Peace and Tolerance: The Utterances of a Seeker
By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 01, 2005
(I dedicate this lecture to Sonah Nagassar and
Eddie Narine, my dear friend of long standing)
No knowledge is to be found without seeking, no tranquility without travail, no happiness except through tribulation. Every seeker has, at one time or another, to pass through a conflict of duties, a heart-churning.
Mahadev Desai, The Gospel of Selfless Action or,
The Gita According to Gandhi
Speech understood in the fullness of its meaning transcends-and does so always-the physical-sensible side of phonetics. Language, as sense that is sounded and written, is in itself suprasensuous, something that constantly transcends the mere sensible. So understood, language is in itself metaphysical.
Martin Heidegger, One the Way to Language
First, a reading of the 12th chapter of the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, which I offer as a parable to the nation. It will be read by Resa Gooding, my niece.
Next, I wish to thank Mr. Virendra Gupta, the Indian High Commissioner, for inviting me to deliver this year's annual Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Lecture and Dr. Bhoe Tewarie, the principal of the University of the West Indies, for hosting this important function. In accepting this invitation I am aware that I have been invited in my capacity as the president of the National Association for the Empowerment of African People (NAEAP) rather than a professor of literature, another hat that I wear sometimes. Either way, the High Commissioner or the audience cannot lose. I cannot go anywhere without bringing those two dimensions of my identity along with me, a point that Stuart Hall was careful enough to make when he noted that the post-modern subject is "conceptualized as having no fixed, essential or permanent identity." "Identity," he observed, "becomes a 'moveable feast': formed and transformed continuously in relation to the ways we are represented or addressed in the cultural systems which surround us." Fortunately or unfortunately, Mr. High Commissioner, I bring to bear all of the baggage that has been foisted upon me. I hope the commingling of all of these identities does not become an obstacle to the points I wish to make this evening.
In his invitation to me, the High Commissioner noted that he "instituted the lecture series in the firm belief that it is Mahatma Gandhi's mature approach to politics as well as inter-personal relations and his advocacy of tolerance and mutual respect, which can offer us a way out from our current difficulties as we find our world getting increasingly embroiled in political, cultural and civilizational conflicts all around." Thus, you requested that my lecture should focus on "peace and tolerance which was central to Gandhi's philosophy, which we so fondly cherish." Needless to say, I am aware that as we honor Mahatma Gandhi in this lecture, we recognize him as the great teacher of Satyagraha, his theory and practice of non-violent resistance, and pay fealty to his ideals as a seeker after satya (truth) which could be attained only through ahimsa (non-violence or love) and brahmacharya (celibacy, striving towards God).
It is not of little interest that Gandhi began his pubic career in South Africa fighting on behalf of the indenture laborers there. Nor is it of minor significance that the racists of South Africa objected to his enrollment in the Supreme Court of Natal because he was not white. It is from this nexus of concerns that we see the emergence of Gandhi's philosophy of life. This is why I am so pleased that you invited me to offer this lecture on peace and tolerance using Gandhi's philosophy as a frame of reference. Perhaps I ought to tell you that Mahatma Gandhi was the first statesman I ever knew or was aware of consciously. Although I attribute my intellectual formation to the teachings and philosophy of the great Dr. Eric Williams-you might call him my Rajya Guru or king guru-Mahatma Gandhi was the name of the first statesman though whom I became aware of the political and social world around me. I don't know if this awareness dawned because I live in Tacarigua, a village that is sandwiched between Paradise, El Dorado and Dinsley, three East Indian communities, or if it was because my father began his teaching assignment under the capable hands of Amy Blackadder, the first principal of the Tacarigua CMI (Canadian Mission Indian School). My father and my uncle who was also a pupil teacher at the Tacarigua CMI School spoke Hindi fluently. It also might be that I became aware of Mahatma Gandhi because my grandmother, Tan Darling, was a midwife in Tacarigua who brought forth both Indian and African babies into this world.
