That Which Must be Written

Dont mind the Stoic mood.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

 

The Arab World


I have been thinking about the arab world a lot after coming to America. I have met a lot of Arabs here mainly from African Arab countries who are quite humble and very open minded. Contrasting the Arab world with India we see the Indians have a variety of cultures, languages and religions (though Hindus still form a majority) whereas the Arabs speak Arabic (different dialects) and also follow the same religion yet they are fractured on mainly colonial demarcations.

Saudi Arabia is the defacto "head" of the Arab world and the muslim world. They are ruled by two groups. The House of Saud and the Ulema. Where the royal family ensure that materialism thrives, the Ulemas ensure that the religious doctrine according to their interpretation (Muwahiddun)is imposed. So all in all we have a very materialistic yet religious state. Kuwait is more or less the same but again Kuwait is ruled by two groups. The Sabahs and the Parliament. The power of the fundamentalists is weaker than in Saudi Arabia making Kuwait more liberal but most of the power still lies with the Sabahs. Kuwait has had the good fortune of having a more open minded royal family as compared to the Wahabis but again this depends on the individual ruling the country.

Lets zoom out and look at the Arab world now. What will it take for them to come together and function like a massive unit like it is in India. The religion is not an impediment because Islam dictates that all muslims are one. So what are the impediments? Why is the Arab world so divided when they have so much in common? When Europe is trying to come together as the EU why wont the Arabs come together?

One reason is loyalties to ones tribe. In Kuwait a miniscule country, lower level parliamentary elections were put off because Kuwaitis would vote on the tribe level and thus undermine Kuwait as a whole. The other I would think is the lack of separation between the religion and the state. Why does religion need to be separate from the state? Because far from being one single sect, Sunnis can be divided into
1) Hanafi (Turkey, Pakistan, the Balkans, Central Asia, Indian subcontinent, Afghanistan, China and Egypt)
2) Maliki (North Africa, the Muslim areas of West Africa, and several of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf)
3) Shafi'i (Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Egypt, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Yemen and southern parts of India)
4) Hanbali (Arabia).
By the lack of separation of state and religion these divisions manifest themselves in the state thus giving each a different identity.
The third reason is authoritarian regimes. None of the countries in the Arab world are a democracy. The division amongst the Arabs is what keeps "the powers that be" in power and therefore everything will be done to maintain this power.

With a population of 325 million people, straddling two continents Arabs are a people with great potential for power and development and it is a tragedy to see the same people live under the illusion of being so different.

Friday, July 24, 2009

 

The Placebo Postulate

I was watching Ramachandran's talk the other day and when he came down to the part of his lecture where the mind learned or unlearned past "habits" eg - a paralysed phantom limb, it resonated with past learnings/unlearnings I had experienced. For eg - My first face punch or my first kiss. I remember both instances were frought with great tension and shivers but after the event happened I felt this great elation like the vanishing of a border I had always wanted to pass.

Right now I am trying to kick my smoking habit. The process of unlearning this habit is as experience dictates more of a mind exercise than a body exercise. When I went to Kuwait during my summer holidays, the choice always was between walking under the glare of a 50+ degree desert sun all the way to the only shop in my area that sold loose cigarettes vs the experience of smoking a cigarette. The first few tries would be the great "Lawrence in Arabia" treks to the cigarette store coupled with a feeling of nausea that comes with not smoking for a long time and the confusion between my mind and body as to the point of the trip. After sometime the decision would be made looking out of the window into the flaming desert from the confines of my air conditioned flat and deciding that the trip was not worth it.

Habits - unlearning and learning habits. One person I really admire is Caesar Milan. Some key phrases used in the video are "calm assertive","pack leader"," dont take it personally" and "calm submissive". The mind is like the dog and the self needs to be the pack leader. I have come to realise in my meditations is that mind is an organic being almost exclusive to the self. Sometimes it works for the self and at other times it works against the self mostly because it doesnt know any better. Most of us are servants to our minds when the self needs to be the pack leader for the self to be successful.

Now according to Caesar Milan the self needs to be calm and assertive when the mind goes astray. Every level of defiance or suffering that is unleashed by the mind must be met by an equally strong reaction. It must happen at a natural pace too. This is where ""Gnothi Seauton" comes in aka Know thy self. In this postulate it is more Know thy mind. How it acts. How it reacts. What is the natural method of bringing it down to "calm submissive".

One other habit I am trying to incorporate into my life is meditating. From a minimum of 2 minutes to a maximum of 20 minutes the endeavours are sporadic and unconstructive as of yet. Why do we same OM when we meditate? Because it brings the mind back down to the calm submissive state everytime it starts attacking the cage.
Now why did I call this post "The Placebo Postulate"? Because if you did go to a western counsellor to discuss this issue you would get a bunch of pills that will tweak your body and then your self and finally your mind. You dont need to tweak either your body or your self. The issue is in the mind and thats what needs to be changed. The mind is not very intelligent as you can see from Ramachandran's lecture and Milan's video. The key to controlling it is a bunch of illusions that when well placed(a mirror or a physical response) can control it and tame it.

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