|Friday, June 16, 2000,
their own party
without ethics: growing brutalisation of life
June, 16, 1925
Tarring their own party
WHEN the Bharatiya Janata Party rode to power a few years ago, its claim was that, like the ketchup in a comic advertisement, it was different. The cadre-backed leadership was united, disciplined and clean, it insisted. And as far as the allegation of being communal was concerned, that was flaunted as some kind of a medallion of strength. An all-too-brief stint in power and the elegance is already wearing out. The clean image stands sullied, thanks to the washing of dirty linen in public, and the show of unity has also stopped being convincing. It is not as if the entire party is afflicted but the ugly happenings in the outer core are enough to bring it a bad name. The problem with the BJP has been that in order to gain numerical strength, it has welcomed people of all hues and colours who rushed in due to the scent of power. This open-door policy is now coming unstuck because these undesirable elements have started wrecking it from the inside. The most effective demolition job is now taking place inside its Gujarat bastion. Minister of State for Home Haren Pandya has resigned following an unedifying controversy over his alleged role in the arrest of Bharat, the brother of Deputy Minister for Labour and Employment Purshottam Solanki, on charges of attempt to murder. Mr Solankis brother was arrested after he stormed into his rival cable operators office, beat up the owner and threatened to shoot him over an area of domination dispute. He was also booked under the Prohibition Act following the recovery of two bottles of gin and a bottle of beer from his vehicle. But the Deputy Minister has termed this arrest as high-handed on the part of Mr Pandya. As it usually happens in such cases, Mr Solanki called a meeting of his Koli community supporters and instigated them to pronounce that the arrest of Bharat was a victimisation of the entire community. Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel would have tried to hush up the matter but for the fact that the law cannot be forced to alter its course quite so easily. In any case, Mr Solanki went public with a vengeance, sparing neither Mr Pandya nor Mr Patel nor state party general secretary Gordhan Jhadaphiya.
The fulmination of the
Deputy Minister is weakened by his own behaviour and
track record. The Minister has the dubious distinction of
having been detained under TADA in Maharashtra and the
Srikrishna Commission had indicted him for his role in
Mumbai riots. He was retained in the Ministry despite
only to keep his backward Koli community in good humour.
Recently his name figured in connection with a dubious
attempt by some people to corner prime land in his native
district of Bhavnagar at a throwaway price. Before being
made a Minister, he had half a dozen criminal cases
registered against him in Bhavnagar. Gujarat is not the
only state having Ministers with such curricula vitae but
the point is that the BJP never tires of castigating
similar Ministers in, say, Bihar. If it criticises the
criminalisation of politics, it must make sure that its
own record is clean. Competitive appeasement may be
understandable but not competitive criminalisation. There
are many ways to reform history-sheeters and murderers
but making them Ministers is not the most desirable of
them. There is no reason why the party should be
oblivious of the fact that it may have to pay a heavy
price for promoting such people in the long run. As it
is, it is in power in very few states. And the list of
the states where it is providing a clean administration
is even shorter. The wounds that it suffers at the hands
of its own party members may prove impossible to heal
after a certain stage.
Koreas collide in amity
SINCE World War II some countries have split into two but the reverse process of reunification has been very rare. The two Vietnams became one after a successful armed liberation struggle in 1975. The two Germanys merged into one after a spontaneous and peaceful popular uprising in 1991. In a variation of the theme, the two Koreas have cleared the way for reunification in a move initiated by the top leaders of the two countries. When they unite the idea has received a mighty shove during the three-day summit which ended on Thursday the last zone of tension in that part of the world will vanish, the permanent US military presence will become unnecessary, North Koreas self-willed isolation and its present frenetic missile building will end. North-East Asia is about to enter a period of momentous change. What has injected drama into the summit is the new image of the northern part which television cameras beamed live. North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il was present at the airport to receive South Korean President Kim Dae Jung in a pleasant breach of protocol. The host was smiling broadly, radiating confidence and warmth. Pyongyang, the capital city, was overflowing with people, about a million of them, to greet the VVIP guest and to echo and endorse the countrys desire to start a new chapter in mutual relations. The northern Kim emerged not as a monster the southern media has always projected him to be but as an amiable neighbour ready to walk the extra mile in his quest for peace, partnership and economic development. Though unprepared for this effusive welcome and an unmistakable urge for cooperation, the southern delegation recovered and virtually unfolded a package. That was quick thinking.
