The World of Intolerance


The world is becoming more intolerant. This is a fact, and not fake news!

I am here specifically referring to intolerance within a society, or towards immigrants in a society. This intolerance is a by-product of animosity which has always existed in any society towards minority religions, minority races, and immigrants from economically disadvantaged countries. Immigrants include asylum seekers who are facing religious or racial persecution in their own countries. Immigrants include folks who just want a better life for their children and who are fleeing countries like Venezuela where their own currency is completely worthless. Apart from immigrants, any society has built-in, embedded fault lines. In some societies, these are well managed and duly contained by governmental and social leadership. In some other societies, these fault lines manifest in terms of on and off violence towards other religions or races which fall under the minority category.

The entire world has been witnessing the serious fault lines in the U.S. society, where minority freedoms are under serious threat (there has always been a serious issue in the U.S. when it comes to minority rights) in the vicious atmosphere created by President Trump’s utterances, and the increasingly reckless shootings of unarmed Blacks by the police. I laugh when the U.S. State Department issues their reports on religious and racial freedom issues in other countries – I am not belittling such issues, but how can the U.S. take the high moral ground when its own house is in serious disarray? But then, there is no other nation which issues such reports, and we need to really know the status in the countries that the U.S. is pointing fingers at. It would be better if the U.N. does its job properly, but unfortunately it does not perform the “policing” and “monitoring” activities well when it comes to religious and racial persecution – and if it does, then it always comes very late, by the time most damage is already done. The U.N. also does not have the moral high ground as it listens to the powerful countries which fund its operations more than the poorer countries where most issues are present. The U.N. also does not have the guts to investigate similar issues in the most powerful countries such as the U.S.

When right-wing political parties take power in democratic nations, the problem of intolerance gets accentuated. Why is this so? It is because the right-wingers resent the traditional libertarian left-wing activists, who elegantly combine their elitism with egalitarianism. The right-wingers generally wear their likes and dislikes on their sleeves, and are mostly dominated by religious and racist tendencies leading to non-separation of powers between the state and the religion, even where such separation is mandated as in the U.S. or India. The emergence of right-wing governments in large, diverse countries is a serious cause of concern, though the fight has always got to be at the hustings and not in the streets. The problem with left-wing activists is that they are very quick to take to the streets and their activism could rapidly degenerate into street violence. That should be avoided at all costs, as such violence gives strong rationale for the right-wing governments to take retaliatory action and squelch any revolutionary tendencies.

The feeling of intolerance is insidious, it seeps into the veins – and it is trans-generational. The Black slavery matter is still a huge problem in the U.S. for the past three centuries, and the blatant discrimination of the Blacks in American society is no secret. The scar on the conscience of Whites is so bad that even Congressmen have started talking about reparations to the Black people. Universities are discussing about how to compensate Blacks for all the slavery and atrocities committed by White slave masters. I am no student of American history, and cannot comment further on what should be done, but all of us see the hugely negative media coverage about unarmed Blacks being shot at by mostly White policemen in American cities and counties. Such recurring problems are not prevalent in most other democratic countries, including India.

Why are people so influenced by race and religion?

There is no simple straightforward answer. It is a complex matter with no clear answer. Since “old” and even “middle-aged” folks cannot be changed easily, we have to rely on the education system to properly educate the next generation on such serious matters. Since we cannot depend just on self-policing by the society, the governments of the day have to legislate non-discrimination with violations to be punished vigorously. Law enforcement requires to be seriously educated, surely in the U.S., where guns are pulled out by the police at the drop of the hat and aimed at the head or chest rather than the leg!

All this does not address the emergence of right-wingism, unless the moderates come to the fore and fight the battle. Right-wing politicians prefer brute force in general, and law enforcement gets encouragement by such people; they push through their ideologies and policies in a rather vigorous manner, and create new intolerance in societies where none existed. They inflame passions wherein these were simmering just below the surface. Of course, they will claim that they want to change the country for the better, make it more secure, reclaim its past glory, et al. However, the intolerance quotient will keep raising, and will eventually damage the society at its core, like it has happened in the U.S.

