The Allure of the Siren- the Populists

Populists repudiate pluralism, for the people can only be one and they are the people. This explains their tendency to disqualify their rivals, and even reject the multiparty system of democracy. However, even as we are living in an era of populism, but populism is not easy to define. It is not an ideology. It is not, for instance, either right or left wing. But it is not simply demagoguery either. In that sense, the notion of a “populist budget” is misleading: A populist leader does not only promise good things to everybody — even though to be a merchant of dreams is an important part of his politics — he also articulates a political style.
Populists claim to represent the people. This pretension places them above any institution, including the judiciary, because they identify with the people’s sentiments, sense of justice and morality. One of the most successful populists of South Asia, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, used to tell the crowds at his meetings: “There are two Zulfikar Ali Bhuttos, me and the one who is in each of you!” The populist claims he represents everybody as if the whole nation had voted for him. He’s the people’s voice, be they 200 million or 1.2 billion. Hence formulas such as “India is Indira and Indira is India”.
Populists repudiate pluralism, for the people can only be one and they are the people. This explains their tendency to disqualify their rivals, and even reject the multiparty system of democracy. For them, adversaries are enemies and elections like wars that are aimed at eliminating the others — hence formulas like “Congress-mukt Bharat”. Even the party of the populist, usually named as if it epitomised the nation, like Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, does not matter much. In fact, its candidates to parliament or chief ministership are nominated by the supremo according to a vertical chain of command.
Populism implies a strong concentration of power, as it is by nature extremely personalised: The populist leader relates directly to “his” people, short-circuiting his own political party and all institutions in general. Communication is possibly his most important weapon. He does not take the risk of debate (with whom could he have a debate?) or proper press conferences, but talks to his people directly, on a regular basis somewhat personally (on radio, for instance) and saturates the public sphere to show that nobody can compete with him — exist even. Today, social media and holograms contribute to this ubiquity — that is rather costly. In fact, populist leaders need a lot of money for their political communication, and in particular for paying the PR firms which market them.
But they cannot appear in public with the crony capitalists who pay for their expenditures because they are supposed to be anti-establishment. Their combat against the elites is an integral part of their repertoire, even when they are in no way plebeians but simply belong to a sector of the elite that is different from the political set, like Donald Trump.
That is enough to make them “outsiders”, even after years at the head of some multinational company or state government. Even then the populist claims that he’s not a politician. Indeed, he sometimes is a manager, like Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand. When he’s not, he may present himself as the CEO of his country because of the aura of effectiveness of the private firms among the middle class, the core electoral base of the populists that is particularly exposed to his discourse. However, populists have to prove that they are with the people against the establishment. For that they have to use the rights words — not only simple words, but harsh words — and denounce the ruling elite that is usually closed on itself (if not dynastic) and corrupt.
The role of speech is all the more important as the populist must convince his audience that he embodies the people above class divisions, which are presented as secondary, if not mere illusions. The populist thus constantly makes use of what a theorist of populism, Ernesto Laclau, has called “empty signifiers”, such as “America first” or “New India”.
Many populists have seized power through a military coup. In fact, quite a few of them were army men, especially in Latin America (Juan Peron and Hugo Chavez are cases in point). But populism generally develops within democracies, because this political style flourishes more easily in a public space offering freedom of expression. Once in office, however, it makes democracy shrink. Democratic regimes are based on a demotic pillar that implies regularly held and fairly contested elections as well as on a liberal pillar upheld by the rule of law guaranteed by an independent judiciary — without which elections do not remain free and fair for long.
The populist hypertrophies the demotic aspect of democracy at the expense of the liberal aspect: Since he represents the people, other institutions cannot compete with him; legality cannot compete with legitimacy. As a result, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian strongman, is not shy of advocating “illiberal democracy” and Mahinda Rajapaksa dared to clip the wings of Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court.
Populists generally rise to power in the wake of a social or moral crisis connected with an economic crisis and/or corruption scandals. In such a context, his targets can either be “the big bad guys” (among them, the political rulers, even politicians in general) or “the others,” meaning “foreigners” or “non-sons of the soil”.
Such a sequence gives rise to what Gino Germani named “national populism”, an “ism” with obvious affinities with the nationalist right or even the extreme right. For, while populism can be rightwing or leftwing, national populism calls up a clearly identifiable ideological repertoire. In fact, this brand of populism has been the most successful one in history: It took over power in several European countries in the inter-war period. It is back in a different form today. Anti-semitism has been replaced by a pervasive hostility to migrants and even, sometimes, by Islamophobia.
Indeed, the Muslim is the new Other across the globe. And this Other is easily projected as posing a threat to vulnerable-nations-in-quest-of-strong-men-to-protect-them because of the terrorist activities of jihadists in almost all the countries where populists are in the fray. The populists exploit such antagonism in order to polarise their society: Paradoxically, those who claim that they are the incarnation of the people divide this people along religious, racial or linguistic lines to win elections through majoritarian tactics.
But the societies affected by populism suffer from one more pathology, socio-economic frustrations due to joblessness or rising inequalities and unmet expectations. The issue is not as acute everywhere but it helps almost systematically the populists who can make promises to the frustrated aspiring sections, use idle vigilantes at the time of canvassing and designate scapegoats that the same young men are (trigger) happy to lynch on the altar of their anger.
Populists are here to stay, not only to take revenge over soft targets, but also to make people dream. In that regard, they are demagogues in the sense the first Greek democrats gave the word, in other words, expert manipulators, not only by skillfully pandering to the people and playing on their affects, but also by promising to address their concerns. The populists do not explain public policies, they are always campaigning, even when they are in office, as if they were still in the opposition, not accountable. They keep promising happy days to come.

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Avoid Major Cities for Building a Home

I was visiting business banks – the likes of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Barclays – in The City of London one particular week in 2008. While bankers kept spirits as high as spending levels at first, meetings were shortened or cancelled later in the week. I was witnessing the pinnacle of the financial crisis in the very heart of London, arguably the most interesting week in the business banking world in the past 80 years.
The subprime mortgage market was a major cause of this crisis. Chances are the next crisis will focus on cities, because we will soon see the end of urbanization.
The why of urbanization
Urbanization has been happening for decades with good reason: cities provide numerous benefits to people. You wouldn’t see large factories running at full speed filled with hundreds of workers in the midst of vast nothingness. Commuting, transportation time and costs of both raw materials and finished goods would be problems.
Proximity lets you reduce commuting time and expenses. The more people who live nearby, the larger your sales market is. Cities also offer job and education opportunities as stores, service providers and factories are nearby. When more people live close together economies of scale can be achieved, allowing for more educational variety. Proximity also allows the cost of infrastructure, such as roads, sewers and electricity lines, to be shared. This culminates in cities becoming magnets of wealth, money, services, opportunities and people.
Doesn’t that mean we will continue to live in cities? I think not, because of the fourth industrial revolution.
New technologies nullify the benefits of cities
The need for proximity will decline as physical production is replaced by robots, whether that’s surgeons working from a distance, online versus real-life dating or online shopping and 3D-printing of purchases or even a whole house. Though the delivered-to-your-doorstep market for goods and food is growing, we do not need roads, just transportation, whether by drone, taxi or flying car.
Privileged people now receive potable water from the tap. Decentralised alternatives can harvest water from the air and create clean water in substantial quantities. Decentralised sewer systems can take care of sewage. We can generate electricity with solar panels, wind turbines and living plants – all examples of distributed power generation supplying enough electricity to fuel your tablet, bake a cake, warm your house and charge your flying car.
Back in 1999, many people thought mobile phones were a stupid idea. Going wireless with the Internet of Things seems to be the future. Smartphones are now unequivocally present and are replacing landlines. With 4G and the 5G standard-to-come, virtual proximity will reach a whole new level through virtual and augmented reality beyond our current apps. Education will benefit: with massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) anyone with an internet connection can absorb knowledge without being physically present.
Lastly, automation and robotization will undoubtedly have major implications for both low and high-skilled work with about half of the jobs susceptible to computerization. New jobs will surely be created by technology – yet the number of jobs created is estimated to be about 30% of the jobs lost as a result of technological advances. This will leave many people jobless, but this not need be an issue if we get a universal basic income.
With the changing nature of work and working from a distance or increased mobility options making geography increasingly irrelevant, why live in an expensive city with little space for becoming self-sufficient? The Fourth Industrial Revolution provides solutions for proximity in terms of infrastructure, work and education – exactly the things to which urbanization seemed to be the answer – and allows for a decentralized or distributed world. A world of deurbanization.
The downsides of cities
Removing the advantages of city-living leaves only its disadvantages, such as 24/7 stress (with adverse health effects), higher household expenditure and little available space for becoming self-sufficient with regards to fresh produce or power generation. If you are just about managing and living on the fringe of society, you risk social exclusion. Without a clear way out, this causes hopelessness which is a breeding ground for many of the problems cities face today.
But the problems don’t end there. Cities can form urban heat islands. Simply put, this means urban areas become much warmer than their rural surroundings. Dark surfaces absorb sunlight more effectively and the thermal properties of concrete and asphalt mean they contain far more heat than plants. Plants cool their surroundings through evapotranspiration; concrete and asphalt are unable doing this. Heat islands decrease air and water quality. London air, for example, is so bad that it broke annual legal limits for air toxicity just six days into 2017. The rise of electric cars will diminish car exhaust fumes which will help to improve air quality, but people also exhume pollutants.
There is, however, a considerably worse downside beyond degrading air and water quality: heat kills. Take the August 2003 heatwave which killed about 70,000 people all over Europe. Heat is deadly if temperature and humidity combine to prevent a body from being able to cool down over time. Today, around 30% of the world’s population is having to deal with a potentially deadly combination of temperature and humidity for at least 20 days a year.
Research suggests some cities could be as much as 8℃ warmer by the end of the century. This significant rise is not fully caused by the urban heat island effect – up to five of the eight degrees are because of climate change. The rest is caused by the urban heat island effect, which could be reduced by tree canopy cover or vertical forests (amongst other mitigation options), but it is unlikely that the effect can be completely neutralized. The result of the rising heat would be that about 75% of the world’s population will have to endure deadly temperatures for at least 20 days a year. Heatwaves in urban areas are simply hotter and therefore more dangerous.
Another challenge is that sewers are badly suited for dealing with record amounts of rain in short periods of time. As a result, we are seeing floods in cities all over the world. We have to adapt our infrastructure in order to deal with this changing rainfall. While the Global Risks Report suggests that climate change is perceived as the biggest global threat, it is not recognized as the largest local threat. This shows a lack urgency and doesn’t bode well for cities built right next to the sea, such as Amsterdam.
Shrinking cities
While the world is still in the urbanizing upswing, not every city is growing. Some cities in Japan, China, Latvia and Bosnia & Herzegovina have declined between 8.5% and 15% between 2005 and 2015. Cities in the German industrial heartland and the US rust-belt have also shrunk. The reason for this decline is deindustrialization – the removal of manufacturing and heavy industry.
The departure of large employers from an area can impoverish whole cities. This starts a vicious circle involving falling housing demand and prices, a lack of money to maintain properties and declining tax incomes. The result is reverse gentrification. With automation and artificial intelligence leading to large job reductions in many industries, we may expect to see more shrinking cities.
The specific composition of a city affects how much it is at risk of job losses and therefore the shrinking risk is dissimilar for cities. Take the US, where Boston tops the list of least at risk from job losses as a result automation of (“only” 38.4% of the city’s jobs are at risk, compared to Fresno where the risk is 53.8%). Some countries face much higher potential job losses – China (77%), India (69%) and South Africa (67%). It remains to be seen how cities and countries can and will deal with sudden declines in industries and try to prevent reverse gentrification.
Why I won’t buy a house in a city
Why would we move into close quarters when the technologies enabling self-sufficiency just need a little more space? Why would we pay a lot of money to live closely together and not reap the benefits? Yet it seems that almost everybody in the world assumes urbanization will continue and continue.
I am very enthusiastic about the possibilities of the technologies I have described. Technological advancements will enable self-sufficiency and this makes centralization – and thus cities – unnecessary. We shouldn’t forget that we are happiest when submerged in nature. It seems counterintuitive to continue moving into cities when many of our goals are aimed at self-sufficiency, while cities just give us downsides. Everything is becoming decentralized or distributed, the same will happen to cities.
Even if your own job or family’s income wouldn’t be affected by shifts in technology, reflect upon shrinking cities. While the advantages of a city may outweigh the disadvantages for you personally, it won’t for everybody. We have moved towards cities because that’s where the opportunities used to be. The opportunities of the future will be somewhere else.

 

Liberal, Democratic Europe Collapses Beyond Rdemption- Part II

Much of the weakness we have identified in so many modern European states comes, ironically, from many of our strengths. We have much to be proud of. However imperfectly at times, we have replaced tyranny with democracy, guaranteed freedom of speech and the press, ensured rights for all citizens, provided legal and political foundations for the growing empowerment of women, struggled against racist and religious bigotry, brought homosexual men and women out of the closet, given protections to the environment and wildlife, extended healthcare provision to most people, abolished the death sentence in all European countries (and Israel), and instituted regulations to block and punish crimes such as people trafficking, slavery, and drug smuggling.
The best example of what this means is to be found in the state of Israel. It is precisely because Israel and a majority of Israelis have, from the beginning, combined Jewish ethical values with Western Enlightenment beliefs, that makes it stand out so sharply against all its neighbours. Human rights abuses in Iran, the Arab states, Turkey, and beyond guarantee that Israel, however much abused by international bodies and media, and however flawed, is, in fact, a bastion of democracy, human rights, equality under the law and the positive values that go with them.
The irony, of course, is that so many people, have adopted a way of interpreting human rights and liberal values in a manner that often undermines them. Political correctness, as it developed through the 1980s and 1990s began with good intentions. Words, political policies, and action that were either intended or inadvertently constructed to offend people on account of their race, disabilities, sexuality and so forth, must be replaced by “correct” terms that would not give offence. Much good was done by that, and today there are expressions that one would never find in respectable publications or hear on public broadcasts. They have rightly been set to one side in all decent discourse.
Many practitioners of political correctness, however, have taken matters to the point where even perfectly rational, well argued, and intelligent speech or behaviour was condemned. This could be, and evidently is, done to inhibit debate – a new type of censorship made vivid by faculty and students in most Western universities in which speakers offering alternative viewpoints (such as pro-Israel academics) are banned from coming onto campus, while students frightened of being upset by a lecture that presents a different viewpoint create “safe spaces” that will not exist upon their graduation to soothe their feelings. This has become so destructive of the very purpose of the university, that in December 2017 Jo Johnson, the UK Higher Education Minister, told universities to stop the practice of “no-platforming” speakers. Inevitably, student leaders attacked him for saying so.
As anti-establishment groups shifted from support for the working classes and moved to an emphasis on solidarity with those termed by Frantz Fanon “the wretched of the earth”, their compassion for suffering people in the Third World was all but eclipsed by a conviction that all today’s evils stem from imperialism and colonialism. Up until the 1970s, this same conviction was expressed in support for communist states, regardless of how oppressive they might be.
Concomitant with the belief that the world’s sufferings go back to imperialist and colonialist states in Europe and America, there developed a growing contempt for white people who were citizens of those states. Even though Britain, France, and Portugal had abandoned their empires in Africa and elsewhere, they were still tainted with that description. Equally, even though Israel had never been a colonizing enterprise and had actually served as a refuge for some of the most persecuted people in the world, it was still attacked with the same slur.
This contempt for the West translated well into many causes, but nowhere more closely than with the growing strength of radical Islam. After the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, and a widespread perception that Muslims should now be regarded as the greatest victims of Western hegemony, Westerners in increasing numbers fell in line with an Islamic interpretation of history and hopes of an apocalypse to rectify the injustices of the past.
More than one radical who had been a thorn in the flesh of the Western democracies went so far as to convert to Islam and throw in their lot with the anti-Western firebrands of Iran and the Arab world. Roger Garaudy, a leading figure in the French Communist Party and a convicted Holocaust denier, became a hero for that denial in the Muslim world and converted to Islam in 1982. Carlos the Jackal (Ilich Ramirez Sanchez), who described himself as a Marxist-Leninist “professional revolutionary” and made himself a terrorist, did so around the year 2000.
Many others became enthusiastic supporters of Islamic terrorist groups such as Hamas. In 2010, Che Guevara’s eldest daughter, Aleida, travelled to Lebanon to express her admiration for the radical Shi’i group Hizbullah. Judith Butler, a revolutionary American professor, stated that “understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important”. This from a woman who called herself a feminist and a supporter of gay rights. Calling Hamas and Hizbullah “progressive” should stick in the throat of anyone who knows how they disregard human rights, oppress women and murder homosexuals.
One man, Edward Said, did grave damage to public perceptions of Western values, including democracy. His 1978 book Orientalism was held — mystifyingly — in high esteem by many scholars who should know have known better, considering his manifold deceptions, as, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
Of course, many people who also should have known better, believed in mirages such as Communism, and many still believe – despite such examples as the catastrophe of Venezuela — in Socialism.
Said promoted the conceit that the West, with its history of imperialism and colonialism has left Middle Easterners and Muslims (especially the Palestinians) the world’s victims. The Western democracies, according to him, are the greatest villains of history, with Israel the source of all evil in the Middle East and far beyond.
By ignoring the remarkable achievements of the West and whitewashing the many wrongs committed down the centuries by Muslims, not to mention the stark traditionalism that has mired all Islamic countries in most of the oppressive policies that liberals would normally condemn, Said tried to make anti-Western and pro-Islamic attitudes and policies respectable among the gullible. The only vocal kickback to this indulgence for Islam has, in yet another sad exercise of “shoot the messenger”, come from people now accused — often unjustly — of being “racist” or “Islamophobic”.
This “broad brush” defamation has created problems, as doubtless intended, for those who offer balanced criticisms of Islam but are frequently tarred with the same brush.
A blanket refusal to listen to serious concerns about Islam as an ideology and political enterprise stems from what is in many ways the most dangerous, yet unwitting, position taken by the middle ground. One loses track of the number of Western politicians and church leaders who blithely maintain that “Islam is a religion of peace” or who, when faced with jihadi terrorism, maintain that it “has nothing to do with Islam”. A sort of paralysis engendered by a fear of being thought an “Islamophobe” makes it hard if not impossible for people in the public eye to admit that there is another truth, that has, unfortunately, been well known for centuries.
Perhaps the most vivid recent example of one version of Islam clashing with another is a letter posted online on Christmas Day last year. It is addressed to Pope Francis, who was on record saying that “Islam is a religion of peace, one which is compatible with respect for human rights and peaceful coexistence.” The very intelligent and strongly argued letter was written on behalf of more than a thousand former Muslims who had converted to Catholicism and wanted to explain that they had known Islam at first hand, which was precisely why they had embraced Christianity instead. The quotations from Christian and Islamic scripture make abundantly clear just what the differences are between the two faiths.
It is time for some home truths. Islam has been at war with the West for some 1,384 years, with very little respite. When Muslim Arab armies invaded Syria in 634, went on to destroy all but a rump of the Christian Byzantine empire (which it finally defeated when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453), took control of Spain, Portugal, Sicily and other lands on the north Mediterranean coast, it was the start of endless jihad wars. These wars did not end during the centuries of the Barbary slave trade during which Christians were routinely snatched by Muslim pirates and sold in markets in Algiers and elsewhere on the North African coast. Nor did attacks end when European countries colonized or created protectorates over Muslim states such as the Mughal empire of northern India, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. By the 1920s, Britain controlled about half the Muslims in the world and had defeated the largest Muslim empire in history, that of the Ottomans. But this expansion of European power only served to foster resentment and encourage violence against the imperial powers. This Islamic offensive against Western power has given way to large, often international groupings such as the Taliban, al-Qa’eda, Islamic State, Hamas, Hizbullah, and hundreds of other Islamic terror militants or armies.
Unfortunately, concluding that modern terrorism “has nothing to do with Islam” or that “Islam is a religion of peace” visibly contradicts the historical record. It is this sort of thinking that deflates modern democracies. Most importantly, we do not seem able to understand that Islam is, above all else, a totalitarian project covering all aspects of human life from the spiritual to the material, from law to government to clothing to food to sex to taxation and more. This totalitarianism rejects democracy in the most basic way, as having come from mere humans rather than divinely, from Allah.
Modern Muslim radicals from Hasan al-Banna’, Sayyid Qutb, Abu A’la Mawdudi to the currently jailed British radical, Anjem Choudary, all insist that, since only God can make laws, the idea that human beings can legislate through parliamentary democracies is abhorrent, as is the idea of freedom for all citizens. Choudary, for example, spelled this rejection out in no uncertain terms during a public address:
“No to democracy, No to freedom,” Anjem Choudary shouted through a microphone. “No to liberalism, no to secularism. No to Christianity. No to Judaism. No to Sikhsm. No to Buddhism. No to Socialism. No to Communism. No to Liberalism. No to Democracy. Democracy, go to Hell! Democracy, go to Hell!”
You probably cannot get much more radical than that. When Western academics, however, such as John Esposito and Juan Cole defend extremists and pretend that they actually mean the opposite of what they say, their weakness spreads into the rest of society.
For example, here is Esposito on Sami Al-Arian, who pled guilty in 2006 for providing goods and services to terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad: Sami is dedicated family man….Sami Al-Arian is a proud, dedicated and committed American as well as a proud and committed Palestinian. He is an extraordinarily bright, articulate scholar and intellectual-activist, a man of conscience with a strong commitment to peace and social justice.
And here he is again, this time on the 9/11 attacks: “September 11,” he said, “has made everyone aware of the fact that not addressing the kinds of issues involved here, of tolerance and pluralism, have catastrophic repercussions.”
And here is how he speaks of Palestinian suicide bombers: Do not call them suicide bombers, call them shuhada [martyrs] as they have not escaped the miseries of life. They gave their life. Life is sacred, but some things like truth and justice are more sacred than life. They are not desperate, they are hopefuls…. [The Israelis] have guns, we have the human bomb. We love death, they love life.
Cole too bends over backwards not to call a spade a spade: It is because both in Arabic and in other languages “Islamic” refers to the ideals of the Muslim religion that both Muslims and people with good English diction object strenuously to a phrase such as “Islamic terrorism” or “Islamic fascism”.
According to A. J. Caschetta: One of the preeminent tenured apologists for Islam, Cole is a great equivocator, always ready with an analogy of Western misconduct to downplay and offset Islamic wrongdoing. His go-to response is to blame Orientalism for all the Muslim world’s ills.
In her 2016 article “It was Britain’s hopeless tolerance which allowed Anjem Choudary’s hate to thrive”, British journalist Allison Pearson castigated our inability to arrest one of the country’s most dangerous men for two decades.
Failures to acknowledge Islamic radicalism by many of the people elected or employed to protect European citizens from danger have exposed us to terrorist attacks that have killed and maimed hundreds. In a matter of some twenty years, we have all found ourselves living in security-focussed towns and cities, afraid to walk down our high streets, shop in our markets, attend rock concerts, or visit government buildings. Meanwhile, thousands of Jews are leaving Europe, driven out by fears sparked by a new wave of antisemitism that has been led in many places by Muslim fundamentalists. France, with its 750 no-go zones and its privileged Islamist population, is the worst affected, even though it had Europe’s largest Jewish community in its midst.
Over the past three decades, Western societies have been rendered all but impotent in the face of ideologies that challenge their most basic values. Having rejected many expressions of political and religious extremism, bigotry, and cruelty; having abandoned imperialism and colonialism; and having enacted laws about hate crimes, Europeans and Americans are still condemned by activists who espouse the tenets of radical political correctness. To many in a wide range of US and European universities who seem like bigoted fanatics in their zeal to close down the free speech if anyone opposes their views, anything whatever that smacks of criticism of ethnic, gender, or religious minorities must be condemned outright. All too often, the only response to this hyper-sensitivity comes from other bigoted fanatics, many increasingly popular in European countries such as Hungary.
In The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art, the American author Roger Kimball explores the damage across the arts disciplines by post-modernist politically correct thinkers. In the preface (p. xix), he writes: The second reason that the assaults on tradition… matter is that they represent one front in a much larger war, a war over the tenor and shape of our culture, over our shared understanding of what the Greeks used to call “the good life for man.” “The rape of the masters” …. is part of… a process of de-civilization. In other words, what we are witnessing is not simply a betrayal of an academic discipline: it is an assault on a culture, on a way of looking at and valuing the world and our place in it.
“De-civilization.” Yet here we go, led by a politically correct intelligentsia, churches, and political parties, effectively handing over our civilization to people who hate it.
Later, Kimball writes: It has often been noted that totalitarian ideologies exploit democratic freedoms precisely in order to destroy freedom and abolish democracy. Democratic societies preach tolerance, very well, the clever totalitarian loudly demands tolerance for his own activities while scrupulously obliterating the conditions that make tolerance possible. (p. 79).
That is exactly what we have allowed to take place in the Western democracies. A combination of these aspiring totalitarians and Muslims have criminalized one of the world’s most democratic countries, Israel, and have been taking over the General Assembly of the United Nations, UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council, UNWRA, and other bodies in order to do so. The Human Rights Council never ceases to condemn Israel, all the while seldom if ever denouncing the many Muslim tyrannies. If we are ever to save Western civilization and democracy, we must urgently rally our forces to stand up to all those who seek to trash it.

