Democracy through Vedic lens

We are not supposed to be affected by politics but that’s not the reality of our situation. Even our Communications Ministry issued a statement after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol a week ago. Rather than avoiding the issue or plunging into virtual battles head first, which is even worse, let’s try to make sense of what’s going on from a Vedic perspective.

First thing we will notice is that “democracy” is not part of our vocabulary. It’s not found in Srimad Bhagavatam, which is our go-to text on how a society should be organized. Why? There are descriptions of Kali yuga there but democracy did not deserve a mention. My answer is that democracy is not a thing. It’s something we imagine as important but to the outsider, like to a Vedic historian looking at developments of society through the ages, it’s practically invisible.

We know how Bhagavatam talks about leaders who would rob their followers blind, how leaders would feed on the population. Well, modern democracy does that already, but so do dictatorships. Does it make a difference? Here is a radical idea – the only thing that exists is people who have power to control others. When they exercise this power responsibly *we* feel it as democracy, and when they do it irresponsibly *we* feel it as dictatorship and tyranny. The only difference is in *our* perception. And then we pass our feelings and perceptions as reality.

One might object that democracies have elections, but so do countries *we* call dictatorships. As I’m typing this, there are still protests going on against “Europe’s last dictator”, the man who won the elections with support of 80% of the population. Or we can put out an argument that Singapore is a one party dictatorship while Singaporeans definitely do not feel like they live in one, and that their governing party is made of fine, sane, and outstanding individuals. This brings me back to my first point – the only thing that matters is how the power is wielded, not how it is obtained.

I can cite the case of King Vena in support – it didn’t matter how he came to power, it only mattered how he ruled. It didn’t matter how he was removed, it only mattered that he was. It didn’t matter how his successor was installed, it only mattered that finally there was a king to control the rogue elements in the society.

In modern society, we are preoccupied with how transitions are accomplished, not with the accomplishments of the rulers. We believe that there is a perfect connection between how the rulers are selected and how they behave afterwards. It makes sense, in general, but it’s not an absolute rule and it’s definitely open to abuse by professional electioneers. In the big picture, focusing on the process of selecting the ruler rather than on the ruling itself looks strange, especially if there is a stipulated requirement that a ruler can’t stand for re-election after a certain period of time.

Srila Prabhupada’s position was that perfect kings would rule so nicely that no one would want to change them. We can latch onto the word “kings” here but that would be missing the point of having a perfect ruler, which is the key. Why should it matter how the perfect rule was achieved? King or no king, president or prime minister – what matters is what they do when in office.

Kaunteya Prabhu, I never thought I would agree with him on anything, recently collected Srila Prabhupada’s quotes in praise of democracy (ISCKONnews). In that collection Srila Prabhupada also spoke about monarchies being outdated. This is certainly unusual, but it makes perfect sense if we focus on what is important, on how the rulers rule, not on how they come to power. Today’s monarchies do not produce qualified individuals but democracy does, or rather might produce qualified rulers – there are plenty of misfires in democratic elections, too. It’s not so important how and where, it’s important that rulers are qualified, which is certainly in agreement with Srila Prabhupada’s general line on this.

Okay, with this point out of the way, let’s move on qualities of the leaders. There are many of those and our heads might start to spin, I don’t even want to start listing them but go straight to what matters most – honesty. Why? Because it’s the last pillar of religion in Kali yuga. When I was growing up it was an unquestionable requirement, today it’s optional and everybody has settled on politicians being liars so in a lot of situations honesty is not even expected. Ten-twenty years from now people might even stop asking for that because it will become in short supply not only among our leaders but among general population, too. I’m not talking about people lying to each other, I’m talking about something far more fundamental – people lying to themselves.

Even today people already admit that everyone wears a mask, and not of the medical kind, but an image of themselves they try to project outside. They cannot be just themselves, they need to project a different image, and that’s lying. Moreover, they start to believe in this new identity of theirs and so they don’t know what’s true and what’s false about them anymore. Externally, it manifests as hypocrisy, which means observers can spot radical changes in one’s behavior and attitudes and so lose trust in that person’s words or promises. This tears at the very fabric of society, even at the family level, where some hypocrisy is already expected at big family gatherings where people would rather pretend for a few days than show their real faces.

Back to democracy – without honesty, without that last pillar of support, it cannot possibly bring any positive results. Artha and kama cannot come without dharma, after all. It’s impossible. Dharma is that which sustains and there will be no sustenance without dharma. This is where we should focus our attention as devotees when analyzing government related events.

The immediate problem is that both sides in the US presidential election, which still occupies the news right now, accuse each other of lying. This brings me back to the point of feelings I mentioned earlier – we believe that what we perceive is the reality and we believe in infallibility of our perception. We, even as devotees, often state with absolute certainty that “this person is a liar” or that “these people are fascists”. Somehow it doesn’t strike us as odd that absolutely everyone says exactly the same thing about their opposition. What’s worse, people do not see how they change their opinions and approve today what they denounced yesterday, or denounce that which they approved before.

When we read the news we are naturally expected to take sides and declare one party righteous and the other demoniac, but that shouldn’t be our position. We should rather take the Vedic view and judge people and parties according to their adherence to dharma. We will soon discover that hypocrisy is all pervasive and taking sides in the absolute sense would be a wrong thing to do. In some ways each party is being honest, too, but the moment they sense your support they’d ask you to support all kinds of nonsense as well.

How can we navigate this? First of all, by being honest ourselves. We should not let our minds carry us away in support of or in opposition to either of the sides. We should not identify ourselves with their lies about themselves. They’ll claim a lot of things, but we should become “guru” – heavy and unmoved by these lightweight considerations. Why do I call them lightweight? Because they are in the mind and mind is a notoriously flickery substance. Mind is feather-like in presence of even the slightest wind of emotions. It easily invents new images of ourselves and perpetuate our hypocrisy. If we identify with the mind then we won’t notice that today it’s in one place and tomorrow in another – because the mind uses only itself as the point of reference. If something feels good it’s right and it doesn’t matter where this “right” is located – it’s always put front and center.

It’s only when we step away from this mental platform that we start to notice how hypocritical it looks to someone who doesn’t fly around with out mind but stays grounded in one place. This “someone” should be our intelligence, our ability to discriminate between what is right and what is wrong, what is important and what is not – regardless of how our mind feels about it.

The intelligence isn’t super steady either as our understanding and categorization of the world changes, too. Beyond the intelligence are our moral values and it’s better if we become grounded in those. With time we will discover that moral values are evolving, too. Practical example – attitudes towards homosexuality. I think people of my age can remember times when we considered it despicable. Today its existence doesn’t bother us anymore. So now we have to look beyond morality, too. In Vedic terms morality is expressed as our false ego – one step above intelligence. When speaking about it this way it becomes clear that one day we should discard it, too, but, as far as our reaction to politics is concerned, keeping our intelligence steady and our moral compass right should help us navigate that treacherous sea already.

I could compare it to oceanic liners or to aircraft carriers – no matter how strong the waves are, these things are just too big to be seriously affected. They know where they are, they know the maps, and they know their course. Similarly, by stepping away from the mental platform we should find enough gravity to pass through or, if necessary, to go around political turmoil, and, when asked about it, judge it from the perspective of dharma rather than constantly shifting perspectives of mundane wranglers who would easily overlook their real benefits in favor of whatever occupies their minds right now, like elections or retribution for past wrongs or perceived necessity to save the future from their political opponents.

