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lization and projected onto the 'low cultures' of Europe and on to the new cultures European civilization encountered. It was as part of this process that the colonies came to be seen as the abode of people childlike and innocent on the one hand, and

devious, effeminate and passive‑aggressive on the other. The positive qualities of childlikeness, Kipling argued, were the attributes of the good savages‑for instance, the devoted, obedient martial races of India, the Gunga Dins‑and those of the good‑hearted, patriotic lower classes of Britain supplying the Raj with 'Tommies' who dutifully went to their untimely death in distant lands. Childish or feminine passive‑aggression was the attribute of the effete nationalists and fake sahibs or babus drawn from the non‑martial races and that of the uninffirmed, shallow, British liberals supporting the former. It was also the attribute of whatever apparent civilization India, as opposed to the 'savage' Africans, seemed to have.

This was the ultimate meaning of the spirit of colonialism and its civilizing mission mounted on behalf of modernity and progress. Kipling merely produced new myths to consolidate these cultural ideas as a part of his own search for an in­tegrated selfhood. To use an overworked expression of Herbert Marcuse's, it was an instance of internal repression mirroring an externally repressive system. Kipling's idea of the effeminate, passive‑aggressive, and 'half‑savage‑half‑child' Indian was more than an Anglo‑Indian stereotype: it was an aspect of Kipling's authenticity and Europe's other face.

The denouement for Kipling came in his old age, when his literary success with generations of young readers had very nearly established his superiority over his critics in India as well as in the West. It came when his only son died defending the cause of the Empire Kipling held so dear. Kipling, neither a clear‑cut product of the self‑confident colonialism of the nine­teenth century nor at home with modern wars based on mega‑technology and mega‑death, was broken. The fear of loss of nurture had always haunted him. The characters in his stories, mostly parentless like Wilde's, sometimes sought that nurture through a reversal of roles: they secured nurture from their wards, from children and from the childlike aliens they befriended or protected. In the process, they presumably en­sured for their creator a similar nurture from the children among‑and the children in‑his readers. That fantasy world

of nurture from below, perhaps compensating loss or depriva­tion of parental nurture, collapsed with the death of Kipling's son.

Edmund Wilson sensitively captures the spirit of this Kipling, broken as much by the imperialism he so admired as by his self‑repression.57 Wilson does so by quoting the defeated im­perialist‑lonely, depressed, and fearful of insanity in his old age:
I have a dream‑a dreadful dream­
A dream that is near done,
I watch, a man go out of his mind,
And he is My Mother's Son.

George Orwell's response to the ideology of colonialism was the antipode of Kipling's; he worked with creative myths that were direct attempts to reassert some of the values which colonialism forced one to disown. He clearly sensed that British colonialism had created the demand for a 'mother culture'‑and a produc­tion line for colonial rulers‑which alienated the colonizers not only from their political subjects but also from their own selves. Orwell operated from an anthropocentric, socialist‑humanistic rationalism which never allowed him to develop the full mean­ing of the continuity between the oppressor and the oppressed .58 Nevertheless, he did sense that the subjugation of the ruled also involved the subjugation of the ruler, that the subjects in the colonies controlled their rulers as surely as the rulers controlled their subjects. He also was aware, perhaps to some extent against himself, that the first kind of control was the more difficult to defy because it was covert, subtle and involved

within‑person repression, whereas in the second case, the re­pression was overt and involved two cultures.

The most telling portrayal of this mutual bondage is in Orwell's 'Shooting an Elephant', an essay which graphically describes some of the anxieties and fears the colonizer lives with.59 All the themes which can be identified with the present cultural crisis of the West are in the essay: the reification of social bonds through formal, stereotyped, part‑object relation­ships; an instrumental view of nature; created loneliness of the colonizers in the colony through a theory of cultural stratifica­tion and exclusivism; an unending search for masculinity and status before the colonized; the perception of the colonized as gullible children who must be impressed with conspicuous machismo (with resultant audience demands binding the colo­nizer to a given format of 'play'); and the suppression of one's self for the sake of an imposed imperial identity‑inauthentic and killing in its grandiosity. What Kipling articulated in­directly through his life and tried to hide through his writings, Orwell articulated openly through his self‑aware political analysis.

Orwell was basically a critic of totalitarianism. But those who have read his Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty‑Four will re­cognize him also as a critic of the oppression which grows out of ideologies of egalitarianism and progress. It is this part of his self which is relevant to this essay, because much before the modern doctrines of progress came home to roost in the First and the Second Worlds, the colonized societies had to bear their full brunt.

Orwell was the scion of an old, quasi‑aristocratic family in decline, with a history of colonial service and slave‑owning. Like Kipling, he was born in India and brought up in England. But he left the country of his birth too early to have any memories. He had, thus, a standard English middle‑class up­bringing. In later life Orwell believed that he had had an oppressive childhood and he wrote about his journey through

a tyrannical school that was close to being a 'total' institution. His biographer Bernard Crick however argues that, objectively speaking, Orwell's childhood was not really oppressive after all, that Orwell 'rewrote' his memories to make them compatible with his later concerns.60 But at the same time, Crick's account itself underscores three themes in Orwell's early life which are linked with the adult Orwell's understanding of oppression and his defiance of the colonial culture in Britain.

