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Ramesh Jude Thomas

The author is president and CKO, EQUiTOR Value Advisory

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Blindside: Give Us Today Our Daily Merc

Just to trigger a reaction I often ask people why their prayer should be answered. The usual response is that they have promised a large donation or given up alcohol or some such bribe.

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma


In the 90s hollywood blockbuster Bruce Almighty Jim Carey plays a spiritually disillusioned average joe, who gets a chance to be God for a month because the Creator needs a break. Carey realises in two days that dealing with a couple of billion fervent requests every day for big favours is a nasty nightmare. The movie concludes with the notion that God isn’t really an ATM for granting favours. OMG, the Bollywood adaptation, has a similar theme.

The thing is most of us believe that a higher power is essentially a Santa in the sky just waiting to receive and answer our continuous stream of life-enhancing desires. This is not just restricted to our relationship with the Almighty. It seems to be the leitmotif for life itself. Ask any parent, boss or bureaucrat. There is almost a foregone expectation that these powers are obliged to grant every wish that we make.

Just to trigger a reaction I often ask people why their prayer should be answered. The usual response is that they have promised a large donation or given up alcohol or some such bribe.

In the old days, your favourite aunt might have been considered for beatification if you were prepared to cough up a bucket of ducats. This is true.

To make this interesting for myself, I opened up a dialogue with a rather religious old relative last week. Uncle Xavier, what if a father with a dozen children received non-stop requests for all manner of stuff throughout the day. He says, “Dear me, what a spoilt bunch. Imagine the cacophony, and then the stress for the poor father.” So I asked why the logic should be different for his Father in heaven. Wouldn’t He think we were a bunch of spoilt selfish brats. Pat came the response. “But He’s all powerful.” I wonder if the dozen children would think very differently.
The logic on both counts is that He can. So He must.

Which is why charismatic preachers and charming godmen are some of the wealthiest people in the world. Like powerful secretaries, they carefully appropriate and monetise this omnipotence to great effect.

Extend this to brands and politicians for a second. Fairness creams, ponzi schemes and identity politics work on the same sentiment. They prey on large-scale human insecurities that are in search of quick and easy salvation.

Consider for a moment why Donald Trump is an integral part of the American political landscape today. Many of us (me included) wrote him off early. Too bad. It looks like he’s the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. And why are we surprised. Reflecting the massive anti-immigrant mood in most parts of the western world today is the insecurity of middle-aged white America. His followers’ faith in Trump to play the marauding messiah in the White House is completely in tune with this sentiment. As one of Obama’s key campaign strategists put it to us recently, the most toxic politicians are those that peddle nostalgia as an antidote to progress.

Human insecurity is as old as history itself. Institutionalised religion, education, business and politics more than adequately represent this in every generation. In good times, it silently leaches on the roots of a buoyant economy, comfortably wrapped up in its exuberance. In bad times, it rears its ugly head and it takes no less than a Lech Walesa or a Jayaprakash Narayan to expose its manipulative underbelly.

The great tragedy continues to be the gross inability of our education to fight this young. To question and neutralise early prejudices. To unravel and hack the vines that crush free thought in a young mind.