The First Modern Master of the Mass Media
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© Roderick Matthews 2008
There is an abundance of seeming contradictions within both the political actions and stated principles of Mohandas Gandhi. He was maintained in poverty by one of the richest industrialists in India. His concept of non-violence was flexible enough to advocate certain forms of armed struggle, and even to countenance the deliberate causing of railway disasters. His piety as a Hindu was strangely selective, as evinced by his long struggle to overturn Untouchability, a concept that many considered inseparable from the faith. He was fond of quoting Jesus Christ and seemed quite willing to attach himself to a Muslim cause like the Khilafat Movement, from 1920-24. Was he an opportunistic politician, or a pragmatic mystic? He certainly did not fit easily into any of the western political categories so dominant in the 1920s. Was he some new kind of conservative socialist? Or a revolutionary, to be compared to Lenin? The evidence seemed to conflict. He was a religious man with a greater respect for law than scripture. He was a politician who eschewed politics. And most bafflingly, he was able to confound the distinction between religion and politics, a feat long regarded as impossible, and indeed undesirable, in the West. Churchill simply dismissed him as a fraud, “of a kind well known in the East”. This paper traces some of these superficial inconsistencies and attempts to find straightforward ways in which they can be reconciled and understood, without hero worship or character assassination.
Roderick Matthews, Historian, Obtained a First from Balliol College, Oxford in Modern History. Studied Medieval History under Maurice Keen. Studied Tudor and Stuart History under Christopher Hill, Master of Balliol College. Studied European History under Colin Lucas, later Master of Balliol College and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. Studied Imperial History under Professor Paul Longford, Rector of Lincoln College.