Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Effect of social media on us and our society...

Today presence of social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) is felt by everyone in our lives, no sector or section of society has managed to remain unaffected by them. Revolution in communication technology in last few years and spread of mobile phones to remotest corners of world have made these things accessible to vast number of people in this world. Social media has changed the way people used to communicate with each other, it has modified ways we interact with each other, for the first time in history we have written or recorded data for conversations of common people. All those tweets, FB posts, blog posts, comments or chats are written records of our conversations with each other which never happened before in entire history of our civilization, for the first time in our history we are talking to each other so much by writing (in text) rather than speaking, in the past also people used to write long letters but percentage of literacy was not that high in many places around the world and this mode of communication was limited for special reasons and occasions, but now we mostly chat with each other by writing (SMS, FB, twitter, Orkut or whatever), this is really unique, today we have power to communicate anytime with anyone, anywhere in the word who has access to internet and a device which can connect to it. Anything we write today is recorded somewhere, stored somewhere, there is a proof of what we say (write) whether we know it or not doesn't matter, it's stored somewhere. We are generating tremendous amount of data every day, that information is enormous and the speed with which we share our thoughts with each other is also amazing. One tweet, a blog post or a FB post can reach to millions all over the world in just few seconds, this was not possible in pre-social media era even in the presence of TV or radio. These two things (TV and radio) did revolutionized our lives but that was mainly in the area of entertainment and news, but social media took the level of our communication with each other to completely different level, we now live in well connected world (at least virtually).

Politicians, celebrities and even common people like you and me are using this power of social media to communicate our thoughts to our friends and to people who don't even we know personally. We can share our thoughts more easily now, many serious discussions can be done without meeting each other personally (this blog is also result of that effort). Some political parties or organizations who ridiculed these things in the beginning as some temporary internet craze and didn't take these things seriously are also trying really hard to make their presence felt in this world of virtual communication. Establishments and big corporates are using this medium as efficient tools to attract new customers, many social media websites (like Facebook) are highly valued (worth few billions USD) this is just because number of users associated with them. Now a days many debates discussions, business transactions take place in virtual media, where actual debaters or buyers and sellers don't interact with each other directly or don't even know each other, but still things work out smoothly, this is amazing transformation of our society, just few decades back these things were considered as impossible or can be seen only in fiction movies or books, but now it's reality and we all are living it, we all are part of it.

Social media and internet had given us a parallel world, which is very different from our real world (by this I mean our immediate surroundings). This virtual world is a place where two strangers can interact with each other with absolute intimacy, where relationships can be formed or broken, bonds can be developed, almost every emotion can be shared privately or publicly, such is the power of this medium. Technically one can spend their entire life in interacting with people they will never know or will never see in their entire life, this was possible only in dreams or for very few people (like popular writers or actors who respond to fan mails) but now anyone can do this, according to me this is tremendous change which is already having huge impact (positive as well as negative) on our personal and social lives. There are some similarities between this virtual and real world, like in real world in virtual world also there are predators as well as saviors, people can transform each others lives in positive or negative way, they can even kill and abuse, only difference is, in virtual world they can do this without coming into physical contact with the victim, and this is more dangerous and more serious drawback of this medium.

This technology has given us ability to expand our horizons, we can be in touch with people who are physically far away from us, we can chat with them, see them in real time (one of positive impact), at the same time some people indulge in this too much, they are so absorbed in this virtual world that they don't even realize that they are neglecting their real world, sometimes families suffer, relationships break because of this (one of negative impact). This medium is so powerful that's why its effects are also very powerful, it can even assist in creating mass movement against ruthless or corrupt establishment, it can spread rumors faster than ever before, these are few of the reasons why many governments are worried and concerned about the power of this medium and some of them are even thinking to censor or control some of these things (like Facebook and Tweeter), I guess they think if they can control this medium effectively they can have better control over their citizens, such is the impact of this medium.

This medium has also given a unique platform and opportunity to all of us to create or to invent new things, it was never easy to become a writer or story teller or inventor before as it is now. So now we have this very powerful tool in our hands and we are free to use it in whatever way we want, the choice is entirely ours, we can use it either to connect with friends and relatives, spread awareness, spread love, freedom, message of equality, fight discrimination or to spread hate, fanaticism, inequality etc. as I said the choice is all ours, the medium will work in a way we make it to work, so let's use it to bring positive change.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Do we need to build any more Temples?

