Thursday, March 13, 2014

Professing to be wise, they became fools...

I've written previously on serious questions a seeker of truth has in relation to the existence of God. Typically, scientific matters are not among them. But debates continue as they have for the past 100 years or more. More often than note it is a matter of causing the most hurt to the other side and the most bluster.

Even people I consider normally intelligent are prone to making statements that are devoid of real consideration.

Here's a picture I came across today on a friend's Facebook page:


Clearly she presumes too much about anyone who believes in God. No doubt, mockers abound on the theistic side as well. It is a sad day when wisdom has gone out the window and the foolish pride themselves on their ignorance.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Matter of Jurisdiction

I just finished reading Gary Haugen's book, 'The Locust Effect'. Among other things he notes that in countries like India, when bullies are slapped with a lawsuit, they have many courses of action available to them, not the least of which is delaying the execution of justice. Frequently they do not need to exercise these options as the police carry it out for them in their inefficient ways. Typically this could involve citing the matter of jurisdiction.

I came across an article about Devyani Khobragade today in The Hindu (http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/khobragade-case-india-questioned-us-authority/article5698046.ece). All it says is that in September 2013 the State Department had inquired about the diplomat's compensating her maid at less than minimum wage. In reply the Indian government filed an injuction against the maid top stop her from approaching any US court. They also responded to the State Department that this was an issue internal to India and the US should not interfere.

Deja Vu.

It is easy to see the scourge of slavery and injustice when you see the symptoms.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Conversations to Convict

It's true that we define social, political, economic and faith systems in the way we want to project its benefits or evils. Take these definitions for capitalism. I like the urban dictionary best.

Capitalism:

Jubilee Center: The economic system that seeks to maximise the financial return on investments above all other criteria.

Google result: An economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

Merriam-Wester: a way of organizing an economy so that the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) are owned by individual people and companies rather than by the government

The Free Dictionary: An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.

Wikipedia: an economic system in which trade, industry and the means of production are controlled by private owners with the goal of making profits in a market economy

World Socialist Movement: Capitalism is the social system which now exists in all countries of the world. Under this system, the means for producing and distributing goods (the land, factories, technology, transport system etc) are owned by a small minority of people. We refer to this group of people as the capitalist class. The majority of people must sell their ability to work in return for a wage or salary (who we refer to as the working class.)

Capitalism.org: Capitalism is a social system based on the principle of individual rights.

Urban Dictionary: An economic system based on private ownership of the means of production, in which personal bling can be acquired through investment of capital and employment of peeps.


It is useful to compare these with definitions for a stone (or rock):

Definitions for stone (or rock):

Wikipedia: In geology, a rock is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids.

Stone age people: Material widely used to make implements with a sharp edge, a point, or a percussion surface.

Builders: longest lasting building material available, and is usually readily available

Violent protesters: Useful missile to aim at


See where I'm getting at. Capitalism is an economic system. We tend to give it social, political and religious slants. A faith like Christianity (or a variant of it like Evangelicalism) is just that- a faith system. We broaden it by calling it a worldview, but smuggle in politics and economics into it, as it may suit our opinions. Politics enters into economics as a handmaiden but does not replace its function. Capitalism is given an area of jurisdiction depending on the political system that oversees it.

But this is how people arrive at personal convictions- by talking, sometimes irrationally, stepping out of lines. Whether we are intellectuals talking about the meaning of life, or bakers talking about the texture of cake, our conversations are meant to seek, reinforce or very rarely, question, our personal convictions. Often we tend to avoid talking, or in some cases, forbid certain topics for conversations, for fear that it may rock the boat- any boat, whether the boat of family allegiances or that of political or social expediency or any other. When we do that, this basic human need remains malnourished.

