The Politics of the Wave


by Rohin
26th December, 2005 at 7:17 pm    

Twelve months have passed since the sea claimed 250,000 lives in south Asia and east Africa. Services have been held across the world, including many returning to the coastline where their loved ones were lost. As they look out at the peaceful Indian Ocean (left), it is hard to believe a year has already passed.

DesiPundit points visitors to the The World Wide Help Blog which is observing Disaster Remembrance Week to mark a year when nature’s fury wrought havoc around the world. Famine across Africa, Katrina, the Kashmir Quake and the aftermath of the tsunami led to what became known as ‘donor fatigue’. It is also worth bearing in mind today marks the second anniversary of the Bam quake in Iran, which claimed 30,000 and soon slipped from the world’s news.

Many have suggested that we can show our thanks for being safe in our homes by ending this traumatic year with a donation. I shan’t advise you what to do with your money as there are many good causes out there in need of support. However, a brief mention for Tim Worstall, who is running a smart campaign at his blog. Check it out – NO money is needed, just clicks. Google does the rest.

Over the course of this week, I shall be running a series of tsunami-related articles on my personal blog, most of which fall outside PP’s remit. However I thought I’d start by discussing the role of politics since the great wave.

When I worked in tsunami-hit areas around Sri Lanka’s coastline earlier this year, I quickly learnt the politics of the tsunami. Sri Lanka and Banda Aceh in Indonesia represent the two worst-affected regions of Asia and both have been marred by civil conflict for many years. In the past, lax government efforts in the face of natural disaster have precipitated major turning points in the histories of several countries. For example, when East Pakistan was ravaged by a cyclone in 1970, the appalling response of the Pakistani government contributed significantly to the death of 300,000. Some estimates put it as high as 500,000. Either way, the chapter galvanised East Pakistani politics and brought Independence for Bangladesh soon after.

Indonesia

Despite the Ayn Rand foundation issuing a statement directly after the tsunami suggesting the “US Should Not Help Tsunami Victims”, America thankfully embraced the tsunami as an opportunity to reach out to the most populous Muslim country in the world and build close ties with Jakarta.

Most of the world had not heard of Banda Aceh before the Sumatran region bore the full brunt of the huge earthquake’s wake. Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (the Aceh Freedom Movement) had been fighting for independence from Indonesia for some time and Aceh was home to dangerous armed militia alongside religious fundamentalists. Many predicted the story of East Pakistan may be repeated – if Aceh separatists considered the government’s response even slightly below par, they would step up their freedom fight. A friend flew out to Aceh with the WHO straight after the tsunami and called me. I was told how disorganised the relief effort was, massive areas were completely untouched by the military or foreign aid. I feared the worst.

I was proved wrong and in fact a peace agreement was later signed.

It is interesting to recall how Indonesia won its own independence from the Dutch as it echoes that of Bangladesh. The fight gathered steam after Krakatoa erupted exploded in 1883. But post-tsunami, the credit must first go to the freedom fighters as they almost unanimously laid down their arms. The destruction had simply been too great. Both sides acknowledged that nothing short of complete cooperation would allow effective rebuilding of millions of square miles that had been flattened. GAM have handed in a large amount of their arms and the government has also felt able to withdraw many of its troops from Aceh.

Sri Lanka

Most of you are probably more familiar with the troubles that had dogged Sri Lanka for decades. However it is incorrect to think of Sri Lanka as a land simply divided into Tamil and Sinhala communities. A sizeable minority (about 7%) are Muslim and think of themselves as quite separate to both the Sinhala and Tamil groups, I learnt. Kalmunai was ground zero, where about 15,000 perished. It’s a predominantly Muslim fishing town and during my time there I met only two other foreign charities working in the area. When I went to Galle and Matara, both Sinhala areas, I could not move for Westerners. The Muslims in the east and the Tamils in the north/north east felt forgotten.

