Feng Guifen vs Yan Fu

Towards the end of class today, we read two documents expressing the two different perspectives of implementing technology into the Chinese culture. The first author we read was Feng Guifen, who made an argument that the Chinese should adopt Western technology and sciences while keeping true to their Chinese values, such as Confucianism. He believed that the Chinese had the superior intellect compared to the “barbarians,” and that they needed to figure out a way to use it to add onto the already established “methods” of the Westerners. While he did acknowledge them and their effective ways, he still downplayed their intelligence in reference to that of his own people. On the contrary, Yan Fu suggested that such an integration of technologies and sciences from the West could not mix successfully with the culture and already-valued traditions of Chinese culture. He said “If the two are separated, each can be independent;” but “if the two were combined, both would perish.” He felt that if Western technology were to be borrowed, then the Western government, sciences, etc. would also have to be adopted. Throughout the 19 and 20th centuries, it was a widely debated topic amongst Chinese thinkers. To this day, it is still a heavily debated topic as well. We did not get the opportunity to talk about this debate that much in class today, so I was wondering, what is everyone else’s thoughts on it?

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Education: Making a Difference

The British instillation of progressive secondary education in India opened the eyes of some Indians (mostly high-caste Hindus) to Enlightenment ideas of equality, freedom, and other human rights. Having been exposed to these ideas through their English education, many Indians could no longer accept the racial discrimination against them because it “…flagrantly contradicted those cherished concepts of human rights and equality. Moreover, it was based on dictatorship, no matter how benign.” (page 870 McKay) This caused many high-caste Hindus to question the legitimacy of British control in India and come together with other Indians to form the Indian National Congress, which fought discrimination and later sought autonomy and independence from the British Empire.

This made me start to think about the power of education. When people understand the possibilities that exist, they can see what change needs to be made in their own lives. Knowledge can help people make a difference. It also makes me think that maybe this is why knowledge is limited in countries with oppressive governments. This leads me to pose two questions: First, do you think that India would have achieved its independence as soon as it did, or even at all, without the educated Elite Hindus? Second, more broadly speaking, how do you think the power of education and knowledge affects a citizen’s ability to make a difference in their country? Do we see the opposite effect when knowledge and information are censored by oppressive governments?

An example of the effect of censorship by an oppressive government is North Korea. See the article below for more information:


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Gandhi and Punk Rock

Were Gandhi alive today, would he be interested in punk rock? Perhaps the music itself would repel him; it isn’t very much like traditional Indian music, and its intensity is not for everyone. However, he would probably be interested by the ideologies put forth by some punk bands. Bands like Minor Threat and Youth of Today sang about being “straight edge”, or forgoing drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex in favor of living a “clean” life. In songs like “Bottled Violence”, Minor Threat speaks of the negative impact of alcohol and violence, which is something shockingly similar to what Gandhi preached. In a different vein, bands such as Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys in California practiced civil disobedience in singing songs against police brutality and the establishment in general. Black Flag was infamous for spray painting their famous bars logo all over the Los Angeles area during the 1980s. These acts of breaking the law without harming anyone are similar to the salt march, which broke a law but was otherwise peaceful. Black Flag and Gandhi were also both aggressive marketers, spreading their name through news sources. Many punk bands were hated by the police, just like Gandhi. Punk bands in the 80s had a D.I.Y. ethic, such as Gandhi’s famous spinning campaign. Gandhi’s influence is not just in political places. A man as great as him can’t help but influence people outside of his work.

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Parallels and Contradictions Between Gandhi and Locke

After our discussions regarding Gandhi’s nonviolence campaigns against the British government, I began to consider the parallels between Gandhi’s beliefs and those of John Locke. Like Locke, Gandhi believed in the people’s right to freedom in terms of their possession, property, and will. Locke considered this right an unspoken contract between the people and their government. While the British did not obey such a contract with the Indian people, Gandhi nonetheless believed that the Indian’s had a natural right to such freedom. According to Locke, “to understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.” Locke here explains the rights of the government and of the people. The government, according to Locke, must protect people’s freedom. This is exactly what Gandhi was fighting for: freedom in India in terms of property, will, and basic human rights. Also similarly to Locke, Gandhi believed in racial equality- the idea that the government must treat everyone, regardless of race or class, equally. Everyone is subject to equal laws and rights in society. Locke shared such an ideal: “A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master of them all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set one above another, and confer on him, by an evident and clear appointment, an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty.” Similarly to Locke’s ideals on racial equality that were new during his time, considering the fact that the Enlightenment birthed racism by supporting it scientifically, Gandhi’s nonviolence campaign developed shortly after the violent Russian Revolution, providing a nuanced method of changing society.

