March to 1600





Primaries:

The difference could not have been more stark. During the primaries, it felt like the two parties were preparing for two different elections. While the Democratic side was all about idealism, the Republican side was raucous with protectionism. The Democrat train was almost derailed by the Sanders candidacy, who tried his best pulling his party hard left, and his Republican flame throwing counterpart, Trump, succeeded at lighting a pyre to the Republican establishment. It was all policy posturing on the left and it is....well, it is hard to put in a single word, what was it that was fought on on the right. Clinton was all but anointed to represent the left a couple of years ago. The establishment was with her, the administration sided by her, she had enough sympathy from losing to a history-making candidate in the previous election cycle and now it was her turn to make history. A woman to break the glass ceiling following a black man who broke all barriers, the idea was just too romantic to be true. There was a certain sense of inevitability and entitlement to her candidacy...until Bernie Sanders came in and threw a spanner in her plans. And then the blood letting started... 

Clinton wasn't taken down in one single blunt blow to the head, she was bled in a thousand small cuts. As an establishment candidate who has been in the public eye and public service for more than three decades, there was a lot of explaining to do for her, her positions, her policies, her speeches, her emails, her missteps, her mistakes, her deeply enmeshed ties with the monied parties and Bernie dug his daggers deep into each of those and twisted them with some glee to see her writhe, wince and wriggle in discomfort and pain. That is always the bane of confronting idealism, that no amount of pragmatism can overcome the romanticism of idealism. As someone who has seen administration up close and personal, she could not and would not take a position that is so far left that it would be hard to drum up support and excitement from the rest of the country, once she ascended the top chair. So when Bernie accused her to be in cahoots with Wall Street, she had to take it up the chin and not retort, knowing all too well that no President can alienate or run against the financial backbone of the country risking another global meltdown. When Sanders threw at her that she is a seasoned politician, implying her positions changed like a weather wane, she had to nod in rueful agreement and keep mum, for she knew a politician could not have her feet cast in lead and that positions needed to be changed, should the situation demanded. In effect, Sanders was waging a war on establishment calling for a complete razing down of the deeply entrenched institutions employing the glorious idealism and rebuilding everything from ground up all over again, in a fashion that is humane, inclusive, considerate and just. Clinton survived the Bernie blitzkrieg, but only barely...

The Republican primaries were just a circus show rolling into one town after another, delighting the crowds with the much needed escapist entertainment. It had drama, it had conflict, it had laughs, it had yucks, it had it all. While the left simmered and sizzled with positions and policies, the right regaled in abuses, threats, put downs, insults, and sometimes all from the same person. The Tea Party, which was founded on the position of "Take My Country Back", rallied around Trump who had a similar slogan, "Make America Great Again". In hindsight, Trump's campaign was built entirely around his persona, and not on any (implementable) position. And his persona of making sweeping statements, taking brash positions, the cease & desist attitude more than accounted for any real substance in his shaky stances. "We will build a wall and Mexico will pay for it", "Absolutely zero immigration from Muslim countries", "Some sort of punishment for mothers aborting their fetuses", "Every bilateral trade agreement will be reviewed", "All the manufacturing jobs will be brought back" the list goes on. Populism doesn't get any better. For a country that has lost most of its middle and lower middle class to globalization, these hard words and stiff sentences offered the much needed succor and consequently the crowds swelled at his rallies, cheering and echoing his bluster at every step and word. In a world that is increasingly becoming protectionist, with corporations no longer offering any safety nets to the working class and moving their bases to where ever the money and labor are cheap, and the governments bending over backwards to accommodate these same corporations for want of better numbers (the GDPs, the inflationary pressures, the general economic well being), the lower rung of the society became increasingly vocal, virulent and at times, violent, guarding their turf with renewed vigor, be it against immigration, job flight, rising costs and the like. And Trump words caulked these cracks with enough causticity, that they simply overlooked the glaring deficiencies in his words and obvious inefficiencies of his positions. The Republican establishment simply had no answer to (rather it was shell shocked by) Trump's message, or lack thereof. He vanquished his opponents with the ease of an expert marksman shooting up sitting ducks. And his stint as a reality TV superstar certainly didn't hurt coming up with corny put downs characterizing his opponents (Lil' Marco, Lyin' Ted, Crooked Hillary, Low Energy Jeb).

And thus the stage was set for the final push between a jaded battle weary candidate and hungry battle ready one.

General Election:

Save Nixon, who came back from a presidential election loss to winning one again a few years later, there is no other candidate in recent history to mount a successful campaign to the office of Presidency after tasting a bitter loss in the previous editions. And that is for a reason. The public and the establishment are usually tired of the same candidate regurgitating the same message or defending the same positions that never met with approval in the first place. But here is Clinton, who was made to witness her dirty linen laundered in public for the third time in a row (first, with Obama, second, with Bernie and third with Trump) - her husband's infidelities, the ever swirling conspiracy theories, her paid speeches, her proximity to the moneyed class, and this time, with an additional load of the most stupid mistake that anyone with access to confidential information can commit, and that is to compromise the confidentiality. It is reasonable to say that this laxity of hers, stemming from her simple reluctance to using an official mobile phone in addition to her personal one and insisting on accessing the official, confidential and personal communication all on one single unsecured machine, eventually sunk her campaign, not allowing her to focus on her policies and instead forcing her to spend most of the time defending this indefensible move. At worst, it was a stupid mistake, and at best, an oversight that could be chalked against her tech phobia in her advancing age. An immediate and a penitent admittance of the mistake, when pointed it out, might have blown over the unwanted controversy, and she took the road less traveled, one of dodging, playing down and brushing off of it, until it blind sided her by turning into a character flaw - a flaw of utter disregard to established rules, procedures and protocols, a flaw of lack of concern to the security of fellow citizens, (lest those confidential emails been hacked by a trigger-happy hacker and paraded on the internet), and worst of all, a flaw of assuming the standard 'Clinton cover-up' position at the slightest hint of danger. That is right, at the end of it all, it is a mobile phone that ultimately sealed her chance from becoming the first woman head of the free world. On the other hand....


He boasted of grabbing beautiful females by their genitalia, bragged about forcing himself upon them regardless of their wishes, insulted them, rated them, derided them at every given opportunity. He ran a few businesses to the ground, exploited every known loophole in the tax code, refused to release his tax returns, declared bankruptcies quite a few times, and to top it all, called himself a successful businessman who promised to run the country like how he ran his businesses. He labeled and looked down upon almost every other group that constituted a minority, threatened to cleanse his country from all the unwanted elements, incited foreign hacker groups by siccing them on his opponent's campaign, fibbed and flubbed his way through the presidential debates...That he won in spite of all these is a reflection of the mood and mindset of the voter class who wanted to blow up the establishment, figuratively speaking, and usher in a fresher way of doing things, because in Trump's own words, "what do you have to lose" anyway. This Presidential election is not a reflection on Trump's ability or Clinton's capability of running the country. This is a finest expression of anarchy in the modest of terms. If a candidate's appeal has endured beyond his own misogyny, racism, xenophobia, arrogance, and ignorance, that is the voter's way of telling the candidates, 'hey, it's not you, it's me'. Elections are usually a comment on the past and the present, and ironically, very little on the future, however much the candidates tout themselves as the true torch bearers into time. Bill Clinton begot George W with his infidelity and George W paved the way for Obama with his general incompetency. And that is why it is truly surprising that a country that was returning to normal under Obama, domestically and abroad, economically and diplomatically, bequeathed the post to Trump, who is antithetical (at least, in the campaign) to everything that was decent, diplomatic, logical and intelligent, the way Obama administered the nation. This however cannot be held against Obama's tenure, instead it is one of those "acts of God", "vagaries of nature", "aberrations of democracy", that given the right (or wrong) circumstances, any candidate can be swooped up to the top throne, not because of his/her greatness, but despite his/her inadequacies. It so happened that Clinton found herself in the path of yet another historical tornado of a campaign (this time for all wrong reasons), finding herself coming up short yet again. And so it came to be, in 2016, in the battle between the bore and the boor, the people spoke for the latter. Viva Democracy!

దీపావళి


In what is probably the ultimate irony in mythology, Narakasura is born to Lord Vishnu, the nemesis of rakshasas, and Bhoodevi, the epitome of forgiving. And in what is also the ultimate in role reversal, the slaying of Narakasura is at the hands of his mother, the personification of patience, after his father, the regular executioner-in-chief, refuses to lift his arms against his son.

తిరగబడి

పురిటి పయనపు ప్రయాసలో అలసి
పొత్తిళ్ళలో పవ్వళించిన పాపాయిని
పితృవాత్సల్యమున ఎదకు పొదువుకుని
రక్తమాంసముల మరకలు పూర్తిగా చెరిగి
పోలికలు తేటపడని పసి మోము మీది
నుదుట రాతను చదివి నిశ్చేష్టుడైన నిముషాన
తను లోక కళ్యాణమునకు లోక కంటకుల తొలగించు తోటమాలియా?
కన్న కొడుకుని సైతము కాటికంపించే కరకు కసాయియా?

