Sunday, November 25, 2012

Spirituality and Evil


Albert Einstein


 "A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.”  Albert Einstein

It is so much nicer to talk of beautiful things that exist on our lovely planet that it is really a pity that I had to write this post that touches on something that to me is evil. Nevertheless I have written it because if an evil is ignored it is difficult to eradicate it. The evil I am referring to is about the denial of freedom of belief and imposition of beliefs on people and that is something even the followers of the greatest of religions on earth have not been free of though they have done so much good besides contributing to much human progress.

Noble Buddha
Recently when I quoted a link to a blog post on the sad demise of a billionaire in India to some friends in an email, in response to a mention of this billionaire, a friend responded that he would like to challenge the mention of some of my spiritual beliefs mentioned in that post.

My response was that there is nothing to challenge because I respect the different beliefs of this friend and his right to hold them. But since the friend persisted I had to say if he wishes to impose his beliefs on me then my response is just two words long – Buzz Off. There is nothing to challenge in the spiritual beliefs of others although one may ask for clarifications if there is a genuine curiosity/inquiry or talk of one's beliefs if someone wishes to hear without insisting that they hear or just point out that their beliefs are different and that they do not agree.

Just so that no misunderstanding is created, this reference is not to anyone who has commented in this blog but to someone else who interacts through a private email group. I have encountered similar persistence earlier too, not just in the spiritual arena but by crooked politicians out to snatch bread from mouth of people to enrich themselves and family, sales persons from diverse areas such as insurance and a world wide multi-level marketing group, and as is usual with such sales persons both spiritual and others, they sing praises of their chosen paths and enumerate the great benefit they have received. Since I am old enough, I often find the same persons on a completely different track or situation some years later.

It is easy to recognize bad from good but evil is far more difficult to recognize at times because evil can be subtle and devious. When one recognizes it and sees it coming ones way then it should be repelled with full force and all the contempt it deserves.

Thus whereas one recognizes cruel and violent acts as bad as opposed to kind and compassionate ones, stealing as bad and giving to one in need as good, being truthful as good and lying as bad, evil is not always recognized easily. One form of evil is the imposition of one’s belief on another by force, coercion or pressurizing. Over persistence in trying to rub in a belief is also a form of pressuring and coercion. Freedom of belief is inherent in any form of true spirituality just as love is and trying to impinge on this freedom is one of the worst forms of evil there is. When God or the Universe has granted all life the freedom to choose how can anything genuine about Him lack in that freedom?

Saint Kabir, the Blessed Weaver
With imposition of belief there can be no true conviction and without conviction no true faith. However, aside from imposition there is something that is far more evil and that includes brain washing as used by some. One may wonder why such evil exists in an area that is inherently meant for good. The reason is that evil looks for areas of human need and exploits that to satisfy its own need. Thus we have the frequent occurrence of fraud and evil in the spiritual area because the need for solace becomes acute when humans get into misery. Most people need money that is why there are so many financial scams around. When people are in legal and medical need the need may be acute and then we see the emergence of exploitation in those areas by unscrupulous or greedy practitioners for financial gain.

The question then occurs as to how a genuine seeker should safeguard him self or her self? The first thing one can do is check out on the state of other followers if possible. Look for signs of imposition of belief and brain washing. Brain washing proceeds by trying to empty your mind of reason and existing belief that you may have acquired from honorable sources. Some forms of brain washing require time, and a cult may ask you to commit to a training program with the promise of not leaving in between, comparing the leaving to a patient leaving a doctors table in the middle of surgery. But spiritual learning is not surgery where the ends justify the means of forcefully tying down or drugging a patient. Good spirituality is freedom all the way through and one should immediately reject and run the moment it is detected as an evil thing.

In the ultimate analysis there is no need to go to a teacher, church or cult for spiritual knowledge. God and His knowledge is all around you if you just open your heart to it and Amazon is full of good books on the topic by upright decent authors if one wishes to read about it and explore the beliefs of others in the area.