First, Orwell grew up in an essentially woman's world with imageries of men as dirty, violent and inferior. Like Kipling he showed an early predilection for a life of the mind; like Kipling, he felt handicapped in a school organized around conflicting ideas of asceticism, sexual (especially homosexual) puritanism, hard work, sportsmanship and hyper‑masculinity.61 Like Kip­ling again, Orwell was a sensitive, seclusive boy and for that very reason unpopular in his school and subject to bullying. But the end‑results of these experiences were very different for Orwell. The ambivalence towards maleness in his early en­vironment deterred him from opting for the reigning culture of hyper‑masculinity. He remained in essence an opponent of the patriarchal world view.

Secondly, young Orwell, according to Orwell the auto­biographer, learnt early in his life that he was 'in a world where it was not possible for him to be good'; that is, 'in a world ... where the rules were such that it was actually not possible ... to keep them.’62 This probably included the specific lesson that the inability to be good applied especially to the weak. All this can be explained away as a 'screen memory', as Crick seems to do, but it could be also read as a belief rooted in experience. Orwell was a bed‑wetter, and had to learn to live with humilia­tion and corporal punishment in school for his 'crime'. Victorian morality taught him to recognize bed‑wetting as wicked, but

the wickedness was outside his control. 'Sin was not necessarily something that you did; it might be something that happened to you.63

Third, it was in school that Orwell had the first intimation of a principle which took him, by his own admission, another twenty years to realize: 'the weak in a world governed by the strong' must 'break the rules, or perish.' The weak, he was to claim, had 'the right to make a different set of rules for thern­selves.’64 Unless they had the 'instinct to survive', they had to accept the world in which 'there were the strong, who deserved to win, and there were the weak who deserved to lose and always did lose, everlastingly.65

Strange though it may sound, Orwell could have been, given the 'right' values, one of Kipling's heroes. He had the right approach to the 'natives' as well as to the English lower classes: deep empathy without total identification, a sense of moral responsibility, and an unencumbered spirit of the kind which enabled one to do the dirty work of one's time. But Orwell put this approach to a different use. He became a critic of the dominant, middle‑class culture of modern Britain which had found in imperialism its final fulfilment.

The third form of internal response to colonialism protected the more feminine aspects of the British self through 'psycho­pathological'‑and 'criminal'‑modes of self‑expression in a few confined geographical and psychological spaces such as Oxbridge and Bloomsbury and in persons in conflict about their sexual identities and seeking to make an indirect ideo­logical issue out of the conflicts. Almost all these persons were unaware that their inner drives were a joint political statement as well as the elements of a common private conflict. Neverthe­less, their personal lives and the ambience of their interpersonal relationships set apart such non‑political figures as Oscar Wilde (1854‑1900), G. E. Moore (1873‑1958), John Maynard Keynes (1883‑1946), Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), Virginia Woolf (1882‑1941), Somerset Maugham (1874‑1965), E. M. Forster

(1879‑1970) and W. H. Auden (1907‑73) as living protests against the world view associated with colonialism.

Psychoanalyst Lawrence Kubie has explored in some detail the search for bisexuality that characterized gifted individuals like Virginia Woolf and the anguish that was associated with that search.66 This anguish was sharpened in a cultural context that was trying to disown its own recessive traditions of an­drogyny and the psychological correlates of the biological fact of human bisexuality.67 'The ideology of higher sodomy', aestheticism and neo‑Hellenism to which many creative per­sons subscribed in nineteenth and twentieth century Britain cannot be explained without reference to the way British society had devalued femininity as low‑status, contaminating and anti­social, and rejected the presence of femininity in man as virtually the negation of all humanness. What the colonial culture was doing in India by stressing the antonymy between purusatva and klibatva had its collateral in the struggle to further consolidate the dominance of the principle of hyper‑masculinity in Britain. Colonialism only helped marginalize, using the popular British sexual stereotypes, the strands of consciousness in Britain protesting against this antonymy.

Let me give the example of a remarkably creative‑person who was apparently far removed from the world of British‑Indian politics, Oscar Wilde. Richard Ellmann's recent essay on Wilde's life at once reveals the extent to which Wilde's sexuality was a cultural phenomenon and a statement of protest.68 The Marquess of Queensberry, the vindictive father of Wilde's lover

Bossie (Lord Alfred Douglas) was not merely a flat‑footed con­servative, but a culturally typical counter player to Wilde's atypical sexual identity. Both Wilde and his lover saw them­selves as the negation of the staid Marquess who sought constant endorsement of not only his but his culture's masculine self. As the inventor of the Queensberry rules of competitive boxing, it is this endorsement which the Marquess symbolically sought by defining and demanding rule‑bound violence and conformity to that ultimate virtue of aggressive British mas­culinity, sportsmanship .69 And this is the endorsement Wilde tried to deny him. Wilde's younger son, Vyvyan Holland, was to later write that Wilde had a 'horror of conventionality' and that this contributed to his destruction by his society.70 He failed to recognize that imperialism was based on the pathology of existing conventionality and commonsense; it sought its legitimacy by selling the idea of a moral civilization based on these two elements of British folk culture. By defying conven­tionality‑particularly stereotyped definitions of sexual norms ‑Wilde threatened, however indirectly, a basic postulate of the colonial attitude in Britain.

