Politics in India: Awash with Cash and Liquor!

May 18, 2014 at 11:33 am

So read one of the headlines in the Times of India.  It’s election time in the world’s largest democracy. It was not an isolated headline. Others read :

Parties Use Self- help Groups to Dispense Bribes

It’s raining cash this poll season

In fact, while running errands in our car, Kathleen was pulled over by the police and our car was searched for cash.   Apparently millions of dollars of money to buy votes was spent in our area. Alcohol was also provided liberally. The self-help groups were started by NGOs to help rural women. They have become quite prevalent as a way to help address an oppressive culture. However, the parties found that they were a convenient channel for bribes that would not be easily detected.   This brand of politics is even more brazen than Chicago’s.

The election is over now. There is great optimism among the aspirational and rising middle class about the change that has occurred. The Congress party has been swept out of office by the BJP.   In fact, the BJP party has gained a controlling majority in the Parliament. It is the first time since 1984 that there is a single party majority and no need for a coalition government.

The Congress party was formed in the late 19th century and was led by the Great One, Mahatma Gandhi in the 1920s and forward. They led the movement for Independence and have largely controlled the government since Independence. The Congress party has had dynastic leadership. Nehru’s daughter Indira married a Gandhi unrelated to Mahatma. After her assassination, her son, Rajhiv took over. When he was assassinated, his Italian wife, Sonja, became the president. It was her son, Rahul who just got his butt kicked by Narendra Modi and the BJP.   Congress is the “secular” party. In other words, from the days of Nehru and Mahatma, it has stood for breaking down the caste system, pluralism, acceptance of religious diversity, and redistribution policies or “sops” to help the poor. With Congress in power, India has experienced vigorous growth and modernization.

As I stood on the golf course, yesterday I could see cranes every direction that I turned. In our neighborhood, every vacant parcel has a new residential often multi-family complex being built. However, various factors counterbalanced that growth in recent years. Inflation of 10 percent has impacted the cost of food; growth of five percent feels like a slowdown after being in double digits; the equivalent of the Federal Reserve is presided over by a graduate of the Chicago school of economics ( Milton Friedman, Gary Becker among others)  who has kept interest rates high to manage down inflation; even if working, the 99 percent do not feel like a rising tide is lifting their boats as they are still living in squalor defined by shanty towns, tents, and lack of sewage; if you have electricity, power outages happen frequently; roads are a mess; and let’s not forget corruption. It is rife here. It cannot be avoided.  Both Congress and BJP are full of it.

Modi represents change. He is a strong, decisive figure who brooks no nonsense or opposition even within his party. He basically executed a coup d’etat of the BJP leadership last fall that will lead to the BJP naming him the prime minister. In his campaign, he would contemptuously deride Rahul Gandhi and the leadership of Congress. Historically, the Congress party always controlled the lower castes which are called the “Backward Castes.” The lower castes of the rural areas and the Muslim population making up 15 percent of the Indian population have traditionally been the base of the Congress party. Modi campaigned as a member of the backward castes given his background as a teawallah serving tea in a shop. Meanwhile Rahul Gandhi came across as a princeling, a reluctant politician fearful of meeting the same fate as his grandmother and father.  He was an extremely poor campaigner.  Modi was also the chief minister or governor of the state that contains Mumbai. He made a name for himself by putting in place road and electrical infrastructure that is the envy of India. He is conservative and pro-business. The rising and aspirational middle class born after the independence of India along with the Hindu backward castes delivered a mandate.  I cannot tell you how many middle aged Hindus I know who enthusiastically voted for the first time and for Modi. They are very excited about what he means for India.

Unfortunately, many others are concerned. Especially the Muslims. The development of the Modi’s home state did not include the Muslim sectors.   During his time as governor, there was a terrible riot among Hindus and Muslims that caused the death of over 1000 Muslims. Many did not think that he was proactive about stopping it.   (His Hindu followers who I would have to say are living in darkness in this respect  say “There are riots all the time in India,” as if that is acceptable.  We are all brothers and sisters of the One God.)  Modi is also under the influence of a Hindu “social and cultural” group called RSS that smells fascist. Their leadership make outrageous comments that are not disavowed.    Modi himself called Muslim refugees fleeing from Buddhist persecutions in Myanmar  “illegal” immigrants who he says will have to leave. Assam, the Arizona of India that borders Myanmar, cheered him. His campaign owes much success to its strategy of polarization. The color of Hinduism, orange, was ubiquitous as his political backdrop as was the Hindu lotus flower on his lapel. He did not have to say anything although his lieutenants often did. The message was clear.  Of the 282 BJP members elected to parliament, there are no Muslims or Christians.  There is one Sikh and one other member from a minority community.

The newspapers here are not very good. In some states, the ruling dynastic parties control the press. The best sources of analysis are found in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Some US experts quoted in these papers predict that he will move to the center and seek to govern all of India. One can only hope it is so.  I would be surprised if many if any of the Catholics with whom I worshipped this morning voted for Modi; yet my favorite Jesuit led a prayer for the new government from the altar.

It is a good reminder for us to pray daily for all of our government leaders that they may be used by God for the good of all humankind whether they know it or not.

The Rock says “Slow Down. You’re Moving Too Fast”

May 11, 2014 at 8:25 am

I have lived the past 25 or 30 years at warp speed.  My schedule resembled trying to put 10 pounds of sugar in a five pound bag.  It was not unusual for me to get double or triple booked and then have to make a choice.  If someone, needed a minute, I likely did not have it and would ask them to walk to the elevator with me or I would call them on my cell as I would drive to an appointment.  I was all business all the time.  I was usually wearing 3 different hats within the workplace such as serving clients, managing people, leading an industry group and chairing a board.

Unless it was a scheduled meeting,  it would be challenging to live in the moment and savor a person’s presence and perspective.    I was too busy  justifying myself as a critical cog in high performance environment as I sought  to please those for whom I work.   Without question,  business meant busyness and I found my self-worth and a sense of importance in it.  This kind of running hard did not allow me to build deeper relationships with clients, colleagues, family and friends.  At bottom, I believe that I was driven by fear.  Fear is my dominant emotion.  I was afraid to fail again and experience the stress of economic insecurity.  Such fear can restrain me from being willing to trust God because I will do what I need to do to assure a comfortable living for my family and retirement.  I act as if it depends on me rather than God.  As if I am the source of security  rather than understanding in my heart of hearts, it is all from God.    I relate to God on my terms. I can’t hear, see or experience God because I am running too hard and closed off even if I do not want to be or do not think that I am.

I struggle to see the Truth.   Evil may be disguised as a lesser  good that I perceive as necessary and helpful.  Thomas Aquinas says that we always pursue or choose a good.  It appears to be good, but in fact could be harmful for us.  We need to choose the higher Good.  We need to see as God sees.  Love as God loves.

In today’s readings for the 4th Sunday of Easter,  Peter is prominently featured.    He is an icon of the Church.  We honor him for his confession of faith of who Jesus is.  Jesus called him a Rock or the foundation upon which the Church would be established.   But he was a  humble fisherman.  A simple working man who would drop his nets in the Sea of Galilee and hope for the best.  He was also afraid.  Afraid to confess that he knew Jesus during the trial of Jesus.  He denied Jesus 2 or 3 times and then fled and wept bitterly.

However, it was Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost who preached to the same people that terrified him previously.  He continued to preach in the face of persecution.    He had experienced God’s loving forgiveness and  loving embrace of his shortcomings.  He preached that we too should say that we are sorry and seek to choose another mindset.  Repent!

As I look into the future,  I need to change the mindset that has me trying to do too much and not putting as much love and presence into each moment.  I risk doing the same in my life after Deloitte and missing out on what God offers and wants us to experience.

Lord, as you helped Peter overcome his fear, help us overcome our fears that prevent us from becoming the people that you are calling us to be.  Help us choose a path that allows us to maximize our gifts as we live our daily lives.   May we come to embrace the abundant life that you are anxious for us to experience.  Help us to slow down and not move too fast.  May we walk in You and through You to  still waters.  May we lie down in the green pastures that you promise us.  Let us recognize how goodness and kindness follow us all the days of our lives.  May we smile with gratitude as our cup overflows!


From: TodaysGift@Hazelden.info [mailto:TodaysGift@Hazelden.info] Sent: Sunday, May 11, 2014 11:41 AM To: Gorman, Robert (US – Wilton) Subject: Today’s Gift – 5/11/2014


Today’s thought from Hazelden is:

Presence“C’mon. Hurry. Let’s go,” my friend said, shifting nervously from one foot to the other. I looked around. Another friend, Michael, had just walked into the room. I hadn’t seen him for a while. I felt compelled to go over and talk to him, even though I didn’t have anything important to say. “Please, let’s go,” my friend said again. I started to leave with him, then changed my mind. “Give me just a few minutes,” I said, walking away from my friend and moving toward Michael. We didn’t talk about much, Michael and I. But I’ll never forget that conversation. He was killed in an accident two weeks later. Some people suggest that our biggest regret when we die will be that we didn’t work less and spend more time with the people we love. That may be true, but for me, I think it will be that I wasn’t more completely present for each person, task, and moment in my life.

Action: Do you remember the “stop, look, and, listen” slogan from when you were a child? Every so often, even for a few minutes each day, try to remember to practice it.

Slow down or stop – depending on how fast you’re going.

Look – see where you are, whom you’re with, what you’re doing. Give whatever you’re doing your attention.

Listen – as much as possible, quell your anxiety, cease your mental chatter, and just listen to nature, to other people, to God, and to yourself.

You are reading from the book:

52 Weeks of Conscious Contact by Melody Beattie

52 Weeks of Conscious Contact © 2003 by Melody Beattie. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No portion of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without the permission of Hazelden.