Whilst entirely anecdotal, the difference was stark. Friends who worked in LTTE-administered areas reported a similar dearth of foreigners, but wondered whether this was government-dictated or a result of the overzealous Tamil border guards who seemed reluctant to let anyone in. I know of several aid convoys that were stopped by Tamil soldiers, only for them to confiscate the supplies and turn the trucks around. Whether the soldiers distributed the aid is speculation, but it was apparent that suspicion was rife.

These stories were somewhat indicative of what happened in Sri Lanka following the tsunami.

The Supreme Court in Sri Lanka issued a verdict that as the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) were not state-recognised or authorised, they could play no part in rebuilding. Thus Tamil areas were left to the Tigers and NGOs, which, as you have already heard, were thin on the ground. Tamil associates were quick to sing the praises of the ultra-efficient Tigers, but in reality the aid distribution has been very lop-sided. Tamils who held the view that the Sinhala majority don’t care for them have only had the impression strengthened.

However, voluntary groups from Sri Lanka have been instrumental in picking up where the government failed. The huge pandemics predicted never materialised due to the unstoppable efforts of Sri Lankan healthcare workers. Volunteers worked all over the island and none that I met cared whether they were treating or building a home for a Tamil or Sinhala family.

Little changed further down the line. The ceasefire held. However the recent election of hardliner Mahinda Rajapakse surprised some – but he provided a second surprise when he offered peace talks with the Tamil Tigers. Perhaps the cloud does have a silver lining after all.

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  1. Opinionated Voice

    [...] Its been 12 months since the Tsunami crashed ashore. Pickled Politics pays homage, with links to Tim Worstall, Desi Pundit and World Wide Help regarding much needed aid. Check em out! [...]




  1. StrangelyPsychedelique — on 26th December, 2005 at 8:06 pm  

    a fairly comprehensive article. This bit (often used in the western media) really gets my goat though:

    “However the recent election of hardliner Mahinda Rajapakse surprised some”

    I didnt vote for the dude but calling him a hardliner is a little lopsided. Hes a fecking Socialist….he doesnt want to divide up the country and bend over and take it up the ass just because the Norwegians etc say he should …

    Jeeez in my day standing up for yourself was a good thing :S

    One of the biggest issues hampering the rebuilding process (in Sri Lanka) has been the part-enforcement of a ’100 metre’ rule – the prevention of any rebuilding within this coastal buffer zone. Now whilst it makes some theoretical sense the reality is somewhat chaotic. Its like preventing people from building 50m along the banks of the Thames.
    Besides the waves ate upto 3 km inland – 100 metres wont make much difference to another tsunami. What they are finally concentrating on is rebuilding on the same sites as before but with more consideration given to height above sea level etc.

  2. raz — on 26th December, 2005 at 9:02 pm  

    Perhaps the most despicable aspect of the tsunami aftermath is touched upon here.

    You would have thought a natural disaster of such magnitude would have overshadowed the ugly racial and caste discrimination which engulfs Indian society, but sadly it seems the embedded hatred and bigotry is just too strong. My heart bleeds for the poor Dalits of India.

  3. Rohin — on 26th December, 2005 at 9:46 pm  

    Yup the 100m rule is madness. It started out at 30 (I think) then 50, then 100. As you say SP, it will mean bugger all if a tsunami happens. And to be honest, that shouldn’t be the approach if one is expecting another tsunami, it should be early detection systems. As I’m sure many of you will have read elsewhere, if a tsunami happened again right now the advance notice wouldn’t be that much different to a year ago.

    So, as a result of the new law, many have lost their land and are also unable to build anywhere else as they have no source of income.

    About Rajapakse – sorry perhaps I should’ve said “regarded as a hardliner”. I personally don’t see anything that extremem about his politics.

    Raz yup I remember reading about those reports and getting nauseated. Thankfully India’s damage was far more limited than in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, indeed by the time I travelled (March) I was told by Indian charities that there wasn’t much left to do health-wise. Tamil Nadu is often a very frustrating state. Although I wouldn’t say Indian society is “engulfed” by it.

