World on a downward spiral?

It is time to pause and introspect, as a slippery road lies ahead, potentially spiraling downward. We have been fed religious political opium for long and lured into a make-believe world and primed to fight Don Quixote’s windmills. We must detoxify and purge ourselves of xenophobia and religious intolerances; keep our eyes and ears open, and brain nurtured with verifiable facts; and tread every step of the way with caution. The ground is wobbly and the weather rough. Our actions (and inactions) will define us, and our convictions and scruples will be tested to core. This year will redefine us.

Are we too many on the planet, beyond the optimum and, thus, unmanageable? Is that why the political Left has moved to the political Right, leaving people behind? No wonder why many politicians look clueless about how to meet the basic human needs — jobs, health, education, and housing – and duck away shamelessly from their election promises, some making lame excuses and some creating social discords for distraction? Perhaps, politicians are too incompetent or, as alarming as it may sound, puppets in the hands of faceless elites who have insatiable hunger for power and wealth.

Climate Change is wreaking havoc on our planet, but our elected leaders can’t see it. Owing to the present Middle East military conflict, the Suez Canal is debilitated, severely impacting the world trade. The Panama Canal is also impacted by the drying of Gatun Lake, due to drought and deforestation of the Amazon. Japan and the UK are in recession since the end of 2023 and more countries could follow them? Do we need a ‘mother’ of all wars to solve an insolvable mess created by irresponsible politicians – past and present – and their crony capitalists?  

The world seems to have lost its moral compass, sophistication and regressed; it has exposed its true colours. A tribalistic world order operates under a deceptive veil of statesmanship and diplomatic sophistication. Powerful political bullies oppress, humiliate, and denigrate their weaker opponents to provoke them. When the persecuted victims react publicly, they are smashed with a sledgehammer under the pretext of the oppressor’s ‘right to defend’. That reminds us of a school-time story, The Wolf and the Lamb, which ends with the moral, ‘might is right’.

We must think critically and ask questions, as Socrates taught us, and not believe everything thrown on us. Ensure Socrates’ sacrifice does not go in vain. No matter what, human dignity must be upheld at all costs.

Humans are increasingly feeling frustrated, disillusioned, and protesting, in both authoritarian and paper democracies. Elections are brazenly rigged and stolen from voters? Sham democracies commit most heinous crimes against humanity whom they are sworn to protect and serve. Gaza questions our individual and collective conscience. Can anyone be ever held accountable for up to 30-thousand civilian deaths in that godforsaken land?  Disappointingly, a sustained UN effort for a permanent ceasefire and the recent ICJ ruling to stop the onslaught have borne no immediate fruits.

After Rafah is annihilated and Gaza evacuated, can we claim to be ‘civilised’?  What would be our credibility? How soon will our textbooks remove words that have been rendered redundant, such as ‘ethics, morality, humanity, civility, humility, responsibility, accountability, honesty, integrity, empathy and compassion’?

Something ominous is brewing. Will the Middle East conflict spread? Ask any megalomaniac politician, who creates and nurtures social divisions and wars. In the emerging world order, nations are seen as ‘you are either with us or against us.’ Battle lines are drawn, there is no escape for those who sit on the fence.

Is our world possessed by a great demon, or have we lost the ability to think, either due to a religious-political opium being constantly fed to us or because of Coronavirus? Perhaps, our education is also not good enough to hone our thinking faculty. Imagine one morning we woke up and found our arsenal of nuclear and chemical weapons, guns, spears and swords all gone, will we continue fighting? Other than religion, oil and water, what will we fight about? Other than stones and sticks, what will we use to kill our kind? Bare hands? Who are we?

If our civilisation survives, subject to a nuclear global war or a colossal natural event, we will continue to be exploited by conniving, power-hungry individuals in the name of religion.

These are unprecedented times, we must remain steadfast and hopeful, and brace ourselves. This will also pass. Let us wait for the happy winds to return and fill your sails. We can only do so much. At the end of the day, we must accept our insignificance.

Democracy in the Subcontinent

India’s boisterous claim of being the ‘mother’ of democracy is wrought with sheer ignorance and arrogance. The Indian Subcontinent has seen nothing but monarchy in its feudal past. A deep-rooted class and caste system in the Subcontinent can never allow liberal democracy. The concept of democracy requires acceptance of egalitarianism, which is incongruent with a vertical hierarchical social, religious and political order followed to this date in the Subcontinent, and, as such, in conflict with democracy.

