Saturday, July 30

Oye, Chak de Phatte!

How is it that a language and a culture that, for long, have been the butt of a national culture of jokes have suddenly attained the status of transnational cool, Sanjay Srivastava probes.

A recent Indian Express article reported that following the phenomenal commercial success of the television talent-hunt show Indian Idol, a Punjabi version called Awaz Punjab Di was in the offing. Over the past 10 years or so, Punjabi language and culture have increasingly become part of a global cultural traffic that includes Bollywood films, rap and dance music, and the "Bhangra beat" phenomenon that attracts fans from across a number of different cultural backgrounds. From Monsoon Wedding to Bride and Prejudice, and from the numerous Mahi vey (and Shava shava) songs of Hindi films to MC Punjabi numbers produced in the United Kingdom, Punjabiyat is in.
Indeed, it has become almost become the dominant mode of representing India to the world, as well as to itself. How is it that a language and a culture that, for long, have been the butt of a national culture of jokes have suddenly attained the status of transnational cool? Part of the answer lies in something that one of the organisers of the Punjabi version of Indian Idol told the reporter covering the event. "Indian Idol and others have been on a wider platform," Savita Jhingan of the TV channel sponsoring the show told the reporter, "We wanted to do something more focused, for preserving the flavour of Punjabi folk." The idea that "Punjabiness" embodies an authentic Indian-ness is an important part of its global popularity.
As is well known, from the 1950s onwards, some of the most significant actors in Hindi cinema were of Punjabi background. So, whether it was the Kapoor clan, Dev Anand, Balraj Sahni, Sunil Dutt, Jeetendra, or Rajesh Khanna, Punjabi men were major contributors to the acting pool. Yet, curiously enough, Punjabi culture and music were very rarely portrayed in a positive manner. More often than not, when Punjabi-ness was represented, it was a comical presence. Think, for example, of the Koi mein jhoot boleya number in the 1956 classic Jagte Raho. Here, a bunch of overweight Sikh gentlemen cavorting around the staircases and passageways of an apartment block provide the "humorous" backdrop.
During the same period that Indian popular culture was skewed towards representing India as, essentially, of the Gangetic plains region (even though the purveyors of this idea in terms of, say, singers, actors, and film directors were frequently Punjabi), another important process was in train. This was the slow but substantial movement of migrants of Punjabi origin to foreign shores, most notably the UK, Canada, and to a lesser extent, the US. So, the pioneers of mass migration in the post-1947 period were the Punjabis who sought better opportunities than what they found in the small towns and villages of Punjab. For most of these women and men, the early experience of being in a foreign land was one of considerable hardship. Being part of a non-white industrial and agricultural labour force brought with it an entire set of problems.
One of the most significant issues faced by the migrants was one of identity. As far as the host country was concerned, the "good" migrant was one who sought to "respect" the host culture by not making too much of his or her own culture. And, to a great extent, the early migrants obeyed this informal rule.
However, it was their children 'the UK born Asians' who sought to dispute this idea: Punjabi culture increasingly became public through a process of cultural assertion that amounted to a reaction to earlier attempts at "assimilation". The current rise of Punjabi transnationalism owes considerably to this.
The Punjabi assertion overseas was quickly recognised by Indian film-makers as an important window of opportunity for their products. Hence, they began to develop themes that simultaneously dealt with issues of identity concerning the older migrants as well as their younger, more assertive, children. Now it wasn't so much that the film-makers were exploring "Punjabiyat" itself. Rather, it was the unavoidable backdrop to the dramas of identity and inter-generational conflict that animated their films. The mustard-sown fields of Punjab were juxtaposed to the streets and suburbs of London, creating, in turn, new spaces for the articulation of Punjabi-ness. It is in these spaces that Punjabi as the transnational Indian cool has been nurtured. Ironically, in many instances, Punjabi music made overseas is now being exported back to India to become part of the local "authentic" Punjabi culture.
Of course, there is no one Punjabi-ness that finds play. Whereas Indian cinema has tended to be somewhat conservative in its depictions (the ??good?? male of Indian origin will invariably marry a "good" Indian woman, and respect his elders), musical production originating among diasporic youth cultures have had greater political edge. For, in the latter instance, they address the politics of ethnicity, family life, multi-culturalism, etc. in ways that are different from the Indian case. So, quite often, one of the contexts of UK-made Punjabi music has to do with coming to terms both with the discrimination faced by the earlier migrants, as well as the heavy hand of parental (and patriarchal) authority experienced by the younger generation of "Asians."
In any discussion of Punjabi culture and its circulation it is impossible not to mention the global popularity of Bhangra. It is quite fascinating how an essentially rural dance form now finds itself at home in the clubs and bars of the UK, Australia, and other Western countries. From being an item of "ethnic" curiosity on BBC television when the British ?ethnics? were asked to display their culture, Bhangra has moved centre-stage as part of Punjabi transnational cool.
Finally, it is worth reflecting upon the popularity of Punjabi-ness in India. No doubt some of it has been fuelled by the growth of regional language television and music channels. However, there is something more to it. During the 1980s, Punjabi-ness came to the fore in the shape of the brave Sikh soldier defending India against "terrorists" and other enemies. And, at the present time, it would appear that mainstream India now considers Punjabi-ness as representative of the new go-getting, consumerist Indian identity, one that can more truly reflect the current phase of economic and cultural liberalisation. In the politics of representation, Gangetic Indian-ness appears to have given way to its perceived antithesis, a quick-witted Punjabi-ness at home in the world. And, oh yes, it helps that some of the music out there is also both innovative and full of foot-tapping rhythms.

(Sanjay Srivastava is a visiting fellow at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi)

Thursday, July 28

Ecology of Terrorism

Dr. Vandana Shiva

The conflicts, which were expressed in the tragedy of September 11, are being looked at through lenses coloured by monocultures - the monoculture of "a universal western civilization" or the monoculture of an equally universal Islamic terrorism. In the Samuel Huntington paradigm, this is leading to the clash of civilizations. In the Francis Fukuyama paradigm, we are seeing the end of history, the ultimate conquest of the west over the rest. Yet both Huntington and Fukuyama are constructing fictitious worlds, removed from our diverse histories, and our plural pains. Firstly, there is no such thing as a western civilisation. The dominant West has extinguished its own diverse cultures, of women in the witch-hunts, of Native Americans in the genocide of colonisation. And Seattle, Washington, Gothenburg, Genoa were voices of other cultures, other visions from within the West which are being attempted to be silenced, including with bullets. Remember Gandhi's response when asked what he thought of Western civilization. "It would be a good idea", he said. Just as dominant western culture is not universal, terrorism is not necessarily linked to Islam. In India we experienced it as Sikh terrorism in Punjab during the 1980s. The farm crisis fuelled violent Sikh nationalism as unemployed and angry youth took guns exported by the same global powers that had destroyed Indian agriculture and who looked on India as a market for their overpriced non-essential often hazardous products and technologies. The Oklahoma bombing was a result of the rise of Christian militias in the mid west. And terrorism within the U.S like that in Punjab was also linked to the farm crisis, the growing dispossession of American family farmers, which made them accept the new gospel of violence and hatred. As Joel Dyer says in Harvest of Rage: 'Why Oklahoma City is only the Beginning': America?s innocence lay in the rubble of the Murrah building as surely as the crumpled bodies of the victims. The deadly Oklahoma City bomb was just the first shot in the collective suicide of the nation. Some Americans, some of them our neighbors, have declared war on the powers that be, and those of us who stand unknowingly in between these warring factions are paying the price. And we will continue to pay the price, one building, one pipe bomb, one burned-down church at a time, until we come to understand, first, that the nation is holding a loaded gun to its head and, second, why so many among us are struggling to pull the trigger. Terrorism has no religion - it is not restricted to any region. It is now global - and terrorisms everywhere share the culture of hate and hopelessness, victimhood and violence. In a discussion of September 11 at the Forum 2000 in Prague, Nobel Prize Winner Elie Wiesel asked, "What happened? Why did it happen? Could it have been avoided?" In other words, what is the ecology of terrorism? Over the past two decades, I have witnessed conflicts over development and conflicts over natural resources mutate into communal conflicts, and into extremism and terrorism. My book "Violence of the Green Revolution" was an attempt to understand the ecology of terrorism. The lessons I have drawn from the growing but diverse expressions of fundamentalism and terrorism are the following:
1.Undemocratic economic systems, which centralise control over decision-making and resources, and displace people from productive employment and livelihoods create a culture of insecurity. Every policy decision is translated into the politics of 'we' and 'they'. 'We' have been unjustly treated, while hey' have gained privileges. Destruction of livelihoods and jobs, and erosion of democratic control over the economy and systems of production also leads to a mutation of cultural identity. With identity no longer coming from the positive experience of being a farmer, a craftsperson, a teacher, a nurse, culture is reduced to a negative shell, positive identities give way to negative identities, each, in competition with every 'other', contesting for the scarce resources that define economic and political power. Centralised and undemocratic economic systems also erode the democratic base of politics. In a democracy, the economic agenda is the political agenda. When the former is hijacked by the World Bank, IMF, WTO, democracy is reduced to an empty shell with room only for fundamentalism and extremism both because race, religion, ethnicity are the only cards left in the hands of politicians to garner votes and because the extremist can more effective fill the vacuum left by the decay of democracy. Globalisation is contributing to the Talibanisation of the world. Economic globalisation is fuelling economic insecurity, eroding cultural diversity and identity, and assaulting political freedoms of citizens. It is therefore providing fertile ground for the growth of fundamentalism and terrorism.
Globalisation fuels fundamentalism at multiple levels:
1.Fundamentalism is a cultural backlash to globalisation as alienated and angry young men of colonised societies and cultures react to the erosion of identity and security.
2.Dispossessed people robbed of economic security by globalisation cling to politicised religious identities and narrow nationalisms for security.
3.Politicians robbed of economic decision making as national economic sovereignty, is eroded by globalisation organise their vote banks along lines of religious and cultural difference on the basis of fear and hatred.
4.Imperialist forces, using the divide and rule strategy, also exploit religious conflicts to fragment the opposition to globalisation.
The survival of people and of democracy needs a simultaneous response to the double fascism of globalisation, the economic fascism that destroys peoples lives, economic freedoms and economic security and the fascism of fundamentalism that feeds off peoples' economic insecurities and fears. The "war against terrorism" will not contain terrorism because it does not address the roots of terrorism. It is in fact creating a chain reaction of violence and spreading the virus of hate. Just as pests multiply and grow resistant with pesticides, the war effort will increase the numbers and resilience of terrorists. Pests can only be controlled by making plants resilient and maintaining pest-predator balance in ecosystems. The ecology of terror shows us the path to peace. Peace lies in nourishing democracy and nurturing diversity. Democracy is not a shell but the lifeblood of free society. It is not merely an electoral ritual but the power of people to shape there destiny, and influence their lives, policies and conditions which destroy democratic control of people over how their food is produced and distributed, what health and education systems they have, how their natural resources managed, owned and utilised are. Terrorism is born from the death of democracy and can only be responded to by giving the power back to people. This is why the anti-globalisation movement is an anti-terrorist movement. It is giving peace and democracy a chance. If it is stifled by the brute force of militaries and global markets, our worlds will disintegrate into vicious cycles of violence and chaos. And no one will be immune.
(Dr. Vandana Shiva, physicist, ecologist, activist, editor is Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy)

Was the Bhakra dam worth it?

by Sudhirendar Sharma

Sitting leisurely on a wooden stool in front of a large gathering, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had dedicated to the nation the 740-feet high majestic Bhakra multipurpose hydroelectric project on October 22, 1963. Aimed at ushering an era of agriculture development, Nehru had aptly declared Bhakra 'the temple of modern India'. Not far from the site, politicians resenting the idea were telling the people of undivided Punjab how inert the waters of river Sutlej would be once the project starts extracting 'electricity' out of it!
Devoid of scientific reasoning, this first criticism of the project was undoubtedly amusing. However, four decades later and with reams of compelling evidence, criticism is real. Three years of painstaking work has shown that many claims made around the most revered hydropower project in the country were myths. Researched by a team led by Shripad Dharmadhikary, the recently published 'Unravelling Bhakra : Assessing the Temple of Resurgent India' provides disturbing evidence of the hype around Bhakra has been used to justify hydropower development.
Dharmadhikary, formerly of the 'Narmada Bachao Andolan', is presently the Founder-Director of the 'Manthan Adhyayan Kendra', Badwani, Madhya Pradesh.
How else can it be that Nehru's penchant for gigantism caught on but his dissenting voice did not? On November 17, 1958 Nehru had remarked at the meeting of the Central Board of Irrigation, "?(he) doubted very much if the Government would have initiated such a project if it came before them at this time. Such a dam was exceedingly expensive, involved a considerable amount of foreign exchange and took a long time to be completed. All that India gained from it was electric power and little irrigation."
Indeed, irrigation has been little. The total area under Bhakra's command has been 20 per cent of all cultivable area in Punjab. In real terms, it meant that 372,000 hectares land got covered under irrigation from the Bhakra canal network in the state. However, an analysis of the command area reveals that much of the command area in Punjab was already irrigated, or was in areas well endowed with water. On top of it, the dam helped only 12 per cent of the state's agriculture growth.
Carved out of Punjab in 1966 three years after Bhakra was commissioned, Haryana seems to have gained more from the project. A total area of 1.16 million hectares has been irrigated in the
neighbouring state that contributes 15 per cent to its total crop production. Often these are the statistics that are used to not only justify Bhakra but other large dam projects too. The question is: what would have Punjab and Haryana looked like if the Bhakra dam had not been built?
Unravelling Bhakra contends that the twin states would have definitely looked different without 449,000 hectares of waterlogged land and 687,000 hectares of salt-affected area. Curiously, the permanent degradation of cultivable area due to (over) irrigation has been deflected with 'that is the cost of doing it!' But former Union Water Secretary Ramaswamy Iyer has argued against this approach. His view is that between 'doing a project' and 'not doing anything' are a set of alternatives worth considering.
Surprisingly, groundwater irrigation through diesel pumpsets and tubewells has taken a quantum jump following the Bhakra project. From at around 20,000 tubewells in each of the two states during 1965-66, the figure now for Punjab is 910,000 whereas Haryana is not far behind with 583,705 tubewells. Researchers argue that 43-46 per cent of all agricultural production in Punjab is based on unsustainably mined groundwater. For Haryana, the figure is 35 per cent.
Proponents of the Bhakra dam often argue that much of this has been possible due to groundwater recharge through canal seepage. Conversely, however, that doesn't seem to be the case as only 17 per
cent of the groundwater recharge can be attributed to canal irrigation in Punjab. For Haryana, researchers have come out with a value of 24 per cent. And much to everybody's surprise the researchers contend that canal irrigation is actually on the decline in both the states.
The book quotes Sardar Gurmail Singh of village Bada in district Ropar: "All that you can see around in Punjab (the prosperity) all that you have heard about it, do not believe it. Things are not what
they seem. Punjab is on the brink" In its report, the S S Johl Committee constituted by the Government of Punjab has acknowledged that indeed the state is on the brink as the land and water situation in the state is fast proving to be economically disastrous, socially untenable and politically unsustainable.
Some 84-development blocks out of 138 have already been declared a dark zone, where the level of groundwater exploitation is over 98 per cent against the critical level of 80 per cent. Six out of the twelve districts in the state have recorded a groundwater utilization rate of over 100 per cent. Consequently, in many parts of Punjab water tables are falling by up to 1 meter per year. Not without reason has the Johl Committee recommended a shift from rice-wheat cropping pattern in the state. This is the backdrop for the book.
Though Unravelling Bhakra brings on table several hidden dimensions of the project, it falls short of making a strong case against it. From displacement to rehabilitation and from land degradation to food insecurity, the study tosses up all the issues relevant for such an assessment. Yet, the 300-pages of data-filled text may not trigger a fresh discourse on the future of hydropower projects in the country. The book fails to challenge some of the emerging arguments on the subject.
The World Bank -- itself a highly scrutinized institution has already given a different spin to the entire issue by arguing that the Bhakra project benefited the landless and the poor by generating on-farm employment opportunities, for people as far as in Bihar. It goes further to suggest there has been a return of 32 % on investment in education from irrigated areas, as compared to the un-irrigated areas. In doing so, it advocates the need for increasing irrigation coverage in the country for improving literacy, a compelling poverty reduction goal under the MDGs.

