Give them memories

Give them memories

Who is your Role Model? Think of someone you know or knew personally, not a public figure. For how many of you is that a parent or a teacher? If I asked your children the same question, what do you think they would say? Who would they be thinking of you? How do you know? What about you inspires your child? How do you know?

 My own association with schooling goes back to 1958 when I was enrolled into St. George’s Nursery & Primary School as an inmate. From there in 1961, I was shifted to Hyderabad Public School from where I graduated in 1970. Several decades later, I was correspondent of the Arunachalam Higher Secondary School, Thiruvattar, near Marthandam in Kanya Kumari District for three years, as part of my main responsibility of being the Manager of New Ambadi Estates, Kulashakharam. This school had 1200 students and 75 teachers and so was a fairly substantial assignment. We took it from being the worst school in the State of Tamilnadu to being one of the best. That is a long story which along with other stories of my life is in my book, ‘It’s my Life’, which is available for all of Rs. 230.00 from Amazon.in. That is the value of 60 years of living; Rs. 230.

I used the term ‘inmate’ for a reason. It is because most, if not all, our schools are run like prisons. The school is owned by an entity, maybe the state or private; most American prisons today are privately owned and run for profit. Prisons have a set of professionals who run them, called Jailors. In the case of schools, they are called Teachers. Children are admitted into the school just as prisoners are admitted into prison. And their entire existence in the system is characterized by one overwhelming reality; lack of autonomy. Just like the existence of prisoners in a jail. They enter at a designated time and must serve their term and can’t leave until that time is over. The gate shuts behind them and they can’t open it. What they do is totally regulated and this is informed to them by bells or buzzers. We believe that young adults including their teachers can’t be trusted to keep to time limits but must be rudely awakened by ringing bells. Students can’t eat, sleep, play, talk or even go to the toilet without asking permission. I can go on, but I won’t because we were all fellow prisoners in the system, while some of us have been elevated to jailor status.

Another enigma and mystery – the Parent Teachers Association. Ask yourself one question: Who is the school, any school, for? Then ask why it is that those who the school is supposed to be for, have absolutely no say in any meaningful decision that affects them? Yet we believe that we will be able to form discerning, responsible, ethical citizens by ensuring that they never take a single decision in the entire time that they spend at school. We fill their heads with random information and grade them as passed or failed on their ability at random recall within a specific time frame. We don’t test knowledge or understanding, much less application. We simply test memory.

Ask yourself how you define ‘Good student’? Regurgitation of undigested food is called vomit. Regurgitation of undigested information is called passing exams. If you don’t believe me, tell me when was the last time you gave a prize for dissent? What happens to a student who tells you the truth; i.e. that what he is being taught makes no sense? What happens to a student who understands what you taught but not why you taught it or why she should learn it or where to apply it, because none of that is taught? And finally, if the child fails in the exam or more importantly, fails to learn, whose failure is it really? But who gets punished? Whose career can be in jeopardy? And who takes home her full salary without any problem? Schooling is the only system in society where product quality and customer satisfaction have no relevance. To use Mikel Harry’s definition for quality, he said, ‘If you want to see what people value, see what they measure.’ Ask yourself if you measure the quality of your parenting and teaching and if so what is the price you pay when you don’t come up to the standard. That is why you need to define the standard first.

Finally, the last nail in the coffin, the issue of life skills. In our current system, it simply doesn’t even exist. As an experiment, which I do not suggest you do, ask one of our near and dear ones who graduates from Grade 12, to leave home and take care of herself or himself for one month without going to anyone they know. I don’t think I need to describe for you, what will happen. That this happens at the end of 15 years of full time ‘education’ which you paid for and from which everyone involved benefited materially, is to put it politely, tragic. Ask yourself what you would call someone who studied something full time for 15 years? Ask yourself what you call your graduating 12th grader. Then ask yourself why?

This is not a litany of grief nor a doomsday scenario. It is a snapshot of what exists today. I can assure you that it is changeable, curable and that too without too much pain, provided only one thing; that you should want to do it. I am happy to show the way, but like the doctor, I can’t eat the medicine on your behalf.

My first set of questions to you, parents and teachers, is, ‘What does education mean to you? Why do you teach? What do you teach? How do you teach?’ These are three fundamental questions that you need to answer in a way that is convincing and inspiring. Don’t get bogged down by matters of syllabus and curriculum. These are fundamental questions that relate to your whole belief about raising children.

My second set of questions therefore is, ‘What kind of person are you trying to create in your child?’ Do you have a clear definition? Who is your role model for that? Does that inspire you? Does it make you lose sleep in the night? Do you measure yourself against a standard with respect to that definition? Do you stand before Allahﷻ and ask for His help in enabling you to achieve that goal?

It is a design issue first. Then we come to the tools and environment. You can’t build a plane in a train factory. So also, you can’t create leaders in a system designed to produce obedient slaves.

And most important of all, ‘Does your child share this dream with you?’ Because the reality is that unless he or she does, nothing will happen.

I remind you of what I said earlier: Children listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say, until they see what you do.

 My dear friend Advocate Shafeeq Mahajir sent me this story which illustrates what I mean very well.

“I was waiting at a traffic light to cross the road with Haruki, a Japanese friend. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon in a small town on the outskirts of Tokyo and there was not a vehicle or soul in sight. So, I turned to Haruki and said, “Hey, I know it’s a red man but should we just cross?”

Haruki looked at me and shook his head. “No, we wait for the green man.”

I was a bit perplexed – it did not seem to me that it would make any difference whether we waited or not. “There aren’t any cars. Why do we need to wait?”

Haruki smiled, then asked me a question in return: “What if a child is watching?”

That is why in Africa they say, “It takes the whole village to bring up a child.”

Today we are facing a crisis. A crisis of youth. We have the youngest population in the world. We have 526 million people under the age of 25. Out of that we have 272 million between the ages of 10 & 19. That means that for the next 30 to 40 years we will have the youngest population of any nation. This makes us ideally suited to become the workforce for the world. But that is conditional upon two things: a high-quality skill training system and high-quality infrastructure. On the first, statistics of 2016 tell us that we are producing engineers of which 3.7% are employable. That means 96.3% are not. So, even if jobs are created, who will do the work? And remember that this 96.3% failures are of those who made it to engineering college. What about the millions who don’t get beyond school education itself? They still exist, they still need food, shelter, housing, medical care, employment and happiness. What will happen when all they come up against stone walls at all these thresholds?

I was driving in rural Madhya Pradesh, barely an hour out of the capital, Bhopal when I noticed in every single village we passed through, young boys (no girls) wearing trousers (some in jeans) and shirts, standing idly on street corners. Believe me this is the situation in almost every state in North India. South India is marginally better.

When I saw this for the Nth time, I asked my driver, ‘Why are they standing here? Why are they not in school or college or at work?’

He said to me, ‘Sir school khatam ho gaya, college ja nahin saktay, kaam nahin hai.’

I asked him, ‘Kheti kyon nahin kartay?’

He said, ‘Sir, school jo gaye hain. Ab kheti nahin kar saktay. Kheti karna bey izzati samajhtay hain. In kay baap khet mein kaam kartay hain. Betay pant shirt pahen kay nukkad par jama hotay hain aur time paas kartay hain.’

Me, ‘Khatay kya hain?’

He, ‘Jo in kay bapu kamatay hain. Ya phir kaheen majdoori kar laytay hain. Par ummeed bahut oopar ki hai. Wo tho nahin mil sakti. Tho dil udaas hain.’

These are the raw material for the drug trade, for crime. They are the cannon fodder for those who want to gain political power by invoking all kinds of divisiveness and violence. They have no job, no education, no nothing but they have a vote. How do we reach them? How do we help them? We are sitting on a timebomb which is ticking. As I said, I have a solution, so please bear with me.

Infrastructure development means becoming energy sufficient, making world class ports and transportation systems. Without these four things; clean, reliable energy, good transportation, ports and a highly employable workforce, no major investor will invest in this country. I won’t go into a probability analysis of all this, but I think the writing on the wall is clear for anyone who can read. The only way out is high-quality schools which can produce ethical, moral citizens, who are trained as entrepreneurs. Governments can’t help us. We must help ourselves or get prepared to perish.

My solution is implementable by every school and the results will be visible within a few years. It has three interlinked parts:

  1. Vocational/Skill education in all secondary and high schools. Every child must learn a skill and must be able to work with his/her hands.
  2. Entrepreneurial training
  3. Venture Capital Fund to incubate young entrepreneurs

The best solution to combat crime is to give people something to lose. In addition, tough zero tolerance for crime, which means that criminals must pay, not crime.

