The Protectors of God

Religion, the Oxford dictionary defines as “belief in a superhuman controlling power especially in a personal God or gods entitled to obedience and worship”. In Hinduism, the oldest religion of the world, it is said that ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam‘ means the whole world is one single family. The concept has clearly been depicted as “ayam bandhurayam neti ganana laghuchetasam udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam” in the Maha Upanishad (Chapter 6, Verse 72) that means Only small men discriminate saying: One is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously the entire world constitutes but a family and is considered an integral part of the Hindu Philosophy. So, the question is today how many of us have the same ideology about the world? The recent unethical violence over the Islam movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’ has tormented several anguished questions that how can we bring a balance among different faiths in today’s hyper techno-science world? Should we take the help of science to bring peace among the divinities?or, Can the technology be of help to contribute to the balance of religious differences? And how can we ultimately assemble a path of harmonious arrangement and a legitimate secular mechanism in this diverse unsecularize world? These are definitely debatable questions on religions and conflicts that needs to be resolved in order to sustain spiritual peace and morality.

 Religion is as old as the human existence. Both Christianity and Hinduism teach that man and woman are made in God’s image. It is quite true that God is the most interesting idea of human beings and man is the only animal who worships, believes and spiritualizes God the way he believes. Man has been worshiping God in different ways, following his superiors, and this faith concept has been transformed with time and age. If we take a look at the different religions on the concept of God, every religion claims “God is one and he is great”, whether it is Allah in Islam or Vishnu in Hinduism or Jesus in Christianity, all regions give a message to man to follow the right path and righteousness. Dr. Zakir Abdul Karim Naik has compared various religions about God in ‘the concept of God in the major religions’. There is much similarity in the concept of God in both Hinduism and Islam: In Hinduism “Ekam evaditiyam” means “he is only one without a second” (Chandogya Upanishad 6:2:1), and in Islam “And there is none like unto him” (Holy Quran, 112:4). Furthermore, Hinduism says “Dev maha osi”, means “God is verily great” (Atharvaveda 20 58:3) and in Islam, “he is the great, the most high” (The Holy Quran 13:9). Similarly, Sikhism describes God as “There exists but one God, who is called the true the creator, free from fear and hate, immortal not begotten, self-existant, Great and compassionate” (Sri Guru Sahib Volume1, Verse I), whereas Judaism says, “Hear, O Israel: The lord our God is one God” (The Bible, Deut 6:4). In the whole Bible, Jesus never proclaimed himself God but as the son of God “My father is greater than I” (John 14:28), and “My father is greater than all” (John 10:29), and Islam gives a clear concise concept of God in four verses of Surah Ikhlas, chapter 112 of the Holy Quran: “Say: He is Allah, the one and only. Allah, the Eternal, Absolute. He begets not, nor is he begotten. And there is none like unto him” (The Holy Quran 112:1-4). And Hinduism says “He is One and only One, Sustains entire universe, Omnipresent, Formless (Omnivorous), All-Powerful (Almighty, Omnipotent), Perfect, Omniscient, Unborn, Eternal and supports us always. He alone should be worshiped”(Yajurveda 40.8). Whereas, in Rigveda, one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism, says “Ishwar alone provides true knowledge to truth seekers. He alone is promoter of knowledge and motivates virtuous people into noble actions to seek bliss. He alone is the creator and manager of the world. Hence never worship anyone else except one and only Ishwar” (Rigveda 10.49.1). Edwin H. Bryant (2003) in his book Krishna: the beautiful legend of God; Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa describes Ishwar, the Sanskrit word for God, as “a being with extraordinary powers”, and the ISKCON in ‘in the heart of Hinduismdefines the meaning of Ishwar as ‘controller’. Also, we should not be confused that Allah is an Arabic word which means God, Muslim prefers to call Allah instead of God. So, all religious faiths are ideologically important to their respective followers.

No religion says to engage in wrong paths, violence, unethical means and conflicts. But, It is sober that a few anti-religious people may create havoc among different faiths which causes conflicts, riots and religious contamination following the denigration of their religious idealism. When we come to the stage of divinity and religious faith, we have to consider all religions equally and there should not be a place of hatredness whether it is Islam, Chrstianity, Jewish, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Bahai Faith etc. Respecting other religious faiths, Jesus said “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold…” (John 10:16). Furthermore, S. Radhakrishnan in the ‘Conflicts of Religions: the Hindu attitude (1926)’ mentioned that the edicts of Ashoka’s rocks respects all religious harmony – “The King, beloved of the Gods, honors every form of religious faith, but considers no gift or honor so much as the increase of the substance of religion; whereof this is the root, to reverence one’s own faith and never to revile that of others.Whoever acts differently injures his own religion whi1e he wrongs another’s”. The ongoing religious battle between Islam and Christianity, the two largest religions of the world which accounted 54% followers of the total population, is a critical concerned for the world.