I am not a left-winger. The best way to characterise me is that I am a moderate. But since I am liberal in my thoughts, it comes through as left-wing activism when I write on matters such as these. My preference is to seek a balance in whatever we do both in our personal life as well as social life. Government should be even more balanced, as it is the government for all of the citizens, not just for the people who voted for it to be elected to office.

So, let us carefully think about the imbalances and inequities in the society in which we live in. We are worthless if we cannot collectively address the problems in our society. We are also worthless if we do not grasp the inequalities in other societies and share our thoughts about such problems, as what happens in one society has influence in other societies. We are, at the end of the day, totally interlinked in this new world of social media, right?

Intolerance is insidious and should not be encouraged or tolerated in any society.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

11th May 2019

The Venezuelan Conundrum


Let me share my conclusion right at the beginning of this post. Given my original reading that foreign military forces should not invade Venezuela and kick out the current President Nicolas Maduro, my current conclusion is surprising. Though the recent elections which Mr Maduro won were considered to be heavily rigged, Venezuela still continues to be a socialist democracy, and my thinking was that it is not appropriate to intervene militarily in a democratic nation just because you do not like the current leadership.

So, what is the rationale for my revised conclusion that it would now be OK for a military overthrow of a democratically elected government?

Well, it is strange, but one cannot ignore the humanitarian crisis that has plunged Venezuela from one of the richest Latin American countries to the poorest country in about a span of two decades. Further, its economy has shrunk by half in the past 5 years. More than 10% of the population has fled from the country. Children are dying of malnutrition and shortage of essential medicines. Venezuela has the distinction of the first country ever to cross a million % inflation. People are not able to sustain their livelihood. Oil exports have fallen dramatically after the imposition of sanctions by the U.S., which was also Venezuela’s biggest oil consumer.

I do not agree that the way to punish a country is via sanctions which are designed to punish the government, but instead punishes the poor citizens. The U.S. has again erred in its judgement on sanctioning Venezuela. The sanctions have worsened an already very bad situation, while the government and the rich folks seem to be sailing along.

Juan Guaido, the self-appointed President, has been unable to secure the support of the military which appears to remain loyal to Nicolas Maduro. Guaido has the support of the U.S., Canada, the EU as well as many other countries.

But Maduro has the support of Cuba, Russia and China.

Venezuela is becoming the next flashpoint in the proxy war between the U.S. and Russia. Looking at what Russia was able to achieve in Syria, it is only natural that the U.S. should be concerned.

So, what is my conclusion?

Nicolas Maduro should go and there should be an interim government installed under the auspices of the United Nations. Russia and the U.S. should not play their hands in the manner in which Venezuela will be run or governed (though it is a tall order, as Juan Guaido has been open about his alignment with the U.S.). The United Nations should take immediate globally supported actions to address the humanitarian crisis, and provide food, medicines and other essential items to the long suffering Venezuelan people.

So, again, how is Maduro going to be dislodged?

That would require military intervention by the U.S., or a joint effort by the UN Security Council. Nicolas Maduro should be let go, instead of bombing him and his leadership – may be Cuba will receive him with honours. Russia should be able to protect its massive oil investments in the country without being dictated to by the incoming Venezuelan government. The sooner this happens, the better it is for Venezuela. Continuing the status quo, punctuated by weak protests organised by the Opposition and lack of support of the military, will only compound the crisis and make it the worst humanitarian disaster in the world itself.

So, this would require cooperation between Russia and the U.S. (China will just follow Russia’s lead), which would not be difficult to secure if both parties negotiate in good faith. The U.S. Congress should be ignored as they are totally against any form of cooperation with Russia. We are not talking about the U.S. here, we are talking about Venezuela and its humanitarian crisis, so let there not be any hurdles in the process of resolution.

This is what I think is the right approach given the ground situation, which remains unsolvable. Nicolas Maduro has to be told by the Russians to leave, and the military generals should be given an opportunity to work for the new government, or else they can go as well. A military intervention could just be a show of force supporting the Russian actions on the ground – no bombing or foreign boots on the ground might be necessary. This is not like Syria – people are not fighting against each other. The current government should just pack up and leave peacefully.

Looks like a big deal. May not happen at all.

But, there might be no other option.

