Lesson From the Little Children

I love observing kids, I love talking to them. To me, they are the ones that talk least nonsense.

Sometime back , when I went for fresher interviews to college campuses one thing I would often wonder about is how to judge the attitude of a person sitting across the desk, who often try to feign polished attitudes.

A couple of weeks back during the annual harvest festival INGAT at the St. George’s Cathedral at Chennai the perfomance of some little children helped me get some insights into how the attitude of the interviewee could be judged. I was incharge of the youth group’s stalls and when I realized that some little kids were dancing I went to see them. That was when I noticed something pertaining to their attitude.

A few kids were really happy about what they were doing, they did not have all the necessary co-ordination but still the element of ‘happiness’ was high. They needed no external reason for doing what they were doing, the happiness they felt in dancing was sufficient reason enough. On the other hand a few other kids were just performing for the sake of performing perhaps their parents wanted them to dance or their sunday class teacher forced them to enroll. Internally, by themselves, they had no reason as to why they had to do what they were doing. What they did simply brought them no happiness.

Even in work I often find people who are not really happy about the work they do. When there is a problem with the written program and work needs to be done to ‘fix’ it their face becomes as oblong as it could. They work not for the joy of work but for the sake of something else.

Applying this to conducting interviews, the interviewer need to ascertain the extent of ‘happiness’ the person has in just ‘doing’ the work he says he has been doing, withtou regard to any external factors. The interviewer has to ascertain if the interviewee worked in his college for the joy of work or if he worked to get a job or to get better grades. The best attitude to have is the attitude where work is a joy in itself.

Martyrdom and Communion

The recent and continuing spate of Christian persecution has been a painful thing to observe and even more so to internalize. Internalization means asking myself the question “If I were to face the choice between the bullet and the Bible, with what ‘attitude’ would I choose the Bible?”, “Would I ‘cheerfully’ take the Bible and accept the bullet?” To be honest, I was thinking it may be difficult, in the moment of reckoning, to take the bullet and give up all the dreams and passions of life. So, I was not sure about how ‘cheerful’ I would really be at the prospect of martyrdom.

As this thought was going over my mind and in a way eating through my mind, I was at the Cathedral for a communion service on 27th Septmeber 2008, which was also my birthday. It was also the aniversary commomeration service of the union of Church of South India (CSI). It was a Eucharist service. When I was preparing for the communion, suddenly a thought struck. I was here ‘celeberating’ Christ’s martyrdom for my sake but I was being gloomy about my martyrdom for Christ’s sake.

It was in this mood of humble introspection as I was walking up to the altar to symbolically partake of the divine Body and Blood that communion had an entirely new meaning to me. It was after thinking through the existential prospect of martyrdom for Christ that Christ’s sacrifice for me seemed so much more real and closer to my heart.

Probing the Mind of Indians killing Indians

The literate elitist Indians were shocked when they heard that a CEO, Lalit Kishore Chaudhury of Graziano Trasmissioni was beaten to death by the workers of his company at Noida, an important industrial centre of India. Perhaps they were even more appalled when the Union Labour minister Oscar Fernandes said ‘… this should serve as a warning to managements in other companies to respect the workers’ (an off-hand remark for which he later apologized).

To me, though that was indeed shocking, that wasn’t very surprising. The basic issue here is not about who is getting killed but about the basic impetus to do the killing – the principle which makes the killing an act of justice. The principle being that killing is justified not because the one killed did something wrong but because the one killed represented a force before which the killer feels powerless against. We have been used to this principle of resorting to killing people when one really does not know how to counter a force which seems unstoppable. The Hindu fanatics of Siva Sena and Bajrang Dal have been killing Christians to counter the seemingly unstoppable force of Christian conversions. When killings go on without any repercussions, acts of violence become the ultimate panacea to problems against which one feels powerless.

The Hindu fanatics do not know how to counter the force of Christian conversions. Let us face the fact, there have been cases where conversions were not genuine, there have been cases where conversions happened to gain material ends. But this is a small fraction of the conversions happening across India. The Hindu fanatics have no idea how to counter these mysterious conversions of the second kind which are much higher in number and more threatening than the first kind. They resort to violence and then justify killing Christians on flimsy ground that conversions are inhumane acts which deserves capital punishment.

The reason for killing the CEO was not so much about the wrongness of his decision to fire workers but the powerlessness the worker feel against him. The impetus to killing Christians is not the wrongness of the act of conversions, but the powerlessness one feels against the force of conversions.

The problem is this, once the idea of killing people becomes justified when one does not know how else to counter a force that is formidable and threatening, it naturally follows through that this principle will get applied to all spheres of life, including the communal, social and economic. Eventually, this principle of killing would also be applied to sphere of the economic disparities and what we have in our hands would be a revolution where the root cause wouldn’t be wrongness which deserves punishment but just a feeling of powerlessness which demands blood of those representing the indomidable force, to feel powerful against the force.

There are two ways to respond to a formidable force. One, is to give a cerebral response the other is to give a carnal response. When Emilie Zola in his campaign against the attrocities in the French army relied on the principle “Truth is on its march and nothing can stop her”, it was a cerebral response. When the Maximilien Robespierre started the French Revolution by appealing to the carnal inclinations of the masses, he set in motion a phenomena which had become a 800 pound ‘irrational’ gorilla and it turned back on him, it was the carnal response at its work. When reason is thrown out of the window and the basal instincts take over there is no saying who is next on line. The Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal are creating a 800 pound ‘irratonal’ gorilla which when let loose will be unstoppable.

It is saddening that the Intellectual Elite of Indian seems to be very slow in awakening to the realization of the creation of this irrational self-destructive phenomenon which will shake the very foundation of freedom and democracy in India.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–

because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–

because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me–

and there was no one left to speak out for me.

– Martin Niemoeller (A decorated U-boat captain of WWI who later became a respected Protestant leader who openly spoke against the Nazi ideology and was sent to a concentration camp for his anti Nazi propoganda)

Capitalism VS Communism??? Really!!!!

All of the media propaganda and the progressive economist say that capitalism is the solution to fight against the evils of communism. But that argument goes only until wall street is on its own feet, if at any time it indeed was on its own (it could be argued that it is always standing on the feet of the American tax payer). Once every couple of decades the wall street buckles down and needs infusion of billions upon billions of dollars from the FED to get back on its feet. Depending on FED to get back on its feet is to depend on the tax payer to bail oneself out. This is not capitalism, it is communism.

The basic difference between capitalism and communism is that in capitalism none is entitled to anyone else’s economic well being but in communism each man is responsible for the others economic well being. Capitalism is about catering to self-interest in such a way that everyone caters to their self-interest, communism is about catering to the other’s-interest.

In a recent interview with Bill Gates about the global economic down turn and what impact it would have on his development work in the third world countries, he was asked a question. “Now that the American way of running the economy has failed, wouldn’t the other countries say ‘why do you want to do this the American way, after all it has failed’?” Gates replied “No, I don’t think so, I think the other countries would like to have the kind of problems that America has… (it is better than the kind of problems they have)”.

I was immediately reminded of the late Russian thinker, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s classic Harvard lecture which earned him a boycott from the western elite, where he said

“But the blindness of superiority (of the west) continues in spite of all and upholds the belief that vast regions everywhere on our planet should develop and mature to the level of present day Western systems which in theory are the best and in practice the most attractive. There is this belief that all those other worlds are only being temporarily prevented by wicked governments or by heavy crises or by their own barbarity or incomprehension from taking the way of Western pluralistic democracy and from adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in this direction. However, it is a conception which developed out of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, out of the mistake of measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet’s development is quite different.”

America, though it considers capitalism as the ultimate ideal for economic and social development, has to resort to communism to stabilize itself because of the imbalances created by the capitalistic ideals. Without communism, capitalism will buckle down into an everlasting demise. When communism comes to the rescue, the tax payer takes it upon himself to rescue the mismanaged financial firms whose CEO made millions of dollars for that asset management credentials. The financial firms somehow by a sudden change in the mood become entitled to the tax payer’s money. Capitalism suddenly becomes communism.

And wall street, the paradise of capitalism, gets back on its feet, thanks to the ‘transient’ communistic mood, and it again gets back on its capitalistic ideals of ‘individual self-interest leading to collective good’, only to find itself playing a different ball game of communism a couple of decades when it buckles down. Spat comes the ideal of communism to the rescue.

The problem is that the western world simply fails to understand that greed and self-interest cannot give the right ethos for life in the long term. No matter how many lessons we learn we are never able to unlearn that the ideal of ‘individual self interest leading to collective good’ is simply not right for life.

It is a classic irony of every age that the icons of capitalism of each age whether it is Rockefeller, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, all of them after having reached the pinnacle of capitalism by seeking self-interest and resorting to ruthless business strategies, have to espouse communism to make some sense of their life. This again proves that that ideal of goodness of greed and self-interest does not really make sense in life in the long term, but then this is another of the lessons that will never be learnt.

The bottomline being that for capitalism to be a long term way of life, communism as to be its life-line. Selfishness cannot exist without large doeses of selflessness and in that 700 billion dollar bailout what it is the large dose of selflessnes of the American taxpayer that compensates for the selfishness of the wall street executive who rakes in million of dollars. This capitalism at work, this is capitalism standing on the feet of communism, as against capitalism working against the evils of communism as the media elite would like us to believe.

Revival without a Ransom???

Ever since the widespread persecutions got underway, I have been wondering about what the right Christian response to this ought to be. This is a painful and uncomfortable question to both reader and more so the writer because the writer ought to be aware that he would be judged by the King as per what he writes. In this writeup, I do not endevour to critic the Christian reaction or give my opinion on an good action plan to realign the Christian activity in India. I am going to try to delve into the underlying thought patterns and Christian convictions which are the impetus behind the Christian reaction.

The moment the persecutions started Christians have invariably jumped on the bandwagon of cranking the diplomatic mechanism to prevent a conflagration. The Christian egroups were flooded with what letters to be sent to ddresses of government authorities, rallies were organized, much was done to get the attention of the government and the media. Using the diplomatic avenues wisely is important, after all Paul used his Roman citizenship when it was wise and expedient to do so.

But the fundamental question one has to ask oneself is “why are the Indian metropolitan Christians so eager to get help by resorting to diplomatic channels?” is it because they want the plight of the poor tribes being hunted down in the jungles in Orissa to end soon or do react so because of the vested interests closer to their homes so that they wouldn’t themselves, because of unmitigated persecutions, have to face the thrust of the Trident in their big cities?

Empirically, Christianity has only spread when the blood of martyrs made the soil fertile for a huge harvest. Christian blood is the ransom for the gospel to have a substantial effect in any society. Even God had to give a ransom to usher a new age of freedom in human history. Even God was nor exempt from having to pay a ransom. Without ransom there can be no revival. But as I keep watching the reaction of the Indian metropolitan Christians, I seem to feel that they somehow want to be exempt from the necessity of the ultimate ransom – the Christian martyrdom.

The covert duplicity in the Christian reaction was clearly brought recently, when a Church was attacked in Mangalore, one of the most literate cities in India. The pastor of the church said to the Hindu fanatics who attacked them, “you guys got the wrong Church, in our church we don’t go about preaching the gospel to the non-believers, other churches preach the gospel to non-Christian, but we don’t. We don’t deserve to be punished so…”. The idea of having to pay a ransom for the Christian cause was too painful and unnecessary to these city churches.

This is a stark contrast to the attitude of the western missionaries during the early part of this centuary. In China the Boxer revolution of 1900 made martyrs of close to 200 western missionaries. The very next year, in ships from the west, close to 200 western missionaries landed on the Chinese shore to take the place of the martyred missionaries. Why? because they were inspired by the example set by their precedors. How? because that is Christianity at work where the followers of the King try to imitate His example of sacrifice. It was this attitude of great Christians that made Christianity to be global force to be reckoned with.

But before wondering if much of the Indian Christian reaction was Christian enough, one has to wonder how comfortable each of us is with the idea of martyrdom. “Would I be willing to be a martyr for Christ?”, “Would I lay down my life for God’s glory?”, “Would I be willing to be a martyr just to prove that I am ALL, God’s alone?”, “Would I be willing to forego all the dreams and passions of my life for the sake of Christian martyrdom?”, “Would I or would I not, that is the question.” Every Indian Christian ought to ask oneself these costly questions. Afterall, Christianity was never cheap.

The answer would be “Yes, I would”, if the greatest dream and passion of my life is to be considered worthy of partaking in the ultimate ransom by following the example of the greatest Martyr ever to have walked this earth. St. Peter did not even consider himself worthy of equal (similar) partaking with Christ and hence he made a plea to be crucified upside-down. No wonder Christ choose Peter to be the rock upon which the Church would be built. In the early Church, when martyrdom as considered an unequalled privilege not many would be worthy of, Christianity spread like wildfire.

In our cosmopolitan Churches, the idea of martyrdom is relegated as unnecessary and may be even archaic. The Indian cosmopolitan Churches need more Peters. The more Indian Christians are willing to be martyrs claiming their place closest to God, as flames in the ‘crystal lake’ before God’s throne, the more the Church would grow as a wildfire, after all there cannot be a revival without a ransom.