About ten years ago, I adorned a personal fundraising letter with Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” not knowing anything about the man or his history. But there I was, naively slapping his quote on my letterhead out of a sense of self-righteousness and false humility.
That’s why I read with interest Andrew Roberts and Geoffrey C. Ward’s recent reviews of Joseph Lelyveld’s book “Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India.”
Gandhi, who has become the world’s generic standard for goodness and social justice, seems to have been exempt, until now, from objective scrutiny. But regardless of what the man did or did not accomplish, and regardless of the fact that some of the things he is quoted as saying go against what he appears to have stood for, the point is, Gandhi is not the idol the world has turned him into but was human after all.
I’m embarrassed that I co-opted Gandhi in an obsessive desire for my own self-promotion. Maybe, as we read these reviews of the new book on Gandhi, it isn’t Gandhi we need to be scrutinizing as much as our personal motivations for adopting him as our own.
Read the The Wall Street Journal review here:
Read The New York Times review here: