The arrangements of flight schedule by Trade Wings and the advance correspondence by Lavanam rendered the run of the tour smooth and easy. Mrs. Antonia Haely, the secretary of the Irish Humanist Association received me at the Dublin Airport on the 29th morning.
In 1921, Ireland fought for Independence and separated from the British Empire. But at that time Ireland was divided into two protestant. The southern part, which consists mostly of Catholics, became the Irish republic which has predominantly remained under the British Parliament, which is also Protestant. The north is called Ulster, and its capital is Belfast.
The division of Ireland on a religious basis resembles the division of India and has created similar problems. Every year the Protestants celebrate the Orange March to commemorate the victory of the Protestant king, William of Orange, in 1672 over the Catholics. The Orange march in Ulster irritates the Catholics and communal clashes occur in spite of the precaution by the government. Riots break out and houses are gutted.
The Civil Rights Association of Belfast desired to know a non-violent solution to the problem and contacted Mrs. Healy with the request that I may be spared to Belfast for a day or two. My association with Gandhi, participation in the struggle for India's freedom and the resemblance between India and Ireland in the division on religious considerations recommended me to them. So Mrs. Healy drove me straight from the Dublin airport to Belfast, a distance of 300 miles.
A television interview was waiting for me at Belfast as soon as we arrived there. The Civil Rights Association was anxious that I should be advertised at once on the TV news that evening itself. Though I spoke for two minutes and forty seconds, being an item of the news reel, it gained wide publicity in the north and south of Ireland. I spoke about the relevance of the Gandhian method to the Irish situation. The impact was great. For the next morning, as I was going in the street with the president of the Civil Rights Association. A wayfarer pointed out to me and told his companion. "Look, he is Gandhi's associate". The president remarked, "He said, 'Gandhi's associate', but not 'he spoke on the TV.' That is the attraction of Gandhi in Ireland."
The next day I addressed a public meeting in a hall in a hotel, as it is usual in Europe. There I threw out a suggestion of non-violent solution to the problem in Ulster. I said that whenever there was an Orange March by the Protestants, at once the Catholics also should join the march and dilute the fanaticism. The suggestion was novel to them.
I elaborated on this solution at the public meeting at Dublin on our return. I called this method
'aggressive humanism' and likened it to Satyagraha. In the process of Satyagraha, a common dimension is developed between the two contestants by mutual understanding. Also the Satyagrahi improves himself while protesting against an injustice of another. At the question time it was pointed out that "aggressive" is a militant term and so it is inconsistent with non-violence. One among the audience rose up to answer the question by giving the example of "Moral Re-Armament." It was a sign that the concept of "Aggressive Humanism" caught the imagination of the audience.
The tour in Europe was finished at Dublin. On the morning of August 2nd, I took off for New York.
The International Humanist Congress
When I arrived at New York air port on the 2nd of August, 1970, Vijayam, Merker and Ellen, Merker's friend, received me.
Merker is doing special work on the relations between certain regions of the brain and the behaviour pattern of men and animals. In that connection he has been in U.S.A. for the last three years. He sent me his good wishes to Sweden when I visited his home. Taking his latest address from his mother, Ulla, I also wrote him of my tour in U.S.A.
Merker, Ellen and I went to Vijayam's apartment in New York. Vijayam had contacted the Humanist Association of New York and made arrangements for my going to Boston the next day along with other delegates in the special bus that was run by the Conference from New York to Boston. Vijayam also was invited to the Conference and so both of us reached Boston on the third night. Lodging was arranged for us in the dormitories of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Conference of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which is my principal engagement of this tour, is the fifth Conference. Each Conference is held once in five years. The first one was held at Amsterdam in 1952. The second took place in London in 1957. The third was held in Oslo in 1962 and the fourth in Paris in 1966. This is the first time the Conference is held in America. The American Humanist Association, the New York Humanist Association and the Boston Humanist Association co-operated in playing the host for the Conference this year at Boston. It is likely that the next Conference will be held in three years at Amsterdam again. Encouraged by the advice of friends in India before I left for U.S.A., I have extended the invitation to the Conference to India after the Amsterdam session.
The Conference (Congress of the I.H.E.U.) at Boston lasted for five days from the 4th to the 8th of August, and it was held in the Auditorium Hall of M.I.T. Nearly five hundred men and women attended the Conference.
Method of Proceedings
Each day the morning open session was from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Out of these three hours, an hour was occupied by announcements and routine work of the Humanist Union like, reading the reports of the Executive meeting, procedural details etc. Then a distinguished person, whose name was scheduled long before, addressed the open session for about an hour. Such talks were mostly academic and related to the work of the speaker in which he was distinguished. There was a permanent panel of commentators on the speech and a discussion followed from the delegates in which each was allowed three to five minutes time. Only a few delegates took part in that discussion. But the real discussion was in the sessions of the afternoon and night from 3 to 5 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m. in the discussion groups. All the delegates, excluding the visitors, were divided into six groups and in each group subjects of humanistic concern were discussed freely and thoroughly. Each group had a chairman who regulated time rather than conducted the discussion. A rapporteur (reporter) noted down the points during the discussions for the preparation of findings of the discussion group. The chairman and the reporter participated in the discussions along with the rest in the group. Some delegates shifted from group to group from time to time, but many confined themselves to the original group.
The distinguished speakers were Rt. Hon. Jo Grimmond, P.C., M.P., Lord Ritchie Calder, Prof. Noam Chomsky and Hon. Rita Haiser. We were the only two delegates from India, Shri Narasing Narain and I. The third Indian is Mr. Govind N. Deodhekar, who has been a teacher in London for the last eight years. He came as a delegate from Great Britain. Shri Narasing Narain, retired from the Indian Administrative Service, aged 72 now, settled down at Naini Tal, Uttar Pradesh and attended the London and Oslo conferences as the Chairman of the Indian Humanist Union. His name is included in the five members of the Permanent Panel, the others being from Belgium, Italy, Holland and U.S.A.
My tour in Europe for one month (July) prior to arriving in U.S.A. for the Conference at Boston was beneficial to me. I not only acquainted myself with the background of International Humanist Movement, but at Boston found among the delegates several whom I had met in Europe, particularly Dr. Bronder from Germany, Mr. Michael and Mr. Macy from London and Mr. Rood and Mr. Pasman from Holland. Also, as I was exempted from the registration fee and the charges for lodging and boarding at the Conference, I was known by name to the Reception Committee and on the whole. Though the place of Boston was strange, many faces became familiar to me at the Conference. When I rose to speak at the general session on an occasion from the delegates. Mr. Rood, the Chairman for that day, introduced me to the Conference before I spoke. It was a privilege for a delegate to enjoy and I feel obliged to the organisers for the consideration they showed me.
Three times I spoke at the general sessions in the forenoons. I said that Humanism was a different dimension to our social relations. It raises our outlook from unity among differences to the evolution of a homogeneity among the people, namely considering every fellow-men as a man. The new outlook has no place for national, racial, religious or political differences. In this context, atheist outlook would be found useful. The life and work of Mahatma Gandhi was an object lesson for humanism in the modern age. A few months before his assassination, he advised the formation of a secular state in which religious faiths should be treated as personal matters.
Another time I proposed that as a mode of conduct we should cultivate the habit of talking to those with whom we differ. An understanding of the opposite point of view helps us to correct our own faults and to clear misunderstandings on the other side. On the third occasion I rose to clear a statement by a delegate that the programme of family planning is being furthered in India by tempting customers with presents of radio sets, etc. I told the Conference that the Government was taking special interest in the programmes of family planning by the free supply of loops, by subsidising the doctors who conducted operations of sterilisation and by paying women-labourers their legitimate wages which they would earn during the period they were inpatients when they underwent tubectomy sterilization. These forms of assistance are facilities for the promotion of family planning rather than lures. In fact, the patients for sterilisation come with the request voluntarily, and in the case of married women, the consent of the husband is necessary. Unwed women are not allowed sterilisation.