If we are asked for our opinion on what the world should be saved from – at the moment people should be saved from their own minds, nothing else, and everybody is eligible, not just people from the other side in politics.

Vanity thought #1659. It’s all the same

Yesterday I mentioned that peer review is as prone to corruption as democracy but I didn’t expand on it and it feels like there’s a good insight to be had there. At first it appeared obvious to me but on second thought two processes are fairly different and have very little in common. How could they be corrupted in the same way? Why should it even matter?

Well, if we know how Kali yuga gets to us we should be able to smell its influence a mile away in our own lives. It might not seem particularly relevant to our service but this is what we do instead of serving the Lord without even realizing it. This is what holds us back. I’m hoping to dig up and expose some anarthas here, which is always a good thing in our condition.

Perhaps a few words about anarthas first. We typically think of anarthas as “sins” – greed, lust, envy etc, but they work a lot subtler than that. Etymologically anartha means something without value. Sins are easy to spot but attachment to things without value covers a lot wider range of emotions and desires, things we’d normally not pay any attention to because of our conditioning.

When lust or envy rises in our hearts they are bloody obvious, their strength makes them easily noticeable and then we can put up a good fight. Most of the anarthas are invisible to us, however, because they are part of our nature. We don’t think about it, we just assume it’s “true”. These are values that we’ve absorbed from a very young age and they formed and shaped our entire lives, they are part of our being, we don’t know any other way and we don’t even think of alternatives. Try to get rid of something you don’t know exists and see how difficult it is.

Democracy is one of those values but there are many others. Recently I caught a glimpse of a new TV series and I was surprised how cliche it was. It was something from ancient history of Israel – because that’s the cradle of our civilization (along with Greece), other cultures have no history or it’s not worth being told. All the actors spoke with British accents, which is another stereotype perpetuated by Hollywood and the TV. Britain is the birthplace of modern democracy, they gave the world their Magna Carta, so ancient Israelis waking up from tyranny should better speak British.

Tyranny is, of course, the natural state of all ancient societies. Fifteen minutes in and we’ve already witnessed brutal and unfair tax collection where people were flogged for not coming up with money. The reason they didn’t have any was that a lion killed all their sheep but the state didn’t care. Over in India at that time it was king’s duty to protect vaiśyas from that sort of trouble but, apparently, not in Israel and not according to this modern story telling.

Then we were treated to a good king trying to finally unite twelve tribes of Israel. That’s another cliched narrative – all societies must stay united with equal rights, ie democratic. Any other arrangement is deemed backwards and tyrannical. Being a “vassal state” is assumed to be demeaning and totally unacceptable, and everyone always strives for freedom. Not according to the Vedic civilization, of course.

We know what “freedom” does to one’s spiritual development and we know that people who want it are inviting their own doom. Or do we? Maybe when we talk among ourselves but when we are out with the people we never ever challenge their assumption that freedom is good. When we are out there we assume identities imposed on us by others and so value freedom just like they do. Quite often we see this desire to do your own thing in devotees, too, and usually no one bats a lid. Do I have to explain that doing what I want means it’s the guru who should adjust his expectations and accept my personal likes, which is a decidedly non-devotional attitude. Well, if this needs explanation then maybe some other time.

Next up was the arranged marriage, naturally. I didn’t watch long enough to learn who loves whom there but, typically, the girl has a secret lover, her true love, and we should all root for success of that relationship and certainly not for the success of the arranged one. I have never seen anyone challenging this assumption ever. It’s unthinkable to suggest that maybe the girl should forget her secret crush and focus on developing love for her assigned husband instead. No one ever suggests that it’s even possible, and yet that’s how the world lived for thousands of years.

Once again we, as devotees, should know better but we rarely object to this in public. I don’t know what people are thinking there – do they seriously believe that this puppy love is going to grow into something stable? Don’t they know from their own lives that this infatuation can’t possibly last and by the age of thirty this girl would have three-four different “he is the one” partners?

I suppose they assume that it’s a much better life than staying in an arranged marriage but who are they kidding? Themselves? The faster people get married and have children the bigger chance that they’d stay together and build a life. Under society’s pressure they might still grow apart, being pulled in different directions by their careers, but at least they’d have an accomplished family and kids to show for it. What do those looking for that romantic “one true love” will have by the age of thirty? Nothing but a string of broken relationships and deep seated, incurable mistrust and cynicism. Well, they can also say that they had fun but the operative word here is “had”, because this type of fun doesn’t last and after thirty they are not the marriage material anymore.

Anyway, where was I? Ah, the examples of subversive values that sabotage our spiritual lives because we take them for granted. One could say “but I don’t care about freedoms and rights and romantic love so it does not relate to me” but I bet he would be wrong because these examples are only gross manifestations while the main damage is done deep within our hearts and outside our view.

Take that quest for personal freedom – it’s the most basic, most fundamental, most deep seated desire we can ever have – to be free from Kṛṣṇa. We just have to have it our own way, we should be free to pursue our desires, we should be free to do what we want – even when we offer so called “service”. Or take that desire to be equal with others. I suppose Indians and Asians don’t have it but all westerners see others as peers first and then accept someone being higher or lower later, and only according to clear qualifications.

This is where I’m finally getting to my original point about peer review and democracy but now it needs to be left for another day.

Vanity thought #1617. False necessity of freedom

Yesterday I talked about how choice is only an illusion that appears under certain conditions. I don’t think I understand it myself in full yet so I’ll continue with the same subject. Today I want to look at choice in politics because in that area practically everybody already agrees that it’s an illusory concept, albeit from a different perspective.

In case you don’t follow – there’s an understanding that no matter who campaigns for presidency they all are going to do the same thing when elected to office. Sure, some policies will be different and some might affect millions of people but there are many other urgent problems facing society that are going to be dismissed or forgotten. It’s easy to understand why – modern politicians campaign on what excites, not what matters, and on what wins them the vote, everything else is secondary. They also tend to control the flow of public discussion so that vested interests behind them remain untouched.

This election cycle in the US has Bernie Sanders to campaign on this exact issue – politicians have become so beholden to big businesses that they refuse to address income inequality and a host of other related problems that affect lives of ordinary people. His opponent for Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, happens to be exactly the archetype of what he is railing against. He energized large sections of the public so it doesn’t really matter if he fails this time, the ideas have been planted into the public consciousness and politicians will have to eventually address them.

This is not the kind of illusory choice I had in mind, however. Perhaps a better illustration would be China. Typical western position is that China needs democracy and freedom. They block Facebook and Twitter there, imagine that! They need opposition parties, they need genuine elections, they need openness. They can’t go forward without proper democratic institutions supporting their society. Chinese themselves don’t listen, however.

One of the most popular arguments against democratization of China is that they have proved that they can lift a billion people out of poverty without democracy. They can also point to India that can’t accomplish anything because all big projects get bogged down by legislation and litigation. Everybody has got rights to oppose everything until they personally get paid and they use these rights to the tilt. This democracy is an insatiable beast that devours country’s resources leaving Indians with third rate infrastructure and skinny cows walking the streets. They constantly squabble with each other and will never become a respectable country because of that.

