CRY, MY COUNTRY
World economies are reeling under the ‘meltdown.’ Financial institutions that once wielded power and impact generating affluence and prosperity are now in deep trouble needing substantial ‘bail-out plans!’ All this is in stark contrast to the claims and ‘foundational principles’ of laissez faire (non intervention) free market economics. Supply-demand dynamics of ‘pure’ capitalism have literally brought nations like the USA to the point of near collapse. The Wall Street crisis has brought about such social harm with serious repercussions for ordinary Americans that remedial action was inevitable. Now the bail-out, albeit as a revised package, has been approved after working through sleepless nights. The consequences of the crisis are sending shock waves all around the globe and crisis management is under way.
Two key lessons stand out, among many others - discipline and transparency. A free market ideology without checks and balances can wreak havoc in the lives of ordinary citizens, as recent events have made painfully clear. Market economies create ‘market societies’ with consumerism and profit motive as distinct features. Consumers are driven to spend beyond their means through ‘easy’ credit. Banks lend to maximise their profits. Greed reigns, and material comforts bring the greatest joy. Profit motive can feed into insatiable greed. It was this truth that played out to its logical conclusion; suddenly everything went wrong. The common man, who has lost his lifetime savings, has realised that financial institutions were relentlessly guided by plain greed – trying to amass profits, throwing caution and conservatism out of the window.
Consumers too are key players, their spending sprees having contributed to the unfolding of this drama of life gone terribly wrong. At any rate, as our social sin of pompous extravagance caught up, ordinary investors (saving up for rainy days as it were) feel betrayed. They are in the docks for the grave social realities. The tax payer is to provide for the government bail out. All along, ‘competent capitalists’-bankers and financiers were helping themselves to staggering amounts as ‘take home’ salaries, along with glitzy perks and privileges. This is the ugly face of the sin of being rich in a poor world!
The whistle has been blown- the game cannot go on with the same rules. Everyone is insisting that there has to be intentional transparency. There has to be limits to our sinful craving to amass. It all comes with such a devastating price. Millions are rendered homeless, and the poor are crushed under the credit squeeze now, just as they were previously with ‘runaway’ money-easy credit spiralling inflationary trends like global prices of food skyrocketing. The poor everywhere feel hopelessly marginalised. Poverty is on the rise.
India Among Nations
These days India is increasingly assuming prominence in the comity of nations. There are positive indices that justify the confidence that the fundamentals of India provide the strength and resilience to withstand the financial turmoil and grow strong. However, India too will not entirely escape the effects of global economic upheavals even with its fairly steady fiscal and economic credentials-in fact, no nation can.
A Deeper Crisis Looming
However, India is going through a deeper cultural and political crisis. Mindless violence, which the defiantly optimistic will want to insist is sporadic and on the fringes, seems to be threatening the fabric of our polity. Our foundations as a secular democratic nation are upheld only when institutions of governance are committed to ensure justice. Social justice is the cardinal principle, an inalienable sacred right. If social justice is denied particularly to the marginalised sections of our society, ominous consequences will follow-nations will slip into anarchy. The recent bitter trail of inhuman and gruesome murderous acts in Orissa seems to suggest that we refuse to learn from history-evoking memories of what was meted out to Graham Staines and his two young boys. Many more have become widows, widowers, orphans; peace loving tribals in Orissa today are struggling to cope with nightmares, having witnessed their dear and near ones hacked, burnt and violated. A monumental shame! If the younger generation, both perpetrators and victims, are to grow up with serious misgivings about our lack of will to insist on fairness and discipline-to act justly and love mercy-it is obvious what is in store for us. Knife, gun and gang culture, symptomatic of deep malaise and a major challenge in many cities of Western countries today, indicative of a society in decline as some argue, calls for decisive action.
The killing of a prominent Hindu Sanyasi, Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, in Orissa touched raw emotions of the faithful. Such crimes are decidedly culpable. Governance failed to seize the gravity; tragically it drifted out of control. When civil liberties, transparency and social justice are skewed, given our religious sensitivities, the inevitable pattern emerges. In the past too we have witnessed innocent blood spilling. Vested interests assume upper hand and communal passions are orchestrated to run wild, and the orgy of violence follows with manipulated emotions and calculated frenzy. News of nuns raped, priests murdered and assaulted in public with cheering crowds around, worship centres desecrated and targeted, and charitable service institutions burned and destroyed in the land of Buddha, Ashoka, and Gandhi, flies against our claims of a secular and democratic republic. Gruesome images of the inhuman acts against fellow Indians, that too hapless and helpless ones, are reaching every nook and corner of the civilised world through the internet. Cry, my country-disgrace has befallen us; our integrity is being rudely shaken.
How Do We Overcome?
Ordinary citizens, more so ‘the wretched of the earth,’ anywhere in the world rightfully long for a quality of life marked by justice; this is the birth right of every one. We must all agree, the poorest of the poor face systemic evil and discrimination all the time. The claim that Christians were behind the murder of the Hindu leader in Orissa is the pretext under which the pogrom against innocent peace loving Christians was carried out. Law and order machinery could not match up to its fundamental mandate-to protect the innocent and to punish the perpetrators of such a crime. Even the will to get to the truth of such allegations was not coming forth. What was evident was the callous indifference to the violations of human rights, that too over months. Such shocking apathy can only be perceived to be deliberate to bolster its own dubious interests. Governments are accountable when any minority community, not least the Christian minority who would rather die than retaliate, is brutally and mercilessly attacked. How long can the cries of the broken people of India go unheeded? This is a grave moral issue for any religion.
Another bogeyman is that Christians are forcibly converting Hindus by inducements and coercion. The government that has the legislative powers, through the stringent clauses within the Freedom of Religion Bill (1967), is failing to bring to book all those who commit such unethical and immoral acts. The Act cannot be clearer: “No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religious faith to another by use of force or by inducements or by any fraudulent means, nor shall any person abet such conversion.” When governments do not contest misleading allegations on conversions, there is a complicity to arousing communal animosity. These acts of ‘omission’ and ‘commission’ bring about the ‘dance of death’ fuelled by canard. Falsehood divides and destroys; truth transforms us all. Indians must nurture and live the eternal principle-Satyameva jayathe. Indeed truth alone liberates and empowers. It is truly liberating to believe the eternal truth, God loves one and all so that we too can love God and serve each other. Nurturing and living such a truth make a people/nation embrace peace and justice-Shalom, an ideal and goal worth living for, at all costs.