Caste System 2.0


Though popularly believed that the caste system has ceased to exist, we find out that it still plays a silent role in another form

The election of Ramnath Kovind, the second Dalit man to be elected as the President of India, could be considered as a huge step towards establishing a nation that is free from the tyranny of the caste system. The ascension of our president bespoke of how we could be ready as a democracy to gravitate to an India that does not factor in caste for the treatment of its citizens. It served as a probability that we were indeed molding a society that was void of social prejudice. However, the questions still remain – Was it a true reflection of the absence of a social hierarchy? Can we conclude that the caste system is actually being obliterated?

Sadly, it isn’t.

The idea of the caste system has been so deeply engraved in the Indian mind that- contrary to popular belief- it still exists in many parts of India. Hailing from the Chettiyar caste myself, I can speak for the vigorous existence of a social hierarchy. Though it has been relatively weakened and discrimination has decreased, it still remains influential to a considerable extent. It is not boasted in plain sight but is still continued in a disguised manner. Now is the era where we are expected to settle and welcome the rebranded, rephrased and pretentiously justifiable version of the caste system, the Caste System 2.0: ‘Community’.

A community is literally defined as a group of people having a particular characteristic in common. In the modern times, the usage of the word ‘caste’ can raise eyebrows and increase tensions among the people. ‘Community’ serves as an excellent alternative to prevent aggravation, but it isn’t merely just a safe term. It’s a perfectly thought out word that is tailored to the demands of the modern world, particularly the absence of discrimination. It doesn’t directly meddle with the social hierarchy and expect members who belong to a lower caste to honor the conventional caste system, but if scrutinized, we can observe that it still obliquely advocates for the division of classes.

The existence of the modern community is often justified as the means to conserve a group’s traditional practices. Marrying within the community is how such traditions are preserved- a Nair marries a Nair, a Brahmin marries a Brahmin, and a Chettiyar marries a Chettiyar. It is still not uncommon to find matrimonial ads in newspapers and online services that specifically look for a bride/groom from a certain community. This display of parochial attitude is portrayed to prevent outsiders from attempting to damage the community’s so-called ‘reputation’.

The idea of a community system seems harmless to a great number of people. It is often reasoned that a community chooses to culturally isolate itself to conserve its traditional practices and since it claims to not engage in direct discrimination, it’s existence can be deemed acceptable. However, what is deplorable is not the fact that these communities wish to preserve their practices, but the desire to perpetuate practices that were once built upon a sense of social prejudice and dominance. This sense can be conspicuous in modern times as discrimination due to caste has been covert. Nevertheless, the pride of being part of a ‘superior’ caste is still deeply drilled into many irrational minds. This is highly evident where I come from, where no matter the level of education and economic wellness, there is still fictitious pride in belonging to a superior caste. This feeling of pride is passed on to the succeeding generations through authoritarian indoctrination, and the natural human tendency to feel superior also aides the sustenance of communities.

This self-centered view is where the problem lies, and why it threatens our unification more than ever.

Pride resulting from assumed superiority threatens the unity of the people since it is not possible to view each other as equals if one assumes superiority over the other. As it is, our nation has been paved with various ways that lead to social and cultural fencing. Do we need the community system to further aggravate the situation? I believe that our inability to solve the nation’s greatest problems arises from our disunity. How can we solve problems when we don’t have a united front in the first place? If we still allow or pertain to a system that divides us and spirals us out of sync, we will not be able to tackle difficult complexities that demand us to be hand in hand.

I’ve always pondered on a question that I find pretty hard to answer- what exactly is the point of tradition? Of course, it is deemed to have the ancient value passed down by the ancestors to the succeeding generations. But is that it? Are we expected to blindly follow and conserve traditions just because our ancestors did the same? Failure to develop a sensible rationale regarding tradition isn’t rare in India. We refuse to question ancient practices and proceed with the easy answer: “Our ancestors did it, so should we”. What we fail to realize is that at the cost of preserving tradition, we are subjecting ourselves to cultural seclusion. Instead of forming one strong Indian unit, we are carving up sections of people that prefer to have more differences than similarities.

While the caste system is being modified, I think it is important that we also reintroduce the concept of untouchability. This time around one is not considered untouchable by their birth or economic status. Rather, it is by choice. Untouchables are those who still choose to isolate themselves as communities that alienate other people. Untouchables are those who choose to preserve tradition while threatening the unity of the nation. Untouchables are those who still choose to pertain, be it in a disguised or an obscure manner, to the irrational and disgraceful social hierarchy.

As we attempt to open the gates to economic and social prosperity, we can not afford to have a divided Indian crowd to hinder the process. Difficult and pressing issues ranging from sexual assault to secularism requires our consolidated voice. Malevolent ideals such as the community system only leave a haywire and broken populace in its wake. It divides us into sections of people for the sake of fictitious supremacy. When will these communities come to realize that an army of ants is much better than a bunch of deluded rats?