Although Gandhi and Locke’s ideas share many parallels, there views on violence significantly contradict one another. Gandhi emphasized nonviolent protest for freedom and equal treatment, regardless of the fact that Britain was violating the Locke-Gandhi ideal of the government protecting its people’s freedom and possessions. Locke, however, believed in attaining such rights through violent means: “and one may destroy a man who makes war upon him, or has discovered an enmity to his being, for the same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion; because such men are not under the ties of the commonlaw of reason, have no other rule, but that of force and violence, and so may be treated as beasts of prey, those dangerous and noxious creatures, that will be sure to destroy him whenever he falls into their power.” Locke here explains that one must destroy another who attempts to take away his rights to freedom. It is therefore probable that Lock would encourage violent protest against the British government, considering that the government is violating their contract with the people: protecting their freedom and possessions.


Works cited:



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Moving Forward: Post-Gandhi


I am a huge fan of Gandhi. What he stood for and believed in, the actions that he took, and what he accomplished is incredible.  Each individual aspect of his endeavor was awe-inspiring by itself, but together, as a comprehensive whole, they are truly amazing.  When thinking of Gandhi, reading about him or watching a movie about him, I am inspired to try to ameliorate myself.  Even though I am not going through the struggles that Gandhi and his people experienced, I want to try to make the world a better place. I want to make a change from within, to help influence a better world.  Upon emulating Gandhi, my respect for him increases because I realize how hard it is to live like he did (especially in modern times).  The composure that he kept, his mannerisms, and his strong character are unparalleled.  To me it is truly awesome.


After more thought, I wonder how Gandhi’s influence affects us today.  I believe that people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. followed the example of great leader and based some of his actions off of Gandhi. However, I wonder who else followed his example.  Furthermore, I wonder how he affects society. Obviously, there is more equality in the world, but what else? A man that did so much probably still affects the world in more ways that we even know.  Does anybody have any ideas or insights to what else he might have inspired?

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Gandhi’s Moral Authority

Gandhi had a clear distinction between being a leader with moral authority compared to being a leader just possessing political power.  In his eyes political power can easily lead to corruption, unlike moral authority that prevents the corruption of political power.  The foundations of the beginning of Gandhi’s support for moral authority began from Gandhi’s connection between brahamacharya and satyagrahaBrahamacharya suggests self control and satyagraha promotes the power of politics being exercised by love and nonviolent methods.  This connection between self-control and power shaped Gandhi’s ideology and epitomized his moral authority.
Over the next fifty years Gandhi was able to develop his ideology and condense his beliefs into three main beliefs.  Firstly he believed in a real swaraj, meaning self-rule.  Secondly, in order to achieve self-rule one must use means of satyagraha.  And lastly, in order for one to assert this force of satyagraha, swadeshi, or home production was necessary.  Gandhi’s definition of swaraj was more complex that earlier ideas of self-rule and individual freedom.  In Gandhi’s eyes, to achieve self control and individual freedom people must rid themselves of their passions that blind them from the truth.  People who possessed real swaraj were free from human’s limited viewpoints that cause a relativity of truth.  In addition to promoting self rule, Gandhi used the idea of satyagraha as a moral comparison to war.  This comparison is shown as he says, “we are at war against the Government, the Satyagrahi general has to obey his inner voice.”  These are just a few examples of the comparisons Gandhi made between war and his satyagraha campaigns.  One can infer that Gandhi was using these comparisons not to promote war, but to promote values that are associated with military life such as perseverance, obedience, courage, and self discipline.  Lastly, Gandhi’s belief in swadeshi was more than just boycotting British goods.  His intent was to promote nationalism and rebuild the nation from within.  The steps he took towards this goal was to boycott foreign and factory made textiles and only wear his khadi.  Additionally, his want for swadeshi began the spinning wheel movement.  He saw the spinning wheel as a symbol of self help and other step towards Indians achieving a true swaraj.
Based on the ideologies Gandhi promoted as well as his strict adherence to moral authority, it is no surprise that he was India’s most influential and powerful leader.


