Wednesday 29 October 2008

Something fishy at Sula wines

The other day I took some of my guests to Sula Wines on the outskirts of Nashik. The last tour of the day was just beginning, and one of the employees, Gaurav, encouraged us to join. I asked about the cost. He said it was free. We took the tour, and at the end the tour guide told us we were obliged to do also the tasting, for which there was a charge of either Rs 100 per head for 5 wines, or Rs 150 per head for 6. We were surprised and told him what Gaurav had said. He said okay, in that case at least 3 of you should do the tasting.

All 5 of us did the tasting, and I must say the wines were excellent: a dry Sauvignon Blanc, a semi-dry Chenin Blanc, a Zinfandel rose, a Cabernet-Sauvignon, and a sweet late harvest Chenin Blanc. But it was such a hurried and paltry affair, with no time to really savour the wines. We were left with a very bad taste in the mouth.

Something fishy is going on at Sula.

Psychologizing and self-appropriation

Contemporary philosophy has, after Heidegger and Wittgenstein, a horror of 'psychologizing.'

I do not think Lonergan can be accused of naive psychologizing of the Dilthey type. However, Lonergan has far less fear of such an accusation. I think he runs with the tendency of contemporary psychology which believes in attention to feelings, naming them, accepting them. Lonergan's 'generalized method' may be seen as self-appropriation of cognitive and existential interiority, or the whole business of being human: focussing attention on, identifying and naming, affirming elements and structures of consciousness across the board.

In his later writings, in fact, Lonergan explicitly draws attention to the parallels between his work and that of contemporary psychologists. But Insight itself draws abundantly upon the psychological work of the time.

Don Bosco's choice of Rua

Don Bosco and Don Rua: two very different personalities and temperaments. Don Bosco was the founder, the initiator, the innovator; his was no logical mind, and according to P. Stella, creative confusion reigned in his house. Don Rua was, from all that we know, tidy, organized, neat, logical, orderly. But the fact remains that Don Bosco did not choose another like him. He chose Rua. Instinctively he chose what was best for the work. For if Don Bosco was an intuitive-visionary (NT) type of personality, Don Rua was solidly the down-to-earth practical type (SJ) that gets the work of the world done. Don Bosco's choice was psychologically very sound. He found someone who could continue his work - and not another founder.

A lesson for us when we choose our collaborators.

Don Rua, creative follower

There are successors and followers whose ruling desire is to establish their originality. There are others, and don Rua is among these, whose ruling desire is fidelity. It struck me just now that both types innovate, for there is just no continuation without creativity. But the attitudes are vastly different. The former is centred on himself, while the latter is not centred on himself, but on that other whose successor he is. So he innovates, but it is only after decades that people realize the brilliance of his innovation. Thus Gadamer followed Heidegger, and we are only today beginning to realize just how different the pupil was from his master. Thus also don Rua followed Don Bosco, and in this case I think we have still to realize just how innovative he was, and how creative his fidelity was.

Pope Paul VI says of Rua:

He made the example of the Saint a school, and his personal work an institution extended... all over the earth. He made his life a history, his rule a spirit, his holiness a type, a model. He made the spring a stream, a river. The marvellous fruitfulness of the Salesian family, one of the greatest and most significant phenomena of the perennial vitality of the Church in the last century and in ours, had in Don Bosco its origin, in Don Rua its continuation. It was this followr of his that from the humble beginnings at Valdocco served the Salesian work in its expansion, realized the felicity of the formula, developed it according to the letter, but with ever inspired newness. Don Rua was the most faithful, therefore the most humble and at the same time the most valiant of the sons of Don Bosco.... Imitation in the disciple is no longer passiveness, or servility; it is leaven, it is perfection (cf. 1 Cor 4,16). (From a homily of Pope Paul VI, 29 October 1972, emphases added)

Sunday 26 October 2008

The world is round...

There was a young Salesian student of philosophy who discovered, in the course of his first year, that the world was round.

Trying to digest this strange idea, he assumed that the world was round like a dish.

He was terribly upset when one of his friends pointed out that the world was round, not like a dish, but like a football.

He then assumed that the world was the inside of the football: solid earth on the lower half, and the sky on the upper half.

He was told then that it was round like the outside of a football.

Then the problems began. How do people not fall off?

That is a good question: how do people not fall off, if the world is like the outside of a football?

It just won't do to mouth the schoolboy answer: because of gravity.

It is good to ask: what is gravity?

Semitization of the 'mystical' religions

Journalists have begun talking about the Semitization of Indian religions, especially of Hinduism.

The Semitic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - give particular weight to the word, believing that God can use human language to reveal himself. The word of God in these religions cannot be easily relativized.

In contrast, the 'mystical' religions - Hinduism, Buddhism - are somewhat easier on the word.

Thus, despite being one of the Astika Darsanas, Advaita Vedanta believes that in the end the vyavaharika level must be transcended in favour of what is truly ultimate, the paramarthika. The saguna Brahman, the Brahman with qualities, is for the lower type of person; the truly wise person goes beyond this Brahman Isvara to the nirguna Brahman, the Brahman without qualities.