Liberal, Democratic Europe Collapses Beyond Rdemption- Part I

For many complex reasons, Europe is in an advanced state of decline. In recent years, several important studies of this condition have appeared, advancing a variety of reasons for it: Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, James Kirchik’s The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age, as well as Christopher Caldwell’s ground-breaking 2010 study, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West. Soeren Kern at Gatestone Institute has also been detailing the steady impact of immigration from Muslim regions on countries such as Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
The threat is not restricted to Europe, but has a global dimension. Michael J. Abramowitz, President of Freedom House, writes in his introduction to the organization’s 2018 report: A quarter-century ago, at the end of the Cold War, it appeared that totalitarianism had at last been vanquished and liberal democracy had won the great ideological battle of the 20th century.
Today, it is democracy that finds itself battered and weakened. For the 12th consecutive year, according to Freedom in the World, countries that suffered democratic setbacks outnumbered those that registered gains. States that a decade ago seemed like promising success stories—Turkey and Hungary, for example—are sliding into authoritarian rule.
For Douglas Murray, immigration and the problems it is throwing up are the key topic. He is uncompromising in his negative response to the social change that has been brought about by the excessive and barely controlled immigration of people who, for the most part, do not share the most basic values of the countries in which they now live.
Certainly, Europe’s current state of decline owes much to the widely recognized fact that Muslims are the first newcomers to Europe who, over several generations, are resistant to integrating into the societies of which they now form a part. This rejection of Europe’s humanitarian, Judeo-Christian values applies, not just to the successive waves of refugees and economic migrants who have washed up on the shores of Greece, Italy and Spain since the start of the Syrian civil war, but to generations of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in the UK, North Africans in France, and Turkish “guest workers” in Germany.
A former Muslim extremist, Ed Husain, writes in his book, The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, what I Saw Inside and why I Left: The result of 25 years of multiculturalism has not been multicultural communities. It has been mono-cultural communities…. Islamic communities are segregated. Many Muslims want to live apart from mainstream British society; official government policy has helped them do so. I grew up without any white friends. My school was almost entirely Muslim. I had almost no direct experience of ‘British life’ or ‘British institutions’. So it was easy for the extremists to say to me: ‘You see? You’re not part of British society. You never will be. You can only be part of an Islamic society.’ The first part of what they said was true. I wasn’t part of British society: nothing in my life overlapped with it.
In July 2015, arguing for an anti-extremism bill in parliament, Britain’s prime minister at the time, David Cameron, admitted: “For all our successes as a multi-racial, multi-faith democracy, we have to confront a tragic truth that there are people born and raised in this country who don’t really identify with Britain – and who feel little or no attachment to other people here. Indeed, there is a danger in some of our communities that you can go your whole life and have little to do with people from other faiths and backgrounds.”
Countless polls and investigations reveal that refusal to integrate is no figment of the supposedly “Islamophobic” political “right”. A 2006 poll carried out by ICM Research on behalf of the Sunday Telegraph, for example, presented worrying findings: 40% of British Muslims polled said they backed introducing shari’a law in parts of Britain, and only 41% opposed it, leaving another 20% unclear. Sadiq Khan, the Labour MP involved with the official task force set up after the July 2005 attacks, said the findings were “alarming”. Since then, similar findings have shown that the younger generation of Muslims is more conservative, even radical, than their parents or grandparents:
Commenting on a major 2016 ICM poll of Muslim opinion, Trevor Phillips, who had been Britain’s foremost advocate of multiculturalism, said that, with respect to the Muslim community, he had made a 180° turn: “for a long time, I too thought that Europe’s Muslims would become like previous waves of migrants, gradually abandoning their ancestral ways, wearing their religious and cultural baggage lightly, and gradually blending into Britain’s diverse identity landscape. I should have known better.”
Another major 2016 review on social equality carried out on behalf of the British government by Dame Louise Casey, found Muslims the least well integrated community. In summarizing her work for the National Secular Society, Benjamin Jones wrote: “Despite decades of failures, it is worth noting that problems integrating Muslim minorities are hardly rare around the world, and this is not a problem unique to the United Kingdom. That brings us to the final unsayable thing – well known to most British people but unmentionable to officials and politicians: Islam is a special case.”
Polls carried out in other countries across Europe showed similar or worse results.
Those are only one half of a more complicated and disturbing picture. While Muslims find it hard to abandon the prejudices, doctrines, and outright hatreds (for Jews, for example) that they have imported from their home countries — or developed as young men and women while living in European states where they were born and raised — vast numbers of non-Muslims, including politicians, church leaders, civil servants, policemen and women, and many well-meaning people bend over backwards to accommodate them and the demands they make on their host societies.
It would take a book to summarize all the episodes in which Western officialdom, notably in Europe, has abandoned its own historical values in order to protect Islam and radical Muslims from criticism and rebuke. We are not speaking of the proper interventions of the police, courts, and social agencies to safeguard ordinary Muslims from physical attacks, vituperative insults, assaults on mosques, or basic denials of the rights they are entitled to enjoy as citizens of Western countries – much as we expect them to protect Jews, ethnic minorities, or vulnerable women from similar expressions of physical and verbal bigotry. Providing such support for the victims of prejudice should be applauded as an essential expression of post-Enlightenment liberal democratic values. Legislating and acting against outright discrimination is, perhaps, best exemplified in the way post-World War II German governments have criminalized anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
Ironically, what anti-Semitism there is today in Germany comes increasingly from Muslims.
According to Manfred Gerstenfeld:
⦁ Jens Spahn, a board member of Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union (CDU), and a possible successor to Merkel, remarked that the immigration from Muslim countries is the reason for the recent demonstrations [about immigrants] in Germany.
⦁ Stephan Harbarth, deputy chairman of the CDU/ CSU faction in the Bundestag — the German parliament — said, “We have to strongly confront the antisemitism of migrants with an Arab background and those from African countries.”
⦁ The CDU interior minister of the federal state of Hessen, Peter Beuth, remarked, “We have to avoid an immigration of antisemitism.” He said this after a study on behalf of the state’s security service concluded that antisemitism among Muslims “both quantitatively and qualitatively has at least as high relevance as the traditional antisemitism of the extreme right.”
Despite this moral response, European countries, including Germany, have shown genuine weakness when face-to-face with radical Islamic ideology, hate preachers, and basic Muslim values regarding women, non-Muslims, LGBT people, and obedience to Western laws.
Before looking at some of the reasons, motivations, and outcomes of this deeply pervasive weakness, here are a handful of examples of pusillanimity from the UK alone.
Last October, it was reported that Queen’s Counsel Max Hill, who acts as the British government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, argued that British fighters for Islamic State, who had returned or planned to return to the UK, should not be prosecuted but reintegrated into society on the grounds that they had acted “naively”. This lenience extended to hate preachers who had given sermons and lectures exhorting Muslims to take direct action that has in the past led to actual terrorist attacks.
Before that, Prime Minister David Cameron and then Home Secretary Theresa May had “proposed measures including banning orders, extremism disruption orders and closure orders, which would allow premises used by extremists to be shut, and make it easier to restrict the activities of individuals and organisations.”
In 2015, May had proposed a counter-extremism strategy which said laws would be introduced to “ban extremist organisations that promote hatred and draw people into extremism” and “restrict the harmful activities of the most dangerous extremist individuals”. Mrs May also vowed to use the law to “restrict access to premises which are repeatedly used to support extremism”. Yet Max Hill QC, the man in charge of British terrorist legislation wants none of that. And May’s counter-terrorism measures, proposed again since she became Prime Minister, remain unlegislated.
The same month (October 2017) that Hill undertook the rehabilitation of jihadists and hate preachers, it was reported that the British Home Office (formerly run by Theresa May, now by Amber Rudd MP) was “looking at a new strategy to reintegrate extremists that could even see them propelled to the top of council house waiting lists if needed”.
Extremists who had nowhere suitable to live could be put in social housing by the local council and could have their rent paid if necessary, according to reports.
They could also be given priority on waiting lists and helped into education and training or found a job with public bodies or charities.
This proposal would include returnees from the Islamic State in Syria, and overall would include some 20,000 individuals known to the security services. Around 850 British subjects have gone to Syria to fight or support fighters, and 350 of them have come back home, with only a tiny handful so far prosecuted.
This approach, giving social services, is based on the belief — oft-refuted — that Muslim extremists (both Muslims-by-birth and converts) have suffered from deprivation. It also greatly rests on the naïve assumption that rewarding them with benefits — for which genuinely deprived citizens generally need to wait in line — will turn them into grateful patriots, prepared to stand for the national anthem and hold hands with Christians and Jews.
We now therefore use double standards: one for Muslims and one for the rest of our population. On January 16, 2018, in England, Daniel Grundy, was jailed for six months on a charge of bigamy. However, Muslim men in polygamous marriages are rewarded by the state:
Husbands living in a “harem” with multiple wives have been cleared to claim state benefits for all their different partners.
A Muslim man with four spouses – which is permitted under Islamic law – could receive £10,000 a year in income support alone.
He could also be entitled to more generous housing and council tax benefit, to reflect the fact his household needs a bigger property.
Ministers have decided that, even though bigamy is a crime in Britain, polygamous marriages can be recognised formally by the state – provided they took place overseas, in countries where they are legal.
Actually, British Muslim men do not even have to go abroad to find wives. At least one Muslim dating site run from the UK offers contact with Muslim women who are eager to enter into polygamous marriages. It has not been closed down. The British government has shown itself incapable of enforcing its own laws when it comes to its Muslim citizens or new immigrants.
In a similar vein are official attitudes to a common Muslim practice of female genital mutilation, which has been illegal in the UK since 1985. Politico reported last year:
“Medical staff working in England’s National Health Service recorded close to 5,500 cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in 2016, but no one has been successfully prosecuted since the practice was banned over 30 years ago.”
Meanwhile, the practice is rising. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service are too frightened of seeming racist or “Islamophobic” to apply the law.
Max Hill’s notion that departing fighters have been naïve is itself a staggering misconception on the part of a man educated at Newcastle’s prestigious Royal Grammar School and Oxford University. No one heading for Syria will have been blithely unaware of the multitude of videos broadcast by the mainstream media and all the social media, showing the beheading of hostages, the executions of homosexuals, the lashing of women, the heads spiked on fences, the use of children to shoot victims or cut their throats, and all the other excesses committed by the terrorist group.
Rather than stand up to our enemies, both external and internal, are we now so afraid of being called “Islamophobes” that we will sacrifice even our own cultural, political, and religious strengths and aspirations? The next part of this article will examine just how major this betrayal has been and how much greater it will become.

Is Democracy Dying?

Evidence is rising it can be subverted by populist authoritarians who sap democracy from inside. The masthead of the Washington Post carries an ominous warning these days: “Democracy Dies In Darkness”. Not a simple declaration like “All the News That’s Fit to Print”, which the New York Times carries in its masthead, or Times of Indi’s “Let Truth Prevail”. The Post is asking its readers to watch out. Current trends may be a looming portent for democracy.
Several intellectuals and scholars in the US and across the world have in recent times written and spoken about an ongoing decay of democracy. Some are centrist liberals, others are moderate conservatives. They all warn that democracy in today’s political climate is less threatened by outright fascist dictators than by populist authoritarians who sap democracy stealthily while capturing power by working within the parameters of electoral democracy.
David Frum, a conservative who is alarmed by what’s happening to American democracy, shared his fears about democracy under Donald Trump at a seminar in the Brookings Institution last week. In his latest book, Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic, he points out that institutions or the rule of constitutional law may be insufficient bulwarks against creeping authoritarianism. “Constitutional democracy is founded on a commitment first and foremost to the rules of the game”. Those rules rely upon a consensual acceptance of a tradition of norms and conventions. Today’s authoritarian leaders and their enablers play by their own rules.
The liberal democratic structure is thus vulnerable to someone who deliberately subverts the system by ignoring or twisting norms and conventions. Two Harvard professors, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, outline how elected autocrats can subvert democracy. In their new book, How Democracies Die: What History Tells US About Our Future, they say institutions are not enough to rein in elected autocrats who pack the courts and other neutral agencies, buy off the media and private sector, and rewrite the rules of politics to tilt the field against opponents.
“The tragic paradox of the electoral route to authoritarianism is that democracy’s assassins use the very institutions of democracy – gradually, subtly, and even legally – to kill it,” they write.
Would-be autocrats, however, don’t appear out of nowhere. They exploit enabling conditions that already exist by deftly using the system to expand a following, usually through misleading appeals to nationalism or religion, among an aggrieved base of the population. In the US, such enabling conditions now exist in at least two political spaces: campaign finance and the media.
Campaign funding in an age of increasingly expensive electoral contests has become almost unrestrained ever since a conservative-leaning Supreme Court gave its ‘Citizens United’ decision in 2010. It overturned laws that restricted campaign spending by corporations and other private groups. It turned moneyed interest groups into an influential elite that wields immense invisible power. The hard right has utilised this development far more successfully than the moderates or the left and Trump’s enablers are in the far right of the political spectrum. The president, even as he commands minority popular approval, can defy norms and behave with impunity with the support of a pliant Republican congress funded by wealthy special interests.
Another enabling space is offered by a significant section of the media. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News plus a network of talk radio stations owned by conservative corporations began a couple of decades ago to spin out an alternative take of the news of the day. Today, they work as virtual state-sponsored news and opinion outlets that spew not alternative takes but “alternative facts”, in the memorable words of White House official Kellyanne Conway. Meanwhile, the president himself does his best to delegitimise the mainstream media. This is to say nothing of what the Russians may be doing by infiltrating social media to delegitimise the democratic process itself.
All this is in keeping with the indicators of authoritarian behaviour that Levitsky and Ziblatt list in their book. Undermining the legitimacy of institutions and norms across the board to confuse the public is a tactical move to undermine democracy. Manipulating media by using one section of it against another, while continuously questioning its credibility, is a potent weapon of choice.

Remembering The Royal Indian Navy mutiny

The Royal Indian Navy mutiny was overshadowed by the INA trial. Its celebration would have run counter to the logic of the democratic nation-state.
For many years the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) Mutiny, which broke out in full swing on February 18, 1946, and lasted a mere five days before the leaders who acted on behalf of the disaffected soldiers surrendered, remained largely marginal in the narratives of modern Indian history. The temper of the times — shortly after the end of the war, and on the cusp of Independence — seemed, both in popular memory and in Indian historiography, to be better represented by the INA trial that was launched in November 1945 when the British charged three men from the renegade Indian National Army with murder and “waging war against the King-Emperor”.
The site of that trial was the Red Fort, converted into a courtroom: It is here that Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor, was adjudged guilty of treason and banished into exile. If the 1858 trial brought India into the orbit of the British empire as a Crown colony, the INA trial became, oddly enough, the swansong of the Raj. Indian nationalists had, over the years, mastered the oracular and spectacular space of the courtroom. For the occasion of the trial, Jawaharlal Nehru donned his lawyer’s garb and helped to furnish the drama which catapults an event into history. To cap it all, everyone understood that the INA trial was a verdict on the absent Subhas Bose, by now elevated into the pantheon of Indian deities — in a manner of speaking, he even presided over it.
The war years, in the nationalist imagination, are associated with “Quit India”. But the war had precipitated other kinds of unrest, creating shortages of food and other essential items. The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) and Royal Indian Air Force were raised from a state of infancy to some prominence, and in all three services of the armed forces, the end of the war brought to the fore the question of demobilisation and gainful employment for men released into civilian life. There was resentment at the use of Indian troops to put down revolutionary dissent in Indonesia, and Indian servicemen chafed at the huge gap between themselves and British soldiers, as evidenced by large disparities in salaries, the quality of canteen food, and working conditions.
At the HMIS Talwar, Balai Chand Dutt, who had served in the RIN for five years, found kindred spirits who resented the discrimination and racism they continued to encounter as soldiers of the empire. On December 1, 1945, British officers found the parade ground, where the HMIS Talwar was shortly to be displayed to the public, sprayed with signs, “Kill the British”, “Revolt Now”, “Down with the Imperialists”. Airmen at the Royal Indian Air Force station in Karachi struck a few weeks later: That show of dissent, which would spread to over 50 stations in South Asia, was dealt with gingerly by the British.
Meanwhile, at the HMIS Talwar, little acts of insurrection continued, and Dutt was apprehended for vandalism on February 2, 1946. Arthur King, commanding officer of the ship, abused the sailors with such epithets as, “sons of coolies” and “sons of bloody junglees”. Dutt and his fellow rebels persuaded the ratings to join the revolt on February 18, commencing with a hunger strike. In less than three days, the revolt had spread to nearly 75 others ships and nearly 20,000 sailors, all under the age of 26, had thrown the gauntlet. The Naval Central Strike Committee was formed and issued a series of well-thought out demands. And, yet, on February 23, the Committee capitulated; the organised strike was over.
Historians are generally in agreement that the mutineers floundered since the leadership of neither the Congress nor the Muslim League supported the strike. The Strike Committee called for a city-wide hartal in Bombay — not without some success. By February 22, a good portion of the city had been shut down but violence had also flared up at various places. By the end of the day, 63 people had been killed, mainly in police firings. Sardar Patel had been despatched by the Congress to converse with the strike’s leaders. On his assurances that the rebels would be treated fairly, the Strike Committee caved in.
In the received left narrative, the Congress was always a bourgeois organisation, beholden to Indian capital and, especially at this juncture, mindful of the fact that, in independent India, the support of Indian business and industry leaders would be needed to build the nation. Nor would the elites let the thunder be stolen from them. There was perhaps little sympathy among Congress leaders, who had spent the better part of the war years in jail, for sailors whose patriotism had arrived rather late in the day. Communist support for the mutiny, and the Strike Committee’s call for a hartal, had given the communists an opening that Patel was determined to throttle. Negotiations for India’s political future had commenced and were still inconclusive, but the way forward seemed unquestionably to be within some constitutional framework.
Some recent assessments of the RIN mutiny as a momentous event and as having hastened the end of British rule in India seem overblown. In India, unlike in most other countries that went through decolonisation, civilian control over the military has remained the one inviolable principle of the Republic. Patel defended himself with the observation that “discipline in the Army cannot be tampered with . . . We will want the Army even in free India”. He understood better than most the unrelenting and unforgiving logic of the democratic nation-state. At the same time, in the suppression of the RIN mutiny lie the seeds of the continuing inability of the nation-state to harness the power of the working class and to address it as the motive force in history. The RIN mutiny did not fit into any blueprint for the future; the pity of it is that the blueprint has even less space for such acts of insurrection now.

China Weaponizing Isotope That Could Dramatically Worsen Nuclear War

News from a little-known Chinese city has sobering implications for every person alive. The future of nuclear warfare is becoming far more destructive. The Chinese Academy of Sciences announced last week that state-backed researchers at a facility in Lanzhou had successfully fired superheated beams of Tantalum 181. Tantalum 181 is a radioactive isotope that could be added to nuclear warheads to increase their devastating fallout.
This news from a Chinese city that many Westerners have likely never heard of has sobering implications for every person alive.
Adding Tantalum 181 to a warhead could theoretically render a “salted” nuclear bomb. After causing extreme damage with the initial explosion, salted bombs would release a cloud of radioactive isotopes that spread over a far larger area than those of an ordinary nuclear bomb.
Such bombs are named after a practice from the Middle Ages in which a victorious power spread salt on conquered lands. The practice often symbolized the desire of the victor to completely eradicate its enemy’s ability to rebuild and regrow after the war.
The purpose of a salted nuclear weapon is to spread deadly fallout as broadly as possible, contaminating huge areas and rendering them uninhabitable for years or possibly decades. But if enough of these devices were detonated, the radioactive clouds could merge together, making the effects exponentially worse.
Doomsday Device’
The concept of a salted bomb was first suggested early in the Cold War by Hungarian-American atomic scientist Leo Szilard. He called it a “doomsday device,” because it was capable of killing everyone on Earth.
Some have said salted bombs should not be categorized as weapons of mass destruction because they are actually weapons of total destruction.
Szilard did not publicize the salted-bomb concept as a serious proposal, but to warn the world that it would soon be possible to construct weapons that could wipe out mankind. During a February 1950 NBC radio broadcast about salted bombs, he expressed the destructive ability of these theoretical weapons by asking, “Who would want to kill everybody on Earth?”
The Chinese Academy of Sciences has acknowledged its project in Lanzhou has direct military applications, saying the research is an effort to “meet a critical strategic demand of China’s national defense.”
China’s leadership has no desire to wipe out all human life on the planet. But in recent years, Beijing has focused on boosting the power of its nuclear arsenals and has said it seeks to attain a high degree of nuclear deterrence with a comparatively small number of weapons. Developing salted bombs would rapidly advance that strategy.
There is some logic in a strategy of developing weapons of deterrence.  As Martin Amis wrote in Einstein’s Monsters, “How do we prevent the use of nuclear weapons? By threatening the use of nuclear weapons. And we can’t get rid of nuclear weapons, because of nuclear weapons.”
American astronomer Carl Sagan echoed Amis’s sentiments by describing just how maniacal the nuclear buildup had become: “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist-deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.”
In a major nuclear war, no one wins. And when salted nuclear weapons are added into the equation, the notion of being the first to drop a match becomes even more irrational. But the trouble is that people are not always rational or clearheaded. the idea, and the hope, and we’re trusting in men, that no man will be foolish enough to start a nuclear war. Do you have that much faith in man? I don’t. Do you know that there has never been a weapon invented yet of mass destruction that has not been used? And we’ve already used nuclear destruction in Japan, where we killed around 100,000 people with one atomic bomb. Now the hydrogen bomb is so great that an atomic bomb only triggers it, to set it off.
Even if the Chinese leadership intends to develop salted nuclear weapons strictly as a deterrent, there is no guarantee that an instance of wartime desperation would not compel it to launch these devices.
History shows that when war breaks out, men ultimately do not sit on their most potent weapons. They use them. And nuclear weapons of all kinds will be used en masse in a third world war.
‘Not a Single Person Will Survive’
Around 2,000 years ago, the disciples of Jesus Christ asked Him what would be the sign of His return and of “the end of the world,” as is recorded in Matthew 24:3.: “World” in this verse is a translation of the Greek word aiōn, which has several meanings. In this context, it means “age” or “era.” Christ’s disciples were asking when the age of mankind ruling over mankind would end, and when the era of God ruling over mankind would begin. They wanted to know what would signify that this seismic transition was near. At the time Christ spoke these words, a worldwide war that could threaten to end the life of every “single person” was not technologically possible.
During that era of Roman rule, warfare entailed hand-to-hand combat with spears, swords and pila. The closest thing to a weapon of mass destruction would have perhaps been a catapult. For centuries thereafter, the technological situation remained basically the same: The weaponry to wipe out all life on Earth did not exist.
But in the last few centuries, human beings have made major advancements in weapons technology. In the 1950s, as Szilard was warning the world about a salted “doomsday device,” a major prophetic milestone was crossed. At that time, enough atomic and nuclear weapons had been developed so that a war capable of extinguishing all human life from Earth was, for the first time, possible, and even perilously probable.
Today, nations continue to hold each other at nuclear gunpoint. If China is developing Tantalum 181-laced nuclear bombs, then mankind’s ability to wipe out life from the planet has increased even further.
Yet even as this global conflict approaches, there is hope!  Knowing how close that radiant future is can give us perspective that fills us with hope.

Time, space and time travel

A simple question from his wife—Does physics really allow people to travel back in time?—propelled physicist Richard Muller on a quest to resolve a fundamental problem that had puzzled him throughout his career: Why does the arrow of time flow inexorably toward the future, constantly creating new “nows?”
That quest resulted in a new book called NOW: The Physics of Time (W. W. Norton, 2016), which delves into the history of philosophers’ and scientists’ concepts of time, uncovers a tendency physicists have to be vague about time’s passage, demolishes the popular explanation for the arrow of time,“ and proposes a totally new theory.
His idea: Time is expanding because space is expanding.
“The new physics principle is that space and time are linked; when you create new space, you will create new time,” says Muller, a professor emeritus of the University of California, Berkeley.
In commenting on the theory and Muller’s new book, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the 2014 TV miniseries Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, writes, “Maybe it’s right. Maybe it’s wrong. But along the way he’s given you a master class in what time is and how and why we perceive it the way we do.”
“Time has been a stumbling block to our understanding of the universe,” adds Muller. “Over my career, I’ve seen a lot of nonsense published about time, and I started thinking about it and realized I had a lot to say from having taught the subject over many decades, having thought about it, having been annoyed by it, having some really interesting ways of presenting it, and some whole new ideas that have never appeared in the literature.”
The origin of ‘now’
Ever since the Big Bang explosively set off the expansion of the universe 13.8 billion years ago, the cosmos has been growing, something physicists can measure as the Hubble expansion. They don’t think of it as stars flying away from one another, however, but as stars embedded in space and space continually expanding.
Muller takes his lead from Albert Einstein, who built his theory of general relativity—the theory that explains everything from black holes to cosmic evolution—on the idea of a four-dimensional spacetime. Space is not the only thing expanding, Muller says; spacetime is expanding. And we are surfing the crest of that wave, what we call “now.”
“Every moment, the universe gets a little bigger, and there is a little more time, and it is this leading edge of time that we refer to as now,” he writes. “The future does not yet exist … it is being created. Now is at the boundary, the shock front, the new time that is coming from nothing, the leading edge of time.”
Because the future doesn’t yet exist, we can’t travel into the future, he asserts. He argues, too, that going back in time is equally improbable, since to reverse time you would have to decrease, at least locally, the amount of space in the universe. That does happen, such as when a star explodes or a black hole evaporates. But these reduce time so infinitesimally that the effect would be hidden in the quantum uncertainty of measurement—an instance of what physicists call cosmic censorship.
“The only example I could come up with is black hole evaporation, and in that case it turns out to be censored. So I couldn’t come up with any way to reverse time, and my basic conclusion is that time travel is not possible,” he says.
Merging black holes
Muller’s theory explaining the flow of time led to a collaboration with Caltech theoretician Shaun Maguire and a paper posted online in June that explains the theory in more detail—using mathematics—and proposes a way to test it using LIGO, an experiment that detects gravitational waves created by merging black holes.
If Muller and Maguire are right, then when two black holes merge and create new space, they should also create new time, which would delay the gravitational wave signal LIGO observes from Earth.
“The coalescing of two black holes creates millions of cubic miles of new space, which means a one-time creation of new time,” Muller says. The black hole merger first reported by LIGO in February 2016 involved two black holes weighing about 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun, producing a final black hole weighing about 62 solar masses. The new space created in the merger would produce about 1 millisecond of new time, which is near the detection level of LIGO. A similar event at one-third the distance would allow LIGO to detect the newly created time.
‘I expect controversy!’
Whether or not the theory pans out, Muller’s book makes a good case.
“[Muller] forges a new path. I expect controversy!” writes UC Berkeley Nobel laureate Saul Perlmutter, who garnered the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the accelerating expansion of the universe. Muller initiated the project that led to that discovery, which involved measuring the distances and velocities of supernovae. The implication of that discovery is that the progression of time is also accelerating, driven by dark energy.
For the book project, Muller explored previous explanations for the arrow of time and discovered that many philosophers and scientists have been flummoxed by the fact that we are always living in the “now:” from Aristotle and Augustine to Paul Dirac—the discoverer of antimatter, which can be thought of as normal matter moving backward in time—and Albert Einstein. While philosophers were not afraid to express an opinion, most physicists basically ignored the issue.
“No physics theories have the flow of time built into them in any way. Time was just the platform on which you did your calculations—there was no ‘now’ mentioned, no flow of time,” Muller says. “The idea of studying time itself did not exist prior to Einstein. Einstein gave physics the gift of time.”
Einstein, however, was unable to explain the flow of time into the future instead of into the past, despite the fact that the theories of physics work equally well going forward or backward in time. And although he could calculate different rates of time, depending on velocity and gravity, he had no idea why time flowed at all. The dominant idea today for the direction of time came from Arthur Eddington, who helped validate Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Eddington put forward the idea that time flows in the direction of increasing disorder in the universe, or entropy. Because the Second Law of Thermodynamics asserts that entropy can never decrease, time always increases.
Was Stephen Hawking wrong?
This idea has been the go-to explanation since. Even Stephen Hawking, in his book A Brief History of Time, doesn’t address the issue of the flow of time, other than to say that it’s “self-evident” that increasing time comes from increasing entropy.
Muller argues, however, that it is not self-evident: it is just wrong. Life and everything we do on Earth, whether building houses or making teacups, involves decreasing the local entropy, even though the total entropy of the universe increases. “We are constantly discarding excess entropy like garbage, throwing it off to infinity in the form of heat radiation,” Muller says. “The entropy of the universe does indeed go up, but the local entropy, the entropy of the Earth and life and civilization, is constantly decreasing.
“During my first big experiment, the measurement of the cosmic microwave radiation, I realized there is 10 million times more entropy in that radiation than there is in all of the mass of the universe, and it’s not changing with time. Yet time is progressing,” he says. “The idea that the arrow of time is set by entropy does not make any predictions, it is simply a statement of a correlation. And to claim it is causation makes no sense.”
In his book, Muller explains the various paradoxes that arise from the way the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics treat time, including the Schrodinger’s cat conundrum and spooky action at a distance that quantum entanglement allows. Neither of these theories addresses the flow of time, however. Theories about wormholes that can transport you across the universe or back in time are speculative and, in many cases, wrong.
The discussion eventually leads Muller to explore deep questions about the ability of the past to predict the future and what that says about the existence of free will.
Muller admits that his new theory about time may have observable effects only in the cosmic realm, such as our interpretation of the red shift—the stretching of light waves caused by the expansion of space—which would have to be modified to reflect the simultaneous expansion of time. The two effects may not be distinguishable throughout most of the universe’s history, but the creation of time might be discernible during the rapid cosmic inflation that took place just after the Big Bang, when space and time expanded much, much faster than today.
He is optimistic that in the next few years LIGO will verify or falsify his theory.
“I think my theory is going to have an impact on calculations of the very early universe,” Muller says. “I don’t see any way that it affects our everyday lives. But it is fascinating.”

Sunday Special: Ode to the sexagenarian grandmom

It is interesting how a woman, after 60, is considered a retiree by society and is given unsolicited advice by younger members of the family or even her own friends, on how to pursue her life subsequently. Her children think her favourite occupation ought to be to look out for her old man experiencing his second childhood – saving him from himself, by denying him indulgences that would probably make his life qualitatively superior. And of course by restraining him from finicky and fidgety behaviour that in truth could get quite annoying.
The children (particularly daughters) assume that the most soul satisfying activity that a sexagenarian mum can pursue is to spend time with the little grandchild, especially when the parents are busy club hopping or touring the world. The whiz kid considers it glorified ayah giri and treats it as such.
The children euphemistically term these moments as ‘bonding with the grandchild’ – but the kid rarely thinks so. He sees the old lady as the tyrant who time and again separates him from his parents.
And more often than not expresses it with little destructive bouts of stubbornness and rage. Or, in comparatively gentler moments, with the consistent wail that grandma’s company bored him to death because she was too clumsy or dumb to play with him on his electronic machines.
It isn’t a wonder then that you end up resenting your grandchild, until the next time there is this stress call from your daughter (cleverly disguised as a favour to you), to come and give company to the little brat who is already thinking up new ways of torturing you. And like a sucker, you are sold on it all over again!
How much better to use your time creatively. Study further or join the activity that once consumed you as a kid or a teenager. I have had younger grandmoms go on about how their logical minds and argumentative tongues would have helped them became top notch lawyers – if only dad had not forcibly tied them by the marital knot.
And how, instead of submitting to the libido of a groping husband who couldn’t distinguish between a gautakiya and a wife in his alcoholic haze (this one actually took advantage of that) she would have been better off in creative pursuits other than producing children.
If a man can study, mentor, contribute to society in several ways till he is able, why can’t a woman? Sixty is the new 50 and yes, women are smarter, better educated and more self-aware than their own grandmothers half a century ago.
They should nurture the individual within and not roles calibrated by society. Empty nesters, as they are called, are free once again, free to pursue their desires and passions. And if it means falling in love with life all over again, or even a much younger man, so be it.
Of course, as the old cliché goes, with freedom comes responsibility. One is never free from those. As youngsters responsibility towards parents, as young married adults, towards the spouse and children and later towards grandchildren. In fact, a world without responsibility would be a wild one. As civilised beings, we have to live within those parameters because we wouldn’t want to be at the receiving end either of wild and wanton behaviour.
But a little bit of ‘wild’ (read that as free) thinking is a palliative to all those old age problems that women suffer from. Most of them are self-induced by that generic expression ‘Can’t Do It!’ – probably introduced by some bearded 100-year-old patriarch who couldn’t stand the competition from his equally if not more capable wife(ves).

 

Saturday Special: Shakespeare- The Empire Builder

Through his brilliant prose, William Shakespeare helped prepare the British people to rule over the greatest empire on the planet. With its colonies around the world, the sun never set on the British Empire.

Shakespeare’s writings also explain why Britain has lost its empire. What went wrong? His answer applies in principle to the United States, which is filled with a cauldron of evils today. He points to our nations’ ability to solve their problems if willing to do so. There is a giant lesson to take away from Shakespeare’s writings. Shakespeare showed how to sustain an empire after building it. Problems will only keep intensifying until we learn this lesson.

Why did the British Empire come into existence? We must answer this question. In The Facts About Shakespeare, William Allan Neilson and Ashley Horace Thorndike wrote: Shakespeare knew his Bible. Several volumes have been written to exhibit the extent of this knowledge, and it has been shown by Anders that he knew both the Genevan and the Great Bible …. Charles Wordsworth, a bishop of St. Andrews, and a scholar well versed in both Latin and Greek, wrote, “Take the entire range of English literature, put together our best authors who have written upon subjects not professedly religious or theological, and we shall not find, I believe, in them all united, so much evidence of the Bible having been read and used as we have found in Shakespeare alone.”

Shakespeare wrote a lot about the Bible and how to apply its lessons. He lived at the time the King James Bible was printed, in 1611, and during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I before that. This was a critical period in history—the foundation of the British Empire was being laid.

In Lectures on the Science of Language, Max Müller wrote in 1861: “A well-educated person in England who has been at a public school and at the university … seldom uses more than about 3,000 or 4,000 words ….” He went on to praise Shakespeare’s variety of expression: Shakespeare used about 22,000 words in his plays! What a vocabulary, and what an educator he was for the British people and the world. He was the greatest non-Bible writer to ever live.

Biblical Themes

Biblical themes appear throughout Shakespeare’s plays. In King John ii, he wrote: With that same purpose-changer, that sly devil,/ That broker, that still breaks the pate of faith ….

Satan the devil has the power to shatter people’s faith. This is a prime way to destroy an empire.

In The Merchant of Venice, the character Portia says: But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,/ It is an attribute to God himself ….

God is more merciful than anyone. Mercy is a godly quality. How many nations are taught like this from their literature—especially of the secular category?

Shakespeare’s best play, arguably, is Hamlet. Abraham Lincoln’s favorite soliloquy in the play centered on repentance. Hamlet’s father was king until his own brother killed him, became king, and married his widow less than two months later. This is one of the most abominable scenes in Shakespeare’s plays. After quite some time, the new king, Hamlet’s uncle, realized the magnitude of his horrible sin. He said:

O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; /It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t,/A brother’s murder.

This is an obvious reference to the first family in human history. Adam and Eve led the world away from God. Their eldest son, Cain, killed his brother, Abel. Such a tragedy should have made the parents realize the curses of rebelling against God! King Claudius continued in the soliloquy:

Try what repentance can: what can it not?/Yet what can it when one can not repent? /O wretched state! O bosom black as death!

The Apostle Paul wrote something extremely similar in Romans 7:24: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Repentance must be toward God; only He can deliver us. Here’s one more section of the soliloquy:

Bow, stubborn knees; and, heart with strings of steel, /Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!/ All may be well.

Repentance heals all our ills, if we are humble and teachable like a little child (Matthew 18:1-3). Shakespeare understood that. Hamlet’s mother was an accomplice in the despicable plot to depose her husband. Hamlet confronted her and implored her to repent:

Mother, for love of grace, …/Confess yourself to heaven;/Repent what’s past; avoid what is to come ….

Would a message like this have anything to do with preparing the way for the mighty British Empire? (Request our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy to understand God’s involvement in making the British Empire great.) Hamlet continued:

The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,/That ever I was born to set it right!

God calls a small group of people today to be a part of the seventh era of His Church and to raise up the ruins of the wayward sixth era. It is our job to “set it right.”

Hamlet asked, “What is a man?” In Psalm 8:4, King David asked the same question. Hamlet continued:

Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,/Looking before and after, gave us not

That capability and God-like reason/To fust in us unused.

God made us with minds that can think and reason like Him! The human mind is not meant to “fust,” or to rust. We must use it the right way! There’s something different about man. No animal has “God-like reason.” We are made to look like God, and to develop the mind and character of God (Genesis 1:26). Shakespeare pointed to this divine purpose of human life. What powerful poetry!

James Russell Lowell wrote: “It may be reckoned one of the rarest pieces of good luck that ever fell to the share of a race, that (as was true of Shakespeare) its most rhythmic genius, its acutest intellect, its profoundest imagination, and its healthiest understanding should have been combined in one man ….”

Was it really luck?

Love of Empire

In The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth and the Reality, Charlton Ogburn quoted early 19th-century Shakespeare commentator Hermann Sincheimer as writing (emphasis mine throughout):

There was not room enough for him in the island of Britain. He had to roam far and wide in order to keep his genius supplied with raw material. Like Drake and Raleigh, he discovered and held as booty the material which set his imagination on fire. Between the lines and between the characters, one may read the legend, “Our island is too small; Our kingdom is the world.”

Shakespeare believed that the British should rule the world—and they almost did! He has been called Britain’s triumph, the soul of the age. He expanded the minds of the people, especially the leaders. Winston Churchill loved his poetry and said that one only needs the Bible and Shakespeare to be well educated.

The name Israel in the Bible applies primarily to Manasseh and Ephraim—the United States and Britain, respectively. (The United States and Britain in Prophecy will prove this to you.) In Genesis 35:11, God promised that Ephraim and his descendants would grow into “a nation and a company of nations.” Shakespeare helped the British people fulfill that promise!

“And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days” (Genesis 49:1). God has revealed what would happen to America, Britain and the other descendants of ancient Israel in this end time. Jacob explained in this chapter the overwhelming prosperity that the British people would enjoy as they colonized the world—their “branches run over the wall” (verse 22). At least a quarter of the Bible is written in beautiful poetic form like this.

Miriam Joseph quoted 16th-century author Henry Peacham in Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language, writing that Shakespeare lived “in an age ardently devoted to the reading of the Bible, wherein a knowledge of the figures of rhetoric ‘help much for the better understanding of the holy Scriptures.’”

The British people don’t read the Bible today. The empire is gone. Is there a connection? The Bible would show America and Britain the solutions to our deadly problems. Spiritual rot has consumed these nations. As spiritual empire builders, God’s people must learn from Britain’s failure to sustain its empire.

Shakespeare sweated and struggled to perfect his poetry and to avoid the crass and uncouth meter of false grammar. “For a good poet’s made as well as born,” he said. God makes His people strain and strive to be successful. We need the mind and faith of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5; Galatians 2:20).

Julius Caesar says:

There is a tide in the affairs of men./Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune ….

This quote greatly inspired Abraham Lincoln. Build momentum, and ride the tide to victory as empire builders for God!

Oft-Ignored the Biggest Threat to Mankind

According to Bill Gates, infectious diseases are the greatest threat to humanity. As hurricanes and other natural disasters ravage the world and the threat of nuclear war looms, it’s hard to assess which risks for humanity are really the scariest right now. But one of the biggest threats out there is one of the oldest: infectious disease, which can emerge naturally or be human-made, as in a case of bioterrorism.
As Bill and Melinda Gates wrote in their recently released “Goalkeepers” report, disease — both infectious and chronic — is the biggest public health threat the world faces in the next decade. And although Gates said on a press call that “you can be pretty hopeful there’ll be big progress” on chronic disease, we are still unprepared to deal with the infectious variety.
Gates has repeatedly stated that he sees a pandemic as the greatest immediate threat to humanity on the planet. “Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year,” Gates wrote in an op-ed for Business Insider earlier this year. “And they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10-15 years.” Gates is right about the gravity of that threat, according to experts in the field.
George Poste is an ex officio member of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, a group created to assess the state of biodefense in the US,.
“We are coming up on the centenary of the 1918 influenza pandemic,” he told Business Insider. “We’ve been fortunately spared anything on that scale for the past 100 years, but it is inevitable that a pandemic strain of equal virulence will emerge.”
The 1918 pandemic killed approximately 50 million people around the globe, making it one of the deadliest events in human history.
David Rakestraw, a program manager overseeing chemical, biological and explosives security at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Tom Slezak, the laboratory’s associate program leader for bioinformatics, also agree with Gates.
“Both natural and intentional biological threats pose significant threats and merit our nation’s attention to mitigate their impact,” they told Business Insider in an email.
It’s possible that a major outbreak could be intentionally created as the result of a biological weapon, but Poste thinks a serious bioterrorism attack is unlikely due to the complexity of pulling something like that off.
It’s very likely, however, that a highly dangerous disease would naturally emerge — and the consequences of that pandemic would be just as severe.
Regardless of how a disease starts to spread, preparedness efforts for pandemics are the same, according to Poste. And the recent outbreaks of Zika and Ebola have highlighted the need for more heightened disease surveillance capabilities. We’re still getting a handle on the health effects of Zika — and it seems like the mosquito-borne disease may be even more severe than we thought.
Experts have long advocated for better ways to recognize emerging threats before they become epidemics or pandemics. Poste also said we need to improve rapid diagnostic tests and get better at developing new therapeutics and vaccines — something Gates highlighted as a weakness in the “Goalkeepers” report as well.
Until that happens, that threat remains far more real than many of us realize.
A deadly epidemic could start at any time – and we’re not ready, says the head of the WHO
A refusal to help protect ourselves from disease means that we could be on the edge of a global pandemic.
We have a problem. A serious one. At any moment, a life-threatening global pandemic could spring up and wipe out a significant amount of human life on this planet. The death toll would be catastrophic. One disease could see as many as 100 million dead.
It sounds like a horrifying dream. It sounds like something that can’t possibly be true. But it is.
“This is not some future nightmare scenario,” said Tedros (as he prefers to be called by Ethiopian tradition). “This is what happened exactly 100 years ago during the Spanish flu epidemic.” A hush fell across the audience as he noted that we could see such devastation again, perhaps as soon as today. Tedros was equal parts emphatic and grave as he spoke: “A devastating epidemic could start in any country at any time and kill millions of people because we are still not prepared. The world remains vulnerable.”
What is the cause of this great vulnerability? Is it our inability to stave off Ebola? Rising incidents of rabies in animal populations? An increased number of HIV and AIDS cases?
No. The threat of a global pandemic comes from our apathy, from our staunch refusal to act to save ourselves — a refusal that finds its heart in our indifference and our greed.
“Universal health coverage is the greatest threat to global health,” Tedros proclaimed. As the audience shifted in their seats uncomfortably, he noted that, despite the fact that universal health coverage is “within reach” for almost every nation in the world, 3.5 billion people still lack access to essential health services. Almost 100 million are pushed into extreme poverty because of the cost of paying for care out of their own pockets.
The result? People don’t go to the doctor. They don’t seek treatment. They get sicker. They die. And thus, as Tedros explained, “the earliest signals of an outbreak are missed.”
Surveillance is one of the most vital forms of protection the world’s public health agencies can offer, but these agencies rely on the money of the governments they serve. And in the United States, which is presently enduring a flu season of record-breaking severity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced they would be cutting their epidemic prevention programs back by 80 percent. Programs for preventing infectious diseases, such as Ebola, are being scaled back in 39 of the 49 countries they’ve been employed in, according to The Washington Post.
The reason? Quite simply, governments are pulling money from these programs, and it’s not clear whether any more will ever be allocated — at least, not in the U.S. during the current administration.
It might seem a bit obtuse. But, as Tedros pointed out, too often we “see health as a cost to be contained and not an investment to be nurtured.”
Aside from the obvious — avoiding a global pandemic that ravages humanity — healthy societies are advantageous for reasons that are more economic than epidemiological. “The benefits of universal health coverage go far beyond health,” Tedros said. “Strong health systems are essential to strong economies.”
We know that the quality of pre- and post-natal care a person receives when a child is born has a direct impact on how soon they’re able to return to work (if they choose to). If we want our children to grow up healthy enough to become functioning, contributing members of society, then the quality of care they receive from birth throughout childhood can’t be underestimated.
“We do not know where and when the next global pandemic will occur,” Tedros admitted, “but we know it will take a terrible toll both on human life and on the economy.”
While Tedros acknowledged there’s no guarantee we’ll one day create a completely pandemic-free world, what is within our reach — if we have the investment and support — is a world where humans, not pathogens, remain in control. We can do better. And if most of us are to survive in the long term, we must.

 

 

Seniors-a decisive factor in the next Canadian elections

Canada’s population is aging. The proportion of seniors in the population went from 13.7 per cent in 2006 to 16.9 per cent 10 years later, for the first time exceeding that of those aged 15 years and less.
This signals the start of a big acceleration in the process of population aging, fuelled by the baby boomers starting to cross into the cohort of seniors, aged 65 and older.
An implication of this trend worthy of attention particularly in this year before the next federal election is the continuing aging of the electorate. In the last federal election in 2015, seniors constituted 21.8 per cent of registered voters, up from 18.2 per cent in 2006.
Seniors’ turnout rates at elections have been higher too: in 2006, 68.1 per cent of registered seniors actually voted (as compared to 63.9 per cent of registered voters younger than 65). In 2015, the turnout rates had gone up to 73.4 per cent for senior voters and 68.1 per cent for younger voters. With the greater increase in the turnout of seniors, their share in total votes went up from 19.1 per cent in 2006 to 23.4 per cent in 2015.
Seniors have a vested interest in government policies relating to age discrimination, retirement, pensions, health benefits, safety and security, appropriate housing, age-friendly infrastructure, senior discounts, and availability of caregivers, among other issues. Moreover, “pre-seniors” aged 55 to 64 also have a growing interest in what provisions the party they vote for would make for seniors. Together, voters older than 55 cast 43 per cent of the total votes in the 2015 election, up from 36.6 per cent in 2006.
For candidates, greater focus on the concerns of such a large and increasing proportion of the electorate could turn out to be the key to an electoral victory. It is therefore important that all parties contesting the election pay, and also be seen to be paying, enough attention to issues facing seniors.
The Liberal government has shown growing awareness of the need to address issues facing Canada’s seniors. In September, federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for seniors met in St. John’s, N.L., under the chairmanship of Families, Children, and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos. The meeting reviewed progress on current work and discussed new priorities focusing on, among others: housing and community supports to facilitate aging at home and in the community; the socio-economic impact of ageism and ways to deal with it; and the labour market participation of an aging workforce.
The National Housing Strategy announced in November is another indication the Liberals are paying more attention to seniors’ issues. The strategy is the first of its kind to be announced in Canada. Seniors need a secure home where they can feel safe and live independently. The strategy’s focus includes seniors. But whether it has the required impact in solving seniors’ housing needs will only be seen in its implementation.
While piecemeal policy measures contribute to improving seniors’ well-being, the wide-ranging issues facing seniors call for a comprehensive national strategy. A national seniors strategy is needed to ensure that institutions and vital public services are strong and ready to efficiently and effectively provide for those who need them.
And, above all, a minister responsible for seniors is needed to oversee the formulation and implementation of a national strategy. The Conservative government had a minister of state for seniors but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dropped that portfolio. Instead, aging was made part of the mandate of the minister of families, children, and social development. This could be interpreted as relegating its importance from primary to secondary.
Given the aging population, issues facing seniors will assume increasing importance. The appointment in Ottawa of a cabinet minister responsible for seniors and the announcement of a national seniors strategy would signal the seriousness attached to population aging and the increasing number of Canadian seniors.
Seniors and the “pre-seniors” will look at the past performance and future plans spelled out in the election manifestos of different parties to see what each has to offer for the well-being of older adults. With over 40 per cent of the electorate having a vested interest in this issue, the party that most appeals to them could well be celebrating at the end of next year’s election campaign.

Weekend Special: Cultural markers in early Kashmir attest to Indic and Sanskritic identity

It is a common notion that historically Kashmir Valley has been isolated. Rajatarangini, the Sanskrit chronicle of Kashmiri kings, proves otherwise.
Sanskrit has come to be rather misunderstood as merely a language of ritual and scripture, which is why it is regarded by some either as redundant to the modern, secular world we inhabit or as an instrument of social domination. This is a woefully inadequate understanding of the vast and variegated repertoire of Sanskrit. Name any knowledge system in the world and you will find a Sanskrit text, if not an entire genre, devoted to it. From metaphysics to erotics, from logic to poetics, from statecraft to medicine, from maths to painting the list is endless. Not many know this or have opportunities in modern Indian academies to explore the extraordinary intellectual history that Sanskrit entails.
Rajatarangini central to Kashmir history and it is a credible source. Kalhana’s Rajatarangini (12th century CE), composed in Sanskrit, is the earliest surviving articulation of Kashmiri regional identity and selfhood. It elaborates a poetics of place that transforms Kashmir from just another piece of land to a homeland. It maps her geography, her people, her traditions, her folklore, and her history over two millennia.
It is however not just a tale of Kashmir but a tale for Kashmir as well, since it views and evaluates Kashmiri history and Kashmiri kings through a deeply ethical lens. It is a critical commentary par excellence too, therefore. Righteous conduct was central to Kalhana’s worldview: Prajanupalanam (welfare of the subjects) and sat (pure-mindedness) were the supreme duties/ virtues of kings while prajapidanam (oppressing the people) and lobha (greed) their greatest vices. Kalhana classified and critiqued Kashmiri kings and their policies, as well as other social and political actors, according to this ethical principle.
As for credibility, the fact that it gave rise to at least three sequels by other Kashmiris over the next four, tumultuous centuries of Kashmiri history, and was still regarded as the foremost representation of the region by Abul Fazl when the Mughals descended on the Valley in the late 16th century, decidedly attests to the power, prestige and deemed authenticity of Kalhaṇa’s discourse in his own land.
Rajatarangini represents Kashmir as a very pious land but also, at times, as a troubled land. For Kalhana, this was no contradiction or ambivalence, but a tragic vitiation or travesty of Kashmir’s original nature, which was pristine and spiritual, by its politics and civil wars. In a show of striking prescience, Kalhana stoically describes his country as upaplavapriya desha (a country which delighted in insurrection) and svabhedavidhuram mandalam (a realm unhappy through its own factions). Of course, the demographic composition and what people now resident in the Valley are fighting over have drastically altered from Kalhana’s times.
The history of Kashmir suffers from both neglect and misrepresentation. It has, for example, been maintained that because of her surrounding high mountain topography, the valley of Kashmir was historically isolated from the rest of India and therefore developed a cultural insularity and uniqueness. It has also been assumed retrospectively that Kashmiri culture, including the tradition of history-writing, was influenced by west Asia and central Asia. However, all the cultural markers diagnostic of identity and mobility in early Kashmir from at least 5th century BCE onwards for another two millennia – material culture, textual representations, foreign accounts, inscriptions, coins, language, art, religion, philosophy – attest overwhelmingly to Kashmir’s Indic and Sanskritic identity and character.
They also attest to her deep and extensive connections and mutual involvement not just with neighbouring areas like Punjab and Himachal but with centres of Indic civilisation in the deep interiors of India like Patna, Nalanda, Gaya, Banaras, Allahabad, Mathura, Malwa, Bengal, till Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in the far south. Here was cultural transmission and communication of astonishing reach! This is why in my recent book I have argued for moving away from the paradigm of ‘unique history’ or ‘centre and periphery’ to that of ‘connected histories’ if the birth of Kashmir and all the factors that shaped her emergence as a culture region are to be correctly understood.
Research shows that ancient Kashmiri society and culture were open, pluralistic and dynamic. The identity invoked by separatist groups in the Valley today has a closed and exclusionist character and agenda. That is a big departure, which suggests that the latter ‘identity’ is a construct with little grounding in the long history of Kashmir and its people

 

Why Social Enterprises Fail?

When a tech startup fails, it’s inevitably a harsh time for the founder, the employees, the investors and the customers.
But when a social enterprise shuts down, its failure also affects those populations or ecosystems that the business was supposed to serve, increasing both the stakeholders’ sense of responsibility and the real-world consequences of their failure.
Although that’s likely why so many social entrepreneurs are reluctant to talk about their business failures, it’s also the reason they should share them more openly.
In other words, the failure of a social enterprise is much more sensitive than that of a traditional company, and for that reason it is very important to understand the factors that led to failure.
Recently, the Failure Institute published a study focused on the main causes of failure of social enterprises. Although it was focused on Mexico, the findings and learnings can apply to any country.
For this study the Failure Institute worked with a population of 115 Mexican for-profit social entrepreneurs who had experienced failure in their initiatives to create and maintain social enterprises.
Failure rates
Some facts about the sample: 49.6% of the social entrepreneurs were older than 30; 71.3% had one to three founding partners; and most of the businesses were small: 65.2% had from one to five employees; 19.1% had five to 10 employees, 10.4% had 10 to 30 employees, and only 5.2% had more than 20 employees. Most of them (78.3%) were never supported by a business incubator or accelerator.
As for how long the social enterprises remained operational, 38.3% survived less than one year, 45.2% lasted between one and three years, 8.7% lasted four to six years, 2.6% seven to nine years, and 5.2% lasted more than 10 years as a company.
This means that in Mexico the life expectancy of social enterprises is one more year than traditional businesses.
The three factors that stand out as causes for failure among social entrepreneurs, in the perception of the participants, are:
1. Lack of resources and infrastructure
This is defined by the lack of support funds for social entrepreneurs, as well as ignorance as to how to get funded and the lack of skills to integrate projects to obtain social funds.
A piece of advice for social entrepreneurs: in order to create an impact, you need the hard financial skills that will help you obtain investment and grow your business.
2. Context
The environment in which social enterprises operate is often not ideal because public policies have not kept pace with them. For instance, in Mexico there is no special legal designation for social enterprises.
3. The board of directors
In most social enterprises, the board is constituted of founding partners. It was surprising to learn that this tends to be perceived as a source of conflict; this can be caused by a lack of clarity in the areas of responsibility, a lack of commitment by the founding partners, and the presence of interpersonal conflicts between members.
Unlike other initiatives, social entrepreneurship is directly related to the personal qualities of the entrepreneur.
This includes their social skills to attract members, volunteers and investors on the one hand, and their ability to create support networks and mediate interpersonal conflicts among members of the organization on the other.
Such skills are significantly correlated with the project management and the achievement of a relevant product.
This research opened new questions that will be explored in the following years: Why do social entrepreneurs fail less than the rest?
What is the failure rate of social enterprises in other countries?
How can we reduce the impact of failure of a social enterprise?
Probably the answers will help social entrepreneurs all over the world to understand that failure is part of the journey, and that when failure is unavoidable, it is possible to fail in a smarter way.