Immediately someone may find a word to challenge in the last paragraph,

"How do you know there is God? I oppose that belief."

My answer to that in many of my blog posts is,

"Dear friend you have nothing to oppose because neither have you defined what your God is ( the One in which you do not believe) nor asked what my definition of God is; if you tell me what you mean by God then I might say if I believe or not believe in your concept of God.. On the other hand, if you wish to hear of my definition of God then it is this – To me God is everything there is, the entire Universe and everything else besides, therefore He is everywhere (using He for convenience)." One can scarcely deny the universe but it is one's choice if one wishes to deny the universe because then one does not exist.

True, that it is impossible for a near infinitely small finite mind (on a universal scale) such as mine, to understand God fully and all His doings, but I perceive an infinity all around me and see this Infinity as Him and believe that if there is anything else besides Him in the universe it is within given limits the ignorance, finite desires and individual thoughts etc. of us all i.e things that keep us apart. At the same time that is what makes the evolutionary journey of life so challenging and exciting because what better measure of evolutionary progress can there be than enhancing knowledge of the self and its place in the universe?

My mother's name was Nand Rani Sahni and later Nand Rani Malhotra after marriage. While she lived, she was one of the finest humans on the planet and I can say that without bias. I have been extremely fortunate in this department of life (although not so in many others). She was also a very good mother, as indeed most mothers are. As a child, I hardly understood her but the fact that she was there and that she loved us was a source of warmth, security and joy. The fact of her love was far more important than the fact that we did not know her fully as no child can know a grown up fully. Now that I am much older, more important than the fact that I know God fully is the fact that He is there and that He loves us. It is a source of warmth, security and joy. A mother's love is just one channel through which humans receive this love. There are numerous other ones like sunshine and the very air we breathe. Therefore I am not even opposed to those who seek to approach the Infinite through finite entities such as the symbols, sun, enlightened beings, gods and goddesses just as long as they realize the Infinite Whole of which all is a part.

One significant way in which the Lord interacts with us is through the hidden mysterious hand that comes to our aid in times of our deepest distress and need in our lives, so well hidden that we are left wondering if it is merely an uncanny coincidence. It is as if a loving and concerned mother is keeping a secret watch on her infant child as he frees himself from her bosom and ventures into the garden to play all by himself, yet soon as trouble strikes, she runs out to him even as he call out to mama.

Whereas all perceive the physical visible aspects of the Universe, some ascertain a bit more such as the force of  gravity and few guess at things they call dark matter and energy; and a few even the special angels that dwell within it and serve the Lord, few can perceive the personal and conscious side of it. Yet, just as a human through his or her service, love or devotion can succeed in establishing a relationship with the most important and generally inaccessible human personality on earth, seeing them constantly in their doings and having the possibility of communicating with them at any time through internet, phone or person, there are beings of the universe who have succeeded in doing the same with the most important Personality of the universe and see Him constantly in His Signs. This is depicted beautifully in the well known story called ‘Foot Prints in the Sand’ where one such person, one of many, inquired from the Lord,

“Lord, as I journey through these slippery sands of life, I see beside me a second set of foot prints at all times, Yours; but there have been times of joy when I was lost in play and failed to notice them; and times of deep distress when I looked for them in desperation but could not find them; I was so alone yet there was nothing but a single set of foot prints, why is that my Lord?”

And the Lord spoke to him in his heart,

“Those were times my dear son when I carried you.”

