Jesus and Mary Magdalene of history

Synopsis :  The historical Jesus and Mary Magdalene are of great importance to those who are interested in knowing who really was Jesus and why his wife Mary Magdalene was vilified by the Catholic church in the Bible as a mere prostitute. History shows that Mary was of royal descent and survived by escaping to France where she lays buried.

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Source : Google photo of a painting of Jesus and Mary Magdalene

Note : This blog was published in 2018 but today I have updated it with a new video on Mary Magdalene that you should watch. Thanks.

I found this video that discusses the reasons why the Catholic church denigrates Mary Magdalene as a prostitute and gives her no importance in the life of Jesus although the history and records show that she was indeed married to Jesus and was of royal descent.

Source : U tube

The Catholic Church rigidly follows a certain number of dogmas that can’t be challenged because the dogmas make it the foundation of the church. One such dogma is that Jesus died on the cross and rose after a few days to ascend to heaven.

Another is that he was not married and Mary Magdalene was just one of his disciples. This is the Jesus of faith that the church promotes.
However, there are a certain number of discrepancies between the Jesus of faith and the historical Jesus so I will today discuss these discrepancies although it does not change anything because dogmas will remain dogmas since they relate to faith and not history.

In the book called The messianic legacy by ( Baigent, Michael; Leigh, Richard; Lincoln, Henry (1986). The Messianic Legacy. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-02185-0.) et al they mention that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute and was of royal descent who married Jesus. This was also found in the gospels found in Egypt and in Nag Hammadi and Qumran scrolls found near Dead Sea in Israel later. She was forced to flee to Southern France while being pregnant and gave birth to their son who later married into nobility and the descendants ruled France for a long period as Merovingian kings.

Mary as the wife of Jesus was not acceptable to the Jews in the Holy land and some of his followers for their own reason so she had to leave Israel. While Jesus who did not die on the cross which is quite well documented was brought down by those nearest to him right after the crucifixion and kept him hidden in a cave where he received medical help to heal his wounds. If found by the Romans, they would have made sure that he was dead this time so he was hidden. So the dogma that he rose again after the crucifixion is technically true.

It takes many days for a person crucified to die of loss of blood and injuries but Jesus was brought down soon after the crucifixion because there was a lot of thunder and lightning and rain that drove away the guards. This is also a historical fact.

According to some accounts, Jesus and Mary (his mother) were then secretly spirited out of Israel because his life was in danger so they kept walking with some of his followers toward the east meaning Iraq where there is a grave of Mary. It means she died there and was buried in Iraq. Jesus then continued to walk eastward and reached Kashmir after many months of travel.

Jesus is believed to have settled down in SriNagar where he married a princess and had many children. There is a church in SriNagar where they say he was buried in its grounds. This church is called the church of Issa Masiha meaning the church of Jesus the Messiah. The descendants of Jesus have kept a genealogical records of 400 generations to prove that they descended from Jesus.

Let us now go back to southern France where his wife Mary Magdalene gave birth to his son and died. There is a church in her name ( photo) and a grave where she was buried that pilgrims visit in large numbers.
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Source : Google photo of Basilica of St.Maximin  la  St. Baume in Provence where Mary Magdalene  is buried in France

rennes-le-chateau_2

Source : Google photo of Rennes le chateau in France

Rennes le chateau :

This mountain village of Rennes le chateau in the Pyrenees mountains had a dilapidated church where an impoverished priest lived and one day while renovating his church came across a document of parchment that he found . The content of the parchment was so explosive that he was astounded and traded this document with the secret society called Priory de Sion who paid him a very large sum of money (  in todays term nearly USD 50 million ) that the poor father used to renovate his church completely and built additional buildings. He never disclosed where he got so much money and what was in the document that someone paid so much money for. He died with this mystery intact.

I will copy and paste here what I found on this subject in Wikipedia.

A nineteenth century French priest discovers something in his mountain village at the foot of The Pyrenees which enabled him to amass and spend a fortune of millions of pounds. The tale seems to begin with buried treasure and then turns into an unprecedented historical detective story – a modern Grail quest leading back through cryptically coded parchments, secret societies, the Knights Templar, the Cathar heretics of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and a dynasty of obscure French kings deposed more than 1, 300 years ago.

The author’s conclusions are persuasive at the core is not material riches but a secret – a secret of explosive and controversial proportions, which radiates out from the little Pyrenees village to all the way to contemporary politics and the entire edifice of the Christian faith. It involves nothing less than the Holy Grail.

What if everything you think you know about Jesus is wrong? In the sequel to ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ Michael Baigent reveals the truth and tackles controversial questions, such as whether or not Christ survived the crucifixion.

Twenty years ago Michael Baigent and his colleagues stunned the world with a controversial theory that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene married and founded a holy bloodline. His bestselling book ‘The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail’ (with co-authors Henry Lincoln and Richard Leigh) became an international publishing phenomenon and was one of the sources for Dan Brown’s novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’. Now, with two additional decades of research behind him, Baigent’s ‘The Jesus Papers’ presents explosive new evidence that challenges everything we know about the life and death of Jesus.

• Who could have aided and abetted Jesus and why?
• Where could Jesus have gone after the crucifixion?
• What is the truth behind the creation of the New Testament?
• Who is working to keep the truth buried and why?

Taking us back to sites that over the last twenty years he has meticulously explored, studied, and in some instances excavated for the first time, Baigent provides a detailed account of his groundbreaking discoveries, including many never-before-seen photos.

In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln posit the existence of a secret society known as the Priory of Sion, which is supposed to have a long history starting in 1099 and had illustrious Grand Masters including Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton. According to the authors’ claims, the Priory of Sion is devoted to installing the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Franks from 457 to 751, on the thrones of France and the rest of Europe. It is also said to have created the Knights Templar as its military arm and financial branch.

The authors re-interpreted the Dossiers Secrets in the light of their own interest in undermining the Roman Catholic Church’s institutional reading of Judeo-Christian history. Contrary to Plantard’s ( current grand master of the Priory de sion) initial Franco-Israelist claim that the Merovingians were only descended from the Tribe of Benjamin, they asserted that the Priory of Sion protects Merovingian dynasts because they are the lineal descendants of the historical Jesus and his alleged wife, Mary Magdalene, traced further back to King David.

According to them, the legendary Holy Grail is simultaneously the womb of saint Mary Magdalene and the sacred royal bloodline she gave birth to, and the Church tried to kill off all remnants of this bloodline and their supposed guardians, the Cathars and the Templars, in order for popes to hold the episcopal throne through the apostolic succession of Peter without fear of it ever being usurped by an antipope from the hereditary succession of Mary Magdalene.

Note : One French King who had borrowed enormous sums from the Templars to fight his never ending wars invited them all to a secret meeting to sort out his debts but had them all assassinated. But some Templars stayed back fearing a trap and hid their enormous wealth somewhere that is yet to be discovered. Perhaps only the Priory de Sion knows about it.( AKC)

The authors therefore concluded that the modern goals of the Priory of Sion are:
• the public revelation of the tomb and shrine of Sigebert IV as well as the lost treasure of the Temple in Jerusalem, which supposedly contains genealogical records that prove the Merovingian dynasty was of the Davidic line, to facilitate Merovingian restoration in France;
• the re-institutionalization of chivalry and the promotion of pan-European nationalism;
• the establishment of a theocratic “United States of Europe”: a Holy European Empire politically and religiously unified through the imperial cult of a Merovingian Great Monarch who occupies both the throne of Europe and the Holy See; and
• the actual governance of Europe residing with the Priory of Sion through a one-party European Parliament.

The authors also incorporated the antisemitic and anti-Masonic tract known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion into their story, concluding that it was actually based on the master plan of the Priory of Sion. They presented it as the most persuasive piece of evidence for the existence and activities of the Priory of Sion by arguing that the original text on which the published version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was based had nothing to do with Judaism or an “international Jewish conspiracy”, as it issued from a Masonic body practicing the Scottish Rite which incorporated the word “Zion” in its name. Per Baigent et al, the text was not intended to be released publicly, but was a program for gaining control of Freemasonry as part of a strategy to infiltrate and reorganise church and state according to esoteric Christian principles.

After a failed attempt to gain influence in the court of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Sergei Nilus was supposed to have changed the original text to forge an inflammatory tract in 1903 in order to discredit the esoteric clique around Papus by implying they were Judaeo-Masonic conspirators, but he ignored some esoteric Christian elements, which hence remained unchanged in the published antisemitic canard.
Source : Wikipedia

The church and the grave of Mary Magdalene in the cathedral of St Maximin in Provence where her skull is preserved is now a pilgrimage site where untold number of people visit every year because they believe that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus and is buried there.

st_maximin_basilique_marie_madeleine_side_provence

Source : Google photo of the cathedral of St. Maximin de la St Baume in Provence , France

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Source : Google photo of the grave of Mary Magdalene in the cathedral of St Maximin in Provence, France

mary-magdalene-skull-reliquary

Source : Google photo of the skull of Mary Magdalene at the Cathedral of St. Maximin la St Baume in Provence, France

The Vatican denies it and says it is not true because it runs contrary to the Vatican doctrine. It is also true that the New Testament excludes many gospels that were found in Egypt and elsewhere because they contradict what the Church preaches but experts who examined such gospels in detail say that the gospels are original.

I do not know how authentic the story of Jesus in Kashmir is because that too is debunked by the Vatican but there is a church in Sri Nagar in Kashmir and there is a genealogical record of 400 generations.

Jesus and Mary Magdalene of history generate considerable interest among Biblical scholars who continue to uncover ancient documents and artifacts that paints a different picture of Jesus that makes him more human and approachable so I like it.

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You can be lonely in a crowd

Synopsis : Loneliness does not mean when you are alone because one can be lonely in a crowd. Loneliness is a state of mind that that tells you that you are close to no one even if you are surrounded by people .I discuss it and note that people are lonely when they do not find someone their intellectual equivalent .It is true of many writers.

You can be lonely in a crowd

lonelinessSource : Google photo

It is true that a person can feel terribly alone in a crowd and not feel alone at all when he is just by himself so it is not related to the number of people around you or not around you. I think it is related more to the inner fulfillment of a person.

Often people feel that they are empty inside so no number of people can fill that void. People who are rich and famous who know many people but none of them intimately often feel this way and end up overdosing on drugs like Whitney Houston.

You often meet lonely people who are only too eager to tell you their life story even if you have just met them. You soon forget them, their names and their story because they offer unsolicited information that you do not know what to do with and look for ways to escape them.

The problem of the modern world is that most people are wrapped up in their problems or their day to day struggles that they cannot seem to manage so have little time for others except at a very superficial level. You may know them slightly or not at all even if they seem familiar to you. They may be your neighbors or office workers. They may be the people you meet in your church regularly but you do not know them.

Someone wrote an article recently about the lonesome people who do not like others in general and prefer to be alone because they find others not at their level of intellectuality, education, work or travel experience so they prefer not to be bothered.

We, whether like it or not always judge others as others constantly judge you. I think it is inherent in our nature to judge others using our own yardstick, our own values, our own beliefs and our own experience. If we find them not measuring up to our standard which may be quite high, we back up and return to our shell.

A widely traveled person who has rich experience to share finds no one interested so he keeps quiet. If he is a wide reader of classic literature and finds no one who shares his excitement in discussing the books he reads then he keeps quiet. If he loves fine art, classical music or history and finds no one in the small town where he lives to share with then he feels out of place and unappreciated.

I knew a very sophisticated French lady who had rich experience in Africa and knew a lot about their art, culture and food but found no one in the small village in France where she lived interested so felt very isolated.

This is the problem with intellectuality and curious people who rarely find their equivalent in others so prefer to keep their own company instead of cheap talk.

I was once in Sicily where I met a German couple in Taormina. They gave me a ride and found me a place for the night and sat with me until midnight talking about wide range of things and said that they felt they had known me all their lives. They kept this friendship going for well over thirty years but I cannot talk to people I have known all my life because they are not interested.

But in life the most popular people are the ones who can make cheap talk, tell raunchy jokes, can remember names and birthdays, who are never serious about anything, who have the same level of knowledge or curiosity as the average small town dweller and can feel at home with the most ordinary people.

It is also the human nature that we all seek our own type of people to associate with socially. There are various clubs where people of similar interests meet and socialize over beer or bridge game or a poker.

The church is a popular place for people with similar religious background to meet yet they feel that they never become friends with anyone.

Now there are people who do not wear their religion on their sleeves and keep it very private because their views  on religion may clash with others so they are reticent about discussing such topics with anyone.

If you are the type who enjoys traveling all over the world and tries different food, participates in their festivals and meets people from other countries easily and then go back to your small town , you will find yourself quite apart from the rest who do not travel and cannot comprehend your excitement.

I have made over 100 power points on wide ranging topics from arts and crafts of Africa to art, history, artists in Europe and other countries etc. and have offered them free to anyone interested in my neighborhood but people said they are not interested in such knowledge. So I have put them out in the internet Google + for anyone anywhere to see. There is so much to share with the world and there are so many people out there who love to see the power points and learn from it that I feel encouraged. The world of knowledge is infinite.

So I come back to the topic at hand and try to understand why it is so hard to find people who share your values, your knowledge, your ideas, your stories in other countries and open up a channel of communication. It is easier to find people you do not know and share with than the people you know   or think you do even if superficially.

So superficiality is the key word here. You cannot get beyond superficiality with most people around you because people create a bubble of their own and are afraid to burst their bubble and go beyond. They will tell you that it is their comfort zone and are ill at ease with someone who is not like them in mediocrity.

They are afraid to wander into a wide world of knowledge where they feel inadequate to absorb all they see and experience. The good example is food. Why do you find so many Americans at any McDonalds overseas?

I had an American friend who had traveled all over the world and had extensive knowledge of many things that he could not share with his small town mates in Texas where people were more interested in Bingo games or weekend football.

When I showed slides of various countries to my relatives , they kept mum and showed apathy. They did not care to see photos of Africans or wild life because they could not relate to them. Their interest perked up considerably when their own photos showed up.

The frog in the well is very limited in its knowledge of the outside world and is content to live in its well because it cannot get out of that proverbial well even if it tries. Most people live in their own well and cannot climb out of it to see the beauty of the world. Those who make the effort are dazzled by its beauty.

There was a Portuguese traveler who one day came upon the ruins of Angkor Wat in the jungles of Cambodia , made sketches and showed the world what an astounding find it was . Such people bring knowledge to the rest who never travel and never know what is out there and perhaps do not care. How can a small town person in Texas who has never traveled anywhere know where is Angkor Wat and what it means let alone where is Cambodia? He just can’t relate to it.

The good news is that not all people want to live in their well and want to know and see and feel what is out there and appreciate any one who helps them get there.