 

New Shades of an Old Conflict

The emergence of credible threats in ‘rear of rear areas’ points to a transformation in threat pattern. As Pakistan’s provocation changes, India’s response must be different too. While the threat to major cities in the Indian hinterland would require much more planning by Pakistan, the border towns of J&K and Punjab would remain vulnerable.
With the LoC ceasefire as good as collapsed, repeated attempts at fidayeen suicide attacks on military camps and continued efforts to stoke the fires in the streets of Kashmir, for Pakistan and India this is a situation of hybrid war which is never declared, is long-term and manifests as varied threats. It is not necessarily restricted to borders and the targets can be multiple in nature.
A few weeks before the Sunjwan camp attack in Jammu city, I had predicted through a series of analyses that it was a just a matter of time before the bad times returned to the Jammu-Samba-Kathua belt. Any keen observer of the sequence of events could have predicted that. First, the Jammu hinterland, from Poonch to Kathua, once an area of varying grades of militancy and terror, had sufficiently stabilised, enabling the Indian Army to shift its focus and additional resources of counter-terror operations almost entirely to the Valley sector. Second, targeting the Jammu sector creates more controversy and Pakistan always hopes that a communal situation will emerge while the deeper effect of religious schisms will also travel to the rest of India.
Third, tying down military resources in the securing of their camps, stations and garrisons would ensure the tiring out of the Indian Army. Fourth, Pakistan’s wide open political arena in a crucial election year is also stoking the political ambitions of elements that have thus far remained outside the political ambit; muscular threats to India as proxies of the Deep State are perceived as a ticket to greater future political relevance. Fifth, Pakistan’s increasing security collusion with China is giving it an out of proportion strategic confidence, enabling it to test the waters beyond the ordinary in order to prove its worth as a partner.
Even as India contemplates response options, with the taking of hybrid war into Pakistan’s territory as one of the prime ones, there will be a necessity to secure many more of our vulnerable areas (VAs) and vulnerable points (VPs) right from the Valley stretching south to entire Punjab. The reasons for the threat having been clarified above, it’s equally important to know the nature of the threat.
While threat to major cities in the Indian hinterland would require much more planning and resources by Pakistan, the border towns of J&K and Punjab and some of the military garrisons in Haryana and Punjab would remain vulnerable to small teams infiltrated through the LoC or international border (IB) and traveling to the hinterland with the help of surrogates. An aspect Indian intelligence agencies will have to factor in is the idea of “copycat terror”. This is nothing but a manifestation of the intense competition within Pakistan between the so-called friendly and unfriendly terrorist groups.
The Tehreek e Pakistan Taliban (TTP), an “unfriendly” group, achieved a signature profile through targeting of air bases, military academies, schools and training centres of the Pakistan Army/AF. The Lashkar e Toiba (LeT) and the Jaish e Mohammad (JeM), the latter in a suddenly rejuvenated avatar, aim to project their higher capability, outreach and nationalist fervour by targeting similar facilities in India and remaining one-up on the “unfriendlies”.
That makes even cities such as Dehradun, Meerut, Roorkee and Bareilly as vulnerable as Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and Ambala. While alarm bells need not be sounded yet, there is need for far greater earmarking of response elements, intelligence resources and a revisit of the security infrastructure, equipment and SOPs. The perceived difficulty of the Indian Army of securing itself from suicide attacks at installations and institutions arises due to the absence thus far of credible threats to these. This is no longer the case. For an army trained to deliver hard blows in conventional operations and conduct routine LoC and anti-terrorist operations, the sudden emergence of credible threats in the “rear of rear areas” is nothing short of a transformational change in the threat pattern.
This is designed to keep the Indian forces pegged to securing themselves rather than training, managing their equipment and simply carrying out rest and recuperation of units which have spent hard grinds at the border for up to three years and sometimes even more. The adversary’s intent is to ensure that army formations and units are as committed, if not more, than the units of the Pakistan Army. A senior Pakistani Army veteran in conversation with me lamented the state of cantonments and garrisons in Pakistan where facilities lie in a state of neglect as a majority of troops do service at the eastern and western borders, a problem much of Pakistan’s own making.
With the targeting of the family residential quarters at Sunjwan, it is quite obvious the most vulnerable segment of the garrison was selected. In the coming summer, many formations and units of the Indian Army would move out of their garrisons and proceed for collective training, leaving families behind with school buses and other such amenities of routine military life. These would be even more vulnerable. Civil military cooperation is usually perceived as the military coming to the aid of civil authority at the time of emergent contingencies. Rarely does the idea of securing the military garrisons with the assistance of civil authorities arise. That situation is now more likely.
Intelligence and security cooperation and coordination in towns and cities in depth will become as important an activity as the routine aid to civil authority. What the army has to immediately realise is that its own security has to go beyond just the earmarking of quick reaction teams (QRTs). A hundred per cent arming of all troops with sufficient ammunition on each man in peace locations is not a very palatable notion. While frontline fighting units are fully capable of this, there are many softer segments within the army too. Hospitals and schools make up a majority of this. Training establishments will probably have to earmark a part of their demonstration troops and absorb additional troops made available by fighting formations, with command and control from within their establishments.
There cannot be an overnight improvement in the neglected security infrastructure but much can yet be overcome with more robust awareness, training and willingness to be less comfortable than usual. It has to be supplemented by the government’s directions to ensure no bureaucratic hurdles in the way of security, with some form of accountability in the event of grave errors. This must not be restricted to the army’s garrisons and camps alone but equally take all resources under the MHA in its ambit.
Lest all this should sound defensive and paint a grim picture of India at hybrid war, let it not be forgotten by the government that attack remains the best form of defence. It should hold nothing back in its quest to hurt the adversary, whether at the border or deep inside his territory. Two can surely play this game.

Devices Hack Our Happiness

For the past 30 years, most of us around the globe have welcomed modern technology with few questions and fewer reservations. We have treated each new product as a “solution” and paid little attention to its accompanying problems.
The past six months, though, have seen a rapid change of opinion in the United States, as many in the technology elites have called GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) and other tech giants to account.
One of the most outspoken of Silicon Valley’s moguls, Roger McNamee, who was a mentor to Mark Zuckerberg, has published several articles highly critical of Facebook and has just launched a campaign, ‘Truth About Tech’, to educate the world about the evils of Big Tech and strategies for healthier interactions with technology.
We were not surprised by this turn of events, because we had begun work, more than a year ago, on a new book on precisely this topic: technology’s impacts on all of us. In the forthcoming Your Happiness Was Hacked, we were fashioning a narrative in which technology companies’ interactive products have been robbing us of fulfilment and connection by deliberately limiting our choices, using sophisticated manipulation to entice us into ever more consumption of their wares.
This may at first be counterintuitive. The promise of the internet, the smartphone, social media and virtual and augmented realities is of enrichment and improvement of our lives by the additional choices they offer. But it is a mirage.
Though the internet may seem to offer an endless range of applications, content, and communication tools, the unhappy reality is that the options available are rapidly decreasing in utility and reward and increasingly herding us into habits of mindless consumption.
Witness what has become of Google. The search engine that originated as a means of finding the most relevant answers to search queries has degenerated into a massive online advertising medium that heavily prioritises whatever others pay it to. A search on a mobile phone – say, for the best hotel in Mumbai – yields a handful of results of which every one of the top 10 has either been paid for specifically or represents a giant media or hotel company.
Facebook too manipulates the information we would imagine it supplying unfiltered. Its deep detective work into our individual lives is its basis for manipulating our news feeds with the aim of maximising our clicks and taps – without actually asking us whether we enjoy the endless array of pictures of our friends’ weddings. (We must, because we spend time there, right?)
Then there are the incessant beeps, noises, and interruptive alerts of WhatsApp. Intrusions of this type are now common to most communication applications, and they take a large toll on our well-being. They make it harder for us to do our jobs in a concentrated or thoughtful fashion.
We accomplish less, which makes us miserable. Economists are even suggesting that the very technologies that we suppose make all of us so productive have, through their distractiveness, instead become responsible for a plateau in the growth of worker productivity in the past decade.
Yet we find ourselves unable to break the habit: we are afraid of missing out; we are expected to respond quickly to friends, relatives and co-workers; and all of these technologies embed addictive characteristics – the most obvious being psychological rewards such as ‘likes’ – that use the same techniques of beguilement as casinos’ computerised gambling machines do to ensnare us.
The raw truth is that smartphones and applications foster psychological addictions without consideration of the human cost or of design principles that might be less profitable for them but healthier for people in the long run.
How can we alter our technology lives such that we enjoy real choice, understand the trickery of enticements, and regain the agency necessary to human happiness? How can we make the tech companies back off and allow us to establish our own cadence in our use of their tech?
Pushed to operate ethically, smartphone makers could allow us, on their phones’ home screens, to select a ‘focus mode’ that would disable all notifications and social media, even taking the additional step of reverting them to greyscale to reduce the attractiveness of their screens’ brightly coloured notification bubbles. YouTube could ask us whether we wish to always play another video automatically when we first sign up for the service, in order to help us avert binge watching.
As for our own defences, we will need to work hard to insert pauses into periods of thoughtless enthrallment. Turning off most applications’ alerts, checking email only in batches at designated times, and using our phones to call family and friends and talk to them rather than sending them incessant WhatsApp messages would help most of us make a great start on rejoining the living

Europe’s ‘Underground’ Army

France is the nation that talks the most about a European military. But it is another nation doing the real work: Germany. This is not the first time Germany has quietly built a military behind the scenes. A brief study of history gives a powerful warning about what is happening underground in Europe.
To many, Europe today is a military weakling. It has looked this way before—only to shock the world with its strength. One nation is working “behind the scenes” to bring European armies together. It is swallowing entire armies, and bringing foreign soldiers under its control, without firing a shot. And this is rarely reported in Western media. This nation is quietly building a massive new military power in Europe.
Training for an EU Army
The most recent report on these overlooked efforts comes from Spiegel Online. “It will be years before Europe becomes a true defense union, but [German Defense Minister Ursula] von der Leyen does not want to wait for that to happen,” it wrote. For a long time, the cdu politician has been working on the Euro army and pushing forward the networking of Bundeswehr troops with their European partners—beyond large armaments projects or command structures, so to speak, at the base.
The Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, currently has 24 training facilities that are open to soldiers from other European Union member states, Spiegel Online reported. It also has German troops in 55 training facilities of other armies across Europe, from Albania to Spain.
Defense Minister von der Leyen is working “behind the scenes” to bring European armies together. She is creating a network of training facilities across the Continent where officers and soldiers learn to operate within the military organization of their European neighbors, Spiegel Online reported. For example, some Bundeswehr officers are attending the elite officers’ school in Saint-Cyr, France—learning about the military structure, strategies, resources and mentality of France.
In addition to learning to command foreign soldiers, the German officers learn to work with them. They cooperate with the French on flying helicopters. German submarines could soon set off for patrol carrying joint German-Norwegian crews. And these are just a few of the many ways Germany is building an EU military.
Building an EU Army
Germany is also bringing soldiers from neighboring nations under its command. Two thirds of land forces personnel in the Netherlands—the great majority of the country’s armed forces—will soon be under German authority. These soldiers serve in German brigades under a German command structure. They are becoming part of the German Army. The Czech Republic is integrating one of its two combat brigades into the German Army, and Romania is signing over a mechanized brigade to Germany. These are far from token forces: A brigade typically includes several thousand soldiers.
Germany has been clear about the ultimate aim of this agreement: to create a European army. In 2013, then defense minister Thomas de Maizière outlined the plan at the Munich Security Conference; he said Germany was fed up with talking about a European army. “It is not new visions we Europeans need, but a strategy of resolute pragmatism,” he said. The Germans would let the rest of Europe talk about grand plans for an EU army, while they rolled up their sleeves and got on with the job, one nation at a time. Germany is quietly building a massive new military power in Europe.
In 2016, von der Leyen said she aimed to use this method to create “a multinational Panzer division.” No other nation in Europe is doing anything remotely similar. Writing about this project in 2016, Die Welt explained, “This should create a unit with up to 20,000 active soldiers, which should be operational by 2021—which would be the nucleus of a European army”.
Many commentators talk about a European army being years away. But in several significant ways, the army is already here: It’s called the Bundeswehr.
Details of a European Army
On Dec. 11, 2017, EU nations officially launched a military pact called Permanent Structured Cooperation (pesco) that includes logistics, transportation and training missions that will help member countries operate in better coordination with one another.
Germany will take the lead on some crucial projects, including the Network of Logistic Hubs in Europe and Support to Operations, a project that adds to the European Air Transport Command to help move European forces across borders more easily, a European Medical Command to help nations work together in rescuing and aiding the wounded, and another project for training military trainers.
These projects, particularly logistics, are essential for maximizing the concentration of forces in the battlefield in the right place at the right time. How does a multinational force move quickly to the battleground? Does each nation rely on its own transports, or can they pool transports to get there quicker? What about evacuating the wounded—every country for themselves, or is there a more efficient system? These are the kind of questions the great generals of the past put hours of painstaking research into. These are details Europe must resolve to create an effective joint military. And resolving them they are.
Why Germany?
Why is Germany taking the lead in creating a European military? Germany has a history of quietly building its army in peacetime. After World War i, the Treaty of Versailles limited the size of German armed forces. Though it was years—close to the start of World War ii—before Germany broke the treaty publicly, in actuality it began quietly violating it almost immediately.
On April 16, 1922, Germany and Russia signed the Treaty of Rapallo. On the face of it, the treaty was a fairly standard diplomatic rapprochement between two former enemies. But it contained a secret clause. Germany would carry out military research, development and training—which had been outlawed by Versailles—in Russia. In exchange, Russia would share in the military advances and train with the German Army.
Germany built arms development factories and officer training facilities in Russia. The arrangement allowed Germany to maintain “a continuity of skills which, when the time was ripe, could once more be openly exploited back at home,” writes historian Paul Johnson (Modern Times). The Manchester Guardian covered some of the details, and Germany’s Social Democrats publicized certain parts of the treaty. But apart from that, it remained secret. “Thus a strange, covert alliance was formed, which occasionally broke surface,” writes Johnson.
Meanwhile, Germany’s police were trained and organized so they could quickly transform into a military reserve force. Versailles limited Germany to a 100,000-strong army. Berlin took full advantage by turning it into an army of officers. The nation was limited to 4,000 commissioned officers, but no limit was placed on non-commissioned officers (ncos). As early as 1922, nearly half the army was comprised of ncos. By 1926, privates were in the minority—making up a little over a third of the army. Versailles also forbade Germany from having an air force. In addition to training pilots at the Lipetsk Air Base in Russia, Germany trained pilots in civilian glider clubs.
Starting around 1927, the German Army began making concrete plans for rapid expansion and getting ready the infrastructure necessary to support a modern, mechanized military. In 1933, Germany announced plans to expand its army to 300,000 soldiers. Just six years later, it was almost 10 times that size.
The European army is already here: It’s called the Bundeswehr. This is merely one of the most recent examples. To Italian journalist Luigi Barzini Jr., this sudden eruption from nowhere of German military strength was such a common occurrence in history that he believed it formed part of the character of the Germans. He wrote of “transformations” with the nation “hibernating at times.” For example, Napoleon repeatedly beat German states easily. At the time, many wrote the Germans off as militarily useless. “Then as you turned a few pages in the history book, the Germans suddenly appeared completely transformed,” Barzini wrote (The Europeans). “They crossed the border of France as a gray tide of faceless, disciplined soldiers with spiked helmets, a relentless unstoppable war machine. Where had they come from? Only a few Germans and no foreigner had suspected what the imminent metamorphosis would be like.” Is Germany planning to do the same thing again?
Planning to Go Underground
From the very start of World War ii, [Germans] have considered the possibility of losing this second round, as they did the first—and they have carefully, methodically planned, in such eventuality the third round .
In 1996, the United States declassified a document written in 1944, proving Mr. Armstrong right. It was a report of a meeting attended by the leaders of Germany’s elite industries. These firms had been told to “prepare themselves to finance the Nazi Party which would be forced to go underground.”
There are other examples. Maj. Gen. Reinhard Gehlen commanded the Wehrmacht’s Foreign Armies East military-intelligence unit from 1942 to 1945. Gehlen hid his group’s best intelligence in water-tight containers in the Alps. After the war, he swapped his treasure trove of intel for freedom for himself and his staff.
America, as part of its postwar effort to oppose Russia, then paid Gehlen to essentially resurrect his old organization, using many of his old command staff, toward the end of 1946. Within 10 years, Gehlen had rebuilt his old intelligence unit and staffed it with ex-Nazis. By this time his unit was the bnd—the official secret service of West Germany.
Initially after the war, the German government was not allowed its own army. So it turned a blind eye as ex-Nazis built their own. According to German intelligence reports published by Der Spiegel in 2014, a force of 40,000 men with 2,000 officers had been set up and was ready to go in case of war by the end of the 1950s. The defense minister at the time, Franz Josef Strauss, probably knew all about it, according to Spiegel Online. The intelligence documents indicate the project was supported by Hans Speidel, who went on to become the nato supreme commander of the Allied Army in Central Europe, and Adolf Heusinger, who would become the first inspector general of the Bundeswehr. Gehlen was given the task of keeping tabs on this underground army by Germany’s first chancellor, Konrad Adenauer.
These are just a few of the known attempts to set up underground military groups. But these groups were not ideal and Germany soon tried to establish something more official. The German government has had a clear vision of remilitarizing Europe since 1950. According to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Adenauer gathered multiple military experts who had previously served as top-ranking officers under Hitler. At Himmerod Abbey, they discussed the principles of German rearmament as well as the nature and structure of future German forces.
It was in these meetings that the idea of a common European army was formed. Instead of conquering neighboring countries in open warfare as it had attempted to do in two world wars, Germany would ultimately integrate them diplomatically under its own command. A first attempt in May 1952 at developing a common army was rejected by the French legislature in August 1954, but the idea survived. Leading officers went on to take important offices in the new German military and in NATO.
Few people were paying attention to these developments, but the day after the war ended in Europe, some visionaries thought that Germany would be back, and that nation would lead a “coming United States of Europe”. How could a crushed Germany possibly achieve this? By “winning the battle of the peace,” he said. The Germans would go “underground” and establish dominance over Europe in peacetime. This was well before even the early stages of the European Union. In fact, World War II was not yet over: The Allies were still fighting Japan in the East.
The Axis powers lost the war, but they just went underground—into ‘the bottomless pit’. They’re still there—they’re just underground.
But there is much more to this story than the rise of Germany. Germany is getting ready to emerge from this bottomless pit.

America Be Warned! Remember How the Nazis Used Gun Control

It has become such a tiresome earing that the mass killings in the US can be stopped with gun control. But the perennial gun-control debate in America did not begin here. The same arguments for and against were made in the 1920s in the chaos of Germany’s Weimar Republic, which opted for gun registration. Law-abiding persons complied with the law, but the Communists and Nazis committing acts of political violence did not. The Weimar Republic’s well-intentioned gun registry became a tool for evil.
In 1931, Weimar authorities discovered plans for a Nazi takeover in which Jews would be denied food and persons refusing to surrender their guns within 24 hours would be executed. They were written by Werner Best, a future Gestapo official. In reaction to such threats, the government authorized the registration of all firearms and the confiscation thereof, if required for “public safety.” The interior minister warned that the records must not fall into the hands of any extremist group.#ad#
In 1933, the ultimate extremist group, led by Adolf Hitler, seized power and used the records to identify, disarm, and attack political opponents and Jews. Constitutional rights were suspended, and mass searches for and seizures of guns and dissident publications ensued. Police revoked gun licenses of Social Democrats and others who were not “politically reliable.”
During the five years of repression that followed, society was “cleansed” by the National Socialist regime. Undesirables were placed in camps where labor made them “free,” and normal rights of citizenship were taken from Jews. The Gestapo banned independent gun clubs and arrested their leaders. Gestapo counsel Werner Best issued a directive to the police forbidding issuance of firearm permits to Jews.
In 1938, Hitler signed a new Gun Control Act. Now that many “enemies of the state” had been removed from society, some restrictions could be slightly liberalized, especially for Nazi Party members. But Jews were prohibited from working in the firearms industry, and .22 caliber hollow-point ammunition was banned.
The time had come to launch a decisive blow to the Jewish community, to render it defenseless so that its “ill-gotten” property could be redistributed as an entitlement to the German “Volk.” The German Jews were ordered to surrender all their weapons, and the police had the records on all who had registered them. Even those who gave up their weapons voluntarily were turned over to the Gestapo.
This took place in the weeks before what became known as the Night of the Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, occurred in November 1938. That the Jews were disarmed before it, minimizing any risk of resistance, is the strongest evidence that the pogrom was planned in advance. An incident was needed to justify unleashing the attack.
That incident would be the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris by a teenage Polish Jew. Hitler directed propaganda minister Josef Goebbels to orchestrate the Night of the Broken Glass. This massive operation, allegedly conducted as a search for weapons, entailed the ransacking of homes and businesses, and the arson of synagogues.
SS chief Heinrich Himmler decreed that 20 years be served in a concentration camp by any Jew possessing a firearm. Rusty revolvers and bayonets from the Great War were confiscated from Jewish veterans who had served with distinction. Twenty thousand Jewish men were thrown into concentration camps, and had to pay ransoms to get released.
The U.S. media covered the above events. And when France fell to Nazi invasion in 1940, the New York Times reported that the French were deprived of rights such as free speech and firearm possession just as the Germans had been. Frenchmen who failed to surrender their firearms within 24 hours were subject to the death penalty.
No wonder that in 1941, just days before the Pearl Harbor attack, Congress reaffirmed Second Amendment rights and prohibited gun registration. In 1968, bills to register guns were debated, with opponents recalling the Nazi experience and supporters denying that the Nazis ever used registration records to confiscate guns. The bills were defeated, as every such proposal has been ever since, including recent “universal background check” bills.
As in Weimar Germany, some well-meaning people today advocate severe restrictions, including bans and registration, on gun ownership by law-abiding persons. Such proponents are in no sense “Nazis,” any more than were the Weimar officials who promoted similar restrictions. And it would be a travesty to compare today’s situation to the horrors of Nazi Germany.
Still, as history teaches, the road to hell is paved with good intentions

The Princess of Pyongyang or Nuclear Bomb with a Smile

What would Kim Jong-un’s sister have said to herself as she returned home from South Korea? Maybe veni, vidi, vici. She came, she saw, she conquered. A military band and honour guard welcomed her back at the Pyongyang airport – even as the seismic waves of her visit kept spreading through Seoul and Washington.
North Korean women are more beautiful, South Korean men have often been heard saying. The psychology of this silly proposition does annotate both the primal rupture of the nation and the longing for reunification. It’s very much in this context that Kim Yo-jong, the First Sister of North Korea, dazzled the local public at the Winter Olympics.
In the hunt for proof that her visit reflected a welcome new detente, her clothes, hair clip, freckles, manners, makeup (or lack thereof), etc were all put under intense scrutiny. Reflecting popular opinion, one article in the Korea Times called her the weapon of choice in North Korea’s charm offensive: “She looked fit and appeared nimble, compared to her brother and other male members of her family who are fat.”
If she had indeed been “fat” and tending to frown, no doubt there would have been less charming and more harming. These are the political mores of the televisual era. Richard Nixon lost that 1960 duel to JFK because he sweated on TV. Today Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau make the most of their pulchritude. So do Rahul Gandhi’s dimples.
But nobody says of these gentlemen that their comeliness is a trap. That’s a risk women leaders run more. Even as the Mona Lisa smile of the Princess of Pyongyang won many hearts and minds, others warned against her Medusa effect. US vice-president Mike Pence led the latter effort, determinedly cold-shouldering Yo-jong, even when he was seated just below her at the opening ceremony: “I didn’t avoid the dictator’s sister, but I did ignore her.”
Others also warned that the dictator’s sister was “a nuclear bomb with a smile”. The Twisted Sister, brainwasher for a totalitarian family regime. As a key figure in Kim Jong-un’s propaganda and agitation department Kim Yo-jong certainly would not be “as innocent as she looks”. But her manoeuvres at the Winter Olympics were quite straightforward, rather than clandestine.
Her historical handshake with South Korean President Moon Jae-in was followed by an invitation to him to a Pyongyang summit. But he hardly got brainwashed. After all the DMZ remains the world’s most heavily armed border. Another reality check was that North Korea held a massive military parade on the eve of the Games, conspicuously including the intercontinental ballistic missile that it claims is capable of striking the US mainland.
But at least the Peace Olympics have dialled down the heat between the Koreas themselves. Beyond this Moon expressed hope that dialogue between the two Koreas will lead to dialogue between the US and North Korea, and eventually denuclearisation. Looking at how no harm came to Moon, it is now certain that Pence too would have survived a handshake with the dictator’s sister, had he only dared it.
And if tomorrow the Koreas are back at each other’s throats, as if all of this never even happened, well that’s the way of many blusterous stratagems these days, when even the ice and snow at the Winter Olympics are faked.
The North Korean entourage also included a 229 strong Army of Beauties, whose lively cheerleading came in for more than its share of mustard. Jimmy Kimmel smirked that they were yodelling as if their lives depended on it. But the Beauties were not unlike those background dancers in old Asha Parekh and Saira Banu songs, where they used to go la la la exactly like this, sometimes even while riding cycles.
Back to Yo-jong, newfound fans fear her success could send the supreme leader into a jealous rage. If her entry on the world stage has been like Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, as if on purple sails and perfumed winds, that kind of exit would be comparably aspic. For now, however, she must be celebrating Mission Accomplished. Sports glory may have eluded North Korea but not the diplomatic gold.

To be Effective, Innovation Must be Inclusive

In 2017, it wasn’t just the daily news cycle that seemed to move faster than ever before. Almost every day offered a fresh reminder that we are living through a period of rapid, profound change. This is especially true in the business world, where new technologies and innovations are disrupting everything from the cars we drive – or that, increasingly, drive themselves – to the currency we use to buy them.
With so many changes happening at once, the conversation around innovation often focuses on the fallout: we are witnessing the disruption of industries and economies across the globe. Yet while the pace of change poses a challenge for many businesses and workers, the reality is that innovation is not merely disruptive. It is also one of the most powerful tools we have for promoting inclusive capitalism – the idea that businesses should work to create long-term value for stakeholders across society.
To that end, here are three ways that global businesses can use technological innovations to build more inclusive economies, provide jobs and training, and help create a better, shared future for everyone.
1. Embrace the gig economy
The gig economy has unlocked huge opportunity for people who want flexibility in how they work – and technology is largely responsible for that. Today, freelance workers can find job opportunities like never before by using websites and smartphone apps that act as matchmakers between freelancers and potential employers.
Now, this rise of the freelance or “gig” economy is driving a historic shift in the way people work. There are currently more than 57 million freelancers in the U.S. – and it’s not just people in wealthy countries who are benefitting from these opportunities. The growing market for digital gig work is also creating new ways for workers in places like India and sub-Saharan Africa to access and participate in the global economy.
Wherever they are, freelancers can increasingly work on their own terms, with the flexibility that their lives demand. That’s good for them, and it’s good for businesses, too. It makes it possible for businesses to tap into workers with very specialized skills when they need them – and it allows those freelancers to control the parameters of how they work.
This is why, at EY, we recently created a new global talent marketplace called GigNow. It’s a place to post short-term assignments, making it easy to match freelance workers with relevant projects at EY. To make sure the freelancers we work with have the best possible experience, we also offer them training and education opportunities that can benefit them throughout their careers.
In the months since launching in March 2017, GigNow has already connected freelancers to more than 1,000 contract positions throughout EY. The marketplace is now operating in six countries – Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. – and is scheduled to launch in India in the coming weeks.
EY is one of growing number of large enterprises working to seize this opportunity. In fact, an August 2017 study of nine Fortune 500 firms found that, over the previous year, the number of projects sourced via online freelancing platforms increased by 26%.
2. Revolutionize training and development
By one estimate, automation could lead to the displacement of between 400 million and 800 million workers globally by 2030. But the reality is that it’s not jobs that are going away – it’s tasks. As businesses deploy new technologies to automate certain tasks, it also creates a major opportunity for workers with the right skills and mindset to solve more complex challenges. This means training the workforce for the digital age is critical for both businesses and workers to prosper.
This is why businesses are fundamentally rethinking their approaches to career development in the digital age. At EY, we’re working to help ensure that our people can succeed in a world where they’ll be working with technology that hasn’t even been invented yet with a new model for career development and performance called LEAD. Now our people talk to their managers every 90 days about where they want to take their career. Then, together, they make a plan to achieve it. Often, this will mean taking a course in data analytics, artificial intelligence, or another in-demand skill.
We’ve also created a program, EY badges, which offers people a step-by-step process to learn these new skills and become experts in new areas. If they want to become proficient in data analytics, for example, they can earn a badge by taking a course, getting hands-on experience that demonstrates what they learned, and then bringing that new knowledge to others by coaching a colleague or publishing an article on the topic. People can display their badges as part of their credentials both inside and outside the organization, which opens up new opportunities, and increases their long-term professional value. That way, digital disruption and new technologies don’t have to be threats, but opportunities to continue to grow as a professional.
3. Harness big data to promote inclusive capitalism
Big data and advanced analytics are giving us unprecedented amounts of information regarding the performance and impact of businesses around the world – and we can use that information to make economic growth more inclusive.
In 2016, the world generated more than 16 zettabytes of data (that’s 16 followed by 21 zeros), according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) – and that number is expected to skyrocket to 163 zettabytes by 2025. To put this into perspective, in 2009 the entire internet measured just half a zettabyte.
As a result, we are seeing rapid growth in the big data and business analytics industry. That’s important for inclusive growth because, for the first time, it is possible to measure the value that companies create for stakeholders across society, including their workers and communities. We can also measure how investments in areas like human capital contribute to a company’s long-term profits. And when businesses are able to quantify the value of these kinds of investments, they’re empowered to keep making them.
While there are a number of ongoing efforts to measure long-term value creation, there is still no standard way of doing so. That’s why EY and the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism have teamed up with 33 companies, asset owners and asset managers with $27 trillion in assets under management on the Embankment Project – an ambitious effort to create new and better metrics for measuring long-term value creation. The exact metrics are still being determined, but we are discussing everything from investments in talent to environmental, social and governance practices. If we want to advance the cause of inclusive growth, measuring how these elements add to a company’s bottom line is critical, and big data gives us the ability to do just that.
From innovation to inclusiveness
These are just a few of the ways that innovation is already helping to promote more inclusive economies. Ultimately, it’s clear that new technologies are going to affect virtually every company, every industry, and every part of the global economy. As we prepare for the future, it’s critical that we work together to demonstrate that innovation is not just disruptive, but inclusive, too.

India-Pakistan: Not Talking is Talking too

India and Pakistan have ratcheted up offensive rhetoric following the terror attack on the Sunjuwan Army camp in Jammu, actuating nervous appeals for dialogue and peace from many including Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
From NDA government’s Left-wing economics to its Hindu Right-wing politics, there is a lot worth criticizing but, in all fairness, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, contrary to his pre-election bluster on Pakistan, did start off from a reconciliatory position. Exercising the advantage of his massive mandate, he attempted to establish friendly relations with his counterpart Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is now ousted.
For the first time since 2012, India and Pakistan resumed foreign secretary level talks in 2015, which were followed by Prime Ministerial diplomatic talks in Ufa. The initial bonhomie between India and Pakistan began dissipating after the terror strikes, first on Gurdaspur police station in July 2015 and later on Pathankot Air Force base in January 2016.
But the bilateral relations did not go into a consequential tailspin until the September 2016 terror attack on the Army camp in Uri amid three-month-long massive mob violence sponsored by Pakistan in Kashmir following Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing by Indian security forces. India resorted to “surgical strikes” against terror camps and their launch pads across the Line of Control and ever since Pakistan has intensified its offensive against India on all fronts—sub-conventional (terrorism), conventional (border skirmishes) and diplomatic (China-driven stratagems).
To the political opposition and many in policy corridors in India, this low in the bilateral relations is solely an outcome of the Modi government’s muscular, militaristic approach and its failure to engage Pakistan in talks. This is disingenuous because the bellicose relationship between India and Pakistan has existed since the Partition of the subcontinent.
India has had both talks and wars with Pakistan for the last 70 years over Kashmir and the outcome has been consistently negative regardless of who came to power in either of the two states. From Tashkent declaration to Shimla agreement and from Lahore declaration to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s unilateral ceasefire declaration and to Modi’s distinctive inter-personal diplomacy, India’s affability has repeatedly been followed by Pakistani aggression.
After three wars with India and following the defeat of Soviet Union in Afghanistan by Taliban, Pakistan switched from conventional to sub-conventional warfare in the late 1980s, given its cost-effectiveness and maximum impact. The net result of all track I or track II diplomacy in the last three decades therefore has been a constant—cross border terrorism with the exception of 1999 Kargil war. Pakistan is convinced that its sub-conventional approach will deliver victory in Kashmir just as it did in Afghanistan.
As against this Pakistani outlook, the thinking among some policy wonks in New Delhi is that two nuclear states cannot afford to escalate tensions. It is often forgotten that two nuclear superpowers–US and erstwhile USSR—which held each other in a “balance of terror” through the Cold War, did not press the atomic button even in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Besides, the détente between the two did not emerge until the Soviet Union reached approximate nuclear parity with the US in the early 1970s and until Mikhail Gorbachev steered the state away from excessive military spending and enforced domestic reform.
Pakistan, like the Soviet Union, believes in not only reaching a nuclear and military parity with India but wants to supersede India on that account. It has moved from limited nuclear deterrence to a full-spectrum deterrence and at the same time, realigned itself from being an ally of the US, to now almost China’s protectorate, in the new dynamic world-order, post-Trump. Pakistan’s geo-strategic objectives in Afghanistan and Kashmir, which are defined by its military-mosque industrial complex and not at variance with those of the civilian leadership, remain unchanged.
Therefore, talks or no talks, India has and will continue to receive only terror from Pakistan until Kashmir is “resolved”. And even if Kashmir were settled, Pakistan’s paranoia about India, which it considers an existential threat since the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, it will remain adversarial towards India and open new fronts of proxy war as it did after its Khalistani terrorist movement was defeated in Punjab. With the help of China, which also seeks to contain India, Pakistan will pursue policies to undermine India’s influence in Afghanistan by supporting Taliban and to that end China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) only strengthen its goals.
Given this scenario, India’s foreign policy towards Pakistan, which has historically been defensive-offensive, will follow the normal course—from talks to disruption and from disruption to talks. However, not talking at the table across each other is talking by other means and talking on one’s own terms. The Modi government during the current disruption has determined the terms of non-engagement instead of being inactive as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was during his second term.
In the absence of a détente, India has escalated the cost for Pakistan’s cross-border terror—pressure from the Trump administration to act against Kashmir-centric terror groups and their leaders, NIA investigations in terror funding of Kashmiri separatists, intensified counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir and cross-LoC limited strikes. These measures will be followed by talks at some point but for now without a Mikhail Gorbachev in Pakistan, and a tangible détente encouraged by Pakistan, Modi has no immediate incentive to become Ronald Reagan.

Nehru Really Was not All That Bad

India has had 14 prime ministers in 70 years. The first, Jawaharlal Nehru was a man I saw being hero-worshipped when I was very young. There was a good reason to. When India won freedom, there were clearly two roads ahead. One was the Mahatma’s: The road that led us to our past and yet connected, curiously, with our future. It was the road that took us through the trauma of Partition to the creation of a brave new nation. The other road was Jawaharlal’s, the man the Mahatma hand-picked to lead India.
The roads could not have been more different. The Mahatma’s road won us freedom. But even he knew that the road ahead for a new nation would be different, very different from the one he had chosen. So he picked a man who could not have been more different from him. Nehru took us down a road that created a new India, a modern India, a India better equipped to cope with the future. Nehru’s road has seen us to where we are today. The fact that Nehru believed in a socialist economic model is another matter, and the fact that he borrowed many ideas from the Soviets. Like the five year plan– and the role of the public sector. These ideas may appear anachronistic to you and me today but, at that time, they appeared good for India. And possibly they were, if you look back without anger.
Nehru was good at his job. So good that no one could imagine how India would cope with his absence. The constant refrain in those days, particularly after the Chinese attack in 1962, was who would-or could-pick up the reins after him. There was a book too: After Nehru, Who? Today, five decades and 13 prime ministers later, the question appears superfluous. In fact, Nehru’s relevance still remains in the hearts and minds of those like me who grew up in the sixties and knew the role he played to keep things together. I often hear millennials ask who Jawaharlal was. Who is this guy who our Prime Minister keeps slamming in all his speeches? Was he really as awful as he is made out to be?
If I tell them that Jawaharlal was Rahul’s great grandfather, they say: Oh that explains it! Rahul’s great grandfather was Prime Minister. So was his grandmother, Indira. So was his father Rajiv. And now Rahul wants to be one! Almost instantly, Modi’s accusations hit home– a single family has provided India with three Prime Ministers and there’s one in waiting now. No wonder the dynasty charge rings so true.
But those who accuse Jawaharlal of imposing dynastic rule on us often forget his true contribution. He was one of the greatest leaders of our freedom struggle and the only one who was jailed nine times and spent 3259 days in prison. During that time he wrote some remarkable books that I do not see many people reading today. Frankly, that’s more time than the Mahatma-or anyone else– spent in jail and yet an impression has been created that Nehru was this very privileged guy who got the Prime Minister’s job on a platter, thanks to Gandhi’s indulgence, while more deserving people like Patel and Bose were denied it.
This has led to theories that if Nehru did not get that job, India’s destiny would have been different, in fact better. It was his socialist ideas that held us back, claim today’s Nehru-baiters. Including Modi, who recently argued that if Sardar Patel had been Prime Minister, India would have been a stronger nation and all of Kashmir would have been ours. The Kashmir bit we all know is wrong. Patel was ready to give away Kashmir at the time of Partition and if it was not for Nehru, we would have lost what we have today. And no, I don’t think any unbiased historian can claim that Patel (or anyone else) would have made a better Prime Minister. There is no evidence to support that.
Nehru was good for India in many ways. India needed at that time a wise, thinking leader who commanded respect. Nehru did. He was a world leader even though India was not seen as a great power at that time. Its moral authority stemmed from the Mahatma’s legacy. But the world treated Nehru with respect. Yes, in retrospect, you may question the direction he gave to our political economy, the socialist model of growth he installed. But the truth is whether we agree with his economics or not, we must recognize that the nation’s finest institutions were built by him in the pursuit of that model. The reforms that we talk of today are only possible because we are able to sell what Nehru built.
The reason why Modi attacks Nehru is obvious: he wants to discredit the DNA of the Congress. Actually the first set of reforms was initiated also by a Congress Prime Minister, PV Narasimha Rao. When Modi talks of a Congress-mukt Bharat, he is not just trying to discredit the Nehru family but also the first prime minister who took India on the path Modi is so keen to follow. And, as we near 2019, when he needs to renew his electoral mandate, his own actions mirror what the Congress once stood for. As his acolyte, former NITI Aayog chief and once Modi’s favourite economist says, the increase in customs duties in this year’s Budget actually signals the return of the infamous Licence Raj that was decried as the worst outcome of Nehru’s policies.
Funnily, despite all the tall talk of reforms what we are seeing today is a return to old fashioned Nehruvian economics and Indira Gandhi’s socialist slogans. Maybe Modi doesn’t believe in them but, 70 years after Independence even the BJP seems to have recognised that whatever we may say about reforms, winning elections involves coddling farmers, industrial workers and the huge army of Government employees. Apart from the politics of hate that he has managed to stir up nationwide, Modi is doing precisely what Nehru would have done if he were around today. Actually, the more things change the more they remain the same

How Indians Got the Right to Vote

The country’s first election was an ingeniously indigenous an inventive. The numerous interactions between people and administrators about the preparation of the first draft electoral rolls on the basis of the adult franchise were significant for the institutionalisation of India’s democracy.
Studies of India’s electoral democracy have tended to see it as an inheritance of the British Raj or a product of an elite decision-making and institutional design. In this perspective, democracy and the Constitution were endowed from above. The people had little or no role in making democracy or the Constitution. New archival materials reveal a different, and hitherto unknown, story.
The origin of Indian democracy, in particular, the establishment of its edifice through the implementation of the universal adult franchise, was an ingeniously Indian enterprise. It was no legacy of colonial rule and was largely driven by the Indians, often by people of modest means. The turning of all adults into voters was a staggering democratic state-building operation of inclusion and scale, which surpassed any previous experience in democratic world history. This work was undertaken by Indian bureaucrats between August 1947, when the country became independent, and January 1950, when it adopted the Constitution.
The numerous interactions between people and administrators about the preparation of the first draft electoral rolls on the basis of adult franchise were significant for the institutionalisation of India’s democracy. Making procedural equality central to government formation in a hierarchical and unequal society turned electoral democracy into a meaningful and credible story for citizens. Because people from the margins found meaning and a place for themselves in the new polity based on universal adult franchise, they also understood the potential new power of making group identity claims. The SCs and STs turned into voters and could now, under universal franchise, fully partake in the compulsions of electoral politics. The successful implementation of universal franchise by the time the Constitution came into force enabled the insertion of social identities into the design of political representation. Here lay the seeds of the dynamic caste and identity politics, which have both deepened and challenged electoral politics in India.
Through the preparation of electoral rolls, the abstract language, forms and principles of the democratic Constitution obtained a practical basis. The Draft Constitution provided for one election commission for elections to the central legislature and for separate election commissions for each of the states. The final provision, which was informed by the experience of the preparation of the electoral rolls, stipulated an election machinery that was vested in a single autonomous election commission at the Centre.
The principle of universal franchise was adopted at the beginning of the constitutional debates in April 1947. It was a significant departure from elections under colonial rule, which were based on a very limited franchise and a divided electorate. There was a large gap to bridge in turning this constitutional aspiration into reality at Independence, in the midst of the Partition that led to mass killings and the displacement of an estimated 18 million people, while 552 princely states had yet to be integrated into India. The vast majority of the future and largest electorate in history at the time of over 173 million people was poor and illiterate. Realising that the task would be colossal, a few bureaucrats at the secretariat of the Constituent Assembly initiated the preparation of the electoral rolls from November 1947.
The secretariat designed the instructions for the preparation of rolls in consultation with administrators from the provinces and the princely states. In effect, their task was to operationalise the notion of procedural equality for the purpose of electoral voting. They had to imagine a joint list of all adults in the land — women and men of all castes and classes — each carrying the same weight as equal voters. This task was, in essence, revolutionary. The commitment to procedural equality that was cultivated in the process of the preparation of the electoral rolls was strikingly demonstrated when the collector of Bombay, for example, took in November 1948 proactive steps to ensure the voting rights of vagrants, servants and footpath dwellers.
Unsurprisingly, once the actual registration of voters began, distinct forms of disenfranchisement, breaches in the instructions and difficulties surfaced on the ground. In Assam, for example, the reforms commissioner did not initially regard refugees and immigrants as prospective citizens-voters and he instructed district officers not to register “the floating and ‘non-resident’ population”.
In the face of exclusionary practices in the preparation of rolls, a wide range of burgeoning citizens’ organisations began struggling for their voting rights. They wrote numerous letters of complaints to the secretariat, indicating that the provisions and directions that they issued in the pursuit of universal franchise were being undermined on the ground in the preparation of the rolls. Citizens’ organisations also began to demand linking voter’s registration with the acquisition of citizenship. To do so they made their claims on the basis of the Draft Constitution’s citizenship and other provisions, using the Constitution’s language and aspirations, while it was still in the making. Thus, a complaint against the reforms commissioner of Assam suggested that his attitude “definitely engenders civic and political status of a very large number of residents in Assam who are very eager to have their status as citizens of Indian Dominion confirmed during the course of enrolments votes. Our association thinks that enrolment as voters, ipso facto, invests the person so enrolled with the status of a citizen”.
People understood that a “place on the roll” was the most concrete way at the time to secure membership in the new state. It was their title deed to democracy. The responsiveness of the civil service empowered them to do so. The bureaucrats of the secretariat replied to every letter that arrived at their desk. They took actions to redress the problems that arose. In this process, they mentored bureaucrats at all levels and ordinary citizens into the principles of electoral democracy and universal franchise.
The inventive ways in which Indians made their democracy did not necessarily mean that India would become better than other democracies, nor immune from the problems that have beset democracies elsewhere. Indeed, India’s democracy fell short of its constitutional promises, for example, to promote social and economic equality. The rise of belligerent Hindu nationalism has beset its democratic public life and institutions. In these challenging times, when the values and institutions of democracy are under threat, learning about and gaining a new appreciation of how India became democratic might inspire fresh energy for the challenges of the present

A short history of banned books

In September, Melania Trump donated packages of Dr. Seuss titles to schools across the United States.
One of the schools refused the First Lady’s gift. Seuss’s illustrations were “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” said the school in a letter to Trump.
This isn’t the first time that Seuss’s books have caused controversy. But the cartoonist and children’s author is far from alone: some of the world’s best-known books have been removed from schools or the shelves of public libraries.
Back in 1982, so many books were being challenged in the US that a number of organizations came together to start Banned Books Week, both to highlight the fact that literature was being banned, and to celebrate the freedom to read.
The American public – for instance, parents, library users and religious groups – can object to books that they think are unsuitable, particularly for young people, and ask for them to be removed or restricted.
For Banned Books Week, the American Library Association (ALA) puts together a list of the most challenged books each year across the country.
Last year’s most challenged book was This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. The reasons were that it contained LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and was considered sexually explicit with mature themes.
Likewise, almost all the books on the list were challenged over either LGBT themes or sexually explicit content, or both.
A recent high-profile example was Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why, which was made into a popular Netflix series. A Colorado school district official ordered librarians to temporarily remove it from shelves after some critics claimed that it romanticized suicide.
Banned bestsellers
In some countries, bestsellers, from Harry Potter to The Da Vinci Code, have been challenged or banned.
J.K. Rowling’s famous tales about a boy wizard called Harry Potter has fallen foul of some readers’ tastes and made the fantasy series one of the most challenged on record.
A book written for an even younger audience, which narrates the true story two gay male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo, is one of the most challenged books of the last 10 years. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson has been restricted around the world. In Singapore, the book was removed from state libraries and destroyed.
In China, Winnie the Pooh is censored. References to the little yellow bear are now blocked on social media after bloggers compared him to China’s premier.
Dan Brown’s runaway bestseller The Da Vinci Code was banned in Lebanon because it was regarded as offensive to Christians.
An even more famous case is the banning of Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses in many countries including India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and South Africa. Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa on charges of blasphemy and called for Rushdie’s execution. After the book’s publication, Rushdie lived in hiding for years, moving from residence to residence and with the constant presence of bodyguards.
Censorship isn’t new
Of course, opposition to books is nothing new.
The burning of books, for instance, has long been used to send a powerful political message. Four months into Hitler’s regime, over 25,000 books were burnt in Munich because they were considered “unGerman”. It was such a seismic event that it is still marked in Germany today, with many of the burnt works read out in public.
Sometimes argument over censorship has ended up in court. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence was banned in the UK until 1960 when the publishers won the right to publish the novel after a famous court case. On the first day of publication, 200,000 copies were sold.
Even books that have been sitting on bookshelves for years can come under scrutiny. At Royal Holloway, University of London, Fanny Hill, one of the oldest erotic novels in the English language (which had been taught at the university for a long time) was dropped after a consultation with students because of its pornographic content.
According to Laura Juraska, Associate College Librarian for Research Services at Bates College in Maine, books are banned for different reasons, depending on where you live.
“In the United States, it’s much more about sex and religion, and in other countries it has more to do with politics,” Juraska said. “It’s an interesting difference of what tends to get banned where. It tells you something about the culture that we live in.”
But for every book that is challenged, there are advocates fighting to get others reinstated, says the ALA.
“While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.”

The Cone of Silence : Maunmohan to Maun Modi

Narendra Modi continues to be an enigma. Here is a leader who wants to go down in history as a great statesman—not only in India but in the world. He cares deeply about how he is perceived. What stands in the way of realising his ambition are continuing incidents of violence and polarising rhetoric by his MPs and supporters. They may not be frequent but they are very widely reported. You’d think a quick, effective tweet condemning them would take the sting out of the story. Eventually, he does denounce some of the incidents, but it is too little and too late, long after headlines in India and around the world have damaged his, his party’s and India’s reputation. The puzzle is, why does he not immediately nip it in the bud by a brief statesman-like statement followed by quick action by the police? He must know that remaining silent or delaying response undermines his legacy.
Modi did eventually denounce violence by gau rakshaks in the strongest language — calling them “criminals”. By the time he broke his silence, however, the impression had been created that the BJP values cows more than human beings. Hatred and hysteria spread in the name of Hindutva has created insecurity among Muslims and Dalits; lakhs of jobs in dairy farming and in the leather and meat industries are at risk; India’s image abroad has been dented; and BJP’s electoral chances weakened. Warm, subsequent tributes to B R Ambedkar have not been able to salvage the damage left by the Una atrocity. Modi should urge gau rakshaks to re-read Savarkar, who wrote the book on Hindutva. He opposed cow worship, saying: “If the cow’s a mother to anybody at all, it’s the bullock. Not the Hindus. If Hindutva is sustained on a cow’s legs, it will come crashing down at the slightest sign of a crisis.”
In recent weeks, the BJP governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat have behaved in a cowardly manner over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film on Padmavati, which was cleared by the censor board and the Supreme Court. The Karni Sena’s attack on a bus carrying schoolchildren filled the nation with disgust. The irony is that the film turned out to be more anti-Muslim and pro-Rajput. In another incident, one of his party leaders, Vinay Katiyar diminished the BJP when he said that there is no room for Muslims in India and the Taj Mahal should be demolished because it was built on the site of a Hindu temple.
Now, Modi is a smart man. So, what explains his strange silence? One possibility is that since he has not delivered vikas, jobs and achhe din, he will have to rely on the message of Hindutva to court the silent majority in the middle. For this he needs the foot soldiers of the RSS knocking on doors to get out the vote in 2019, and he dares not alienate them. But Hindutva is a high-risk, unproven strategy among the aspiring young. He won a landslide victory in 2014 not because of Hindutva but because he persuaded the young with his single-minded promise of ‘vikas’. It is unclear if the average, middle-of-the-road Hindu can be enticed by playing the Muslim card. Some believe that Modi is fanatically anti-Muslim in his heart and would be happy to make India unsafe for non-Hindus. Others feel that he is a front for the RSS. But I disagree. I believe he is a pragmatic politician who will follow policies that maximise his chances for re-election.
Although achhe din have not yet arrived, the fact is that the economy has begun to pick up. The disruption caused by demonetisation is over. Soon the glitches in GST will also be resolved. The long-term benefits of GST and the insolvency law are going to be huge. There is tax buoyancy and progress in the ease of doing business; there is less corruption as the interface between government and citizen is gradually moving online.
Economic growth is bound to rise but achhe din will only come after the 2019 election. Universal health insurance and gas cylinders for rural households are visionary The smart thing would be to present an honest report card week after week on the implementation of his many excellent economic programmes. People voted for Modi for his executional ability based on his success in Gujarat, and they need to see constant progress. This will build credibility and improve his chances for 2019.

Sunday Special: The Story of Sari-The Whole Nine Yards

The sari has seen many mutations, affected by culture, region, and social meanings. It has never lost its sheen or grace. Designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s comment on the sari at the recent Harvard India Conference — “If you tell me that you do not know how to wear a sari, I would say shame on you. It’s a part of your culture… stand up for it” — has drawn people into the eternal debate of what is Indian and qualifies for a national identity.
Both the dhoti and the sari owe their existence to common ancestors. “For a long time, men and women in ancient India just wore the antariya (lower garment) and uttariya (upper garment) — both rectangular pieces of cloth which were draped in various styles,” says fashion historian Toolika Gupta. The Indian subcontinent was a multitude of kingdoms and cultures. “There are parts of the country where people do not largely wear the sari, for example in Rajasthan where there was the lehenga, choli and odhani. Saris were largely worn in Bengal and all over south. But even here in many cases the upper part and the lower part are different,” says Gupta. This is true of Kerala’s mundu veshti and Assam’s mekhela chador.
Even the morality associated with the sari-blouse is a relatively modern idea. A Sanskrit manual, The Guide to Religious Status and Duties of Women, written in Kerala between 400 and 600 BC directs married women of a high social status to wear a bodice, women from the middle strata to not wear a bodice, but cover their breasts with the loose end of their sari, and women of lower status to leave their breasts uncovered. The practice was observed in Travancore until the arrival of the Christian missionaries in the 19th century who brought with them what could be understood as the concept of shame or the freedom of covering oneself or both.
Indian tastes in clothing underwent a massive change in the colonial period, marking the entry of cultural values and fashions of Victorian England. The Tagores of Bengal and the Parsis of Bombay were wealthy, elite classes who frequently interacted with the British. From them, the trend of wearing a particularly kind of sari — with blouse and petticoat — spread downward.
Jnanada Nandini Debi, the wife of Satyendranath Tagore — brother of Rabindranath Tagore — is famously credited with popularising the use of Victorian-style blouses, jackets and chemises and modern style of sari among circles of middle-class Bengali women. She is said to have arrived from Bombay “dressed in a civil and elegant attire” in imitation of Parsi women which was hailed as an “integral combination of indigenousness, decorum and modesty”. Her style was quickly adopted by the Brahmo Samaj women — came to be known as Brahmika sari — and also gradually gained acceptance among Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh brahmos as well as non-brahmos.
Dressing the Indian woman appropriately became a colonial and a nationalist project. Sociologist Himani Bannerji states that while a minuscule among the upper classes started wearing gowns and saris were experimented with — the sari won. The Indian woman absorbed the western (Victorian) morality, without fully embracing western fashion.
The symbol of the sari became further charged under the Swadeshi movement which spurned European clothing. In this period, it got elevated from its diffuseness and variety of its historical origins to a distinct and precise national emblem. In independent, modern India, it has been revived and redefined by modern designers as a garment that is cultured yet highly fashionable, chic, and hence in sync with modern aspirations

India, Iran & a Divided Middle East

Awareness of Iran’s domestic politics, its involvement in multiple conflicts of the Middle East, must inform Delhi’s engagement, The first presidential visit from Iran since 2003 comes at a complicated moment in Tehran. For the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is the best of times and the worst of times. Iran’s regional influence has never been as expansive as it is today. Yet, there is a huge push back against Tehran from some of its Arab neighbours, Israel and the Trump Administration.
More problematic is the increasing internal and economic and political volatility as the Islamic Republic celebrates its 40th anniversary. The Iranian currency rial is rapidly losing its value, hitting a record low of 48,000 against the US dollar earlier this week. High inflation and large-scale unemployment, as well as widespread corruption triggered protests in Iran’s cities around the new year. Some of the slogans in the protests — “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I give my life to Iran” — questioned the costs of Tehran’s expansive internationalism at a time of internal economic pain.
There are also demands for social liberalisation, with the women protesting the law on the compulsory wearing of the veil in public. While conservatives in Iran trashed these protests, the office of President Hassan Rouhani released the reports of a survey that showed nearly 50 per cent of the population opposes the mandatory hijab rule.
The faultines within the ruling elite are open and the contestation between different factions is continuous. But supreme leader Ali Khamenei has the last word and towers over the elected presidency and all other institutions. Forty years after the founding of the Islamic republic in 1979, Iran’s internal divisions are getting sharper. President Rouhani has, in fact, called for a referendum to heal domestic bleeding. Rouhani did not say what the referendum will be about, but a group of liberal reformers quickly backed his suggestion by calling for a popular vote on the legitimacy of the current political order.
While the focus of the engagement between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rouhani will necessarily be on bilateral issues relating to trade, investment and connectivity, Iran’s domestic politics and its involvement in the multiple conflicts in the Middle East must fully inform Delhi’s engagement with Tehran.
Rouhani’s visit to Hyderabad this week was in part about showcasing Iran’s deep historical connections with India. It also provided an occasion for Rouhani to deliver a sombre message on overcoming sectarian conflict within Islam and promoting harmony between different religious communities. This message is directed not just to the audiences in India but also those in the Middle East.
That brings us to Delhi’s biggest current challenge in dealing with Tehran — the sharpening conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. But Delhi’s public discourse on relations with Iran has for long been framed it in terms of Tehran’s relations with Washington. That tells only one part of the story, but masks others.
During the early decades of the Cold War, India stayed away from the Shah of Iran, a secular modernising ruler, because he was too close to the United States. After all, the Shah put Iran into the US’s regional Cold War alliances like the Central Treaty Organisation that also included Pakistan and Turkey. Today, one of the main problem is the unending enmity between Iran and the US.
Delhi was relieved when the US, under President Barack Obama, and Iran in 2015 concluded a nuclear deal and opened up some space for international commercial cooperation with Tehran. President Donald Trump and his Republican party’s hostility towards the deal has created fresh complications for India.
Although Delhi is looking for ways to sidestep the potential expansion of the US sanctions regime, for example, with a reported rupee-rial arrangement, India’s problems with Iran’s regional rivalries is not going to disappear. While the US-Iran nuclear deal was welcomed in Delhi, it was viewed with great concern in some Arab capitals, especially Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Amman and Cairo.
Many of them accused President Barack Obama of selling out its long-standing friends and partners in pursuit of a deal with Iran. Even more important, Saudi Arabia has taken matters into its own hands to confront Iran’s growing influence across the region. The conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon and Yemen have provided a fertile ground for the playing out of the rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh.
It is not for India to judge who is right or wrong, but to recognise the reality of regional conflicts in the Middle East and limit their impact on India’s ability to secure its goals in the region. India would certainly want to see a serious effort to reconcile the current tensions between Iran and its Arab neighbours, where Delhi’s stakes have risen manifold in recent decades.
Realism tells us that Delhi does not have the power to mitigate the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. But Delhi can certainly encourage the emerging trends for political and social moderation in the Middle East. India has positively viewed the recent calls from the political leadership in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE for reclaiming Islam from violent extremists. India should also welcome Rouhani’s emphasis on ending sectarian conflicts in the region and his praise of India as a “living museum” of peaceful religious co-existence.
While Rouhani may not have the command of Iran’s politics, the moderate forces represented by him are critical for the pursuit of three important Indian objectives in the Middle East. One is the promotion of mutual political accommodation within the region; another is pressing for an end to the export of destabilising ideologies from the region; and finally the construction of a coalition against violent religious extremism that has inflicted so much suffering in the Middle East and the Subcontinent.

