Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Anna Hazare and the “Deathly Hallows”

August 29, 2011
Anna Hazare - The New Saint of India and the awakened Indian Middle Class

Anna Hazare - The New Saint of India and the awakened Indian Middle Class

History was made today. The great Indian democracy had another shining mantelpiece up its wall of fame of self-professed greatness. Anna Hazare and his thousands/millions/billion supporters (real number is unknown so choose your favorite approximation) made the JanLokPal bill a distinct possibility. Raise your glasses to a corruption free India folks- we did it.

As thousands gathered at India Gate to celebrate the historic turn of events in their stonewashed/gunshot denims, holding the tricolor in their manicured hands and getting a tricolor tattoo on their moisturized cheeks and shouting slogans hailing the victory, Mahender a 26 year old was busy logging the hours of the 100 odd laborers who toiled in muddy fields of the construction zone of super luxury apartments just a few tens of miles away from the great Indian Democracy’s victory orgy.

Earning 5500 rupees ($130) a month with zero holidays, zero benefits, zero raises and 12 hours of duty and a verbal employment contract, his job is to log the hours of laborers who earn 4300 rupees ($100) a month for 8 hours’ daily job (rupees 3500 for women = the lowest minimum wage, BTW) with zero holidays, zero raises and zero benefits and of course the ubiquitous verbal contract, Mahender has to support his family back in some god forsaken district of Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

I asked him, what does he reckon of Anna’s movement and more importantly his own future and he stared at me as if I asked him about his opinion on string theory and if the LHC experiment in the Alps would create a micro black hole. “I don’t know, but I think it will be good in the long run”. Here is a citizen of the greatest democracy of the world unsure about it’s second freedom movement and his own future. May be he is not important at all and his opinion should not serve as a dampener in the newfound atmosphere of celebration.

But then, I tend to be dumb and pause and think a little. The JanLokPal and government’s version of LokPal is silent on corporate corruption and now it is clear that the judiciary is also given its much-needed long rope. That should be a good news if you were a CEO looking to mine Bauxites or build an expressway- too bad Steve Jobs quit a day before this wonderful 2nd windfall, err…. independence day!

Indian middle class and upper class and the elite lives in a comfortable denial cocoon of what we subject our “lowly” unskilled, untalented, uneducated citizens to. Mahender and millions of laborers work with zeros (holidays, benefits, raises and even employment contract) each day to make the expressways on which our cars can use cruise control, malls where we can shop till we drop, plush marbled floor apartments with video door phones etc etc. This is the lowest denomination of corporate corruption- direct exploitation of humans (if they are regarded as one in the first place).

Then we have the unquestionable judiciary that always seems to be in congruence with the corporate urge of “development” and routinely finds it absolutely convenient to displace millions with the tiny flick of their mighty pen. In fact India has the world’s largest internally displaced population, that India leads the tally of industrial deaths in the world, that India leads the world tally of unresolved court cases (about 15 million) should speak for its undisputed champion status of corporate malpractices and judicial callousness.

And surprise-surprise, the LokPal bill of any flavor has left these two guys alone. They can’t be bad guys, right? This is the highest common factor of Indian corruption story, while the corporates are free to exploit the human capital, the judiciary is free (as it should be in a democracy) to be acquiescent about creating a Petri-dish where Mahenders can be trans-mutated into indoor heated swimming pools, tolled expressways, large dams, iron mines etc.

What are we celebrating for? For Anna Hazare has finally awakened the nation? Which nation? The nation that holds mombattis as if to taunt the millions of villages’ un-electrified status? The nation that celebrates one homegrown saint’s eating habits where 60% citizens of the same nation eat as much as Africa’s poorest countries?

Are we celebrating that we short circuited the democratic process of creating a bill, just as we like to short circuit the law’s course when caught for a traffic violation and blatantly offer bribes to traffic constables to do an on the spot settlement- you know a fast track justice, something our judiciary loves too – the fast track courts? Look we made great progress, now we have a fast track bill!

The Prime Minister of the world’s greatest democracy says he has no magic wand to cure corruption- may be he is reading Harry Potter a little too much – would explain his invisibility splendidly for he may have been wearing the cloak of invisibility after all!

