymandering, the manipulation of boundaries of electoral constitutional districts to favour one party or class.Also, the winner-take-all approach of the system, where the candidate who wins a majority in a state wins all its votes submitted to the Electoral College, nullifies the votes cast for the losing candidate in that state.

President Obama transformed a deepening recession caused by the Bush administration into a booming economy within two years into his presidency, translating into 72 months of economic growth before the end of his two terms in 2016. And achieved it, to the growing resentment of white supremacists, with the minimum of drama and the maximum of an efficient, scandal-free administration of the highest integrity.

President Obama’s election brought to the surface the deep racial hatred which had been seething beneath the surface over the years. The fact that a brilliant, highly qualified African American had been elected with wide support of traditional conservatives and independents was of no relevance in the racist minds of the radical right. Supported by billionaires and corporations, they took immediate steps to ensure that such an “abhorrence” will never happen again.

The Electorate College, representing the Sword of Damocles that had been poised over the democracy of the nation, finally fell in 2016. A white man once again assumed the presidency. Tradition was restored. “God had returned to His heaven, all was right with the (white) world”.

Five previous presidents have been elected with a minority popular vote in the history of the USA. The last one, Donald Trump, elected in 2016, best illustrates the democratic anomaly of the Electoral College.

Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 with a 302/236 majority in the Electoral College, but a 2.8 million deficit in the popular vote. He was elected with the financial support of billionaires and corporations, and the social media help of his Russian buddies, who could depend on a puppet in the White House to carry out Putin’s bidding.

Trump also brought to the White House a Molotov cocktail of narcissism, incredible ignorance, racist cruelty, a past of sexual crimes, money laundering, fraud and bankruptcy, a complete disregard for anyone else but himself, and the vocabulary of a third grader. Strangely, these “qualifications” won for him a cultish sycophancy of the white supremacist majority of the Republican Party, including his erstwhile presidential rivals.

All Trump had to do win a second term in 2020 was to coast on the successes of his predecessor, from whom he had inherited a booming economy of 72 months’ growth with record low unemployment figures. Successes which he predictably and falsely claimed as his own creation.

He further delighted the hearts and minds of his sponsors with an immediate tax cut of over a trillion dollars which almost entirely benefited the ultra-wealthy. The corporations were kept happy with the removal of most of the regulations enacted to ensure that corporate pollution would not be allowed to destroy the purity of the air we breathe and the water we drink, and exacerbate the clear and present dangers of climate change. And Putin was rewarded with a slavish relationship much to the derision of the world.

Then the Coronavirus hit, and exposed Trump’s total incompetence in leadership. His criminal mismanagement of the spread of Covid 19 was responsible for hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths.

Had he behaved like a normal human being, and heeded the advice of epidemiologists and economists on containing the virus and mitigating its effects on the economy, he would not only have saved hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths, he would have won his second term in 2020. Without the constraints of a subsequent election, he would then have had unfettered freedom to achieve his dictatorial ambitions and the establishment of a Trump dynasty in perpetuity.

But he didn’t. His corruption and incompetence cost him the election in 2020, when he was trounced by President Joe Biden by a landslide in both the Electoral College and the popular vote. American democracy surely dodged a bullet.

True to form, Trump refuses to concede his defeat, and took 60 cases alleging election fraud to the courts, including the Supreme Court with his hand-picked majority. All were thrown out for lack of evidence. He continues to parrot his big lie that the election was stolen, a lie believed by 50% of the Republican Party.

His last desperate attempt to overturn the 2020 election, was by inciting his thugs to storm the Capitol, where Congress was in session to formally declare the presidency of Joe Biden. A purely constitutional and ceremonial function, which also was defeated. An act of sedition that will probably see him in the Big House.

With the midterms looming in November, the Democrats are lagging behind. President Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted amid an economic downturn, with a 40-year high in inflation. These ratings threaten the small majorities Democrats enjoy in Congress in the midterms.