India Witnesses a Great Floundering Beneath the Foreign policy Bluster

India finds itself increasingly cornered into a strategic cul-de-sac. Even as its diplomacy expands, its political options seem to decrease; even as it reaches out to look east and look west, the strategic space to address its core concerns does not seem to be expanding; and even as its bluster about a strong state grows, doubts about its military capabilities are growing equally louder. So, paradoxically, India finds itself in this position that even as it is globally recognised, it looks more helpless in its own backyard.
These are days where strong propaganda obscures the most basic of common sense. To begin with a simple question. A hallmark of the strategic success of any government is whether it expands the options available that can help you achieve your core objectives. Have the options available to India expanded?
The first core component of having options is raw capability. One would be hard-pressed to find any evidence that India’s capabilities, on any dimension of hard power, have significantly changed for the better over the last four years. The military modernisation programme seems to be still in the phase of arming without aiming; all the grand talk of defence production in the private sector has not taken off. As Vipin Narang has pointed out, a central element of our deterrence capability, Arihant, is still out of commission.
Defence expenditures in real terms have been falling. It is only in the fourth year in office that Cabinet has finally approved a panic buying of assault and sniper rifles. The one element on our strategy vis-a-vis Pakistan is fortifying our bases so that they are not easy targets of terrorist attacks. As the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has shown, we do not seem to have made much success of this. The sophistication in the political establishment on understanding military matters is scarcely more evident. India’s raw hard power capabilities still constrain options.
The second component of having more options is new partnerships and alliances. India has been forthright enough to deepen its partnerships with Japan, Australia and other countries concerned about China. Its engagement with West Asia is impressive. It has announced greater maritime ambitions. These might be worthwhile initiatives in their own right. But these initiatives do not, for the most part, help mitigate India’s core vulnerabilities. It is not clear that these initiatives are enough to get Pakistan to change its behaviour, or secure our long-term objectives in relation to China. It tells you something about the unreality gripping public strategic discourse that our hearts flutter with joy at a term like “Indo-Pacific”. This term may have some nominal rhetorical value.
But the idea that merely by creating a new maritime nomenclature that flatters us, we will somehow outgrow the real strategic dilemmas that face us vis-a-vis China and Pakistan, is wishful thinking. It is good India is deepening its engagement from Seychelles to Oman, acquiring new docking capabilities and logistical support. But with what wars and what interventions, what military objectives will these achieve? It is almost like we will acquire these facilities without any clear sense of the uses to which we will put them. They signal our global intent but do not add much to our capabilities.
This expansive outreach has also, in some strategic circles, created this illusion that India can outgrow its region; it does not have to be tied down to its geography. From Doklam to Kashmir, from the Maldives to Nepal, India has been rudely reminded about how easy it is to put it in a helpless position in its own neighbourhood. The idea that India can do a great power projection without being able to manage its own neighbourhood was a pipe dream in any case. In relation to almost all our neighbours, with the possible exception of Bangladesh, India’s diplomatic, moral and coercive authority stands diminished. In Nepal, it ended up with the worst of both worlds — it did not have the power to follow up its implicit promises to the Madhesis, and no matter how one dresses it up, it has had to eat humble pie and accommodate Oli. India could not exercise any leadership in the Rohingya crisis. In the Maldives, it is looking increasingly more helpless.
To put it politely, our Pakistan strategy is in tatters. The fact that the Americans might be willing to sanction Pakistan is a double-edged sword. For one thing, in the short run it will lead to Pakistan turning the heat on India in the hope that ratcheting up the tensions, and provoking an Indian response, will once again put the spotlight on the risks of the Kashmir crisis. We trumpeted the fact that surgical strikes would be a deterrent; they turned out to be a virtually useless instrument. Worse, the fact that we trumpeted them so loudly has created a domestic expectation of retaliation, every time more Indian soldiers are killed. So we are caught in a political trap on engagement with Pakistan. On the one hand, the NSAs are apparently talking. On the other hand, you have created a public discourse where a chief minister has to explain that she is not being anti-national in calling for talks with Pakistan. There is a simple point: Even if you intend to exercise military options, they have to be embedded in a political strategy. Is there a political strategy on Pakistan at all, or is it all bluster covering up a great floundering?
China’s aggressive posture has to make India wary. But surely the idea of deft diplomacy is that you do not reach a point where literally every single line of engagement becomes a zero-sum game, and you convert a hard-nosed contest of interests into a more publicly-charged, ideologically potent contest of self-esteem. Perhaps we do not have any other options. But the net result is that we are more cornered by China than we were a few years ago.
Add to this the atrocious deterioration of public discourse in India, where Mohan Bhagwat can openly taunt the army, and you have to wonder: Have India’s strategic options in dealing with its core challenges expanded or have they diminished? On any measure, hard power, diplomacy, alliances, political framing, and consistency of domestic resolve, we seem to have fewer not more options. The vigour of Modi’s travels can barely disguise the fact that in terms of India’s security objectives, he is looking very weak indeed. Any other prime minister would have been hauled over the coals if India had been backed into the corner it is now.

Saturday Special: Peace Through Diplomacy: Can It Work?

America is beginning to engage its enemies diplomatically. Will this approach be effective? Can diplomacy secure lasting global peace? Mankind’s timeless and dogged pursuit of peace is a tribute to our perseverance and optimism. World leaders dedicate their lives to fostering peace. World organizations such as the United Nations exist to pursue global peace. Countless billions of dollars flow into efforts to quiet the drum of war. When these options fail, nations often seek peace through war.
Lasting peace is the ultimate, yet hardest to achieve desire of mankind. History declares the tragic inevitability of war. Every alternative has been tried, every path walked, but we are still no closer to learning the way of lasting peace. Today, though peace has never been more desperately needed, it has never been more elusive.
The Western world, America in particular, has been waging war to achieve peace for half a decade now. Public discussion in the United States rings with calls for an end to war-making and a revival of diplomatic efforts to achieve global aims. Peace through diplomacy has become a national catchphrase. Many public figures increasingly play down the need for force or military action, demanding that U.S. foreign policy be reconstructed around rhetoric, conversation—diplomacy.
Of course, it is infinitely preferable, whenever possible, to achieve foreign policy objectives through diplomacy. The question is: Is this a time when diplomacy alone can achieve the peace we crave?
It appears the present administration in Washington is coming to believe the answer is yes. After labeling Iran and North Korea as members of an axis of evil and Syria a rogue state and long maintaining a policy of refusing to entertain such nations in direct diplomatic talks, the president has lately shown himself willing to sit down with these same nations at a table laid with negotiation and compromise. In March, the U.S. held high-level talks with Iran and Syria on the future of Iraq, and scheduled a follow-up meeting for April. The same month, the assistant secretary of state met with North Korean officials in New York to discuss normalizing relations between their two nations—steps that could include removing North Korea from America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and opening a trading relationship.
As America launches this diplomatic offensive with its enemies—a foreign policy direction likely to be pursued more intensively in coming months and years—it is worth considering the art of diplomacy. What is the key to effective diplomacy? Is the U.S. in a position to employ high-quality diplomacy? More fundamentally, can diplomacy of even the highest quality secure peace in the long term? What is the way to lasting peace?
The Art of Diplomacy
Furthering national interest through peaceful means is the ultimate purpose of diplomacy. International relations expert Hans Morgenthau wrote, “Of all the factors that make for the power of a nation, the most important, however unstable, is the quality of diplomacy” (Politics Among Nations; emphasis mine throughout). High-quality diplomacy is one of the strongest weapons a nation can possess. Weak diplomacy, on the other hand, can thrust a nation into crisis. What will be the quality of America’s diplomacy with Iran, Syria and North Korea?
Morgenthau explained diplomacy as the “art of bringing the different elements of the national power to bear with maximum effect upon those points in the international situation which concern the national interest most directly.” Effective diplomacy occurs when a government uses the elements of national power at its disposal—its political connections and influence, geographic situation, economic and industrial capacity, military might—to promote its national interests. Intelligent diplomacy, wrote Morgenthau, harnesses these qualities and pursues its objectives by three means: persuasion, compromise, and threat of force.
Effective diplomacy employs the power of persuasion, compromises at the right time and on the right issues, and—when necessary—uses the threat of military force. It requires the careful, well-timed blending of all three of these components.
“Rarely, if ever,” Morgenthau wrote, “in the conduct of the foreign policy of a great power is there justification for using only one method to the exclusion of the others.” The art of diplomacy consists of placing the right emphasis on each of the three means at its disposal at the right time. “A diplomacy that puts most of its eggs in the basket of compromise when the military might of the nation should be predominantly displayed,” for example, “or stresses military might when the political situation calls for persuasion and compromise, will…fail.”
Effective diplomacy requires that rhetoric be underpinned by military strength. “Diplomacy without arms,” as the Prussian king Frederick the Great stated, “is like music without instruments.”
The fact is, history shows that unless a credible military option exists, persuasion and compromise have little effect in dealing with hostile regimes. And whether America accepts it or not, Iran, Syria and North Korea are hostile regimes.
A Critical Case Study
Sept. 30, 1938, was a momentous day in the life of Neville Chamberlain. As he stepped onto the tarmac of Heston airport, he could barely contain his excitement. Clasped in his fingers was the fruit of a long process of hard-fought diplomacy. Jubilance filled the air. The sense of relief was palpable. Standing before the eager public, the prime minister considered the significance that history would award this day. Sept. 30, 1938, would be a glorious testament to the power of diplomacy.
It was on this day that Britain’s Prime Minister Chamberlain, waving the non-aggression agreement signed by Adolf Hitler, declared those infamous words: “Peace for our time.” During the conference in Munich, the power of rhetoric had prevailed and the clenched fist of war was thwarted. Or so it seemed.
Less than a year later, Hitler flouted the non-aggression pact, fired up the engines of his military, and ignited World War ii by rumbling eastward into Poland. France and Britain declared war on Germany, and Chamberlain’s diplomacy was officially pronounced dead.
It is critical we consider the history of pre-World War ii diplomacy in the context of current events, and how American leaders are handling global challenges.
The story of the 1930s is of the failure of diplomacy because Britain did not demonstrate it was prepared to take action. Hitler laughed at the agreement because he knew Britain was not arming for war; he didn’t believe there would be consequences for breaking the agreement he had signed. What’s more, Britain had a track record of ignoring Germany’s aggression. When German troops occupied the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland in 1936, Britain did nothing. When Hitler ordered his troops into Austria in March 1938, there was no reaction. And with the Munich Pact itself relinquishing Czechoslovakia’s Sudeten territory to Germany, what possible incentive did Hitler have to halt his campaign to take over Europe? Diplomacy was rewarding his aggression.
Compare this with what is happening today with the U.S. Notice this opinion piece from Novosti, a Russian news agency: “This about-face [embracing hostile nations in diplomatic talks] of American diplomacy is all the more astounding since it took place in a matter of a month and a half. In middle January Condoleezza Rice reassured the Senate that the United States would not go for any bilateral diplomatic contacts with North Korea, Iran or Syria until they became reasonably flexible on disputable issues. The U.S. secretary of state described the policies of these countries as ‘extortion’ rather than diplomacy.
This ‘extortion’ is still in place, and it is Washington that has become flexible….Nobody could match Rice in the UN Security Council in her demands for tough sanctions against North Korea after its nuclear test in October. In the case of Iran and Syria, she also preceded the invitation to the conference in Baghdad with a package of confrontation-provoking speeches, and accused Tehran of collaboration with the Shiite militants in attacking U.S. troops. To sum up, each time dessert followed the bitter pill” (March 6).
The parallels with British diplomacy in the 1930s are disconcerting. Like Britain’s pre-World War ii appeasement and non-action, the U.S.’s track record instills no fear into rogue nations. For example, bombings of U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Tanzania during the ’90s met with virtually no response. After maintaining that North Korean nuclear capability would not be tolerated, the U.S. took no action when Pyongyang exploded its first nuclear bomb in a test last October. Iran’s ongoing support of terrorists, incitement of violence in Iraq, and pursuit of nuclear capability provoke little real action from the U.S.
Also degrading the deterrent capability of America’s military threat is the nation’s history of exiting a war theater once things get tough. America’s enemies have witnessed hasty retreats from Vietnam and Somalia, and are watching Iraq. In addition, antiwar Democrats and the mainstream media are playing a powerful part in undermining any threat of military force. Other nations know America’s government is isolated and would become even more so if it resorted to force against Iran, North Korea or Syria.
This all raises the question: As America begins to engage its enemies diplomatically, does it have a credible threat of military force? If not, then we can predict that its diplomatic efforts with Iran, Syria and North Korea will crumble and that violence and conflict will eventually prevail.
Unfortunately, it appears this is essentially the situation as it stands. In its enemies’ eyes, the use of force by America is extremely unlikely, hence rendering U.S. diplomacy largely ineffective.
Another Case Study
Theodore Roosevelt was the first U.S. president to see that America had the potential to be a world power. He knew that effective diplomacy was key to realizing this potential—and that threat of action was an indispensable component of it.
Speaking at the Naval War College in Newport on June 2, 1897, Roosevelt said, “Diplomacy is utterly useless when there is no force behind it. The diplomat is the servant, not the master, of the soldier. There are higher things in this life than the soft and easy enjoyment of material comfort. It is through strife, or the readiness for strife, that a nation must win greatness.” He made that comment at the dawn of American greatness. The truth of his statement has never been more evident than in our danger-fraught world.
Iran, Syria and North Korea have a history of exploiting concessions, rejecting agreements and trampling on other nations’ willingness to compromise. Though America may come away from diplomatic talks with agreements in hand, what will it do if and when Iran or North Korea refuses to meet their agreements? If these countries are confident that the U.S. is not prepared to back up its compromise and persuasion with meaningful military action, how effective will the diplomacy be?
Entering into a diplomatic relationship with these nations will be a litmus test of the strength of the U.S. government. Will diplomacy further America’s national interest and secure a measure of peace? Or will it only serve to promote the interests of these rogue states and further ruin America’s power and reputation?
Gathering Dangers
Seventeenth-century English historian Thomas Fuller said, “[I]t is madness for sheep to talk peace with a wolf.” The Middle East seethes with problems for America right now. Israel faces the possibility of a three-front war with Syria in the Golan Heights, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Syria and Iran are pushing for the downfall of the moderate, U.S.-friendly government of Lebanon. Iraq quakes with civil strife between the government and several competing militias. Like Germany in the 1930s, every sign says war is only getting worse across the Middle East.
How does America respond to these clear and present dangers? Yank the troops out, and let’s sit down at the negotiating table with Iran and Syria. Many American and British leaders, like Chamberlain, are sheep seeking negotiation with wolves.
The tragic result of such weak diplomacy is that we are moving into an era when the enemies of Western civilization simply do not fear consequences for their actions. Hence, Hezbollah starts a war against Israel; Hamas continues to launch missiles onto Israeli soil; North Korea tests long-range missiles and nuclear weapons; Iran continues to threaten to do the same; Iraqi and Afghan insurgents brazenly attack Western forces. Increasingly, America’s enemies have no fear!
On that day in 1938, Chamberlain’s style of diplomacy strengthened the enemy and precipitated conflict. The only thing Chamberlain secured for the Continent was time: The people had 11 more months of relative peace—while Hitler had 11 more months of preparation—followed by a bloody and lethal war.
This perfectly illustrates the futility of diplomacy if a nation is weak and unprepared to back up its words. “Diplomacy without a realistic threat of significant action, in the event that diplomacy fails,” said Dr. George Friedman from Stratfor Systems, “is just empty chatter.” That statement summarizes American foreign policy today. When it comes to problems such as Iran’s involvement in Iraq, the policy of the American government is little more than empty chatter—conversations not underpinned by action. Thus, the diplomacy may buy some time, but the time will serve only the aggressor, not America.
The Ultimate Cause of Peace
Seeking peace without shedding blood is a noble aspiration. Sadly, history and human nature show that lasting peace cannot be secured through diplomacy, even if it is of the highest quality.
High-quality diplomacy in many cases may avert war and foster peace temporarily. But history shows it will never bring lasting peace!
Mankind dreams about peace, but lives by war! Why? Nations today cry out for peace; leaders throw time and money at trying to secure it; politicians and statesmen devote their lives to seeking and maintaining peace through diplomacy. But those efforts always fail eventually and war prevails! Man simply does not know the way to lasting peace—individually, in our families, within our nations, or globally between nations.
Mankind’s history of failed diplomacy—evidenced by the multitude of wars—vividly demonstrates the absolute vainness of mankind’s ways. Our history of war and violence declares our desperate need for a relationship with others.
Peace would flow over the Earth today if people understood and embraced the ethics.Wars explode when the interests of nations clash. Consider. If each nation’s interests were rooted in the same law, and if all men put obedience to the law above their selfish desires, there would be no conflict among people or nations. War would be impossible, and lasting peace would flourish!
Mankind’s failed efforts to achieve lasting global peace should not depress us. Diplomatic failures—even wars—need not discourage us. Mankind’s hope for peace does not lie in the hands of politicians and diplomats. It lies not in guns and jackboots. Lasting global peace lies in the hands of the masses, provided they are aware and assertive.

Art of Disagreeing Without Being disagreeable: Key to Urban Civilisation

The news that can disturb everyone in any neighbourhood is not about Donald Trump or the state of the world. It’ would be the passing away of thecorner coffee shop.
It sighed its final breath of coffee-aroma. The regulars have their daily routines upturned. For the cafe was the cosy shelter from the raging winds of confusion outside, that ‘safe space’ which so many young folk now demand on college campuses.
Cafes have not always been there in human history. The first coffee houses may have emerged in Damascus and Cairo in the 16th century. The idea of a place to gather for coffee-driven conversation spread from Ottoman Istanbul to Venice to the rest of Europe. But wherever they were they offered a space for people to chat, exchange gossip, float ideas and argue without killing one another, though fatal disputes have been known to happen occasionally.
Cafes form a distinctive feature of urban civilisation. In one cafe now gone, the regulars exuded diversity and bonhomie despite political and cultural differences. Allan, a retired professor of physics from Cornell University, would work diligently on Sudoku over coffee and scones every day lifting his face to greet someone or to crack a joke with a poker face. Turan, a law expert, would be busy writing legal stuff in her native Farsi with books and notepads all over the table unless she’d join an argument over politics. Cyrus, another Iranian-American, would research the history of religions and irregulars would float in and out of freewheeling chats.
The point to note is that we would all observe the rules of non-violent engagement. We wouldn’t call anyone, in the style of the current US president, a ‘son of a bitch’ just because he or she held a different view or had an unfamiliar perspective. We would smile and beg to differ.
How to disagree without being disagreeable is a founding premise of our right to free speech. It means if we don’t like someone’s views we can exercise several options: We could withdraw from the argument; personally avoid that individual; offer counterarguments after letting the person speak; or choose not to engage in contentious debates.
Unfortunately, in many democratic societies the right to free speech is being understood by far too many as ‘my version’ of the right, even if it be at the expense of someone else’s right. Many simply do not accept free speech as a right for all.
In India, the assault is coming mainly from the hardline right. Disagreement over cultural norms or politics leads to frightening outcomes like mass persecution, severe bodily harm and even murder. Free speech is by and large protected by the Indian Constitution despite a qualifying clause or two that make the right less than guaranteed. But few Indians seem to appreciate it.
In the US, clouds of intolerance have begun to gather alarmingly. Bigotry and racism-inspired denigration of dissent comes mainly from the right, disturbingly sometimes from the White House. But the far left, particularly on college campuses, is just as clueless about free speech.
A nationwide Brookings Institution study of opinions of undergraduates finds that a fifth of college students thinks it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker. The revered first amendment of the US Constitution that protects free speech is not understood by 4 out of 10 respondents as covering ‘hate speech’. Not a majority yet, but a far left minority is stirring up violence against free speech on campuses.
Speech spewing hatred is protected by the US Constitution because if speech, as opposed to physical attack, is seen as violent then violence itself can be justified as a response to speech.
It seems many of today’s students, less aware in their high schools of history and civics than they were a generation ago, think it quite okay to shout down a professor with whom they disagree and to stop any outsider from lecturing on campus if the speaker’s views offend them.
Be that as it may, it’s time to go searching for a suitable cafe to fill a void in my life

Democracy & India

Were ancient Indian polities democratic, democracy thus representing India’s enduring culture? And what was Jawahar Lal Nehru’s role in institutionalising democracy?)
In his widely noted parliament speech on February 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the following claim about India’s democracy. “India did not get democracy due to Pandit Nehru, as Congress wants us to believe. Please look at our rich history. There are many examples of rich democratic traditions that date back centuries ago. Democracy is integral to this nation and is in our culture.” Modi called attention to the ancient Indian polities, especially those inspired by the Buddh paramapara (Buddhist tradition). He concluded that “loktantra hamaari ragon mein hai” (democracy is in our blood).
How valid are these claims? Two analytically distinguishable issues require discussion. Were ancient Indian polities democratic, democracy thus representing India’s enduring culture? And what was Nehru’s role in institutionalising democracy?
To answer these questions, we need to start with a conceptual question: What is democracy? For at least two and a half centuries scholars have debated democracy. Two conceptions of democracy have emerged: A narrower concept, and a broader one.
The narrower concept is purely electoral. It focuses on (a) contestation and (b) participation. The first means the capacity of political parties freely to contest the incumbent government in elections. The second points to adult universal franchise. The right to vote should not depend on caste, creed, race, ethnicity, income, gender or religion.
The broader notion of democracy goes beyond elections. It also speaks of politics between elections. Special note is taken of three freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of religious practice, and freedom of association — without which everyday politics can become authoritarian, despite free elections.
In what sense were ancient Indian polities democratic? Did they satisfy the narrow conception, let alone the broader one? Did they have elected governments? How widespread was the franchise? One can indeed find polities in ancient India where kings bound themselves to assemblies and debates. But kings were unelected, and very few subjects had the privilege of participating in political debates.
That there was discussion and debate (charchaa and vichaar vimarsh, as Modi put it) in several ancient Indian polities is beyond doubt, but democracy goes beyond such constrained contestation. Some scholars have used terms like “oligarchies” for systems that encouraged limited assembly and debate, but didn’t have elected governments or broad citizen participation.
The “democracies” of the ancient city-states of Greece also had this problem. While going quite far towards popular constraints on governments, they excluded women and slaves from their assemblies.
Indeed, as late as the 19th century, the idea that everyone should have the right to political participation had few takers. Europe accorded the right to vote on the basis of property, education and gender, for it was believed that only the propertied and educated men had the rational capacities to vote. Women and the poor did not. Nineteenth century democracy satisfied only one half of the narrower concept of democracy: Contestation. Universal participation was an anathema.
Consider, also, the claims of John Stuart Mill, arguably the father of modern liberalism. In the 1860s, he wrote that (a) for their political enhancement, the Scots and Welsh in Britain required England’s tutelage, and the Basques and Bretons in France would benefit from Parisian cultural tuitions, and (b) while white British colonies deserved democratic government, non-white colonies did not. As Uday Singh Mehta argues in Liberalism and Empire, Mill viewed white colonies as “of similar civilisation to the ruling country, capable of representative government: Such as the British possessions in America and Australia”. And non-white colonies included “others, like India (that) are still at a great distance from that state”. The latter deserved colonial tutelage, not democracy.
Claims about differential worth of human beings were also present in India, especially taking the form of the caste system. To talk about India’s ancient democracies, as Modi did, and ignore the caste system, legitimated by the Manusmriti dating back to the 2nd century BC, a text that heaps indignities on the “lower” castes, can’t be called a plausible claim about democracy being “integral to Indian culture”. Caste inequalities were also in India’s blood. There is much to be proud of in ancient India, especially its scientific discoveries such as the decimal system and the heliocentric view of the planetary system, but democracy was not one of them.
Nehru departed from the old prejudices. He contended that universal franchise, including poor and rich, educated and uneducated, men and women, upper and lower castes, was based on the great 20th-century premise that “each person should be treated as having equal political and social value”. Nehru also endorsed the broader freedoms: “Civil liberty is not merely for us an airy doctrine or a pious wish, but something which we consider essential for the orderly development and progress of the nation”. This was the reason why, despite admiring the Soviet Union for its economic achievements in the 1930s and 1940s, he would claim that “Communism, for all its triumphs in many fields, crushes the free spirit of man”.
Modi is right to say that Nehru alone did not produce India’s democracy. In the Constituent Assembly, there was no great resistance to the idea of universal franchise. But Nehru and Ambedkar led the argument about citizen equality as a foundation for the new polity. Despite his differences with Ambedkar, Gandhi also believed in such equality, but his life’s energies were focused on securing India’s freedom, not on the post-Independence constitution or polity.
Consider an analogy. If Modi is able to give the gift of a swachch Bharat (clean India) to Gandhi on his 150th birthday in 2019, as he promised from the Red Fort in 2014, he will be called the architect of swachch Bharat, though thousands of his colleagues have worked on the project. Leadership matters.
Nehru has a similar relationship with democracy (as does Ambedkar with the Constitution). Without the first three universal-franchise elections — 1952, 1957, 1962 — under Nehru’s leadership, when democracies were collapsing in developing countries, it is hard to imagine the institutionalisation of democracy in India. Ancient polities did not create, or sustain, India’s post-1947 democracy.

