Smile at the Confusion

Why keep it in when you can scream it out?

Faith and Who is Calling Who Black

This post is largely inspired by John Green’s Crash Course on World History and what I intend to really analyse here is the ease with which everyone judges everyone else without really looking at themselves and the inability to accept that someone else may be equally right, if not you being entirely wrong.

The 21st century has seen the world becoming increasingly intolerant and this is because of several reasons – relative decrease in resources when compared to a burgeoning population, in hindsight, selfish and ultimately boomeranging decisions by governments to address the aforementioned, 9/11 and the slew of terrorist attacks after it across the globe, the increase in terrorist groups and their geographic and demographic influence, the very real threat of nuclear warfare coupled with the fact that most countries now possess nuclear weapons and/or nuclear weapons’ manufacturing technology; and just for shits and giggles, the Geographical theory of Criminology may be expanded to reason out that global warming has caused all of humanity to become more irritable and prone to vehement behavior than our previous century ancestors.

Religion has been dragged into this pungent and boiling cauldron and has become at its best, a bone of contention and at its worst, extreme polarization of the society. Now I can be clichéd and start of this part by defining what Oxford or Mirriam-Webster defines religion as and then descend into a pontification on how every religion preaches the same core values, etc but you can find better definitions and no doubt better posts that can do that. So I’ll try to give you a brief (I apologize if it doesn’t end up being so) explanation of my post title and assume you are aware of, even if you might not believe, the following premises:

  1. Religion is not God. It tries to forge a path to God and being only a means to an end, it might not be the only means or even the best means to that end.
  2. Religions evolved in the socio-economic-cultural-geographic background of the places of their origin. As my he-thinks-he’s-so-witty-okay-sometimes-he-is classmate exclaims every time he sees a mummy pen cap or a Rosetta Stone shaped pen drive, “globalization of religion” means that every religion then picked up bits of the culture of their places of migration and while the tenets of the religion remained fundamentally unaltered, the way the religion was practiced changed considerably over time.

Excellent! Now that I’ve got you reading thus far, I want you to think about whether a religious state, like the Islamic Caliphate which the ISIS or ISIL or IS (okay, like Zomato’s icon conundrum, they’re still experimenting around for the perfect terrifying and awe-inspiring name) wants to establish, would really be such a bad idea? If you’re one of those persons who are blindly led by popular culture and the media, and “if the whole world is saying it’s wrong, it must be wrong, right?”, not only do you have to read up and get spooked by a lot of conspiracy theories regarding brainwashing, you also need to pay careful attention to what I’m going to say below.

A religious state is either one that draws the authority for its existence from the sanction of God or one that has a state religion and the profession, practice and propagation of the religion is taken upon actively by the State and laws will, if not advocate the State religion’s principles, they definitely would not contradict them. And what, exactly, is wrong with that? Christianity teaches us about sacrifice, Hinduism about Dharma, Buddhism about suffering and the circle of life and Islam itself means submission (to God). Sure, it’s mainstream these days to go all “pro-secularism” and “pro-democracy” but just like historians were and are prone to historical bias, how well, really, are secularism and democracy doing in today’s world?

Secularism – the belief that all individuals should be treated equally irrespective of their religious faiths and that all religions are equal in the eyes of the State. Good enough as an ideal, right? (It must be; it’s incorporated in our own Constitution’s preamble) but just look around you – we hate each other! Quotas in minority institutions, vote banking on religions by politicians and when the opposite side wins, the followers of the religion that got vote banked are now afraid they’ll get marginalized, then there’s fights over whether to build a church or mosque or temple in a particular stretch of property (that will most likely abut the road and then will take over 39.43% of the road causing, ultimately, the motorists to suffer) that will turn violent and bloody if allowed to escalate without police intervention and let’s not even go into the disowning and subsequent banishment of couples of inter-religious love marriages…basically, while on the physical surface, we’re all gung ho about being secular and respecting all, below the surface on a more causal and subtle level, we are probably more intolerant today than we were during the British colonialism. Yes, we were ruled by white masters but no, there were very few, if any, incidents of communal riots (till they decided to milk the divide and rule policy anyway).