India’s ‘Secularism’ On Trial

From the bigoted beef ban to the gruesome justification of the rape of an 8-year-old, India- a so-called ‘secular’ nation- is experiencing a rise in political religious partisanship


In a secular state where one would expect decisions to be taken independent of religious beliefs, the BJP led Central Government has disappointed us beyond words. We now observe a nation where religion is so tightly entwined with politics and where sectarianism overshadows equality. With the events that have taken place over the past few years, it is becoming clearer that our government has failed in being impartial in its religious conduct. Starting from the beef ban to the rise of Yogi Adityanath to the sickening presence of two BJP Ministers in a pro-rapist rally regarding the Kathua rape case, the Indian government has got it all when it comes to religious prejudice.

The beef ban, which prohibited the sale of cows for slaughter and therefore perceived as an indirect ban on consumption, served as the ignition to the modern sectarian’s motor. It was the beginning of all the factional ideals yet to come, a large-scale attack on the secular nature of the country. The sensitive far right who were easily triggered by the indoctrination went to great extents to enforce the protection of the Holy cow. In September 2015, a Muslim man was killed on the mere suspicion of eating beef. In July 2016, four Dalit men who were engaged in the historically Dalit job of skinning dead cows for leather were stripped and beaten for hours as civilians and police looked on, spurring multiple Dalit suicide attempts in protest. These are perfect examples of how the splice of politics and religion causes disunity among the people. This ban was just another instance of rugged politicians advancing their ideas at the expense of the secular values that this country was once built upon. In pertaining to religious faith while making sovereign decisions, the ban was not just discriminatory but was also a violation of fundamental rights.

The inhuman rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua outraged the entire nation, sparking protests throughout the country. Yet, this barbaric act still succeeded in numbing the humanity of certain politicians. In the aftermath of the rape, a rally was organized by the Hindu Ekta Manch and other pro-Hindu groups in support of the accused. To everyone’s shock, the rally enjoyed the presence of two BJP ministers and an MLA who was later disgustingly promoted to a cabinet minister. It is not the horrifying rape that lies at the heart of the issue for The Hindu Ekta Manch and other pro-Hindu groups, but the sabotage of their religious ego. These groups, supported by these intolerant ministers, have failed to see for what the issue actually is, and have resorted to perceive this issue as a violation of religious beliefs. They have failed to see this in the light of humanity because the prism of religion has diverted the light to undesired obscurities.

Another major setback for secularism in the country was the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in the country. The public revelations that followed his appointment were shocking- here was a man who not only advocated for Hindutva politics through speeches and rallies but went to the extent of forming a communal Hindu militia, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a group accused of being involved in communal violence. Adding to that, he is noted to have taken a combative approach against other religions, reportedly stating in a video that “if they take one Hindu girl, we will take 100 Muslims girls”. In the same video, he continues to say, “if they kill one Hindu, there will be 100 that we” and pauses, as the gathered crowd shouts: “kill”. His chauvinism was further asserted when he said: “If given a chance, we will install statues of Goddess Gauri, Ganesh and Nandi in every mosque.” Drilling such malevolent ideas into the impressionable far-right populace aggravates the already dire situation.

Frustratingly, we have come to a state where it is safe to affirm that the ruling government is currently incapable of making decisions that aren’t colored by religious credence.

Indian discourses regarding Secularism have almost irrevocably fallen into an abyss. It is mainly due to the lack of incentive on the part of the majority and the sensitization of the issue by the far right. It should be generally understood that when a dialogue for Secularism opens up, it does not intend to make arguments against Hinduism, but calls for a political system independent of it. It does not, in any way, contend with the validity of religious beliefs and certainly doesn’t meddle with the study of comparative religion.

We are approaching a plight where we have to ask ourselves an important question- Is this the kind of country that we want the upcoming generations to live in? The kind where religion is so intertwined with politics, where the powerful few advance their pernicious agendas that benefit the privileged majority but don’t align with the interests of the entire nation? It is easy to argue that India comprises of 78% Hindus and the ideals and intentions of the BJP work well for this majority. But a democratic nation holds a responsibility of paramount importance: the equal treatment of its citizens. Secularism constitutes the bedrock of civilian equality, and failure in respecting all religions of the state ultimately leads to a failed nation.

With the current political climate, it seems like all hope is lost when it comes to reviving the secular values this country once held. However, though religion is being slowly woven into the political fabric, it can be stopped if the initiative is taken by the people. Political institutions need to realize that the foremost identity of the people does not lie with religion but within the citizenship of their motherland. This realization comes with the collective mindset of the people, particularly the majority, who are open minded to all religious beliefs. It should be noted that I do not intend to alter the political preference of the people. One is free to support any party, be it the BJP or the Congress. My interest lies in opposing the religious rhetoric that certain parties have. There are ways this is possible- it could either be the removal of the party altogether or disputing the ideals of the party by voicing out and forcing them to fall back when it comes to lacing religion and politics.