Sharing is the key :

I think the idea of sharing with anyone what is worth sharing is the key to overcome the barrier that most people put up. The idea is to open up a channel of communication with people so that sharing becomes exciting. People who live alone and are highly creative, full of knowledge and ideas are so by choice because they do not find anyone to share their ideas with so they become great writers, poets or philosophers.

It is like a great teacher who finds his pupils dull and unmotivated but finds joy if his students start learning what he has to share.

A writer is also a teacher of sorts. He finds joy if more and more people start reading his works and show appreciation. A great writer does not write for monetary gains or fame but does so because he is generous in sharing his thoughts and ideas just like a great teacher who is poorly paid but enjoys teaching because he has so much to share.

Not everyone is lucky to get to know a person who becomes a lifelong friend and a true soul mate who understands and appreciates all the knowledge a person has to offer. But there are many unknown people who will appreciate you if you give them the chance to do so.

To be alone  therefore is not the same as being lonely. You can be alone in a crowd but not alone if you are a thinker and share it with the world.

 

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The world of music

Synopsis : She was a young teenager during the war in Vietnam who sang the songs of war and tragedy, of yearning for peace and mourned all the death and destruction through her soulful songs that made her famous in Vietnam so I thought of introducing her to the world and present to you one of her most loved songs.

The world of music

tieu-su-ca-si-khanh-ly-1844

Source: Google photo of Khanh Ly

There was a young beautiful girl called Khanh Ly in Vietnam. She had a haunting voice and mesmerised people with her tragic songs about the war in Vietnam in 1967. I was just a young man serving there as a volunteer agronomist and heard about the young girl who sang so passionately about the war and how it was devastating her beautiful land.

It was a war like no other. It rained down bombs on people everywhere. It destroyed lives and scarred the landscape . It brought pain and untold misery to people who were fighting for their freedom and a chance to live in peace. Everyday the bodies came back in coffins to be buried by the grieving mothers, sisters, wives and grandparents. Everyday new graves were dug in forgotten corners of the land but the war continued.

Prisons were filled with people who only wanted peace. The pain and cries of people could not be heard beyond the prison walls who were being tortured . Such were the anguish the young girl sang about in her mournful and haunting songs that resonated through the land but she was vilified for wanting peace. The writer of such songs was a young man called Trinh Cong Son but it was Khanh Ly who gave life to the lyrics.

Very few people outside Vietnam have ever heard of Khanh Ly and her songs. Often I thought of how many Khanh Lys are out there who are so wonderful people who the world has never heard of and thought what if you heard her once and understood what she sang ?

She is old now and her lilting voice has taken its toll but she still sings and appears in TV shows. An  American  who loves Vietnam and the songs of Trinh Cong Son has translated many of his songs and sings himself on Vietnam TV has made it his lifetime quest to let the world know the beauty of Khanh Ly’s songs.

I  now bring you one of her most famous songs for you to listen to and think deeply about the meaning of the words. Many of you have never known the war in Vietnam but ask your fathers , brothers and husbands who served there. They will tell you how horrible it was .

But Vietnam now is at peace and is a beautiful country.

The video link  : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9udfVoVquY

The lyrics :  Xin cho toi  (Please give me)

Xin cho mây che đủ phận người         Please cover enough people

Xin cho tôi một sáng trời vui              Please give me a good morning

Xin cho tôi đến tận nụ cười               Please let me smile

Cho tôi quên một nấm mộ tươi        Let me forget a fresh grave

Xin cho tôi xin vạn lần rồi              Please let me last ten times

Một góc này chỉ biết rong chơi         This corner is just playing

Xin cho tôi yên phận này thôi           Please give me this peace

Xin cho tôi yên ngủ một ngày           Please let me sleep for a day

Xin cho đêm không có đạn bay        Please have no bullets night

 Xin cho chim góp nhạc về trời       Please let birds sing to the heaven

 Xin cho tôi là kiếp của mây            Please let me be the clone of clouds

 Xin cho tôi ra khỏi cuộc đời              Please let me out of life

 Để bao giờ trời đất yên vui             To ever happy land and heaven

 Xin cho tôi xin lại cuộc đời              Please cover enough people

 Cho tôi đi xây lại chuyện tình        Please give me a good morning

 Cho tôi đi nâng dậy hòa bình         Please let me smile

 Cho tôi đi qua tận gập ghềnh       Let me forget a fresh grave

 Nhìn dòng máu trong tim anh       Please let me last ten times

 Cho tôi xin tay mẹ nồng nàn         Please let me hold my mother’s hands

 Cho tôi nghe chân trẻ rộn ràng       Please give me this peace

 Cho quê hương giấc ngủ thật hiền  Please let me sleep for a day

 Rồi từ đó tôi yêu em                         Freedom I love you

 Xin cho tôi nguyên vẹn hình hài    Please let me remain intact

 Cho tôi nghe lời hát cỏ cây               Let me hear the song of grass

 Xin cho tôi quên phận tù đày          Please  let me forget my imprisonment       

 Xin cho tôi là thoáng rượu cay        Please let me be spicy wine

 Xin cho tôi xin cả cuộc đời                Please let me have a lifetime

 Một hôm nào trẻ hát trong nôi        One day a child sang in cradle

 Xin cho tôi xin chỉ một ngày.           Please let me just one day.

Hope you can feel the pain through her song and her words. Khanh Ly will always remain one of my favorites .

Now I want you to listen to the beautiful song  called the “Air de liberte” by Jean Ferrat who brought to focus the atrocities of the war in Vietnam like perhaps no one could.

The video link  : https://youtu.be/FlnUg2NOPtQ

Source : U tube video

Air de liberte Link : https://youtu.be/7c8DBuPtGvU

Source : U Tube video

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.

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Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

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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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Challenges facing Vatican

Synopsis : Vatican as the seat of the Roman Catholic faith faces many challenges such as the serious nature of pedophilia among the clergy and the dilution of the faith among certain populace who are disillusioned by the scandals in the church . It also faces serious challenge from the protestants who although not free from scandals of their own present an alternative. The Vatican must come up with reforms or see its influence wane.

Challenges facing Vatican

Vatican

Source : Google photo

I am always impressed by the Vatican. When you stop in front near the obelisk and look toward the cathedral you cannot but be impressed because it is so awe-inspiring building. Then you go inside through the huge main door and you come face to face with the seat of the Catholic power. From here the Pope wields his moral and religious power over the millions of followers all over the world. If you are lucky, you may even see him on certain days speaking from his balcony high in the building to the right side.

But what is impressive about the Vatican is its size and the luxurious interior where the floor itself is made of colored marbles in a fantastic way over which soars the cupola at a tremendous height that helps resonate the sound inside. To your right is the statue of Pieta made by Michael Angelo so many centuries ago that is nothing short of wonderful. One can not imagine the perfection and the sheer beauty of the statue until you stand in front of it and wonder how the sculptor carved such a thing out of a block of marble so long ago with his primitive tools and produce such results.

complete-vatican-tour-featured

Source : Google photo

Then you face the curved black pillars that look like a twisted rope and wonder how a piece of black stone was  turned into such shape using what technology so long ago. This is the basilica of St. Peter who was crucified here and buried deep underneath. You then descend below the floor to reach the crypts through the curved stairs and see all the popes buried there. Some crypts have elaborate marble resemblance of the Pope while others have more simple crypts.