South Korea wants
tension on the border along the 39th parallel to come
down and ultimately die. At present there are 37,000 US
troops forming the first line of defence, backed by the
South Korean army. Military teams from the two halves of
Korea often meet in a building built smack on the border,
so that both sides can talk without crossing the border.
Until a few years ago, the south would detect
an invasion plan, sound maximum alert and set the
temperature soaring. A North Korean submarine once sunk
close to the border and as the bodies of sailors began to
surface, war clouds gathered, spreading panic beyond the
peninsula. Anti-American sentiments are nursed by a
minority in the student community, which sometimes erupt
into protests to demand the withdrawal of US soldiers.
All this explains South Koreas insistence on
tension reduction measures. It also has another unique
problem. There are about seven million South Koreans who
fled their home in the north during the 1948-52 war but
have relatives or ancestral homes in the other half. The
second priority stems from this: free travel between the
two parts for family reunion.. There was prompt and
positive response and agreements have been signed. On its
part, South Korea will like to invest in infrastructure
and build plants in the north, which will be gratefully
accepted. People in the south have a standard of living
that is 10 times higher than in the north. As a communist
country it was fairly well off as long as the Soviet
Union existed. Now that prop is gone. During Kim Il
Sungs rule the ruling philosophy was
Juche, Korean word for self-sufficiency. But
it soon degenerated into autarky, living as a recluse
nation. North Koreas dire straits is directly
linked to this closed door policy. The million-strong
throng in Pyongyang may equally be to breathe in the new
air of openness.
EVER since the buzz word, globalisation, has possessed the imagination of the new captains of industry and new daring entrepreneurs, not to speak of the Moghuls of multinational cartels and combines, a new disease with its pathology rooted in large maverick dreams whose limit goes beyond Bill Gates windows, has been clinically examined in insightful details, particularly in the highly industrialised countries with over-stressed, over-stretched economies.
Thus, the USA in the West and Japan in the East have emerged as major study-cases for the scientists, medical researchers, concerned psychiatrists, etc. And since this malady is just beginning to become a virus in India, a word of caution at this point in our march towards the millennium dream of riches and marble mansions would, I presume, serve to hoist some signals of distress. Some remedial measures in the countries thus afflicted have, to be sure, sought to address the problem, but in countries like India, and in those proud of tiger economies, the issue will become critical only after the first flush of the new fever is over.
Globalisation of this kind, we know by now, is, at best, a mixed blessing, and its perils for the woefully poor countries are too transparent to need any comment. But my concern here is with its possible and ominous consequences for the immediate beneficiaries themselves.
The expression, workaholic, has now been long in existence, and found its place in the lexicons, and in the primers of neo-economies, and seems, therefore, to have lost its original stringency. It has, sometimes, even been used as a term of envy and approval. But we know that all alcoholics have a date with death, and that the palliatives can only extend the misery, not subdue it. In fact, the classical malady has some features in common with the dreaded AIDS. The inevitable and the ineluctable cannot be avoided.
What prompted me to make this a theme for this piece was a BBC News snippet from Japan where the disease has found an apt expression Koshi. The Japanese medical experts in the area have, with their characteristic thoroughness, drawn some frightening conclusions after a 10-year-long intensive study. Armed with facts and statistics, they have made certain observations which are not very comfortable for those hell-bent upon rising from rags to riches.
To make their point spectacularly ominous, some have opined that the recent death of the Japanese Prime Minister while in office was directly related to his work-schedule, workculture and work-worship. Koshi, in short, was the cause, and its, in the end, a killer-disease. The Japanese industrialists have over several decades made work-worship a temple and a totem, and the labouring classes have been systematically drugged to keep long hours at the machine, in the workshop, or in the assembly-plants as a logo of progress and victory even at the expense of health, family peace and fellow-feeling. The inducement-packets are nothing but a mode of seduction, and the Japanese worker has accepted it as a dark pleasure in the Freudian sense. Thus a work-ethos has been created which, in some manner, has that warrior-spirit which the Japanese have for centuries associated with the Samurai race. One could continue this fascinating but fatal story with examples from the great Japanese films and novels that have dramatised this issue in their own unique, inimitable style, but I trust the point Im trying to make needs little elaboration if we keep in mind the tragedy of industrialised Japan, particularly, since the rise of the phoenix-economy after their humiliating defeat in World War II.
Its time, then, to turn to the USA which is the real, towering Shankaracharya of the new work ethics and its rigid code. Its the ultimate, supreme sanctum of all those pilgrims of progress who consider billions in greenbacks a mark of divinity. I have in some earlier articles also gone into the death of the American Dream in some detail, I would just be summarising a couple of points that go back homing to Max Webers famous work on American Capitalism and Protestantism the umbilical link between two proselytising religions, armed with Gods word. That the pilgrim-fathers and earlier settlers regarded work as a God-ordained activity, and the creation of wealth in the process of honest labour a God-blessed boon, is true, and also healthful. In fact, nearly all religions and their scriptures carry the song of labour in one form or another. The Sikh adoration of work earned by dint of ones nails, and with blood and sweat, to use a farceful Punjabi phrase, finds its richest expression in Guru Nanaks bani, and in the Sakhis connected with him and early in the 20th century, in the poetry of Punjab-intoxicated Puran Singh who drew his inspiration from the Sikh Gurus, and from Walt Whitman, Americas tallest poet or bard of sweat and sweet labour. Thus Kirat-Kamaai has remained a major theme in Sikh ethics.
Its only when this love of work or worship turns into an obsession, a junoon, a vice which demands ruthlessness, even war, in its desire for the peaks of affluence and power that it loses its virtue, its divine character and its beauty. Indeed, some of the purest Christian thinkers, dismayed and disgusted with the Lutheran dream, have gone on to treat money as dirt. And some of the best American writers have voiced their agony in great classics. Im reminded of a Henry James character, who, otherwise, is a heartless aesthete, saying words to this effect: in his classic, The Portrait of a Lady, Its good to have money, its vulgar to chase it. And this was partly the authors own sentiment. Money in sufficient quantities is good, even beautiful, but when one goes whoring after it, its a profligacy of the mind, and an expense of the spirit.
A similar money-mania is now on wheels since the globalisation wave in India involving our young new lions of industry and the old, and the new executives and their ranked employees down the line, flush with fat salaries and perks.
I may as well suggest two American novels for the involved Indian reader. The first, The Hurricane Years, by Hailey on the American scene in this regard, and the second by Creighton dealing with Japan, that land of the rising sun. Each has a shattering moral, though the contexts and the outcome are different. Haileys big book is the story of a typical American business executive who overreaches himself to the extent it results in a massive heart attack and breakdown when he is still in the forties, his hurricane years, and in his rediscovery of the goodness of earth and sun and flowers and the white territory of peace. The first part of the tragedy and thats where the breakthrough never comes appears to be the fate of those whose vision stops with the piled-up millions, and all manner of pathological disorders begin to poison their lives. The American statistics are sufficiently daunting and revealing.
I have no space here for Creightons book, though I think its perhaps the profoundest peep into the Japanese business psyche, management evils and domestic tragedies attempted so far. The glorious land of the tea-ceremonies and courtesies, of flower culture and poetic lyricism now hides too many horrifying skeletons to remain good and whole and happy. Its an American tragedy in the Japanese contest with additional cultural complexities and suicidal shades.
Before I conclude, I may
as well touch on the issue in question that we notice now
in all big Indian cities, including Chandigarh. In my own
personal knowledge, a couple of my young, promising
relations, yet only a part on the lower heirarchy and
eye-deep in the business of monthly returns
on pair of instant firing or sacking by their
target-mad bosses are at the wheel, or on the motor-bike
from day-break to almost heart-break the midnight
hour , wolfing down meals, when possible, or
bringing the back home to their despairing mothers the
tiffen-box where the parathas or sandwiches have gone
stale, limp and uneatable: And all that they can say is:
Its a part of the deal. Not only the
American pizza and hamburgher have arrived (and I have
enjoyed the eating in my better days), but also the
American slang and the business lingo. The
tragic irony of such a situation, however, is that whilst
the American-type fortunes are yet a wild dream away, the
money-related tragedies are perhaps already in the making
at least for some.
SECRETS are sacred. Especially, when friends repose their faith and trust. But keeping your own secrets and being secretive is sickening. In any case, most of the personal secrets are generally not worth keeping. The remaining are too good to be kept. Then, why carry a burden? Thus, I share. All my secrets. With all and everyone. Without a doubt or distinction.
I do not work. At all. At least, during two periods. Firstly, before vacation. And then, after vacation. Thus, I commit no fault. Make no mistake. The boss never bothers me. And I have a totally unblemished record of service. Neat. Like my baldhead. And I have got all the promotions. Sometimes, even before my seniors. Smart? In keeping with the ways of the world?