Think about it – Juan Guaido is not going anywhere. Nicolas Maduro, however, can be “persuaded” by the Russians, instead of the U.S. who hate him and his guts. He can then survive an inevitable coup attempt which could occur in the future and the resultant incarceration.

Let us see how this develops in the next couple of weeks. It should be precipitated by intervention, no other choice.

Have a great week ahead, folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

5th May 2019

Schmoozing with no Outcome


You guessed it right this time?!!!

Yes, this post is about North Korea slipping away from the embrace of Donald Trump. It is apparent that Chairman Kim Jong Un was not taken in by the second charm offensive launched by Trump. He kept smiling during his second meeting with Trump, answered couple of press questions, and then just walked away, ensuring that Trump flew back to Washington without any deal. That was really hitting below the belt. Trump had hoped he could close a deal which could have accomplished what no other U.S. President had been able to achieve, thereby positioning him for a joint Nobel Peace Price along with Chairman Kim.

Looked entirely possible, given that Trump chose to have a direct dialogue with Chairman Kim, giving a honour which no head of North Korea ever received from a U.S. President. At the outset, it appeared that Chairman Kim reciprocated in good measure. But it was impractical and futile for Trump to demand a completely unilateral elimination of all nuclear warheads, nuclear facilities, nuclear-capable missiles, et al. Chairman Kim realized that the U.S. has not changed a wee bit in its negotiating strategy and approach. They will demand a complete and unilateral compliance, verify that all actions are irreversible, and keep demanding more while the sanction related suffering will continue unabated for North Korean people. It is rare when both sides of the equation balance perfectly in international relations, and when the most powerful nation on earth is involved, the equation will never balance. North Korea can quickly go down from a nuclear weapon state to a total underdog, begging for return favours when everything nuclear is destroyed in their country. No wonder Chairman Kim saw through all of this and came to the conclusion that it may not be worth the effort, work and honour.

Schmoozing with dictators is problematic at best, and destructive at worst. But when both sides have dictatorial leadership, then the outcome could be explosive. It could even lead to unexpected peace. However, as we saw in this potential history-making meetings between Trump and Kim, there was not much “meat”, there was no alignment in starting positions of the negotiation, there was also no congruence on the final outcomes. In any such broad-based negotiation, a number of entities would be involved from both sides, to ensure clarity and lay out the landscape with potential options to go for. There will be give and take, with concessions from either side. Any “hard” ideological position is doomed for failure. And that is exactly what happened with the intricate involvement of Mike Pompeo, a hardliner. Trump listens to him (one of the very people he has ears for). Chairman Kim is not a guy who can be dealt with in a hardline fashion – he appears to be proud of his pedigree and his nation and his accomplishments in the nuclear and missile space.

So Trump did not get his deal – at least in the way he and Pompeo wanted, and returned empty-handed with no clear commitment or way forward. He had hoped also to gain a huge boost for his re-election campaign with the North Korea deal firmly in the bag – but it was not to be.

All this demonstrates that diplomacy does not offer short cuts, or short term fixes. It requires concentrated preparation and strategy planning. It covers various scenarios and outcomes. Unconventional approaches like what Trump undertook are really challenging for everyone engaged as the adhoc nature of such approaches can produce unexpected and totally unpredictable outcomes like what happened at the summit in Vietnam.

Where does the peace process go from here?

No one knows!

Trump cannot will Kim into nuclear compliance, and he knows that. His attempts have so far been futile, and utterly useless from the perspective of getting North Korea to comply to U.S. wishes. In fact, more nuclear and missile work seems to have been restarted in North Korea. Trump cannot just wish away this intractable problem. Personal rapport with Kim is not going to get him any positive result.

Where does this situation leave Chairman Kim?

He is seeking support from both Russia and China, his traditional allies. He is on his long journey now to Moscow to meet with President Putin. Where does that leave Trump?

In a hole, I guess.

No Nobel Peace Prize, no re-election boost. Schmoozing does have its limits, and I am surprised that a guy who wrote “The Art of the Deal”, is now left high and dry in a situation from which he will find it difficult to extricate. Neither can he attack North Korea militarily, as that would not be compatible with his peace-driven strategy.