Sometimes, however, we mistake the purpose of conversation for being a way to continually keeping questioning without actually seeking. This ensures that we aren't nourished at all. The ideas concourse through us and never leave anything of value behind- because we don't want to commit to anything. A personal conviction is important. Without it our conversations are hollow. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Healthcare Debate among Christians

My thoughts these days are on the healthcare reform. The PPACA (Obamacare) rollout has provided cannon fodder to those opposed to it in principle. Anyone who has worked in our industry can see clearly that the CGI engagement in building the healthcare.gov exchange has been deeply flawed in design. I can't blame CGI squarely for this either. Many critics allege that they had 3 years to fix it, but the reality is that serious work on this began only after the June 28 2012 Supreme Court ruling that Obamacare was constitutionally compliant. CGI needed to size the infrastructure, go through the hardware installation, design, application development and testing for a system that will handle the enrol-to-claim process, providing analytics, external party integration and reporting for 50 million people! And all this in slightly more than 1 year- in my experience, that is more than aggressive, and was destined for failure from the beginning. A lot of it has to do with the Obama administration, which is CGI's sole source of inputs on the business requirements, volume of traffic, compliance and all other related functionality.

The Act has also come under fire for the fact that many hundreds of thousands of 'sub-standard' health policies are getting canceled as they do not meet the standards set by the administration. When the policyholders switch to Obamacare, they end up paying higher premiums. Many who do not quality for vouchers to pay these premiums are being financially hurt. This was contrary to Obama's promise that 'those who like their current health insurance policies can keep them.'

Paul Krugman, who rarely pens articles that I find to be the 'whole truth', has written a great column in the New York Times titled 'The Big Kludge', talking about how the current complications are a result of bypassing a 'Medicare for All' law and settling for Obamacare.

My thoughts on this topic stem from my experience trying to sign up my mom for the PPACA. She is a green card holder, well above 65 years of age, but cannot get Obamacare or Medicare. These programs exclude senior immigrants who have not lived in the US for at least 5 years continuously.

There are some strident American voices out there who oppose including them in either program. Here is an excerpt from a blog post on an AARP forum:

Frankly I resent senior immagrants being eligible for any SS or Medicare.  They didn't pay into and for them to come to a foreign country and expect to take advantage a program they never paid into is appalling.  I respect your wanting to take care of your parents but you should be doing it on your dime and not on the backs of the citizens of your adopted country.  If you are so concerned about your parents maybe you should consider moving back to Argentina.  This may sound cold and unfeeling but SS and Medicare has been a political volley ball and is abused by  political parties, refuges and immagrants to this country.  Those that paid into and collect SS themselves have been cheated out of cost-of-living raises and have to deal with diminishing and inadequate health care.  There are countless senior citizens in this country that worked hard throughout their lives, paid into SS and retirement programs and still can't afford to live the comfortable life they had planned.  Social Security despite what you hear is NOT an enttilement program like welfare or programs you may get through a State.  This is a program that people pay into for their entire working life, it comes out of their checks and was meant to be used to take care of those retired/retiring, disabled workers or families where the bread winner has passed on.  The SSA has abused it by making it an entitlement program through SSI.  What does your native country do to provide for it's retired citizens and what exactly is it that you expect this country to pay for?

Observe the language "I Resent"... How could anyone resent a senior getting healthcare? If a new immigrant can be denied healthcare, why not go the whole hog and deny them access to water, emergency services, et al? After all, these are all taxpayer-funded. In these days when cities go bankrupt, perhaps we should throw off our veneer of compassion and demand that no services be provided to these needy and helpless people. Maybe they should be looking to their home country to supply these.

But this is a fairly typical sentiment- that those who do contribute should not receive anything. While the government should use its taxpayers' money effectively, this is, of course, completely contrary to Christian teaching- and when Christian caregivers or payers refuse to provide for such people, they refuse Christ himself:

"And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." (Matthew 25: 39-40 NRSV)

Matthew 25 does not talk about people who paid into the system. Christians MUST care for such people- through setting up proper health insurance for them, period. Those trying to influence public policy on gay marriage should remember that influencing public policy on healthcare on behalf of the helpless is virtuous.

The difference in perspectives comes from how we view people. Abe Lincoln's parents were very poor. If they lived today, it is unlikely they could have afforded decent health insurance. However Lincoln became president, and today we sing the praises of Nancy Lincoln. But if she were alive today and Lincoln were president, we would refuse her health insurance because she did not pay into the system. Or did she? Did she have anything to do with Lincoln's achievements? Of course, she did. We are not of our own making. We all have to thank millions of people for everything we are and everything we have. But our idolatrous culture defines contributions as monetary in nature. We consider mammon to be the most important reality in our lives. Nothing else matters.

