Friday, July 24, 2020

RELIGION HAS BEEN THE MOTIVATING FORCE IN AMERICA’S CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT



By Promod Puri
Even now, with very few exceptions, the American civil rights movement has never been led on a political platform.
Instead, religion has been the motivating factor in the ongoing struggles and challenges, beginning with the emancipation from slavery to racism and police brutalities.   
Whereas religion does not find a liking in the progressive political behaviour, but among the Black leaderships in the United States, it has been the driving force to seek justice and freedom from the White establishment.
There has been a common faith-braced thread running in the Black resistance of the earliest periods of slavery through the civil rights protests of the 1950s and 1960s. And up to now, except the current Black Lives Matter movement. But the latter too accepts, “The fight to save your life is a spiritual fight,” according to the BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullers who describes herself as “trained Marxist” (New York Times Post).
Rep. John Lewis and Rev. Cordy Tindell Vivian were the recent veterans, carrying the flag of civil rights campaigns with strengths drawing from their Christian faith instead of any political ideology. (Rep. Lewis, 80, and Rev. Vivian, 95, died July 17, 2020.) 
Both were the towering personalities in the post-era of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. They received their Christian theological credentials from the American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee. With that faith-embedded background, Rep. Lewis and Rev. Vivian moved forward to seek equality and justice for Black Americans.
Conviction in their religious order was more vibrant and focussed on their activism than in the sermonic lecturing within church walls.
In an interview in 2004, Lewis said: “In my estimation, the civil rights movement was a religious phenomenon. When we’d go out to sit in or go out to march, I felt, and I believe, there was a force in front of us and a force behind us because sometimes you didn’t know what to do. You didn’t know what to say; you didn’t know how you were going to make it through the day or the night. But somehow and some way, you believed – you had faith – that it all was going to be all right.”
About Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis once said: “He was not concerned about the streets of heaven and the pearly gates and the streets paved with milk and honey. He was more concerned about the streets of Montgomery and the way that Black people and poor people got treated in Montgomery.”
Religious teachings have been the guiding force of the earliest Black civil rights and anti-slavery leaderships.
“Nat Turner, a leader in the revolt against slavery, for example saw the rebellion as the work of God and drew upon biblical texts to inspire his actions. Likewise, fellow anti-slavery campaigners Sojourner Truth and Jarena Lee rejected the ‘otherworld’ theology taught to enslaved Africans by their white captors. That very theology sought to deflect attention away from their condition in ‘this world’ with promises of a better afterlife,” writes Lawrence Burnley of the University of Dayton, in a recent article in The Conversation.

A pragmatic approach has been the basis of most Black leaders’ theological understanding of religious doctrines and sermons.
With that understanding of the scriptures, the struggle for racial justice gained its solidarity in the Black Christian leaderships.
It was Rev. Al Sharpton, whose words echoed the globe when he called upon White America to “get your knee off our necks” at George Floyd’s memorial service.
Equally compelling is the message from Rev. William J. Barber II, a known Black leader, who said recently, “There is not some separation between Jesus and justice; to be Christian is to be concerned with what’s going on in the world.”
From Mohammad to Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. to Nelson Mandela and Dr. Ambedkar all had religious commitments grounded in humanism, love, compassion, and kindness to wage their political and social campaigns against slavery, apartheid, discrimination, inequality, and untouchability based on colour, class, and caste.
The Black Civil Rights movement is part of that tradition where religion has been inspiring and motivational force to erase the racial-based stigmas in a significant part of the White American society.  



Tuesday, July 14, 2020

AT AGE 92, THE SECRET OF MY FRIEND’S HEALTHY LIFE


The other day I received a phone call from an old friend of mine after quite a long time. Old in the sense that we know each other for the past over four decades. But it is also in the context that he is now 92 years of age.
He has the same clarity and vigour in his voice as ever before, good hearing and an excellent memory. All these signs reflected while conversing with him. In his astute expressions, his mental alertness is still sharp.
Mr. Singh still goes for walks, and at least once a week hits the golf course. The testimony to his exceptional health at this senior golden age is that he does not take any of those medicines often related to old age. Cholesterol, diabetes, knee problem, etc. have bypassed him.
The secret!
It is under one medical term, called circadian rhythm. And Mr. Singh has kept it well under control with his disciplined daily regime.
A real understanding of the circadian rhythm is that all our body organs, down to their cellular levels, have body clocks working along with the brain. Together, the working of all theses body clocks is in coordination to create the circadian rhythm.
A synchronized circadian rhythm of every part of the body, especially the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain, goes well without any compromise. The entire process, when settles down to set routine is the circadian rhythm that is not only beneficial to our overall health but most important in developing a robust immune system.
The boosting of the immune system is very vital, especially when we are facing the onslaught of the COVID-19 virus. And if this body clock rhythm is not put in place or being disturbed, our health problems start kicking in along with a weak immune system.
Specialists in the field of circadian rhythm emphasize a regular and systematic pattern of good sleep, exercise, and diet. The exact timing, duration, and disciplined, healthy living day in and day out is what we need to develop a robust immune system.
Mr. Singh listens to his body clock, religiously every moment of his life. Talking to him has always been very meaningful and knowledgeable.
One of these days, when this social-distancing restraint is over, I’m going to meet him. It certainly would be an inspirational meeting as well as to revive our chess sessions with a glass of Scotch on the side, that he still enjoys every day.
By Promod Puri

