via TO PAULO COELHO
A GREAT AUTHOR, A GREAT BOOK, A PUZZLE
Reading through Paulo Coelho’s “Like the Flowing River”. The book struck me in more ways than one.
The strong streak of Catholic faith surprised me. Not because I expect authors to be irreligious but because I never expected that an author who upholds piety and faith would be allowed – by the “powers that be” – to become a best-seller and sell nearly two hundred million books.
In case you are curious, let me confess to being a conspiracy theorist. I believe that the world’s media, its academia, its intellectualia etc are all under the thumbs of several powerful individuals and the several powerful organizations they control. The impression that they have a deliberate plan to inject their ideals into the collective psyche of mankind to the exclusion of all else, that they want their ways of thought to determine the ways mankind lives, have grown on me over the years.
Am I wrong? Or are Paulo Coelho and some others occasionally allowed to escape trough the net to preserve a verisimilitude of openness, to hide the traces of power, the tentacle-like arms that may have wrapped themselves around the world? I am puzzled.
Be that as it may, nothing can take away from the exquisite readability of his output. Reading “Like the Flowing River” makes one feel in harmony with the world as a musician feels when his sound falls into step with the sounds of the orchestra around him and melts into it; as when a rower on our snake-boats of Kuttanad feels when, in two or three strokes of the oar, his rhythm melts into the rhythm of the hundred other oarsmen and the dozen chanters and becomes one with them.
Paulo Coelho, thank you.
Many people thought of Trump’s candidacy as a joke. I thought of Trump himself as a joke but not his candidacy. In early 2016 itself I placed a small bet with a friend. In the present state of that Union, a pussy-grabbing showman who ran gambling casinos for a living had more chances of becoming President than an experienced politician. But I never expected Trump to be this much of a game-changer. He has begun the end of the hundred years’ war.
This is not about the old one between the kings of England and France about the right to rule ol’ Blighty. This is about the modern one which started with the intervention of the European alliance in the Russian civil war in 1918. Since then we have been seeing a spate of wars, not caused by bored kings who had nothing else to do but in the name of people who had everything to lose.
Whatever be the stated objectives of the European alliance, their real aim was to destroy the Communists. They were fighting on behalf of the fading kings and their upcoming replacements, namely the post-industrial-revolution magnates. The Communists, on the other hand, were fighting for the people.
Ironically, Stalin and then Mao Tse Dong and then Pol Pot warred upon the people themselves in the name of the people. It was war by the megalomaniacs and for the megalomaniacs. On the other side the new kings were continuing their crusades. Again the people were the victims. The deprivations and exploitation suffered by the common man in Europe found expression in the Nazi and Fascist movements, and brought about the second world war.
Then, as people all over the world rebelled against the old dispensations, the old kings and the new kings waged wars to protect their positions. The Korean War was fought to clip the wings of Communism, the self-professed delivering angel of the people. Then the kings sent men to Bay of Pigs, and then again to Saigon, to protect the gambling casinos and brothels run by the new kings and their friends, the people be damned! Those who were not with them were against them, they said. So they fomented trouble against India, against the people in the oil countries, waged a relentless Economic war against Soviet Russia till the inefficient Communism capitulated.
The kings always wanted their sway over the resources of the world, and always wanted the people of the world under their thumb. For this they needed perpetually active war machines, and they needed to justify the wars and the war machines by setting up bogeymen. Communism was the best and the biggest of those. Obedient servants were propped up as messianic leaders who helped keep the people and the businesses and the war machines in good order…a Marcos here, a Suhartho there, A Pahlavi somewhere, even a Noriega or a jack of spades here and there. A Kim here or a Hussein there who would not kowtow were demonized. A boorish Yeltsin who sold his country is a great man, a Gorbachev who tried to steady it and a Putin who rebuilt it are villains….
Trump has called the bluff. He, childlike, has acted for peace. Either he does not realize that he is acting against the interests of his own tribe or he doesn’t care. What he has accomplished in Sentosa is a new beginning, the hopeful seed of a new world order. In the new order the governments of the world need not range themselves into confronting teams, the world need not be a black and white division of the good and the bad. There needn’t be a perpetual scare of bogeymen who have to be fought.
With this one event I have removed Trump from the “accidental President joker” pigeonhole to the one for “eccentric statesman President”. If the world capitalizes on the opportunity Trump and Kim have crafted together, Trump has the right to be classified along with Monroe, Wilson and Truman in his impact on the affairs of the world.