Look at how both elected and unelected leaders can ram themselves by placing unsustainable expectations on the potential outcomes from what they both thought were peace overtures. Also expecting a rapid result and resolution of a problem which is some 7 decades old is totally unrealistic, and the whole world knew it. We are not living in a fools’ paradise, right?

So there goes another golden chance for Trump to make a name for himself as a trailblazer in the arcane world of international diplomacy.

Look for more such debacles as he fights multiple battles against an established system of diplomacy and governance around the world.

Cheers, and have a great week ahead,

Vijay Srinivasan

7th April 2019

The Third World War


The Third World War could be coming in the 21st Century battle for world dominanace.

You guessed it probably wrong.

It will not be between Russia and the Western Allies. Russia is economically weak, with a declining population. Just launching new weaponry and relying on oil money alone are not adequate strengths to fight a determined West – these could, at best, act as deterrents for the West to launch a preemptive attack on Russia, that’s all.

The real 3rd World War would not involve all of the West. It would be between the #1 military and economic superpower, the U.S., and the #2 superpower, China. There are many reasons why this war is inevitable. Apart from the Trade War that is currently playing on, the U.S. is deeply worried about the gradual, and sometimes, rapid buildup of the China military might which is visible on the land, the high seas, and increasingly in air and space. The U.S. is also deeply bothered about the increasing capability of China to penetrate cyber defences of the U.S., and is trying to push its allies not to sign up with Huawei for 5G technology roll-out, which it thinks will compromise Western security efforts.

Most critically, the U.S. is worried about the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative of China, which has started to win Western supporters. Last week, Italy signed on for this scheme. The rest of Europe is also apparently tilting towards OBOR, going by the strongly positive reception accorded to President Xi Ping in European capitals last week. This initiative is akin to the soft power enjoyed by the U.S. over the past several decades, which no other nation has been able to replicate.

China also feels seriously wronged by various Western invasions and the Japanese war and occupation. It wants to assert its historical pre-eminence, which is one reason it has laid claim to all of South China Sea. Most Asian countries have been falling in line with China’s soft (and sometimes hard) push towards adoption of OBOR, with the exception of India and Australia. The U.S. will never sign up, of course.

Due to all of the above factors, and several more, the trust level between these two superpowers has been dropping over the past couple of years. The sudden and unexpected emergence of a U.S. President in Donald Trump, who could challenge China in an open and brazen manner, has upset China no end. China has struggled to grapple with this grave matter, with no resolution in sight. Obviously it cannot fight with its biggest customer in the world. Its inability to squash the U.S. in this Trade War has seriously dented its position and confidence, from which it is trying hard to recover. All the past U.S. Presidents have been playing along with China in its own game, without causing much trouble despite brief skirmishes on policy matters. Trump is the first President who boldly demanded China change its policies and behaviour, with an enforcement mechanism to ensure that it sticks to its promises. And, his cabinet team is working hard to deliver on Trump’s expectations.

China is never going to give up on its ambitions. The huge challenge for the rest of the world is the one posed by China: how to allow the inevitable yet peaceful rise of China on the world stage, while acknowledging its superior position in both economic and military affairs. China is going to fight with all its might when it senses a danger posed to its ambitions. We have seen that time and again.

China also realizes that taking on the U.S. on its own, despite its economic power, is currently unrealistic. It also knows that even friendly Asian countries will not support its fight against the U.S. After all, the U.S. is the biggest client for most large trading nations. There is no way that these countries are going to be persuaded to join in a trade war fight against their biggest customer.

Military issues, on the other hand, are completely different. China has been flexing its military muscle regularly, exposing its power to nations which keep opposing its rise on the world stage. It is building its second aircraft carrier, enhancing the accuracy of its ICBMs and nuclear weapons, building a modern submarine fleet, and launching a new fighter jet. It may not have the breadth and depth of the U.S. military, but China keeps improving and constantly enhancing its military capabilities.

So, within the next couple of years, a sea skirmish is surely possible. But more importantly, China might attack Taiwan which it calls a breakaway renegade province. Under a U.S. law enacted in the Seventies, the U.S. is supposed to protect Taiwan from foreign aggression. While no one knows how this will play out, it is entirely possible that President Xi Zinping could gather sufficient courage to launch a limited attack. Such an action is not inconceivable, especially if the party insisting on complete independence is returned to power again in the next elections in Taiwan.

