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Poverty is Power Too!

Mahatma Gandhi, the great-souled man brought the British Empire to its knees, and ended its rule of India by encouraging the Indian people to spin cotton and wool fibers at home into thread they could make into clothes.
The simple 'homespun' that Gandhi himself wore when Her Majesty's Government invited him to England to see if they might not talk things through a bit, caused Winston Churchill, in a discharge that was definitely more than a bit disparaging, to style India's unofficial ruler "that half-naked Fakir.
" And before he came, Gandhi told Her Majesty's government he did not want to stay in the palace they had arranged for him to use; would they be so kind as to put him up in some fine flat in one of London's many working-class neighborhoods? It was the common people he longed to get to know rather than Britain's Lords and Ladies of whom he already had more than his fill at home.
He wanted contact with ordinary people.
And so it was.
The people loved it and they loved him walking in the road like they did.
What was it all about, this visit from the half-naked fakir, so called because Gandhi's homespun was a single piece of cloth, woven from thread he himself had spun using a simple spinning wheel of a design as old as it was simple.
Indians had been making cloth this way for centuries but they could also do other things with cloth as well.
In fact, Indian textiles were and are among the world's best.
Using plain cotton, the Indians can weave bolts of cloth a meter-and-a-half-wide so finely spun you can draw an unwound bolt of it through your wedding ring it is so fine.
The cloth made of Indian cotton is as subtle as the finest and most gossamer silks the Far East produces, only this is cotton! The British had control of the textiles the Indians produced and they charged handsome prices for it.
Enter the great-souled man's rather simple idea: rather than pay the British for the cloth the Indians themselves had made why not make our own using plain cotton and wool in our leisure hours at home? All right, it is not fancy, true! Yet we, who have no access to the wealth our own textile industries produce, do have time and wit enough to make our clothes at home.
He wore his proudly.
He wore his homespun in Buckingham Palace.
He wore it in his audience with the Queen of England and her gathering of ministers, and he did so without the slightest trace of shame.
And when the British refused to listen to the will of the Indian people which this man explained to them in terms simple enough for anyone to understand he simply stopped eating until they would listen, and did listen to his words.
In the end the half-naked fakir drove the British out of India thereby reclaiming her industry and wealth for the people who had in fact produced it like they were able to produce their homespun clothes.
The Indian people made poverty into a power sufficient to defeat the Empire that was always in the sun -- 24 hours a day of it! Poverty is a sword that cuts two ways without being any kind of sword at all: it can slice the livelihoods away from the grasping fingers of the oppressed or the poor can turn their poverty against the oppressors by taking away from them the means they used to make them poor.
The Indians nullified British possession of their textile industry by means of making cloth at home.
Instead of competing against one another for jobs and money and British cloth, Gandhi mobilized the people to destroy England's monopoly over the Indian textile industry by refusing to wear the clothes the lords and ladies wore.
The result of poverty was the Indians spinning thread at home from the fur of animals that made their barnyards such lively raucous, happy places.
I remember looking out of my train window at a family of Indians settling down in the yard after the lunch they had been eating on the ground.
There were rattan beds enough for everyone to nap after a morning's hard work and a nourishing lunch.
Settling into their napping places I noticed their two Water Buffaloes draw near to join them.
And so the family and buffaloes settled down together for a nap before the work would re-commence until the chores were done.
Competition and aggression among the poor is one face of poverty.
The other is to turn the action around so that those who deprive others are the ones deprived.
All it takes is doing something on your own in place of waiting for those who would have you wait forever to give you a suit of clothes or a crust of bread.
When poverty turns into power the bitter course of the law is also at its end and deprived of its force.
As Victor Hugo once remarked, "The law in its majestic equality forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.
" Make strands of fiber into clothes and grain into bread and world poverty will turn into a bad memory.
Homespun is the kernel.
Victory is the bread! All the best, Thomas

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