And there you are Democracy! A government of the people, by the people, and for the people, democracy obviously leads us to principles of equality and the sovereignty of the people: a lofty goal and once again, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In a few months from today, our help is going to go to her village in my neighboring state where assembly elections will be held, of course to exercise her right of universal adult franchise but also because she gets paid Rs. 5,000 to vote for a particular party that her village panchayat has chosen *cough* been bought *cough* for the village to support. Smarter voters accept money from all parties and then blow it up on booze on the voting day. So that’s transparency in the election system. Then there exists the ever present sidekick to our hero self government – corruption. Indians are tired of this word and even the tender coconut seller can tell you more in the interval it takes you to bargain from Rs. 25 to the Rs. 10 you continue to think it is (“and if it isn’t, it should be, dammit!”) and finally remove your wallet containing 5 credit cards, crisp Rs. 500 notes and give him the most bedraggled Rs. 20 note to exist in circulation this side of the Tropic of Cancer (Yay! Don’t you love how democracy promotes social equity?) than I can in an entire category devoted to the topic so let’s just leave it at that. The bureaucracy plays around with our tax money, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, there’s more 0’s in credit balances in Swiss Bank accounts than mosquitoes in malaria infested stagnant water, if you’re rich and/ or politically connected, the criminal justice system is just a suggestion, but hey, all of this was our own choice so at least there’s that! Let me digress here a bit and tell you this awesome and sickening piece of irony: the word democracy comes from the Greeks and their model of the government and the same Athenians (one of the city-states of Greece) said “The strong do what they can while the weak suffer what they must”. Hypocrisy related things *sniffs proud tears* So while I may have just bombarded you with the worst of it and clearly suppressed the good stuff, we can still relatively conclude that in implementation, it isn’t all that ideal a system. And could this probably be that because there’s no one superior to the people in a democracy, nobody is afraid of being, well, smite-ed for doing wrong?

But most of all, what sort of people have been produced as a result of, oops, let’s get generic here, “exposure to western culture”, that the radicals are hell bent on fighting against and reversing? Could there really be any, dare I say it, problems with the “Western ideology”?

  1. Capitalism – it blows. While it may be a decent enough individual ideology, as the political ideology for running a country, it’s pretty sucky. Laissez-faire in its original and completely non-interventionist form is not really the sort of State that can function in the modern world filled with complexities that could not have even been contemplated let alone addressed by an armchair philosophy like laissez-faire. People follow the path of least resistance, even if it were, if not outrightly illegal, definitely not correct or good for society and social equity in the end.
  2. Feminism – there’s a reason why most of the world thinks of feminists as rebellious and headstrong women fighting for something absurd – nobody really thinks of women as equals. And the first step to equality, frankly, is respect. Objectification of women, honestly, is much more publicized in the West. Playboy is not a creation of the East. Then there are the reality shows with Kim Kardashian and serials like Baywatch that treat women as feather-brained fashion mongrels and somehow, for all claims of there being more freedom and the ability to express individuality in the West, I don’t really see how well it worked out for the gender. This is not to say that men aren’t objectified. They are too. But men aren’t seen as being less worthy of respect or “loose” because of it. Women are. And don’t even get me started on the completely humiliating men’s deodorant advertisements that are flooding the television these days. When you look at the Middle Eastern countries, it may at first be shocking that women have to wear a veil that covers their faces and that they’re being restricted but the males I know who’ve grown up there are extremely respectful to women. Porn is statutorily prohibited in Saudi Arabia and there are strict penalties for the same. Male- female interaction is restricted to family but somehow, they seem a lot more civilized when it comes to treating women than probably half the world. Of course I’m being extremely one sided here as women don’t really have many rights, but at least the stepping stones for equality are set in much stronger foundation than in many other countries where women have all the rights but are still somehow treated as second class citizens, and unworthy of them.