Buddhism is of course clearly suspicious of the word, of the mind. The Sunyavada of Mahayana Buddhism clearly recommends that the Buddha, the dharma, the sangha, must all be transcended, that they are all sunya: If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

The Semitic religions, perhaps because of the peculiar weight they give the Word of God, have been historically prone to violence in defence of the faith.

Today it would seem that the non-Semitic religions are facing this temptation. Hence the talk of Semitization of these religions.

But if violence is the temptation of the Semitic religions, it must be not understood that such a temptation must be given in to. When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied very clearly: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself. Love is the fulfilling of the Law. If there is one temptation a Christian cannot give in to, it is violence and hatred. That, as Dominic Veliath reiterated at the Philosophical Symposium at Yercaud, is a non-negotiable.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Tirupattur and Katpadi

After Yercaud, I was fortunate to be able to make my first trip to Tirupattur, which is, in many ways, the cradle of Salesian work in India. Antony Raj, my novitiate companion, is Principal of Sacred Heart College, and was a wonderful host together with A. Francis who was good enough to come up from Madurai to take me around.

Sacred Heart College is nothing short of impressive. Of its 2500 students, 900 are in hostels, and a good 450 of these are Catholics. What is most beautiful about the College is its location: it has been a major factor in the development of North Arcot District, with its predominantly Dalit population. Wonderful dream of Fr Carreno!

A. Francis and Antony Raj also took me to Katpadi: Pallikonda, St Joseph's Technical, Don Bosco, and the great Auxilium College run by the Salesian Sisters on a huge campus of 100 acres. I was surprised to find that I knew the Principal: Sr Eugini Fathima, a bold and strong woman, with a PhD from the Department of Christianity at the University of Madras on Anthony De Mello. I look forward to seeing the doctorate in print. It will probably be the first major study of Tony.

On the way back to Tirupattur, we also made the climb up to the Elagiri Hills, where we saw the Salesian novitiate on a beautiful 14 acre campus, and also the Bosco Institute of Computer Sciences (BICS) and the great work of Fr Guezou. We were not fortunate to see Fr Guezou himself, who was indisposed, but I was happy to meet Fr Bellarmine Fernando, ex-Provincial of Chennai, who is now Rector of the BICS work, which also houses a boarding for the tribal boys of the Hills.

The only pity was that I missed Kovilur, the village made famous by Fr Joe Vaz's reminiscences... where the old lady was waiting all these years to welcome Fr Joe with her wedding sari on the main street. Some other time, maybe. But I did see the hostel where a certain Bro. Joe Mascarenhas was warden, and said to myself that I must finish editing Bro. Joe's autobiographical sketch...

Back to Yercaud

I am just back from Yercaud where I took part in the Symposium on "Philosophy and Religious Formation" on the occasion of the golden jubilee of Jnanodaya: Salesian College.

It was wonderful seeing Yercaud once again - after a gap of 31 years. The town looks unkempt, dirty and crowded, but The Retreat is as beautiful as ever - the Salem viewpoint, the orchards, the buildings, the farm... Only, old timers will miss the top hockey pitch, which is now a field growing mustard and things. The familiar clouds were there, the cool, the freshness... The old novitiate wing now houses a boarding for poor boys of the locality, while the philosophers continue to occupy their wing, to which an additional floor has been added.

The Symposium itself was good. Joe Mannath emphasized the need for thinking; Joe Arun, SJ talking about feelings and formation; I myself talked about the primacy of love. Dominic Veliath spoke about building up a Christian world view, Dr Lourdunathan spoke about philosophy from the Dalit point of view, and John Alexander presented different economic viewpoints. Arnald Mahesh, the Principal, was the chief organizer, and managed to see to every detail with great thoughtfulness and efficiency.

It was wonderful meeting so many past pupils of Divyadaan too: Amos Herbert Gandhi, K.P., Paul Raj, Jayaseelan, Bosco, Emmanuel, and of course Franklin and Michaelsamy who are currently practical trainees in Yercaud.

The importance of words

During the philosophical symposium at Yercaud, someone asked the inevitable question: how can we move from mere words to concrete deeds? An important question, no doubt. But I think we should stop a while and ponder on the importance of 'mere words.' Words are important. The whole media and advertising industry knows that it is important to keep a brand name before the eyes of the public. The BJP has carried out a major media coup by influencing the mindset of a very large segment of the Indian public, so that most ordinary people are not too shocked by the violence and excesses against Christians in Orissa, but are instead busy focussing on the issue of conversions...

Words are important. Very important. It would be foolish to lose sight of that. Lonergan speaks in Method in Theology of 'promoting conversion by making it a talking point.' (Note that he is using 'conversion' here in a somewhat different sense...) Ratzinger had spoken of the many doctrines that have died the death of neglect since the Council: people simply don't talk any more about certain things.