The modern monotheism has profoundly been contributing and developing interfaith fear and hostility and is emphasizing on the negative side of religion; what Eric Brahm (2005) mentioned about the serious of religious conflicts in ‘Religion and Conflict’ that the Human society has been witnessing, whether it is Myanmar and Burma: Budhhists vs Christians 1948, or Israel and Palestine: jews vs Arabs, Muslisms vs Christians 1968, or Northen Ireland 1969 Catholic vs Protestants, or Iraq 1991 Sunnittes vs Shiites, and Egypt 1977 Muslims vs. Central government (Muslim) Muslims vs. Coptic Christians, and India (Uthar- Pradesh) 1992 Hindus vs. Muslims, these religious conflicts have caused various violences, chaos and humongous societal devastation – structural, cultural, high intensity and low intensity . The religious extremism that contributes to conflict escalation often forms illiberal nationalism which leads to intolerance and discrimination and these conflicts are often of asymmetric order.

The Human history has been witnessing the series of conflicts among polytheism, monotheism and agnosticism. With the multi-spiritualism, man is becoming a victim of superstitions developing personal Gods. To realize God, Man has created Gods of religions and even ‘personal God’ what Karen Armstrong says “dangerous”. Man likes to see God everywhere, at home or in the church, mosque, temple or gurudwar, his curiosity to know God has never been exhausting. Whether it is home God, temple God, man is still confused that God is one and he likes to call him in different names. Karen Armstrong in her book “A History of God” mentioned “Yet a personal God can become a grave liability. He can be a mere idol carved in our own image, a projection of our limited needs, fears and desires” and she further added that “strange as it may seem, the idea of ‘God’, like the other great religious insights of the period, developed in a market economy in a spirit of aggressive capitalism”. What is the reality of God when a Hindu believes everything as God – sky, air, tree, water, book, rice etc. The God of things has become a complex ambiance.

Religious dogmatism creates belligerent righteousness which marginalizes God and becomes the roots of organized religion and conflict. The concept of freedom of expression is being misused and both religious fundamentalists and atheists come into clashes. There is an ongoing debate on the existence of God between theists and atheists. Be it the Darwin or Einstein or the British physicist Hawkins, they never let God as a power and creator of the universe but has developed their own theories of the origins of the universe which are yet to be proved. Atheist author Christopher Hitchens’s ‘God is not great’ contends that organized religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, and bigotry, and in The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that belief in a personal god qualifies as a delusion. Religion is not what a person or a group of persons thinking about, because a cult is often based ecstasy and moral exemplars. So, hipsters always get a flak from devout and religion needs freedom the science. Above all, free expression should not act as blasphemy and heresy.

The Modern monotheism lacks the respect of other faiths which is exacerbating polarization. Whether it is Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ or Sam Bacile’s movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’, they come along as an intense attack on religious bigotry. The modern world that is bestowed with different history and culture urges for the Ecumenism. Religious peace is very essential for the development of this world, be it science or technology, religion or philosophy, religious harmonization becomes inevitable. Today, man has created many Gods and becomes the protector of the Gods. Science that often conflicts with religion may not be helpful in religious harmonization but people, government and religious leaders have to unify against all the demigods. Today the world needs spiritual awakeness and religious consciousness among different faiths. And we still need to realize Dr. Radhakrisnan’s lecture that “To despise the other people’s gods is to despise them, for they and their gods are adapted to each other” which can definitely bring spiritual peace and prosperity in the world. 

Picture credit: http://www.kauaicarverstore.com/ku-kealoha-protector-of-god-the-love/

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The Crisis of another World: Eurozone

