Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I have Ten Dreams

Don’t you think that what makes humans different from other living beings is their faculty to dream.
More than 2500 years ago, the Buddha spoke of’ ‘dukh’, our human’s self -inflicted suffering. I sometimes wonder what the Buddha would have thought of the present-day ‘dukh’; everything seems to have got worse: we are living in a world full of pollution, corruption, social inequality, violence, ugliness and greed. In fact, it often looks like a nightmare. But, as a human being, we can still dream of a better tomorrow. Our dream may help hasten the venue of a happier India and a more harmonious planet.
Here are Ten Dreams that I have for India for 2012.

1.    I Dream of an Incorruptible India
As it is certainly the issue which got the most media coverage in 2011, I have to start with corruption. Whether the Lokpal Bill is voted on or not, ordinary citizens (why should we call them ‘common men’?), have started dreaming: can we have a corruption-free India? Of course, many still believe that an external mechanism, like an Act of Parliament could by miracle eradicate the poison. It may be a dream, but the mere fact that tens or perhaps hundreds of millions Indians have started believing that something could be done is the first step towards a solution. Year 2012 will probably not see the disappearance of corrupt practices; but one can dream of a Scandinavian type of governance where politicians take their children out on Sundays in their private cars after filling up gas with their own money; in India, it may not happen immediately, but hopefully, something will happen. The civil society and the media have to keep the issue alive and press further and further to remove this malady from India’s body. If this does not happen, India will never become the Superpower that it dreams to be.
Of course, if the external mechanism works, the capacity of jails will have to be increased ten or hundred fold, but this can only have positive results as it will create employment.

2.    India and Nature
Left alone, Nature is so incredibly beautiful. But men’s greed can just destroy in a short span of time, what Nature took millennia to build. The tales of ‘illegal’ (or even ‘legal’) mining in Karnataka, in Jharkhand or Goa (in fact, in most of Indian States), is just one of the depressing stories of national life. I dream of an India which will respect the Environment and Nature. Human beings should not act like white ants eating up the forests, taking life away from rivers by building dangerous dams or digging out the ‘national’ wealth from the earth for a few crores more. But today, the greed of the politicians and some industrialists has no limit. Instead of being concerned about the forthcoming climate changes and finding innovative solutions, India remains the bad pupil and allows the looting of its own natural assets (in some cases to export to China) by some of its unscrupulous ‘representatives’

3.    I dream of a Democratic India
Why can’t India become a real democracy? Today, Bharat is everything except a democracy. Politicians only dream seeing their offspring taking their mantle as ‘representatives’ of the people. At best, it could be called a dynastic or feudal system of governance, but certainly not a democracy, at least not the way it was practiced in ancient Greece or in the Buddha’s days when village councils would take decisions for the common good and not for personal or parochial interests. A State in which a candidate needs crores of rupees to become an ‘elected representative’ can’t be called a democracy. Today if someone having all required qualities to represent the people of an area does not have wealth, he does not stand a chance to be elected. This is not diplomacy or even meritocracy, but moneycracy. I dream of a democracy where the main factor will not be (black or white) money, but ethics and human qualities like honesty, sincerity or compassion.

4.    I dream of rationality
I dream that a dose of rationality befall the people of India, more particularly on the politicians of this country. During the past year, we have witnessed countless occasions when emotionality has taken the center stage. Instead of discussing issues in a rational manner, problems are debated in the midst of high drama and emotion. This does not lead anywhere, whether it is to calculate the resistance of an old dam or the safety of a nuclear plant or the opening of India to new food-processing technologies. Without dreaming of a Cartesian India (that would be rather boring!), a minimum of rationality would help when the nation faces serious problems and reasoned solutions are crucial for her future. Emotionality only blurs realities and stops people from having a clear perception of the pros and the cons of an issue. Unfortunately, politicians are very fond of emotionality because it divides people on cast, communal or regional lines thereby creating new vote banks. This will lead India nowhere, except into chaos and more ‘dukh’.

