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Monday, February 23, 2015

On the "Hindu Perspective"

My post about Neeraj Pandey's obnoxiously anti-Muslim movie “Baby” brought an accusation from a reader that I did not have a suitably Hindu “perspective.”

That raises the question, “What is the Hindu perspective?”

One answer lies in the attitudes that Hinduism has promoted throughout its millennial course.

Hinduism began with our ancient rishis compiling the lore of India’s diverse tribes into the Vedas, thus creating a work all could venerate.

That allowed the tribes to stop their endemic conflicts and settle into interdependent castes.

Intense discussions (Upanishads) then drew from the Vedas the concepts that lie at the heart of Hindu belief.

Primarily, the rishis conceived of a universal spirit, Brahman (one who holds).

Brahman is manifest as the Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Law) holding all Creation in control.

The philosophic implication of that belief is expressed in Vasudeva kutumbhakam (God’s family). It is the basis of India’s unity in diversity and constitutes the fundamental Hindu perspective.

Another important contributor to the Hindu perspective is the confidence that comes from an acute age-old capacity to understand and meet the challenges facing our society.

The Vedas settled warring tribes into castes.

The Upanishads anchored the resulting peace in a profound philosophy of family relationships.

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata made that wisdom available to everyman/woman.

When superstition and ignorance blocked understanding of the Dharma the Buddha cleansed it.

When Buddhism lost its reforming zeal, Adi Sankara energized and brought back the old faith,

When caste and invasive Islam caused deep fissures in society, Kabir and Guru Nanak initiated the healing that developed into the modern Indian renaissance of Chatrapati Shivaji, Rammohun Roy, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi.

That progression makes one thing very clear: Hinduism has never been a blind faith. We have always studied problems, debated issues and come up with insightful and creative solutions.

Our failure to do that in the depths of the Kali Yuga is the primary reason why India fell victim to foreign invaders over the last two millennia.

Now, as we recover from that period, it is critically important that Hindus retrieve their traditional capacity to understand and meet the numerous challenges facing Indian society.

This blog has warned at great length about the greatest danger we face at present, the British campaign, with much help from Indian mass media proxies, to cloud our understanding of issues.

An important part of that campaign has been aimed at poisoning Hindu-Muslim relations.

The creation of Pakistan with its permanent siren call to jihad has, of course, done a great deal of work in that direction already, and if Hindu understanding is to defeat British intentions we must re-examine what actually happened.

To that end, the following section looks at the origin and development of “Islamic terrorism.”

“Islamic Terrorism”

There is no denying that Islam has an enormously violent history, but no more so than Christianity. Since their founding nearly seven centuries apart both religions have been almost ceaselessly at war within their own realms, and, since the 7th Century, with each other.

However, when Christian colonial expansion began in the 15th Century Islam was a generally quiescent faith with an Ottoman Caliph in Istanbul ruling most of what is now called the Middle East, and Persia (encompassing modern Iran, Iraq and a number of adjoining areas), presiding over most of the world's Shia.

The transformation of Islam from that torpor to its current jihadist frenzy is almost entirely due to British policy.

It involved the creation of three States (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Israel), and the promotion of the violent Muslim Brotherhood as the fount of “Islamic terrorism.”

The Brotherhood had its first mosque paid for by the British in the colonized “Suez Canal Zone” of Egypt, and its initial use was against anyone threatening British assets or allies anywhere in the Middle East.

The Cold War made it a tool against Communists and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan made it the source of a “Mujaheddin” army that became Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In that progression, the three British-created States had a key role.

Saudi Arabia came into existence before World War I when the British found in Kuwait the 16-year old scion of the former ruling family of Riyadh and sponsored him to take it back from Ottoman rule. The Saudis brought with them to power the violently extremist Wahhabi sect, long considered “Haram” by mainstream Islam.

What the British did to create Pakistan is fairly well known, so I will not dwell on the details; suffice it to say, they used murderous violence to support the Hindu and Muslim proxies who actually ripped India apart.

