Inclusive vs exclusive

Synopsis : The world needs to be more inclusive in order to have justice and equality for all irrespective of the race, creed, color , sex or religion so that we can make progress. The concept of exclusivity has no longer any meaning because the word has moved on from the colonial past and is more interconnected than ever.

Inclusive vs exclusive

https-%2f%2fcdn-evbuc-com%2fimages%2f26961499%2f9185071561%2f1%2foriginal                                                              Source : Google photo

We see now a days a rise in the xenophobia around the world. It is defined as the intense and irrational fear of people from other countries or people who are not like you. This is seen to influence the rise of certain political parties in Europe, the United States and elsewhere that some politicians are finding easier to galvanize people with xenophobic tendencies to vote them into power.

These tendencies never totally disappear but wait for an opportunity to resurface from time to time with dire consequences in terms of prohibition on freedom for all, freedom of expression, press freedom, basic rights for all, transparency in the government, accountability of the elected officials and free trade and participation in the world community on the basis of fair trade and fair arbitration of disputes based on international rule of law.

We have seen the resurgence of xenophobia in various countries from time to time but often such tendencies are defeated by the force of good and common sense that usually prevail and curtail such tendencies although never totally eliminate them.

I will now try to understand why such hateful tendencies re surface and what makes people xenophobic in the first place.

We should try to understand the reasons first and then analyze the pernicious effects of the rise of such vile feelings in human beings who are otherwise called the normal God-fearing people.

I wanted to read Mein Kamph by Hitler to understand his point of view and what made his party rise to power that finally led to the Second World War and the destruction of Germany. It is a big book of over 750 pages and a lot of it covers the personal rants and biases of Adolf Hitler but it also mentions the cause of his rise to power.

The First World War was totally devastating to Germany as we all know but we need not get into who started it and why but concentrate on the Versailles treaty that the victors forced Germany to accept that included severe penalties and massive war reparations that Germany had to pay to some countries that were involved in the war.

This led to poverty and joblessness in Germany that reeled under the terms of the treaty and sought a way out but couldn’t. It also created massive discontent in Germany where people thought that the treaty was very unfair to them and they were forced to suffer under it.

Adolf Hitler was shrewd enough to  realize that he had a chance to  mobilize this anger of the German people to his advantage and formed his party .At first very few people showed up at his meetings to listen to his proclamations but that changed when his friends like Hess came to join him and organized the meetings better.

Many like-minded people joined him and took over the management of his party, recruitment of cadres and collection of money needed to fund the activities. There were people who had tremendous skills in propaganda that the new party needed to reach millions of people but everything centered around Adolf Hitler who had the charisma and the oratory skills needed to bring people together at his well-organized meetings and vast gatherings at Nuremberg and elsewhere in Germany.

This seething anger of being treated unfairly after the first world war made people join Hitler’s party in millions who saw in Adolf Hitler hope in making a Germany proud again and solve its many problems.  It is of no use going into details of the failed policies of the Nazi Germany and its consequences but we should not neglect to see why a cornered cat fights to death as Hitler did.

We should not also neglect the fact that no country wants a war and considers it the last resort when all else fails because war means the destruction of the country and its people like what happened in Europe. Hitler at first tried to make peace and sent numerous peace proposals to various countries that were allied against him but he failed. His close associates tried to assassinate him many times but failed and his second in command Hess went to England flying his plane to offer peace but we all know what happened to him.

It is fair to say that xenophobia that Hitler espoused against the Jews, the minorities, gypsies and others had their roots in the German psyche that Hitler only needed to provoke to his advantage so ordinary Germans like clerks, accountants and office workers became the ruthless killers who ran the concentration camps gunning down innocent people while smoking and laughing.

We know that Hitler came to power by organizing his party base and through legal means of elections and winning a large number of seats in the German parliament because German people felt that the elected officials had failed them so they wanted change.

The modern day scenario:  

We now come to the modern age of politics in many countries where we see the rise of political parties that reminds me of the Hitlerian days when he was able to rouse the rabble into a frenzy with his hate speeches and ranting against almost everybody with his real or imaginary complaints and offered solutions that were outlandish and perhaps unworkable in the short or long run. But enough people believed in him to make him a dictator that he became.

One must not underestimate the power the unwashed, lowly educated and poorly informed people have when their votes are counted and found to be a force to be reckoned with. They feel that the government has passed them by and has given unfair advantages to immigrants and foreigners who have benefited from the government largesse so they show their anger through their votes for a person who promises to correct all wrongs done to them.

This eruption of xenophobia among a certain class of people in the United States and in Europe is a reaction to how they feel they are treated and how they are ignored by their government although this reaction is not totally based on reality but rather based on dark bias based emotions that hinder clarity of view.

They do not understand that their poverty and deterioration of their standard of living has less to do with the inept government and more to do with the advent of modern era of free trade under ILO rules and high educational levels of the younger generation and immigrants, high degree of volatility in the job market dictated by the worldwide competition in manufacturing etc. and the speed of the new technologies that are making it possible to do outsourcing.

They do not understand that there are forces beyond their control or the control of their elected officials to reverse this tsunami of technological changes that affects every aspect of our lives these days.

The whole world is interdependent now and the trade and commerce do not depend on unilateral decisions made in London or Washington any more like in the old days but rather on bilateral or multilateral agreements that are worked out over long period of time in painstaking details that cannot be abrogated without serious consequences.

They do not understand that blaming everybody else for their woes does not alter anything no matter how many glib talks are made by a populist politician who only makes promises to please a certain voter base but who does not offer concrete plans or solutions.

The xenophobia leads to isolation that leads to more trouble for any country than they can handle. Just ask North Korea what it has gained with its isolation from the rest of the world and what it could potentially gain if they only came out of their isolation and join the rest of the world community.

Ask Albania or East Germany what they gained in all the years they isolated themselves from the rest of the world and what they have gained by becoming free and democratic and taken their rightful place now. So xenophobia does no good to any country or people who blame others for their trouble just because they fail to understand how the modern world works.

All countries look to their self-interest which is to promote employment for their people and improve their living standard by exporting manufactured goods to bring in revenues but that cannot be done at the expense of creating trade imbalance in their favor.

Now we see the rise of this tendency of us vs them in the United States and also in Europe that is facing severe pressure due to the incoming refugees fleeing their war devastated homelands. There are severe cross cultural issues as well due to the influx of the refugees who are of different religions and who fail to assimilate into their adopted societies.

At such times people easily forget that immigrants have always been assets to any country that has taken them and where they have added significantly to the economy by paying taxes and creating a solid consumer base that encourages growth of all sectors.

Without the immigrants, the crops rot in their fields, manufacturing jobs suffer and houses remain unbuilt. They build roads, bridges, schools and hospitals. They build dams and airports and maintain them. They teach your children in schools and they look after the sick and disabled through healthcare. They carry your mail and deliver goods in trucks all over the country. Some of these immigrants come legally and others in other ways possible but they all contribute to the economy one way or the other.

So unilateralism has no place in the world we live in now because we all depend on each other. Now more than ever we see the growth of tourism worldwide that injects billions of dollars into the economy of many countries and creates jobs for untold millions. This has given rise to the growth of airlines, hotels and related services worldwide. Medical tourism has been growing rapidly because sick people go to other countries where they get better but cheaper healthcare than in their own country.

The foreign students attending numerous colleges and universities in the United States contribute  billions of dollars to the education sector .It is happening in many countries that offer good education to a rising and more aspiring middle class that can afford to send their children for higher education abroad.

The new world order :   

We have seen the result of the efforts made by the world leaders to promote growth in their economy by making it easier to do business in their country so many foreign companies build factories in those countries where they are given some tax breaks and other facilities. This way they create jobs locally and then export their products.

Many models of cars that are sold here in the Philippines are made in Thailand or in India or other countries that provide them a trained pool of workers and at competitive wages. Similarly many garments sold in Europe are made in Cambodia or Bangladesh where the labor costs are lower and the workers very skilled.

In many African countries you will find massive infrastructure development made possible through aid from China or Japan. In return they get access to minerals they need for their own factories.

