Guest post from Sayres Rudy, who has no idea why we’re talking about Gandhi and is offering a special tutorial to the Peace and Conflict Studies community entitled, How to Detect Intellectual Fraud.

Note how perverse this is.  How did Gandhi get privileged?  Why didn’t Gramsci, Kropotkin, or Luxemburg, or some mad militant.  there is a line by charles taylor bout religion where he says, in essence, let’s suppose there is a god.  then what?  no matter what, we are charged with interpretation of what “God” as concept and as Lawgiver actually means, says, represents.  So somehow here is our trajectory.

Palestinians are dispossessed and etc. for 50 years or a century, and the Israelis have proven repeatedly that they are maximalists who prefer to win than compromise, where winning means having all the crucial land and water, etc.  Now, Pals resist in all manner of ways and are stifled, and whole generations of people are born and raised under these realities.  Gets to be 2010 and as always, some glimmer of hope prompts people all over the world to debate what should be done, how to proceed, and so on, for all the relevant parties.  Aporia……

A bunch of leftists/progressive/critics furiously debate what a famous spiritual leader in India named Gandhi had to say and what he did 80 years ago.

So.  How is this different from looking at the war on terror and asking what Rawls would tell us to do?  The point, the critical point, is just to say, with Derrida or more simple minds:  Why are we ascribing to Gandhi special authority to guide our ideas on the situation above?  One thing we know, a la Taylor, is that Gandhi is not some kind of Absolute Master of an All-Recognized Tribunal of Reason, but he is a choice by certain people.

Why did they choose him?  Or Him, whatever.  Because they like him, they agree with him.  Why do they agree with him?  Because he (they think) agrees with them.  Thus, as with God, what really matters, again, is arguments, not authority-figures.  EVEN if we all believe in the same God, we must interpret and realize (if we are “modern”) that our interpretations are willful.  Therefore, if Gandhi makes arguments for the efficacy of peace, and X believes NOT “in Gandhi” but in those arguments, in his views about the efficacy of Non-V in Palestine, then let this person make the argument directly.  Like God, Gandhi falls out of the picture.

There is absolutely no reason to refer to Gandhi, because his authority is a red herring, a sort of stand-in for the arguments that your opponents believe or, more accurately, like.  Gandhi represents various positions that people wish to have, and in this sense creates a massive distraction from the direct exchange of arguments.  Having said that, then, we can broaden the principle and ask, Why not pick some other hero?  Why not celebrate the Polish Home Army?  In her amazing book theZookeeper’s Wife, Ackerman writes this:

With courage and ingenuity, the Polish Resistance would sabotage German equipment, derail trains, blow up bridges, print over 1,100 periodicals, make radio broadcasts, teach in covert high schools and colleges (attended by 100,000 students), aid Jews in hiding, supply arms, make bombs, assassinate Gestapo agents, rescued prisoners, stage secret plays, publish books, lead feats of civil resistance, hold its own law court, and fun couriers to and from the London-based government-in-exile.

Its military wing, the Home Army, at its height included 380,000 soldiers…Confusing as life during occupation must have been, the clandestine Polish state, linked by language rather than territory, would fight nonstop for six years.  A key to the Underground’s strength was its no-contact-upward policy and the unflagging use of pseudonyms and cryptonyms.  If no one knew his superior, capture wouldn’t endanger the core; and if no one knew anyone’s real name, saboteurs proved hard to find.

Underground headquarters floated around the city, and schools migrated from one church or apartment to another, while a band of courtiers and illegal print shops kept everyone informed.  The Underground Peasant Movement adopted the slogan of ‘As little, as late, as bad as possible,’ and set about sabotaging deliveries to Germans and diverting supplies to people in the cities, repeatedly claiming delivery of the same grain or livestock, overstating receipts, conveniently losing, destroying, or hiding provisions.

Forced laborers in the secret German rocket program at Peenemünede urinated on the electronics to corrode them…The Resistance encompassed so many cells that anyone could find a niche, regardless of age, education, or nerve.

What specifically would it mean for someone like Taylor to rummage through history and decide on Gandhi rather than the Home Army?  Or, as you say, Warsaw, etc.?  So we are finished with Gandhi, who has been made into a symbol standing in for various ideas that those pitching him themselves like, mostly because it conforms to their liberal, detached, and self-satisfied cravings, what i would call the aestheticized non violence (one that, in the most generous interpretation, could be received as a kind of recoiled, soft-headed, instinctive revulsion against the opposite, or what may seem the opposite:  the aestheticized violence of the Freikorps, Cast Lead, and all the rest, in which which “nihilistic” violence for violence sake is celebrated.

Hence, an ethical demand for peace for peace’s sake seems obvious as a sign or right thinking).  This is why if we do wish to take someone like G seriously, then we have to take all of him seriously.  The tripleviolence of immensely dull thinkers like your opponents is to 1.  rip Gandhi from India and slam him down in Palestine, 2. rip Gandhi’s principles from his Worldview, practices, religiosity, sacrificial understanding of the body and prioritization of spirituality over comfort, instrumental rationality, law, and so on, 3.  to pretend that 1 and 2 are not willful but innocent matters of interpreting an accepted God and that our joint project should be the scholastic deliberation of his texts (with the implication that anyone who rejects this entire framework is, ipso facto, either an opponent of reason or an advocate of violence).

All of these actions constitute forms of degraded and debased thinking, the kinds that made Nietzsche, Marx, Bakunin, and all their proper and diverse 20-21-century inheritors, including liberal realists, cringe or, worse, nearly lose their minds, often rotting in humanitarian prisons that are the embodied form of your opponents’ unacknowledged, aggressive will to political dominance.  Alas, there is almost no way to fight these people, because they are too stupid, for one thing, too thoughtless, for another, and much more important, they want to believe themselves in the worst way because they are not primarily concerned with Palestine or the lives of Palestinians (the passing, lifeless mentions of Cast Lead, in which 60 children were executed by the Israelis without an accounting…) — rather, they are concerned with themselves, their standing, their speech, their club, their story about themselves.  They are like the people you see (they have studied this actually) who get more and more excited about their ideas when agreed with.

How can one even begin to engage such a low form of life, except perhaps as Nabokov dealt with butterflies?

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