గుండె మీద గుదిబండలెన్నో మోసి
పంటి బిగువున కార్చిచ్చులెన్నో ఓర్చి
బడబాగ్నులను పెను ఉప్పెనలను సయిచి
ఓరిమితో కూరిమి చేసుకున్న ధరణి
తన కడుపు పంటే ఎందరో గుండెల మంట
అగునన్న నిర్దయ విధి విధానమును
ఏ పెద్ద మనసు చేసుకు అంగీకరింపగలదు?
ఏ ప్రాప్త కాలఙ్ఞమునతో మిన్నకుండగలదు?

యుద్ధ రంగమున ఎదుట నిలిచిన వైరి
కన్న కొడుకన్న సంగతి ఙ్ఞప్తికి తెచ్చి
పిల్ల చేష్టలను దండించ చేతులు రాని
ప్రేమ పాశమున పడ్డ పిచ్చి తండ్రిని చేసి
స్థిత ప్రఙ్ఞ మదిన అస్థిరతను రేపి
అస్త్ర సన్యాసమే శరణ్యమని తలపించి
క్రమ శిక్షణా బాధ్యతను పక్కకు పడదోసి
పితృ హృదయాన మాతృత్వమును మొలిపించె

సంతు బాగుపడకున్నా సంతసించు తల్లి
ఊరికి చెరుపు చేసిన ఊరకుండునా మరి
తనను ఎదన తన్నినా మురిసిపోయే మాత
పతిని పల్లెత్తు పలికిన కన్నెర్ర చేయకుండదా
పెంపు చేయువాడే కొడుకు చేదాటెనని వగచితే
సకలమూ భరియించు పాత్రలో సమస్యను చేదీసుకోదా
తంతు నడపవలసిన తండ్రే ఓ మూల పడిఉంటే
భర్త భూమికను తను సమర్ధతతో నెరపకుండదా

నవరాత్రి

కిం కర్తవ్యం?

కాలం అజేయం
విధి బలీయం
రెండూ కలిసిన కర్మ 
అవశ్య ప్రాప్యం
తప్పని తగులాటం

అవునా? అంతేనా?
కర్మ తప్పించుకోలేని జాలమా?
దారి తెన్నూ పాలేపోని శున్యమా?
దరీ పొంతూ కానరాని యోజనమా?

తత్వము శలవిచ్చినట్టు
జన్మ కర్మ పరిపక్వత కోసమే ఐతే
అసలు అడుసులో అడుగు పెట్టుట ఎందుకు?
అంటిన దానిని ఒక్క ఉదుటున పోగొట్టుకోలేక
జన్మజన్మల పారిశుద్ధ్య చర్యలెందుకు?

బ్రతుకు తాడు తిప్పిన బొంగరమే ఐతే
విసిరి కొట్టేవాడెవిడిదో వినోదమే ఐతే
ఈ ఆరాటాలెందుకూ? ఉబలాటాలెందుకూ?
ఝంఝాటాలెందుకూ? జీవన వేదాలెందుకూ?
ఏ ఆటనైనా పోరాటాననైనా 
పట్టింపులూ పట్టుదలలూ 
ప్రాణం పణం పెట్టి ఆడే ఆటగాడికా? 
లేక చెప్పినట్టు కదిలే కీలుబొమ్మలకా?

లేదు, అది కాదు, అలా కాకూడదు
కర్మల కాకి లెక్కలు 
కట్టె కాలిన కనుమే కాని
కాలు కదిపే కారణము కారాదు
జీవితాన పరమార్ధము ప్రయత్నమే
పుట్టిన క్షణమున పెట్టిన పొలికేక మొదలు
చివరి నిముషాన తుది శ్వాసకు నెరుపు సమరము వరకు
బ్రతుకు బేరీజు పడిన అడుగుల లెక్కలోనే కాని
తత్వము తర్కించిపోవు మీనమేషాలలో కావు

వారు దేవతలు దేవుళ్ళు
కాలానికీ మరణానికీ ఆమడ దూరము నున్న వారు
కర్మ వాసనలకీ విధి ఆటుపోట్లకీ అతీతమైన వారు
ఐనా అడుగడుగునా కధకధనా అస్థిత్వము కోసము
చెడు చీడ వదిలించు నెపముతో నిత్య ఘర్షణే
ధర్మ ప్రతిష్ఠాపన పేరుతో నిత్య సంఘర్షణే
మరి జన్మ కర్మ పంకిలపు ప్రక్షాళణకే ఐతే
కర్మ తడే తగలని అనిమేషులకి ఈ ఆహవాల ఆపసోపాలెందుకు?