Such an attack could potentially launch the world into uncharted waters. A Third World War could then start. It will be difficult to identify who will support China against the U.S. May be Russia, but then Russia will never jump into an actual war. So this may not be a “world” war, but one fought between the #1 and the #2 superpowers on the Taiwan issue.

Once a war is on its way, no telling where it will go and how it will end. Wiser and cooler heads will prevail way before the war actually starts. Hopefully the conflict will be averted, but no one knows.

I think it is entirely possible given the pressures on both sides of the equation.

We have to worry about such an eventuality. Geopolitical considerations might avert the war, but then there is the highly emotive factor of China’s pride. Don’t you think it is critical to assess this big thing at our backyard?

Cheers, and have some good wine on a Saturday evening while thinking about conflicts and wars,

Vijay Srinivasan

30th March 2019

Theresa May’s Chaotic Nation


As every week passes, the U.K. is teetering towards the edge of a dangerous precipice. We are seeing this getting played out on TV almost every day, and wondering what is it that intelligent, educated folks in the most civilized and developed region of the world could not resolve to their mutual satisfaction.

As is to be expected, the U.K. thinks that it always has a “superior” edge compared to any other nation or bloc in the world, and it is not just “any other” country. It is special and used to rule a world when the Sun never set on the British Empire! Is it surprising to find out that the British Government is cocky as ever, and is now run by an indefatigable tough and unforgiving woman who just cannot be beaten in the political game?

However, the European Union (EU) does not subscribe to the above general view that the British are a superior country and could dictate terms even when they want to leave the EU. There has been a general hardening of views on this matter amongst the more poweful members of the EU such as Germany and France. The Brussels folks have been giving a tough time to Theresa May every time she had come calling – always seeking more concessions, to get out of the hole she has created for herself in the U.K. Parliament. To be fair, it is her own Conservative Party which has risen against her autocracy in the Brexit affair, and already defeated her in two Parliamentary votes. What is her credibility in the eyes of the EU politicians and bureaucrats, when she is repeatedly getting booted out by her own party men and women?

Now this has taken more than 32 months and the end is still not in sight. Apart from the Parliament, the Cabinet, businesses, banks and citizens of the U.K. are wondering where all this is going to end up. Businesses are already departing from the U.K. and economic growth is stalling. The British Pound is under pressure. No body knows with any level of certainty how things will work out, and this instability is affecting business decision-making and steering away investments by global corporations. There is no sense of direction or guidance from the government side. People have been left to fend for themselves ultimately, and this fiasco has led them to question the very basis and wisdom of Brexit.

The underlying fundamental issue for Britain in Brexit is all about sovereignty. British people do not wish to subjugate themselves under the rules perpetuated by the EU, they do not want European elections to impact Britain, they do not like the EU’s privacy laws and tax regulations, and what not. I do not yet understand, if that be the case, how come the mighty Britain was under EU rule for the past 47 years? Why did it subject itself to such a free-wheeling, liberal rule in the first place?

Obviously, it was because of the huge economic benefits. Apart from labour mobility, trade in goods was to the advantage of Britain. Even now, Britain’s share of the EU imports is over 44%. The British have always enjoyed trade advantages over the rest of the world and they have effectively leveraged it when dealing within the EU arrangement for the past nearly half century.

Of course, if now Brexit happens, the EU will not only collect the fine due as a result of the divorce from Britain, but also impose trade restrictions which would place Britain on par with other non-EU countries which will be disliked totally by British government. But then you cannot have the cake and eat it too, right?

The Irish backstop has caused huge disconnect in the British psyche. As far as the EU is concerned, the South and North parts of Ireland are separate and distinct. The Republic of Ireland stays within the EU as it is – so there may be EU Customs checks between the two Irelands, which cannot be done as per the Nineties agreement resolving the violent Irish dispute, whereby the border between the two parts of Ireland is supposed to be fully open (I may not be accurate on this topic).

So Brexit could challenge the way the British think about Ireland.