Here you will also see the Vatican museum albeit a small one where you can see the gold chalices and drinking cups used by the popes centuries ago. Someone may tell you that the gold drinking cup encrusted with jewels has a sinister past. Its handle has a secret button that when pressed released the poison stored in the hollow of the handle into the wine that the pope offered his guests to shorten their mortal lives. You would not associate such a holy place and its ruler to resort to such criminal tactics but they did in the past and the popes were far from what they appeared to be.

They were very powerful and used their power through their private army to impose the will of Vatican over those who showed rebellion. They kept women with whom they sired illegitimate children and ordered the unrepentant to be persecuted meaning tortured and burned at stake so thousands of innocent people were killed through inquisition that has left a permanent blot on its history.

Jesus never meant his vicars to behave this way to do what they wanted but he was dead so the popes were free to do as they pleased. Standing there in Vatican it gives you chills when you learn about its past history.

Now the times have changed or have they really? The Vatican runs banks where the criminals have been laundering their black money for years until a Pope started looking into its affairs closely and paid with his life when someone mixed poison into his milk late at night. This was highlighted in the Godfather Part 3 movie.The scandal of the bank continued to plague the church resulting in more deaths of some bankers under mysterious circumstances.

The Vatican is run by the cardinals and selected priests who wield enormous power and control enormous wealth of the church. They also select the pope in a secret conclave inside the Sistine chapel right next door behind the locked door. If you go inside the chapel which is normally open to tourists, you will find them looking at mirrors that show the paintings on its ceiling done by Michael Angelo long ago where the poor artist worked upside down in lamp light and terrible discomfort to make his masterpiece works losing his health and eyesight for pittance but the tourists don’ t care and don’t know the history.

Then you walk all the way to the side of Vatican by taking the road to the right and find the small entrance to the main Vatican museum where for a hefty fee you are given a ticket to enter and see the treasures that are displayed in numerous rooms. In Rome you see so much statuary that it can get pretty tiring to see more of them in the museum but you can not avoid them.

The Vatican library as shown in the movie is off-limits to common people but it contains original documents and books some 2000 years old kept under heavy guard and locks .You will not miss the Swiss guards in obsolete and clownish uniforms but don’t be fooled by their looks. They are armed and know how to use them. The cctv cameras follow everyone everywhere so you can be sure that someone is always watching you no matter where you are.

On any given day there are a thousands of camera toting tourists of all nationalities many of them not even Christians like me to gawk at the displays but on certain occasions the piazza is full of thousands of pilgrims in all sorts of religious attires who gather to listen to the sermons given by the pope who appears high in a window probably for security reasons. I got a good shot of a pope I can’t remember which one through my telephoto lens once.

The Catholics are found in many countries in large numbers who listen to the guidance given to them by the pope so he plays a very important role in their spiritual world. Now if a pope starts suggesting reforms in the church due to corruption, pedophile priests and other rot that has crept in over a period, he faces stiff opposition and risks his life as one pope found out the hard way.

The current pope is a reformist but he too has his limits and treads carefully through the minefield of Vatican politics never knowing who will undermine him and his efforts.Some sects like Opus Dei are highly secretive and have their own hidden agenda that even the pope may not know anything about.Then we hear of the Illuminati as well.

The current issues facing the Catholic church includes the abuse of children by many priests and others who are pedophiles and get the protection from their superiors who condone or ignore such crimes and just transfer the offending priest to another parish where he may continue his activities again. In the USA, in Australia, in many other countries people have come forward to expose these pedophiles by giving testimonies and sharing their harrowing experiences with the media resulting in massive compensations paid by the church and defrocking the offenders. This is a very serious issue that undermines the credibility of the church itself and people very disappointed at the lack of reform often leave and join other sects like the protestants etc.

If you study the Bible, you will understand that Jesus himself never told anyone of his followers to be celibate. Now there are evidences coming out in some gospels found in Egypt and documents and scrolls found in Nag Hamadi and elsewhere that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute as depicted by the later gospel writers of the period but was the wife of Jesus. She was of royal descent. Young Jewish men of that period when Jesus lived always got married and there are reasons to believe that Jesus did the same.

This clashed with the dogma preached by his followers that resulted in Mary Magdalene fleeing the land of Israel while she was pregnant and arriving in southern France where she died and is buried in Rennes le château area leaving the bloodline of Jesus from which the Merovingian kings rose and ruled France for centuries. But that is another story that has no place here.

Jesus and Mary Magdalene of history      Please read about Jesus and Mary Magdalene of history at the link here.

The Catholic church as it is now probably will not survive in the long run unless the Pope seriously makes reforms and amends to those the priests abused. He has taken some steps in this regard but a lot more needs to be done to clean up the church.He has lately suggested that there is nothing wrong in priests getting married and still serve the church but the hard liners would have none of it.

The organized religions have faced such challenges from time to time and some have made changes while others remain mired in their dogma and bureaucracy. The Protestant church in general has not faced the problems to the extent the Catholic church has although some tele evangelists have shown disregard to morality and cavorted with prostitutes in some cases but the fact remains that they get to marry as pastors and live a more contented life compared to the catholic priests.

In Hindu religion all priests marry because the wife is considered a part of their religious life and is an asset instead of liability as preached by the Catholic dogma. When the Vatican will make the necessary reforms in this regard, I am sure a part of the problem of pedophilia will be solved so I commend the current Pope for taking such a bold stance in this matter. If he gets the support of his cardinals, there may be reform in the church in a very positive way.

 

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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Conundrum of the diaspora

Synopsis : The conundrum of the diaspora all over the world is well known. They can not forget their mother country from where they immigrated to the new one and can not completely assimilate into their adopted country so they stick to their own culture, language, food and mannerism no matter where they live making them less assimilable.

Conundrum of the diaspora

images

Source :Google photo

People now a days emigrate to other countries in larNJge numbers because they want a better life than they have in their own countries. They do so in several ways. Some go to study in other countries, get the permanent residency that eventually leads to citizenship so they decide to stay there permanently. Others get married to a foreign national and go to live with their spouse in a country other than their own .Still others apply for the asylum status because they are fleeing their war ravaged countries that may lead to citizenship of that country later.

So there are many ways and reasons why people emigrate and leave their home country behind. Often they emigrate to a country very unlike their own where the culture, the language, the political system, the educational system and even the landscape is very different from what they leave behind not to mention the religious majority, new rules and laws that may be different from what they were used to.

This difference brings in its own set of problems that is the subject of this blog today. It is called the conundrum of the diaspora.

Let us take the example of the United States that is called the country of immigrants. People from all over the world have settled there and have brought with them their culture, their languages, their food and their religion with them. They will usually find a large number of their former countrymen there so they feel secure in their company where they can speak in their language and eat the food they were used to.

They build their own places of worship where their fellow compatriots congregate. They build their own clubs where they socialize and often find their future spouses. They open their stores where they can buy the food or spices that they used when they were in their home country. They open schools where their children can study in their native language taught by their native speakers. You will see the Spanish language schools where the teachers are Spanish speakers.

They live in a new country now they call their own but want to maintain strong ties with the country they left behind through the language, food, clothing, religion, festivals etc.to remind them that they have not forgotten their identity and want to maintain it as much as possible.

Thus you will find a large community of Filipinos where they only speak in their language, where they have stores where they can buy Filipino food, community centers where they can meet other Filipinos and churches where they can go to listen to their own Filipino padres.