On top of that we have a society where corruption is not just acceptable but aspirational, people have an entitlement mentality, compassion has vanished, oppression is the law of the land and crime pays instead of criminals. So, teach values before you teach anything else. And remember that values can’t be legislated. Values must be inculcated. You must practice what you preach, or it will fail, and you will lose respect to boot. Your job as parents and teachers is to give them memories. It is those memories that will come to their aid in times of emotional and moral dilemmas. It is those memories which will become their touchstone, their criteria for making their own decisions in their lives. Give them memories thoughtfully because you are giving them memories anyway. Make sure that you give them memories that they will honor you for and remember you by and pray for you and seek forgiveness for you from Allahﷻ when you have long gone into your grave. Let me share with you some memories that my parents and teachers gave me.

During the years that I was in school, Hyderabad Public School, the principal was Mr. K. Kuruvilla Jacob. Mr. Jacob was a legend in his own lifetime. A man who taught me about leadership before I knew the word. Let me tell you one story about his leadership style as I experienced it.

It was 1968 and I was in Grade 8. I was sitting in class waiting for the morning recess bell to go off. My seat was by the window looking out over the courtyard across which were the toilets. To my amazement, I saw Mr. Jacob walking into the toilets with a bucket with cleaning brushes in it. A word about how Mr. Jacob looked and dressed is necessary to appreciate the reason for my surprise. Mr. Jacob was a tall and dark man who always wore white on white. He wore a white bush coat – patch pockets, half sleeves on white trousers and shining black shoes. His clothes were always sparkling white, starched and ironed to a knife-edge. You could cut yourself on the crease of his trousers and look at your face in his shoes. Here was this man in those clothes walking into our toilets with a bucket and toilet cleaners.

I dug my seat mate in his ribs and gestured but before his eyes popped out of his head, the bell rang and we all trooped out silently and stood before the toilets. What did we see? Our toilets, like I suppose the toilets in most boys’ schools, had their walls festooned with rather smelly poetry and prose, to put it politely. What we saw was Mr. Jacob, cleaning the walls of the toilets. He worked silently, ignoring us, spraying the cleaner on the walls and then brushing them clean and washing them down with water which he had carried in the bucket. When he finished a few minutes later, he picked up his bucket, finally looked up at us, smiled, and walked away. He didn’t say a word. Not one word. He just smiled at us and walked away, back to his office. We simply stood in silence and watched him disappear. I was in school for four years after that incident and can vouch for the fact that nobody ever wrote anything on the toilet wall again. Interestingly, the phenomenon of writing on the walls of the toilets was universal – all toilets had this graffiti. Mr. Jacob washed only one toilet. But suddenly all toilets were clean, and no graffiti was ever written on them again. And remember, as I said, not one word spoken. I realize today that what he did was as much theatre as it was cleaning, maybe even more theatre than cleaning, but the impact was powerful and permanent. Leading by example always is. Such were my teachers.

Let me tell you about my memories about my parents.

My father Dr. Mirza Anwar Baig was a medical doctor who worked for the Government of Andhra Pradesh, Mysore and lastly with Hyderabad Allwyn Metal Works in the 50’s and 60’s. I have many memories about him but one of the most powerful is of him in his private practice as a doctor. He started it very reluctantly, mostly at my insistence. But strangely he never broke even. I was perplexed because he was one of the best doctors that I have ever known. His clinical diagnosis was like magic. He saw signs in people that today it takes multiple scans to unearth. His patient manners were superb, and people loved him. He had a long line of patients waiting daily and didn’t finish his clinic until 1030 pm. Yet his practice made a loss. I decided to go and see for myself, what he was doing. What did I see? I saw him checking an old lady and then prescribing medicines for her. She said to him, ‘How much will these cost Doctor Saab?’ He said, ‘Ten rupees.’ She said, ‘I am a poor woman Doctor Saab. I don’t have ten rupees. Please prescribe something cheaper.’ My father put his hand in his pocket, took out ten rupees and gave it to her and said, ‘Go and buy the medicines.’ Obviously, there was no question of taking a fee from someone you just gave money, to buy medicines. This seemed to be more the rule than the exception and so a very busy medical practice made losses.

When we got home, I pointed this out to him and told him that if he is not going to take a fee, I could understand. But if in addition he was going to give people money for medicines, how could his practice make a profit? He said to me, ‘What is the good of prescribing medicines, when I know they can’t buy them?’ In a last-ditch stand, I asked him, ‘How do you know they are all in need? Maybe they don’t deserve your charity.’ He replied, ‘I don’t deserve what Allahﷻ has given me. So, I am not going to see who deserves and who doesn’t. If anyone asks me for help, I will help if I can. Let Allahﷻ judge who deserves and who doesn’t.’

In conclusion, I would like to state categorically, that the situation is far from hopeless. But for us to change our destiny we will have to redefine the meaning of ‘citizenship’ and start acting like citizens of an independent nation, instead of subjects of a foreign government. Our problem is that we have not got out of the colonial mindset. That is why we call our elected representatives, ‘rulers’. And we consider ourselves passive, helpless beings to whom things are done. Our only recourse is to train our children to become active participants in society and create a culture where dissent is not just accepted but encouraged, people have fora to voice their opinions and actively participate in societal development. Schools must play a critical role in enabling this by becoming laboratories of citizenship where children learn to own responsibility and take decisions for the general good. Care of the commons must be a major factor of concern and a change of mindset from entitlement to contribution, the criterion on which we must judge our success. There are many examples from the world of societies which operate on the values of honesty, mutual respect and harmony and a focus on contribution and not entitlement and consumption. The trick is to inculcate these values in our society.

On that depends our future. Not only our development but our very existence.

Now what?

Gauri Lankesh was executed. What else do you call a bullet in the forehead? We know why. The question to those who did it and those with whose support they did it is, ‘Now what?’ 
The problem with using ‘ultimate’ strategies is that when they fail, you have nothing left. Ultimate strategies also indicate another fatal flaw, that you are desperate. Nothing is working. So, you try the last weapon in your arsenal, the most powerful which came with a warranty to destroy all in its path. You fire it. You wait. The explosion fades. The smoke blows away. The dust settles. But just as you are about to heave a sigh of relief, you hear a voice, then another, then another; just like the one you tried to silence. And you stand there, smoking gun in hand, empty magazine, wondering, ‘Now what?’

Sad to say this is not new. According to CPJ 41 journalists have been killed in India since 1992.  https://cpj.org/asia/india/ As a culture we are not tolerant and benevolent as our PR likes to portray us, but are highly intolerant and vicious and brook no dissent to the dominant narrative.


Hegel said, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” If only we read and try to learn from history. But then those who killed Gauri and those who are engaged in manufacturing fake news or earning their living as internet trolls can hardly be blamed for reading.