However, Trump’s corruption and crimes have made his political acolytes vulnerable in the midterms and the presidential elections of 2024. Recent revelations from the public hearings of the Congressional Committee investigating into the insurrection of January 6, 2021 indicate that hard-core Republicans of Trump’s Party are losing their stranglehold on moderate conservatives. Although it is still likely that the Republican Party will wrest the majorities in both Houses in the midterms, there is hope that many of the elected Republican members of Congress will not be Trump acolytes.

The 2024 presidential election will be pivotal in the fate of American democracy. Trump is still the Republican front runner, but it is likely that he will be prevented from running as his seditious role in the January 6 coup is being conclusively proved. The Republican front runners then will be the equally authoritarian Florida Governor de Santis and former Vice President Pence, whose chances increase as Trump’s fade.

If Trump defies the odds and wins a second term, or if one of his Republican think alikes, like de Santis, wins the presidency, that will signal the end of democracy in the USA. New voter restrictions, backed by state legislatures and the current Supreme Court, will usher in an era of theocratic autocracy, which will give the elected Republican president the powers and tenure for life of a Putin or a Xi Jinping.

The only chance for America to regain its reputation and the mantle of the Leader of the Free World, is to have a moderate, Republican or Democratic, win the presidency in 2024.

President Biden has brought back decency and integrity to the White House. But he will be 82 years old in 2024. He has indicated that he will run, but would be ill-advised to do so. In fact, 75% of the Party does not want him to run. The likely alternative candidates for the Democratic nomination will be Vice President Kamala Harris and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. A few others are bound to emerge in the coming months.

There is a viable third alternative. A true conservative who believes in free elections and the rule of law will also fit the bill. The numbers of such conservatives are increasing as the investigations of the January 6 coup prove the seditious complicity of Trump’s MAGA base.

These are genuine conservatives of the pre-Trump mould, who supported Trump’s conservative policies, but despise his seditious attempts to illegally and violently cling to power. In fact, much of the evidence against Trump on his role in the January 6 attempted coup has been provided by Republicans who had been loyal to him during his presidency.

The name that immediately comes to mind is Liz Cheney, the Deputy Chair of the Select Committee of the January 6 insurrection. She was a Trump supporter with an unblemished, pro-Trump voting record, a true conservative until the January 6 insurrection and attempted coup.

Attorney General Garland has repeatedly asserted his right to prosecute anybody, including Trump, provided that is where the evidence leads. He intends to “bring to justice everybody who was criminally responsible for interfering with the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another, which is the fundamental element of our democracy”.

If Trump is arrested and convicted, the thugs of his cult will resort to random violence in the streets. If he isn’t arrested, there will be protests throughout the nation. His principal role in inciting the January 6 insurrection, and doing nothing to stop the violence as it unfolded for over three hours, has been proven beyond any doubt.

As for the future, the threat to American democracy will not be permanently removed until the Electoral College is eliminated, and future Presidents and Vice Presidents are elected on the basis of the popular vote. American democracy will not survive another Trump.



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How energy sector shut its doors to the public

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by Moshahida Sultana Ritu

Earlier this month, the five percent electricity price hike and 78.2 percent gas price hike by the Energy and Mineral Resource Division raised concerns about the accountability of the government, and consumer rights. The December 2022 amendment of the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (Berc) Act 2003 empowered the government to set power and energy tariffs on its own under “special circumstances,” without a public hearing by the Berc. Before the amendment, any price hike proposals used to be considered by the Berc after a public hearing, during which residential consumers, businesspeople, bureaucrats, civil society members and rights-based organisations could express their opinions. Hence, there was at least a mechanism to invite public opinion. Now, the door has been closed to any discussion.

The amendment Bill was placed in Parliament on January 22 to be vetted, and will be passed in the next few days. The government is justifying the amendment by citing the present situation as an emergency period or special circumstance.

I would call this a textbook example of “regulatory capture.” George Stigler first introduced this term in the 1970s. Stigler argued that governments do not create a monopoly in industries unintentionally. Rather, they deliberately protect the interests of producers who capture the regulatory agency, and use regulations to inhibit competition. The result of such monopolies – in the name of liberalisation and competition – is often a transfer of public resources to private producers through price hikes, and at the expense of exorbitantly high social costs.