It is well known that Wilde's homosexuality would have been 'forgiven' had he been more discreet about it; had he, for instance, not instituted criminal proceedings against the Mar­quess. Victorian England was willing to tolerate Wilde's sexual identity as long as it was accepted as a part of the life style of a marginal sect and not openly flaunted.

But by demonstratively using his homosexuality as a cultural ideology, Wilde threatened to sabotage his community's domi­nant self‑image as a community of well‑defined men, with clear‑cut man‑woman relationships. What the elite culture of England could not tolerate was his blatant deviation from rigidly defined sexual roles in a society which, unknown to the hyper‑aesthete Wilde, was working out the political

meanings of these definitions in a colony thousands of miles away.

Oscar Wilde 'childishly' defied respectability in yet another sphere. By stressing this part of Wilde's ideology, Ellmann, a literary critic, allows me to conceptualize the essentially apoli­tical Wilde as an unself‑aware, but more or less complete, critic of the political culture which sired colonialism.71 Wilde rejected Matthew Arnold's dictum: 'The aim of criticism is to see the object as in itself it really is.' To him the aim of criticism was to see the object as it really was not. This may be seen as the other side of the old maxim, art for art's sake, but it could also be read, as Ellmann himself says, as an earlier version of Picasso's faith: art is 'what nature is not'. In that form it be­comes an early critique of over‑socialized thinking, of the kind later ventured by Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse. The art which defies the existent is the art which is subversive; it 'undermines things as they are.' Thus, Wilde's admiration for historians who defy history:

He celebrates those historians who impose dominion upon fact instead of surrendering to it. Later he was to say much more boldly, 'The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.' It is part of his larger con­ception that the one duty (or better, whim) we owe nature, reality, or the world, is to reconstruct it.72

Wilde, everything said, was a marginal man. His philosophy of life, too, was peripheral to his society. Neither his sexual deviance nor his critiques of everyday life and history made sense to the mainstream culture of Britain. Appropriately, the characters he created for his plays and stories were parentless.73 They were not burdened by close authority and thus by any passionate conflict with such authority. The humour these characters produced arose out of distant defiance rather than proximate rebellion. Perhaps it is now time for us to turn to criticisms of Western culture which defied conventional mas­culinity and normal history as parts of a more articulate,

culturally legitimate, ideology. In other words, I shall now discuss a mode of dissent which had parents.

Charles Freer Andrews, revered in India and forgotten in England, was born into an inheritance of religion and non­conformity .74 Like Orwell, he was his mother's favourite and, like both Kipling and Orwell, his relationship with his father, a minister of the Catholic Apostolic Church, was distant. Andrews' childhood was deeply influenced by religious myths and imageries, and he was also exposed to more than the normal quota of classical literature. He was later to describe his early home life as 'a kind of backwater into which the current of modern thought has not been allowed to enter.’75 Again like Kipling and Orwell, he was miserable in his school, partly because of the burden of his studies, but more so because, as a delicate, over‑protected boy he was surrounded by older, bigger and 'coarser' boys whose object of homosexual attention he became. Andrews' response to them was not perhaps entirely passive and, throughout his life, he was to remember these experiences as 'an evil form of impurity' in him. Hugh Tinker, certainly not an overly psychological biographer, describes the consequences as follows:

Charlie was never to have a girl friend, and the enormity of this 'im­purity' was to be buried deep in his psyche. Perhaps it was at school that he subconsciously turned, or was turned away from the possibility of the physical love of a woman. For some years there was an emo­tional struggle at school, and though as he grew older he mastered the situation, the sense of guilt remained.76

Andrews may not have been easy with conventional hetero­sexuality but in spite of all his neurasthenia and nervous activism, he was always easy with children. Whether it was this combination that helped him see through the colonial ideology or not, he was to become the one person who, to many of his friends, 'was an Indian at heart, at the same time

a true Englishman.’77 It is thus that he bridged the classical universalism of Rabindranath Tagore and the folk‑based, critical traditionalism of Gandhi. He saw both as valid alterna­tives to the modernism which informed colonial ideology and, though he probably found Tagore easier to understand, he based his critique of British colonialism, following Gandhi, on critical Christian ethics. (He would have certainly rejected the apolitical, non‑critical traditionalism of some contemporary Christian missionaries, as he would have rejected its more im­pressive and touching version in someone like Mother Teresa today. He would have considered such anti‑politics unaccept­able.78) Predictably, when in India, Andrews adopted many Indian and specifically Hindu social customs‑in dress, food and social relations‑but he also took care to see that nobody rnistook him for a lapsed Christian. He even took pains during his last years to ensure a proper Christian burial for himself. Evidently, he owed his social and political activism not merely to his Indianized self, but also to his non‑modern Western traditions. It is a comment on modern theories of dissent that the Westerner who perhaps came closest to the Indian cause in two hundred years of British colonial history operated on the basis of religious traditions, not on that of a secular ideology.

