The Afterlife of Mahātmā Gandhi – a Peaceful Warrior

Posted by on Mar 28th, 2024 and filed under Politics, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

By András Sándor Kocsis

“A creative person is one who thinks differently from others, and acts differently from others” – András Sándor Kocsis.

1. Solidarity

Animals are preserved by their innate genetic programming, which will provide them with definitive guidance on where they belong, what the most suitable habitat is for them, who their enemies and friends are. Humans, on the other hand, are born alone, and were it not for companions to care for them from birth, to watch over them, to help them in their troubles, they would hardly survive on Earth.

Caring for others, feeling empathy for the plight of others, and offering help represent the evolutionary legacy of humanity, without which the first human beings would hardly have survived. But the disposition to solidarity stopped where familiarity, kinship, or one’s own group ended. Beyond all that, stretched an unnerving world of strangeness, inducing not curiosity but anxiety and fear instead, which easily gave rise to hostility and warfare; all the more so because this is how the boundary between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ was drawn, which brought some certainty into uncertainty.

Humanity has still not been able to identify the name that could be used to extend the command of solidarity to everyone, regardless of the god the distressed person believes in, the colour of their skin, where they were born and where they are heading from there. The circles of solidarity have kept widening beyond the boundaries of the former tribal world, but the time is still far off when all members of humanity, now expanded into a single global state, can expect to receive sympathy and help from anyone, when in need.

Solidarity is a value that only works if you learn who belongs in your circle, to whom you should have compassion and to whom you should offer help when needed. But the ultimate target group for solidarity is the whole of humanity without boundaries. The search for boundaries hinders solidarity for all, which will only be possible when we realise that no one is worth more than another and no one’s pain is more painful than another’s. Being without boundaries is a global destiny, in which hate is also present alongside love. Both of them, i.e. love and hate, solidarity and cruel cold-heartedness, can coexist because they reside in man, who can choose between them. Both “yes” and “no” stem from existence. Which one is acted upon is determined by free will.

2. Freedom

Freedom is apparently a human experience that shapes and transforms that which exists, creating that which does not but could exist, and destroying that which exists. Looking deeper into existence, we can agree with Heidegger, who says that freedom exists in existence itself, and shapes human being-in-the-world only as a part of existence. Freedom is the motive force of the floating, jittering tiny material particles that fill nothingness, which simultaneously both exist and do not exist, depending on whether they are observed by someone, who could be no other than man. Bound by unchanging and immutable laws, physical bodies that populate the visible and audible world exist in the free space of elementary particles. The dichotomy of the unbound microworld and the bound macroworld brings the freedom of will, the freedom of action, and the freedom of thought into the virtual reality created by the human brain, without which these lines would have neither an author nor readers.

A big question for the future is whether spoken and written words, organised into sentences, will bring the creative and destructive forces of freedom only to successive generations of people socialised for existence, or whether as a result of data recording, data transmission, and data processing technologies developing at a breathtaking pace, a new occupant will inhabit the house of existence constructed by language, which will, without having a brain, combine words to form meaningful sentences, and whose network of billions of cells will filter the meaning out of a meaningless jumble.

Rousseau stated that “man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains”. In the meantime, thanks largely to the revolutionary tinder inherent in the statement, the chains were loosened, and mankind set out on the path of self-liberation. On 26 August 1889, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was born, stating that “all men are born and remain free and equal” and declaring that “the aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man”, which comprise the rights of liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

The rights listed in this painfully topical list need to be defended over and over again, and in this sense, freedom remains a social project that is not complete anywhere on Earth. Today, however, the technological revolution that has freed language from the captivity of the brain confronts us with the possibility that the virtual occupant of the house of existence constructed by language will displace the real occupants and take control of them, which completes the process of stripping us of our freedom – not imposed by political repression but caused solely by our own reluctance to act and think freely.

We are living the last moments when this process can still be reversed before the darkness of invisible planetary idiocy, which will inhibit everything and everyone, is about to encroach upon our visible earthly world, where the self-induced madness of power will destroy freedom, along with all the values that emerge beyond the temptations of brutality, power and violence as mere ghosts bearing tantalizing reminders of the eternal questions “where to?”, “why?” and “what is next?”

3. Re-humanisation of politics

We need to reclaim our freedom and solidarity if we are to build a future for ourselves and our descendants that we wish to shape rather than endure only. First, however, we must put an end to our illusions. Man is a creature of possibilities, and in his search for the narrow boundary between what exists and what does not, he tends to forget that the possibility of something does not necessarily mean that it will actually emerge. The possibility of freedom is a breeding ground for illusions unless we take a reasonable account of the danger inherent in seeing, through the prism of allure, as reality something that is not.

As much as it conflicts with our liberal illusions, we will fail if we refuse to admit that the political fight for the all-round, radical and risky but inescapable service of humanity cannot be won if we, confident that we are right, are just expecting victory to come to us without us expending efforts.