When electricity liberalisation began in the 1990s, electricity regulatory bodies were created in many countries to protect public interest. Regulatory bodies were seen as safeguards against uncontrolled market price hikes as private electricity producers intended to maximise profit. Following the global neoliberal trend, Bangladesh also established the Berc in 2003.

In the past, Berc, bestowed with the regulatory power to act in the public’s interest, set the tariff in ways that may have benefitted private power producers in different ways. But there was at least a mechanism of accountability, no matter how ineffective the role it played in protecting public interest. The recent decision of taking the power away from Berc and empowering the Energy and Mineral Resource Division to set prices reveals that the government does not feel the need to hear the public’s voice anymore. Even if they claim they care about public opinion, this is a sham statement.

Before the gas price hike in the industrial and commercial sectors, the media was flooded with the information that businesspeople were ready for a price hike because of the desperate need for gas to continue production. It may seem that the government has actually heard their voices and decided to increase gas prices so that LNG can be imported with the additional revenue. In reality, we are still in limbo about understanding how the government will pay the dollar amounts for imported LNG. Dwindling forex reserves have already brought up so many examples of our inability to pay for imported energy that it is difficult to understand how it will be used to meet essential import demands.

Because of dwindling forex reserves, not only has the import of LNG become uncertain, but so has the import of coal for Rampal and Matarbari power plants. Unless potential avenues are opened up to ensure an inflow of foreign currency, how will the government pay? The absence of new dollar-earning sources worries us. If there had been a public hearing regarding the recent gas and electricity price hikes, this question could have been discussed in public. Concerned citizens could have asked about the government’s plans.

The fact that the price of gas did not increase for residential users this time around gave off a false impression that the price hike would only affect businesses, and not residential users. The whole focus was put on the demands of industrialists, who have been endlessly suffering from a gas crisis. There is no doubt that their concerns need to be addressed. But how can we ignore the potential effects of the gas price hike on the power sector, which will ultimately impact the whole population?

Gas price hikes in the power sector will eventually put further upward pressure on electricity prices. Sooner or later, residential users will be affected. Besides, existing inflation will soar as a result of increased costs of production in industries. Eventually, all will be affected. But where and to whom do we pose this question?

Berc is no longer functional, although its functionality in the past was already questionable. Despite having the capacity, why was Bapex not given the responsibility to drill wells, and why was the Russian company Gazprom appointed to construct wells instead, at a cost three times higher than what Bapex had offered? Why were “gas funds” – created with revenue generated from previous price hikes and intended to be used for the development of local gas – loaned out to import LNG? Why did the government not utilise the gas funds to extract onshore and offshore gas?

For these answers, we used to wait for public hearings where activists, politicians, experts, and the Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB) could question the concerned authorities.

Now, with the excuse of a crisis, the government has decided to take decisions that are more non-transparent, more controversial, and less justifiable than ever before. Slamming the door on our queries is what the government has decided to do instead, with its December 2022 amendment to the Berc Act.

It is definitely telling that the phenomenon of “regulatory capture” has existed in the past in different forms when the process of power liberalisation started in Bangladesh in the 1990s. The independent power producers (IPPs) started to produce electricity at high costs, compared to publicly owned plants. Using the power crisis as its excuse, the government facilitated IPPs.

In the last three years, IPPs were paid nearly 60 percent of the capacity charges from the revenue earned from selling electricity. Similarly, when the Quick Enhancement of Electricity and Energy Supply (Special Provisions) Act 2010 (QEEES) was enacted, rental and quick rental power plants started operating by bypassing competitive bidding and selling electricity at exorbitantly high rates. Over the last 10 years, the capacity charges for private power plants has become so high that it exemplifies how private producers misused the QEEES Act to transfer public money in favour of private gains for rentals and quick rentals.

There is a sharp difference between past examples of regulatory capture (through the QEEES Act 2010 and Berc Act 2003) and the new form of regulatory capture (the December 2022 Berc Act 2003 amendment).