This is true of many communities of people who have tended to live together in some parts of the country just so that they feel comfortable with their own people and culture. They also help each other with jobs, with affordable houses, with temporary accommodations for the new arrivals, with religious and other social services, with many other things to make the new comers feel at home so they create an enclave of their own and tend not to mix with people who are different and are from other countries. The melting pot theory is therefore just a theory because people of different background, culture and ethnicity do not melt into the pot because they do not want to.

These are the so called off the boat people who have just arrived in their new country and find everything strange and alien to their own country and culture so it is quite natural for them to look for their own people they feel comfortable with.

You will thus find the Indian communities, the Filipino communities, the Latino meaning the Spanish speaking communities, the Japanese communities, the Irish, the Italian, the Jewish communities etc. scattered all over the country. They even have their own newspapers, newsletters, blog sites, dating sites etc. to help each other out.

The Japanese workers who lived in Hawaii and toiled in the pineapple fields and other such farm work invited the Japanese entertainers from Japan to sing for them or dance for them so that they could still feel being a part of Japan. Similarly the Filipinos invite the entertainers from their home country and have TV channels where they show the latest soap operas that are flown in daily from the Philippines in DVDs that are then played.

Indians have built huge temples where the Hindus congregate and worship while the Sikhs have built their Gurudwaras to serve their religious needs. The Moslems similarly have built mosques in many parts of the country.

If you go to New York, London or Sydney, you will find many restaurants run by the immigrants who cater to their communities and import the spices and other food so that you can have the authentic Indian or Japanese or the Filipino food. Food is one thing people find very hard to give up and try something new that they are not used to.

The conundrum:

Now let us see the effect of this self-imposed isolation in their new country and their culture and everything else. The first hurdle to overcome is the language which most people find very hard. The parents who do not speak English have a hard time learning it even after staying in their new country for many years so they feel more comfortable living in their segregated communities where they speak their native tongue. You will find large communities in southern California for example where they only speak Spanish and have Spanish language TV channels and schools.

This inability to overcome the language barrier has something to do with the age and the educational level of the person. Older the person who has a low level of education, harder it is for him to learn a new language.

The Filipinos who have lived in the United States for years still have difficulty in speaking good English so they prefer Tagalog or Tagalish. Because of this fear of English ,they tend not to mix with others and remain segregated. They are also mortally afraid of the Puti meaning white policemen who may have given them stiff fines for traffic violations.

Those immigrants who have high level of education and are young have less problems because most of them are fluent in English so they get preferential treatment to get a work visa. Many countries welcome highly trained and educated young people who are fluent in English because they get good jobs easily and assimilate into the new society faster with less culture shock than the older less educated people.

But the immigrants have one thing in common irrespective of their age and education. They miss the country they left behind so they look for their food, listen to their own music and look for a temple or mosque to go to, speak in their mother tongue with others while trying to adjust to their adopted country.

The old people who came in before the wave of young and educated immigrants have a particularly difficult time adjusting to the culture of the country and often insist that their children speak in their mother tongue at home, value the culture of the country they left behind and are indignant when their children born in the United States or other countries learn the American culture, or European culture they are not comfortable with. This is where the clash between the older and the younger generation comes to play in such families. The younger generation feels no connection to their parent’s country and adapt far quicker to their new country than their parents.

This clash was shown in a movie made about the Indian diaspora living in UK where the young daughter wearing skimpy clothes argued in its favor with her father who just shed tears at such behavior but could do nothing. Back in India people show respect to their parents, do not argue with them or wear skimpy clothes that are inappropriate in their culture. They do not smoke or drink in front of their parents as a sign of respect but in UK it is different.

Similarly in their culture they do not call an elder person by his or her first name as a sign of respect but in the Western countries like the USA or England or Australia, children may call their parents or grandparents by their first name. I have seen the students in our college in California call their professors by their first name and wear just bikinis in the classroom because the weather is hot.

So the conundrum of the diaspora is what to do when there is such a different culture and how to adapt? As I mentioned earlier, the younger people do it much better and faster and become fluent in the language and learn all the mannerism and behavior of others just so that they do not stand out and assimilate faster. This is expected of them in schools and later in their workplace.

One thing the immigrant parents get very anxious about is when their children start dating a person who is not of their own ethnic and cultural and religious background. Perhaps religion is the most aggravating factor because people try to hold on to their religion fervently and are extremely annoyed when their sons or daughters do otherwise. Imagine an Arab Moslem girl with an Israeli boyfriend or Hindu girl romancing a Moslem from Pakistan or other Moslem countries. This is very hard to swallow for the traditionalist so the conflict starts at home resulting in separations from the parents.

Then comes the political affiliation. If a girl who is registered as a Democrat starts a relationship with someone who is a Republican then the fireworks start early long before marriage which is not a bad thing. It is a lot easier to date someone else than to change the marriage partner later that may come with its own set of problems.

The religion again raises its ugly head when a catholic girl marries a Protestant or a Jew so there are many issues the diaspora has to deal with that they find very hard.

In time many such issues mentioned above tend to become less of an issue if people learn to make compromises and settle down. It is just like sitting down in a sofa or lie down in a bed and find the most comfortable position so you adjust to it until you get comfortable.

In life many issues can be resolved if people are willing to compromise and develop an understanding of each other. I have seen this in Sydney where mini skirted Chinese immigrant girls speak in perfect Aussie accent and feel very Australian while their Chinese parents may not speak or feel that way. The younger generation accepts the changes and adjusts faster because they are willing to do what it takes to belong.

So the conundrum of the diaspora comes from the inability to do what it takes to belong to the new country and assimilate. Those who do not make the effort to assimilate are left behind in their segregated communities but their influence on the younger generation wanes over time. You will see a black woman from Cameroon speaking beautiful French and goes around in chic fashion in Paris or a Kenyan girl speaking beautiful English in British accent reading news in the BBC.

In some countries like Holland they become parliamentarians or in the UK the mayor of a big city like London. They are the most successful immigrants.

I have never been an immigrant so I did not have to go through what the diaspora faces everyday but I have traveled around the world to know their problems and issues so I have full sympathy for them.

My earlier blog called The fear of melting pot has some of these issues covered so it is perhaps worth a look.

 

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.

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Anil’s biography in English.

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What is minimalism?

Synopsis : Hoarding is a sickness affecting many people who mindlessly accumulate junk all their life and do not know what to do with them. This blog shows the beauty of minimalism with the example of Japan where it is an art form.

What is minimalism?

hoarding1

Source : Google photo

There is a sickness called extreme hoarding where people live in a pile of garbage that they have accumulated over a long period of time and can’t get rid of. Some people hoard because they can’t seem to part with anything so they keep on accumulating things they do not have any use for and fill their house with it. This is a kind of sickness both physical and mental but tends towards mental more than anything else. Here are some photos of such extreme hoarders. You can see that such people need help and serious counseling. It is a phenomenon often found in the western capitalistic societies where buying and accumulating things is promoted through ceaseless capitalism where the main focus is to buy the useless things and discard them to be replaced with more useless things so long as people continue to spend money .

How often one hears a woman saying I can’t part with these things because they have sentimental values ? The extreme hoarders are a symptom of a mental condition that develops over a period of time and becomes a serious health issue if not treated but by and large the western capitalism promotes such behavior to the detriment of individual’s sanity. We all succumb to this desire to accumulate things when we travel and end up buying things that we don’t even have a place for in the house.

