Letter to the Editor on the rousing speech of Sr. Joan Chistter


Varghese Pamplanil




I am simply stunned and overwhelmed in reading the sterling, stirring and rousing speech of Sr. Joan Chistter through the columns of Church Citizens' Voice. Hats off to you my friend,  James for unearthing such gems from the trivia surrounding all of us.


Exercising hegemony over the general population is a heady game for the power crazy characters. Genuine  leaders can be counted with one’s fingers. Most of the so called leaders are “dealers” and power brokers.


For many, wielding power is intoxicating (“nasa” in Hindi, “unmadam” in Malayalam). The person at the helm of affairs of any country, especially those like USA,  India, China, Russia with trillion dollar economies and large armed forces can do a lot of good,  but alas, many times they do immense harm not only to their own people but also to other nations and their population. These shady wheeler-dealers generally favour their cronies with economic goodies in the form of  lower tax rates in the general budget for their businesses, positions in the  government, and above all funds  from the general pool (the Consolidated Fund) of the country. Lobbies of vested interests influence decisions of the men in power, by bribery and corruption.


Religion is the opium that keeps the “aam aadmi” in a state of perpetual somnambulism; it is effectively used by the “dealers” all over the world. Where religion is weak,  the Party and it’s “ism” takes over as in China.


Democracy which took its birth in the City State of Athens with the active participation of only male citizens (women, slaves and fringe elements were excluded), is suitable for countries with  small homogeneous population. Representative democracy does not reflect the Will of the Peoples and not the best form of government. But the alternative is the government by an autocrat. The best form of government that is beneficial for the common people is the “least State”. For this end individuals have to  take responsibility themselves and take care of their affairs instead of looking for “maa-baap” State. But it is said easier than done.


Altruism is only a catch word to bandy about. Self interest is what drives the human dealings. In practical life, it may be the only way and might be justified. But unbridled greed for power and wealth and  extreme selfishness leads to disequilibrium and chaos. It would lead any society to civic unrest, spawning even bloody revolutions. The tragedy is that revolutions end up in creating dictators, be it be Napoleon or Stalin or Mao.


As Sr. Chittister has rightly pointed out “Subservience is a psychological ploy for approval, a substitute for the cultivation of internal strength that would give good counsel, not fawning, is exactly the need of the hour.”


“Blind obedience, the religious contribution to this kind of enigma, was cemented in the laws of the church and meant to serve institutional purposes. But  blind obedience was never at the base of the deepest streams of ancient spirituality…. The great spiritual traditions were all founded in response to some overreaching social evils. Each of them boldly confronted the world they lived in with an alternative lifestyle, a different set of values or taking direct aims at social systems that served rulers than the ruled.”


Natural laws step in when the goings go very bad. May be the pandemic Coronavirus will result in great churning of the way we live. It could be the way of nature’s retribution. Here again the victims will be the disadvantaged. What an irony?


Varghese Pamplanil




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