History is replete with incidents of attempts to muzzle the voices of truth and justice. Anyone who reads history can only come to one simple conclusion, that ideas must be responded to by ideas. Arguments must be met with counter arguments based on facts and logic. Not by shouting, screaming, accusations, threats or bullets. But as I quoted Hegel, ‘We learn from history that we do not learn from history.’ That is why another quote which is attributed to so many people that I place it before you, crediting all those who may have said it, ‘Nations that don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’
 The purpose of all such attempts at intimidation, be it the tirade against Hamid Ansari or Amir Khan or the final step of the murder of Gauri Lankesh, is to create such an atmosphere of fear that people will censor themselves. Make such an example of those who refuse to be intimidated that the rest of them will learn a lesson. What those who propound that theory fail to ask is the final question, ‘What lesson will they learn?’
Take the situation today in this country. We had a nation which was quoted in the world in terms of its economic growth and its glowing future. Admitted we had our flaws, don’t we all? But we could stand in the middle of the chowraha (traffic intersection) and criticize the government without any fear of reprisal. Our Prime Minister was a scholar in his own right, an economist, a teacher and a man respected worldwide. Yet we could call him Maun Mohan Singh referring to his famous refusal to speak on different occasions without the fear of his devotees jumping down our throats. Freedom was the key word in our country, including the freedom to urinate in public, but that is another matter. Today that is the only freedom that seems to have remained if I am to go by a video that someone sent me of someone relieving himself in the Delhi Metro. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m244-kV_h8A
Today however, we have a situation where a young boy is murdered in a train filled by people including police officers and when the crime is sought to be investigated, there are no witnesses.
We have the father of an Air Force Officer, murdered on suspicion that he had beef in his fridge. We have a man slaughtered in broad daylight for transporting a cow for his dairy business when he had all the relevant permissions to do so. We even have officials of one state (Tamilnadu) officially deputed to transport cattle, assaulted and injured for doing their duty. We have a young man in Pune, lynched because he was wearing a cap. The instances of public lynching by what are called Cow Vigilantes are so many now that listing them is not possible here. The instances of online intimidation and abuse are myriad and instantaneous. What is remarkable and should be remarked on is not the incidents but the fact that they all go unpunished. No government can prevent crime totally. But any government worth the name must investigate it and bring the culprits to book. That is what a government is for. It is for governing. Not to dictate what people must eat, how they must dress, what they must and must not speak, who or what they should worship, but to govern the country in a way that citizens are safe. The government is not responsible for the incident but for what happens or fails to happen thereafter. That is what a government exists for. When crime goes unpunished, it spawns more crime. But of course, if the definition of crime is changed, then a crime is no longer a crime and the government is free from blame.
Safety and terror are both buzzwords today which are guaranteed to get attention. The problem is that today safety seems to be guaranteed for those who spread terror. While those who are being terrorized are not even allowed the freedom to mention it, no matter how mildly. Ask Hamid Ansari.
Will the murderers of Gauri Lankesh be apprehended and hanged? Will the murderers of Akhlaaq, Hafiz Junaid, Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh and dozens of others be similarly brought to book? Will I stop asking stupid questions?
When this government came to power in 2014, it did that on the promise of economic development. As the country with the largest number of people in abject poverty in the world, it is economic development that we need like a blood transfusion. That is why we elected this government. But what did we get instead?
Demonetization which destroyed thousands of livelihoods, impoverished those living on the brink, sank SME’s which are the backbone of society, wiped out the savings of the poor and did nothing to the black money and terror funding that it allegedly was aimed at. Anyone who knows anything about economics could have predicted this and many did. But this ‘surgical strike’ (not my coinage) on the economy was done with such swiftness that predictions had no meaning. Then came the implementation of GST. Another body blow to the economy that took down those left standing after demonetization. An initiative with noble intentions but the way it was done was to create confusion and despair albeit giving rise to a completely new multi-crore business of GST Advisors.
What we were promised was development, Sab ka Saath Sab ka Vikas. What we got instead was apartheid, oppression and for those who dared to raise their voice, intimidation and murder. What we were promised was Ache Din. What we are now promised is New India. What we were promised was elimination of black money, bringing back money from Swiss bank accounts and depositing money into the accounts of all Indians. What we are now promised is Cashless India. What we were promised was development for all Indians. What we are now promised is….

Well, as Hegel said, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” My question to myself and you is, “Do you want to prove him right or wrong?”
Ahem! Pardon me, may I say something?

Ahem! Pardon me, may I say something?

We are living in a country that appears to have gone mad. All sane voices are being silenced. All insanity is being given free reign. Since fascists don’t read history it has no lessons for them. For it is too easy to see what happened every single time to those who went down this road of self-annihilation…they were very successful. This road looks very gung-ho to begin with and that is why it draws so many enthusiastic band wagon riders.
To give you an idea, someone sent me a question on Quora: When will India be Muslim free?
What should I answer? I haven’t answered him yet. But I could say, sticking purely to the math: If you kill 100,000 Muslims every year, it will take 2000 years to finish the present population.

Or should I attempt a moral answer? Seems futile for someone who asked such a question.
Believe me, I am not running scared. Not by a long shot. Just very sad about my country whose soul seems to have been hijacked. What is very painful also is that there is nobody among my Hindu friends who I can share my pain with. I say this from experience because when I did share some things with them, I got one of two reactions; Stoic silence or ‘Why are you blaming me?’ Pointless to tell them that I was not blaming them. If our years of friendship are not enough for them to understand that, then I must question the value of that friendship. So, what do I do? I decided not to share. After all, in the end we stand alone.

The fact is that murder for entertainment started the day this government got elected. A Muslim boy was lynched in Pune for no reason other than that he appeared to be Muslim. You may have forgotten that incident but believe me, it happened. Then these lynchings followed one after another, inevitably because success breeds success. To the extent that someone sent me a joke:
Gau Rakshakji ghar par hain?
Nahin, lynch par gay hue hain.
Of course, I laughed very hard.

I am not saying that the government is responsible for the lynching. But it certainly is for what happens thereafter. That is what a government is for, to act against law breakers such that future aspirants are discouraged. So, I ask one simple question. “What happened to the IPC and CrPC?” Does this country still have a CCD (Common Criminal Code) and police and judiciary? If so, then what happened to the people who murdered that boy in Pune? And then to all those who murdered all those thereafter? If murder is allowed, it will happen. From the look of it, it appears that as long it is a Muslim who is killed, nobody cares – not the media, nor the judiciary, nor the police, nor the executive or politician. So, where do we go from here?

This is where we are today. And we are moving fast ahead.
Some good articles are in the English press. However, I remind myself that all these are circulated among a small section of the elite. The vast majority of the non-elites as well as a considerable portion of the elite, subscribe actively or tacitly to the philosophy of making India Muslim free – either directly or indirectly (through disenfranchisement in one way or another). What this will do to the country is not something that they appear to be interested in considering. Soon, it will be too late and all considerations will be moot.

I am among those who bear witness. For he also serves, who only bears witness.
Dealing with a political problem called ISIS

