August 21, 2004

The Land of 1,000 Bad Analogies

I shall leave a full-figured takedown of Todd Gitlin for someone with more patience than I for apoplectic dwarves, formerly progressive category; I spent mine on Chris Hitchens. Perhaps it will suffice for now to note that, as long as maturity is equated with the politics of seeking out a marginally better deal without upsetting the apple-cart, I will persist in extreme immaturity; better a Christina Aguilera and/or anarchist fan than an actual whore. No, I take that back. I know whores, and I've never met one as self-righteous as Todd.

I did want to offer a passing thought or two on the casual invocation of Gandhi by supposed progressives and radicals, generally by way of condemning property-damage as violence too (there is yet another example of this in Salon; you have to pass through a stage or two to reach the article, a digital vitrine of faux-left fallacies).

1) Gandhi actively wanted to remove the government that was currently in place. Not change parties from Conservative to Labour; remove the government, and replace it with an entirely different form and mode of governance. If that is not your ambition, your analogy is perjured.

2) Gandhi recognized that the price for renouncing violence was accepting violence upon one's own body; that there could be no negotiations. If you are not willing actively to pursue this course, every time you invoke Gandhi's non-violence, you achieve nothing but a rather cowardly disingenuity.

3) As a strategy, Gandhi's non-violence is particularly practicable for a colonized nation. The greater the distance of the colony, the more effective: the chain to supply ever-increasing military forces for repression, as well as replacement labor to harvest the natural resources of the colony (that is, those beyond the local labor itself, frequently the most valuable natural resource of a colony), is far more difficult to maintain at distance. The moment of diminished gain for the maintenance of a distant colony must eventually arrive. Contrarily, it's never profitable to abandon the governance of the homeland, unless there's another green country waiting. As a result, the cases where a colonial government has been removed with relatively little violence from below are considerably more numerous than the number of non-violent revolutions at home.

Gandhi sought to overthrow a distant colonial power and had a massive population willing to endure considerable violence toward that end. When these three conditions are in place, get back to me with your analogies. Love, Jane

Posted by jane at August 21, 2004 06:11 AM | TrackBack

It's very nice to hear others speak of Gandhian satyagraha. Another factor that made it so potent was its use of the Hindu tradition.

Posted by: Henry Krinkle at August 24, 2004 05:30 AM

For a "full-figured takedown of Todd Gitlin" (though yours is a fine takedown), see Naomi Klein debate with Gitlin on "Democracy Now." ( The link for the August 26th has the debate. Gitlin would like RNC protestors to police themselves and stay home.

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