OUT OF CONTEXT …. with Mahatma Gandhi
Punter traverses space and time in the Napier Hotel front bar to get the views of history’s greats on modern sport.
Mahatma Gandhi, 1869 – 1948, employed non-violent tactics as the major leader of the Indian campaign for self-rule in the early 20th century. Simply dressed and mild-mannered but staunch, the non-drinker refused to conduct the interview in the public bar, and we settled for a pleasant but formal (and dry) chat in Whitlam Park across Napier Street.
PUNTER FIFA claims that as a young man while in Durban, South Africa working as a barrister and social reformer, you were involved in the formation of three football teams named the Passive Resisters. You saw sport as a tool to spread your ideas amongst the less privileged and fund the families of imprisoned opponents of apartheid. True?
GANDHI No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive. Non-co-operation with evil is as much a duty as is co-operation with good.
PUNTER The FIFA sources say that in South Africa you believed football had enormous potential to promote teamwork?
GANDHI Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking. The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems.
PUNTER Your views about sport were different back in India?
GANDHI To me a sound body means one which bends itself to the spirit and is always a ready instrument at its service. Such bodies are not made, in my opinion, on the football field. They are made on cornfields and farms.
PUNTER I take it you disapprove of the commercialisation of modern professional sports?
GANDHI Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. (But) you must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
PUNTER What are your thoughts about the Essendon ASADA saga? The win-at-all costs mentality?
GANDHI Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory. As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves.
PUNTER Why do so many people still enjoy sport so much?
GANDHI A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.
PUNTER Do you think major global sports will ever be free from major corruption?
GANDHI When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it ... always.
PUNTER How do you feel about the ‘sanitisation’ of heavy contact sports worldwide?
GANDHI I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.
PUNTER That feels like the spot where I say thank you for your time, Mahatma Gandhi, and ask if there any last words you would like to leave with our sports fans.
GANDHI Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
PUNTER One last one. What is your view of the AFL’s equalisation efforts?
GANDHI I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.