Saturday, 17 February 2007


I read this story from Arun Ghandi, grandson of Mahatma Ghandi and thought it said so much about what we in the west take for granted. We can all be guilty of abusing the resources made available to us at the expense of others, especially when we're so distant from the actual means of production.

But it is important to realise that it is not some invisible, inconsequential 'other' who feels the effect of our actions - we all experience the suffering caused by such unintentioned 'violence', and we are all brought to account as humanity strips the planet in order to feed our ever increasing need to consume. If we think that we can continue to use and expend without feeling the effects then we are not just selfish but also blind.

"We have to remember, when we talk about violence, it's not just the physical violence that we see around us. There is much more to it than just physical violence. And grandfather made me aware of this one day when I was coming back from school and I had this little notebook, writing pad and a pencil. And I was about 13 years old at the time, quite an irresponsible 13 year old. Walking home absentmindedly I looked at the pencil. It was about 3 inches long, and I said I deserve a better pencil. This is too small for me to use. And I was so confident that grandfather would give me a new pencil that without a second thought, I threw that pencil away. And that evening when I went and asked grandfather for a new pencil, instead of giving me one he subjected me to a lot of questions. He wanted to know what happened to the pencil I had in the morning, how did it become small, where did I throw it away, and on and on and on. And I couldn't understand why he was making such a fuss over a little pencil until he told me to go out and look for it. And I said, "You must be joking! You don't expect me to go out and look for a pencil in the dark?" He said, "Oh yes I do, and here's a flashlight." And he sent me out with the flashlight to look for this pencil and I must have spent two or three hours searching for it. And when I finally found it and brought it to him he said, "Now I want you to sit here and learn two very important lessons… The first lesson is that even in the making of a simple thing like a pencil we use a lot of the world's natural resources and when we throw them away we are throwing away the world's natural resources and that is violence against nature. Lesson number two, is that because in an affluent country we can afford to buy all these things in bulk, we over consume the resources of the world. And because we over consume them, we are depriving people elsewhere of these resources and they have to live in poverty. And that is violence against humanity." And that was the first time I realized all of these little things that we do every day. I mean just think about it how many useful things we throw away every day because we have such a lot of it. How much food we throw away every day. How many good clothes we throw away because we have new ones. All of this, every time we throw away something and waste something is violence."

Arun Ghandi, director of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Non-violence.

I found the quote at Spiral Diner, a vegan restaurant based in Fort Worth, Texas (and whose name is inspired by the Tool song Lateralus!). Thanks to Nasaka for the pointer :)

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