Managing Stress In the 21st Century without God And Religion
#1
This thread is started to generate robust discussion on the topic of offering an alternative belief system to people to replace religion and god. Please go over my articles and offer your views.

Prabhakar Kamath
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#2
Dr. Kamath,
Quoting you from the comment trail of a recent article,

Quote:Years of mental preparation, contemplation and study of India’s history is needed. The Organizing activist must go through rigorous exercise in self- awareness and self-control before launching this movement.

Could you devise something like a 'syllabus' for an activist and provide reading recommendations, maybe here?
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#3
Aravind,

There is no syllabus. I can give some pointers. I will gladly send you a pdf version of my book on the topic. I don't remember if I sent it to you or not. In any case, here are some pointers.

1. Any person who wants to organize a grassroots movement in India MUST read every book there is on Gandhi, especially Gandhi's Truth by Erik Erickson. Everyone wrongly thought that Gandhi's goal was to win independence for India. Well, that was his minor goal. His major goal was to reform Indians and make them be ready to handle independence. He took his time and slowed all the hot-headed people such as Subhaschandra Bose and Nehru. He was an atheist who did not believe that there was a god. He said repeatedly, "Truth is my god." He deftly used terms such as Rama Rajya only to share the vision of the masses.

2. Studying history books -any authoritative book- gives one insight into the minds of people, especially their mental blocks. A discerning reader could see how history repeats itself generations after generation simply because wrong information is passed on to people by the elders who refused to learn from their mistakes. Reading history books is not to study who conquered whom, but to understand how people reacted to the conquerors.

3. Intense on-going introspection is a must. One must identify his own weaknesses and develop codes of conduct to counter them. Man is defeated not by external forces but by his own internal weaknesses -hubris, greed, hypocrisy, fear, lack of conviction, etc. One must struggle 24/7/365 to give up jealousy, hatred, anger, greed, etc and develop intense empathy for other people's suffering. People rally around him whose struggle (within and without) is evident to all around him.

4. It might take one at least five years before one becomes somewhat ready to work with aggrieved people. Patience is the ultimate virtue. For, a person who is in a great rush to accomplish a lot in a short time will be disappointed as change within and without takes years and years of practice and hard work.

Prabhakar

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#4
Dr. Kamath,

Your emphasis on preparation and self-examination for activism is especially relevant, given the lessons learnt from unprepared and 'spontaneous' social activism.

This BBC documentary about campus activism in the United States during the Vietnam anti-war protests entitled 'How Vietnam Was Lost' makes very instructive viewing. In particular, it raises the following issues, on which we will be glad to hear your thoughts.

Importance of awareness of risks: Youngsters readily roused to activism are prone to forget that they may have dependents or maybe staking promising careers on an impulsive decision. It is a hard tradeoff between harnessing righteous indignation and avoiding its disruptive effects on other constructive activity. In the documentary, we find an example of students skipping exams and spurning job offers to be part of an agitation and while this may be a perfectly legitimate decision if taken in a considered fashion, it is essential that they stay informed of the risks and costs involved. From an organizational perspective, impulsive recruits who realize the risks belatedly are prone to become deserters and to avoid this, risk education seems essential.

'Legitimate' and 'permissible' protest: Often, both protesters and administrators are either unwittingly or willfully ignorant of the correct extent of the right to peaceful protest, with both often invoking political compulsions to cross the line and clamp down respectively. An example in the documentary is the action of the unnerved U Wisconsin Chancellor. A more recent example is the recent Ramlila Maidan protest where there seems to have been both a permission-violation and use of excess force in dispersal. Drafting and circulating ready reckoners of the constitutional and legal provisions to keep in mind while calling for protests, maybe in order.

Civil and gender rights as casualties of jingoism : While reading the comment trails in the documentary it is hard to miss the vitriolic nature of the comments criticizing the interviewed ex-spouse of a serviceman who chose to file for a divorce during the war. There seems to be an implicit premise that when a nation is at war, civil and gender rights such as that woman's right to file for a divorce are somehow automatically overridden and suspended. It is almost as if martial law prevails in the mindscape if not de jure. In today's India facing a Maoist insurgency, a similar 'martial law' seems to prevail in the commentariat and the vitriol spewed against say, Arundhati Roy is quite alarming as it shows how readily jingoism overrides concern for civil rights in Indian discourse. This is in a society that claims to be full of cheerleaders of 'Civil Society'!