This is why I was so pleased when Sonah Nagassar of Dinsley Village, Tacarigua, one of the first indentured settlements in the island, sent me a copy of her response to the racist letter that GOPIO (Global Organization of People of Indian Origin) sent to the Indian High Commissioner in which it objected to my being asked to deliver this lecture this evening. Using a courage that could have emanated only out of the Tacarigua soil of which we both a part, she wrote as follows:
Prof. Selwyn Cudjoe hails from my community. He is a lecturer in Africana Studies in the USA. He is one intelligent man like Lloyd Best if he is carefully detached and analyzed. Like all of us he is also very fallible and very human and do make statements that are divisive….I have listened very attentively to the gentleman within recent times, and it is my view that his strident tone and his language that is peppered with strong phrases, which are sometimes taken out and quoted out of context in they are used, make Indians feel animosity and resentment.
I am from Tacarigua, a village in Trinidad that M. P. Alladin, one of the finest painters, celebrated in his small book of the same name. Growing up in Tacarigua, we learned what it meant to be solidly located in a particular time and space and how it felt to live together harmoniously. In our village, our sense of community, our faith in our gods, and our belief in our families, kept us together when gnawing poverty, the ghastly conditions of barrack-yard living, and our ill-treatment by the various massas who abounded in our space, might otherwise have kept us apart and at each other's throats. This unity is of long standing. Listen to this report written in 1884 and carried in Sarah Morton's John Morton of Trinidad: "On the 23 of June the school [that is, the Tacarigua CMI school] was opened and on the 29th public worship was held for the first time in the new building. The attendance of the school has been forty-five and the service from eighty to two hundred. Within half a mile of this building there is a small Mohammedan mosque. There are considerable numbers of Mohammedans in the village [she was referring to Dinsley.] Their children are attending our school and there were always some of the adults at our services." Had she chosen to look less than one hundred yards away, at the corner of Dandrade Street and Eastern Main Road, she would have seen the yard of the Cudjoe and Bonas families. With a little more curiosity, she would have encountered a people who practiced the Yoruba religion and performed Shango rituals; each of which characterized the ontological beliefs of my people.
Like Mr. Sat Maharaj of the SDMS, he is considered blunt, crass and racist by many, even though, like the Professor, he champions the cause of those he represents. Unfortunately, public statements often lead to negative stereotyping….Prof. Cudjoe statement about the racial imbalance at tertiary institutions also created quite a storm and reinforced the view that he is anti-Indian.
While there are public figures who rub us the wrong way, it is important that we begin to move away from the image of a people who are still insecure and "half-made." Privately, many Indians feel parochial tribal and if their views were known, you may be surprised to learn that their feelings are bas bigoted as Cudjoe's public utterances are perceived.
Let every man has his say and his space. In due course, talk show hosts and public figures will understand the power of the tongue to heal or divide.
So that when Sonah Nagassar writes in righteous indignation to castigate Mr. Parsuran Mahabir and his clique, she draws on a community legacy that transcends the narrow ethnicity and racial parochialness that was present when she grew up as a child in Tacarigua. Some months ago when she invited me to speak at her mandir in Dinsley, she reminded me that when her mother sold her goods at the corner of Dandrade Street and Eastern Main Road, she would wait until my aunt Mildred Cudjoe showed up to make her first sale because my aunt hands had good barakaat or good luck. As a way to cement those ties, before my mother died she demanded that no one else but Pastor Kenneth Baldeo, the only Indian pastor of the St. Mary's Anglican Church, to perform her funeral rites. In spite of their commitment to their various groups, none of these women knew the narrow parochialism or the vulgar nationalism of those who now attempt to speak on their behalf without an in-depth knowledge of the larger collective and/or a sophisticated understanding of our mutual histories. The Cudjoes and the Nagassars (nee Sepersads) understood what community means and why our genuine integration and harmonious living together-not tolerance-must remain the hall mark of our society. As Sonah observed in a note to me: "My village, Dinsley, with street names like Best and Ragbir, Raghuraj and Mc Coney, Pinder and Singh Streets, speak of our unity and simple life here in the village." This is why Sonah, an Indian woman, could stand up so proudly in my defense against those who would wish to depict me and my positions on some issues as racist and anti-Indian. It is a characterization that I reject totally.