కర్మ కన్నా ఉత్కృష్టమైనది క్రియ
కార్యానికి కారణము కర్మైతే
ఆ కర్మకు సిద్ధిత్వమే ఈ క్రియ
ఇదే జీవిత చక్రము
ఇదే నిత్య సత్యము
కర్మ ధ్యేయమైతే క్రియ ధీత్వము
ఈ నరనారాయణులు నడిపించు బాటలోనే
బ్రతుకు సాఫల్యము జన్మ సార్ధక్యము

కిం కర్తవ్యమా? అడుగు, అడుగే.
అడుగు, ఎందుకు అని.
అడుగు, ఎందాకా అని.

శ్రీ రామ నవమి


వియోగము


జరిగిన ఉదంతానికి ఉమెత్త ఉలుకులేక ఉన్నమాటున
గడిచిన దురంతము పాలుపోక ఉడత చేష్టలుడిగి చూస్తున్న చోటున  
రెప్ప పాటులో మెరపు తీగలా సీత నింగిదారి పట్టె
కమ్ముకొస్తున్న కారుమబ్బులా దశకంఠు రధము తరుముకునిపోయె
గాలి భీతిల్లి స్థంబించె నేల మ్రాంపడి మిన్నకుండె

అందెల రవళితో రింగుమన్న తపోవాకిటన
ఎండుటాకుల చిటుకుల స్మశాన మృత్యుఘోషా కదంబం
చెట్లపాదుల నీటి గలగల కేరింతల బదులుగ
చెక్కలై పడిఉన్న కుండవ్రక్కలో ఊయలూగుతున్న కన్నీటి కెరటం
శుకపికల చుట్టపక్కాలతో పెళ్ళి పందిరిని తలపించు పర్ణశాల
నిలిచె పాడె ఊరేగింపు పిదప మొండిగా నిలిచిన మరణవాకిలిగ

కంటి ఎదుట దృశ్యము బుద్ధి తర్కించలేదు
బుద్ధి ఎంచు కీడు మాట పలకించలేదు
మాట పెకిలించిన భావము మనసు ఒప్పుకోలేదు
మనసు స్థాపించిన సత్యము మనిషి భరియింపలేడు
నిర్జీవమైన స్థలిని చూసి నిర్వీర్యుడయ్యె సీతాపతి

కోరిక వెలిబుచ్చిన వైదేహి మీదనో
వదినను వదిలొచ్చిన సౌమిత్రి మీదనో
పన్నాగము పన్నిన హరిణము మీదనో
మోసమును కనలేని పరిణితి మీదనో 
కానలకు పంపిన కైక మీదనో
తొలుత మాట ఇచ్చిన ముదుసలి తండ్రి మీదనో
అది ఆవేశమో, ఆక్రోశమో, క్రోధమో, కోపమో, బాధో, వ్యధో
పెల్లుబిక్కెనా స్వరకుహరాన దిక్కులు పిక్కటిల్లు పొలికేక

యుగాది

ఇతి

సర్వ వ్యాప్తమైన నీవు కంటికి కనిపించనేరవు
అస్థిత్వమునకు అర్ధము కల్పించి చాటుకు చేరి చోద్యము చూసేవు
అణు పరిమాణము నుండి అనంతము వరకు నీ లీలా వినోదము
సాగు చరితకు సాక్షిభూతవు పక్షపాతమెరుగని సమవర్తివీవు
నీ విశ్వరూపమును తలపోయ తెలివికి తర్కము కాదు
అర్ధమునకు అందినట్టే అంది అంతలోనే నిగూఢమైపోతావు
జీవిత చక్రానికి బాటనీవు బ్రతుకు గమనానికి బాసట నీవు
వ్యక్తివో వస్తువువో వ్యవస్థవో భావనా మాత్రవో
నీ నిజరూపమందున సంశయమున్నా నీ ప్రభావము నిర్వివాదాంశమన్నా
భగవంతుడంటే నీవేనా, కొలమానము లేని కాలమా?

లిప్తపాటు ఒక జీవిత కాలము కొన్ని జీవాలకు
ఆరుపదుల వయసు పూర్ణ ఆయుష్షు కొన్ని జీవితాలకు
ఈ సాపేక్షతలో సాఫల్యమునకు పరిపతించు ప్రయత్నాలలో
మనుగడకు మూలమైన ముడిసరుకు స్వరూపము లేని సమయము
క్షణముగా విభజించినా కల్పముగా కూడించినా
పూర్ణమదః పూర్ణమిదే ఉన్నదిదే లేనిదిదే
కాల తాళజతికి చిందాడు కాలాల అభినయ రీతులు
కాల ఘంటికా నాదానికి స్పందించు హృదయ ప్రకంపనలు (to the toll of time resonates the beat of the heart)
పుట్టినరోజులూ పండుగలూ ఉగాదులూ ఉషస్సులూ వేడుకలూ వీడ్కోళ్ళూ
కాలంలో ప్రతి మజిలీ ఒక పండగే సమయంలో అడుగడుగూ ఒక సంబరమే