Now there is a rail connection from China all the way to Europe on the ancient silk road that is changing the history of trade in the world. The trade is flowing in both directions at a lower cost and faster than before which is bringing in prosperity to all the countries in the route in an unprecedented way.

India is building a highway all the way to Vietnam for the goods to be transported speedily between countries along the way which has tremendous positive impact on the trade between countries. Ethiopia has a new tram system, a new rail link to Djibouti and new hydropower  dams just to name a few , all done by the Chinese who are investing there heavily.

This is the world we live in. This cooperation between the countries will increase and not decrease in the future benefitting all parties concerned. Now just imagine if some politician comes along and says America first or Germany first then all it does is to throw a monkey wrench into the works and the countries retaliate. No one country rich or poor can afford to make such unilateral decisions that affect the economy of other countries.

The only solution is to be a part of the world community and promote growth of the economy at home and aboard through cooperation and not confrontation.

No one can remain exclusive and survive so the word inclusive is the key to success. It has always been so and will remain so.

 

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A dog called Levko

Synopsis : He was a very good dog who was loyal, protective and took no nonsense from any one or any dog. He was aggressive to anyone he did not like including feral cats. He gave us a lot of joy while he lived. I miss him

levko-on-guard

Our dog Levko

Once we had a dog called Levko. He was a German Shepherd and had the personality and temperament of a pure breed meaning he was a good guard dog and did not take any nonsense from any dog in the neighborhood who were terrified of him and gave him wide berth.

He came to us as a puppy but even then he showed the maid who was teasing him that no one should mess with him and promptly bit her hand. We were getting tired of this worthless maid so Levko helped us get rid of her.

Levko did many good things while he was with us . He was kept inside the outhouse  so he could not get out but made plenty of noise when a thief came in one night and stole something by cutting the wire mesh screen of the window. Had he been outside, I am sure the thief would have come to grief.

As Levko grew up , his ears stood up in a true German Shepherd way and his coat got shiny and mottled with gold and black .He was a big dog by now and fearsome to strangers .We had to warn our visitors not to approach Levko because he just did not like anyone and growled from behind the steel gate.

But keeping a dog like Levko meant a lot of work for us. We had to give him a shampoo bath frequently that he loved. I had to prepare his meal by picking all the sharp bones of the chicken head and mix it with rice and warm it up because he liked his meal warm. I had to make sure that he always had a bucketful of clean water to drink and kept the lanai area clean of dog poop and flushed it with water often.

But our  new maid was lazy and did not prepare his meal properly and did not give him bath so he got a lot of ticks, lost some weight and suffered so one day we sent the maid home and took over the care of Levko, got rid of his ticks and soon his coat became shiny and he rapidly gained weight.

He was a very loving dog and understood many words. When he made a lot of noise, I had to say Levko  go inside  and he would promptly go inside the dog house which is actually an outhouse we never use in the lanai and stayed there until let out. He was always from then on fed on time in the evening but one day we were delayed due to something  so Levko banged his dinner plate to let us know  that it was past his feeding time.

The feral cats that did not take Levko seriously learned to their grief that they should not have messed with him because one day he got a cat up the tree and sat there making sure that the cat stayed there. Now the cat was in big trouble and could not get away for a long time until Levko got tired of the game and wandered away. The result was that the cats stayed away from our house from then on because they never knew what Levko would do to them if he ever got hold of them so they did not like to take any risk.

One day a fellow who had a female German Shepherd brought her to Levko so that he may mate but Levko became so furious that the poor bitch went away with her tail between her legs wondering perhaps if she was not pretty enough.  We often wondered at his lack of interest in any dog male or female and put it down to his aggressive personality. It is a pity because we were sure he could have made very good looking pure breed puppies if giving the bitch half a chance but Levko would have none of it.

The thieves also learned of his ferocious nature and knew that he was a terrific guard dog who was not chained and roamed freely at the backside of our house so they avoided our house.

One day we found him barking but sitting pretty in the lanai so went to see what he was barking at . Levko had cornered a snake about three feet long  and blackish in color who was having a terrible time trying to get away from this monstrous dog. I am sure the poor snake had never seen anything so big and fearsome in its mundane snake life and was terribly afraid. I had to convince Levko with soothing words that he should let the poor snake go who did not mean any harm to him so finally he let the snake go to its great relief and it never ventured into our garden again.

He was not so patient with rats so he gave them a lot of trouble and killed a few to their great surprise because the rats thought they could outsmart a dog like Levko  but they were wrong  and learned it the hard way.

On the whole Levko earned his keeps in spades and we were happy with him and maybe he was also happy with us if not with anyone else.

This reminds me of a dog called Sonia that was a pet of my brother in India except that he never had any time to take care of her and the duty fell on us to feed her and brush her long hair. She was a very hairy dog and shed it all over the house that had to be swept up every day. She was a poodle and was more of a show dog than anything else although she could bite some people she did not like. One day she got sick so I put her in the basket in front of my bicycle and pedaled to see the vet who gave her an injection and some medicine but she did not get well and got worse. So one day I brought her to a distant place and let her loose because she was dying and we could do nothing.

Our brother came home that day from his office and inquired about Sonia and when told that Sonia was set free somewhere far from the house, he choked up and could not eat his dinner. A house pet like Sonia or any dog needed a lot of care and grooming but he had no time for her.

Here Levko also demanded a lot of care but we were getting older and my wife felt that perhaps Levko should be given away to a fellow who keeps dogs and knows how to handle them. So this fellow came and rubbed Levko’s chain on his body so that the dog would get used to his smell. Levko like all other dogs had super sensitive nose so he smelled the fellow from a great distance probably suggesting the fellow should take regular shampoo bath like him.

So one day Levko went away with this fellow but looking back at us to know why he was being taken away. He probably thought that he was just going for a walk and would soon be back so he went happily because he loved being taken out for a walk or a free run. Once I made the mistake of taking him out and letting him have a free run but he got into mischief right away and grabbed a fat rooster by its neck because the rooster made the mistake of underestimating Levko .That was a big mistake the rooster made to its grief  but it also taught us a lesson that Levko needs to be confined within our garden.

This fellow failed to take care of Levko the way he had promised so the beautiful and loyal Levko died. We miss him and look at his photos but we have made a promise that we will never get another dog because it is too much work and the dogs may be better off with others.

Now the feral cats are back with vengeance since they know that they face no danger from a dog. They pee in the veranda, poop under the car, in the lawn and fight just near my window creating a lot of ruckus. You should see how they fight with their very sharp claws and teeth and how much damage they inflict on each other but what can we do?

One cat somehow got inside our living room one day but did not know that we do not allow cats or dogs inside the house so I gave it a chase of its life .The poor cat got so scared that it peed all over the house while running  that we had to clean up later. Levko knew that he was not allowed inside the house so he would just sit and not come in even if the door was open.  He was well trained but the feral cats are a different story.

Now  to chase out the mouse, we bring in the cats who make so much mess that we bring in the dogs. To chase out the dogs we bring in the elephant who then trashes the house so the mouse is back. I am open to suggestions on how to get rid of the cats. My wife thinks she knows a way and throws a mug of water on them. May be it will work and they will go away.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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My heroes: Nelson Mandela

Synopsis : He was a great man who spent 28 years in a South African jail because he wanted a free South Africa where all races could live in peace and harmony under a democracy for all. In jail he suffered and did not know when or if they will kill him but he persevered in his belief that one day he will achieve what he had fought for so long and hard. That he did and became a legend.

My heroes: Nelson Mandela

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Source : Google photo

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (/mænˈdɛlə/;[1] 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist, who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalised racism and fostering racial reconciliation. Ideologically an African nationalist and socialist, he served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) party from 1991 to 1997.

A Xhosa, Mandela was born in Mvezo to the Thembu royal family. He studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of the Witwatersrand before working as a lawyer in Johannesburg. There he became involved in anti-colonial and African nationalist politics, joining the ANC in 1943 and co-founding its Youth League in 1944. After the National Party’s white-only government established apartheid—a system of racial segregation that privileged whites—he and the ANC committed themselves to the apartheid government’s overthrow.

