Friday, March 9, 2012

What Gandhi Taught Me Last Night

Sometimes I feel like I have spent most of my life blind.

Last night Joe, Micah and I were discussing saltpetre production.  Though this may seem like an odd topic it will be common in our household over the next several months, seeing as how we are working at Mammoth Cave again and it was once a major supplier of saltpetre. 
Anyway, we talked about how ultimately easy it is to extract salts from the soil if you know where to look for them.  Basically, you put the soil, or better yet, water that has leached through the soil, into a pot and boil it down until all that remains is salt.  It is a basic evaporation process.

Well, it then came out that this is what Gandhi was teaching the people when he led the great Salt Marches in India back in 1930.  Great Britain (India's colonial government) had a monopoly on salt production and charged out the wazoo for this absolutely necessary part of the human diet.  Gandhi told the people (and I broadly paraphrase here) 'You don't have to pay these ridiculous prices for salt.  You can take charge of your own lives again.  Follow me to the sea and I will show you how.'  He took them to the Indian Ocean, had them fill pans with seawater, and build little fires to boil away the water.  And there on the seashore he held up the fistful of salt that ultimately brought down the British Empire in India.

This is a gross generalization of the story to be sure, but effective to bring us to the point.

Then, I thought about the fact that the Mahatma was forever spinning cotton an a charka (a small horizontal spinning wheel worked with a hand crank)  This was another of his major victories against the colonial government.  He taught the people that if they would simply spin a bit of cotton every day they would become more independent of the oppressions of British rule.  As I processed my thoughts on this I realized that if a person spins only 1/4 ounce of fiber per day they will have about 90 ounces (over 5.5 pounds) of yarn at the end of a year. this could supply each individual with enough yarn to weave two or three garments!  And that's only 1/4 ounce per day!!!!  It is because of this group action that the Indian flag has a wheel in the center.

So (I'm getting closer to my point now), many of us speak of feeling marginalized by the government, or marginalized by multinational corporations, right?  WE CAN do something about it.  WE CAN learn to maintain our own car instead of depending on someone else to do it for us.  WE CAN learn about our bodies and take care of our own health so well that we do not need the government to provide us with health care (or force us to purchase insurance).  WE CAN plant a seed and become less dependent on huge agribusinesses that taint our foods with chemicals and genetic modifications.  Do you realize that, just like the tiny amount of cotton a person needs to weave in a day to clothe him or herself, planting a single open pollinated seed can yield not only several pounds of food, but also thousands of seeds to plant the following year's crops?

With tiny acts like these, we can break bonds of oppression that we may not realize exist!

1 comment:

Ann said...

Ah, yes. It begins very small and builds.