(Dr Sudhirendar Sharma is a development analyst attached to the Delhi-based Ecological Foundation)

Wednesday, July 27

Rediscovering Punjabi Culture

Amarjeet S. Grewal

Punjabi culture is not a uniform, fixed and neutral
surface/structure/narrative but is an ever-changing,
indeterminate, instable and non-permanent flow of diverse and
different parallel/paradoxical institutions, social mores,
traditions, semiotics and discourses which are bound by a
If ostensibly the Punjabi society seems to be a fixed and
determinate structure that is only because its one particular
section (comprising of men/rich/Jatt Sikhs) has given it a
limited identity by suppressing its diversity through their
economic, political and ideological hegemony. They have silenced
its different identities through their ideological, political
and moral discourses. It’s precisely because the other
discourses have been silenced or suppressed that it has acquired
its specific identity. What seem to be its fixed, stable and
timeless institutions/traditions becomes obvious and natural due
to these very institutions/traditions and the suppressing
politics behind it is obfuscated from view. So the specific
identity of Punjabi culture is in reality symbolic of the
multilateral and multilevel suppression by specific classes of
Punjabi culture.
For example in the famous verse of Prof Puran Singh “Punjab na
Hindu na Muslaman, Punjab sara jeenda Guran de nam te” lie the
seeds of hegemony of Sikh majority. That makes them listen to
only Gurbani or Jaap Sahib ion the flowing streams of rivers of
Punjab. They can’t even listen to even any soft strain of Geeta
or Quran. The Sikh migration of 47, Punjabi Suba agitation and
Dharamyudh morcha all owe their genesis to formation of this
‘Puran Singhian Sikh identity’. This is just a small and limited
example. When we compliment a definite form of Punjabi culture
we are in reality exposing our slave mentality. Those of our
forward looking thinkers who talk of establishing identity of
Punjabi culture should also keep in mind the suppressing
politics behind these and expose that. This suppressing politics
has kept fixed every nuance of Punjabi culture. There is a need
to supplant this.
So every cultural worker’s duty becomes to expose that politics
of suppression, which acts behind cultural practices, and
obviousness of institutions/traditions and meaning of words
fixed by that suppression. By doing so they will not only be
exposing that suppression but also the suppression behind
lingual practices, cultural traditions, social institutions,
moral values, economic properties and personal liberties. I
would like to call these new writers, artists, critics and
thinkers, cultural freedom fighters because they wage a war
against suppression at every level with their critical creative
Punjabi culture can’t be reduced to culture limited to an area
spread over 50,362 sq kms on 12,342 villages and 134 towns and
cities, which came into existence on November 1, 1966. Punjabi
culture is much more than this. This is transnational culture
spread over India, Pakistan and many other countries. That is
why it is not uniform. That is why now Punjab, Punjabi culture
and Punjabi community can’t be cloistered in any specific
geographical, historical, political, economic, lingual,
ideological and religious/moral limits. This Punjabi culture is
constantly spreading due to its inherent diversity, instability
and dynamism in different regions, countries, cities and towns,
gaining new experiences, creating dialogues between different
languages, traditions, cultures religions, economies, political
discourses, moral values, social mores.
So Punjabi culture is no longer a culture specific to and of a
specific region, religion, nation, race, caste, community or
sect. This is a large stream, which irrigates different lands
imbibing in it fragrances of all those lands.
Punjabi culture is not a human race born in a specific region
but is a grand road linking whole world. That is why it does not
have any definite home, language, religion or ideology.
We have been living the life akin to rootedness of tree so far.
Just like trees are fixed to the soil through their roots, we’ve
been fixed on the soil of Punjab through our language, tradition
and history. This cultural rootedness of ours kept our cultural
spread bound in definite limits. Now flight is replacing roots
and wings replacing homes to become identities of Punjabi
This new cultural consciousness has not obliterated the
consciousness of our rootedness but has only served to glorify
it. The poetry of nostalgia of immigrant poets is a proof of
The diasporic consciousness did get us out of the state of
rootedness of trees but transported us into the state of birds
who come back to their cultural ages in evenings. The Punjabis
living abroad live in their cultural ages. They neither become
part of the Punjab’s economic, political and cultural
development and nor of their adopted countries. Those immigrants
who break free of this cultural imprisonment become rootless.
This rootlessness and homelessness does not let them create any
cultural identity.
But this transnational Punjabi consciousness prepares us for
pure flight bringing us out of cages. The flight becomes home or
we can say the definition of home changes or does not let us be
homeless or rootless. This gives birth to new Punjabiat by
giving rise to a feeling of unrootedness in place of rootedness
and unhomeliness in place of homelessness. On the threshold of
21st century, Punjabi community visualises its future in this

(Amarjeet S. Grewal is noted Punjabi thinker and critic)

Nature Consciousness in Gurubani

Jaswant Singh Zafar

West began to employ scientific methods to understand the behaviour of nature towards the end of fifteenth century and beginning of sixteenth. Theory began to be tested in laboratories simultaneously. Conclusions began to be explained with the help of mathematics. This was the time when Guru Nanak was exploring the east on feet. He was singing of the nature with its beauty, limitlessness, liveliness, diversity and inherent unity:
kudrat kawan kahaa vichar. Vaari-aa na jaavaa ayk vaar
(How can Your creative potency be described? I cannot even once be a sacrifice to You.)
pavan guroo paanee pitaa maataa Dharat mahat. Divas raat du-ay daa-ee dd-I-aa khaylai sagal jagat
(Air is the Guru, water is the father, and earth is the great mother of all. Day and night are the two nurses, in whose lap all the world is at play)
gagan mai thaal rav chand Deepak banay taarikaa mandal janak motee. Dhoop mal-aanlo pavan chavro karay sagal banraa-ay foolant jotee
(Upon that cosmic plate of the sky, the sun and the moon are the lamps. The stars and their orbs are the studded pearls. The fragrance of the sandalwood in the air is the temple incense, and the wind is the fan. All the plants of the world are the altar flowers in offering to You, O Luminous Lord)
rookh birakh garihi baahar so-ay
(The Lord is among the trees and plants, within the household and outside as well)
baliharee kudrat vasi-aa. Tayraa ant na jaa-ee lakhi-aa
(I am a sacrifice to Your almighty creative power whih is pervading everywhere. Your limits can not be known)

Towards the end of seventeenth century western world began to present the matter and energy, completely separate from each other. Cartesian division made them see all things as lifeless and isolated. The western world began to visualise all creations of the nature as inert things just like isolated digits in mathematics and nature as a sum total of all these things/digits. This mechanical understanding became the basis of Newton's classical mechanics in the mid seventeenth century. But it was in the beginning of the seventeenth century itself that Guru Granth Sahib was compiled incorporating the writings of five Gurus and saints and sages like Kabir, Farid, Namdev and Ravidas. This set the tune for singing of nature's greatness, largeness, uniformity and. All of them called the nature not merely a game of creator but also His own self:
so-ee purakh Dhan kartaa kaaran kartar karan samratho
(Blessed is the Primal Lord God, the creator, the all powerful Cause of causes)
hukmee sarisat saajee-an jotee jot milaa-i-aa. Jotee hoo sabh chaannaa satgur saba sunaa-i-aa
(By his command, the Lord of Light fashioned the universe, and infused His divine ligt into it. From the Lord of Light, all light originates. The true Guru proclaims the word of the Shabad)
ji-o pasree sooraj kiran jot. Ti-o ghat rama-ee-aa ot pot
(Just as the light of the sun?s rays spread out, the Lord permeates each and every heart, through and through)
jal thal mahee-al poori-aa su-aamee sirjanhaar. anik bhaant ho-ay pasri-aa naanak aykankaar
(The Creator Lord and Master is pervading the water, the land, and the sky. In so many ways, the One, the Universal Creator has diffused Himself, O Nanak)
jee-a jant sabh paykhee-ah parabh sagal tumaree dhaarnaa
(All beings and creatures that are seen, God, depend on your support)

The God was said to be omnipresent not only in living creatures but also things considered to be lifeless were considered to be His expression only. Man was told to understand his ego as not separate from His Magnificence. Ways and means to merge this ego in the infiniteness of nature were propagated. Gurubani considered the whole expanse and origin of nature as the result of constantly happening change and dynamism:
saachay tay pavnaa bha-I-aa pavnai tay jal ho-ay. Jal tay taribhavan saaji-aa ghat ghat jot samo-ay
(From the True Lord came the air, and from the air came water. From water, He created the three worlds; in each and every heart He has infused his light)