I have certain limitations. Inborn. I am even aware of it. I am not intelligent. At all. Have a very low IQ. Despite that, I normally keep my mouth shut. On good advice. As a strategy. In the process, many are fooled. They believe that I am a man of few words. A quiet worker. Does not bother anyone. Minds his own business. Some even carry a wrong impression about my intellect. About my capacity to work. And various other things. Wonderful! Isnt it?
Still more, I am not sensitive. Not in the least. Sometimes, I am totally insensitive. Resultantly, the problems cause no problem. Remarks do not cause any reaction. Unkind and unwarranted observations do not upset me. I remain in blissful ignorance. Oblivious of the whisper campaigns and petty intrigues, I live in a world of my own. Happy, healthy and in good humour.
My table manners are bad. Abominable. For sure. Mostly, you can hear me eat. And then I eat with my fingers. Like a child. Sometimes, it appears clumsy. But I am stubborn. I feel that a knife and fork go into every hand and mouth. My fingers go into only mine. It is hygienic. Even economical. It saves me of a lot of avoidable expense. Now, you know one of the secrets of my apparent affluence.
But I like a good table. Have a taste for good food. The sight of it pleases me. Excites my taste buds. And I do not resist the instinct. Then it shows. All over. In particular, my waist bears testimony to my taste. And let me confess. I am always a willing loser in the battle about the belly. For, I have come to believe that a fat man can never stoop too low.
I have a small mind. And a big mouth. The two go well together. Normally, a wise man is never certain of anything. A fool is always sure of everything. This adage applies to me. Fully. The less I know, the more I like to tell it. Thanks to my ignorance, I can raise more arguments than others. More confidently than many.
And I use my big mouth to a good advantage. Weaker my argument, the louder is my pitch. That often makes an effective argument.
I am generous. I give free advice. And I always admire the wisdom of people who seek it. But I do not believe in collective wisdom based on individual ignorance. What they do not know does not hurt them. But it always amuses many. Such people often speak passionately. They talk vehemently. And very often their argument appears sound. Though, it is merely sound. A person who has never taken a sip at the fountain of education makes the loudest noise. He gargles. With every gulp. At such moments, silence and not speech is my secret.
I am a miser. To my bone marrow. Yet I am not miserable. I do not waste any money. My hands can go into my pockets. Easily. But the touch of money is enough to cause paralysis. I tell myself that I am poor. And I save. It is known that some become poor by acting rich. I grow and remain rich by seeming poor. I am and shall die rich.
Economics without ethics:growing
SELFISHNESS will always win against idealism. So says Prof J.K. Galbraith. Strange for an optimist to say so: But that is my experience, he asserts.
And he is right. It is greed that is driving the human civilisation today. Greed of individuals, greed of corporations, greed of almost all. But it is not inevitable or invincible. Man can change the course of his story.
In 1998, there were 53,000 MNCs in the world, with 450,000 foreign subsidiaries. In 1917, at the time of the October Revolution, there were just a few. This is the measure of the growth of capitalism. No state, not even the Vatican, not even the most powerful, own confront these 5,00,000 corporations. It is not easy, but it can be done.
Religion is what guides human behaviour. It provides the ethical foundation to human life. But what has been the experienced? It is religion which has more often produced the justification for human depravity.
Let us take the Hindu experience. The Brahmins ideal was service. And yet, in the end, he made all other castes to serve his needs! On this, Jawaharlal Nehru says in his Autobiography: The old Indian ideal .... looked down upon money and the professional money-making class. Honour and wealth did not go together, and honour was meant to go, at least in theory, to the men who served the community without financial reward. Thus, the merchants of Pataliputra were looked down upon, even though they were financing the town administration!
Nehru goes on: The old culture managed to live through a fierce storm and tempest, but though it kept its outer form, it lost its real content. Today, it is fighting silently and desperately against a new and all-powerful opponent the Baniya civilisation of the capitalist West ... But the West also brings an antidote to the evils of this out-throat civilisation the principles of socialism, of cooperation and service to the community for the common good. This is not so unlike the old Brahmin ideal of service.
Alas, little did Nehru realise that these new secular Brahmins (the socialists) would also betray the people. It was not a question of changing ideologies, as he thought. It was a question of transforming men, as Gandhiji used to say. Only when the Communist system collapsed did the world realise that the men behind the system were not men, but monsters.
