WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8328

Date uploaded in London – – – 12 July 2020   

Contact –

Pictures are taken from various sources for spreading knowledge; this is a non- commercial blog. Thanks for your great pictures.

Positive Side of Leaders

When we look around the world, we see how well some PMs and Presidents serve, even after leaving office! And leaving alone their political speeches, how many of them are interested in better and higher things!

  The book ‘The Roads to Modernity” by Gertrude Himmelfarb, a Prof. of history, compares the British, French and American Enlightenment movements.

Taken from: rightweb.irc-online.
It carries an introduction by Gordon Brown, PM of Great Britain 2007-2010, and for ten years before that their Chancellor of the Exchequer. He writes there:

Himmelfarb argues persuasively that whereas the essence of French Enlightenment was ‘reason’, the British Enlightenment is defined by the idea of ‘social virtues’ that ‘naturally, instinctively, habitually bound people to each other’- virtues such as ‘respectability, responsibility, decency, industriousness, prudence and temperance’.

Himmelfarb calls this ethos ‘the sociology of virtue’, the translation of a private duty into a public responsibility…..the British tradition of strong voluntary associations and faith groups.

No one exemplifies this characteristically British approach better than the much  misunderstood Adam Smith. ‘All for ourselves and nothing for other people’ is ‘a vile maxim’, wrote Smith….His Wealth of Nations  was underpinned by his Theory of Moral Sentiments, his  invisible hand in the economy supported by the helping hand in the civic society.

So the two ideologies that have dominated the histories of many other countries  have never taken root here- neither dominant state power, which chokes individual liberty;nor crude individualism.

….Britishness….It is an approach to progressive change resting on a deep moral sense that continues to characterise our country’s view of itself….

(From: The Roads to Modernity, by Gertrude Himmelfarb, Introduction. Vintage,2008)

The portrait of Gordon Brown, 
above is the official portrait
By HM Government (Number 10. from the national Archives.

Any serious student of the history of economic thought, or of social and political history would be thrilled, going through such passages! How well has the essence of the book been captured, and amplified by his own observations! How well has he expressed the uniqueness of the  British approach!  This, coming from the Prime Minister!
Another nice point here is that Gertrude Himmelfarb is a conservative interpreter of History, while Gordon Brown is a member of the Labour Party (Socialist)!Differences in political perspective or ideology  have not prevented them from appreciating the basic truth of ‘Britishness’!
How many politicians of India, while in or out of power, dealt with such matters with such clarity of vision and

understanding?  [Dr.Radhakrishnan would write, but he was not a professional politician.]

Indian politicians merely indulge in polemics, and repeat theories and ideas of foreigners. We found some originality or fresh ideas in some opposition leaders, none from the ruling side. But these ideas did not result in any positive action. Nor did they continue, once they came to power!

Has this situation come about because we had a long period of struggle for freedom from colonial rule, when protest was the main instrument?

But, active freedom struggle, in the form of mass movement, lasted about forty years, while we have been free now for over 70 years! Even during the active struggle, we had novel forms of protest under Gandhiji. In free India. opposition parties have been indulging in violence, destruction of public property. They even burn the Constitution which we have made and given unto ourselves!

Gandhiji, the Lone Exception

 This protest against colonial rule was as much intellectual as it was physical.

It is here that Gandhiji taught us many  a practical lesson, by his example, leading from the front. He opposed British rule, but never preached hatred against them.He never advocated or allowed or tolerated  violence. His arena was not just the political space, but included other aspects of life. For Gandhiji, political freedom was but an aspect of a larger vision . He had his own ideas on economics, education, social service, health, and many other things..He did not hold power. He was opposing the mighty British government. But he undertook ‘constructive programme’, which involved strenuous labour in different fields… He introduced a parallel economy, no less: Khadi, revival of village industries, encouragement of local enterprises, new system of education (Nai Talim), etc. He carried on a relentless campaign for social change, and against evils such as drinking , through his journals. He constantly educated people on many issues. He found time to answer correspondents, in spite of his other public activities.  His followers took up such work in the different provinces. They were prepared for any sacrifice, while freedom was still distant and uncertain. Some of them even started commercial banks, as they did not want to patronise the Imperial Bank, which in any case was not helping our people; they also thought that without economic independence, political independence was not complete. 

In most cases, leaving aside politics. Gandhiji’s ideas have been proved to be scientific and effective. Today, his economic ideas are celebrated by all deep thinkers, all over the world. But the point here is not that.

The point is: Gandhiji was a politician, opposing a mighty empire, but he found time and energy to act on his convictions and take positive action, involving thousands of volunteers all over the country, many of whom gave up their studies and prospects of  steady career. He engaged his followers in much constructive work. All those who joined him before 1942 had believed and participated in such constructive work (except perhaps Nehru). He showed an alternative path to people in practical terms, empowered them and enabled them to acquire economic independence, even if to a limited extent. He taught them that they could live without dependence on a foreign government. He showed the immense potentiality and power of voluntary action. He did this when he did not have political power! He was like Viswamitra, creating a parallel universe!

Gandhiji also created a team of talented persons who could explain, expand and build on his ideas: J.C. Kumarappa, Bharatan Kumarappa, Vinoba Bhave, K.G. Mashruwala, Appa Patwardhan, etc.

tags –constructive politics-2

to be continued……………………………………..

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: