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BK Blog Post
Posted by Michael Nagler.
Michael is founder and president of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and the author of Our Spiritual Crisis and The Search for a Nonviolent Future, which received a 2002 American Book Award and has been translated into several languages.
“[Unless we] rid ourselves of our dirty habits and have improved latrines, swaraj can have no value for us.” ~ Gandhi, Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol.14, pp. 56-58
A well-known and highly unfortunate aspect of prejudice against a given group is that the group itself tends to take on the low opinion of it promulgated by the oppressor. Thus swaraj (freedom—literally “self-rule”) was meaningless for India, as for any oppressed and demeaned people, if they did not first of all repossess their dignity. We are beginning to recognize this. Gandhi was sometimes called obsessive, especially by Western psychologists with their own post-Freudian hang-ups, but his cleanliness was an entirely practical measure in a country where a) diseases like cholera were rampant in the tropical climate and b), more importantly, people had unconsciously begun to “own” the dehumanization thrust upon them by a colonial power. Strategically, of course, this was a superb example of non-confrontational Constructive Programme, what I like to call a “stealth action” the political significance of which won’t be noticed by the oppressor until it’s too late.
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Stephanie Van Hook, the Metta Center’s executive director, launched Daily Metta in 2015 as a way to share Gandhi’s spiritual wisdom and experiments with nonviolence.
Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide.