Monday, May 22, 2017

Unemployable People




A lot of people are going to be unemployable within a decade or two.  Computers and other machines will do most work.  Even the oldest profession of prostitution will be mechanised thanks to sexbots.  Yuval Noah Harari (author of Sapiens and other books) says in his recent article in The Guardian that it is not a question of being unemployed so much as about being unemployable. A lot of people won’t just possess the skills required to be employed anywhere. 

Harari said it!

 What will governments do with such “useless” people?  Well, if we go by the signs of the times ‘useless’ people will have to follow Darwin’s theory about survival of the fittest and become extinct.  Suicide is already a major cause of death today.  According to Suicide.org, over one million people commit suicide worldwide each year.  On average, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world.  The number of failed suicide attempts is much higher.  The world isn’t going to be any better place for those not equipped to live in the emerging mechanised world most of which will be sort of virtual.

Many people are already living in the virtual world of social media and the internet.  Those who can afford that life even without any income can carry on with that existence.  Those who are not interested in that kind of virtual world can choose the classical virtual world of religion, says Harari. 

“What is religion if not a big virtual reality game played by millions of people together?” asks Harari in the article.  We can make Bahubali a kind of reality by playing with rituals and gods even in the traditional ways by involving ourselves more and more in prayers, pilgrimages and other exercises that suit our tastes.

The question is what we will eat and drink.  Most food and water, which are already becoming scarce, will be monopolised by those who can afford them.  Well, there will be a lot of vacancies for godmen and other such religious entities who can produce food and water miraculously.

India’s Right wing is already into a big game.  Various organisations have started eliminating a lot of people in the name of cows and other ‘holy’ totems.  Our ingenious politicians can work out some more advanced games along with the flourishing breed of godmen and their female counterparts many of whom are being given Z-category security these days. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Holy Men, Unholy Deeds




Saffron-clad ‘Rapist’ Gets Fitting Moksha is the major headline in the Kochi edition of today’s Times of India.  The report is about one Swami who calls himself Gangesananda Theerthapadar.  The Swami’s penis was cut off by a 23 year-old woman who claims that the ‘holy’ man had been raping her since she was fifteen years old.  At first the Swami told the doctors that he had cut off his penis since it was an “unwanted” organ (thus justifying the ‘moksha’ in TOI’s headline).  Eventually he had to admit the truth when questioned by the police.  The woman had already confessed to the police.

Gangesananda Theerthapadar with Kummanam Rajasekharan, President of Kerala BJP
Most people in Kerala seem to be happy with what the woman did if we go by the panel discussions that took place on Malayalam news channels yesterday.  A lawyer justified the deed saying that self-defence, defence of one’s honour, justifies certain violence.  Even the Chief Minister of Kerala, Mr Pinaray Vijayan, approved of the woman’s valour.

I don’t know what the girl’s fate will be.  A case has already been registered against her.  Given the way the law works in India, anything can happen.  Even if she is acquitted the Right wing, which is gaining more and more power of all sorts after Mr Modi became the Prime Minister, may not make it easy for her to live.  Unlike the BJP leaders and people like Mata Amritanandamayi who have been given high category security in the last few months, the woman is not going to get any assistance from the government.

Today governments and criminals work in tandem especially if the criminals wear some religious habits.  Recently a Catholic priest was arrested in Kerala for “impregnating” (the word used in the English media consistently in those days) a minor girl.  Now the priest is in jail but there are many people (like the editor of Pravasishabdam, an online Malayalam journal) who argue that the Church will soon arrive at an out-of-court settlement and the priest will be free.

The political atmosphere in the country is so vitiated that anyone can go scot-free after committing any crime provided he has the backing of some powerful religious sect.  I remember how the school where I worked until two years ago in Delhi was closed down by a godman who too enjoys high category security.  Some of us staff members approached a minister belonging to AAP, the political party that came to power claiming to provide corruption-free governance.  We were told that though what the godman did was totally wrong (not only closing down a school but also encroaching on acres and acres of reserved forest lands) the government couldn’t do anything because he had five lakh devotees in Delhi alone.  This godman’s thugs beat up some staff members on the roads, got one arrested by fabricating a case of assaulting women, and perpetrated many other heinous crimes with total impunity.  Even the policemen who knew the truth would not dare to do what was right. 

Such is the politico-legal system in the country.  Look at what is happening in the many North Indian states where innocent people are being tortured and even killed by religious vigilantes who are in fact stark criminals.  Criminals have put on religious robes in order to escape the legal clutches. 

People know the situation.  That’s why they commend the girl who chopped off the organ which the Swami described as “unwanted” or “useless.”  There are many ‘unwanted’ attachments that the criminal religious people of India carry nowadays.  I hope more and more people gather the courage to chop off those ‘unwanted’ attachments so that religion will become what it really should be: holy, without unholy attachments.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Reading




Sitting in the cosiness of my little home, I have explored the mystery of the cosmos, encountered Schrodinger’s cat, chatted with Baruch Spinoza, witnessed Antony and Cleopatra melting Rome in the Tiber, travelled among the arid mountains of Afghanistan where hooded faces sought god in the barrels of guns, and listened to the music of the stars.  And accomplished a lot more, all thanks to books.

I love books more than people simply because it is easier to understand the former whether they be fiction or non-fiction.  When it comes to fiction I like the kind which explore life in depth.  I like fiction spiced up with philosophy, history and possibly a little mystery too.  

Good fiction takes us through the dark labyrinths in the human psyche.  Even psychology has not understood the human motives better than Dostoevsky or Joseph Conrad or Javier Marias.  The most sacred religious scriptures cannot refresh my soul as does Nikos Kazantzakis or Franz Kafka. Jose Saramago’s The Gospel According to Jesus Christ which culminates in Jesus’ lament on the cross, “Men, forgive Him, for He knows not what He has done,” synchronises exactly with my understanding of Christianity.

I love reading history provided it is written by writers with some imagination.  Ramachandra Guha’s India after Gandhi and Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre suit my taste as much as Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City.  John Keay’s scholarliness is as okay with me as William Dalrymple’s lucidity.

When it comes to religion, Karen Armstrong scores high in my list.  She is both scholarly and empathetic. I found Gurcharan Das’s The Difficulty of Being Good a particularly striking exploration of the Mahabharata.  Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Doubt: a history is a unique blend of history, philosophy and religion.

There are books and books.  I cannot exhaust the list of books I admire.  I’m happy that I have so many friends, innocuous friends, who inspire me day in and day out with so much wisdom.

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 170: #fictionornonfiction