What I’m trying to say here is that it’s not a new claim to want to build a State along religious lines. The “Hobby-Lobby” decision in the USA ruled against the Obamacare mandate that certain companies would be required to pay for specific types of contraceptives for their employees. Both corporations involved in the ruling — Conestoga Wood Specialties of Pennsylvania and Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based arts-and-crafts retail giant — emphasized their conscientious desire to operate in harmony with biblical principles while competing in a secular marketplace. In the 5-4 decision, the 5 conservative judges ruled in favor of closely held for-profit businesses — those with at least 50% of stock held by five or fewer people, such as family-owned businesses — in which the owners have clear religious beliefs. What is this if not allowing for religious beliefs to trump (if in a small section) over what is thought better for the so-called “secular” community? The Supreme Court in India refused to decriminalize homosexuality because it recognized that Indian society as a whole was not ready for that kind of radical reformation which would have only been struck down by the religious extremist backed Parliament.

It’s all a question of what the society will be amenable to and while I in no way advocate for the radicals or the extremists or the republicans or the democrats, what I wanted to say with this post was that these are complex issues and no one really can state with certainty that one form of government is superior to another, especially in today’s easy to erupt world of act first think later and religious bigotry. There are ways to make even the most sophisticated system fail and even the most rudimentary system succeed. It’s a matter of people deciding whether they want to make the system work or if they want to find the loopholes in it.


6 comments on “Faith and Who is Calling Who Black

  1. authorsbmazing
    May 13, 2015

    Hot hot hot, super hot iron… in the essence I sort of agree with you. But I really don’t agree with violence and unfortunately that’s the power tool used way to often to try to convert people…

    • Smile At The Confusion
      May 13, 2015

      That’s true…violence is definitely not the means to the end they are trying to achieve but it’s time people stopped blaming religion for the reason behind the violence…most extremists just take the parts of the religion that suit what they already want and conveniently ignore the rest

      • authorsbmazing
        May 13, 2015

        Absolutely. Religion seems to be a nice little cover for crazy people to do crazy things and find an excuse for it…

  2. Janani
    May 13, 2015

    Okay, wow. While there are some brilliant points to adopt from the article and think about; there are several points, that in my very humble opinion and based on facts, are flawed. The very essence of all religions beings made to look alike – is good when you see the gist of it – but fundamentally why the whole secularism-thing doesn’t work as you said – is because they aren’t the same, and yes, we all – though on the surface look tightly held together, we aren’t (and absolutely, it is really.. really sad.)

    Firstly — ISIS. Saudi Arabia. Quite astounded by the examples. 🙂

    An islamic state or a caliphate doesn’t allow you to be a member of another religion. You have to be a follower of the religion of the government and also be a member of the same sub-sect (sunni) or you end up being killed. It is not exactly a ‘brainwash’, as we indeed have live examples of it. One thing very important to note is – ISIS follows a path in Islam which is called as Wahabi Islam, whose interpretation is by nature violent and not to go ahead with the good will of people. Taking the case of ISIS, implies of course that – it is absolutely, completely okay to gang rape kids and infants and sell girls in international markets (remember the Yazdhi people.)

    I understand, you did not mean violence as the ‘only’ way to go ahead with governance of State. But, IMHO, ISIS’ way of violence isn’t a way at all. And, if you meant not just their extreme ways and but a common man’s un-extreme way of religion should work, we will come to it in a bit.

    The job of a government is to govern the people, and not subject them to rules of a God or their understanding of rules laid down in the book.

    Coming to Saudi Arabia, porn is a big illegal industry and access to pornographic material is as easy as it is in any other part of the world, and men there, I doubt have the least respect for women – unless of course, “respect” is a subjective term. Being under the veil – is not to be primarily under consideration as there are far more crucial factors to think about. You can still be happy under a veil and at home. Marrying four women, (at any given time) abusing them, throwing them away – wouldn’t give the least happiness. The women used and thrown away, get no alimony or maintenance either – and left to almost not be able to live (since without a male counterpart, moving around the country is not allowed.) And, yes, they don’t follow extremist’s violence, but just the highly revered Qur’an – their holy respectable text – which allows discarding women or beating them ‘when they don’t listen’, and well, no one can stand up against it, since it is a part of the government’s rules of law and order. I recently read about Shahbanoo vs Union of India case, you could read that up for more information. Just a small tidbit at this point – punishment for rape in such countries is – stoning to death – of not the man .. or men (in case of gang-rape) but the girl.