I admit I am no exception because I too have accumulated things that I can’t seem to get rid of although our case is not that serious so we can’t be called hoarders as exemplified by the photos above. But we all have this tendency. The constant obsolescence built into any gadget you buy today makes it harder to get rid of things that have become obsolete so no one takes them even if you try to give them away. The newer gadgets have the tendency to become more and more complicated to repair if anything goes wrong with it so people have to buy new ones all the time.

I think the habit of accumulating is strongly influenced by the culture in which a person lives because the culture is defined as the cumulative behavior of people taken as a whole. In some culture, the materialism is deemphasized like in Japan whereas in other cultures it is a sign of consumerism that people are not ashamed of and even brag about it.

In India people often say that the motto in life should be simple living and high thinking but looking at them you will not believe the Indians to be serious about simple living and high thinking. In reality they do the opposite and keep accumulating all sorts of things that they constantly brag about. This is the influence of the consumerist culture of the West that is invading all parts of the world. They do it through TV ads that run 24 hours a day bombarding people with their message of buy and buy until you cry uncle.

But there are countries where people have fought hard against this trend and reject consumerism to maintain a simple but aesthetic and beautiful life free of clutter and hoarding. Such people are rare so all the more appreciated because of their determination to fight the all-pervading lure of material culture.

I will therefore write today about such a country called Japan. It was devastated by the Second World War when entire cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated by the Americans who dropped the A bomb there to bring the war to an end although in hindsight it was realized that such drastic action was not at all necessary. Japan was defeated and was about to capitulate anyway because they were at the end of their tether after the long and ruinous war.

Who and why started the war is not the topic under discussion so I will limit it by saying that the post war Japan rose literally from the ashes to rebuild their country and did a splendid job. It rose to be the number two economy in the world earning it the envy of the world and the epithet Japan Inc.

So it is all the more important to understand the Japanese resolve in keeping their life simple even under tremendous pressure generated by the capitalistic system they follow and make money out of.

It is true that the Japanese people have used the capitalism to their advantage and have rebuilt their country in a way that has brought in prosperity for the most people who enjoy a higher living standard than the previous generation. But it is also true that the Japanese people are fiercely proud of their long heritage and very old civilization that has imbued into them a sense of national pride rarely seen elsewhere in the world.

When we think of Japan, we think of simplicity of their homes but this simplicity is the result of meticulous planning and the desire to keep it that way no matter what the pressure to do otherwise. This comes from the pride in their heritage and a love of the aesthetic sense that every Japanese feels obliged to maintain. It comes from the art of minimalism. They have shown that a house can be beautiful using the minimalism concept so I include a few photos to prove the point.

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It starts with the simple tatami floor that is covered with tatami which is a thick mattress  made of rice straw bordered with black edging. It always has a fixed dimension and can be arranged in a number of ways. The golden yellow sheen of the mat adds to the beauty of simplicity in a home where meticulous care is taken to keep the dirt out. So you are given slippers to wear and leave your shoes outside their homes. This way the indoors are kept very clean.

images (4)

 

 

Then you will notice that there are very few furniture apart from a low table around which people sit on the floor to eat. Sitting on the floor in loose Japanese garment is very comfortable and very enjoyable. The minimalism with tatami floor and polished low table and the gleaming lacquer ware adds to the beauty and a sense of space that is truly artistic in nature and makes you appreciate the values the Japanese hold dear to them.

japanese_gardens

Source : All photos from Google

The walls are often bare or with a hand painted scroll with a simple window looking out to an exquisite garden that is often called the living picture frame. The photo above is shown to prove how beautiful it can be.

Source : Google photos

They make excellent lacquer ware that adds to the beauty of minimalism inside a home and a sense of aesthetics unseen elsewhere. The elegance of such uncompromising beauty is the hallmark of the Japanese culture where great attention is given to every detail.The Japanese sense of simplicity and elegance is combined in a way that is quite unique to them and copied by others.

I once spent some time in Japan and was very impressed by the way they valued their culture and showed their pride in their long history through their architecture, their art and craft and the silk kimonos that are truly the work of artists. Their ceramics and their potteries have an elegance that is truly Japanese. I have made many power points on the art and craft of Japan so it is worth a look.

We can all learn from the Japanese how to unclutter our homes and discard anything that does not add to the simplicity they have adopted.

The link to the power point is given here.

https://1drv.ms/f/s!AmoX9W4gHulzi1VzptGlyxIokb7U

 

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

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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

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What is democracy?

Synopsis : We know what democracy is but we do not see a perfect example of it in most countries including the United States so democracy may mean different things to different people. The most we can say is that it is  in progress and may take a long time to achieve universal education and until all the voters are given equal rights and voice.

What is democracy?

karnataka-voters

Source : Google photo

When I think of democracy, I think of an ideal where everyone has a voice irrespective of race, religion, gender, political affiliation, ethnicity, sexual orientation and education. That is the ideal democracy where every vote counts and the winner is the one who gets the most votes. The popular will gets him or her the mandate to rule.

This was the premise on which the democracy was born in ancient Greece where people enjoyed the power of vote to vote in or out a person whom they liked or disliked. The mandate thus gained through the vote was sacrosanct and could not be challenged by anyone during the validity of the mandate.

We have seen the spread of democracy in one form or other throughout the world where people have voted for their candidates and often removed a tyrant or a despot who ruled over a people illegally. Often a violent revolution was a precursor to the advent of democracy where oppressed people took to the streets to protest at first through peaceful means and later through armed struggle when that did not work. The revolutions are never peaceful and lead to suffering and death that may or may not result in the democracy.

We have seen this again and again in countries where a ruthless dictator rules to maintain his personal or family advantage where he has abused his power by using it on its people without justice and where he continues to plunder the national wealth for his personal gains.

All people have the basic desire to be free and live in a just society where the rule of law prevails, where people can walk the street without fear and where people can speak, read or write freely including the right to criticize the unjust government that does not serve the people it may or may not have been elected to serve.

In Syria people at first wanted to protest peacefully against a dictator and bring about a change in the government but failed to do so. They were beaten, jailed and tortured for speaking out against a government that is oppressive and treats its people badly. Such dictators use the police and military as the means to suppress protests because people are powerless to protect themselves.

This changes when they are killed or tortured so they start to protect themselves by taking up arms. This often turns into a lopsided battle against the oppressor because the government has more money and guns to subjugate people. Often the geopolitics kicks in and many countries get involved in such struggles on one side or the other and a proxy war starts just like in Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq so the people who want democracy suffer.

Millions become homeless in their own country and live in vast refugee camps in total misery while others flee the fighting to reach safe haven somewhere and often die doing so. Cities and villages are destroyed, infrastructure collapses and total lawlessness prevails where no one is safe anymore.

We see this in so many countries where people are suffering due to war caused by the refusal of the ruler to grant them democracy. I have lived through terrible and brutal revolution in Haiti where the people were able to overthrow a dictator and started the process of building a viable democracy but it is a process that is still in the making. We have seen the power of people that overthrew a dictator in the Philippines but there too the process is in the making of a true and viable democracy.

We have seen how the people of Zimbabwe have struggled but have failed to dislodge a tyrant who has brought a once prosperous country to its knees and has no wish to relinquish power. We have seen the violent uprising in formerly East Pakistan where the oppressed people took to armed struggle to gain their freedom but at a terrible loss of life. So freedom and democracy exacts a heavy price but people struggle on because they hope someday they will achieve what they are struggling for.

The King of Jordan said that democracy means different things to different people. In some countries it means one person one vote where they elect a secular government like in India and in other countries called Islamic republics like in Pakistan or Iran , people have to reconcile the Islamic laws with the secular laws and often find it very difficult.

