Monday, January 23, 2006

EN ROUTE TO INDIA

Photo: Passengers for KLM flight 873 wait in the Amsterdam International Airport to board the DC-10 to Hyderabad, India.

AIRPORTS AND AIRPLANES. Thus far, the journey from Indianapolis to India has been airplanes and airports. It began with an hour-long flight from Indy to Memphis. The international flight from Memphis to Amsterdam was delayed for three hours on the ground due to a mechanical problem. The delay meant that many passengers missed their connecting flight in Amsterdam. Had our flight from Amsterdam to Hyderabad departed on time, we, too, would have been set back a day. Fortunately, the KLM flight to Hyderabad was rescheduled so that we actually had a few hours to spare in the Amsterdam airport. I write this en route to Hyderabad, an eight-hour flight. We are to arrive in central south India around 5 am and then embark on a day full of activities at the Free Methodist Agape Annual Conference.

CAN'T BELIEVE I'M IN HOLLAND. Still, I am pinching myself: I am in Amsterdam, Holland. The land of tulips and windmills and of a thousand canals. Some cut tulips are available in the airport shops, as are beautifully shaped and painted wooden ones. I look at the postcards of Holland's historic places; this is as close as I will get to this northern land. But it is wonderful just to listen to the Dutch language and observe the airport and airline staff. There is distinction and pride in them. I recall that my Grandma Hay was Dutch. Her maiden name was Avery, her grandmother having come to America from Holland. These people remind me of Grandma Hay--square jawed, stocky, robust, curt but with a ready flare for humor.

TIME WARP. I am really messed up about time right now. My Indianapolis time frame says its 2:00 pm on Sunday, January 22nd. Amsterdam time says its 8:00 pm. And, after an 8-hour flight, we’ll arrive in Hyderabad, India at 5:00 am. I slept a very fitful sleep overnight from Memphis to Amsterdam, waking at least hourly. I’ve napped occasionally today. Now I’m wide awake, though I know I should be trying to sleep, given the day that is ahead of us.

JOHN RUSKIN READ. just finished reading John Ruskin’s book On Art and Life. Now I see why Penguin publishers selected it as an important and influential work. Ruskin articulates succinctly the importance of involving the creative capacity of every person in their labor. He interprets the Psalms correctly in naming “oppressing the poor” as a primary issue in his day; I think it is also a critical contemporary issue. Oppression in the form of unfair wages and taking advantage of misfortune—to Ruskin, and to me, this is stealing, flat out. I underlined my reading profusely and will likely quote Ruskin rather freely for months to come.

RUSKIN AND INDIA. How interesting to read Ruskin on the way to India, a land that Ruskin’s country, England, pillaged for two centuries without ever officially "conquering" it. The East India Company, however, wrote the book that multi-national corporations are following today. A corporation, in the name of democracy and capitalistic trade, divided and conquered India, subjecting its good people, plundering its resources, and setting this people back for at least two centuries. Now, it is not a nation that subjects and takes advantage of the poor of many so-called developing countries, but multi-national corporations which justify their actions in the name of globalization and a world economy, and which simply take advantage of resources and advantages and pressure people to work for a pittance of what their labor is actually worth. Capitalism without restraint (to use a Ruskin principle) is an ugly, immoral sight to behold.

MISPLACED FOCUS ON IRAQ. With the rise of multi-national corporations and the globalization of Western economy, it puzzles me how America found its way into an unnecessary, protracted, and incomprehensible war with Iraq. With this war, America is alienating and offending many of the very people it should be seeking to woo and win for strategic trade and mutual resourcing. In the space of four years, American leadership has managed to alienate (or outright enrage) much of the Muslim world and lost its moral high ground and position as a future leader of the world. American leadership is into the worst aspects of Empire when it should be winning the hearts of its global neighbors.

WHAT FUTURE FOR INDIANS? I note that the vast majority of my fellow passengers on the flight to Hyerabad are Indian, and appear to be relatively secularized Indians, at that. Less than a third wear traditional dress; most of my fellow passengers seem as secular as me. This could be misleading. But my sense from reading to this point is that India is secularizing, globalizing, Westernizing in its growing middle class quite rapidly. Surely this is a small minority of its total population, but it will have intended and unintended impacts. Some may herald India’s move into high-tech industry, global competitiveness, and secularization. I raise the question: is this really what Indians want? The secular West has prevailed over the past two centuries, but it has done so at the expense of millions of lives lost in the violence of wars and genocide and holds its place by the threat of violence and by many unjust economic props. India may be chasing something it does not really want. One gets the sense that the 21st century belongs to China and India. Pray that the not rule as they have been ruled; pray that they lead in an alternative way to how they have been made to follow.

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