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PHILOSOPHY > THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Poverty and Riches
Poverty And Riches
Avoidance of Strife
I have heard many of our countrymen say that we will gain American wealth, but avoid its methods. I venture to suggest that such an attempt, if it were made, is foredoomed to failure. We cannot be 'wise, temperate and furious' in a moment. (SW, pp. 353-4)
Every palace that one sees in India is a demonstration, not of her riches, but of the insolence of power that riches give to the few, who owe them to the miserably requited labours of the millions of the paupers of India. (YI, 28-4-1927, p. 137)
Duty of the rich
For those who wish to follow the latter way, the best and most effective mantra is:[******************************************] (Enjoy the wealth by renouncing it). Expanded it means: "Earn your cores by all means. But understand that your wealth is not yours; it belongs to the people. Take what you equire for your legitimate needs, and use the remainder for society."
This truth has hitherto not been acted upon; but, if the moneyed classes do not even act on it in these times of stress, they will remain the slaves of their riches and passions and, consequently, of those who overpower them.
...I see coming the day of the rule of the poor, whether that rule be through force of arms or of non-violence. Let it be remembered that physical force is transitory even as the body is transitory. But the power of the spirit is permanent, even as the spirit is everlasting. (H, 1-2-1942, p. 20)
I have no hesitation in endorsing the opinion that generally rich men and, for that matter, most men are not particular as to the way they make money. In the application of the method of non-violence, one must believe in the possibility of every person, however depraved, being reformed under humane and skilled treatment. We must appeal to the good in human beings and expect response.
Good of All
I therefore suggest that my advice, that moneyed men may earn their cores (honestly only, of course) but so as to dedicate them to the service of all, is perfectly sound. [******************************] is a mantra based on uncommon knowledge. It is the surest method to evolve a new order of life of universal benefit in the place of the present one where each one lives for himself without regard to what happens to his neighbour. (H, 22-2-1942, p. 49)
My ahimsa would not tolerate the idea of giving a free meal to a healthy person who has not worked for it in some honest way, and if I had the power, I would stop every Sadavrat where free meals are given. It has degraded the nation and has encouraged laziness, idleness, hypocrisy and even crime. Such misplaced charity adds nothing to the wealth of the country, whether material or spiritual, and gives a false sense of meritoriousness to the donor.
Work, Not Charity
I know that it is easier to fling free meals in the faces of idlers, but much more difficult to organize an institution where honest work has to be done before meals are served. From a pecuniary standpoint, in the initial stages at any rate, the cost of feeding people after taking work from them will be more than the cost of the present free kitchen. But I am convinced that it will be cheaper in the long run, if we do not want to increase in geometrical progression the race of loafers which is fast over-running this land.
To people famishing and idle, the only acceptable form in which God can dare appear is work and promise of food as wages. (YI, 13-10-1921, p. 325)
I must refuse to insult the naked by giving them clothes they do not need, instead of giving them work which they sorely need. I will not commit the sin of becoming their patron but, on learning that I had assisted in impoverishing them, I would give them neither crumbs nor cast off clothing, but the best of my food and clothes and associate myself with them in work. (ibid)
I do feel that, whilst it is bad to encourage begging, I will not send away a beggar without offering him work and food. If he will not work, I should let him go without food. Those who are physically disabled like the halt and the maimed have got to be supported by the State.
Dependence on Servants
But if what an individual seeks is not slavery, but the co-operation of a fellow-being, he will not only serve himself but also him whose co-operation he needs. Through the extension of this principle, a man's family will become co-terminus with the world and his attitude towards his fellow-beings will also undergo a corresponding change. There is no other way of reaching the desired consummation. (H, 10-3-1946, p. 40)