In a moment of terrible defeatism Vivekananda had said that the salvation of the Hindus lay in three Bs: beef, biceps and Bhagvad‑Gita. The nationalist‑chemist P. C. Ray, too, allegedly expressed similar sentiments once. Andrews, if he had come across such proposals, would have found them painful. He recognized the nexus between capitalism, imperialism and Christianity, in spite of his limited intellectual repertoire and his simple theology.79 Nevertheless, his Christianity demanded

from the Hindus not a masculine Christianity masquerading as Hindu nationalism. His Christianity sought to‑authenticate Gandhi's faith, enumerated in his sixteen‑point thesis, that the East and West could‑and did‑meet outside the bounds of modernity.80 It was modern Britain Andrews disowned, not the traditional West. When Gandhi described him as an Indian at heart and a true Englishman, it remained unstated that it was by being a true Englishman that Andrews became an Indian.

My account of the responses to colonialism in Britain‑I find after having written it‑differs from my account of the Indian responses in one respect. In the case of the Indians I seem to have stressed texts and myths; for the Westerners, persons. Is this accidental? Or is this an unwilling acknowledgement of the different ways in which cultures can be described? Are some cultures primarily organized around historical time inter­secting with life‑histories, and others around the timeless time of myths and texts? One of the following sections may provide a partial answer to these questions.


The most creative response to the perversion of Western cul­ture, however, came, as it must, from its victims. It was colonial India, still preserving something of its androgynous cosmology and style, which ultimately produced a transcultural protest against the hyper‑masculine world view of colonialism, in the form of Gandhi. Gandhi's authenticity as an Indian should not blind us to the way his idiom cut across the cultural barriers between Britain and India, and Christianity and Hinduism. Albeit a non‑Westerner, Gandhi always tried to be a living symbol of the other West. Not only did he sense and 'use' the fundamental predicament of British culture caught in the hinges of imperial responsibility and subjecthood in victory, but he implicitly defined his ultimate goal as the liberation of

the British from the history and psychology of British colonial­ism. The moral and cultural superiority of the oppressed was not an empty slogan to him.

That is why Gandhi's spirited search for the other culture of Britain, and of the West, was an essential part of his theory of salvation for India. It is true that 'Gandhi was a living antithesis set up against the thesis of the English',81 but that antithesis was latent in the English, too. All through his adult­hood, Gandhi's closest friend was an English cleric devoted not only to the cause of Indian freedom but also to a softer version of Christianity. C. F. Andrews was to Gandhi what Thomas Mann had been to Sigmund Freud: an affirmation of the marginalized reflective strain that must underlie‑or, to pro­tect one's own sanity and humanity, must be presumed to underlie‑every 'homogeneous' culture that goes rabid. (That this may not be reduced to a merely moral posture in cir­cumstances in which shared madness establishes its domination over history is best shown by Gene Sharpe's description of a successful peaceful resistance against the Nazi state in wartime Berlin.82) Similarly, Gandhi's partiality for some of the Chris­tian hymns and Biblical texts was more than the symbolic gesture of a Hindu towards a minority religion in India. It was also an affirmation that, at one plane, some of the recessive elements of Christianity were perfectly congruent with elements of Hindu and Buddhist world views and that the battle he was fighting for the minds of men was actually a universal battle to rediscover the softer side of human nature, the so‑called non­masculine self of man relegated to the forgotten zones of the Western self‑concept.

What was the constituency he was appealing to? Was it only a lunatic fringe or an ineffective minority? I suspect that there was in Gandhi not only a sophisticated ethical sensitivity but also political and psychological shrewdness. Here is, for instance,

a description of an aspect of British national character which the reader, if brought up on ideas of Indian and parti­cularly Gandhian pacifism and Western aggressiveness, might find interesting:

With the exception of the anomalous members of the lower working class (who never came to the colonies in large numbers), the English are preoccupied with the control of their own aggression, the avoid­ance of aggression from others, and the prevention of the emergence of aggressive behaviour in their children ... In the English middle and upper classes this control of aggression would appear to have been a major component in their character for several centuries. In the context of games this control of aggression is called 'sportsmanship', a concept which the English introduced into much of the rest of the world. One aspect of 'sportsmanship' is controlling physical aggression by rules.... The other aspect of 'sportsmanship' is the acceptance of the outcome unaggressively, neither taunting the vanquished nor showing resentment against the victor. This concept of 'sportsman­ship' has long been metaphorically extended from games to almost all situations of rivalry or competition; the reputation of being a 'good sport' is one that is very highly valued by the majority of the English.83

Against this observation I want to offset the view of Nirad C. Chaudhuri, an internal critic of the Indic civilization, even though he would be rejected out‑of‑hand by many as hope­lessly anti‑Indian and as a lobbyist for the West in the East.

