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Gandhi's Swadeshi

2009 Sep 29

What does Gandhian Self Reliance mean Here and Now?

One hundred years ago, in 1909, Gandhi wrote his book Hind Swaraj, or Indian Home Rule. Swaraj, for Gandhi, embraced not just independence from Britain but radical empowerment of the people of India. It included the notion of working toward village self sufficiency (swadeshi) and independence from hierarchical government, be the government foreign or domestic. On the one hundredth anniversary of the writing of Hind Swaraj, let us reflect on how relevant this is today in our need for self sufficiency and local independence for our own community.

The first goal of Gandhi was to gain independence from the imperial colonialists and to do so through nonviolent resistance. In the world today, the masses are under the control of the money masters serving the self interest of global enterprise and perpetrated by agents of commercialism and advertisement. We need to recognize that this has infiltrated and corrupted the minds of the masses. We have been molded from independently minded citizens into docile consumers. We have become slaves of the system in order to keep the money machine churning away, growing faster and bigger. We need to break away from this controlling mechanism on humanity.

We are deluded to think that we live in a democratic society. The majority of us exercise our democratic franchise when election time comes around, hope that we have made the right choices, and leave it up to the elected to protect our democracy. This is far from the truth. Our elected governments are sponsored, lobbied and controlled by large corporate interests.

The most fundamental democratic action we can take on a daily basis is how we vote with our wallets. We can make conscious and informed choices on the things we buy and the way we conduct our lives. This is our non-violent form of protest. Every time we choose not to spend our money, not to purchase something that we don't need, we are making a bold statement in defiance of the corporate enterprise.

Relying on highly decentralized economies was Gandhi's vision of independence and local self-reliance and self-sufficiency. For Gandhi, the spirit and the soul of India rested in village communities. He said, "The true India is to be found not in its few cities, but in its seven hundred thousand villages. If the villages perish, India will perish too."

Today, the conversion to Transition Towns and relocalization is under way. Hundreds of communities around the globe are finding ways to curtail wanton consumption and build resilient communities. They are encouraging and implementing community gardens, organic farming and community supported agriculture (CSA). They are creating social enterprises through the use of bartering and alternative currencies. They think globally and act locally.

In conclusion, Gandhian Self Reliance is even more relevant today than when Ganhdi wrote about these ideas one hundred years ago. Voluntary simplicity, Gandhian swadeshi and Transition Towns constitute the only viable game plan on the table with any hope for a bright and sustainable future.

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