Book: The Gift of Anger


Today I'll be sharing about a book I've read recently, written by Gandhi's grandson. It's called The Gift of Anger.

I was drawn to the book for two reasons:

1. I wanted to learn more about how to manage anger
2. I wanted to learn more about Gandhi

The book is very manageable with short chapters and wise quotes from interactions Arun, the writer, had with his famous granddad. They are truly like a trove of moral fables, and there's lot to learn.

Here are the some stories that I enjoyed and want to remember.

Waste is Violence
"Wasting anything is more than a bad habit. It expresses a carelessness about the world and a violence against nature."

In this chapter, the writer throws away a pencil he had deemed too small and short for his use. He asks for money to buy a new one. Gandhi told him to find the pencil. The grandson is horrified as it was dark outside, and he had casually thrown it somewhere along the road. But Gandhi just gave him a flashlight and sent him on his way. 2 hours later, he finally found the little nub of the pencil in the dirt and grass. He brought it home jubilantly to show his grandfather that it was really a small pencil that could no longer be used. But Gandhi disagreed - he said it could still be used for a couple of weeks.

"When we consume too many of the resources of the world, we make them even more scarce for others."

The chapter continues: the world's richest 1 percent control more than half of the wealth in the world. Greed and wasteful habits perpetuate poverty, which is violence against humanity.

I think in our affluent societies we tend to think less about the waste we generate on a daily basis. It's because we get easy access to things we need, and can easily replace something with another. On this note I think about how Justin Bieber admits to wearing his sponsored Calvin Klein underwears just once before throwing them away,  since he had so many. It's very wasteful...

I like how sustainability campaigns help us to be more conscious about generating waste, for me at least. I think small pangs of guilt is better than no weight on the conscience? It's a start.

Passive Violence and Physical Violence
Passive violence is when there is discrimination, oppression, waste or greed. Passive violence fuels physical violence, so if you want to put out the fire of physical violence, you need to cut the fuel supply.

I wasn't exactly sure about what non-violent methods meant at first, so the examples given were illuminating.

For example, peaceful protests. Gandhi famously led tens of thousands in the Salt March, where he scooped up salt from the mud and defied the British (who controlled the salt and sold it back to the people). They arrested him and many others, but soon the jails were not enough and could not hold everyone.

On a smaller level, the writer shares how he lied to his father. Instead of reprimanding or punishing his son, the father punished himself. Instead of taking the car home a long journey away, the father decided to walk home in penance, to reflect on why the writer decided to lie. The writer was absolutely mortified and drove slowly behind him as the father refused to take the car. He felt sorry for making his father suffer. This is in comparison with the dominant idea where the authority figure metes out punishment, leading to resentment or fear in the child.

Gandhi believed in leading by example. If he can't do it, why expect a child to do the same? If the parents tell their children to reduce their screen time, but do not do so themselves, what message does the child take away?

In Chinese we have this similar idea, 以身作则, from the Confucian Analects. I think it is an important thing to remember.

Many people have the misconception that Gandhi didn't value money. In fact, he was very clear that money is required to fund efforts to lift others out of poverty. He often asked for donations when he visited cities, but used none for himself. He also sold autographs for 5 rupees. Hwoever, Gandhi didn't consider money to be the measure of a person's worth.

"Materialism and morality have an inverse relationship. When one increases, the other decreases."

Gandhi didn't mean that 'it was immoral to earn money, or that there was smething inherently honorable about being poor. He objected only to focusing on material gain to the exclusion of everything else.'

'What could be more condescending than 'tolerating' someone else? The word signals that you see yourself as implicitly more deserving than others but will deign to accept them. I think Bapuji (grandfather) would say that tolerance is not only inqdequate; it alienates us more from each other.'

Other quotes:
"Use your anger for good. It is an energy that compels us to define what is just and unjust."

'The good of the individual is contained in the good of all."

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win."

'You just have to care enough to try.'
What really matters is the power of your beliefs and your willingness to pursue them.

Now I know Gandhi was not a perfect person, he definitely had his own flaws. But I still think there are things we can learn from him! I had fun sharing this post with you, and hoped you enjoyed reading it too.

Spread the word and spread the love,