There is something called past.
In the physical realm of the universe it exists in the form of momentum and inertia. In this realm this past is often used to predict the future. This is because any entity with momentum holds its path. Also when a larger entity hits a smaller entity, it can change the course of that smaller entity.
In the metaphysical realm however, the past exists only and only in the mind. And here it is all powerful. It moves the humanity. It is the consciousness that drives the humanity and more often than not it is the past that as the conqueror of the consciousness drives the humanity.
The greatest hurdles in the road to future have been created by the past in the collective consciousness of societies and nations. People often find it easier to overcome challenges that prop up in the present than to face challenges that are rooted in the past.
The two strongest social forces – religion and politics – best exploit this nature of the past.
If the human mind loses its affinity and submission to the past, both religion and politics will lose considerable grip over people.
To know how it feels to try and stop a car moving at even 10 kmph from the front, one needs to try to do this. It can be unexpectedly and highly damaging. The past morphed into prejudices like casteism and racism also acts like a moving car.
Thus, to know how it feels to face the wrath of racism, one needs to face it once. It can be humiliating in the least and devastating to the unthinkable levels.
To stand in front of a juggernaut of racism and force it to change its course can only be called an act of sheer greatness.
This is because standing in front of this juggernaut means fighting with the past rooted in the collective mind of a great many people.
In other words I am suggesting that racism is partially a manifestation of the Golem effect. Golem effect is a situation when poor expectations of the boss lead to below par performance of a subordinate. When a race with a past of astonishing achievements looks down upon another race that lacks the momentum of achievements, it can be difficult for the latter to break free.
Try to visualise a 19 yr old in the end of the nineteenth century going to London to study Law. When he came back to India in 1891 he was too shy to succeed as a practising lawyer. The same young man went to South Africa (a British colony at that time) in 1893 as an employee of a law firm and spent 21 years there.
During this time he came across a number of humiliating experiences directed at him on the basis of his color. These experiences were in no way extraordinary as it was common in those days for the people of non-white origin to be subjected to humiliation and abuse.
However his response to these experiences was truly extraordinary.
He decided to come in the way of racial juggernaut; and that too without any violence. This idea in itself would seem extremely ridiculous to many.
While in South Africa, he continuously fought for the cause of the expatriate Indian community. He witnessed a number of irregularities in the Indian society, which was in itself divided on the lines of caste and religion.
Again his response was extraordinary.
He decided to challenge another juggernaut. He dreamed of an identity that was “Indian” unencumbered by the ideas of caste and religion.
The greatness of the man was in challenging the status-quo and believing that he will succeed.
When someone is determined to succeed he/she goes about acquiring whatever is need to succeed. Else success would remain elusive and wishful thinking. A person willing to stand up against the vices like racism and casteism, has to fight in the public domain, meeting, negotiating with and convincing both the people and the authorities. Gandhi realised this and worked on these skills. He also realised that to fight the collective power of racism, he would need the power of masses which needed to mobilised from a state of dormancy.
So much so that by the time he came back to India in 1915 he was a skilful public speaker and negotiator. He could effectively present his ideas and project his dreams. He could identify the areas of grave injustice and devise non-violent ways of protest.
I am not saying that India won freedom because of one man – Gandhi.
What I am saying is that even in today’s age of relative liberation it is difficult to imagine a person standing up non-violently against injustice. So it is nothing short of greatness to lead a long term and nonviolent protest against the might of the imperialist forces of a race that was highly confident of its superiority; a protest that unmistakably dented this confidence.
I am not saying that Gandhi was a saint – free from the human vices.
What I am saying that it can be only after fighting a very long battle with sustained and unwavering grit and determination against a mighty adversary that a person can earn love and respect of millions of fellow countrymen and admiration of people across nations and races.
No doubt Gandhi was a great man. He did not hold any government position of power, he was not awarded the Nobel prize, but he is and will remain alive in the collective consciousness till ages.
He was great because showed that to fight the momentum of injustice a counter-momentum of awakening and mobilisation of society can be only way and also showed us how to walk on that way.
Today as our society is facing widespread injustice perpetrated by our own race and countrymen, what are the chances of getting someone like Gandhi? Unsure? I will tell you. The chances are abysmally low.
That’s because a great man like Gandhi is born once in centuries!