Metta Centre for Nonviolence

Asha Buch

Gandhi’s life and work made remarkable impact on great number of individuals as well as institutions in the modern era. Seeds of Truth and Nonviolence spread far and wide throughout the globe. Here I would like to share the information of work carried out by The Metta Center for Nonviolence.

Metta Center for Nonviolence is situated at Petaluma, California, USA, EARTH

For those who may wish to find more information, here is the link : https://www.mettacenter.org

Founder and president of the Metta Center Dr. Michael Nagler’s teacher who lived in India during Gandhiji’s time was deeply affected by his principle of nonviolence. Michael Nagler wanted to preserve his teacher’s legacy, and the Metta Center was born. The following perception of nonviolence is a driving force behind the Metta Center.

“Nonviolence is more than putting another person in power. It’s about awakening a different kind of power in people."

— Dr. Michael Nagler - President, Founder

The Metta Center for Nonviolence is applying this ideology through its various activities and publications which has earned them a Special Consultative Status at the United Nations via ECOSOC.

Nonviolence works; it’s for us to learn how.

The board of directors and the team members carry this firm belief while they encourage people in all walks of life to discover their innate capacity for practicing nonviolence and to cultivate its power for the long-term transformation of themselves and the world in order to eliminate root causes of dehumanisation and ultimately all forms of violence.

The Center has three main ways to plant the seeds of truth and nonviolence. The first is Nonviolence Radio, which explores the power of nonviolence featuring interviews to inspire and support people to take action in their own domain. The second resource is the Nonviolence Report in which they collect news and updates from the world of nonviolence, offer point of clarity and analysis for those who may wish to put it to good use. The third source is a book or daily email of inspirational thought of Gandhi to those who sign up for it.

A bookstore contains a board game titled Cosmic Peace force, a book of daily inspirational thought from Gandhi, two books written by Michael Nagler and one book for children by Stephanie Van Hook. The latest addition to this treasure is the book with video, ‘Hate is too heavier a burden to bear’, new book, titled ‘Gandhi’s wisdom’, a twelve week family curriculum for nonviolence and an animated short film, ‘An Urgent message for Humanity’ (a story of climate).

Faith in humanity drives us towards nonviolence. The team at Metta Center believe that Nonviolence begins inside of each one of us, and is the greatest power of our human nature. Individuals can bring about positive change with or without large groups. Everyone has a role to play. This is Person Power. Use it in Satyagraha. The term breaks down into two parts: Satya-Truth, agraha - Hold Fast to. This is Truth-force or Love-force. We resist injustice without reproducing it. We obstruct hatred and violence with a firmness rooted in love.

Dr. Michael Nagler - Nonviolence Scholar, professor Emeritus, author of The Search for a Nonviolent Future and The Third Harmony and directer of the film ‘Third Harmony. (it is available via Vimeo on https://www.mettacenter.org  or http://mettacenter.org/thirdharmony).

He explained the idea of three harmony. The ancient sage Shankaracharya believed there are three sources of suffering - from the environment, from other people and from within ourself. Dr. Michael Nagler’s teacher gave a notion of three harmony: 1) With our world, 2) With other beings and most importantly 3) harmony within ourselves (a starting point).

To achieve the first part of harmony 5 steps are recommended.

1) Avoid violent media. Alternatives are available.

2) Learn nonviolence

3) Take up a spiritual practice such as meditation

4) Try to relate personally wherever possible

5) Find where your skills meet the world’s needs and find a project to work on.

Michael Nagler suggests, nonviolence can be practiced individually in our daily interaction, but don’t stop there. We have institutions, which can help us put it in practice. At a national level apply to seek restorative justice to repay the harm done by violators of law. Internationally we have civilian peace maker teams, join them.

I would like to relay the message from the short film ‘The Third Harmony’ which is captivating. (all the quotes, descriptions and images are taken from the film commissioned by the Metta Center)

Ali Abu Awad - (Palestinian Nonviolence activist, and founder of Taghyeer)

He says,  “Nonviolence is to bring the best out of you, not by solving problems, but by living with other human being. My brother was killed violently by Israeli soldiers. One year later my mother received a phone call from a religious Israeli father who wanted to meet us. His son was kidnapped and killed by Hamas. This incident happened in 1972. I saw first time an Israeli crying. Both mothers were crying with same colour of tears. Justice is when we give up being victim of the victimisers and not being the prisoners of hatred.”