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Denialism: A Roadblock To Liberal Thinking


 by Promod Puri
When things or incidents happen in front of our own eyes or reported through trustworthy sources, and we deny them as non-events, there could be a "motivated reasoning" for that denial.
Psychologists name the observed phenomenon as denialism.
A recent example of denialism is when President Trump refuted the pandemic of COVID-19 in its early stage. And when most of India's upper and wealthy class refused to accept the plight of migrant workers in their agonizing walks back to the villages during the peak Coronavirus lockdown.
Historical events, like the Holocaust, have never happened according to those who refute the genocide. Climate change is a myth; the theory of evolution is nonsense, the earth is not round, but a flat dish, are the examples trapped in the insulated casing of denialism.
In denialism, our social behaviour, political and religious identities get rigid with the discriminatory pick of pieces of evidence. Rationalization becomes irrational in fussy argumentation. And society becomes polarized when information receiving is selective to match the perceived opinions and verdicts.
Denialism an irrational act. So why people deny or reject the basic facts that are undisputed and well-supported by verifiable or scientifically-proven realities?
Several reasons based on their religious, political or social beliefs explain the behaviour as it confronts the uncomfortable truths. Moreover, people who stick to denialism may have personal interests, egotistical or narcissistic passions. An ideological worldview can be a factor too.
It is for these reasons, in the absence of reality and truth, denialism gets its spot that creates a mindset fanatic attitude that can cause roadblocks or deadends to free or liberal thinking.

Friday, June 19, 2020

DEMOCRACY DYING IN INDIA AND FASCISM TAKING BIRTH

By Promod Puri

Fascism is a system that is run or led by a dictator who has full power in every aspect of a nation. To achieve and maintain that hold, a fascist ruler suppresses any opposition and criticism. A false sense of aggressive nationalism and patriotism gets developed and promoted. Racism and xenophobia are encouraged in a dictatorial environment.


That is a typical explanation or scenario of a nation under fascist rule. In the contemporary world, despite being still democratic, we find shades of authoritarian governments having essential control over their peoples and institutions. For that reason, these nations fit very well as fascists regimes. But to the world as well as their citizens, such governments put on a democratic or socialist mask.

Under the fake democratic outfit, resides the modern version of fascism where almost all the elements of dictatorial control are present. Fear factor gets liberal infusion to weed out voices of dissent.

Bureaucratic and democratic institutions are restrained and corrupted. Manipulated elections decide the results before the polls take place. Religious sentiments of the majority community become a handy tool to suppress the minorities. Bribed, threatened, and intimidated media sit on the lap of the fascist ruler, ever ready as a mouthpiece of the government.

A network of social media goes full swing for the manufacturing and distribution of false and propagated news and views that are efficiently spread within the country and globally.

Judiciary, election commission, media, and statistics are some of the most operative integrals of democracy, that keep it authoritative, functional, dynamic, and accountable. But when any or all these systems are damaged, corrupted, compromised, or abused, democracy collapses, and fascism emerges.

India is one of those countries where signs of this new version of fascism are quite discernable and visible. Knowingly or unknowingly, fascists developments are fast taking place for power's sake as there is practically no active and creditable opposition either.

All the democratic fundamentals have been brazenly as well as subtly fiddled with shrewd politics of religious fanaticism, fear, threats, murders, fake police raids, intrusions, and influences in the media, obstructions, and interference in the bureaucracy, and deceptive claims of accomplishments.

The autonomous, independent, and credible status of the democratic establishments have been defaced and undermined.

Cracking down on free speech, threats, murders of writers, dissident lawyers, and judges, frequent imprisonment of protesting students constitute the new and dreadful feeling of the current political climate in the country.