Recently I read an article about a plan for construction of some huge vedik temple by ISKON at Mayapur in India. This temple is supposed to cost around 75 million USD, it's a huge amount of money as far as country like India is concerned, to spend such a huge amount of money just for construction of a temple is like a cruel joke on all who could get benefited by all this money if it's spent for some relevant social cause. I also see lot of photos of many temples or churches or other religious centers which are constructed using very expensive materials, decorated with precious metals like gold and silver, lot of material and money is wasted to built and decorate them, they really look like grand and lavish display of wealth, very often thought comes to my mind why can't this money be used to build other things which can be more useful to people? After I started writing this post there was huge controversy in media when Mr. Modi said, "Pehle shouchalaya phir Devalay" (build toilets first then temples), similar statement was made by Mr. Jairam Ramesh few years back and then also it generated lot of controversy for some different reason. So the question is, do we need any more lavish temples (I am using this as a general term for all religious centers like Mosque, Church, etc.) when people don't have access to some basic facility like toilet?

I personally believe that we have enough religious monuments for all religions all over the world, one can find a temple, mosque, synagogue, church or something equivalent in almost all major cities of the world, we don't need to build any more of these, many people visit these places and some of them are big tourist attractions which attract millions of visitors every year. The question is, in a world or a country (like India) where there are many who are living without home, proper medical care, food or education should any organization spend such enormous amount of money to build religious monument which will be just a tourist attraction? Can't they use this money to do something better, more useful thing, something like to built hospital or a free school or college for underprivileged or even toilets? On one side we all say that God is everywhere but then keep on building huge, expensive and lavish structures just to host their images or for social gatherings (like prayers, etc.). Many religious institutions spend enormous amount of money to built and maintain these buildings, we all know that there are many people who are struggling in this world who might get benefited from all that money and I am sure their God would love them more, bless them more if they use this money for people's welfare instead of building another temple, Church, etc.

Religion is personal and social need for many and there are already many centers which can satisfy this need, if temple serves as a place for social gathering or to give shelter to homeless or provide food and education for underprivileged then it's good thing, some religious institutes even do these things but to do all this work I don't think we need any fancy structures with expensive decorations, one can use all that extra money for some better social activity. Country like India needs more toilets than temples or churches, even though this thought was expressed by major political leaders from two big national parties of India, there are very few takers for this idea, still construction of temple or Mosque is considered more important than construction of basic facility like toilet. Isn't it ironical that in a country which hosts one of the richest temples in the world many people still don't have access to basic facility like toilet? Some of these religious institutes are so rich that if they want they can do wonders to society with all the money they have, but they behave just like big corporates, exclusively protecting their own interest without any real real social agenda. I think with all the problems our society is facing these institutes should put all their plans of construction of Mosque, Church or temple, etc. on hold, rather they should spend all that money on some social causes like building more medical care facilities, distribute medicines to poor, offer free education to needy (already there are many good catholic schools but we need many more), sanitation facilities (like toilets, specially for women), etc. there is tremendous need of funds in all these areas and these institutes can play very big role in this. I hope they all think about this idea and give it a serious consideration. One more temple, mosque or church may not change anyone's life but one more school or hospital might change and save lives of millions of people, even a toilet can make life easy for many and I believe doing this is no less than offering prayer to any god.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

'Karva Chauth' or discrimination wrapped in love?

Every year 'Karva Chauth' (करवा चौथ) is celebrated, mainly in northern parts of India. I don't know when this ritual actually started but it must be very old, I guess it must have started centuries ago when there used to be frequent wars, men used to take part in many of these wars or travels (for business) and in those days all these things involved great amount of risk and uncertainty because of lack of proper communication methods, many life threatening diseases and other dangers, so this ritual must have started to wish these men good luck and safety for their endeavor. In recent times this festival has been glamorized by many movies and TV serials as a ultimate symbol of wife's love and dedication towards her husband, so now it has become popular in many other parts of India also. I am not against any festivals or celebrations, these occasions are useful to get together, relax and have fun and there is nothing wrong if people want to have fun and enjoy. But if we analyze the situation carefully it's not that simple and I am not doing this to drag issue of gender equality in each and everything. Many people like me are blamed or criticized for bringing topic of gender equality or superstition or organized religions almost in each and every issue we face, at least I do this because all these issues are so interrelated that I can't help it and I hope this post will explain why I am discussing this particular festival as an example (this festival is just an example, the post is not only about this particular festival), this is the case of a ritual, widely accepted, glamorized and celebrated, which looks very harmless and simple but it can have deep effect on psychology of people following it.

Now let's look at this festival of Karva Chauth, where wife fasts whole day (in many cases without drinking even a drop of water) for the prosperity and long life of her husband and in the evening after some rituals they get gift of their choice from their husbands and eat only after seeing face of their husband. The festival is exclusively for married women whose husband is still alive. Festival looks very benign and many people think it's full of love and devotion, and there is nothing wrong in fasting like this. Fasting is part of many festivals, Muslims also do it in month of Ramadan. Actually nothing wrong in fasting, wives definitely have right to wish or pray for happiness and long life of their partner. The festival looks like very harmless ritual, beautiful way to express love and dedication by wives for their husbands (but also notice that in traditional format of festival husbands don't fast, it's not a big deal but just a noticeable difference). Perfectly fine as long as it's practiced voluntarily, without any obligation, not forced on by all married women either by social or family pressure, but does it happen like this? In most cases the answer is 'No'. According to me if it's about love and respect, this fast should be performed by husband and wife both because I believe respect and love in any relationship should be mutual, but rarely I see this happening. I have also seen many mother-in-laws (including my own mom) calling their daughter-in-laws day or two days before such festivals and reminding them that they should keep some fast to make sure that their son's welfare and longevity is not jeopardized (and there are quite a few festivals like this, they differ in names but the ritual is same, wife fasting or doing some prayer for husband's well being, there is no festival which I know where husbands fast or pray for well being of their wives). The social pressure of this is also tremendous, believe me the guilt feeling some women get if they fail to do this is very strong, as if they missed a crucial dose of some life saving medication or something.

This post is not a criticism about all the festivals or traditions or any culture but it's about the mindset which gets perpetuated in the name of festival, traditions, etc. Unmarried women and widows are not allowed to participate in this festival which claims to celebrate love and dedication. As I mentioned many such festivals are supposed to be for welfare and long life for husbands and it seems that many wives and mothers literally believe that it's necessary to do all these things to achieve this goal other wise something bad might happen, and because of this fear many try to fast even during sickness, poor health or during pregnancy or under circumstances when it might affect their health, many women get praised for doing these things in adverse conditions, they get hailed for their dedication, love and total respect towards these traditions and their husbands. So the question comes to my mind, are these things only about love and dedication? or is it fear of loosing that person or something bad might happen if that ritual is not followed (superstition)? I also see many women who suffer physical and mental abuse at the hands of their husbands, many who are abandoned by their husbands for other women or for whatever reason observe these type of festivals for welfare and longevity of their husbands?? Does this makes any sense? Is it sign of Stockholm syndrome? or they just do it because of social pressure, they don't want to feel left out? I am sure something else going on in these cases, why you want to pray for your abuser? I am sure this festival is about total surrender but I have doubt if love is very much part of it or not.

I also know that every issue has positive and negative sides, there are many families where this festival must be fun and nice way to get together, they may not see anything wrong in it (even exclusion of widows). But I am against any festival which forbids participation of certain section of society just because of their gender or martial status (widows), rather I believe that concept of widows being barred from participating in many rituals or considering them as a bad omen is one of the worst form of discrimination and it must have started from traditions and festivals like this, imagine how they must be feeling when all these women are celebrating and they are not allowed to participate (or even wear a make up like married women) just because their husband is dead. Do they do this just to remind how unfortunate they are? It's a very cruel joke played on them by society. I am not saying that married women should not express their love or should not celebrate just because few widows are around, rather everyone should have right to express their love and respect for their partner so why not to include all women and men in these type of celebrations? If necessary then change the format of the festival, make it where all (irrespective of their gender or martial status) can express love for their partner or friend (living or dead it shouldn't matter). If it's about love, dedication, etc. then does it matter if that partner is alive or not, male or female, married or not?

When I see festivals in USA like Halloween, thanksgiving, valentine's day, etc where everyone can participate there is no age limit, gender or martial status restrictions (this all is for marketing purpose, but at least they are open for all) why can't we take this very good thing from these festivals and include in all festivals in India any way we are copying many other unwanted things from west so why not to take some good things also. But I know that it's not easy to change these rituals and many people may not like my comments and suggestions, they will label this post as one more attempt to bring issue of gender equality and criticize grand old traditions, I don't care about all this criticism but I feel festival like these (and there are many) encourage gender discrimination and start installing feeling of inferiority in women from young age.

 Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

4. Karva it only about love? (link for more or less same article published on blog in Nov 2012)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Is burqa oppressive to women?

Burqa is an enveloping outer garment worn by some women following Islamic traditions to cover their bodies when in public. There are various articles or posts about whether it's use is oppressive to women or not? Some support it in the name of religion, modesty or to protect women's dignity, some oppose it and consider it a sign of women oppression and attempt to restrict their freedom. I read both point of views and both have some positives and negatives in them. According to me what to wear is totally personal choice, if any one wants to cover their body using burqa or any other outfit I don't think anyone should have any problem with it, but at the same time if someone wants to wear some revealing outfit then also people should not make a big deal out of it, it's personal choice, people are free to wear whatever they feel is appropriate for them. If any one is forced to wear some particular type of dress in name of religion or even modernity then it's wrong, it should be questioned.

People who support (some rather demand) use of burqa for women claim that it protects them from sexual harassment (by covering their body), so what they mean is if men see exposed body parts of women (like face, hands or legs, even in public places) they may not be able to control their sexual emotions and there is a high risk of sexual abuse for women because of their physical appearance. This is an attempt to put the blame on victim, so even if it's the men who can't control their behavior and commit the crime there is an attempt to put blame on women. Is it just because people think they are soft targets? Or people think that it's easy to force them to follow society imposed rules? No religion or cult movement is very kind with women, they don't give equal status to them, founders of all these movements and sects are men, so obviously they designed the rules which suited needs of their own gender which was dominant in society. They wrote books which glorified women, even made them demigods but didn't offer them equal status. Introduction of all these dress codes, very rigidly defined role in family and society was an attempt to control them and confine them so that they don't compete with men. This trick worked for centuries because of male dominated society, women had no support to fight for their rights until feminist movements started almost century ago. Slowly but steadily in last few years we have made lot of progress but still a lot needs to be done.

Dress codes for women are imposed in many places, they are even imposed for both genders at certain places or functions like marriages or some parties etc., personally I am against all this, I don't like anyone telling me what to wear. I like to wear clothes in which I feel comfortable and I respect others choice and expect other to respect mine, as I like to choose what I want to wear and I am sure others are like to choose their own dress. The topic of school uniform (or work uniform) is totally different, this rule is imposed to bring uniformity and feeling of togetherness in school or work place and it is for both genders. I feel amazed as well as enraged when some people attempt to bring God and religion in all this, these things have nothing to do with what clothes people should or shouldn't wear. Clothes can protect us against weather or make us look more attractive but we can not put entire blame on person's apparel if he/she is victim of physical or sexual assault, there are many cases where kids get sexually harassed, what role does their dress play there? So the theory that more revealing clothes encourage or invite sexual assault is basically flawed, it pathetically tries to put entire blame on victim when the major problem lies somewhere else. Educating men and women to respect each other, teach them to treat each other equally is better solution than putting entire blame and moral responsibility on women. We all need to respect each others choices, we should not judge anyone based on what clothes they wear, which country they belong or what religion they follow.

If anyone wears burqa by choice it is like any other dress, why anyone should have any issue with it but if anyone is forced to wear it in name of religion, god or just because of their gender then it becomes a symbol of oppression, discrimination and violation of human rights. The dress which we wear or food which we eat is personal choice which we make based on our likes and dislikes, I don't think anyone of us would like if someone forces us to eat some particular dish just because we belong to some specific religion or because of our gender, we all like to taste different cuisines, some we like and some we don't, same way we should think about clothes. People like to express themselves and their clothes are one of the ways which some people choose to express themselves we can't take this right away from them. Let it be individual's choice what they want to wear free of any social pressure. I am not against burqa or any other dress, people are free to wear what they like, forcing dress code only on women is sign of male chauvinism, in today's world we don't need it and we should not encourage it, once we stop doing it it will be another step towards bringing equality for both genders in our society.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

1. Burqa
2. Don't tell me how to dress, tell them not to rape.....
3. Rape is never the victim's fault.
4. Is there any way to reduce rape and sexual abuse incidents?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Can constructive criticism be considered as an insult?