The Babaji Affair by Dr. Ashok Malhotra
UPDATE: September 6, 2013 -  When persons from around the world turn their gaze towards East and Himalayas for spiritual solace and revelation, they are repeatedly confronted by fraud Gurus i.e. charlatans exploiting religion for making money. It is not very difficult to pick them out. If a Guru is into amassing wealth, either in his name or the name of his trust or if he or she actively campaigns for members to his fold as multilevel marketers do, he is not likely to be the place you are looking for. Yet there are  genuine mystics that have sprung up from the bowels of the Himalayas since ancient times even as Buddha did. A recent book by this author - The Babaji Affair - contains the stories of some of them along with the essence of their spiritual knowledge




The quotation by Einstein at the head of this blog was taken from http://mindofmatter.com/2012/10/10/theory-of-limitation-the-bridge-between-god-and-science/





Saturday, November 17, 2012

Billionaires and Millionaires need not be Envied

King Midas of the Golden Touch

Money is what gets humans their essential needs as well as luxuries. Therefore when we hear of a person who is a billionaire or even a millionaire we tend to be jealous or envious. However, if you go into the depth of matters many millionaires and billionaires need our prayers and sympathy rather than our envy or Jealousy.

My mind went to this subject yesterday when news channels announced that a famous billionaire of North India – Ponty Chaddah – and his brother had killed each other ( at least as initially reported in some of the media although it is being investigated ) in a shoot out in which their respective armed guards were also involved. It seems that there was a property dispute. The matter is still under investigation but the newspapers today reported that their unfortunate bodies were riddled with bullets. Yesterday the TV also showed glimpses of Ponty while he was alive. This is the first time I cared to look at him carefully.

My spiritual views have been elaborated in many earlier posts of this blog. Faith has been expressed in reincarnation, karma (that incidentally has nothing to do with reincarnation as explained in the posts on karma) and most of all in the Supreme Universal Consciousness or God. It is a firm belief that He controls the universe and nothing happens in it unless he either wills it or he permits it. Both good and evil take place in the Universe with His permission. I tried to analyze the Ponty incident in the light of these spiritual beliefs. The question that came to mind is - why the Universal consciousness chose Ponty to become a billionaire. He literally rose to his riches from rags, beginning as a road side vendor of snacks in the sixties. Often times I believe that it is karma or the reward for some immensely good deeds of this or a previous life times that leads persons to become immensely rich. The present life of Ponty was perhaps not a good one. He hob knobbed with many poorly reputed characters, dealt in sale of liquor, moved around with armed guards and lived in a home that had high walls, iron gates and armed guards much like a prison compound. He was often involved in legal or political controversies and his life was full of stress. He had lost one arm completely and a partial use of the other in two separate accidents all the while continuing with his business deals and increasing his fortunes from pennies, to millions and then billions. His present life did not sound like one that could have contributed to a karmic reward of riches. It could be past Karma but then good deeds of the past often leave a mark on the personality and appearance of a human that can be seen by discerning eyes. There was nothing in his looks to indicate that. Therefore I pondered further on the spiritual mystery until  the answer was found.

The great financial wealth of Ponty was after all not his reward but perhaps his curse. Wealth is useful when it brings peace and joy to a person but when it deprives a person of peace and therefore also happiness then it is a curse. It has been said in an ancient text (the old testament by Solomon the wise) that the Lord grants wealth to many but the knowledge to use it to add joy into their own lives as well as others only to a few. It is only the latter kind who are blessed. They should be envied for sure, persons like Warren Buffet, but the former kind, need our prayers and sympathy so that they too may find peace while they live and their souls after they have gone, and left their bank accounts behind, subsequent to a struggle of a few decades amongst us.

The second question that arose is that why does the Lord use wealth as a punishment for some. There are so many other ways to punish while the wealth is best distributed to others who are in need. The answer to this may be found in the fact that everything after all belongs to the Lord. He gives it to people for their needs according to His wisdom and holds the rest under the control or guardianship of others as His appointees. Some of the millionaires and billionaires are thus simply the guards of the dark treasure dungeon. We should pity them for the role assigned to them by nature. There are others who have to be granted a concentration of wealth for grinding their butts and/or hair out for setting up large capitalistic ventures that must be undertaken for the activities of our world and providing employment to others (the justification that many Republicans use when they plead for low tax rates).

Consider the life of a person who is not wealthy but has sufficient money to live in clean surroundings, acquire nutritious food, open and green surroundings to live in, rooms that are comfortable and full of fresh air and sunlight, and who can live peacefully without fear or armed guards even in a home where the doors are frequently left open, whose heart is gladdened by sunlight, greenery and the song of birds whose peaceful minds is free to enjoy as he himself adds to the song. A greedy and consequentially stressed mind can neither enjoy the beauty of the flowers nor the magic of a bird song. Compare this life to that of a billionaire like Ponty and decide which one you would choose.

Let us pray for the soul of Ponty and numerous other billionaires of this world, including the drug lords of Latin America or the political rulers of corrupt and dictatorial countries whose lives are rolling in millions and billions lined with fear, trauma and anguish ( Pity Gaddafi and Bashar Al Assad). There is certainly no need to be envious or Jealous of them.

Now do read the sentiment expressed in this note in a light hearted poem about a billionaire in another post of this blog here:
http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2015/08/billionaires-lament-poem.html

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Inflation: Stealing from the Poor for the Rich


Robin Hood and his Merry Men

In today’s complex economy it is useful for the ordinary citizen to understand a few simple principles about economics. That way, they can manage their own money better and also contribute their voice to policy making in their countries. This post is about inflation, its causes and ramifications and how it can be managed  in any country.

Money is a used for acquiring goods and services and when the price of goods and services rise we say that inflation is taking place. The price of something depends on many factors but two of the primary ones are 1. Demand and supply balance 2. Extent of Money Supply.  Both factors are easy to understand.

If a commodity becomes in short supply then its price tends to rise. If apple crops have been destroyed by untimely frost then apple prices will rise. If the demand for a product increases then too its price rises but if demand falls prices fall or crash. The balance of demand and supply is one of the factors that determines the price of any of the available goods or services.

Now let us understand Money supply. For example let us say any one country doubles its money printing and then distributes it by say doubling salaries. The price of everything in the country will tend to double because twice as much money will be available for acquiring the same amount of goods and services. There was a time when governments could not print money at their own sweet will. It was when money was minted in gold and silver, but the world went off the gold standard a long time ago and that is no longer an impediment to printing more money if the policy makers so decide. Paper is cheaply available. However, even now some countries cannot print their own money such as those in the Euro Zone, otherwise, Greece would have done it long ago to overcome its debt burden.

What would have happened if Greece printed a lot of money? There would be inflation but the pensioners would not have been able to object as readily as they do now when their pensions are being reduced. They would get the same pension but it would buy less because of inflation and the effect would be the same. Any debt that Greece had in its own currency would be paid back easily and the creditors would not be able to complain because no one says that more has to be paid back if prices rise. However, the portion of debt in dollars would increase because with inflation the price of the dollar as determined by the flexible exchange rate would also rise. In this respect, USA is sitting pretty with its debt because most of its debt is in dollars and if that country prints a lot of extra money to cover it, it will pay it back easily, However, that would also cause severe inflation with all the extra dollars floating around. Governments have nice names for printing excess money, perhaps so that people do not catch on. They have given it names like quantitative easing, debt or deficit monetization etc. (UPDATE JULY 2013 in purple color; the Americans seem to have read this note because ever since it was public they have begun to do that in installments. Their economy is being helped as a result and they may continue to do it until inflation becomes troublesome)

Governments get their money through various sources like taxes, selling state assets, debt etc. They draw up a budget to spend this money. Incase they spend more than their income, we have what is called a budget deficit. The deficit can easily be made up through quantitative easing i.e. printing more money and increasing money supply with the attendant consequence of inflation. In case, too much inflation takes place then controlling central banks tend to reduce money supply by various means such as increasing interest rates. The easiest way to curb inflation is to slash deficit budgets and increase interest rates until inflation is banished. In many developing countries the cause behind budget deficits is corruption because available money for budget is illegally misappropriated.