I participated in the discussion group four, and the points I made find place in the report as follows:
"Gandhi's idea that machines of production should be widely distributed rather than centralised, was mentioned as well as hope for return to agrarian cultures and growth of the co-operative movement. The point was also raised that the level of consumption does not necessarily determine the quality of life....
"The idea of aggressive humanism was brought up whereby humanists work forcefully for their ideas and goals....
"Political parties must be eliminated from representative government to become more democratic so that elected officials represent people rather than parties."
The other points made out by the several participants referred to the integrity of the individual, development of new sources of power by involvement of several people in social changes, and participatory democracy.
The other groups discussed the subjects of population, education for humanistic values, separation of church from the State, and access of information to everyone with the lessening of secrecy in order to take all people into confidence for promoting wider participation.
Protest and Political Action
Two items that figured largely in the discussions were firstly making the Humanist Associations more inviting to the youth and secondly the direct participation of humanists in politics.
Students now have a different sense of values than those held by people for many years. They are interested in people's rights as contrasted with property rights. They are rebelling against mechanization and "the establishment". Instead of negative criticism, they should channel their efforts to work towards constructive ends by involvement in decision making process. This led to second subject, namely political action. The militant youth want socialist democracy rather than capitalistic democracy. In this connection the use of "direct action" and "civil disobedience" to achieve our goals in a democratic society were discussed. Any procedure short of physical violence where people are injured could be used. They include sit-ins, take-overs and occupations. Society's goals have to be changed by an educational process. Human values have to be reinterpreted in a modern industrial society. We have to make our voice felt by participating, wherever possible. We may work to support candidates running for public office who have humanist values.
Three out of five resolutions of the Conference expressed concern about the violation of human rights. "We draw attention to specific restrictions of moral, political and religious freedom in ceratin countries, whether they are through police brutality, torture or murder (as in Brazil, South Africa and Greece), through arrests and incarcerations in mental asylums of men and women who have expressed moral and political opinions which are at variance with those of their government (as in the U.S.S.R.) or through legal and administrative denial of social justice on racial or religious grounds (as in South Africa, the U.S.A. and Northern Ireland). The States should regard themselves trustees of their natural resources and should halt environmental destruction by pollution and by the waste of resources. They should prevent misuse of the ocean floors and outer space. The Humanist Conference appreciated the United Nations for its efforts to honour human rights.
One resolution condemned the intervention of major military powers in the affairs of smaller nations and called upon the U.S. government to withdraw its forces from South East Asia and the Government of U.S.S.R. to end its occupation of Czechoslovakia.
The fifth resolution viewed with alarm the continuing increase in world population as it might aggravate the evils of poverty and war. So it emphatically supported the removal of legal restrictions against family planning, abortion and voluntary sterilization. The Humanist Conference appealed to the Catholic Church to change its attitude and to stop opposing measurers of family planning.
Example of Co-operation
The proceedings of the Conference for all the five days were punctual, orderly and harmonious. There were no walkouts or shoutings. Whenever anyone dissented from a proposition, he was given time to explain himself, and there was eagerness on both sides to adjust and to accommodate the opposite point of view. Reasonableness was appreciated at once. There was no criticism without presenting a constructive alternative. The concern for the common cause of humanism was uppermost in the mind of every delegate. No one took more time than he was entitled to. The chair was held in deep respect. The chairmanship went in rotation each session. No one seemed more important than others, except when he or she held the floor. The dias was occupied only by the executive-in-charge of that session of the Conference. The chairman of the previous session resumed his seat among the delegates in the next session and claimed no more privileges than other delegates. The conduct of the Conference was a co-operation among the delegates.
On the 9th of August, I returned to New York in the special bus arranged for the delegates.
Availing the opportunity of the visit to U.S.A. for participating in the International Humanist and Ethical Union Congress, friends in U.S.A. have kindly arranged a programme for about ten weeks. The principal contact for this arrangement is Dr. George Willoughby. He is an elderly gentleman, a non-violent activist, the co-leader of the Delhi-Peking Peace March, besides the March to Moscow, and a friend who visited Atheist Centre while he was in India. Vijayam, my second son, who is in the U.S.A., assisted him in the arrangements.
The first week after the Congress at Boston, I stayed in New York to visit and know the problems of White-Black relations and of unwed mothers. During informal conversations with the delegates of the I.H.E.U. Congress at Boston, I had occasion to express my interest in the above problems. Delegates from New York extended their help to me for introducing me to relevant institutions. I should make special mention of Helen S. Weiss, a woman in her late fifties and a resident of New York city. She took me round the several institutions in New York City which are concerned with the problem of unwed mothers,
Concern For Unwed Mothers
The majority of unmarried mothers receive no help from community agencies. Usually there is either no service available to the unwed mother at this critical point in her life and the life of the child; or, if services do exist, the unmarried girl who becomes pregnant does not know about them, since available services are often restricted and too little known. The unwed mother, often an adolescent with no resources, is left to carry her burden alone, the community offers her little in the way of social service before delivery. When her child is born, the community fails again to assist her if she is faced with the incredibly difficult task of rearing a child without a father.
The destructive effects of illegitimacy on the lives of both mother and child are severe. Greater attention to their needs, more service to meet those needs and more understanding of the factors leading to illegitimacy are a national and social responsibility.
There has been a steady, and at time rapid, increase in the illegitimacy rate over the past 25 years in U.S.A. The unmarried mother and her child are treated as second-class citizens. They are often discriminated against in public housing and public welfare; the adolescent unwed mother is generally denied the opportunity for continued and uninterrupted schooling. Traditionally, policies of most schools require discharge or suspension of the girl from school once her pregnancy becomes known. Consequently, many young women conceal their condition and do not seek medical care out of ignorance and for fear of discovery. The New York City Board of Education, in a shift of policy, recently acknowledged its responsibility for the education of all pregnant students by permitting principals to develop educational plans for individual students in consultation with the student, her parents, physician and social service representative. Consequently, in 1967 in New York City, over 6,000 girls aged 17 and under gave birth and 8 percent of these teenagers received full time education during pregnancy.
Another state, North Dakota, has recognised the inheritance rights of persons born out-of-wedlock and their descendants. Maryland's Court of Appeals has held that children cannot be found legally neglected and removed from their mother's custody solely because they were born out-of-wedlock.
National Council on Illegitimacy of New York is a privately sponsored agency in the United States and Canada with an exclusive and all-inclusive concern for the problem of illegitimacy. Young Mother's Home is another institution which has undertaken to aid unwed mothers in all the five aspects of education, vocational training, psychological respect, health and financial help. There is a tendency to discourage privacy, confidentiality or isolation for unwed mother and to absorb them into the general society as respectable as wed mothers. The director of the Young Mother's Home, De Freitas Olga, objects to the use of the terms 'illegitimacy' or 'unwed' and therefore she has named her institution The Young Mothers Home.
These institutions receive governmental aid, but they are maintained largely by public donation.
The other problem in which I was interested in New York was the Negro problem. The Negroes like to be recognised as "Blacks" rather than as Negroes today. I had the first direct acquaintance with the situation of Blacks when I visited the Blacks House at London. In U.S.A., the Blacks are more numerous, widespread and settled down than in England.
There are certain basic similarities and differences between the Blacks and Harijans. In relation to the rest of the population, both are poor, live segregated and command less respect, being treated as slaves. Nevertheless there have been social movements and State legislations both in U.S.A. and India discouraging discrimination of Blacks and of untouchables. The differences also are marked. An untouchable cannot be known at a strange place except by the declaration of his caste. His features are the same as any of the others. But the Black has a black skin and short curly hair whereas a White has white skin and straight and often brown hair. The Blacks are not treated as untouchables. Within the limits of conventional prejudice and discrimination, a Black mingles with others.