Dealing with a political problem called ISIS

This is truly one of the saddest pictures that I have ever seen. You can see how she is holding back her tears. What have we adults done to our children?
I defend Islam. Not those who call themselves Muslim but go against Islam.
ISIS is a political problem. Not a religious one. 
So trying to explain ISIS and its actions through the Qur’an and Sunnah – the theological basis of Islam is futile and misleading. ISIS is a narrative started by those who created ISIS and to answer them is to play into their hands.
It is like someone who asks, ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ You can’t answer that question in the normal way by saying yes or no. You are damned if you say yes and you are damned if you say no. The only way to answer that question is to say, ‘I never beat my wife.’ Or even better, say, ‘I am not married.’
This is the raising of a voice in the hope that I will be joined by other voices – not only Muslim voices – but Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Atheist, Anyone voices – of people who believe in compassion, morality, ethical behavior, justice and accountability. People who live by principles that reflect integrity and honesty and a sense of responsibility for our lives and actions. People who are not racist and who don’t put a differential value on the lives of other people; who consider murder to be equally heinous no matter who is killed. People of courage who are not afraid to stand for justice, especially when they stand alone. People who don’t do it because they think it will change the world. But who do it because they don’t want the world to change them. People who one day will then discover that the world did change. Change for the better to leave behind a legacy of honor. It is to such people that I speak. And it is they who I wish will respond by raising their own voices for justice, ethics, integrity and compassion.
The people of ISIS will never be able to justify their actions by the Qur’an and Sunnah. This corrupt and malicious group will continue to appear and be cut off until the Dajjal himself will emerge from among them.
Abdullah ibn Amrtreported: Rasoolullah said: ‘There will emerge from the east some people from my nation who recite the Qur’an but it will not go beyond their throats. Every time a faction of them emerges it will be cut off. The Prophet repeated this and on the tenth time he said:
كُلَّمَا خَرَجَ مِنْهُمْ قَرْنٌ قُطِعَ حَتَّى يَخْرُجَ الدَّجَّالُ فِي بَقِيَّتِهِمْ
Every time a faction of them emerges it will be cut off until the Dajjal emerges from their remnants. Source: Musnad Ahmad 27767, Grade: Sahih
Rasoolullah  warned of the coming of a people like ISIS and described their rigidity, rudeness and lack of mercy as signs of their distance from Islam and its true teaching and understanding.
Ali ibn Abi Talib (R) narrated from Rasoolullah: When you see the black flags, remain where you are and do not move your hands or your feet. Thereafter there shall appear a feeble insignificant folk. Their hearts will be like fragments of iron (no mercy). They will have the state. They will fulfil neither covenant nor agreement. They will call to the truth, but they will not be people of the truth. Their names will be parental attributions, and their aliases will be derived from towns. Their hair will be free-flowing like that of women. This situation will remain until they differ among themselves. Thereafter, Allah will bring forth the Truth through whomever He wills.
Those involved in the ISIS, have, by their own actions, removed themselves from the fold of Islam. They have left Islam and those who join them will also be among them. Those Muslims who kill innocent people, Muslim or not, have committed murder. They are liable for capital punishment and if they die before they are punished in this world, then their destination is the Hellfire. This is the consensus decision of all the Muslim scholars of the world. I can give a list of Fatwas for anyone who is interested. We are thankful to our media for publishing them. Every leader of Muslims has condemned the ISIS and their actions. People join the ISIS do so for two reasons: to fulfill their own perverted fantasies or giving in to despair and hitting out those who they imagine are the reason for their frustration. Both reasons have nothing to do with Islam.
When crimes against humanity are committed, it is the duty of Muslims to stand with the oppressed whether they are Muslims or not. If such crimes are committed in the name of Islam, we have a further obligation to clarify for people the truth about our religion.
I live by the motto: I will not allow what is not in my control to prevent me from doing what is in my control. I invite you to do the same. Do what you can. For you will not be asked, “What happened?” You will be asked, “What did you do?” Do something worthwhile. For to live, is not merely to draw breath.
The best and easiest way to deal with political phenomena like the ISIS is to ask one simple question: WHO GAINS and WHO LOSES?
In this case the answer is staring us in the face: Who gains?
Weapons manufacturing countries and weapons dealers gain. Money launderers gain. Human trafficking gangs gain. Leaders with political agendas gain. And power hungry criminals gain.
They say that numbers don’t lie. So here are some numbers. Please take a look and tell me what you think we are really promoting. We get what we pay for; so here goes.
How logical is it to ask for peace when our economy and financial well-being is based on war. Wars happen because they are profitable. ISIS is a highly profitable enterprise and it makes a lot of financial sense to those who benefit from it. Loss of life is called ‘collateral damage’. Not murder, genocide, crime, desolation and degradation of human life.
I graduated in history and political science and post graduated in management and applied behavioral science. Over the past 33 years I consult globally with government, public and private companies, major business families, clergy, police and administration professionals, journalists, teachers and educationists.  So I am speaking from my knowledge base.
In any dynamic system – politics is a dynamic system – a vacuum can’t exist. ISIS got created when the United States decided to wage war based on a pile of lies, in Iraq. That created a power vacuum which the ISIS has filled. Mercifully you don’t have to believe me. The Iraq Enquiry Report, called the Chilcot Report says it all though it stops short of naming the perpetrators as war criminals. But named or not, every man, woman or child with even a rudimentary idea of politics is saying, ‘Tell me something I don’t know.’ I am sure the report is not a surprise for anyone in this theatre.
But we the people of the world, are grateful to the Sir John Chilcot for having voiced all our opinions and backing them with clear data. What remains to be seen is what happens. I don’t know about you, but in my estimation, saying, ‘I am sorry’, after killing a million people, is not enough. Not enough in any criminal justice system in the world. Not enough in any religion. Not enough for any logical, moral human being in any part of the world.
Who doesn’t gain?
Muslims don’t gain. Muslims are the victims; the largest victims of the ISIS. Directly because they are the largest number killed by ISIS. Directly because their lands have been devastated, homes destroyed and millions have become refugees, wandering from door to door seeking charity and dying on the beaches and in the waters of the ocean. Directly because they have become the victims of knee jerk reactions of governments and people who, infuriated at the actions of ISIS, attack their local masjid, Muslim home, Muslim women who have the confidence and courage to wear their religious symbol – the Hijab. Governments are passing oppressive legislation denying Muslims their fundamental rights and using racial and religious profiling as a tool to victimize a Muslim for being Muslim. Governments are treating Muslim educational establishments as if they are dens of evil, seeking to restrict and disrupt their activities to educate their children. It has become literally dangerous for a Muslim in the West to go to school, travel to work or for pleasure or even to go to the masjid.
Truly today it is the Muslim woman who is the symbol of Islam. She is the champion of Islam. Allahis he witness and on the day when she meets Him she will stand with the Prophets. For like them she chose to face the world with courage, unsupported, except by the One who created her and whom alone she worships. I salute our sisters, mothers and daughters. You are our greatest and most inspiring leaders.
So ask, ‘Who gains and who loses?
Today the creators of ISIS are guilty of gross underestimation of its capability. People, even those who are expected to, don’t seem to realize that criminals are the best organized group in any society. ISIS are criminals. They are very well organized.
This underestimation is the result of hubris, arrogance and complacency. We don’t seem to realize that authoritarianism is the most efficient form of administration and volunteerism brings the greatest energy. Quick results that you can instantly enjoy are the highest form of motivation. Such an outfit, especially if it takes refuge in some religious chicanery and deception, attracts people who have passion but no perspective or wisdom. Wisdom and perspective come from introspection, reflection, learning with understanding and studying under a capable mentor. Such people can see through the deception of ISIS and will never join. So it is the former that we have to address, convince and wean away from a course that can only lead to destruction in this world and the next.
We can’t fight that by force or by our own version of oppression. We have to fight it by understanding, wisdom, a huge amount of patience and believe it or not, love. It is the battle of hearts that we have to win. You can’t do that by force. Nobody can do that by force. Add to this the fact that there are clear vested interests in this whole tragic scene, merchants of death who benefit from arms sale, buying stolen oil at cheap rates, human trafficking, using mercenaries to settle old scores and occupation of land. It is a very complex scenario which needs to be tackled on all fronts at once. It is a war of the heart. However, we seem to be bent on helping them to win it.
How does Radicalization happen?
The cycle of radicalization is: Discrimination (poverty, denial of opportunity, fear), fueled by Demonization (of Islam, community), leads to Alienation (feeling discarded, hated). Radicalization (start hating the ‘other’) develops and eventually can result in Violence (hit back). Hit back anyone who is seen as the ‘other’. Radicalization is the reaction to helplessness and despair; which results in desperation and a feeling of having ‘nothing to lose’. This is aided by internet preachers who preach false doctrines of violence in the name of taking ‘revenge’ which the recruits accept because they don’t have the knowledge to see through the farce.
Radicalization doesn’t happen in the Masaajid. It doesn’t happen in the home. Parents are often the last one to come to know that their children have become radicalized. Radicalization doesn’t happen in Muslim schools. The more you attack Masaajid, Madaaris, schools, Muslim homes and Muslims and Islam, the more you help radicalization. Mocking Islam and its symbols is as infuriating to Muslims as mocking the symbols of any religion would be to the followers of that religion. Calling that freedom of expression, is at best delusional and at worst premeditated mischief and evil. Insulting people and what they hold holy and dear is not freedom. Pope Francis, responded when asked about the cartoons seeking to mock the Prophet Muhammad, ‘If my secretary mocked my mother, I would punch him in the nose.’ When asked about so-called ‘Islamic Militancy’ and the demand that he should condemn it, he responded, “If I speak of Islamic violence, I should speak of Catholic violence.” He was referring to the despicable, brutal and barbaric killing of the French priest Jacques Hamel last week. The Pope is a man of rare integrity and courage in the world today. He is a man of god and I pray for him. The priest who was killed recognized his killers as they were about to kill him and said, ‘Go away Satan.’ That is what they are. Satan, Shaytaan. Asking Muslims to answer for them is insulting, misguided and completely unwarranted. The Pope spoke for Muslims and all sane, logical and fair minded people when he made his statement.
To quote a journalist friend of mine wrote to me, “In my understanding, there are two scenarios playing out almost all over the globe, in general, and in the ‘Muslim’ world, in particular. One is the very clear and present injustice being perpetrated through the physical invasion, occupation and devastation of ‘Muslim’ countries for the greater interests of the power-and-arms lobbies within certain governments, thus leading to extremism and calls for blind vengeance among the thousands so traumatized.
The other possible scenario is the devilish execution of an insidious strategy of setting up bogeymen organizations and individuals projected as Islamic forces but which do everything – spectacularly and horrifyingly – against the spirit of Islam, so that, ultimately, the negative tarnishing of Islam and ‘Muslims’ happen effectively, with little blame on the real plotters and script-writers behind the scenes. In both these scenarios – whether the open, or the hidden, one – the loser is the ‘Muslim’ nation.”
This is why education is important. You need education to gain perspective and understand the games people play and how to counter those games.
Radicalization happens on the internet and it happens in prisons. And it is helped and supported by deprivation, discrimination, demonization of Islam and the whole community of Muslims. It is helped and supported by the knee jerk reactions of governments, law enforcement and security agencies and the biased reporting of the press and media. It is helped and supported by media trial of suspects, their torture by police and by their disappearance in extra judicial killings. It is helped when legal means for redressal of wrong are denied. Frustration, desperation, a feeling of being cornered fills the heart. All these are gifts from heaven for recruiters and those selling the doctrine of radicalization.
Let me give you some examples from the recent past:
Confessions of a Killer policeman: Thounaojam Herojit
Then the article quotes: “Herojit went with them as far as the front gate before his parents caught up, begging the men to let him go. He was too young, he didn’t know what he was saying. They would find the money. The insurgents gave in but said, “But first he needs to be taught a lesson.” They made him lie face-down on the ground. One of them brought over a bamboo rod, which the family used to bar the gate. Herojit does not remember how long they beat him, but afterwards the family sat around him and they all cried. And after that, he told us, “I was ready to kill.”
How many times do we need proof that it is heavy handed action that is the best way to recruit for extremism? In this case it was what we can call a reverse process but our actions at law enforcement produce plenty of such cases. Randomly picking up youth on suspicion, holding them incognito, torturing them to extract confessions and then ‘encountering’ them are all gifts for ISIS type recruiters. The law can’t be upheld by those who break it.
Another headline: Campus magazine ‘critical’ of government: After BJP protest, HRD ministry, L-G Bedi ask varsity to explain.
You can stop the open expression of dissent. But can you stop dissent itself? What happens when you try to enforce that? You drive the dissent underground and your problem gets compounded. Dissent is the most reliable sign of a democracy. Dissent is the border between democracy and dictatorship. Dissent is an early warning system for the Government to take corrective action failure to do which can result in them losing power. Dissent is the pulse of the people which indicates health or sickness. When governments shut down legitimate dissent, it goes underground and metamorphoses as extremism. The same thing happens in industry when short sighted managements try to prevent union activity or to play one union against the other. In the end it is the management which loses. I speak from over 16 years of hands on experience with highly militant communist unions in Guyana and Kerala.
In a now famous interview on December 5, 1996 on 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl asked the then Secretary of State of the United States about U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that half a million children have died. That’s more children than died in Hiroshima. Do you think the price is worth it?
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright 60 Minutes (5/12/96) 
“I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”
I submit to you that differential pricing of human life doesn’t work. Human life is sacred. All human life is sacred. The value of a person’s life is not based on his race, color, culture, religion, belief or wealth. We are all human and all equally valuable in the eyes of the One who created us all. Islam doesn’t distinguish between the life of a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Both are sacred in Islam. Both are inviolable.
The punishment in the Shari’ah for murder is death – irrespective of who killed whom. And that is how it should be. Justice is portrayed as blindfolded because justice is when punishment depends on the crime, not the criminal. Differential punishment doesn’t work; just as differential value of human life doesn’t work.
Allah said in the Qur’an about this:
مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَى بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
Maeda 5: 32:  Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.
I want to draw your attention to the obvious, that the Qur’an clearly doesn’t differentiate between the life of a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Killing any person is like killing of all humanity. And saving the life of any person is like saving the life of all humanity. I am proud to say that history is witness to Muslims who practiced this and saved the lives of countless non-Muslims in various conflicts. One of the most famous is the story of Imam Sidi Kaddour Benghrabit, the Founder and Imam of the Grand Mosque of Paris who at great danger to his own life, saved the lives of many Jews who would otherwise have gone to Hitler’s gas chambers. But the memory of the world is short.
Another headline: Israel to demolish 7 agricultural structures, water wells in southern Nablus. http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=772471
Is this a crime or not? What would happen if anyone other than Israel did this? Ask why the same law is not applied in this case. What is the logical effect of such discrimination? Does it need an Einstein to figure this out?
And if this is not enough, here is yet another headline: Israel passes law allowing imprisonment of Palestinians aged 14 and under:
Is this justice? How does this compare with laws related to crime by juveniles? What do you think will happen to those youngsters in prison? Who is ready to ask all this?
Incidentally all so-called mainstream media don’t publish this news. But remember it gets published anyway and so by hiding it, nothing is achieved apart from even more anger. I am not going to waste your time discussing the reasons here. Just want to highlight what is happening in the world which fuels anger and helps radicalization. If we are serious about fighting radicalization, we have to get serious about dealing with injustice no matter who does it or where. If you want to put out a fire, you can’t be adding fuel to it which trying to beat it down. You have to cut off its fuel. Then it will die on its own, even if you do nothing. That is what I mean.
We don’t simply achieve democracy by wanting it. We have to fight for it every single day. The same goes for human dignity, justice, morality and global peace. We have to fight for peace by establishing justice. Peace is the effect of justice. Those who like to talk about peace must ensure that justice is established. Until that is done, any apparent peace is only a recess between wars.
Justice is the enemy of ISIS and all extremist ideologies. Justice gives the lie to the recruiter’s tale. The extremist’s action is the scream of pain of someone who has lost hope. He feels he has no choice. All legal doors are closed to him. So he hits out as his last action to get attention in a world which has forgotten him and doesn’t care. He seeks negative attention which he sees as better than being ignored. Being ignored denies his existence. Negative attention helps him to assert himself once more, even if it is only once. It takes a very big heart to understand all this and to treat people who are hateful, with love. It has to come from within. It is not an act. Acting can’t be sustained. Despair is at the root of all violence and hope is its cure. Our choice.Hope will only come when we return hatred with love. Love those who are difficult to love. But love them because they need love. Love them because that is the cure for hatred. It is not easy. Neither is the product of hatred. We are the people of Mahatma Gandhi. We are people whose forbearers proved to the world that non-violence works. We are the people who proved to the world that it is possible to return evil with good. What has happened to us today? Gandhiji has gone out of fashion. Our rhetoric is characterized by hatred and extremism. Our reactions mirror the actions of our erstwhile colonial rulers, not the actions of our own parents and grandparents who fought back with love. We need to learn our own history.
As I mentioned, I am social scientist by preference and training. So let me talk to you about mental models and systems theory. That is how I believe the ISIS and all radicalization problems need to be addressed and solved. Through holistic thinking and holistic solutions. Not by fragmentation.
“We cannot solve our problems at the same mental level at which we created them.” Albert Einstein
“Although people do not always behave congruently with their espoused theories (what they say) they do behave congruently with their theories-in-use (mental models).” Chris Argyris, Harvard
We all have various mental models and for most of us they are unquestioned and unexamined objectively. We tend to have a lot of emotional baggage associated with them and strong links to our egos and so feel very vulnerable when invited to question them. Mental models we are aware of and question are beneficial to us. Mental models we are not aware of, enslave us.
What to do about Mental Models – 4 Steps
Intervention:
  1. Identify and articulate existing mental models
  2. Map them with desirable mental models
  3. Define behaviors which reflect the new mental models
  4. Put metrics on them to monitor performance
Mental models lead to formation of Stereotypes. What is a stereotype?
Something happens to me involving another individual
  1. I like or dislike what happened
  2. I form an opinion about that individual
  3. I then apply that opinion to all individuals who belong to that group.