As we progress as a nation in an era amidst global uncertainty accompanied by problems such as climate change and terrorism, it is vital that we present a united front that is immune to cultural fencing and religious marginalization. We need to voice out when secular values are being violated by those in power. The clock is ticking, and the silent majority needs to wake up and make sure that their opinions are loud and clear. The responsibility of upholding the secular values of this nation lies with the governed as much as the governors. It is time to take the appropriate actions and come to terms with an important fact: where religion thrives in politics, equality will perish.

Were the US Airstrikes Aimed At North Korea?

A Perspective On The Possible Intentions Of The Strike

The US airstrike that occured recently targeting a Syrian airbase in response to the deadly Syrian chemical attacks, which included the deployment of 50 missiles, was laudable. It was probably the most ‘presidential’ moment for Trump, having made a ‘presidential’ decision, as regarded by many. However it is peculiar that a president who suggested the idea of ‘America First’ and has publicy claimed that America would cease participating in the Syrian conflicts, has opted to take part in the war that was void of America for more than half a decade.

The officially stated reason behing the airstrikes was to respond to Syria’s chemical attacks. It is quite unconvincing that these attacks were purely out of the moral incentive to avenge the deceased and prevent futher chemical attacks, since the diplomatic costs were just too high and ofcourse, it’s Donald Trump we’re talking about.

It is queer that Trump decided to undertake such military actions knowing the consequences, which particulary includes the potential hostile response from Russia. Trump was greatly critisized for his laudatory comments regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin during his presidential campaign, but the recent airstrikes suggest a story on the contrary.

Russia reprehended America’s airstrike, with the Russian deputy envoy stating that ‘the consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious’. Trump was certainly aware this was coming, and the incentive for him to override such threats and foster enemity with Russia, a country which he thought would be ‘great if we got along’, is certainly questionable.

Perhaps, the potential conflicts between Russia and America are exaggerated. While there will be rising tensions between the two regarding Syria, whether it will impact their economical prospects and the bromance between Putin and Trump is doubtful.

These airstrikes could be the result of Trump’s effort to make America look diplomatically moral and stable. The global picture of Trump has been erroneous and everything ‘immoral’ a person could possibly think of. It could be the realisation that diplomacy is vital for America’s economy, leading him to paint a ‘just America’ and a ‘just President’ for the rest of the globe.

On the other hand, Trump’s dissatisfactory perfomance could’ve played a major role in driving this decision. Is it the recognition of his deplorable early presidency days that has lead him to make a globally commendable decision? Was he under pressure to finally do something that marks him as rational and ‘moral’ and prevent further public notions of him being an incapable President? These questions can only solicit the answers of consiprasicts and the members of the Trump administration.

Donald Trump has been eyeing North Korea for a long time now. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had stated that ‘military options were on the table’ in dealing with North Korea’s notoriety. The recent attacks could be an indirect warning for N. Korea suggesting that America will not hesitate in deploying military measures, or even worse, to signify that it is ready for a full fledged war. The advancing of US warships towards the Korean Peninsula right after the airstrikes further supports the possible intentions that America wanted to signify that they were serious about military actions and will not return void like Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump’s budget to increase military spending and President Xi’s visit during these times of America’s involvement in military actions signals a strategic order of decisions. As stated by Tillerson, China and the US will actively cooperate in fighting North Korea together. It is debatable whether these decisions will be benificial for the world, but one thig is certain, with North Korea ready to boldly oppose America, stating that ‘The US and North Korea are in the brink of war’, we could be heading into an era of escalating military activities. Brace yourselves.

Finding Common Ground With Journalists

It has become immensely difficult for the general public in settling with the journalist’s real and intended objective in the society

Journalists are imposed with a very complex job and often fight with their inner advocate when it comes to ethical conduct. They frequently incur battles between their inner advocacy and professionalism. The general public, who serve as the audience and demand to be perfectly informed on issues without bias opinions, mostly find it difficult when dealing with a journalist’s work. For instance, Donald Trump’s fans have repeatedly accused the media of being biased towards Trump in the 2016 elections, and stated that the media has failed in delivering news that looks at the adverse factors of both the sides. To be honest, I don’t blame them. Neither do I blame CNN. It is a complex issue, where the journalists have a dispute between their rational opinions and the objective of their job, and the general public failed to understand the complexity and believe that they aren’t being informed but manipulated.

It is a natural human tendency to pay attention to your indisputable moral values and advocate for the ideas you believe in. Journalists are, in a way, responding to this natural tendency for what we perceive as being unethical. If journalists remain neutral on issues and perform their job of merely collecting and reporting news, wouldn’t it be considered as insensitive for not advocating on certain issues that demand moral opinions?