The current belief is that the Hindus are a peace‑loving and non­violent people, and this belief has been fortified by Gandhism. In reality few communities have been more warlike and fond of blood­shed.... About twenty‑five words in an inscription of Asoka have succeeded in almost wholly suppressing the thousands in the rest of the epigraphy and the whole of Sanskrit literature which bear testimony to the incorrigible militarism of the Hindus. Their political history is made up of bloodstained pages. . . Between this unneces­sary proclamation of non‑violence in the third century B.C. and its reassertion, largely futile, in the twentieth century by Mahatma Gandhi, there is not one word of non‑violence in the theory and practice of statecraft by the Hindus.84

Mine is not an attempt to substitute the existing stereotypes of the British ruler and Indian subject with the help of two partisan observers. What I am saying is that Gandhi's non­violence was probably not a one‑sided morality play. Nor was it purely a matter of humane Hindus versus the inhuman Britons. The shrewd Bania, a practical idealist, had correctly seen that, at some levels of national consciousness in Britain, there was near‑perfect legitimacy for the political methodology he was forging. On the other hand, he knew well that he would have to fight hard in India to establish his version of nonviolence as 'true' Hinduism or as the central core of Hinduism. After all, Gandhi himself said that he had borrowed his idea of non‑violence not from the sacred texts of India but from the Sermon on the Mount. In the 150 years of British rule prior to Gandhi, no significant social reformer or political leader had tried to give centrality to non‑violence as a major Hindu or Indian virtue. The closest anyone came to it was Rammohun Roy with his concept of daya or mercy.Many years before Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda. had sarcastically said that the British had, following the 'real' injunctions of the classical Indian texts, excelled in their this‑worldly, hedonic, manly pursuits, while the Indians, foolishly following the 'true' injunctions of Christianity, had become their passive, life‑denying, feminine subjects.85 It is not relevant whether Vivekananda's reading of Christianity and Hinduism was right. The important point is that Gandhi made a different use of the same awareness.

It was in this sense that Gandhi wanted to liberate the British as much as he wanted to liberate Indians. The panicky, self‑imposed captivity of the dominant or ruling groups in their self‑made oppressive systems, for the sake of values which Chaim Shatan has recently called bogus honour and bogus

manliness, is something which he never failed to notice or use. 86

To put this awareness to political use, he challenged first the ideology of biological stratification acting as a homologue of ‑and legitimacy for‑political inequality and injustice. As already noted, the colonial culture's ordering of sexual identi­ties assumed that

Purusatva > Naritva > Klibatva

That is, manliness is superior to womanliness, and womanliness in turn to femininity in man. I have also pointed out that the first Indian response to this was to accept the ordering by giving a new salience to Ksatriyahood as true Indianness. To beat the colonizers at their own game and to regain self‑esteem as Indians and as Hindus, many sensitive minds in India did what the adolescent Gandhi at the ontogenetic level had tried to do symbolically with the help of a Muslim friend:87 they sought a hyper‑masculinity or hyper‑Ksatriyahood that would make sense to their fellow‑countrymen (specially to those exposed to I the majesty of the Raj) and to the colonizers.

But in an unorganized plural society, with a tradition of only parochial, not absolute, legitimacy for warriorhood, such Di­onysian games with the colonizers were doomed. This is what the Bengali, Punjabi and Maharashtrian terrorists found out to their own cost during the early part of this century. They had isolated themselves from the society even more than the British when Gandhi entered Indian politics in the nineteen‑twenties.

Gandhi's solution was different. He used two orderings, each of which could be invoked according to the needs of the situa­tion. The first, borrowed intact from the great and little tradi­tions of saintliness in India, and also probably from the doctrine

of power through divine bi‑unity in some of the vamachari or left‑handed sects, was as follows:

Androgyny >



That is, manliness and womanliness are equal, but the ability to transcend the man‑woman dichotomy is superior to both, being an indicator of godly and saintly qualities. To do this Gandhi had to ignore the traditional devaluation of some forms of androgyny in his culture.

Gandhi's second ordering was invoked specifically as a me­thodological justification for the anti‑imperialist movement, first in South Africa and then in India. It went as follows:

Naritva > Purusatva > Kapurusatva

That is, the essence of femininity is superior to that of masculi­nity, which in turn is better than cowardice or, as the Sanskrit expression would have it, failure of masculinity. Though the ordering is not inconsistent with some interpretations of Indian traditions, when stated in such a fashion it acquires a new play. This is because the first relationship (naritva > purusatva) often applies more directly to the transcendental and the magical, whereas the second relationship (purusatva > kapurusatva) is a more general, everyday principle. Perhaps the conjunction of the two sets makes available the magical power of the feminine principle of the cosmos to the man who chooses to defy his cowardice by owning to his feminine self.