All told, it is a totally confusing and demoralizing time for the British people, who are already suffering from very high taxes and wreaking infrastructure. With the tough immigration stance taken by the government, it is likely that foreign university candidates would reduce their focus on the U.K. Large banks are already planning for a no Brexit deal kind of situation. There will be no new manufacturing investments coming to the U.K. anymore, as the goods produced cannot be exported to the EU without import taxes. It looks like impending gloom everywhere, but then the British are known to negotiate their way out of rather tight spots in the past.

So we can expect something before the new deadline of 22nd May imposed by the EU. Theresa May is likely to lose the third vote in the Parliament on Brexit, so the 12th April dateline will, most likely, be not achieved.

It is amazing to note that, in typical political fashion, it has taken nearly 3 years for the U.K. to get out of the EU in a bad way – what does this say about British skills in getting all that they want, while shortchanging every other partner?

The EU politicians are hedging their bets as well. My suspicion is that they need Britain to stay on in the EU, if only they could manage that outcome with increased sops – but then, not all the 27 EU members will play ball, and such a concessionary approach will also set a bad precedence for the EU in case some other EU nation wants to leave the Union.

Big, unraveling story with not so much of a happy ending for either side is to be played out in the coming days and weeks.

Enjoy the Brexit show.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th March 2019

Moral Decadence


It is a well known fact that most of the rich countries have committed huge sins and transgressed the moral boundaries of ethical living on this planet. Numerous examples of trampling on the rights of other countries and people can be cited in evidence.

Most European countries, the chief among these being the U.K. and France apart from Denmark and Germany have colonized distant nations and subjugated the people of those countries in horrible manner through several centuries. I am not leaving Japan off the hook – the Japanese committed innumerable sins across Asia which included killings and raping innocent folks. The list of sins committed by developed countries is very long, and that would include even the U.S. which has been responsible for countless deaths and disappearances caused by their invasions and regime change policy.

The focus of this blog post is not on these countries or their past sins. It is on the continuing sad story of the Blacks in the U.S. who are being tortured both by law enforcement and the common people due to the colour of their skin, which implies only one thing – deeply ingrained racism, and the very strong feeling that the Blacks are no better than slaves. This is abominable, and the racist feeling seems to be widespread across the U.S., going by almost weekly reporting of incidents whose subjects are Blacks going about their lives in the most innocuous manner possible. If a White person does the same simple thing – such as clearing trash in his own backyard, or waiting to swim in his own condominium’s swimming pool, or just taking a walk along a tree-lines boulevard, etc., no one would even bother to look. But if a Black person were to do any of these daily chores of life, it is absolutely reasonable for a police officer to stop the person and ask for his ID or engage in aggressive questioning. The evidence is mounting every day about such seemingly harmless occurrences, which are shot using phone cameras of bystandes and instantly posted on social media.

Were such things happening in the past?

Absolutely.

The difference now is the instantaneous publicity that is available via social media. And that makes such happenings come through as extremely ugly and damaging to the reputation of law enforcement.

What does it show when such things continue to happen? What does it say about the society in which Americans live? What does it say about the government which runs the country? What does it say about the police?

Only one thing – a precipitous decline of moral values, a huge drop in the perspective of Whites about Black people in general, lack of religiosity in the outlook, lack of influence of the Church or the Synagogue as the case may be, and so on. The moral decadence is stunning. I am not talking here about lack of morals such as indulging in mindless violence or prostitution. What I am talking about is the value of any human being on this planet which cannot be measured in dollars and cents, and cannot be considered as higher or lower than any other human being. White cannot have a value higher than that of the Black, and that assertion applies to Brown and Yellow as well. All colours need to be equal at all times.

Americans and the U.S. government cannot dismiss these law enforcement problems as unusual or rare occurrences – these are surely neither unusual nor rare in today’s America.

It is easy for the Whites and the Browns and the Yellows to attribute the cause of inner city violence to the Blacks. Violence in the U.S. exists all across the colour spectrum and across all sections of the society. One cannot affirm Blacks only to be the chief cause of violence.