Ken Butigan - (Strategist for Peace e Bene Nonviolence Service and Professor of Peace, Justice & Conflict Studies)

He explained the process of non-violent act. There are two hands of nonviolence; one hand is saying, ‘I will not cooperate with your act of injustice.’ The other hand is saying. ‘I respect you as a human being (therefore will not harm you)’. This is a job description of 21st century. He also described his experience of the power of nonviolence. A group of activists laid themselves down on the ground at Lawrence Livermore national laboratory experimental test site in protest of nuclear tests. Police asked them to move, they did not cooperate. One police constable tugged and pulled Ken Butigan’s arm. A senior officer told him to break his wrist which the police constable began to do. Suddenly Ken said to him, “You don’t have to do that.” He let go of Ken. They talked for half an hour and the police constable said, “Thank you for telling me ‘You don’t have to break my wrist.’ I didn’t want to. I follow orders, but you broke the spell. This shows what is possible by a nonviolent act.

Tiffany Eastom - (Executive director of Nonviolence Peace force)

She stated that mankind has fought wars with sticks and stones and moved on to use rifles, automatic guns and missiles. Peace force have different tools. Nonviolence as a method of resolving conflict is underestimated and underrated, but it can have transformative effect. They have trained 450 women peace leaders, 3786 people have received training as unarmed civilians protection team and 2419 women have formed 66 women’s protection teams. This is an applaudable achievement in the midst of senseless armament race.

David Hartsough - (Co-founder of Nonviolence Peace Force & World Beyond War and author of Waging Peace)

He described an event he was involved in 1960’s state of Virginia. Students protested against the Drug Store’s policy of not to serve lunch to biracial groups of students. People spat at the nonviolent protesters, called them names and put burning cigarette down their shirts. When David was meditating on ‘Loving your enemy’, a guy came from behind, asked him to leave in two seconds or he would stab him. David said, “Friend, do what you think is right, I still love you.” That man’s jaw dropped, hands shook and left the store. At the end of the nonviolent campaign, religious and community leaders promised to open the doors of drug stores to serve lunch to students of all racial background. This was the power of nonviolence. David realised we have power to make and change history.

After watching the film we may realised that Nonviolent campaigns are becoming more frequent., Take an example of  nonviolent movements in Philippines, Sahara, South Africa, Khartoum, Sudan etc; because they become more effective over the time. It seems vey few people have faith in nonviolence  and therefore the world is ridden with inter and intra national and local conflicts. The Third Harmony documentary film explains you can be assertive without being aggressive.

United Nations is looking into creating an unarmed civilian peace making force. Mel Duncan - Co-founder of Nonviolence Peace Force urged the US appropriations Committee to include unarmed civilian protection as a recommended activity within state born actions and budget for it in 2020. This is a huge step towards recognising nonviolent tactics as a mainstream strategy for peace keeping.

If ever in doubt about an ordinary citizen’s ability to combat aggression via nonviolent means, remember what Gandhi said, “I have not a shadow of a doubt that any human being can do what I have done.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jaypal endorsed her opinion, “It is patriotic to fight for peace, to de-militarise and make our nation nuclear free. Economic and domestic security is real national security. Governments have been spending billions of dollars to get violence science right for 400 years, now is the time to invest in alternatives. We have seen nonviolent acts can make significant changes, what are we waiting for?”

Michael Nagler explains that the aim of Metta Center is to help people to practice nonviolence more safely and effectively and build a culture so that people can understand what nonviolence is. Gandhi said, “Nonviolence is as old as hills.” He gave local habitation to that concept and gave a name, ‘Ahimsa’. Ancient India had a term ‘Ahimsa’ which means absence of intention to harm. Really what it means that it is a creative power generated when you control any intention to harm. Around 1920 this term was translated in English as ‘Nonviolence’. In Latin we had a word for violence, but not for  nonviolence! That is why we have overlooked the act of violence for so many centuries.

Michael Nagler summed up by saying, “I and others believe that not only nonviolence is a natural endowment for the human being, but it is The defining endowment for the human being.”