The concept of democracy, born in Athens (Greece) around five centuries before Christ, empowers people (politically) over any individual group or person. The term is born from two Greek words, Demos (meaning ‘people’) and Kratos (meaning ‘rule’). As closing remarks (on democracy) in his famous Gettysburg Address, on 19 November 1863, legendary American President Abraham Lincoln is known to have used the words ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’. Before Lincoln, however, many other social reformists are known to have use them in same or similar forms over a couple of centuries before him.

Authoritarian democracy in South Asia (the Subcontinent) must not be compared to liberal Western democracy. Subcontinent has mastered the tricks of the statecraft to win staged elections and, thereafter, blatantly abuse, misuse and exploit democracy through elected dictatorships and relentless suppression of ground reality.

Abominable glorification of the powerful elite can’t conceal the fact that the Subcontinent is severely plagued by a deeply rooted class, religious, caste and ethnic civil warfare and hanging on the precipice of self-destruction. Don’t blame the British for that. Verily, despite enjoying semblances of democracy in the first six decades after the British exit, the Subcontinent has returned to its strife-torn past. Of course, the British can’t be blamed for such regression.

Truth can’t be destroyed because it permeates into everything around us, including our memory, soul and conscience, and lives permanently in our published works.

Elections in the Subcontinent

Pakistan’s recent general election exposes the Subcontinent’s sham democracies and exemplifies a classic power tussle in the Subcontinent between the minority privileged elites and the majority underprivileged and unprivileged people — the everyday battlers. In an ideal world, the latter should win such ‘democratically held’ elections but we don’t live in an ideal world, it is a ‘dog eats dog’ world where money and muscle talk.

It is deplorable to see Mr. Imran Khan, who is serving a long jail sentence as a reprehensible political vendetta by the establishment, could not form the government despite highest following amongst the people of Pakistan and winning the highest number of votes (including the votes won by the independents supporting his disbanded party) in the recent general election in Pakistan. The outcome of the election was seemingly preordained. It is not surprising that two opposing political parties, both tainted by numerous charges of blatant corruption, have come together to forge the new government in Pakistan. Similarly, a few months ago, the Opposition in Bangladesh boycotted their General Election. Sri Lanka too has been in news.

Elections are stolen from people by hook or by crook in authoritarian, watermelon democracies, where wealth talks unashamedly, and wolves operate in sheep’s clothing.

In neighbouring India, the forthcoming May 2024 General Election is expected to forever change its identity. As the origins of the terms ‘Hindu’ and ‘India’ are rooted in the river Indus, which does not flow through the mainland India, it will be of interest to see how soon after the election, India declares itself as a Hindu Republic, with a new saffron coloured flag and a new constitution, or if it regresses into archaic Hindu monarchy? Notably, Mahatma Gandhi, revered all over the world, is challenged by the present-day far right Hindus who construe ‘nonviolence’ as ‘cowardice’. Ostensibly, India’s first Prime Minister, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, is blamed for every current issue and wrongdoing in the country.

An unchartered territory, therefore, lies ahead for India.

A recent verdict by the Supreme Court of India on mysterious Electoral Bonds (since 2017) casts a dark shadow on India’s claim that it is the ‘mother’ of democracy. If at all, it represents mimicry, mockery and manipulation of democracy. Extremely disproportionate assets of the BJP make it virtually invincible. In relative terms, meagre wealth of India’s Congress Party is understandable, but questions arise about the wealthy BJP and what did it offer in return to its ‘hidden’ political donors?

After the fall of all vital institutions of democracy in the past ten years, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that the Indian tax agencies have just frozen the bank accounts of the Congress Party, leaving the BJP untouched. This latest master stroke by the government has erased all cash assets that the Congress Party was left with after an earlier 2016 demonetisation master stroke by this government.

Political horse trading continues in India, thanks to BJP’s unaccounted vast wealth and a declared vision that it will render India bereft of any opposition. A few weeks ago, in a public show in Madhya Pradesh, several members of the Congress Party embraced the ruling BJP, which puts a question mark on the political efficacy, ethics, and morality in the country. Was the horse-trading a consequence of a sustained pressure from the BJP, or a sheer exploitation of the human greed and political ambitions, or both? In no less terms, it illustrates mockery of democracy and a blatant exhibition of a deeply rotten political system.

