Thursday, December 1, 2011

You Know Who Was Kind of a Jerk? GANDHI.

Why the Great Humanitarian was Actually a Horrible Human Being

When I say the name Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a couple of things probably come to mind. Peace, nonviolence, passive resistance, an Academy Award winning motion picture ironically starring a British guy as a Hindu . .you know, all of the basic stuff, really.

Although Gandhi is unquestionably one of the most important philosophical and social figures of the 20th century, he’s also a guy that gets a LOT of beneficial leeway when it comes to what he’s remembered for. Sure, sure, Gandhi was responsible for the Salt March and played a prominent role in getting the English to relinquish control of the Indian subcontinent, but at the same time...the guy had some, ahem, questionable marks on his record, too.

Satyagraha, swadeshi, swaraj...yeah, yeah, we’ve heard about that stuff a million times by now. What isn’t common knowledge, however, is that the “Great Soul” had a penchant for some downright bizarre behaviors, and for a guy that’s supposedly the century’s greatest advocate for love and understanding, he’s dropped more than a few quotes and quips that seem to argue to the contrary.

So, just how many strikes against Gandhi are out there? Well, I’ve stumbled across five that you probably won’t encounter in any peace studies course, these somehow forgotten nuggets of knowledge that, for some reason or another, seem to have been swept under the hand-woven rug of history.

Time to meet the other side of the Mahatma, don’t you think?


He was a horrible father and spouse abuser

By his own admission, Gandhi said that he was a pretty horrendous dad and hubby. He wasn’t exactly fond of his wife and his crusade for global peace doubled as a really, really convenient excuse to circumvent child support payments. If you’re one of those people that like to gauge the measure of a man by how he raises his children, I think you’d have to give Gandhi a solid “F” for effort - ESPECIALLY judging by the way his eldest son turned out.

Gandhi was never all that supportive of his first son, Harilal, whom he often called a "mistake." Hell, he disliked his first born so much that he even refused to talk to his second son just because he lent money to him. Furthermore, he was damn, damn, damn opposed to letting him attend law school, even though Gandhi himself, you know, kind of went to law school. After being publicly disowned by his father, Harilal ended up a penniless drunk, resorting to male prostitution to support himself on the streets of Bombay until he died of a pickled liver in 1948.

Gandhi also treated his wife, Kastubra, with the kind of iron-fist resolve usually reserved for Lifetime made-for-cable movies. Not only did he admit to routinely beating the crap out of her and committing random acts of adultery in his youth, his actions resulted in her expedited death, as he REFUSED to allow her penicillin while she was suffering from a severe bout of pneumonia.

But on the positive side of things, at least he wrote a lot of flowery prose about her while she was alive...mostly, in journal entries in which he compared her to a cow:

Well, if nothing else, at least we can take solace in knowing that Gandhi was more of an Al Bundy than a Ward Cleaver.

He was pen pals with Hitler

Today, if someone said “you know, that Hitler fellow wasn’t as bad as most people make him out to be,” they would probably get fired, expelled, excommunicated, sued, divorced or, if you’re in Canada, possibly arrested. Although we have the gift of hindsight, it still seems pretty stupid for anyone to make amends for Der Fuhrer, even before all of that stuff about the Holocaust became rudimentary information around the globe. 

In his lifetime, Gandhi sent two letters to Adolf Hitler; one in 1939, and the other in 1940. Both letters were pleas from Gandhi to stop killing the shit out of Western Europeans, and in both instances, he referred to Hitler as "my friend." But in Gandhi's defense, he really didn't know who he was when he got a request on Facebook, so we can't blame the guy too much here.