No one has thought that the rising eurozone will ever face a financial dogmatism. European Union, once considered as a potential rival to the US, the world’s largest economy, is today increasingly losing its stance and is suffering a clear leadership failure. Both financial pundits and diplomatic psychoanalysts are describing the EU as ‘no-hoper zone’ with no consistency on its future role. Today the analysts are finding a bit difficulty to analyze the ‘herd behavior’ of the EU and are questioning about the stability of its single currency. Eurozone needs a strong leader who will stabilize its economy and restore its rising growth. Due to increasing fragile of financial credibility and political destabilization in some of its member states, the EU is today suffering the hypersensitivity of its position, dignity and power to its rivals. Greece, with foreign debt 200% of its GDP and an average debt of 38,073 euro per person, is heavily indebted to eurozone countries and the biggest fear is the factor of ‘contagion’ that its financial catastrophe could have a similar effect to other member countries. Spain with 41,366 foreign debts per person with a 67% govt. debt to GDP is increasing pressurizing not only on EU but also the global economy. Italy, the third largest economy in the EU and the seventh largest in the world in terms of nominal GDP, is a country of concern today. The recent leadership changes from the most controversial leader Berlusconi to a technocratic leader Monti, Italy is expecting an immediate solution to its economic imbalance and the rising unemployment issues which is continuously decreasing the consumer demand and is a big concerned to the EU leaders.

 

The heyday of the EU is significantly unimportant today as the huge financial damages the union is suffering has become a serious burden. Though its leaders are profoundly focusing on grand strategy to pitch a sustainable solution to the collateral damages, even Paris and Berlin could not reach in a conclusion how to tackle this biggest financial cost ever since its unification. The issue of containment has become a huge debate among the EU leaders as the eurozone is enormously failed to make a mark on its diplomatic policies. So, the financial price of diplomatic disintegrity has triggered its economy down and member countries are trying to calculate the cost of the relationship damage which analysts describe ‘very unsystematic’. Though the United States is preparing for a painful adjustment to shape the economy, but the question of recent bond crisis and longstanding instability of sovereign debts of some of the member countries are constantly a matter of ambiguity. The financial irregularity and the fiscal irresponsibility are factors of growing concern today and the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) countries have recently revaluated the price of risk. Mr. Monti’s “rigorous consolidation” of its public finance may not yield an immediate result and Ms. Merkel’s ‘can do speech’  “we will do everything to defend the euro” does not tell how to do it.

 

As diplomatic issues are concerned, the litany of diplomatic failures in Europe should be analyzed carefully and the financial impact must be conceptualized.  The political storm in the Arab spring and diplomatic pressure in the Middle East are growing concern today for the whole world, and Washington, Berlin, and Jerusalem are trying hard to make a move.  Tehran’s tremendous move and increasing power could be a difficult task for the NATO and Europe and should well be prepared for the price of the consequence. The recent Palestine bid at the UN is still questioning about the peaceful solution. So, the authorities should calculate the cost of both diplomatic damage and financial mishandled before they face another critical crisis which could have unintended consequences.

 

N.B.: Foreign Debt per person and GDP and Foreign Debts,      Source: Bank for International Settlements, IMF, World Bank, UN Population Division http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15748696

Social Capital

Social Capital has become an engaging factor and we all are serious to build up social capital. Many people are wondering about this unique scientific term. Social capital does not have a clear, undisputed meaning, for substantive and ideological reasons (Dolfsma and Dannreuther 2003; Foley and Edwards 1997).

Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ( Greek Philosopher Aristotle  384 – 322 BC)

Social capital is about the value of social networks, bonding similar people and bridging between diverse people, with norms of reciprocity (Dekker and Uslaner 2001; Uslaner 2001).

Social capital means a network of relationships between individuals and various entities. John Field’s (2003: 1-2) social capital theory emphasizes on ‘relationships matter’. Dekker and Uslaner (2001) wrote that social capital is fundamentally about how people interact with each other. So, how can we define the term social capital? The World Bank defines:

‘Social capital refers to the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society’s social interactions… Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions which underpin a society – it is the glue that holds them together’ (The World Bank 1999).

According to Robet Putman, the social capital guru:

Whereas physical capital refers to physical objects and human capital refers to the properties of individuals, social capital refers to connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. In that sense social capital is closely related to what some have called “civic virtue.” The difference is that “social capital” calls attention to the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when embedded in a sense network of reciprocal social relations. A society of many virtuous but isolated individuals is not necessarily rich in social capital’ (Putnam 2000: 19).

So, Social capital is all about a relationship between individuals, entities and other social norms. It is very unique that it focuses on trusting relationship that add values, opportunities and possibilities which helps in promoting a quality life. It depicts about cultivating cultures, engagement, equality, trust, tolerance and solidarity.

Social capital is, in my view, an engaging experience of relationship of networks. It is all about how we are related to each other. We are considering three important factors – individual interest, shared interest and common interest. So, when these three interests mutually are engaged that provide an incentive in building social capital. With good quality of social capital, we can better deal with a ‘wasted opportunity’. The quality of our existence comes from the quality of social capital.

