Archive | January 16, 2011

Where Did Compassion Go?

Where Did Compassion Go?

By Hwaa Irfan

One of the worst things about any form of strife is to observe negative reactions – I mean the kind of negative reactions that brings out the meanness, and the coldness that we inflict on ourselves and each other. Once we become mean to ourselves it is easy to be mean to others, and those that suffer the most from dwindling self love is our children. Our children become the next generation who, unintentionally prevented from developing their social, and moral skills, help to form the next generation, a generation that forms a society that will make decisions as leaders, and as citizens. The public spheres if that training are the homes, the preschools, and the schools, as the humanity within us begins to hypertrophy. Trust becomes a precious commodity that either drives the world apart or together depending on how much damage has been done to the soul.

An oft-repeated practice is exampled by the apartheid era of South Africa’s past when the colonizers as families did not have that love to give to their own children because it had hypertrophied as a result of their brutal actions on those whom they colonized. That love was often received by the black mama, the nurse, who raised their children in humility. It was probably one of the few relationships where love was reciprocated in brutal times, and explained how a black woman whose people were being brutalized could continue to serve the children of her colonizers.

A 2010 study by psychologist Professor Darcia Narvaez looked to the past to see what we used to, and demonstrated a direct relationship between the child rearing practices of hunter-gatherer societies, which believe it or not represents 99% of our history as humans. Narvaez found that our hunter- gatherer fore-families had better mental health, greater empathy, a conscience development, and children had greater intelligence – don’t let the technological blind us to our living reality of today! Specializing in the moral and character development of children, Narvaez found:

“Our research shows that the roots of moral functioning form early in life, in infancy, and depend on the affective quality of family and community support.”

Three studies were carried out by the University of Notre Dame, U.S. involving the observation of parenting 3-year olds, a longitudinal study on how  certain parenting style relate to what a child becomes in a national child abuse prevention project, and a comparative study on parenting styles in the U.S. and China. The accumulative research by Narvaez and other researchers around the world were presented at an October 2010 conference entitled: “Human Nature and Early Experience: Addressing the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness.” As many of us know:

“Warm, responsive care-giving like this keeps the infant’s brain calm in the years it is forming its personality and response to the world,” said Narvaez .

Identifying the most common traits of our ancestors, Narvaez found that they

  • Breastfed, ideally 2 to 5 years. A child’s immune system isn’t fully formed until age 6 and breast milk provides its building blocks
  • Multiple adult caregivers — people beyond mom and dad who also love the child.
  • Free play with multi-age playmates. Studies show that kids who don’t play enough are more likely to have ADHD and other mental health issues.
  • Natural childbirth, which provides mothers with the hormone boosts that give the energy to care for a newborn.

These common traits according to Narvaez are missing in U.S child-rearing practices where it more common to distance children by putting them in carriers, car seats, strollers, and only 15% are breast-fed and that is only until they are 12 months old. Common today, are the nuclear families, limiting human relations and free play which places the burden on the mother and father only. In fact these modern day practices unfortunately are quite universal amongst contemporary societies. If the above parenting characteristics are lacking in society today, then there is no wonder that there is a sharp decline in morality, and compassion.

“Ill advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms, or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will ‘spoil’ it,” commented Narvaez.

There is no doubt that the health and well-being of our children is not what it used to be with research confirming that it is worse than it was 50 years ago, despite all the developments of modernity. Young people today are more likely to have conflicts of identity, emotional security, and suffer from mental ill-health, aggressive behavior, and a lack of empathy in contemporary societies, as well as being more vulnerable to all forms of abuse.

“Kids who don’t get the emotional nurturing they need in early life tend to be more self-centered. They don’t have available the compassion-related emotions to the same degree as kids who were raised by warm, responsive families.”

Distant Relations

The distancing in human relations began with the distancing of ourselves from ourselves. Nowhere is this more evident than in the form of western feminism, a reaction to Christianity that saw the woman’s body as unclean, which arose out of a series of negative associations with the Christian fall of Eve. From that point, many miasms formed from the lack of self love. That lack of self love is disguised on modernity with affected notions of what liberty means, sending an individual on a long journey of confusion as to what he/she is without purpose and meaning. From the female point of view, many gender-based illnesses arise out of this lack of genuine self love as opposed to the kind of narcissism that re-sculpts the feminine body, losing the women within, and the male without.