Monday 13 October 2008

Contravening the law - in broad daylight

Tavleen Singh's piece on the Bajrang Dal yesterday was michievous. She begins by saying she is quite against the Dal and its terror tactics. What she does not like, she says, is the way the present government wants to ban the Dal as a balancing act to the banning of SIMI.

But is there any truth in this? Is the central government doing a balancing act in this particular case? I have not had this impression.

Further, can we really compare the Dal and groups like SIMI? SIMI and others operate anonymous, without the support of the powers that be. The Dal operates in broad daylight, often with the connivance or at least non-interference of local governments, in open defiance of the law of the land... It is not at all the same thing, Ms Singh! A government that condones open defiance is selling our birthright.

We maybe be confused about how to stop terrorist attacks, but we do want to stop them. The problem with the other case is that we do know how to stop them; what is in question is whether we want to do so...

Funding and funding

Sudheendra Kulkarni, one time personal secretary of Vajpayee, has written an article about the huge foreign funding of Christian missions and institutions in India. He has given facts and figures, which are of course available to the public. He has questioned why such huge funding should be coming in... He has said that violence against Christians should not be condoned, but that questions should certainly be asked. He has ended by quoting from the joint conference of the WCC and the Vatican that he attended in 2006...

That those Christians who denigrate other religions should desist from doing so, is a position that is accepted by all mainline Churches, as Kulkarni's quotes themselves reveal quite unambiguously.

But why speak of denigration. There is so much in Hinduism and in Buddhism that is eminently acceptable to a Christian. I think there are real ways in which one can count oneself as a Hindu-Christian. My reading of Advaita, for example, is quite compatible with faith in Jesus, the faith of the Church... Richard De Smet opens the way to such a position, and Sara Grant took it explicitly forward...

Also, many within the Church have been calling for greater self-sufficiency.

To be fair, however, Kulkarni's picture should be completed by putting up the foreign funding figures received by the Sangh Parivar, to name only them.

Also, one should ask: for what is the Parivar using these funds? For the common good? or to further sectarian aims by any means whatsoever?

Teaching languages

This morning one of our students told me that they had a Kannada exam. I asked him who was the teacher. He told me it was another student. I asked what he had learnt. He said, only the alphabet, and that too not properly... I asked him whether he knew Channagi-idira, How are you? He said no...

Our methods of teaching languages remain as antiquated as ever. We begin from the alphabet, then go on to words, and perhaps finally arrive at sentences and texts. Then there is grammar: much time spent in teaching rules of grammar. The procedure is from parts to wholes, it is synthesis. I am convinced that the mind, which is made for language, does not operate by way of synthesis, but rather by way of analysis, as far as learning languages is concerned. The movement is from wholes to parts, and not even properly analytical, I suppose. At any rate, children are immersed in a language, they swallow things whole, first engage in repetition, and then eventually become creative...

I am all for teaching whole sentences right from day one. I remember the Max Mueller Bhavan in Pune, where did some German: wonderful language method, very well thought out, and holistic. You are plunged into the language from the very start. There is no translation at all: one relies on the mind to guess meaning from context and from use (delightful!). One repeats, is drilled, interacts with other students, puts up plays, sees movies, reads newspapers in German... Its fun, and one learns ... rapidly. Of course, the students are all there because they have personally chosen to be there, and that makes a great difference. We were also very fortunate to have had an extraordinary teacher in the person of Ms Shirin Gazder, and I was fortunate to have her for both Grundstufe I and Grundstufe II...

Earlier I did 8 classes of Kannada in Bangalore. The teacher was excellent. He was specialized in micro-teaching. By the very first class we had learnt to greet one another and ask and tell our names. In 8 classes I learnt more Kannada than I had learnt other languages in years...

My proposal for teaching of new languages in Divyadaan: make a list of simple conversational sentences: How are you? I am fine. What is your name? My name is Ivo. Where do you come from? I come from Mumbai. Where is your house? My house is in Mumbai. Where are you going? I am going to college. What is the price of this? and so on.

These are to be drilled. One keeps the structures and moves the variables... Language, as Wittgenstein said, is learnt by drilling, training... picking up habits. Some grammar can be appended to this kind of training.

Saturday 11 October 2008

Persons and texts

The texts of today's readings in church were fantastic.

From Galatians: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but all are one in Christ.

I was thinking how this text first of all challenges historicity and is a leaven for transformation.

I was thinking of its effective history: the term person, borrowed from the stage via the Stoics, was first applied holistically in the Roman law courts, but in a very restricted way: only Roman citizens were persons, because only they were subjects and beneficiaries of the law. It was reflection on the Christian scriptures that finally extended the term person to every human being... A consequences of the fact that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek... Of course, the word still continues to work, because reality is never transformed overnight. It has to continue to work in each one of us, that we might discover our innate dignity as sons and daughters of God, whatever our historicity... It has to work in the world as we constantly negotiate boundaries and walls to discover brother- and sister- hood in God...