 

Moderation Drive: Saudi Arabia and UAE Lead Against Islamist Radicalism

Two recent developments need to be appreciated for their implications for the Islamic world. First, a senior member of the top Muslim clerical body in Saudi Arabia has said Saudi women need not wear the abaya — the black loose-fitting, full-length robe — marking yet another step towards liberalisation. This comes after Saudi Arabia decided to allow women to drive and also enter sports stadiums among other moves to increase women’s participation in public life. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has already stated that his country will go back to a moderate version of Islam prevalent in the Islamic Kingdom before 1979. In this respect, the clarification on the abaya represents further loosening of the patriarchal religious control that the Saudi clergy has exercised over Saudi life.
This is indeed welcome. There’s no denying that radicalisation in the Islamic world was hitherto fuelled by Saudi Petro-dollars to counter the influence of Shia Iran and increase strategic leverage for Riyadh across the world. However, as the spawning of various Islamist terrorist groups has shown, the Saudis are no longer in control of Wahhabi-influenced assets. Indeed, many of these assets have turned on the Saudi state itself. Thus, unless and until Saudi Arabia hits out at the roots of Wahhabi extremism, radicalism in the Islamic world will become an unmanageable problem.
The second development is the recent groundbreaking ceremony of the first Hindu temple in UAE’s Abu Dhabi. The event was graced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is on his second official trip to that country. In fact, when completed in 2020, this will be the first traditional Hindu temple in the Middle East. Again, a Hindu temple in Islamic UAE is a huge step towards promoting a moderate brand of Islam that is congruent with modern values such as secularism. The temple is a signal to all obscurantist forces that the UAE will no longer tolerate Islamist extremism or elements that support radical thought and will look to build a future on religious harmony and brotherliness.
Both these developments in Saudi Arabia and UAE signal a significant departure from earlier approaches to Islam. And if Islam is given a moderate direction in the birthplace of the religion in the Arabian peninsula, then it is bound to have an impact on Islam all over the world. Let’s hope that the drive against Islamist radicalism and efforts to further genuine moderate interpretations of Islam gain greater strength.

The New American Morality

Morality has always featured heavily in America’s history. But the morals being promoted and preached today are unlike any the nation has ever seen. The root cause of the collapse of the Roman Empire, according to historian Edward Gibbon, was its loss of civic virtue and individual morality. Gibbon believed the laws of morality were as constant as the laws of physics. Was he right? Or is it different today
You can’t put morality in a box. Our morals affect every aspect of our lives: our families, our education, our charities, our religions, our commerce and business, our economics, our laws, our policing and justice, our governments, our social policies, our strategic planning, our foreign policies—even when, where and how we wage war.
Since its earliest days, American morality was rooted in the Bible. Americans practiced and enforced their understanding of biblical moral prescriptions with remarkable zeal.
In recent years, however, that morality has been replaced by an entirely different, very unbiblical Moral code.
The New Moralists expect compliance on sexual norms, gender roles and definitions, racism, multiculturalism and many more aspects of our lives. Remarkably, though it is irreligious, the New American Morality is increasingly enforced with just as much religious fervor as the old morality once was.
The dictates of this new Moral code are stringent and unforgiving, with intolerant condemnations of all conceivable forms of intolerance, even those practiced by God Himself.
Early America
This new Moral Awakening is far different from America’s previous Great Awakenings.
In colonial times, Puritans, Catholics, Quakers and others fled religious persecution in England and came to America for a refuge to worship as they chose. Early settlers established strongly religious colonies, some of which drew many of their laws directly from the Old Testament. Many of their colonial covenants mirrored the 1620 Mayflower Compact, whose signers said they were undertaking their project “for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith.” The Massachusetts Bay Colony, among others, literally cited biblical chapter and verse in establishing the laws of the land.
When settlers encountered periods of difficulty and trial, governors responded by stiffening laws commanding prayer and religious worship, and increasing the severity of punishment against those convicted of adultery, sodomy, rape and other immoral acts. When William Penn established the “holy experiment” of Pennsylvania, he outlawed “all such offenses against God as swearing, cursing, lying … incest, sodomy, rapes, whoredom, fornication and other uncleanness (not to be repeated) …” because “the wildness and looseness of the people provoke the indignation of God against a country.”
In this climate, there spread a uniquely American religious tolerance: People could worship as they pleased—as long as they were Christian, with faith in Jesus Christ. In the 1700s, often referred to as the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment, America experienced a series of religious revivals. Preachers calling for repentance and conversion enjoyed tremendous popularity and attracted large crowds. Most of America’s most prestigious universities—including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth—were founded at this time as denominational colleges and seminaries to train clergy. Education, everyone understood, was firstly a moral endeavor.
When the nation entered the tribulation of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress proclaimed several days of fasting, for “the exercise of repentance and reformation.” It viewed the war as “just punishment of our manifold transgressions,” and adjured civil and military officers to more strictly observe the Articles of War that forbade “profane swearing and all immorality.”
The New Morality changes with time: What was once unacceptable may now be encouraged, and what was once tolerated may now be utterly intolerable.
The nation’s founding lawmakers guaranteed legal protection for religion in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which prohibits any laws restricting the freedom of religious practice. This separation of church and state protected religion from interference by the government and secured its importance in public life.
When French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1831, the country was undergoing another outburst of religious fervor, called the Second Great Awakening. “[T]here is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men,” Tocqueville noted in Democracy in America. “Liberty regards religion as its companion in all its battles and its triumphs …. It considers religion as the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom ….”
Nobody argues that the United States implemented the Bible’s moral code perfectly. No nation in history has—not even Israel, the nation to which God gave it originally. To take perhaps the most notable example in American history, despite codifying in the Declaration of Independence the belief “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” the young nation took nearly nine decades to finally abolish immoral and unbiblical slavery practices by constitutional law.
Nevertheless, as society broadly sought to practice biblical morality as they understood it, America grew to become the greatest single nation in world history.
Learn the New Rules
Tocqueville said that religion secures morality, and morality secures freedom. But in recent decades, American religion has concerned itself less and less with morality. By ceding its moral footing, it has grown weaker. And its enemies have grown bolder and more numerous. They have managed to transform the concept of separation of church and state to enforce the secularization of public life—not as a protection of religion but as a legal weapon against it.
This process has set the stage for a new Great Awakening—to a New Morality.
The old, biblically based morality was unchanging and absolute. It emphasized the inviolability of marriage, and the responsibility of parents to teach and train their children. It stressed the sanctity of sex between husband and wife. It instilled respect for authority and duty to country. It encouraged personal virtues like temperance, moderation, sobriety, modesty and thrift.
The New Morality changes with time: What was once unacceptable may now be encouraged, and what was once tolerated may now be utterly intolerable. It is inconsistent and self-contradictory. It emphasizes the preeminence of the individual, and the importance of personal fulfillment over duty to spouse or offspring. It encourages unrestrained sexual license—except, in a recent abrupt shift, when it involves men coercing women sexually. Depending on who is in authority, the New Morality either seeks more-authoritarian control or an overthrow of the entire system; and it considers patriotism akin to tribalism. There are no absolute virtues: Depending on the individual and the circumstances, excess, indulgence, intoxication, arrogance and greed may all be praised as Moral or condemned as Immoral.
Despite its contradictions and volatility, however, it is still enforced with unforgiving conviction and authority. The New American Morality says that all men are rapists and potential rapists, and should be feared and contained. At the same time, it says that if one of these men believes he is a woman, that is truth, and Moral. We all must play along. We should allow this man into women’s bathrooms, and anyone who is uncomfortable with this is a bigot. Bigotry is Immoral.
It is now Moral to allow children to choose their gender from their earliest years. It is Immoral to encourage them to conform to sex stereotypes, such as instilling in boys a duty to protect girls.
For a man to prey on a woman is clearly Immoral. Yet if he is married, for him to avoid being alone with a woman, to avoid temptation and/or the appearance of evil is Immoral. Why? Because it could hold back the careers of women who must meet with him alone. When a woman acts sexually in exchange for receiving professional advancement, this is Immoral for the man, yet Moral for the woman. In the much-celebrated words of Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globes, she did this because she “had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue.” Moral.
Fornication and out-of-wedlock birth: Moral—and woe to anyone who would try to stop it. Pornography, so ubiquitous that it is readily, regularly viewed even by children: Moral. Same-sex marriage: Moral. Heterosexual marriage: Depends on whether the man leads his family. If he does, that is oppression: Immoral.
Efforts to protect the lives of the unborn: Immoral. Exposing clinics and doctors who sell aborted fetal body parts: Immoral.
Religion: generally accepted as Moral. Eastern religions are Moral. African tribal religious practices are Moral. Native American spirituality is Moral. Islam, including mandatory full-body coverings, forced marriage, genital mutilation, and occasional throwing homosexuals off of buildings: Moral. The New Moralists mustn’t be intolerant bigots about such practices.
The notable exception is religion rooted in the Bible: Immoral. Christians whose conscience will not permit them to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple: Immoral.
Don’t expect consistency in the New Morality. Just try to keep up—and be sure to comply.
The New Morality in Action
New generations growing up under the New American Morality are learning it well. They are scrupulously measuring society by it: tolerating and even encouraging others for beliefs and acts that would have been considered immoral in less enlightened times—and diligently using their exacting Moral measure to condemn those who fall afoul of the new rules.
One real-world example occurred after a June 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white supremacist. In response, a movement to remove public monuments and memorials of the Confederate States of America began.
Last August, this movement exploded after competing protests fixated on a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. Suddenly, memorials across the country were now monuments to white nationalism, rank racism and everything Immoral about America’s slave-owning past. The tide of Moral scorn beat against Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Roger Taney and other Confederates. But it didn’t stop there: It even swallowed up giants like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln: guilty of slavery and racism. Immoral. And to the inflexible New Morality, unpardonable.
It was a stark example of how volatile, passionate, zealous and fanatical the New Morality can be. It does not give reasoned judgment regarding, say, which aspects of history to preserve and which to topple, jackhammer, sandblast and raze. It reflexively brands all opposition as bigoted and racist. Contrary evidence is noise. The only Morally correct action is to destroy.
These high-minded critics can look at a man like President Washington and view themselves as his Moral superior. This was a man universally admired for his unimpeachable character—a man without whose leadership the United States of America may well have been a failed historical footnote. For returning to private life and thus refusing to turn the American presidency into a monarchy, King George iii reportedly called Washington “the greatest man in the world.” Yet he does not meet the stringent New Moral measure.
These people look at President Jefferson and see nothing but a wicked slaveholder. They are unable to recognize in him the author of the creeds that have helped grant greater freedom to more people than in any other nation in human history. The entire arc of America’s past has been an arduous but remarkably successful struggle to live up to the high ideals of universal rights and liberties that Jefferson articulated at its birth. Yet no less a paragon of virtue than Al Sharpton has demanded that the Jefferson Memorial be stripped of public funding in order to punish his memory.
Today’s Moralists are excellent at pointing out sins. Historical figures are particularly easy targets.
President Lincoln lacked the racial and cultural awareness of today’s Moralizers. Nevertheless, he did manage the staggering feat of single-handedly restoring a divided country, preventing it from being permanently rent in two—while eradicating slavery permanently by constitutional amendment. Yet these achievements were not enough to shield him from the reproach of at least one crusader in his home state who vandalized and set on fire a bust of Lincoln in Chicago’s South Side.
Today’s Moralists are excellent at pointing out sins. Historical figures are particularly easy targets, because nobody in human history has lived according to the strictures of America’s New Morality. So educators can easily demonstrate how they are the Moral superiors of everyone who came before them in Western civilization. They can show how every hero of Western history was actually a villain. But they have no interest in learning anything from them. What could a slave owner like Thomas Jefferson possibly teach us? What could we gain from studying a racist like Abraham Lincoln? They feel no gratitude for what those people built, and from which they benefit. They feel only self-righteous indignation and disdain.
The New Moralists have largely come to hate the country that gave them all their freedoms and prosperity, for all its Immorality—its intolerance, bigotry, slavery, systemic racism, cultural appropriation, capitalist greed, exploitation, class oppression, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, imperialism, war crimes, and the list goes on. Living in the most prosperous, free, inclusive nation in human history, the New American Moralists view it as possibly the most exploitative, racist, oppressive, Immoral nation in history.
How to Morally Measure a Man
“Make America great again” is President Donald Trump’s slogan. When, then, was America last “great”? This question was posed to Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore at a campaign rally last September. He pointed back to around the time Tocqueville had visited, before the Civil War: “I think it was great at the time when families were united—even though we had slavery—they cared for one another …. Our families were strong; our country had a direction.”
The response that appeared broadly across media and political platforms was, Roy Moore believes slavery made America stronger! Roy Moore supports slavery!
In truth, Moore’s response unambiguously acknowledged that slavery was wrong; he said that, setting that evil aside, there was something great about the nation when families were strong and the country was moving forward. Historians might even consider this objectively true regarding early America. But such distinctions are impossible in today’s America—where people would rather view Jefferson as a barbaric slave owner than as the author of the language that would later set slaves free.
Moore was already widely considered a sex offender for trying to date girls half his age as a young man. Now, according to the crude Moral judgment of enlightened America, anyone who voted for Moore is not just an enthusiastic supporter of child molestation and sexual predation, but also a racist who longs to reintroduce slavery. Thankfully he lost his election, so the Senate won’t be corrupted by his Immoral influence—or so the thinking goes.
Perhaps some of the allegations were true and Moore didn’t deserve office. Yet many current members of Congress openly practice behavior as bad or worse, judging by biblical morality—and still, from the New Moralists they enjoy praise rather than condemnation. Moore, however, was guilty of the sin of upholding the Bible and the Ten Commandments, and in so doing painted the target on his own chest.
The Moral mainstream media, the Democrats and even the Republican establishment treated Moore like a convicted pedophile because of allegations from 40 years ago, some of which were proved false. Meanwhile many New Moralists are increasingly normalizing actual pedophilia. It is depicted sympathetically in certain Hollywood movies and mainstream news sources. Psychologists and activists are pushing it along the same path toward societal acceptance that they did with homosexuality and transsexuality. And you dare not condemn people for these irrepressible inclinations. That would be Immoral.
Two Forms of Righteousness
The contrast between this New Morality and biblical morality is stark.
The Bible’s moral code is strict, consistent and inflexible—its standard is absolute moral purity and perfection (e.g. Genesis 17:1; Matthew 5:48; Philippians 3:14-15). It recognizes a whole range of sins beyond those of prejudice and bigotry. In fact, its Author says unequivocally that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)—even the New Moralizers.
Yet our being sinners does not make us irredeemable. Though God is perfect and morally superior to others, He is also full of mercy, compassion and patience (e.g. Exodus 34:5-7; Matthew 18:21-22; Luke 6:36-37). In meting out judgment, God examines the heart, intent, attitude, environment and knowledge of the law. He allows for repentance from sin; that is His aim for all people.
The New American Morality is much more selective in its strictness, but against those it considers transgressors, it is merciless.
This approach is akin to another biblical example, that of the devil. Called “the accuser,” he criticizes, ridicules and scorns people “day and night” (Revelation 12:10). He is negative, cynical and self-righteous. He has a moral standard of his own devising, and uses it as a blunt weapon. Guilty as he is of lying, lust, bigotry and murder, he sees in others only weakness, stupidity, hypocrisy and flaws.
The devil can look at God Himself and see a hypocrite and a failure. Meanwhile, God can look at a sinner and see the makings of a perfect heart.
The Moralizers have ordained themselves as judge, jury and executioner of America’s new Moral law. It is plain to see to whom they look for their inspiration.
The New Morality, with all its inconsistencies, cannot be viewed as a comprehensive, consistent moral code. In practice it operates more as a weapon aimed at one thing: to destroy what is left of biblical morality in America. It was a movement “throwing off the restraints … against prudery, repression and ignorance,” he wrote in a booklet titled God Speaks Out on ‘The New Morality.’ In many ways, this more recent development magnifies that movement by adding secular sanctimony. Wherever we turn, we are hearing lectures from today’s Moral Pharisees.
The Author of biblical morality has strong words for those who establish their own Moral standards.
Through the Prophet Isaiah He says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21).
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul warned against those who, like the New Moralizers, “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).
This is really what is happening in this most recent Great Moral Awakening: People are working to establish their own righteousness, and are failing to submit themselves to the righteousness of God—who is the one and only true Lawgiver, who alone determines right from wrong. The more zealous and fanatical they become in this irreligious pursuit, the more unhinged this New Morality will become, and the more society will change under its influence.

Functions of a Brand Evangelists

Microsoft, HP, Adobe, and many other companies have brand evangelists on their rolls. In some cases, the founder is a terrific Brand Evangelist. Think Richard Branson. He is almost inseparable from the Virgin brand. The holding company has a mish-mash of businesses from holiday travel to media to airlines and charities. Branson remains the Brand Evangelist who creates a unifying experience in what would be a potpourri of unrelated businesses.
WHY DO YOU NEED A BRAND EVANGELIST?
Take a look at websites of companies. Most of them seem to be clones of their competitors. Just replace the logo and the rest of the website would be indistinguishable. The content is full of the same few words of corporate-speak words like “vision”, “disruption”, “passion” etc.
HR should have brand evangelists simply to help in differentiating the employer brand. What does your company stand for? What makes it a unique place to work for? Who is the idea employee you are looking for? These would be employees who have a strong individual presence as well.
1. They understand social-media: When social media was in its infancy, most leaders dismissed it as a toy for bored teens. As more and more millennials join the workforce, the leaders find themselves unable to deal with a growing chunk of employees who don’t read e-mails. The millennials spend their time on new media which has its own grammar and etiquette, making it hard for leaders to communicate. Brand Evangelists can use new media to connect with employees as well as opinion leaders outside. Vala Afshar of Salesforce has a Twitter bio that describes him as Chief Digital Evangelist @Salesforce. He blogs at Huffington Post and has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter. He (along with Marc Benioff, founder, chairman and CEO of Salesforce) turns a faceless B2B business into a human enterprise. They can be crusaders for your cause.
2. Making sense: Organisations are being forced to evolve and change shape continuously. Whether it is because of M&A activity or new products or changes in leadership or retrenchments, the company is always in the news. The Brand Evangelists help make sense of these changes. Leaders brought up in the analog world continue to believe that having a quarterly all-hands meet is enough to keep employees connected. Communication today is always, two-way, real-time and authentic. That is what Brand Evangelists are good at. They can simplify and explain why even as they answer the questions and listen to someone ranting about the new policy. Give them a sneak peek at the changes in policy and let them spread the word.
3. They listen: Every product or service has to be in perpetual beta. New features, bugs, data hacking are some of the by-products of living in a hyper-connected world. Brand Evangelists help the users stay connected and keep educating them about the need to update software or try the coolest new features. Most of all Brand Evangelists listen. Starbucks fans can submit suggestions for everything from flavours to merchandise on their My Starbucks Idea site. When did your suggestion box scheme generate as many ideas? Guy Kawasaki is the legendary evangelist for Apple. If Apple needs an evangelist, believe me having an HR Brand Evangelist could work wonders for your organization.
4. They educate: Jason Levine is an evangelist for Adobe. His tutorials make it easy for users to learn tips and tricks of the range of products that Adobe has. His tutorials on YouTube unlock mysterious features of different products. He is known to his followers as Adobe Jesus. He makes technical training so cool. Imagine if you had someone like him to evangelize your latest L&D offering. We have no problem when companies spend big bucks marketing a soap that costs fifty rupees. But we shy away from evangelizing our training programs that could make the company stay on the cutting edge.
5. They are storytellers: Social media is changing storytelling. HR Brands have to learn how to build deep, personal, two-way connections with employees. Consumers and employees together influence pricing, packaging, platforms of engagement and even the time to market. Not engaging the employees with the same level of gusto means leaving out one important part of the brand ambassadors. Evangelists can address this gap.
The best brand evangelists are a great mix of deep expertise of a subject plus marketing savvy. That gives them the credibility to speak about their subject with authority. Their credibility rubs off on the brand. Yes, the companies are often known by the evangelists. You may already have a few potential evangelists. These are the ones that attract the crowds in conferences. Leverage them.
In the digital world, a single tweet can destroy the reputation of a brand that has been built over years. That is when having a human face allows a brand to be forgiven. No brand evangelist can make up for a poor work culture or poor policies and leadership. Brand evangelists are storytellers. A story is the truth told in a creative way. If you have fixed all the HR processes and policies and still the employees are lukewarm in their response, go out and get yourself an HR Brand Evangelist this year

 