While the first letter was a pretty humdrum attempt to get Hitler to change his mind about steamrolling Czechoslovakia (SPOILER: it didn't work), his second letter to the Nazi leader was far more interesting, containing the following quote:

Now, we all make some judgment calls that, in hindsight, seem really, really bad. Then again, most of our errors are more along the lines of picking the Buffalo Bills to win the Super Bowl, and not stating that a pissed off Austrian that killed 20 million plus people got an unfair shake by the general public. In Gandhi's (admittedly, quite weak defense) this was before all that info about the extermination camps was common knowledge, so even with all of this unpleasantness, we really cannot say that Gandhi was a proponent of Jewish suffering during World War II. I mean, it's not like he encouraged the Jews to just die in the face of Nazism or anything...

"If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest Gentile German might, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance, but would have confidence that in the end the rest were bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy [...] the calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the God-fearing, death has no terror. "

...well, never mind, then. 
He sort of had a thing for his underage relatives. . .

Gandhi was a big proponent of this thing called brahmacharya, which was basically practicing self-control when faced with physical temptation, like lust or hunger. According to Gandhi’s philosophy, one could only obtain truth by controlling one’s senses, which is the sort of asceticism that comes attached to just about every quasi-spiritual movement. The thing is, Gandhi took the idea about twenty steps further, believing that he had to periodically test himself to see just how much restrain he could muster. The results, if applied today, would probably lead you not to enlightenment, but a guest appearance on the next installment of To Catch A Predator.

One of Gandhi’s favorite “tests of restraint” involved sleeping in the same bed with young women. As in, middle school aged, and to make things a new shade of creepy, he made them get totally nude beforehand. And as Gandhi’s journals have exposed, he definitely had a difficult time keeping those lowly desires at a minimum.

And as if the idea of an old dude laying around bare assed nekkid with jail bait wasn’t “eww!”-inducing enough, Gandhi’s favorite test subject just so happened to be his own grand-niece. Oh, and apparently, he sort of had this thing for enemas. . .but yeah, nobody wants to know the gory details about that little hobby.

Of course, this didn’t make Gandhi unfaithful to his wife, per himself. In fact, Gandhi often boasted that not once did he engage in sexual activity with anyone (including his own wife), despite routinely using junior high school students as meat blankets. If we’re trying to find a silver lining here, I suppose we can find succor that, as far as written documentation goes, Gandhi never gave into his carnal desires when surrounded by his underage relatives. Now, when surrounded by Hebrew strongmen, on the other hand…

…and oh yeah, possibly German-Jewish bodybuilders, too

Earlier this year, a new book was released that accused Gandhi of having a three decade plus affair with Hermann Kallenbach, an impossible mishmash of a human being that somehow managed to be German, Jewish, an architect and a bodybuilder simultaneously  

Now, semi-biographical hatchet jobs are really nothing new in the publishing world, but did I tell you that the book was also written by a Pulitzer Prize winner and a former executive editor for The New York Times

In fact, the book alleges that Gandhi and Kallenbach even formulate pet names for one another, the not at all suggestive monikers of "upper house" and "lower house" - and in case you were wondering, the book surmises that Gandhi was indeed "the upper house" in the relationship, if you catch my drift
Knowing what we know about the guy now, I suppose we can at least take some solace in knowing that he probably didn’t tell his buddy Hitler about this one.

He kind of didn’t like black people.

We’ve all heard the story about a billion times: Gandhi’s kicking back, riding in a train in South Africa, and then he gets booted off because he looks “too black” for the management’s liking. Gandhi, never the sort to take injustice lying down, starts ruminating over the issue of prejudice and inequality, and voila! Instant revolution.

Although the history books may tell us that Gandhi witnessing the persecution of black Africans was what initially got the ball rolling for his nonviolent movement in India, the reality is, Gandhi was never really that defensive of the black Africans’ rights, before, after, or even DURING his stay in South Africa.

In fact, according to some accounts, Gandhi was sort of. . .well, racist against the black folks.

To get the big ball of hate rolling, in an 1896 meeting in Bombay, Gandhi allegedly said that:

Odds are, if you aren't sort of shocked by that passage, you're probably an American, since that's really the only country in the world where "kaffir" isn't routinely used as a racial slur for black people. So, in effect, what we have here is a Gandhi that sounds more like a David Duke than an MLK. And rest assured: there are plenty more suspect quotes on file for "The Great Soul."