Pakistan emerged as a failed State and has remained one with the support of enormous amounts of aid from Saudi Arabia and the West; in return it has become their handy drug dealing rent-a-terrorist supplier, hitting not just India but Afghanistan, Russia, all of Central Asia, Uighur China and South East Asia.

Britain’s record in Palestine – later Israel – is unequaled in treachery.

After getting command of the territory through a League of Nations Mandate, it allowed unrestricted Jewish immigration from Europe, ostensibly to create a "Jewish Homeland." It then sponsored Arab terrorism against Jews. During WW II a “Jewish Brigade” in the British Army shaped the core of the Israeli Self Defence Force that beat back invading Arab armies in 1948.

One thing important to note about this whole scene is that the Arabs, who had not ruled themselves for over 800 years, were manipulated at every turn by Britain and France.

After WW I, when London and Paris created a number of new countries in the former Ottoman territories, they consistently arranged for political instability.

In Sunni majority Syria they gave power to the Shia; in Shia majority Iraq they empowered the Sunni. France created Lebanon to give power to Christians. With British prompting, Saudi Arabia took the territory containing Mecca and Medina, vaulting Wahhabi Islam to unprecedented global influence.

In surveying this history it is important to note that the Muslim populations of the Middle East and Pakistan have been the worst victims of “Islamic terrorism.” They have shed the most blood, lost the most resources and suffered the worst political manipulations.

An Indian Perspective

There can be no “Hindu perspective” in dealing with this situation for several reasons.

First and most important, our entire tradition depends upon each person being free to accept God in any form and worship in any way; those are matters decided by individual karma in which no one else can interfere. Sri Krishna says explicitly in the Bhagavad Gita: “do not disturb the faith of another. No matter to whom a person bows, he bows to me.”

Beyond the question of religion is that of politics, and there too is a strong argument not to strive for a “Hindu perspective.” Indian Muslim perceptions of their co-religionists elsewhere are likely to be far more acute, and it would be silly for Indian policy not to benefit from that.

If we want to help steer the world out of its current vortex of “Islamic terrorism,” it is essential that Muslims be part of the Indian team. They already are in the Ministry of External Affairs, but we need greater cultural heft in what is now purely policy.

It is only when Muslims in Pakistan see Indian Islam as a viable political alternative that we can wash back the blood-dimmed tide that Britain drowned us in; only in such circumstances can Arabs and Jews exchange Salaams and Shaloms in the Middle East and mean it.

The Weight of History

To foresee Hindu-Muslim unity as the foundation of India is hardly visionary. Guru Nanak set off the modern Indian renaissance five centuries ago by declaring “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim;” his first disciples (Sikhs), were drawn from both religions and all castes.

He was, in fact, making a formal statement of what had become part of life. In the centuries since Islam's entry into India Hindu and Muslim kings never stopped fighting each other; but they made liberal use of soldiers of both faiths.

One of the greatest of Indian national heroes, Chatrapati Shivaji, now celebrated as an icon of Hindu resistance to Mughal rule, endowed and prayed at Sufi shrines and employed Muslims at every level in his armies.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the easy interfaith coexistence of those times as Netaji Palkar, one of his commanders who joined the Mughal army, converted to Islam and spent ten years fighting the Afghan tribes under the name of Quli Mohammed Khan; after that he returned without fuss to Hinduism and Shivaji's service.

The Mughals meanwhile were equally tolerant. Akbar’s main general was his former enemy, Man Singh. After Akbar the Mughals were by blood as Indian as alien, and culturally they were entirely indigenous. Aurangzeb, the most intolerant of them, endowed Hindu temples even as he destroyed others.

As British colonial rule spread over India, the resistance was nowhere divided along communal lines.

Tipu Sultan exemplified that unity: all his top commanders were Hindus and his capital took its name from the Vishnu temple of Sri Ranga Patnam which he endowed and prayed at. Tipu was finally defeated and his stronghold taken after a Persian Islamic scholar he had favored opened a door in the outer wall to British forces. Tipu's body was found under several others, all Hindus who had died to prevent the British from taking and desecrating it. The great Sultan remains a living memory: last November a mass rally at Haveri in Karnataka celebrated the 264th Tipu Jayanthi.