Dalton, Dennis. “Gandhi: Ideology and Authority.” Modern Asian Studies 3.4
(1969): 377-93. JSTOR. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/

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Characteristics of a Good Leader

As I read the passages from the homework on the Indian Nationalist Movement, one of the things that I noticed was that Gandhi evolved into a powerful leader. According to the assignment (pg. 17): “[b]y 1920, Gandhi was recognized as the most powerful leader in India. He was known and revered by millions of villagers and was popular even in the Muslim community.” These sentences made me think about what makes someone become a powerful leader and about what makes someone become “known and revered by millions.” Gandhi had the know-how and the ability to understand the situation in that moment. When Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1914, he recognized that in order to help the masses of India improve their living conditions he would first have to unify them. Building on his early organizing experiences in South Africa, he brought together farmers, textile workers and other groups in non-violent campaigns for better pay and improved working conditions. Later, in helping India develop a nationalist identity, Gandhi inspired the Indian people to join together in demanding and ultimately attaining independence from Great Britain.

Not only did Gandhi strive to better his country, but he also strove to better himself. According to his autobiography My Experiments with Truth, Gandhi sought to improve his own understanding of the world by reflecting on his actions in the past, acknowledging his faults and flaws, and pledged to deny himself material items so that he could be and feel more in common with the people of India. This made people love Gandhi more.

When I think about Gandhi and all that he achieved, I see him as a great leader. What characteristics do you feel made Gandhi a strong and beloved leader? Are these characteristics found in leaders today? Which ones? What characteristics do you think true leaders have?

Below is a picture of Gandhi, inspiring fellow countrymen.


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Bolsheviks, Nazis, and the Spring Play

The spring play this year is called “All Through the Night” and it takes place in Germany during the time that Hitler was in power. During rehearsal today, I noticed that one of the characters talks about the Bolsheviks. This character bemoans the harshness of the Nazi regime and states that they want to join the Bolsheviks and fight against the Nazis. I found this really interesting because, when we were studying the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks seemed to be the radical group in Russia, but, in the opinion of the rest of Europe – especially Nazi Germany – they were not very radical at all. Certainly at the turn of the 20th century in Russia, they were changing many things, but by the time that World War II was happening, and the Nazi regime was put into the grand political scheme of things, the Bolsheviks were not only far more benevolent in comparison, but they were at the other end of the political spectrum.

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Is there such a thing as human nature?

We’ve talked about human nature–whether it exists, what it is–a number of times in this course: in conjunction with our discussion of Hobbes and Locke, in our look at Marx’s dialectical materialism, and at a number of places in between.

I recently came across an article that argues, not necessarily that there is no such thing as human nature, but at least that human nature is far more varied than we think.  In fact, the article suggests that much of what we think is “human nature” is actually conditioning by our society and our culture.

While it’s not directly relevant to revolutions, it certainly does connect with some themes that have come up in the course.  I encourage you to read the article and post some reactions in the comments.  Does the article make you change the way you think about “human nature”?

The article is called “We Aren’t the World.”  Check it out and post your reactions.

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Nicaraguan Revolution

Recently, I took a vacation to Nicaragua. It was purely a rest-and-relaxation trip, but while I was there, I did learn a bit about the Nicaraguan Revolution, an event that spanned much of the 1980’s, and turned Nicaragua against the United States. The Sandinistas, revolutionaries named after Augusto Sandino, a revolutionary in the 1930’s, staged a coup against the government that was in power, the Somozas’, and were able to wrest power away from them. In response, a group of militias called the Contras were formed. The Contras attempted to fight against the the radical communist regime of the Sandinistas. The US, living in fear of communism, supplied the Contras with weapons and military training. In response, Russia provided the Sandinistas with training. Historians consider this war to be a “proxy war”, or a war fought between two global powers using a third party. Eventually, it emerged that the US had been using illegally acquired funds to buy weapons for the Contras, so the US was forced to pull out of Nicaragua. The Sandinistas were than able to gain power. While this backstory may be interesting, what was really interesting was the effect that all this had on the country. A tour guide we met had trained with the Russian special forces. The airport we flew out of was called Sandino Airport. The rich/poor divide was extremely obvious. Mansions with pools and multiple cars were less than a mile away from metal shacks. It was very interesting to see the effects of a recent revolution in person.

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