Then there was the two line gospel: Blessed the womb that bore you and the breasts that gave you suck! And Jesus, eternal insight, eternal flash of understanding, cuts across and transports the discourse to another plane: Blessed instead those who hear the word of God and keep it! Jesus is about revealing and promoting the family of God, the fact that we are all children of God, and therefore brothers and sisters. The deepest ties are therefore not 'of the flesh,' not family or caste or race or community or language, but this sonship, this daughterhood, in God...

As Augustine said yesterday in the goodnight: why are we concerned about Orissa? Simply because they are Christians? Or perhaps because we are afraid for ourselves? Or is it because they are our brothers and sisters, human beings, children of God? And that therefore we should be equally concerned about the atrocities perpetrated on Dalits, and tribals, and whoever...

The power of a text...

Friday 10 October 2008

Culture gaps

There is something called a cultural gap. Such cultural gaps come to light especially when we fail to understand the 'other.'

Yesterday we had gone for an ecumenical meeting to begin discussing the Christian response to the current spate of violence, and we experienced the cultural gap in some way. Punctuality, first of all: the 4 o'clock meeting began only by about 4.30. Then the speeches: long speeches are a vital part of the Indian way of proceeding, and there is method in the madness. Inviting someone to speak is an acknowledgement of his or her importance, and, more importantly, a sign of respect. (So always be ready to speak, if you are someone important, and you may not have been told beforehand. Don't lose your head, don't be annoyed because you have not been forewarned. It is an honour to be asked, a sign of respect.)

In one sense we achieved nothing yesterday after two hours of meeting. And yet, I think, much was achieved. This first meeting was an occasion to see one another, to feel our way ahead. It was not all sweetness and light, the gloves were not always on, teeth were bared surprisingly often. But it was an important occasion. It is like wrestlers circling each other for the first time in the ring, taking each other's measure. It is like the family of the boy going to meet the family of the girl for the first time. We could have 'aimed for something concrete' - but would there have been the unity, the groundswell, the backing, the energy to put it into practice? What has been achieved is that a committee has been set up. That committee will meet. The ball has been set in motion.

Gandhi took 30 years to achieve his goal. Not counting the many years he spent in what may now be seen as the quiet but indispensable preparation - in his ashram in South Africa.

So: punctuality? order? goals? clarity? Not necesarily, I am learning. And not necessarily Indian, either. I remember the scout masters' meetings in Italy: confusion confounded, but to my great amazement, the work would be done. Even perfectly.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Rhetoric again

As predicted, after professing his great love for Christians in Shillong, after declaring his soft corner for Christians, after reminding people that he is a product of a Christian institution, Advaniji dared the Prime Minister to impose President's Rule in Orissa. The Orissa government, he said, is doing all that it can possibly do. So go ahead, try imposing President's Rule. We will come bouncing back.

And that is the bind the Congress is caught in: whatever it does, the BJP will use it to bounce back. And that really is the gameplan: provoke, polarize, translate into votes. Cheap, cynical politics. And completely immoral: Advaniji and company will not hesitate to burn, terrorize, destroy, kill if it serves the political purpose. Machiavelli, or perhaps Chanakya. The end justifies the means. And rhetoric, not logic.

New directions for Marian devotion

We have just concluded the Marian month in Divyadaan, and I kept thinking of Kenny's attempt to begin a Jesus Week. I had opposed such a Week, on the grounds that the whole year is a Jesus year, and besides, that the Marian month should not be seen in opposition to Jesus.

So the Jesus Week seems to have been dropped. But we still have much to do to ensure that the Marian month is truly Marian - by which I mean truly Christocentric. We cannot see Mary in opposition or in isolation from Jesus. Our Marian quizzes cannot restrict themselves exclusively to the direct references to Mary in the Bible, or at best to the typological allusions. The whole word of God is relevant as far as Mary is concerned, she who preserved and contemplated the Word in her heart... And what shall we say about Mary, the first disciple, the one who is blessed because she believed, because she heard and did the will of the Father? And Mary, icon of the Church, believing, faithful, serving, standing, praying, waiting, holy, immaculate, sharing already in the resurrection of which her Son is the fruit fruit?

Much to be done - but without belittling the love, the feeling, the devotion. Shall we say, 'deconstructing' the devotion - bringing it to life and light again? Shall we say, a hermeneutics of recovery after the necessary moment of the hermeneutic of suspicion?

But also patience: the jade stone.

Why study?

Vally narrated a lovely story that he himself had heard from Joaquim.

It seems a young Dominican went to Thomas Aquinas with the question, why study philosophy and theology.

Thomas asked him to reflect on the story of Jacob wrestling the night long: it was only at the end of a whole night of struggle that he realized he had been wrestling with God.

The young brother was smart...

Philosophy and theology

God used simple, unlettered fishermen and the occasional zealot when he wanted to. That did not prevent him from choosing a relatively sophisticated, well-educated, Hebrew and Greek-speaking Jew - Paul of Tarsus.

Paul himself seems to have had serious reservations about the wisdom of the Greeks. That did not prevent the Church in subsequent ages from 'despoiling the Egyptians' and the Greeks and the Romans...

