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Updated on August 15, 2015

Criticism is Necessary for Effective Social Change

Often you will Hindu priests and teachers day, "Don't criticize anyone." Social change can only happen when citizens as a collective use their basic human rights to improve society. Society improves when we use constructive criticism to bring about social change.

Gandhi was a social change agent when he lived in South Africa and India. For 20 years he lived in South Africa and he advocated for human rights for Indians citizens in both countries. Nelson Mandela went to prison for 27 years being imprisoned by the government and became its first prime minister when the regime gave up South Africa. He spoke up for the rights of oppressed workers and citizens. Gandhi laid the ground work for Mandela for social change in South Africa and all over the world. His model of social change has been successfully used in many situations.

In Gandhi's speeches he brought out the social complaint of the masses against the oppressive and greedy British colonizer in India. He did not accept the premise of "don't criticize anyone" for their unjust actions. He never got personal in his criticism, but he still criticized the government for unjust actions. Lord Robert Salisbury, British Secretary of State for India, put it quite bluntly when he said that the British goal for this period of time was that "India must be bled." The British taxed the businesses, middle class and farmers to such an extent that India lost millions and England gained millions through unjust and greedy means. It was theft on a large scale.

As you recall the American Revolution was a social complaint against the British colonial system which heavily taxed businesses, the middle and working classes in America. The Boston Tea Party was a protest against the tax on tea imposed by the British on the Americans. England was good at getting money through unjust and oppressive means, but in the end it paid for its unjust treatment of all of its colonials.

Gandhi promoted non-violence as a method of dealing with the oppressors. Protests and boycotts happened. He advocated self reliance in salt and a great cottage industry developed in India for the weavers and spinners of cotton cloth. India today is known for its great cotton clothing industry. Many individuals do online business selling cotton and ornate Indian clothing all over the world. At the time of Gandhi Britain benefited from India's cotton because of their economic hold on the industry. The raw materials were under the control of the Brits.

In the 1960's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used Gandhi's methods to enact social change in America. Black citizens were denied voting rights and Jim Crow Laws were still in existence. One priest recently commented that things were better 50 years ago. Not when it came to civil and human rights in America. Blacks and whites were separated from each other in different schools, places of business, churches and at drinking fountains. Inter-racial marriage was illegal in the country in a number of southern states.

In the 1970's the women's and ecological movements developed in the United States, Europe and even in Asia. In the 1940's there were many female leaders in the Indian Independence Movement. This movement formed the ground work for the women's movement in the 1960's and 1970's. The Chipko Movement in India laid the ground work for the ecological movement in the United States and worldwide. Indira Gandhi became India's first female prime minister and brought progress to India like her father Prime Minister Nehru. These movements were heavily influenced by Gandhi's movement.

Women were often harassed in the workplace and they lost their jobs because they got married or were pregnant. Many younger women do not realize what some of the older women went through. Few women were in professional fields except for nursing, teaching, secretarial and social work. In the 1980's one of my sisters was the only female student in an advanced math class. She went to the board after the boys had tried to solve the math problem. Within two minutes she solved the problem and explained it to the class. The male teacher did not like that she succeeded when the boys failed the solve the problem. He said, "How can you solve this problem? You are a girl." She went to the principal and he never did such a thing again. She did it for the other girls who might have to deal with this problem. It was like that in those years. The women's movement followed Gandhi's model of consciousness raising through their consciousness raising groups where they discussed many great issues of the day. In many ways they used Gandhi's methods of social action and non-violence.

Many of us today remember the beginnings of the food and coop movement in Minneapolis and worldwide. Getting good, wholesome organic food was not easy in those times. Now more and more people are living organically and living ecologically. The yoga studios promote ecology better than many of the Hindu mandirs do. They use natural cleaning products in the bathrooms and kitchens, compost and recycle. In some mandirs you see toxic waste dumps in the bathrooms. The cleaning products are full of chemicals, unsafe for adults and children and very ineffective in destroying germs. The University of Minnesota studied these types of products and found none killed germs. Hot water and soap killed germs. All the natural things kill germs. Essential oils and vinegar do the job, not Lysol. Lysol is unsafe. Many children have been chemically injured from this product. Natural products are cheaper than the chemical ones, too. Old habits die hard it seems. The leadership is not willing to change their ways. In this area I would like to raise a social complaint against the toxic chemical companies. People need to say no to them and replace them with the natural products. Its takes leadership to enact the change. Be like Gandhi and live truth. The Vedas are set of ecological texts, not just rituals.

When you speak up you are continuing the great legacy of social change in Minneapolis and worldwide first used by Gandhi. Take the great step of questioning what society is doing and make sure you know your facts. Say no to the polluters and those who oppress. Be like the coops develop your own system but advocate education for the masses. Be the change you want to see in the world.




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