The masses of Blacks live in areas distinguished as "ghettoes" like the Bhangi colony or Harijanwada. The biggest ghetto in New York is Harlem. Another area is Bushwick. Vijayam has been working in New York on a project of Community Development and his special area is Bushwick. I was shown round Bushwick more closely than Harlem. Two weeks later when I visited Atlanta, the state capital of Georgia, and also in South Carolina, I had occasions to talk with persons, both Black and White, who are intimately involved in the Black-White problem.
Though Negroes were brought to U.S.A. from Africa three centuries ago as slave-labourers and were chattered as cattle, their legal status is radically changed today. Consequently there is a tremendous awakening among the Blacks within recent times claiming equal status with others. But old prejudices are dying hard. So the Black Movement has three trends. First, imitate the ways of the Whites in dress and manners. As the Blacks have forgotten their native African language and have been talking only English, and move with Whites, it has been easy for them to dress and behave exactly like the Whites. Further all Blacks are Christians and attend the same church as Whites. Some Blacks straighten their hair with wax products and some use wigs. Yet the colour of the skin distinguishes them and they feel the discrimination. In the southern states like, Alabama and Georgia, the discrimination is open and deliberate, i in spite of laws. In schools, restaurants and hospitals the Blacks are treated separately.
While the first trend is a slow integration and absorption of Blacks and Whites together as a social process, the other two are attempts at quickening the process. One of them was represented by Martin Luther King. He adopted the Gandhian method of solving communal differences. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his achievements. He fell a martyr to the cause. He was assassinated on April 4, 1958. The work is continued since under the leadership of Dr. Ralph David Abernathy.
Unlike the Gandhian approach of harmony between difference, Malcolm X adopted the method of separation from the Whites. He too was shot down in Harlem when he went there to address a meeting. His work is continued by the extreme wing of Black panthers. Like Malcolm X, some of them changed religion to Islam.
I pleaded with workers in the field that no group can develop as an island in social relations in the modern age and therefore placed before them the plan of "Aggressive Humanism". A few months before his assassination, Gandhi recommended treating religion as a personal matter and appreciating secular citizenship as the commonness between the different communities. Likewise could the Whites and Blacks regard whiteness and blackness as personal matters, and see humanness as the commonness between them! I am talking about it at several meetings. It may look too idealistic today; if it is the only way to solve racial and communal differences, we have to join together to accomplish the seemingly difficult task. I am aware that the method has to be put to the test in India to solve the caste and communal differences before I can carry greater appeal to others.
At Frogmore Camp
In the third week of August, I went to the student camp at Frogmore in South Carolina. Three years ago, Lavanam attended the same camp and the organisers remember him very well. I felt proud when I was introduced to the campers as Lavanam's father. I explained the poem in Telugu which said that the greatest joy to a father was not when a son was born, but when the son advances the work the father stood for. The camp was for a week and 23 students of the age group 16 to 20 attended the camp. I gained a knowledge of the discipline of the boys and girls as students. Our students have much to learn from their ways of neatness, punctuality, self-service and politeness in expression. The topics set for me for discussion at the camp were non-violence as a method of social change, god as the creation of man and partyless democracy.
From Frogmore camp I visited Atlanta for three days. It was the town where Martin Luther King preached in the Church. King's grave is in the adjacent compound. Georgia is a southern state and I had opportunity to exchange views on the approach to the racial problem.
Dr. P. Venugopala Rao from Eluru, is settled down in the U.S.A. at Atlanta. He is teaching Physics at the University. In cooperation with a few more Andhras who are in U.S.A., he is running a manuscript magazine in Telugu. The articles maintain a high level in explaining scientific principle in Telugu. The name of the magazine is Telugu Bhasha Patrica. Besides articles from research scholars and professors who are working in the several universities, institutions and hospitals in U.S.A., their wives and daughters take active interest in writing short stories and pleasant reflections on living ten thousand miles away from their homes. The women rewrite the several articles in neat hand-letters which literally conform to the common description in Telugu "pearls" (mutyalu). The writers make a fervent appeal to liberalise the Telugu language by absorbing terms from other languages through transliteration rather than to attempt laboured and uncouth forms of translation. The suggestions of those who live far away from their mother country and yet cling to the love of the language, and who are more scholarly than merely sentimental, deserve and even demand careful consideration of those who live in Andhra Pradesh in India.
On return to New York in the last week of August, I became acquainted with an item of American administration which is agitating the youth today. It is the law of conscription which requires every able-bodied young man between the ages of 18 and 21 to undergo military training for two years. This is called "the draft", and any youth who fail to comply with the registration for the draft if heavily punished with imprisonment which extends to four years. Thousands of young men who are anti-war ideologically oppose the draft, and do not believe that war is the means to resolve social conflict. The general term to describe such youth is C.O. which means "Conscientious Objector" -- objector to war.
There were C.O.s ever since conscription of compulsory military service was imposed by law. But the C.O.s are swelling in number with the growth of propaganda in favour of peace and with presenting non-violence as a moral alternative to war to resolve conflicts. Today, tens of thousands of young men in U.S.A. oppose the draft registration. In response to the objection to draft on religious and conscientious grounds, the government makes provision for conscientious objectors in Section 6(j) of the Military Selective Service Act of 1967. Peace groups and institutions of non-violence are busy in explaining the provisions of the Act to young men who do not desire to undergo military training. The act permits C.O.s to take up civil service as an alternative to military training. The alternatives which C.O.s take are three.
1. On grounds of Conscience they cannot kill, but they are willing to assist the wounded. They wear the uniform and perform medical, administrative or food-supply duties of the military.
2. They refuse to associate themselves with the military activities. They serve in civil hospitals, teaching, planning for housing and the like.
3. A third group of Conscientious Objectors, small in numbers but now increasing in size, openly non-cooperate with the draft and face the consequences. They suffer imprisonment and are called non-co-operators or draft resisters.
Some resisters who are unable to bear the severity of governmental punishment cross over to Canada. The different trends indicate that the youth is inclined towards non-violence.
Extensive Tour in America
In four days now, I shall leave the continent of America for Hawaii. In this period of thirteen weeks, I visited 21 states and went to Canada twice. I spoke at thirteen universities and their colleges and five meetings at Churches. I participated in three week-long camps of students and workers devoted to non-violent action, lived in communes with students, and moved with the chiefs and workers of 'minority' groups. It is a rich and rewarding experience to me, which is facilitated by many friends and donors in India who have helped to buy round-the-world air ticket for me and by the Quaker Friends in U.S.A. who arranged the criss-cross programmes for me in U.S.A., taking me from Texas in the south to Canada in the north, and from New York in the east to San Francisco in the west, including Chicago, St. Louis and Las Vegas in the mid-states. Dr. George Willoughby, who is assisted by my son, Vijayam, wrote several letters, made long-distance phone calls and introduced me to friends. He has been specially devoted to see that my tour in U.S.A. is a good success. Indeed, they succeeded in their efforts. Due to the care, attention and affection of the several hosts locally, I have been able to maintain my health and stand the strain of moving from place to place practically every alternate day and addressing three or four meetings and gatherings every day these thirteen weeks. I hope to fulfil the further engagements in Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and Ceylon with the same health and cheer before I return to India in the last week of November and share my experience with workers in India in order to plan a course of action that will establish social, political and economic conditions which help the people of the world to live in better security and love and happiness.