Both faith and reason come from God; philosophy, like any other part of human culture, must be redeemed and brought into the service of the Gospel... This has been the holistic attitude of the Catholic Church down the ages.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Peter Gonsalves on satyagraha

The techniques of satyagraha are best outlined by Krishnalal Shridharani in his book, War without Violence: A study of Gandhi’s Method and its Accomplishments (New York: Brace Harcourt, 1939). The strategies used during the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. were patterned on the techniques suggested in this book. If a satyagraha campaign is considered a necessary response to the attacks against Christians, it would be good to consider these basic steps:

a. Negotiations and Arbitration: All avenues for a peaceful settlement of a given conflict are first explored in an atmosphere of understanding and trust. These preliminary actions must be exercised within the constitutional rights. They should be non-threatening and should not precipitate a crisis. Obedience to law must precede all civil disobedience. The fundamental principle underlying this attitude is that both disputants are united in a common humanity that signifies an objective give-and-take relationship in which they share. This principle is the spirit of the whole campaign. This attitude emphasizes that the disputants (satyagrahis) look upon direct action only as a final weapon. They would rather have the conflict settled than enter into satyagraha. This genuine stance vindicates their cause in the eyes of the world and gives them an aura of morality before their opponents. It is the ‘right first impression’ because it means ‘winning over the opponent by suffering-love.’

b. Agitation: Unable to get redress from the authorities, the satyagrahis turn to the people. They propagate their ‘just cause’ through various media of communication. Numerous consciousness-raising activities are set in motion that include interpersonal communication, group media and mass media. Here are some of the media used in Gandhi’s satyagraha campaigns: pamphlets, books, slogans, songs, drama, propaganda tours, volunteering, meetings, debates, posters, newspapers, radio, international propaganda. Through these media the just cause is explained to wider audiences, the ideology is presented and the lack of redress on the part of the authorities is forthrightly and honestly exposed.

c. Demonstrations and the Ultimatum: The stage of agitation lends itself to demonstrations. The people who are now aware find expression in uniting for the cause. Energies are directed towards the organization of public meetings, public manifestations, public marches and processions – first with small numbers, but gradually with large masses of people. The more extensive and pervasive the cause and the awareness of it, the larger will be the participation. This is the colourful part of satyagraha as it comprises songs, slogans, flags, banners, hand-held posters, creatively written messages, etc. Youth are given an opportunity to give expression to their creativity. These are means to attract others who are not yet convinced that the cause is worth participating in.

Items on the agenda of these meetings include making public resolutions and issuing an ultimatum. Resolutions (previously codified by the leaders) embodying the determination of the people to fight to the finish are read out and expressed on posters. An ultimatum is issued to the government. It is drawn up by the leader with the consent of the core group in which the needs of the people are plainly listed and a specific time limit is set for the government’s fulfilment of its minimum demands. It amounts to a “conditional declaration of war.”

d. Self-purification: The failure of constitutional attempts to convince the Government mobilizes the energy of the people in the use of compulsive force. From this stage onward the revolution that opts for illegal tactics begins. But unlike violent revolution, satyagraha seeks legitimacy at this juncture by directing the violence inward and not outward against the opponent. The disputants take upon themselves the responsibility for the injustice they are fighting against – because the wrong may not have materialized but for their own submission. The people’s purification is important because the Government lives on the vices and negligence of the people themselves. Fasting and public prayers are the most common forms of self-purification. This emphasis on self-directed suffering has a tremendous effect on the satyagrahis as it raises their morale and strengthens their unity of purpose. Contrarily, it also embarrasses the opponent in the eyes of the world.

e. Strike: From this stage onward, many techniques may be employed simultaneously and even separately. A linear progression of the techniques here listed is not the only way forward. The order presented here is only for the sake of elaborating all the techniques of satyagraha.

A strike is a formidable weapon that can wound a government especially if it derives its economic sustenance from big industry. Imperial and modern-day city-based capitalist governments are vulnerable to this technique because it weakens the economic system that supports them. Strikes were an important part of the Non-cooperation and Civil Disobedience Movements organized by Gandhi. However they were effected only in industrial areas of big cities and did not involve the mass of agricultural labourers dispersed throughout India.

f. Picketing: Picketing is the direct result of a strike although it can be a form of showing disapproval independent from it. Satyagrahis are usually stationed outside a shop, factory, or Government institution, to appeal to the general public to withdraw its patronage from these entities due to their refusal to support the just cause. The satyagrahis’ presence in front of such entities is an embarrassment to their owners and gradually reduces the number and frequency of its customers, employees or beneficiaries.

g. Dharna: The dharna is a simple sit-down strike. It has its precedents in Indian custom, especially when poor folk demanded justice from an unjust overlord. The sit-down often attracted a crowd and was an embarrassment to the overlord. This weapon of satyagraha has proved highly effective because it is based on the principle that no industry that depends on the public market for its survival can afford to alienate public opinion.

h. Economic Boycott: This is the most well-known means of protest. A boycott is an organized method of withdrawing from business relations with the opponent. By boycotting British goods the satyagrahis and the millions of people who followed them were destroying the mercantile stranglehold of the Empire on India.

i. Non-payment of Taxes and Hizrat: At this point the satyagraha campaign enters its ‘purely illegal, unlawful and seditious stage.’ People refuse to pay taxes. In this refusal they attempt to cut the very life-line of the government’s financial resources.