5.    I Dream of a more Egalitarian India
I dream of an India where everybody will have a chance to make a decent living. Hours after hours, days after days, headlines and analyses are blaring that India is doing extremely well economically. “Will we catch up with China?” “Will we get a double-digit growth this year?” But growth for what? For whom? To enrich the wealthy while tens (or hundreds) of millions still live under the poverty line? Wealthy Indian people are often indecent (as they are in China and elsewhere). Nobody needs a twenty-five storey house, 10 cars or 500 pairs of shoes to be a success story. I dream that thousands of wealthy Indians will, like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, pledge 50% of their fortune to provide all Indians a good solid education and health care. Then, we may not need reservations any more.

6.    I Dream of an India where Woman are safe
I dream of an India where women can walk safely and their true place in society. One still reads too often about rapes, molesting or burning of women in several States of India. Women represent the Shakti, the energy and at the same time the love and care of the Mother. If India is to play a role on the world scene, it should not be only an economic, but societal change where women get due respect. Then with the feminine creativity and strength, India will truly be able to blossom.

7.    I Dream of a Young Dynamic Visionary Leadership
For once, India should learn a lesson from China. The Middle Kingdom partly owes its dynamism to the fact that while remaining an authoritarian system, every 5 years the Party is able to induct fresh blood into its own system. It is not the case with India where the political system is based on gerontology. It is a great pity that the land which invented the Four Ashramas is unable to practice what it once taught. Can you imagine an India where all leaders above 65 years would be forced to take sannyasa (or at least go into retirement)? It would bring a great deal of new energy into Indian politics and probably new ideas, and why not new ideals.

8.    I Dream of a Free Tibet
While Palestine is given a seat at UNESCO or the Armenian genocide is acknowledged by the French Parliament, Tibet continues to not exist on the political map of the world. Why? Because ‘we need China’, the Heads of State of the Planet will tell you. Why do we need China? Because they have a lot of money and we don’t. I dream of a Free Tibet because a ‘genuine autonomy’ under a totalitarian regime does not any make sense. Tibet has an old civilization with its own language, script, philosophical system and cultural heritage. It should have a place on the planet. Why should the people of Tibet not be free? If Tibet is independent, the people of Tibet can later choose to be associated with a freer China or not, on their own will. Don’t you think that it would be good for humanity to have a country where inner values are more important than material possessions? And for India, it would solve the border issue.

9.    I Dream of a Thinking nation
One hundred years ago, Sri Aurobindo wrote: “Our first necessity, if India is to survive and do her appointed work in the world, is that the youth of India should learn to think,—to think on all subjects, to think independently, fruitfully, going to the heart of things, not stopped by their surface, free of prejudgments, shearing sophism and prejudice asunder as with a sharp sword, smiting down obscurantism of all kinds as with the mace of Bhima.”
Have we progressed since then? As mentioned earlier, most of the time emotions replace deep thought. With some efforts this could change, because Indians are thinkers par excellence.

10.     I dream of a new (ancient) set of values
One makes fun of Bhutan with their Gross National Happiness, an attempt to measure the quality of our lives and social progress in a more holistic way than the Gross Domestic Product, but the Himalayan Kingdom is perhaps tuned to the right note. For more than 5000 years, Indian culture and philosophy have sought to find answers to one question: “Who are we? What are we doing on this Planet?” With the deepening of the economic crisis (and it is going to deepen further in 2012), it is perhaps time to dream of another set of values, deeper and truer. After all one does not need so many pairs of shoes when one is taken on the pyre. Is it not worth thinking about?
Do you believe that these are just Dreams? But Dreams have a power to bring down the Future. Only what is perhaps required is a critical mass of human beings who aspire to make these Dreams come true. And then things can change.
A Sage once wrote: “If the French Revolution took place, it was because a soul on the Indian snows dreamed of God as freedom, brotherhood and equality.”
Let us hope that God will dream of a Rejuvenated India. But the problem is that things always take time with God.

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