Some of the places which I visited were covered by Lavanam three years ago when he was in U.S.A. It was a pleasure for me to be introduced at those places as Lavanam's father. I reminded them of the poem in Telugu which said that the greatest happiness to the parents is not when a son is born, but when that son earns a reputation for the sense of service and for the integrity of purpose.
The Christian Church in the West is still a force to count with in regulating social relations. But it is undergoing a big radical change in its outlook within the past few decades. More emphasis is laid on the life of Jesus as a social revolutionary and a man of love and non-violence than as a prophet who performed miracles to support his teachings. Canon Collins of London is already active with this orientation in Christian thinking and he invites non-Christians also to join the Christian Action which he is promoting. The Quakers, who are popularly known as "Friends", have programmes of direct action in social, educational and political fields to promote the new outlook in Christian faith. So there was no embarrassment in my tour to introduce me at meetings as an atheist nor to permit me to talk freely on atheism and to answer questions on the subject. I have enjoyed a free platform. For instance, Prof. Joan V. Bondurant invited me to the Pacific University to speak on 'Gandhism in India today.' In her letter to Mr. Marshall Palley, who was the organizer of my tour programme in California, she said, "I think that Gora need not be reticent about setting forth any point of view. Should Gora wish to develop the philosophical position of Gandhian atheism, I believe it might stimulate considerable interest. As you know the humanistic values which dominated Gandhi's life, thought and action arc all too often eclipsed by (invalid) presuppositions about Gandhi's spiritual and religious concerns. Goraji may well contribute to a more balanced view, and certainly to a better understanding of Gandhi's contributions." At the Ethical, Methodist and Unitarian Churches in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Las Vegas, to which I was invited to speak after their normal religious ceremonies, I was introduced as the author of An Atheist with Gandhi and the platform was thrown open to me to make reference to atheism and to answer questions on the subject. With this liberal attitude, the Church in the West is undertaking social reform movements. The Catholic Churches helped to mediate successfully between the landlords and the Grape-workers when Cesar Chavez led the workers to strike for five years. Along with other bodies, Quakers and Catholics actively counsel Conscientious Objectors to resist the inroads of compulsory military service. The Church in the West performs several useful, secular functions instead of rolling in the conventional ruts of blind faith. Hindu priests, Muslim mullahs and orthodox Christian clergy in India have much to learn from the open-minded, bold, progressive steps of the Christian Churches in the West.
The subjects on which I spoke at the meetings have been non-violent way of life with particular reference to Gandhism, the Sarvodaya Movement, Partyless Democracy and Atheism. America's interest in the non-violent way of life, at present, is very marked. The youth and students are disgusted with the long-drawn war in Vietnam. The problem of pollution, that is, the fouling of water and air by the by-products from the numerous mills and factories in the West, is frightening the people. So they are looking to Gandhism for guidance.
Attraction towards Gandhi
The attraction towards the East is running a few persons into the mysticism of Hindu philosophy. They go to the extent of becoming the devotees of "Krishna." I am told a few temples are also built in some places, but I saw the devotees of Krishna cult in the streets of New York. About a dozen white men and women shaved their heads, wore dhoties and sarees, carried drums and cymbals and danced in the streets crying "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna." For generations in India, we have been used to seeing such performances. We also feel that this devotion to other-worldiness is responsible for the poverty, illiteracy, casteism and untouchability among Hindus. Obviously the Americans are going the wrong way when they adopt mysticism or Krishna cult as an escape from the wars and pollutions of industrial civilization and technological lopsidedness. The behaviour of the devotees of Krishna cult in the streets of New York or anywhere in the West is but a caricature of the Hindu way of life, however well intentioned it may be. When I am questioned about Hindu mysticism, I tell at meetings that both the Hindu philosophy of non-dualism and the Hindu polity of caste system had their heyday of excellence, when the rest of the world was groping in the dark for meaningful understanding and social organization. Those days are past now. Today we are in possession of more real knowledge and better methods of social relations. The old Hindu methods are out-moded. Buddhism earlier, and Gandhism at present, are correctives to the out-modedness. I tell them that the West is morally backward, though it is technologically progressive. Hence the wars and exploitation. Gandhi sitting in a mud-hut in Sevagram with a loin cloth was more civilised than astronauts who are clad in special suits and sit among the most advanced gadgets. The West has to teach technological skill to the East and learn moral principles in return. Import of moral principles into politics, economics, technology and aesthetics is the urgent need of civilization. In this connection, the programmes of replacing ornamental plants with edible crops and the protests against the pomp and extravagance of people's representatives are well appreciated by the audiences.
The American form of government is of the Presidential type. It is not so democratic as the cabinet system in India. Also the two dominating parties in U.S.A., namely. the Republicans and Democrats have little difference as far as the interests of the common people go. The people have no pressing problems since all the unemployed, the old and the disabled enjoy the benefits of social security. That is, they regularly receive every month grants from the government. The social security allowance per individual enables everyone to rent an apartment, eat two meals a day and to command basic comforts of health, education and recreation. This facility of social security and wide employment potential, keep the people, white or black, contended with normal life. So their appreciation of wider problems is intellectual rather than emotional. Nevertheless, concern about the draft to the war in Vietnam, and general awareness of the world problems, is growing more and more political with interest in personal involvement. The several peace groups have a similar concern for human affairs. So the outlook is changing markedly in favour of peace and its implications. This change is leading a section of the youth and workers to the study of Gandhian thought. Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez are principal figures in putting Gandhian principles of non-violence into practice on a mass scale for resolving the race discrimination and for liberating the workers in grape gardens from economic exploitation, respectively. There are signs of wider adoption of non-violence by the people of America.
Prof. John Gardiner. for some time the secretary of Health and Education, has sponsored the Political movement of "Common Cause" with its head-quarters at Washington, D.C. It is avowedly a partyless approach to the problems of the common people. I had the opportunity to go to Washington at the invitation of the youth section of Common Cause and to exchange views with the chiefs of the Movement. There are many similarities between the Common Cause and the movement for partyless democracy in India, and I have established contacts for further co-ordination.
Bjorn Merker who lived for six months at the Atheist Centre five years ago is now at the Liftwynn Foundation. U.S.A., conducting research on the relation between areas of the brain response in behaviour. He came all the way to New York on the day I arrived here in August. At his invitation I went to his laboratory. When he introduced me to his colleagues, I was agreeably surprised to find that amidst the absorption in the research work, he was continuing his interest in the programmes of partyless and pompless democracy which he observed in India.
He and his colleagues have found out the meaning of "minister" in a rare etymological dictionary, and preserved it to show it to me when I visited them. The root meaning of "minister" is "a servant", as it is derived from the root "min" which means small or "less". It is similar to the meaning of other words like, "min-imise", "min-us", "min-or", etc. On the other hand, "magistrate" means "ruler" or something big, as in the words "mag-nanimous",. "mag-nificent" "mag-nify" etc., with the root "mag". I lunched at the Liftwynn Foundation, and at the table much of the conversation was occupied by discussion on the slogan, "Ministers are servants and people are masters", which is supported by etymological evidence. I was presented with a xeroxed copy of pages of the Etymological Dictionary in which the meaning of "minister" and "magistrate" occur.
Talk on Atheism at Goddard College
Likewise, Miss Patty Yates, who was at the Atheist Centre for four months and is at present working in the City Council of New York, took special interest in arranging a programme for me at Goddard College, where she was a student. Goddard College is a premier institution trying a bold experiment in education wherein the students are trained in "self-help" and "human outlook". I spent two days there and gave talks on "atheism".
There was a significant incident at the time of my talk at Goddard College. Patty Yates was acquainted in India with the movement for replacing ornamental flower plants with vegetables. So she surprised the audience there by presenting me with a carrot plant having all the leaves fully grown. The whole plant looked like a bouquet.