By marking the end of that sinister confrontational psychosis that had the world in its grip from the end of the first world war, Trump has trumped himself. He has made the world a better place.
There is much for India in this. Let me end with Jai Hind!
read an interesting blog yesterday, titled “Why does India Tend to Collapse So Often?”. The link is given:-
The blog makes a fine analysis of the Indian cricket team’s tendency to collapse in difficult situations. Cricket is then used as an metaphor to analyse our history and expose the reasons why our great nation descended, starting about the time of Mahmud Ghazni about 1000 AD, from its position as the greatest in the world to servitude under the foreign invaders till seventy years back. The writer correctly identifies the decline in the Indian spirit that happened during the centuries of subjugation. He says the subjugation caused the decline.
IMHO the subjugation was the result of an earlier decline in the Indian spirit that happened between the time of Emperor Harsha and Mahmud Ghazni. It is also my humble opinion that the decline was caused by wrong interpretation or wrong understanding of the Gita and the Vedas.
My detailed response posted to that blog site is reproduced below with some slight modifications:-
“Dear fellow Indians,
We have poor self-esteem. We are ready to accept failure and subjugation as our moral due. And, with the attitude of hyenas rather than lions, we expect to extract spoils out of our shame.
FACE THE TRUTH:
Raiders from north-west are not to be blamed for defeating us, plundering us, subjugating and ruling over us. We ourselves are to be blamed for losing. After all, we were fighting on our own soil and the invading armies were invariably smaller than our own, as the blog itself says. If India loses to Brazil in a soccer match, it is foolish to accuse Brazil of cruelty or criminality. It is necessary to look at and into ourselves to identify our weaknesses, understand their reasons and strive to get over them. This has to be done honestly and truthfully. We should have the courage to face ourselves.
BREAKDOWN OF LEADERSHIP:
Indians are brave. Indians soldiers have fought remarkably well under British officers…..and after Independence, under the discipline and training inherited from the British. So the question rises: is India suffering because of craven leadership? The attitude of the kings and chieftains during the time of Akbar and the British say YES. Our elite lack that quality which inspires subordinates, lack the skill to organize and manage: in short, our leadership has been deficient in what are known as ‘leadership qualities’. Our leaders had sold us in exchange for privileges. As the blog rightly points out, the cravenness continues today. The trader who does business with a white European or American is respected more than a trader who does even more business with an African or a Chinese. A businessman with “foreign connections” has a higher place among the elite than a businessman whose clients are totally within India. A mediocre professor in a western university is regarded as a veritable fountain of wisdom while a brilliant and more accomplished Indian professor will be relegated to the lower tier, his academic stature tied to how much he quotes of the white man’s pronouncements.
These “Qusilings”, medieval and modern, are celebrated. But the hardy, proud, patriotic fighters who delivered their lives for their dignity, freedom and motherland are consigned to the dustbins of history. We all are being told repeatedly, year after year, about passages and episodes from the “white-collar” “independence struggle” that is supposed to have won India its freedom from British rule. How many of us know about the “Santhal rebellion” where they fought till the last man died, an old man with no weapon other than a bow and a single arrow left? Even as he was shot to death, he shot the last arrow and killed the English soldier who had shot him. How many of us know about Pazhassi Raja and his valiant band of tribals who fought to death? There are many such tales of bravery, such proud passages, that hardly anyone cares about.
A SPOTTY INDEPENDENCE STRUGGLE:
Certainly this is not to disparage the great sacrifices and leadership of the great freedom fighters: but IMHO the great “Indian Independence Struggle” would not have happened if the Indian elite were admitted into the British clubs. They would have been happy, and would have happily lorded it over their fellowmen, telling themselves in vainglorious pride, “I and gora saheb….we rule over all these stupid natives”. And that attitude persists in the blood of the Indian elite to this day.
The blog says “…you understand why Indians prefer to surrender than to fight and why they simply give up when the going gets tough. It has been bred into them for the past 1,000 years.
This posture, imbibed over centuries of foreign subjugation,…”…
I beg to differ. This attitude has been bred into us not because of foreign subjugation. On the other hand, we suffered foreign subjugation because of this attitude developed within us somewhere between the time of Emperor Harsha and Mahamed Ghazni. So much so that we are always trying to please the foreigner, we constantly crave to be in his good books, we are ready to compromise our national interests and sell our fellows down the river if it fetches us some vacuous honour from foreign ‘masters’, yet even now.