There is another perspective, however- this one views human beings as those made in God's image, and intrinsically worth saving. That is the ONLY perspective a Christian should have.

Earlier this year in April, a Christian hospital illegally deported (via a process called 'medical repatriation') an 'illegal immigrant' despite his life-threatening injuries. Fully knowing that this man desperately needed timely care, he was sent to Mexico to die. The strident voices who responded to this column, presumably Christian, claimed that the man had essentially killed himself because he 'chose' that when he decided to enter the US illegally.

One sane voice had this to say:

First, the article is about ontological arguments on religion and sickness and NOT of the burden of state. You can't call yourself a good christian without following his teachings, and as far as we know Jesus would not have thought twice about going bankrupt if it meant helping everyone. 
Could the hospital contacted an in country hospital with the facilities necessary? Yes.
could agencies better oversee illegal workers working in dangerous environments cutting corners to save the boss more money in safety and wages? Yes.
I'm a medical dr. And i see often people without insurance for free because once upon a time when i was young, and illegal, and hospitals turned me down for treatment (good "christian" hospitals) a doctor stepped in and paid, and helped me ever since to pay for school. Now i am returning the favor.
Isn't this wonderful? Doesn't it put to rest all the nonsense about the 'moochers'? My own parents had a big part of who I am today- and I have contributed more than my "share" into the well-being of this country. But the idolaters of our country would deny them healthcare and justify it with arguments that will one day be heard at the judgment seat of Christ. We already know the verdict from Matthew 25. Here it is (NIV):

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Emma Lazarus' poem 'The New Colossus' contrasts the brazen giant, Collosus of Rhodes with the new, gentle Colossus, the Statue of Liberty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Would Emma Lazarus stand by these words today? Or have become the brazen giant ourselves?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Conference Call Etiquette for the Technology and Operations Industry

  • Do not begin a response to any question with “So…” You may think it makes you sound intelligent; it actually makes you sound uncertain of what you are saying.
  • Be very uncomfortable with interrupting a speaker with “I would like to add on to that” or “I would like to chime in”- if it absolutely does not need to be said, Do Not Say It.
  • Consciously work to minimize “uh’s and ah’s:. If you are looking for a word, try to remain silent where you would otherwise use such fillers.
  • Some clichés have stood the test of time despite being very annoying. Some of the usual: “big ticket item”, “phenomenal amount of…”, “ad hoc response”, “value add”, and several others.
I don’t get why we do not have a preparatory course in this and other verbal communication skills in an industry that thrives on this kind of communication. Executive coach Dr.Paul Charlton who used to work at Wipro provides this and other skills now as an independent trainer, but it seems to me that this is something a company should make a mandatory course.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Misunderstandings


My home country India is a country that is hurting from wounds to its psyche, especially the religious side of its identity. When many Hindus relate to Christians and Christianity, it is through a prism of competition- that of an upstart religion trying to upend centuries of thought in an ancient country, and focusing on such narrow categories as conversion, a prophet who started it all, a holy book, and an attitude of condescension towards Hinduism. Much of this attitude can be attributed to Christians who have not actually engaged in "life" conversations, but simply insult the Hindu way of life and posture an easy bite-sized "commit and be saved" form of salvation. There is so much misunderstanding in the following account (likely fake) of a conversation between an American girl and an Indian man on a flight.

More than anything else, it shines light on the hurt in the Hindu mind arising from perceived slights from Christians- notice how the writer describes the American girl looking at the Hindu as if at a "caged animal". If anything else, it is important for Christians to reflect Christ's provision of freedom from sin and self to an unbeliever. It is equally important for us to view Hinduism as a Hindu sees it- not as if it were a religion that divides people into castes or one that teaches that nature is to be worshiped (though it has engendered all of these), but as being a worldview that seeks to unite mankind. When a Christian engages a Hindu in conversation, it needs to focus on such ideas first. Jesus breaks down the divisions between us both temporally and eternally.

Here is the post:

A Hindu was flying from JFK New York Airport to SFO San Francisco Airport CA to attend a meeting at Monterey, CA.

An American girl was sitting on the right side, near window seat. It indeed was a long journey - it would take nearly seven hours.