“….for hatred does not cease by hatred at any time, Hatred ceases by Love. This is an unalterable law.”

— Buddha

e.mail : [email protected]

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features

Background and role of Human Development Index (HDI)

HDI was conceptualised in 1990. It is relevant to revisit its aims and goals in the light of present day discussion on the ideas of economic development, happiness and environmental impact on our shared future. The goal stated in Human Development Report 2019, “To think beyond income, beyond averages and beyond today to remove the inequalities in human development in 21st century” is set to drive the humanity.

A trickle down theory for a nation’s development was adapted almost unanimously through out the world. People at the bottom of the pyramid have been waiting with their hands wide spread out to catch the left over opportunities to earn a decent living and right to education and health. Mahbub Ul Haq (An economist from Pakistan) devised and launched detailed indices of the HDI in 1990. Its explicit purpose was to shift the focus of economic development from national income accounting to people-centred policies. Haq believed that a simple composite measure of human development was needed to convince the public, academicians, and politicians that they can and should evaluate development not only by economic advances but also through improvements in human well-being.

The HDI was created to emphasise that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone. The HDI can also be used to question national policy choices, asking how two countries with the same level of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita can end up with different human development outcomes.

Human Development Report 2010 extends its parameters to include people’s freedom to live long, healthy and lead creative lives, to achieve goals they value and to actively take part in shaping their development equitably and sustainably on a shared planet. This endorsement implies that people are both beneficiaries and drivers of human development as individuals and in groups. 

Amartya Sen in his article ‘A Decade of Human Development’ poised a question, “Why is the idea of human development such a success in the contemporary world?” In his opinion Mahbub Ul Haq’s idea of Human Development Report got world wide recognition because it had much to offer to the discerning public and provided very basic level of social understanding to the masses.The indices of HDI cannot be seen as an exhaustive list as our parameters are bound to expand in context of human rights. Mahbub himself included political freedom in the index. Some country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Income (GNI) may be at very high point, but their record of human rights protection may be very low, which deprives millions of their citizens of freedom of expression which should be factored in as a new index. Amartya Sen remarked that Mahbub’s innovation was, in a sense, a philosophical departure. Perhaps it concentrated on socio-economic aspects but not ethical aspect like John Ruskin and Gandhi did. Gandhi made it clear that at the cost of human dignity he was not willing to gain political independence.

In the HDI health, education and development are the main goals to achieve and criteria for assessment of progress, therefore Gandhiji’s views on these points are discussed.

Gandhi’s views on health :

Gandhi’s ideas of good health included elements of spirituality and environmental factors.. He believed that we must consume to survive, not to indulge in over consumption of food. He advocated for vegetarian diet for health and humanity reasons. He preferred a life style that prevents illness and use natural substances like water, mud and energy from the sun to cure illnesses. He advised people to opt for a modern medical intervention only in complicated cases. This idea has been recently supported by some scientists. In the context of the Covid - 19 pandemic the medical experts and researchers found the truths about immunity. They are telling us to opt for vegetarian diet, exercise more and change lifestyle in order to increase our immunity to avoid medical interventions. They have also established the fact that overuse of drugs prompts us to take medicines and carry on with bad lifestyle.

In a booklet ‘Key to health’ Gandhi discussed important issues of health and put forward rational arguments which ordinary people could understand. He mainly discussed basic facts about our body, air, water and food. He even explained which types of food can provide us protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals and in what proportion we should consume them and the notion of balance diet. This was his way to educate people across the board on public health. Gandhi included alcohol prohibition in his Constructive Work Programme. In the last few years the medical experts and socio-economic advisers have endorsed the fact that most of the present day health related problems have their roots in poor quality of air, water, diet and drug addiction. Here is  a diagram which summarises Gandhi’s basic Mantras on health :

Gandhi lived amongst poor and uneducated masses in South Africa and India and practiced these universal ideas of health and hygiene.

The majority of nations are struggling to provide universal health care at an affordable cost and trying to fund their health services instead of investing in prevention of diseases and as a result the environment too. 

Gandhi’s views on education :

A strong link between standard of education and human development is well established. Some countries have made progress in increasing literacy rates. A question still remain unanswered, why development has not reached to all? It is clear that the modern education system is information based, lacking respect for self and others, it does not prepare students to sacrifice comforts and does not teach to suffer so that others can walk with them.