There’s probably a lot of truth in this objection to democracy but what interests me from the perspective of choice is that Chinese aren’t interested in democracy in the first place, they just don’t know why they need it.

Their lives are filled with exciting stuff as it is. They have careers, they think about families, they think about buying houses and cars, they think about appearances, they think about their social life, they think about justice and fairness, they think about degradation of the society, they think about sacrifices for the nation, they think about all sorts of stuff. Democracy, however, just doesn’t occur to them. Why do they need it? They can’t find a place for it in their consciousness. They honestly don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Those who decide to investigate quickly come to the conclusion outlined two paragraphs earlier – democracy is not worth it. Or they look at elections and general politics in supposedly developed countries and they can’t take it seriously. To them it doesn’t look anything like what is promoted by their democratically minded well-wishers. One of their well known apologists, forgot his name, once said that in Chinese system someone like Obama would probably rise to a level of a city boss, not higher, judging by his abilities. He meant to say that Chinese government pays attention to meritocracy and not to empty talking. Maybe he was a bit harsh on Obama but Trump or Cruz for president? Or another Clinton? Or even Sanders who even most Americans think is out of his depth, never mind his good intentions?

To these sharp and inquisitive Chinese democracy does not offer only freedom and choices as westerners tell them. They don’t even want choices, they are thinking in terms of what needs to be done and who is the most suitable person to do it. What’s there to choose? Once you know what you need and who is available it becomes a matter of matching people to jobs for the best outcome. If you still can’t decide it means that you lack understanding of the issue. “Choice” becomes a symptom of indecisiveness or outright ignorance.

When you approach issues from this perspective, when you realize that you can’t make a decision because of lack of knowledge, asking random people on the street looks simply stupid. If you need to ask someone then ask someone more knowledgeable than you.

Likewise, ordinary people know their abilities and limitations and do not bother offering suggestions to people far more experienced and knowledgeable then them. They also know that people do not make random choices but are guided by rationality and common human interests. They understand “corruption” because if they were in that same position they’d behave in the same way, too. Everybody got to look after himself and his family and all those dependent on him. Everybody has got some greed and lust and they don’t expect their leaders to be saintly but only good enough for their positions – thanks to the meritocracy system they believe exists in their country. Once that meritocracy is gone it will be a different story, however.

Some say that there’s no meritocracy there because you’ve got to embrace prescribed political ideology and so bright people who don’t pledge allegiance to communist bosses do not get promoted. Chinese answer to this is that if these people can’t get along with the party they aren’t very bright to begin with.

We think communism is about control but for Chinese communism is about looking after their country in the best way possible. Generally, there’s only one best way and anyone who thinks he can manage one and a half billion people better is delusional and is not taken seriously.

Once again, method of governing isn’t a matter of choice but a conscious, well thought of decision. One can propose alternatives, sure, but they should be working alternatives, not “we could fix this road if we had two party system”. The communist party isn’t going away and merits of two party systems are questionable anyway. There isn’t a single country in that part of the world where it works, not even Australia and Japan where no one bothers to remember names of their Prime Ministers anymore, they don’t stick around long enough to guess right next time someone asks you about it.

What I meant to say today is that in politics choice is an illusion brought out by ignorance. Those who know their stuff are not concerned for choices, they hardly ever encounter genuine dilemmas and they are not going to ask random people how to solve really complex problems. Democracy as it’s taught in schools offers them nothing worthwhile and they do not care for it.

No one is free from doing the right thing, from doing what needs to be done, it’s not a matter of choice or freedom but of knowledge and discipline.

Vanity thought #1537. New dawn in the East

While on the subject of world news, something new is brewing in the East, too, and I want to use it as an example of the power of illusion.

Yesterday I talked about France and their spiral of violence. They just keep doing the same thing, both sides, and it draws them deeper and deeper into violence, with bigger and bigger sacrifices by all and a lesser and lesser chance of ever finding peace. Europe is now as unsolvable as Middle East.

Meanwhile, South East Asia just saw a dawn of new era of democracy – I’m speaking about Myanmar. A week ago they had their first meaningful elections in a quarter of a century and the opposition achieved a monumental victory. It’s the second election since the country began transitioning to democracy a few years ago but it’s the first time the popular opposition party, National League for Democracy, took part as well. Their iconic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, can’t take the president’s post herself because she was married to a foreigner and has children with foreign passports but it’s a huge victory for her and her party anyway.

Last time NLD run in elections twenty five years ago they won 80% of the vote but the military didn’t accept the result and put ASSK under house arrest. This time the generals conceded and Myanmar is set to return to the democratic fold. Hooray! Celebrations all around.

It’s victories like this that inspire people all around the world, ASSK is like a modern Nelson Mandela, undergoing great personal discomfort but unshaken in her resolve, in her dedication to democracy and to her country. Victory well deserved, very sweet, and so Myanmar will live happily ever after.

I’m pessimistic. They don’t know what they are getting themselves into and this victory is nothing but a carrot dangling in front of a donkey.

Śrīla Prabhupāda explained it many times but people don’t seem to get the seriousness of the donkey situation – grass can be had everywhere, there’s absolutely no reason for the donkey to carry huge burdens, let alone chase the carrot. To Śrīla Prabhupāda it was an apogee of stupidity, to everyone else it’s just normal life, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Of course people understand the donkey situation but they don’t take it seriously. Donkeys have been around forever, they are domesticated animals and so practically a family. They might be stupid but we are not going to release them back into the wild, it’s unthinkable. Prabhupāda might have a good point here but we are not going to change our treatment of donkeys, he can’t really expect us to do that.

Metaphorically speaking, we are all donkeys in some way, we understand the metaphor and we might re-examine some aspects of our behavior, but we are not going to change our lives either – Prabhupāda can’t be serious by comparing us to donkeys. This is exactly what Prabhupāda meant by stupid – no amount of explanation can fix us, we just don’t have enough intelligence to change our lives around.

There are two things to consider in our asslike position – the grass and the carrot. We don’t believe that we’ll get the grass without hard work. We don’t believe that Kṛṣṇa would literally supply us with all the necessities if we simply chant the Holy Name. Our ācāryas might say it again and again but we still think we need to work for a living.

Actually, our ācāryas said that everyone needs to work for a living, too, that’s what Kṛṣṇa told Arjuna in Bhagavad Gītā, but I think there’s some misunderstanding here. Everyone must work by the dint of being born in the material world but that’s not the same as everyone must work for a living. Everyone must work for Kṛṣṇa and, as far as living is concerned, it will be there as long as work is, it we “must work” but not necessarily “for a living”. That’s a discussion for another day, though.

Second consideration is the carrot. We see this carrot within our reach, just another step forward and it will be ours, it is as good as ours already, and we are not going to exchange this carrot for whatever grass is there.

Carrot, however, is never really ours, we can’t exchange it for anything because we never have it, it only dangles in front of our noses but is never attainable. It looks good, it smells good, and sometimes we can almost bite it, but it never actually happens.