Whenever a question of reducing state budgets and deficits is considered, some economists immediately propose a reduction of subsidies that may be built into the system. Although certain subsidies may be undesirable, the worst time to reduce them is when inflation is already prevailing. It will simply increase inflation further for the most vulnerable sections of the country because the subsidies were introduced in the first palace because of such needs. It will particularly hurt the population hurting from inflation most increasing their misery.  One may wonder why economists suggest such solutions to politicians for their approval even though it may lead to less than humanitarian consequences? The reason could be because it is not the economists who have to win votes. Their emoluments and compensation is best protected if there is GDP growth in the economy and that is best ensured through quantitative easing, no matter if the bottom half or even 99 per cent of the population suffers. The proper way to reduce deficits in inflationary times is to cut down the non-subsidy expenditure. It brings down inflation quickly and when that is banished a government may consider reducing undesirable subsidies.

Some economists view inflation as a clever form of tax that gets money into the hands of governments cleverly without having to announce a tax increase. In the view of this blogger, if so, it is the most despicable form of tax because it taxes the poorest of the population, unlike Obama, who is trying to increase taxes for the richest Americans only who can easily afford it - persons making more than a quarter of a million a year. He is being given a hard time in the US congress because of it. Just shows how shameless some of the richest persons can be in protecting and increasing their wealth, aside from some exceptions like Warren Buffet.

What about the inflation caused by a demand and supply imbalance? Will inflation not take place even without increased money supply if some item is in short supply? In this case the price of that item will increase for sure but then the price of some other items will decrease if money in circulation remains the same and the overall rate of inflation across the board would not rise. Demand and supply imbalances, and rise in price of imported things, tends to increase the price of specific items but do not cause general inflation across the board.


If financial practices are designed within a country so that inflation is intentional, it is an unfair practice of governance that is also inhuman because it hurts the poorer sections of society most. If inflation within a country is not intentional but takes place inadvertently, it is a clear proof of mismanagement by government.

Ever since currency systems went off tangible things like gold or silver, it has become the responsibility of governments to manage production and distribution of their chosen currencies in a manner so that inflation or deflation does not take place except within a narrow band of one or two percent. Europe, Australia and USA has been very efficient at such management, but not countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The reasons for economies or individual price of goods going up or down are complex and include vagaries of nature and even psychology. Governments cannot be held responsible for it all, however the production and distribution of money is the responsibility of government and they are supposed to do it in a manner so that overall inflation (or deflation as in Japan) does not take place. If they cannot, they have shirked their responsibility. If a nation is incompetent to do so they should revert to the gold standard. Countries that have deflation like Japan are fortunate because they can easily get out of any recession by increasing money supply, that is an easy process of printing money.

If one were to devise a very rough thumb rule for ascertaining the irresponsibility of government based on the rate of inflation then one might say very approximately that a government is irresponsible to the extent of ten times the rate of inflation or deflation as a percentage of expected responsibility level. Thus a one per cent inflation rate may imply a ten per cent irresponsibility of government managed financial systems. Ten per cent inflation therefore may indicate one hundred per cent irresponsibility ( unless it is a short term temporary blip). If it is still larger then the economic and financial system as well as the governance system that controls may be  collapsed, malfunctioning or dishonest. If such a collapse is not due to something as severe as a war, then those who managed the financial system must be regarded may be working against the interests of the people. The thumb rule here is highly approximate as a first attempt, but the message is clear. In future better ones along the same lines may emerge that include a few other indicators such as the exchange rate changes. A depreciation of currency is its effective devaluation and an indication that far more money is in circulation that warranted by the economic fundamentals.

At the present time, many countries are facing recession or slowing growth. One of the methods economists suggest and use to increase growth is to increase money supply. It may also increase inflation, but then, if the technique leads to an increase of income for all the citizens, they get compensated for the increased prices.