There are a few implied meanings in these relationships. These meanings were culturally defined and, therefore, 'as­sumed' by Gandhi, but could be missed by an outside observer. First, the concept of naritva, so repeatedly stressed by Gandhi nearly fifty years before the woman's liberation movement began, represented more than the dominant Western definition of womanhood. It included some traditional meanings of womanhood in India, such as the belief in a closer conjunction between power, activism and femininity than between power, activism and masculinity. It also implied the belief that the feminine principle is a more powerful, dangerous and uncontrollable

principle in the cosmos than the male principle. But even more central to this concept of womanhood was the traditional Indian belief in the primacy of maternity over conjugality in feminine identity. This belief specified that woman as an object and source of sexuality was inferior to woman as source of motherliness and caritas. Gandhi's fear of human sexuality, whatever its psychodynamic explanation in Gandhi's personal history, was perfectly consistent with this reading of Indian culture.

Second, while the dominant principle in Gandhian praxis is non‑violence or avoidable violence, an implicit subsidiary principle is what K. J. Shah calls unavoidable violence. The principle of non‑violence gives men access to protective mater­nity and by implication, to the godlike state of ardhanarisvara, a god half‑man, half‑woman. But given the cultural meaning of naritva, non‑violence also gives men access to the powerful, active, maternal principle of the cosmos, magically protective and carrying the intimations of an oceanic and utopian beati­tude. Along the same continuum, courage‑what Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph call Gandhi's new courage88‑allows one to rise above cowardice or kapurusatva and became a 'man', on the way to becoming the authentic man who admits his drive to become both sexes. This courage is not definitionally wedded to violence as in Ksatriyahood, but it may involve unavoidable violence under some circumstances, particularly in circum­stances where the alternative is passive tolerance of injustice, inequality and oppression‑willing victimhood and acceptance of the secondary gains of victimhood‑which are all seen as worse than violence.

In sum, Gandhi was clear in his mind that activism and courage could be liberated from aggressiveness and recognized as perfectly compatible with womanhood, particularly mater­nity. Whether this position fully negated the Ksatriya world view or not, it certainly negated the very basis of the colonial culture. The colonial culture depended heavily on Western

cosmology, with its built‑in fears about losing potency through the loss of activism and the ability to be violent. I have avoided discussing here the fantasies which underlie these fears ­fantasies of rape and counter‑rape, seduction and counter­seduction, castration and counter‑castration‑which have ac­companied the Western concept of manhood whenever Western man has gone beyond his narrow cultural borders to civilize, populate or self‑improve. (The depth of this linkage between activism and aggression in parts of the Western world is evident from the fact that the West's major ethnopsychology, Freudian psychoanalysis, locates the source of all activism and the con­cern with power in the instinctual patterning of aggression.)


The past in history varies with the present, rests upon the present, is the present.... There are not two worlds‑the world of past happenings and the world of our present knowledge of those past events‑there is only one world, and it is a world of present experience.

Michael Oakeshott 89

Gandhi's reply to the colonial homology between childhood and political subjugation was indirect. He rejected history and affirmed the primacy of myths over historical chronicles. He thereby circumvented the unilinear pathway from primitivism to modernity, and from political immaturity to political adult­hood, which the ideology of colonialism would have the subject society and the 'child races' walk.90 This was his way of grappl­ing with colonial racism, a racism at least one psychiatrist has diagnosed as 'a historical ill, a disorder of the historical self'

which 'reveals the fullness of that self even as it reveals its inadequacies'.91

(There was a direct component in Gandhi's defiance of the ideology of adulthood, but it was relatively trivial. Not only did every Westerner and Westernized Indian who came in touch with Gandhi refer at least once to his child's smile, his admirers and detractors dutifully found him childlike and childish respectively. His 'infantile' obstinacy and tendency to tease, his 'immature' attacks on the modern world and its props, his 'juvenile' food fads and symbols like the spinning wheel‑all were viewed as planks of a political platform which defied conventional ideas of adulthood .92 One could offset these oddities against Bruno Bettelheim's view that under op­pression, when survival is at stake, there is regression to in. fantilism. And against Lionel Trilling's observation, in the context of India, that 'generations of subjection can diminish the habit of dignity and teach grown men the strategy of the little child.93 An enterprising psychoanalyst probably could even be persuaded to argue that Gandhi's style of leadership was, in retrospect, a natural corollary of the culture of oppres­sion with which his people lived. For the moment, however, I shall stress the other part of the story where a specific political position became in Gandhi a point of convergence between immediate social needs and metaphysical defiance.)