We don’t ask ourselves the critical questions: How representative of the group was that individual? Is it fair to that group to take an experience in isolation and form an opinion about the whole group, the majority of whom I have never met or interacted with?
The problem with this is that our behavior with others is based on our mental models about them. We then get responses from them which by means of selective perception, we use to ‘confirm’ our original opinion of them. I am sure with a little bit of reflection on how we think of people we can identify our own stereotypes. Stereotypes are almost all negative and must be dealt with urgently.
So what do we need to do? I don’t want to go into detail here. There is detail which involves working with Systems Theory and if someone is interested we can work on this. But in one line, we have to counter the vicious cycle of ISIS with our own virtuous cycle. Systems Theory tells us that if you want to reverse a Causal Loop you have to start a Compensating Loop. The Causal Loop that ISIS has started is well on its way helped and supported by global actions which can only be called insane. We can’t counter that loop by doing more of the same. So we have to do the opposite.
Action Plan
  1. Vocational training
  2. Entrepreneurial development
  3. Imam Development Program
  4. Transparency in law enforcement
  5. Responsible journalism
Vocational Training
  1. Start a Vocational Training Centre in every school
  2. Every child must learn a skill
  3. Products can be sold and income used for the Centre
  4. Employment opportunity for artisans/professionals
Entrepreneurial Development
  1. Writing a Business Plan to pitch for investment
  2. Budgeting and P & L Accounting
  3. Hiring and Team building
  4. Selling and Service Orientation
Teach them how to turn the skill into a business
Venture Capital Fund
  1. Interest free loans based on Business Plan
  2. Easy installment payment options
  3. MNC/Public/Private firms CSR to provide capital
  4. CEO’s on the Management Board
No government involvement after setting up
Imam Development Program
  1. Involve Ulama (with contemporary knowledge)
  2. Use Minorities Commission or NGO to run it
  3. Teach leadership skills to Imams
  4. Pay a stipend and travel costs (if necessary)
Give the Imam prominence and respect. Work through the Imams and Muslim scholars. Respect them, collaborate them and help them. They are your allies.
3 – 6 month course, covering the following topics:
  1. Understanding current events (no propaganda – just honest appraisal)
  2. How to make the masjid a window into the Muslim life & culture
  3. Cross cultural sensitivity, interfaith dialogue, community service
  4. Refute the message of the extremist from the Islamic ideological angle
  5. Answering questions about current challenges in an Islamic context
  6. Counseling skills
  7. Public speaking skills
Transparency in law enforcement
1.    Sensitivity training for police officers and men. One of the best courses I taught was at the NPA in 1991 on Sensitivity Training which was mandated by the Home Ministry in Rajiv Gandhi’s government. Sadly, it was discontinued later, falling prey to change in politics. I suggest this is revived and replicated in all our states.
2.    Basic course on ‘What is Islam’, for police officers, to remove prejudice. Knowledge is essential to build cross-cultural understanding. It is a strange thing that we live together but know nothing about one another. Must change
3.    Police Public Partnership for Crime Prevention. Take people into confidence in Law Enforcement. Involve elders of the community, lawyers, Imams. Let them see the evidence on the basis of which the suspect has been arrested. Treat the suspect as a suspect, not as a sentenced criminal. Strictly follow due process to build credibility. Credibility and trust in government and police has been seriously eroded to the extent that the default reaction is to distrust and disbelieve anything that comes from either. So even when the police are speaking the truth, people won’t believe them. This sets off its own vicious cycle where policemen feel that there is no point in communicating with people who won’t believe them anyway. There are many cases however, to the contrary in the police, where police public participation and communication has worked wonders. Where highly toxic and volatile situations were defused because people trusted one officer. These cases must be documented and publicized and become case studies in the NPA and Police Training Colleges all over the country.
Responsible Journalism
  1. Media is the shield of the citizen
  2. Media is the conscience of the nation
  3. Journalists are the champions of civil society
  4. Media is not a PR company & media trial is injustice
मंझधार में नैय्या डोले तो मांझी पर लगाये 
मांझी जो नाव डुबोये उसे कौन बचाये 
In conclusion I would like to say that I hope this thought-share will help to put things in perspective and enable us to do what it takes to work for peace and harmony in our communities. The success of a democracy is not only dependent on the integrity of its leaders but even more on the activism of the public. It is the public which needs to remind leaders that they hold their positions at the pleasure of their electorate.
It is when the electorate forgets its power and becomes subservient to leaders that democracies metamorphose into dictatorships in all but name. The alternative to justice is injustice, pain and suffering. In our interconnected world, the much touted Global Village, nobody will escape.
I know that when all is said and done and when we stand before our Creator – all of us without exception – we will not be asked, ‘What happened?’ We will be asked, ‘What did you do?’ At that time, I want to be able to say, ‘I didn’t let what I couldn’t do prevent me from doing what I could.’ I wish the same for you all. I want to end with an excerpt from an excellent article that I read some time ago.
Its last paragraph beautifully sums up the issue: “All of this puts Muslims in a double bind: If they just go about their lives, they stand condemned by those who demand that Muslims “speak out.” But if they do speak out, they can expect to be told that short of declaring their sacred texts invalid, they are fooling themselves or deceiving the rest of us. Muslims are presented with a brutal logic in which the only way to truly disassociate from ISIS and escape suspicion is to renounce Islam altogether.”
Dilemma of the Revolutionary