In general the Government comes down heavily on those who refuse to pay tax. Arrests are made, raids to confiscate property, bank accounts, wealth and cattle are conducted. The government resorts to terrorizing tactics with brutal beatings in public and even shoot-at-sight orders wherever there is ‘mutiny.’ Confronted with these violent measures against them, satyagarahis are expected to stay calm, receive all these penalties willingly without rancour. They hold on to the hope that, in the long run, their silent suffering will win over their adversary. They believe that oppressive action against non-violent people who are prepared to bear pain, suffer jail sentences, and return good for evil, will, in the long run, demoralize the oppressor. The adversary’s unilaterally violent acts will gnaw at his conscience. He will finally lose the incentive to oppress.

An offshoot of the no-tax campaigns in India had been the practice of hizrat – a word of Arabic origin that is connected with Mohammed’s flight from the tyranny of Mecca to Median. Some farmers practiced this technique. They refused to pay tax and preferred to migrate away from locations under British jurisdiction. This was not merely an escape from hardships but an effective way to neutralize the oppressive power of the Government, by depopulating the territories under their control.

j. Non-Cooperation and Ostracism: This stage epitomizes the essence of the satyagraha campaign: to stop the Government from continuing to oppress by withdrawing all support. Such a state spells the death of the system. The programme covers a variety of areas of public life: surrender of titles of honour, honorary offices; non-participation in government loans; boycotting law courts, and refusing to litigate within the Government-run legal structure; boycotting schools, colleges; boycotting of legislative councils; withdrawing from government service and surrendering civil administration positions; withdrawing from Government banks, shipping and insurance; withdrawing from the army and the police. Such a campaign effectively brings the entire government administration to a standstill. The success of non-cooperation depends on the strong unity of public will and the universality and extensiveness of its acceptance.

Alongside non-cooperation against the government is the pressure exerted by satyagrahis on those who refuse to cooperate in the Non-cooperation Movement. They who do not want to join the movement, often for fear of losing lucrative government jobs, are ostracized as a reminder of their unsocial and unethical attitude. In satyagraha such an ostracism is not accompanied by physical harm to the one ostracized.

k. Civil Disobedience: After a successful non-cooperation campaign the state is reduced to a merely formal structure. It governs without the willing assent of the people. Consequently, the satyagraha campaign takes another major step forward. The participants begin to disobey laws one by one, so that the rule of the state becomes a farce. It must be noted, however, that the disobedience is civil, that is, non-violent and respectful of the persons in authority at the time of transgressing the law. As to which law should be disobeyed, Gandhi counselled that only unpopular and unjust laws be the first to be broken, because such civil disobedience attracts the sympathy of the general public and of international observers as well.

At this stage the campaigners face the ultimate wrath of a Government that refuses to yield and will strike back with all the coercive measures at its command. Unable to fill more of its already overflowing prisons, it will resort to organized violence in public places. But the violence, notwithstanding its ruthlessness, cannot last long. It morally wounds those who inflict it on submissive, non-violent satyagrahis. Sooner or later, with pressure mounting from observers around the world, the Government finally yields.

l. The Constructive Programme: In 1929, Gandhi saw the necessity for a much broader goal than merely political independence from British rule. He called it purna swaraj or complete independence. He realised that satyagraha, which had sharply political ends, could not afford to neglect the wider development programme with strictly social aims. He called it the ‘Constructive Programme’. For a decade, beginning from 1930, he experimented with it till he was able to draw up in 1941 a concrete framework for its realisation. The booklet was entitled, The Constructive Programme, Its Meaning and Place. In it he highlighted eighteen areas that required urgent attention and participation of all if purna swaraj was to become a reality. These focal issues were: communal unity, removal of untouchability, prohibition of liquor, promotion of khadi and other village industries, village sanitation, new or basic education, adult education, empowerment of women, education in health and hygiene, encouragement of provincial languages, promotion of the national language, economic equality, kisans, labour, adivasis, lepers, students.

For the Constructive Programme to be truly effective Gandhi believed that a well planned strategy on a very large scale was all important. “Real planning consists in the best utilization of the whole man-power of India and the distribution of raw products of India in her numerous villages.” For this, the Constructive Programme needed to be worked out together with satyagraha. These were not two parallel campaigns but two sides of the same coin. Each strengthened and reinforced the other. “Civil Disobedience in terms of Independence without the co-operation of the millions by way of constructive effort is mere bravado and worse than useless…. My handling of Civil Disobedience without the constructive programme will be like a paralysed hand attempting to lift a spoon.”

From satisfactions to values

Yesterday I was explaining 'moral conversion' to the MPh students.

Moral conversion is a shift from satisfactions to values.