On the other hand, Newton had this to offer on the origin of universe:
"God in the beginning formed matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, movable particles, of such sizes and figures, and with such other proportions to space, as most conducted to the end for which he formed them; and that these primitive particles being solids, are incomparably harder than any porous bodies compounded of them; even so very hard, as never to wear or break in pieces; no ordinary power being able to divide what God himself made one in first creation."
For Newton the origin of all planets was something that happened simultaneously and conclusively and he accepted the universe as a finite and definite space. Every natural change was begun to be attributed to some external force and God that external force which made them follow the natural laws. In effect this made a difference between doer and the task. Matter was considered immortal.
Such worldview took in its sweep not only the science but begun to cast its influence on humanities very soon. To comprehend a thing it was broken into pieces. Body was begun to be seen as a sum total of parts. This Cartesian division and mechanistic worldview put man onto the expressway of mechanical and industrial progress but in the process his relations with nature, environment and other humans and creatures were spoiled irretrievably. For man ?I?, ?Nature? and ?God? became separate entities. Gurubani calls even one such moment of separateness as dangerous:
ik gharhee na miltay taa kalijug hotaa
(When I could not be with You for just one moment, the dark age of Kali Yuga dawned for me)

But human consciousness came under the spell of this separation forever. The humankind was divided more stringently into races, communities and religions. Nature, earth, air and water was begun to be treated as lifeless. Man started believing him to be master of the nature instead of one small part of it. A mad race began to exploit natural resources. Welfare was replaced by profit as the prime ingredient of human activities. The 'Kaliyug' came out to dance in open. Mega shows of it were seen in many places. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, partition in 1947, the 1984 massacre in New Delhi and Bhopal Gas disaster, 9/11, communal riots of Gujarat and Bush?s hooliganism in Arab world are some recent examples of these.
This 'modern scientific outlook' gave birth to such industrial activity which had no place for service, sacrifice, liberty, love, sympathy but was dominated by greed, selfishness, sycophancy, exploitation, competition and opportunism. Rivers which earlier provided water, that Gurubani says is life (pani jeeo hai) now became dumps for industrial garbage. Activities like agriculture, animal husbandry and tourism that were means of love, cooperation and dialogue with nature were turned into profitable businesses.
The nature consciousness of Gurubani rejects this scientific outlook, industrial activity and attitude towards nature:
eh jo dunee-aa sihar maylaa dastageeree naahi
(This world is just a magic show; no one will be holding your hand. Or, This world is justa fair, not the mechanics)

A fair is not numerical total of all the people present there. It has no final shape. Every person present there is participant as well as a spectator. The fair is not conducted by some external force but its conducting force is implied in all those present in the fair:
andaj jayraj ut-bhuj saytaj tayray keetay jantaa. Ayk purab mai tayraa daykhi-aa too sabhnaa maahi ravantaa
(The being born of eggs, born of the womb, born of the earth and born of sweat, all are created by You. I have seen one glory of Yours, that You are pervading and permeating in all)
man tan rav rahi-aa jagjeevan gur sabdee rang maanee. Andaj jayraj saytaj ut-bhuj ghat ghat jot samaanee
(He is permeating and pervading my mind and body; He is the life of the world. Through the Word of the Guru?s Shabad, I enjoy His love. His light fills all those born of eggs, born from the womb, born of sweat and born of the earth, each and every heart)

The advent of Einstein applied breaks to the notions of Cartesian Division and Classical Mechanics when he declared that matter and energy were not exclusive of each other. He gave the famous equation of E = MC² or M = E/C².
The detection of X rays and radioactivity also proved that matter is not immortal and that it is converted into energy. Even the elements can convert into other elements.
This way Science distances itself from its basis of Cartesian Division and Classical Mechanics and it comes closer to the perspectives of Gurubani according to which:
ka-ee kot keenay bahoo bhaat. Parabh tay ho-ay parabh maahi samaat
(Many millions are created in various forms. From God they emanate, and into God they merge once again)

Newton's principles of gravity and speed were limited to only those heavy and solid bodies that were made of countless particles and whose speed was lesser than that of sun. The inner composition and nature of atom was beyond their comprehension yet. Towards the twentieth century science stepped in this direction. Rutherford proved that smallest unit of a particle is nucleus situated in center of an atom around which electrons revolve just like plants do around sun:
jo barahmand khand so jaanhu. Gurumukh boojhhu sabad pachchaanhu
(Know the One who pervades all the realms of the universe. As Gumukh, understand and realize the shabad)

Then it became known that nucleus comprises of protons and neutrons. This knowledge remained in application till 1930. By 1935 six basic particles had been identified. Till 1955 this number rose to 18. Now this number runs into centuries and is constantly being replenished every year. Now scientists do not consider any of these basic particle because these keep on colliding, combining, converting into each other and dividing. Thus science starts seeing even in the depth of the smallest unit of matter the limitlessness of outer universe. According to Gurubani:
paataalaa paataal lakh aagaasaa aagaas
(There are nether worlds beneath nether worlds, and hundreds of thousands of heavenly worlds above)
The behaviour of electron in an atom is not stable or uniform. Sometimes it?s like matter particle and at others like energy wave:
aapay soor kiran bisthaar. so-ee gupat so-ee aakaar
(He himself is the sun, and the rays emanating from it. He is concealed, and he is revealed)

According to Quantum Theory, this dual character of electron is a matter of perception that means it is impossible to separate the task and the viewer. This way the scientific logic makes it possible to understand the unity between 'happening' and the 'spectator' instead of harping on immortality of matter. Gurubani speaks of it thus:
kar kar vaykhai keetaa aapnaa jiv tis dee vadi-aa-ee
(Having created the creation, He watches over it Himself, by his greatness)

Einstein also proved that atom has some amorphous and weightless photons that are constantly apace with speed of light. Thus science has a glimpse of the fundamental unity in nature and a common light in its every particle. Gurubani is replete with this:
an-din naamay rati-aa jot samaa-ay. Jotee hoo parabh jaapdaa bin satgur boojh na paa-ay
(His light merges into the light, and He finds peace. O servant Nanak, this is all Extension of the One)
jotee jot milee such paa-i-aa jan naanak ik pasaari-aa jee-o
(His light merges into the Ligt, and he finds peace. O servant Nanak, this is all the Extension of the One)
jot saroopee tat anoop. Amal na mal na chhaah nahee dhoop
(He is the embodiment of light, the incomparable essence. He is stainless, without stain, beyond both sunshine and shade)

According to Einstein it is inconceivable to see the existence, situation, speed or energy of any part of atom separately from the other. This sets science on the path of nature consciousness of Gurubani that acknowledges inter-related co-existence of different things, creatures, earths, skies, experiences and thoughts in the creation and not the sum total of these:
kudrat disai kudrat sunee-ai kudrat bha-o sukh saar. Kudrat paataalee aakaasee kudrat sarab aakaar. Kudrat vayd puraan kataybaa kudrat sarab veechar. Kudrat khaanaa peenaa painan kudrat sarab pi-aar. Kudrat jaatee jinsee rangee kudrat jee-a jahaan. Kudrat badee-aa kudrat maan abhimaan. Kudrat pa-un paanee baisantar kudrat dhartee khaak. Sabh tayree kudrat too kaadir kartaa paakee naa-ee paak, Nanak hukmai andar vaykhai vartai taako taak
(By His power we see, by His power we hear; by His power we have fear, and the essence of happiness. By His power the nether worlds exist, and the akaashic ethers; by His power the entire creation exists. By His power the Vedas and the Puraanas exist, and the Holy scriptures of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. By His power we eat, drink and dress; by His power all love exists. By His power come the species of all kinds of colours; by His power the living beings of the world exist. By His power virtues exist, and by His power come honour and dishonour. By His power wind, water and fire exist; by His power earth and dust exist. Everything is Your power, Lord; You are the all powerful Creator. Your name is the holiest of the holy, O Nanak, through the command of His will, he beholds and pervades the creation; He is absolutely unrivalled)

In this order of inter-related life, it is not possible for existence of one living being without another. All living beings are dependent further on vegetation. The oxygen required by them is also being produced by the trees and plants. Gurubani points towards this dependence:
birkhai hayth sabh jant ikthay
(Beneath the tree, all beings have gathered)

Trees do not merely fulfill the breathing and food requirements of the living beings but they also serve as comfort zones to them:
jaa kay birajh aaraa-o
(The one who owns the trees of the forest and the plants of the garden)

Destruction of vegetation brings imbalance in life. Gurubani exhorts for its upkeep and respect:
brahm patee bisan fool sakarday-o, teen dayv partakh toreh karahi kis kee say-o
(Brahma is in the leaves, Vishnu is in the branches, and Shiva is in the flowers. When you break these three gods, whose service are you performing?)
kabeer daataa tarvar da-yaa fal upkaaree jeevant, pankhee chalay disaavaree birkhaa sufal falant
(Kabeer, the Great Giver is the tree, which blesses all with the fruit o compassion. When the birds migrate to other lands, O Tree you bear the fruits)

The industrialization brought on by our irrational approach has posed big dangers to our physical and spiritual health. Interestingly greenery is the symbol of physical well-being, joyful mind, beautiful environment and omnipresence of God in Gurubani:
ay man hari-aa sahj subhaa-ay
(This mind is rejuvenated with intuitive ease)
man basant tan man hari-aa ho-ay
(When the mind is in spring, the body and mind are rejuvenated)
saa dhartee bha=ee haree-aavalee jithai mayraa satgur baithaa aa-ay
(That land, where my true Guru comes and sits, becomes green and fertile)
daavaa agan bahut tarin jaalay ko-ee hari-aa boot rahi-o ree
(The forest fire has burnt down so much of the grass; how rare are the plants which have remained green)
so-ee ma-ulaa jin jag ma-oli-aa hari-aa kee-aa sansaaro, ab khaak jin banDhrahaa-ee Dhan sirjanhaaro
(He is the master who has made the world bloom; He makes the universe blossom forth, fresh and green. He holds the water and the land in bondage. Hail to the creator lord!)