We approach the carrot problem scientifically – we calculate the distance to it form our noses, we calculate our speed, we calculate the speed of the carrot, and we make great plans how to get it, hundred percent foolproof. We follow these plans, we chart our progress, and one day the carrot will surely be ours, we can even calculate how many days we have to wait exactly.

Same thing is happening with this Burmese democracy. The NLD looks to win 80 to 90 percent of the contested seats (some seats are constitutionally assigned to the military) and it looks as if democracy is finally there, just a few more days before official announcement, then a few more weeks before the new parliament convenes and government is formed, and then democracy will become real.

This has been tried before, however – democracy is still unattainable. There are countries that practiced it longer than others but they are still far from perfect and there’s zero chance that Myanmar will succeed at the first try.

NLD has absolutely no experience of governing anything, ASSK has always been an icon but icons don’t do work either, they exist only to inspire. Normally people reach iconic status through work but not in ASSK’s case. She basically studied abroad her whole life, flew back into Burma in 1988, spoke at a rally maybe a week later, and that was it, she was declared an icon and then the military took over.

Now she says she will govern the country from “above”, not even from “behind” the nominal president, whoever she chooses to appoint. The president will be accountable only to her. There are so many ways it can go wrong, and it always does, Myanmar won’t be an exception.

I also don’t think her huge victory means a lot. Parliament seats are given to winners in each constituency so NLD might have won eighty times out of a hundred but it doesn’t mean it’s supported by eighty percent of the people, each victory could be only 51-49. I assume NLD did significantly better than fifty one percent but we should reserve judgement on NLD’s popularity until all the numbers are in. For example – I just said that in previous elections they won 80% of the vote but actually it was only 59% of the vote but it translated into 80% of the seats.

There’s also the case of the country trying something different for a change. The fact that they want to try it doesn’t automatically mean they’ll like it. Eastern Europe saw plenty of iconic politicians failing to live up to expectations. Those countries didn’t return to communist rule, of course, but they also became much more realistic about their expectations. Myanmar will have to live through this stage, too, and, unlike Europe, no one will give them tons of money to keep the population happy during the transition.

Then there’s the case of the country opening up and inviting foreign investment. Everybody becomes temporarily excited about Coca Cola and KFC and it would take a couple of decades to lose interest in these things. Asians are more into K- and J-Pop nowadays – Korean and Japanese rather than western culture. Myanmar will eventually catch up, too, and the novelty of democracy wears off.

Then there’s the fact that there are no functioning democracies in South East Asia at all, they are all dysfunctional in some way, be it Thailand with its coups, Singapore with one party rule, or Malaysia with their endless Anwar sex trials.

And then there will be inevitable backlash against the modernization. We are talking about a country where a popular Buddhist monk openly calls for eradicating all Muslims because he feels Muslims dilute their Buddhist way of life. Wait until they see what Hollywood does to their culture.

So, Myanmar is the latest arrival on the scene that doesn’t have any actual victors, only failed hopefuls, but everyone gets overwhelmed by electoral euphoria and really really thinks that the carrot is finally theirs.

What asses!

Vanity thought #1536. Cycle of violence

I usually ignore popular tragedies such as the latest terror attacks in Paris, precisely because they are popular. For a few days it becomes fashionable to express solidarity with the victims regardless of how one feels and politicians, the heartless creatures without a shadow of empathy, come forward and offer fake condolences. I prefer to tune out.

There are plenty of ordinary people who do sincerely feel the tragedy, of course, but all I notice about them is spamming twitter and news feeds with endless RIPs, which becomes a meaningless information. What do they think they contribute? Do they think at all? Nope, they just want to see their name and avatar up there with everyone else.

This time, however, I want to say something about this terror and get it off my chest. I would probably lack empathy here myself, I haven’t read the detailed accounts of the tragedy yet, I don’t feel it, it’s still only news to me. TBH, I hope the news cycle moves onto something else before I realize the full horror of this experience for someone who went through it. It would be unsettling, the mind would go crazy and would be impossible to control, and I don’t want that.

Does it make me insensitive? Probably, but I’d rather stick with our ācāryas then join in mass psychosis. People, however, expect us to put our religion aside for a while and get serious. Of course “serious” is what they feel, they don’t care how it feels to devotees, or to any rational, level-headed person out there.

This time they might break out of the mold but typically what happens next is this – people unite in grief, they select an icon, maybe a song or a “Je suis Charlie” slogan, they march around, display their unity, and then slowly resume their lives. Experience changes them but nothing useful comes out of it, especially from Kṛṣṇa consciousness POV.

So far it goes according to the plan, at least on the politicians’ side. Three days of mourning have been declared, ISIS has been blamed, fight has been declared, and world leaders sent condolences and messages of outrage. Next should be marching and uniting around something symbolic. “Friday the 13th” is probably not the best choice, though.

They might have the biggest march in Paris ever, the Americans will probably send someone important for a change, and they might even let Putin walk along for a while, but then what? It hasn’t been a year since the last march, what’s the point of all this walking?

“Unity”, they say, that will show them. That will show them what? They have seen it all already, not impressed. I think they have these marches to convince themselves rather than send a message to terrorists. Terrorists have already got it, big march means they need a bigger response, because marching crowds are not very good listeners.

Unity means lack of diversity and intolerance of other ideas. It would be impossible to talk about these attacks with an attitude different from the one adopted by the marching society, just as it’s impossible to talk about 9/11 in the US without expressing pain for the innocent victims. The discussion on why Al-Qaeda didn’t think they were innocent but legitimate targets is impossible unless one takes a firm position that they were innocent first. Same is happening in France now and same thing happened in Charlie Hebdo attacks, too.

Unity means it’s “you either with us or against us” moment, and they don’t pause for a second to realize that it makes them look just like the Bush they love to hate so much. When Bush said it he was reckless and stupid, when they say it you’d better toe the line and do it quick, no hesitation allowed.

Logic, reason, cool head – those things get forgotten, they remember them only when it’s time to bash religionists. Oh well, human nature is prone to such mistakes, can’t blame them, but then they wake up next day and start droning how their “scientific method” has eliminated human subjectivity.

When they were walking around with “Je suis Charlie” they didn’t want to hear how their enemies will not take it gladly and will retaliate with great force, now that time has come, it happened, and they are going for exactly the same response hoping that this time the result will be different. It won’t, it would only escalate because they haven’t addressed the root causes of their problems.

It’s Kali yuga, people can’t control their senses, they want things beyond what is ordained by their karma, they want more than the Lord has provided, and so there’s a great imbalance in the world between resources and demands. Then they naturally clash because resources are limited and their demands overlap. Islamists have big appetites, too, everyone is affected. They want to live in Europe and enjoy European standards of living and when they don’t get them they lash out at their hosts, and they don’t even treat them as hosts anymore but as service providers.

French and other Europeans, for their part, invented this multicultural, democratic utopia that doesn’t exist. They do not realize that the whole world can’t live like them. They built their empires on the backs of Africans, Arabs, and Indians so that they get to enjoy fruits of labor provided by black and brown skinned people. I don’t have numbers for Europe but it is often said that Americans have only 5% of world population and consume 25% of world’s resources. It is obviously impossible for the other 95% to have the same level of consumption, and yet this is what “democracy” and “multiculturalism” implies. Nope, only selected few can afford to live like that, the rest must be excluded. Of course “multiculturalism” is not about economics per se but its underlying assumption is that they can provide same economic benefits to all regardless of their cultures.

