Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nobel prize for Bush and Obama

Recently former American president, the "famous" George W. Bush was in India. The usually reserved Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, called Bush as "India's Great Friend" [1]. As ironical it may seem, but in reality the image of Bush as a dumb leader has been highly over exaggerated.

There is a thin line between humor and pain. All the skill, of comedians, is used to locate that line and present things in a lighter vein. In today's world, where almost anything can fall in category of racist, sexist, and many more ists, it is hard to find some mascot on which much of Hilarity can be based. Thus the world caught on the image of George W. Bush and thrashed it left and right. Today, there is hardly any household where the word Bush means only the thing growing on the ground. Majority of conversations invoke Bush to get a laugh.

In such an atmosphere, it is hard to make an objective evaluation of Bush's decisions and "wisdom." No one can hail him as a great statesman or world leader but the treatment he gets worldwide is also unjustified [2]. I cant help but see the similarity between Bush and Lepidus in Julius Caesar. After Brutus runs away from Rome, the triumvirate, of Antony, Lepidus and Octavius, starts killing the sympathizers of Brutus. For Antony, Lepidus was a donkey which is but used to carry the burden of gold. Lepidus would be used and respected as a donkey which carries gold. Lepidus would be used while he is useful and like a donkey will be put out to pasture (retired) once he is no longer needed (Lines 17- 27)[3] .

No good justification can be given for the decision to invade Iraq. But the criticism of this decision spilled over to many other issues. It in a way liberated Bush from the bondage that keeps a well respected person from making any bold moves, which may jeopardize his/her repute. With nothing to loose, Bush took on many elephants in the rooms of White House.

The decision to invade Afganistan and launch a broader war on terror was the first source of his unpopularity in the Arab worlds, which spread fast to the rest of the world and America. Could America have done without the war on terror, with holes exposed in the once impregnable American security? I would say, the answer is no. Though, I do not support the argument that to protect yourself, you need to harm others. But Bush was dealing with the anti american sentiment built up for over half a century of American hegemony in political and economic affairs of the world. It is my belief, that when every policy of a nation is based on the evaluation of its own strength and the weakness of others, it forms a elastic wall around its interests which can only be supported by its milliatry/ economic strength and opposed by the feelings aroused by unfair deals meeted out to the weaker nations. Thus any hole in this wall invites the influx of that hostility. A better example to validate this theory would be Israel, which would not be looked upon kindly by its neighbors if it weakens militarily.

The Bush era hit the rock bottom when it came to popularity of US in the world. Thus the Nobel Obama had a cake walk. No matter what he did, it made him look like a better president than Bush even if he pushes more and more troops in Afganistan, and the civilian causalities in Af-Pak peak. The work of Bush basically enables Obama to play the Nobel role. Yet one is Judas, the other is Jesus.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gandhi Found Alive in 2009

There are many philosophical arguments about the real meaning of life. Many people do think that if the brain is preserved after death or if the entire personality and thoughts of a person are "uploaded" to a computer after death and then "downloaded" to a child's brain later on or more humanly, a computer simulates the actions of the entire brain thereon, then a person can live for ever [1]. While this idea may seem technically a very very long shot but philosophically it is quite interesting and personally convincing to me, that it is the persona and thoughts/ memories of a person that constitute life.

Gandhi was killed on January 30, 1948, less than an year after India attained freedom. It seemed then, Gandhi was just a "singularity" in the space time continuum of the world. Albert Einstein said “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood”[2]. But speaking sixty one years after his death and on the day he was born, one can say that Gandhi was the most natural event, overdue for long, to happen in the world. Madness had gripped the world leading to inhuman treatment of majority of humanity, whether under the colonial and racial attitudes or during the World Wars or even now, proliferated under various modern euphemisms. It desperately needed a correction of course. In Gita, Lord Krishna says that

"Whenever and wherever there is decay
of righteousness,
O Bharata, And a rise of unrighteousness
then I manifest Myself!"

Whether one believes in this verse or not, one has to agree to words of Miss Slade (Also known as Mirabehn, daughter of a British Rear-Admiral, who lived and worked with Gandhi)"When we most needed it [presumably meaning during World War II], he offered the world a way out of madness. But the world didn't see it." [3]

Today, Gandhi still lives on in the minds of many many people around the world. His thoughts have been "downloaded" by many individuals across the globe. Though the simulation of his brain may not be perfect but still good enough to keep him alive.

