While popular figures and politicians today fly around in private jets and claim to be servants of the people, Gandhi wanted to show his dedication to the principle we would today call “servant leadership” by living with those served, taking on the challenges experienced by the masses. It was a natural step for someone who caught a glimpse at the way that class privilege was used to divide people who otherwise could be working together. Remember the film Gandhi? It rightly depicts his conscious turning point as a young lawyer was when he was kicked out of the first class compartment of a train in South Africa because he was of Indian origin. “But wait, I have a first-class ticket!” he protested. “Too bad,” was the response. Talk about an indignant wake-up! Hours on the train platform, seething of the injustice of it, not just to him but in general. No one should be treated this way, or compelled to treat others this way, he thought. And nonviolence “of his conception” began. That was 1893, and we can say that he was thrown off of a train into the arms of nonviolence!
Then, as Gandhi’s awareness of his interconnection with others grew, he began to refuse certain privileges to which the masses would not have access. To take an example, a reporter once asked Gandhi, “Why do you travel by third class train?” Gandhi’s reply: “Because there is no fourth class yet.”
What is one luxury that you could experiment in doing without?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org