Camp at Voluntown
The camp at Voluntown is a weekly feature. It is very similar to the Cosmopolitan Meet which is held monthly in Vijayawada. The invitation is open to anyone who contributes towards the cost of the food. The guests arrive in the forenoon of the Saturday and leave in the afternoon of Sunday. At every camp a definite subject is discussed. The subjects are like, pollution, vegetable growing, non-violent direct action, housewife, women's liberation, democracy, bread-making gadgets, etc. A variety of interests are accommodated for discussion. The schedule of subjects and the dates of the respective week-ends are announced in newspapers. The guests choose their interests end attend the week-end camp by prior intimation. I found the guests coming from long distances of over a couple of hundreds of miles. The hosts, Bob and Marjorie Swan, are elderly, educated and devoted to social change and non-violent action. I was invited as the principal speaker to weekend camp of September 5th and 6th. The subject was, "Communes and Cooperation" dealing with the organisation of centres like Gandhian ashrams in India. The discussions are free and informal but purposive and serious. The dignity of education and involvement is maintained throughout. There is no president, but the sixty or seventy guests who attend the camp observe self-discipline in the conduct of the discussion, as well as in the service in the kitchen, dining table and general sanitation. Even those who attend the camp for first time fall into line with the decorum of the camp. The Swan couple deserve congratulations for the healthy conventions which they have set up. The camp is always held at the Centre for Non-Violence at Voluntown, which is a roadside place removed from the bustle of the town.
Decision to hold First World Atheist Conference
The two outstanding results of the tour in U.S.A. are the association with groups who are devoted to the programmes of non-violent direct action and the acquaintance of Mrs. Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the American Atheist. The talks and association with the non-violent groups has paved the way for the growth of the Gandhian ideology in U.S.A. Some of the workers will visit India in the coming years to coordinate non-violent programmes of action in both the countries.
The next achievement is the decision to hold the first WORLD ATHEIST MEET at the Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, for a week from around the 20th of December, 1971. Mrs. Madalyn Murray O' Hair has consented to preside over the MEET. She is 52, law graduate, qualified in Psychiatry, a forceful personality and an undaunted worker. She has devoted her life to the cause of Atheism with all its implications in practice. Along with her, coming for the MEET in India, will be her husband, who is an artist, her two sons, her grand-daughter and her daughter-in-law. Publicity for the WORLD ATHEIST MEET is set on foot and delegates from several countries abroad are expected to participate in the MEET. With trust in the co-operation of friends in India. I have undertaken the responsibility to constitute the Reception Committee and to host the first WORLD ATHEIST MEET.
The last week of my tour on the main-land of U.S.A. was crowded with engagements. It was in the state of California with a brief visit to Las Vegas in Nevada.
At Stanford University
I stayed, at first, at the student commune of Stanford University. About twenty thousand students stay on the campus of the University. Fifty-four of them have rented a house from the University and formed a commune. At the other hostels and dormitories, the University runs separate kitchens. At this commune the 54 students run their own kitchen, do the whole work themselves and manage the commune on a thoroughly co-operative basis. All the 54 boys and girls attend to the general chores of washing and cleaning. Special work like bread-making is done by turns on duties allocated to batches during hours when they are free from college classes. I mingled with the students and participated in their routines.
One remarkable feature of the commune is their interest in the non-violent way of life. The commune equipped their library with several books of Gandhian literature and conducted study classes for an hour at night. Peace workers from other towns are often invited to address them. I addressed them twice. The discussions were free and were animated with a desire to know and to do. When I was with them, a dozen of the commune took part in a picketing on behalf of the grievance of local peasants. I joined them and found the picketing done wholly on Gandhian lines. There were no arrests that day. My stay at the commune was an experience of the rise of the ideology of non-violence among the youth and students in U.S.A. I had shorter but similar experiences when I stayed with students and youth in communes at Kingston, Kent, Berkeley and San Francisco.
At Las Vegas
From the student commune at Stanford to Las Vegas in Nevada was a swing to the other extreme. Till I went to Las Vegas I did not understand the jokes the students at the commune had at my expense when I told them that I was going to Las Vegas the next day.
I went to Las Vegas at the invitation of two churches, the Methodist and the Unitarian. I spoke from their pulpits on non-violence and atheism. The question time was very friendly. I enjoyed their cordiality as well as their hospitality. The "interesting" part of Las Vegas was its night side. The full main street of Las Vegas is brilliantly lighted with multi-coloured and changing designs. They are intended to attract visitors. Las Vegas is situated in the desert tract of Nevada state. It has scarcely agriculture or industry. But it is one of the two towns in U.S.A. where gambling is allowed freely without the need of licence. So visitors from all over U.S.A., and some from abroad, go to Las Vegas for free gambling with stakes which range from dimes (one-tenth of a dollar) to thousands of dollars. The gambling houses are open, richly decorated and very inviting to visitors. My host told me that l would be missing an aspect of human nature if I did not see the gambling houses. That night he showed me round the main street with its galore of fantastic lighting. He took me into a gambling house, one of the biggest in town. Thousands of persons were busy with throwing their stakes into a variety of gambling patterns. The proprietors of the gambling house make exquisitely comfortable arrangements for the seating of the gamblers. One of the common gambling machines has several rotating wheels. The gambler drops a coin into the slot and pulls a lever. The wheels whirl for a few seconds and stop. Particular combinations of numbers which the wheels exhibit when they stop, entitle the gambler to five, ten or to a thousand times the amount dropped into the slot. The machines are automatic and hundreds of them are set in rows along corridors The visitor idly drops a coin into a machine and pulls the lever to gain a "fortune" or to lose without a tear. Of course, in gambling, millions lose for one to win. At one place I found an eclat when a gambler won two thousand times the coin which he dropped. At the next machine I saw an old woman with a big bag of coins dropping them one after another into the slot and pulling the lever every few seconds as quickly and mechanically as the wheels turned. The few minutes I watched her, she dropped 42 coins as I counted and stayed there to drop more till her bag was emptied with the fond hope she would return home with a heavier bag if "fortune smiled!" At other tables, the employees of the gambling house, who are well versed in the art of gambling, sat in ceremonial dresses, throwing dice of several fashions while the gamblers throw thousands of dollars each time as stakes.
Las Vegas is a desert town. But it vies with other towns of America in wealth. Its source of income is the charges of lighting and fees from gambling houses. It cannot be much of an exaggeration when I was told that the charges of lighting yield to the municipality ten thousand dollars per day and many times the amount as fees from the gambling houses.
Prayer and gambling reflect the same face of human nature which covets big results for small efforts. If you lose, it is a word to god, or a two-pence to a machine; if you win, it is eternal bliss or a world of wealth!
Stockton College is affiliated to the Pacific University. Dr. Joan V. Bondurant, the author of "Conquest of Violence", teaches at Stockton. She was in India earlier for gathering material for her book from the Satyagraha campaigns of Mahatma Gandhi. In one of her visits, I met her in India. She arranged two of my talks at Stockton and at Berkeley University.
I was the chief guest at the College dinner at Stockton.
The special theme I developed at the dinner talk was that family planning was a capitalist slogan. When I toured in the state of Ohio, U.S.A., by road, I found many fields left fallow or crops unharvested. The government paid subsidy for non-production of food in the way. The measure is in the interest of keeping, up the price level. If more food was produced and brought into the market, the price of food grains would fall. Non-production may safe-guard prices, but it disregards the millions of people in Asia and Africa who are going hungry. Talk of population explosion and family planning loses meaning when food is indirectly destroyed. It is an immoral situation in the context of human welfare at the world level. Geographers calculate that if the water of all the rivers of the world is utilised for irrigation, several wilds can be turned into arable lands and then the food-production would feed five times the present population. In socialist countries where the resources are fully harnessed to the welfare of the people, there is no talk of population explosion.