The HDI has emphasised the importance of access to education and level of attainment. Most of the developing countries are trying to minimise the number of drop outs, maintain the attainment targets and most importantly make the education relevant to the lives of educated and control the rate of educated unemployed population. Under the colonial rule India’s education system was not compatible to it’s cultural values or socio-economic structure, therefore Gandhi devised a new system known as ‘Nayi Taleem’ or ‘Buniyadi Shiksha’ (Basic education). An article ‘Gandhi’s Educational Thoughts’ by Dr. Shruti Tandon has listed core principles of the Basic Education.

Free and compulsory education for the children up to the age of 14.

Craft centred education: where education begins with a useful and productive craft. Craft should form the nucleus of all instruction. The brain must be educated through the hands.

The income from handicraft and products from farming and textile industries can not only develop the personality of the child, but can also make education self sufficient.

Mother tongue as the medium of instruction. English can hinder the development of a child’s understanding and precision of thought or clarity of ideas.

Creed of Non-Violence: The scheme of Basic Education is imbued with the cardinal creed of non-violence and idea of co-operative living. It is based on truth and non-violence in individual and collective life.

Dignity of Labour: Active participation in productive work and manual labour enlarges the heart and enriches the personality.

Emphasis on practice rather than theory: The child is not a passive recipient of knowledge but active participant in the learning process. It fosters learning by doing.

Develop social awareness and responsibility through the involvement of students in programmes of community service. In the light of present social and economic climate, teaching the value of manual labour, learning by doing, getting involved in community service and above all foster non-violence through education from very early age can be included in our curriculum from this education system.

In the English edition of Hind Swaraj, Gandhi touched on the issue of education. He could see that mere literacy can prove a weapon, it can be used for good or bad causes. In the last few decades despite of the increase in literacy and numeracy, crime, social evils and conflicts are not abating. The present education system is not value based. It does not shape humanity, it only creates employees that fits like a cogs in a machine. We educate children within four walls and make them employable in white collar jobs. Gandhi gave us an alternative method which ensures an educated person can follow the rule of nature, he can see justice, his mind is pure and peaceful. A key to shape global citizens who can pursue non-violent path of actions.

Gandhi’s idea of education system deployed three Hs: Heart, Head and Hands. By education, he meant an all-round drawing of the best in child and man in body, mind and spirit. He also insisted that his scheme for primary education would include the elementary principles of sanitation, hygiene and nutrition. Gandhi’s notion of education was ‘Education for life, education through life, and education throughout life.

In order to materialise the HDI’s goal of improving the level and attainment of education and make it relevant to life of all - village and city dwellers alike, we need to examine the shortcomings of the present education system and fill the gap with the Basic Education system described above.

Gandhi’s views on holistic human development :

Industrialisation and capitalism exploited the labourers beyond our imagination. Colonial rule’s exploitative regimes created a treasure of wealth by enslaving others and  looted natural resources. In capitalism an individual’s social and economic standards are determined by the market. No ethical values are attached to manufacturing, trading, sale and consumption of products. The HDI indicators have made us consider above and beyond our own financial gains and include the ethical aspect of all our industries.

The term ‘Development’ means increase in individual earnings. The term ‘Economy is thriving’ means production and sales of goods are increasing and products are cheaper. The Gandhian ideology of economy and development is gearing us to think, who is paying for our necessities and luxuries? Factory and mill workers are working hard and sustaining their lives on minimum wages.

Gandhi’s alternative system based on village industries saves you from accumulating wealth based on other’s poverty, and helplessness because it may be wealth for you, but calamity for those who produce commodities for you. In the book Hind Swaraj, Gandhi defined development. In his views development means, a man pays his duty towards the society, for which he needs to follow a moral path and to do that he needs to control his desires and retrain his senses. We have let our greed loose, our development has gone mad like an elephant destroying everything in its path. We are destroying dignity of humanity and nature in the name of development.

