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Listening for Well-being : Arun Maira Talks About a Democracy in Crisis, Unsafe Social Media and More in his Latest Book

Maira asserts that 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.

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Arun Maira
Arun Maira (extreme left), during a public event in 2009. Wikimedia
  • 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.

The solution?

“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)

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Twitter Overflows with Praiseworthy Posts as Milkha Singh Turns 90

A user posted a 1958 picture of Milkha Singh defeating Pakistan athlete Abdul Khaliq in the 200 metre race to win gold in Tokyo Asian Games

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Twitter
One fan mentioned on Twitter that the Flying Sikh was the "Godfather of Indian Athletics". Pixabay

Twitter users heaped effusive praise as legendary Indian athlete Milkha Singh turned 90 on Wednesday, with many posting throwback pictures depicting his sporting achievements and quotes.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh wrote on his Twitter handle @capt_amarinder: “Happy birthday to the pride of Punjab & India, #MilkhaSingh Ji, who turns 90 today. Wish you the best of happiness & health, sir. “Urge my young friends to take inspiration from the #FlyingSikh and indulge in sports & fitness activities for a healthier life.”

Team India’s Twitter handle @WeAreTeamIndia wrote: “Sending out warm wishes to the legendary sporting icon, a serial sprint winner of his times and the one who is most rightfully known as the #FlyingSikh.”

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi wrote: “Wishing a very happy 90th birthday to #FlyingSikh, inspiration of Millions PadmaShri #MilkhaSingh ji.”

A user posted a 1958 picture of Milkha Singh defeating Pakistan athlete Abdul Khaliq in the 200 metre race to win gold in Tokyo Asian Games. He said: “In 1958 Abdul Khaliq was the fastest man in Asia. Happy Birthday Milkha Singh”.

Twitter
Twitter users heaped effusive praise as legendary Indian athlete Milkha Singh turned 90 on Wednesday, with many posting throwback pictures depicting his sporting achievements and quotes. Wikimedia Commons

Another user listed out sporting achievements of the Padma Shri awardee.

“Independent India’s first athletes to win gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. Wishing you a very happy birthday Milkha Singh”, wrote another user.

ALSO READ: Eat Your Breakfast To Score Good Marks

One user said: “Milkha Singh (age 90 yrs now) don’t miss his important tip. No doctor no tablet”.

One fan mentioned that the Flying Sikh was the “Godfather of Indian Athletics”. (IANS)