The Gandhi Nobody Knows [LINK]
After the adulatory film Gandhi was released in 1983, the film critic Richard Grenier wrote one of the all-time best take-downs, which is available here in the Commentary archives. In a nutshell, here's what you didn't know about the guy:
- Gandhi was overall obstinate, intolerant, and tyrannical. Many of his contemporaries believe his erratic behavior actually delayed Indian independence.
- Gandhi was greatly concerned about the rights of Indians in South Africa, but not at all about South African blacks.
- Gandhi's concern for low-caste Hindus was minimal. Like many Hindus, Gandhi believed one's caste was indelible in this life, and that karma affected status only following reincarnation. (His first "fast unto death" was in response to a British proposal to increase the status of "Untouchables.")
- Gandhi was unconcerned with indigenous movements outside of India, and was opposed, for example, to a similar rise in Arab nationalism amid the decline of the Ottomon Empire.
- Gandhi advised Jews and Czechs to commit mass suicide in the face of the Nazis, and exhorted the British to surrender, all based on the mistaken notion that Hitler was "not a bad man," and could be persuaded via nonviolence. Gandhi sent a correspondingly naive letter to Hitler himself.
- Oddly, when World War II started, Gandhi contradicted himself by endorsing Poland's military resistance, referring to it as "almost nonviolent."
- Undermining British efforts considerably, Gandhi made preparations to allow incursion of the Japanese army into India via Burma, after which he intended to "make them feel unwanted."
- While Gandhi championed nonviolence to throw off English control, he often abandoned the ideal during the bloody partition of 1947, during which roughly 1 million people were killed in religious violence.
- The great Indian poet Tagore regarded Gandhi's direct confrontations with the British as so reckless and fanatical that any claims to being "nonviolent" were disingenuous. While Gandhi's core followers used nonviolent tactics, the multitudes of hangers-on that vastly outnumbered them were not so controlled.
- Gandhi was greatly concerned with the bowel movements of those around him, and constantly gave and received enemas. A large portion of his writings concern excretia.
- Gandhi was ignorant on matters of nutrition, subjecting himself and others around him to dangerously unhealthy diets, primarily as a function of his obsession with bowel movements.
- Gandhi was fanatically opposed to all but the most minimal sexual activity necessary to procreate. Like many Hindus, he believed semen to be a precious bodily fluid stored within his skull, and that any emission diminished him. When he had a nocturnal emission, "he almost had a nervous breakdown."
- Gandhi slept naked with teenage girls, ostensibly to test his vow of chastity.
- Gandhi was greatly opposed to all modern technology above the level of spinning wheel, effectively enshrining poverty as an ideal. But oddly for such a luddite, he hand-picked Nehru as India's first Prime Minister, a Fabian Socialist committed to rapid industrialization.
- Gandhi allowed his wife to die of pneumonia rather than be treated with an "alien" penicillin shot, but had no similar qualms being treated soon afterwards with quinine once he contracting malaria. He also had no problem having his appendix removed by British doctors.
- To top it off, Gandhi treated his sons monstrously.