Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira’s latest book is titled ‘Listening for Well-Being’
Maira observes that physical and verbal violence in the world and on social media is continuously growing
He also highlights the importance of ‘hearing each other’ in order to create truly inclusive and democratic societies
New Delhi, September 5, 2017 : Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira contends that “physical violence” in the real world and “verbal violence” on social media against people whom “we do not approve of” are increasing today. With such trends on the rise, the very idea of democracy finds itself in a crisis.
“We need to listen more deeply to people who are not like us,” said the much-respected management consultant, talking of his latest book, “Listening for Well-Being”, and sharing his perspective on a wide range of issues that he deals with.
“Violence by people against those they dislike, for whatever reason, is increasing. It has become dangerous to post a personal view on any matter on social media. Responses are abusive. There is no respect for another’s dignity. People are also repeatedly threatened with physical violence.”
He said that gangs of trolls go after their victims viciously. “Social media has become a very violent space. Like the streets of a run-down city at night… not a safe space to roam around in.”
At the same time, streets in the physical world are becoming less safe too. “Any car or truck on the road can suddenly become a weapon of mass destruction in a ‘civilised’ country: in London, Berlin, Nice, or Barcelona,” Maira told IANS in an interview.
Maira said that with the rise of right-wing parties that are racist and anti-immigrant, there is great concern in the Western democratic world — in the US, the UK and Europe — that democracy is in a crisis.
In the US, for example, supporters of Donald Trump, Maira said, believe only what Trump says and watch only the news channels that share a similar ideology. On the other side are large numbers of US citizens who don’t believe what Trump says but they too have their own preferred news sources.
“They should listen to each other, and understand each other’s concerns. Only then can the country be inclusive. And also truly democratic — which means that everyone has an equal stake and an equal voice,” he noted.
In “Listening for Well-Being” (Rupa/Rs 500/182 Pages), Arun Maira shows his readers ways to use the power of listening. He analyses the causes for the decline in listening and proposes solutions to increase its depth in private and public discourse.
Drawing from his extensive experience as a leading strategist, he emphasises that by listening deeply, especially to people who are not like us, we can create a more inclusive, just, harmonious and sustainable world for everyone.
But it would be wrong to say that the decline in listening is only restricted to the Western world.
“We have the same issues in India too. We are a country with many diverse people. We are proud of our diversity. However, for our country to be truly democratic, all people must feel they are equal citizens.
“The need for citizens to listen to each other is much greater in India than in any other country because we are the most diverse country, and we want to be democratic. So, we must learn to listen more deeply to ‘people who are not like us’ in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race,” he maintained.
Maira also said that India is a country with a very long and rich history. And within the present boundaries of India are diverse people, with different cultures, different religions, and of different races.
“So, we cannot put too sharp a definition on who is an ‘Indian’ — the language they must speak, the religion they must follow, or the customs they must adopt. Because, then we will exclude many who do not have the same profiles, and say they are not Indians. Thus we can falsely, and dangerously, divide the country into ‘real Indians’ and those who are supposedly non-Indians. Indeed, such forces are rising in India,” he added.
Maira, 74, hoped that all his readers will appreciate that listening is essential to improve the world for everyone. He also maintained that it is not a complete solution to any of the world’s complex problems but by listening to other points of view, we can prevent conflict and also devise better solutions.
Born in Lahore, Arun Maira received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Physics from Delhi University’s St Stephen’s College. He has also authored two bestselling books previously, “Aeroplane While Flying: Reforming Institutions” and “Upstart in Government: Journeys of Change and Learning”. (IANS)
Breaking new ground, J.K. Rowling, the creator of the immensely popular Harry Potter series, on Tuesday launched the online serialisation of a new 34-part series, ‘The Ickabog’, aimed primarily at 7-9-year-olds as bedtime stories but which will appeal to readers of all ages. Simultaneously, she launched a global completion for the illustrations that will appear in the print edition that will appear in November and announced she would donate the entire royalties to projects that assist groups particularly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.
“Written to be read aloud, ‘The Ickabog’ is a fairy tale, set in an imaginary land, and is a complete stand-alone story unrelated to the author’s other work. It will appeal to children between the ages of 7 and 9 but can be enjoyed by the whole family. The story will be translated into a number of other languages. “The idea for ‘The Ickabog’ came to me while I was still writing Harry Potter. I wrote most of a first draft in fits and starts between Potter books, intending to publish it after ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’,” Rowling said in a post on a website.
However, after the last Potter book, she wanted to take a break from publishing, which ended up lasting five years as she decided she wanted to step away from children’s books for a while. At that point, the first draft of “The Ickabog” was in the attic, where it remained for nearly a decade. “Over time, I came to think of it as a story that belonged to my two younger children, because I’d read it to them in the evenings when they were little, which has always been a happy family memory.
“A few weeks ago at dinner, I tentatively mooted the idea of getting ‘The Ickabog’ down from the attic and publishing it for free, for children in lockdown. My now teenagers were touchingly enthusiastic, so downstairs came the very dusty box, and for the last few weeks I’ve been immersed in a fictional world I thought I’d never enter again. “As I worked to finish the book, I started reading chapters nightly to the family again. This was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my writing life, as ‘The Ickabog’s’ first two readers told me what they remember from when they were tiny, and demanded the reinstatement of bits they’d particularly liked. I obeyed,” Rowling said.
Having decided to publish, she thought “how wonderful” it would be if children in lockdown, or otherwise needing distraction during the strange and difficult time we’re passing through, illustrated the story. “There will be suggestions about the illustrations we might need for each chapter on ‘The Ickabog’ website, but nobody should feel constrained by these ideas. I want to see imaginations run wild! Creativity, inventiveness and effort are the most important things: we aren’t necessarily looking for the most technical skill,” Rowling explained.
Parents and guardians are encouraged to enter their children’s artwork into an official illustration competition being run by Rowling’s publishers around the world, to win a place in the published book in each territory. The competition was launched on Tuesday in India, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada. Other territories will follow shortly. Rowling will not be part of the judging process but will be suggesting scenes and characters to draw on a daily basis during the online serialisation. (IANS)
Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya has raised questions over Article 30 of the Indian Constitution which provides the minority community the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
Vijayvargiya said this Article has harmed the spirit of equality guaranteed in the Constitution.
Vijayvargiya tweeted: “Article 30 has harmed the constitutional equality of citizens. This Article allows the minorities to propagate their religion and education based on religion, which is not allowed to other religions. When our country is a secular one, what is the need of Article 30.”
Article 30 says all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
“The State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language,” Article 30 says.
Vijayvargiya’s statement can spark a new debate on the issue. (IANS)
Europeans have a horrifying record regarding human rights violations. Germany is well known for an unprecedented, systematic holocaust of Jews and gypsies right in the middle of Europe only 80 years ago. Yet Britain, France, Portugal and others were as brutal with equal or even higher number of humans killed in their colonies. Their victims count many millions and many of them were Indians.
The Arabs, Turks and Mongols, too, have a horrifying record regarding human rights. The number of victims killed also goes into many millions, and many of them were Indians.
The Muslims invaded India already over thousand years ago and were as brutal as ISIS in our times. Unspeakable torture and beheadings were done on massive scale. Even the supposedly benign “Akbar the Great” slaughtered Hindus in huge numbers. The collective sacred threads of the Brahmins massacred by him is said to have weighed 200 kilogram. Can one even imagine such incredible injustice and brutality to civilians and priests? Thousands of temples were destroyed. Hindu women were sold into sex slavery. Hindus even had to open their mouth and receive gratefully the spittle by Muslims sitting on horses, and slaughtering cows was seen as “noblest deed” because it was so painful for Hindus, is recounted in “Legacy of Jihad” by Andrew Bostom.
The brutality experienced by Hindus was so horrendous that, even in independent India, they hardly dare to complain when they are subjected to cruel discrimination. It is painful to read comments whenever Hindus are killed or raped by Muslims: “This won’t make news, as the victim is only a Hindu”. It is so sad, but understandable after what they have gone through for over thousand years. They had no way to get justice; had to bear their suffering silently.
Guru Nanak cried out to the Supreme, and it is part of the Grant Sahib, “Having lifted Islam to its head, You have engulfed Hindustan in dread… Such cruelties they have inflicted and yet Your mercy remains unmoved….Oh Lord, these dogs have destroyed the diamond-like Hindustan.”
The British colonial masters were not less brutal. Their disdain for the natives was incredible. Winston Churchill is on record saying that he “hated Indians” and considered them a “beastly people with a beastly religion”. Celebrities like Charles Dickens wanted the Indian race ‘exterminated’ and considered them vile savages and Max Mueller wanted them all converted to Christianity.
Britain looted and reduced the formerly wealthiest country of the world to painful poverty, where during their rule over 25 million people starved to death, 3 million as late as in 1943 in Bengal.
The crimes of the British colonialists are, like those of the Muslim invaders, too numerous to list. They tied Indians to the mouth of canons and blew them up, hanged scores of them on trees, and even just after over one million Indian soldiers had helped Britain to be victorious in the First World War with many thousands sacrificing their lives, General Dyer gave orders to shoot at a peaceful gathering in Amritsar in 1919 where thousands died. An old coffee planter in Kodagu told me that even in the early 1950s there was a board in front of the club house in Madikeri. It read: “Dogs and Indians not allowed”.
Can anyone imagine the pain those Indian generations went through, having arrogant, often uncouth ruffians looting their land and despising them as dogs?