Mandela was appointed President of the ANC’s Transvaal branch, rising to prominence for his involvement in the 1952 anti-apartheid Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. He was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the 1956 Treason Trial. Influenced by Marxism, he secretly joined the South African Communist Party (SACP). Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in association with the SACP he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961 and led a sabotage campaign against the government. In 1962, he was arrested for conspiring to overthrow the state and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.

Mandela served 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. Amid growing domestic and international pressure, and with fears of a racial civil war, President F. W. de Klerk released him in 1990. Mandela and de Klerk negotiated an end to apartheid and organised the 1994 multiracial general election in which Mandela led the ANC to victory and became President. Leading a broad coalition government which promulgated a new constitution, Mandela emphasised reconciliation between the country’s racial groups and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses.

Economically, Mandela’s administration retained its predecessor’s liberal framework despite his own socialist beliefs, also introducing measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty, and expand healthcare services. Internationally, he acted as mediator in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial and served as Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999. He declined a second presidential term and in 1999 was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela became an elder statesman and focused on combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the charitable Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Mandela was a controversial figure for much of his life. Although critics on the right denounced him as a communist terrorist and those on the radical left deemed him too eager to negotiate and reconcile with apartheid’s supporters, he gained international acclaim for his activism. Widely regarded as an icon of democracy and social justice, he received more than 250 honours—including the Nobel Peace Prize—and became the subject of a cult of personality. He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, and described as the “Father of the Nation”.( Source : wikipedia)

No one in the modern history of struggle for freedom evokes as much emotion as the mention of the name Mandela who was imprisoned for 27 years by the apartheid regime. He lost his youth and health in that prison and came out an old man ,frail and suffering from eye illness but with the heart of  a lion. His incarceration for such a long period of time was ignored by the successive US and British governments  out of pure apathy for the cause of freedom in South Africa. This only changed when the South African president  de Klerk negotiated an end to the hated regime of apartheid with Mandela and released him from prison.
The courage of Nelson Mandela to fight on for so long even in prison for the freedom for his country is  not to be under estimated by any one. He gave the world a shining example of what dedication to the cause of freedom means and how much sacrifice he had to make to make it happen. But he will be remembered for his act of reconciliation with his former tormentors  and for his effort to rebuild a non racial post apartheid South Africa where everyone has a fair shake in life. He is definitely my hero.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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What is friendship?

Synopsis : We all want to know what is friendship and how to get friends and keep them. I share in this blog  what you need to do to get friends and keep them. It is not a secret.We can all try and become friend to someone only if we know how.

What is friendship?

thomasaquinas163328

Source : Google photo

One day I ventured out to see the huts of farmers who lived behind our school. It was a Sunday so the school was eerily empty and quiet so being curious about who lived behind our school, I came upon a few children of my age who played near their farm house and were happily surprised to see me. So I joined them and played with them, learned their names and told them mine and had a pretty good time while their parents smiled and looked on. I think I was about seven years old. These children and I never felt a class distinction for a moment and formed a bond.

When the time came for me to go home, all the kids some boys and some girls came with me to the road to say goodbye to me and looked on with hope and love in their eyes and urged me to return soon to play with them again. I too must have felt a pang in leaving them but soon I was back to my world of middle class and alas, I never went back there for one reason or other but after all these years I still remember their tearful but loving and hopeful eyes although I have forgotten their names.

Children playing together form a bond and out of this bond can come a lifelong friendship. At that age we did not worry about our skin color, our middle class or poor parents, our clothes and our material possessions that separated us later because the basis of friendship at that age was our complete innocence.

There was a sheesham tree near our house where as kids we played and used to swing that was an attraction to other kids as well. One of them was a girl of about 9 or 10 who was my neighbor. I will call her Munni. There was another whom I will call Priya. We pushed the swing for each other and had a good time but this too did not last as we were all growing up and into separate ways of life. Munni and Priya would later get married and move to other parts of the country while I left the country for good and settled somewhere else in the world. But the memory of those playful days remain vivid and fresh.

During one of my visits to India, I was surprised to see Munni again who came to see me .We both happened to be visiting our homes so it was a chance meeting. Her eyes still sparkled reminiscing about the days when we were children and played on the swing. That beautiful tree has been cut down but I can still imagine it being there and we swinging and clapping our hands.

The years had taken their toll on us. I was in my sixties just like Munni but the memory of our younger days made the years vanish. She had trouble hearing because she was deaf in one ear and had a hearing aid but she came to see me because she felt that we had formed a bond during our precious childhood.

Priya too was gone and I never saw her again although once I was able to call her on the phone and wished her health and happiness but she replied that her life was miserable and my good wishes sounded like a curse to her. I was shocked. It is still a mystery to me how life treats each of us in its own way.

But spending time together as children alone does not create the bond so there must be something else. I had a classmate from the 3rd grade to the 10th who was also my playmate for many years but we never became friends. I met him one day some 50 years later  totally by chance and eagerly asked him how has he been ,what has he been doing all these years to which he replied perfunctorily, looked at his watch and said he had another appointment to go to . Never did he ask about what I was doing and where in the world I lived.

We all go through life and have similar experiences. We get to know many people during our school and college days but rarely do they become friends. If friendship is gained due to shared experiences then we all would have many friends but that is not the case so what creates the bond in the first place and some become lifelong friends and others remain aloof?

It is usually found outside the family. None of my siblings were my friends because they all gave more importance to their own interests first .The age difference did not help either so I remained the errand boy for them and nothing else.  For the friendship to develop, one has to be generous in sharing everything he or she has with someone be it toys, time or stories. A friend is supposed to be totally unselfish and forgiving but this is not necessarily so between siblings.

Nantu was another childhood friend who one day showed up at our house when I was getting ready to leave India. I had no idea what had happened to him all these years because he had simply vanished but he showed up the day my passport arrived. He was surprised to know that I was going to Vietnam but was also very happy. Nantu had become an officer in the army so I too felt happy and reminisced about our days as children playing in the park but he left never to be seen again. Later I heard that he took his life for some reason.

So people like Nantu, Munni or Priya come and go in our lives some leaving a nostalgic void while others leave no impression.

I think the basis of lasting friendship is found in our childhood for some but for others it may be much later in life. It all depends on what we share with whom and when and under what circumstances.  In some countries there is a tradition of class reunion after many years when some join, take photos and exchange gossip. Within such group one can see smaller groups forming who feel no affinity for others outside their group and remain apart because they belonged to different sections of their class. So again the sharing and doing things together creates the bond but never true friendship.

In our system we do not have such class reunions so it is quite rare to run into someone many years later because people disperse all over the country.

Now a days one finds the concept of nuclear homes and communities more prevalent where people live in a community yet do not know their neighbors. It is each to himself where the focus of attention is on the nuclear family, their plans and their activities so the so called friends take a backseat in their scheme of things to do. People live in isolation and a lonely life which become acute when the kids grow up and leave home.

In vast suburbs where the middle class people live in many countries, one sees this phenomenon of isolation and self imposed aloofness because the layout of individual homes is not conducive to meeting others by chance so people tend to stay inside and watch TV. The smaller families mean lesser number of children who do not play with other children in the neighborhood like we used to. Our parents also knew each other and often came to visit over a cup of tea. This pattern of interactive community has vanished to most extent and has made people more aloof.

This has severe social consequences so I will mention a case here to show how important it is for us humans to remain socially active.

There is a case where a Korean American kid brought a gun to his college and abruptly opened fire on students and teachers killing scores of people .He wrote in his facebook that people ignored him just because of his ethnicity or looks and he felt isolated so took revenge. Perhaps if he was treated as a normal kid and invited to be a part of the teen society doing what the teens do, he would have felt less isolated and more useful. So social isolation brings in the worst feelings in people who then go on a shooting rampage and get killed in the process as the Korean kid did.

I have noticed this isolation here in the Philippines due to a totally different reason. Here they will ignore you if you are a foreigner but will stop and chat with your wife who is a native of the country because they feel a barrier due to the language problem.  We have neighbors whom we have never seen in twenty years or so because of this self imposed isolation although some send their maids with a small gift during the Christmas  so we also do the same.