Gandhi's position on history was based on three assumptions, two of them derived from the traditional Indian orientations to time .94 The first of these two was the salience given by

Indian culture to myth as a structured fantasy which, in its dynamic of the here‑and‑the‑now, represents what in another culture would be called the dynamic of history. In other words, the diachronic relationships of history are mirrored in the synchronic relationship of myths and are fully reproducible from the latter if the rules of transformation are known. In Gandhi, the specific orientation to myth became a more general orientation to public consciousness. Public consciousness was not seen as a causal product of history but as related to history non‑causally through memories and anti‑memories. If for the West the present was a special case of an unfolding history, for Gandhi as a representative of traditional India history was a special case of an all‑embracing permanent present, waiting to be interpreted and reinterpreted. (This also indirectly coped with the subsidiary homology between old age and Indian civilization but, for the moment, I shall let that pass.)

Even to the critics of industrial capitalism in the West, history was a linear process sometimes with an implied cycle underlying it. Marx, for instance, following the Judaeo‑Christian cosmology, conceived of history somewhat as follows:

Prehistory proper (ahistorical primitive communism)

Objective stage‑ bound history (class struggle)


False history as
a part of false consciousness
(History as ideology)

End of history (class‑less adult communism, based on scientific history)

Gandhi, however, was a product of a society which conceptual­ized the past, as a possible means of reaffirming or altering the present:

Past as a special case of' present

Fractured present (competing pasts)

Remaking of present including past

New Past

From such a viewpoint, the past can be an authority but the nature of the authority is seen as shifting, amorphous and amenable to intervention. Mircea Eliade puts it thus:

While a modern man, though regarding himself as the result of the course of universal history, does not feel obliged to know the whole of it, the man of the archaic societies is not only obliged to remember mythical history but also tore‑enact a large part of it periodically. It is here that we find the greatest difference between the man of the archaic societies and modern man: the irreversibility of events, which is the characteristic trait of History for the latter, is not a fact to the former ... 95

This is of course a less colourful way of paraphrasing T. S. Eliot in Burnt Norton:
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future is contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is [un]redeemable.

Borrowing from psychoanalysis, Jurgen Habermas in another context uses the expression future‑oriented memories' to de­scribe the means through which one breaks the power of the past over the present .96 Some strands of Indian culture would find this fully acceptable. But they would formulate the con­sequences of such a view differently. The Indian's past is always open, whereas his future is so only to the extent that it is a rediscovery or renewal.97 For Freud, as for Marx, ill health follows from history; health either from the present or from the future. The psychoanalyst, like the Marxist historian, is an expert who anticipates the self's capacity to bare, and live with the repressed other history which creates the crucial disjunction between the past and the present. For the Indian folk 'historian' ‑the bhat, caran, or the kathakar for instance‑there can be no real disjunction between the past and the present. If ill health follows from the past, health too follows from the past. The idea

of 'determination' could apply to the present or to the future, as the notorious Indian concept of fatalism implies; in the past there are always open choices.

Past as present

Determined future (Indian fatalism)

Fractured present

Remade past

New past

 Alternative determined future (new 'fatalism')

While this position does not fully negate history and in fact anticipates a number of fashionable post‑Gandhian philoso­phies of history and interpretations of myths as history, the Gandhian position does make a subsidiary anti‑historical as­sumption that, because they faithfully contain history, because they are contemporary and, unlike history, are amenable to intervention, myths are the essence of a culture, history being at best superfluous and at worst misleading. Gandhi implicitly assumed that history or itihasa was one‑way traffic, a set of myths about past time or the atit, built up as independent variables which limit human options and pre‑empt human futures. Myths, on the other hand, allow one access to the processes which constitute history at the level of the here‑and ­the‑now. Consciously acknowledged as the core of a culture, they widen instead of restricting human choices. They allow one to remember in an anticipatory fashion and to concentrate on undoing aspects of the present rather than avenging the past. (Myths widen human choices also by resisting co‑optation by the uniformizing world view of modern science. In spite of recent attempts to show the rationality of the savage mind a la Levi‑Strauss, the savage mind itself has remained on the whole unconcerned about its own rationality. Both the science of myth and the scientific status of the myth continue to be a predomi­nantly modern concern. In this sense, too, the affirmation of ahistoricity is an affirmation of the dignity and autonomy of non‑modern peoples.)

The reverse of the same logic, however, is that myths can be analysed, traced or reduced to history as the dominant tradition

of Western social analysis had tried to do throughout modern times. History here is seen as the reality, the myth being a flawed, irrational fairy tale produce & by 'unconscious' history, meant for savages and children. The core of such a concept of time‑produced in the West for the first time after the demise of medievalism‑consists in the emphasis on causes rather than on structures (on 'why' rather than 'what'), on progress and evolution as opposed to self‑realization‑in‑being, and on the rationality of adjustment to historical reality (pragmatics) and of change through constant dramatic action (rather than on the rationality of a fundamentally critical attitude towards earlier interpretations and change through only critical inter­ventions and new interpretations). For the modern West, and for those influenced by its concept of time, history itself is a chronology of good and bad actions and their causes, and every revolution is a disjunction in time which must be either pro­tected against counter‑revolutions or reduced to the stature of a false 'coming' on the way to a real revolution.