Thus the nature consciousness of Gurubani also becomes a guiding principle to take on the dangers posed by mindless modernization. The basis of this modernity, Cartesian division and Newtonian theory of origin of universe has anyway come to be rejected by science itself. The concept of entropy in thermodynamics has proved that space is constantly expanding. At one point it was shrunken. The big bang at that point brought in the universe. With passage of time the space will again start shrinking and reduce into one point. This has been going on and this will go on:
ka-ee baar pasri-o paasaar. Sadaa sadaa ik aykankaar. Ka-ee kot keenay baho bhaat. Parabh tay ho-ay parabh maahi samaat
(so many times, he has expanded His expansion. Forever and ever, He is the One, the One universal Creator. Many millions are created in various forms. From God they emanate, and God they merge once again)

Thus Gurubani talks of the inner unity and dynamism of nature and space as well as the dynamism and changeableness of the space:
alaahu alakh agamm kaadar karanhaar kareem. Sabh dunee aavan jaavnee mukaam ayk raheem
(He is Allah, the unknowable, the Inaccesible, All Powerful and Merciful Creator. All the world comes and goes only the Merciful Lord is permanent)
Mukaam tis no aakhee-ai jis na hovee laykh. Asmaan Dhartee chalsee mukaam ohee ayk
(Call permanent only the One, who does not have destiny inscribed upon Hid forehead. The sky and the earth shall pass away; He alone is permanent)
din rav chalal nis sas chalai taarikaa lakh palo-ay. Mukaam ohee ayk hai naankaa sach bugo-ay
(The day and the sun shall pass away; the night and the moon shall pass away; the hundreds of thousands of stars shall disappear. He alone is permanent; Nanak speaks the truth)

Earlier religiosity understood the different experiences of nature through symbols of different gods and goddesses. All gods and goddesses had their own areas of functioning and powers ? at clash with each other somewhere and in cooperation at other. Everybody had his or her own existence. Their number runs into cores but it is not uncountable. The whole nature was divided into three parts 1.Production/creation, 2.Conduction and 3.Destruction and these three were believed to be under Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh respectively. But Gurubani did not accept this division of nature. The ?one? in first word in Guru Granth Sahib ?Ik Omkar? that symbolizes the unity of infiniteness of God and whole creation declares this disagreement. When we understand the infinity beyond the sum of digits such division gets rejected automatically. Let's present numerically the infinite spread of God or the nature:
GOD = 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+ ---------------------------
Now let?s divide this further into three parts:
Brahma(Generator) = 1+4+7+10+13+ -----------------------
Vishnu (Operator) = 2+5+8+11+14 --------------------------
Mahesh(Destroyer) = 3+6+9+12+15 -------------------------
If we look carefully the third part seems to be third fold than its original:
Destroyer = 3+6+9+12 --------- = 3(1+2+3+4 -----------) = 3X GOD
Thus this division seems ridiculous. The science till now has seen the whole nature dividing it into parts. Quantum Theory was propounded for the part of atom where Newton?s law does not apply. Electromagnetic theory explained the corresponding influences of Electric field and magnetic field. Same thing happened in the fields of zoology, chemistry, geography and astronomy etc. Different models, theories and equations were employed to explain different hues of nature by science. These have replaced the older gods and goddesses. The division remains. Human outlook remained influenced by duranda. This suits contemporary politics and economic system also. The deeper knowledge of atom remained confined to select laboratories and was not reflected in humanities or new world outlook. That is why this knowledge did not give birth to sages of knowledge but creators of atom bombs. The atomic explosions that destruct even fertility of soils have come to be considered as prides of nation.
The intellectual limits of man have made the 'division' a final truth of our minds. Gurubani urges man to practice constantly to diminish this division between 'I' and the 'creation and creator' so that the balance between 'union' and 'separation' can lead to joy and welfare:
sanjog vijog du-ay kaar chalaaveh laykhay aavahi bhaag
(Union with Him, and separation from Him, come by His will. We come to receive what is written in our destiny).

(Jaswant Singh Zafar, a poet and cartoonist, is an engineer by profession)

Looking For its Roots: Punjabi Language

Dr Muhammed A. Shahid

Punjabi is classed as one of the Indo-Aryan languages. Three theories are commonly held about the Indo-Aryan languages:
1) Sanskrit developed from the Vedic language, and its rules of grammar were formulated by Panini that maintained uniformity of its character. Spoken Sanskrit changed into Prakrit and Upbharnish and gave birth to modern Indo-Aryan languages; Punjabi in Punjab, Sindhi in Sindh, etc.
2) The Indo-Aryan languages sprung directly from the Vedic language.
3) Punjabi is a non-Aryan language.
Most experts uphold the first theory as Punjabi contains many words from both Vedic and Sanskrit. There are some who follow the pundits who preached this theory, while most western writers find this theory a matter of convenience.
The followers of the second theory also consider modern languages of the subcontinent as the Indo-Aryan languages with one difference that these languages directly emerged from the Vedic language. With the first theory raising serious questions, a big jump was made to connect modern languages of the subcontinent with the Vedic language. Moreover, the fact remains that Sanskrit does not share a common syntax with the modern languages of the subcontinent.
The third aspect specifically relates to the Punjabi language. Since Rig Veda came into being in Punjab, this group maintains, that the Vedic language gave birth to Punjabi, and not Sanskrit, whose origin is shrouded in uncertainty. The truth is that this group dare not challenge great Pundits of the subcontinent and European scholars but at the same time is not happy with their evidence.
The third group of scholars has carefully studied, questioned and analyzed writings and theories of earlier experts. These scholars are not impressed by big scholarly names or reputation of the Pundits and the European experts. Instead they draw their own conclusions from all the evidence available. They take their guidance from a host of solid leads, such as, archaeological findings at Swan, Harappa, Sara-i-Khola, etc., migration of the Austric and the Dravidians into Punjab, the numerous references to non-Aryan tribes in the Rig Veda, the abundance of non-Aryan words in Vedic and Sanskrit literature and languages, etc. The syntax of modern languages of the subcontinent has no relationship with that of Sanskrit. All this has not been carefully studied before.
Before we take up the issue whether or not Punjabi is an Aryan language, it is useful to consider some prevalent findings.
The most compelling evidence for the earlier scholars was the commonality of many words in modern languages of the subcontinent and Sanskrit. Thus they started with the Aryans and ended with the Aryans. To some extent they were justified in constructing such grand theories. They did not know that archaeologists would discover a civilization dating back to thousands of years before that of the Aryans. Although some scholars did talk about a non-Aryan civilization, in particular the Dravidian civilization, they were at best non-serious. Moreover, the enigma of the Brahvi language in Balochistan, could only be conveniently solved by making a passing remark on Dravidian language and culture.
During the third quarter of the twentieth century, the Harappa civilization spanning thousands of square miles was discovered. Archaeological findings and types of human remains discovered at Sara-i-Khola and Harappa (in Punjab), Moenjodaro (Sindh), Lothal (Gujrat Kathiawar), Kali Bangan (Rajasthan), Aamri and Nall (Balochistan), etc., are forcing experts to re-evaluate their earlier findings.
It is important that we keep all these new discoveries in the correct perspective and read the ancient history of the Punjab anew. In truth, in order to learn about the Punjabi language, first we must learn about the history of the Punjabis themselves.
Initially anthropologists speculated that the human race originated in Africa and spread out all over the world. As research progressed, skeletal remains of anthropoid apes and early humans were found, this theory began to be modified. Skulls and remains from Africa, China, Java, Central Asia and other places were dated to estimate their age and the history of mankind. American Philsam was dated at 10,000 years old, findings at Heidelberg were traced back to 100,000 years, and the age of those from Africa were set at 260,000 years. Recently Aris Poulianas, a Greek archaeologist, claimed a human skull found in the city of Petrelons in Solonika (Greece) was at least 700,000 years old.
The skull of an anthropoid ape like a human one known as Punjab Drypithicus found in Punjab is dated back to at least 15,000,000 years. Moreover, the human remains, known as Rama Pithicus, found in hilly areas of Punjab were dated to at least 14,000,000 years.
A French scholar, Henri V. Vallois, has concluded from his research at Swan that the first human being in its present shape and form lived in Punjab. While only scant, scattered, disjointed and piecemeal evidence of ape-like humanoids from Africa, China, Indonesia, Germany and Greece have been found, we find a continuous and unbroken sequence of human development in Punjab.
Unfortunately inscriptions found at Harappa have so far not been deciphered conclusively. Had this script been faithfully read, we would not be relying too much on speculations of anthropologists.
In Rig Veda we come across compound words such as 'Panj Jan', 'Panj Krushti', 'Panj Jaat', 'Panj Janih dash', and similarly, in Athar Veda we find 'Panj Krashteh', etc. The explanations of these compound words given by the older generation of scholars and pundits do not agree with those of modern scholars and pundits.
Sayann, in 'Madhoya Varti' and in Durga' commentary on 'Narikkut' has taken the 'Panj' (five) to mean Brahman, Khatri, Vesh, Shudar and Nishadh. Yasak in 'Nirakkut' and 'Aitaryah Brahman' takes 'Panj' to mean 'Gandhroo', 'Patar', 'Devtaa', 'Asur' and 'Rakashash'. He also mentions that according to Opamnayu, 'Panj' means four castes and Nishadh. But Sayan and Swami Daya Nand (Sathya Parakash) say that by 'Panj Jann', etc., is meant five tribes of 'Yado', 'Trosh', 'Drohya', 'Ano' and 'Por'.
There are also those scholars who maintain that the Vedic knowledge covers the whole world. According to them the 'Panj Jann' represent five race groups at the roots of all civilization the world over, namely, 'Indo-Aryan', 'Negorative', 'Mongol', 'Red Indians' and 'Malays'. But the 'five' could equally well mean 'Negorative', 'Dravidian', 'Aryans', 'Pani' and 'Asur', the race groups of Punjab.
This reminds us of those five types of skulls that have been found at Harappa. Anthropologists believe that these samples represent the five race groups who lived here. Some account of this can be found in 'Hindu Civilization' (Bombay, 1957) by Radha Mukerjee.
Even if we overlook many findings of Vedic experts and anthropologists, one aspect clearly comes to the forefront. That at least four or five race groups lived in Punjab before the Aryan descended on it. Therefore, whenever we research the language of this land, we cannot and should not ignore this fact. Moreover, whichever race group overpowered Punjab, it killed its inhabitants or forced them to flee. It was impossible to exterminate the whole population or force all to flee. That is why the conquerors and the conquered lived side by side using their respective languages and freely borrowing words from each other as they needed to fit their needs of coexistence. At the end the newcomers most often adopted the enriched local language as their own and almost forgot their own pure and original language.
There was a time when our history started from the Aryans. Scholars like Dr Santi Kumar Chatterji maintain that it is not probable that in India the modern man evolved from something like an anthropoid ape. Instead, waves of people of different races came at different times to settle here. Modern scholars assert that so called modern man has always lived in Punjab for the last several million years
(Dr. Muhammed A. Shahid is Pakistan based scholar and writer)