In speaking up in solidarity and affirming the unity of our mutual identities (in this case, as Tacariguans and Trinidadians), Sonah was alluding to a deeper truth that many of her racist counterparts may not know. She was alluding to an important truth that Gandhi affirmed when he translated Mahadev Desai's important commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita Gita. Drawing inspiration from the Bible, the Koran and the words of the great seers, he sought to show how, "in the deepest things of life, the Hindu and the Mussalman and the Christian, the Indian and the European [he could have said, the African], in fact all who cared and endeavoured to read the truth of things, are so spiritually akin." Gandhi, that great soul, knew that in spite of our specific affiliations, there are more things that bind us together than those that separate us from one another. So that, this evening, as we sit here, we can start with the knowledge that, in the deepest things--the things that matter most in our lives--, we, the people of Trinidad and Tobago, possess affinities and commonalities that go beyond the narrowness in which others would try to bind us.
It was this basic conviction that made Gandhi the first guru of my existence. It could have been no other way. As I grew older and became man as is said in the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, I turned to Louis Fischer's The Life of Mahatma Gandhi that I bought for $1.95 when I went to teach at Harvard University in 1976. Eight years later, during the summer of 1984, when I taught at Cornell, I read Gandhi's Autobiography: The Story of my Experiments with Truth from which I garnered many ineluctable truths. When Gandhi decided to return to South Africa, he reflected on what it meant to part from his home and the tremendous sacrifice it entailed. He affirmed that "it is wrong to expect certainties in this world, where all else but God that is Truth is an uncertainty. All that appears and happens about and around us is uncertain, transient. But there is a Supreme Being hidden therein as a Certainty, and one would be blessed if one could catch a glimpse of that Certainty and hitch one's wagon to it. The quest for that Truth is the summum bonum of life.
I still possess copies of these two books. They are in my library. When I wished to understand the ideas of Hinduism, apart from reading Romesh C. Dutt's English version of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (I also still have a copy of this book in my library-it was signed in 1979) I turned to Mahadev Desai, The Gospel of Selfless Action, or the Gita According to Gandhi that Gandhi translated in 1946. In reading Gandhi, I formulated certain philosophical concepts that prepared me for my adult life. From Gandhi, I absorbed the cardinal teaching of the Gita and tried to make it mine: that is, "the duty of a man of equipoise to act without desire for the fruit."
Gandhi also taught me the need to cultivate what he called "equanimity." He said that one should never to be taken by men's praise or blame. If one paid too much attention to either, it meant that one cared too much about what men thought about him. Therefore, one should respond in equal measure by praise or blame: one should not be taken in by either. He also taught me how to deal with those who would slander me. He argued that a person should not be too perturbed if one lied or bore false witness against him. He believed that if one were telling the truth about you, you should not get angry because it was the truth. If, on the other hand, one told an untruth about you, also you should not get angry because it was an untruth. It was that simple.
Gandhi called the Gita, "the Bible of Humanity." He spoke of its tremendous source of psychic healing. The Gita affirms: "When you are torn with doubt and despair and anguish, go to the Dweller in the Innermost, listen to His counsel, obey it implicitly and you will have no cause to grieve. Every mystic, burning with genuine aspiration, seeks comfort and solace from his God in matters of doubt." This is something my mother would say. It is a truism really kept me going in the evil day. Today, I can truly say that it matters little what anyone says about me. I keep my courage and hold myself up proudly and unbent as I travel along in this world. Mere mortals have no power either to harm or bring me grief. They are the least of my worries. Gandhi understood this sense of self-possession. He observed: "He is the true soldier who knows how to die and stand on his ground in the midst of a hail of bullets."
In his work, Gandhi, talked about the need to develop what can he called "soul force." He disliked the term "Passive Resistance" because it did not describe accurately what Fischer called his "new kind of mass-yet-individual opposition to government unfairness." Manghal Gandhi, Gandhi's second cousin suggested the term "Sadagraha," firmness in the good cause. According to Fischer, "Gandhi amended it to 'Satyagraha'; satya is truth, which equals love, and agraha is firmness of force. 'Satyagraha,' therefore, means truth-force or love-force. Truth and love are attributes of the soul."