Dilemma of the Revolutionary

This is a thought-share primarily for South African leadership who may be interested in an outsider’s view of the changes happening in their country. I have taken the liberty of adding my comments on what I believe will be helpful to do. I am not preaching to anyone. This is a thought-share with anyone who is interested. That’s it.

When I graduated in Political Science in 1975, I never thought that I would live in a world where I would actually be able to see almost everything I studied and some more, happening. My world was a stable place with little change, yet poised to take the dive from there into the maelstrom of change that we have become so familiar with today. Yet that happened and that too in less than two decades.

I was in South Africa last week on my pilgrimage as I like to call my visit to Kruger National Park; truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. As always I also met my old friends, made new ones and watched with interest the changes since my last visit which in this case was in 2014. I have always maintained that there is much for South African leadership to learn from the post-independence history of India which would be learning without the pain of actually repeating that history in their own post-independence development. This article is to help those who are interested to do that.

India also came out of its colonial slavery, though without bloody revolution. We shall not mention the fact that we made up for the bloodletting during partition and the formation of Pakistan. The new leaders, Nehru and gang, who took over from the British White Sahib Bosses faced the same post revolution dilemma – how to make the dream you sold to the people come true.

The Indian National Congress headed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister, ‘solved’ the problems of job creation and land distribution by creating huge Public Sector Organizations run by bureaucrats who knew as much about running a commercial operation as I know about flying a plane. The purpose was to create jobs. Not manufacturing efficiency, quality or innovation. And that purpose was achieved by employing at least three people to do the job of one. Worker friendly legislation made it a crime even to frown at a worker who didn’t – hold your breath – work. Trade unions became very strong, backed the political party which made the rules and later became the arbiters of power themselves. As long as nobody asked questions about efficiency, productivity, quality or profitability this completely impossible system continued and Nehru and his successors were able to ‘show’ how they were delivering on the promises made during the Independence Struggle. Nobody asked, ‘How long can this continue?’ It didn’t, as we shall see.

Land distribution was also handled in the same way through legislation which abolished the Zamindari system (feudal system where one person owned the land which was tilled by tenant farmers who were in many if not most cases, bonded laborers) and introduced the Land Ceiling Act. What happened was that large land holdings were divided up into small plots and given away to the tiller. Sounds so nice and cuddly but with it came the problem that the small owner – the erstwhile tiller – had neither the capital for inputs nor the knowhow about cultivation. He had been a poorly paid worker who did what he was told. Suddenly he became a land owner. So two things happened. Land which had been previously cultivated and yielded good crops, lay fallow and barren and the new ‘land owner’ went to work on a construction site in a city as a manual laborer; since that was the only marketable ‘skill’ he had. Others, many if not most of the new ‘land owners’ went back to the old owners and handed in their papers and said, ‘Please give me my job back and you can have the land.’ So officially they remained owners on paper. But the old status quo of the land owner returned. Militancy also came into being with some of the newly liberated bonded laborers wanting to keep their land and till it. Old owners tried to throw them out with the help of the police and the Naxalite Movement was born. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naxalite
On the industrial front, Public Sector Corporations reached their size of self-implosion and simply got too unprofitable to run. Government ran out of money to pay salaries and mandatory increments. Labor laws originally created to protect the worker became means of encouraging non-productive behavior. Unions went over the top and in states likes Kerala and West Bengal literally paralyzed business and industry. Voting-in another party did nothing to change the situation. Finally, Government brought in what they called ‘Liberalization’ – liberating themselves from their false promises. The back of the trade union movement was broken. Today there are no unions in the entire IT and ITES industry in India. Privatization of many areas took place. Manufacturing became more efficient but the ranks of the unemployed increased. Problem still not solved. In India what helped was the intrinsic entrepreneurial nature of the Indian which resulted in a lot of small and medium enterprise happening all over. Credit became easier to get with nationalization of banks. And the strong family system helped to keep people alive and kicking.

Huge numbers of Indians went to work in Gulf countries and their inward remittances supported their families. Indians by nature are fatalistic and not militant and so no major public unrest happened though public misery is all too visible. We’re far from being out of the woods because we are now going on the track of fast becoming an oligarchy – with too many millionaires and too many poor people. And the future looks bleak, especially for the poor.

Naxalite militancy is on the increase though not in cities yet. Crime is rampant though since the media is the mouthpiece of the establishment, goes unreported. Rampant farmer suicides are one major indicator of a very sick society. Corruption at an unprecedented scale is another. From being something that existed quietly and was indulged in clandestinely, corruption is now an aspirational goal, indulged in totally without shame. The industrialist – politician – bureaucrat nexus is working very well to corner resources for the few at the expense of the many. Fear rules and life is cheap and easily lost.

