The inspiration for my blog this week has come from the unlikely source of Russell Brand. I hope to look at a little bit of Indian and British history that this makes me think about.
In the past week Russell Brand has been in the news for his political views. Not what he is normally in the news for, and you could say it is a more worthy reason for him to be in the spotlight.
The obvious thing is that Russell brand, like many others, feels disconnected from the government and law makers, and can’t see how anyone who is in ‘politics’ at the moment would make it any better. His personal way to show this: not voting. The fact that some people do not agree with the rulers is not a problem that is limited to the UK, or one that is limited to this day and age, it happens across time and continents. I want to just discuss a couple of examples from the UK and India.
Firstly to India, and to start with the father of the nation, Mohandas K Gandhi. Gandhi is synonymous with India as a modern country, and the struggle for independence. One of the things that sets Gandhi apart from others was his total belief in non-violent protest. Overall you have to say that this worked and India has been independent for over 60 years. However, the removal of the British as rulers did not mean that Indians have been happy with those in charge ever since. In the year after independence, Gandhi was assassinated because of his perceived favouring of Pakistan, even though he was not officially in office.
From starting with Mohandas K Gandhi, moving to Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi was the third Prime Minister of India, the first (and so far only) female Indian Prime Minister, and voted as “Woman of the Millennium” in a BBC poll. This did not make her popular with everyone at the time, as she was also assassinated. In what is a bitter-sweet edge, she was succeeded as Prime Minister by Rajiv Gandhi, her son, who was then later also assassinated. It is a huge loss when anyone is killed, but also a huge shame that the non-violent message seems to have been lost on some people.
These examples show a little bit of history of the extreme circumstances in India, but what about the UK? We are not immune from extreme actions. However, you do need to go a bit further back to find an assassinated British Prime Minister, back to 1812 when Spencer Perceval was shot in the House of Commons. That was the action of one man who held a grudge against Perceval and the government, eventually taking drastic action. Before that you can go back to 1649 and the English Civil war when Charles I was beheaded. It does seem to be a risky business being in power!
However, there was one thing that I did want to highlight from a British perspective that could quite easily pass by people from elsewhere. On the 5th November there will be many celebrations and memorials of a FAILED assassination of a British King. In 1605 a plot was hatched to blow up the Houses of Parliament on the official opening. This would remove the government and King, leading the way for a revolution. It didn’t, the plot was foiled. Now in remembrance we light bonfires and set off fireworks, as signal to what could have happened. The bonfires are normally topped with a “Guy” based on one of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes, to show that terrorism will not be tolerated.
I think that as a cross cultural experience, why not take the best lessons we can from two nations; that we should stand against terrorism, and that we can change the world through non-violence.