The blog mentions the decline that happened between Harsha and Ghazni. “Between 700-900 CE, India became softer and turned its focus inward. The thirst of conquest metamorphosed into the thirst for eternal salvation of the soul. The glory of renunciation became the preferred trait. Invasions and conquests were considered passe and immoral. India slowly turned into a soft, nonbelligerent, rich society that was ripe for plucking. And by 1000 CE, the raids began.”
Right. But does anybody know why? I can say, the shortest explanation will be “because of our misunderstanding, or misinterpretation, of the Gita and the Vedas.” I will leave it there and see what you all have to say.
HINDUISM THE IDEOLOGY, INDIA THE LEADER, OF THE FUTURE:
The solution lies in this direction. I have exactly identified it through about five decades of active association – directly and indirectly – with the Hindu faith, deriving from a five hundred year-old heritage of association with a prominent Hindu temple in Kerala. That is a unique blessing I have had the great good luck to enjoy, and I believe Hinduism is the ideology for the peaceful and prosperous future of the world.
If we realize and accept the true message of the great books, India will rise once again to its rightful power and glory, and to its rightful place in the forefront of nations. We can, if we will. The only pre-requisite is that we should be ready to face the truth honestly, and be ready to act on our own volition without having to secure the approval of “foreign experts and advisors”. Though it is always likely to be a bitter rival, China’s pride should be a pointer to us.
But I say we have to go forward to our roots, not go back to them as the blog suggests.
Jai Hind! indeed.
it is a clear morning here in Cochin, India, with the chirping of birds audible even after 8 am. The traffic noise has not picked up enough to drown their notes. A sunny and optimistic day. But reality strikes in the face through newspaper reports about shootings in Copenhagen. Shades of the awful carnage a short while back in Paris.
Charlie Hebdo had a subscriber base of only about 60,000 if the newspaper reports were right. The post-shooting issue sold more than a million copies….possibly more as a collector’s item than because the buyers shared the views of the publication. Not having seen a copy before or after the shooting, I am wondering why it was not all that popular earlier: were they simply too offensive to good taste?
When the Pope, Queen Elizabeth and President Putin of Russia expressed their condolences and support for the magazine, its staff cartoonist ‘Willem’ is reported to have rejected them saying “we vomit on” them.
Reminded me a passage from one of P. G. Wodehouses exceedingly funny golf stories. In it an eccentric Russian novelist, asked about other Russian novelists, says that he is the only good Russian novelist, and that he despises all the others. “I spit me of Nastikoff” and the others, he says. It was hilarious, like most of Wodehouse’s output. Neither the character nor the author came across as repugnant. But when Willem of Charlie Hebdo says he vomits on the supporters he does not like, an unacceptably odious picture comes to mind. It may have been the post-shooting shock that caused him to say it, but the words and the attitude show a sick mind. (I admit my definition of “sick” may be different from yours, but my test is to ask of anything “does it better the human condition, does it further the cause of civilization?”. If it does not, wilfully, then that wilfullness is a sickness, I submit, that might occur even to the best of persons sometimes. )
But I suspect it was not the shock. I am inclined to think that they were all “sick”. Broken homes? Traumatic childhoods? World War II and its atermath? I do not know, I am just speculating, pardon me if I am wronging anybody. My proposition is that sick minds produced sick humour with which they had their revenge upon the world. With the number of persons with similiar backgrounds being large and increasing, ‘modern civilization’ has had to accept such deviant behaviour as allowable. Otherwise it would be a violation of the right to freedom of expression. But such people are still on the margins, really. The French public as a whole did not find Charlie Hebdo palatable, that is why it had rather poor circulation numbers before the shooting, it will soon subside from the one million for the post-shooting issue to somewhere slightly above the earlier numbers soon. Seemingly, that is where it belongs, that is where he French public has put it…..so runs my impressions of the sad episode.
If you sport a moustache the shape of it which I do not like, and if I am your friend, you may allow me to express my opinion to you privately. In fact you may welcome it, but rarely from someone whom you are not well acquainted with. For a stranger – even a friend, for that matter – to make public criticism and mockery would be to invite trouble. I can discuss with you about the merits and demerits of moustaches, but if I tell the public that you look ugly, then I am inviting a punch on my nose. That is what happened at Charlie Hebdo.
If I say something, it should be for the good of the hearers. Freedom of expression in a decent society allows discussions and debates, even arguments, when they are conducted with mutual respect. We see many such arguments around us every day – on politics, gender, religion, on marriage, sex, and sports. It is present in the bus, in the media, at the club….everywhere. It is a necessary part of life. But when I say something not for the good of anyone but out of a malignant disrespect for the ordinary decencies of life – as hinted at by Willem’s comment – then it is a totally different proposition. A magazine article discussing Islam and its theology would be well received. But when a magazine says “I don’t care what your theology is and I don’t want to understand it, but I am going to poke fun at it even though it may be so dear to you”……?! In context, let me inform you that I am a practicing Catholic Indian, born and living in multi-religious India.
