First off - Wishing everyone a very Happy Diwali!
Tonight we are all welcoming the light that Diwali signifies into our homes and lives. The light, specifically in these times, should enable us to visualize things around us better.
Here are a few lines that define those who are battling against the forces that will not stop and have no respect for life, nature, or humanity.
I am not sure who the poet of these lines is, is but I like to call this poem as "Signature of an Epoch."
दिग्भ्रमित क्या कर सकेंगीं, भ्रांतियाँ मुझको डगर में;
मैं समय के भाल पर, युगबोध का हस्ताक्षर|
कर चुका हर पल समर्पित जागरण को;
नींद को अब रात भर सोने न दूंगा;
है अंधेरे को खुली मेरी चुनौती;
रोशनी का अपहरण होने न दूंगा |
जानता अच्छी तरह हूँ, आंधियों के मैं इरादे;
इसलिए ही; जल रहे जो दीप उनका पक्षधर हूँ |
[How will the incertitudes of the path veer me off it, I am the signature of the epoch on the forehead of time. Have submitted every moment to my wakefulness, so will not allow the sleep a moment tonight. Challenging the darkness - will not allow it to kidnap the light anymore.I fully realize the mission of the storms. That is why I stand with the lamps that still burn.]
We are our Karmic Structure.
A structure that is a combination of memories embedded in our being from our ancestors, past lives, society, species, and the Universe.
History is not the past. It is us today.
And if we do not get past the dictates of our karmic structure, we will be defined by our history.
However, if the karmic structure is no more, so aren't we in the sense we understand ourselves.
So, to suggest that history is irrelevant to today misses the point that past manifests as its signature in terms of action, reaction and decisions today.
That is precisely why understanding one's Civilizational ethos is critical to how we have to shape our future.
Just as our responses cannot be borrowed from another's karmic structure, our social structures cannot be lifted from another civilizational model. The clash will create conflicts that will harden and worsen our karmic responses. Most of the time, there will be no relation between what we need and what we do.
Let us discuss this.
Religion and Economics
In the game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, character Skull Face remarks (Source):
I am my language. That is a strong form of identification. One can say that this is a parochial and a rather narrow way of looking at one's identity.
But the relationship goes the other way.
You are a product of a certain ethos. The lineage, the geography, the culture, the nature around have shaped the norms, the ways, and the communication a society evolves over time.
In a way, the wisdom of many millennia is embedded in those norms and structures of society. You take away one final manifestation - say, language - and you can simply bring an entire cultural ethos down.
In fact, many commentators like Max Weber who is regarded by some as the father of sociology and held together with Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, and Émile Durkheim in terms of his influence on Western thought and development, have suggested that the economic destiny of nations are strongly decided by the religions of the majority.
In his works, specifically two: The Protestant ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and The Religion of India - Weber went about his way to decipher the impact of religion on the "invention" of Capitalism and its sustenance as the primary mode of commerce in any society.
Weber's contention was that Buddhism and Hinduism did not provide the conditions necessary for Capitalism to take shape. Once it was introduced then there could be handled by that society.
Bottomline: The Capitalist Spirit is essentially a Protestant ethic.
Weber's knowledge of history and his analysis was heavily informed by the same devils that have been used by the Missionaries and the Colonialists to dismantle as well as overpower the Indian society - CASTE.
Along the usual lines, he views everything that happened in India through the same lens.
Even when, until the British invaded and destroyed the indigenous scientific and trade structures, India was the foremost economic and scientific society.
The Australian Professor, Mark Elvin wrote about the "The High-level Equilibrium Trap."
Mark Elvin analyses China in his book "The High-level Equilibrium Trap: The Cause of the Decline of Invention in the Traditional Chinese Textile Industries."
His argument was that China never underwent an indigenous Industrial Revolution despite its wealth, stability, and high level of scientific achievement because the pre-industrial economy had reached an equilibrium point where supply and demand were well-balanced.
