1 With Australian politicians pay set to rise, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s salary will touch a whopping $476,000, more than what U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron earn.
2 A man sleeps on his cart as a goat is shielded from the cold with a sweater near Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi. Photo: AP
dear mr. barack obama,
this letter is written in awareness that, like the american indian saying: ‘let person near the fire place tend it’, your position comes with almost infinite possibilities of helping in creating a peacefully cooperative and socio-economically equanimous co- existence of all.
sometime in 1962-63 i had applied for a ford foundation(?) fellowship. the interview was held in some u.s. (embassy?) office in new delhi. in the interview i was asked: “why do you want to go to america?” “because the indians are imitating the americans i want to talk to americans. if they change, their imitators change, too.” “what do you want to tell americans?” “that it is the profit motive that is the problem…” i was interrupted by this: “if mr. ford never made profit, there would be no ford foundation, nor would you be applying for the fellowship.” “true. but if mr. ford and all others did not make profit, there would be plenty of everything for everybody. and i would not need to talk to the americans about this.”
i did not receive that fellowship grant.
one of my students at a san francisco graduate school got me out of the notion of causing change through talking. children learn by seeing their adults do, by example. her question formed one of our first projects to offer people an atmosphere where food is perceived as a necessary fuel for the body and not the distraction from facing life’s many problems. the program was well received by the news media, and the non profit eatery had more than 75% diners regulars who ate there two meals or more a week, and ate less than what they did at first. obesity is the product of abuse of food promoted by the for profit food industry, the growing sense of emptiness in living and the mistaking food for entertainment.
then bill clinton’s arkansas govt. gave us a grant to do similar nutrition project in little rock. but then i began to observe that, while it was helping people to improve their health, they were not employing their energy to the other areas of their existence. i tried to produce a documentary on “the american way of life, from the eyes of a foreigner” to show the fragmentation of the american life cut up by the commercial conglomerates. i still feel that the americans need to see how a ‘foreigner’ sees them. and i am seen to be a foreigner even in that part of india where gandhi was born. we were born in the same town, some two blocks and 63 years apart.
it is all the more necessary now to make the americans live a wholesome life, individually first, as without that, they will not experience the inter-relatedness of all things and beings, global warming notwithstanding.
as far as i understand the u.s. constitution, a president does not legislate, the congress does. and the two party systems, by its nature cannot enable the members of congress to see things as they are. there the issues are either republican or democrat. and yet more, the members are sold out to the rich who fund their election expenses.
nothing short of the nonviolent revolution of socio-economic kind would make the two or multi party system obsolete. for in matters concerning the living outside of the capitol hill or the oval office one requires immediate response, and not endless show of looking busy trying to see what needs to be done. most issues are local, and can be swiftly attended to locally. but if people acted intelligently and solved their local problems locally, the u.s. presidency, along with the legislative body and the supreme court would lose their halo.
democracy and leadership do not go together. leader is a king in disguise.
i am proposing an experiment in truth (gandhi’s words). american democracy is so much promoted by the commercial conglomerates that any change would initially create an economic disaster. with the prospect of peace millions of people would lose jobs. not just the weapon makers and soldiers, but even a restaurant that caters to the weapon factory’s lowly workers would be closed, too. and america does promote wars abroad in order to keep the weapon factories humming. now it is your turn to authorize the expansion of war in afghanistan and to outdo the russians in selling weapons to other countries.
it is easier for the americans to elect a black american as a president than to elect a peaceful nonviolence promoting person, even the likes of jesus, for the those more than 80% said to be christians would not want to live in a peaceful world at the expense of the american way of life which is the envy of the 3rd world.
your acceptance speech for the nobel peace prize depicts the absence of an awareness that one cannot be friends and at the same time keep on stockpiling weapons of war harboring doubts in friendship. if not jesus, his translators, too, misunderstood friendship, when he is quoted as saying: ‘love your enemy as yourself’, for love, friendship sustains no enmity. you have to be genuinely concerned with the well being of all things and beings to realize that peace, like the other elements can be experienced individually only when it is also experienced by every individual with exclusion of none. you cannot be man of peace and the commander in chief of the world’s biggest fighting force at once. since this nobel peace prize was not awarded to you for your past actions, but rather given in anticipation for peaceful future acts, the nobel committee should rescind the peace prize for your statement affirming your justification of war: “i face the world as it is, and cannot stop idle in the face of threats to the american people. make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. a non violent movement could not have halted hitler’s armies. negotiations cannot convince al-quaida’s leaders to lay down their arms. to say that force sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason…. the united states of america has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades…”
hitler was not facing a non violent gandhi. he was invading the invaders, the british, french and others all of whom possessed and used the weapons of violence. nor have the people of the world, including europe and the u.s. lived in security because of the defeat of hitler’s or sadam hussein’s armies. as for the limits of reason, the fighting men are required “not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.” and as the commander in chief of the world’s mighty armed forces you may even be impeached out of the office by the vast majority of christianity professing americans if you offered the other cheek to osama bin ladin.
killing him point blank, without the due process did not unsettle any american sense of justice.
unlike gandhi or martin luther king, you ran for the office knowing that it came with the leading people in the trodden track full of the violent skirmishes big and small, including the sending of 30,000 more fighters to go to kill and get killed. those at the nobel committee themselves are not a people at peace with themselves, how can they promote peace?