The present world economy has become such that even when growth takes place along with inflation then all citizens do not benefit equally. Unfortunately it is the rich who are benefiting most over the last decade as revealed by an increasing rich/poor ratios and the increasing ratio of the rich/poor incomes in most countries . In this scenario, the rich get compensated for any inflation that may be taking place whereas the effective income of the poor falls because of increased prices. In effect, such a monetary easing results in taking money out of the pocket of the poor and transferring it to the pocket of the rich. It is happening now in many countries that are suffering inflation. It is in effect stealing from the poor for the rich. Such an economy is called trickle-up capitalism. The author has written about it elsewhere if you search for it. Robin Hood is probably turning in his grave in Sherwood Forest because of this. He stole from the rich to give to the poor unlike some modern financial planners who are in effect doing the reverse while giving it fancy names like easing and covering it with intellectual sounding yet false arguments. There could be something noble about stealing from the rich, especially riches acquired unfairly and giving it to the poor. Wonder what the reverse is?

In India presently because of falling growth rate, industrialists are crying for a reduction of interest rates by the controlling bank so that growth rates are increased. They are barking up the wrong tree though. Interests are high because inflation is high and inflation is high because there is too much money in circulation because of deficit budgets. They should be crying out for a reduction of budget deficits and that  will eventually automatically lead to the controlling bank reducing interest rates when inflation falls. The interest rates should in fact be higher because high inflation is leading to a near disaster of the financial system. It may be mentioned that deficits covered by debt do not promote inflation although they create a burden for the future. it is deficits covered by quantitative easing that cause inflation.

This blogger is a simply an educated and concerned citizen of the world and presently very concerned about the greed of the grabbers that is pushing large sections of  world population into financially difficult situations.Read more about the modern exploitative practices in this small book:
http://www.amazon.com/Brief-Introduction-Economics-Greed-Exploitation/dp/1495448193

In India, this is the time of the annual festival of Diwali. It is a time of the year when people pray to Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. I hope she is pleased with the present article and that she brings prosperity into the lives of the genuinely needy and not the genuinely greedy of this world. A Happy Diwali to all readers of this blog.

Another version of this post is also posted at (Stealing from the poor and giving it the Rich -Inflation)  http://ezinearticles.com/?Stealing-From-the-Poor-and-Giving-It-to-the-Rich---Inflation&id=7375231

UPDATE JULY 2013: 

This author is pleased to note that as a result of the principles explained in this  note and mention of Japan, some six months ago, Japan began to pump money into its system and managed to get out of its decades long recession. The Prime Minister's party recently received a thumping victory. Best wishes to him. If he continues to follow it, the pumping of money should continue until inflation sets in, and best wishes to him also for restoring the lost historical national pride of Japan, that those who lose wars are made to do. Germany has already done it almost and it is high time Japan did it too. It is not that such simple principles are not known to economists of Japan, but knowledge is often held back due to vested interests. It gets implemented when made public.

UPDATE JULY 2014: 

The Americans overdid their Quantitative Easing program and ended up with huge food inflation. Read a report on that here
 http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/05/24/U-S-Food-Inflation-Running-at-22

UPDATE

It is hoped that food inflation will end in India and the bread from the mouth of poor stop being stolen by 2015 due to a new Government in India that is receptive to change. The report will be published here 

UPDATE

Read about distribution of wealth in the world and how it is changing in recent years here http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2014/05/how-wealth-of-world-is-distributed.html

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Exercise for the Aging and the Aged

Fifteen month old Golu  (my god grandson) on a walk in, Nainital Dist.

My daily newspaper – the Times of India – that is truly daily here in India, unlike when I lived in Canada and the daily newspaper took a holiday every Sunday, as any sensible human institution should, has a very sensible weekly page on health issues that I read with much interest. Today’s page reported the effects of exercise on longevity from a recent collaborative study between the Brigham and Women’s hospital and the National Cancer Institute in Washington. I presume Brigham is a man and therefore the study applies to men just as well as women although I fail to understand why the Brigham and Women’s hospital has excluded all men except Brigham, from its nomenclature at least, if not from its corridors.

