January 21, 2013
Dear Dr. Finkelstein,
I’m writing you again to say how uber cool you are and this time it is because I read your book on my teenage hero – Mohandas Ghandi. I picked up Ghandi’s autobiography ” The story of my experiments with truth” when I was 18. I read it at a very formative time. Consequently, I could not help but internalize his world view. I was looking for a spirituality, a guide to live by and he handed it to me. In your book you focus greatly on the political utility and practicality of his views. But to me his personal views are present in all his political campaigns which are an extension of the personal philosophy he internalized, which inturn stemmed from his reverence for truth and moral purification.
What I love about his philosophy is that it is so flexible. Since we all live different lives, the subjective truth emerges differently within us.The strongest threads of his outlook, or at least what emerged most frequently for me were his devotion to principle and truth. Both principle and truth were variable from person to person, however, they also need moral guidance inorder to be Ghandian. Ultimately, we need to practice living our subjective truth, and that is where courage comes in. In my experience the truth disarms people, it lowers their defenses temporarily and exposes them, especially when it is clear that you are acting in an unopportunistic way. That’s the effect I felt when I implemented what he was writing about in his experiments. If you want to unlock most people, simply be earnest and they will be as well.
What you emphasized, and what you don’t really get from his autobiography, was the sense that he was as pragmatic as you make him out to be. The phrase I really liked was ” pragmatic idealist”. I never thought of him that way, he emphasizes God, spirituality and vows in his experiments, not action, but now that I think of it, inorder for him to as prolific as he was, action needed to be emphasized.You’ve given me a different taste of Ghandi. There is an anecdote in his memoir when he talks about ” pocketing an insult”.When an Englishman tells him to go to third class carriage, or be thrown off the train, and Ghandi decides to sacrifice the principle only because at the moment he was headed for South Africa, and did not want lose a larger battle inorder to win a smaller one. I need to implement that pragmatism to the intractable idealist in me. I thank you for reminding me, thank you for that insight! I need to pocket more insults!
In sum, great book, many great Finkelsteinian insights. I agree with you, Satyagraha does not work all the time and in practice, at times is not worth the extra effort. It is lost on sociopaths and most executives. Nonviolence just makes them smile and dwell on their narcissism,in which case we have to be violent, or disassociate ourselves if possible. But we can’t give in to cowardly flight but must confront our aggressor at all costs.I can tell you follow these ethics.
As always, with respect and great admiration,