The subsidiary assumption of the second approach is that the cultures living by myths are ahistorical and thus, representa­tives of an earlier, second‑rate social consciousness. Historical societies are the true representatives of mature human self-­consciousness and, therefore, their constructions of the ahistor­ical societies are more valid scientifically than those of these societies themselves. The latter must act out their ahistorical fates as understood by those who are historians to the world.

This is the paradigm of the adult‑child relationship which was challenged in Gandhian theory as well as practice.98 This

was done in two ways: by reaffirming the language of con­tinuity and by re‑emphasizing the language of self.

The language of continuity took advantage of the deep ambivalence towards disjunction in the ideology of modernity. Modernity seeks to locate all 'true' creativity, including crea­tive social action, in clear‑cut breaks with the past. Yet, para­doxically, it strives hard to locate each such break in history. For instance, the rhetoric of revolution not only undervalues anything which is insufficiently disjunctive with the past; it positively disvalues reformism as a hindrance to revolution. At the same time, the effort of every modern history of revolutions and every revolutionary thought is to place all 'true' or 'false' revolutions in history. No explanation of, or call for, a revolu­tion is complete unless it has spelt out the historical continuities which has or could lead to a revolution or would explain its career line.

The language of continuity re‑legitimized the under‑emphasis on disjunction in the Indian world view. It recognized that ex­actly as the language of revolution hid within it the message of continuity, the language of continuity too had a latent message of disjunction. Indian culture emphasized continuities so much that even major breaks with the past passed as minor reforms, till the full implications of the break became evident after decades or centuries, when the metaphors of continuity and permanence could no longer hide the fundamental changes that had already taken place in the culture. (The Bhakti movement is a reasonably good example of the process being described.) It therefore did not Ultimately matter whether one used the rhetoric of disjunction or of continuity, as long as the feel for the immediacy of suffering was maintained and suffering was not reified through an ornate sophisticated intellectual packaging.

The reaffirmation of the language of self could be briefly described as a part of an old dialectic. The modern world view challenges the traditional faith that greater self‑realization

leads to greater understanding of the not‑self, including the material world. Modernity includes the faith that the more human beings understand or control the 'objective' not‑self, including the not‑self in the self (the id, the brain processes, social or biological history), the more they control and under­stand the self (the ego, praxis, consciousness). A non‑modern person, if using Freudian or Marxian categories, would argue the other way round: the more he understands his ego or his praxis, he would say, the more he understands the universal primary processes of the id as well as the universal dialectic of history. It is possible that the non‑modern civilizations had to some extent exhausted the critical or creative possibilities of this primacy given to self‑realization when modernity began to stress the other side of the story. But modernity in turn had over‑corrected for the staleness of the older vision when critical traditionalists like Thoreau, Tolstoy and Gandhi began to re­emphasize the world views which, through self‑control and self­realization, sought to understand and change the world.

It was as a part of these two languages that Gandhi broke out of the determinism of history. His concept of a free India, his solution to racial, caste and inter‑religious conflicts and his concept of human dignity were remarkably free from the constraints of history. Whatever their other flaws, they gave societies the option of choosing their futures here and now ­without heroes, without high drama and without a constant search for originality, discontinuous changes and final victories. They were the Indian version of historians 'who impose domi­nion upon fact instead of surrendering to it'.99 If the past does not bind social consciousness and the future begins here, the present is the 'historical' moment, the permanent yet shifting point of crisis and the time for choice. One can either call it an Oriental version of the concept of permanent revolution or a practical extension of the mystical concept of timeless time in some Asiatic traditions.

With this, Gandhi rounded up his critique of the colonial

consciousness and proceeded to fight the organized aspects of colonialism. That second battle does not concern us here.


I started with the proposition that colonialism is first of all a matter of consciousness and needs to be defeated ultimately in the minds of men. In the rest of this essay I have tried to identify two major psychological categories or stratificatory principles derived from biological differences which gave struc­ture to the ideology of colonialism in India under British rule and to show how these principles related the colonial culture to the subject community, and ensured the survival of colonial­ism in the minds of men. I have also, I hope, shown that the liberation ultimately had to begin from the colonized and end with the colonizers. As Gandhi was to so clearly formulate through his own life, freedom is indivisible, not only in the popular sense that the oppressed of the world are one but also in the unpopular sense that the oppressor too is caught in the culture of oppression.

One question now remains to be answered. In examining parts of the mindscape of British colonialism in India I have gone back into time. Has that time travel observed the rules of history or is it also a matter of a myth? Did Gandhi really con­struct human nature and society the way I have described? Or is mine a second‑order construction‑a secondary elaboration, as a psychoanalyst may prefer to call it‑which imputes to a man a new structure in the manner of India's traditional com­mentators on persons and texts? Perhaps the question is ir­relevant. As Gandhi so effortlessly demonstrated, for those seek­ing liberation, history can sometimes be made to follow from myths.

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