He was surprised to see the young girl reading a Bible unusual of young Americans. After some time she smiled and we had few acquaintances talk.He told her that I am from India

Then suddenly the girl asked: 'What's your faith?' 'What?' He didn't understand the question.

'I mean, what's your religion? Are you a Christian? Or a Muslim?'

'No!' He replied, 'He am neither Christian nor Muslim'.

Apparently she appeared shocked to listen to that. 'Then who are you?' “I am a Hindu”, He said.

She looked at him as if she was seeing a caged animal. She could not understand what He was talking about.

A common man in Europe or US knows about Christianity and Islam, as they are the leading religions of the world today.

But a Hindu, what?

He explained to her - I am born to a Hindu father and Hindu mother. Therefore, I am a Hindu by birth.

'Who is your prophet?' she asked.

'We don't have a prophet,' He replied.

'What's your Holy Book?'

'We don't have a single Holy Book, but we have hundreds and thousands of philosophical and sacred scriptures,'
He replied.

'Oh, come on at least tell me who is your God?'

'What do you mean by that?'

'Like we have Jesus and Muslims have Allah - don't you have a God?'

He thought for a moment. Muslims and Christians believe one God (Male God) who created the world and takes an interest in the humans who inhabit it. Her mind is conditioned with that kind of belief.

According to her (or anybody who doesn't know about Hinduism), a religion needs to have one Prophet, one Holy book and one God. The mind is so conditioned and rigidly narrowed down to such a notion that anything else is not acceptable. He understood her perception and concept about faith. You can't compare Hinduism with any of the present leading religions where you have to believe in one concept of God.

He tried to explain to her: 'You can believe in one God and he can be a Hindu. You may believe in multiple deities and still you can be a Hindu. What's more - you may not believe in God at all, still you can be a Hindu. An Atheist can also be a Hindu.'

This sounded very crazy to her. She couldn't imagine a religion so unorganized, still surviving for thousands of years, even after onslaught from foreign forces.

'I don't understand but it seems very interesting. Are you religious?'

What can He tell to this American girl?

He said: 'I do not go to Temple regularly. I do not make any regular rituals. I have learned some of the rituals in my younger days. I still enjoy doing it sometimes'.

'Enjoy? Are you not afraid of God?'

'God is a friend. No- I am not afraid of God. Nobody has made any compulsions on me to perform these rituals regularly.'

She thought for a while and then asked: 'Have you ever thought of converting to any other religion?'

'Why should I? Even if I challenge some of the rituals and faith in Hinduism, nobody can convert me from Hinduism. Because, being a Hindu allows me to think independently and objectively, without conditioning. I remain as a Hindu never by force, but choice.' He told her that Hinduism is not a religion, but a set of beliefs and practices. It is not a religion like Christianity or Islam because it is not founded by any one person or does not have an organized controlling body like the Church or the Order, I added. There is no institution or authority..

'So, you don't believe in God?' she wanted everything in black and white.

'I didn't say that. I do not discard the divine reality. Our scripture, or Sruthis or Smrithis - Vedas and Upanishads or the Gita - say God might be there or he might not be there. But we pray to that supreme abstract authority (Para Brahma) that is the creator of this universe.'

'Why can't you believe in one personal God?'

'We have a concept - abstract - not a personal god. The concept or notion of a personal God, hiding behind the clouds of secrecy, telling us irrational stories through few men whom he sends as messengers, demanding us to worship him or punish us, does not make sense. I don't think that God is as silly as an autocratic emperor who wants others to respect him or fear him.' He told her that such notions are just fancies of less educated human imagination and fallacies, adding that generally ethnic religious practitioners in Hinduism believe in personal Gods. The entry level Hinduism has over-whelming superstitions too. The philosophical side of Hinduism negates all superstitions.

'Good that you agree God might exist. You told that you pray. What is your prayer then?'

'Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,'
लोका समस्ता सुखिनो भवन्तु !!! ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः !!!

'Funny,' she laughed, 'What does it mean?'

'May all the beings in all the worlds be happy. Let there be Peace, Peace,and Peace every where.'

'Hmm ..very interesting. I want to learn more about this religion. It is so democratic, broad-minded and free' she exclaimed.