The core of Western feminism is the rejection of the cycle of life as reflected through the menses. This cycle is the source of our creative souls. This rejection has become structured into contemporary society alienating not only the woman from herself, but alienating life from life. Many female illnesses is as a result of rejection of that cycle of life. Contemporary society helps to reinforce this rejection by placing the woman’s body under the directorship of state and politics, to be made available to the needs of the state and politics against the needs of her cycle. Treated as a mechanical instrument with the ability to incite, the female has been taught and self taught to see her body not as an entity that is mind, body, and spirit, but as an entity that can be controlled through pills, and the “defective” part removed so that she can function with the same level of convenience as a opposed to freedom as her male counterpart. By removing midwives from female fertility, and replacing them with men, the medical profession has become instrumental in the distancing of the self from self.

A natural product of that sacred cycle of life is children, and their children, and their children who in the story of contemporary man become a convenience for status, position or wealth. Forced to fit into a man-made world, the laws of nature that nourishes, gives in reciprocity and compassion are bound to become distorted for we have learnt to take for granted what it means to be human. Not so in the hunter-gatherer community of the Aka, of southern Congo. Removed from the exploits of expansionist globalization, the Aka are an egalitarian community that have built in social mechanisms that protect the rights of the individual, between generations, as well as equality of gender. This is how we perceive secular society of contemporary man, which caught in an illusion does the opposite maintaining only the rights of the powerful and the influential. One of the ways in which the Aka protect gender equality is through family relations. There are daily role reversals without stigmatization, and that is because work and play do not have separate spheres of existence.  Adults and children play throughout the day, which enhances adult-adult relations, and adult-child relations. Aka parents indulge in their children as the stress of a separate sphere of work is not present in their lives. Infants are constantly held and are breast fed on demand, and are not reprimanded if they do something “bad.”  Older infants are allowed to play with the adults tools of work e.g. knives etc., and are allowed to crawl into a parent’s lap while the parent is working, and of course this is possible because there is no separation of home and work, neighbors, and colleagues, and work and play. Older infants are free to explore their home and village, where in a globalized contemporary society, older infants are only allowed to explore limited aspects of their world, and if they step outside those limitations, they are reprimanded because outside of those limitations is a world that does not consider children. The Aka child receives constant unconditional love not only from their parents, but also from their relatives, including the father, and in doing so, are constantly being held so they are an integral part of their world. The father is able to play an active role in his family and community because the work is shared. In societies where forms of wealth are accumulated, it has been found that  men spend more time away from the home, and more time competing for the resources. In societies where forms of wealth is not accumulated, the father spends more time in the community, has a greater intimate relation with his wife, and a closer bonding with the family including the children. The Aka husband and wife are together for most of the day, sharing in the needs of the home, the work to be done, as well as parenting. In other words, there is mutual respect, and mutual understanding, which leads to healthy communication, and the true meaning of team work. This is strengthened by their religious believes that evolve around control. Aka men do not have physical or institutional control over women, and both men and women are valued, and as such, the incidence of violence against women is rare. Where materialism rules, it reaps concepts of power, possession and control.  Islam guides Muslims against accumulation of possessions through avoiding excess, giving of charity and instilling generosity, but unfortunately today, far too many Muslims have followed in the footsteps of others leading to many problems within families, communities, and Muslim societies today.

Beverly Hungry Wolf, of the Canadian Blood People of the Blackfoot Nation recalls childhood as follows:

“Traditional closeness between elders and grandchildren gave kids an exposure to the same values their parents were raised by. It also gave kids a lot of attention, which many modern children seem to be sadly lacking. If the mother and father of a crying child were busy, there was usually a grandmother or grandfather nearby who would find out what was wrong. As a result, it is not our custom to spank children, although it was occasionally done. This extra attention helps to explain how parents handled half a dozen or more children inside their crowded tipis on long cold winter days and nights. The elders told stories, played games, and otherwise helped to occupy the minds of the children…


“Old widows who were alone in the past were often given an orphaned child by some relative. Any small child that lost its mother was taken over by a relative, usually the grandmother.”

