23 Jul 2015

Why 'Secularism' is making Monkeys Out of Us

Disclaimer: This post is not aimed at any religion or people of specific beliefs. It is aimed at those pseudo-secularists who consider themselves ‘vigilantes’ and ‘protectors of justice’.

In a particularly popular experiment, some scientists put 3 monkeys in a cage. The cage also had a ladder. A bunch of bananas was tied to the celling of the cage. The monkeys could get to it once they climbed the ladder. The catch, however, was that every time a monkey was within touching distance of the bananas, the scientists induced a shock (a controlled shock. Animal activists please don’t wet your pants). Eventually, the monkeys decided that it was wise to not reach for the bananas.

The scientists then added a new monkey to the cage. The first thing it tried was to climb the ladder (duh! Bananas!). But no sooner did the monkey start climbing than it was beaten by the others. Every time the monkey tried to climb the ladder it got whacked. Eventually it stopped trying too. None of the monkeys ever reached for the bananas though the scientists had stopped inducing the shock.

After a few days, the 3 monkeys who were a part of the experiment when it began, were replaced with a new one. This is where things got interesting. Though the monkey which was already in the cage didn't know about the shock, it continued beating the one who tried climbing the ladder. This continued for every monkey who was put in the cage. No monkey was allowed to climb the ladder, but none of them knew why. 

If you guessed that we are the monkeys, the media and politicians are the scientists, and the current ideologies of ‘secularism’ are the bananas, you’ve got it right.

What is your understanding of secularism? I’m guessing it is inclusive living, where every religion has the right to justice, equality and a dignified life. (Leave a comment if I am wrong). Sanskriti magazine puts it well:

“Secularism in India is not an empty slogan or mere cosmetic - it is the very basis of Hindu beliefs and that is why a common Hindu is still ashamed of Babri Masjid demolition (sic) while a Muslim - of Hindu ancestry - has no qualms or shame of the destruction of tens of thousands of Hindu temples by Muslim invaders.”

However, this… this current environment is not inclusive living. It is divisive politics. We have become so immune to divisive politics that if ‘minorities’ don't get additional benefits over the majority, we call it anti-secular. We beat each monkey who thinks about challenging the status quo. Why? Because it’s been like this for 60 years of the Congress rule. And we have survived. So this is the only way.

Think this is over-the-top? Think I’m being irrational? Well, let’s look at some scenarios.

Madrasas in Maharashtra don’t teach English, math or science. It wouldn’t be rocket science to imagine their version of history (please point out if I’m wrong with solid proof). The State government still pumps in ₹100 crore each year into these schools, and talks of modernizing the madrasas are always on-going. But when the State government says that madrasas which don’t teach formal subjects cannot be deemed schools (understandably), it leads to an outrage. Define logic.

Over 50 lakh imams have been paid their salaries from the government of India since 1994. Forget Hindu priests getting the same benefit, it is reported that the Karunanidhi-led DMK government swindled about 200 kg of gold in gold-plating vimanas and golden chariots schemes in various temples. Reports also say that while the annual earning of the Tirupathi temple is over ₹3,500 crore, only about 15 percent is used for the development of the temple. The remaining funds are diverted by the State government (which comprises mostly of Hindus) to non-Hindu purposes, leaving Hindu priests poorly paid and pilgrims poorly taken care of. (source)

Let’s take another news which has been in the public eye for too long: Church vandalism. We repeatedly read about how churches are being vandalized, and how the minority Christians are feeling unprotected under the current government. Six specific incidents of church attacks were reported in the media. But upon investigation, the following facts came out; facts which were barely mentioned in main stream media: In one incident a group of kids playing outside threw stones and one shattered the church's window pane (how communal today’s kids are!). Another incident, where a church was ‘set on fire’, was the result of a short circuit. Yet another reported incident where a small group of men allegedly vandalized a church turned out to be a drunken dare. And the fourth was a case of genuine burglary with no communal angle. Speaking of burglaries, while 3 churches (out of about 200 in Delhi) were robbed in 2014, 206 temples, 14 mosques and 30 gurdwaras were burgled in the same period. Does this really have a communal angle to it? Well, if you are one of those pseudo-secularist left-wingers, everything has a communal angle to it.