In previous instances of regulatory capture, preventing competition used to be justified with the excuse of crises and for “protecting the interest of the public”. The present “special circumstance” rationale does not recognise the social costs of price adjustment at all. The new form of regulatory capture only ensures producers’ interests by preventing public hearings.

How can the government ensure that a handful of people will take right decisions on behalf of thousands of inflation-affected people? How will we know what is happening behind closed doors?

The Daily Star/ANN

(Moshahida Sultana is associate professor at the Department of Accounting and Information Systems at Dhaka University.)

 

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S L – a cauldron of casualties and trouble

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Cassandra has stopped watching news at night for the sake of her wellbeing and peace of mind. Watching English news at 9.00 p m on a local channel caused her to toss and turn or wake up at the ungodly hour of 2.00 am to again toss and turn, but this time mentally with suppressed anger, frustration, and fear for the future surfacing and consequently inundating the mind with unease. Why all this? Because Sri Lankan news is always of protests, ministerial pontificating with next to nothing done to lift the country from rock bottom it has been thrust to; and violence, murders and drug hauls. All worrying issues. The present worry is spending 200 m on a celebration that most Ordinaries, the public Cass means, DO NOT Want.

What are the issues of the week just past? Hamlet’s disturbed and disturbing ‘To be or not to be’ twisted to ‘Will happen or will not.’ That specifically relates to the LG elections scheduled for March 9. The government has tried every trick of delay just because they face sure defeat – the combined Elephant and Bud that rules us as of now. Everyone else shouts for elections and follows up with the threat to come out on the streets. That seems to be Sri Lankans most resorted to pastime. And we dread the melees; the water cannon, police brutality and the disgrace of saffron robed, bearded and hair grown men in the vanguard of slogan lofting shouters. All a useless and worthless expense of energy achieving nothing but tear gas and water shooting, and remand jail for some. Some of these protests call for the release of one such IUSF protester deemed to be a terrorist by a draconian law and confined in solitary imprisonment for far too long.

A shot or more of arrack or kasippu was resorted to by men and excused by other men as necessary mental trouble relievers. A woman would imbibe a bit of brandy if not a sleeping pill to ease her troubled mind and thus queasy gut. Not any longer if one takes advice that comes pouring in via social media.

Canada’s new move on Alcohol Guidance

As questioned by Holly Honderich in Washington BBC January 18: “What’s behind Canada’s drastic new Alcohol Guidance?” She says a report funded by Health Canada warns that “any amount of alcohol is not good for your health and if you drink, less is better.” This is contained in a 90 page report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction. Health issues result from the intake of more than standard drinks and these include breast and colon cancer. Honderich says it may be a rude awakening for the roughly 80% of Canadian adults who drink. The ratio is higher, Cass presumes, in this resplendent isle with its arrack, illicit brews and toddy both kitul and palmyrah. So the comforting statement that was earlier in vogue, that a daily tot of alcoholic drink is good for health, is sent overboard by the Canadian advice. Of course now with money so short except in the hands of the corrupt, the latter advice will have to be taken, voluntarily or otherwise, by most Lankans.

Prez Gotabaya and his advisors’ ruling

We have all seen at least on TV, farmers mourning their yellowing crops of paddy and heard their heart-rending cries of hopelessness at the loss of a third harvest due to the utter crime of overnight stoppage of chemical fertilisers and pest control. Cass wonders how the ex-Prez who decreed this and his advisors sleep at night having blighted long term the entire agriculture of this predominantly agricultural country. Farmers cry out they are in debt, have no money to feed nor school their children; added to which hospitals are bare of medicines.

A highly-educated and experienced agriculturist sent Cass an email the gist of which is that rice farmers all over the island report a ‘yellowing’ of paddy, stunted growth and dead plants in patches. They had all used ‘compost’ issued by the govt. There is a hint this could be due to a nematode infestation. If correct, this has grave implications. It has occurred in tea with no easy cure. Only costly fumigation was effective, eventually. Once rice paddies are infected it would be very difficult to control – almost impossible; already impoverished farmers can bear no further expense.

