Mahatma Gandhi

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What does Mahatma Gandhi consider as true civilization?

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According to Gandhi, true civilization is defined by the individual's ability to restrain themselves from their passions and better themselves on a moral level.

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In his 1909 work Hind Swaraj, Mahatma Gandhi describes what he considers to be true civilization and compares it to how others often define the term. His intent was to lay out a framework of decolonization while empowering both Indians and colonial authorities to aid in the process.

For Gandhi, true civilization is inextricably linked to morality. In a true civilization, people are bound by a "mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty." The key part of the moral path toward civilization is self-restraint. Civilized people, according to Gandhi, strive to keep their passions in check and refrain from self-indulgence. Civilized people control their thoughts and work toward the betterment of themselves as moral and ethical people.

Others may consider civilization to be the pursuit and attainment of comfort and conveniences—what Gandhi calls "bodily welfare." By defining true civilization as a moral achievement rather than a material one, Gandhi intentionally presents his vision as one opposed to how colonial authorities saw it. Throughout Hind Swaraj, Gandhi offers rebuttals to the common English accusation that Indians are ignorant and unable to better themselves. He points out that Indians do not necessarily see technology as the key to progress. Doing so would lead to an erosion of morality. Rather, Indians have a long tradition of spiritual and moral progress. This is what defines a true civilization according to Gandhi.

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