the greed factor clouds the perception of what is. take for example, your own biological state of being. what has changed in it now in the white house which was different in the senate building or in chicago? you are not eating more (hope not). and yet your paycheck is bigger, even though almost all of your living expenses, including the food and travels are paid for. even as senator you were paid ten times more than the minimum wage earners. the smallest c.e.o. of america earns more than ten times the pay of his worker, the biggest, more than 1100 times.
the pay scale is figured for the job title, but the title does not do the work, the biological body of the appointee does and needs the nourishment. biologically, may be, you may eat a slice or two more of bread than i do, you being a few inches taller than me. so why can’t all persons be afforded the necessary requirements of the biological nature? by just being called ‘‘mister president’’ you are not reduced to the same status as “we the people”, unless each and every one of us is standing upon the same footing of the socio-economic kind.
humans are the only species in which some people are made to serve others. even the chest thumping big gorilla picks berries for himself and makes his own bed. since serving others requires what others want done and how, the servants have to be told and instructed. that is education. since this working for others is not a personally natural act, it does not come naturally or willingly, the workers have to be broken to serve in the manner the wild horses and work animals are broken, slaves were broken. gradually this practice of training workers became less violent, but only physically. its outcome is still the same. like a broken horse, a thus educated person obeys the command, right or wrong. “theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.”
and die they do, by the millions, most of them in the service of the others. some of them are dying, and will continue to die ordered by you playing the commander in chief. as i understand it, all countries that have the same person acting as the president and the commander of the armed forces have dictators or kings. the american president dictates the will of his electors, the rich elite and their subdued employees, which become “we the people” lumped together in “the american dream.” the word: ‘rich’ means king -- rex in latin> reich>rich.
your hope may be called audacious by some, but only in comparison with the original intent of the europeans who founded the u.s.a. but in nature of things, the hope without its practical application only fills up the reams of paper and clogs up ears with noise. for, with the passage of time, only thing will stay relevant will be that which has the ecological nature of existence. thus slavery is gone, even though the slave owners thought it to be audacious an act. whatever change used to take generations’ time to communicate to an entire human populace now reaches out globally with the speed of light. but the tools of this form of communication are in possession of the vestiges of the kings – the rich – of the old world. as i experience it, america is nothing but the european mindset magnified. so what spreads everywhere is the commercial propaganda and almost nothing new of the evolutionary nature.
‘‘it is not in the interests of the rich to cooperate with the poor; it is in the interests of the poor to non-cooperate with the rich”, gandhi had observed. and there are some indians who suspect that gandhi was killed not by a fanatic hindu, but ordered killed by the rich. just imagine the implications of a gandhian democratic india. it would have affected not only the indian rich, but a non violent india would not be buying weapons of violence from the american (and russian) weapons industry either.
as for the u.s. rich controlled governance, neither the congress nor the executive officer nor the supreme court would promote change that eliminates the socio-economic apartheid. so there is no provision for a nonviolently peaceful solution of the conflict between nations primarily engaged in outdoing each other for the for-profit business. all wars are fought solely for acquiring a dominance of the commercial nature. war sells weapons and the weapons are for profit business in which the u.s. sells more than half of the world’s weapons. since peaceful co-existence among nations would eliminate the need for the weapons industry, you have no department of peace.
it is indeed audacious to expect an america that promotes a world devoid of the socio-economic apartheid, which is the primary cause of all conflicts. but no matter however audacious such an action may be considered now, it is an eco-centrically inevitable change in evolutionary nature of existence. and if somehow it is presented to the world populace through the modern means of communication, the world would breathe peacefully during your term in the white house. then neither iran would feel the need for the nuclear weapons, nor would al qaeda need to train the suicide squad to fight america.
and it does not take 25, or 50-60 years of endless talks to resolve a problem, be it israel-palestine or india- pakistan-kashmir or u.s. - russia or any other issue. it is only when the minds are made up before meeting that the meetings take place stage-like, and people speak their memorized lines. mind as a noun is nothing but the memory box in which the years of schooling instills the knowledge -- thoughts about things and acts. mind as a verb is to mind what is, and it works only when one sees things as they are, and not as what they are thought to be. obviously, wars have never brought any two people or nations together. nor can one expect friendship, and at the same time keep on developing weapons for the fear of future conflict with the very people. trust and love come in unconditional nature, they can never happen in tradition based habitual way of life, whether it be american, indian chinese, arabic. what stops one from seeing anew is the fear of losing the known, no matter how ignorant and harmful the known is.
your nobel prize acceptance speech does not convince me that your audacious hope is for a peaceful co-existence for all beings and things, for you are justifying role as the commander in chief of the nation currently engaged in two wars, and you just authorized sending more troops. nobel prizes, especially in peace, are a big joke. you are not the first fighting commander in chief to receive that prize, there were menachem(sp?) begin of israel, yassar arafat, kissinger, who, too, were not men of peace. and the nobel committee did not consider gandhi to be a man of peace. nor was its selection of nelson mandela and martin luther king, jr. in recognition of their peaceful approach to problem solving. It was a politically motivated decision, much the same as why they picked you. the europeans, like americans would not promote a peace that upsets their way of life that can be sustained only if there is the socio-economic apartheid maintained, the veto wielding u.n. power retained.
may you have the audacity to face your fellow beings who are tradition bound, to help them see that living is experienced wholesomely pleasantly when one is free of the fear of the “what if”. and insist upon truth (satyagraha, gandhi’s expression). otherwise, to praise someone is in fact a ploy to create a distance to excuse oneself for not having to live likewise, like: jesus was a son of a god, or gandhi was a mahatma, and I am only an ‘imperfect’ human ( your stated excuse for not doing things differently).