Saturday, November 30, 2013

What Would Gandhi Do? by Michael Kirby

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

In this inspiring and uplifting short book, Michael Kirby discusses four important issues of today, and speculates on what Gandhi's approach would have been.

I’m quite partial to Penguin Specials. They are short books by eminent authors on a range of subjects. Their portable size means that they can be easily slipped into the pocket and make for a good friend while waiting at the bus stop or taking a break from a busy day. Recently I took Michael Kirby’s What Would Gandhi Do? on a train trip to Ferntree Gully. It made for an uplifting journey.

Michael Kirby, of course, needs no introduction. He was a past Justice of the High Court of Australia and is well known for his work promoting human rights. In What Would Gandhi Do?, Kirby ponders what Gandhi’s response to four pressing issues may have been. He tackles women’s rights, climate change, animal rights and sex and sexuality, all issues close to Kirby’s heart. Hence as you read you wonder how much of this is about Gandhi and how much is about the author. Probably about half and half.

Kirby is really teasing out his own ideas about today's human rights issues through the prism of a revered activist and thinker. He strives for synthesis and common ground with Gandhi. However, on some issues it seems that Gandhi may not have agreed with moderns attitudes to sex and sexuality and perhaps even climate change. Or Gandhi may have had gone off on a different tangent on these moral problems. 

The most wonderful thing about this short book is the clarity and transparency of Kirby’s prose. His ideas are clear and obviously fully thought out before the pen has hit the paper. This book lifted my spirits and made me think about this issues discussed. Kirby is such a generous writer and good communicator I feel sure I would want to read other similar books written by him. What Would Gandhi Do? is an inspiring short read that you will want to pass onto a friend or family member. 

What Would Gandhi Do? Penguin Specials, by Michael Kirby. Published by Penguin. ISBN: 9780143570707  RRP: $9.99