Everyone, including the PM, agrees that the “whatever” LokPal (prefix, Jan or Dalit or whatever dish you like) bill be, if it does not cure corruption completely- would at the very least halt the juggernaut.

Now, if you are a Harry Potter fan you would know what does not die completely leaves Horcruxes (images of self, protected by black magic) which are extremely hard to find and even harder to destroy. We stand to leave the Corporate Corruption and the Judicial mess as two horcruxes that would forever crush Mahenders and millions others.

I don’t know should I also go to India Gate with a mombatti or should I start looking for the magic wand that the PM has lost, for the Deathly Hallows of corruption are still upon us. The Lord Voldemort, aka great Indian democracy’s corruption will be back.

You are hereby warned!

The “Fast”-ing Track Miracle Cure of Corruption

June 6, 2011

Indian mass is rising. The country is growing impatient towards corruption. The mood is getting increasingly upbeat. We, as a citizen of world’s biggest democracy, do not want corruption. Better, we do not want to tolerate corruption anymore! We will fight all the corrupt with our mass resistance and we will defeat them. That would be the pinnacle of the Indian awakening, the shiniest platitude for the country’s civil society. Anna Hazare’s potent start and Baba Ramdev’s selfless stir would take us there. We are just a stone throw away from the golden era! Let us all make it happen!

The above thoughts make everyone who loves this country feel energized- feel happy- feel optimistic. The government machinery seems to be yielding to the pressure. The light at the end of the tunnel seems seductively near!

So, should I expect the billions of dollars of black money to come back and fuel the economy? So, every village will have roads, every child will have education? No more dead mothers on the labor rooms? Jobs for all? A responsive government working as a vigilante superhero?

I don’t think so.

Not because Anna and Ramdev are corrupt or have their ulterior motives of power, political aspirations etc. Not because the government and the politico are hell bent to cling on to the last drops of power and money through the use of every tricks ranging from cheat and deceit to force.

In my opinion, it will just not happen because the method chosen is gravely wrong.

We grew up reading stories of good vs bad as children. We aged over watching Bollywood flicks of good over bad. Naturally, mentally we indulge in this good over bad role-play at all times. I am sure you are on the good side, just as I am, just as anyone else is.

But I am a corrupt guy. Well educated, well mannered, well to do, well established- but corrupt for sure! I have routinely fudged my small bills here and there just to save some bits and scraps of income tax. I buy stuff from shops and never insist on receipts- ensuring the shopkeeper can indulge into the same tax invasion. I have paid bribes in hundreds of places- a corrupt selfish act. So, am I corrupt? Hell yes! With more money at my disposal, I probably would get more corrupt.

How about you? Can you stake your reputation on the fact that if someone dug up your life, you will come perfectly clean? And here we are- you and I hoping that keeping a few days’ fast would eradicate the malice?

I said that this method is wrong, that the method of eradicating corruption is far tougher than what we perceive. By supporting Ramdev or Anna is like fast-food- it quenches the hunger but does not make us healthy. It makes hardly an appreciable difference. Why? Because till the time you queue up to vote and vote the guy just on the merits of your religion or caste all you are buying into is nepotism and hope of a favor from your own kind- a recipe for corruption. And then you make the redoubling mistake of backing a non-representative group to correct a representative group. It’s like hiring your driver to chasten your father!

Till the time we hope that the “other-than-state-actors” that we are backing are selfless and expect an undemocratic movement can autocorrect and bring about a golden tomorrow, our hopes are as meritorious as finding men on Mars tomorrow.

Bottomline, there is no reason to be disgusted of our politico as they are our reflections. They are corrupt because you and I are corrupt. They do not want to change because we do not want to change. And because we do not want to change, we want a magical solution that Baba Ramdev will get us there- without us making an effort. So, lets support this movement because “at-least-it-will-achieve-something-good”. Ironic is the case that we are fasting to make a point, as if the million odd deaths in this country for lack of food each year were not good enough to make a point.