Gandhi’s perspective of development in context of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seems very crucial as it was explained by Usha Thakkar in the article ‘Gandhian Perspective of Development’ His concerns for human development encompassed the whole of human race and not just India, South Africa and England. Gandhi raised moral issues about the means used in raising the standard of education, health and employment. The questions he posed regarding social, economic and political justice still remain of crucial importance. We measure economic development through industrialisation, consumption of energy and urbanisation, but they have proved to be inadequate to address the miseries of the millions. Gandhi was aware of the results of the unequal distribution of wealth between different classes in a society.

In the beginning of the 20th century the world headed towards rampant industrialisation backed  by capitalist regimes. We became aware of our wrong footing which has given the birth to HDI. The Gandhian philosophy narrates that the human values and not the market should govern our lives. Service of the poorest of the poor is of the utmost importance. Gandhi presents the humane face of development and not the mere financial aspect.

Gandhi maintained that wealth is to be used judiciously, governed by the principle of 'each according to his need'; and emergence of inequality has to be curbed at all levels. As he stated in the magazine ‘Harijan’, all amassing or hoarding of wealth, above and beyond one's legitimate requirement is theft. At this juncture he gave us the idea of trusteeship where by an individual is a trustee of his/her earnings and uses it after sharing with all its share holders. In Gandhi’s view a developed society is based on collectivity and not on individual needs and greed. Wealth has to be created collectively and enjoyed collectively. In the context of paying wages his mantra was, “(take) from them according to their capacity and (give) according to their needs.” This idea derived from a leading English art critic, philosopher and prominent social thinker of Victorian era John Ruskin’s ‘Unto This Last’. Many western thinkers also noticed exploitative and dehumanising trends of industrialisation. As we are witnessing the economic progress devoid of moral elements has not ultimately helped the people but it’s making internal divisions more intense, Gandhi’s critique of the modern western civilisation seems more relevant today.

Social justice and human development goes hand in hand. Some of Gandhi’s contemporaries and present days elites opposed his ideas of revival of the village economy because villages were dirty, lacked education facilities and job opportunities and they were inhabited by orthodox communities. For this precise reason Gandhi wanted the villages to be clean, so he picked up a broom; he wanted to educate village population, so he gave us a basic education system; he wanted them to earn decent wages and be self sufficient, so he picked up a spinning wheel; he wanted the village communities to be free from social evils, so he tirelessly campaigned to remove untouchability. Gandhi’s way of ensuring social justice, equality and creation of peaceful society was people centric, where no one was left behind. According to him life cannot be divided in spheres like social, political, economic, moral and religious sectors. If one part of the society suffers, all parts suffer. That was Gandhi’s definition of democracy, development and Poorna Swaraj - Complete Independence.

Gandhi’s ideology of serving the last person standing has become more relevant in 21st century.

Co-relation of environmental protection and human development :

An agenda of consideration for existence of non human species and safety of environment is included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Great visionaries and social reformers like David Henry Thoreau, Tolstoy, John Ruskin and M.K. Gandhi have provided directives based on spiritual and ethical morals which has paved the path for more humane way of development.

In the article ‘Gandhian Development’ Jaydev Jana explains that in Gandhi’s opinion, sustainable development is economic development based on ecological principles like environmental harmony, economic efficiency, resource conservation, self-reliance and equity with social justice. Gandhi’s ideas of development were implicitly environmentally sustainable. Without environmental sustainability, economic stability and social cohesion can hardly be achieved. Whenever human civilisation receded from the path of sustainable development, the danger to its survival was ensured.

Economists, humanists, environmentalists and politicians have come to an agreement that it is imperative to take care of the environment in the process of human development. Gandhi draws our attention to protect the environment and to guard against the abuse of natural resources. Big dams, giant industries, projects of HS2 trains in England and bullet trains in India and other massive ventures raise questions about the quality of life affected by those infrastructures. Tushar Gandhi in his article ‘What we destroy in the name of development.’ discussed this issue in context to the decision taken to destroy the very trees planted by Gandhi and his associates. Tushar Gandhi states, “Our concept of development is selfish. We have decided that only humankind deserves to develop and at the cost of all other life forms. We dammed rivers so that we could provide water to monoculture farms to satisfy our hunger and our never-satisfied hunger for electricity. We drained subterranean aquifers, not to quench our thirst but to fill our two-gallon toilet flushes. Every time we have taken a step for our development, it has been at the cost of nature and all the other life forms who have as much right to live as we do. My city needs a Metro Rail system, so it’s fine to cut thousands of trees. That’s not genocide because I don’t recognise trees as living entities. This is how selfish we have become. In our greed, we have forgotten the one critical law of nature: all life is interlinked, nothing is independent. All life matters because we matter. We are the only life form that is bothered about our heritage. Yet, our life is all about the present. We take pride in our 5,000 year-old civilisation but we aren’t bothered about conserving our heritage.”