And once all these developments take roots and become a new norm, fascist India would destroy the very spirit and fabric of the nation as a free, secular, and a multi-racial society. Democracy dies, and fascism takes birth.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

MY SCHOOL TEACHER’S BRUTALITY

As often said, what I had for dinner yesterday or the day before, I do not remember. But some incidents that happened years ago are vividly embedded in our cumulative memory power.
It was one of those summer months when the daily regime begins with the early morning wake up just by one call from our father. I was only six or seven years old, and the first activity of the day was going to the river on the outskirts of the city. The walk was two or three miles from our house. It was a stiff recreation but had to endure each morning.
Rushing back home, getting ready, and having a quick breakfast, I had to be at the school precisely at 7 O’clock. And I made it every day from Monday to Friday.
But one day, for some reason, I was late, not very much, maybe 10 minutes. My grade 1 class was on; I entered the classroom quietly, head down, and sat on my floor rug place.
The moment I sat, the teacher, addressed as Masterji, called me up and asked why I was late. Before I could gather words to express myself, he gave me a hefty slap on my tender little face.
I accepted the punishment at that age of my life. Perhaps, I learned a lesson too. Later in life, I felt it wasn’t kind on the part of Masterji. But that used to be the custom or common practice by teachers to slap young students, beat their palms with a cane, or make them sit in a weird and painful position with hands going through legs and holding on to both the ears.
Physically harsh punishments for young kids in their tender ages was a practice that I would now call it teachers’ brutality. And for me, I would never forget that slap.
-Promod Puri

Friday, June 12, 2020

Do We Care About Statues




Last Sunday, June 7, it was a cheering feeling for me when the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol got pulled down as a result of the killing of George Floyd by the police in the US.
The act was a symbolic disgrace to the man who made fortunes by selling and exporting African slaves to America. The slave trader might have contributed his ill-earned wealth to educational institutions, but his profession was inhumane and certainly not worth to be honored with a statue.
I am against erecting statues in honor of or memory of public figures no matter how much their contributions to society are perceived. As time flows, more revelations emerge about them that are not either complementary to them or acceptable to the public as well. It is happening to the statues of Gandhi in South Africa.
Moreover, there is always the politics of statues. That involves cashing in on the sentiments of the public by the leaders. The new mammoth statue of Sardar Patel in Gujarat state in India is an example.
Statues are expensive to build with public-funded money and are costly to maintain them daily. Otherwise, they are the perfect landing spots for birds to relieve themselves. Birds, indeed, love them but does the public care about them in the long run.
-by Promod Puri

Monday, June 8, 2020

NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR

NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR
SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR

(Loosely translated: Nanak says life for everybody is suffering,
blissful is the one who has based his/her life on Him.)
It is a universal truth. Agony, misery, pain, suffering, both physical and emotional, and in all degrees of intensity are the realities of life experienced by all without exception.
In the bliss of peace and pleasure, we also pass through jitters of distress, grief, and worries. There is hardly any escape from these taxing, and unpleasant realities littered toward life’s end.
The sufferings could be innocently or naively self-inflicted, from fellow beings, or other causes. Elements of nature and the so-called fate also play minor or significant roles to accompany man’s lifelong journey through calamity and disaster.
Stresses and strains in our lives for one reason or the other give enough turbulences as a smooth ride to cover life’s journey becomes a rarity.
So, who is at absolute peace. Certainly nobody.
Can we redefine peace to accommodate tensions and sufferings that otherwise we cannot avert? Do we have to live with them?
In this pursuit to seek serenity and tranquility, let us re-evaluate and narrow down our understanding of that guiding force from whom, in desperation, we often quest for answers to our whys.
The guiding mover is the eternal spirit that, in the first place, buzz us for our acceptance of the adversity (Nanak calls it hukam razai ). The alert signal takes on a calamity with a calm mind, effectively and decisively, instead of being agitative or in panic.
We need not expect miracles from the Eternal Spirit.
But what we can expect with grace and dignity, is the courage and strength to tackle suffering.
Of course, this is not an easy exercise. Still, the utmost and unshaken faith in our resolve to accept and handle circumstances lead us to that sought-after perception. It is a solid base from where one can realize the Supreme power. Nanak calls that base “Adhaar.”
Regarding perception or understanding of the solid base, we can be more precise by setting aside for a moment, the most widespread assumption that God is a person. Instead, bring in another individuality and nature of His or Her as just a performing action.
So when we seek or gather courage and strength to handle any calamity or suffering and use those forces as part of our efforts, that very activity itself is a God in live manifestation.
And once that foundation or “Adhaar,” meaning God in the image of action, is recognized as the platform, from where to fight back and decrease distress and tribulation, then certainly with conviction one can get inspired to comprehend……………..
NANAK DUKHIYA SABB SANSAR
SO SUKHIYA JIS NAAM ADHAAR.
-By Promod Puri