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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Right Answer!

The world seems to be increasingly polarized. We can see it clearly in the USA where the political discourse is being dumped down or whipped up. Looking at the last elections, marked by angry protests and mud-slinging campaigns, it's easy to believe that American politics has become insanely, politically polarized and the political climate has gotten so ugly as never before. In the hysterical “us” against “them” world we are living in, it is increasingly difficult for people to allow themselves to see the other person’s point of view. Instead of reasoning that the other person must have a valid reason for thinking the way they do, the tendency is to paint the other as insane, stupid or evil. Living in a culture where other points of view cannot be tolerated and people who hold them must be denuded of their human capacity to think, means living in a culture where cognitive functioning is impaired and mental health in general begins to suffer.

"A cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system. Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics; the gerrymandering of political districts, making them permanently Republican or Democratic and erasing the political middle; a 24/7 cable news cycle that makes all politics a daily battle of tactics that overwhelm strategic thinking. Finally, on top of it all, we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians. I would argue that together these changes add up to a difference of degree that is a difference in kind — a different kind of American political scene that makes me wonder whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest."
-Thomas Friedman
New York Times September 29, 2009

People can often overcome political differences, because they like one another and give each other credit for good intentions. But it is the media environment where both sides treat each other with suspicion. There's no more sort of 'noble opponent,' where we differ on things, but we all have the same goals. But is there really any sanity, or at least any moderate views, left in American politics? According to political scientists and psychologists, the answer is yes. You're just not likely to see it on television -- or in Congress, but if you look at the American public as a whole, there is a "vast middle" of unengaged people who aren't very polarized. People are mostly quite social, as proved by the immense popularity of social networks. What is most important to most of us is our relationships. We are affected by others’ behavior toward us and what they say about us. We adapt to others and they adapt to us. We develop a way, or ways, of relating to others in different situations. We can see our lives from one point of view as adapting to and influencing others. I may learn something of great importance from you or impart some information that is helpful.

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” - Gandhi.

The united part in the United States seems to be endangered as we watch partisan politics play out in Washington. Our legislators believe that voting with their own political party and against the opposition is more important than seriously considering the merits of the bill. Are they not putting partisan politics ahead of the national interest? We have become a nation of people so disrespectful of others' beliefs that we have lost the habit of respecting those with whom we disagree. Rather, we prefer to demean others so as make ourselves look better. The hostile climate and the nasty tone of debate dominates today’s policy-making environment. Statesmanship has given way to anger and scoring. The losers are the American people. So given our differences and our psychological impulses to divide and conquer, is there hope for a return to national political cooperation and goodwill? Can political parties and the media ratchet down the drama to better reflect the electorate?

The answer lies in the explanation of Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) why she was supporting the Senate Finance Committee version of the health care bill. As she remarked so succinctly: “When history calls, history calls.” While admitting she had qualms about the Committee’s bill, Snowe — unlike all her Republican colleagues on the Committee — clearly understood that her job was not to obstruct the law-making process, but to negotiate ways to make it happen. She understood that, among other things, as a U.S. senator she had to find a way to help 45 million U.S. citizens get health insurance, as opposed to denying President Obama a political victory. Let us wish there are many more Olympia Snowes ready to step into the breach. To quote John F. Kennedy:

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer."


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