This isolation does not promote friendship so no one misses them when they die or sell their house to move somewhere else because there never is a start of a friendship. It is like a seed that one must plant and nurture to let it grow into a beautiful tree one day. If the seed is never planted, there is no tree later on. The TV and soap opera does not fill the void most people feel so some join various religious groups just to feel that they belong somewhere.

So the fundamental reason why some friendships endure and others don’t is the idea of sharing and coming to the aid of someone in need.  Someone has an accident and is wheel chair bound for the rest of his life. He needs a friend who visits him, talks to him and reads a book to him or does grocery for him. Often it is not money that matters but just the presence of someone who cares and calls and stops by to ask how are you doing.

This comes from empathy for others that is the start of friendship. If you don’t feel any empathy for others, there will never be any friendship.  A true friendship means you never have to make an appointment to visit your friend. It means that you are always ready to come and help if it is needed without asking questions. It means never expecting any return because altruism has its own reward in terms of rich shared experience.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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Mystery of the universe and aliens

Synopsis : We are always mystified by what we do not know about the universe and its origin, about distant planets and the new ones that are forming so being curious we have put Hubble telescope in the space to see and observe our universe. We send space probes and satellites to take photos and beam them back to earth in real time. What we want to know most is  if we are the only living beings or if there are others and where.

Mystery of the universe and aliens

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Source : Google photo of UFO

When I was a child, I remember the night summer sky was so clear and free of pollution that we could see zillions of bright stars, milky ways and comets with long tail of space debris. We did not know much about the planets and various moons that circled them because my knowledge of celestial bodies was very limited at that age so I just marveled at the bright twinkling stars that covered the entire sky. Summer was the time when we slept on the flat roof of our house because it was cooler than the bed rooms below.

Now the times have changed .The sky is no longer so clear as it used to be thanks to the pollution and dust. You are lucky to see a few stars because no one sleeps on the roof there anymore and no one looks up. No one took any interest in stars so no one knew much about them. Astronomy was not taught in our schools although later a planetarium opened up in my home town to teach people about planets and stars. There is one in Kolkata that I have visited twice. Still the mystery of the universe fascinates me to no end.

We are told that there are trillions and trillions of stars and planets and numerous solar systems that some astronomers have detected using very powerful telescopes in many countries and continue to discover new ones daily. NASA has put up a very powerful telescope in the space itself called Hubble that it launched in 1990 that after having some initial technical glitches started sending back zillions of photos of stars and planets that has never stopped. It can see farther into the space than any telescope on earth because the space is free of atmosphere that has pollutants to obscure the view from earth. It can also take photos using different wave lengths of light like infrared that it beams back to earth.

Now the Chinese have put up a giant dish shaped antenna hundred meters in diameter and so sensitive that it can receive radio signals from distant planets while in India they have set up radio telescopes spread out over hundreds of square kilometers and joined together to act as one very super powerful device that can receive distant signals from planets. It is because we as humans are terribly interested in knowing if there are life forms out there in the universe and if they are trying to communicate with us by sending radio messages.

Closer to home, there are daily reports of sighting of UFOs around the world and literally thousands of photos and videos have been taken to prove that UFOs are real and some have even crashed like in Roswell and in Siberia in Russia just to name a few places.

The NASA astronauts living in the space station have seen and photographed alien crafts near the space station but are forbidden to talk about them. Similarly Chinese and Russian astronauts also claim to have seen and photographed such alien crafts. Numerous pilots both civilian and military have reported seeing UFOs from their planes but the governments in most countries dismiss them as optical illusions or strange cloud formation that may look like an UFO.

Roswell incident:

Back in 1947 there was a crash of an UFO at Roswell, New Mexico in the United States that the military claimed was a weather balloon but hundreds of witnesses claim otherwise. They say that a real spaceship crashed there and there were bodies of aliens that the military recovered in haste so everything was hush hush because this news was very explosive that could upend the natural order of things. Eisenhower was very curious about what had actually happened at Roswell so according to some report the bodies of the aliens were secretly flown to Washington to show him.

alien-ufo-evidence

Source : Google photo of alien at Roswell

They also claim that the metal parts of the spaceship was not made of any known metal found on earth and was so tough that they failed to drill a hole in it. A nurse who was asked to leave the autopsy room at Roswell said that she saw the bodies of aliens on the table before she was asked to leave. No one knows to this date the truth because the military people are very good at concealing such evidences that were gathered and still insist that it was a weather balloon and there were no aliens or spaceship.

Now each year a horde of alien enthusiasts descend on Roswell and set up a sort of carnival there dressed as aliens and selling all sorts of UFO paraphernalia, make speeches and sell their junk to make money but there are the Bible thumpers in large numbers as well who show up to counter the claims so fisticuffs are not unheard of. On the whole it is all for fun.

Now let us set aside all the talk about aliens visiting us and crashing somewhere just because they could not find a gas station to fill up their tanks or the scared attendant ran away seeing the aliens. No one knows.

However, it is not a stretch of imagination to believe that  there may be many planets where life evolved way ahead of earth and therefore may have developed very advanced  civilization that allow them to make  spacecrafts that can travel at the speed of light ( 299792 kms/second ) and visit other planets for whatever reasons. If their planets have a source of energy like the Sun, then life may have begun there just like here but perhaps millions of years ahead of us. It is foolish to insist that we are alone in the universe and therefore are unique creation of God who took only a few days to make it all.

Now mention this to the Bible thumpers and see their hackles up in a second who claim that it is not possible because the Bible says so and some will give you exact date the world was created ( 4000 years , 8 months and 10 days  etc depending on when you ask them) and to hell with Smithsonian museum showing dinosaurs skeletons tens of millions of years old or actual eggs found in China and in other countries because the Bible does not mention anything about them .

So we will ignore them for the time being and proceed with the hypothesis that Alien may well exist and may be trying to make contact with us  either out of curiosity or for other reasons  that we do not know anything about.

Stephen Hawking has warned us that nothing good will come out of trying to contact the aliens and bad things may happen if we persist. At the rate we are hell bent on degrading the earth by pollution and destroying the Ozone layer and killing off rare animals to make them extinct and cutting down the forests, we may not need the alien help to make the earth uninhabitable. Another war that Nostradamus has predicted will do it for us and wipe us off with the thermo nuclear war so even the aliens will find the planet not worth their visit in the future if we destroy ourselves over some petty argument over sharia laws or whether women should or should not be allowed to drive.

If the aliens exist and there seems to be ample evidence that they do in some form , they may be wondering why humans are so idiotic  that they are fighting over a book written by a so called prophet  1400 years ago  and killing each other every day.

The Irish were also waging a war for a long time over the argument about who is a true Christian and finally came to their senses to make peace but others are still making mischief.  It will be interesting if the Aliens could land their spacecraft at the CNN head quarters and give a live interview on what they think of us and our foolishness of always fighting and quarrelling over petty things and give some sound advice before taking off and leaving no e mail address.  Perhaps they do not use computers and communicate by thought reading millions of miles away.

The alien ships in Afghanistan:

Recently some locals in Afghanistan found a cave and an alien spacecraft stowed deep inside which prompted the US military to investigate the cave. They found some type of craft inside but it was highly radioactive so could not bring it out to examine further.  The experts have decided that the craft is at least 5000 years old meaning the stories in Hindu scripture of Mahabharata and Ramayana were telling the truth after all about people using aircrafts in those days. It could very well be an alien craft but what happened to those aliens and why they decided to stow their craft away deep inside a cave in Afghanistan of all places? No one knows the answers.

The crash of UFO in Siberia:

There is a dossier full of photos of an alien craft shaped like a giant saucer that crash landed in Siberia somewhere and an army brigade was sent to investigate and take photos and films. Some of these photos and films have since been leaked to the U tube and can be seen but Kremlin just sits on this treasure trove of information for reasons of their own so once again it is just like Roswell.

The conspiracy theory:

The conspiracy theorists are plentiful these days and promote the idea there indeed is a conspiracy at the highest level of the Government in the US, Russia and elsewhere to suppress the evidence of the existence of alien crafts and the bodies of aliens found in them because telling the truth will be nothing short of devastating to the Bible or Koran thumpers who are very powerful and hell bent on status quo. Imagine if the truth came out that we are not alone and there are superior and very intelligent beings in the universe who travel at the speed of light or faster and who are more civilized than us and who do not have a religion as we know it. It will upset them to no end because people will start getting ideas and may start doubting all the organized religions and may start joining the religion of the Aliens in droves if the membership is open.

