This idea kame to me… okay, I’ll stop… reading a compendium of book reviews in The New Yorker, chronicling the life of… wait. Lemme hold back on the name, because that’s the main point of this exercise, and holding back heightens the suspense, which I need because I am a little shaky about this idea and heightening the suspense may be all it has going for it.
Diving right in… after not diving right in…
Drawn in by its accompanying photograph, I read the opening paragraph of the compendium, explaining that an outdoor statue of this historical personage was defaced in 2015, and permanently removed the following year.
Who was this hateful human, meriting this erasing reaction?
Was it Adolf Hitler?
Was it Joseph Stalin?
(Do you see me, heightening the suspense?)
“Who, then? Because we are tired of boring examples of who it isn’t.”
Okay, I will tell you.
The historical personage, whose statue was defaced and subsequently removed was…
Yeah, that jerk.
The statue of Gandhi was heave-hoed in South Africa where the Mahatma once lived, following protests accusing him of racism against black Africans.
Later, Gandhi was assassinated by a member of a group believing he was too soft on minorities.
Intolerant in one case; too tolerant in another.
What’s a revered icon to do?
We are talking about one of the greatest people of all time. Fought for Indian independence, doing the opposite of fighting – which would be not fighting – his successful “passive resistance” inspiring leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.
“Don’t care. Take down the statue.”
I mean, I get it – Good in India; bad in South Africa. But one fragment of a man’s life – that’s not a whole book.
Except it is. (“The South African Gandhi.”)
Which, from a commercial standpoint, makes sense.
“I want to write a book about Gandhi.”
PUBLISHER: “We’ve got too many books about Gandhi.”
“My book says he was bad.”
And off they go.
Opening – possibly, as I have not read the book – with,
“A lot of folks think Gandhi was tops. I say, ‘Not so fast.’”
I am not sure that’s fair. First one thing, this is one guy’s opinion, among many.
SOUTH AFRICAN WAITER: “The Mahatma? He was a wonderful tipper.”
It just doesn’t seem right. You take a fragment of a man’s life and write a whole book saying, “That’s him”? Not meaning to trivialize – but it’s the only example I’ve got – once, after a misguided “pub crawl”, unable to make it back home, I stopped my car and… I just sighed, because this is disgusting… I crossed the street, entered a nearby alley, and… “re-directed” the consumed beer into that alley.
Billions of people in the world. You can’t remember everything about all of them. You do “Cliff Notes” – one thing about each person.
Someone knew me just from that isolated experience. You ask, “What was he like?” They’d say,
“He peed in an alley.”
For all of posterity, that would be me.
Earl Pomerantz: “He peed in an alley.”
Where’s the balancing perspective? Where’s the contextual “Big Picture”?
I looked it up – Hindus believe in reincarnation. Meaning the better your lived life, the better your next life. Gandhi must have died feeling okay about his prospects. Out comes the book…
GANDHI: “I forgot about that.”
And now he’s a snail.
Consider that “bar.” (Assuming the Hindus “nailed” the afterlife.)
If it’s “Snail” for the august Mahatma,
Where exactly does that leave us?