Since the labor was cheap and manufacturing and supply chain efficient enough for that state of economic equilibrium that there was no incentive for investment in scaling it up.
His other argument was that with the shift from Taoism to Confucianism, the focus also changed from Science and Mathematics to Social Philosophy and Morality. That fashioned a society that could not lend itself to technical innovation.
Michael Novak writes for Acton Institute about how it was not just the Protestant belief but the Christian religious beliefs and structure itself that created and propelled Capitalism.
Capitalism, it is usually assumed, flowered around the same time as the Enlightenment–the eighteenth century–and, like the Enlightenment, entailed a diminution of organized religion. In fact, the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was the main locus for the first flowerings of capitalism. Max Weber located the origin of capitalism in modern Protestant cities, but today’s historians find capitalism much earlier than that in rural areas, where monasteries, especially those of the Cistercians, began to rationalize economic life. It was the church more than any other agency, writes historian Randall Collins, that put in place what Weber called the preconditions of capitalism: the rule of law and a bureaucracy for resolving disputes rationally; a specialized and mobile labor force; the institutional permanence that allows for transgenerational investment and sustained intellectual and physical efforts, together with the accumulation of long-term capital; and a zest for discovery, enterprise, wealth creation, and new undertakings. (Source: "How Christianity Created Capitalism" / Acton Institute)
One of the features of Capitalism that's been the focus of these thinkers is the outward growth even to a point of exploitation, destruction, and slavery of the other.
All that gets clubbed into one common, deceptively innocuous concept called Growth.
This is important because Elvin had posited the propensity for equilibrium within Confucian China to be the biggest roadblock to Capitalistic growth.
Equilibrium versus Unsatiated Economic growth is an important question when one looks at things from the standpoint of contemporary society.
Graham Greene in his book, The Third Man shared an interesting insight.
That conflict creates innovation. Achievement, if one measures it by growth - whether colonial and imperialistic or based on even genocide - was to be appreciated, irrespective of the source.
Growth, innovation, science, and even art were considered legitimate leaps in human achievement even when they served the destructive and amoral pursuits of imperialists and the Church.
For example, Ronald Ross, Nobel Laureate for his work on Malaria, was not propelled by the good he would do for the poor people of the tropical land that were the hapless victims of Malaria - but by the service of imperialism. Scientific work, Ross believed, was going to be critical for the success of Imperialism.
So when you look at these various commentators, a sense emerges. With respect to how the premier thinkers who have shaped the Western Civilizational ethos have considered religion and its various components to be central to their unbridled domination of the world.
Where domination is replaced by more palatable semantics like growth, achievement, and economic excellence.
Equilibrium and inward balance of societies.
So, let us ask this question:
Do the religious underpinnings decide the ways every society approaches economics, achievement, and global trade?
Even Balaji Srinivasan, a foremost innovative thinker of today, posits it almost the same way.
Abrahamic West and Sinic East, a Dharmic South.
But is it just a play between these three religio-social ways?
If we look at the world today, we are looking at the following Religio-Geographical groups.
There are broadly speaking seven civilizational frameworks which define the world today:
- Western Christian: which can be distinguished between Protestants and Catholics. These two did have two separate ethos as Weber alluded to. However, we reckon that a combination of the Westphalian Treaties (1648) and the peace that was created post World War II aligned their ways and interests together. The Protestant ethos dominated the European ethos in general.
- Converted Christian: This is the Latin American way. Converted Christians from a deep civilizational society do not embody the ethos nor are treated the same way as the European Christians by the world elite. This is partly due to the "karmic structure" confusion that we talked about. The social and civilizational memories and ethos that were inherited were far larger, deeper, and more profound than the change of one god. But that came to define these states. This will forever haunt their future responses.
- Islamic: These are primarily Middle Eastern states and other Islamic states, including those like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Orthodox Christian-Communist: This defines what Russia is today. It has again had its entire civilization confused by the whole Communist takeover in the last century and a half.