Normally we go by what pleases us, what we like, what is satisfying, pleasurable, convenient. So we do favours willingly for people we like, and ignore people we don't. We 'obey' superiors we like, and grumble about those we don't. We associate with companions we like, and ignore those we don't. So most of the time our world is centred around Number One: we live like animals in a habitat.

Moral conversion is the discovery that we live in a world in which we are not the centre. It is the discovery of what is really and truly valuable and worthy of choice. It is the recognition of persons as incarnate values, and indeed of all persons as incarnate values and as therefore worthy of our attention, our concern, our beneficence.

And the great choices are prepared by the little ones. Fr Casarotti used to say on the feast of Versiglia and Caravario: such a glorious sunset had to be preceded by a beautiful dawn and a lovely day.

Dominic Veliath's famous goodnight in KJC: brothers, today you are grumbling against the superiors. Tomorrow, when you in turn become superiors, you will be grumbling against the boys. Nothing will have changed except your side.

And Lonergan: moral conversion is made possible by religious conversion, and religious conversion is being moved by grace, it our being in love in an unrestricted way because we in turn have been loved.

But that last is not quite well expressed. It is not that we love because we have been loved. There are not two here but one: it is God loving us into loving him and all things (and persons) in him. There is, certainly, place for a response, otherwise Jesus would not have commanded us to love God with all our hearts. But in the first place there is grace: the grace of being able to love God and neighbour. But that grace is itself God's love.

Monday 6 October 2008

The Indore consult

I must say that I am far less negative towards the statement of the Indore Consult than Peter Gonsalves. Peter feels Alengadan has an axe to grind, that he is using the occasion to promote himself, that his bitterness against the hierarchy and against Rome keeps seeping through the statement.

I would not hold the charge of self-promotion against Alengadan: the work that the man has been putting in, a work that pulls together people from so many religions and walks of life, is admirable.

I think several of the statements are unnecessarily a form of unnecessary breast-beating of the type we engage in very frequently. Some years ago a secular newspaper remarked about this remarkable propensity for self-flagellation on the part of the Catholic Church in India.

What I really take issue with is the call for a strategy of withdrawal at this moment.

What is good is Alengadan's call for satyagraha, first on a smaller scale, and eventually on a larger and more serious scale.

Here is where Peter's suggestions, stemming from his recent study of Gandhi, are very precious. Satyagraha calls above all for great interior preparation, great integrity, overcoming of fear as well as hatred, and consistent love for the 'enemy.' It requires that we be prepared to face the consequences, and Peter outlines these very well.

However, another suggestion has come, this time from Mrs Phyllis Wallbank: perhaps it makes more sense to go underground, as the Church did in Japan and in China; it has always emerged better and stronger.

Bishop Agnelo's letter

For those who want to read Bishop Agnelo Gracias' letter, "Why Christians are being attacked":

Peter's letter

Dear Friend,

I have been sent the report of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the CBCI.

Thank you for updating us on the details of the persecutions taking place in India. I also congratulate you for the initiative to resolve the situation and bring relief and justice for the Christian brothers and sisters of Orissa and other parts of India.

Permit me to say that some of the concrete steps put forth at the end of your report seem too diversified for a moment of heightened crisis like the one facing us at present. The action plan presents a long list of activities from damage control training to creating leadership among youth (all very important initiatives but needing implementation throughout any normal year). This moment is not merely important it is urgent and unique. We are being attacked on a national scale for the first time and our response must be exceptional, not a mere repetition of old strategies.

I therefore believe that it is important for the whole Indian Church (Catholic and Protestant) to participate in a mass struggle - along Gandhian lines.

OUR PURPOSE: My suggestion is to put forth a clear two-point memorandum before the government, the media and the general public. It must be based on the constitutional right of every citizen to life, property and religious freedom rather than reduce the crisis to a Christian-Hindu issue only.
a) I therefore propose that our agenda be: the immediate and urgent call to ban all organisations that promote hatred and violence against citizens by discriminating on the basis of race, caste, class, creed or culture. I am convinced that this is the real issue we need to battle for which we will gain the support of many human rights groups across the subcontinent.
b) The second part of the memorandum could deal with the actual problem of Orissa: That the Centre directly intervene to arrest those who have taken the law into their own hands and to immediately safeguard the return of the victims to their homes along with the restitution of their lands and properties.

OUR METHOD: To force the government to take action, I have two suggestions:
a) Invite all Christians and citizens of good will throughout India to public places in their cities and towns for a 'three-day or one-week hunger strike'. Parishes would have to be mobilised to get parishioners to be active in promoting the above cause. If this does not work to move the government to act, then perhaps, a few well-known personalities of the Catholic Church (among bishops, priests and laity) will have to come forward to go on an indefinite hunger strike or a hunger strike-unto-death. It is obvious that our first level action plan of closing schools across the nation has not been very effective it would seem. The above proposals are a second and third level strategy.

b) In order to ensure that the centre is mobilised to act it is important to have a strong media network that has national and international influence. We realise that the mainstream media have already been bought by the Hindutva groups. It is interesting how far their powerful tentacles have reached to distort the truth. Read the subtly slanted article by none other than the BBC itself. See: (Notice the repetition of the words 'officials say' without mentioning names, nor which side is doing the reporting.)