A three wheeler driver told Cass that river bed soil had been mixed with thrown away household garbage (both obtained free, obviously) and sold as organic fertiliser. I hasten to add this is hearsay, but the obvious truth staring all Sri Lankans in the face and sending shivers of apprehension down all spines is that this Maha season crop is kaput; gone down the drain with farmers cheated and someone or some persons having made money from the deal.

Pointless it is to curse those who were in the racket; useless to commiserate farmers and their families; impossible to compensate them. Will those responsible for giving out dangerous fertiliser for distribution be traced and brought to justice? Never! However, that word ‘never’ is now pronounced with a mite of doubt after M Sirisena and others were dealt justly by judges of the Supreme Court. There are glimmers of hope that wrong doers, actually criminals who bankrupted the country and damaged its agriculture, will be dealt with suitably.

There will be no Aluth Avuruddha for the backbone of the country in April since celebrations centre around a good harvest and R&R after a Maha season of toil and filling bins and storehouses with bountiful paddy. This was pre-Gota days. Now it is all round misery since urban dwellers sorrow, and also suffer, with the farmers who supplied them with food.

Clear stats given to prove inefficiency of the state sector

A video clip came to Cassandra with Advocata CEO Dananath Fernando speaking on the inefficiency of the public service due to being too many in number. Dananath is much admired and spoke clearly and convincingly. He said more conversing with Faraz Shauketaly on Newsline presented by TVI channel on Tuesday 24 January at 8.30 p m.

Dananath said our bureaucracy is inefficient and ineffectual. Main reason being there are too many to do the work. His fact check went like this. In India for every 177 members of the general public there is one (01) government officer or as named earlier ‘government servant’. In Pakistan the figures are 117 to one. Bangladesh is almost the same. In Sri Lanka (hold your breath!) to every sixteen (16) citizens there sits one government officer, mainly twiddling his/her thumbs. It would be interesting to know the ratios in developed countries. But the very relevant to us countries have been named by the Advocata finding. Cass does not need to spell what the result is; she has already indicated it with the image of the thumb twiddler.

We knew the bureaucracy was over staffed, bloated and bulging big like the leaders we have: 225 in parliament, then local councils and pradeshiya sabhas. And in each of them, law makers, decision takers and those who carry them out are far too excessive in number and cost the government excessively in salaries, infrastructure, travel modes; etc. etc. So Advocata asks how development, or even mere running of the country can be achieved efficiently and effectively. A further shock, at least to Cass, was dealt by Dananath in proving the point by revealing statistics for the police service. 50% of the entire police force is deployed on security duty to 225 MPs, Ministers and state VIPs while the balance half is expected to provide safety and security to 22 million people! Lop sided and thus the country slants to sink or disintegrate. It has already slanted to bankruptcy and begging as never before and selling the meager money making ventures we possess.

How did the public service get so bloated? Again the guilty are, or were, those in power. They kept sending persons with chits and they had to be employed. Reason? Sympathy for the jobless? Not at all. Pure unadulterated self-interest so votes are assured them.

Rise up and show thy face, thou olde pensioner

That’s a government order to be observed by the old; most finding walking difficult and many finding the necessity to gather some money for three wheeler hire denting their January budget. But present yourself to the Grama Sevaka of your area is a must if you want to continue receiving your pension, now totally inadequate; but still very grateful for. Hence the procession of the old and weak leaning on walking sticks, even crutches or on willing supporting arms offered them.

Some years ago, questioned by Cassandra, an obliging woman Grama Sevaka said that those unable to present themselves are visited in their homes by officers. We do hope this is done since there must be plenty thumb twiddlers in this government department too.

Bravo Hirunika!

