One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Philosophical commentary on Muharram

“Economics is what economists do”.. Jacob Viner (an eminent international trade theorist, 1892-1970).. A lot of economists look at this definition with anger and bitter criticism as to them, this is not a scientific definition of economics but at the same time they also cannot refute this definition as it is not wrong either…Unfortunately there were, there are and there will be a general trend to look at other cultures, ideologies and religions through Jacob Viner’s definition… For example, what is Islam? “Islam is what Muslims do”….What is Judaism? “Judaism is what Jews do?”…What is Hinduism? “Hinduism is what Hindu do”…What is individualism? “Individualism is what individuals do?” … Do all these definitions make sense? Of course, they are not making sense… One only becomes an economist after years of intensive education, training and working experience in the field while the same is not true for Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, individuals and so on…Simply, if one is born in a Muslim family, he/she grows Muslim irrespective of whether he/she goes through Islamic education or not… the same is true about other religions or cultures… So, “Christianity is what a Christians do” is not the same as “Economics is what economists do”….

Recently I come across some comments about Muharram that were supposed to be “intellectual” and logical in nature but were really not making sense at all. Although I appreciate questioning but questions like answers have to be logical in order to make sense. I am not a religious scholar and I don’t like two categories of “sermons” and “confessions” that are peculiar to religious way of expressions. But I wanted to express my opinion on the issue and I as mentioned earlier, “Islam is not what Muslims do” so my opinion in no way either justify or refute anything. It is just my personal opinion.

Before talking about Muharram and how I look to it, I am going to construct a context so it becomes easy to grasp the way I look at it. Beginning by foundation, what it really means to be alive? That is the most basic question. Life has certain requirements that make us do almost same things (what we call routine) every day and growths come from very small changes. (When I was teaching at school, majority of complains were about, why the rate of learning is so slow? We study every day for long hours but we learn so little out of it. It is not just learning, all processes of life are very slow). So again, what does it mean to be alive? I want you to watch this part of documentary by name of “Examined Life”. This part is 7 minutes 17 seconds long and I want you to watch from 5; 50 till end of the video that is going to take just 1 minute and 27 seconds, fair enough. In this part Professor Cornel West talks about, what it means to be alive. He says that if you are in library and reading some interesting books, you may be so intensely alive that you might need a break.

I am sure that you have heard that we have two kinds of ages, one is physical and one is mental? A boy may show higher mental maturity than an adult or an adult might possess the mentality of child. You might say that well, all these constructions may be amusing but it is also true that ignorance is bliss. Haven’t you experienced the intensity of life in childhood? Don’t you agree that we lose that intensity in living by growing and understanding more? I say yes, definitely we lose the intensity but we get new ones. How? During childhood we depend on our senses and by growing up, we depends more on our mental life. Growing up means a shift from sensual life to mental life…Still shaky? Let’s have a break by another example,

In this short talk of just 3 minutes and 51 seconds, Demon Horowitz tells how Philosophy (mental life) liberates of a prisoner (mentally) who is charged with murder case and he starts living a life of a Philosopher. It is one of powerful examples as it allows us to rethink about prisons that we have created for ourselves and how can we liberate ourselves.

You might still say, well again, I want some real hard life examples outside of individual pursuits.

Good then let’s take some really hard realities. It is more than true that majority goes after money and power, of course in their own ways (and some like to cover them by good names of service, sacrifice or so on). Let’s talk first about money. Money in the sense we know it today is called fiat money that drives its value from government regulation or law. Before 1970, the currencies were backed by gold but no more. The authority of government to print fiat money made Soviet Union to collapse and it is the core reason for 1998 economic meltdown in United States and current crises in Europe. In 1991 Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was elected by popular vote to the newly created post of President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (SFSR), at that time one of the 15 constituent republics of the Soviet Union while Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was the head of Soviet Union. In 1991 while 14 other constituents of Soviet Union were in economic trouble, the Boris Yeltsin as president of Russian constituent refused to pay its due to central bank so practically it became impossible to run Soviet Union and Soviet Union was dissolved on December 25th of 1991. Of course everybody knows, what happened to Ruble then? It lost its buying power. Why this was happened? The reason is simple that Soviet government was borrowing money to spend on large projects like gas pipelines projects and defense. The central bank was printing money beyond the real values production to fill the gaps and once borrowing reached the ceiling, the whole system collapsed under its weight. The same is happening in US and Europe. The governments have borrowed more than their GDPs and are trying to control the shortage by printing currency. Of course, this is misuse of the power by governments. What if the system collapses then all people will suffer and have to pay in many ways…

