A Pig Questions Gandhi’s Veracity

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” by D. A. Bentonto to Seven Stages of Authenticity” by Neil Crofts. But not one of the 35 books was a biography of Gandhi or a collection of his writings.

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? It’s a common practice. Especially in inspirational email forwards sent on by well-meaning but dense distant acquaintances. Somebody is always finding an inspirational message posted in a forgotten corner of a Boston church or in the tepee of a wise old Sioux chief. It’s harmless, well-meaning malarkey. But does it leave a tinny taste in your mouth? It does in mine. A hoax is a hoax, even if harmless, and even if it’s meant for good. It cheapens and falsifies the valuable message. At least in my opinion. And besides, it’s not TRUE!

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


One thought on “A Pig Questions Gandhi’s Veracity

  1. i beleive in peace n all, but how tha fuck u gonna b peaceful wen u diein. After gandhi got shot up, do u have any idea how many peaple got killed, its was str8 massacre man. so wat happen to all his preachin about peace, it was all bulshyt to the people. all his loyal poeple that had promised to stay peace killed that man that killed gandhis entire fuckin family. From elders to new born babies. that shyt aint rite. Some times peace is not the answer, how tha fuck u gonna be peaceful if u dead. u cant preach shyt then. its righteous to pick up a weapon and defend urself and put a end to w.e is causing problems.


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