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Gandhi's hypocrisy; anyone is easily as moral as their heroes

Gandhi is often ranked, directly or subtly, alongside Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of the greatest peacemakers - indeed, one of the greatest human beings - of all time. The mythology that surrounds him - which he built, leaving his followers, admirers and hagiographers to reinforce and embellish - has almost completely smothered the many unflattering facts about him.
Space doesn't permit a full exploration of Gandhi's numerous, consequential skeletons- his racism, his betrayal of the Untouchables, his acquiescence toward the Nazis. Instead, let's focus on something more personal and, in some ways, more upsetting.

In August 1942, Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba, among others, were imprisoned by the British in Aga Khan Palace near Poona. Kasturba had poor circulation, and she'd weathered several heart attacks. While detained in the palace, she developed bronchial pneumonia. One of her four sons, Devadas, wanted her to take penicillin. Gandhi refused. He was okay with her receiving traditional remedies, such as water from the Ganges, but he refused her any medicines, including this newfangled antibiotic, saying that the Almighty would have to heal her.

The Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi quotes him on February 19, 1944: "If God wills it, He will pull her through." Gandhi: A Life adds this wisdom from the Mahatma: "You cannot cure your mother now, no matter what wonder drugs you may muster. She is in God's hands now." Three days later, Devadas was still pushing for the penicillin, but Gandhi shot back: "Why don't you trust God?" Kasturba died that day.

The next night, Gandhi cried out: "But how God tested MY faith!" He told one of Kasturba's doctors that the antibiotic wouldn't have saved her and that allowing her to have it "would have meant the bankruptcy of MY faith." (Emphasis mine.)

But Gandhi's faith wasn't much of an obstacle a short time later when it was his ass on the line. A mere six weeks after Kasturba died, Gandhi was flattened by malaria. He stuck to an all-liquid diet as his doctors tried to convince him to take quinine. But Gandhi refused and died of the disease, right? No, actually, after three weeks of deterioration, he took the diabolical drug and quickly recovered. The stuff about trusting God's will and testing faith only applied when his wife's life hung in the balance. When he needed a drug to stave off the Grim Reaper, down the hatch it went.


Dug up by GRINGO STARS

Sources:
* Chadha, Yogesh. Gandhi: A Life. John Wiley & Sons, 1997: pp. 395-7

* Payne, Robert. The Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi. Smithmark Publishers, 1995: pp. 501-6

Both of these books, although sympathetic to Gandhi overall, cover many of his warts. For a no-holds-barred look at his hypocrisies, see Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity.

Imperfect Role-Models 30.Jan.2006 22:37

Ben Douglass bendouglass@cheerful.com

It is sad that people attempt to foist their own ideas of "perfection" onto the great ones. My personal role-models: Ghandi, King and Thoreau were very flawed human beings but they rose above their flaws to achieve greatness for the masses.

Blurred Vision 30.Jan.2006 23:07

Lisa

Its interesting to place judgement on situations we are not in, in a time we have not lived.
All leaders no matter how great or small have fell to the side of error at some point in time. To be human is to falter, and to falter is within our nature, our nurture, and our culture. We must remember what leaders such as Gandhi stood for in a time when no one else would.
However, it is an interesting side note to evaluate our current time and the mistrust of pharmacuticals and insurance companies. We today, are constantly bombarded with questions of doubt when it comes to manufactured health remedies. As the FDA decreases its testing requirements, reduces its standards and places harmful drugs on the shelves or for perscription only to be recalled.... and with insurances companies making it "too expensive" for doctors to properly diagnose and treat illnesses...People stuggle with these issues everyday....Its not strange to question it now....why should it have been an different then.

Impossible to Judge 31.Jan.2006 08:18

--

It's virtually impossible to judge people without the full context, and there is not full context unless you were alive in that time and place.

