Mahatma Gandhi on Western Civilization

18 Aug 2018 / Siddharth Jivani  Download Pdf

It is my firm opinion that Europe today represents not the spirit of God or Christianity but the spirit of Satan. And Satan’s successes are the greatest when he appears with the name of God on his lips. Europe is today only nominally Christian. It is really worshipping Mammon. `It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.’ Thus really spoke Jesus Christ. His so-called followers measure their moral progress by their material possessions. (8-9-1920)

I wholeheartedly detest this mad desire to destroy distance and time, to increase animal appetites, and go to the ends of the earth in search of their satisfaction. If modern civilization stands for all this, and I have understood it to do so, I call it satanic. (17-3-1927)

A time is coming when those, who are in the mad rush today of multiplying their wants, vainly thinking that they add to the real substance, real knowledge of the world, will retrace their steps and say: `What have we done?’ Civilizations have come and gone, and in spite of all our vaunted progress I am tempted to ask again and again ‘To what purpose?’ Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin, has said the same thing. Fifty years of brilliant inventions and discoveries, he has said, had not added one inch to the moral height of mankind. So said a dreamer and visionary if you will – Tolstoy. So said Jesus, and Buddha, and Muhammad, whose religion is being denied and falsified in my own country today. (8-12-1927)

The fact is that this industrial civilization is a disease because it is all evil. Let us not be deceived by catchwords and phrases. I have no quarrel with steamships or telegraphs. They may stay, if they can, without the support of industrialism and all it connotes. They are not an end. We must not suffer exploitation for the sake of steamships and telegraphs. They are in no way indispensable for the permanent welfare of the human race. . . . India has withstood the onslaughts of other civilizations because she has stood firm on her own ground. Not that she has not made changes. But the changes she has made have promoted her growth. To change to industrialism is to court disaster. . . . Our concern is, therefore, to destroy industrialism at any cost. The present distress is undoubtedly insufferable. Pauperism must go. But industrialism is no remedy. . . . (7-10-1926)

India’s destiny lies not along the bloody way of the West, of which she shows signs of tiredness, but along the bloodless way of peace that comes from a simple and godly life. India is in danger of losing her soul. She cannot lose it and live. She must not therefore lazily and helplessly say, ‘I cannot escape the onrush from the West.’ She must be strong enough to resist it for her own sake and that of the world. (7-10-1926)

European civilization is no doubt suited for the Europeans, but it will mean ruin for India, if we endeavor to copy it. This is not to say that we may not adopt and assimilate whatever may be good and capable of assimilation by us, as it does not also mean that even the Europeans will not have to part with whatever evil might have crept into it. The incessant search for material comforts and their multiplication is such an evil; and I make bold to say that the Europeans themselves will have to remodel their outlook, if they are not to perish under the weight of the comforts to which they are becoming slaves. It may be that my reading is wrong, but I know that for India to run after the Golden Fleece is to court certain death. Let us engrave on our hearts the motto of a Western philosopher, ‘Plain living and high thinking’. (30-4-1931)

Civilization, in the real sense of the term consists not in the multiplication, but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants. This alone promotes real happiness and contentment, and increases the capacity for services. (1935)

Democracy of the West is, in my opinion, only so-called. It has germs in it, certainly, of the true type. But it can only come when all violence is eschewed and malpractices disappear. The two go hand in hand. Indeed, malpractice is a species of violence. If India is to evolve the true type, there should be no compromise with violence or untruth. (3-9-1938)

There is no escapes from the impending doom save through a bold and unconditional acceptance of the non-violent method with all its glorious implications. Democracy and violence can ill go together. The States that are today nominally democratic have either to become frankly totalitarian or, if they are to become truly democratic, they must become courageously non-violent. It is a blasphemy to say that non-violence can only be practiced by individuals and never by nations which are composed of individuals. (12-11-1938)

I feel that fundamentally the disease is the same in Europe as it is in India, in spite of the fact that in the former country the people enjoy political self-government. . . .

Asian and African races are exploited for their partial benefit, and they, on their part, are being exploited by the ruling class or caste under the sacred name of democracy. At the root, therefore, the disease appears to be the same as in India. The same remedy is, therefore, likely to be applicable. Shorn of all camouflage, the exploitation of the masses of Europe is sustained by violence.