The terrorists who committed the crime are very wrong. Equally wrong is the insidious drift into anarchy in expression that passes by in the name of freedom. The way this anarchy is being foisted upon the world is certainly a sign of decadence. It is a sign of a malaise that affects the binds of civilization and threatens to unravel it. The consequence could be a descent from progressive human society into a crowd of wanton automatons, albeit possibly materially better off. This is one side of the coin of decline. Violent religious extremism is only another side of this multi-sided coin.
We can make the world a better place. All we need to do is to apply the basics of civilization, the most important one of which is to give respect and take respect. Charlie Hebdo should be an object lesson.
The songbird is still at its job. The sun is shining. If we will, it will be a great day to all of us – in spite of occasional clouds. Wish you one.
Jacob J. Mappilacherry
Pope Francis rightly said that it is right to spank children if it is necessary to discipline. His rider was that it should be done without hurting their dignity. I have my bit to add here:-
It should be administered with love,
It should be for the child’s benefit,
It should not be as an outburst of a parent’s anger or frustration,
It should be to make the child remember a necessary lesson,
The child should be made aware of all these,
And it should be followed by a hug or similiar expressions of love so that no scar will be left in the child’s heart. A carrot should always follow the stick.
SIGN OF LOVE
As a child I had been spanked, had my ears tweaked and pulled, had been severely pinched, had even been caned. All the children who grew up those days fifty or more years back had this benefit. With the inevitable patch-up that followed, with the sweets and an occasional kiss – from parents who rarely relaxed their austere demeanour – that sealed the patch-up, it was a solemn expression of affection and parental responsibility. Generally it was a sign of caring. And the children, though they did not reveal it, actually felt respected and cherished.
The Pope, as expected, had many critics. Corporal punishment is bad, they say. To a certain extent, ie: in details, they have a point. But they are wrong in the principle. If I may put it bluntly, these critics are persons who, most probably, have not had the good fortune to grow up in families which had two decent, reasonable, caring and loving heterosexual parents who had the right ideas about disciplining children. I will be happy to be wrong.
CORRECTION, NOT TORTURE
Some of the critics used the word ‘hit’. It is not about hitting children or bashing them or lashing them with belts or canes or slapping them rudely on their faces, in anger more often than not: it is not that kind of physical torture that I am justifying. I am sure the Pope meant the same. We are talking of instructive correction, not brutalization. Usually it takes the form of a robust spanking on the butt or a slap on the upper forearms. Sensible Indian parents rely on tweaking or pinching the earlobe more than anything else. It is believed that this stimulates the brain and helps the child understand and remember better. Pinching the forearms is more painful and less hurtful to body and mind than spanking the bottom.
STATE HAS NO RIGHT
Methinks the right to discipline a child by spanking is an inalienable right of a parent. It is also a parent’s duty. So is it a child’s right to receive good instruction reinforced by physical chastisement if and when necessary. Many is a grown-up delinquent or failure in life whom I have heard complaining that his father was too lenient or did not care.
Does the State really have the moral right to intervene, to intrude into the august offices of a parent’s love, and take away this right and responsibility from a father or a mother? Certainly not. Fifty years ago there was much propaganda in the Western media about how the Russian State had cruelly usurped the powers of parents and turned children against them. Later on the supposedly progressive western nations have come to follow the same mean path, backed by psychology theories of questionable value. The irony is that this is generally regarded as progress. The result is that many children who were reared under this supposedly enlightened regime have grown up into mis-formed adults and poor parents. The instinct of these parents, if and when they wanted to administer correction, would be to commit assault and battery, if at all they cared enough and considered it their duty to bring up children of good character. Fortunate if there would be no shooting. I exaggerate here, but you have got the point, right? In such a situation the curtailment, even the removal of, parental rights in these floundering families has become a social need, especially since the parent in charge may very well be the child’s mother’s second husband’s third wife or someone like that, not the true father or mother.
TIME FOR CHANGE
It is time for responsible persons to have a rethink about much of what passed off for progress during the last fifty years. The Pope is one of the most eminently right persons to do this, and he sure has a point.
May His Holiness’s words start off a train of introspection and debate to put right the wrongs of the past. It will make the world a better place.
J. J. Mappilacherry