  4. Soultrain — on 27th December, 2005 at 1:56 am  

    On a non political point, you have seen some of the best and worse of human kind in response to the tsunami disaster. Which was touched on above…I’m referring to the foundation that declared the US should not help victims of the tsunami amongst other topics raised. There was a documentary on television this week exploring how various religious groups were reconciling the tragedy with the faith. There was a lot of scape-goating going on, verging on desperation in finding answers, many times blaming the victims themselves. It was difficult to stomach “preachers” actively proclaiming that God allowed to the tsunami to punish non believers for their sins…and terrorising people into believing their faith or sect with vivid messages.

    At the end of 2005, where there has been a higher concentration of disasters that have affected the most vulnerable the most (or is that higher than usual news reporting of natural disasters?!), it does not bode well that human dynamics always mean that we can’t seem to mobilise together to triumph over adversity – instead if anything, nothing changes – the divisions between us will always be an issue to be used by those who want to, whether in the aftermath of tagedy or not.

    Of course the positives are very couragerous people who went out there to assist in what way they could, even if the places were literal warzones.

    Politically it was hoped that this tragedy could have acted as a catalyst to Western politicians to take actual genuine action redress the imbalance between the prosperous Western World and the rest.

    I mention this as the tsunami disaster, like most disasters, affected the poor of the world, who had livelihoods that were completely unable to be resilient to such disasters. The tsunami was an immediate event that lent itself to provide massive news coverage, whereas famines in Niger, Sudan…and other calamities with their devastating impact on strangling the poor, attract little attention because of their protracted nature. The tsunami disaster did for a while remind that us that we are all one world, and focus the attention of the media and politicians to realise that this imbalance around the world has gone for too long – amongst the backdrop of annual promises from politicians over the last decade. Whether it was a case of too little aid, or too much, or unfair trade rules etc…– at least the debate was being conducted on a higher agenda than before. The actual results though failed live to up to the promise.

    Its quite a contrast, from how the civil conflict in Banda Aceh has turned the tsunami tragedy into an opportunity to sign a peace agreement, (to which I believe has the spirit of which has been respected by large in comparison to the past), and the conflict in Sri Lanka where the peace process has been pushed to the edge several times, most recently with the assassination of a Tamil Parliamentarian.

  5. Rohin — on 27th December, 2005 at 2:31 am  

    I think you mean Ch4′s Where Was God? I missed that but enjoyed the series earlier in the year examining the 4 religions hit by the tsunami (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity). Again I found it rather upsetting how the tragedy was being used as evidence by missionaries that “your god hates you, come to our god”, scaring people into belief, instilling guilt or similar such things.

    You’re right Soultrain, we’ve seen the best and worst of humankind. From an overwhelming response from ordinary people in contrast to apathy amongst the richest, to smaller gestures that people like you have contributed to, like this.

  6. Sunny — on 27th December, 2005 at 5:11 am  

    Great article. Actually I wanted to write about something on the same lines but you beat me to it and did a much better job to boot. Goddamn you. ;)

    The treatment of Dalits is unfortunately an ongoing issue in India and relates to pretty much everything. Something needs to be done on that front.

    My article was actually going to be about how disaster changes an area. The USA is still shocked by Katrina and the big newspapers still dedicated acres of cverage to New Orleans and its aftermath. Whether it changed the USA’s attitude to poverty remains to be seen but the initial outpouring of grief was phenomenal.

    The same applied to India during the tsunami, though the country has moved on faster specially since there was no scandal as there was in New Orleans (levees).

    It is indeed a sad fact that Sri Lanka still has entrenched territorial problems and I can’t blame any one side from what I’ve read. Both sides behaved like little kids arguing over the small pie.

  7. Rohin — on 27th December, 2005 at 12:06 pm  

    UPDATE: LTTE kill 10 SL soldiers in Jaffna, just as Rajapakse begins his tour of India.