- Buddhist/Sinic Civilization: This defines China and other countries in the Far East that were heavily influenced and shaped by Chinese influence. Over the years, however, the Chinese Civilizational structures were uprooted from China.
- Buddhist-Communist: This is where modern-day China is. It was a Sinic civilizational state but those civilizational structures were uprooted by the Communists.
- Hindu Civilization: There are Dharmic versions in other countries. But India's has been a distinctly different - Hindu Civilization. Now, over the last 75 years we see that the full expression of Hindu-ness (or Hindutva - the core of Hindu ethos) came alive only recently. And, that has meant a world of difference in India's trajectory.
The Economic Center of Gravity as McKinsey called it in its article "Urban world: Cities and the rise of the consuming class," is shifting.
This article describes the dynamics of the global economy’s centre of gravity, the average location of economic activity across geographies on Earth. The calculations here take into account all the GDP produced on this planet. The article finds that in 1980 the global economy’s centre of gravity was mid-Atlantic. By 2008, from the continuing rise of China and the rest of East Asia, that centre of gravity had drifted to a location east of Helsinki and Bucharest. Extrapolating growth in almost 700 locations across Earth, this article projects the world’s economic centre of gravity to locate by 2050 literally between India and China. Observed from Earth’s surface, that economic centre of gravity will shift from its 1980 location 9,300 km or 1.5 times the radius of the planet. (Source: "The Global Economy’s Shifting Centre of Gravity" / Danny Quah
It is a significant (and rather quick) shift that is occurring within our lifetimes!
What took the UK or the US between 50-100 years has taken Korea, China and India much less time.
Here is the Executive summary of the report.
Is this shift a reflection of how the different religious and civilizational ethos are playing along and against each other?
Civilizational Hues and their economic mojo
Let us briefly look at the central mojo of each of the Civilizational frameworks that we have discussed above.
They have a distinct flavor and manner of working and that has lent itself to how they function.
Let us discuss a few.
Western Christian Civilization: Deep-divisions and Common good
The Christian Civilization stands on the graves of Pagans - a derogative epithet to those who were not monotheistic but spiritually rooted.
Between 300 AD to roughly 600 AD, the entire Greek/Roman Civilization had been brought down and a new Christian society was being pushed throughout Europe.
It was not an organic change. But a forced conversion.
You see, change is always organic. A conversion is always a forced event on the soul of a civilization.
It took a preoccupation of 20 people to reach a population of ‘believers’ of 30 million by the end of the 4th century!
Numbers are an effective way to enforce dominance. And, that is what this group believed in and executed.
If dominant numbers are made to believe a certain set of norms and narratives, they can be controlled by a small group of individuals.
That is why even when the current Christian countries have the Christian believers dwindling, they are evangelizing their beliefs elsewhere for it helps in the control mechanism.
The Christian ascendency was not easy either.
Despite one book, one god, and one savior, the denominational wars were some of the most brutal and inhuman.
Or maybe they were so because of that.
For, if you see, this fetish with "One World Order" necessarily brooks no dissent. That need for domination brings several ambitious people at loggerheads.
You can cover it up with fancy words like "Rule-Based Order" but the question remains - whose rules?
And, that is precisely what the denominational wars were also about. Until the Peace of Westphalia. That set the current direction of the Western Powers.
Catholics and Protestants (now including Calvinists as well as Lutherans) accepted each other. Several regulations guaranteed their balance: 1624 was declared the “normal year” of any territory’s denomination, minorities were tolerated or had a right to emigrate, and no one could be forced to convert any longer. The Peace of Westphalia is regarded as a milestone in the development toward tolerance and secularization. (Source: Oxford Bibliographies)
And, even though some of the powers were at the forefront of the ruthless and decidedly bloody colonial endeavors, the entire European population - irrespective of the country or Christian denominational belief - benefited and profited from those criminal enterprises.