Social capital provides incentives to globalization, knowledge spillover, community development and human progress. When a society is unable to meet growth, it means, it is facing a huge deficit of social capital. Today’s non-profit organizations are undoubtedly helping the society creating social capital but the government and international bodies should provide appropriate platform to build social capital in order to face the future challenges.

Obama and American Leadership

The recent Libya crisis has brought tremendous dramatic changes in Obama’s new geopolitical landscape. Though president Obama is an enthusiastic advocate of Washington’s superpower, but  he is struggling hard to stabilize his domestic policy in order to restore his lost popularity for a second term. The history is quite familiar why Washington does not wait on London, Moscow and Beijing  to do its business. The recent leadership roles of Paris and London have shown that Europe  is ready to take a bigger role and responsibility and can focus effectively on international military to replace the American leadership.

Mr. Obama though always wants the oval office to play lead role and to renew its relinquishing global geopolitics, but his recent speech on reassignment of leadership surprised many both at home and abroad. Mr. Obama at the state department day speech in January 2009 added that:

“Let there be no doubt about America’s commitment to lead. We can no longer afford drift, and we can no longer afford delay, nor can we cede ground to those who seek destruction. A new era of American leadership is at hand, and the hard work has just begun.”

He recently said on Libya crisis:

“American leadership is essential”.

“Our goal is focused, our cause is just”, he further added.

It is no doubt that the US remains the world’s indispensable power after the cold war of 45 years  prolonged protracted conflict and constant tension with Russia. The world policy makers agree that Pentagon is making continuous efforts to shape the global military and defense but the recent speech of Obama has questioned many why the US is relinquishing to take the lead role. Mr. Obama has already told the world leaders at U. N. General Assembly in 2009 –

“Those who “used to chastise America for acting alone in the world” it is time for a true “global response to global challenges,” including climate change, terrorism, endless conflicts and poverty.”

The Washington is now wishing allies to share responsibilities and help to solve the world problems with cooperation and shared leadership. Mr. Obama further added –

“We have sought in word and deed a new era of engagement with the world. Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility.”

The Libyan venture certainly provides a solid platform to calculate the financial price of leadership and political cost of consequence.  Though the analysts are expressing the leadership role a mere political motivation and blaming Obama not to act effectively, on the other hand, Mr. Serkozy’s dramatic venture on Paris’s international leadership role has been seen as a mere self-promotion ahead of  French presidential election. London’s role on Libya clearly focuses on why Mr. Cameroon is insisting a ‘no-fly zone’ and Mr. Prime Minister recently told the House of Commons that the alliance had a “tried and tested machinery” for running such a complex multi-national mission. The Arab world’s active involvement on international alliance for the first time, has raised many unanswered questions on american leadership.

The political pundits and the policy analysts are describing Mr. Obama as the weakest US leader ever and a dither. Though his national security advisors are continuously advising him, but the white house is facing a serious debate on its role on Libya crisis. The Obama doctrine has failed to give a clear and concise view to the conservative Americans. Is American leadership going to be collapsed? Will Pentagon lead the international defense? Will Moscow and Beijing replace  the US global policy or the talkative Europe will act to lead and shape international military order? These questions remain now unanswerable.

Picture courtesy: scrapetv.com

Is Obama shaping Geopolitics?

The large majority of Americans are thinking today Obama is no different than other US presidents.  The mid election result pushed Mr. Obama to do some changes both in his policies and international activities. It’s clear that Obama’s mere rhetoric no longer works to galvanize Americans to support for a second term. He is bargaining hard with his oval office position not only domestically but at international stage. Now, the question is – Is Obama working on to shape the Global Geopolitics?

The recent so expensive trip to India, which was criticized by many republicans, has shown a dramatic success as many analysts say it as a ‘Political Motivation’. Indeed, Obama’s more than 4,300 words long historic speech at Indian Parliament is one of  his best speech. Obama ‘s prolific speech has focused not only on India but also on Global Geopolitics.

On Pakistan: The President has heavily criticized Pakistan for not taking active action both on terrorism and Mumbai attackers. He explicitly said –

“We will continue to insist to Pakistan’s leaders that terrorist safe-havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks be brought to justice.”

Arguing that US will not meditate between the two conflicts nations, he made it clear that only people of two nations can resolve the Kashmir issue.

“We will continue to welcome dialogue between India and Pakistan, even as we recognize that disputes between your two countries can only be resolved by the people of your two countries.”

On India’s ambitious UNSC: Though analysts say it a mere political motivation, but, the body language of state politicians made it clear that Obama is their all time favorite leader.