How will the televangelists make money if people will not believe them anymore? These people rake in millions so who will kill their goose that lays golden eggs forever? So naturally they are the opponents of the aliens and the UFOs because it will upend all they believe in so that will not do. They have strong influence in the government everywhere and can put pressure on them to deny the existence of aliens and their crafts.

I think Stephen Hawking is right when he warns us of the aliens and says that we should not mess with them and leave them alone.  Even without them we are doomed because bad people will destroy our planet in 1000 years over silly matters like women’s rights or slavery or Kashmir. Now whether or not the aliens will leave us alone is altogether another matter.

 

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The world of LGBTQ

Synopsis : It is true that some people are born with attributes that are different from the rest of us who fall into the category of LGBTQ. They also live a life of their own although in many parts of the world they face discrimination based on religious and other forms of prejudice. Now there is more awareness of their rights and aspirations just like any of us and they are demanding that the world take notice.

The world of LGBTQ

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Source : Google photo

Now a days one sees this acronym a lot everywhere. What does it mean and why people talk about it all the time? What it means is lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans sexual and queer which encompasses a whole lot of people who fall under this acronym. I have often wondered why some people are not normal males or females as most people in this world are and why some people are different.

The answer may be found in the hormones specially sex hormones that control our sexuality and make a definitive impact on our body as we grow up one way or the other. The doctors say that when an imbalance occurs meaning the male or female hormones overpower the other; the result is what can be termed as the category called LGBTQ. The males who have too much female hormone may act like women and women who have too much male hormone may act like a male and may even sprout hair on their face. Lesbians are females with sexual affinity for other females, gays are males with affinity for other males previously called homosexuals, bisexuals are people with affinity for both males and females, transsexuals are people who think they belong to the opposite sex like a tom boy girl who behaves like a boy and dresses like one and a transsexual man feels like a woman trapped in a man’s body. The last one is queer which seems to be a general catch all term for anyone else.

In India I have known a Trans sexual fellow who used to act as female in dramas during the Pooja festival and was so natural (with makeup of course) that women were surprised. What we see commonly are people called the Hijras who are men dressed as women and are truly pathetic people. They dance in the streets and beg for money and have a difficult time making a living as they are uneducated and have no skills other than dancing in the streets and mulcting people out of threats of curse if refused money.

They regularly visit the hospitals where the nurses are in cahoots with them to inform them if a male kid is born and find out the address of the parents. They don’t bother if the kid is female. Then they show up at the gate of the parents and dance and create a scandal and a great ruckus if they do not get what they want which is a lot of money and gifts. Often the parents are embarrassed by them and give them what they want just to get rid of them. This because in India a male child is preferred over a female child even today so these hijras do not bother the parents of a girl child. We were spared this scandal when our beautiful baby daughter was born.

In other countries where there is no such preference, they do not have this type of people dancing at your gate for money and cursing if they do not get what they want. I have seen people giving them money just because they are afraid of their curses in India where people are very superstitious and believe that these hijras have special occult power and can indeed make their curses come true. Others may not believe but take the attitude of “just in case” so give them money just to get rid of them because they can be very pesky.

I have been to many countries where LGBTQ people are persecuted especially in Moslem countries and even in some non Moslem countries so they try to hide. In Iran they execute such people and in many other countries they are beaten up or publicly harassed.

In other countries like here in the Philippines, they are not only tolerated, they are given many opportunities like education and jobs that are denied to them elsewhere. They are in movies, in TV programs, in fashion design industries and others work as makeup artists, in hair saloons or massage parlors. Some are educated and teach in universities. Women are quite comfortable with them as most pose no threat to them as sexual predators. This societal acceptance of the LGBTQ people is quite interesting and encouraging that should send a clear message to other countries that persecute them that people who are called LGBTQ are so due to no fault of their own and should be dealt with compassion and understanding. I have seen many school children in Thailand who are boys but wear skirts and lipsticks and who at some point opt for a surgical sex change if their parents can afford.

In India such people are very poor and have no education so the job market is closed to them. They cannot afford the sex change operations so they dance on the streets to beg for money. Now there are societies in big cities like Mumbai where they form an association to help each other out with jobs and shelter but it is not enough. The LGBTQ people who are in the middle class are tolerated but also suffer a silent stigma because they are considered not normal.

Now in a country like Egypt, some women want a girl so badly that they dress up their baby boys in girl’s clothes and make him believe that he is in fact a girl. This may have some effect on the psychology of the boy growing up as girl and may act and behave as one but this is not due to any hormonal imbalance in his body so it is called an acquired behavior. Most will grow out of it later and live a normal life while others may not be lucky so it is very important how parents treat their kids at an early age. This imprint is very important to the child as he or she develops into adulthood later.

The persecution of LGBTQ people at least among the Christians in some countries goes back to the Biblical stories of Sodom and Gomorrah that the angels destroyed because God considered it a sin not to be normal. The word sodomy comes from it. But the religion is created by man and those who wrote the Bible or other such texts had their own prejudices that are reflected in the texts that they wrote and passed it as the word from God. Jesus never said that he was God but rather a son of God so in that sense we all are children of God. People have always tried to mold their society into a strict form that helped create the religious edicts that are found in many religions.

Let us now leave religion aside for a while and consider the cases of the LGBTQ people purely as a rational human being and see that they are not really responsible for being what they are and should be considered as human beings who need understanding and help in overcoming social stigma or neglect.

We all know that we are born with both male and female hormones in our body but there exists a natural balance between the two at first. When this balance tilts in favor of one or the other, the result is male or female child. Some males develop breasts like women if their female hormone is  stronger. Now some doctors offer hormonal treatment to bring back the balance but it can be very costly so beyond the reach of most people who may benefit from it. The sex change operations that are available in some countries can also be costly and dangerous if done by incompetent doctors or quacks. So I appreciate the attitude the Filipinos take and who are in fact quite tolerant in general.

Now the argument is raging in the United States about whether or not the toilets should be separate by sex as is mostly the case or should LGBTQ people be given the options to use either male or female toilets. The US army used to discriminate against them but now president Obama has ordered them to stop this practice and treat them fairly which is a good thing he has done.

Chelsea Manning’s case comes to mind. He is serving a long prison term as a whistle blower in a case where he reported the wrongdoings in the army and has now changed his sex to female. There is a huge demand for president Obama to pardon Manning before he leaves office in a few more days and he may still do it. His sex change should not matter and he should be pardoned because he did nothing wrong so goes the argument in his favor.

The LGBTQ people have made some gains in their rights to marry and adopt children and have other rights that have been long denied to them thanks to greater awareness and social clamor for justice to them in the United States but some countries continue to persecute them and treat them unfairly. Definitely more needs to be done in countries like India where there exists a social disapprobation that encourages a passive discrimination.

I think the Filipinos are right in treating the LGBTQ people as  having the same rights as others although I wish they would give them other jobs like script writers or directors than actors in the movies that trivializes their roles as mere clowns. People should not make fun of them but treat them with compassion.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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History of Maha Kumbh Mela

Synopsis : It is called the greatest religious fair and congregation in the world that takes place in Allahabad in India every 12 years. It is also the oldest religious fair that started thousands of years ago during the Vedic period and has grown to the size of millions of pilgrims who all go to bathe in the holy river Ganga to get Nirvana. The blog traces the ancient history of Maha Kumbh mela.

History of Maha Kumbh Mela

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Source : Google photo

Kumbh derives its name from the immortal Pot of Nectar, which the Demigods (Devtas) and Demons (Asuras) fought over, described in ancient Vedic scriptures known as the Puranas. It is these Vedic literatures that have stood the test of time, out of which the tradition has evolved into the one that the world now knows as The Kumbh Mela. Legend tells a tale from the bygone days of the universe when the demigods and the demons conjointly produced the nectar of immortality. The demigods, because cursed, were crippled of fear that eventually made them weak. The task being too sturdy for them alone, the demigods made a mutual agreement with the demons to complete it in full and share the nectar of immortality in half. It is said that the demigods and the demons assembled on the shore of the milk ocean that lies in the celestial region. .