It is at many times believed that Gandhi is invoked only at the election meetings or to commemorate his birthday or mourn his death. The appreciation for Gandhi and his ideals has come from some of the very eminent persons in the World, though the Nobel prize committee never thought Gandhi to be worthy of the Nobel Peace prize until the year of his death (Fortunately or unfortunately Gandhi is not in the league of Jimmy Carter and Al Gore). Albert Einstein had huge hopes on Gandhi uniting the world. He wrote in a letter to Gandhi: [4]

Respected Mr. Gandhi !
I use the presence of your friend in our home to send you these lines. You have shown through your works, that it is possible to succeed without violence even with those who have not discarded the method of violence. We may hope that your example will spread beyond the borders of your country, and will help to establish an international authority, respected by all, that will take decisions and replace war conflicts.
With sincere admiration,
Yours A. Einstein.
I hope that I will be able to meet you face to face some day.

While, the objective of World peace and Gandhian ideology may seem Utopian to many, it has achieved glorious results in India, South Africa and United States, to name a few. Today it was nice to see President Obama acknowledging the contribution of Gandhi to the American society and his own life as well [5].

But the most heartening examples of practicability and inevitability of Gandhian principles are demonstrated by ordinary people, not always sprinkled with political glamour to attract the attention of all newspapers.

The Gandhigiri clan is growing fast.
Prakash and Madakini Amte have been running a hospital, school and development centre in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra since 1974. They preferred to serve the people in one of the tribal and most underdeveloped districts of India, in comparison to the serving in the private sector with a hefty pay. Prakash Apte is the son of Baba Amte, a Gandhian. The couple was greatly influenced by his work and carried on his footsteps. They received the Magasay award for community leadership in 2008.

Rajendra Singh, left his high paying job in Jaipur to solve the problem of water shortage in Alwar in Rajisthan, India. He was inspired by Gandhian view of village self sufficiency and local autonomy. He setup water harvesting tanks in more than 750 villages and helped the villagers maintain the same on their own. He is also a recipient of Magasay award for community leadership.

Rachel Corrie, a US national bravely stood against the bulldozers of Israeli army demolishing Palestinian homes at Rafah Refugee Camp. She lost her life in the course. This may seem to be not a good example of applicability of Gandhian thought. But Gandhi believed that it is the duty of a man to expose the evil. This event indeed did the same. Rachel was run down under the bulldozer. Many say that it was not an accident but a murder. The international controversy that ensued gave more fatal blows to the Israel's reputation than any of the thousands of bullets fired by Hamas or Fatah [6]. More than 30 songs have been written and many documentaries have been filmed in her memory.

It is not just the good and courageous work of individuals, who seem to validate the thoughts of Gandhi but also the pressing problems of today. Gandhi seems to have got it right on many issues. It may be the problem of urban mismanagement and slums, environment degradation or the ongoing strife between Pakistan and India[8].

He favoured small self sufficient villages as compared to monstrous cities. He felt that every village must be a republic in the sense of attaining self sufficiency. The large cities and industries should be there just to do the work that cannot be done in the villages. This small idea may seem impractical to many but it is not infeasible to build a vibrant economy on this principle. After all, India had been the largest economy of the world from 1st century AD to 11 th century AD and in the 18 th century with a 39.2% share of world GDP[7] and was based on village industries. I do concede that today, in such a setup the GDP of the nation may be less but the Gross National Happiness (GNH) would be immense. One may argue whether it is better to have an nation of few billionaires and many in penury or one with less money on the whole but happy citizens. Village economy would also have a natural answer to the problem of migration to cities and slums. Not only that, it would have a very small carbon footprint since it is the cities that destroy the ecosystem by immense scale of pollutants produced in an area too small for the environment to recycle it.

Many of Gandhi's views were not acceptable to many people, including some of his admirers. Gandhi's most inspiring quality, in my view, has been his ability to accept this. Under his leadership, ordinary men of clay were turned into heroes. He had collected the most remarkable men of the most disparate views under his leadership, who went ahead to build the nation. His leadership provided the nurturing environment for the personalities to develop as he was devoid of any fear of any one rising to a greater prominence than him, just because he never cared for the glory. His humble personality and fervent call for action united India of many languages, religions, castes and regions into one man. No wonder that India remained united despite many lamenting and hoping that India may balkanize. Even today, he remains one of the most strong uniting threads that runs all over India. No leader is as criticized but still revered on such a large expanse of land, culture and languages as Gandhi is.