With a couple of months left before the 2024 General Election, Indian farmers are again calling out the government for not having fulfilled the promises that it had made to them more than two years ago in lieu of calling off their 16-month long protest against the three farming laws at that time (August 2020 – December 2021), during which more than a hundred protesting farmers took their own lives and several hundred died due to elements and fatigue. 

Similar to the last time, this time also, the government is reported to be using a disproportionate force to stop the protestors from entering Delhi. A social media campaign, calling the protesting farmers as wealthy cheats and Khalistani terrorists, is rife to discredit the protestors and muffle their voice. Horrendous beds of spikes (nails) in roads, insurmountable concrete barricades with razor wire, and deep channels have been dug to deter them from entering Delhi. It seems the government has ceded the area beyond the barricades to its neighbours and, therefore, treats the marching farmers as the enemy of the country.

Such blatant abuse of wartime machinery against own people can’t be imagined in a democracy — any democracy for that matter — unless it is a democracy no more. What do you call a grown-up person who uses weapons to crush his own belly? A suicidal lunatic or a progressive visionary?

India’s second Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri must be imagined feeling appalled due to the state of the nation that he led and died for. Most Indians must be imagined hearing his immortalized cry, ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kissan’, [meaning, ‘hail the soldier, hail the farmer’] gushing from the depth of their conscience, but how many of them will really speak out and stand for the farmers, who feed their insatiable belly but face an existential threat from a potential corporate take over?

Is the Subcontinent sovereign? Who rules it? Why does it fight itself 76 years after the British left? Why do most people feel neglected, exploited, unprivileged, disempowered and treated with disdain and contempt? Why do people protest and why are their protests crushed mercilessly by the establishment? Is their disempowerment intentional?

Templocracy in India

India’s newfound love with the Hindu religion, promoted solely for political use as Sanatan Dharam, must alarm any well-meaning Indian who cares for the integrity of the country, and a much-needed peace and coherence amongst the peoples. What is more alarming is a blind devotion of millions of well-educated individuals from the privileged class, in India and abroad, towards Templocracy, which promotes the construction and promotion of temples in the government policy and the common people’s lives in a new India, called Bharat, where a more rigid version of the Hindu religion is promoted to replace a traditional tolerant version of the Hindu philosophy. God is now used as a political weapon and grand temples are constructed in lieu of their votes. The following vignette illustrates the extent of Templocracy:

A boisterous Perth resident boasted days before the scheduled inauguration of a grand temple in the UAE: ‘Arab Muslims love him! They gave him land for a grand temple.’ A bystander asked politely, ‘There is nothing in him that one may possibly love. Arabs allowed a temple on their land to appease millions of workers who come from India.’ The first person fell silent. Was his intellect challenged?

[Reportedly, world’s tallest Ram temple (721-feet high) is being planned in Perth by Indian residents who comprise around 3.6% of the total population of Perth, Western Australia.]

Impurity lies at the core of every ideology, which eventually brings about its own spectacular fall. An idea or action bereft of benevolence ends up in tears and sufferings for all. Irreligious people create demigod to usurp power. Theories of ‘karma and destiny ‘are unashamedly used to justify and reconcile the fate and suffering of the poor, the neglected and the oppressed, and, deplorably, to cover blatant dereliction of duty by the ‘sacrosanct’ demigod, whose faintest criticism is deemed sacrilegious. Every ideology falls sooner or later when individual aspirations kick in and override collective interests.

Given our fallibility and corruptibility, and how easily we tell lies, break promises and trick those who trust us, we must accept that, deep down, we don’t believe in any form of God, except as an insurance, just in case. Humans are fallible and so are their demigods. We have not changed much despite science, literature and philosophy.

What good is a temple, of cold stones and bricks, built to house an ‘Omnipresent’ God that feeds our political brain and aims to divide the humanity? Be the temple, surrender your ego and malice and embrace the world. Shouldn’t God reside in our warm hearts instead of cold edifices? An empathetic heart will unify the humanity and bring peace and coherence to all.

Copyright © Bill K Koul

Bill K Koul, 18 February 2024 (Perth, Western Australia)

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