Can raising a question be called as an insult, specially about some traditions? Can constructive criticism be considered as a insult to those traditions or culture or to a society who practices it? Can objecting to views or opinions of some famous personality (for whatever reason) be considered as an insult to that person? Is constructive criticism really an insult? All these questions are very similar and lead to the same ultimate question that is, can questioning/criticism be considered as an insult? I am asking this because some people who claim to be ardent fan, devotee or followers of some famous personalities like  Chanakya or ISKON founder Prabhupad or followers of any particular sect, cult movement or religion objected to my questioning to some of these people's views or raised strong objection on me criticizing some traditions or rituals in some of my blog posts. They all believe just criticizing someone's views or objecting to their statements can be counted as an insult, they even didn't seem to believe in constructive criticism. I am also admirer of Chanakya for his views related with topics like governance and economics but I am not big fan of his views about women, so I wrote a blog post about it. I also clearly expressed my opinion about Prabhupad and his sectarian views, specially about his completely misleading book, Gita as it is, in which he claims to explain Bhagavad Gita as it is in blog post related with this topic. These two posts along with some other posts related with women suppression and gender equality attracted lot of such criticism.

Freedom to ask questions or objections is very important characteristic of any liberal and progressive society, most of the ancient books or scriptures which people think are divine and even worship them were written because there was freedom to propose new things and credited authors of all these texts dared to question established customs and theories. Constructive criticism is also very necessary for progress of any society or culture but if it's not taken in right spirit it can be misunderstood as an insult and can create problems. There is huge difference between criticism and insult, criticism (constructive) is offered to improve the things and insult is used to demean things for no reason. This is what it seems to be happening in most of these discussions, some people are just not comfortable with the idea of old traditions being questioned, or views of some big names being criticized, they just reject these things. Instead of thinking about the objections or questions which are raised they just try to attack the questioner. They try their best to silence the voice of a person raising the question rather than trying to answer it, I feel they do this because they find it easy to silence the person rather than trying to answer the difficult or uncomfortable questions. Every religion or sect or cult movement has dark spot in their history, rather than accepting these things, acknowledging their mistake they all just try to downplay it, justify it or even deny it, this is what leads to confrontation and more questioning. Because of this attitude, I am labeled as anti-Hindu, anti-religion or anti-Indian and what not, it seems if you raise objection about anything (let's call it X) you are X hater or you are anti-X, it seems there is no middle path for these people.

According to me respect doesn't mean keeping silent even if you see something wrong is going on. Just because something was practiced for centuries (so called traditions or rituals), it doesn't mean it was right. We should not accept anything blindly just to show the respect to some tradition or because it was said by someone great or senior, such behavior to show respect is very narrow and timid definition of the term 'respect'. Seniority should be respected as much as it needs to be, following age old ways of showing respect are really superficial (like standing every time someone senior enters the room or tolerating their improper behavior just because they are senior, etc.) they all need to go. Everyone should first of all understand that questioning is not an insult, one can say that it should be done in proper way but it should be encouraged from each group and section of society. Everyone should have right to raise objection on views or opinions which they believe are not right, it is not important whose opinions or views they are, there can be debates or discussions about anything. Technically anyone should be allowed to object as long as they don't violate law of land, actually in true democracy every voice counts so it should be heard. Forbidding questioning is like forbidding progress and I don't think any culture or society can evolve by discouraging people who want to object or rebel or think differently, so let's keep our gates open for new questions, new doubts and new challenges, this will take us to new heights, will bring lot of new ideas, new solutions. Please remember that knowledge is not stagnant it's continuous and endless process and questioning is an integral part of it, nothing is sacred in this process, everything is open for discussion and debate, once we understand this then people will realize the potential and power of questioning and constructive criticism, until then lets just keep on asking questions.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

1. Chanakya and his views about women 
2. Bhagadvad Gita-As it is or As it is NOT..Part-I
3. Bhagadvad Gita-As it is or As it is NOT- Part-II

Monday, October 14, 2013

Banished...what brainwashing can do to people..

Recently I finished reading a very interesting and unique book, Banished-A Memoir, Surviving my years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain (with Lisa Pulitzer). I love public library system of USA, I borrowed this book from New haven public library,  all public libraries in US are free to people living in that area and one can borrow most books published in US. This book is about life and experience of a girl (Lauren) born in moderate or liberal family but eventually ends up living in very conservative and sectarian Christian environment. The book and its main characters are specially related with Westboro Baptist Church. It's not that I didn't know about this church before reading this book, I read about their disgusting and provocative pickets and banners saying very derogatory things about people from their own community, they do these things all the time to get local and national media coverage. It was interesting to read how this whole enterprise is designed and managed by few people who think that they are the only authorized agents of some God and his book and they believe that they have moral right to preach and dictate God's message to rest of the world. This book also shows what systematic and planned brainwashing can do to some people and their families, this particular book talks about very conservative Christian atmosphere but readers should not get wrong impression that this phenomena is associated only with any particular religion but this is very common with all religions and cult movements.