Cass most definitely is an admirer of beautiful Hirunika. She’s garnered another kudos by her latest action, OK, gimmick if you like that word to express the way she has shown displeasure, censure, disagreement of the general public on holding an elaborate National Day event to celebrate 75 years of’ democratic self-rule’ at the exorbitant cost of Rs 200m.. That expression itself calls for comment. Termed National Day it is far from being thus with so many protesting various issues. Celebration is a blatant falsehood. Feb 4 should really be a day of mourning, since the Nation is in the dregs of corruption, misrule and bankruptcy. Self-rule here equates to selfish rule by the leaders for themselves and misrule for us the public. Democracy is dead, actually it was totally dead during previous regimes but has revived somewhat lately,

And how did Hirunika express censure? By having black bows knotted on the posts erected to prop covered spaces for the march past, etc. Black connotes death, mourning, displeasure, bad times. Of course at expense, the bows will be removed before the posse of horses and motor riders and security cars conducts the Prez to the s venue. Cass entertains a jaundiced wish that the entire DPL Corps will, non-diplomatically, ignore invitation and not be present at the celebratory event. Rows and rows of empty chairs might convey the message of non grata, rather disdain for the powers that be. Ranil may be respected still, but those backing him and even guiding his hands are NOT.

Cheers till we meet next Friday!

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Gandhian Ethics

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By JAYDEV JANA

The word ethics is derived from the Greek word ‘ethos’, which means ‘way of living’. The judgement of right and wrong, what to do and what not to do, and how one ought to act, form ethics. It is a branch of philosophy that involves systematising, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behaviour.

Morality is the body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion, or culture. It can also derive from a standard that a person believes in. The word morals is derived from the Latin word ‘mos’, which means custom.

Many people use the words Ethics and Morality interchangeably. However, there is a difference between Ethics and Morals. To put it in simple terms, Ethics = Moral + reasoning.For example, one might feel that it is morally wrong to steal, but if he/ she has an ethical viewpoint on it, it should be based on some sets of arguments and analysis about why it would be wrong to steal. Mahatma Gandhi is considered as one of the greatest moral philosophers of India. The highest form of morality in Gandhi’s ethical system is the practice of altruism/self-sacrifice.

For Gandhi, it was never enough that an individual merely avoided causing evil; they had to actively promote good and actively prevent evils. The ideas and ideals of Gandhi emanated mainly from: (1) his inner religious convictions including ethical principles embedded in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Christianity; (2) the exigencies of his struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the mass political movements during India’s freedom struggle; and (3) the influence of Tolstoy, Carlyle and Thoreau etc. He was a moralist through and through and yet it is difficult to write philosophically about his ethics.

This is because Gandhi is fundamentally concerned with practice rather than with theory or abstract thought, and such philosophy as he used was meant to reveal its ‘truth’ in the crucible of experience. Hence, the subtitle of his Autobiography ~ ‘the story of my experiments in truth.’ The experiments refer to the fact that the truth of concept, values, and ideals is fulfilled only in practice.

Gandhi’s ethics are inextricably tied up with religion, which itself is unconventional. Though an avowed Hindu, he was a Hindu in philosophical rather than a sectarian sense; there was much Hindu ritual and practice that he subjected to critique.

In his Ethical Religion, published in 1912 based on lectures delivered by him, Gandhi had stated simply that he alone cannot be called truly religious or moral whose mind is not tainted with hatred and selfishness, and who leads a life of absolute purity and of disinterested services. Without mental purity or purification of motive, external action cannot be performed in selfless spirit. Goodness does not consist in abstention from wrong but from the wish to do wrong; evil is to be avoided not from fear but from the sense of obligation. Consistency was less important to Gandhi than moral earnestness, and rules were less useful than specific norms of human excellence and the appreciation of values. Politics is a comprehensive term which is associated with composition and operation of state structure as well as its interrelationship with other states. It is activity centred around power and very often deprived of morals. With its power-mongering, amoral Machiavellianism, and its valorisation of expediency over principle, and of successful outcomes over scrupulous means, politics is an uncompromising avenue for saintliness. Inclusion of ethics in politics seemed to be a contradiction to many contemporary political philosophers.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak among others warned Gandhi before he embarked on a political career in India, “Politics is a game of worldly people and not of sadhus.” Introducing spirituality into the political arena would seem to betoken ineffectiveness in an area driven by worldly passions and cunning. It is perhaps for these reasons that Christ himself appeared to be in favour of a dualism: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” In this interpretation, the standards and norms that apply to religion are different from those relevant to politics.