India is a notoriously corrupt country, with Transparency International giving it a rank of 76/168 (USA is 16/168) where crony capitalism thrives (On the World Bank Groups “ease of doing business index”, India is 130/168 and the USA is 7/168) and where inequality reins with extreme poverty (GINI index of 33.9, along with a HDI rank of 135/168).  India is also a thriving democracy.  All of these things combine into the one obvious conclusion:  one of several established parties compete on the best way to manipulate elections using money and muscle-power. (Source: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/05/02/1484829/-Bernie-Sanders-and-Arvind-Kejriwal
But India is a big country and as they say, ‘Even a dead elephant weighs five tons.’ So the effects of all this are not yet crippling. But we are getting there, fear not. We are getting there.
In 1995 I went to South Africa soon after they became independent but the only black people I saw were the waiters in my hotel and the servants in the houses of white people, who invited me to a braai. I stood on the viewing deck at the top of the Sun in Sandton at night, the city bright with lights except one big black hole in the distance. I asked someone if there was a power outage. The white man smirked and said, ‘This is not India. We don’t have power outages. That is Soweto. They have no power.’ Very interesting, I thought – arrogance apart. In India we have power outages and still do double digit growth while in Apartheid South Africa not giving power to the majority of citizens was state policy.

I went back to South Africa in 2005 and since then have been going there almost annually for what I call my ‘pilgrimage’ to the Kruger National Park. A journey of love which I look forward to for the eleven months that separate one from the next. I also meet lots of people, businessmen (have I met any businesswomen?), politicians, academics, educationists, farmers, doctors and other professionals, game rangers, students, professors (aren’t they academics?); Blacks, Whites, Indian, Colored, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, Hindu, I-don’t-know-what-I-am; you name it and I’ve met it. They talk and I listen. I talk of course and sometimes they don’t like what I have to say but that is the risk of being an analyst – distance gives perspective because perspective is a function of distance but people who are close to the ground, who don’t like the diagnosis you give them, say, ‘You don’t live here. You don’t understand our reality’. Forgetting that it is precisely for that reason – because I don’t live in South Africa – that I can see and understand the reality of what is going on.

As I have said before, it is cheaper to learn from other’s mistakes than to make your own. South Africa is in the unique position to learn from the mistakes of India but seems unable or unwilling to do so. I have been trying to convince all those I speak to when I visit there, to study post-independence India and learn lessons to apply in post-independence South Africa. They all listen respectfully, agree with me entirely about the need to learn, feed me great food, take me to Kruger Park, I put on weight and come home. Nothing changes. I love the hospitality of course and thank my hosts but remind them that I can afford my meals and didn’t go there for free food. If they don’t change their ways, then I shudder to think about what will happen. And I can’t stop that from happening. There are enough examples in Africa itself to look at.

So what is going on in South Africa? A revolution is taking place. It is in progress. It is happening as we speak. But it is a revolution without formal leadership, without clear ideology, without a strategic game plan. It is a revolution of nature. Of human nature to do what it considers best for its own survival, without sometime bothering about any long term results of precipitate action. It is very dangerous.

‘Ha! Wrong again’, you say. ‘Our revolution ended in 1995 when we became free of the apartheid regime. Now it is payment time.’

‘No’, I gently remind you. ‘1995 was the first stage in that revolution to become free. You reached that step. The revolution continues and depending on what you do; it can make you truly free or enslave you once again.’ The choice is yours. I am the analyst, remember? Also remember, shooting the messenger doesn’t turn bad news into good. South Africa is poised on the brink. It can become a case study of what to do or what not to do. It is your choice.

Let me talk some theory first – Revolution 101.

Oppression is oppressive and sows the seeds of its own destruction at its inception. Those seeds germinate in thoughts of freedom. Grow in the atmosphere of yearning for freedom seeing others becoming free. Are watered with the blood of martyrs. Martyrs die and more are needed so those running the revolution have to sell a dream. A dream where in effect the oppressed get everything the oppressors have today. Streets paved with gold, big cars, bigger homes, jobs for everyone, food galore. As the lyrics of the song go, ‘Money for nothing and the chicks for free.’

Nobody asks the real question, ‘How likely is all this?’ Nobody asks and nobody cares, because dreams are supposed to be unrealistic. And let’s face it, if it was not attractive enough, why would I leave my family to go and die in the street? I didn’t go to die. But I went and I died. And that was some more irrigation for the dream to grow.

Finally, it comes true. We are free. Now what?

Now I am waiting for my job, new car, home, food, 24-hour power supply, clean water, hospitals – you name it and I want it. But it doesn’t come. Why not? Because the dream was a dream and dreams have an inconvenient way of coming true with strings attached. But nobody told me that. Well, let’s face it. If someone told you that you would have all of the above and more but that it would take two generations of hard work to get it, would you have fought to throw off apartheid? If someone had told you that you would have to go to school and college, study very hard, compete for jobs like everyone in every other country does, would you have died to give others a chance at that? If someone had told you that there’s no free meal and no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, would you have endured the suffering of the revolution? But that is the reality. Like it or not. So the chickens do come home to roost. The promises have to be fulfilled. People will hold you to them, Mr. Revolutionary Leader. And you can’t say, ‘They are not realistic.’ Because you made those promises and at that time you didn’t tell me that they were not realistic. You sold the dream. Now deliver. Or help me understand what to do to get it.

Every revolutionary party faces this. The let-down at the end of the revolution, when you expect to be in a permanent state of high in your dreamland come true. But instead face disillusionment, disappointment and even despair. This is the crucial threshold that all political parties who run revolutions have to face and cross if they want to succeed and actually give the people the beautiful life they promised them.

If this is not done, what’s the next step in this cycle?

Another party arises and sells another dream. ‘We will give you everything that these liars promised and failed to deliver. Jobs, electricity, water, homes, cars, everything. And you need do nothing except to support us. Support us and you will have it all.’ And believe it or not, people are ready to believe this story once again. They don’t ask the crucial question which they should have asked in the first place – “HOW?” And the cycle repeats. Until of course one day you get a new leader who decides that he can’t really give people what they want but also doesn’t want to give up power and so a new dictator is born. There are plenty of examples of this in Africa itself – Uganda under Idi Amin for example and others which I am sure I don’t need to name.

But as I said earlier, in our world of change you don’t have to go that far back to see this cycle come full circle. Look at Egypt. As they say, ‘Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Hosni Mubarak was oppressive to put it politely, for decades. Then came Morsi and the Ikhwaan. Sold the dream of freedom, jobs, food and won an election that nobody thought they would win. But once again the people were not prepared to face the reality, that it is not magic. Everything will happen but not overnight. I was in Cairo and Marsa Alam in April and May that year and saw people sitting in roadside cafes, drinking tea and discussing politics. I knew this was a very ominous sign. Disgruntled people with real woes, sitting around in tea shops or bars talking politics in a free country is always dangerous. Sadly, my fears came true and Morsi’s government fell and Sisi came to power; even more oppressive than Mubarak. Circle is complete. The future is bleak.

Another good illustration of this process is that of growing up from childhood. A small child is dependent entirely on its parents. So it ascribes all its life experiences to them. If it is happy, parents are good. If it is unhappy, it the fault of the parents. To an extent this is correct because parents have power and the child doesn’t. However, when the child grows up, this equation changes. Parents are no longer powerful or even present. However, many people fail to grow up mentally and simply transfer this attitude of ‘Someone else is responsible for my happiness’, to their spouses or bosses and go through life blaming others for whatever happens to them. True growing up is to own responsibility for yourself. Not merely to grow facial hair or other indicators of physical maturity. Real maturity is when the individual takes charge of his or her own life and says, ‘This is my life and I am responsible and I will do what it takes to make it the most productive and beautiful life possible.’ Only then is the person truly grown up and not simply a 30 or 40-year-old child. And this transformation can happen at any age. Not only at 30 or 40.

The same is the case with countries that are under the yoke of oppression. People get used to being powerless and to blaming the ruling class for their problems. As in the case of the child, this is true because they are powerless. But oppression fuels rebellion so some take ownership for this powerlessness and decide to change it and the revolution is born. But what happens is that in the heat of the struggle, nothing is done to enable others to grow up also. And so when independence is won, others merely view the new leaders in the same role as the old – i.e. ruling class – and look up to them in the same way – they are responsible for my happiness. Same chairs, different bottoms. This is dangerous for the ‘ruling’ party especially as they will be held responsible for the dream not coming true. And the cycle which I mentioned above happens.