Thanks to our ways, we love escapism and any promise of it. If there was a pill that could eradicate corruption, I believe we would totally take it. Baba Ramdev is surely a hope. For he can cure all kinds of cancer through Yoga…for he can make your hairs grow prescribing you just to rub your nails…for he can turn gays to straight by Yoga. He is my favorite for inventing that “anti-corruption pill”. But even if he invented that pill, it would still not work.

Why?

Because we can’t eat!

We are on a “fast-unto-death” deal- remember?

The remedy is there, we can’t take it. What a shame!

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

Arundhati’s Azadi from Sedition on Kashmir…

December 9, 2010

Eden Gardens, Kolkata has the most fanatic cricket fans of India. They cheer the loudest, they worship the players and they just love to scare the foreign teams with their numerical mass of 110 thousand lungs’ cumulative vocal capacity. On 25th Nov 2005 it was a different story. Sourav Ganguly, Kolkata’s biggest sporting icon for decades, was not picked for the Indian squad and Rahul Dravid led – Gregg Chappell coached India went down to the South Africans to a humiliating 10-wicket defeat!

What was extraordinary was the crowd reaction. The crowd cheered the fall of each Indian wicket. They danced and sang when Smith butchered the Indian bowling to notch up a violent century. To the naïve, who do not understand the dynamics of the times and are not aware of Kolkata’s relation with the game and Sourav, would hastily conclude that it was an unpatriotic gesture from Kolkata.

Question is, should we consider Eden Garden’s response on Nov 25th as unpatriotic, as un-Indian and most of all as seditious? Well, they openly cheered the South Africans above their own country. Isn’t that a case enough to book the Eden Garden’s capacity crowd for sedition? Since the capacity crowd cannot be booked, should we not book Sourav Ganguly for sedition, for inciting the mob to become seditious by playing pathetic cricket in 2005 and therefore not earning a call for Indian squad?

Obviously, the above argument is ridiculous but what I do not understand is how come we do not find it ridiculous that Arundhati Roy is being booked for sedition then? She is not the first person who has voiced her opinion for Kashmir’s Azadi. She is not the root cause why there is a cry for Azadi in Kashmir at the first place. She did not incite anyone to go and fight the Indian military for seeking Azadi. She just said what she believed – exercising her fundamental right of freedom of speech. Where the hell sedition comes into picture then?

Before I proceed any further, lets set the perimeters for this blog. This blog is not about if Kashmir should get the Azadi or not. This blog is not about is Kashmir an integral part of India or not. This blog is simply about should we support Indian state for booking Arundhati for sedition for speaking for Kashmir’s Azadi. I feel we are grossly misplaced by slapping a sedition charge on Arundhati Roy.

Arundhati Roy

Everyone has a right to their opinion and a right to express that opinion. The Indian constitution recognizes this as your fundamental right to free speech through article 19. Sedition is defined in the Section 124A of Indian Penal Code. Click the links to see the contents of these two immutable bases on which the rest of the blog hinges heavily.

Now, lets examine if Arundhati Roy’s speech at the LTG Auditorium in New Delhi on the Azadi Conference really amounted to sedition? Watch the video of Arundhati speaking in that conference.

When I hear this video log and then I look at sedition’s definition in IPC, I start to feel baffled. I hear Arundhati say “People have to look at more than direct confrontation techniques on the streets”, “There is more to resistance than throwing stones, these things cannot be allowed to happen”, “React politically, tactically, internationally”, “Justice for all”, “Justice is the keystone to integrity and integrity is the keystone to resistance”.  She is not a politician so I would like to believe she meant what she said.

These are not the words of an anti-national delinquent mob inciter either, who is out to spread hatred and animosity among people by urging them to take extreme measures of violence or any anti national activity. She is just echoing the dominant sentiment of the valley of Kashmir, which is clearly Azadi, but urges the movement to do a good introspection so that a just community can be synthesized out of this shipwreck of a situation. What is seditious in that?

Many of the folks have tried to dismiss her as an “attention seeker” and some even labeled her “vying for nobel peace prize” and all such preposterous comments. Arundhati Roy was recognized as one of the 30 most inspiring women worldwide by Forbes. Her erudition and her charismatic writing need no medallions from me. So, tagging a persona like her as an “attention seeker” is pretty juvenile.