Let’s also consider the ever-controversial subject of conversion of religion. We have heard of instances of Love Jihad, or how Hindus convert to Christianity for monetary benefits, but never in the media (if this ever is published in mainstream media, it’s in some remote corner of a boring financial news section). But immediately after the BJP government came into power, news of ghar-wapsi started making the headlines, and the pseudo-secularists, led by the Congress, demanded that this be addressed. Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah said that they were ready to graft an anti-conversion bill, and requested the opposition’s cooperation on it. Since then, all the opposition parties have been silent. Only we are screaming about it, saying that the current government is trying to make this a pro-Hindutva country, like this Facebook status update. The work of the scientists (read politicians and media) is done. Now they just have to sit back and laugh while we monkeys continue whacking each other.

Compare this with the absence of news on alleged atrocities against Hindus in Mallapuram and other locations in India.

Current governments dole out loads of cash to minorities to make life ‘easier for them’. In many states, minority girls belonging to the lower economic strata get ₹50,000 each for their marriage. In UP, Akhilesh Yadav has allotted ₹30,000 for every 10th pass Muslim girl to study further, and has created reservations for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutes. Good. But what wrong have Hindus done to not deserve this ‘princely’ treatment? Why are there no calls for equality now?

Another question that begs to be asked: Are Muslim girls better off with the money provided for their marriages? Do these cash handouts reach them in the first place? I don’t know. But I know one thing. Regardless of these doles, the poor end up right back in the hellhole which they want to leave. Only political parties and religious governing bodies get richer. We, on the other hand, applaud their generosity and 'secularist mindset' without knowing whether it actually is beneficial. And if someone challenges this notion, we verbally beat the daylights out of the person. Well done monkeys. Are these your ideas of ‘secularism’ and ‘democracy’?

Yes, Hindus have been more tolerant by nature for centuries. This is probably why Gandhi said “Hindu is a coward and Muslim is a bully.” I don’t agree. In fact, I don’t agree with a lot of things Gandhi said or did. Muslims, Christians, and people of all religious faiths are accommodative, and they love this country which they live in. But I am surprised about how restricted our understanding of secularism is. I’m surprised about how we feel that the ‘Hindutva’ government is doing everything in its power to hurt minorities, but turn a blind eye to the plight of the vast majority at the hands of some misguided groups.

The current government is driven by rationale. Yes, by now you have figured that I am a Modi supporter. Yes, the government makes mistakes and some policies may prove counter productive. And it is good to question them and keep them on their toes. But stop looking at every thing from a ‘secularist’ perspective and start looking for development from a country’s perspective. Stop being a monkey and start being a sensible human.

If you genuinely want to promote secularism, look at yourself as an Indian first. Stop thinking of yourself as a Hindi, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Malayali, Tamil, etc. Support governments which aim to empower people of all religions to live with dignity, rather than on handouts. This dignity comes with growth for all sections in the country. This growth occurs through more jobs, a business-friendly environment and better infrastructure. People will earn more, send their children to better schools, and improve their lifestyles. All this will help our country progress. Look for information in the right avenues, not what mainstream media is feeding you. It does what it does to make money. And then it laughs its way to the bank while we foolishly scream and outrage.

I love my country and countrymen. They’re “my brothers and sisters”, (except the one who marries me). I respect every religion and people’s rights to follow it. As citizens of a secularist country, it is our duty to accommodate and empower every religion to live by its philosophies. But that doesn’t mean that I will give you my other cheek if you slap me on one. It doesn't mean that I believe the crap when perpetrators portray themselves as the victims. I have matured. It’s time you do too.

image courtesy: Google Images

16 Jul 2015

What it Really Takes to Achieve Long Lasting Success

Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest-ranking United States military officer to be imprisoned during the Vietnam war. He was held prisoner for 8 long years without any rights, release date, or certainty about whether he would survive. Upon release, Admiral Stockdale was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Jim Collins, author of the bestselling book Good to Great, met Stockdale after that. Collins asked him how he survived. “I never lost faith in the story. I never doubted that I would not only get out and prevail in the end but also convert this experience into a defining event of my life”, he said. The next obvious question followed: “Who didn’t make it out?” The answer to the question was as unexpected as snowfall in summer. “The optimists”, answered Stockdale. “They kept saying that we would be out by Christmas. Christmas then became Easter, which became Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again.” The optimists died of broken hearts more than physical torture.