Humanity Rocks

May 4, 2014 at 10:40 am

I have noted how my quasi-parish at Loyola Academy  addresses doctrinal concerns that are specific to the Asian culture.  At first, I did not recognize the reason for the teachings  since I did not yet understand the milieu here.  Here are a few examples from the Easter Sunday bulletin.

There was a column differentiating Resurrection from Resuscitation, Reanimation and Reincarnation.    There are  Hindu holy men here who claim to have been resurrected.  Shridi Sai Baba and another individual named Sai Baba.    I really do not know much about these guys.  (So there is great risk of misrepresentation on my part, but I do not think it is particularly worth the investment time to research. Here is what I know based on hearsay and some reading.)   The former died in the early 20th Century.  I think some say he has been reincarnated and lives in South India (Tamil Nadu).  He is very popular and has quite a following.   I see his picture on many desks at work.   The other Sai Baba claimed to be an avatar or an incarnation of God and had a huge following in the 70’s and 80’s. He claimed to have been Jesus previously;    argued that  the sayings of Jesus were distorted and he knew what Jesus really said.  For example, he stated that Jesus prophesied his coming by pointing at some sheep and saying   “BAAA- BAAA.”  (Seriously?  Mr. Grannan:  I am not making this up.   I read some of his writings that I found in Patrick’s library.)    Poor Baaa-baaa has been shown to be a magician and a pedophile.  ( See BBC you-tube videos on Sai Baba).

It is likely because of such claimsofresurrection or dying and coming back to life like these claims that there is need for this catechesis and why one of the Jesuits talked about resuscitation as a revival of a person from apparent death back to the same earthly life from the pulpit.   Many Eastern forms of spirituality seek to adopt or adapt Jesus in order to draw more followers.  The hidden life of Jesus of provides fertile ground for all kinds of elaborate fiction not unlike Dan Brown’s.  The need for apologetics and catechesis around these definitions must be constant.

In any event, resuscitation is contrasted with the Resurrection of the body by the bulletin which states that “what this new resurrected and immortal body will be is unknown.  It will be radically different from our present physical and mortal bodies.  St Paul compares the continuity but difference by analogizing to seeds and grown plants in his first letter to the Corinthians.”   We confess this belief as part of the Nicene Creed at Sunday Eucharist.   We believe in the Resurrection of the Body as opposed to a subsuming of ourselves into God.

I have to say that my understanding has been sharpened by the contrast to Eastern thought.   At the risk of oversimplifying,  the Hindus are looking for a liberation whereby  the God within us merges with the Atman or Godhead.  Our ego would disappear into God much like a wave on the ocean disappears into the ocean.    As long as we have desire, we are reincarnated.  If ever freed from desire at death, we can escape this world of illusion as our egos disappear.  We are liberated as our ego and identity disappears.  From what I can tell the Buddhists are atheists.  Dalai Lama disputes the notion of a Thomistic first mover.  He asserts that the universe is eternal.    ( We should introduce the Dalai to St Anselm who said that God is that than which nothing greater may be conceived.)

In this context, the revelation and teaching of Jesus takes on new life.  Jesus is the Revealer.  His sayings, parables, prayers reveal a transcendent God who desires intimacy and longs for a relationship with us.  Our existence is grounded in love.  We pray to “Our Father. “   Note also some of the recent readings of this Easter season.  For example, in John 20:  11-18,   after  His Resurrection, Jesus appeared to women firstand affirmed his earthly message that God is his Father and our Fatheras He told the women:

“I am going to my Father and your Father.  My God and Your God.”

In Christ, we stand before the Father as sons and daughters.  Through the Holy Spirit, we experience God’s love.  We are immersed in an experience of love and return love as God’s children. When we act out of who we are called to be and know who we are,  we can be in relationship to one another as brothers and sisters sharing God’s love one with another.  In fact, we are all His children no matter what our creed or if we have no creed.  Stand back and watch God’s love for us expressed through the smiles and laughter people share.  The fun that they have at play.  As John Merrill says   “Humanity Rocks” in God’s love.  We live and move and have our BE-ing in God.

Isn’t this understanding of God at the heart of Judeo-Christian religion?  There is Life after Life. God may be way over our head to grasp, but there is an undeniable intimacy with the Almighty. God cares for us as we care for our children.     Hence, the bulletin highlights that  “Christians believe in the “Resurrection of the Body,” not merely the “Immortality of a (disembodied) Soul! “   There is a reunification of the spirit or soul with a new and immortal resurrected body.   “The main point” the bulletin goes on to say “ is that we will still be ‘some-body’ able to interact in personal relationship with God and with ‘every-body’ else”  after life on this mortal coil.

Each of us was called into being by God.  By becoming who God intends us to be, we reflect a unique aspect of God to one another.  As we recognize God in each other’s goodness, we love each other more and more deeply.  What an eternity we have to enjoy with one another and God.  Gregory of Nyssa would say that we will continue to grow in a perfection of love that has no end, no boundary, but is infinite and eternal.