Reader: When you speak of driving out Western civilization, I suppose you
will say that we want no machinery.
Editor: By raising this Question, you have opened the wound I
have received. When I read Mr.Dutt's Economic History of India, I wept; as I
think of it again my heart sickens. It is machinery that has impoverished India.
It is difficult to measure the harm that Manchester has done to us. It is due to
Manchester that Indian handicraft has all but disappeared.
But I make a mistake. How can Manchester be blamed? We wore
Manchester cloth and this is why Manchester wove it. I was delighted when I read
about the bravery of Bengal. There were no cloth mills in that presidency. They
were, therefore, able to restore the original hand-weaving occupation. It is
true Bengal encourages the mill industry of Bombay. If Bengal had proclaimed a boycott of all
machine made goods, it
would have been much better.
Machinery has begun to desolate Europe. Ruination
is now knocking at the English gates. Machinery is the chief symbol of modern
civilization; it represents a great sin.
The workers in the mills of Bombay have
become slaves. The condition of the women working in the mills is shocking. When
there were no mills, these women were not starving. If the machinery craze grows
in our country, it will become an unhappy land. It may be considered a heresy,
but I am bound to say that it were better for us to send money to Manchester and
to use flimsy Manchester cloth than to multiply mills in India. By using
Manchester cloth we only waste our money; but by reproducing Manchester in
India, we shall keep our money at the price of our blood, because our very moral
being will be sapped, and I call in support of my statement the very mill-bands
as witnesses. And those who have amassed wealth out of factories are not likely
to be better than other rich men. It would be folly to assume that an Indian
Rockefeller would be better than the American Rockefeller. Impoverished India
can become free, but it will be hard for any India made rich through immorality
to regain its freedom. I fear we shall have to admit that moneyed men support
British rule; their interest is bound up with its stability. Money renders a man
helpless. The other thing which is equally harmful is sexual vice. Both are
poison. A snake-bite is a lesser poison than these two, because the former
merely destroys the body but the latter destroy body, mind and soul. We need not,
therefore, be pleased with the prospect of the growth of the mill industry.
Reader: Are the mills, then, to be closed down?
Editor: That is difficult. It is
no easy task to do away with a thing that is established. We, therefore, say
that the non beginning of a thing is supreme wisdom. We cannot condemn
we can but pity them. It would be too much to expect them to give up their
mills, but we may implore them not to increase them. If they would be good they would
gradually contract their business. They can establish in thousands
of households the ancient and sacred handlooms and they can buy out the cloth
that may be thus woven. Whether the mill-owners do this or not, people can cease
to use machine made goods.
Reader: You have so far spoken about machine made
cloth, but there are innumerable machine made things. We have either to import
them or to introduce machinery into our country.
Editor: Indeed, our goods even
are made in Germany. What need, then, to speak of matches, pins and glassware? My
answer can be only one. What did India do before these articles were introduced?
Precisely the same should be done today. As long as we cannot make pins without
machinery so long will we do without them. The tinsel splendor of glassware
we will have nothing to do with, and we will make wicks, as of old, with
cotton and use handmade earthen saucers for lamps. So doing, we shall save our
eyes and money and support Swadeshi and so shall we attain Home Rule.
It is not
to be conceived that all men will do all these things at one time or that some
men will give up all machine made things at once. But, if the thought is sound,
we shall always find out what we can give up and gradually cease to use it. What
a few may do, others will copy; and the movement will grow like the cocoanut
of the mathematical problem. What the leaders do, the populace will gladly do in
turn. The matter is neither complicated nor difficult. You and I need not wait
until we can carry others with us. Those will be the losers who will not do it,
and those who will not do it, although they appreciate the truth, will deserve
to be called cowards.
Reader. What, then, of the tram cars and electricity?
Editor: This question is now too late. It signifies nothing. If we are to do
without the railways we shall have to do without the tram-cars. Machinery is
like a snake-hole which may contain from one to a hundred snakes. Where there is
machinery there are large cities; and where there are large cities, there are
tram-cars and railways, and there only does one see electric light. English
villages do not boast of any of these things. Honest physicians will tell you
that where means of artificial locomotion have increased, the health of the
people has suffered. I remember that when in a European town there was a
scarcity of money. the receipts of the tramway company, of the lawyers, and of
the doctors went down and people were less unhealthy. I cannot recall a single
good point in connection with machinery. Books can be written to demonstrate its
Reader: Is it a good point or a bad one that all you are saying will be
printed through machinery?
Editor: This is one of those instances which
demonstrate that sometimes poison is used to kill poison. This, then, will not
be a good point regarding machinery. As it expires, the machinery, as it were,
says to us: "Beware and avoid me. You will derive no benefits from me and
the benefit that may accrue from printing will avail only those who are infected
with the machinery craze."
Do not, therefore, forget the main thing. It is
necessary to realize that machinery is bad. We shall then be able gradually to
do away with it. Nature has not provided any way whereby we may reach a desired
goal all of a sudden. If, instead of welcoming machinery as a boon, we should
look upon it as an evil, it would ultimately go.