For the task of churning the milk ocean, the Mandara Mountain was used as the churning rod, and Vasuki, the king of serpents, became the rope for churning. With the demigods at Vasuki’s tail and the demons at his head, the churning began. At first, the churning of the milk ocean produced a deadly poison which Lord Shiva drank without being affected. As Lord Shiva drank the poison, a few drops fell from his hands which were licked by scorpions, snakes, and similar other deadly creatures. Also, during the churning, the Mandara Mountain began to sink deep into the ocean, seeing which Lord Vishnu incarnated as a great tortoise and supported the mountain on His back. Finally, many hurdles and 1000 years later, Dhanwantari appeared with the Kumbh of immortal nectar in his hands. The demigods, being fearful of the demons’ ill intent, forcibly seized the pot with its safety entrusted onto the four Gods – Brahaspati, Surya, Shani, and Chandra.

Demons, after learning that their part of the agreement has not been kept, went after the demigods and for 12 days and 12 nights, the chase continued. Wherever the demigods went with the pot of nectar, fierce fighting ensued. It is believed that during this chase, a few drops from the Kumbh fell at four places – Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. There is also a prevalent legend that it was actually the demons that were being chased by the demigods for 12 days and 12 nights, during which the drops of elixir of immortality fell at these four places. These four places are since believed to have acquired mystical powers. Because 12 days of Gods are equivalent to 12 years for humans; the Kumbh Mela is celebrated once every 12 years in each of the four places – banks of river Godavari in Nasik, river Kshipra in Ujjain, river Ganges in Haridwar, and at the Sangam of Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati in Allahabad, where the drops are believed to have fallen. Millions of devout, come together to partake in ritualistic bathing and ceremonies to cleanse themselves of all sins.  ( source : wikipedia)

My home town of Allahabad ( also known as Prayag  during Vedic period ) is where two mighty rivers of India meet . Ganga and Yamuna meet here and become one river called  Ganga because of its religious significance although technically it is not. The confluence is called Sangam and is of tremendous religious significance to all Hindus. They believe that taking a bath at this confluence during the particular day of the Kumbha Mela held here every 12th year sets the soul free and it gets Nirvana or freedom from life and death forever.  It is a belief like so many other beliefs but Hindus take it seriously and come to bathe in the river during the Kumbha Mela from all over the world making it the largest congregation of human beings on earth at one time. The sheer number runs into millions. To accommodate them, a vast tent city is created near the river complete with railway station, airstrip, hospitals, vast security network, shops, offices of various services, charity centers, feeding centers and such.

The  sadhus of various  sects  come from all over India in very large numbers and stay in the open or in tents provided for them because most of all it is a religious festival. A group of sadhus called Nagas assemble here in untold numbers. They are totally naked and believe in total renunciation of everything in life including clothes so they smear ashes on their bodies to ward off the winter chill and take pleasure in smoking pot. Marijuana and other drugs are freely available in India to those who wish to smoke pot but it is not socially acceptable so few other than the Naga sadhus smoke it.

The massacre in 1954 :

I was just a small boy when a terrible stampede happened at the fairgrounds in 1954. It was caused by the crowd of Naga sadhus pushing against a very large crowd that overwhelmed them so they stood their ground. The crowd behind did not know what was happening in the front so they kept on coming resulting in a stampede that killed over 5000 people. There was very poor traffic management by the police that year that caused this tragedy so now the traffic is managed in a very efficient way with one way roads and police towers, hovering helicopters and closed circuit TV monitors placed everywhere.  The emergency services have improved with field hospitals and scores of ambulances always ready for any accident.

This vast city of tents is dismantled after a month long celebration so it disappears like magic. The pilgrims head back home and sadhus disappear into the mountains or wherever they came from. The pontoon bridges are disassembled and stored away and life returns to normal. When the rivers rise during the month of August or September rainy season, the entire river banks of several square kilometers is submerged leaving no trace of the immense city that was set up there a few months ago.

The Kumbha Mela is rotated between four cities as written above but Allahabad is the most important one. Here a king called Harshvardhan used to come in ancient times to donate all his wealth to the poor. When he had completely given away all his money, people still kept coming so he gave his ornaments one by one until he was left with his loin cloth that too was given away so he stood naked until he was given a shawl to cover himself up.

So the spirit of Harshvardhan still lives during such times when poor are fed by the charitable people or organizations everyday and are given other assistance. Some are given woolen blankets to ward off freezing weather and others are given medical help freely if needed.

The government spends millions of dollars on Kumbha Mela as a gift to the nation and invests heavily in the development of infrastructure and personnel. If you have a chance to visit Allahabad during the Kumbha Mela , you will have a life long experience that you will never forget.

I will post here a link to the powerpoint that I have put together to show you the majesty and the grandeur of the fair so that you will have an idea of the immensity of the fair. It is the biggest religious fair in the world.

Link to the powerpoint  Maha Kumbha Mela

https://1drv.ms/p/s!AmoX9W4gHulziRAi2q632fxcI-O5

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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Materialism

Synopsis : We are now pressured to consume manufactured goods daily through the advertisements in the media 24 hours a day . The result is the shameful materialism that makes people live beyond their means in order to accumulate things they usually do not need but clutter their lives. Simple living becomes just a wishful thinking. The blog discusses the consequence of such materialism.

Materialism

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Dalai Lama – Source Google photo

Once I met an American fellow who had just bought a cheap Dodge car for the first time in his life and was so proud of it that he could not stop bragging about it and its salient points. He then invited me to show off his new record player and offered to play a record so he put on gloves and gingerly picked up a record to place it on the player. I was amused at his immense proprietary behavior and dismissed it to his youth and his eagerness to show off and promptly forgot his name and the incident.

Years later the memory of this incident switched on in my brain and prompted me to write this blog about what is materialism that the world is so consumed about these days. The above example is perhaps an extreme of how much some people value material things above anything else in life that seriously affects their behavior toward their fellow human beings but the media promote the materialism to an eager consumerist society day in and day out relentlessly.

We are bombarded with TV ads that try to impress you with their products and how it can make your life better if you just run out to buy them .Some even have  24 hour channels that do nothing but advertise useless things that come in six easy payments that always fold under your bed for easy storage and will give you a special discount if you call within the next ten seconds etc.

They say that there is a sucker born every second so they target these suckers. When you are on the road, you see giant bill boards of scantily clad women selling cars, cosmetics, shoes and food and numerous other products although I still can’t understand why they have to be near nude to do so.

Perhaps we are wired to pay attention whenever we see the pictures of nude women so the ad makers take advantage of this fact and use it to their advantage. Just post a nude photo of a woman in the google plus and see how many people click on it instantly but ignore a wonderful article right next to it.

You open up any news paper and see nothing but ads of things people are trying to sell to you always with the caveat that you must hurry before the offer expires  although I don’t blame the newspapers because it is a source of income for them  and you don’t have to pay any attention to these ads.

So we are taught to appreciate new gadgets, new toys, new clothes, new cars, new anything from out childhood not only by the parents who keep on piling up your rooms with more and more expensive toys and gadgets but there is peer pressure as well. If your classmates in high school have  new I phones or new laptops then you must have it due to peer pressure.

Women are particularly vulnerable to this pressure and will pester their parents to buy them these things for their next birthday or prom day or their first date so that puts pressure on the poor parents to come up with the money as well.

In the western society people use materialism as a substitute for the love and attention of parental care so to a child a toy no matter how expensive remains meaningless in the absence of attention of parents who are too busy with their jobs and social engagements. They show in the movies how a child destroys his toys if he is left alone with a room full of it because what he really wants is someone to cuddle him and tell him bed time stories.

The movies promote this sort of behavior by showing how scores of brand new cars are destroyed in a police chase or just to show some action because that is how the movies make money so they don’t care how many cars or houses or things are destroyed to make a scene. It is all part of the cost of making a movie which then rakes in millions. There was one director I forget his name who destroyed 50 new Mac trucks just to film one scene but people soon forget such movies and move on.