The study reported that just 75 minutes of brisk walking per week resulted in an increase of life expectancy by 1.8 years whereas 450 minutes of brisk walking was associated with a gain of 4.5 years. Based on this finding I hope the reader is not tempted to increase the walking to a thousand minutes a week in the hope of further gains because in this latter case one may die of exhaustion quite soon, especially if one is aged.

This report reminded me of the need for regular physical exercise for all, especially the aged, but for reasons quite different from those of Brigham and Women’s hospital. There is something else I disagree with this prestigious hospital aside from their nomenclature. Let me explain.

During my younger days when I went to receive far more education, a Ph.D., than most of my friends and family I discovered that my views, although in agreement with many of my learned colleagues, at the universities I worked in, began to differ from many of my friends and family on some matters. However, the differences were for the most part not of a major kind. Aside from my profession I have had deep interests in the spiritual side of life. Explorations, reflections and study in this arena have caused a major difference in views from the majority of persons I know in some fundamental beliefs about life. Since these views are so diametrically opposite to widely held beliefs, for the most part, I usually keep these to myself. However, when I do explain the logic behind them, friends are convinced although only temporarily. They soon revert back to their old beliefs out of long habit. I shall mention just two of these here that has bearing on the topic at hand – the benefits of physical exercise for the aging and the aged.

The first is that I believe regular physical exercise is beneficial not for the purpose of increasing longevity but for improving the quality of life for the year’s one is destined to live. As regards longevity – I am not in favor of it personally and would not like to prolong my life unnecessarily more than desirable. From my spiritual beliefs I believe in reincarnation and have no fear of leaving this body for a new one. Each time around, if I go sooner rather than later I would get to spend a greater number of years as a younger person on this planet rather than a tottering old man. I much prefer the former and feel that when one has done one’s bit for children, seeing them into mature adulthood, parents, seeing them rested comfortably in the next world and the wide world in whatever one is able to do, given one’s circumstances, it is best to move on to the next world. For this reason, I do not appreciate when out of good intentions some one wishes me a long life, even though in this area I do not do unto others as I would wish them do unto me (a fundamental prerequisite of a spiritual life) but rather wish all my friends and others a very long life, knowing that they would be offended otherwise.

A second difference that I have from my friends is in the manner of leaving this world when the time comes for it. In my view the best way to go is one that causes least pain and discomfort and I can imagine none better than a cardiac arrest during sleep or the next best thing - a briefly painful heart attack if necessary. Therefore, if a doctor advises reducing the possibility of a cardiac arrest with a procedure such as angioplasty or something I will quickly reject it because I would rather have my heart stop first than begin with a cancer or a progressive failure from bladder to kidney, liver and eventually the heart. I know from engineering that a machine breaks down by beginning at the weakest link and I do hope that is the heart in my case. I fully know that not a single human has ever been born on the planet that did not eventually end up with Cardiac arrest (except for Jesus Christ) and I am no Jesus despite my spiritual dabbling. I would rather have mine right away rather than through a painful and progressive failure beginning with my legs or bladder. Prompted by such thoughts there is a much older post in this blog ‘when heart disease is a blessing’ for more on this.

Returning now to the topic of exercise, I am reminded that I have been missing it. During my younger days and working life, I led an active life that included much brisk walking, hiking, running, swimming etc. and there was no need for a contrived program of physical exercise. However now as I am semi retired, a lot of my time is spent in front of a computer, reading, writing, TV etc. and I have help for looking after my home, cooking and so. Therefore a desperate need has emerged to draw out a program of regular physical exercise and as mentioned it is not for longevity but for improving the time that I have in this body.