The British poisoned that long and liberal tradition. It is up to modern Indians of all faiths to reclaim our national heritage.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Baby, How Not to Fight Terrorism

If there is a sudden surge in Indian youth heading for Syria to join the Islamic State, the credit must go not only to Pakistan’s ISI but to those in "Bollywood" who will do anything for money.

The richest of Indian actors, Shahrukh Khan, planted the idea of the victimhood of an entire community with his mantra “I am a Muslim and not a terrorist.”

Now “Baby,” an abomination of a movie directed by Neeraj Pandey and starring Akshay Kumar, has provided a great deal of fodder for terrorist recruiters.

The movie is a fascist wet dream that glorifies brutal “anti-terrorist” activity, all of it directed at Muslims. 

Torture and violence are shown as the only effective way to get results.

Our muscular hero tortures a rogue Indian agent – a Muslim of course – to get the location of a bomb about to go off; he gets the information after arranging for the man’s parents, wife and child to be taken to the targeted mall.

He slips a plastic bag over the head of a Muslim leader – labelled as an ISI agent – and brings him near death to get the location of a terrorist.

He even administers a roundhouse slap when a minister’s PA (religion unknown) says Indian agents are bound to die in the fight against terrorism.

The movie-makers lay on with a trowel the association of terrorism with Islam.

No hint here of the brainless Hindus who have taken the jihadist route, or of the strong possibility that a rogue element of our intelligence apparatus enabled the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

A former Mumbai Police chief has made a strong case for that in the book “Who Killed Karkare?

And a recently published New York Times investigation turned up considerable evidence that British and Indian intelligence agencies took no action after collecting credible information on the impending attack. Indian intelligence ignored a specific warning from the Americans about an attack on the Taj.

This is hardly surprising.

As I have noted in many earlier posts (see here, here and here), Britain is behind the whole “Islamic terrorism” phenomenon, using it for political manipulation and to promote its drug trafficking interests.

It is only reasonable to expect that in addition to creating the ISI in Pakistan as its proxy Britain has also corrupted parts of Indian intelligence to do its work.

Thankfully, our anti-terrorist modus operandi seems to be taking those realities into account: according to The Hindu, the Intelligence Bureau was kept completely out of the loop on the operation last December to intercept a Pakistani “fishing boat” that blew up before it could be boarded.

Since then, there has been talk of setting up a completely new domestic intelligence service.

If that happens, I hope decision makers in Delhi will do it within a constitutional framework, establish adequate safeguards against abuse of Indian citizens, and make the agency accountable to parliament.

With venal brain-dead “Bollywood” figures promoting fascism, we need strong institutional protections in place.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

History as Karma

During the colonial era Europeans considered themselves unique in having a sense of history. All the rest of us, including the Chinese with their exact millennial court records, were deemed to have a sense of passing Time but not of history.

That assessment had two elements. One was a sense of racial superiority born of easy dominance over all other regions.

The other lay in the European belief that history was a fluid intellectual construct amenable to countless Orwellian revisions: those who control the present control the past; those who control the past control the future.

In that perspective the Indian view of the past as an unalterable karmic progression seemed “fatalistic,” and it led the British to imagine that by creating their own narrative of Indian history they could control the country’s future.

The first effort at such rewriting, paid for and published by the East India Company, was by James Mill (1773-1836), a London journalist who wrote a six-volume history of India without ever visiting the country or knowing any of its languages. Mill trashed Indian history as a “monstrous and absurd” concoction of legends and myths. He thought Indian society “presented a very uniform appearance during the long interval from the visit of the Greeks [under Alexander] to that of the English,” and that their “annals … from that era until the period of the Mohomedan conquests, are a blank.”

Since that early 19th Century work, there has been a huge outpouring of British writing reinforcing those themes, almost all of it racist, much of it intellectually disreputable in terms of motive, and some blatantly dishonest.