This is a far cry from the enslavement and abuse of three decades of 30, 000 children raised in foster homes post-Nazism. Not all of these young people were orphans, but a call of fate, ended up in state institutions where nuns and priests of the Catholic and Protestant denomination ritually beat these children, inflicted solitary confinement, forced labor and sexual abuse between 1945 and 1970. A product of the brutality of Nazism produced such child rearing practices.

As we face these challenging times which question how we have chosen or not chosen to live our lives so far, now is the time to evaluate.

  • Was it worth it?
  • What did you miss?
  • What are the deepest regrets?
  • What is really important?

For now is the beginning of the rest of our lives!



University of Notre Dame (2010, September 22). Child Rearing Practices of Distant Ancestors Foster Morality, Compassion in Kids.­ /releases/2010/09/100921163709.htm

Hewlett, B. S. “The Cultural Nexus of Aka Father-Infant Bonding.” “Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective.” Ed. Caroline B. Brettell. Prentice Hall, U.S. 1993.

Paterson, T. Germany Admits Enslaving and Abusing a Generation of Children.”

Wolf, B. H. “The Ways of My Grandmothers.” Quill, U.S. 1980.


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1st. Round Table Of World Parliament Of Indigenous Peoples

Keynote Address At First Round Table Of World Parliament Of Indigenous Peoples

First Round Table

07 – 10 January 2011

Booshakthi Kendra, Tumkur, India


Keynote Address:  M C Raj


“Whenever moments of truth dawned on our indigenous ancestors, they used to say, ‘It is time’. Brothers and Sisters, I dare say that our time has come. It is time for us to say, with all the ancestors of all our indigenous communities, that we have arrived in time. We are in need of saying aloud it now more than ever, because as indigenous peoples we have always been silent just as Mother Earth is to all the pains and pangs inflicted on her. But it is our silence that is now becoming the nemesis of the world. If we do not speak up against the mindless exploitation of the cosmos in its totality, who else will? Our suffering has been inextricably intertwined with the sufferings of the cosmos. It is in standing up and speaking for the cosmos that we shall be able to speak for ourselves. The World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples, when it becomes a reality in world history should become a veritable mouthpiece of the peoples of the world.

We did begin to speak up in recent history. Our voice has brought tremendous advantages to our communities. We have been able to bring about the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples against incredible opposition in its formulation stages. When we began to speak and raise our voices it has been mostly about ourselves, about what the other has done to us, about what should be done to us by the rest of the world, about our human rights. We have set up many landmarks in history. The World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples will have to continue this path of struggle against all forms of dominance of our people all over the world.

Our speaking up often has been addressed to the representatives of the oppressors themselves in an effort to establish our compensatory rights. It is time that we examine and see whether we have adequately spoken to one another, to different indigenous communities of the world. Have our history and culture become our voices of communication among our different communities? The World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples can become an effective instrument of not only communication but also of communicative interaction among all indigenous communities of the world. This Round Table aims at a model setting for communicative interaction among ourselves and also among our communities.

It is time that we also began to speak to our own selves if we have to effectively communicate to others what we want to be in the depth of our being. We have been listening too much to others and have forgotten to listen to our own voices deep inside. It is time we began to see what exists deep within us. Others have told us for centuries together what we are but have we told ourselves adequately what we are in the depth of our being? When we begin to understand and see the enormous strength and potential that exist within us and draw this strength out, we are sure to be in the transformation of dominant attitudes towards us. In spite of continuous assault on our dignity and rights we have never stopped contributing to the growth of others. We have never stopped trusting the others. We have never stopped living and celebrating life. The indomitable spirit of our ancestors, the flame of revolution, the aspirations for the well being of our future generations will have to find new life in our communities through the World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples. We are a people of our own. The process of self-actualization that has been an essential component of our resilient existence will have to find further resurgence. It is time that we maximized the gains of our self-actualization through our history and culture and minimize the damages of what I call ‘reflexive actualization’. Reflexive actualization, according to me, is the process self-assertion in reference to what others are doing to me, determining my course of life on the foundations of what is happening to me in reference to the others.

