The annual Mahatma Gandhi Speech and Essay Contest was held in March 2008 at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). The competition which was hosted by Satyagraha and the Gandhi Development Trust (GDT) was sponsored by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs – Government of India.
Topics were based on the Gandhian ideals of truth, non-violence, respect, peace and harmony. The speech contest segment was won by Nelson Mkhize of Macken Mistry School, with Divya Naidoo of Brighton Beach Primary School in second place and Thejas Behadar of Berea Primary being placed third. The essay writing segment was won by Gelene Munsamy of Verulam Secondary School with Ruan Marx from Hoerskool Suid Natal being placed second and Khululiwe Khanyile from Inanda Seminary, being placed third. This month Satyagraha publishes the essay by the runner up of the essay competition.
The Power of Truth and Liberation
By Ruan Marx
In the modern world, a place where lies and deceit have become mundane, how can one truly know what the truth is? How can one know whether one’s life is truly free, or merely oppressed, the chains of that oppression hidden beneath an image of freedom while the truth is concealed from the masses? The only way of discovering the truth is to observe the actions of those in power and decide for yourself whether you consider yourself and your nation free. Though it may seem like a simple choice, in reality it is a monumental decision to make, for who can know what is the truth in a world where corruption and conscience vie for domination?
It also happens that the saviours of a people can become corrupted. Even revolutionary leaders, men and women who liberated nations from oppression can be corrupted by power and in turn become oppressors themselves. An example of this is Communist Russia. When the Bolshevik leaders overthrew Tsar Nicholas II, they installed a system called Socialism. It was a wondrous concept, but it was betrayed by their leaders. The leaders, the liberators, gathered power for themselves, eliminating their enemies and controlling the people through the use of propaganda. They fed the commoners and acted only to enrich themselves. The lesson that can be learned from this is simple: absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Even though there are still countries that implement propaganda to control its people, some remain who value truth and freedom. They are usually countries which have known the grip of oppression, who have struggled to free themselves and who have suffered the price of liberation. To these people the truth is important. They know the power the truth carried and the joy it can bring. The truth can often save lives, or ease the lives of others. But, as is true with most things in the world, it also has a negative side. The truth can ruin lives or destroy dreams. As always, Nature seeks balance.
Liberation also brings its own joys and sorrows. Not everyone regards liberation as good. Even the oppressed sometimes resent liberation because they have known nothing but oppression and fear the unknown changes that liberation brings. No-one ever sees liberation in the same way, for Man, in his infinite diversity, always views something in different ways. Some see it as a time of opportunity to better their lives, others hate the changes it brings while some view it with indifference. However, no-one can deny that liberation truly is to the advantage of most oppressed people. It frees the mind from the constraints that previously crippled it, allowing it to roam free and revel in its new-found freedom. However, there is risk as well. One must never allow society to dominate an individual, forcing it to sacrifice itself for the so-called “greater good”. Society is a creature with a life of its own, driven by instinct and attracted to power. But neither must an individual be allowed to gain absolute power, for power corrupts and the circle will begin anew.
The conclusion one can draw from all this is that, even though Mankind is a diverse species, all know the power of truth and liberation. Even oppressors acknowledge it, for why also would they seek to hide the truth and dampen the fires of revolution? One must always remember that a truth, no matter how small, can improve someone’s life or even save it.
We are a free people, living in a free country, and we must do whatever it takes to preserve that freedom. We dare never forget our past, but also live in the present and prepare for the future.
Libertas inaestimabilus rest est.
Liberty is a thing beyond any price.