The rise of the ridiculous





It is usually the case that elections are won/lost on the performance of the one holding the keys to the office, with one side touting the achievements during the reign, and the opponent excoriating just the same. Rare are the occasions when sentiment becomes the campaign war cry than performance, like how it is playing out now in the US Presidential election primaries, particularly on the conservative side. One look at campaign circus that's rolling through every caucus and town hall meeting in the heartland of the country confirms the Goebells strategy of winning the hearts and minds of the gullible people - the bigger the lie, the more they believe. In any election, the world over, the incumbent starts off being the punching bag to the opponents, paying for the promises that remain unfulfilled and a society that hasn't turned into a Utopia yet. The opponent always has a fun time poking and joking, pointing and jousting with the inequities of the system that continue to fester in the system despite the incumbent's best efforts. And that's how the whole election system is designed too so that no one side has an unfair advantage come the election day. While the incumbent has the official machinery behind him to make good of his past promises, the opponents are always endowed with the less than perfect nature of the status quo to beat down the defender with. By this very nature of the setup, the incumbent has a mountain of ill-will to climb and win over the electorate once again and the opponent has to merely fan the flames of resentment. And that is why the pride and prestige attached to a reelection in many times greater than the first run to the top post, for, overcoming the ever-growing negativity towards someone is power is the hardest sentiment there is to triumph over. It is like what they say about the value of a car that starts its depreciation count down the moment it leaves the dealer lot. Same is the case with anyone sitting on the throne for the very first time. These unsaid rules, being what they are, there comes a time when a candidate comes out of nowhere, refuses to abide by the rules above, makes them up as he goes along, and importantly, appears to be on the winning track.

Make no mistake, Donald Trump isn't the first candidate in history (US, at least) to rush to the center stage out of ignominy and topple the apple carts of the establishment. In fact, he is the third iteration of that brand of politics, even from the recent history, to tap into the rich vein of public anger and make the most of it. The first to attempt such coup was Ross Perot, the angry Texas oil billionaire, who ran as the independent candidate against Bush Sr, the incumbent, and Clinton, the challenger, and handed the latter the election by splitting the votes of the conservative by a considerable margin. Eight years down the line, it was the turn of the Democratic party to swallow the bitter pill of a closely fought contest from a rebel candidate with similar political ideology, Ralph Nader of The Green Party, who took just enough votes away from Al Gore's kitty to award Bush Jr. the prized post. But what's different this time around is a candidate rising through the ranks from within the establishment itself, making himself not an outsider or an off-chance-er, but a genuine (more on this, later) and legitimate contender, who is in the race not to split votes or spoil someone else's winning chances, but to take it and keep it all for himself. Who would have thought even a year ago that Trump, who announced his Presidential bid on a moving escalator coming down in one of his gaudy and swanky hotels, has now a serious chance of standing in the media room in the West Wing of the White House addressing world media about issues that do not involve and revolve and concern him personally? But then, His Second Coming isn;t entirely unexpected and unanticipated either.

He is the Frankenstein of fringe ideas cultivated in the conservative party that are militantly espoused during Obama's term to wrest back the presidency, not through the usual way of mining discontentment of familiarity-weary electorate but by going to the extremes and essentially scaring people into thinking (er.. believing) that the "apocalypse was near" (actual quote) and the only way out is to boot the black guy out of the office. Now when Trump employs the same strategy to an even graver degree insulting and alienating influential groups of voting blocs (minorities, women, immigrants), the chickens have finally come home to roost creating an existential crisis within the Republican establishment, who aren't worried just about their survival in the coming general elections, but their very relevance in the future. Trump is as much the product of the current climate as he is the culmination of the polarizing strategy manufactured and marketed by the master strategiest, Karl Rove, the man instrumental in seating Bush Jr. in the White House.