Or we can look at immediate causes of these attacks – revenge for bombing ISIS in Syria. And how did this ISIS become so big that it’s necessary to bomb them? Because French (and Americans, of course) wanted to overthrow the SECULAR regime of Bashar al Assad there and got regional Arabs to sponsor anti-Assad forces, which they did – by inviting all kinds of jihadists and arming them to the teeth. French were cheering this war all along, on the jihadist side, and now it turned back on them just like Bin Laden did to Americans. The history only repeats itself with minor variations.

And now they report that the symbol has been chosen – an Eiffel Tower fashioned as a peace sign. I wonder if they’ll be ready to march by Sunday.

Hmm, they are dong stupid things and harm themselves in the long term but they really really want it – that’s how karma works, and there’s no escape.

There’s no solution to this crisis, both sides are intent on consuming the whole world and it’s simply impossible, and they are not going to curb their appetites either.

Vanity thought #1230. Exit rant

Last day of New Year holidays and I want to end this godless period with a rant, mostly because at this point I can’t say anything about actual Kṛṣṇa consciousness with any confidence anyway.

Tomorrow I’ll hopefully settle back into my routine and resume the usual service (it’s just a phrase, I don’t mean *service* service). This whole last week I was forced to spend time with family and friends away from home and always in public, I didn’t have any time for introspection but now it’s over, so it’s time to say goodbye to that kind of life.

God! These people are insane. Completely lost in bodily consciousness they have absolutely no idea of God. They know the word, sure, and they sort want to make right by Him, but on bodily platform it’s simply impossible. And then there are atheists, many of them hidden ones, never clearly stating their motives and long term goals.

One argument I observed this week was about morals. Not the usual “can atheists have morality” but a far more sinister one where teaching religious morality was labeled as indoctrination and no one seemed to mind anymore. It’s become a given that religions indoctrinate people while “real” education teaches them to think for themselves and make informed decisions, including about moral values.

Well, when they teach you how to think they already ARE indoctrinating you and they already ARE conditioning you to come up with totally predictable answers. No one has come through this type of education and discovered belief in God. No one has come through this type of education and realized that monarchy is a perfect system for organizing a society. Yet these are two examples of very reasonable conclusions one can come to if he was thought to think in a different way.

Many of our devotees can explain everything through the prism of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and turn every topic towards Kṛṣṇa. This kind of thinking is not taught in modern schools, no one there has tried it before, yet they declare with supreme confidence that their approach is superior. They’ve been indoctrinated just like everyone else, just into a different thing.

The word itself carries negative connotations and is probably as loaded as a word “terrorist”, except with terrorists we are at least aware that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” adage. If you look around, however, “indoctrination” is everywhere – all religious people have gone through this, of course, as well as all Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, Iranians, Cubans, Venezuelans, liberals, libertarians, socialists, communists, free market capitalists, Keynesians, Americans, Republicans, Democrats, tea-baggers, blacks, Latinos, whites, the list can probably go much longer. Basically, everyone who disagrees with you has been indoctrinated and brainwashed. Which is true – we all are, all have been, all will always be.

As devotees we choose to be indoctrinated by Kṛṣṇa and we say this by looking at all other choices. They suck.

Also this week I was offered to try something called “The Art of Living”, which is pseudo-Hindu concoction by one of the modern day “saints”. I thought about it a little and couldn’t find a reason why should I give it a go. Perhaps I’ve been brainwashed by Kṛṣṇa enough to look with a completely blank expression on my face at all the promises of healthy mind and stress management. I seriously doubt I have another purpose in life, or any purpose in life the way they mean it, actually. And I don’t think than breathing and healing can help me in attaining Kṛṣṇa.

I’m not bragging here, I’m just stating the fact that given all that we’ve been taught it’s impossible to give any consideration to this mumbo-jumbo. Of course we all fall for it from time to time just like we fall for driving fast cars or looking at beautiful women. Bodies respond to that kind of stimuli but it’s not what we want to do with our lives, those are distractions, yet no one else seems to realize that, only devotees.

Back to morality argument, however – I think it’s one of a side effects of a much bigger problem. Atheism, and impersonalist inventions like that Art of Living, give people an idea that they are the ones that matter, they are the ones that should have the power to control not only their lives but the lives of others, too – if they get a crowd big enough to back them up. Everything is decided by a vote now. All values are relative and transitional, without God nothing is immutable and can be easily voted off the island.

Somehow these people also developed a huge sense of entitlement, that the world owes them a good life and nothing, absolutely nothing can go wrong for them if they stick to their philosophy of making their own decisions despite warnings by their forefathers. In many cases they don’t even have warnings for the type of perversions they inflict on everyone as totally normal now, like gay marriage.

Personally, I’m more or less for the idea, considering the alternatives, but it doesn’t make it acceptable for the kind of life we, as devotees, want to live, or actually need to live. Our goal is to have no sex whatsoever, to completely free ourselves from sexual desire, completely cleanse our hearts of all traces of lust. We can’t even begin to think of approaching Kṛṣṇa if we intend to keep women’s company as our heart’s desire, but I digress.

I meant people who believe that the laws do not exist and that whatever is currently trending IS the law of the day. Torture used to be universally condemned but not anymore, judging by the reaction to pre New Year congressional report. Printing money like crazy used to be condemned but not if FED does it, and even Japanese get a pass. Creating enormous debt used be condemned but when Americans do it, it’s actually good, and no one questions Japanese debt even if it dwarfs Greece’s by comparison. Oil price drops by half in just a few months and no one suspects any kind of manipulation, it’s all normal, supply and demand, they say. Nothing bad will come out of it. Americans will export even more of it as Obama just lifted some long standing restrictions. Forget the shale revolution, no one talks about its prospects anymore. Nor do people talk about various alternative energy sources that can’t compete with cheap oil. Cheap oil is good for economy, that’s all they say.

Economy, btw, is growing, especially in the US. Somebody on zerohedge , however, suggested that the sudden bump is only due to government deferring booking medical expenses under Obamacare to the end of year quarterly results, and even suppressing these expenses so that the sudden growth would appear believable, but who can know for sure? There’s no such thing as immutable truth – everything can and even must be challenged, and, as experience shows, everything can be defeated if only in one’s own mind, and so that’s where people live most of the time – in their private bubbles of insanity.

There was a deluge of articles about the role of the social media in the past year but none of what I’ve seen warned that “media” like Facebook purposefully filter out your newsfeed so that you see only articles you are likely to “Like” and hide all other news from you. Instead of informing you, as media is supposed to do, they just feed your own delusion and help you constantly validate it.

And they say religions indoctrinate?

They all lost their minds, that’s all I can say.

Vanity thought #1091. Evil wheed

Kali yuga is the era of evil. Not only human society degrades to below animal behavior, the nature itself conspires against Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It’s not an exaggeration, it really does.

Usually, we assume that climate changes that come with Kali yuga are just to make our lives uncomfortable – droughts, cold winters, hot summers – those are just minor annoyances in the big scheme of things. We still have enough food to eat and even if our lifespan gets ten times shorter than in previous ages it’s not such a big deal – it means we can return to Kṛṣṇa ten times faster.

