I’m sorry, Walrus readers, that the next chapter is taking so long. I’m doing a lot of reading and research – this is a historical novel in a way, even though a very silly one. And I need to know more about the worlds my characters inhabit and the things they care about.
Meanwhile, here’s food for pondering.
I was walking on a downtown street the other day and spotted a poster in a coffee house window for some upcoming Green Living Festival. The copy featured a quotation from Mahatma Gandhi, to wit, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
There’s food for pondering, I sez to myself, so I start thinking about all the saying’s implications in my own life. Could I live that way right now? Okay, you think about it too. But I’m going somewhere else.
As I was slogging up South Hill to our little bungalow on the aeolian heights, I began to wonder when and in what context Gandhi had used such a profound comment. I knew he was #1 advocate of non-violence as a life-style and as a strategy for social change. Using it he had ultimately defeated British colonialism in India. So I thought I would find he made it to encourage his followers as they non-violently confronted the British.
When I got home, I googled in the phrase (in quotes, of course, so I’d only get the exact phrase). Google found “about 75,000” references on the web, ranging from the website of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship to a spam laden site called BasicQuotations.com (don’t go there). On an Indian blog, I learned that an actor playing Gandhi says it in a movie called ‘Rang de Basanti’. But, in my admittedly fast scan of the websites, I didn’t find a single site that referenced the real Gandhi and gave the quotation’s origin. All 75,000 sites just assume that because somebody said Gandhi said it, he did. One person wrote , “I saw it written on the wall of a bar. Great quote.”
So I decided to check a more authoritative source, like Bartleby.com, which has a good collection of quotation books online. They listed 43 quotes by Gandhi, but not this one.
Still doesn’t prove anything, I said to myself. So I checked the phrase at Google Book Search. They listed 35 published books that reference Gandhi’s phrase. The books range from “Executive Charisma: Six Steps to Mastering the Art of Leadership” to to “Seven Stages of Authenticity”
At this point, I present you with the hypothesis that Gandhi never said this beautiful and inspiring sentence. It may have been crafted by some Jane Smith somewhere and inserted into Gandhi’s mouth. Maybe she was an advertising copywriter on her lunch break.
What do you think? Is this kosher?
OK, I admit there’s ‘s still an outside chance the quotation does originate with Gandhi and I just didn’t find the reference. I encourage someone to take this a step further. Strike a blow for truth, the real stuff. The next place I would check would be the urban legend websites, like TruthOrFiction.com.
Graphic: Mankind Media