'The fact is Hinduism is a religion of the individual, for the individual and by the individual with its roots in the Vedas and the Bhagavad-Gita. It is all about an individual approaching a personal God in an individual way according to his temperament and inner evolution - it is as simple as that.'

'How does anybody convert to Hinduism?'

'Nobody can convert you to Hinduism, because it is not a religion, but it is a Culture, a way of leaving life, a set of beliefs and practices. Everything is acceptable in Hinduism because there is no single Authority or Organization either to accept you or to reject you or to oppose you on behalf of Hinduism.'

He told her - if you look for meaning in life, don't look for it in religions; don't go from one cult to another or from one Guru to the next.

For a real seeker, He told her, the Bible itself gives guidelines when it says ' Kingdom of God is within you.' I reminded her of Christ's teaching about the love that we have for each other. That is where you can find the meaning of life.

Loving each and every creation of the God is absolute and real. 'Isavasyam idam sarvam' Isam (the God) is present (inhabits) here everywhere - nothing exists separate from the God, because God is present everywhere. Respect every living being and non-living things as God. That's what Hinduism teaches you.

Hinduism is referred to as Sanathana Dharma, the eternal faith. It is based on the practice of Dharma, the code of life. The most important aspect of Hinduism is being truthful to oneself. Hinduism has no monopoly on ideas. It is open to all. Hindus believe in one God (not a personal one) expressed in different forms. For them, God is timeless and formless entity.

Ancestors of today's Hindus believe in eternal truths and cosmic laws and these truths are opened to anyone who seeks them. But there is a section of Hindus who are either superstitious or turned fanatic to make this an organized religion like others. The British coin the word 'Hindu' and considered it as a religion.

He said: 'Religions have become an MLM (multi-level- marketing) industry that has been trying to expand the market share by conversion. The biggest business in today's world is Spirituality. Hinduism is no exception'

He said "I am a Hindu primarily because it professes Non-violence - 'Ahimsa Paramo Dharma' means - Non violence is the highest duty. I am a Hindu because it doesn't condition my mind with any faith system.

A man/woman who changes his/her birth religion to another religion is a fake and does not value his/her morals, culture and values in life.

Hinduism is the original rather a natural yet a logical and satisfying spiritual, personal and a scientific way of leaving a life..

Monday, August 19, 2013

Unmistakable Signs of Genocide- I- Marking Homes

There is a news report making the rounds that Christian businesses were marked out prior to being attacked or burned. History repeats itself. Watch out for another unmistakable sign- denial after the fact. This is true in all these cases below:


Christian businesses and homes in the town are facing similar dire circumstances. One Christian resident told an AP reporter that Islamists “painted a red X on Muslim stores and a black X on Christian stores [and] you can be sure that the ones with a red X are intact” compared to the destroyed facilities marked with black paint.

"I had eighteen people killed at my house," says a man named Etienne Niyonzima. "Everything was totally destroyed -- a place of fifty-five meters by fifty meters. In my neighborhood they killed six hundred and forty-seven people. They tortured them, too. You had to see how they killed them. They had the number of everyone's house, and they went through with red paint and marked the homes of all the Tutsis and of the Hutu moderates. My wife was at a friend's, shot with two bullets. She is still alive, only ... she has no arms."

In most places, Hindu houses amongst Muslim bastis had been marked out before the attacks using saffron flags, or pictures of Ram and Hanuman, or with crosses. Evidence before the Tribunal shows that in some places this marking was done a few days before the Godhra tragedy on February 27 and which was the ostensible justification for the 'retaliation'. These markings were to avoid inadvertent attacks on Hindu homes and businesses in areas that were targeted later.


The announcements broadcast on the radio also obliged non-Serbs to hang a white cloth outside their homes as a demonstration of their loyalty to the Serbian authorities. Charles McLeod, who was with the ECMM and visited Prijedor municipality in the last days of August 1992, testified that while visiting a mixed Serb/Bosnian Muslim village he saw that the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) houses were identified by a white flag on the roof. This is corroborated by the testimony of Barnabas Mayhew (ECMM), who testified that the Bosnian Muslim houses were marked with white flags in order to distinguish them from the Serb houses.