The political euphoria that followed the change of regime has backfired – and instead of fulfilling the dream of a free society based on democracy, solidarity and humanity, it killed the dream – because the euphoria prompted the supporters to lay down their arms, while the opponents grew enormously in numbers, faith and strength. Freedom is worthless without equality, in the absence of which those who are inevitably excluded from the benefits of capitalism will become the majority, and, trapped by demagoguery, will strengthen the opponents of freedom. As a consequence, the world is haunted by the spectre of illiberalism, against which there is nothing to do but fight.

In battle, we need to know who our friends and enemies are. Of course, there is no sharp distinction between the opposing sides. The majority wavers. Few are those who believe that politics is for the common good, and few are those who, clinging to their hoarded possessions, do not believe in the common good and in democratic consensus, and subjugate everyone else, seeking solely their own benefit.

What can humane politics do in the face of an opponent who is inhuman, hypocritical and a liar to the core? It cannot adopt its methods, it cannot beguile or lie to people, it can do only one thing: say no, firmly and unequivocally, as President of the United States of America Joe Biden did when he said these words on 23 February 2023 in Warsaw on his way back from Ukraine: “Autocrats only understand one word: ‘No’. ‘No, you will not take my country.’ ‘No, you will not take my freedom.’ ‘No, you will not take my future.’ And I’ll repeat tonight what I said last year in this same place: A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never be able to erase the people’s love of liberty. Brutality will never grind down the will of the free. And Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never.” 

The expected victory of the free world in the face of populism, authoritarianism and illiberalism will come at the last moment when the hope that freedom is not lost for good can still be revived. The lesson learned from the failures of the recent past is that politics is a day-to-day referendum in which the friends of freedom must convince the majority that the paths leading to prosperity are those of freedom, solidarity and equality.

The new arena of political warfare is the virtual world, and without conquering it, defeat is certain. The dangers posed by inhuman applications of technology can be avoided. But defence and resistance are not enough. We must learn to use new means of persuasion, the power of which lies in networking, in the constant search for creative and innovative methods.

4. Political elegance

The great French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon bequeathed to us the saying that “style is the man himself”. Politics is a multi-player game, in which those will prevail in the long run whose style of behaviour and thinking reckon with the volatility of the political terrain and with the often completely unexpected transformations of partners, whereby a friend can become an adversary and an adversary can become a friend in no time. Prosocial and constructive political elegance combines goodwill, good faith, trust and a willingness to cooperate. An aggressive, non-elegant, brutal political style starts with malice, bad faith, suspicion and the desire to defeat the opponent at all costs.

Game theory teaches that reciprocating goodwill maximises the expected gains from cooperation. It is cooperation, not selfishness, that makes us human. The question arises that, if this is so, why does human play involve so much blood and tears, why did Heraclitus say that “war is the father of all and king of all”? Why does great 19th century Hungarian poet Mihály Vörösmarty say that “from dragon’s teeth will spring his [man’s] budding grain: All hope is vain! All hope is vain!”

Evolutionarily, humans are predisposed to both prosocial and antisocial behaviour. Positive emotions are inherently reserved only for those who belong to the same group, worship the same god, or share common ancestors. Strangers or members of other groups cannot expect goodwill, whereas suspicion and distrust towards them is justified. The dual legacy of in-group benevolence and inter-group malevolence is still with us today.

But today, we belong to many groups at once, and in our kaleidoscope of changing networks, no one can be a complete stranger. The strength of modern societies lies in the multiplicity of weak ties, all based on trust and good faith. Of course, it often happens that our trust is abused and that we are fooled. But if we start out with suspicion towards others, we will never find out that we could have trusted them. Suspicion is a prison we build for ourselves.

With the displacement of elegant, benevolent patterns, it is violence, hatred, exclusion and injustice that become people’s day-to-day experience, where society as a whole sees itself as worse than it actually is. A ‘spiral of silence’ is set in motion, whereby everyone thinks of themselves as good, but considers everyone else bad. “I trust others”, “I want to help”, “I have compassion for the persecuted”, people say to themselves, while also saying that “others don’t trust me”, “no one wants to help me” and “the persecuted cannot count on the compassion of the majority”. Back in his day, 20th century Hungarian sociologist and philosopher Elemér Hankiss was well aware of the social trap that was emerging, in which “no one trusts no one else”.

Great Hungarian 19th century politician and political theorist István Széchenyi brilliantly guessed that the secret of political elegance lay in credit, where the real reward was not financial but spiritual. It is credit in the spiritual sense that enables members of society to believe that they are better than they think.

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András Sándor Kocsis is a Hungarian economist and sociologist. He is the President & CEO of Kocsis Publishing House. He’s also served as the President & CEO of the Kossuth Publishing House. He has served on the Economic Council at Western Hungarian University and served as President of the Hungarian Publishing Houses’ and Book Trading Companies’ Association.

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