Standard of living as a measure of development :

The standard of living is measured by per capita income and what material comforts can be purchased by money. Is the amount of money earned the only measure of progress and happiness? Should all human being be granted an equal right to earn a decent living? Here I would like to quote John Ruskin from his book ‘Unto This Last’. He addressed to the poor, “You have a right to ask for a share of bread, but do not wag a tail and beg like a dog, but ask for your right as a member of the same family, but you should also demand your right for pure, holy and clean life.” Gandhi, having imbibed Ruskin’s principles believed that India was spiritually and socially bankrupt, therefore before securing political freedom, she should have a right to improve her social and spiritual status. As a result of his holistic view of human development, Gandhi incorporated social and religious reform programmes in his Constructive Work Programme.

Unequal distribution of wealth and standard of living is the root cause of stagnation in human development. Inequality is visible in income as well as in labour. In capitalist society, the less you labour, the more you earn and the more you sweat the less you earn! Communism made the government powerful and capitalism made businessmen powerful. Both systems left the common people deprived of basic necessities. Gandhi found a middle path. Cottage and village based production industries and cooperative busyness model which is based on moral values. The ideas of development should be able to instil  the values of equality, liberty and dignity in the people. One of the HDI’s indices, ‘Decent standard of living’ points to this value based criteria of development. Human race has evolved and developed since homo sapiens roamed the earth, but the speed and spread of progress and disregard for the surroundings is threatening our survival. In Gandhi’s opinion, greed is detrimental to social good and political emancipation without economic equality is hollow. As he made clear in the magazine ‘Harijan’ economics stands for social justice. For this reason he endeavoured to bring social justice and level the gaps between the rich and the poor alongside the struggle for political independence. An individual’s welfare is secured in the whole society’s welfare, and that is the ideal of Sarvodaya.

Direction and the state of modern development :

We made politicians and businessmen powerful, forgetting the power of ethics behind good governance and trade. This has resulted in a huge gap between rich and poor. India followed the path of developed countries after the independence. More industrialisation and mechanisation was supposed to bring prosperity. It did bring wealth for some but left so much disparity in the provision of health, housing and job opportunities in some of the richest countries. Clearly that model of ‘Development’ has not worked for the western countries either. It is stated in the book ‘Mahatma Gandhi & Environment’ by T.N. Khoshool and John S Moolakkattu. Gandhi was asked, would he like the people of India to adopt same standard of living as the British people? His reply was, “It took Britain half the resources of the planet to achieve this prosperity. How many planets will a country like India require?” 

Gopalkrishna Gandhi delivered a speech at the Edinburgh university on ‘India Yesterday and India Today’. He talked about the glorious past and changes seen in India today by pointing out the direction and state of our development. He said, “Today the game played in India is; ‘Go, go, go. Go and get it, go quickly, and get plenty.’ That is the mantra of consumer lead society. He warned us that although we need to progress, but beware, the speed of development is dangerous and detrimental to our environment. Instead of ‘Development for India’ we are driven by ‘India for Development’ and that will exhaust our natural resources.

Capability approach and Constructive Work Programme :

The meaning of the capability approach mentioned in the statement for HDI has different dimensions. Amartya Sen in an article ‘Introduction to Capability Approach gave us a moral framework for this concept. Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen in their book ‘An uncertain glory - India and its contradictions’ have unfolded many aspects of development. It has become clear that capitalist economy embraced percolation theory to remove poverty. It has failed. We realised that without equal distribution of wealth increase in GDP is meaningless. For how long will the ‘Have nots’ wait? That model of development had no connection to social justice which HDI is aiming to achieve. Sen believes, we need human development as a horse to drive a carriage like economic development. This is where Sen, Dreze and Mahbub Ul Haq’s idea of harnessing health and education progress in order to bring forth sustainable growth is compatible to Gandhi’s efforts to bring welfare system for all.