Tuesday, July 26

Decline of Panthic Institutions

by Jatinder Preet

The degeneration of Sikh institutions continues unabated. What's more unfortunate is Sikhs are more or less unconcerned. The shenanigans of politicians donning the garbs of religious leaders continue. It's no wonder that the opposition to their antics is also on political lines only.
Bibi Jagir Kaur, in her second term as president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), is an epitome of the kind of people who are leading the Panth. She was charged with murdering her own daughter, a cardinal sin according to Sikh tenets. While the case lingers on in courts, there is not much doubt in common man's mind about the stories that came out with what happened and Bibi's complicity in that. That, of course, did not stop her political aka Parkash Singh Badal from handpicking her for the top job in the SGPC.
The defense of the indefensible is politician's forte but the way these politicians have been defending themselves and their cohorts is breathtaking. It would be no wonder if leaders like Bibi Jagir Kaur get away with murder in such a scenario.
We have been witness to this political acrobatics in last few days ever since the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission (SGJC) sacked Bibi Jagir Kaur from presidentship of the SGPC. She is already involved in a writ again with the SGJC relating to embezzlement of funds to the tune of Rs 38 lakh rom the 'dharma parchar' funds.
Since the enactment of the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, it was for the first time that the SGJC had sacked an SGPC president for five years.
Not only she continues to cling on to post she has gone on to take shield behind legalese. She has filed an appeal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court here challenging the order.
In her appeal, Bibi Jagir Kaur has contended that the SGJC had no jurisdiction to interfere in the working of colleges run by the independent trust.
This is nothing but a mere technicality. The fact that the fees of some of the wards of Akali leaders were arbitrarily waived off is there as it is.
It's amusing how Badal saw Amarinder's hand even in this judgement. He blamed the CM as usual for meddling in the SGPC affairs. He did not take into account his absolving of Bibi in the matter when he said he has asked the defaulters to deposit the fees.
Badal has admitted as much that Akali leaders defaulted in paying the fees of their children studying in SGPC run institution. It is also a fact that the SGPC did wave off their fees that made the institution suffer loss of revenue to the tune of crores. These students incidentally took admissions in NRI quotas, which provides for admission to NRI students for a larger amount of fees.
There is a clear cut case of favouritism here. It's a moot question does it any way brings in moral question at least when caught.
While nobody expects the kinds of Bibi to show some moral scruples, the public apathy is disturbing. Or is it the sign that community has acknowledged that religion has nothing to do with the running of religious institutions with politicians taking over them?
Now this would be even more disconcerting.