However, the nature, as it turns out, has direct influence on the state of varṇāśrama dharma and that means on practice of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Pure devotees will never be stopped, of course, but we are not those, we are hoi polloi, the great unwashed masses that can’t become Kṛṣṇa conscious on our own. We need to be herded and corralled and dealt with via sweeping policy decisions. External circumstances can make or break our devotion very easily.

On this point – if we are meant to be saved en masse, like through world wide saṇkīrtana movement of Lord Caitanya, does it mean our spiritual future should be institutionalized, too?

From the very beginning we are being taught that every living entity has his own (her own?), personal relationships with Kṛṣṇa. Our whole philosophy is based on this personalism, yet when we consider our place in Lord Caitanya’s army we are nothing more but another nameless face in the crowd. Sure, some of us get noticed by name but the very notion of selecting best of the best means there must be many more completely unremarkable devotees as well, or it wouldn’t make sense.

Should we demand equal recognition from the Lord? Not in terms of fame, of course, but in terms of being “special”, I guess. Let’s say there are three billion men on the planet, we can talk about their generic qualities and stereotype them and generally treat them as a whole, yet each one of these faceless, nameless men is “special” to their partners. To achieve that the Lord must provide three billion women. How would it work if we all wanted to be special for the Lord Himself?

We have “cop outs” where Kṛṣṇa appears alongside each devotee and makes him/her think that they are alone but this isn’t a real solution. Personal relationship, at least how it works here, is that one gets special attention ahead of all the others. That won’t work with Kṛṣṇa, not unless He duplicated Himself into six billion forms, which makes Him not so special Himself.

This muddling distraction might be the result of trying to comprehend Godhead with my materially limited mind but to that I’d answer that if I don’t understand this, why should I assume that I really understand other, seemingly rational concepts of Kṛṣṇa consciousness? We use our material minds all the time, why do we cherry pick results only when they make us feel we understand something about Kṛṣṇ?

Let’s leave that for now.

My point today is that nature affects life of the humanity as a whole and that means certain qualities get more prominence and others less. Some of these qualities are conducive to spiritual life while others aren’t, and sometimes we can see this connection clearly.

A few days ago I read a summary of a research article published in the journal Science earlier this year. The researchers set out to explore roots of psychological differences between Westerners and Asians and they found something really amazing, if true.

It turns out that rice based agriculture produces societies perfectly suitable for varṇāśrama while wheat based agriculture breeds demoniac qualities.

By demoniac qualities I mean individualism and selfishness and by varṇāśrama friendly qualities mean collectivism and hierarchy. Individualism, as we can see from modern civilization, leads to atheistic democracy while collectivism and deference to authorities is a feature of varṇāśrama pyramid of power.

How does wheat and rice fit in all this?

Usually, the well documented differences between East and West are explained through modernization, assuming that individualism and accompanied analytic thinking is a natural result of human progress. Why does analytic thinking is part of all that? Because the opposite of it in this context is holistic thinking. In western logic if A is true then non-A is false. In Eastern logic both A and non-A can be accommodated simultaneously.

An example of this is a simple experiment – people are asked to group two out of three objects. Let’s say they are carrot, rabbit, and dog. Analytical thinkers would choose rabbit and dog because they are animals and carrot is the odd one out. Holistic thinkers would choose rabbit and carrot because this way rabbit will have something to eat rather being thrown to the wolves for the sake of logic.

Essential part of this holistic thinking is the need to forgive and overlook minor transgressions for the sake of the whole society. As the article says, in Asian soceities friends are not being punished for cheating, for example – it’s more important to have friends than to be right.

To the western mind it gives rise to corruption and nepotism, two big enemies of progress and democracy, and so it’s assumed that Eastern way of life will naturally die out, that Asians haven’t evolved yet to the Western levels.

Authors of this study, however, demonstrate that individualism or collectivism naturally follow from agriculture, and they show it by studying quantifiable differences between Asians themselves.

Cultivating rice is a communal effort, even if land plots are in individual possession successfully growing rice requires the whole village to coordinate their work. Paddy rice needs a lot of water and so irrigation structure must be maintained by everybody for the sake of all. Planting and harvesting rice also requires a lot of manpower applied in short periods of time so quite often villagers work on each other’s fields in turns and form a queue to plant rice on individual plots so that it doesn’t need to be harvested at the same time, too.

We can easily see how this collective work lends itself to varṇāśrama structure of sharing power.

Wheat, otoh, can be grown by families without any outside help. Wheat relies on rain, not on irrigation, and it requires half the work needed for growing rice. Consequently, wheat growers do not have a strong communal sense and do not feel the obligation to accept anyone’s authority but their own.

In China, northern provinces grow wheat and southern provinces grow rice, and researches found strong enough correlation between wheat and individualism, and even the number of patent application (a measure of “progress”), to declare that “Western” thinking is more influenced by agriculture than by anything else. They point to well developed countries like Japan and South Korea that, despite all their progress, remain very communal and “Asian” in their thinking. These countries do not grow wheat at all. And the West doesn’t grow rice, it’s not the right climate.

One thing they didn’t discuss about wheat is that it encourages laziness disguised as progress. Wheat doesn’t take much work to grow and so, I think, this makes people enjoy and appreciate their free time, which leads to trying to increase productivity and invent things so that they have even less work – that’s what we call progress.

Growing rice makes people appreciate work instead of leisure. It makes people value interpersonal relations more than their own free time, it makes people value work done together with others. They are not looking for innovations to ease their burden, they are perfectly content with what they already have – more goodness, less passion. For them, idle hands is devil’s playground.

I wish there was a similar study on cow based agriculture or at least on variations within India. We know that even in Lord Caitanya’s time rice was the staple food in Bengal but not so much in northern India, not Vṛndāvana. Did it make any difference? I don’t want to speculate.

Did they even grow rice in Kṛṣṇa’s time? I don’t remember anything about it from our Kṛṣṇa book. It was mentioned in the description of Govardhana feast and that’s it, nothing about growing it as their staple food. When Mādhavendra Purī establised the temple of Govinda at Govardhana in Lord Caitanya’s time rice was featured very prominently in that festival but generally, Bengali devotees were not used to Mathura diet – not enough rice and too much wheat.

Whatever they did in Kṛṣṇa’s Vṛndāvana then, we can grow rice now regardless. Of course that would require setting up farms in a suitable climate, and this means that all our Western devotees remain hostages of their geography, as I discussed yesterday and wanted to demonstrate today.

Vanity thought #1010. On the losing side

I’ll continue on the subject of middle class and how it affects our society, a topic I started two days ago. I’ve thought about and the situation became clearer to me now, to the point that it appears self-explanatory.

Let’s start with definitions first. Originally middle class was comprised of small time bourgeoisie, which was probably the worst slice of the society. Proletariat was slaving away, honestly earning their bread, aristocrats were decadent but still miles ahead in their material position, proper bourgeoisie were rather obnoxious and uncouth for their new found money, and middle class was obnoxious and uncouth without money – really the bottom of the barrel.