Indian government has sent 3 interlocutors to the valley of Kashmir. These people are supposed to meet all voices of Kashmir- separatist, pro-Azadi folks, terrorists included. In other words, the state is in dialogue with the seditious thoughts anyway. One visit to Kasmir will tell anyone that Kashmir wants freedom-Azadi. It is a state with probably the world’s biggest military mobilization. The people strangled with security measures and lockdowns just want to break free. 2010’s summer struggle in Kashmir was different. It was a peaceful non-cooperation movement that shook the Indian government. Most importantly now you see the Kashmiri youth towing a different line. The difference in swing is so much evident that people like Mirwaiz are traveling all over the country trying to tell people what does Azadi mean. It’s a conscious approach to reach out and open roads for reconciliation. In this atmosphere Arundhati’s speech is nothing but another drop in the ocean, why pick on her selectively?

One problem is our own mindset. Someone told us that in India we would not tolerate any dialogue, however reasonable and peaceful, about Kashmir. It was a part of India, it is a part of India and it will be a part of India come what may. I find this a pretty lame argument. 30 years on this planet, I have seen borders redrawn with a mathematical certainty. Yugoslavia suffered a huge dismemberment, so did Checkoslovakia, Russia broke into god knows how many pieces, Germany became unified… Back home you got states like Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Chattisgarh…. There is no boundary for creating new boundaries. So Kashmir status is surely under the ambits of discussion.

Question is who will decide that? You and me are not important. It is the people of Kashmir who should be deciding. If the dominant sentiment of Kashmir is pro-Azadi, then it is worthwhile to talk about it. Arundhati Roy, did just that.

What I find funny is while in our country we have given free tickets to guys like Thackerays (and all the sons, nephews, grandsons etc), Togadias, Varun Gandhis, Modis etc to create excellent resumes of preaching violence, hatred, intolerance, hate-crimes, we turn on soft targets like Arundhati for speaking for a legitimate cause. Come on, Mumbai did not burn for 3 days after Arundhati was slapped with sedition- try it with Thackerays and see what happens.

Writers, artists and activists of international repute are the beacons of the pathways to a better tomorrow. Silencing them and gagging them with violence is bad and we can denounce the narrow mentality of the violence-mongers. But when the state assumes that duty with its stately repertoire dangling on your throats, it is terrifying- a sure shot sign of deep rots for an intolerant correction resistant monolithic tomorrow.

Lets end where we started. 5 years later the fateful seditious November evening, on Feb 18th 2010, the same Eden Garden roared like crazy when Harbhajan Singh took a late 5-wicket haul to seal the test match against the South Africans. It was the usual Eden Garden where the last few Proteas batsmen lost their nerves and got out to Harbhajan as much to the delirious cacophonic crowd. Just the patriotic sports-loving Kolkata you would expect.

I would like to end on this note for I believe that the higher courts will trash these insane charges and we will again celebrate the compassionate and rational views of the nation’s one of the most prolific daughters. It will be Arundhati’s Azadi from Sedition on Kashmir…..

Howzzzthaattt!!!!

Sedition Everywhere.....I could be tried for writing this blog, you for reading it.....

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

Ayodhya Verdict: An Atheist’s View

October 1, 2010

So, yesterday was some sort of a watershed day in Indian history. Yes, we finally solved the cosmic riddle of what came first, the egg or the chicken? And not only we solved a question of great importance, we also created a great compromise formula that in one stroke made a great broth of archaeology, mythology, philosophy, law and religion. This “juggad” genius is only possible in India, a great country with the mother of all contradictions.

The honorable High Court has found out conclusive evidence that Lord Rama was born in Ayodhya, precisely under the dome of the now razed Babri Masjid. The court has also decreed that since neither the defendants and the plaintiffs could produce enough evidence that ascertains the property rights; it is best to split up the land.

Logically, you may think that it would be a two way split, right? Wrong!

There is Lord Rama embodied by Nirmohi Akhada that makes a magical entry to make it a three way split of the pot. Unfortunately poor Allah has no idols, shape, size etc, so there you go- you pay for your own handicap, no extra shares!