Let’s take Trump’s scenario for instance. The media had to imply their basic moral outlook when reporting on Trump’s leaked tape that had him conversing in a lewd manner. Failure to imply such an outlook would make such a journalistic media look insensitive and immoral. However, Trump fans hatred for the media grew, and they wouldn’t nudge about their notion that the media was biased towards their beloved Trump.

However, the journalistic media crossed the limits on various occasions. During the election campaigns, the journalistic media failed to shed enough light on the workings of Clinton, which could have made the voters more educated in their political decisions. The sensationalised and emotional coverage of Trump by the media just made things worse. What it has repeatedly failed to do is provide a balanced analysis on Trump. Instead, it has concentrated more on Trump’s impulses and emotional activities.

So how do we exactly approach this complex problem of finding common ground? I believe the solution lies with the moderation of both the journalistic media and the way the common public perceive information. As composite problems arise, it is paramount that journalists present the facts and their opinions in such a way that lets the common public know which is which. In other words, the journalistic media needs to experiment on its mode of presentation and arrive with a result that lets the audience separate opinions from facts. The public, on the other hand, needs to change the way they perceive information. They need to leave room for the media’s opinions and need to use these opinions and the provided facts to formulate their own judgements. Educational institutions need to nurture young minds in formulating an outlook using the facts and the journalist’s opinion. In a world with global political and military tensions, it is vital that the common public and the journalistic media are in sync so that rational democratic decisions are made.

Arguments Against The Idea Of A Democracy

SocratesAlthough Democracies are considered to be just and praised for it’s inclusion of the common public, various ancient philosophers thought otherwise

Plato would ultimately have the last laugh under Donald Trump’s presidency, if he was (un)fortunate enough to live in the current world. As time passes, it’s becoming clearer that Trump knows nothing about policy and became the 45th US president just because of his distinct ability to indoctrinate Americans and attack the media without hurting himself in the eyes of his fans. Trump’s potential presidency years would be resonated in Plato’s argument against the idea of a Democracy thousands of years ago, which revolves around the fact that those who are only experts at winning elections and nothing else will eventually dominate democratic politics, leading to a democracy’s downfall due to the lack of ability to manage the territory and craft appropriate policies. This argument exactly represents the current US presidency; Donald Trump is a man who is only good at winning elections and from recent events, it is safe to conclude that he returns void regarding policies which could ultimately lead to America’s dissolution. With respect to Plato’s argument, it makes us question as global citizens the very credibility of any given democracy.

Plato amplified the thoughts and beliefs of the famous philosopher, Socrates, in his book ‘Republic’ which records the dialogue between Socrates and his friends. Socrates believed that voting is essentially a skill and needed to be taught systematically, he argues that allowing citizens to vote without the required education could lead to political catastrophes and abuse of power. Sadly, he had a first hand experience of his very argument, when he was put on trial for supposedly corrupting the youth of Athens and was declared guilty by a narrow majority vote. He was then executed just because of his amplification for his ideas and opinions. His execution went against an indispensable part of every human in a politically just system: the right to freedom of speech. It is essential that a fair political system protects it’s people’s right to free thinking and speech, such that they can effectively voice out their opinions when their leader or the political system is falling into the Tyranny Trap.

Leaving the violation of freedom of speech aside, it is important to note that Socrates didn’t imply that only a small number should be allowed to vote, rather, he believed that a Democracy should be strongly connected to wisdom. From his perspective, it was unfair that everybody had the ability to vote as a birthright. He believed that it takes deep and rational analysis to choose an appropriate leader, which is mostly improperly performed by the people before the selection process. Legal institutions assume that at the age of 18, a person is able to make rational decisions that makes him/her and the society better off. However, recent events provide plenty of proof that opposes this assumption. It has been mine and the general opinion that Trump’s fans failed to analyze the economic and foreign effects for backing Trump, and were single minded with their hunger for ‘difference’ and their craving to make ‘America First’. The number of people with such a mindset was intriguing. It was hard to digest that such a large number failed to think rationally, which makes us question: Do we deserve a Democracy?

The modern media with their bias viewpoints has incredibly enlarged the information gap for the common public. The people are informed with only a specific stance. Media is one of the pillars modern democracies are built upon, and the breakdown of such a pillar could mean the dysfunctioning of an entire Democracy. The high dependency on the media to make democratic decisions could be looked at as a downside. With the introduction of services like Facebook and Twitter which has led to the spike in the number of fake news, one doesn’t know what is true and what is false. Mainstream media has also been unstable on various accounts. Structuring our beliefs and opinions on such unstable and unaccountable organizations could translate to unsatisfactory political decisions. Again, according to Socrates, one needs to think deeply and rationally to choose a leader and when we don’t have enough data, how can we think from different standpoints?