Sometimes I think the incessant materialism makes people immune to feelings. It is like watching pornography where you are soon bored with it and complain if there is too much of it. A child who has a room full of toys is not enamored by it and can rip them apart just to see what ticks inside and does not care how much it costs.

There was a movement in the 60s called the hippies when kids fed up with materialism opted out and lived as primitive a life as possible and formed their communes in the desert or in isolated places to be with the nature, grow their own food and smoke pot. May be smoking pot was more enjoyable than growing food not to mention wild sex. They couldn’t grow any food worth a damn anyway so they did things they were good at like smoking pot. They grew their hairs long, shredded their blue jeans, destroyed their bras and wore rings in all sorts of places like nose, ears, eyebrows and navel. They lived an artificial life chanting Hare Krishna because that was the fad and felt a sort of happiness that came from denouncing what everyone else valued. They were the true rebels but soon the pressure to conform and need to earn made them change them into blue collar or white collar workers. They cut their hair, removed their rings and bought office clothes to show up for job interviews because being a hippie could not get them hired by anyone.

I was once in El Golea near Santa Barbara when an American couple invited me to their home during the Christmas. It was a lovely home with a heated swimming pool and they were very gracious hosts but the lady was in tears when the subject of her son came up. He was a hippie who would not visit them and on rare occasions when he did would cook his own vegetarian food in the garden on three rocks and smoke pot there as well. Now this was a rich family that offered all the material comforts one could imagine but the kid was not impressed.

So it is the material fatigue that made kids denounce it and look for an alternate lifestyle that brought them temporary happiness. It however, had one unintended consequence. It brought awareness among the young people that war was evil and they must protest nationwide so the protests spread through every city and college campus that brought pressure to end the Vietnam war. May be the Vietnamese could have won the war earlier if they had gotten into exporting marijuana to all the college campuses in the US.

Now let us look at the growth of material culture elsewhere in the world and see how it has changed the way people live and behave toward each other.

I will first write about India where I grew up as a child and went to college later. In those days there were no malls, no TVs and no bill boards with women in skimpy clothes selling things. None of my playmates had any toy worth bragging about so we made our own cricket bats and played in the park with a rubber ball. We played marbles or with tamarind seed or a simple game of gulli danda that only needed a stick and a piece of wood pointed on both sides. We played with nasty hornets by tying a thread in the middle and let them fly. Such were our joys of childhood. We never pestered our parents for toys or anything and wore simple clothes and Keds.

This has changed dramatically now. People in India have taken to consumerism like duck to water with vengeance. Now the middle class person has a small car or wants one so badly that he can’t sleep just thinking about it. Now they must have cell phones, console games and all kinds of gadgets so the kids do not go out and play with other kids as much. It is not unusual to see a whole bunch of them sitting together each peering into his or her cell phone to see who is on facebook and what they are commenting on.

This demand for cars and gadgets has put enormous pressure on people to get them at the expense of living a peaceful and joyful life like we had as children. Now the kids are morose and unsocial because they are addicted to their gadgets. The parents buy them more and more such things because they feel that they were deprived as children so they should make up for their kids.

New malls are coming up everywhere where people go for shopping and eat because everyone they know does it so they too should do it. Women do not like to cook at home as much and have limited culinary knowledge anyway so they just get by with their humdrum life that is not very exciting. The novelty of flat screen TV wears off because the shows are so bad.

The older generation was very rich in their knowledge about how to make pickles, mix spices for a new recipe, new ways to make sweets, jam or jelly at home, new designs for the sweaters they knit during the winter months or learning to decorate their homes with embroidered cushions or with crochet bedspread of fantastic designs that took years to make. Now the women do not have such skills so they buy the things they need. They also do not have the patience or the energy needed to do the things their grandmothers did.

The constant TV ads on consumer products have its intended effect on everyone so people have become very materialistic. They are like the young crow that has learned to eat crap and can’t have enough of it.

I always admire the Japanese for their spartan but artistic way of living. You just have to step into a Japanese home to know how beautiful a home can look just with a tatami floor with a polished table in it and nothing else. They squat around the low table and serve food in their polished lacquer painted bowls and plates that redefines the word elegant. If you want to learn how to unclutter your life, just go to Japan and spend some time learning how they do it. It is more praiseworthy because Japan makes a mind boggling array of consumer products and constantly promotes it but the Japanese are not impressed and value their traditional living.

The consequences of consumerism:

We now live in the age of electronics and computers. Every year more gadgets are being invented rendering the old ones obsolete so where these obsolete gadgets end up? In the trash pile of course. There are immense trash piles in many countries where the electronic trash is piled up sky high. The poor people sift through the pile to see what they can find to recycle but doing so exposes them to harmful chemicals and minerals. Burning such trash creates harmful toxic gas that further degrades the air we breathe.  

Now some countries are trying to dump the harmful trash in other countries by bribing the corrupt politicians or simply dumping them in the seas where the trash floats forever endangering the marine life and polluting the oceans on a massive scale. This on top of the illegal dumping of waste oil that ships regularly throw away while no one monitors them.

You only have to visit any dump site in America to see the massive pile up of the household waste seventy percent of which is paper or paper products and plastic. People throw away anything that is too costly to repair. Most of the newer gadgets are so complicated that no one knows how to repair them so they are thrown away. In Japan they just put their TVs and VCRs or other things on the sidewalk so that poor people can take them away.

But the real consequence of materialism and nonstop consumerism has created a more apathetic generation that cares for nothing and more importantly for no one.  A young girl proudly polishing her father’s new Mercedes asked if my wife went shopping and how often. She was surprised that we did not go shopping and bought only what we needed with cash. This is the generation now growing up that has taken materialism to a new height and does not realize what it has given up in order to do so.

Maybe we all need to live like hippies for a while or better still learn something from the Japanese.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

Mes blogs en français.

Mis blogs en espagnol

Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

Blogs in Japanese

My blogs at Wix site

tumblr posts    

Blogger.com

Medium.com

Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русски

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The other half

Synopsis : Women face many discriminations and exploitations because they are considered the weaker sex in many patriarchal cultures where they are still struggling for their basic right to education and gender equality. They suffer bias and many prejudices that fails to recognize them as equal partners in development of their society. Granted women have won many rights in the past century and have shown them to be capable of doing all men can do and perhaps more still it is an uphill battle for many.

The other half

malala-yousafzai-quotes-2

Malala Yousafzai  ( Google photo)

Women are often called the other half of man. If this is true then they must be equal to men in all respects but aren’t. The question therefore is why. Why aren’t women treated as equal to men even in countries where they are supposed to be treated as equal.

I will discuss this issue here because I have always felt that women everywhere are treated unfairly by men who try to control everything that is important in life. The news one gets to see and read every day is about women being raped, molested and subject to slavery, trafficking, and domestic violence and treated as objects rather than a human being. Women are teased, sexually harassed and taken advantage of daily while men go about their business as if it is quite normal.  Often they blame the women for their woes and say that women who wear revealing clothes and act in a certain way attract attention of bad people who then molest them.

This brings back the question why it is always man who decides what a woman is supposed to wear or not and how she must act and behave.

There was a time not too long ago when women were not allowed to vote in the western democracies so women had to fight for their basic right to vote. Then there were the issues of slavery in the United States and elsewhere that allowed the abuse of women with impunity until a brave woman called Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of a bus and insisted on her right to sit where she liked. This brought the policemen who then forced her to sit where she was supposed to sit being a black woman but she still refused and started the civil rights movement in the United States.

Throughout the history of mankind, women have always fought for their rights and had some success in some parts of the world while in other parts they are whipped and jailed for asserting their rights even today.

The United Nations charter on human rights explicitly says that all men and women are equal and their basic rights are inviolate but these are empty words in some countries where women are treated as the property of man and abused with impunity in the name of tradition and religious edicts as interpreted by the Mollahs or religious leaders.

We have seen time and again that women have the same ability to think, to act and to govern as men and in many cases are superior to men. They are called the weaker sex but only when it comes to physical strength although some women train themselves to be heavy weight lifters and expert martial artists.