    StrangelyP (I’ve decided to shorten your name!) I was looking through pics on the ‘net and I found lots of images of ’100m clubs’ or foundations. Although, true to the trend I mentioned above, just about all websites and aid agencies photoalbums have been based down south, between Matara and CMB. Weird.

  8. Vikrant — on 27th December, 2005 at 3:38 pm  

    Sunny (that-hypocritical-pinko) now raz here is a perfect example of a “one-trick-pony” a term you seem to use sooo… often.

  9. raz — on 27th December, 2005 at 4:37 pm  

    Vikrant, why not actually comment on articles instead of making relentless personal attacks against Sunny, myself and other members?

  10. Vikrant — on 27th December, 2005 at 5:17 pm  

    Puhlease…. raz, what do you exactly contribute here other than genocide denial and ceaseless mudslinging on Hindus and India. I remember a post where you where you supported assasination of an Indian PM.

    p.s i’m not defending casteism or anything… Oh yea mild forms of casteism exist but these extreme incidents are isolated.

  11. Rohin — on 28th December, 2005 at 1:20 am  

    Hehe, I was out shopping the other day and just down the road from Harrods is a shop with a name that made me instantly think of Vikrant, as he’s so fond of the word. I even took a phone pic. The shop was called:

    PINKO.

    Although, rather perversely, it was completely overpriced!

    Vikrant, I’m often accused of romanticising India as I can subconsciously gloss over the bad points. But Raz is very justified in his point here (I’ll agree on others he can get up my nose!)

    I heard about the caste discrimination after the tsunami first hand, from colleagues working in India. It wasn’t that isolated at all. For years I thought caste discrimination was hyped up more than it should be, partially because I’ve lived here for quite a few years and partially because Bengal and my family haven’t paid attention to caste for generations. But it’s a big problem. Just today NDTV’s headline was about a Delhi school which stratifies the pupils according to caste. A government school.

    But caste is another issue altogether, so we’ll talk about that another day.

  12. Mirax — on 28th December, 2005 at 2:04 am  

    Oh yea mild forms of casteism exist but these extreme incidents are isolated.

    Is that like saying : Oh yea mild forms of slavery exist but these extreme incidents are isolated?

  13. Vikrant — on 28th December, 2005 at 5:28 pm  

    Well Mirax i dunno what you have against me… i dont believe in caste mumbo-jumbo nor Hindu religion. Still i regard myself as culturaly Hindu. And with mild forms i meant like many Indians still marry within their caste.

    Well the problem with west is that it sees India as a homogenous identity. Well the ground situation in Bengal or Maharashtra may be different than in Andhra Pradesh or Rajasthan. Having lived only in Mahrashtra i can say that atleast in that state casteism is non-existent in urban, semi-urban areas.

  14. Vikrant — on 28th December, 2005 at 5:31 pm  

    btw Rohin i think i know the shop you mentioned. Isnt it some girlie clothes shop?

  15. Rohin — on 28th December, 2005 at 6:13 pm  

    Vikrant, I don’t know – I wasn’t really paying attention. I saw some girlie clothes but I’m sure there were shirts and ties there too. Anyhoo, back to the issue in hand.

    As you say, in the cities (which I’d hazard a guess most of our families are from?) caste is far less of an issue. But that is not to say it is an exaggerated problem.

    You’re right, Westerners can think of India as a homogeneous country, they often do. I must say I lay a lot of the blame at the door of British Asians who do the same. I have met countless idiots here who think the whole of India dances dandia/celebrates Diwali/fasts on Mondays/watches Bollywood etc etc. But to think India is only the cities is equally wrong. Most Indians live in rural areas. Country folk, on the whole, still have it pretty shit in India.

    I read Manmohan Singh’s guest column in India Today the other day, he says India’s chief objective now must be to make villagers WANT to stay in villages; make life better there. That way stress migration will be reduced.