Given the poor state of ensuring moral equivalence of human beings in the U.S., the country can hardly claim to be the beacon of freedom and justice for the free world. The “free” world does not exist for the Blacks in the U.S. – they are getting shot at by the police for doing their daily chores. Many Black lives have been taken away over the past year due to arbitrary and excessive use of force and total lack of reasoned judgement on the part of the police. You might have seen the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Across the U.S., well-meaning Whites are very concerned about such atrocious human rights violations, when the U.S. government is screaming hoarse on such violations elsewhere in other countries.

But then, other countries do not care anymore.

Why?

They can clearly see for themselves that the U.S. is one of the worst perpetrators of human rights violations against its own citizens.

So, why bother to change bad behaviour?

No need, let us continue violating the rights of our poor vulnerable citizens – even the mightiest nation in the world does it – isn’t it?

Such is the strong influence of the most powerful nation on earth which purports to be the most honourable country with respect for freedom and justice and democracy, with a Constitution which enshrines individual rights of citizens.

Would you want to chase your dreams in a country with moral decadence as the core principle in differentiating its own citizens? Think carefully. The Blacks have to get Dr Martin Luther King’s dream back in their heads and fight for their freedom which they are increasingly in danger of losing.

Participate in the CNN #MyFreedomDay on the 14th March against modern day slavery.

Cheera folks, have a good weekend,

Vijay Srinivasan

9th March 2019

Secular Experience Indonesia


I am currently on a family vacation in Yogyakarta (also called as Jogjakarta) in Central Java region of Indonesia. As my readers should be aware, Indonesia is a secular country though most of its citizens are Muslims; as a tourist guide put it to us, it is a moderate Islamic country with acceptance of other religions and full respect for those people who follow other religions. This is the result of a very long and rich history of tolerance, and also the fact that Indonesia was strongly influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism before it eventually adopted Islam. I am not a historian, neither am I a religious studies specialist, and I am writing all this based on my understanding and interactions with people who I meet when I travel.

This means that most Indonesians were Hindus and then Buddhists before they became Muslims. That explains their moderate views on religion, though most are practicing Muslims. Christianity has also has had some influence on Indonesians. Most Indonesians are soft-spoken and polite, with a deference to almost everyone and especially to foreigners.

At one point in time, Yogyakarta was the capital of Indonesia, and there is even a Presidential Palace here – we passed by it on our way to see the Royal Kraton Palace, or the Sultan’s abode. There is not much industrial activity in Yogyakarta, the economy seems to be centred around tourism and other service industries.

There are two key temple zones around Yogyakarta – one is the Prambanan Temple which is a very large Hindu temple, with individual temples dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. There are hundreds of other smaller temples in the Prambanan temple zone. It was damaged considerably during a big earthquake which occurred in 2006, with its epicentre at Yogyakarta. The main temple has been restored with significant effort after the earthquake. The architectural design of the temple complex has obviously been influenced heavily by Indian Hindu temple construction, but the ingenuity of Prambanan construction comes due to the interlocking stones which prevents them from sliding down in case of any disturbances. The stones were gathered from the rivers which carried volcanic ash from the nearby volcanoes. During the restoration, concrete has been poured to solidify the structure. Amazing indeed.

Some pictures from the Prambanan temple as below:

We also visited the world famous Borobudur Buddhist Temple. At both temples (Prambanan and Borobudur), there were hundreds of school children streaming in, because December has school holidays in Indonesia. There were not many foreigners, my guide told me that most Europeans visit in July and August, and further November to March is a rainy period. Luckily we were spared from the rains so far when we visited the two temples, though it drizzled this morning quite heavily for a short while.

Borobudur is all about Buddha. I have always been impressed about Buddhist philosophy, though I may not agree with Siddhartha for abandoning his wife Maya and their only child, when Siddhartha left his family to get into meditation. Though Buddhism has many variants itself, the ideas pertaining to samsara, karma and nirvana are easily articulated and understood. Some of the ideas are in the pictures below:

Pictures from Borobudur Temple as below:

Overall, the visit to these two temples has been enlightening and revealing: the historic influence of India on Indonesia and several other countries such as Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc., in South East Asia cannot be underestimated.

More coverage on my Indonesian vacation will follow, in the meanwhile, enjoy your weekend folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

15th December 2018