Instead of thinking in terms of "population explosion", we do well to think in terms of "population distribution". The problems of food, war and envy are due to the unequal distribution of population in the present world. While the density of population per square mile is more than 350 in India, the density in Africa is 15, in South America it is 16, in U.S.A. it is 50 and in Australia it is only 3. The density in Israel is 200 while in Arabia it is 10. U.K., Japan and Belgium are the densest with 500, 600 and 800 density.
The mal-distribution of population creates population pressure on the neighbouring territories and on colonies. More equitable distribution is the need of the modern age wherein the communications are well developed and the notions of equality are wide-spread.
The redistribution will no doubt entail revision of our notions of nationality. Nationalism is an outmoded concept similar to tribalism. Pride in nationalism is the cause of war and border disputes. Bold rethinking is necessary in order to solve the problems of the modern age. It should be at the human and global level. Racial distinction and religious denominations are out of place in the modern world. Free mingling in marital alliances will soon blur and efface the old differences. The youth should take up the challenge and march towards the brave new world.
The theme of my talk seemed strange to the audience. The discussion that followed showed disturbance to conventional thinking. Nevertheless it helped to clarify my own thoughts on the subject and I could talk with greater emphasis at other places later on.
At Berkeley University, I addressed the group of Asian Studies. The questioners desired information on the latest developments in India.
San Francisco is a city with natural beauty which combines hill and sea. The long bridges whose pictures appear prominently in the description of America stretch across the bay for seven miles. In smaller measure, Visakhapatnam, with the facility of hill and sea combined, can be developed into a similarly beautiful place. What is wrong with India appears to be more with our outlook on life rather than with natural resources. We waste what we have. We think of heaven and neglect the earth.
The next two days I spent with professor Watson who is planning a course in non-violence at the San Diego campus of the Pacific University. We had a useful discussion on the scope of the subject, especially when he was eager to know about the Gandhian Movements in India. He was a peace worker himself and faced imprisonments as a young man in that connection. So his academic interest in the subject as a professor is flavoured with personal convictions as a peace worker. He is specially chosen for the task. I gave him contacts of other universities of my acquaintance where similar attempts are made for a course of study in non-violence as at the Kent State University and at Chicago. While I was happy that interest in non-violence was rising in the American Universities, I had a secret sense of shame at the way we are showing scant courtesy to it in India.
The last day of my stay on the mainland was at Palm Springs. My host was the Bishop of the local church where I spoke on the humanist approach to the problems of life. The Christian faith in U.S.A. is shifting emphasis from religious belief to social work.
I was particularly delighted to meet the Bishop, since he was a close associate of Cesar Chavez who led the grape-workers strike in California. Cesar is a simple peasant who championed the cause of the farm-workers. He is still active in the field of work. He bases his movements on strict non-violence and his writings contain frequent references to Mahatma Gandhi. He is devoted to the Gandhian method of Satyagraha as the late Martin Luther King was. Both never met Gandhi. They derived inspiration from his writings and achievements. I made attempts to meet Cesar Chavez. As he was touring in the northern parts of California at that time. I tried in vain to get into touch with him. Contacts with his close associates, including the Bishop at Palm Springs, gave me an idea of the work and increased my interest in knowing him. The two picketing programmes in which I took part in U.S.A. were parts of the campaign of Cesar Chavez.
The mainland of the United States of America (U.S.A.) consists of 48 states. The other three states are detached from it. Alaska is in the north beyond Canada. Puerto Rico is an island among the West Indies, east of Cuba. Hawaii is another group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. Except Puerto Ricans, who speak Spanish, the rest of Americans speak English. They are immigrants from England. From the mainland I flew to Hawaii on the 26th of October.
The plane that took me from Los Angles on the main land to Honolulu, Hawaii Islands, was the 747 model. Earlier I flew in the same type of plane from Washington to San Francisco. This model is of the biggest size so far, carrying 996 passengers. They are for long flights, with more sitting room for each passenger, cinema shows in the plane and plugs at each seat for the use of ear-phones which are supplied to the passengers. By tuning the ear-phone dials the passengers can listen to radio programmes broadcast from U.S.A. These are the comforts for long distance travel. The biggest plane was this 747 and the smallest plane I used was from Boston to Plainfield, which carried 19 passengers over short distances of a couple of hundred miles. Several planes have accommodation from 200 to 400 passengers.
Another unusual experience I had during long-distance travels westward is the gaining in time. The speed of the plane is close to that of the rotation of the earth. When I flew from Washington to San Francisco, about 2,500 miles at a speed of 700 miles per hour, it was only 11 o'clock at San Francisco, while it was past one o'clock by my watch. That day my day was longer by nearly three hours. It caused a practical inconvenience to me. At San Francisco, on the day of my arrival, I had three engagements at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. respectively, according to the time at San Francisco. But according to the time at Washington, which I left that morning, the engagements went far into the night and proved very tiresome to me. The organisers could not foresee this contingency, and made hurried adjustments with brief notice. The flight from Dublin to New York and from Los Angeles to Honolulu and from Honolulu to Nandi proved to be equally inconvenient for local engagements on arrival. The time difference was about three hours at each place. When we fly westward, we arrive earlier, and when we fly eastward we arrive later by local time. Because U.S.A. is about 2,600 miles east to west, the country is divided into four time-zones lengthwise. There is time difference of one hour between adjacent zones. So 11 o'clock at Washington would mean 10 at Chicago, 9 at Denver and 8 at San Francisco. Australia also is similarly divided into time zones. Time changes from east to west and temperature changes from north to south.
Vegetable Garland in the Island of Flowers
Hawaii is a state of U.S.A. situated in the mid-Pacific Ocean. Hawaii state is a group of Islands, five of them are large. Honolulu, the capital of the state, is located on the island of Oahu. Being more tropical than the mainland of U.S.A., Hawaii presents a different climate and vegetation. It is therefore a tourist place. The islands with their bays serve as seaside resorts with beach for sea-bath. The climate is not so cold as U.S.A. and the bath is enjoyed all round the year.
The use of flower garlands is a significant feature of Hawaiian life. Just as the surroundings of Hindu temples are crowded with shops which sell flower garlands, hawkers of flower garlands are found at tourist places. The tourists too enjoy wearing the garlands which are artistically woven with orchids and flowers of different matching colours. At the airport we find passengers being received with garlands and tourists going round with garlands round their necks.
When my friends who received me at the airport brought garlands for me, it was an occasion to explain my preference to fruits and vegetables. At the public meeting the next day the organiser appreciated my point of view and made a garland of vegetables for me. In an island of flowers, a garland of vegetables was a strange departure and provided me with the opportunity to explain its meaning to the audience.
Another feature of Honolulu life in the use of Hawaiian names for streets and places. The bulk of the population of Hawaii consists of white Americans and immigrants from China and Japan. The native Hawaiians are confined to poorer localities living on manual labour. The colonials enjoy the change of language just as they enjoy the pleasure of wearing a garland. They give Hawaiian names. The airport of Honolulu is called "Aloha," which means love, goodwill and friendship in the native Hawaiian language. The name of the street where I stayed is "Palolo Avenue." Except for seeing their language adopted for giving names of streets and places, the native Hawaiians are today miserably degraded by exploitation and harassment. I spent more than half a day with some of them and impression of the talk will form the matter for a separate article under the caption, "The old and the New".
After two days at Hawaii, I left for Fiji , which is another group of islands in the Pacific. It was a British colony which gained independence on the 10th of October, 1970, a fortnight before I visited the island. The town of the airport is Nandi and the capital is Suva.