I agree with Brigham that walking is an excellent exercise and after much deliberation I have chosen half an hour a day around the park, six days a week. This will give me 180 minutes a week. However walking is insufficient in my view for an aging person. If there was a swimming pool within convenient reach I would have replaced a couple of days of walking by swimming but there is none near where I live presently. To lesson the stiffening of joints as one ages, some non-walking exercise is required too. This must include bending, stretching, sit ups etc. so that all the joints can be exercised. I have chosen ten minutes a day, except Sundays, for that in my backyard. That gives me another sixty minutes a week; together that adds up to 240 minutes a week, far short of the proposed 450 minutes by Brigham and Women’s recommendations but then what do they know about men having to deal with just one - poor old Brigham. Wonder how many years that will add to my life. Not too many I hope!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Democracies for the One Percent


Democracies for the few

Until a few centuries ago and even now in some countries, the prevalent form of government was a Monarchy. One single person, chosen by hereditary or with the help of the sword was an absolute ruler. Since the governance depended on this single person, it was a great or horrible one, depending on this single person. In recent times monarchies have been abolished in most countries but humans have still found power centered in a single person in the form of dictatorships. Some have been abolished in Arab countries after the recent Arab Spring, when dictators like Gaddafi were unceremoniously removed, even from their cozy hidings in the sewer lines.

In a country like North Korea, the form of governance is some form of communism but the ruler ship is also dictatorial and monarchy-like being transferred through hereditary rights. In some other communist countries, it appears that the ruling power is spread between select groups of persons. In this respect human civilizations have evolved from the point of a single privileged ruler to a group of privileged persons. The use of the term 1% is metaphorical. In reality control is exercised by much fewer than that.

Many countries have a democratic form of government. Here, in theory, the privilege of power belongs to all the people equally and the people as a whole choose representatives to look after their interests. In practice there may be insufficient checks within a democracy to prevent the elected representatives from looking after their own interests rather than that of the public that elected them. Many democracies have an independent judiciary to examine the legality of matters but if the budgets and infrastructure of the judiciary is controlled by the legislature such an independence is incomplete. Further, the judiciary may pass orders but such orders have to be implemented by the executive. In case the executive is controlled by the legislature then the order may go unimplemented or may be inadequately implemented as routinely happens in some democracies. Thus in practice even in a democracy a select group of persons can manage to corner the lion’s share of wealth, power and privilege. The select group is usually a group of politicians, private corporations, and a few other intellectuals etc. that control wealth, power and privilege.

One of the most developed democracies today is that of USA where elections are currently on to choose a new President by the American people. Even here it seems that a select group of persons control wealth and power because it seems that 99 per cent of the wealth of the country is controlled by one percent of the population. The wealthiest of persons are able to continue with relatively low rates of taxes and the wealthiest of bankers are able to get away with millions of dollars in compensation, even if they cause a national financial crisis whereas a struggling construction worker loses his home mortgage even after back breaking hours of labor. Politicians are able to successfully argue or enforce that the poorest of the population that may be struggling with food should not be given basic medical treatment by the state to avoid pain and suffering for themselves and their children if they cannot afford it. In countries such as India there is a system of party whip where a single party leader is able to issue a dictate to vote to all of the public representatives as he or she thinks right, and not as per their conscience or constituents, leading to a concentration of power in a few hands.

It may be argued that humans have evolved. A democratic government is obliged to introduce welfare measures in order to ensure votes. However even in monarchies welfare measures were common or monarchs ended up without their heads as Marie Antoinette of France. However, humans have evolved to the point that power has spread out from one to at least one percent. With further evolution it is hoped that it will spread from one percent to ten percent, twenty percent, thirty percent and eventually to all.

How can humans escape the rule of the few in a democracy? The answer is to vote in representatives that are honest, compassionate and funded by the people and not big money interests so that they work for the people rather than big money powers. If such persons cannot be found in mainstream parties than choose independent persons or small new parties. Do not worry that the mandate would be a fractured one. It is better than continued exploitation. It has happened in some countries of the world such as Uruguay where Jose Mujica was voted to power to usher in a new era of goodness. However such persons do not usually enter the race. If they do, a nation is lucky and they should grab the chance with open arms. On some occasions though it turns out that the people were mistaken and the person they thought was a good one was hypocritical and  turned out to be otherwise as happened in one of the Indian states recently. If that happens then get rid of such persons at the first opportunity and kick them out into the wilderness.