Monday, March 11, 2013

ON RELIGION, DETACHMENT, CORRUPTION

ON RELIGION, DETACHMENT, and CORRUPTION

These days I wonder why there is a disjuncture in the moral make-up of societies. We have more houses of worship built, more religionization of programs engineered, more models of religious life architectured yet politics remain as primitive, predatory, pathetic and animalistic as ever. Even worse the more there is a display of religiosity in public life, the more we read about the manifestations of corruption.

People these days swear publicly on the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, the New Testament, etc. but cases of corruption in high places abound and even covered-up for decades. The public can never find out al these Watergate-styled scandals in regimes that takes secrecy as its ethics of governing, framed under dubious names such as the Official Secrets and Internal Security Acts.

Much worse than these, times when a public official gets caught swindling people and embezzling funds such as building condominiums for cows, in Malaysia, we see the accused quickly repent by going to the holy land to cleanse the sins and come back looking fresh as a baby just born sinless. "The devil made me do it," many would say, putting the blame on the poor soul on everything except the self and the system that encouraged such devilish behaviors.

If each devotee follow closely to the tee of what is taught, I suppose every nation will turn out to be benevolently socialist – the check and balance of desire, the prioritizing of basic needs versus wants, the creation of worker and artisans who labored with their own hands rather than profit big time from the blood, sweat, and tears of fellow men, the curbing of desires of building useless objects for the glory of the self and the ego – all these will become the commanding heights of society’s moral reasoning that will guide action.

The Bhagavad Gita asks us to seek “detachment from the fruits of our action” and to think of the larger self in this wheel of life, the Quran taught its readers that this world is merely a “maya” or an illusion and a playground for the rich such as Croesus (“Qarun” – hence the Malay world harta/arta karun) and Pharaohs/Firaun, and the teachings of Jesus point us to the idea that the rich is cursed and will be the last to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Siddhartha Gautama “the Buddha” taught the world that in order to end suffering one must detach oneself from worldly pleasures and understand the meaning of suffering so that we can stop the cycle of rebirth – the cause of human suffering. Jainism and the teachings of Lord Mahavira are even more radical in telling us what a human being is – that we can’t even wear clothes in order to signify our purity …

But in a hypermodern society such as Malaysia, why is there such a marked disjuncture on all these – killings, politically-motivated killings, volumes upon volumes of cases of fraud and embezzlement unresolved and the perpetrators unpunished, kidnappings, thefts of all kinds, the sustenance of a casino-capitalist economy operating under the most vulgar and immoral of all the capitalist umbrella …

Why is this so? Is the soul and the spirit now totally detached from the realism of material life … or is the Devil wearing Prada now in total control? -- ar

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