He probably didn’t mean, “Fight for Change!” or even “Change!” – at least not with the exclamation mark. The verb in that version is “Be”. Just “Be”. [And if you like a complete distraction at a key moment, the phrase “Live and Let Live” was used to describe an unofficial system of conflict avoidance during the First World War. Soldiers in the trenches – actual soldiers, effectively defying orders even if they weren’t being told to attack – would refrain from taking opportunities to shoot their counterparts on the other side. Wikipedia doesn’t use the term “working-class solidarity”, but you can if you like. With Tsarist Russia collapsing on the other side of Europe, imagine the unease in the Officers’ Mess*. And now back to the blog post.]
What Gandhi really said was, apparently, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.” That last bit is as important as the rest of it. Don’t wait for anybody else. Change – or rather, Be, because I think the bumper-sticker version is a valid abbreviation – and let the world follow. Or not. Easier said than done – I’m thinking about several of the big indignations of our day – but Gandhi’s talking as much about what not to do. Light doesn’t lecture darkness; it just turns on.
*Or read Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch (Doubleday, 2002). In particular, scenes around the formation of The Glorious People’s Republic of Treacle Mine Road.
Non-apologies are obvious, but I wish they could be challenged more. Where the apology would be, for example, "I'm sorry I punched you on the nose," the non-apology is, "I'm sorry you have bruising on your face." Notice the distastefully careful avoidance of any admission of liability. Of course, we're all madly sorry that women are so upset about being paid less, blah blah, but we neither admit nor feel liability, and while we're on the subject, perhaps we could mansplain yet again, in our patronising voice, the various ways in which the systems we've set up don't allow us to ... out of our hands, you see ... so we're sorry you feel that way. Ma'am.
It's not just the calculated evasiveness, which in my opinion amounts to premeditated dishonesty (although tax evasion isn't illegal, so I suppose equating any form of evasion with "dishonesty" is a bit harsh), but the, not sure how to put this, moral flabbiness, lack of respect for the other, self-centredness, legalistic persnicketiness; yes, that's it, the legalistic persnicketiness that gets to me. Take that, spellcheck!
And as I say, the failure to challenge. Costs have been cut, and these days, even the most investigative reporting amounts to, "Now I'm going to interview my fellow journalist about this story," but when there is somebody in the studio, and you're determined to interrogate them about the past rather than let them get onto whatever agenda they're pushing today, surely you could break from your prepared list of versions of the same question to ask, "Does that mean you're apologising for what you did?"
Or maybe just say, on behalf of the entire audience, "We know what you're doing." In that sneery voice that goes so well with the phrase. Because we all do, don't we?
While I'm on the subject, there was a piece in yesterday's (Monday's) Financial Times suggesting that companies might be holding back their pay data until immediately before the deadline for disclosure (4th April) in the hope that they might be overlooked in the last-minute indignation-frenzy. Towards the end of the piece, the possibility was raised that some companies don't understand the reasons for their gender pay gap.
And by extension, the reasons why they pay anybody whatever they get? It hadn't occurred to me until now, not clearly at least, but there's an assumption in this gender-pay thing that companies at least know what they're doing. That rightly or wrongly, they have arrived at a set of criteria whereby they decide an individual's (or a job's) rate of pay. Oh, silly me. They haven't a clue, have they?