I do know that penicillan was a high experimental drug at that time. I don't know what year it was, but my mother worked at Flushing Hospital in New York when the first penicillan shot was given--I know if was in the early to mid 40's. So offering penicillan then was NOT the same as offering it today. It was not known whether it would help or hurt, and it would not be the same as offering quinine, which was a known factor at that time.

. 31.Jan.2006 09:48

S

And the point of this article is?

I'd guess that Gandhi did far more than your sorry ass has done.

yoga masters 31.Jan.2006 12:54

rAT

It's well known that the Ghandi's were both devotees of Kriya Yoga, and thoroughly adept at diagnosing their own physical conditions. Their concepts of life and death and disease and healing were and still are worlds apart from the Western medical orthodoxies. It was never a drug-oriented nation when it came to disease. Homeopathic and herbal remedies, fasting, etc. were among the standard medical treatments in India for thousands of years. Elderly people who have a history of heart attacks are always in severe danger when they develop acute bronchial complications. And was it even a virus amenable to treatment with Penicillin? I can't help but wonder if the poster of this article is out to trash Gandhi, Hindus in general, India, or even God? I mean, what's the fucking point here? Go see that Ben Kingsley flick again. His belief that God would see him through had gotten him through so many different potentially devastating challenges already, why wouldn't he apply that belief in this situation. We cannot begin to conceive of their take on the situation, and considering the fruits of his life's labor really have no reason to question his virtue in that situation.

I agree this looks like a "doctored" story 31.Jan.2006 15:05

Mike stepbystpefarm <a> mtdata.com

The British with penicillan in mid '42? Available for prisoners in jail? I'd want to check the dates on that carefully. Not totally impossible since I think the first human the drug was used on experimentally was a Toronto cop (he died anyway -- they didn't have enough to properly treat ONE person). By the END of the war, especially the American troops has it available for infections.

And the story neglects to point out that quinine is traditional herbal medicine. I'm not sure they had any synthetic available yet -- control of parts of the world where the shrub from whose bark it could be extracted was still a military consideration well into the 20th century << it used to be called "Peruvian bark" >>

Why is this so hard to understand for people? 31.Jan.2006 20:01

GRINGO STARS

I doubt this story is out to trash anyone. It's out to knock people off of pedastals. Heroes are people, with all the faults of people. Be careful when there are some activists held up as heroes by the Hollywood and the establishment (MLK, Gandhi, anyone known as capitalist or pacifist) while other activists are reviled or forgotten.

We ALL have the capacity to do exactly what Gandhi did. And no one should look at it as something impossible that only a super-itegral uber-human can do. Activists and people who help change history are no different than you or me.

Was this made up to trash him? If so, then two of the standard, respected biographies on Gandhi made up all of this, because that is where Russ Kick got it.

Yes, Gandhi did a lot. But he also did some unsavory things that we can avoid, using history as 20/20 hindsight. Gandhi upheld landlord rights over tenant rights in India. He counseled Untouchables to accept their enslaved lot. He worked for a highly hierarchal religious order. He was human, like us.

Russ Kick, that's a whole lot of mumbo jumbo 31.Jan.2006 20:34

dumb ass whiteeee

stop showing your teeth, coward!

your article is a disgraceful attempt at justifying your limited existance.

some do think of ghandi as a hero or even a god, but he would not have accepted that.
and yes, some blieve if you use his name is vane, you will be condemned in the next life.

i'm glad she refused penecilin. if you still think penecilin and all the other so called "medecines" developed by europeans through chemical reaction and extraction is a positive development, then you are truely mistaken and misguided. simply put, your world is only as wide as the text books they have fed you like grain to a sheep.
and you eat it up as absolute truth and forget about your spirit or soul.

another person that died because he refused western medical treatment was bob marley.

what do these men have in common?? both simple, both meditative, both naturalists, both spiritualists and both rejected what you celebrate as "advancement".