Remember that the original concept of democracy was based on the rule of just laws where religion did not interfere with the governance but now we see in many countries that is happening. When one religion gains supremacy over others then the oppression of the religious minorities starts under the guise of rule of religious laws like in some Islamic countries where people suffer. There is always a hard core segment of the population that gains the upper hand and oppresses the vast majority of the population. This is playing out right now in Mosul , in Tikrit and Raquaa where democracy remains elusive and people continue to suffer.

In the United States where the experiment with democracy is still in progress after so many years has failed to give the people a voice in electing a government of their choice by insisting on the electoral College method. Thus a handful of people of the Electoral College can overturn the popular votes cast by millions and give the victory to someone who did not deserve. When people do not have a voice through their vote then there is no democracy so we see that there is no perfect democracy anywhere because democracy is so fragile.

One very popular president elected twice who made tremendous gains in healthcare coverage, in giving people a voice to gain their basic rights and many such good deeds is now systematically being undone by a very vengeful president who is determined to roll back all the progress made in the past and increase the tax burden on the very poor while giving tax breaks to the super rich. If this is happening in the United States where they have been working on democracy for over two hundred years and still can’t come to terms with it then one can only imagine how difficult it must be to practice democracy in countries where they do not have much experience in it.

Building of democracy:

I often think of democracy as an edifice that has to be built up one brick at a time with a solid foundation so that it does not collapse in the future. This means building up a solid foundation first that requires education. If the voters are not educated in the ways of democracy, they will misuse the power of their vote and regret it .It means understanding what it means to be an elected person who then rules over them always upholding the constitution.

An elected official is a public servant and he is elected to serve the people who have elected him or her and who expect him or her to represent them and serve their interest. It means creating jobs for them, building affordable houses for them and provide them with affordable healthcare when they are sick. It means creating a fear free environment where people can make progress using their education. It means being free to criticize the government when it does not serve the people but only the vested interests. It means a free press that serves as a watchdog over the government and reports without fear or prejudice on wrongdoings and exposes them to scrutiny.

So democracy is a work in progress where some people want to crush it for their personal gains like in Haiti or Zimbabwe or Syria so we see again and again a setback to democracy in many parts of the world where people are still struggling.
We live in an imperfect world where bad people try to gain power so that they can become super rich plundering the national wealth. Such people gain power through voter fraud, through intimidation and through bribery. Sometime they just kill their opponents so that they can get to win unopposed.

In a very poor country like Romania, there was a dictator who built a 1000 room palace with gold bathtubs and crystal chandeliers and Persian carpets but people could not take it anymore and executed him. In other countries like Uganda, people were powerless to get rid of Idi Amin who later fled to Saudi Arabia with all his wealth. I was appalled by the display of Shah’s wealth at the airport of Tehran where the pirate crates were overflowing with pearls and jewels while people starved. He too left the country with most of the loot so people were powerless to bring him to justice.

In a real democracy the wrongdoers are punished and are always held accountable by the justice system. The three pillars of democracy are the independent judiciary, legislature and the executive branch but the free press and system of checks and balances are just as important.

So I come back to the foundation of democracy that is supposed to be built by the educated voters. This is the bane of democracy. What if the voters are not educated or not enough to understand that real democracy can only come when voters have the power to hold the elected government accountable? It is not enough to know that they have the power to vote out a government they do not like but it is their duty to elect a person who will serve them and protect them.

In many countries where democracy is still struggling to gain a foothold, the voters remain uneducated and vote for a populist person who makes outlandish promises only to forget them when it suits his purpose. The politicians are often called the scum that floats to the top so they are not the kind of people who should be voted for so how can an uneducated person know what a politician is really like?
So building a stable and viable democracy is a long and tedious process with uncertain results. Any scheming, thieving and conniving politician can set back the progress made by a good government by decades while he enriches himself.

In ancient Athens and Alexandria people used to gather every day in a public square to listen to politicians and philosophers who would explain to people what they believed in and how they could serve the people. There were lively discourses where anyone could ask questions and participate in the debate on governance, on taxation, on public health or any other topic. This was the nascent democracy where people learned from very learned people the pros and cons of any subject under discussion. But it has gone out of style. Now we get the news and views or analysis all filtered through government controlled media in most countries so there is really no discussion.

Now an elected government can declare a war on another country on fraudulent basis and start sending its citizens to die there or kill. Those who return come home often with disabilities and PTSD problems. In a real democracy people have the power to say no.

So I think the phrases like “you only get the government you deserve” downplay the importance of building a solid foundation on which a democracy is built and flourishes. This means education at the grass roots level. It means protecting the voter’s right to vote and to be vigilant to catch the bad people who want to deny the voter his right to vote. It means building a secular basis of governance untainted by religious zealots who always have their own agenda. It means building awareness among the people that the democracy means equal rights for everybody in everything they do. It means building a just society where the rule of law prevails and everyone has a fair shake.

I would like to live in such a democracy but I am only a dreamer.

 

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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Role of international aid in development

Synopsis : The role of international aid in the development of other countries has increasingly come into debate and soul-searching. Often such aid is hampered by the corrupt politicians and mismanagement so the emphasis of this blog is to be self-reliant and seek aid only when new methods and technologies are needed .

Role of international aid in development

aid

Source : Google photo

This is a topic that evokes strong reaction from certain quarters as people tend to get very patriotic when it comes to evaluating how much their countries are helping others. However, as an impartial observer I do have a few things to say about how some countries play their aid card to further their own interests and try to make recipient countries feel a sense of gratitude.

The prime culprit in this game of aid to serve its own interest is the United States of America with its vaunted USAID program with a symbol of clasping a black hand and using this sticker on anything they ever pay for.

Richard Nixon once infamously said “the United States does not give aid to other countries to help them but rather it gives aid to help itself”. If we analyse this statement further ,we come to find the truth behind it. One USAID employee in Haiti glibly said to me that for every aid dollar the US spends on foreign aid, more than 67 cents go back to the US. This is not a joke but straight from the horse’s mouth. There is a law passed by the congress that says that all the equipment needed for any project overseas must be bought in the US be it a vehicle or a paper clip. The exceptions are few and hard-fought for.

The American Jeep dealer in Port Au Prince was a real rascal and supplied poorly built jeeps with city tires that kept falling apart within the year and needed constant welding and fixing but he made a fortune being the sole dealer of jeeps. When asked why he sold jeeps with city tires when the vehicles needed all terrain tires, he said it was not his fault.No one at the AID office told him about the all terrain tires so he did it cheaply and made more profit. The AID people are not field people and rarely go out of their air-conditioned offices so I believe they did not know how bad the roads in rural Haiti were.

So very few cents to a dollar for the project itself remained in country to spend locally less the ever-present corruption in recipient countries that siphoned off more of the remaining cents leaving only a pittance to run the project. The whole bureaucracy of AID that oversees the multi billion dollar aid program overseas is run from it’s Washington HQ where pencil pushing officers talk whole day of nothing but PIL ( project implementation letter) and such to demonstrate how important a work they are doing and how they are helping the poor Haitians or Afghanis who are so grateful for this aid.

Then they insist that US experts should be invited to the project site to give them advice on what to do and how to do it .These “experts” are then paid a hefty fee,air fare plus per diem that of course comes out of the project budget because these funds are earmarked for such “help” . One such expert wanted to come to Haiti and build a solar cooker when I asked for help in building a rice grain blower and sent him the blue print to do it. He said that such a complicated machine can not be built-in Haiti which is a very poor country and does not have the facility or workshop to do it so he will build a solar cooker instead. Our project was an agricultural project to help rice farmers and it did not need a solar cooker so I put my foot down and refused to authorize this expert to come .