I am not trying to say that “We” that are always toiling our lives for earning money and that is in a way equals to deceiving ourselves but instead I am saying that the value of “money” that we are working so hard to earn is in control of an authority that we call government. Check this point as I am going to come back to it..

Let’s go to another hard reality, power. Nietzsche believed that it is “Will to Power” that drives men in their life. So nothing could be more as hard a reality for men than power. What is power? It is authority that people give to some individuals either directly as their representatives or indirectly as civil servants to protect their certain rights. These rights are varied by among varying systems. Let’s suppose that democracy is the highest form of system because it protects our certain liberties. But we know that “Will to power” is so seductive that a lot of forces try to gain power by deceits (for example, corporations’ roles are currently the cause of troubles). Still those who are in power do not content to the power assigned to them and want to have more power by snatching the very basic liberties they are supposed to protect, again through deceits. It would be repetition that why people in Middle East, US and Europe have come on streets.

OK, now that we are clear that values of money and our basic rights are in the hands of government, I like to add one more point. Though governments have the authority but their authority is based on the participation of people. If people do not participate, no government, I mean no government in the world can survive. Gandhi knew this fact and it is why he presented his practical theory of Satyagraha “insistence on truth” or what is well known as “non-violent movement” the core of which is “civil disobedience”. If people go for civil disobedience through non-violent means that will do two things simultaneously, delegitimizing government (taking back the authority/power) and practically making government become nonfunctional.

So until now we discussed four basic things, what it means to be alive? The role of government in our hard earned money, our basic liberties and how people can check back on government if government misuses the power.

One more short point and then I go to my opinion on Muharram. Evolutionary speaking among all animals, human have the longest period of parental care before becoming able to participate as a capable individual in society and largest and most costly part of it takes in form of education. The largest forms of education come through culture. Culture is a common education for all, irrespective of age, gender, social and economic orientations. Proper schooling may be biased towards social, economic and even based on gender however culture is something that all benefit, based on their interests and aptitudes. Authorities may use culture against some but culture is a mandatory form of learning that all benefit in their own ways.

I think, I am now ready to tell my opinion about Muharram. Muharram is a religious festival that is totally devotional and people do not participate based on philosophical inclinations and that is including me but still I have my opinion.

It is an event we find almost all characters that all can link with, men, women, children and diversity of ways in which each had struggled against misuse of authority. There were times when there were the opportunities to exercise the power of will freely or freedom of choices to fight or leave and yet they chose to fight. Everyone has a breaking point (It is an old tactic, keep pushing, there will reach a point where they will break), So we see a bunch of women and children who have lost their most valued things, family, being oppressed, misrepresented, arrested and yet insisting on truth. The insisting on truth had led in illegitimacy of authority and it followed by four revolutions.

Simply it allows everybody to go through a mental process of reconnecting to that revolutions and rethink of prisons that we have created (a chance every year to become alive) and to insist in truth so liberties of society remain intact. It also reminds that insisting on truth is a perpetual struggle that all times and all lands and all people need in order to live lively and freely (They might get oppressed and sanctioned but their minds and ideas will remain free, a constant threat and source of fear to authority). All aspects of Muharram from processions to self-flagellation to serving food and drinks to people are facing created fears… I don’t see any event in world paralleling the events of Karbala and I don’t see any culture parallel to Muharram to provide people a chance in making them ready to insist on truth and face the fears… Of course, Muharram is voluntary so those individuals who do not want to insist on truth or face their fears have the freedom of choice to stay the way they are and think the way they are pleased…..


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