    When I go to/was in India, it’s convenient for me to ignore the villages (which is essentially what put the BJP out of power) but for all of India Shining, village life hasn’t changed much. Caste, criminal panchayats (eg issuing rape as a punishment for adultery), no water, no electricity, corruption and sexual discrimination are the norm, not the exception.

  16. El Cid — on 28th December, 2005 at 6:13 pm  

    Actually, I came across a shop on the Paseo de la Castellana that reminded me of Vikrant. It was called “el caballito con un truco”

  17. El Cid — on 28th December, 2005 at 6:14 pm  

    (Only joking – Happy New Year from Madrid)

  18. Rohin — on 28th December, 2005 at 6:15 pm  

    Should I translate?

  19. El Cid — on 28th December, 2005 at 6:26 pm  

    Nah, PP regulars will surely get it in a jiffy. If not, http://www.wordreference.com will sort them out.

  20. Vikrant — on 28th December, 2005 at 6:32 pm  

    cabalitto is pony…. right?

  21. El Cid — on 28th December, 2005 at 6:37 pm  

    caballito is little horse, which is pony … but you can also use poni… obviously a hilarious joke

  22. El Cid — on 28th December, 2005 at 6:53 pm  

    …also an inappropriate one given the seriousness of the subject. A friend of mine’s brother-in-law perished in last year’s tsunami. He’s gone on holiday to South Africa with his wife, mother-in-law and brother-in-law’s girlfriend in order to escape the intense media glare and the endless run of “the tsunami remembered” specials on TV and in the papers.
    This is what I wrote on the subject at the time.

  23. Rohin — on 28th December, 2005 at 7:09 pm  

    Is Zones 2+3 your blog El Cid?

  24. El Cid — on 28th December, 2005 at 7:20 pm  

    Yep. I don’t update it much. I haven’t got the time and I increasingly prefer just to comment via PP. The idea behind “zones2and3″ was a play on the London tube map — inner outer London — and a metaphor for second and third generation British immigrants. That’s when I had big ideas for it. It’s just a personal blog these days.

  25. raz — on 30th December, 2005 at 11:44 am  

    Fresh Dalit vs High caste riots in India:

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-1342260,curpg-1.cms

    The cycle of bigotry and discrimination continues.

  26. Bikhair — on 1st January, 2006 at 3:44 pm  

    The tsunami disaster was punishment from Allah for all our rampant fornication, arbitrary killings and abuse of power.

    Proof that it came from Allah.

    http://english.pravda.ru/main/18/90/361/14814_.html

  27. Jai Singh — on 1st January, 2006 at 3:59 pm  

    +>”The tsunami disaster was punishment from Allah for all our rampant fornication, arbitrary killings and abuse of power.”

    1. Never make assumptions about why God may do certain things, and don’t assume to be able to “read His mind”. Such behaviour is both arrogant and ignorant.

    2. Presuming that natural disasters are punishment for anything is like saying that “thunder and lightening are signs of God being angry with us.” It’s superstitious in the extreme, along with being extremely self-centred. Human beings are not the centre of the universe. Natural disasters such as the tsunami do not necessarily have any kind of divine “moral component” to them at all — and their trigger and control by God do not necessarily have anything to do with human behaviour whatsoever. The reasons could be completely unrelated to us. Nobody can presume to know His motivations for such actions.

    3. God does not indulge in “collective guilt” or “collective punishment” — nobody is responsible for the perceived crimes/sins of anybody else.

  28. Jai Singh — on 1st January, 2006 at 4:02 pm  

    *lightening

    typo: should say “Lightning”

  29. Don — on 1st January, 2006 at 4:08 pm  

    Bikhair,

    Come on, now you are just looking for a reaction. You know as well as the rest of us that natural disasters are just that.

  30. Bikhair — on 1st January, 2006 at 4:16 pm  

    Bismillah Rahman Raheem

    It is Allah who guides(including waves) and whomever Allah guides, none can misguide them.