For Gandhi, the Satyagraha came to signify "the vindication of truth not by infliction of suffering on the opponent but on one's self." He believed: "If words fail to convince the adversary perhaps purity, humility, and honesty will. The opponent must be 'weaned from error by patience and sympathy,' weaned, not crushed; converted, not annihilated. Satyagraha is the exact opposite of the policy of an eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye which ends in making everybody blind. You cannot inject new ideas into a man's head by chopping it off; neither will you infuse a new spirit into his heart by piercing it with a dagger. Acts of violence create bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers; Satyagraha aims to exalt both sides." I would not bet on it but it's quite possible that the High Commissioner had Gandhi's theory and practice of Satyagraha in mind when he decided to invite me to deliver this lecturer here this evening. I suspect that he believed that in order to move forward, he had to exalt both sides. George John described him as "a man of sound judgment and the highest integrity, one who is fully conscious of the responsibilities of this office in Port of Spain."
It stands to reason that the noble ends to which these great saints (including persons such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela) struggled were just, honorable and uplifting. They never turned away from confronting injustices. Indeed, they recognized that rather than talk-the-talk, one had to walk-the-walk and that is why Gandhi and King were animated by the principle of Ahimsa or what I prefer to call the power of redemptive love.
In discussing redemptive love, Gandhi noted that during the past 1,500 years India had been "dominated by love of self instead of love of country." In speaking of the negative aspects of Ahimsa, Gandhi noted that it requires "deliberate self-suffering, not a deliberate injuring of the supposed wrong doer." However, he was concerned also about the positive aspect of ahimsa. For him, ahimsa "means the largest love, the greatest charity. If I am a follower of Ahimsa, I must love my enemy. I must apply the same rules to the wrong-doer who is my enemy or a stranger to me, as I would to my wrong-doing father or son. This active Ahimsa necessarily includes truth and fearlessness... [The] gift of life is the greatest of all gifts. A man, who gives it in reality, disarms all hostility. He has paved the way for an honourable understanding. And none who is himself subject to fear can bestow that gift. He must, therefore, be himself fearless. A man cannot then practice Ahimsa and be a coward at the same time. The practice of Ahimsa calls forth the greatest courage." Suffice it to say that courageous men and women meet in mutual love and respect and try to thrash out their differences.
Gandhi privileged ahimsa as the supreme value. In his mental universe love assumes the same weight as it does in the Christian faith. Christians affirm: God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting Life (St. John's 13:16). Jesus, the Christ, affirmed that "God is Love." Gandhi was equally insistent. He said: "Love is God." This suggests that love and God are interchangeable; metaphysical emanations of and from the same being or the same matter. However, the 13th chapter of the First Epistle of Corinthians puts the matter emphatically. It says, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal./ And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains and have not love, I am nothing./ And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing." It concludes with the sterling declaration: "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. / And now abideth faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love."
When Gandhi addressed the members of the Emerson Club and of the Hampstead Branch of the Peace and Arbitration Society he also alluded to the power of redemptive love. He said: "If the world believes in the existence of the soul, it must be recognized that soul force is better than body force: it is the sacred principle of love which moves mountains. To us is the responsibility of living out this sacred law; we are not concerned with the results." In this Gandhi, was almost a terrorist, that is, his words. In a speech to students delivered at the YMCA in Madras in April 1915, he made the following avowal:
Terrorise yourself; search within; by all means resist tyranny where ever you find it; by all means resist encroachment upon your liberty; but not by shedding the blood of the tyrant. That is not what is taught by our religion. Our religion is based upon Ahimsa which in its active form is nothing but love: love, not only to your neighbors, not only to your friends, but love even to those who may be your enemies.
There is a confluence between what Gandhi saw in his Gita and what Christians understand in their Holy Book. Gandhi said that when he read the Sermon on the Mount it went straight to his heart. "I compared it with the Gita. The verses, 'But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man take away thy coat let him have thy cloak too,' delighted me beyond measure and put me in mind of Shamal Bhatt's 'For a bowl of water, give a goodly meal' etc. My young mind tried to unify the teaching of the Gita, the Light of Asia and the Sermon on the Mount. That renunciation was the highest form of religion appealed to me greatly."