An author who bundles all those elements is John Keay, whose books can be found in most bookshops and libraries in India. The following is my review of one of his books (done for the Amazon web site).

Propaganda as History

“Two hundred years ago India was seen as a place with little history and less culture,” says a blurb on the back cover of John Keay’s “India Discovered,” originally published in 1984. The book credits the British for transforming India into a country now “revered for a notable prehistory, a magnificent classical age and a cultural tradition unique in both character and continuity.”

Keay makes his case with a massive amount of distortion.

For instance: “It is hard to appreciate now that as late as the end of the eighteenth Century nothing whatsoever was known of Indian history prior to the Mohammedan invasions.”

That is utter nonsense. India has never lost sight of its literary tradition dating back many thousands of years to the ordering of the Vedas. That tradition includes the philosophy of the Upanishads, the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, and the teachings of the Buddha. All of them constitute an understanding of the past that is incontrovertibly “history,” and much of it has remained common knowledge down to the village level.

The Buddhist tradition in particular is specifically historical, yet Keay asserts that the British were responsible for the “realization” that the Buddha was “not a god but a historical figure.” A Buddhist scholar is likely to laugh out loud at that.

Another laugh-out-loud assertion is that Warren Hastings promoted the study of Sanskrit because he “loved the people of India and respected them to a degree no other British ruler has ever equaled.”

If Hasting loved Indians, Hitler loved Jews.

Edmund Burke’s blistering indictment in the British parliament when it moved to impeach Hastings for a variety of high crimes and corruptions made clear just how much the former East India Company honcho in Calcutta cared for Indians.

Of the tortures the Company’s tax collectors used in Bengal under Hastings, Burke said, “Virgins whose fathers kept them from the sight of the sun were dragged into the public Court [and there] vainly invoking its justice, while their shrieks were mingled with the cries and groans of an indignant people, those virgins were cruelly violated. …. The wives of the people of the country only differed in this; that they lost their honour in the bottom of the most cruel dungeons … they were dragged out naked and exposed to the public view, and scourged before all the people … they put the nipples of the women in the sharp edges of split bamboos and tore them from their bodies.”

Hastings assembled the first group of “Orientalists” to study Sanskrit for only one reason: to comprehend the financial records of temples so he could tax their vast hidden wealth. In a few years his taxes drained the resources that had always before supported a great variety of social services, from village school teachers and vaids (doctors) to maintenance of roads, upkeep of water works and famine relief.

The East India Company’s fierce exactions destroyed not only that system but the entire agricultural economy of Bengal and pushed it into the first of the great “man-made famines” the British brought to India. In the first decade of its rule some 7 million people starved to death, fully a third of the population of what had been the richest province of the Mughal Empire. By the time colonial rule ended in 1947, the death toll from British “man-made famines” would be estimated at several hundred million.

Keay also engages in a great number of subtler distortions that are hardly unimportant.

For instance, in referring to Hastings as the “first Governor General of India” and adding parenthetically that “Clive had been Governor of Bengal only,” he creates the impression that British rule was far more extensive than it was. In fact, it remained virtually unchanged under Clive and Hastings; the main difference was that the latter had the title of “Governor General of India.”

Under both, the East India Company continued to collect taxes on behalf of the Mughal Emperor in Bengal and to extort revenues in lieu of debt repayment from the indigent Nawab of Arcot in Madras.

Over the next century the Company would continue to collect taxes in the name of the Mughal as it slowly added to its territories. The British Crown would assert sovereignty only after the national uprising of 1857. After that, it would rule some 3/5ths of undivided India for just 90 years, a third of that in steady retreat before the strengthening nationalist movement under Mahatma Gandhi.

Given that reality, how do we explain the undeniable zeal that fired so many Englishmen, most of them with other day jobs, to search out the Indian past?

The explanation is rich in karmic ironies.

Warren Hastings initiated the work of the “Orientalists” to get more taxes. They brought to light not only a great mass of public wealth but the riches of the Indian past. That had the effect of reconnecting modernizing Indians to their national roots: Gandhi, for instance, first read the Gita in London, in Edwin Arnold’s English translation.