First, the environment. Far fetched as it may seem, the seeds of Trump's popularity were sown not in the currently bitterly divided political field, but far away in the world of make believe, the entertainment media, the TV, and that too way back in 2002, with the then freshly minted smash hit British import, American Idol. In what was the first of its kind on American TV, here was a talent judge, Simon Cowell, who just told 'like it was', a euphemism for caustic, bitter and a tart tongue that threw away all the niceties often employed in public platforms and simply spoke his mind, even if it meant belittling and insulting people right to their faces for even the slightest lack of true talent. It was a truly watershed moment in popular culture, a style that is still being replicated the world over with varying results, when standards of public discussion and engagement were lowered by quite a few notches for the public to be confused whether they were amused by what they were looking at or repulsed by it. Either way the shock value propeled the show and the judge's antics to the stratosphere causing a major transformation in how the talent/reality shows are produced and how they are perceived. Trump's current meteoric rise owes a lot to the abrasive style of Simon Cowell's elevating the act of polarizing opinions to an art form, which, for a lack of a better term, pundits dubbed it as 'entertainment' and not the vulgar and tasteless display of power and taste that it actually was. Trump mimicked much of this behavior in his reality shows too to great effect stoking the sadistic instincts in the viewer of seeing someone berated and belittled in front of the whole world, all this to a comic effect. And now when Trump, when in one public meeting after another, picks his targets - immigrants, poor, women, and for that matter, any centrist idea, and rips them to shreds in his trademarks disses and dismissals, abuses and epithets, he is simply reprising his earlier TV role as a 'shock jock' on a much bigger forum. During his initials days of the campaign, for the oft asked question as to why people were turning up to hear him speak, the common answer answer was 'it is entertaining'. To his credit Trump never changed or tone down or reverse or flip flop or waver on any of his stances, like most of the politicians are wont to do, whenever there is a blowback on their current positions. He makes no bones of the fact that he is crude, crass, loud, and vile, at least in his delivery, and the public (who love him) love it, calling it not only entertaining, but honest.

...And the Republican establishment has Karl Rove to blame for it all. Trump could never have Trump had it not been for Rove's moves for really lowering the bar on qualifications, competency, intelligence and plain common sense, to sneak his candidate into the President's chair. He did this by harping entirely on wedge issues (abortion, gay rights, and religion) polarizing the electorate and forcing his base to turn up at the polling booths in droves, and vote for their candidate (Bush Jr.) who spoke more to their sentiments and fears than policies and positions. For such was the simplistic view of the world of Bush where his positions were entirely binary (later seen in his 'us vs them', 'allies vs axis of evil', 'with us or against us') lacking any concrete understanding of geo political dynamics (he once actually said, 'I know how the world works') that Rove had to look for a completely different toolkit to get his candidate elected. And his strategy was simply brilliant - instead of selling the candidate, sell the issues. Raise the tone of the issues to a fever pitch to such a high decibel level that the supporters are whipped into a frenzy and pull the lever for Bush. For the first term, it was 'restoration of dignity and honor to the White House', a broad swipe on the Lewinsky scandal during Clinton's final months in the office, and for the second, it was social issues like abortion and gay rights, drumming up the evangelical votes across of the country. Observe how in all this humdrum, there is no focus on the candidate's intelligence or his performance record or any single qualification that shortlists him for the highest seat in the country (in the whole world, no exaggeration). And when Trump now talks only in absolutes, wonder which playbook he is quoting from?

The rise of the Tea Party movement during the Obama Presidency (with the message 'taking back my country', a revamped version of Rove's earlier 'restoration of dignity....'), the amping up of the negativity by the conservative media, the picking of Sarah Palin (who makes Bush Jr. look like a Rhodes Scholar) as Vice Presidential candidate, all point to desperation on the conservative side to win an election at ANY cost, making discussions happen only in charged up atmospheres with raised tempers and temperatures so that shouting, labeling and name calling can pass off as patriotism and love for the country, throwing nuance and compromise out of the window in the name of passion and posturing and resorting to every little dirty trick available (and constitutionally allowed, like sequestering, filibustering, creating logjam) to deny President Obama any legislative accomplishment. The problem with such a direction is, it can go one way - downward. And so in the current Republican field, where everyone is contending for the title of the angriest person in the group, dialogue automatically dumbs down to personal barbs, trading insults, and finger pointing, sans any substantive discussion.  And this is exactly why Trump is winning for the simple reason that he just had a lot more practice at this game from his days in TV, with the rest scrambling around trying to come up with zingers and one-liners and repartees and failing hard at that.

If anything, the 2016 Presidential election would serve as a clarion call to the political establishments on both sides of the aisle to not flirt with the personal emotions of the public (hate, bigotry, dislike, anger, intolerance and xenophobia), lest they are trumped at their own game by someone who excels at out-insulting, out-bullying and out-fear-mongering the rest out of contention. The quote goes 'you can fool all for sometime and some for all the time, but not all for all time'. Unfortunately (and luckily for Trump), the campaign period and public memory are both short and that's just enough time.