This is why I felt so honored and so loved when Sonah defended my integrity against the bigotry of GOPIO. She had in mind a point that Heidegger offered in "A Dialogue in Language" between Japanese and an interpreter. The interpreter said we must make "an effort to think in dialogue," to which the Japanese responded: one must "examine whether each word in each case is given its full-most often hidden-weight." The Japanese had intimated that "language itself rests on the metaphysical distinction between the sensuous and the suprasensuous, in that the structure of the language is supported by the basic elements of sound and script on the one hand, and signification and sense on the other." Gandhi understood the limitations of the mere signification of language when he noted the "incompleteness of the English expression" to understand fully what he meant by Satyagraha. When he translated the Gita, he declared: "I lay no more claim to scholarship than does Gandhiji, but I am myself a student-as I hope to remain until my dying day." Sarojini Naidu, the first Indian woman to be elected president of the Indian National Congress, observed that Gandhi's first step in South Africa "was to make his countrymen articulate." Naturally she was talking from the point of view of the writer within her.
Given this concern for the suprasensuous nature of language, it follows that we ought to proceed cautiously and with respectful listening when we seek to analyze and/or criticize the thoughts of others. Sensible and sensitive scholars do not seek to pervert the words of others to gain an advantage. Rather, they seek to understand where the other is coming from. Scholarship intends a deep respect for the process as well as the content of what is being said which is why I am concerned to emphasize the constitutive nature of language itself. In "The Nature of Language," Heidegger cautioned that "If it is true that man finds the proper abode of his existence in language-whether he is aware of it or not-then an experience we undergo with language will touch the innermost nexus of our existence." Hermeneutics, he said, was concerned not only about interpretation "but, even before it, the bearing of message and tidings" to which he might have added "greetings." Therefore, one is forced to ask if we really listen to what each other says or is it that we hear only what we want to hear?
I began this lecture with a reading from the twelfth chapter of the First Epistle of Paul, the Apostle, to the Corinthians in which he acknowledged:
The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
In a metaphysical sense, we are all of one body. I am from Tacarigua. Sonah is from Tacarigua. Tony Lee, that eminent host of I95.5, is from Tacarigua. Keith Aqui, the famous footballer who is now attached to the IRS in the USA, is also from Tacarigua. Ulric "Buggy" Haynes, one of the best footballers Trinidad and Tobago ever produced is from Tacarigua as is Adesh Samaroo, a Chutney cross-over artist. As a districker, Sonah recognizes the deep sense of community that has kept us, East Indians, Africans and Chinese, together. I could have added the name of Mr. Rodriquez, the Portuguese shopkeeper who kept the largest grocery shop in Tacarigua. I could also have mentioned that my maternal great grand mother was a Portuguese woman from Maderia. When she married George Belle, an African man from Barbados her family disowned her. Tony Lee reminded me a few days ago: "We all ate in the same pot called Tacarigua. Today, we are a part of an entire menu called Trinidad and Tobago."
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. (Verses 7-12).
Independent of our perception of it, we are in dialogue with one another and with our past. The structuralists say that each utterance pre-exists us. Heidegger says that "Each man is in each instance in dialogue with his forebears, and perhaps even more and in a more hidden manner with those who will come after him." When we are born, we do not come into the world with a language. Even language pre-exists us. We are born into language, concepts and feelings. The only problem with us here in T&T is that we are so caught up with the stereotypical barriers into which some racists try to place around us that we do not always draw upon the fullness of our social and cultural heritage nor do we even grasp the fundamental ways in which language functions in the construction of our Trinbagonianness.
That is why it was so important that Sonah ended with the following admonition: "Let every man has his say and his space. In due course, talk show hosts and public figures will understand the power of the tongue to heal or divide." It was a perfect hermeneutical move. The word hermeneutics is derived from the Greek verb hermeneuein that is related to the god Hermes. "Hermes is the divine messenger. He brings the message of destiny; hermeneuein is that explosion which brings tidings because it can listen to a message." And that is exactly what Sonah did when she uttered her truth. It was a literal explosion that told my detractors that every voice needs to be heard. A person is either condemned him by his voice or his words or his truth shall set him free. There can never be any pretension that some of us possess the truth while others are the manifestations of untruths. We are all students, seeking after the approximations of the truth as we dialogue with each other knowing full well that we will never arrive at the complete truth. Corinthians reminds us, "Now we see through a glass darkly." Necessarily, respectful listening must be the key out of dilemma.