What sustained the zeal for discovery into the 19th Century?

It was the theory of an Indo-Aryan language family proposed by William Jones, the most brilliant of the first Orientalists. It was misinterpreted to mean there was an actual flesh and blood “Aryan race,” a possibility the British seized on eagerly because they could be the “original Aryans” and thus legitimate rulers of India. Thereafter, everything they did to uncover Indian history was driven by the hope of finding concrete evidence of that link.

Meanwhile, the karmic current of the “Aryan race” gained enormous energy in Germany and France, where it was seen as justifying White supremacist racism. Hitler epitomized that view, and his reach for Aryan supremacy precipitated World War II.

As if to underline this whole string of karmic ironies, the armies that devastated Britain’s capacity to hold on to India marched under the ancient Indian symbol of good luck, the Swastika.

Keay’s flat self-serving presentation of the British Indian relationship is typical of almost everything that has been written on the matter since colonial times. It reflects at one level a basic incomprehension of the multi-layered subtleties that have been in play, and at another, a determined refusal to see India for what it is.

What can break that pattern as accelerating changes in international relations force once powerful countries to turn in small corners will be a pressing issue in the years ahead.

************ end of review ************

The British seem to have learned nothing about karmic consequences from their experience of ruling India. They are undoubtedly behind such initiatives as the EPIC Channel and the attempt by the Hindu Mahasabha to glorify Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse. They will inevitably spur Indians to a reawakening of their spiritual and political history that would have taken much longer otherwise.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Je Suis … Raif Badawi and 2000 Nigerians

In contrast to the worldwide outrage at the murder of cartoonists and journalists in Paris, there has been hardly any public reaction to news that Saudi Arabia is savagely beating a blogger, Raif Badawi, for “insulting Islam.”

The Saudis plan to inflict a sentence of 1000 lashes in weekly installments of 50. Badawi is also to spend 10 years in prison, where his lawyer must stay 15 year for daring to defend him.

The news that Boko Haram has just murdered some 2000 people and driven 30,000 from their homes -- ostensibly in its continuing campaign for Shariah law -- has also met with little international anger.

This double standard is infuriating.

Saudi Arabia should be subjected to the same bitter condemnation as the terrorists in Paris and its government should be censured by all organizations, national and international, that stand for civilized values. Journalists especially must be vocal in defending their own.

In the case of Boko Haram, there has been no shortage of outrage at its previous crimes, but the mass media continue to report its Islamic pretensions as if they were serious; they are only camouflage for its main business, trafficking drugs.

Saudi Arabia and Boko Haram presenting themselves as proponents of "Islam" is as bizarre as the claim of the butchers of Paris to be avenging the Prophet.

All of them deserve a noisily rude raspberry.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Indo-American Imperative

When President Obama meets with Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi in a few days they must look beyond the nuts and bolts of technological and security cooperation to bring into focus an Indo-American responsibility to act coherently on a broad set of critically important global issues.

Only such action can fulfill the enormous democratic and spiritual potential of the densely interconnected global society being shaped by the Internet and the Worldwide Web. Perhaps as importantly, it is the only way the world can avoid disastrous violence as the guardians of Europe's neocolonial interests try to preserve their criminal prerogatives.

As I described in an earlier post on Human Development in the Information Age, we are witnessing a momentous redefinition of the concept of capital that can close the gap everywhere between rich and poor; but just because it is possible does not mean that it is inevitable or that it will be easily achieved.

Innovative action will be necessary to deal with areas of current crisis such as global crime and climate change; and new institutions must be built to realize the full potential of global connectivity, which has, in effect, pulled the rug out from under elite capacity to monopolize wealth creation and override the interests of social majorities.

Action should focus on three immediate initiatives, followed by longer term institution-building. The three immediate steps should aim to:

Revamp Drug Laws: Drug trafficking is a $500 billion global industry that funds terrorism and undermines democracies. Existing international drug laws seek to ban drugs but they actually promote trafficking because prohibition gives a huge financial incentive for organized crime to get involved. That creates armies of violent drug pushers and a massive flow of black money into the coffers of money laundering elites.

