The UnGhandi generation

Breakthrough Blog has a fascinating post focusing on two bloggers from India who challenge the asceticism and anti-modernism of Gandhi, paralleling that with the similar views of the ascetic wing of the environmental movement

A few quotes to give the flavor.

When they hear Western environmentalist lionize Gandhi and moralize against coal burning in India, they hear the hypocritical rich wanting to deny prosperity for the poor.

As I learned more about him, I was less inspired by Gandhi’s view that India should embrace poverty, religion, and tradition against modern prosperity and freedom.

The problem with asceticism is simply this: asceticism is a rejection of the world around us. Asceticism places the concept (of nirvana) over the tangible (people).

“I don’t support conscious suffering,” Arduous writes, before quoting from Gandhi’s chilling, open letter urging the British people to give into the Nazis. “Let them take possession of your beautiful island, with your many beautiful buildings,” Gandhi counseled. “You will give all these, but neither your souls nor your minds.” It was a chilling coup de grace to nostalgic Western views of eco-Gandhi.

We can not and will not solve the problems of global warming and peak oil by rejecting the modern world and technology. Passivity is not the answer, nor is trying to retreat to a supposedly bucolic past that never existed in the first place. Rather, action and using the technological tools we have is how we will solve them.


  1. Ah, but here in mammonist, money-worshipping America, some of us are so sick of empty materialism, we’re very deeply attracted to simple lifestyles and asceticism.

    I find myself binging and purging: accumulating books and CDs and other things, then rebelling against my collector mentality.

    The Technological Imperative is our enemy: “what can be made must be made, and humans must accept and adopt to what is made.”

    Progress and labor-saving machinery is a blessing. Free from basic survival terrors, one gains time and relaxation to ponder the deeper things of life and the universe. Or one can give oneself to mindless, reckless self-indulgence.

    I love how most faiths theoretically embrace the transcending of self, where we enter into a new reality: God and our neighbor.

    In poor areas of the USA and the world, the mainstream media pushes discontent with the plain, simple, and wholesome, and hypes the extravagant, excessive, and extreme.

    Somehow we need to remain critical of the relentless drive to tamper with nature, genetically modify food, and hold forth pharmaceutical solutions to health problems better treated with herbs, exercise, and natural methods.

    Americans are guilty of super materialism, too much reliance on science, and a bleak chasing after more, more, more.

    I find peace by contemplating the beauty of the sky, birds, flowers, and the One who is so artistic and intelligent to have made this universe so eternally far beyond man’s puny imagination and comprehension.

    Peace to all sentient beings and joy to the entire world of non-violent problem solvers!

  2. In a foreshadowing of the situation in which the world finds itself now, Gandhi was once asked whether he intended to bring India to the standard of living of Britain. His reply: Britain has attained this standard of living using the resources of half the planet. For India to attain the same standard, we’d need several planets.

    We have reached a point at which, because of the staggeringly huge population of the Earth, the attainable average standard of living is frighteningly low. The U.S. economic theory is based on the idea that everyone can attain the standard we have– that just isn’t possible. That means for others to live better, the rich (that’s us) must give something up. That suggests asceticism would promote a better standard of living.

    BTW, both Christianity and Buddhism also teach that asceticism is important in the search for Truth. Materialism does more than just focus one’s attention on the world– it also promotes greed.

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