Obama’s Fixation with Gandhi & King: Moral Masks for Immoral Tasks

Contrary to claims of mammoth ironies, Obama, in his capacity, was most appropriate in invoking Gandhi and Dr King on his recent trip to India.

For Manmohan Singh’s India and Barack Obama’s America, Gandhi and King are not just nationalized symbols; they are necessary pawns in the ruling class hands to perpetuate unjust misrules in the guise of moralist fabrics.

For the United States to continue to remain the global superpower, misappropriation of Dr Martin Luther King’s heritage is essential. A country so savagery in its foreign relations conduits in the past century that it puts Christopher Columbus to shame, needs to stifle revolutionary imaginings against its power bulwarks. A nation whose class societies are so normalized in their naked compositions and whose poorest are acceptably invisible from everything mainstream, is a nation whose needs for systematic noises of progress and prosperity must filter out all cries of despairs as nonexistent. A country which is ripe and swelling for revolutionary changes in the order of power corridors, in the control of financial stakes, in the narrations of heroes and the unpatriotic, is a country which must exercise enormous amount of illusory provisions as regards freedom, liberty and justice. A military superpower that serves to oppress its people within, is a power that needs to be justified immensely in order that it perpetuates its reign outside. This power constantly needs a moral assertion emanating from the ancient heroes – the only ones whose identification with America must supply the fresh lease of mass level complicities and collaborations with ruling class ethos. The more efficiently the United States identifies Dr King with the nation, the less likely that its citizens stand up in solidarity against its policies.

Likewise, for India, the ever aspiring superpower, arguably the largest free market democracy in the world, Mohandas Gandhi remains the biggest emblem of state sovereignty for the ruling classes. Political heads of Indian republic swear by Gandhi year after year with an aim to win continued support from a population of irrelevant voters, otherwise famished for food, knowledge, or dignified lives. India is not a country of paradoxes as some sophisticated anthropologists would like to point out. It is a country uniformly sick in mental health, perpetuating legacies of casteism, religious perversions, and patriarchal dominations. A country desperately ready for the insurgents – Maoists or otherwise, a country gloriously defeated in the purpose of its creation; India is the rising power of the East that must turn away from complexed realities and declare this turning away as the only reality. It is a country whose majority have no faith at all in the manner of ruling class governance, and rest of whom have no interest in how the majority are being governed. A stark failure in all the ideals its constitution proclaims, India’s future is best left to the invisibly countless gods, or to the irrepressibly parroted Gandhian legacies, which unfailingly garners periodic hopes from the effectively hopeless.

No wonder then that Gandhi and King would continue to remain most quoted for the Indian and American ruling heads. Not because they happened to be the smartest or the most patriotic among the citizens of their respective countries, but because the contemporary politics of diplomacy and international relations that ensures the status quo demands recreations of legends and mythical icons that stand the test of time and can be twisted to posthumously have them affirm their faith with in-credible rulers.

(“The odd thing about assassins, Dr King, is that they think they’ve killed you.” Cartoon by Bill Mauldin, April 1968, The Chicago Sun Times)

Dr Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi were among the noblest representations of the humanity, but not because they belonged to United States and the Republic of India, but because they were primarily opposed to the tragic culminations that led to formation of such countries. Neither MLK nor Gandhi ever represented or endorsed the aspirations of their respective ruling classes. Quite the contrary: they had to give up their respective lives in pursuits of challenging the madness shrouding the rulers in their given times, ironically in each case, shortly after the official freedom proclamations were declared for the ruled subjects. If Dr King chose a life dedicated to the path of social justice, of whose biggest impediment was the idea of America, Gandhi, on the other hand, vociferously declared the newly independent India was not the India of his dreams.

Obama has not merely misrepresented the legacies of King and Gandhi in his various references, he has attempted to establish them as quite the opposite of what they always stood for.

The dead don’t speak and the dead heroes can’t protest. Otherwise the high-profile meeting between Obama and Singh would not have gone without sufficient protests from Gandhi and King. Manmohan Singh is exactly the kind of leader Gandhi was vehemently against. Whereas Manmohan’s rise to fame is based solely on his intention to welcome foreign capitalists into India, Gandhi led his life of struggles with the radical call to renounce foreign goods. Gandhi was opposed to the foreign misrule but he was more vigorously opposed to foreign traders in India. On the other hand, Manmohan is opposed to neither. His fondness for imperialistic power was amply evidenced from his expressions of deep gratitude to the British Queen for the colonial past uniquely delivered to India. And, more importantly, he is beaming with pride for his unique initiatives that cemented the growth of foreign traders in India. As the architect of making capitalism central to India’s economy, Singh is just the person Gandhi would have ordered for mass, albeit, non-violent boycott of.

Gandhi was opposed not simply to the idea of the free trade capitalism which India is today embracing with unfathomable zeal, he was equally opposed to possibilities of home-grown capitalism as well. In 1933, Gandhi wrote the following registering his protest against profit-centric business ventures operating within India – both serving international companies and their domestic counterparts: “It may be considered a heresy, but I am bound to say that it were better for us to send money to Manchester and to use flimsy Manchester cloth than to multiply mills in India. By using Manchester cloth we only waste our money; but by reproducing Manchester in India, we shall keep our money at the price of our blood, because our very moral being will be sapped, and I call in support of my statement the very mill-bands as witnesses. And those who have amassed wealth out of factories are not likely to be better than other rich men. It would be folly to assume that an Indian Rockefeller would be better than the American Rockefeller. Impoverished India can become free, but it will be hard for any India made rich through immorality to regain its freedom. I fear we shall have to admit that moneyed men support British rule; their interest is bound up with its stability.”