How could Europeans and Arabs be so cruel to other human beings? The reason is that they saw themselves as superior and others not quite as human.
Religion played a big role in making them feel superior. Both Christianity and Islam teach their members that only their religion is true and that the Creator will reward them with eternal heaven, but will severely punish all those who do not follow their ‘true’ religion. If God himself will torture them eternally in hellfire, why should his followers be good to them? Wouldn’t it mean siding with God’s enemies and betraying Him?
But on what basis do they consider only their religion as true and themselves as superior? The reason is that the respective founder of their religion allegedly said so. No other reason exists and no proof. On this flimsy basis, Christians and Muslims treated other human beings most inhumanly, believing they are destined for hell while they themselves are God’s favorites and will go to heaven. This brainwashing in the name of religion happens even in our times and its effect is still not questioned and analysed.
Yet today, neither white Christians, nor Arab or Turkish Muslims are constantly reminded of those terrible crimes of their forefathers. “The present generation must not be held accountable for the sins of their fathers”, is however not applied to Hindus and especially not to Brahmins. Media keeps hitting out at them as if they had been the worst violators of human rights in the past. Hinduism is portrayed as the villain due to the “horrific and oppressive” caste system.
Anyone, who knows a little about history, knows that this is false and malicious. The structure of Hindu society into four varnas or categories is mentioned in the Vedas and depends on one’s aptitude and profession – Brahmins, who memorise and teach the Vedas, Kshatriyas, who administer and defend society, Vaishyas who supply the society with goods and Shudras, who are the service sector. The varnas are not fixed by birth in texts like Bhagavad Gita or Manusmriti. But the British themselves cemented ‘castes’ (a Portuguese word) in their census and then turned around and accused Hindus of their birth-based, fixed caste system.
There was however one more category which the whole world has been told about and which is used to the hilt to despise Hinduism. They were the untouchables who do unclean work, like handling dead animals, cleaning sewers, etc. The fact that other varnas avoided touching them is still made a huge issue of in the West. In fact it is portrayed, as if this practice made Hindus the greatest violators of human rights and makes the millions tortured and killed by Christians and Muslims pale in comparison.
Yet there is no proof that even one of those untouchables has been killed for doing unclean work. Higher castes may indeed have looked down or still look down on those whose job involves dirt, which is unfortunately a human trait in all societies. It has nothing to do with Hinduism. Most people are aware that such work also needs to be done.
There is in all likelihood another angle regarding “untouchability”, which the British did not realize: Ayurveda knew already 3000 years ago that invisible germs can cause serious illness and those dealing with cadavers and dirt are more likely to carry and spread those. However, the British didn’t know about this fact till only some 150 years ago, when Louis Pasteur claimed that germs cause sickness. (By the way, Google describes this discovery as “crowning achievement of the French scientist”, and avoids mentioning India’s ancient Ayurveda).
Now in today’s time of “social distancing” due to the Corona Virus, we know that not touching others is a precaution to prevent potential infection and has nothing to do with discrimination. The British could have given Hindus the benefit of doubt that they avoided physical contact with certain people due to caution. But since the British didn’t have the advanced knowledge about harmful germs they could not see the possible reason behind it.
Since Independence, the caste system is officially abolished and discrimination against lower castes is a non-bailable offense. Yet the West still makes a huge issue of the caste system and untouchables. Why? Was this the greatest crime the British could find against the “natives” and therefore exaggerated it tremendously?
This is not to say that people of higher castes didn’t or don’t look down on lower castes, but the demonization of Brahmins is most unwarranted, as Brahmins are least likely to harbour hatred for others due to their strict rules for sadhana which requires them to keep a very high standard of mental and physical purity. Yet evangelicals, NGOs, international media, Muslim organisations, they all are after them and Hindus in general. They attack them for “atrocities” which never even happened, while the unspeakable atrocities, which were perpetrated upon them, are ignored. It’s a classic case of noticing the speck in the brother’s eye, but not the beam of wood in one’s own eye.
They got away with it for too long, because Hindus didn’t react. The meekness of Hindus was legendary. They were even called cowards. Yet in recent time, Hindus are becoming more assertive. They realize that the constant attacks on them are malicious, and that they are being fooled in the name of secularism because neither Christians nor Muslims can be secular. They are by nature communal because they need to make their community spread all over the world.
It is time to call out this blatant insincerity. When a head of state, like Imran Khan, accuses the Modi government in a tweet of “moving towards Hindu Rashtra with its Hindutva Supremacist, fascist ideology”, he better looks at his own country and his own ideology. A Hindu Rashtra with its inclusiveness and freedom are any time better than the exclusive, supremacist ideologies of Islam and Christianity, which force human beings into a strait-jacket of blind belief and several Muslim states threaten even today those who want to get out with death sentence.