AN ICON: We are in urgent need of a national human rights leader, an Icon: Perhaps the president of the CBCI or a cardinal or a bishop is required who becomes the face of Indian Christian persecution or the defence of citizenry rights against fundamentalism. There are just too many can be seen from the number of e-mails being circulated by many interested members against the Orissa attacks. But none of them have a face before the world... We need a Cardinal Sin, a Desmond Tutu, a Martin L. King......a Gandhi.

The REASONS I share the above proposals is because I believe that this is the best time to act:
1. The Hindutva are clearly in the dominant position and are observing our ineptitude before their very sophisticated and expensive strategic attack (through which they have brought even the media under their control: I also mean foreign media. See the report of BBC which is totally biased: )
2. The Congress is in power and is sympathetic to our cause, though it lies low for its own political advantage. If we had the BJP in power our hartal would make no sense.
3. Attacks will continue unless and until the banning law is in place - not to defend the rights of the minorities but to defend the fundamental rights of every citizen. (didn't Amitab Bacchan also bow to the whims of the fundamentalist Raj Thackeray?). We need to sustain the pressure and only a powerful national movement will help.

I trust that you will understand the urgency of my appeal for a more unified and focused, non-violent agitation.

Peter Gonsalves
author: 'Exercises in Peace Education'.

Orissa and satyagraha

I have just been going through the report of Varghese Alengadan's consult regarding the attacks against Christians in Indore.

I tend to agree with Peter Gonsalves' assessment of it. Despite the fact that this might be seen as theological quibbling at a critical moment, let me say this: this is NOT the time to withdraw, modify, retreat, propose a new theology.

In my way of seeing things, we cannot modify the command of the Lord to go and proclaim - share - the good news. It is simply not violent or deceptive to go out and do this. Instead, it calls for a huge amount of courage. So I do not agree with the Indore consultation's suggestion that we openly declare: we are not for conversions. We are not for evangelization.

True, such words are widely misunderstood, and they provide fuel for the fire, especially now that the media seems to be have been saffronized in large part. Still, it is a unique moment we are living through. It creates great fear, especially for this small community that feels powerless and helpless.

So: retreat, modification, 'look we are not saying this, or doing that' - none of that is going to help. Because no one is in the mood to listen to arguments. Because the agenda is probably something else in the way of power, polarization, and so on.

What I like in the Indore consultation and in what Alengadan is saying is that the time has come to walk the talk. To uphold the faith, not in the comfort of our offices and cities, but on the frontlines.

I think satyagraha is the only feasible course of action.

The question is: am I ready for it? are we ready for it?

The very first step is to overcome fear.

I pray for that everyday.

Friday 3 October 2008

Vincent Donovan again...

In the homily this morning, I spoke to the students about the new-old model of mission outlined by Vincent Donovan in his Christianity Rediscovered.

The gospel of yesterday and today implied such a model: Jesus sending the 70, telling them to shake the dust off their sandals if the gospel was not received; Jesus calling down woe upon Chorazin and Bethsaida because of their hardness of heart...

It is clear that the Jesus of the gospels expects his message to be received.

It is also clear that those who proclaim the message are not expected to proclaim it forever and ever. They proclaim; there is a choice, a decision, one way or the other. The missionary moves on...

I find this an entirely respectful form of mission: share, in a climate of friendship. Ask permission from the community before sharing. Go away after your sharing is done, and people do not want you to stay...

Arranged marriage or love marriage?

In a land where arranged marriages are still more prevalent than ‘love marriages’, I suddenly began wondering the other day, on the feast of Teresa of the Child Jesus, whether vocations to the religious life are ‘arranged marriages’ or ‘love marriages.’

Teresa’s vocation certainly seems to have been a love marriage.

Salvation might come from the fact that many arranged marriages do work out: one learns to love the other. In fact, there might be something in favour of arranged marriages: the expectations are far lower. And, especially at the beginning of a relationship, ‘love’ is so often a mushy thing, an affair purely of sentiments with little by way of responsible commitment and realistic facing up to life.

Logic and rhetoric

Advani is back to the good cop bad cop routine. The only difference is that earlier there used to be Vajpayee to play the role of the good cop. All the papers today are reporting Advani great love, his soft corner, for Christians. Of course, it took him all of 2 months to say this. And no one has commented that, if Advani had said just one word, the burnings and killings in Orissa would have stopped. Even now, he has not said that word. He is only trying to fool more people. And there will be people ready to be fooled.

Where Church people are brought up on Aristotelian two-valued logic and so try to avoid contradictions, the Parivar has always believed in rhetoric, and so has never hesitated to contradict itself when necessary and useful. So Vajpayee would defend Modi in New Delhi, and the very next day would be shedding tears over the plight of Gujarat in Goa. And of course all of us, with our very short memories, would clap: what a nice man Uncle-ji is.

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