I thought I’d write about something different today. My thoughts today were triggered by a debate or rather an argument I overheard about intolerance. Religion and politics seemed to be the underlying topics. I thought I would share my thoughts on these subjects. As I thought about this, I soon realised that we cannot look at religion and politics in isolation, but rather we should also look at the social and economic aspects as well, and how these are intertwined. So here goes.
The era of the monarch or king or ruler being the representative of God has ended, and if at all it exists, it remains merely in title.
Even when the monarch was deemed to be the representative of God, there was a reliance on a High Priest, who was supposed to be an authority on religious thought and belief.
Thus even way back then, there was a separation between the ruler or administration and the church or religion. This was a way to instill checks and balances.
The role of the High Priest has ended, their counsel is no longer felt to be a necessity and is no longer available, nor is the purity of the priestly advisors or the monarch intact.
There is in general, even today, a separation of the church or religious bodies from the state, even where countries have as their foundation, a religious belief or ideology.
I propose that with the advent of time, Money with a capital M, has replaced both the Church and the State. Money is the state and the church, it is a way of being and a law unto itself.
Less isn’t more, there is simply more, more, more. Look at the progression from a self-sufficient nomadic, agrarian or hunting existence, to expansion of the tribe, leading to acquisition of turf, defending that turf by any means, producing or acquiring more, to feed more mouths. The Iron Age saw the advent of technologies of mass production, predominantly to support the needs, the cravings and wants of runaway population growth.
A way of life which was far simpler, more innocent, more wholesome has ended.
This was inevitable because with the advent of what “Hindus” call “Kali-Yuga” or the age of darkness and deceit, and the diluted following of higher religious principles, the quality of the representatives of the monarchy and the priestly advisors also deteriorated.
The general population is no longer able to take direction, nor follow, nor leave their welfare in the hands of a diminished leadership.
It is a wonder then, that the vacuum created by the absence of a strong ruler, was filled by a variety of guiding principles that finally ended up in the sociopolitical systems that came into existence. ?
Communism was based on the commune, and its underlying principle was, From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs (Karl Marx). Now what is so wrong with this, especially since it talks about needs rather than wants.
Democracy in the words of Abraham Lincoln, is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Sound in principle all right, how about its practical application, more on this a little later.
The principles of Communism and all its varieties, Socialism in all its flavors and Democracy took root, grew, flourished, and fell by the wayside, one by one. Not one sociopolitical system has been able to address modern-day needs.
Whereas the center pin of Democracy is adult franchise, or the voice of the adult population in its destiny, though an admirable concept, it too has several fallacies.
Simply put, when we empower the general population to vote, we don’t in any way, shape or form, determine the level of intelligence or knowledge levels of that population to make a judgement based on intelligence or knowledge. Are we educating sufficiently the poor sods to take informed decisions? Isn’t the vote swung by sentiment, perception and a lot of influencing and lobbying?
Let us take the examples of two great functioning Democracies, the United States and India.
It is a well established that American isn’t New York or Chicago or its big cities. America is essentially its small towns and cities, where the population is largely ignorant about anything outside of the United States, or for that matter, the very towns where the bulk of its population lives. Looking at that slightly differently, anything outside of the purview of the American dream, whatever that is, is largely unknown to small town America. Read Kurt Vonnegut, a popular American author, and he says it much better than I ever can.
Now this population votes for a President of a Democratic Government based on the ignorance of its own population as to the world around them. And foreign policy of one of the most powerful countries on the face of the planet is left to a Democratic Government, that was elected by a population largely unaware of the world around them in the first place. Very comforting isn’t it?
To be balanced take India, where the population is largely uneducated in the modern sense of the word, largely agrarian, and they in turn elect politicians to Government Office based on their lack of education. It is little wonder then, that a large percentage of the politicians in Government are corrupt, have criminal cases pending against them, and corruption runs rife! Somehow, I believe that our diverse but rich culture plays a large part in keeping the country running. I wouldn’t be too far off if I say, God runs India directly!