India and the United States should support the effort of Latin American States to radically redesign the international legal regime on “illicit drugs.” At the scheduled 2016 special session of the UN General Assembly on drugs they should move to junk the existing laws and put in place new ones treating drug use as a public health problem.

Legalizing drugs does not mean allowing corporations to replace criminals. The new legal regime should provide for all drugs in demand to be provided at cost through the medical system, making it impossible for anyone to profit from supplying them. There is no danger of rampant growth in drug use; in fact, it is safe to project that without pushers there will be a continuing reduction.

Ban Shell Corporations: An Indo-American initiative should seek to put in place a global ban on corporations that do not reveal their true owners. Such corporations are key to money laundering and many other forms of organized crime, including the trafficking of women and children for sex, piracy at sea and dumping of European toxic waste off the coasts of Africa. A ban on shell corporations should go hand in hand with existing initiatives to eliminate all money laundering “tax havens,” including the biggest of them, Britain and Switzerland.

Reform the United Nations: The United Nations System still functions much as if it did when it was founded 70 years ago. It adopts hundreds of resolutions every year phrased in arcane diplomatic jargon addressed mainly to governments. No one knows what actually happens to the resolutions, for there is no systematic feedback on their implementation.

The organization should move to hook its decision-making into the networked world of the 21st century. Resolutions should be crisply action-oriented and go out to all relevant communications, expert and organizational networks worldwide. Feedback from networks should be analyzed and acted upon in a fluid interactive process.

For this to work in the area of peace and security, it is imperative that the composition of the Security Council be changed to reflect contemporary political realities. American support for the strategy I have proposed for such a reconstitution of the Council could build an effective global security apparatus.

In the context of the action proposed in the preceding paragraphs that would result in a significant reduction in global tensions and conflict, including terrorism, bringing within reach the long declared UN goal of general and complete disarmament.

Longer Term Measures

Global connectivity is causing an epochal paradigm shift in economics. It is drawing to a close four centuries when the joint-stock corporation empowered small groups to raise massive amounts of capital and shape the course of free markets. As Adam Smith warned in The Wealth of Nations, corporations always represent narrow interests and deform the operation of free markets with fraud and waste.

Crowd funding directed by broad social involvement represents the new paradigm; it can power transformational change in areas as diverse as education, energy use and environmental protection. To make this work new institutions will be necessary, especially:

The Institutionalized Lottery: Just as the stock market was the essential funding mechanism for the corporate world, crowd funding will require a new institution: the national lottery described in my earlier post. Making the switch from one system to the other can be done gradually and without major disruptions if governments cooperate in building the coherently networked world described below.

The Community Corporation: To ensure that economic, social and environmental issues are coherently addressed, computer networks must be coordinated. As there is no existing system to do that, we will have to invent one.

I propose that the basic building block of the new system be a public institution, the Community Corporation (CC) in which all individuals in the locality would be members. Each CC would have a web site and all of them would be networked in circles that ascend in existing administrative hierarchies set by governments, rising from Town and City to District, Province, State and National levels.

Internationally, the networks would also follow the order of existing hierarchies of sub-regional and regional cooperation, and hook into the UN System globally.

The system could be rolled out with great rapidity once the basic CC module website is agreed upon and developed. The roll out and operation of individual CC web sites could be left to local entrepreneurs.

The overall CC Network (CCN) would provide a strong democratic frame driven by locally directed entrepreneurship and innovation. Undemocratic countries would not be able to benefit from the system and oligarchies would wither on the vine.

Triangular Cooperation: To promote the process of change described above, India and the United States should systematize their existing initiatives to jointly support development in Africa. Such “triangular cooperation” involving all developed and developing countries should become the framework for all international development cooperation in every region of the global South.

In conclusion, I must emphasize that unless some global vision of progress guides international action intensifying power struggles will make a general war unavoidable. India and the United States must cooperate not only to set a unifying vision before the world, they must join in bringing it to life.