More than half the population of Fiji islands consists of Indians, specially from U.P., Rajastan and Gujarat. They went there three or four generations ago as merchants and as labourers on the sugar plantations in which the islands abound. In the course of time they have acquired lands for themselves and settled down there. Most of them have not visited India. Yet they preserve the mother tongue of Hindi. The principal languages spoken on the islands are Hindi and English. The native Fijian language is being forgotten. I met a sprinkling of those who speak Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.
The present Prime Minister of Fiji is a member of the native Fijian Royal Family. The Indians and the Fijians live in complete harmony, and There is a move to call all of them by the name "Fijians." The Indian residents identify themselves with local interests though they run schools to teach the Indian languages.
I stayed at Nandi for a day as the guest of Mr. Sharma, who was a teacher and now a businessman. I addressed students at a college and at a high school.
The Public meeting was in the town hall. At the public meeting the audience was interested in the form of Partyless Democracy. Fire walking is associated with a religious ceremony and the students were amused when I explained to them the scientific principle governing fire-walking. Their interest was heightened when I told them that I walked on fire without any ceremony.
Fiji lay just west of the date-line. A day is skipped off when the date-line is crossed westward. Due to my miscalculation, in this connection I arrived at Auckland, New Zealand, on the 30th of October, whereas Mr. James O. Hanlan, the secretary of the Rationalist Association, was expecting me on the 31st. That was the only place in my whole tour where I was not met at the airport by my host. The mistake was mine, due to confusion of date on crossing the date-line. l contacted the host on the phone from the airport and cleared the confusion. Quick arrangements were made to accommodate me. I am thankful to Mrs. Butler, the vice-president of the Rationalist Society, with whom I was to stay. Early arrivals are as inconvenient for arrangements as late-coming, and disturbs the time-table.
Mrs. Butler is more than 70. She travelled all over the world and visited U.S.S.R. twice on deputations. She treated me with motherly care and arranged my public engagements in an orderly fashion. Her son, Mr. John, is very service-minded.
The talk at the Rationalist Hall and the television interview related largely to the subject of Atheism. The questions about the "sacred cow" revealed to me how others look at us. The emphasis we place on the protection of the cow, while considering fellow-men an untouchable, looks odd to rationalist mind.
Mr. Butler introduced me to the members of the Socialist Unity Centre. We exchanged views freely and frankly. I became increasingly aware of the responsibility in pursuing the programme of Partyless Democracy. The reality of the class structure of society is a matter on which opinions differed. Pursuit of programmes will, however, clear the differences.
Mr. Hanlan is an asset to the Rationalist Movement. He worked for some years on the editorial board of "The Humanist" at London. He has a long journalistic career in Australia. With age and experience, he keeps the even tenor of the Rationalist Association of New Zealand.
I was for two weeks in Australia at the three state capitals, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. As in New Zealand, I was the guest of the respective Rationalist and Humanist Associations. The Rationalists and Humanists here, as anywhere, are a group of good, well-intentioned, active, able and open-minded persons. In spite of their long and earnest efforts, they have not developed into an effective social force. This is true all over the world. Mr. Bullock, the Secretary of the South Australian Rationalist Society, has bestowed thought over the failings of the Rationalists and Humanists and has convinced his colleagues of the need to change the name of Rationalists into Atheists. The fables of Rationalism and Humanism can be taken up by superstitious religionists and sectarian denominationalists also. They enter into the ranks of real Rationalists and Humanists and hamper the progress. Therefore, it is better for Rationalists and Humanists to openly declare themselves as Atheists and mark out their ideology as distinctly different from the conventional and sentimental rationalism and humanism of religions. Accordingly, the Association of South Australia changed its name into the Atheistic Foundation of Australia. I was given the privilege of addressing the first public meeting of the Atheistic Foundation at Adelaide on the 15th of November, 1970. The next day, the Board of Governors of the Atheistic Foundation kindly bestowed on me the honorary life membership of the Foundation. At the Public meeting and at the dinner the next day, I found a visible rise in the interest and enthusiasm of the members on changing the name. The Atheists do not exclude their association with religionists. They assert the distinction between conventional rationalism and radical rationalism. The Atheists hope that because Christianity, as a religious faith, is already losing its appeal in the modern world, and as the clergy are rightly taking to programmes of social reform like protest against racial prejudice and waging wars, Atheism will open a fresh platform for straight progress. The desire for progress towards humanism is present in several people including religionists in the modern age. But it is hesitatingly advanced on account of sentimental association with out-moded moorings of religious faith. Atheism clears the sentiments and allows free progress of all people.
Mr. Bullock is getting into touch with the Rationalist and Humanist Associations all over the world with a view to persuading them to appreciate the need of taking up a definite atheistic stand. The co-operation of the Rationalist and Humanist Associations all over the world will develop into a social force that can embolden other people to take a step of progress towards humanism and a world free from war, racial prejudice and economic disparities.
"Hyde Park" In Sydney
As at Hawaii, I spent considerable time with the original inhabitants of Fiji and Australia. I am obliged to Mr. Ron Marke, the Secretary of the Rationalist Association, and to Mrs. Norine Higham, a social worker, for introducing me to the reservations around Sydney where the Abors, as the natives of Australia are called, mostly live. Why the original inhabitants all over the world live in backwardness today while the moderns enjoy power and plenty is a moot question which urges rethinking on topics that were granted to be settled.
The Hyde Park at Sydney allows scope for soap-box oratory as in London. Mrs. Butler took me to a similar place in the park at Auckland. By Hyde Park tradition, anyone can talk anything in that corner of the park -- from religion to raillery, from politics to pastry. The time is fixed for meetings between 2 and 7 p.m. No loud-speakers are aloud. Speakers stand on small platforms which they improvise for themselves. The speeches are often unscheduled. Places a few yards apart are studded with speakers raising their voice and addressing people. Visitors to the park roam about and occasionally stand for a while and listen to the speakers here and there. Questions are freely showered on the speakers, words are bandied and wit is exhibited. Nevertheless, meetings are not disturbed. Persons move away from the place of the speaker who does not meet with their favour. Some speakers have the skill to attract big sections of that mobile audience, Some speakers cry hoarse with a few children looking at them.
Mr. Charles King is a veteran soap-box orator in the cause of Rationalism and Humanism. He attracts big audiences. He invited me one evening to Hyde Park. I was placed on a small wooden platform and I was asked to speak on Atheism. About a couple of hundred people at once gathered, evidently attracted by the strangeness of my Indian dress. I harangued on the meaning of positive Atheism. As I was speaking a question was darted at me, why so many people believe in god if god were a falsehood. My answer was quick! "You are taught to believe so by your parents. Think and god goes." The answer was cheered and the questioner went. Mr. Charles attached the traditions of Rationalism to that corner. Persons of the rationalist bent of mind gather there. I had a sympathetic audience and I spoke for ten minutes without another question.
Fifty yards from the rationalist corner, about four to five hundred persons sat in big circle. In the centre of the circle danced an old woman and two girls beating tambours. The old woman was going into ecstasies praising the glory of Jesus Christ. Presently another group of five persons walked into the park beating drums and cymbals after the Indian Hindu fashion. They attracted a big crowd who formed another circle a little farther up. Most of those of the circle around the Christian preacher shifted to the new comers with drums and cymbals.
Import from India
The new comers belonged to the Hare Krishna cult. It is an importation from India. The white devotees shaved their heads, wore saffron clothes as Dhoties and sarees after the Indian fashion, and danced to the tune of drum and cymbal repeating the slogan, "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna..." Some of the onlookers also joined chorus, in a mood of jocularity and fun, for about half-an-hour. In the streets of New York, I saw a similar demonstration with a much smaller crowd of wayfarers. Is this the India which we have to advertise abroad?