So do we eventually come to a conclusion that a Democracy is an unfavorable political system in the modern world? Not even close. The alternatives to Democracies, such as Monarchical or Dictatorial rule, are highly unappealing. North Korea, a country which has adopted an absolute Monarchical rule, whose ‘government’ has repeatedly signified through its inhuman acts and violation of basic human rights, that such a Monarchical system will not act with the public’s best interest, making it unsuitable for the modern world. Hence, we need to approach this problem with a different solution. We need to pay attention to these arguments against the idea of a Democracy and rectify it. Since information is key, education institutions need to nurture their disciples to think analytically while making political decisions. In fact, Plato himself started ‘The Academy’ to educate the common people on politics. Media needs to correct itself such that it delivers information with various standpoints and the people can rationally analyze and formulate their opinions accordingly.

Democracy is the only system that revolves around the common public, hence it is obvious and essential that we do not eradicate the entire system, but tackle the very faults.

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Dealing With India’s Cleanliness Problem

Pigs, sludge, road, Jaipur

Photo Courtesy: Erin Pettigrew

As we step into the development process, it is vital that we don’t leave the issue of tidiness aside

You have never wearied yourself discussing about India’s state regarding cleanliness, even though you don’t feel guilty about dropping that Pepsi Can at the roads right before having such discussions. We advise our younger peers to be ‘liberals’ when it comes to the current treatment of the Indian environment, while we insist that it is okay to throw that candy wrapper at the pavement just because we’re lazy to find the nearest trashcan.

As we go for a ride around the streets in India, all we can see is wet mixture of common waste on either side of the road. There’s cow-dung, dog shit, candy wrappers, plastic bottles, newspapers, rotten food items, paper cups. If you could name the most disgusting combination of waste materials, it’s probably there.

Most of us think we are clean, responsible citizens who don’t harm the Indian environment, but none of us succeed in accounting for the things we thought were ‘negligible’. The sum of these ‘negligible’ acts is what leads to foreign documentaries repeatedly displaying our disturbing environmental state, instead of the phenomenal architectural and artistic works that differentiate India from the rest of the world. You don’t even need to predict if a documentary about India might contain disturbing pictures of our dirty streets.

This is supposed to shame us, but who cares, right? That guy who lives across your house dumps his waste in the public roads.

We have muddled such a beautiful country with our waste and argue that India is lagging when it comes to cleanliness solely because of the lack of government attention. The idea of social proof, which doesn’t work regarding issues like Entrepreneurship in India, seems to brilliantly work here since we look towards others to approve ourselves to commit such untidy acts. One doesn’t come to a realization that showing resistance to littering could ultimately cause an invisible ripple effect. I’m pretty sure you might have heard this the thousandth time, but I’m still going to instill the fact that the problem does not lie with the government, it lies with our irresponsibility.

It should be noted that I don’t mean to imply that the government has no role regarding this issue, it has also failed to a large extent in playing a helping hand in assisting the waste management systems and subsidizing the recycling industry. The current program, ‘Swachh Bharat’, has been merely an awareness initiative and has not imposed rules and actions that need to be followed. It is tempting to speculate that the overall impact of Swachh Bharat is very low and has only been an effective publicity stunt. As we delve into managing waste in India, government correction and intervention is paramount.

It’s likely that whatever I have said until now is going to be highly ineffective in changing your littering habits and you considering it as ‘negligible’. Just like TV ads, cleanliness campaigns and catchy slogans, which have all failed to effect the individual’s thinking.

Perhaps, that is the very problem. We should stop tackling this issue from the individual’s perspective and start attempting to solve this problem through the society’s eyes. Let’s assume that an individual develops his care for the environment over time and his beliefs are echoed to the society. Given the level of conservatism among our fellow Indians, the level of education and the time taken to change one’s habits, it’s going to take forever for us to see a visible improvement. When we do achieve a considerably clean environment through this method, the world would’ve probably ended through a meteor strike. This method could prove to be highly ineffective.

When I mention ‘through the society’s eyes’, I try to imply that this matter can be dealt with by considering the society as whole, undertaking actions that directly include and affect the society and it’s collective mindset, instead of targeting each individual’s thinking and habits.

First and foremost, it is important to firmly instill in any Indian mind that littering and unhygienic actions towards the environment are shameful acts. A possible solution, though unappealing to privacy advocates, is public shaming. The fruits we could reap through such a policy would be very high. Of course, it would be impossible to take note of every single act of public littering, what we can do is heed a few through CCTV monitoring and picture shots, and resonate these acts in the mainstream media. Newspapers could assist by having columns that jokingly display the ‘accused’. This imposes that cleanliness is vital among the general public through the intimidation of public shaming. This probably looks likes a covenant that only affects a small number, but it is important to have a broader view and take account of the social effects. Is this pragmatic? That is totally up to you. This is cruel, but so is public littering.

