Gandhi now, COVID-19 and the Need for Solidarity Economics: Blessed are the Peacemakers and Sustainers of Life

The COVID-19 global pandemic has made a few things clear. The first is precisely how interdependent we are on each other. What should have remained obvious as a self-evident fact has, sadly, become obscured by the predominant socio-economic, political and moral value systems that have been steering us towards the abyss. Nietzsche cautions us to be prepared; if we look at it for long enough, the abyss will look back. And finally, it seems that it has. With climate change reaching critical and irreversible levels, wholesale continued natural resource plunder and degradation of entire ecosystems, planet earth seems to be in a bad place. However, over the past few months, the law of unintended consequences has applied; pollution levels have decreased and environments are being restored with flora and fauna, as long as humans are unable to interfere. The first aspect of the Gandhian legacy that applies to our current situation is stewardship or sarvodaya, the care or wellbeing of all. Influenced by the 19th century social thinker John Ruskin, as we have heard, this world view was an epiphany that transformed Gandhiji’s life; hence it is a logical starting point from which we can set sail. The opening authors of GGA’s forthcoming anthology, Aditya Patnaik and Mala Pandurang, have written about Gandhi and world peace, and the manifestation of Gandhian values in everyday living respectively, but now our challenge is how to apply this knowledge to daily life, set in the context of our times. A mere half a year ago, when we held the conference to commemorate the 150th anniversary, we had no idea of the significance that local life would come to assume. In the absence of travel and with borders closed, we have had to reinsert our individual, atomised selves into a broader sense of community. Of course, this need for interpersonal relationships has always existed, albeit perhaps obscured and suppressed by contemporary 21st century life, but the pandemic has served to reveal it strongly. It is within these rhythms of everyday life that swadeshi or local livelihood arises as our second Gandhian touchpoint.