Those who think that the court has been unfair by making it a three way split; let me point out that the court has been extremely considerate. Lord Rama has had more than a thousand incarnations or avatars and it was extremely intelligent of the court not to consider the thousand other claimants. To me it sounds a little unfair on those hapless Avatars who will have to wait for other controversy riddled structures to get a real estate on their own names.

From now on mythology is admissible in the Indian courts as conclusive evidence to otherwise hard to find solutions. After all we regularly use one court case to strengthen the argument for another and now we can argue based on mythology too. And now mythological characters have gotten a historical cast. The day is not far when someone can claim to be a descendant of Lord Rama and puts a claim forward. The defendant would not be able to disprove the family lineage, and the plaintiff would not be able to prove it either. So, more divisions are in the offing?

Another question is how far back should we look to put the wrongs to right? Now we have looked 500 years. If we consider that Indian courts can now admit 5-century throwbacks, we are in serious jeopardy. Now if tomorrow I purchase a piece of land anywhere in India, should I be looking at a 500-year’s timeline to get NOCs from all parties? Clearly having property tax receipts and documentation of modern India has not been a conclusive evidence of property ownership in this case.

And one lesson learned is do not allow anyone to keep their belongings at your home, lest their children and grandchildren sue your progeny that the property belongs to them. On a December night of 1949, some people put in Ram’s idol in the Masjid and see that got them the land in 60 years time. Now here is the proof that wait bears sweet fruits. I am throwing the umbrella a fitter had forgotten a few weeks back at my home. Why take risks?

All this brings me to the final question. Why is everybody so happy? Why is that everyone so glad that a great compromise formula has been found and now the much famed reconciliation process may begin? Has India really a changed from 1992? Has the young generation got over this mandir-masjid issue?

Everyone who wanted a grand Ram mandir is happy. So, the right wing of India is extremely happy. It’s a windfall. Now the resplendent temple is a reality! Everyone who has had any mistrust, preconceived alienation for the minority community is happy, for the judgment is a reflection of their own beliefs. Compromise in justice is a great excuse for not accepting the truth. We live in a state of denial about our constant suppression of the minorities- citing we are a democracy. The young generation may not have anything to do with mandir-masjid but the denial and the alienation is still present. This judgment appeals to that splendidly.

Yes India has become a matured democracy. See, there were no rioting, no feverish saber rattling, chest thumping and inflammatory comments. Lets congratulate each other and pat our own backs. I do not kid myself with this thought for I know if the verdict were against the right wing majority, the country would have been torn apart again. Peace will prevail as long as the majority is satisfied and that is exactly what has happened today.

Now the matter would go to the Supreme Court. What do I expect? Another judgment that fails to distinguish between mythology and history, archaeology and scenario fulfillment, evidence and majority belief? Don’t worry no mater what, we will remain a mature democracy, like we are today.

Religion and Superstition: Brothers in Arms

August 21, 2006

It was 21st September 1995.
I was in standard Xth and it was a very important day of my life.
I was pedaling my Hero Ranger bicycle hard through the busy streets of Patna, as I had to appear in front of an elite panel of professors at the science centre.
They had already scrutinized a thousand or so essay entries for a competition whose 3 winners would rub shoulders with other state level winners in a national total solar eclipse camp at Alwar on Oct 24th 1995.
My entry was selected and I was to appear for the interview, along with 25 odd other hopefuls, which would ascertain whether I could go on to see the total solar eclipse.
So, it was an important day.

As I navigated through the clogged streets, I saw a strange event unfold.
All the mandirs were swarming with a huge crowd and the scene was repeated in all the mandirs on the way, no exceptions. I did not have enough time to inspect what it was all about. I was perfectly aware that it was not a day of festivities. It oddly looked a few devotees too many for it being an inauspicious day of the calendar.

Later that day, when I rejoiced at being selected for representing my state at the national total solar eclipse camp, did the news of Ganesha idols ‘drinking’ milk all over the country lit up all the news carrying fraternities across the country. All the mediums reported the frenzied public reaction which bordered from it being christened as an act of the god, a divine intervention in the lives of all, to a definitive and conclusive evidence of it being the eternal yet a boilerplate act of supernatural miracle, which only the omnipotent God can dish out.