To see how, it was not just the British, French and the Spanish who used slavery for their growth and plunder, but also the Nordic states, please read the recent newsletter edition.
That plunder and destruction formed the critical piece for economic dominance by the Western European powers was brought out most instructively by Brooks Adams, an American Historian (Great Grandson of John Adams, Grandson of John Quincy Adams) in his book "The law of civilization and decay; an essay on history".
He even quoted Arthur Young, an influential English agriculturist of that era. Young remarks how the plunder from Plassey impacted not just the industrial revolution, as Adams brought out, but even revolutionized British agriculture.
As Brooks puts it:
If one looks deeply at the economic and geopolitical domination strategies of the West, one would find that they have a remarkable resemblance in terms of how they were carried out and executed by the early Christians versus the Pagans of the Greek civilization.
The goal was dominance. Not co-existence.
There is no sense of collaboration in the real sense of the term. Even collaborative mechanisms like various institutional frameworks and agencies such as the United Nations are really ways to perpetuate that dominance.
After all, hasn't the United Nations been used to justify and sanctify every invasion by the US and the European countries without any fear of calling their attack on "Rules Based Order" out?
Those who make the "rules" decide how the "Rules Based Order" works or is transgressed.
When collaborative mechanisms are tools of control, then the world takes a very different shape.
Sinic Civilization usurped by the Communists
During its colonial downturn, where China was ruled and humiliated by the Japanese and the British, China learned lessons that gave way to an order that evolved in a way where the Chinese eventually rubbished their past.
Their past became their greatest source of shame.
Suddenly Confucian ethics and the Chinese past was considered to be the greatest enemy of the current generation. In fact the entire civilizational framework that the Chinese had inherited was seen as a burden under the new change that Mao Zedong brought about.
China's break from the past was violent. Mao made his strategy very clear.
For those in the Indian Communist movement who emulated Mao, the ethics and goals were very similar.
With Mao gone, the neo-Communists turned to Confucius just as the Christian imperialists used Jesus - as a tool of dominance and subjugation.
For much of China’s imperial age, Confucius served – unwillingly – as a tool of autocratic emperors. Today, China’s new emperors – the leaders of the Communist Party – are again turning to Confucius to build support for their dictatorial rule. However, the Communists can’t ensure their political future by relying on the country’s philosophical past. (Source: "Why a Confucian revival and the Internet could have unexpected consequences for China" by Michael Schuman/Brookings)
In fact, in order to infiltrate other countries, China has used Confucius Institutes to create propaganda vehicles.
One of the ways that the Chinese are infiltrating the education system – colleges and K-12 (Kindergarten to 12th grade) – is through its, innocuously named, Confucius institutes. Even though the parent organization is marketed as a Non-Profit Organization, it is part of the Chinese establishment tool.
Hanban is in fact controlled by high officials of the Chinese party-state implementing the policies of the PRC propaganda apparatus. The governing council of Hanban, which annually sets its agenda, has long been headed by a member of the Politburo. A number of its ranking officials, beside their high status in such ministries as foreign affairs, finance and national development, are members of so-called small leading groups of the Party’s propaganda and ideology sections — which thus function as conduits for the realization of Politburo policies in the operations of Confucius Institutes. (Source)
These Confucius Institutes have been working to infiltrate for the last two decades. 550 Confucius Institutes have been created globally since 2004. Roughly 100 in the United States and 29 in the United Kingdom.
What was decried once as the reason for China's decline and subjugation became a tool for its colonial endeavors.
Make no mistake, China's new avatar - part Confucius part Communist part Imperialist - is focused on domination.