    Be sure to know everything that comes to you is from Allah and He does love the believers but this testing is something very good for all of us belivers. This explains why we see so much difficulty for the Muslims in this world, while disbelievers and evil people are not suffering like we are. Be patient oh Muslims! This is the real deal and all of us are going through things these days.

    If you investigate closely you will see that everything comes from Allah. Absolutely everything comes from Allah. The Source of all wealth is Allah. He it is Who Manifests from nothing. Did the raw material for creation exist before creation? OK, where did IT come from?

  31. Bikhair — on 1st January, 2006 at 4:39 pm  

    The solution to stop these God-made disasters is simple. Stop warring against Allah (swt). Embrace Islam and replace corrupt man-made law by Allah’s (swt)divine law (Sharia). When the Caliphate encompasses the Earth, peace will reign forever.

    Don and Jai, your children will be Muslim

    Allahu akbar

  32. Rohin — on 1st January, 2006 at 4:59 pm  

    Bikhair, shut up. You’ve lapsed back into troll behaviour with crap like “your children will be Muslim”. Hang on, did you ever STOP being a troll?

    Please don’t just say things to be inflammatory as I’ll start deleting. I let most be, but you are just an irritant. However I can’t help but say one thing, if the tsunami was a punishment from Allah, as you say, why were the overwhelming majority of dead Muslim?

  33. Don — on 1st January, 2006 at 5:01 pm  

    Bikhair,

    ‘ your children will be Muslim’

    I have enough festive spirit left to take that as I think it was intended, as wishing well (in your eyes) upon my child. Let’s leave it at that, shall we?

    Your assertion that natural disasters are God’s way of communicating with us leads you into an area beyond either religion or reason, as Jai said, this is mere superstitious fear and proposes a god morally inferior to his supposed creations. Were such a god to exist it would be the duty of every decent human to declare undying emnity to such supernatural savagery.

  34. Jai Singh — on 2nd January, 2006 at 1:08 pm  

    Rohin,

    =>”I can’t help but say one thing, if the tsunami was a punishment from Allah, as you say, why were the overwhelming majority of dead Muslim?”

    Exactly. Furthermore, what were the Muslim inhabitants of Kashmir during the recent earthquake being “punished” for ? Or the tens of thousands of Muslims who died in the earthquake in Iran two years ago ?

    Attempts to explain/rationalise all this in the context of alleged “divine retribution” is nothing more than guesswork and assumptions. Apart from the backward, irrational superstition involved in such mindsets, it’s like an amoeba trying to figure out the mind of Einstein, but with the intellectual and spiritual difference extrapolated to infinity.

    When you consider the sheer size of the universe, and the number of stars and galaxies that have been estimated, then attempts by one sentient species (us) on one small planet orbiting one small star to second-guess the mind and motivations of the creator of such a universe is arrogant in the extreme, at least in the context of alleged “divine punishment” via natural disasters.

  35. Rohin — on 2nd January, 2006 at 1:40 pm  

    “it’s like an amoeba trying to figure out the mind of Einstein, but with the intellectual and spiritual difference extrapolated to infinity.”

    Best line of 2006 (so far!)

    It’s funny Jai how you and I have taken the same thing – the sheer complexity of the universe – to mean different things. I’ve studied cosmology and am obsessed with space (this manifests itself as me and Abhi talking about Star Trek!) so have been thinking about these things for well over a decade.

    You see the uncomprehensible size of the universe to mean that God is not going to spend his time meting out draconian punishments on lots of people like quakes or floods. He has better things to do. Am I right?

    Whereas I see the same thing, but interpret it as there is no God, at least not in the sense that God is talked about here on Earth. I believe there was some ‘force’ that put the Big Bang into motion. But since that point there has been no divine intervention in the universe. Which is why I say I’m an atheist – it’s simpler than explaining all this each time! I think the belief that God is a power who can be prayed to for forgiveness/success/health is a remnant of the past – when we didn’t understand the universe and sought to look for help from a higher force.

