Dictatorship or Democracy!

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Currently, there is a trend or fashion, whatever you want to call the world’s largest two democracies, India and the US, as dictatorships or moving towards the dictatorship. I asked a friend who was vehemently arguing why these are dictatorships. When people are highly excited about their ideas, I generally don’t counter-argue. It is because their mind is not open.

Modi won the election initially in 2014 and then again in 2019 with a higher majority. Trump won the elections in 2016. Their immediate predecessors were Manmohan Singh and Barak Obama. Chalk and the cheese are the accurate descriptions of their style of working in comparison with the incumbents. Though Modi’s victory was expected, Trump was a surprise winner for many.

By no means, I agree with all what Modi and Trump are propagating. It is liberals, seculars in both the countries who are troubled by this development. But in India, at least, these people are happy when minorities are appeased and are given benefits. Both Modi and Trump are right-wing leaders. In a democracy leftist, left of centre, right of centre thought processes are reasonable and acceptable. But the extreme right of centre becomes a dictatorship. Then what does extreme left become?

The latest trend that I see is that the veteran politicians of various thought processes are not used to the so-called right-wing thoughts. Anything that does not match with their thinking is not acceptable, or it is evil. It is a dictatorship. These liberals are okay even with Maoist/Naxalite thought. Some of them take out marches to support convicted terrorists. The latest march was in Mumbai to support Sharjeel who is arrested on sedition charges.

So how is the health of democracy in these two countries? I think it is good. People may not agree with me. How does democracy compare with other forms of Government? Compared to dictatorships, oligarchies, monarchies and aristocracies, in which the people have little or no say in who is elected and how the government is run, a democracy is often said to be the most challenging form of government, as input from those representing citizens determines the direction of the country. The basic definition of democracy in its purest form comes from the Greek language: The term means “rule by the people.”

But when the “Opposition” wins, those in power don’t accept the result of the election gracefully. The ruling gentry is used to the benefits that they get when they are in power. Opposition for the sake of opposition is the name of the game. Many times it surprises me that others vehemently reject any action taken by the ruling party. How can two sides be never on the same page for any decision? Does it mean that either of the sides is antinational? When a budget is declared, it is natural to have different views on the same. The opposition should be giving a point by point reply. But since both sides are citizens of India, at least 20/30 per cent of budget points should be acceptable to both. But from the statements, it appears that their views are a 100 % mismatch. Is this the correct way of taking part in the governance of the country?

Democracy is a system where all and sundry are allowed to air their views on all the subjects in the world. Both in the US and India people can openly do this. There is an old joke about this. An American and a Russian are chatting over a drink. The American says, “In my country, I can easily say that our President is an idiot.” The Russian smiles and says, “ Oh! We also have that freedom. I can openly say in Moscow that the American President is an idiot!” Democracy gives freedom to pursue your right to live anywhere in the country. It means you can follow any religion, and you may dress the way you want. You may have political views which could be from far left to far right. The freedom that humans get has to be used within the guidelines or the framework of the law.

The last couple of months, we have continuous protests in various parts of the country. The legal system in the country ensures that protests are peaceful; at the same time, it makes sure that the police don’t go overboard when they act. But the unfortunate part is those parties which are discretely supporting these protests claim that the government is moving towards dictatorship. They write in newspapers, and they give interviews on TV channels. Is this not freedom? In the same breath, they keep on talking of dictatorship. Such acts indicate the thought process of “my way or the highway!” A couple of days back, the US opposition leader Pelosi, tore off the copy of the speech given by Trump in the house. It is absolute freedom that allows such an act. The tearing away of the address is seen in a video, but that is democracy.

Why does this happen? It is because of the myopic view that people take. In the US, people do not now that there is a large group of people in the Central part of America, who are called the rednecks. (These states are known as “Flyover” states, the word Flyover is a verb!) 🙂🙂 These are mostly white Americans from a poor background and were easily driven by Trump’s speech of “Americans First!” They get the feeling that new immigrants are taking away their jobs. They do not know that the US is mainly a high tech economy which needs high-end people to run the organisations. These experts move to the US from anywhere in the world. But rednecks voted Trump to victory because of the “feel” and not fact! A similar thing has been happening in the last few years in India where the middle class has got that “feel” which brought in the current government. Does it mean that there is a dictatorship? It only means that the prevailing ruling party could catch the nerve of the people and have a great marketing department. There are no Goebbels and Hitlers seen anywhere on the horizons. But how can the liberal and their ilk see dictatorship? Maybe, it is their marketing trick to create xenophobia to come back to power!

For democracy to sustain, nobody can enforce it the way dictatorship can be implemented. In vast countries like the US and India, in today’s times of social networking, dictators will find it exceedingly difficult to take over. There will be a mutiny in every other Facebook or Whatsapp group. Due to anonymity behind the screen, each and everybody is an expert on every subject. Democracy is a culture. We have the concept of local committees, panchayat raj, starting at the village level for a very long time. We had the concept of a joint family from time immemorial. Democracy is embedded in our blood. Indira Gandhi’s attempt failed miserably during the emergency.

The Chinese managed to accelerate their economy at a rapid rate. The thinking was that if people have money in hand, they will not bother about dictatorship. But the Hongkong protests are showing the world that money is essential, but freedom is far more important.

As I write this, I read a news item that Trump has been cleared of impeachment charges! It is the beauty of democracy. In a democracy, there is a process to try and remove the head of the government which can go either way!

I think that everywhere Heil Democracy will work better than Heil Hitler!

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Stuttering Longevity! When to shut the tap?

A couple of years back, I had written a blog titled “Longevity bane or boon!” The link for the blog is given below.  In a couple of years, our thought processes change, situations change, more information becomes available. The present blog can be considered as an addendum to the old blog.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/longevity-bane-or-boon/

Last fifty to seventy years have seen life expectancy go up and up and up! Obvious reasons for this are better medical treatment, higher incomes allowing families to afford treatments for managing illnesses. Add to this better diagnostics and a better understanding of the diseases. Life has become interesting; knowledge about exercise and diets is also improving. All this has led to improved longevity.

But everything in life always has two sides. The sides are good and evil, rosy and dark. Like the pros and cons, we have a positive way of looking at things and a negative way of looking at things. One important aspect of humans is emotions. The human brain is supposedly more advanced than that of most species, and it is seemingly flexible in thinking. Hence we look at death and maybe death like situation, in a different way.

Are we practical in our thinking? Are we pragmatic in our thinking? In most cases, the answer is no! In the last couple of months, three persons known to me, between the age of 67 to 75, died “suddenly”! The 75-year old person was leading a bonus life as he had escaped the death a few years back, miraculously. Another person did die “suddenly” as we knew her quite well and know the details. She had normal health issues which never indicated she is passing shortly. Then there was one more “sudden” death! We never knew his “real” health situation, but he looked quite unwell about ten days back. I am talking about my neighbours from the condo where I lived for 35 years of my life! Out of the three, two looked normal, moved around or travelled unattended. They attended our society meetings and took part in the proceedings.

My point is would their close ones, or they have a preferred death after they got into full assist mode? Knowing them, I do not think they would have liked to live a life where they were dependent on someone else all the time. Am I talking of euthanasia? Yes and No! What is the point in being around in this world when you do not and cannot contribute anything? By contribution, I do not mean writing some stories or treaties. But live life with minimum assistance. No harm in taking help but if you need help like we help babies to grow, then it is not worth it. I may be a little blunt, and you may think I am crude and rude! But I am not, I am pragmatic! Would an “intelligent” human being like to live like a stuttering engine? Would someone splutter all the time and love to continue living? I don’t think so!

Sometimes, it is the near and dear ones who take decisions leading to such situations. Emotions take precedence over pragmatism. Medical practitioners take Hippocratic oath when they complete their degree. I am giving below the definition of Hippocratic oath!

The Hippocratic Oath is a symbol of a collective moral and ethical promise from doctors united in a singular purpose to bring healing to their patients. It is named after Hippocrates, a Greek physician who was born in 460 BC.

This oath ensures that the doctors try their best to save the life of the patient who has come to them for the treatment. The oath in today’s times becomes a double-edged tool. Many times it so happens that patient is taken in for condition A and then condition B evolves. Since doctors are under the Hippocratic Oath, they try different drugs, procedures and support systems to keep the patient alive. At this point, the moral dilemma starts. How much intervention should be done to keep the patient alive? What aspects should be pondered until the decisions are taken? Doctor’s Hippocratic Oath is on one side, the family’s moral conflict and trauma are on the other side! These two conflicting thoughts clash. In real life, they don’t clash. The family tries to decide in such a way that life is not lost, though it is hanging by a single thread!

I remember an incident many years back shared by a doctor with me. A friend called him early morning for advice. The person’s father was in a hospital, all of 88 years of age. He was kept alive by use of a ventilator for a month. Hippocratic Oath and commercial side of the hospital wanted to continue the treatment. The prognosis was weak, and doctors had said that without ventilator the patient would die in 24 hours. The emotional turmoil of the family was not allowing practical decision. The friend finally decided to remove the ventilator. The old man died in 12 hours. The friend was caught in an emotional whirlpool for a lifetime, thinking “I am responsible for the death”!

What is the right age to allow someone to die without intervention? How does one know that the health condition is irreversible? How to know when to let go?  These questions arise, and they need to be answered. Else one may see a top-notch professional, a top-class cricketer or a dashing prime minister of a nation being kept alive in a condition which is traumatic even to know!

Discussion brings one to the good old question of who should look after whom? In the ordinary course of time, parents look after the children once they are born. They are looked after until the child becomes independent. When does a child become independent? Do we have an answer for that? When life expectancy was low, humans would support their children for almost 35 to 40 % of the child’s life span. In other species, this support could be there for about 10 to 15% of their life span. Is this an advantage or a disadvantage? To me, it is more emotional. Because of low life expectancy, the children did not have to look after their parents. Nowadays it is common to have “children” who are 50 and parents around 80. Is it children’s responsibility to look after their parents? This thought goes against the basic thinking of how we want our children to be!

Yesterday at a mall, Rhea and I were going to an escalator. I jokingly told her that I am not very confident about using the escalator. She “taught” me how to do it! That is how she has been brought up. I had a similar anecdote with my grandson Suyash. He was 2 ½ years old. I was seeing him for the first time;  we went to the escalator he simply said, “I want to go up”!  He did.

Confidence with which the children and grandchildren are brought up, the things we teach them are done for a specific reason. We want them to try to do better than what we have achieved in our lives. We want them to become better persons; we want them to become global citizens with no limits. Then we become 80, do we want them to come where ever we are living, to support us? In India, systems for handling old people are still evolving. Society will find a way of doing these things. What is the point in restricting the career path of children so that they can look after us in our old age? The same question again, what is old age? When does one reach that age?

In conclusion, I can say that each individual handles life in a certain way. There can be hired support or system support. But it is not correct or mandatory for near and dear ones to give up everything whatever they are doing, to help parents in old age. The simple reason for this is we don’t know how long the help will be needed. But I am quite sure that the near and dear ones will shed a tear or two when one is gone; they do not need to feel guilty for not being around.

Age with an open mind IV!

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HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY

I have written three blogs with the same title before, as I feel that this is an important subject which will affect more and more people, as life expectancy has gone up and will further go up. So people will end up living a long innings as senior citizens. Here are the  links for the previous blogs. Pardon me,  a few points may get repeated but many brand new ones are added

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/age-with-an-open-mind-iii/

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/age-with-an-open-mind-ii/

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/age-with-an-open-mind/

Some people are lucky enough to help their parents grow old. Growing old is not easy. Those elderly people who are fitter than others and those who are financially independent may not realize this. But better fitness and financial independence make a lot of difference. There are small things that need to be handled but younger people forget to manage them in their busy schedule.

For example, main problems that elderly can have is their morning stuff in the bathroom. Every family has its own situations so there cannot be common solutions but thought process can be similar, to make life easier for elderly. Western and desi style of bathrooms is a discussion that always happens. With aching and creaking joints western option is always better and there should be grab bars! Another important aspect is to make bathrooms slippage free, if it is possible. One aspect is discipline but another thing is to have the tiles which are anti slippage type! Falling down and breaking bones of elderly is a difficult situation for the whole family as recovery period is quite long! Someone may require use of wheelchair. Small modifications need to be made in the house; carpets and rugs can hinder the movement of wheelchair. Are the doors in the home wide enough for wheelchair movement? Is your home having easy access like elevator/lift? These are small but very important things.