I don't want to discuss the story of the book or get into details mentioned in the book I advise readers to read that book if they are interested in knowing complete story f Lauren and her family. I guess anyone who has seen very conservative religious or sectarian environment can relate with the experiences of a girl living and growing up in a such environment where she is constantly told that whatever values her family believes and follows are ONLY right values and all others are WRONG, not only others are wrong but it's their duty (she and her family or community) to teach or preach RIGHT things to them even if people may not like it because those teachings are from God and God has given them responsibility and privilege to do this. We all see fanaticism or different forms of terrorism or gender discrimination practiced all over the world in the name of religion (almost all religions and cult movements are guilty of this, there is no exception) or they mainly do this because some book (word of God) preaches them do so, many of these books are written in such a way that they are open to many type of interpretations and everyone interprets them in their own way. People or group of people hate other people or group of people just because they believe in different Gods and books, they do it so passionately and convincingly because they think they have blessings or licence or order from their God to do it. This mindset is result of planned brain washing, a strategy which every organized religion or cult movements use very effectively to trap and recruit their subjects who then propagate similar ideology.

For me religion is very personal thing and individual choice, something like food, I can choose whatever dish I like from available choices or make my own if I want but I can not or should not force my choice on others, I should not assume that something which suites my test or needs is good for everyone. I don't think anyone will say that I have right to hate or kill someone just because they are eating some different dish than what I love to eat. Most people might agree with me if I say these things in relation with food but I am sure many will object if I bring religion into picture, people feel obliged to follow their religion and defend it, they feel it's not wrong to kill innocent people to defend their religion, we see and read about this all the time during terrorist attacks and communal riots. This is because of years of brainwashing by various institutes belonging to various branches of organized religions. Our minds work differently when we start talking or thinking about religion, we always feel that our own religion is better than others, similar thinking pattern follows when we think about our own caste or race or gender, based on our social and cultural upbringing we get trained or brainwashed to think that particular race or caste is superior to others, one gender is superior to other. Everyone following any religion likes to claim that their religion doesn't preach any violence or discrimination or hatred but still we find lot of communal tension all over the world, WHY? Even within the same religion there are many fractions who fight with each other, why religion in its current form can't stop all this? I can understand arguments, discussions and debates but what purpose killing innocent people (even kids) in name of god, or spreading venom of hatred serves?

This book describes Lauren's journey, it gives an insider's perspective, I think most of us can relate with her character, her story is gripping, tragic, heartbreaking but at the end leaves us with some hope. There are many hateful groups like this present all over the world, they belong to all religions, we can not and should not blame any particular religion for doing this, basically they all do it (or did it sometime in past), they target people of all ages, they brainwash them, groom them to make their brand ambassadors, who can go and spread their false propaganda. I am not against any religion but I am against anything which spreads hatred, which encourages discrimination based on anything, we need to stop this, we need to spread love and unity instead of hatred and discrimination. We need to enlighten people, encourage critical thinking rather than brainwashing because brainwashing can only create fanatics, doesn't matter who does it, whether its any religion, sect, cult movement, conservatives, liberals or science, we don't need brainwashing but we need enlightenment of our mind and our society.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

1. Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church

Friday, October 11, 2013

Meaning of being liberal...

I read this message on someone's Facebook wall, I think this message does a pretty good job to explain the meaning of being liberal as well as some problems sometimes liberal people face in our society, it also tries to clear some misconception about the term tolerance. Being tolerant doesn't at all means weak or submissive, most people who make fun of non-violence philosophy equate tolerance with weakness or cowardliness but in reality it's exactly opposite. I consider myself a liberal and open-minded person, by this I mean a person who respects other individual on equal terms regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, who is willing to listen to others views and share my views in very democratic and civilized way. I believe in discussions, debates and dialogues rather than forcing my opinion on someone. I also believe that there can be more than one right answers or solutions to same problem, saying 'my way is the only right way' is not by habit but that doesn't mean I accept whatever others say even if I don't agree, if I don't agree to certain things I make sure to express my disagreement in civilized way, being liberal and tolerant doesn't mean to agree and accept each and everything thrown at you.