American statesman John Adams, who served as U.S. president from 1797 to 1801, famously said, “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a country: One is by the sword; the other is by debt.” China, choosing the second path, has embraced colonial-era practices and rapidly emerged as the world’s biggest official creditor. With its international loans surpassing more than 5% of the global GDP, China has now eclipsed traditional lenders, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and all the creditor nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) put together. By extending huge loans with strings attached to financially vulnerable states, it has not only boosted its leverage over them but also ensnared some in sovereignty-eroding debt traps. (Source: "Colonization by other means: China’s debt-trap diplomacy" by Brahma Chellany/Japan Times)
Do you see the confusion that Confucius is creating in China? (Pun intended)
There was a civilizational framework that defined China for many millennia. It was the basis of its growth and economy that was innovative and dominant in the world. But this civilizational framework was uprooted lock, stock and barrel from its basis in China because it was violated by a ruthless force seeking domination.
What remained of yore were mere museum pieces.
In the era of the Chinese Communist Party, China's past was just an exhibit in the museum.
Precisely how the Greek Civilization became once the Christians took over Europe.
Communists in China have done exactly what the Christians did in Europe.
And, now we come to the Indian civilization.
Hindu Civilization and its Secularization
In an opinion piece targeting "Hindu nationalists", Reuters shared a "report" (interesting how opinion hit-jobs get pushed as reports these days) shared how Nehru, India's first PM was "different" from the current PM Modi.
India’s first post-independence leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, who promoted a secular state and tolerance of India’s Muslims, said it was “entirely misleading to refer to Indian culture as Hindu culture.” That outlook informed the way India was governed by Nehru and then by his Congress party for more than half a century. The rights of minorities - including the prohibition of discrimination based on religion - are enshrined in India’s constitution, of which Nehru was a signatory in 1950. (Source: Reuters)
How wrong history has made Nehru look, despite the practiced ignorance of Reuters and other such media groups.
If one had to do a social laboratory experiment, then India/Pakistan/Bangladesh could be considered to be the most perfect and largest human social laboratory experiment ever undertaken in human history.
"Keeping all things equal change one variable - and check the results"
Never in human history has such a dastardly experiment ever been undertaken as was wrought by the Indian partition of 1947.
75 years on - if indeed, as Nehru asserted (and Reuters lapped up), it wasn't the Hindu civilization of India that enabled a culture that accepted every ideology, art form, language, and culture, then one would need to explain why what is still true in India is not true in Pakistan and Bangladesh?
- How is it that despite being art and literature centers, Karachi and Lahore no longer promote or showcase all the cultural and artistic forms that developed in India - Hindu, Muslim or otherwise? Why are artistic endeavors now only evaluated from the narrow religious prism?
- Why is it that they have a very narrow idea of their national and cultural identity that aligns more with the Islam of Arabs and Turkey and less with the Hindus of India? Is a society within the Indian subcontinent which has no Hindu ethos ever been harmonious?
- How is it that the minorities in Bangladesh and Pakistan have all but disappeared?
Remember, every year on average over 1000 underage girls belonging to the minority Hindu, Christian, and Sikh communities are kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam in Pakistan!
Abductions, forced conversions and forced marriages of girls and women from the minorities background has become a serious concern in Pakistan. It is estimated that approximately 1,000 — mostly Hindu and Christian — girls, are abducted, forcibly converted and forcibly married every year. (Source: WION News)
If the whole Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, the harmonious secular and inclusive nature of India's culture was indeed informed by both Islamic and Hindu narratives, then such an ethos should have survived and thrived as much in Pakistan and Bangladesh as in India.
For, everything else in this Indian subcontinental laboratory was common. Except one variable!
The fact is that it was the Hindu civilizational ethos that made India what it was.
An inclusive, collaborative and accepting culture.
That, unlike what Nehru had ranted against was not the reason for its failure but the reason for its resilience.
And, the Indian Constitution makers understood it in their subconscious. That is why, the Indian Constitution starts with Article 1 saying "India, that is Bharat"
Secularism under the Nehruvian dispensation and mindset was equivalent to Hindu negationism.