I was stunned.
I just could not believe how can a stone idol ‘drink’ milk?
I was absolutely positive that this news could not be true. Either it was a part of a well planned mass hysteria, which had led people to see what they wanted to see, or if it indeed happened, then it could be explained by scientific theories.

However, with in days of this miraculous event, the scientific fraternity had found out that this was a simple case of surface tension and capillary action, which created nation wide ruffles. But I remained frustrated. This was because whenever I discussed this phenomenon with my friends, they all would solemnly pledge that it was a divine miracle. The arguments were grotesque.
“How can you explain that only on ‘that’ day all the idols started ‘drinking’ milk?”
“Why only Ganesha idols drank milk?”
When confronted with the scientific facts, the last resort was quite nasty….
“No matter what science says, it was and it will be a divine incident, don’t you dare question it at all….”

Its deja-vu to me. Do not question the religion or else…..
Galileo questioned the divine theory of geocentric universe and had to pay for his ‘sins’ with his life, courtesy the church. Kepler introduced the concept of elliptical orbits for heavenly bodies but that was met with serious dispute as it did not agree with the religious portraits of a uniform and perfect universe because an ellipse is not as ‘perfect’ as the circle is. Even recently we had witnessed the pope ejaculate his wisdom of sex leading to cancer and AIDS. Also we had heard the Vatican declare that the scientists can embark on the mission of finding out the true fabric of the universe but its better to leave the concepts of its origin to the hands of divine superpowers.

So, the history is awash with examples which elucidate with remarkable ease that the religion has always posed as an adversary to the nature of free enquiry and research that asks fundamental questions. In other words, the custodians of the religions want us to be what they want us to be. Its better not to embarrass them with new discoveries, which would erode the mass base of the divine superpower believers and hence would land a body blow to their own powers.

We, the human beings have always believed in superpowers from the heaven. The time when the civilization was in its infancy and science and technology was practically non existent, these superpowers were the only solace to the bewildered human beings who suffered from virtually every element of nature. The result: human beings saw gods in rains, in sun, in boulders, in trees, in diseases, in animals, in fire, in primitive instruments, in stars…almost everything which either eased the human life or tortured it, was a god of some kind.

Then came the complexity when the division of labor implied setting up of different industries. Man discovered agriculture, farming, animal husbandry, pottery, gaming, weaving, administration and religious custodians. As the science was not developed enough, people turned to the religion for answers of the unknown. This made the religious custodians powerful.

At times their solutions hit the nail on its head and the mass base of belief grew. However, the next day another man could describe the phenomenon in scientific language and propose a better solution. This was a dangerous situation. If the unknown man’s theory gains popularity, the powerful cease to exist. So he has to be gagged. And that was done more often than not. Result: – The religion kept towing the old lines of thought. Over time, this baggage grew to a huge size and all its artifacts were antiquated theories and practices with little or no tangible benefits vis-à-vis the new technology era. The tangible effects came from the most enterprising source, the man himself.

There came many great men and philanthropist of their times who had a profound effect in the lives of many. They were normal human beings with much more empathy for others and they attracted a good many followers. As the great man passed away, the legacy remained. Curiously, at times, the legacy kept augmenting. The greatness and the nobility were replaced by mythical testimonials of miracles and supernatural powers. Thus the noble human being turned into a saint, a prophet and was propelled to the higher orbits to join the other numerous superpowers. The rest was the same. There was a similar kind of custodian group, which kept towing the old lines for centuries and centuries. Any question about the divinity was a taboo.

Tomorrow we may very well see a new cult for Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa, where people would claim that they could bring men back from the cadaverous state by their healing touch: – pretty much the same as it is said for many godmen and prophets. The custodians propagate the message that its better to be led by the path set by prophets and saints and godmen who lived centuries ago and still believe that’s the best way of life. Any new change would make the old principles and doctrines null and void and there is no scope of updation as the custodians themselves are lesser mortals compared to the superpowers and hence find themselves incapable to carry out any modifications to existing doctrines.