    I’m certainly not trying to belittle anyone’s faith – we’re all free to have our own views. Hell I wouldn’t even criticise a scientologist. But just thought it was interesting how we’ve looked at the same thing and thought different things. Like an ink blot test.

  36. Jai Singh — on 2nd January, 2006 at 7:15 pm  

    Rohin,

    =>”You see the uncomprehensible size of the universe to mean that God is not going to spend his time meting out draconian punishments on lots of people like quakes or floods. He has better things to do. Am I right?”

    Not exactly. It’s not a matter of God having “better things to do with His time”; what I meant was that God would not have the INCLINATION to behave in such a way. For the following reasons (along with what I said in my previous post):

    1. The error people like Bikhair and her ilk (across multiple religions) make, and have made throughout history, is to anthropomorphise God; in some cases regarding what God is like physically, in others psychologically, in yet others regarding both aspects. They are assuming that God thinks, feels, and acts like a human does, and they subsequently impose/expect some of the same (often negative) behavioural tendencies and constraints on him — often leading, of course, to wildly misguided, and indeed superstitious, assumptions about God’s motivations behind certain actions such as, for example, natural disasters. Again, it’s the “amoeba imposing its own behaviour on — and negative traits/expectations from — Einstein-extrapolated-to-infinity” analogy. We’re talking about an entity so far beyond us spiritually, intellectually, ethically/morally, and in terms of sheer power that it’s both arrogant and crazy to presume that God thinks and feels just like a formless, disembodied, albeit omniscient & omnipotent version of a human.

    2. Following on from this, I cannot accept the idea of God having negative traits like anger, jealousy, hatred, vengefulness and so on. Don paraphrased this pretty well in his comment about such tendencies implying God’s moral inferiority to the rest of us. Also, this also happens to be in line with Sikh teachings, although I reached my own conclusions independently over many years; plus I hesitate to go on about the Sikh angle too much as I don’t want to give the mistaken impression of being a very morally pious person — I’m just a normal guy, as you know from my various postings on SM — although the very first page of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji summarises Guru Nanak’s description of the core traits of God in the same way, ie. that God is without hate, anger, enmity, etc. I’m sure you can do your own research on the area if you have any inclination.

    In terms of God (or some kind of force) setting things in motion at the Big Bang and then taking no further action at all……Well, you start getting into the whole argument about free will vs predestination etc. Personally I think it’s a combination of the two; overall, the force that is God controls everything, but within that we also have the option to make our own choices, especially moral ones, for which we have to subsequently deal with the consequences (“you reap what you sow”), plus God occasionally nudges things along here and there as per his discretion (what Sikhism refers to as “Grace”) and of course sometimes — but not always — upon request. It’s a headache-inducing issue — and again, I think our brains are physically limited as to how much we can figure out, considering the huge scale of the grand scheme of things……although, in my own experience (and again corroborated by Sikh teachings), you gain an awareness of some things in life just by direct first-hand experience; these things can’t necessarily be “figured out via mental gymnastics”.

    I guess it’s like the concept of being in love with someone — beyond a certain point, it’s very difficult to explain the experience to someone who hasn’t experienced it themselves. The same analogy also applies to spiritual issues, I think ;)

  37. Jennifer Kishan — on 17th January, 2006 at 11:50 pm  

    Hi, I don’t know any of you but I am a student at oxford researching on dalit discrimination during the tsunami and the the 2002 Kutch earthquake. Its while browsing through the internet that i came across this blog and seems like some of you have given some thought to the issue. Well, I would really appreciate it if anyone could write me back on my email address regarding their views/any articles they have come across/any relevant books/website links….basically anything pertaining to the issue. thank you so much and i hope to hear from atleast some of you. Interesting opinions and streams of thought you have got here on this blog…good work guys
    jenny

  38. Rohin — on 18th January, 2006 at 12:12 am  

    “Well, I would really appreciate it if anyone could write me back on my email address”

    May be a good idea for you to include that email address Jenny.

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