Monday, July 25

The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda

Noam Chomsky

...Let me begin by counter-posing two different conceptions of democracy. One conception of democracy has it that a democratic society is one in which the public has the means to participate in some meaningful way in the management of their own affairs and the means of information are open and free....
An alternative conception of democracy is that the public must be barred from managing of their own affairs and the means of information must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled. That may sound like an odd conception of democracy, but it's important to understand that it is the prevailing conception....
Early History of Propaganda
...[The Wilson administration] established a government propaganda commission, called the Creel Commission, which succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, war-mongering population which wanted to destroy everything German, tear the Germans limb from limb, go to war and save the world.
That was a major achievement, and it led to a further achievement. Right at that time and after the war the same techniques were used to whip up a hysterical Red Scare, as it was called, which succeeded pretty much in destroying unions and eliminating such dangerous problems as freedom of the press and freedom of political thought. There was very strong support from the media, from the business establishment, which in fact organized, pushed much of this work, and it was in general a great success.
Among those who participated actively and enthusiastically were the progressive intellectuals, people of the John Dewey circle, who took great pride, as you can see from their own writings at the time, in having shown that what they called the "more intelligent members of the community," namely themselves, were able to drive a reluctant population into a war by terrifying them and eliciting jingoist fanaticism. The means that were used were extensive. For example, there was a good deal of fabrication of atrocities by the Huns, Belgian babies with their arms torn off, all sorts of awful things that you still read in history books. They were all invented by the British propaganda ministry, whose own committment at the time, as they put it in their secret deliberations, was "to control the thought of the world." But more crucially they wanted to control the thought of the more intelligent members of the community in the U.S., who would then disseminate the propaganda that they were concocting and convert the pacifist country to wartime hysteria. That worked. It worked very well. And it taught a lesson: State propaganda, when supported by the educated classes and when no deviation is permitted from it, can have a big effect. It was a lesson learned by Hitler and many others, and it has been pursued to this day.
Spectator Democracy
...Walter Lippman, who was the dean of American journalists, a major foreign and domestic policy critic and also a major theorist of liberal democracy...argued that what he called a "revolution in the art of democracy," could be used to "manufacture consent," that is, to bring about agreement on the part of the public for things that they didn't want by the new techniques of propaganda....
...He argued that in a properly-functioning democracy there are classes of citizens. There is first of all the class of citizens who have to take some active role in running general affairs. That's the specialized class. They are the people who analyze, execute, make decisions, and run things in the political, economic, and ideological systems. That's a small percentage of the population... Those others, who are out of the small group, the big majority of the population, they are what Lippman called "the bewildered herd." We have to protect ourselves from the trampling and rage of the bewildered herd...
...So we need something to tame the bewildered herd, and that something is this new revolution in the art of democracy: the "manufacture of consent." The media, the schools, and popular culture have to be divided. For the political class and the decision makers have to give them some tolerable sense of reality, although they also have to instill the proper beliefs. Just remember, there is an unstated premise here. The unstated premise -- and even the responsible men have to disguise this from themselves -- has to do with the question of how they get into the position where they have the authority to make decisions. The way they do that, of course, is by serving people with real power. The people with real power are the ones who own the society, which is a pretty narrow group. If the specialized class can come along and say, I can serve your interests, then they'll be part of the executive group. You've got to keep that quiet. That means they have to have instilled in them the beliefs and doctrines that will serve the interests of private power. Unless they can master that skill, they're not part of the specialized class. They have to be deeply indoctrinated in the values and interests of private power and the state-corporate nexus that represents it. If they can get through that, then they can be part of the specialized class. The rest of the bewildered herd just have to be basically distracted. Turn their attention to something else....
...In what is nowadays called a totalitarian state, then a military state, it's easy. You just hold a bludgeon over their heads, and if they get out of line you smash them over the head. But as society has become more free and democratic, you lose that capacity. Therefore you have to turn to the techniques of propaganda. The logic is clear. Propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state....
Public Relations
The U.S. pioneered the public relations industry. Its committment was to "control the public mind," as its leaders put it. They learned a lot from the successes of the Creel Commission and the success in creating the Red Scare and its aftermath. The public relations industry underwent a huge expansion at that time. It succeeded for some time in creating almost total subordination of the public to business rule through the 1920s....
Public relations is a huge industry. They're spending by now something on the order of a billion dollars a year. All along its committment was to controlling the public mind....
...The corporate executive and the guy who cleans the floor all have the same interests. We can all work together and work for Americanism in harmony, liking each other. That was essentially the message. A huge amount of effort was put into presenting it. This is, after all, the business community, so they control the media and have massive resources... Mobilizing community opinion in favor of vapid, empty concepts like Americanism. Who can be against that? Or, to bring it up to date, "Support our troops." Who can be against that? Or yellow ribbons. Who can be against that?... The point of public relations slogans like "Support our troops" is that they don't mean anything. They mean as much as whether you support the people in Iowa. Of course, there was an issue. The issue was, Do you support our policy? But you don't want people to think about the issue. That's the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody's going to be against, and everybody's going to be for, because nobody knows what it means, because it doesn't mean anything, but its crucial value is that it diverts your attention....
That's all very effective. It runs right up to today. And of course it is carefully thought out. The people in the public relations industry aren't there for the fun of it. They're doing work. They're trying to instill the right values. In fact, they have a conception of what democracy ought to be: It ought to be a system in which the specialized class is trained to work in the service of the masters, the people who own the society. The rest of the population ought to be deprived of any form of organization, because organization just causes trouble. They ought to be sitting alone in front of the TV and having drilled into their heads the message, which says, the only value in life is to have more commodities or live like that rich middle class family you're watching and to have nice values like harmony and Americanism. That's all there is in life. You may think in your own head that there's got to be something more in life than this, but since you're watching the tube alone you assume, I must be crazy, because that's all that's going on over there....
So that's the ideal. Great efforts are made in trying to achieve that ideal. Obviously, there is a certain conception behind it. The conception of democracy is the one that I mentioned. The bewildered herd is a problem. We've got to prevent their rage and trampling. We've got to distract them. They should be watching the Superbowl or sitcoms or violent movies. Every once in a while you call on them to chant meaningless slogans like "Support our troops." You've got to keep them pretty scared, because unless they're properly scared and frightened of all kinds of devils that are going to destroy them from outside or inside or somewhere, they may start to think, which is very dangerous, because they're not competent to think. Therefore it's important to distract them and marginalize them.
Engineering Opinion
It is also necessary to whip up the population in support of foreign adventures. Usually the population is pacifist, just like they were during the First World War. The public sees no reason to get involved in foreign adventures, killing, and torture. So you have to whip them up. And to whip them up you have to frighten them....
To a certain extent then, that ideal was achieved, but never completely. There are institutions which it has as yet been impossible to destroy. The churches, for example, still exist. A large part of the dissident activity in the U.S. comes out of the churches, for the simple reason that they're there. So when you go to a European country and give a political talk, it may very likely be in the union hall. Here that won't happen, because unions first of all barely exist, and if they do exist they're not political organizations. But the churches do exist, and therefore you often give a talk in a church. Central American solidarity work mostly grew out of the churches, mainly because they exist.
The bewildered herd never gets properly tamed, so this is a constant battle. In the 1930s they arose again and were put down. In the 1960s there was another wave of dissidence. There was a name for that. It was called by the specialized class "the crisis of democracy." Democracy was regarded as entering into a crisis in the 1960s. The crisis was that large segments of the population were becoming organized and active and trying to participate in the political arena. Here we come back to these two conceptions of democracy. By the dictionary definition, that's an advance in democracy. By the prevailing conception that's a problem, a crisis that has to be overcome. The population has to be driven back to the apathy, obedience and passivity that is their proper state. We therefore have to do something to overcome the crisis. Efforts were made to achieve that. It hasn't worked. The crisis of democracy is still alive and well, fortunately, but not very effective in changing policy. But it is effective in changing opinion, contrary to what a lot of people believe. Great efforts were made after the 1960s to try to reverse and overcome this malady. It was called the "Vietnam Syndrome." The Vietnam Syndrome, a term that began to come up around 1970, has actually been defined on occasion. The Reaganite intellectual Norman Podhoretz defined it as "the sickly inhibitions against the use of military force." There were these sickly inhibitions against violence on the part of a large part of the public. People just didn't understand why we should go around torturing people and killing people and carpet bombing them. It's very dangerous for a population to be overcome by these sickly inhibitions, as Goebbels understood, because then there's a limit on foreign adventures. It's necessary, as the Washington Post put it the other day, rather proudly, to "instill in people respect for the martial virtues." That's important. If you want to have a violent society that uses force around the world to achieve the ends of its own domestic elite, it's necessary to have a proper appreciation of the martial virtues and none of these sickly inhibitions about using violence. So that's the Vietnam Syndrome. It's necessary to overcome that one.
Representation as Reality
It's also necessary to completely falsify history... There has been a huge effort since the Vietnam war to reconstruct the history of that. Too many people began to understand what was really going on. Including plenty of soldiers and a lot of young people who were involved with the peace movement and others. That was bad. It was necessary to rearrange those bad thoughts and to restore some form of sanity, namely, a recognition that whatever we do is noble and right. If we're bombing South Vietnam, that's because we're defending South Vietnam against somebody, namely the South Vietnamese, since nobody else was there. It's what the Kennedy intellectuals called "defense against internal aggression in South Vietnam." That was the phrase that Adlai Stevenson used. It was necessary to make that the official and well understood picture. That's worked pretty well. When you have total control over the media and the educational system and scholarship is conformist, you can get that across... The picture of the world that's presented to the public has only the remotest relation to reality. The truth of the matter is buried under edifice after edifice of lies. It's all been a marvelous success from this point of view in deterring the threat of democracy, achieved under conditions of freedom, which is extremely interesting. It's not like a totalitarian state, where it's done by force. These achievements are under conditions of freedom. If we want to understand our own society, we'll have to think about these facts. They are important facts, important for those who care about what kind of society they live in.