This germinates the seed of superstition. Fuelled by lack of free enquiry, rigid old doctrines which are considered gospels and outclassing the radical thoughts as blasphemy, the religious lines become a supermarket of superstitions. In these supermarkets of superstition and divinity: the palmists, numerologists, vastu-shashtris, zodiac sign readers, miracle healers, occultists, fortune tellers, thought readers et al open their souvenir shops and do brisk business. Scientific temper peters out.

Religion is big business. Look at the huge mandirs that have come up in recent past. The Akshar Dham Mandir in Delhi, an endeavor that costed over 1000 crores. Siddhi Vinayak of Mumbai is poised to sport a 100 kg gold ornamentation. Tirupate Balaji receives over a 1000 crores as alms every year. Our godmen are big business tycoons. Swami Ramdev’s Divya Yoga Ashram is a multi million dollar enterprise. So is the ashram of Sai Baba of Puttaparthy. It’s true that divinity does sell.

However, the only way to keep people hooked up to this economically potent industry is through coming up with mega publicity stunts. The incident of 21st September 1995 was once again repeated on Augest 19th 2006. Results were identical. No matter what amount of education has percolated into the society, we still remain in the blind superstitions of religion and remain fancied to the dictum of ‘no questions asked’.

Even we suppress the innocent child’s queries. We tell our children not to question the religious ethics. I remember a toddler attracting a strong rebuke from his mother when he saw certain similarities in goddess Durga with an octopus, probably because both have multiple limbs.

Apart from superstitions, this closed door policy of little or no change, fans the communal fire and intolerance too. Add a bit of political gimmick to it and you have a lethal cocktail, almost comparable with bollywood’s favorite combination of sex and violence which sells everywhere, from mega cities to hamlets.

Religion, itself is a great anchoring concept. Something that can bring about a feeling of relief and justice to many. Something which can root people facing adverse situations in life. Its one of the most complex socio-psychological fabric of the society.

The problem is not with the religion itself. The guardian angles and the custodians are the people who have turned it into a static cesspool of rotting old ideas and customs. It makes us superstitious, weak, and resistant to free thinking and impedes scientific temperament. As long as we the citizens keep a blind faith towards our age old religious doctrines and refuse to imbibe scientific temper by free enquiry, we will remain as one of the most superstitious being living on this planet.

As a famous philosopher had once pointed out: “If people attribute everything that they do not understand to the divinity, there will be no end to the divine things.”

Till that time comes, lets rush to the nearest milk booth and then let the idols drink the milk or better lets rush to the sea and collect the ‘divinely sweetened sea water’, and lets get drunk with superstitions and utter religious prayers in dillirium.
A Men !!!

Does science and technology dictate the ethics or is it the other way round?

August 16, 2006

Ever since the last primate broke the evolutionary trend and embraced the bipedal stance, the primitive man emerged into this otherwise humdrum planet perpetually locked in Sun’s gravitational force, situated at the far end of the milkyway galaxy’s spiral arm amidst 400 billion other stars.

This new species was unique for its quite insatiable hunger for more and more knowledge. With more knowledge came the awakening that it needed to remain in herds so as to escape the ferocious saber tooth tigers or the marauding mammoths or other perils lurking in the forests. Social life came into picture.

But there was something unusual about this social life when compared to the other species. There was an inordinate stress on drowning the aggression towards the same species and individual domination (typically by the large males) was replaced by collective ruling.

This is not seen in any animal societies. This not only reduced the volume of same species’ murder but it also instilled further confidence in the lesser strong individuals about their role and security in the community.

Gradually, as the different sects of the species collated predominantly under different geographical regions, local communities and clans emerged. These clans had mutually exclusive social habits and that remained the cornerstone of their identity. Coupled with the urge of protecting the clan’s exclusive rituals and the need for a uniform decorum for a peaceful co-existence, somewhere rose the first Sun of ethics in the society. The individuals were bound to the clans as long as they would comply with these ethical conducts.

Thus the society learnt the concept of ethics and community laws which later amplified as legalities of the society.

On the other hand, as the society was developing and ethos being worked out, the primitive man had also embarked on the journey of science and technology which would eventually take the man to the space age one day.

This new aid to the human life, the science and technology, added new dimensions to the societal ethics. For instance, during the early days when the man had just learnt to harness the fire, it was extremely important to keep the fire burning. Thus, in many societies keeping the flame alive was an important activity and that gradually gravitated to the basket of work ethics of the man. In the same way, the advancements in garmentation led to the ethics of who wears what and when.