It is not sufficient to notice that Gandhism is eluding India. It is critical to observe that India’s so-called progress in the world economy is made possible with absolute rejection of Gandhism. It is not Gandhi’s relevance today that needs to be observed by the world leaders such as Obama and Singh. It is in fact, the irrelevance of Gandhi that needs to be adequately emphasized by the two world leaders who have championed the causes of Anti-Gandhism in their own unique manners.

Not only have Singh and Obama excelled in shoving Gandhi’s economic agendas to irrelevance, they have also triumphed in propelling Gandhi towards yet another martyrdom with their respective war diplomacies. Apart from his core disapproval of foreign goods and international trade relations, Gandhi’s second most principled opposition was towards war and violence. Obama’s hesitation to internationalize Kashmir crisis does not merely run in cohort with Singh’s. It is also a serious refusal on part of both to acknowledge, let alone, consider the disputed territory and its majority Muslim population that must live several lifetimes entirely under curfew rules of a brutal Indian defense establishment. Indian people live the lives of refugees within the sovereign boundaries of the country and yet Prime Minister Singh orders elimination of the dissenters by branding some of them as Maoists, some others as militants. Farmers commit suicides under debts and inability to sustain their livelihoods within the context of globalization and yet Indian State seeks more foreign collaborations to sell the lands cheap and displace the poor into unknown futures. It was Gandhi who had declared that poverty is the worst form of violence, and yet Indian State locates the poorest as the ones causing violence. And with new funds from American collaborations, more poor people and less poverty are going to be physically eliminated.

If America and India are the most powerful and the largest democracies in the world respectively, they bring great shame to the word “democracy”. Not only are both Indian and American ruling classes oppressing their own people through systematized racism and class differences, they are also hoodwinking the world about having revolutionized the ways people in both the “democracies” live today. As Dr Martin Luther King said in 1967, a true revolution declares unjust the system of individual capitalism and its war industry; and does not glorify it: “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: ‘This is not just’….A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Against the backdrop of everything that Gandhi and King stood for, Obama and Singh have cleverly distorted it beyond recognition. And their primary accomplices, the corporate media, are undertaking a tremendously successful job of pinning all attention on what the heads of states have to say instead of verifying their intents or credibilities of what they are actually saying. In every well-orchestrated speeches being delivered by the likes of Obama and Singh, lies a plethora of falsified imageries. Instead of referring to both Gandhi and King as freedom fighters whose goals are farther today than ever before, Obama-Singh combines are claiming them as some sort of legends who had already fulfilled their goals and now from heaven, waiting for these current bunch of international corporate agents to further their cherished visions. And what visions are being attributed to the champions of non-violence and social wealth? Billions of dollars worth of armament deals and capitalistic business practices!

As if reducing the populations into debt-ridden consumers and profit-hungry capitalists were not enough, Obama received huge rounds of applause from his Indian counterpart for offering his help in securing a seat for India in the United Nations Security Council. What is the Security Council if not an elite group of militarist nations demanding exclusive control over weapons of mass destructions? Since when Gandhi’s India aspire to join the club of the goons and since when King’s dreams about America translate into remaining the big boss of that club even after genocidal assaults on Korea and Vietnam, among scores of other peaceful nations whose only fault was that they refused to bow down to the self-proclaimed superpower masters of the universe?

The actual assassins of Gandhi and King are very much alive and well today, and they are the corporate monopolists, the war-mongering power-greedy politicians with imperialistic aspirations. And yet these are the ones who reclaim their most famous victims as the most endearing idols.
There is something profound about both Gandhi and King, and that is, they were committed revolutionaries engaged in constant evolutionary progress. Gandhi’s deep aversion towards untouchability still could not dissuade him away from Hinduism just as King’s proclaimed denunciation of racism still could not prevent him from preaching Christianity. Both of them were unable to address the institutionalized religions as the gravest immoral root causes of racism, just as both of them could not provide timely support to international labor movements in fear of implying support to proletarian violence.

And yet, more importantly, neither of them was unafraid of standing upto the causes of their choosing on parallel platforms: that of principled oppositions to continuing saga of war and capitalism. Their battles were hardly ever won during their lifetimes, serving us as a constant reminder to the unfulfilled tasks lying ahead, that of identifying the militarist state powers and corporate monopolists as enemies of the people in the ongoing freedom struggles throughout the globe.

Predictably enough, in mythifying them as victorious legends at the pinnacle of state glories, the likes of Obama and Singh have converted Gandhi and King into their own pet propagandists, as essential torch-bearers of the ideas being embraced by India and America today – that of war and capitalism. In the most grotesque of historical misrepresentations, Gandhi and King have today been reduced by their false worshippers at highest of world powers, to becoming exactly the opposite of what they stood for: as poster boys for global capitalism, of the military-industrial complex, the new permanent features of the status quo, dazed and dumbed down on the revised Mt. Rushmore.

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Author: Saswat Pattanayak

Journalist, Generalist, Atheist, Poet, Lover, Photographer, Communist, Third wave Feminist, LGBT ally, Black power comrade, Peacenik, Anti-capitalist, Critical media theorist, Radical film critic, Academic non-elite…

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