This raised some eyebrows and the expert was mad as a hatter . Who was this third world agronomist to stop him? Wasn’t it an American funded project? By the way ,there was a modern workshop in Les Cayes where all tools were available to build the machine but the idiot had never even seen a hand operated grain blower let alone know what it was supposed to do. I suppose he had never heard of IRRI either.

Then there was another expert who showed up with a small vacuum cleaner to catch mosquitoes to see if they were the biting type. This was an agriculture project which had nothing to do with mosquitoes so who invited him and paid for him?

On top of that came a horde of congressmen and other VIPs from Washington on “fact finding missions” but never mentioned what facts they were able to find. One of them took over my living room to make a political speech to a quickly gathered crowd of yokels who did not understand English. This congressman probably thought that he was a snake oil peddler and needed an apple crate to stand on.

We said no to any future clown who wanted to do the same again raising some eyebrows at the US embassy. Wasn’t I a third world agronomist who should have been grateful for the employment in an US funded project? You can draw your own conclusions but the fact is that I have met many such people who pretended to help the poor countries but actually did nothing of the sort.

The head of the USAID program in Washington once started talking to me in a very condescending manner and said that it was good that I was teaching those poor ignorant farmers in Vietnam new methods and techniques in agriculture. When I said that they were not ignorant and knew agriculture better than anyone , he did not like my response and terminated the meeting. This culture of condescension prevails throughout the system and is widely resented by recipient countries.

There are a huge number of organisations that have their offices around Washington ,DC. and are called beltway bandits because they are after the piece of the American Aid pie. Their sole purpose of existence is to frequent the AID office to find out what new offers are in the offing, what kind of project proposals are needed to bid for the contract, how much money is earmarked for the project and what is the deadline for submission of the bids. Then they get to work.

They hire the “experts” who are dime a dozen in the US or elsewhere and these experts after a cursory visit to the project site and country, write voluminous reports called project proposal that details the personnel,equipment, cost and other sundry items and with this in hand the bandits then bid for the project. If they get the project , it means a land fall profit for them because the lion’s share of the budget for the project goes for the overhead expense for them in DC,the experts plus the mandatory purchase of equipment etc. which is part of the 67 cents to the dollar that must be sent back.

A friend of mine once told me how these experts always carried their laptops with them and could be seen furiously typing away while on a plane or in the airport waiting lounges. Report writing has never been easier these days thanks to Google . You can get any amount of information in the internet but their report would usually start with a paragraph like “ In a very poor land locked country of Afghanistan where people live on less than a dollar a day” etc. Copy and paste feature is made for these “experts”.

I have mentioned here the USAID but may countries have similar modus operandi and have even stricter rules on how to spend the project money, who gets to spend it and how much of it must go back to the donor. They insist that the project manager must be an American if the funding is from America or European if the funds come from Europe. They do not trust a third country national with their money but once in a while they hire someone like me who can then be a thorn on their side.

There are however some surprises once in a while. There are some ex Peace Corps people who join the AID and bring with them their extensive field experiences. They understand the poor countries better because of their first hand living experience there and know what it takes to make a project successful so they push hard within their system to give a person like me a helping hand as they did in Haiti. But they are few in number and are often overlooked.

Now let us analyse the impact of the aid policies on the recipient countries. I have sat through many meetings between the donors and the recipients as a facilitator or sometimes as a translator and got to know the real feelings of the receivers of aid. Often they flatly refused to abide by the strict rules they must accept before the project agreement is signed because they want to be free to decide how the money is spent ,where it is spent and how much must remain in the hands of the recipient country.

Often such meetings ended up in a failure to come to an agreement and the visitors were sent back to the airport after a meal in a restaurant where the waiters were told by the host to send them the bill later and they disappeared . The visitors morosely ate their meal alone and went back to the airport to write their report .They always carried their laptops.

I have often felt a strong sense of resentment the poorer countries feel that is growing toward the donor countries that impose so strict rules and lay the ground work for mistrust that works like termites eating away at the foundation.

The donors will do anything to get a project going somewhere and will invite the minister or head of a department to Washington or Brussels all expenses paid to
make them agree on a project because it is a lot easier to do it in DC or in Brussels than in Bamako or Niamey but some times it back fires.

I have been told again and again that the donors must not underestimate the capability of the locals to run a project because they can often do it a lot cheaper and more efficiently than the foreigners. They too have many highly educated people with Ph.Ds who are smart and can be project managers and they should be given full authority on how to run a project , hire people and should have full participation in writing the project proposal that is suitable to their needs. Instead of a top down approach ,it should be a bottom up approach so that the project helps the poor in a solid well-managed way.

They scoff at the experts who take a great deal of money to tell them what they already know and feel that such a waste of money should be stopped. They want the staff to be better trained so they want them to be sent to international research centers or other such places but such demands are often not met. I was invited to a conference in Tanzania when I was working in Mali but the Canadian employer refused to sponsor it giving no reasons. I was entitled as an international staff to participate in international meetings .

There are many such issue that plague international development that need discussion at the highest level. I often dealt with callous program officers who were outright ignorant about the local culture and treated people badly creating ill feelings all around. One such fellow went to a remote village in Mali and asked villagers what their problems were so the villagers very eagerly gave him a long list of their problems thinking the “blanc” will do something about it. But the “blanc” was just making cheap talk not realizing that he was raising the expectations of these poor villagers.

So from my experience I know that the real development can only come when donors and recipients can sit down and thresh out all the issues that divide them and do it openly with the aim to help the poor in a concrete and measurable way. People give money but they always want something in return so the aids are always with strings attached. It is important for the poor countries to know what those strings are and whether or not they agree to the terms that are often dictated by the donor’s home offices.

There is a classic example of waste of aid money in Afghanistan where a multi million dollar gas station was built where practically no one had a car or a school where there were no teachers and the Talibans threatened any one attending such schools. The gas station or school could be built by the locals at the fraction of the cost but the contract was given to Americans. This sort of thing goes on everywhere . No one goes back to check a few years later if the gas station is still in use or the school has trained teachers and students attending there.

The money spent by the AID for  the irrigation canal in Haiti is another example of waste where the contractor stole money from the project and built canals with less cement and more sand resulting in crumbling canals that brought water no where. At first the more powerful farmers who were also a part of the militia called ton ton macoute in Haiti took most of the water up-stream for themselves leaving very little for the farmers down streams . This caused many conflicts and even deaths.

There is a real need of development be it in agriculture, education or infrastructure development or health care. The national governments always struggle to meet these demands because they do not have the resources or due to widespread corruption that exists at every level that siphons money away from the projects. The government officials elected or not tend to fill their pockets first and give only lip service to developing their country.

As I have written earlier, there is no end to corruption anywhere. It exists everywhere .Only the degree varies from country to country. There is corruption whenever money is spent for anything anywhere so that is a fact of life.The idea is to find a solution that can channel most of the aid money to those who need them most but a country never develops with foreign aid. The poor remain poor and some people get very rich stealing the aid money. Such countries remain aid dependent and can not bring development to where it is needed. The real development has to come from within the country and for that to happen ,you need a responsive elected government that thinks first of it’s people.

But that is a very tall order anywhere.

 

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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Anil’s biography in English.

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