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 Blooming Stars

Insane Culture

            We have an insane culture that breeds pervasive distrust ending in paranoia, a major mental disorder. Historically we had immoral laws that defended racism and casteism resulting in violations of major human rights. Currently we have immoral laws that bar women from places of worship and priestly roles in religious institutions. Interestingly, these discriminatory laws are made on the basis of our own interpretations of revelations or traditions.

            Three insane categories that are widely used to distinguish cultural groups are race, caste, and class. While I admire Gandhiji in many respects, I wonder how he missed the blatant discrimination so obvious in casteism, even though he condemns superiority, discrimination, or privileges on the basis of caste or varna. His argument for varna (social class; literally it means color) on the basis of idealistic spiritualizing of the problem is not at all convincing. Eminent social reformers like Sri Narayana Guru and B. R. Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Indian Constitution and the first law minister of India, rightly challenged Gandhiji’s views on caste/varna.

            Ambedkar, an intellectual giant who acted on integrity, principles, and convictions and who has not yet been given the place he rightly deserves in our society, made his last speech to the Constituent Assembly entrusted with the task of writing the Constitution of India on November 25, 1949. His speech was remarkable in that he sounded three warnings related to anarchy (unconstitutional methods of achieving social and economic objectives), hero-worship, and social democracy beyond the basic political democracy that came with independence. These warnings are very relevant especially today.

            With blind westernization that has nothing to do with modernization, the way the new upper and middle class rich spend money to impress others on occasions of weddings, birthdays, death anniversaries, and other occasions of celebrations is scandalous when many persons do not even have the very basic necessities of life. Some celebrate these occasions on borrowed money. There are persons who borrow knowing well that they would not be able to pay their loans back. With run-away materialism symbolized by mindless consumerism, lifestyle diseases are becoming common in affluent sections of our society.

            When I experience certain Christians putting on airs of importance and status of prestige by diligently setting apart themselves from common persons lest they be diminished, I wonder if they know the teachings of Christ who said if anyone did anything worthwhile however small to the least human being, he/she did it to him. The irony of it all is that these very same people would talk highly and eloquently about, say, Mother Theresa who was canonized as a saint precisely on account of her dedicated life to the least humans. They also will be the first persons who will be burning candles in front of her shrines that will, I am sure, sprout all over shortly. When I visit some persons in Kerala I am reminded of a British comedy series called Keeping up Appearances that used to be broadcast on Public Broadcasting system in the US where the lady of the house would go to any length to impress her neighbors by presenting herself as better cultured than others. Her laid-back husband would grudgingly chug along with her antics in order not to court her displeasure.

            The pleasure of being oneself for who one is while taking care of others in the best way possible is the best medicine one can give to oneself. That kind of genuineness and authenticity is the best gift each one of us can give to God, and that also is the best antidote to insanity that is present in cultures all over the world.

 

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