    This, I’m sure you’d agree, is not an “extremist’s” example of taking just a verse that is, well, EXTREME, but what generally the government follows. If domestic violence was ever taken up to the court of law, we know the case verdict in advance! Actually, that’s going too far – the case wouldn’t need to go to the court.

    Every religion, has it’s own drawbacks – so governance with a religious backing – I am not sure is the best solution or uhm.. a solution at all, especially in the upcoming era where individuals are transitioning to become – well, – more individualistic (with their choices being priorities) in addition to cohabiting with the fellas around them?

    I can pick each of Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism with not merely one – but several ideas that would absolutely go against the ideas what we’ve traditionally grown up with as morals or “the right”. They wouldn’t merely be going against pop culture, for us to disagree about/with — but our very birthright.
    Then, again right/wrong and birthright are subjective terms, so you MAY beg to differ.

    Democracy, honestly, is successful in many countries around the world and also in India. You wouldn’t have seen Jayalalitha come to power in 2011, if your theory of ‘pay and get votes’ were to be believed. People looked beyond the money given by Karunanithi’s men and made sure a far less corrupt government comes to power (Of course, doesn’t mean absence of corruption.)
    The job of maintaining balance in a democracy is the job of our bureaucrats and not politicians (their job primarily, is to make policies. In fact, even implementation is left to bureaucrats). I highly recommend you read up about Sahayam IAS, T.N. Seshagopalan, Ex-Chief Election Officer of India among many many others have made sure democracy and is tenets are not played around with. Additionally, people have the responsibility to strike the right balance, they get an opportunity once every 5-6 months in the form of councillor election, Muncipal Election, State Legislative Election, National Legislative Election, Ward Election and so on and so forth. If the mass are interested to come out of their personal comfort zone and look towards getting a good Government or municipal official who could help the locality/ country progress in the right direction, they are always allowed to do it. The biggest problem is – one section of people being more capitalistic in their thought, one section communist and one section being socialist and all blaming the government for every other thing.

    The poor are becoming poorer not because of lack of opportunity (there are several IITians and CA’s etc. who were born to poor farmers and labourers). People have been tuned to a mindset where they feel that if they are poor, they should have all comforts as the rich do, by putting in no extra effort or working hard in some other fields. They expect government to make them rich, not work to achieve it. The congress government was voted to power by the poor people in our country partly because of the success of the MNREGA. Politicians are clever people who understand the mindset of the poor and capitalise on it. MNREGA has just made sure that the farmer gets a fish for 100 days a year, yet has no idea how to fish (I’m sure you would have often read this quote – Give a man to fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man, how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.)
    The current government is coming up with many entrepreneurial workshops for poor to teach them how to fish and not expect government to do it all for them.

    I guess, it’s all about utilising opportunities and having the right mindset to get to a better financial position in life. But I wanted to add that, one thing unexplored in the article is the problem of trivialising people who work as labourers or people doing menial job – Yes, we barely appreciate their efforts and don’t treat them as equals, achieving social equality solves 99% of the problems and brings about a positive attitude to do ones own work without any regret. I believe this is the key to making a country a successful democracy, (While there are several things to unlearn from the West, this is one that we could perhaps observe and learn). I don’t deny that knowing and understanding one’s own culture, background, history of civilisation, would help in picking points that would lead to a more democratic nation especially where culture is revered.

    Adopting a religion based governance, will merely create chaos, in my view.

    Good going with the article, though. It is different from the traditional path of thinking.

    • Smile At The Confusion
      May 13, 2015

      Thank you for expressing those views. I’m grateful that you’ve gone through what I read and raised points that actually have quite a lot of relevance.

      At the outset, no one, unless you’re a scholar of the religion, can tell you about the ground realities of how a religion is practiced as much as a person who actually practices that religion can. And it’s true for pretty much every religion there is.

      Hinduism I can tell you is based on dharma and the cycle of karma at its core whereas an outsider would probably only be able to look at the caste system or the rituals with copious amounts of alien chanting and flowers and not really understand either of them. So for one, I don’t think either of us can pronounce a very knowledgeable working thesis on the practice of any religion but our own. From the little I know, Islam is based on 5 pillars and I really don’t believe that contradicts any other religion or even espouses violence. Even the term ‘jihad’ can be interpreted in a really broad spectrum of ways. An orthodox interpretation of religion does not HAVE to lead to a violent or intolerant practice of it, although in reality, it frequently ends up being so. Adaptability and flexibility of the religion to adjust to changing times will, I admit, suffer. But that’s seen in every religious group that tries to stick to “the old ways”, not just Islam.