Countering the vitiation by war-cry vocabulary : The 'hang-the-corrupt' vocabulary employed voluble activists and alarmingly popular in the mainstream is an influence on impressionable adolescents that is potentially as pernicious as the 'class-enemy' hate-mongering in China or Islamo-fascist indoctrination in the Middle East. Gandhi's great historical accomplishment was being able to fire the imagination of a generation without recourse to war-cry vocabulary, but by inventing a new vocabulary that remains compelling to many to this day. His success has hardly been replicated in India after him, though there have been attempts with lukewarm receptions like former President A.P.J Abdul Kalam's to provide a visionary vocabulary of 'development' and 'value systems' to get the youth into mission mode.

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#5
Aravind, you make excellent points. I think the above article is worth submitting for publication in Nirmukta.

Ramdev is an example of an activist who has little insight into people's behavior. He was driven by his adrenalin rush induced by his popularity with some middle class people. It is a surprise that no one got killed in the aftermath of his arrest. He was not prepared mentally for the long run.

Likewise, I have seen many activists who start organizations with almost no mental preparation; no ideology, no principles, no awareness, no self-control, no nothing. No wonder people are reluctant to join anyone who comes forward to lead them.

And again, as you pointed out, most of them are not aware of the consequences of their actions. Greatness of Gandhi lay in his not repeating the mistakes, and making amends by fasting.

In any case, if there is a group of people of Indian origin interested in preparing themselves to join grassroots struggle in India, I would gladly meet with them for a daylong, or even several days long discussion and debate. In fact, I would love to hold such discussion in India (at my expense) if anyone is interested. The tragedy is that when it comes to questioning and confronting the system, most educated Indians are openly fearful. And as Gandhi thought, they are clearly not prepared to carry the burdens of a democratic society.
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#6
Thank you for your compliment, Dr. Kamath, but I am not sure if it is advisable on my part to engage a larger audience on topics of campaign management, until I acquire more credibility in this subject in my own estimation.

Speaking of your idea conduct daylong workshops on the subject, maybe it will fit well in a later edition of an event like Yukti when you are in India. Video lectures and podcasts seem other worthwhile options.

We supposedly live in an Age of Participation and the Age of Information is now history, but while this seems to be an empowering narrative it also seems to be having an inadvertent side-effect of encouraging 'uninformed participation'. Examples of 'uninformed participation' abound in the long-distance slacktivism of expatriate Indian students cheering street-side protests in India and ratcheting up the rhetoric in online comment trails in a slugfest of voyeuristic, 'vicarious street-fighting'. While the accomplishments of expat Indians in a variety of professional disciplines are undeniable, it is hard to miss the insularity and 'civilizational superiority complex' which Indian students seem to exude in most interactions. Here too Gandhi offers useful lessons in his now century-old account of his own time as an expatriate student, where at every stage he shows a willingness to learn , be it the initial stage as a wannabe which he outgrew to his credit, or his faltering attempts at activism.

It is interesting that while most international students in my circles first flock to campus organizations which are either faith-based or nationality-based, Gandhi chose to devote his time to a non-sectarian and non-denominational group like the Vegetarian Society. Perhaps we as a society, from schooling upwards need to provide curricular coverage to community organization and volunteering if we are to raise an awakened citizenry, rather than an apathetic yet accolade-adorned citizenry exulting over ridiculous 100% cutoffs in college admissions and exulting over how great our civilization must be that it produces legions of 100-percenters.

Edit: Replaced outdated links to 'The Story of My Experiments with Truth'
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#7
(19-Jun-2011, 12:55 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: From an organizational perspective, impulsive recruits who realize the risks belatedly are prone to become deserters and to avoid this, risk education seems essential.

(19-Jun-2011, 12:55 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Drafting and circulating ready reckoners of the constitutional and legal provisions to keep in mind while calling for protests, maybe in order.

Here is a relevant panel discussion in the context of what has been said above, addressing the question: What are the relative contributions of the following: an on-ground protest with a few hundred placard-bearers, and an online petition with few hundred thousand signatures?

Online Protests Vs Water Cannon (NDTV 'The Social Network' aired 01/01/2013)
Panelists: Namita Bhandare, journalist and petitioner; Raheel Khurshid,Director,Communications atChange.org; Priyanka Chaturvedi,Member,Youth Congress; Rita Banerjie,gender rights activist;Saikat Ghosh, professor and protest organiser.

The role of online and on-ground contributions in freethought advocacy has been discussed earlier here and here.
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