Capitalist and centralised economic structures have created disparity in income and in social justice. Is the creation of a welfare state the solution to lift the people out of poverty? Graeme Nuttall, (OBE) an English solicitor and an adviser of Employee Ownership Trust made a statement in the context of Indian economy. He said, reservations based on caste, tribe or religious minority and laws on minimum wages can create conflict in long term, while increasing capabilities of unskilled workers can pay its dividend in long term.

Capacity building is the motto of Constructive Work Programme designed by Gandhi which aimed to create a just society so that the people of free India can be what they intend to be in their life by their own choice and not be forced by any other person, power or social norms and are capable to run own country. He had a vision for independent India where mansions of multi millionaires and slums cannot exist side by side. He admitted that the path to achieve economic, social and political equality by non-violent means will be a long path because it requires a change of hearts which takes longer than destructive actions. He also assured that it will deliver an everlasting result.

Constructive Work Programme can be divided into four main sectors :

[1] Economic: Khadi and Village industries, improve and protect farming industry, protect labourers and tribal population’s rights and an agenda to work towards economic equality.

[2] Health: Prohibition of alcohol, cleanliness and hygiene.

[3] Social: Community cohesion, irradiation of untouchability, propagation of gender based equality.

[4] Education: Child centred new Basic Education system; adult education, promote regional and national language and train students to follow all programmes stated above.

The Constructive Work Programme was developed on a bottom up theory. It is known as a ‘Self help’ principle in modern terms. It covers major aspect of life starting from health to economic progress. India and many South Asian and African countries can adapt this model with some relevant changes to improve capabilities of their citizens.

It seems the idea of capability approach is relatively new in socio-economic domain. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” is a quote from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism. Our older civilisations owned cumulative wisdom based on the experiences of our ancestors. Some social and economic structures in Asian and African countries still survive. Ujama and Ubuntu are two of them among many others.

The concept of Ujama :

Here is the narrative of the term Ujama

The meaning of the term Ujanma is explained in the article ‘What Was Ujamaa and How Did It Affect Tanzania?’  The Swahili word Ujama means extended family or brotherhood; it asserts that a person becomes a person through the people or community. Julius Nyerere, the president of Tanzania used Ujama as the basis for a national development project, which intended to recreate nuclear families and engage the small communities in an "economy of affection” by tapping into the traditional African attitudes, while at the same time introducing essential services and modern technological innovations for the rural population that was necessary for the majority of the population. This socialist movement not only changed many economic production practices, but also altered the ways in which family dynamics were pursued within the country, particularly gender roles as it is explained in the ‘The fourth principle of Kwanzaa’.

The values of traditional pre-colonial rural African society encouraged local people to cooperate with each other to provide for the essential necessities, and to build and maintain their own stores, and other businesses and to profit from them together. The idea of collective farming led them to village based economy rather than urbanisation. Ujamaa also called for the nationalisation of banks and industries and an increased level of self-reliance at both an individual and national level which would serve the interests of the masses instead of the few industrialists. To bring back the principles of Ujama, the government said it is best to move people out of the urban cities like the capital Dar es Salaam into newly created villages dotting the rural countryside to recreate precolonial traditions and re-establish a traditional level of mutual respect and moral ways of life.

By embracing a traditional economic model, the people of Tanzania were welcoming a social and political cohesive practice which was very much part of their ancient culture. What was branded as ‘Backwards’ and ‘Uneducated society’, the black community was based on gender equality and inclusive production and trade systems.

The concept of Ubuntu :

Ubuntu can best be described as an African philosophy that places emphasis on 'being self through others'. It is a form of humanism in Zulu phrase which can be expressed as 'I am because of who we all are' which literally means that a person is a person through other people.

Ubuntu is that nebulous concept of common humanity and oneness. Over 2000 years ago, black people of Africa developed a collective meaning of life to describe the kind of relationship an individual person is expected to have with their family, community, society, environment and their spiritual world. As the Africans migrated mostly from the west part of the continent to the east, central and south, and beyond the continent, they carried with them this meaning of life.