      For the record, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria and Qatar all condemned the Charlie Hebdo killings by jihadists even though extremists hailed their support for it online. Clearly, it’s not the countries that are espousing violence in the name of religion.

      And what I was trying to analyse by this post was whether a religious state would work well. No the Islamic Caliphate or any other possible State in particular. Issues in practice should not lead to discarding the genesis idea. There are drawbacks to every form of government – that was what I wanted to bring out. Yes, I’ve taken a really controversial stand. No, I don’t know how a religious state model would work in the 21st century but there have been historical precedents: the Persian empire allowed subjects in conquered territories who no doubt practiced other religions to continue doing so while the rulers themselves practiced Islam. So religious persecution is not the automatic consequence of having a state religion. And it does not mean that safeguards cannot be built in to ensure that meritocracy does not suffer in fields like employment or higher education, even in a religious state.

      And last of all, let’s not forget that Islam is a relatively young religion. The Prophet was born around 571 A.D. and from a purely historical point of view, EVERY religion has gone through radical and violent phases during its evolution – they were neither sponsored nor contained in the religion but they STILL HAPPENED in the name of religion. So give Islam time to settle in. Again, I’m not advocating any fundamentalist movement and I think the deaths of thousands by terrorist groups in the name of religion and God is brutal, inhuman and heinous.

      • Janani
        May 13, 2015

        It’s not my/our problem if it is a new religion or not and neither my/our problem if it is getting violent or not, coming from a democracy. It is the problem of the religion and/or its followers and whoever is subjected to the harsh environments or otherwise. Expanding it on a larger scale, with a country which is now a democracy and converting it to a rule led by the religion on a whole – is just going to expand each of their problems to us as well. I believe none of us are here to sit like saints to give time for anyone to settle down, in our fast pacing lives.

        Since you’re not sure if it will work for the 21st century, but only know it worked during the Persian rule – going by the fact that — things have SURELY changed now, and also since it is far from impossible to undo things – answering your question — “Whether a religious state, like the Islamic Caliphate which the ISIS wants to establish, would really be such a bad idea?”
        Yes, it would be. A very bad idea.

        Moreover, I doubt it ever even worked during the Persian rule. The repercussions of their rule is what we have faced through passage of time and an intensified issue now as the “The-BIG-will-it-ever-be-settled-Ayodhya-problem”.

        Just from an ‘overview of a religion by an outsider’ perspective – If Dharma is the only thing practiced amongst Hindus – perfect. If the 5 pillars of Islam is all that is being practiced by followers of Islam, brilliant.

        Things would be excellent.

        If things were that ideal, it brings us back to square one. The definition of secularism would work perfectly fine in a democracy, if things were so, (without any communal riots or ‘hating each other’.) The fact is, that’s not it all.

        Being an outsider of the religion, or following my own religion – if either of the religion has a greater control over the general mass/over the other – it is going to just lead to insecurity amongst people. No Dharma or no 5 pillars would give a hand then.

        And anything ill against one of the either groups, which is very highly probably, will stir up the population to revolt. It will just be violence, mentioned somewhere in the scripture or claims that is is mentioned, which will give them permission to get violent, and yes, indeed violence would take the foreground leading. This of course, can be avoided if everyone is forced to follow the same faith, as the ISIS wants, and forcing them, is again just going to lead to violence.

        This is in contrast to secularism, where even if we happen to barely mutually respect one another, we at least tolerate each other. (Tolerance vs mutual respect is a big debate that has been stirring religions through the centuries.)
        Read this perhaps? —

        Hence, yes. I feel it would just trigger more issues than already existing problems, like they aren’t enough. 😛

        Anyway, if you’re not convinced, you can have your opinions, and I can have mine. It isn’t wrong. Thank you for your response.

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This entry was posted on May 12, 2015 by in everything happens for a reason and tagged , , , .


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