It is time that the self-actualized personality of Indigenous peoples of the world became a point of reference to the rest of the world. This is the twist of history that we need to give through the World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples. Brothers and sisters, we are at a moment in history that cannot easily be ignored any more. It is time we realized that the world is more in need of us than we are in need of the world. If the world has to reverse the path of self-destruction that it has set for itself, it has to fall back on indigenous communities all over the world and pick up its lessons of survival in the most hostile situations of life.

We have ensured our survival in this dominant world by governing ourselves through Instruments and Mechanisms of self-governance that we have drawn organically from a worldview, which is a legacy from our ancestors. This survival is the consequence of an innate wisdom that all the dominant knowledge systems and modern science could not easily dismiss. But it is also true that we have created our own comfort zones in our self-sustaining systems of governance, while being completely oblivious of the perils of subjugation that were weaved around our future by dominant forms of governance. We need to be cautious that our claim for self-governance does not become another comfort zone into which the dominant world will push us vigorously so that we may not stand on its path of mindless exploitation of the resources of our Mother Earth. Instruments and Mechanisms of governance of nations of the world need to be redesigned on the patterns of our self-governance if there has to be a semblance of survival for the world. Brothers and sisters, I do not want to be a prophet of doom. However, we cannot easily dismiss the fact that the dominant forms of governance that are evolving in the name of democracy are definitely threatening the very fabric of many societies in the world today. The World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples is in dire need or offering to the world its time tested methods of distribution of values, both material and spiritual, which is the essence of governance.

Our world is not an imagery, nor is it imaginary. It is very real. We are in need of manoeuvring our indigenous way into the Instruments and Mechanisms of World governance. We are badly in need of shedding our seized mindset of limiting ourselves only to our communities. We belong to the world and no part of the world can be delineated from our indigenous personality. Our foray into the governance of the world will naturally take us into the doorsteps of the UN, which is the most potent space that is available to us at the moment in history. It is time that we created, expanded and consolidated our indigenous space within this Body. This plunge of ours is not for sheer promotion and protection of our rights as indigenous peoples, but for the best contribution that we can make to the survival and progress of the world.

It is time that we announced to the world that we have arrived as a people together and that we proclaimed aloud that the very sustenance of life and dignity of the world depend much on the strength that we bring to it. The World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples should become the voice of the indigenous world that will announce the specific twist of history of the world that we and only we can bring.

The Event in Tumkur is the consequence of our collective thinking and concerted efforts. This is the First Round Table and there may be a need for a few more such Round Tables.

This is almost like a dream come true. The way this idea progressed is a clear indication of a deeply imbedded but unarticulated need for building a future together. Together with Jyothi, REDS, Dalit Panchayat Movement, Booshakthi Vedike and the Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India, I like to thank all the Delegates who have chosen the difficult path of coming all the way to this historic Dalit Ashram to translate this dream into a reality in our lifetime. I also like to thank all our friends who have unhesitatingly come forward in support of making this dream come true.

As it has been made clear already this is neither a Conference nor a Seminar. The First Round Table has a definite agenda of pushing the realization of World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples in the near future. Therefore, strategising future steps is an explicit need in this event.

Though the First Round Table is organized in Booshakthi Kendra, it is of paramount importance that the ownership of this process spreads to all indigenous communities of the world including those from Latin America, Africa and Asia whom we could not invite this time.

Tumkur District and Booshakthi Kendra have been the centres of creating many small histories in the lives of Dalit people in India. Unlike other parts of India the Dalit people in this District have created a saga of success through their land struggles, through their history and cultural resurgence, through their political empowerment and now are in the path of building world peace through their limited but generous contributions. It is only a matter of joy that this great and historic initiative has started in a place where we live in the lap of Mother Earth and in the loving embrace of all our ancestors.

Even as we step into this unprecedented history making I invoke the blessings of all the stars who are our ancestors, of our Mother Earth, of our Father Sky, of our Grandmother Moon, of our brother Sun, of our sisters Trees and Plants, of air, water, fire that sustain our lives, of our ancestor the Reindeer, the buffalo, the fish, the eagle and all the waves of all our ancestors that fill our bodies and the world.”