From the beginning of time the principles of Ubuntu have guided African societies. In the article of Oct. 19, 2018  ‘Why Global Citizens Should Care’ Hlumelo Siphe Williams  states, “Ubuntu is essentially about togetherness, and how all of our actions have an impact on others and on society. It is the common thread of the UN’s Global Goals, and the motivation in the mission to end extreme poverty so that everyone, everywhere, can live equally. Join us by taking action to end extreme poverty.”

The philosophy of ”Ubuntu" allowed to achieve community equality by propagating the distribution of wealth. The seeds of ‘One world, One health and One nation’ lies here. Ubuntu also implies that everyone has different skills and strengths; people are not isolated, and through mutual support they can help each other to complete themselves. Elizabeth Frawley Bagley who served as a secretary of State also discussed Ubuntu in the context of American foreign policy stating, "In understanding the responsibilities that come with our interconnectedness, we realise that we must rely on each other to lift our World from where it is now to where we want it to be in our lifetime, while casting aside our worn out preconceptions, and our outdated modes of statecraft.”

Ubuntu education uses the family, community, society, environment and spirituality as sources of knowledge but also as teaching and learning media. Ubuntu social work, welfare and development refers to Afrocentric ways of providing a social safety net to vulnerable members of society, which is quite different from what we see in the modern western and developed countries. The emphasis is on collectivity. The Ubuntu approach validates worldview and traditions. This ideology is against materialism and individualism and looks at an individual person as part of the whole society. Those who believe in Ubuntu based socio-economic structure think that the social interventions done by social workers, and development workers should strengthen, not weaken families, communities or societies and protect the environment and peoples's spirituality.

The notion of Ubuntu has been implemented in political arena as well. Recently in a news broadcast, the South African epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist Salim Abdol Karim spoke in context of Covid - 19 “None of us are safe from Covid if one of us is not. We have mutual interdependence.” Vaccine nationalism is of a great concern. He warned Europe and other wealthy countries not to deprive poor countries of vaccine as the virus will spread and stay in those wealthy countries too. This message has clearly delivered the principle of Ubuntu.

Conclusion :

The correlation between the indices of HDI and views of Gandhi and principles of Ujama and Ubuntu can be clearly established. The HDI has drawn us towards more human-centric worldview based on moral values and sustainable way of living. We have experts in economics, powerful politicians and great thinkers preaching new ideologies, but none of them have lived among the millions, have known their needs and plight to survive by using the resources they have as Gandhi did. And it is this virtue of Gandhi that gives unparalleled importance to his theories of development. He does not believe in survival of the fittest, but survival and good survival of all. His talisman is of great value: "Whenever you are in doubt, try the following expedient. Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man whom you have seen and ask yourself whether the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him”

The present version of development has increased the wealth of a minority, providing them with luxurious consumables for their pleasure, but lost its ethical value. One owner controls countless labourers for the sake of one individual’s self interest and even takes intellectuals such as scientists and technology inventors and researchers on board in the name of progress. We measure national growth in its capacity to consume material wealth. To be satisfied with necessary materials rather than be greedy is the real mark of human development; and to make that happen, change in individual mindset is the only way. We need to decide, do we want to create a richer society or better individuals and citizens for a peaceful world?

Gandhi believed that the goal of economic development must be reached through just means, and progress to be achieved by following the laws of nature. The core principles of HDI are compatible with the ones laid out in John Ruskin’s ‘Unto This Last’ and rephrased by Gandhi in ‘Sarvodaya’. Everyone can work according to one’s skills and abilities and can earn more than others; but basic income should depend on individual’s needs, not on their capability is their message. One fact is emerging clearly that the whole society will only progress if capability is improved of all its members to eliminate inequality which breads violence. Honest people’s contributions in social, economic and political life and not mere increase of material goods is the real development.   

Gandhi was a visionary. He could see that if you interpret development as mere monetary or financial growth and ignore other aspects of life, you will end up in living with rife capitalism resulting in inequality. Capitalism is unethical because the way it  allows accumulation of wealth, while communism kills individual human rights. We are tasting the fruits of the Western civilisation which he opposed for this particular reason.

The United Nations Development Plan’s goal stated in its Human development report 2019, is to think beyond income, beyond averages and beyond today to remove the inequalities in human development in 21st century is set to drive the progress of humanity.

e.mail : [email protected]

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features