I also believe that people can live peacefully and work for betterment of society even if they don't agree on some issues or have difference of opinion, we can always agree to disagree with each other and move on. This is very important to know because many people, specially in comment section of some of blog posts expect that as I claim to be liberal and open-minded I should accept their views as correct views and also accept what they call 'my mistakes' (that is my views), so they wish me to align my views along with theirs because I claim to be liberal. They also question me objecting to some famous personality's opinion, they claim it's an insult to that person. According to them being liberal means arbitrarily respecting everyone and accepting everything, basically they mean, don't challenge anyone because 'you are liberal' so you should respect each and everything. As a open-minded person I am willing to listen to their views and ideas but I have no obligation to agree with them (or with anyone) if I don't find those things right. I also believe that there are some things which no one should tolerate like gender discrimination, racism or casteism, sexual abuse, terrorism, etc., but there are some people who support these things directly or indirectly and I am willing to listen to their side of story but I just can not agree that these things in any form are acceptable to any civilized human society or culture.

I guess many people have serious misconception about what is meant by being liberal, it does mean being open to all ideas and views but that doesn't mean one should also accept them as it is. Liberals can very much disagree and oppose views and ideas with which they don't agree but the major difference is they don't just want to silence the people who voice ideas by force but want to change those views, they believe in change via debates and discussions, they believe in constructive criticism and dialogue but at the same time there are certain things on which they can't compromise, they also have their own beliefs. But according to me the major difference between liberal and hardcore conservative is, liberals acknowledge that there can be difference of opinion and there can be a disagreement on some issues, we can have debate or discussions about them but in the end we can live together peacefully even with all our differences, this last part of sentence is really important and crucial for tolerant and progressive society. Tolerant society is a type of society where everyone has right to express their opinion, at the same time everyone has right to question also, people are allowed to question anything and everything, debates and discussions are integral part of such society, logic and rational plays very important role, there are few basic things which no society should tolerate, once we understand this then no matter who we are, liberal or conservative, we all can live together peacefully.

Thanks for reading and please share your views regarding this topic.

Image from: Facebook
[Copyright for text: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing] 

Monday, October 7, 2013


Few days back I read this quote by Leo Tolstoy on Facebook "Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but is essential for right thinking; where it is absent discussion is apt to become worse than useless" .

I like the quote but then question came to my mind are there any true freethinkers in our world? Most of us get trained in schools, colleges or in society, our parents and mentors groom us, knowingly or unknowingly they train or condition our mind in particular way and then when we think that we are independent we look at the world with that conditioned mind, so how can we claim that we are independent or freethinkers? No doubt there were many philosophers or writers who with their own imagination or thinking process created new ideas and philosophies, they tried to think out of the box and many of them were successful in producing some brilliant work which we still study even after centuries. We all have this capacity to become freethinkers like them, we all are born with it but we rarely use it, because whenever we try to go out of that well defined secure box (which consists of boundaries set by our social and intellectual upbringing) either we feel very uncomfortable, guilty or many times we are scared about people's reaction and most of the time we reject those thoughts before even testing them for their validity.

So question is, do we have any freethinkers? Are they some special people? I think anybody who is not afraid of challenging well established ideas, people who dare to propose something new which was never thought before, who can even challenge their own ideas and are not ashamed if proven wrong are true freethinkers. Even though they are the product of same educational or social system through which we all go they dare to think something totally different, they have courage to face contradiction which exists in our lives and have courage to express those thoughts and pursue new ideas even if its outcome is unknown. It's not necessary that always these type of people will be successful or always they come up with some great ideas, sometimes it can also be a disaster but it's bound to be different, according to me all these people are freethinkers. They are present in every family, every society and neighborhood, we all meet them, see them but just because they are not that famous don't notice them. We all have certain prejudices and biases but few of us can overcome them and think beyond that, when we do that anyone of us can become a freethinker. Not only we restrict our thinking by all our inhibitions but while doing this we also fail to understand others thoughts, we reject new ideas before even evaluating them, we need to overcome these inhibitions not only to think freely but also to appreciate new ideas and philosophies of others. 

Lets try to make ourselves free from many inhibitions which stop us from welcoming well deserving new ideas and concepts, same inhibitions stop us from questioning or criticizing age old beliefs which we accept blindly in name of tradition or culture. I know that it's not easy to get rid of them so easily, they are part of our society for ages, if we can not get rid of those inhibitions altogether then let's at least try to control them no matter from where they originate, doesn't matter whether they come from, our religion, culture, social constrains, education, training or anything else, let's shed them and try to become freethinkers, it's definitely lot of fun than being a blind follower and still it's not illegal in many countries to express your thoughts, so let's give us a chance to become a freethinker.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Friday, October 4, 2013

Are people like Gandhi and Shastri still relevant today?