Dissident Culture
Despite all of this, the dissident culture survived. It's grown quite a lot since the 1960s. In the 1960s the dissident culture first of all was extremely slow in developing. There was no protest against the Indochina war until years after the U.S. had started bombing South Vietnam. When it did grow it was a very narrow dissident movement, mostly students and young people. By the 1970s that had changed considerably. Major popular movements had developed... In the 1980s there was an even greater expansion to the solidarity movements, which is something very new and important in the history of at least American, and maybe even world dissidence. These were movements that not only protested but actually involved themselves, often intimately, in the lives of suffering people elsewhere. They learned a great deal from it and had quite a civilizing effect on mainstream America. All of this has made a very large difference....
These are all signs of the civilizing effect, despite all the propaganda, despite all the efforts to control thought and manufacture consent. Nevertheless, people are acquiring an ability and a willingness to think things through. Skepticism about power has grown, and attitudes have changed on many, many issues. It's kind of slow, maybe even glacial, but perceptible and important. Whether it's fast enough to make a significant difference in what happens in the world is another question... Organization has its effects. It means that you discover that you're not alone. Others have the same thoughts that you do. You can reinforce your thoughts and learn more about what you think and believe. These are very informal movements, not like membership organizations, just a mood that involves interactions among people. It has a very noticeable effect. That's the danger of democracy: If organizations can develop, if people are no longer just glued to the tube, you may have all these funny thoughts arising in their heads, sickly inhibitions against the use of military force. That has to be overcome, but it hasn't been overcome.
Parade of Enemies
...There is a very characteristic development going on in the U.S. now. It's not the first country in the world that's done this. There are growing domestic social and economic problems, in fact, maybe catastrophes. Nobody in power has any intention of doing anything about them. If you look at the domestic programs of the administrations of the last ten years -- I include here the Democratic opposition -- there's really no serious proposal about what to do about the severe problems of health, education, homelessness, joblessness, crime, soaring criminal population, jails, deterioration in the inner cities -- the whole raft of problems. You all know about them and they're all getting worse... In such circumstances you've got to divert the bewildered herd, because if they start noticing this they may not like it, since they're the ones suffering from it. Just having them watch the Superbowl and the sitcoms may not be enough. You have to whip them up into fear of enemies. In the 1930s Hitler whipped them into fear of the Jews and Gypsies. You had to crush them to defend yourselves. We have our ways, too. Over the last ten years, every year or two, some major monster is constructed that we have to defend ourselves against. There used to be one that was always available: the Russians. But they're losing their attractiveness as an enemy, and it's getting harder and harder to use that one, so some new ones have to be conjured up... So it was international terrorists and narco-traffickers and crazed Arabs and Saddam Hussein, the new Hitler, is going to conquer the world. They've got to keep coming up, one after another. You frighten the population, terrorize them, intimidate them so that they're too afraid to travel and cower in fear. Then you have a magnificent victory over Grenada, Panama, or some other defenseless Third World army that you can pulverize before you ever bother to look at them -- which is just what happened. That gives relief. We were saved at the last minute. That's one of the ways in which you can keep the bewildered herd from paying attention to what's really going on around them, keep them diverted and controlled....
Selective Perception
...[In May of 1987,] the surviving members of the Human Rights Group of El Salvador -- the leaders had been killed -- were arrested and tortured, including Herbert Anaya, who was the director. They were sent to a prison -- La Esperanza (hope) Prison. While they were in prison they continued their human rights work. They were lawyers, they continued taking affidavits. There were 432 prisoners in that prison. They got signed affidavits from 430 of them in which they described, under oath, the torture that they had received: Electrical torture and other atrocities, including, in one case, torture by a North American U.S. major in uniform, who is described in some detail. This is an unusually explicit and comprehensive testimony, probably unique in its detail about what's going on in a torture chamber. This 160-page report of the prisoners' sworn testimony was sneaked out of prison, along with a videotape which was taken showing people testifying in prison about their torture. It was distributed by the Marin County Interfaith Task Force. The national press refused to cover it. The TV stations refused to run it. There was an article in the local Marin County Newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, and I think that's all. No one else would touch it. This was a time when there were more than a few "light-headed and cold-blooded Western intellectuals" who were singing the praises of Jose Napoleon Duarte and of Ronald Reagan. Anaya was not the subject of any tributes. He didn't get on Human Rights Day. He wasn't appointed to anything. He was released in a prisoner exchange and then assassinated, apparently by the U.S.-backed security forces. Very little information about that ever appeared. The media never asked whether exposure of the atrocities -- instead of sitting on them and silencing them -- might have saved his life.
...In February, right in the middle of the bombing campaign, the government of Lebanon requested Israel to observe U.N. Security Resolution 425, which called on it to withdraw immediately and unconditionally from Lebanon. That resolution dates from March 1978. There have since been two subsequent resolutions calling for immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon. Of course it doesn't observe them because the U.S. backs it in maintaining that occupation. Meanwhile southern Lebanon is terrorized. There are big torture-chambers with horrifying things going on. It's used as a base for attacking other parts of Lebanon. In the course of these thirteen years Lebanon was invaded, the city of Beirut was bombed, about 20,000 people were killed, about 80% of them civilians, hospitals were destroyed, and more terror, looting, and robbery was inflicted. All fine, the U.S. backed it. That's just one case. You didn't see anything in the media about it or any discussion about whether Israel and the U.S. should observe U.N. Security Council Resolution 425 or any of the other resolutions... That's just one case. There are much worse ones. The Indonesian invasion of East Timor knocked off about 200,000 people. They all look minor by that one. That was strongly backed by the U.S. and is still going on with major U.S. diplomatic and military support....
The Gulf War
That tells you how a well-functioning propaganda system works. People can believe that when we use force against Iraq and Kuwait it's because we really observe the principle that illegal occupation and human rights abuses should be met by force. They don't see what it would mean if those principles were applied to U.S. behavior. That's a success of propaganda of quite a spectacular type.
Let's take the question of the reasons for the war. Reasons were offered for the war. The reasons are: Aggressors cannot be rewarded and aggression must be reversed by the quick resort to violence. That was the reason for the war. There was basically no other reason advanced. Can that possibly be the reason for the war? Does the U.S. uphold those principles, that aggressors cannot be rewarded and that aggression must be reversed by a quick resort to violence?... Has the U.S. opposed its own aggression in Panama and insisted on bombing Washington to reverse it? When the South African occupation of Namibia was declared illegal in 1969, did the U.S. impose sanctions on food and medicine? Did it go to war? Did it bomb Capetown? No, it carried out twenty years of "quiet diplomacy." It wasn't very pretty during those twenty years. In the years of the Reagan-Bush administration alone, about a million-and-a-half people were killed by South Africa just in the surrounding countries. Forget what was happening in South Africa and Namibia. Somehow that didn't sear our sensitive souls. We continued with "quiet diplomacy" and ended up with ample reward for the aggressors. They were given the major port in Namibia and plenty of advantages that took into account their security concerns. Where is this principle that we uphold?... No reason was given for going to war. None. No reason was given for going to war that could not be refuted by a literate teenager in about two minutes. That again is the hallmark of a totalitarian culture. It ought to frighten us, that we are so deeply totalitarian that we can be driven to war without any reason being given for it and without anybody noticing it or caring. It's a very striking fact.
...The fact of the matter is, this [Iraq] was a Third World country with a peasant army. It is now being conceded that there was a ton of disinformation about the fortifications, the chemical weapons, etc. But did you find anybody who pointed it out? Virtually nobody. That's typical. Notice that this was done one year after exactly the same thing was done with Manuel Noriega. Manuel Noriega is a minor thug by comparison with George Bush's friend Saddam Hussein or George Bush's other friends in Beijing, or George Bush himself, for that matter. In comparison with them, Manuel Noriega is a pretty minor thug. Bad, but not a world class thug of the kind we like. He was turned into a creature larger than life. He was going to destroy us, leading the narco-traffickers. We had to quickly move in and smash him, killing a couple hundred or maybe thousand people, restoring to power the tiny, maybe eight percent white oligarchy, and putting U.S. military officers in control at every level of the political system. We had to do all those things because, after all, we had to save ourselves or we were going to be destroyed by this monster. One year later the same thing was done by Saddam Hussein. Did anybody point it out? Did anybody point out what had happened or why? You'll have to look pretty far for that.
Notice that this is not all that different from what the Creel Commission did in 1916--1917, when within six months it had turned a pacifistic population into raving hysterics who wanted to destroy everything German to save ourselves from Huns who were tearing the arms off Belgian babes. The techniques are maybe more sophisticated, with television and lots of money going into it, but it's pretty traditional. I think the issue, to come back to my original comment, is not simply disinformation and the Gulf crisis. The issue is much broader. It's whether we want to live in a free society or whether we want to live under what amounts to a form of self-imposed totalitarianism, with the bewildered herd marginalized, directed elsewhere, terrified, screaming patriotic slogans, fearing for their lives and admiring with awe the leader who saved them from destruction while the educated masses goose-step on command, repeat the slogans they're supposed to repeat, the society deteriorates at home, we end up serving as a mercenary enforcer state, hoping that others are going to pay us to smash up the world. Those are the choices. That's the choice that you have to face. The answer to those questions is very much in the hands of people exactly like you and me.

Sunday, July 24


We are also trying to bring out Punjab Panorama's hard copy in magazine format. It's in the process of registration. Though we have already published five trial issues.
With Punjab Panorama we intend to promote dialogue and help clear perspectives, while bringing together 'thinking minds' on one platform. Keeping in touch with the particular context we are located, Punjab Panorama will focus on community, which is defined more in terms of mindspace rather than in purely geographical terms. Needless to say we don't have the final world.