Optimism - the hope that things will get better - is a trait which all human beings possess. What differentiates us is how long we can hold on to it. There are 2 kinds of optimists:

  1. The vast majority who expect things to get better instantly and give up when they don’t. Such people often blame the environment, conditions or other people for their failure, without realizing that they either needed to change their perspective or were remarkably close to success when they gave up.
  2. The almost-negligible minority who possess eternal optimism and eventually succeed. They live by the quote: “Everything is okay in the end. If it is not okay, it isn’t the end.” These people persevere with a goal until they achieve it, no matter what.

But merely possessing the optimism that you will eventually prevail is not enough. You must be able to face the hard, brutal facts, and do something about it. Admiral Stockdale possessed these traits in abundance. He confronted the fact that he wouldn’t make it out of incarceration by simply waiting to be released. So he shouldered command and did everything he could to increase the number of prisoners who would survive the ordeal without breaking down mentally. He realized that no one can face torture indefinitely, and devised step-wise systems to ensure that the men had something to look forward to. For instance, saying certain things after x minutes to a person being tortured, an internal communication system to reduce the sense of isolation among prisoners that the captors were trying to induce. Stockdale and his men followed these systems with military-esque discipline (no pun intended).

There is nothing wrong in being an optimist. In fact, possessing this trait is commendable. But expecting things to magically fall in place is where most people often mess things up. Do you know how many people have quit, and how many companies have failed because they refused to acknowledge what they saw in the mirror and lacked the discipline to fix it? Yes, you need discipline. Discipline is not following a strict routine; it is doing things that matter consistently till you achieve the desired results.

Let me relate a personal experience with you. I own a Yamaha RD350, which also happens to be MS Dhoni’s favorite motorbike. It was in rickety shape when I bought it. I gave it to a mechanic who promised to restore it back to its glory days. To cut a long story short, he fleeced me of a lot of money and left the bike worse off. He also turned a good friend against me. Another friend, who also owns a similar bike, advised me to sell it and go for something more modern. At that time, I underwent a surgery, and lost out on a potential promotion as a result. My whole world was crumbling. I cried for days. But I resolved that I would fix both the bike and my friendship, no matter what it took. For a year, I asked people for help with the bike, but nothing moved. Then, I met an unassuming mechanic who said that he was leaving Mumbai for good in 3 weeks. He surveyed the bike and said that he could fix some urgent issues, and that I could take care of the rest gradually. But getting the other work done from someone I didn’t know could land me in the same soup again. I was faced with two choices. I could either let him finish the difficult part and then find someone else to restore the bike cosmetically. Or I could push the limits and get everything done in 3 weeks. For three weeks that followed, my schedule was: work from 3:30 am - 12:30 pm (I worked at a call centre then), have lunch and leave by 2 with the mechanic to buy parts, return by 5 and work with him on the bike till 9:30 at night, sleep by 11 and wake up by 2:30 to get ready for work. After 3 weeks, when I unveiled the bike to my friends, the sheer admiration in their eyes when they rode it was the icing on the cake. The cake, of course, was that I had a gorgeous-looking beast in my garage which was the envy of many boys and men in the locality. And oh! Everything eventually worked out with the friend with whom my relation was strained. To this day, we remain good friends.

I don’t mean to brag, but I displayed each of the important traits for those 3 weeks: the belief that I would eventually prevail, facing the brutal facts, and self-discipline. If I achieved all this in 3 weeks, imagine what you can do in 3 years!

Remember, you can achieve everything that you set your sights on. It is going to be difficult, very difficult. If excellence was easy or mediocre, everyone would achieve it. And that would make us lose out on the fun of pursuing something with our hearts and minds, sticking to it, and eventually coming out on top. There would be no difference between Beethoven and a rookie musician, or Sachin Tendulkar and any other cricketer. That would suck, right?

I hope you realize that there is a lot more that goes into being successful than what self-help books prescribe. Being likable, having a good posture, maintaining eye contact, speaking well etc. are all fine. But what you really need to do to be respected and successful is to excel at something. And to excel, you have to work your ass off. You have to face the truth, however harsh it may be, possess remarkable self-discipline to do the right thing at the right time, and believe that you will eventually prevail.

What are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear from you.
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