Negating everything Hindu became the formal definition of Nehruvian secularism. And, that was along the lines of Mao's Cultural revolution.
What Mao did with the destruction of Confucian past via violence, Nehru did with the Hindu past via system-wide discrimination and changes in educational curriculum.
The choices and actions also demonstrated the direction of the Indian state.
Even when the poor of India were the professed constituency of the Nehruvian politicians (Garibi Hatao - remove poverty - being the favorite slogan from Nehru to Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi to Rahul Gandhi), the successive Indian governments did not have any inclusive program that would alleviate poverty.
It was not until 2014 when Narendra Modi took over as the Indian PM on the back of a predominant Hindu mandate, that the poor became an inclusive party to India's development. Check these programs and achievements.
- JAM: (Jan-Dhan-Aadhar-Mobile) - 99.9% of adults in India have an Aadhaar number and use it at least once a month. (Source: First post) As of June 1, 2022, 45.60 crore (456 million) bank accounts have been opened under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY)’. Deposits in those accounts equal Rs. 1.68 trillion (US$ 21.56 billion). These accounts are digitally accessible via their mobile!
- Direct Benefit Transfer: Over ₹six trillion ( ₹6.3 lakh crore) were transferred to the beneficiaries under the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme in the financial year 2021-22 (Source: LiveMint)
- Homes for Poor (PM Awas Yojana): As of September 2022, three crore houses were built for the poor across India in the last 8 years. (Source: Live Mint)
- Food Relief: 800 million Indians received free food help from the Modi government during the COVID under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY). It started in April 2020 and will run until December 2022. (Source: GOI)
- Gas connections (Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana): The scheme was launched on 1st May 2016 and the LPG coverage has gone up from 62% on 1st May 2016 to 99.8% as of 1st April 2021 (Source: GOI)
- Loans to non-corporate, non-farm small/micro enterprises (Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY)): INR 3.3 Trillion have been disbursed under this scheme (Source: GOI)
- Unified Payments Interface (UPI): It is an instant real-time payment system developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). In FY 2022 UPI processed over 46 billion transactions amounting to over Rs 84.17 trillion clearing the $ 1 Trillion record. (Source: Business Standard)
Finally, someone was paying attention to the Indian Constitution writers' idea of India as Bharat!
COVID Vaccine distribution: During the pandemic, India supplied over 267 million doses of the Indian COVAXIN vaccine to 101 countries. (Source: GOI)
What is considered a "Hindu Nationalist" government has provided vaccines to countries in need globally.
The impact of this "vaccine diplomacy" was shared by Jamaica Foreign Minister Kamina J Smith on September 24, 2022 in New York.
In February 2021, Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit shared his feelings on receiving the vaccine from India.
When you look at the current dispensation, you find that the Indian government is looking at its interactions and engagement with the world very differently.
It is looking at an engagement that views geopolitics of a Multi-polar world and responds to it that way.
So here are some of the differences:
- From Nehru's Non-Alignment, where India was professed to be "not aligned" to any power but deeply influenced and involved with the major ones, to Modi/Jaishankar's "Multipolar engagement" where India is engaged with all but involved or influenced by none is a big leap!
- Secular India denied its full potential and was pursuing a path where poor were a mere slogan and growth was exclusive (License Raj benefited only crony capitalists). Hindu India focuses on growth that is inclusive of its poor and uses innovation that is at a global scale and transformational.
We were a nation that while it pretended to be Secular and was trying to shun everyone in public but in bed with everyone as a second-rate partner to be taken advantage of.
In the Hindu Indian era, India embraces the Dharmic vision of engaging with everyone as equals, even altruistically, but being involved with none.
Video Corner: Snakes in the Ganga
Rajiv Malhotra has always written books that are thought-provoking and insightful. He now has a new book named "Snakes in the Ganga". In this video he discusses his book with Professor Peter Boghossian of the University of Austin.
A must watch.