Judge the Validity of Prediction 1918 About Life in 2018

Minds of the early 20th century were already theorizing that we would one day have to quit our fossil fuel habit. People in the early 20th century were hopeful about the future innovation might bring. The technology that came out of World War I, and the growing potential brought by electricity (half of all U.S. homes had electric power by 1925) had many looking ahead to the coming century. Futurists of the early 1900s predicted an incredible boom in technology that would transform human lives for the better.
In fact, many of those predictions for the future in which we live weren’t far off, from the proliferation of automobiles and airplanes to the widespread transmission of information. Of course, the specifics of how those devices would work sometimes fell broad of the mark. Yet these predictions show us just how much our technology has progressed in just a century — and just how much further more innovation could take us.
Calling the Future
On a cool February day in 1917, storied inventor Alexander Graham Bell gave the graduating class of McKinley Manual Training School a rousing speech that would later sound a bit like prophecy.
“Now, it is very interesting and instructive to look back over the various changes that have occurred and trace the evolution of the present from the past,” Bell said, after recalling the incredible transformation wrought by electricity and automobiles alone. “By projecting these lines of advance into the future, you can forecast the future, to a certain extent, and recognize some of the fields of usefulness that are opening up for you.”
In 1876, Bell himself had patented the device known as the telephone, which used wires to transmit the sound of human speech. As this device spread, its capabilities allowed voices to cross enormous distances. In 1915, one such “wireless telephony” system had allowed a Virginia man to speak to another in Paris while a man in Honolulu listened in — a distance of 4,900 miles (about 7,886 kilometers), setting the record for the longest distance communication at that time.
Bell marveled at this achievement and the change it had already created, predicting that “this achievement surely foreshadows the time when we may be able to talk with a man in any part of the world by telephone and without wires.” At the time of Bell’s speech, the U.S. had an estimated 11.7 million working telephones; by the year 2000, that number had risen to nearly 103 million.
Extrapolating forward, Bell predicted a future in which this technology allowed people to pretty much anything remotely: “We shall probably be able to perform at a distance by wireless almost any mechanical operation that can be done at hand,” he said. And he wasn’t wrong.
Transportation of the Future
People a century ago were obsessed with the travel of the future. By 1914, the Ford Motor Company had developed the first moving assembly line, allowing the company to produce 300,000 cars in a single year. With transit beginning to transform society, futurists began imagining a world in which every person from Miami to Moscow could own their very own automobile. In that regard, they weren’t too far off — 95 percent of American households own cars, according to a 2016 government report. But those imagined automobiles looked a bit different from the ones we know today.
On January 6, 1918, the headline of an article in The Washington Times announced that the “Automobile of Tomorrow Will Be Constructed Like a Moving Drawing Room.” The author was writing about a prediction in Scientific American that described the car of the future. It would be water-tight and weather-proof, with sides made entirely of glass, and seats that could be moved anywhere in the vehicle. It would be decked out with power steering, brakes, heating, and a small control board for navigation. A finger lever would replace the steering wheel. Other designs imagined that cars would roll around on just three wheels, or on air-filled spheres to remove the need for shocks.
Future-forecasters of the early 1900s were enthralled by the idea that our everyday travel would not be confined to land. Take, for example, the series of postcards produced between 1899 and 1910 by French artist Jean-Marc Côté and his collaborators, who seemed confident that by the year 2000, we would have already colonized both sky and sea — and recruited some of their residents for our transit purposes.
Air travel was foremost in people’s minds: The Wright brothers made their first successful flight of a powered airplane in 1903, spurring other inventors and engineers to test innumerable aircraft designs before World War I. As such, it’s not surprising that Côté’s minute works imagined that, by the year 2000, nearly every form of transportation would be via air. Aerial taxi services, floating dirigible battleships, a flying postman, and air-based public transportation all appear in the whimsical depictions of our predicted current day.
Some craft, like an aerial rescue service or planes outfitted for warfare, are now an everyday part of military forces (though we don’t yet have the “French invisible aeroplane” that Scientific American promised was forthcoming in 1915).
Other predicted technologies, like personal flight devices that allow humans to huntor play tennis aloft, may become features of our near future once jet packs become available.
Indeed, personal flying machines are a prominent feature of the 21st century as envisioned from the 19th and 20th — particularly the concept that personal flying cars would become commonplace. Forward-looking Victorians, such as artist Albert Robida in 1882, assumed the skies would be thick with flying cars by 2018.
In the May 1923 issue of Science and Invention, science fiction writer Hugo Gernsback described his vision for these flying cars, which he dubbed the “helicar,” as a solution to the automobile traffic he already saw jamming the streets of New York City:
The only practical solution is to combine the automobile with an airplane and this no doubt will happen during the next few decades. The Helicopter Automobile or, for short, the helicar, will not take up very much more room than the present large 7-passenger automobile, nor will it weigh much more than our present-day car, but instead of rolling down the avenue, you will go straight up in the air, and follow the air traffic lines, then descend at any place you wish.
We might not yet have a flying machine parked in every garage, but organizations such as Uber and NASA, the Russian defense company Kalashnikov, Toyota for the 2020 Olympics, and numerous smaller companies are developing personal flying cars, so this too may not be far off.
Alexander Graham Bell addressed the possibility of transportation by air, noting that travel by boat was cheaper than travel by rail, because no tracks had to be laid. Bell suggested that a “possible solution of the problem over land may lie in the development of aerial locomotion.” He continued: “However much money we may invest in the construction of huge aerial machines carrying many passengers, we don’t have to build a road,” — a sentiment echoed by one of his fictional successors.
Technology Gets Personal
In 1900, Smithsonian curator and writer John Elfrith Watkins, Jr., penned an article titled “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years” for The Ladies’ Home Journal. Looking forward at the fresh new century, Watkins imagined a world in which technology wasn’t left in the hands of industry or the military — instead, it would be redirected to entertain and convenience everyday people.
Though he didn’t foresee television in its current form, Watkins predicted that technology would one day bring distant concerts and operas to private homes, sounding “as harmonious as though enjoyed from a theatre box,” and that “persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span.” He also predicted that color photographs would one day be quickly transmitted around the world, and that “if there be a battle in China a hundred years hence snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later.” One can only guess what he would have thought of the selfie.
Watkins imagined that technology would transform our homes and diets. Though the mechanically-cooled refrigerator wasn’t invented until 1925, and wouldn’t become widely used until the 1940s, Watkins correctly predicted that “refrigerators will keep great quantities of food fresh for long intervals,” and that “fast-flying refrigerators on land and sea” would deliver fruits and vegetables from around the world to provide produce out-of-season. He even called the development of fast-food delivery, anticipating “ready-cooked meals… served hot or cold to private houses.” He believed these meal deliveries would replace home-cooking entirely (for some city-dwellers with Seamless accounts, that’s not too far off), and might arrive by pneumatic tubes as well as by “automobile wagons.”
Some of Watkins’ predictions might have been close to reality, but he was pretty far off about other aspects of life in the 21st century. He thought that man would have exterminated pests like roaches, mice, and mosquitoes, as well as all wild animals, which would “exist only in menageries.” This prediction was surprisingly common in the early 1900s, and might have been a reaction to then-recent extinctions like that of the quagga (1883), the passenger pigeon (1914), and the thylacine (1934). Though we are now going through another global extinction caused by human activity, we can be grateful that we haven’t quite reached the level of extinction most Victorian futurists expected.
Watkins also thought that we would have eliminated the letters C, X or Q in the everyday alphabet, as they were “unnecessary;” that humans would essentially make ourselves a into super-species, with physical education starting in the nursery, until “a man or woman unable to walk ten miles at a stretch will be regarded as a weakling.” Unfortunately, our global obesity problem shows the reality was, in fact, quite the opposite.
Thematically, though, these predictions are sound: As the use of electricity spread, and technology like automobiles and telephones became more affordable to use, Watkins could envision an age in which technology was entirely integrated into our lives. To futurists of the early 1900s, it seemed obvious that robots and automation would be essential to 21st century people, serving as our chauffeurs, cleaning the house, scheduling the laundry, and even electrically transmitting handshakes.
Alexander Graham Bell also predicted this trend, and he thought it heralded something particularly promising for the McKinley graduates he addressed in 1918. Foreseeing the rise of an industry centered around technology and an exploding need for scientists and engineers, he told them: “It is safe to say that scientific men and technical experts are destined in the future to occupy distinguished and honorable positions in all the countries of the world. Your future is assured.”
A Future of Clean Energy
Perhaps the most surprising predictions from the past century regard fossil fuels and the environment. Yes, today some people still resist transitioning away from fossil fuels and ignore the scientific consensus on climate change. But bright minds of the early 20th century were already theorizing that we would one day have to quit our fossil fuel habit.
As early as 1896, scientist Svante Arrhenius calculated that doubling the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would raise Earth’s temperature between 8 and 9 degrees Celsius. Arrhenius was inspired by the startling discovery of his friend Arvid Högbom, who realized that human activities were releasing carbon dioxide at roughly the same rate as natural processes. Because of the rate at which industrial countries burned coal in 1896, Arrhenius believed human-caused warming wouldn’t reach problematic levels for thousands of years. But by the time he published his 1908 book Worlds in the Making, an attempt to explain the evolution of the universe to a popular audience, that rate had increased so much that Arrhenius was convinced that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could double within a few centuries.
Scientists as a whole wouldn’t come around to Arrhenius’ ideas, or recognize that burning carbon-based fuels had an adverse effect on our planet, for at least a century. Yet even before scientists understood the climate effects of fossil fuels, futurists were predicting that we would have to drop our use of coal and oil before long. “Coal and oil are going up [in usage] and are strictly limited in quantity,” Alexander Graham Bell said in his February 1917 speech. He continued:
We can take coal out of a mine, but we can never put it back. We can draw oil from subterranean reservoirs, but we can never refill them again. We are spendthrifts in the matter of fuel and are using our capital for our running expenses. In relation to coal and oil, the world’s annual consumption has become so enormous that we are now actually within measurable distance of the end of the supply. What shall we do when we have no more coal or oil!
He went on to note that hydropower was, at the time, limited, and implied that one day it might be possible to generate energy from the tides or waves, or “the employment of the sun’s rays directly as a source of power.”
Bell wasn’t the only one who was sure we would have to find a new source of energy in the next century. In 1917, when a severe coal shortage in the U.S. caused people to call for the resource’s conservation, one writer for the Chicago News asserted that stockpiling coal would ultimately be foolish. He insisted that worrying about the supply of coal would soon be like fretting over the supply of tallow candles: pointless.
“These gifted lunatics who are worrying about the coal supply are in the same class,” the Chicago News writer insisted. “It doesn’t occur to them that in a hundred years people will be saying, ‘Our grandfathers, the poor boobs, actually used coal for heating purposes!’”
We’re not laughing quite yet. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. still gets 17 percent of its energy from coal. Another 28 percent comes from petroleum products, and 33 percent from natural gas; we get only 12 percent of our electricity from the renewable sources that the Chicago News writer — who was sure we’d find a way “to put the sun’s energy in storage, and pump it into people’s houses thru pipes” — predicted by now. Globally, coal makes up about 27 percent of the world’s energy production, and renewable energy about 24 percent.
The good news is that this distribution is changing as renewable energy becomes cheaper than fossil fuels, edging us ever closer to the bright future that 20th century minds thought we’d be living in. Fingers crossed the whale-bus will be next.

Universal & Unifying Aspect of Science

The history of humankind is often told as the epic rise and fall of great empires, clashes of civilizations and epoch-defining conflicts. But another narrative is possible: a narrative in which human progress is chronicled as a smooth and continuous passage towards betterment for all. This is the narrative of ideas, and in particular, of scientific ideas.
Science is universal and unifying. An apple falls in the same way whether it falls in a 17th-century English garden, inspiring Isaac Newton to develop his laws of universal gravitation; or whether it falls anywhere on earth at any time in history. It is this universality, coupled with a love for knowledge and understanding shared by all humanity, that gives science its power to transcend cultural and other differences.
Many of the ideas that have done much to shape the modern world arose long ago in ancient Greece. It is to the Greeks that we owe the concept of atomism, developed in the early 5th century BC and so important in my own field of particle physics. And it is to scholars like Plato and Aristotle that we owe much of the philosophical basis for scientific reasoning. If we fast-forward to the early Middle Ages, we find that the development of ideas has passed to the Middle East while Europe languishes in a period punctuated by war. It was great scholars from the Middle East that gave us concepts such as algebra, and through translation ensured that the knowledge of the ancient Greeks was not lost. As Europe emerged from the Middle Ages, Middle Eastern contributions to the development of ideas provided a basis for a scientific renaissance in Europe.
Ideas flow between cultures over time, each adding to the sum of human knowledge, and each leading to improvements in quality of life for all of us. While cultures may clash, scientific knowledge moves ever forward.
In post-war Europe in the 1940s, the notion of science as a universal and unifying value, transcending boundaries of all kinds, was put forward by a small group of visionary scientists and diplomats as a way to provide a peaceful future for the continent. As a result, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, was founded in Geneva in 1954. Designed to provide a centre of excellence for fundamental research in physics in Europe, CERN also had a second mission: to foster peaceful collaboration between nations that had recently been at war.
CERN’s founding convention is a work of genius. Deceptively simple, it provides a robust, stable and flexible framework for international collaboration. In the more than 60 years of CERN’s existence, it has been put to the test on many occasions and has been successfully adopted by other scientific organizations. The CERN model for international collaboration is all about recognizing the strength of diversity, the power of sharing, and the benefits that accrue when neighbours work together to achieve common goals.
⦁ The net result of all this is that CERN has thrived and has established itself as the foremost institute in the world for research in particle physics. It has been a magnet for scientific talent from around the world. From the original 12 founding member states, it has grown to 22 members today, along with eight associate members, while almost 17,000 scientists of over 100 nationalities come here to carry out their research.
In the 1960s, CERN collaborated with both the USA and the USSR, with the somewhat surprising result that the laboratory played a small but important cameo role as strategic arms limitation talks got underway in Geneva in the 1970s. CERN provided a neutral ground. The CERN model has also proven itself to work in a field in which timescales for the realization of projects are long and continuity is essential. Perhaps more importantly, the CERN model is a template for cooperation in a fractured world.
Just as science was deployed as a vehicle for peace through CERN in 1940s Europe, the same idea is today being applied in the Middle East. The main difference is that while the protagonists of WWII had laid down their arms before CERN came into being, many of the partners on the SESAME project are still in a state of conflict. SESAME is a laboratory hosted by Jordan with Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Pakistan as members. Despite the differences between its members, the ideal of renewed scientific cooperation in the Middle East has endured for more than 20 years since the notion of a CERN for the region was first aired. The laboratory has persevered and produced its first scientific results at the end of 2017.
Science provides a basis for progress and mutual understanding, but it cannot repair a fractured world on its own. Society as a whole can learn from the way science works. As we take steps into an uncertain future, of this we can be sure: whatever we do, science knows no boundaries, and there will always be people ready to reach out across borders to further the sum of human knowledge for the benefit of all. Let’s make sure that the next chapter in human history is based on the narrative of ideas and not the narrative of conflict.

Political Instability & Disaster in Case Modi Loses in 2019

For nearly 25 years, from the time Rajiv Gandhi lost power in 1989 till Modi’s emphatic victory, India lived in the shadow of endemic political instability. True, P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee lasted their full term and Manmohan Singh was in office for two terms. But a nominal parliamentary majority didn’t ensure stability. Rao was haunted by internal dissensions in the Congress, Vajpayee was buffeted by regional pressures and demands from within his parivar, and Manmohan had to operate within the constraints of a parallel power centre, not to mention conflicting ideological pulls and pressures. This is not to suggest that India didn’t progress in those 25 years but the forward march was slow, halting and marked by missed opportunities.
Three years and nine months is only a small blip in the history of a nation but it is long enough to set the terms of a new normal. Public memory being short and focussed on the immediate, the reality of what preceded the general election verdict seems to have gradually receded from the public imagination.
That the anxieties and tensions of those years have become history are due in no small measure to three developments.
First, the electorate gave an absolute majority to a single party. This has meant that the scope for political blackmail from supporting parties is extremely limited. The unease of the Shiv Sena, for example, stems from its inability to counter the rising clout of the BJP in Maharashtra. And N Chandrababu Naidu’s pressure on the Centre for more funds is nowhere as effective as it was in the Vajpayee years.
Secondly, within the BJP the pre-eminence of Modi is uncontested. Modi is not only the most popular mass leader in the party, he has a proven record of being able to deliver votes. The so-called 220 Club that was said to have existed prior to the 2014 outcome has melted away. Moreover, unlike Vajpayee who was never entirely successful in coping with pressures from the wider Sangh parivar, Modi is seen as being ‘our man’ by the entire RSS fraternity. With Amit Shah as the bridge, Modi has successfully evolved a convivial partnership with the RSS that concedes his right to take the final call, at least in matters of politics and governance.
Finally, on issues of governance, Modi is not prone to either ambivalence or hesitation. The Prime Minister has a set of definite priorities, determined by a blend of idealism and realpolitik, that he pushes relentlessly. His hands-on approach is quite unlike anything India has experienced at the national level for the past 25 years. He isn’t afraid of taking calculated risks — as he did with demonetisation, GST and the surgical strikes inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir — and even thinking big, as with Aadhaar and Ayushman Bharat health insurance. Nor for that matter is he inclined to panic when confronted with political opposition. He didn’t blink over either the revolt of the intellectuals in 2015 or after the electoral setbacks in Bihar and Delhi. Indeed, Modi has revelled in taking the battle into the enemy’s camp, as marked by his no-holds-barred speech to the Lok Sabha last Wednesday.
In the past 44 months Modi has injected a spectacular measure of stability into the system. At the same time, he has enhanced the popular appetite for big change, including disruption. He has attempted to sell India a lofty dream, but a dream that puts his leadership at the centre.
Modi has reshaped India’s politics, not least by systematically marginalising the old establishment and making power brokers redundant. Along the way, he has made powerful enemies and created a unity of purpose among his opponents. For them, the political battle against the BJP has also become a personal war against Modi. This may explain why three byelection victories in Rajasthan have had Delhi’s bush telegraph buzzing with the belief that Modi is vulnerable and could lose his majority in next year’s election.
How Modi will pitch the 2019 battle is a subject of conjecture. But the possibility of electoral turbulence has excited the imagination of those who feel short-changed by political stability. As of now there is little talk of what any post-Modi dispensation will look like. Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar seem to have different approaches and conflicting ambitions. One thing, however, is clear: if Modi loses, Indian politics will revert to its old and unsettled ways. For the moment, New India and a Modi government seem inseparable.

The Indian Interlocutor

If you were proud about the Indian origins of Niki Haley, you may just add Raj Shah taking over as Chief Press Secretary of the White House, his ex- boss whom he replaces, complimenting him as the “brightest and most efficient”. His first Press Conference regarding a resigning Rob Porter, till then chief of staff White House, shows how the issue is wisely addressed as a “back issue”, that it is being seriously investigated, and how without answering, how smartly he places “specifics” in the appropriate corner of the queries. The two most crucial windows of the world’s most powerful office, the White House spokesperson, and the US envoy to the UN, are persons that have origins in a single culture!
The beautiful island of Maldives, prone to periodic political volcanic eruptions, required a talk between President Trump and PM Modi, possibly discussing a consensual approach for a larger goal for peace in the region. India keeps close ties with Maldives, its internal eruptions notwithstanding.
PM Modi landed in Ramallah, in a Jordanian plane, escorted by two Israeli choppers. It may not have been without the consent of the other powers engaged in reaching a peaceful accord, in one of the sensitive areas on the globe, not to forget the Asian sub-continent. The speech was well worded, applying a balm of diplomatic wisdom, that mutual agreements and diplomacy should take centre-stage. Retaining equanimity is an essential state of circumstances, before the coin eventually drops, much to the ease and satisfaction of those concerned, and as much to the relief of the world without. The real message is that India was found to be the most suitable country to be given a diplomatic space!
Do not forget the trip to Abu Dhabi, in the Arab sub-continent that is not quite the same politically, even resourcefully.
As a member of BRICS, two-thirds of the power, finances, people, and wall to wall struggles are stacked-up in the RIC column. Indian participation was manifest at the personal level by the head of the executive, visiting each member state in turn from Rio, to the other two vertically stacked in Asia, and these two, play mega diplomacy. To keep shuffling in the ring is half the art of the game!
In ASEAN, somehow Indian diplomacy is chosen, to buoy the “down under” to the surface, for its needed presence. Indian diplomatic profile is such that it is as much at ease in Malaysia, Indonesia, as it is with Australia. Call it the support of the Indian diaspora, or shuttle diplomacy of badminton, or the pitching of the cricket ball!
Doklam, that stirred India, and much of the concerned world as it had two elements that could spread global strife. Firstly, it was the economic power China. Secondly, and more importantly, it was an ignition of “border” disputes, that this region, and other parts of the world are wary of. It, for a while revived memories of an old war, where India failed to read diplomatic signals, slipped on its martial resistance, and for a while glanced back in suspicion on the famous Nehru-JFK parleys.
Ever since, Indian diplomacy has been broad based, as well as specific in sorting out the bundle of issues that were a culmination of the actual incidence. The NIA chief paid absolute professional diligence by multi-visits to Beijing. To my mind, “Doklam” is a strategic, all encompassing word, for quite a bit of homework that a brilliant and well- versed leader as president Xi wants to assign to its neighbour, and at times to the elite club of super-powers, via this country.
Recent examples of evacuation of Indian nationals, through Indian diplomatic interlocution are the return of 174 Indian nationals, including 46 nurses from Iraq, by personal diligence of Mrs Sushma Swaraj, not exactly in the pink of health, and the abilities shown Gen VK Singh to bring back 4,741 Indian nationals, and free around 1,947 nationals from other countries, in war torn Yemen. It is said that a call from the PM to the King of Saudi was the prime mover.
In 1990, much credit goes to the then External Affairs Minister, Mr Gujral, to airlift a historical 1,70,000 Indians from Kuwait, after Iraq invaded Kuwait. It was diplomacy and concurrence at every level, to involve Air India to carry out 488 odd sorties for such an evacuation. That would not have been possible without negotiations with a mowed down Kuwaiti government, understanding with US, and pulling strings from an un-breached diplomacy with Iraq.
Attributes that India attracts externally on the diplomatic front, and its ability to put them to use for human reprieve, may be an object of envy.
It comes from being the largest democracy, that took roots post WWII, with the policy of non-violence, a universal mantra given by the father of the nation. Somehow, as time zooms into the future, that may become the diplomatic Planck’s Constant in inter-nation interaction. It comes from the Indian mindset, family system, drawn from a 4,000, year old culture, or rather science- culture.
It comes from the fact that the early Indo-Gangetic civilization may have had internal wars, but combining fact, and fact and mythology (in case of distortions down the line), the concept of “truth” prevailed as a primary understanding. This civilization never spread through warfare. It just dissipated, as a soluble. More than war, there was a philosophy that was understood, as to its occurrence. Amazingly, the most elite lessons of creation were given on battleground.
What emanated were other acceptable philosophies as Buddhism, Jainism. The Sikh gurus actually gave sermons on self-defence, and close to half of them took martyrdom as a route to defeat hatred and further blood- shed.
India’s freedom indeed was an act of a huge diplomatic mind game played by the father of the nation. Can’t forget the scene in Attenborough’s “Gandhi”, where Bar-at Law Mr MK Gandhi, brings the magistrate on his knees by refusing to take bail that was granted. He knew every extra day that he stays in jail, the Press would blow-up the Imperial sense of fairness and superiority. No-one before or after knew better how to press “Press”.
At a more practical level, the Indian diaspora, and its contribution to every land it settles in, profiles the nation in many ways. Its like the O-ve blood group, that is an unblemished donor.
Sure, we often fail in internal interlocutors. I would summarize two reasons. Somehow, we impose, quote, and get influenced by external interlocutors, forgetting our own strengths. Secondly, and this may be humorously true, that’s the way we are.
Like cricket, champions at home, but often seen struggling in the long version of the game on foreign land!
To bring the point home, there are cultural paradoxes. In the land of “Kamasutra”, the world’s second most populous nation, they shall still fight whether Valentine’s Day should or should not be celebrated!
Fine, my blessings that all may receive their desired affections, three days from now!
“Nukta cheen hai gham-e-dil, usko sunaae na baney/ Kya baney baat jo baat banaaey na baney”- Ghalib
(It is difficult to explain her that the pain of love if full of suspicions, How does one make a pact, when the pact itself draws away from its making)

The Maldives in Sights of the Dragon & Its Implications

The Maldives is facing a serious crisis since the beginning of this month when the country’s Supreme Court overturned the convictions of several opposition politicians, including the President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s main rival exiled former President Mohammed Nasheed. The Maldives Defence Force surrounded the Supreme Court and arrested the chief justice and another judge on charges of graft while the three other judges party to this unanimous judgment declared the order null and void. President Yameen on expected lines leaned towards China to ward off international pressure while former President Nasheed appealed to India to save democracy. President Yameen sent his envoys to ‘friendly countries’ – China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to explain why the Supreme Court’s ruling had been turned down.
In fact, the genesis of this could be traced since 2013 when the current President in 2013 Yameen came to power by defeating Nasheed. Yameen’s first task was to roll back all democratic gains made during Nasheed’s time. All of his potential political opponents were either jailed or exiled. His government curbed freedom of speech and assembly, with heavy fines imposed on journalists and social media users found guilty of defamation. In 2015, in a trial widely criticized by rights groups, Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He later received asylum in Britain. Yameen had shown inclinations to move towards China keeping his domestic political situation in view. He was seeing India as a supporter of his rival. His suspicion of India was clearly revealed when in 2017 three local councilors belonging to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), were suspended for meeting the Indian ambassador without permission.
Yameen’s coming to power was seen as an excellent opportunity by China to enhance its leverages in that country and to turn it as an important maritime base in the Indian Ocean. China by this time had come up with its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative [later termed as Belt Road Initiative] ostensibly to facilitate trade but actually to expand its area of influence in the Indian Ocean. The Chinese writers had also revealed dragon’s plan to have three lifelines in the Indian Ocean. The North Indian Ocean supply line includes bases in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and the Maldives.
Finding Yameen willing to move closer to China, it began to play its usual card of alluring Maldives through the financial aid and promises to build ports and other necessary infrastructure to serve the Chinese interests for the Belt Road Initiative. The Chinese policy of turning economic power into political concession has already proved successful in Cambodia, the Philippines, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. China began to move in this direction since 2013. Yameen took several steps to facilitate Chinese investments. In 2015, the People’s Majlis, the unicameral legislative institution of the Maldives, passed an amendment in the constitution whereby foreign ownership of territory within the country was given the green signal. The Chinese investment significantly increased as a result of this provision. Chinese heavy investment in the Maldives elicited the remark from Nasheed that China is “buying up the Maldives” under Yameen. He pointed out that the President Yameen has opened up the floodgates to Chinese investments with little or no oversight and transparency. The security implications for Chinese increasing hold are obvious for India.
In addition, the Sino-Maldivian free trade agreement with the Maldives has economic implications for India. What is more revealing is the manner the free trade agreement was pushed through the parliament without any discussion. It has opened the gates for entry of the Chinese cheap goods into India via the Maldives.
Another cause of concern is the fact that Maldives has provided a number of fighters to ISIS. The growing radicalisation, drug trafficking, smuggling in the Maldives remains a security concern for India.
While India has stated that it would not intervene in the internal affairs of Maldives, the security concerns deserve primacy. Whether democracy prevails in the Maldives or not, it is not India’s primary aim. India cannot allow the developments that go against its security and geo-political interests in its backyard. China’s larger objective needs to be kept in view. In the past Chinese submarines were observed moving in the Indian Ocean. Gradually by acquiring maritime bases in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Maldives, China is intending to establish its hegemony in this region. The Chinese intents to change the strategic balance in its favour demands strong and calculated steps from India.

As India Looks West, Let It Confront A Changing Middle East

Women in Iran are taking off their headscarves in a bold protest against Iran’s rule on compulsory wearing of the veil in public. It was among the first prohibitions imposed by the Islamic Republic after the 1979 revolution. Women in Saudi Arabia are learning how to drive as they await legal sanction this summer. Riyadh has also lifted a four-decade-old ban on movie theatres. The current clamour for liberation from social controls imposed in the name of religion is one of the many surprising turns in the Middle East.
Another one is the quest for “moderate Islam”. Key leaders of the region, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, and Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, have all made reclaiming Islam from the extremist groups an important political priority. For decades now, the region’s political leadership has been under pressure to yield to the conservative religious flank. Any reversal, of course, would be hugely consequential for India and the world.
As it intensifies its engagement with the Middle East this week and the next, Delhi must come to terms with a changing region and the opportunities it presents. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Saudi Arabia this week and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is traveling to Palestine, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. India is expected to host President Hassan Rouhani of Iran next month.
Although Delhi’s relations with the Middle East have gained greater traction, many feel there is need for the articulation of objectives and a strategy to achieve them. Suggestions have often been made for the formulation of a “Look West Policy” that puts India’s relations with the region on a sound basis. The success of India’s “Look East Policy”, many believe, provides a persuasive precedent. The transformation of India’s engagement with South East Asia was celebrated last month by the presence of the 10 ASEAN leaders at the annual Republic Day celebrations.
But comparisons between the regions to India’s east and west are not very useful.
One big difference between the two regions is an institutional framework that facilitates India’s regional diplomacy. If the Association of South East Asian Nations has been the vehicle for India’s expanding partnership with South East Asia, there is no similar forum in the Middle East.
Groupings such as the Arab League, or the Organisation of Islamic Conference, were never really effective. Even more narrowly focused organisations like the Gulf Cooperation Council are beginning to crack amid the region’s turbulence. Once formed to counter the Iranian threat, the GCC is badly divided today. The Saudi-UAE effort to marginalise another member of the GCC is part of the story.
The ASEAN’s process-driven diplomacy, with multiple lines of continuous engagement, puts pressure on India to stay focused on its Look East Policy. In the Middle East, the principal impulse has to be India’s own strategic appreciation of the region matched by a vigorous bilateralism. Rapport at the leadership level is critical for success in a region ruled mostly by monarchs and strong rulers. The PM’s personal diplomacy in the region, however, has not been matched by the ability of Delhi’s bureaucracy to follow through on declarations and joint statements.
One important reason for Delhi’s success east of India has been the absence of domestic political discord over the region. Ideological, political and religious divisions in India over the Middle East have long complicated Delhi’s thinking of the region. The Partition of the Subcontinent produced a set of outcomes that complicated India’s relations with the Middle East.
In the first decades after Independence, India had bet that its commitment to pan-Arabism and anti-imperialism would counter Pakistan’s claims for special affection of the region as a state founded on Islam. While religion remains important, pan-Islamism is no longer a dominant force in shaping the politics of the region. The rise of sectarianism has undercut pan-Islamism while individual national interests have blunted the idea of ethnic Arab solidarity.
After the Cold War, India gingerly stepped out to pursue a more practical policy towards the region. Even as India’s economic ties deepened after the economic reforms launched in 1991, Delhi appeared defensive in the region. If too much of political grand-standing marked India’s engagement with the region before the Cold War, Delhi appeared too timid since the 1990s. While the politics of the region evolved, Delhi seemed to be tied down by the past.
Consider, for example, Delhi’s persistent tendency to view the region in terms of the conflict between Israel and Arab states. There is a perception that Modi’s visit to Palestine is part of Delhi’s perceived need to find a balance between the two relationships, especially after the PM traveled to Israel last year. The purported “de-hyphenation” of India’s ties with Israel and Palestine has not reduced the compulsion of seeing the two relationships as tightly interlinked.
This seems at odds with what is happening in the region. Israel, which once embraced Shah Reza Pahlavi’s Iran to balance the Arabs, is now partnering the Sunni Arabs to defeat the growing influence of Shia Iran. It also collaborates with the conservative Arab regimes in fighting the Sunni extremists.
Meanwhile, the Sunni monarchies that traditionally looked to the United States to ensure their security, are taking matters into their own hands to shape the regional security architecture. Troops backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE are battling groups backed by Iran across the region. That the conflict between Iran and the Sunni Muslims today is stronger than that between Arabs and Israel hardly makes an impression on the Indian debate.
Navigating the multiple internal contradictions of the Middle East has never been easy for external powers. India may not need a formal “Look West policy” to realise the new opportunities in the region if Delhi views the Middle East on its own merits, pays sustained political attention, and delivers on the Indian economic and security commitments made at the highest levels.