But it will not be so easy to oust the Baniya civilisation. It is backed by millions of predators. It is the most powerful and dangerous system that we have known so far. It too promises an Utopia, an era of peace and plenty. It is armed with unlimited resources and is highly adaptable. Today, it goes by the name of globalism. In the decade it has held sway, the rich have become richer and the poor poorer. The gap is wider than ever before.
What is the way out? Either there should be a change of heart among the rich and powerful, or the poor must use their electoral power. To wish for wisdom from the well-to-do is like wishing for the pie in the sky. As for exercising electoral power, it is already under trial in India. The Brahmins are out of power in most of the states. So are the Kshatriyas. It is now the turn of the Baniyas and the Shudras.
What is Indias experience with them? With a closed economy, the Baniyas made super profits, converting public funds into private profit. A powerful middle class has emerge, but a most irresponsible one. They have refused to share their prosperity with the larger community. As for the Shudras, having lost their faith in the Congress, they have put their faith in the backward caste leaders, who are turning out to be far worse. In fact, they have turned out to be more casteist than the Congress leaders. The regression will go on.
In Europe and America, they did not make this mistake. They went for the two-party system, one party serving the haves and the other serving the have-nots, to put it in a broad way.
Men have been wrong in putting undue faith in both ideologies and leaders. It is true, they need an ideology. But more than the ideology, they need men of trust. It is unfortunate that the emphasis is on ideology, not on the nature of men.
It is undue faith in the system which has produced the casino economy. It has made life itself a gamble.
In 20 years, between 1979 and 1999, the annual turnover of foreign exchange has grown from $ 17.5 trillion to $ 300 trillion. In 1979, it was already ten times more than what was needed. In 1999, it had become fifty times more than what was needed. The world needs only 10 per cent of the capital flow for trade and other transactions. The rest of the flow goes into speculation, which explains why there is continuous instability in the economy. And this surplus is likely to grow into more astronomical figures.
Can capitalism correct this distortion? It cannot, for holders of this hot money expect a decent return on their capital. But this is a burden which the rich alone cannot bear. Which is why Wall Street has called for the free flow of capital throughout the world. It helps to spread the burden around the world.
How to manage money has become the centre of concern for most nations. But the IMF is opposed to regulation of the capital flow. For obvious reasons. The result was the Mexican and Asian crises, in which millions were bank- rupted. The world is yet to learn the lessons from that experience.
We could blame Stalin for the failure of socialism. We could blame Mao for the failure on the agricultural front. And we can blame the Soviet Communist Party for allowing the excesses. Some of them could have been even punished. But who is to be punished for the Mexican and Asian debacle? The speculators? There are tens of thousands of them. Or the faceless Wall Street operators? No, we cannot reach them in a court of law. Capitalism is not accountable for its crimes. In America, the citadel of capitalism, they have abolished even jury trial for economic offences, for juries are governed by ethical considerations by the values of their civilisation. But ethics has been banned from capitalism. Economic behaviour has been placed beyond the judgement of ethics.
He is true Vaishnava on
whom Gods favour has alighted,
Guru Arjan Dev, Sukhmani Sahib, Ashtapadi, 9; Pauri 2
Dadu, know that the path of the saints is arduous; only he will travel on it who, absorbed in the Lords Name, dies while living. O Dadu, hard is the path, none can step upon it alive; only he can tread on it who while living dies.
Dadu Dayal, ed. Parashuram Chaturved, p.233: 21-22
All die, without
Paltu Sahib ki Bani, Pt I, Kundli, 117
Let people insult and
THE creation of a new Secretary of
State for dealing exclusively with the affairs of the
Self-Governing Dominions, inevitable, has come at last.
As Colonel Amery, in whom the new Secretaryship continues
to be vested, pointed out in a recent speech, there
is a fundamental differences between consolation with
partner nations of a Commonwealth and the administration
and development of colonies for which the British
Parliament is directly responsible, and it was not
only in the highest degree incongruous but was positively
bad both for the Crown Colonies themselves and the self
governing Dominions that the functions were hitherto
vested in the same Secretary of State. What one may
reasonably doubt, however, is whether even the new step
has any finality about it. If the present tendency
towards colonial independence goes on developing as it
has been doing for some time, it is by no means
improbable that before long the authority that will carry
on consolations with the Dominions will not be the new
Secretary of State, but a reorganised and probably
partially rechristened Foreign Office.
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