The free enterprise has a huge role to play as well, considering the potential for the recycling industry. Most of the waste in India can be utilized in a productive manner by converting it into useful energy and other helpful materials. Also, various car manufacturers have now adopted to manufacture car seats and steering wheels using recyclable material. It is important that the general public and the government incentivize budding entrepreneurs to take risks and expand the recycling industry, and we could do so by embracing recycling opportunities and educating our fellow peers on this matter. Increasing the number of recycling businesses would increase the accessibility of recycling for India’s subjects, which provides a monetary alternative in contrast to littering. Adding to that, the incorporation of technological methods such as development of apps to contact your nearest recyclers could simplify the approach for both entrepreneurs and the consumers. Various regions like Tokyo have adopted this method, where it’s citizens are encouraged to segregate and supply waste and are paid accordingly. The free enterprise’s role is something I frequently contemplate on, since it provides a monetary incentive for preventing waste accumulation.

The outburst of AI machines is around the corner and with the abundance of engineers and scientists that India has been gifted with, it is vital that they are encouraged by the Indian government to develop machines that tackle India’s environmental problems. If we aren’t going to do it, then let robots do it for us. Drones can be deployed to identify areas that are dense with waste and have been contributing the most to environmental pollution. These areas can then be rectified by deploying intelligent machines or human officials.

Above all, the media needs to divert it’s attention from who’s dating who and the latest gossip in Bollywood, to environmental awareness. Social media needs to shed the spotlight on environmental conservation and hashtags could extensively be used to display those who harm the environment. India is on the verge of facing it’s most difficult problems, amidst political certainty and global tensions, and social media is the tool that should be used by the general public to voice out their opinions and make sure those in power hear it.

The current environmental regulations in India also need vigorous improvement. There needs to be appropriate fines for public littering. There is plenty of international proof where imposing fines have worked, a popular example would be Singapore where littering is highly opposed by the local government and hefty fines are imposed when people are caught doing so. This worked, with the numbers stating that littering offenses had dipped after such impositions.

With our current momentum to make our country a better place to live in, it is essential not to leave tidiness out of the picture. Though the measures such as public shaming might at first sound impractical, the benefits might far outweigh the costs. Along with new and upcoming innovations in the field of AI, we should look towards how we can use these innovations to improve our current environmental state. It is time we stop accusing the government for it’s inaction and start taking matters in our own hands through voicing out on social media and embracing recycling opportunities. This problem of cleanliness has developed into a complex problem and it is essential that we tackle it now through appropriate measures, before it leads to other complications which might demand more of our resources.

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Why We Need Buddhism Now More Than Ever


We desperately need a new way of life that lets us tackle problems in the modern world.

In these complex times of political and economic uncertainty, amidst global military and other discriminatory tensions, mankind needs to look towards solutions that open up the human mind and helps in realising that the problems and solutions come from within. We need a way of life that offers clarity in our way of thinking which further allows us to effectively voice out our opinions and take appropriate actions towards forces that tend to demean us. The captivating ideas of Buddhism are such ways, that suggests in order for a person to be ‘enlightened’, one needs to look towards himself/herself. Unlike other religions, Buddhism considers the seeking of a supreme being as a ‘distraction’ and focuses on the ways in which the human mind can attain happiness. The differentiation of various supreme beings have separated mankind which has led to some discriminatory measures, and the united undertaking of a spiritual way of life such as Buddhism would prevent further progression of such measures.

Since religion is defined as the ‘System of the devotion of a supernatural being’, we can safely say that Buddhism is far from that definition. Although some Buddhists pray to ‘Buddha’, the central figure of Buddhism, this way of life concentrates more on what and how you practice, rather than what you believe in. The central theory of Buddhism can be summarised by The Four Noble Truths:

  1. The First Noble truth: There is suffering and constant dissatisfaction in this world.
  2. The Second Noble truth: The root of suffering and dissatisfaction is desire.
  3. The Third Noble truth: It is possible to overcome suffering and dissatisfaction through the complete removal or management of these desires.
  4. The Fourth Noble Truth: We can learn to move beyond suffering through The Noble Eight-Fold Path. The Eight-Fold Path is a set of aspects that defines the ‘right’ behaviour of mankind. It includes The Right View, The Right Intention, The Right Speech, The Right Action, The Right Livelihood, The Right Effort, The Right Mindfulness and The Right Concentration. These aspects are further explained in detail in various scriptures written by the Buddha.

Apart from the central theory, you must have frequently heard about the interconnection between Buddhism and Meditation. Meditation is nothing but a practice that paves way for self-awareness, clarity of the mind, concentration and compassion for the living things around you. In Buddhist terms, Meditation is one of the methods that allow you to practice the system of the Eight-Fold Path.