Mr. Harry Pearce, the President of the Rationalist Association, introduced me at Sydney to Mr. George A. Black, who was a candidate for election to the Senate. He belonged to the Australia Party, which is very nearly partyless. I noticed in the talk with him how it is hard to leave the label of a party, though the out-modedness of the party system in modern times is wholly appreciated. Old forms for new ideas are easy for propaganda but prove weak for effecting stable changes. Gandhi's use of religious language for political propaganda and its repercussions are a glaring example of this method.
A Good Team
Mr. Harry Pearce and Ron Marke are a good team for the Rationalist Association of New South Wales as its President and Secretary. Both of them are busy with their trades and employments, Yet they found time to take me round and introduce me to several places and persons in Sydney during my one-week stay there. Mr. Ron Marke took leave from his regular employment to attend to my programmes. I stayed with Harry Pearce as his guest at his home. Mrs. Pearce took special care of me with regard to my vegetarian diet. Though the Pearce family had to leave for a couple of days on a prior appointment, they made special arrangements for my stay. I mention these details of hospitality to show how generous the N.S.W. Rationalist Association has been to me.
Ron Marke and Pearce introduced The Atheist to Australia and planned my whole tour in Australia in all the three centres at Sydney, Adelaide end Perth. The arrangements were perfect to the detail. Though I took leave of Pearce and Marke at Sydney air port, their arrangements followed me till I left the other two centres in Australia.
The public meeting in Sydney, the press interview, the stay at a commune, the talk at the Hyde Park, the visit to the Reserve of Abors and the introduction to several friends at Sydney were the results of the planned arrangements of Pearce and Marke. Twice I had the privilege of attending the lunch meetings of a special business combine over which Mr. Harry Pearce presided.
Lunch with Churchmen
Mr. Donald Groom is an old associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He was in India for over 20 years at the Quaker centre at Rasulia in Madhya Pradesh. He was frequently visiting Sevagram Ashram. He is a promoter of the Sarvodaya ideology in England. Presently he is the secretary of the World Quaker Conference at Sydney, Australia.
He arranged two important engagements for me at Sydney. The first was a lunch with representatives of the several Church denominations. We spent a couple of hours together and had a free discussion on Gandhism and Atheism. I was impressed with the open-mindedness of the Churchmen. They were concerned more with the Christian way of life than with the Christian faith. The approach is similar to the Christian Action of Cannon Collins at London. Of course, some of them know Cannon Collins intimately. The shift of emphasis from Christian faith to Christian way of life is a significant change in Christianity today. It removes superstition and fanaticism from Christianity. If other religions too changed their emphasis likewise, they would find a great similarity between their ethical contents. There can be no more Hindu-Muslim riots in India or Catholic-Protestant conflicts in Ireland. It is this liberal attitude which is growing among the Christians that invited me to talk from the pulpits of some churches in U.S.A. The exchange of views with the churchmen made it amply clear that to suppose religious faith as a religious way of life is inseparable, is a misconception and a superstition. Humanists demonstrate that the sanction for ethics need not be religious faith; it can be social obligation as well.
The second engagement which Mr. Donald Groom fixed for me was a talk at the School of Non-violent Action at Sydney. The students are adults who are involved and interested in the non-violent way of life. In Australia also there is conscription and Australia is fighting the war in Vietnam along with U.S.A. These non-violent actionists are taking the stand of draft-resistance rather than draft-counselling. That is, the young men who are called to register themselves as soldiers prefer to express themselves openly against the laws of conscription and face consequences with the spirit of Satyagrahi. Vivienne Abraham is another lady who takes the stand of draft-resistance. She was in India studying the ways of nonviolent action. My talk and the discussion that followed at that school were very rewarding to me as an opportunity to exchange views with adult workers in the field of non-violent action. This was extended for over three hours. And I am thankful to Donald Groom for the two opportunities which he offered to me with the churchmen and with the non-violent actionists. The rise of interest in ethics apart from religious belief and in the non-violent way of life is a significant trend that is developing among Europeans and Americans.
To me Perth seemed a quieter place, especially because my hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Gilchrist, lived far from the bustle of the town, by the side of a brook. Mr. Gilchrist is a house-builder and he built his house and every part of it with his own hands. It was a pleasure to listen to him when he explained with just pride the plan and achievement of the modest structure. Mrs. Gilchrist toured the socialist countries on deputations and is an active member of Women's organisations. She received many guests. To be introduced and to know them provided a fund of information.
Mr. John A. Thompson, the Secretary of the Humanist Association, retired recently from service in the Forest Department and, in his company, I refreshed my memory of the names of trees. In him I found a man of few words and prompt action. Any request from me found immediate fulfilment. He was so obliging that I hesitated to ask him for anything lest I should draw too much on his kindness.
As at Auckland, New Zealand television broadcasts formed a part of my programmes at Sydney, Adelaide and Perth also. The subjects on T.V. related to the meaning of atheism, the relation between atheism and the Indian way of life and to non-violence and Gandhi.
The public meeting and the group discussions were leisurely and cordial. Friends from Australia are eager to attend the World Atheist Meet.
When I reached Djakarta on the 19th of November, I entered Asia. It stood in marked contrast with Europe, America and Australia, which I toured for the last twenty weeks. I heard again the wailing of children, saw beggars, garbage heaps, overflowing drains and confused traffic with which I am familiar in India. Why should Asia, which prides in ancient civilizations, remain so backward, poor, unclean and superstitious while European civilizations of comparatively recent growth enjoy power, wealth and comfort is a question that engages my thoughts. Obviously our ancientness is our liability. We have stagnated while others have flown forward.
Though Indonesia is Asian, it seems to have achieved within these five years what India has failed to do after twenty years of independence. Indonesia has adopted Roman script for its language. Though I do not know the Indonesian language, I could read the sign boards and recognise the places. In India, when I tour Kerala and Tamilnad, I have considerable difficulty to know the bus I have to catch or the place I am in, as the names are written in Malayalam or Tamil script. The language makes me a foreigner in my own country whereas I felt familiar in a foreign country. How convenient would it be for us to travel in India if we all adopt the same script. Till we can see the advantages of the Roman scripts, we can use the three scripts, Roman, Nagari and Arabic for some time at least for all the name-boards of public places and vehicles.
My halts at Djakarta and Singapore were brief. The last place of my visit before I returned to Madras on the 24th of November was Colombo. Forty-three years ago, I taught at Colombo. It was a pleasure for me to visit my old Ananda College, and my old principal, Mr. P. De. S. Kularatna, in whom, at nearing 80, I found the same cheer and buoyancy as I was in him when I was his colleague more than forty years ago.
My host, Mr. Abraham T. Kavoor, is a retired lecturer. He is a militant Rationalist who is a terror to everyone of superstition. He pursues black-magicians and miracle-makers till they leave the deception or go out of his reach. He has learnt sleight-of-hand tricks to expose the jugglery of miracle-makers. A scientist himself, he sees through their game and explains the tricks like teacher. He is 73, but goes about his work with youthful vigour. He presided over my public meeting in which I talked wholly on Atheism. The next day I visited the Sarvodaya Centre and met friends who visited India earlier. In my talk to the Sarvodaya workers, I explained the need of adding a political programme to Sarvodaya work. The item of partylessness and pomplessness form integral parts of Sarvodaya political programme. Both partylessness and pomplessness are new concepts in the context of the present party and power politics. That is the very reason Sarvodaya workers should take up their cause and present an alternative to the politics that are leading to chaos.
I returned to India on the 24th of November with a heavy sense of responsibility of implementing in India the plans and ideas of which I talked abroad. Our achievements help others to take up the tasks. I have rejoined my old friends in India and I am happy they approve the idea that the Non-violent Action Groups and the Atheists abroad and here should co-operate in promoting their cause at the human level. Let me take up the work and deserve the help that friends have given me to go round the world.