Every year 2nd October is celebrated as Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri Jayanti (birth anniversary) in India. People remember them, many Gandhi detractors consider this occasion as golden opportunity to criticize him for whatever reason they like, starting from Muslim appeasement, Hindu hater, India's partition, for his nonviolence theory, etc. Shastriji almost goes unnoticed as people are either busy in praising or bashing Gandhi so they don't have time for Shastriji, there is nothing much to criticize about him and as he was a staunch Gandhian himself so there is nothing much to praise about him for Gandhi haters except for his simplicity and honesty which no one can ignore, so he is not very attractive target for many. Mahatma Gandhi, Pundit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Shastriji, Subhash Bose, Tilak, Gokhale along with many others (list is too long) are iconic figures from freedom movement of India, all these people along with many others contributed heavily towards India's freedom struggle, but according to me no one receives acute praise and criticism as much Gandhiji receives. His name somehow generates extreme reactions, either people think of him as god like figure or they criticize him as if he was a monster, they call him selfish manipulator, ruthless politician, Muslim sympathizer, Hindu hater and what not, blame him for India's partition, for delay in achieving freedom, etc, etc. His critics try to put as much blame on him for everything which happened during his politically active days in India (~1920-1948). Some of them even go to the extend to justify his assassination and many of them are big fan of his murderer Nathuram Godse. Godse's court speech is very popular among them, this speech which is available on internet is no different than any fanatic terrorist's speech where they justify their barbaric acts of killing innocent people under the name of religion, God or for the sake of country. These people revere Godse's speech so much surprisingly despise similar speeches by other terrorists who carry similar tone and justifications. There are also groups who claim to follow Gandhi or like him but actually they use his image and name purely for selfish reason, just as some marketing tool, they absolutely don't show any commitment towards his causes and principles. This behavior of some people or groups always raise question in my mind, are people like Gandhiji and Shastriji still relevant in today's world? or they are mere marketing tools, just statues and posters which people clean once or twice a year put garland and then forget until next year (like they do to their gods)?

It's quite normal to have difference of opinion in politics and Gandhi, Nehru or Tilak were all politicians, they all believed in certain set of principles and tried to live propagate them as much as possible, they even tried to direct the freedom movement based on those principles, one can criticize their approach or question their methods, there is nothing wrong in it. Whatever these people did, right or wrong it can be debated, but they all meant good, intention was to take India forward, do something for its people, not to hurt anyone or neglect any community purposely. According to me to hate any political leader just because of ideological differences to the extend to justify his/her assassination is no less than insanity, how can one justify murder of an opponent for such a trivial reason, no wonder that same people then go on to justify communal riots also.

I was always fascinated by lives of all these people, I read about them and get lot of inspiration from their work but I don't associate myself with any particular camp or ideology. For me Gandhiji was great human being with very honest intentions, a great leader who managed to involve common people in freedom movement struggle but he was also a politician, very religious and fanatic about some of his beliefs, same thing is true about most of great personalities, they all have certain great qualities and some no so great, but in general their greatness overshadows all other things that's why they are respected. I take whatever I find good from their teachings and leave the rest or question it, argue it, criticize it, but I don't hate any person just because I don't agree with few of their ideas and principals.

People like Gandhi or Tilak never ran away from criticism or troubles, they always faced it and tried to solve the problems or conflicts in politics via dialogues not by force or violence, at least this is one thing we all can learn from them. Their personal honesty and integrity was their strength we often use very high standards to judge these personalities which it self shows their greatness. How many leaders we have today who even know the meaning of honesty and integrity? For today's generation many ideas and principles of these people look outdated and difficult to practice, simplicity is no more a virtue, consumerism is need of today's economy and there is lot of pressure and encouragement to consume, enjoy the life without any social responsibilities. All this makes me to think that people like Gandhi or Shastri are even more relevant today, we need to follow at least some of their ideas to bring balance in our lives, we either like to go too much right (extreme capitalism) or too much left (communism), no one likes to be in center because then they feel like orphan, people feel isolated if they don't belong to any group, so one has to choose, but all these great personalities teach us to pave our own way not just to choose some popular belief and try to become a part of group. We don't need to worship these people, that's useless thing to do but we should discuss about them, debate their ideas, offer constructive criticism and improve our society and country. I hope people find their ideas more useful than their photos or statues.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic. 

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]