Nobody tells the people that there is no ‘ruling class’ now. That they are the rulers. So if they don’t like something they have to change it. They can’t any longer blame someone else. They have to collaborate with government to make it productive. Not cop out and sulk or attempt to run away. There is nowhere to run. One can’t really run away from oneself, can one? Same logic.

This is exactly what is happening in South Africa today. I don’t need to describe what is happening there. It is all too visible. Hubris at the success of the struggle. Then like kids in a toy shop filling the pockets with all the toys you can get your hands on. Forgetting that now you own the shop and so you can’t steal from yourself. You can only harm yourself by filling your pockets. Meanwhile the people who followed you are still used to the ‘ruling class’ attitude. Nobody told them that there is no ruling class any longer. They are the rulers and so they get to carry the can. They supported you in the revolution – they believed that they were working for you, not themselves. They believed your sales talk about what they would get when they won the revolution. You forgot to tell them that it would take time, investment, sacrifice, hard work and still more time. So they are now waiting to get it.

“I am entitled to it. So give it to me.”
“Work? I already did that. I fought in the revolution (or my father or grandfather did) and so I am entitled to the candy. Where is it?”
“On top of that, I see the toys you put into your pocket. I see the candy (corruption, privilege) that you are eating. So why can’t I also eat it?”
But enough of diagnosis. Let us look at solutions. So what is the solution?

Two things:
  1.     Leadership: Put your own house in order.
  2.      Change the mindset from ‘Entitlement to Contribution.’

Here’s a more detailed explanation:

     Put your own house in order:

Take the candy out of your pocket and put it back on the shelf. And apologize for taking it out of turn. Help your friends also to do that. The sooner this is done the easier and less painful it is. Delay is suicidal. Corruption is a cancer that is infectious and kills as surely as the real thing. You have to look after your cow. You can’t milk it and not feed it. You can’t cut out a piece of meat because you are hungry. The cow will die and you will die with it. Corruption is suicide. Root it out ruthlessly and quickly, needless to say, starting at the top. If the head is sick the body can’t be healthy. So do whatever it takes to cure the sickness. Swallow bitter pills, perform surgery, cut out the cancer before it kills you. I don’t think it’s necessary to say anything more.

Tackle crime urgently. Investigate, prosecute and sentence. Sayings like, ‘South Africa’s national sport is rape’, are not funny and indicate a very sick society.

Year
Sexual Offences
Murder
Robbery
2015
53,617
17,805
54, 927
2014
62,267
16,914
53,424
2013
66,197
16,211
53, 439
Cumulative since 2004
7,83,687
2,12,312
7,83,680
The figures are horrific and I can perhaps safely say that they don’t include a single politician of any hue. It is only poor people who have no protection who die and are raped. More people die violently in South Africa than in many war zones. And remember that it is safe to say that in all these cases the number of crimes actually committed is more than those reported.

I personally know of two cases of major robbery and one where a person was shot through the leg that were never reported. The reason, which I was amazed to hear, was that people have no faith in the police. This is a very serious matter, where the citizenry has lost faith in Government. Sad to say that there appears to be very little, if anything done by the Government about it. This is something that sits squarely in the lap of the Government and must be dealt with urgently. If necessary, reinstitute the death penalty. Criminals can’t have more human rights than victims.

South Africa’s crime is the single biggest deterrent for foreign investment. The apathy of the Government in tackling it is impossible to understand. It appears that there is a high level of collusion between police and criminals without which such levels of crime would be impossible.  

The second biggest deterrent for foreign investment is the general lack of skills, the result of a failed education system. This again is something that is critical to address and correct without which South Africa will not be able to attract large investors who would be very happy to invest there and set up manufacturing facilities. South Africa needs vocational schools that can train people in marketable skills that can enable them to earn a living. This would directly impact the job market and provide jobs and enhance the quality of life but it can happen only when the country can offer a high level of skills in the workforce. South Africa is the gateway to Africa but at present this seems to be used mostly by the drug trade. Control of crime, drug cartels and skill development to provide good jobs is the key. I have suggested some ways below.

Change the mindset of people from ‘Entitlement to Contribution’.

Educate people on the steps forward and show them a realistic plan where they can see how to succeed and taste that success in a reasonable period of time. It is essential that people see results in their main pain areas and see them fast. Government must be seen to be doing things. Saying, ‘We won freedom for you’, is not enough especially for a generation which didn’t see apartheid. This requires the following:

The public education system needs major overhauling. That is a subject in itself so I won’t talk about it here, except to mention the need to address this urgently. The current system is designed to create failures. It must change.

Introduce Vocational Training in all schools. Every child must learn a trade or skill by the time they complete schooling. That way they will have a marketable skill which they can use to earn a living. It is critical to develop a thriving middle class. Give people something to lose. The problem today is that people have nothing to lose.

Rejuvenate the Farm Schools and train children in farming while completing their primary, secondary and high school education. Get them connected to the earth. That is the best education and will prepare them for the real thing later. The Afrikaners knew what their Farm Schools produced. Just replicate that and you will get the same results. People connected to the soil are people who are interested in the development of the country.

Ministry of Small Business: The Right Step Forward – But…
o   It is completely untenable that the Government is the biggest employer in South Africa employing over 45% of the employed population. No government has the money to pay that salary bill or to take care of inevitable increments, social welfare expenses and so on. There is a critical need in South Africa to create a robust class of self-employed people who not only take care of themselves but provide employment for others.
o   As the sub-heading of this section says, the initiative to set up a Minister of Small Business is an excellent step. This must be supported and results measured. A good idea is to seek ‘Customer feedback’ to see how Government’s initiatives are being experienced by those for whom they are meant. In my own search on the net, I have seen some excellent articles. One is here: http://bit.ly/1rAOIo0 And another one: http://www.sacsis.org.za/site/article/2020 So listen to people and recruit them in enabling small businesses to succeed.
o   Provide training in all aspects of entrepreneurship. In my view this is the key to development, eradication of crime, handling the food and energy crisis and education in South Africa. Enforce entrepreneurship.
o   Set up a Venture Capital Fund to provide prospective entrepreneurs with interest free loans. These must be given after a rigorous selection process of examining business plans and ensuring that they have a high likelihood of success.
o   The capital for this fund can come from major multinational companies operating in South Africa as part of their CSR. I know this is being done by some progressive CEO’s but it must be hugely boosted. I believe that the way to do that is by creating a full-fledged Venture Capital Fund that is available to all aspiring entrepreneurs. Business CEO’s will recognize the value of such a fund and will fully support it. Invite them to sit on the Board and run it – not government bureaucrats. We need businessmen/women to run this Fund.
o   Pair new entrepreneurs with established businessmen and women who can coach and mentor them.
o   Set up a National Entrepreneurship University that trains in all kinds of vocational skills and starting up businesses.
o   Award Prizes for successful startup ventures in all provinces and at the national level. These should be significant monetary awards that encourage people to participate and are worth working for.
o   Institute special prizes for entrepreneurial initiatives in key areas like poverty eradication, alternate energy, education, food production, transportation, health management and other high need areas. Prizes must take into account, innovativeness, social consciousness, creativity.

A vibrant middle class is essential to survival in any economy. The bigger the middle class the bigger the market for goods and services and more money flows into the economy and is available for public services like healthcare, education, transport and so on. Contrary to the myth of trickle down, money doesn’t flow down from the superrich or from global multinational corporations into local economies. The superrich don’t use local services, live in ivory tower isolation and are generally unaffected by local conditions as they are surrounded by cordons of insulation. Multinational corporations are answerable to their shareholders who don’t live in Soweto (so to speak) and so they don’t care what happens in local economies. Many don’t even employ local people, except in menial jobs because locals may not have the education and skills that they need.

Countries like India and China score over South Africa in this regard because we have a very strong education and skill base and can actually provide potential employers, people of equal competence at a much lower cost. That’s not the best USP – buy me because I am cheap – but it works for a while anyway to build a middle class. South Africa has a lot of catching up to do. However, I believe that if the things that I have mentioned above are done and done urgently, then South Africa will be able to solve its problems of crime, unemployment and political unrest and create a stable, vibrant middle class with a high standard of living.