In this modern world where people are annoyed because of the economy or the lack of opportunity, Buddhism paves a path in such a way that it makes you realise that the ultimate cause of the problem is within you. Not the economy, not the lack of opportunity. The first step in solving any problem is the identification that a problem truly exists. And according to Buddhism, it’s within you. The solution, the ideas of Buddhism suggests, is also within you. With introspection and achieving clarity of the mind through Meditation, it is possible to identify problems and the respective solutions.

The practices and principles of Buddhism also greatly deal with how emotions and perceptions work and delve deep into the area of logic. This would be favourable to the modern world because, with respect to the current political framework, it greatly helps us in deconstructing fantasies from reality. With a spike in the number of politicians with a malevolent agenda which ultimately leads to the dissolution of the principles democracies are built upon, it is vital that we know how to separate right from wrong and show strong resistance to attempts of brainwashing. We have a huge problem of information asymmetry and bias in the world we live in, the mainstream media does not inform with a critical viewpoint and hence the people don’t formulate opinions with information from different standpoints. We need to have a clear outlook of this world that lets us take note of what is important and form opinions with the respective data. This ‘clear outlook’ of life and the surroundings we live in, is what Buddhism desperately tries to achieve.

The strong interconnection between Science and Buddhism is commonly discussed, since it encourages the impartial investigation of Nature (which is essentially the role of science), while the principle object of study is oneself. More than scientific observations, Buddhism concentrates on the connection between you and Nature, with many scientists going to the extents of stating that Buddhism is a ‘Scientific Philosophy’. The ideas take us to areas that science is unable to explore.

‘Buddhism is a combination of both speculative and scientific philosophy. It advocates the scientific method and pursues that to a finality that may be called Rationalistic. In it are to be found answers to such questions of interest as: ‘What is mind and matter? Of them, which is of greater importance? Is the universe moving towards a goal? What is man’s position? Is there living that is noble?’ It takes up where science cannot lead because of the limitations of the latter’s instruments. Its conquests are those of the mind.’

-The Nobel Prize winning philosopher Bertrand Russel

In the world we currently live in, where various irrational suggestions such as Creationism and the ideas of Islamic Science are put up against the obvious Scientific facts, Buddhism offers an alternative route. It encourages you to make ‘impartial’ investigations of the things around you while embarking on the pursuit of understanding the connection between You and the Nature you have been gifted with.

We are also in an age pervaded by technological innovations which have fuelled the growth of insecurity and impatience. An average teenager is more attentive to gaining social approval than ever, leading to insecurity and lower self-esteem. With the abundance of services available to simplify life, impatience has also become an unwanted byproduct. Understanding one’s self, which is one of Buddhism’s major objectives, makes one realise of the root causes of his/her insecurity and impatience. Questions then arise after this realisation and answers are sought out for.

As time passes and composite problems arise, we need to address these problems with great care and bring about solutions that are effective. We are now heading to a world with an abundance of evil intents, increasing intolerance and insecurity. How we tackle these problems determines the fate of all mankind and we have to do so with Mindfulness, thorough introspection of who we are and the role we need to play for the well-being of the society. Buddhism is just a way of life that offers the methods and principles we need to make the current world a better place to live in, for you, the society, and for the generations to come.

Why we need to explore Space

Photo courtesy: NASA/JPL

‘Children are dying of famine, and you want to invest in space?’, ‘Climate Change! Save our planet rather than explore other planets!’. Do these arguments sound familiar? I’m pretty sure they do since these arguments are mantras for every anti-space-exploration enthusiast. I myself am a pro-space exploration person and I’m glad I have a lot of company on this planet, but people who have a stance against space exploration have justified that using resources for issues we face on earth are more important than exploiting these scarce resources for surreal goals. Personally, I see why one would think in such a way and why it would not be irrational. Rather than allocating these billions of dollars on advancing the standard of living of the people below the poverty line, we choose to invest in space where it may go to a waste since everything is uncertain. Plus, these anti-space enthusiasts believe that we should not be tempted to let curiosity bring humanity to a dead end. However, I still believe that we should heavily invest in space in the coming years.