The final frontier : Identity

May be this is the one last push before the fort is breached, the one last stance before the inevitable decimation, the one final effort of humanity to reassert and retain its individual component flavor before it collapses one big pile of homogenized self, where the only distinguishing factor remains at the gender level than at one of those tens of different offerings currently in vogue - race, region, religion, country, culture, caste, language, dialect and such. For it certainly seems so, considering the current turbulent and volatile geo political social scenario prevalent all across the globe where every little community worth its identity is launching its own pocket sized warfare of its own to preserve its way of life and have its voice heard over the din of other more vociferous groups engaged in the same activity. Science fiction, which is usually considered the bell weather of societal change, has conveniently skipped over this painful step of these individual groups elbowing each other for a little space of their own, and jumped directly to the near future where all the cultures and cliques and cabals are coalesced into one single entity as to represent the entire humanity as a whole, so that in the off chance when aliens visit upon the earth, there would only be one voice speaking for the entire mankind and one front representing its stand. Perhaps this has been the vision of science for the future that there would cease to exist the multitude of hues and colors that humans choose to be associated with, and for better or worse, a monochrome selection would finally emerge as its default (and only) color palette. And it might still happen too, but the process of getting there is throwing up such a violent reaction, with each digging in their heels too deep in their positions and stances that it becomes impossible to visualize a scenario when all these diverse ideas can come to a common ground and allow themselves to be influenced and affected by the other, leave alone all these ideas fusing into one single collective thought.

Propagation of information has always been the harbinger of change. Guttenberg's invention of the printing press served as the first catalyst whence ideas started to travel across the breadth of the globe inviting unforeseen upheavals in the status quo. The second significant 'intifadah' (uprising) on the information highway is the invention of internet. Where once it took some significant time for a revolutionary idea to travel the length of the global road, internet reduced it to a billionth of a second for the speed of propagation to match the speed of thought. So what Guttenberg's press did for Christianity,  with the spread of the printed Bible across all continents inviting debates, conversation, critiques and criticisms forcing a reformation and a re-imagination of the faith, the internet is currently serving that function by applying it to culture, this time around. And with the winds of change come the reflex action of resistance. From the cauldron of the raging Middle East to the nationalistic movements sweeping across the traditional societies, from the ever contentious race wars raging in the modern worlds to the calls of casteist pride in their age old counterparts, it is quite apparent that the free flow of information has dredged up some new thoughts and along with them some new found fears that the old world order is about to lose its role and relevancy, unless the calls to change is countered with equally combative campaign to discredit the very purpose of the oncoming change in the first place.

No where is this line of thinking more pronounced than in the casteist campaigns currently holding the progress of the nation at ransom. The dichotomy in the arguments put forth by both the traditionalists and the reformists in this context is quite baffling. The traditionalists chest thump about the rich cultural lineage and heritage of the nation, extolling the virtue of thought that appears advanced, liberated and enlightened even back in the times that presaged much of the progress made by the modern man, which they claim now serves as the cultural beacon and moral compass of the nation. Yet this is the same culture (or thought or pratice) that made job assignments a family legacy, and worse, categorizing a section of those essential jobs as menial  while exalting some others ethereal, and the only criterion for the job allotment is not merit or talent, but arbitrary birth. The question isn't as much as allotment of labor as it is about the dignity of labor. And so the caste system which created a great sense of resentment, discontentment and disenchantment among the bottom half of the labor force against the system became responsible for the fault lines that crept into its ethos permanently dividing a nation entirely on the grounds of who is born where. When the oppressed class started clamoring for a reformation of a system by advocating for essentially throwing out the old order and scripting a new tale, the pendulum didn't just stop at the equitable center, it went further and farther to the other side, taking a position diametrically opposite to the one that it railed against, refusing to come to the bargain table for any compromise, claiming that historical injustices can only be undone by administering the antidote for the same amount of time as they have suffered at the hands of the system, meaning, a little over couple of thousands of years. And there in lies the rub. It is the turn of the oppressed to wear the caste tag as a badge of honor, asserting their identity and refusing to move in the direction of creating a casteless society once and for all. So one side doesn't climb down from its high horse and the other side doesn't step back from its avenging stance.

The solution, however, doesn't lie in the middle ground or any ground. In fact, it exists in a wholly different realm, money. Money, castigated as the root of all evil, this time, is going to root out all evil, at least the caste one. Money is the greatest leveler of all. It can hide caste, it can mask identity, it can even camouflage color. Eventually economy is going to create the even playground that social reformers long dreamed about. But how it gets there, through socialism or capitalism, through market economy or regulated practices (reservations, subsidies and helping hands) is still to be decided. And society is going to go through each of those iterations in a trial and error fashion before settling on the final solution. And what makes this a sure thing? The answer lies in nature, physics precisely. Two pressure systems of varying intensities cannot coexist side by side forever, unless the high pressure gradually yeilds to the low pressure before ending up with an equilibrium. This is an inevitable as it is imminent.

