Indians vs. British
Harrison Haas, Caroline Riley, and Christine LaPuma
Indians vs British
By comparing two different accounts on the British Raj in India we are able to very clearly see the stark contrast of how a single story can be created by only looking at evidence from one side. For this, two perspectives were chosen that take two completely different stances on the exact same situation, the british occupation of India.
First we look at the “Quit india speech” by Mahatma Ghandi as he attempts to move the enslaved Indians to fight back against the British peacefully. Secondly, we will look at John Rushkin’s “Fine Arts” inaugural address to the students of Oxford College where he emphasizes the British strength and need to go in to the “Unestablished and impoverished areas of the world such as india” and make them more like the British.
The ways that both Speakers state their sides to the metaphoric stories are different. Ruskin makes a very bold statement by going on a tangent about how the British have the sole correct way to govern and operate and all those others are intelligent voids in society that are dirtying the water and wasting resources, and he finds that it is Britain's job to fix this. Not only does what Ghandi say in his address oppose that story that but how he goes about conveying this point. Gandhi wants his people to adopt freedom and fight for it with grace.
Both sides of this story share facts that were accepted by both sides. First, during the one-hundred year gap between the 1850’s and 1950’s Great Britain, the world realized that soon the 800 year old powerhouse that is Great Britain, might not be the worlds leading power. This was attributed to having a relatively small land mass, thus not being able to expand and grow. Also, India was an impoverished 3rd world society with nearly 700 million people and billions of dollars of resources. John Ruskin, a professor at Oxford saw this opportunity, like many others of the time to act. The goal was to turn the “Savageness [of the Indians] to manhood” (Ruskin, 19). To make the savage uncultured people of India a carbon copy of England. In his eyes this was a service a “duty to the righteous holy father” (Ruskin, 19) that England ‘better’ the savage land of india, ridding it of “unholy clouds” (Ruskin, 19) such as the Hindu religion. It is important that we do not get Mr. Ruskin and the other Britains that felt this was confused with being racist. The felt it their duty to England and God to expand and ‘help’ India to be more like England.
Not only was this, in the mind of the British, a way to expand England in land and workforce, but their side of the story was also about getting the resources that they had to offer. They knew that the Indian people would be in some sense enslaved to the British. However, they felt this natural that each person was to serve their superiors and ultimately the crown. Ruskin believed that there was not a “Choice between lawless labor and loyal suffering” and that they must teach the Indians to ‘suffer’ for the good of the only one and divine path to be taken-- that of the British.
Gandhi's side of the story differs greatly from that of Ruskin’s. One might expect someone from the opposing side of this event to be filled with rage, however, Gandhi is not. Ruskin feels that he is taking the metaphorical highroad and doing to correct thing. Gandhi on the other hand, sees himself as taking an even higher road than the British. He pushes for a “distinction between the British people and the Imperialism” (Quit India Speech). It is very evident in Gandhi's speech that he does not view the Indian people as the disadvantaged group of helpless individuals, but rather a group of emerging people who are being suppressed and need room to grow in their own way. He finds that there is “no room for dictatorship in a democracy” (QIS) and that this dictatorship is the British overstepping their boundaries both literally and figuratively.
A comparison of these two points clearly exemplifies how a single action can be interpreted and seen as two very different stories depending on who the writer is. Even if both people aim to bring about good, as they often do in most conflicts, a story can take on an entirely different meaning depending on who is telling it.