Only a hundred years ago middle class was the main recruitment base for all kinds of fascists. I mentioned that distinct feature of middle class is constant whining. They always have something to complain about, always critical of their leaders and their servants at the same time. They complain about economy, politics, culture, religion – they imagine themselves to be perfect judges of everything they see, that’s how they validate themselves in the society. When someone comes along and shows them the way to put the rest of the society straight they jump on it – hence fascism.

As time went buy small scale businesses were consolidated into ever larger ones and employment has become the main source of income even for middle classes. To distinguish themselves from proletariat they invented white and blue collar job descriptions. Originally middle classes were vaiśyas, traders, and so one could say that being in employ made them into śudras, a step down the ladder, but white collar jobs are not quite the same.

Most of such jobs are not in executing someone’s orders but rather working in an impersonal system. Most of these people never even see the owners or their employers, and many businesses do not have owners as such, only shareholders, so working there isn’t quite like being a śudra.

Still, they are the guys that make things happen. They do not lead, they follow. They are undoubtedly a very important part of the society but they wouldn’t survive on their own, without massive corporations to provide jobs and support their financial habits, which is mostly borrowing. They are also miles below the real ruling classes.

Numerically they are very big and in a democracy the more people you can rally for your cause the stronger you are, so no one can rule successfully without getting support of the middle class.

This made middle class egos bloat beyond any reason. They truly believe that they are the only ones who matter. They usually have a decent education so they understand how things work, more or less, so they love to offer unsolicited opinions, usually critical, about everything under the sun. Add to this their weight as a voting block and they start talking about electing leaders to serve the public, ie middle classes, ie themselves.

One could say here that leaders are supposed to serve the public even in the Vedic system but there’s a key difference here – seeing the king serve the public is one thing, demanding the king to serve me is something completely different. It’s just arrogance.

This arrogance, desire to be involved in everything, relatively high level of knowledge, and the necessity to court the middle class has made ruling classes job more difficult but they’ve learned to manage anyway.

Ruling classes learned to manipulate middle classes and exploit their weaknesses and vanity. First, they give them plenty of topics for criticism, usually of their rivals, but a common enemy is also a good option. Latest example is how the whole world ganged up on Putin, even Prince Charles got involved, comparing Putin to Hitler. No wonder no one takes that sock puppet seriously there.

Secondly, they give them some projects to work on to feel like they are doing something good for the society and to feel good about themselves. Drinking Starbucks coffee as doing charity is one little example of this. Starbucks coffee is overpriced, of course, but they advertise that some of the profits go towards poor coffee farmers so Sturbucks customers think that it makes them charitable. The whole scheme was thought up to increase Starbucks own profits, of course, but that is not he message drilled into their middle class customers.

Other, far more nefarious examples, could be distracting people with nonessential issues like abortion or medicare or “change”. Abortion, of course, is a very important topic for us as devotees but for the rulers it’s just something to keep middle classes busy with while the government continues with the business of governing, which is business.

“Occupy” movement of a couple of years ago raised people’s awareness of the really important issues in the modern society but they didn’t catch on. Why? Because middle classes can’t carry anything on their own, their attention span is short, they need easily understood solutions, they need sound bites, they need emotional involvement, and all that is done through mass media. If it’s not on TV, it doesn’t exist.

Ruling classes nailed these three down – media, capital, and government. There’s like a rotating door between them, or a game of musical chairs where no one ever loses. Middle classes are totally excluded, however.

There’s a case to be made that for all the self-importance and boasting, middle classes have never ever made any real difference and haven’t contributed anything substantial to the betterment of the society.

Thirty years ago the middle class world was united around raising funds for starving Africans. They organized the famous Live Aid concert that was watched by one and a half billion people. Did it make any real difference? None whatsoever.

As usual, it didn’t address root causes of poverty, it didn’t affect the system that keeps Africans poor, and once the money run out it was back to starving. It kept the middle classes occupied for a long time, however.

Another example is that stupid “change” – every election in the US is about “change”, about going to Washington and cleaning it up. “Together we can”, they hope, but it never happens. Why? Because it’s just a topic for conversation, topic to have a political discourse about while business as usual goes on.

Now, what about us, what about our society? How does is relate to us?

Unfortunately, we have swallowed this middle class agenda hook, line, and sinker. We feel very passionate of middle class issues of the day, which are non-issues most of the time. Veganism, fanaticism, gender equality – we pick up everything that can be related to us and we make a big fuss out of it, just as middle classes would do. There’s a lot of hot air, accusations fly left and right, and nothing ever changes.

Here’s the thing – if we want to change the world we need to use issues like this to control the discussion, not to drown in it ourselves. We need to stick to our own values that should be spared public exposure and criticism and let people rave about something else.

We need to manipulate public discussion, not be manipulated ourselves. Some of us figured that out but chose to manipulate public discussion internally on matters we should not be discussing at all. They use these techniques to saw internal discord rather than advance our society’s agenda. Why? Because we forgot what that agenda was, we let ourselves to become overwhelmed by trivial issues and started chasing butterflies.

Anyway, middle class life is for losers, and if we, as devotees, can choose who to get fascinated by in the material world we should be fascinated by rulers, not by these hapless followers. That’s who we should imitate if we want to change the world, not the “chattering classes”, as they are often called in British media. “Chattering” because they are all arm-chair, internet philosophers who love to talk about everything but have absolutely no effect on the real world.

Perhaps I should end with a disclaimer – by losers here I mean people who think they can make a difference but actually they don’t. If one leads a middle class life because it’s his karma and he tries to use relative peace and comfort to advance his Kṛṣṇa consciousness than “loser” label is clearly not for him.

Vanity thought #898. Intractable problems

Is the world moving to a better future? There’s a case to be made for both yes and no answers.

From Krishna consciousness point of view we should have the Golden Age coming right up so things are looking better. On the other hand our preaching push still hasn’t reached the fervor of the early days of our movement and it’s hard to see Krishna consciousness taking over the world any time soon. We are yesteryear’s news, “whatever happened to those Hare Krishnas,” old people might wonder if they remember us at all.

From general society perspective there’s always the case to see progress in almost every sphere of human life. We live longer, our children don’t die as often as a hundred years ago, we live healthier lives, we improve our diets, we have better technology, more comfortable homes, better ways to communicate with each other and so on.

On the other hand, almost each of these “facts” can be disputed. We take more medication than ever, allegedly to stay healthy, and without these meds we are done. Our mental health is atrocious, almost everybody needs a shrink. Only few of us can afford allegedly better food while the majority has to survive on mass produced, nutrient and taste depraved food like substances and sorry excuses for vegetables and fruit. Even food designated as healthy and “organic” doesn’t taste anything like what used to grow in everybody’s garden only thirty, forty years ago.

Financially, our progress has stopped long ago, only the richest 1% has made any gains while majority’s buying power is the same as it was eighty years ago. That’s right – an average car, for example, costs the same proportion of an average income as it was in 1936. Houses are way more expensive and education costs went through the roof. Only food is cheaper, but then it’s crappier as well, big scale agriculture paid off only in terms of price, not quality.

Effect of technology on the quality of our lives is debatable, too. On one hand we have soppy Apple ads about teenage kid ridiculed by his whole family for being glued to his phone only to discover that he’s been quietly filming family’s greatest moments all along, like that ever happens! It’s all Candy Crush and selfies, and family dinner is an occasion for instagramming, not bonding. There are studies that prove that more time on social networks makes people unhappier, too.

The world has got democracy, though. Everybody everywhere thinks democracy is the best and human rights are a must, every tinpot dictator wants democratic legitimacy. Human rights, of course, is an artificial construct which in real life means rights of the white people to rule over the world and any disagreement must be crushed.

That’s the thing I wanted to talk about today – constant, unresolvable disputes between people, societies, and countries. There has been some progress in the past couple of months in places like Syria and Iran, Egyptians voted for the new constitution and even in the US government shutdowns look like a thing of the past, for now. But that is only a temporary reprieve, pretty much like global warning is not a linear process and occasional swings to the cold do not disprove it in any way.

At the moment Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest Egyptian party, is still outlawed, hunted, and excluded. Whatever semblance of unity they have there is only because they purged some thirty percent of the population from collective consciousness as if they were Jews during the WWII. It will blow into their faces at the earliest opportunity.

Over in Ukraine things are getting really out of control and there are no prospects for peaceful coexistence between two opposing camps any time soon. Same situation is developing in Thailand. In situations like this in Europe they used to split such countries rather than try to keep them together so that might become a possibility there, too.

Peaceful settlement via negotiation worked in Indonesia’s Aceh but that was just one blimp on the overall preference for violence, Yugoslavia is the prime example. Czechs and Slovaks divorced amicably but in Sri Lanka Tamil Tigers were defeated by brutal force. East Timor independence was won by spilling lots of blood, too.

Overall, people can’t seem to agree on anything anymore. In fact, they’ve invented “agree to disagree” clause and even called it a “feature” of democracy rather than admit that it’s actually a bug.

The reason, of course, is very simple. It’s Kali Yuga, the age of quarrel, and unless that Golden Age occurs it will only get worse.

To be more specific, however, we might want to refer to Bhagavad Gita and Krishna’s teachings about modes of nature and their effects. Prevalence of mode of ignorance gives rise to demoniac qualities and the first thing Krishna says about demoniac nature is that they don’t know right from wrong (BG 16.7):

    pravṛttiḿ ca nivṛttiḿ ca janā na vidur āsurāḥ

“Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done.” If people don’t know what’s right, what’s good and what’s bad, they don’t have a common value system and everyone ends up pushing things in his direction. It’s really really simple.

People do not appreciate values professed by others, be it integration into Europe vs getting closer to Russia for Ukranians, or Islamic society vs secular Islam for Egyptians, or big bad government vs big good government in the US. When they don’t appreciate alternative values they don’t leave any room for coexistence, both views usually can’t be accommodated at the same time so there are no chances of compromise.

This has been going on for ages and it was one of the basic things Srila Prabhupada taught us about modern societies. In his time it was worldwide battle for independence and for staking out lands. All land belongs to Krishna but these thieves try to snatch it for themselves and so there are constant wars everywhere.

Civilization got kind of past fighting over the land and territorial conflicts are becoming increasingly rare (not counting Palestine) so we think that those words are no longer relevant but because people’s demoniac nature hasn’t improved in the slightest people still keep fighting, just over different things.

So, when they say something like “living with disagreements is a beauty of democracy” they only kid themselves. Once those disagreements become pronounced, and they always will, coexistence will become untenable. It’s as sure as old age, disease, and death.

As long as people refuse to accept common values, which is only possible in Krishna consciousness, nothing will ever change for the better.

Speaking of Krishna consciousness – we aren’t immune to disagreements either, but this post is getting too long to start a whole new topic. Hopefully, I’ll discuss it tomorrow.

Vanity thought #573. Another dumb democratic development

Sorry, can’t pass it – one Reuters journalist wrote an article (expressing her own views, thank God) that has been syndicated all over the world.

She talks about giving voting rights to children.

In support of this idea she cites two scholars who proposed this for their own reasons. One is economic, in a roundabout way arguing that inequality is closely related to low social mobility, and low social mobility can be cured by giving people more rights, in this case letting children vote.

Another reason is demographic – in aging societies too much power gets concentrated in the hands of people with no future and so it can be diluted by giving more voice to youngsters. In that proposal it was actually the mothers who would get an extra vote for each of their children.

That last one sounds very reasonable from our point of view, in a sense that it recognizes that not every vote is equal and some people carry more responsibility than others. While talking about children’s votes it actually says that mothers should have more say in how society should shape its future because they have a bigger stake in it – by taking future concerns of their children more seriously than one-day-wonder, get-rich-quick politicians or quarter-by-quarter businessmen.

Of course looking at it from this angle would be totally unacceptable to the original proponents.

Most compelling arguments for children’s votes are emotional ones – about universal suffrage, about denying children fundamental rights of citizenship and other such cheap rhetoric.

My local paper carries Calvin and Hobbes comic strip and Calvin has been “voting” on his father’s performance for years but now I’m afraid it’s not a joke anymore and some people are dead serious about it.

“Scholars” who think that children can make responsible choices about our policies and our future are clearly delusional. Sexual predators are known to traumatize children for the rest of their lives in exchange for a few candies, how anyone can trust a child’s judgment is beyond me.

I don’t understand how anyone can assume that children would vote with their future interests at heart. What do they know about their future? I see a huge increase in government funding for firemen, teachers and astronauts, which is probably not a bad thing but that’s not how it should be accomplished. There would also be a lot more guns and lasers and every family would own a tank.

More alarming is that this proposal might be enthusiastically taken by politicians who have run out of demographics to support them, say US Republicans who do not have enough aging white men to vote them in the office anymore. Preying on innocent kids under the guise of universal rights is an even more obvious fraud than liberating women from husbands’ protection to be freely exploited in the marketplace.

Still, as I said, I would support giving more voice to mothers than to single women.

Ultimately, in the varnashrama society, there should be very few decision takers and there would be no challengers, but all decisions should be taken only with benefits of Krishna and one’s dependants in mind.

Democracy encourages free expression of self-interest instead, hoping that it would level itself out as suffrage expands to include more and more society members.

Today it’s children, tomorrow it will be cats and dogs. After all, a society should be judged by how it treats its weakest members, and so its voiceless members like cats and dogs should be provided with voting rights, too.

To add more silliness to this – we are already on top of it because in varnashrama children have always been voting on their future – during the famous Anna-prasna ceremony where along with first grains children are given a choice of coins, Srimad Bhagavatam, toys etc. Parents then are supposed to honor that first, practically unconscious choice.

Actually they are not, it’s just an indicator of things to come, not a prescription of what to do. In Kali Yuga we do not take these things seriously and should judge people only by their actual qualities.

I don’t know how people are not yet tired of all these “improvements” that come with increased frequency and become increasingly radical. Everybody and his dog want to be an acharya, capable of transforming our tradition according to time, place, and circumstances.

Wherever you turn there’s a wannabe acharya lurking in the background, ready to pounce in. Rittviks, gay devotees, FDG, veganism, bhakti-fests, Krishna cruises, chanting Gauranga on beads – you name it, they’ve got an acharya for you. There’s no such thing as tradition anymore, only mad proposals illuminated by promises of the bright future.

I think it’s okay to get cynical sometimes, I think it’s a healthy attitude towards “progress”.