However, the change induced by any science and technological breakthrough was not always music to the ears to all. It meant that existing ethics and laws be viewed under new light and sometimes get discarded; not an easy proposition. This put continuous strain in the social fabric as new ethics would eat up the older ones and at times that would transpire as a potential threat to an existing power group.

When Ptolemy’s principle of geocentric universe was challenged by Gallelio in 17th century, it created a major ruffle in the flanks of the church, which was at that point of time the guardian body of all ethical and religious believes. Galileo’s theory contradicted the erstwhile myopia of the church which believed that the Earth was the centre of all actions of the universe. It took a lot of time and effort and also involved human cost (Galileo’s death) before this basic scientific fact could be assimilated into the contemporary ethics of the society.

Today we might be bewildered as to what made such a simple principle to gain acceptance with so much fuss but the fact remains that almost all major scientific and technological advancements have demanded heavy price from the ‘then existing’ ethics, which many a times the custodians, be it the church or the government or even common masses, find difficult to expend.

The question is, has our civilization reached a state where we can safely conclude that the existing ethics would keep existing? To agree to this proposition would be synonymous to agree with the statement that we would not be introduced to any new path breaking discovery in the future. This is obviously a ridiculous thing to believe. Today the human kind stands at a juncture where from now on the possibilities are immense.

The previous inventions, discoveries and technology augmentations were the basic building blocks and today we stand at a platform where the mankind can truly ride the seat of the creator and achieve feats that till now we thought only the God (if there exists any such God) could.

Let’s take a small case. The ancient Egyptians had invented the first birth control mechanism. The idea was to use a small cotton strip during sexual intercourse which would soak up all the semen and hence we can call it the first crude condom. The idea of using birth control mechanisms were made popular in 20th century, but not before its share of hue and cry. Even today many countries have legal penalties should you be caught using such a measure. The same happened with abortion. As soon as the technology was perfected, it gained its share of popularity and also its share of denouncements. In early days women used to object to having scissorian deliveries as it was ‘against God’.

Nowadays it’s absolutely prevalent to stick to birth control measures, have a scissorian delivery or if certain circumstances demand, an abortion is not a taboo. So, we see that if the technology is available and is viable and that if it can fend of the problems associated with the human life, no matter what amount of denouncement happens, it will finally be used. And since it will be used by a huge population, it will percolate to the ethics. Or is it so?

The technology for cloning is available for a while now. However, human cloning is banned in all countries. So is the technology for embryonic stem cells. Also now we have the biotechnology that can determine whether or not a woman is susceptible to breast cancer, but we are not using this information in determination of life insurance cover or employment fitment. We have issued blanket ban on these technologies as these stand directly in the path of our existing ethics. But the question is for how long this can sustain.

It possible to take the genetic code of a father and plant an embryo in his daughter’s womb. This will create a clone of the father in his own daughter’s womb. The question is will it amount to incest? Won’t the daughter herself be the mother of the father? From technological standpoint, it has no problems, but has profound ethical implications.

So which is the dominant force? The technology? Or the ethics?
Historical evidence suggests that technology would finally have the last laugh. The 12 kilo tonne Uranium bomb dropped in Hiroshima killed 130 thousand people. It was not that the scientists were ignorant of its destruction capability, still the technology prevailed over ethics and the collateral damage was 130 thousand lives and many more due to the radioactivity. However one can argue that after one stint of madness, no one has used the nuclear arsenal on humanity, so the ethics seem to be winning. But will they eventually?

A century back there were a lot of issues that were considered unethical which we have taken in our stride nowadays. Who knows, tomorrow we might even be into a worlds where active human cloning could be done to save lives, genetic architects would decide what color you baby’s eyes would have, insurance companies would get your complete genetic profile and decide whether or not you could be medically insured, biotechnological wombs would replace the need of child carrying in womenfolk……

All these could then be perfectly ethical and the beings of those days could very well look down upon us for considering these technologies as unethical, quite the same way we do to the 17th century church for not accrediting Galileo……….


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