So what is about this challenging and unpredictable task of exploration that makes it so convincing? To understand the fruits of space exploration, it is vital we zoom into the bigger picture. You see, space exploration is not just about finding other planets to live in or finding other space occupants. Although these are a few major motives which we will talk about, the following are a few pushers that will help you form a broader perspective:

  • Protection from asteroids: This is often overlooked when we talk about space research. An asteroid from space could kill millions or even potentially destroy our planet upon collision. Research and exploration would help us predict such catastrophes and take precautionary measures.
  • Companies are willing to explore space for raw materials: The moon has abundant helium 3- a rare isotope that can be used for scientific research. Plus, the moon is a rich source of elements that can be used for electrical and solar purposes. This is a motive I frequently contemplate on as it is quite interesting because it gives a commercial incentive for space exploration.
  • Increased security: International military observations are made through space technology that help nations across the world to ensure the protection of its subjects in periods of uncertainty and global military tensions.
  • Curiosity: You expected this. It is in our human nature to sought out answers to questions that we do not understand. The ever expanding space imposes more questions than we can answer and the nature of these queries are so palpable that it demands intense curiosity from eager minds. This curiosity leads to reform, and reform leads to space exploration missions.
  • Colonisation: We are facing more and more problems that threaten to extinguish our species as time passes. Climate Change would be a well-known concern that is, disappointingly, still neglected as fictitious by many politicians. Of course, there are various other methods that could tackle problems of this kind, such as reduced gasoline consumption and increased renewable energy programs, but it would be precautious to attempt in colonising other planets since such a planet could serve as an immediate alternative in the case of threatening emergencies. Heck, we have no idea what the hell space can do. Also, if humanity comes to a point where it is unable to sustain Earth, we would have no other choice other than to engage actively in space research and exploration.

However, this topic succeeds in remaining controversial in the mainstream media. Many conservatives won’t agree with what I am saying, but I see why they would not. Other issues such as famine and global poverty demands as much as human attention as space, but we need to allocate funds for exploration in order to sustain the effective functioning of humanity and also to progress and have a safeguard in times of uncertainty. International cooperation is paramount when it comes to space since every country needs to play a hand such that there is an effective division of funds and resources, leaving room for nations to concentrate on issues that demand recognition. The current scenario is quite favourable; private companies such as SpaceX are set to deploy interplanetary transport systems to Mars and NASA is more geared up for Mars than ever before. However, uncertainty in the current global political framework can halt scientific progressions for a long time, and just like space, causing unpredictability regarding our future in the field of space research.

Trump’s budget: America Last


Photo Credit: Tracy O

Donald J Trump never fails to piss off the local and foreign audience with his bizarre and dramatic economic plans. An increment in military spending and decrement of spending in just about anything that actually matters to the American people sums up the proposed 2018 fiscal budget for the United States of America. It’s also important to note that the scientific establishment might take a big hit since funds for EPA and NASA have been reduced. On the matter of increments, Trump’s controversial opinion on increased military spending has been reflected without fail in the proposed  ‘America First’ budget. Deductively, he’s cutting funds for almost every non-defense agency. This is pure cruel conservatism in action.

Increased military spending might have drastic effects in the global scenario. One might think it might lead to a more secure America with the development of nuclear power, but military spending might spark global tensions and an indication of progress for a violence-free world would not be sought out for. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seems to be handling this issue with flow; he stated that military options are on the table while dealing with North Korea’s notoriety. With the assistance of Trump’s budget plans, this further validates the path the USA is ready to take to actively tackle problems around the globe: the path of violence.

With recent reports stating that China is ready to boost its military cooperations with Pakistan and Trump’s decision to improve the American military, this might encourage other parts of the world to boost military spending in order to reduce the state of vulnerability when faced with times of uncertainty. I think it’s about time to stop dreaming about a non-violence driven world for now.

Adding to budget decisions, Trump has made a rebellious move by ceasing to spend on UN’s climate change programmes. The budget also proposes to zero out funds for the Global Climate Change Initiative. USA, a country that is expected to top the contributions chart regarding climate change, will absolutely have no sort of role to play to prevent the potential catastrophes. Well, this was expected.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would face a reduction of 2.5 billion dollars, resulting in a loss of thousands of jobs. Also, the EPA’s objective to keep drinking water clean might be crippled to a very large extent due to this decrement. NASA has faced a minor cut that might affect its proposed missions. Education, Healthcare, programs for the development of the poor have all been subjected to a reduction in funds. Man, you’ve got to appreciate Trump’s balls to devise a plan to screw an entire country at once.

Trump’s nature could be the sole explanation for these decisions. I like to think that Trump is highly single-minded with his economic and political decisions and does not analyse the underlying effects of his proposals. In other words, he isn’t an economist. What he repeatedly fails to understand is that there are various variables in economics that are highly dependent. This budget is just another result of his unadaptable thought process. However, his voters get to go home with what they wanted; an appreciation in military spending, but they are completely blinded from the life they could potentially lead under the activation of Trump’s budget.

The kind of America Trump is trying to paint for the rest of the world should be more than clear now. This proposed budget gives plenty of room for the general public to contemplate on an America that might be on the verge of self-destruction and even worse, more damaging to the global status than ever before. With sensitive countries such as North Korea and China closely watching, military spending could possibly lead to unwanted tensions and might force other developing countries to respond to this unfavourably. Reduction in climate change funds might not be hyped as of now, but upon experiences of adverse symptoms, there will be no turning back. All we can do now is hope that this budget doesn’t pass.