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And Then the Floods Came

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And Then the Floods Came

By Hwaa Irfan

Common to all traditional stories on the Great Flood are the torrential rains and walls of destructive water, rather descriptive of many tsunamis, bursting into valleys destroying everything on route. The most similar account to the Bible and the Qur’an is from Mesopotamia and China. In Hawaii, Prophet Nuh was “Nu-u”, and in China “Nu-wah (Al-Hud 11: 25). All stories concur that The Flood came when the world had reached a dangerous point requiring the need to rid the world of evil.

Many minds may be pondering what to make of the current floods although they are not universal, but they do mark a turning point from what we have become used to in modern times.

Brazil is the latest country to be hit by phenomenal floods killing over 525 people to date and counting.  Incurring landslides that threaten to quite literally re-shape the country many have become homeless, and others have experienced their entire village being swept away. Within the first month of her first presidential year, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil said to the Environmental News Service:

“It’s very overwhelming. The scenes are shocking,” she said. “We saw areas in which mountains untouched by men dissolved. But we also saw areas in which illegal occupation caused damage to the health and lives of people.”

Not grabbing the attention of the mainstream press as much are the floods that Sri Lanka has been facing. In the coastal district of Batticala, the motorway bridge is not only submerged, but is also broken. To date 37 people have died as a result of the floods, and the farmlands that provides the nations rice have been devastated. Sri Lankans have been less overwhelmed with what are normal weather conditions for the time of year, and even as the water subsides, many cleanse their homes in preparation for the annual Tamil harvest festival. India was quick to respond to the situation by donating $1mn in relief supplies including blankets, mattresses, water purification tablets and kits.

It’s heart-warming that in the midst of the trials and tribulations that Australia has been experiencing as a result of devastating floods that they found time to convey sympathies, and condolences to Brazil. With both countries only recently led by female presidents, it sets an important example at a time when selfishness generates the many crises that the world has been experiencing.

In the case of Brazil, meteorologists put down the worst flood sin decades to an intensified wet season that occurs every summer. In Australia the summer of 2009, they experienced cold wet weather in the north, and hot dry weather in the south. This 2011 was to prove that the laws of nature differ from the laws of man. Unpredictable, the phenomenal Australian floods  began in December 2010, with the end seeming to be unpredictable as much as the beginning. Thousands have been forced out of their homes, and entire towns have been submerged, but it was not until January 2011 that the world became alarmed at the extent of the floods. Intensifying the seasonal flash floods of the north, and tropical cylcones remind us of where Australia actually as the weather systems of the tropics seems to be moving further south.  Meanwhile 20 million Pakistanis are still affected by the worst floods that they have ever experienced from August 2010.

Tradition Says

While the scientists cannot agree as to whether the phenomenal weather that has been experienced globally from heat waves, ice packs to floods, is a result of climate change or a polar shift, our sun is heating up with solar outbursts. For many experts of the indigenous kind, and New Ageists, we are definitely going through a change as opposed to the apocalyptic “end” of times. It was many years ago that I heard of the Australian aboriginal prophecy of black rain, a deluge that would end all injustices, but tribal elder Guboo Ted Thomas put describes it as follows:

“I was in dreamtime. I seen this great wave going. I tell people about this wave. It wasn’t a tidal wave. This was a spiritual wave. So, to me, I believe that the Dreamtime is going to be that.

I believe the revival is going to start in Australia when we’re Dreaming. It’s the hummingbee that I’m talking about. And love. We’ve got to learn to love one another.

You see, that’s really what’s going to happen to the earth. We’re going to have tidal waves. We’re going to have earthquakes.

That’s coming because we don’t consider this land as our Mother. We’ve taken away the balance, and we’re not putting it back.”

Our fear factor is inclined to define black as something negative. In spiritual terms black is synonymous with what is hidden, Unseen, contemplation, to come to light. On a global level, the true selves that we fear as to come to the light of day before we can know peace, so that the world can know peace… well after all each and everyone one of us two, four, six legged and no legged beings, make up the world that sustains us! When we are ready to live in the right way, then maybe we will be ready to led in the right way!


“Australia Extends Solidarity to Flood-hit Brazil.”

“Floods in Sri Lanka.”

“Mudslides Kill More Than 525 People in Brazil.”

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