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Book Review

Gandhi Today: The Story of Mahatma Gandhi's Successors, by Mark Shepard

1987. Seven Locks Press

Gandhi Today - CoverWhat happened to the many initiatives started by Mahatma Gandhi? Did it all end with his assassination in 1948?

In this volume, Mark Shepard has done his best to track the many efforts which have continued after the Mahatma's death. Reading about them, anyone will sense profound regret that an assassin cut this progress short, and regret that the Mahatma's efforts have split into so many disparate movements.

This book is refreshing, in contrast to the day's usual dearth of news about peace and cooperation, for it reports at village level and state level, and does not paint the world as a patchwork of nations just waiting for a Harvard University consultant to save their souls.

Here we see local councils, people's court, centralization at village level, fulfillment of debts (however unfairly gleaned), and - above all - respect for the individual, however poor the individual may be. We meet Gandhi's spiritual successor, Vinoba Bhave, and his better known political heir, Javaprakash Narayan. We also meet Narayan Desai, who would spin cotton yarn with a tiny spinning wheel as he spoke to you, thus not to squander his time and attention to need.

Shepard's helpful list of resources cites books and addresses of organizations consulted in the research.

Sadly, the book needs an update, to let us know that these efforts have not floundered. Worse yet, given events in the world of political reality, we see the book praising at least one leader whose image has since been blackened. (See the author's current web page on the subject.)

Like the Mahatma, we must think clearly when considering the human condition. We cannot blithely  conclude that the mahatma would approve the socialism which many would identify with his efforts, for Gandhi was the first to respect individuals and their initiative, not at all seeking to create a passive mass of dependency overseen by a bwana, from afar.

I would challenge at least one historian, and one which can stand apart from political stereotypes, to research the groups and individuals named in this book and to give us a picture of Gandhi's influences in the 2000's. For there is little doubt that we could benefit from his example in many parts of the world today.



Bruce Cook, Ph.D.



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