your view is so limited that it even ignores scientific findings on the over all effects of western medecine on the world's populations. the over use of anti biotics alone has led to the production of "super bugs" which are developing at a much faster rate then anti biotic development for each particular strain. look at the american experiment, we are the most ill society on earth. we spend more money on "health care" than most other countries put together, so why are we still so sick? how come 2 million americans die each year of lifestyle diseases?? that's just the physical problems. let's not even get into the over use of seditives in children and adults alike.

mind you that the US is also the world's biggest illegal drug market.

the best quality of western medecine is in trauma and emergancy care, which was developed extensively during world war 1 & 2 and vietnam. this war like design is great in emergancy situations, but not very good for people and life in genral when practiced long term.

the western mind is too conveluted and degenerate to understand what ghandi was trying to achieve, who he was as a human being, his culture and his stature.

by the way, the swastika is a holly symbol, which was defaced and degraded by the nazi's desperate search for their origins and identity. the original aryan swastika symblolizes the rotating seasons and the cycle of life.

hitler also excluded iran from it's invasion plan, because he believed in the fantasically untrue folk lore about aryan tribes who travelled through the persian paltuea to reach the danube river from which hitler wrote nazi history.

if i get cancer, the last place i'm going is to a hospital. alternative medecine and especially the ancient practice of indian medecine "ayrveda" has a proven track record in healing cancer and other western lifestyle diseases. Just ask john lenin and the countless sick brits that followed his lead to india to find themselves and health. there are many western doctors who have taken up ayurveda and are parcticing in india.

there are many clinics operated by american doctors in mexico who have 50-70% remission rates for most cancers, but who are not being allowed to practice in the US simply because they use natural methods to heal and they certainly don't prescribe hudreds of thousands of dollars in pharmaceuticals that is required to heal cancer in a hospital.

Go see that Ben Kingsley flick again? Are you being serious? 31.Jan.2006 21:03

GRINGO STARS

Mike, you should check up on quinine's history:
"The large scale use of quinine as a prophylactic started around 1850, although it had been used in un-extracted form by Europeans since at least the early 1600s. Quinine was first used to treat malaria in Rome in 1631."
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinine

I am not sure where you got your misinformation about quinine, but if you are referring to the bark of the Chichona tree, then yes, American Indians had been using it for a long time before they hipped Europeans to it. That wasn't quinine, though - It was tree bark powder. Quinine is the synthetic version of that tree bark, which had been used widely for a century before Gandhi used it to save his own life.

As far as relying on that Hollywood film, financed largely by the Indian government. as an actual historical document, I can only refer you to something that might illuminate the context of that piece of propaganda:
 http://history.eserver.org/ghandi-nobody-knows.txt

Yes, the film was stirring, and canonized a sanitized version of Mahatma. But it was far from realistic, and as per the medium of film, it simplified things to the point of idiocy and effective misdirection. Better yet, don't see that insipid oversimplification. Actually take time and read about Gandhi, including his own words. V.S. Naipaul's books are particularly excellent. There are over 400 biographies of Gandhi, and his own writings run to 80 volumes.
 http://history.eserver.org/ghandi-nobody-knows.txt

d.a. whitey 31.Jan.2006 23:07

ike

'if i get cancer, the last place i'm going is to a hospital. alternative medecine and especially the ancient practice of indian medecine "ayrveda" has a proven track record in healing cancer and other western lifestyle diseases. Just ask john lenin and the countless sick brits that followed his lead to india to find themselves and health. there are many western doctors who have taken up ayurveda and are parcticing in india.' -
Q: was j. lenon sick???

--and---
there are many clinics operated by american doctors in mexico who have 50-70% remission rates for most cancers, but who are not being allowed to practice in the US simply because they use natural methods to heal and they certainly don't prescribe hudreds of thousands of dollars in pharmaceuticals that is required to heal cancer in a hospital.

(thumbs up)

Let's not confuse Gandhi with GW... 02.Feb.2006 15:25

Pravda or Consequences

They're both human, but there is more than just a slight difference.