The next in line is nationalism. Isn't it ironic that the majority of the nations that are currently struggling to deal with the tidal waves of migration were themselves unwanted guests (turned rulers/colonizers) of those same countries just a few decades ago - France, Britain, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and others? And now when the shoe is on the other foot with people from those same colonized lands turning up at the shores and the boundaries of their erstwhile masters, it might not feel right, fit right, but it definitely seems just. With this forced marriage of completely different cultures and value systems comes the automatic hue and cry to save, protect and preserve the original flavor of motherland without letting it contaminated with the incoming exoticism. These voices become even shriller when the economy is caught in a downward spiral (the other half of the cyclical nature of development and doom, prosperity and penury), when all the fingers are pointed towards these new arrivals, who are accused of overwhelming the system by taking in a lot more than filling it back up. One glance at the political scenario in all these nations above reveals the rise of the right wing parties whose agenda consists of the lone item of restoration of lost glory and status of the motherland often at the expense of the latest entrants into the society. Man, if anything, has been migratory by nature, for food, security and betterment. Movement has always been at the center of progress and prosperity of flourished societies. So, the question becomes when two strong and different identities are forced to share the same space, which one gives and which one takes? The answer surprisingly is, none. Eventually both of them would lose their strong individual flavors and fuse to form a wholly different face that retains traces of the individual components but loses any resemblance to either. One needn't look far for examples of such amorphous fusions (obviously achieved over a long period over strifes, consternations, troubles, blowups and missteps, but nevertheless the ends justify the means) than the present day Indian and American societies, the former forged over a few thousands of years absorbing disparate cultures in its fold and the latter formed over a few hundreds of years treading similar path. And now it is the turn of Europe to chart that course of homogenization.

Lastly, the other great front where the battle lines are currently drawn pertain to one of religion. And this is by far the hardest of all, because, unlike caste and nationalism, which to some degree operate on some principle, flawed or otherwise, religion is all about belief and thus the hardest to dissuade from or persuade about. Ask any Hindu what he thinks of his religion and pat comes the reply Vedas, Upanishads and the distillation of human thought in the most precise form, Gita. Ask an oppressed person on the other hand what he thinks about the same, and the answer could not be more contradictory - restrictive, discriminating and divisive. And both of them are equally right. Same goes with Christianity with universal love and compassion on one hand, and bigoted stances on slavery, homophobia and even the role of women on the other side. The religion currently in the cross hairs all across the globe, Islam, has its share of contradictions and controversial ideas to even out the purity, piety and practice of the faith. Which leads to the conclusion every belief system is as enlightening and it is plain stupid, every religion has its share of good that it contributes to the world as it has the pollutants and effluents mucking up the thought process. Every belief system goes through the process of genesis, consolidation, propagation, corruption, implosion and rejuvenation and no religion is an exception to this. And it is the time of Islam now, being the youngest of all faiths, to publicly takes these painful steps towards ultimate reconciliation. The current militant brand of Islam that is earning the faith a bad reputation is more a product of political and economic tussles that is pulling apart the religion from every which direction and less to do with the (mis)interpretations of the actual word of the Holy Text. And there is always that question of the literal truth vs spirit behind the idea, when it comes to following religious texts that have been written thousands of years ago meant for vastly different social conditions.

The antidote to extremism or ignorance isn't isolation or persecution. It is education. Just as money for caste, migration for nationalism, education offers the correct counter weight to religious dogma forcing the faith to confront with its insecurities and instabilities and therefore be richer by the critique and conversation (just like how a mathematical theorem is enriched by its corollaries, converses and exceptions). Surprisingly, among caste, nationalism and religion, the solution to the last prickly issue is also the easiest and most effective from an implementation standpoint. It doesn't need change of minds and hearts of the already battle-hardened, it doesn't call for any proselytization or even a total abandoning of one's own faith. All it requires is opening of more and more schools to expose the little minds to the pluralistic, scientific and multi-threaded nature of the world (and the universe) from a very young age. That's it, nothing more. And within a generation's time, the seeds of rationality would bring about the reformation/transformation of the faith from within, without the use of any weapons and without ostracizing one major chunk of the world population.

Identity should only be a front for individuality, and never a collective measure, for it is only natural that in a group that is identified only by a tag and not by its content, individuality would forever be lost in the sea of sameness restricting the answer to the question 'what are you' to a caste, region or a religion, instead of many diverse, artisitic, brilliant, scientific, human choices possible.