Women have proved that they can do almost anything men can do and often do it better. They are the top athletes, climb the Everest even without the aid of oxygen and swim the shark infested oceans. They can row a boat single-handedly around the world and fly a plane like Amelia Earhart.  They are writers par excellence, artists, gymnasts, poets, scientists and engineers that design rockets and send men to moon. They are the computer experts, programmers, graphic designers, apparel designers, jewelry makers and craftswomen in many countries. They make the most exquisite shawls and carpets in Kashmir and Iran. They are mathematicians, chemists, doctors, engineers, architects and have designed some of the most iconic structures in the world.

I cannot praise women enough and fill pages with it but the point is that women are not any less than men and have proved to be excellent leaders  and have shown their ability to govern when they were asked to do so by the popular mandate.  So once again I ask the simple question. Why the men treat women unfairly in many countries and why they oppress women?

To answer some of the questions we must now examine the historical, cultural and religious background in which the human behavior is rooted.

The historical and religious background:

A long time ago meaning millions of years ago when humans started to move out of the Rift Valley in Africa and spread out to various parts of the world to search for new homes and a source for food, they shared all the work needed to be done by men and women so there existed equality. Men as well as women hunted and gathered food, built shelters and cared for the young. They worked together to protect themselves and fought their enemies together when the threat became existential.

Later as they grew to be more sedentary and settled down into more stable agrarian societies where the agriculture and animal husbandry provided them with a reliable source of food, men and women assumed different roles where men tended to do the hard work of tilling fields and hunt while women tended to look after the young, cook and build or maintain shelters. They developed excellent skills in making clothes out of animal skins and learned to make potteries and jewelries fashioned out of whatever material available to them which they still do in some parts of the world. The Native Americans are a very good example who excel in pottery making, jewelry making and weaving while men do other chores. Basically this pattern of sharing work and responsibilities has not changed over thousands of years and can be found in many societies.

Women with their nimble fingers make excellent potteries, carpets and embroideries all over the world. They are the finest crystal makers who can turn a lump of glassware into a superb piece of art  in Europe or make the embroidered shawls in Kashmir that are nothing short of wonderful.

Then came religion and its edicts. The primitive man was also religious but it was more like nature worship and he was not guided by dogma that came to be a part of organized religion.

The Bible says that God created man first and took out one of his ribs to create a woman who then enticed man with the apple etc. that led to some mischief but the word to note here is entice. It was the woman who enticed man therefore she must be  the culprit and author of all the mischief therefore she is not to be trusted. This is the historic start of the subjugation of woman. When a man cannot trust a woman, he will make all kinds of rules and laws to make him superior to a woman so that he can benefit from it.

In other faiths like Islam, there are many rules for women and very few for men on how a woman must be treated, what she should wear and how she must behave as the property of man. This has led to the oppression of woman that continues today in the so-called civilized world.

I have noticed the same rules applied to a whole race of people by another race like in South Africa where the Voortrekkers considered the blacks inferior to them therefore subject to oppression to maintain certain advantages for themselves.

The whites in the United States oppressed the blacks because the blacks were slaves who had no rights and created wealth for the whites so the system of slavery favored the whites who maintained a rich lifestyle at the expense of the blacks. This narrative holds true of the colonial masters who colonized other countries to gain riches and considered the locals as second class people not worth their esteem. It is like asking the jailer to have sympathy for the inmates over whom he has total control.

So the human nature is all about control. The one who controls gains certain advantages. By this logic it is easy to see why man has always tried to control woman and made laws and rules to enforce his advantages.

This is also true among the wild animals. The lion always is in full control of the lioness and will not allow another competitor to come near her for mating. It is the lioness that hunts but guess who gets to eat first?  She and the cubs have to patiently wait until the lion has eaten his share.

Human males are control freaks and tend to act like the lions. Where the women are in charge, men have to take a back seat and take over the traditional roles of women like child rearing. It is happening in certain Scandinavian countries or in a situation where the woman is the bread-winner. This reversal of traditional role comes with a price. Men who depend on their women tend to lose self-esteem or esteem among other men while women who depend on men do not have any such problem. It is considered quite normal that man is the bread winner and the woman is the dependant.

I think this role the society expects man to play breeds inequality between man and woman that can lead to oppression and exploitation. A Muslim man can divorce his wife any time by simply saying the word Talaq three times and the woman loses everything and may become destitute while she does not have such fearful rights over her man.

Fear of womanhood :  I will now try to examine what makes a man fear woman and her sexuality so much so that he goes to great length to guard it just like the primitive lion. The strongest lion guards his lioness  jealously  and will fight to death to protect his right to mate but a stronger lion may someday defeat him so the better genes are passed on to the offspring. That is the law of nature but humans are not guided by such laws.

If that was true then the strongest and the most handsome males will have a right to mate with females and the humankind will greatly benefit from it by producing  handsome and beautiful human race but  that does not happen.

So man has invented laws to guard the woman and by its very nature suppress woman by making her totally dependent on him for sustenance and other needs. This is where the inequality kicks in.

A man cannot stand an independent woman because the society where he lives expects him to take the leading role. In primitive societies where there tends to be more equality between sexes, people live a more harmonious life and there are less societal stresses. There the men are not obsessed with female sexuality and may even offer their women to visitors as an act of hospitality  although sometimes such benevolence can get out of hand and they start  to question their own goodwill .

Once I heard of a story that goes something like this.

There was once a shipwreck with no survivors except one who somehow floated on some debris from the wreck for days until he landed on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific somewhere. He was a Nordic man with blond hair and was tall meaning over 6 feet so he was found on the beach by the natives of that island who had never met a stranger like him and were awestruck.  Women were especially impressed by this handsome and white man so they took good care of him and brought him back to health.

Now the trouble began in earnest as women fought over each other to have sex with this handsome man who was only too glad to oblige and made scores of women pregnant. They produced a lot of mulatto kids who looked much nicer than the pure native-born increasing the demand for this man. This however did not sit well with the men of that tribe because this man singlehandedly was creating a social turbulence of immense proportions that disrupted their placid laid back style. It could no longer be tolerated so they tied up this fellow trussed up like a pig and carried him up the slope of the active volcano there and tossed him into it.

But the genes spread by this unfortunate man is still found in the descendants where you will still find tall good-looking mulattos in great numbers because this Nordic man worked overtime due to demands.

It is true that woman just like the lioness is always looking for better genes for better looking offspring so that she can brag about her children. This is especially true in island countries that are geographically isolated and where the gene pool remains the same making people very much look-alike. It is known that island women therefore tend to be promiscuous if they get a chance so if you happen to be on a ship and have to swim ashore for some reason, just hope that you end up on an island where there are no volcanoes.

How can women gain equality?

I think it all starts with the parents at home. If they treat their son better than their daughter, they sow the seed of inequality so blessed are the parents who treat their sons and daughters as equal and give them equal opportunities in life. This also means that the man must respect his wife and treat her as his equal thus giving good example to his children. In families where such is not the case, the kids grow up like Talibans and they in turn treat women badly.

The government also has a role to play here. They must make marriage laws favorable to women so that they have recourse if they are oppressed by anyone. The schools and colleges must admit students based on merit and not favor males over females or vice versa. Then there must be equality in jobs where a person should be promoted based on his or her ability so that everyone has a fair chance of success in life.

Wishful thinking does not achieve anything so laws must be made so that people are treated equally and fairly irrespective of sex, race, skin color or ethnicity. The UN has many such laws but countries do not apply them equally. There must be consequences if men and women are not treated equally.

However, the laws are only effective where people can disassociate themselves from their traditions and dogma that their brand of religion preaches. This is a lot harder than one may think. People are more afraid of social and religious pressure than a law and hesitate to take a stand on such issues that set them apart as an example.

You have to be proud parents like Malala’s parents who support that child and have put up with many difficulties in their life and even had to leave their homeland. Most people do not have such courage so what to do?

This courage to treat a human being fairly and equally and give a woman the respect she deserves comes from education and a liberal and generous mind.

Malala said in her famous words “One girl, one pen and one teacher can change the world.”

I couldn’t agree more. We need more girls like Malala in every country.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

Mes blogs en français.

Mis blogs en espagnol

Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

Blogs in Japanese

My blogs at Wix site

tumblr posts    

Blogger.com

Medium.com

Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русски

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