Heidegger also intimated that man "finds the proper abode of his existence in language." He noted that any experience we undergo with language "will touch the innermost nexus of our existence." Twenty years ago, when I wrote the foreword to Noor Kumar Mahabir's The Still Cry, a work that our company published, I made the following observation:
It is important to understand that the heritage of the East Indian is the heritage of all of the peoples of Trinidad and Tobago. At one level, it is the heritage of a specific group, but because the East Indians are indeed Trinidadians and Tobagonians, their heritage must be seen as a part of a larger national heritage, for it is the collectivity of the African and the East Indian heritage (and that of all other ethnic groups) that constitutes Trinidad and Tobago cultural heritage. It is important to grasp that heritage in its totality and to make it meaningful to our lives. The heritage of a people is not something one puts up for display but something that one takes and integrates into one's present to create a meaningful future.
It is this coming together; this radical act of appropriation that is so necessary if we are to realize the richness of our heritage, diverse members of one common body called Trinidad and Tobago. This is why I used twelfth chapter of Corinthians as a parable of our nation. The 13th verse of that Scriptures says: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." St. Paul may have added Hindus and Buddhists into the fold. Although the Muslims did not exist at the time, they, too, would have welcomed the inclusive nature of this message since the Koran "represents its teaching as confirming and clarifying the truth of what was in those messages, [those of the Torah and the Gospels]. This verse is rich in its metaphorical allusion. The verses that follow are equally important. They pose the question with a semantic richness and philosophical depth. They ask: "For the body is not one member, but many. / If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him./And if they were all one member, where were the body?/ But now are they many members, but yet one body./ And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you…./But God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked:/ That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. / And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; ore one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it." (Verses 14-26).
Gandhi would not have objected if I posited that he, too, had mastered the art of interpretation; someone who understood the philosophical problems inherent in language. And this is the message-a submission, as it were-- that I wish to leave with the nation this evening. I would like all of us to think about our responsibilities to our nation. In an address to the YMCA in Madras in 1915, Gandhi said: "Our religion consists in four letters D-U-T-Y and not in the five letters: R-I-G-H-T. And if you believe that all that we want can go from a letter, discharge of our duty then think always of your duty, and fighting along these lines you will have no fear of any man, you will only fear God."
We ought to be guided by this message. Fear no man; fear only God; seek the truth and all else will follow. Gandhi also had a special word for the practice of politics. He said that we ought "to spiritualize political life and political institutions of the country…Then students cannot be away from politics. Politics is as essential to them as religion. Politics cannot be divorced from religion." If it is true that politics cannot be divorced from religion, it is also true that the practice of politics should not be synonymous with making as much money as possible at the expense of the pubic. In this context, it might be good to reiterate Gandhi's warning: "Let public men feel that they will be stoned, that they will be neglected, and let them feel they still love the country." When we achieve this way of seeing then we would have paved the way towards creating a society in which greater peace and tolerance abound.
During the bleak winter of 1940 when the Germans were blasting away at the English, Sir Winston Churchill had these defiant words for his countrymen: "We have passed an awful milestone in our history when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged and that the terrible words have, for the time being, been pronounced against the Western democracies: thou are weighed in the balance and found wanting. And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning; this is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor we ride again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden times."
This evening, permit to join Sir Winston Churchill in saying that our salvation as a nation consists in the supreme recovery of our moral and spiritual health and our ability to accept each other as brothers and sisters in the land of our birth and/or our becoming. And it is true that today we find ourselves increasing embroiled in political, cultural and civilizational conflicts, then I ask you, and by extension the nation, to ponder the central points of my discourse as a way out of our dilemma: accept the 12th chapter of the First Epistle as a parable of our nation; aspire towards truth and believe in the redemptive possibility of love; spiritualize our politics as Gandhi warned his compatriots; and measure each of our utterances which, as we know, transcend the mere sensible. Seek ye, therefore, the incandescent boom of peace. I offer these principles as a site in which we can anchor the soul of our nation as we seek to realize the great spiritual principles of which and for which Mahatma Gandhi and Apostle Paul stood.
May peace and tolerance reigneth amongst us all.
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