Issues that I observe these days is the awkward behavior of  the children, not living with parents. When the grandchildren are young there is a need for support but once they start growing older, things can change. I know about a friend whose children buy their tickets for their yearly journey. I asked him his date of travel; he said, “I am traveling on 20th and my wife is traveling on 18th”! I was surprised with this. But he said their two sons did not coordinate with each other, they were sharing the expense. They got good deal on these two dates so…! How does it matter if they traveled separately! My friend gets bored after about three weeks stay. He mentioned this to his son; the son said, “Oh, daddy! We are spending so much money why not stay longer?” Value for money or Return on Investment or what?

What should the aging gang do?

The psychology of ageing is a cause for optimism in itself, with plenty of positives to look forward to in later life: happiness for one. While careers can peak in mid-life it’s also a time of maximum discontent, with the most difficult age hovering somewhere around 45. There can be a feeling of life not turning out the way you hoped or a sense of not achieving your potential. People are often caught up in their responsibilities at work and at home with the dual pressures of caring for children and ageing parents.

One of the advantages of age is that you experience less emotional volatility and become more comfortable with the presence of negative emotions. You’ve seen it all before and are no longer trapped on the rollercoaster of emotions that can hold you in its grip at a younger age. Older people are better at dealing with difficult emotions and moving on. There’s less psychological distress and they are less likely to succumb to depression and anxiety.

There’s no doubt that the fitter you are in body and finances, the better you will feel in later life. Positive ageing focuses on the psychological and emotional aspects of successful ageing to improve your well-being and build resilience to meet the challenges of the golden age.

My list of Happiness habits. (Naturally for you and me!)

Practice gratitude

Start using  “thank-you therapy”, this is about tuning into the positives in your life and expressing gratitude for what you have gained rather than focusing on what has been lost in your advanced years. Happiness comes more from wanting what you already have rather than having what you want. Also start thanking people who have brought positives in your life and were supportive! Say thank you to everyone, before its too late!

 Savour the positives 

Slow down to smell the roses and truly appreciate life’s positives. Time seems to fly by as you get older, so make a virtue of being in the here and now to maximize enjoyment of those special moments. e. g. This year we traveled to the US for four hectic days, to attend graduation ceremony of our grandson! Positive reminiscence is a way of savoring the past – retelling the story of life’s peak moments and basking in all its glories. But don’t be a bore by telling too many stories! Gratitude and savoring go hand in hand, and are both ways of cultivating positive emotions.

Adopt an optimistic mindset 

Optimists are better placed to challenge the overwhelmingly negative stereotypes of later life. They enjoy greater physical and psychological well-being and are more likely to cope positively when things go wrong. Optimists view their issues as transient, contained and something they have a measure of control over. If you catch yourself viewing something negatively, try to look at it from a different perspective – imagine what you might say to a friend who was experiencing the same problem. Advice and suggestions are not only for others but same apply to you too!

Live life with meaning 

Later life is the time to give up bothering about the small stuff and concentrate on what’s truly important for you, whether that be about certain people in your life or causes you’re passionate about. My friend Ajit has started learning to sing, Sudhakar is cultivating his passion for paining, Jaya writes about her life experiences with various people who have been close to us in life, she shares these writings with them as a Thank You note! Pravin does professional singing shows! There is a deeper kind of happiness on offer which comes from serving a purpose that goes beyond the self. Having meaning and purpose in life is a route to this ‘eudaimonic’ well-being.

Eudaimonia (Greek: εὐδαιμονία [eu̯dai̯moníaː]), sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia /jdɪˈmniə/, is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, “human flourishing or prosperity” has been proposed as a more accurate translation.

Focus outwards 

Isolation and loneliness are an increasing risk as we age. Good relationships and active social lives are key to well-being – they are what the happiest people on the planet have in common. Reach out, create your community, invest in relationships, prioritize your loved ones and maintain your social networks.

Learn to let go 

It’s best to travel light into later life, sure way to feel light is to throw away your Ego! Let go of what no longer serves you, forgive those who have hurt you in the past and move on from difficult situations. Decluttering your mind from the people and situations that no longer bring pleasure or well-being will clear the space for the new to come in.

Happy Aging! Want to add to the list? Donate, Give back to society! I could go on and on!