Ed Driscoll

‘It Cost a Fortune to Keep Gandhi Poor’

Having previously explored, “8 Things I Wish I’d Known (or Remembered) When I Was a Leftist,” Kathy Shaidle of Five Feet of Fury now looks at “5 things I learned as a leftist that are still (mostly) true,” in her latest article at Newsreal:

#3: “It costs us a fortune to keep Gandhi poor”

And that was one of his devotees talking.

That insider knew (unlike the gullible, adoring public) that maintaining Gandhi’s sizable retinue, busy compound — simply “keeping up appearances” — required regular donations from billionaire industrialists.

Then as now, it was fashionable for lefties to idolize Gandhi and other progressives superstars.  In those pre-internet days, most of us had an excuse. The likelihood of my stumbling across, say, an old-ish number of Commentary was astronomically low; it was only after I left the left, and became a rabid web user, that I discovered foreign correspondent turned film critic Richard Grenier’s searing instant classic, “The Gandhi Nobody Knows”:

I cannot honestly say I had any reasonable expectation that the film would show scenes of Gandhi’s pretty teenage girl followers fighting “hysterically” (the word was used) for the honor of sleeping naked with the Mahatma and cuddling the nude septuagenarian in their arms. (Gandhi was “testing” his vow of chastity in order to gain moral strength for his mighty struggle with Jinnah.) When told there was a man named Freud who said that, despite his declared intention, Gandhi might actually be enjoying the caresses of the naked girls, Gandhi continued, unperturbed. Nor, frankly, did I expect to see Gandhi giving daily enemas to all the young girls in his ashrams (his daily greeting was, “Have you had a good bowel movement this morning, sisters?”), nor see the girls giving him his daily enema. Although Gandhi seems to have written less about home rule for India than he did about enemas, and excrement, and latrine cleaning (“The bathroom is a temple. It should be so clean and inviting that anyone would enjoy eating there”), I confess such scenes might pose problems for a Western director…

After reading that, I started to think there was something to be said for “making the whole world blind” after all…

I penned something last week about the perils of hero worship. However, the romanticization of poverty is another temptation we need to guard against as well.

It is easy to glorify poverty if – as did one Catholic progressive of my former acquaintance – you happened to live in the last rent-controlled apartment in Toronto, and so could “afford” to work at a leftwing paper on your four-figure salary. She considered herself one of “the people,” even though she was a member of a privileged family, had a fine education and therefore, unlike her neighbors, she had the option of leaving “the slums” anytime.

(This peculiar frame of mind is examined in great detail in Peter Schweizer’s book Do As I Say.)

I was one of the only real “poor people” many of my comrades in disarmament had ever worked with. The notions these middle class co-eds had about “the poor” were noble, lofty — and deeply delusional. When I told them so, they informed me I was wrong. I clearly just hadn’t read the right books…

Poverty is expensive. An entire “non-profit” industry of “agencies” and charities is deeply invested in spreading the idea that entire families are living in bus shelters and/or penniless Vietnam vets are shooting up truck stops or whatever. When I worked at a nominally apolitical but default progressive charity, thousands of donor dollars were spent putting together a major media event to unveil the latest study the charity had underwritten, showing a “shocking rise in the city’s poverty rate” (P.S. send money!)

That “shocking” increase, revealed on only a single slide in the lengthy PowerPoint presentation? One percentage point.

Have you ever noticed how the “homeless” only exist when there’s a “rightwinger” running your city, state or country? Or that we’ve spent billions “fighting homelessness” for the twenty-five years and yet “homelessness” still apparently persists (except when it doesn’t)?

Poverty costs money. And it makes money too.

Living in the Bay Area does skew the notion that the homeless only exist when there’s a rightwinger running your city, though, given the area’s permanently “liberal” stasis of its “progressive” politics. In San Francisco, and the otherwise swanky college town of Palo Alto, the homeless are a permanent fixture. In Palo Alto, they’re kept around to add the necessary urban texture, and to be, as Thomas Sowell would put it, mascots of the anointed. In San Fransisco, one of the city’s alternative papers (in other words, even further to the left than the Chronicle) gave the game away in late 2009 when one of its journalists wrote this passage:

“Despite its spending more money per capita on homelessness than any comparable city, [San Francisco’s] homeless problem is worse than any comparable city’s.”

Fox Butterfield, call your office.