Has not each political system proved to be inadequate as the test of time has been applied? No sociopolitical system has withstood the test of time.
Ditto for economic systems, which are generally tied in to the political systems that are prevalent. Take capitalism, which is largely tied into Democracies. Take closed or protectionist economies which are dominant in countries that are communist. The Social-Democrats are the hybrid between Capitalism and closed economic systems.
Economic events in recent years have proved that pure capitalism, where pure profit or capital generation rules the roost, is a failure. Money and power go hand in hand. Therefore the saying “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” applies to political or economic systems. Similarly the goal of pure capitalism being money (and that too concentrated in the hands of few, with the good old 20:80 rule in full force), defeats the very principles or reasons why Monarchies and Church States were overthrown by a disgruntled population.
So have the concepts of mass production, economic growth, opening up of markets, faster, bigger, done any real good? Who have they served? Incomes have gone skyrocketing, so have taxes, so has the cost of living. We’ve moved from a local, or regional economy to a global economy, yes? The world is flat, yes? But at the same time, have we not become economies of mass consumerism, of want rather than need?
Democracy in its purest form says that Governments should do just that Govern, and leave the business of money to the financial markets. So there is a tacit and implied separation of State and Financial Markets. The only tie in its purest form is when the Government taps into financial markets to raise capital, and regulate markets when financial greed sets in.
But for all intents and purposes regulation has been a failure, as events have repeatedly demonstrated. So has the separation of Government and Financial Markets really worked for the layman, or has he had to see his tax money used to bail out greedy corporations?
Therefore I propose, that there cannot be separation of culture and religion, in the same way that there cannot be a separation of Government and Financial Markets, under an ideal Democracy.
We also talk in general terms that Culture and Religion are distinct. I disagree, there are overlaps. With those of you, who confuse modern day living (devoid of traditions and culture), a cultural experience, I have no desire for a debate. But for those who think that Culture comes from an inheritance of experience, of “Samskaras” of knowledge handed down via the Guru-Shishya (Master-Teacher) succession, then we can have a very interesting and positive debate.
After the barbarian, or nomadic times, (I forget what Age that is called, ah yes – The Stone Age), as man became more civilized and evolved, a need was felt for Governance. Well the governance was provided by the biggest bully, and is it really any different now? Strip away the facade and that still pretty much the case in large parts of the world. The bullying emanates from wealth, from physical force, from misinterpreted religious doctrine.
Governance, was all-encompassing, covering social and economic, principles. Administration of the principles of Governance was left to a set of people who were in tune with the Gods, or nature, or whatever they believed to be a “Higher Power”. As feudal lords became more powerful, they became Monarchs, or Religious Heads. They Governed on certain “higher principles”, catering to the greater common good. However, history tells us that each time a Monarch became a “Despot” and sooner or later there was a change, an overthrow, a coup.
In the modern state, the higher principles have proven to be money, power and military might, all in the name of progress, and in the most prescriptive manner possible.
In ending I can just say, that I believe, that all systems of Government have failed, all economic systems have found to be inadequate, when examined under the lens of “The Greater Common Good”. Is there an answer, yes, but one that is hard to digest. A return to a state (I mean state of existence), based on “Higher Principles”. I don’t believe that the guiding principles of any of the political systems or religious doctrines are bad.
In fact quite the opposite. They were created according to the time, place and circumstances prevalent.
Take the example of being able to have four wives. How and when did this come about? This came about during the crusades, when the Christians and Muslims were at war for the longest time. At this time, because the male population was diminishing, in order to protect women and children and to provide for them, it was permitted to take more than one wife, lest unprotected women are exploited. That principle was a time, place and circumstance thing, and look at how this got so contaminated later.
Do the leaders of the required stature, of the required intellect, of the required nobility exist? Rarely so.
The answer lies within each an every one of us, to rise ourselves to that standard through a process of inner reflection, of study, of purification to equip ourselves to pass on that vast body of knowledge to the GenNext as we call them these days.