Here's another choice cut, this time from a 1905 editorial in The Indian Opinion

And to outdo that one, in an op-ed for the same newspaper a year later, he actually penned an essay CONDONING racial segregation: 

...and just a few months later, Gandhi wrote another op-ed, this time in support of apartheid (and with a few cracks about black people being drunks and smelly, too boot:)

Hell, Gandhi even felt the need to send letters to the Johannesburg Office of Health about the "Kaffir Problem," as this 1905 letter demonstrates:

And just for good measure, Mr. "Nonviolence" Himself issued this statement in 1906, in which he says the murder of black Africans during the Zulu War didn't really count

"A controversy is going on in England about what the Natal Army did during the Kaffir rebellion. The people here believe that the whites of Natal perpetrated great atrocities on the Kaffirs. In reply to such critics, the Star has pointed to the doings of the Imperial Army in Egypt. Those among the Egyptian rebels who had been captured were ordered to be flogged. The flogging was continued to the limits of the victim's endurance; it took place in public and was watched by thousands of people. Those sentenced to death were also hanged at the same time. While those sentenced to death were hanging, the flogging of others was taken up. While the sentences were being executed, the relatives of the victims cried and wept until many of them swooned. If this is true, there is no reason why there should be such an outcry in England against Natal outrages."

And then, there was Gandhi's feelings about blacks within his own native country. I think I'll let you study that one on your own time

So what, if anything, have we learned here today? Well, pretty much what we already know...that most "Great" human beings really aren't that great, and no matter how vaunted and celebrated a figure may be, there's a pretty good chance that he or she has more than a few skeletons in his or her respective closet.

Should all of this information change your opinion about Gandhi? Eh, maybe it should, maybe it shouldn't - the important thing you realize here is that there's way more history out there than what's generally circulated amongst the public pool of knowledge - meaning that there's a high likelihood that everything you think you know isn't neccesarily the "real " reality at hand.


  1. Yes Gandhi was an Asshole. I am a Dalit and Gandhi was in favour of caste system.

  2. Thank you for this educational article! I like most people have only seen the peaceful, spiritual side of Gandhi through social media circulated quotes, making him appear as a MLK type figure. Never again will I use one of his quotes not will I read them the same way again. Very eye opening!

  3. Whee.

    Well, it's quite unsurprising to discover the generous picture painted by society of this individual is wrong. Most famous figures are reduced to angel or demon-like appearances.

    John Paul II was awesome, blessed, bla bla bla, he also had hallucinations and was probably schizophrenic. But no one would eeever peep a word about that, would they?

    Hitler? Oooh boy, he was the evil to end all evils, bearing the brunt of bad jokes more than half a century later... because the propaganda about him was quite unparalleled, yes. I mean yeah, he was pretty bad, but no more than a lot of other politicians/rulers.

    Putin? Whoof, he's almost like a mini-Hitler. Except he really lifted a whole bunch of people out of poverty, and stands as at least one image to oppose the insanity of the US. Again, not a saint, but not teeth-achingly evil either.

    Now we come to Trump n' Hillary. Honestly? It's very hard to tell anything about them. I don't like Trump, if only because his unique (but damn effective) campagning strategy was rather offensive to me, but Hillary is inscrutinable. There's so much misinformation on both sides its nearly impossible to be an informed voter :(...

  4. Gandhi was the cause of the division of India. Why didn't the idiot stop the British from dividing Indian Muslim's to Pakistan and Bangladesh ( east Pakistan). He was paid well by the Brits and was raised to fame. Just 5 years after the divide India and Pakistan were liberated / freed with a difference of only one day ( which you know was politically well planned by the new leaders on both sides - well compromised but made to look like a freedom struggle). During his time we had many others freedom fighters who suffered mercilessly for India but he stayed mum about it only because the Brit gave him a good offer and if he stood against them he would lose everything that he was offered.


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