Gandhi by contrast, without denying the distinction between the domain of Caesar and that of God, repudiates any rigid separation between the two. As early as 1915, Gandhi declared his aim “to spiritualise” political life and political institutions.

Politics is as essential as religion, but if it is divorced from religion, it is like a corpse, fit only for burning. In the preface to his autobiography, Gandhi declared that his devotion of truth had drawn him into politics, that his power in the political field was derived from his spiritual experiments with himself, and those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means. Human life being an undivided whole, no line could be drawn between ethics and politics. It was impossible to separate the everyday life of man, he emphasised, from his spiritual being. He said, “I feel that political work must be looked upon in terms of social and moral progress.” Gandhi is often called a saint among politicians. In an epoch of ‘globalisation of selfcentredness’ there is a pressing necessity to comprehend and emulate the moralistic dimension of Gandhian thought and re-evaluate the concept of politics. The correlation between ends and means is the essence of Gandhi’s interpretation of society in terms of ethical value rather than empirical relations. For Gandhi, means and ends are intricately connected.

His contention was, “For me it is enough to know the means. Means and ends are convertible terms in my philosophy.” Gandhi countered the assertion that ends vindicate means. If the means engaged are unjust there is no possibility of achieving satisfactory outcomes. He compared the means to a seed and the end to a tree. Gandhi stuck to this golden ideal through thick and thin, without worrying about the immediate results. He was convinced that our ultimate progress towards the goal would be in exact proportion to the purity of our means.

Gandhi believed that “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” His seven social sins refer to behaviours that go against ethical code and thereby weaken society. When values are not strongly held, people respond weakly to crisis and difficulty. The seven sins are: (1) Wealth without work; (2) Pleasure without conscience; (3) Knowledge without character; (4) Commerce without morality; (5) Science without humanity; (6) Religion without sacrifice; and (7) politics without principle. Gandhi’s Seven Sins are an integral part of Gandhian ethics.

The Satyagraha (Sanskrit and Hindi: ‘Holding into truth’) as enunciated by Gandhi seeks to integrate spiritual values, community organisation and selfreliance with a view to empower individuals, families, groups, villages, towns and cities. It became a major tool in the Indian struggle against British Imperialism and has since been adopted by protest groups in other countries.

According to the philosophy of Satyagraha, Satyagrahis (Practitioners of Satyagraha) achieve correct insight into the real nature of an evil situation by observing a non-violence of the mind, by seeking truth in a spirit of peace and love, and by undergoing a rigorous process of self-scrutiny. In so doing, the satyagrahi encounters truth in the absolute. By refusing to submit to the wrong or to cooperate with it, the satyagrahi must adhere to non-violence. They always warn their opponents of their intentions and forbid any tactic suggesting the use of secrecy to one’s advantage. Satyagraha seeks to conquer through conversion: in the end, there is neither defeat nor victory but rather a new harmony. Gandhi’s Satyagraha always highlighted moral principles. By giving the concept of Satyagraha, Gandhi showed mankind how to win over greed and fear by love.

There was no pretension or hypocrisy about Gandhi. His ethics do not stem from the intellectual deductive formula. ‘Do unto others as you would have them unto you.’ He never asked others to do anything which he did not do. It is history how he conducted his affairs. He never treated even his own children in any special manner from other children, sharing the same kind of food and other facilities and attending the same school. When a scholarship was offered for one of his sons to be sent to England for higher education, Gandhi gave it to some other boy. Of course, he invited strong resentment from two of his sons and there are many critics who believe that Gandhi neglected his own children, and he was not the ideal father. His profound conviction of equality of all men and women shows the essential Gandhi who grew into a Mahatma.

The question of why one should act in a moral way has occupied much time in the history of philosophical inquiry. Gandhi’s answer to this is that happiness, religion and wealth depend upon sincerity to the self, an absence of malice towards others, exploitation of others, and always acting ‘with a pure mind.’ The ethical and moral standard Gandhi set for himself reveals his commitment and devotion to eternal principles and only someone like him who regulated his life and action in conformity with the universal vision of human brotherhood could say “My Life is My Message.” (The Statesman/ANN)

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