“The just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate. That is why I can say today—in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.”

On Afghanistan: Insisting on US Army deployment, Obama said to the world that they will work on Afghanistan as long as the country does not succeed in their own security.

. “We’re making progress in our mission to break the Taliban’s momentum and to train Afghan forces so they can take the lead for their security. And while I have made it clear that American forces will begin the transition to Afghan responsibility next summer, I have also made it clear that America’s commitment to the Afghan people will endure. The United States will not abandon the people of Afghanistan—or the region—to the violent extremists who threaten us all.”

On Burma’s Dictatorship and Human Rights: Obama has strongly criticized Burma’s dictatorship and persuaded India to take responsibility to act.

Every country will follow its own path.  No one nation has a monopoly on wisdom, and no nation should ever try to impose its values on another.  But when peaceful democratic movements are suppressed—as in Burma—then the democracies of the world cannot remain silent.  For it is unacceptable to gun down peaceful protesters and incarcerate political prisoners decade after decade.  It is unacceptable to hold the aspirations of an entire people hostage to the greed and paranoia of a bankrupt regime.  It is unacceptable to steal an election, as the regime in Burma has done again for all the world to see.

Faced with such gross violations of human rights, it is the responsibility of the international community—especially leaders like the United States and India—to condemn it.  If I can be frank, in international fora, India has often avoided these issues.  But speaking up for those who cannot do so for themselves is not interfering in the affairs of other countries.  It’s not violating the rights of sovereign nations.  It’s staying true to our democratic principles.  It’s giving meaning to the human rights that we say are universal.  And it sustains the progress that in Asia and around the world has helped turn dictatorships into democracies and ultimately increased our security in the world.

On Nuclear Weapons: Remembering his controversial Noble prize, Obama reiterated and gave importance on world without nuclear power.

Since I took office, the United States has reduced the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and agreed with Russia to reduce our arsenals.  We have put preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism at the top of our nuclear agenda, and strengthened the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime—the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

We can make it clear that even as every nation has the right to peaceful nuclear energy, every nation must also meet its international obligations—and that includes the Islamic Republic of Iran.  And together, we can pursue a vision that Indian leaders have espoused since independence—a world without nuclear weapons.


Free Trade: Mr. President has once again explained the importance of free trade and said, the US market is always open to the whole world. He further argued that the major economies should work together for our mutual growth and to re -balance the world economy and to strengthen the international financial system.

Together we can resist the protectionism that stifles growth and innovation. The united states remains – and will continue to main-one of the most open economies in the world. By opening markets and reducing barriers to foreign investment, India can realize its full economic potential as well.

Obama at G20 summit: Defending his country’s foreign policy, for pumping of $600bn into the economy to boost the recovery, obama said –

“In a prudent, stable way, we want to make sure that we are boosting growth rates at home as well as abroad. It is difficult to do that if we start seeing the huge imbalances redevelop that helped to contribute to the crisis that we just went through.”

Obama defined at G20 summit in Seoul that “Shared Interest” can only be a solution to re-balance the world economy. He said that the US alone could not restore balance growth and asked the major economies to do their part.

“When all nations do their part… we all benefit from higher growth.”

On International Trade: Mr. Obama explained that only production can lead the world into bankruptcy and insists on to increase the world consumptions.

“We all now recognize that the foundation for a strong and durable recovery will not materialize if American households stop saving and go back to spending based on borrowing.

“Yet, no one country can achieve our joint objective of a strong, sustainable, and balanced recovery on its own.

“Just as the United States must change, so too must those economies that have previously relied on exports to offset weaknesses in their down demand.”

On China’s Currency Devaluation: Obama implicitly pledged the G20 major economies to act on currency devaluation.

“that helped to contribute to the crisis that we just went through”.

“Exchange rates must reflect economic realities.”

“Emerging economies need to allow for currencies that are market-driven. This is something that I raised with President Hu of China and we will closely watch the appreciation of China’s currency.”

From the above, it is quite clear that Mr. Obama is working hard not to restore his image but also to restore the American dream. He once said during his presidential inauguration speech ““Well I do not accept second-place for the United States of America. As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may be, it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.”

His oval office is ready to act whether it is Iran or China or any European country and he made it clear that America is no way going to tolerate any monopoly on wisdom. But, It does not seem Obama can get success overn. He has to work and act continuously and we have to wait to see whether Obama will able to make a second term.

Picture Courtesy: http://www. thecurrent.theatlantic.com

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