18 April, 2015

When there is no honor amongst men, where does the human civilization go?





The ancients had codes of conduct in war. In ancient India, the Law of Manu stated that one should not attack a sleeping enemy—even a child can understand that attacking someone who’s sleeping brings no glory because no courage is required. No doubt the ancients Romans, Greeks and others had their own codes of war. Fighting sneakily and without showing your hand was in general considered cowardly—you had to fight with a sword in your hand, clearly visible by the enemy.

The two World Wars remain prominently in people’s memories because they were, besides the epochs of human bestiality, also the epochs of human bravery and courage. The millions of stories of people who behaved humanely during these moments, with the correct code of conduct, is what makes people turn back, time and again, to the memories of those brutal years.

Sadly those times seemed to have passed. Now technological war in which healthy, beefy young men sit in computer cubicles from thousands of miles away and attack defenseless people, including women and children, through aerial aircraft and wireless technologies, and kill them, seems to be accepted as not just the new way of conducting war, but even something that brings glory. And while people fought the Nazis and their apocalyptic vision, people now seem to respond to this new moment in the history of technological warfare with a deadened silence.

Then there are the sneaky, covert wars that are not even accepted yet—the men and women subjected to 24 drone surveillance in their homes, which is a despicable, cowardly way to conduct warfare because these drones are in people’s homes, at night, in their most private spaces, watching and attacking people when they are at their most defenseless—ie, when they are asleep.

The wireless systems we have allowed to enwrap almost every inch of the planet are capable of being “hacked”—not just by the random terrorist or guerrilla, but also by state and government forces intent on subjugating the populace. What can be done through these wireless networks? No international authority has yet looked at these questions in a systematic manner, nor made international rules which forbid attacking people through these ubiquitous technologies. What if the wireless network was simultaneously being used to torture people—by keeping them awake at night, by disrupting their electrical and phone systems, by spying not just on their cell and email messages, but perhaps even the thoughts in their mind? Contemporary science, well documented, tells us of experiments in which scientists are already able to “download” a transcript of people’s thoughts through various methods. Pair that up with a megalomaniac state which imagines it can control every single bit and bob of “information”, and is eager to see the benefits of “data fishing,” than you realize that human civilization, and the codes of conduct with which people have treated each other since time immemorial, breaks down into the deepest void of anomie.

The disruption of climate, and the creation of “natural disasters” through manmade means, has become another way to attack weaker enemies. Those who are working with these technologies may not be visible yet, but one day they will be. Which international body has the authority to deal with such a state, in the case such activities come to light in the future? Disrupting the climate disrupts food and water, and that is the most inhuman way of warfare.

No matter how “great” your technological progress might be, there is no glory, nor any greatness, in attacking vulnerable people in cowardly ways. No technological advances can replace these values that humanity takes for granted—human values which include agreements between human beings about codes of conduct, even in the deepest moment of war. But with no limits to modern warfare, and with every single human civilizational ethics and code of conduct being thrown to the winds to the march of technological “progress”, humanity may have reached a new nadir in its 10,000 year history. Who’s dictating our future? Where are we heading? Are we heading to a future where people sitting at computers will define the nature of human civilization? Or has the time come for a new international movement that opposes this view of humanity? 

05 April, 2015

INDEBTED TO AMERICA: HOW INDEBTED ARE EMERGING ECONOMIES?




In case you missed it, the American banking system has been giving out massive amounts of loans to foreign companies. This has good, and bad, consequences. Because the American banking system had a limitless amount of cash and credit (so it appeared), it was willing to loan out these quick and easy loans to businesses in China and India, amongst other emerging economies.

But now, with the American dollar going up, the exchange rates have become sharply assymetrical. Any emerging economy business trying to pay its loans is going to find that the amount they need to pay has sharply increased in local currency. With the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, these companies may find it difficult, or impossible, to pay the loans back. There’s always Chapter 11, leading to a massive wave of defaults across the world. Apparently around a trillion dollars may be at stake here.

The Federal Reserve cannot keep interest rates artificially low for ever. Then there’s also their massive 85 billion per month dollar printing program which has been steadily pumping dollars into the economy. At some point, all of these billions catch up and come to be known as “inflation.” But American economic head honchos were apparently supremely confident that the economy was so strong it could withstand an unlimited amount of money, especially for defense, being printed each year since 9/11.

Will the American economy be able to absorb the last 10 years of massive overprinting of dollars? Will the defaults in the emerging economies act like dominoes, bringing down the American financial system? Its hard to say for sure, but what is clear is that countries that have taken these easy loans from America are going to reconsider where they get their credit from, in the future. In fact, indebting people is nothing new in America-most people have massive amounts of credit card debts, and they also buy everything else, from college education to house to car to their monthly food items, on credit. For America, this is a normal way of operating. But for many other parts of the world, where debt is not considered an asset and a sign of normalcy, the sudden spike in interest rates and the resulting defaults could spell serious consequences.

In general, banking operates on trust, and the notion of stability. People plan their projections of future growth, and payment, based on a notion of stability of currency and exchange rates. When the rates start to fluctuate this wildly, businesses become more risk-averse, and the dollar becomes an unreliable currency. Of course, for the risk-takers who don’t have any other form of credit, the dollar will still remain a currency to bank on, since its more easily available to them in the form of credit than say, the Swiss franc. But in the long run, the losses incurred from the dollar’s easy credit (And easy indebtedness) may be harmful to emerging economies.

I’m also interested to know how many emerging economy countries are tied by debt to the World Bank, and what these loans are for. Also, how do they get repaid? And how is the dollar’s wild ascent going to affect these economies?

I was working as a consultant at the World Bank between 2008-2010. My job was to take part in the countrywide assistance strategy, and to note down the suggestions given by various groups of stakeholders in Pokhara, Nepalgunj and Biratnagar. In one of these sessions, teachers gave the feedback that the World Bank, in collaboration with the Nepal Government, had frozen the hiring of permanent teachers, but started a new program that allocated “block grants” to school—these grants were given in small chunks to schools to do what they wanted. Most schools built a spanking new concrete structure. In exchange, the World Bank put on hold the permanent hiring of teachers—that was the conditionality for the block grants (from what I could understand, the agreement was that the school could do whatever it wanted with the grants—including pay its teachers, which of course none of the schools actually did.) This left the government schools, in effect, with shiny new concrete buildings but poorly paid temporary “teachers” who may just have passed their SLCs. In other words, they took what was once a very efficient and well-functioning system from which many highly educated individuals graduated to go forth in the world and hold international positions, to a system which boasted “infrastructure” but whose commitment to teachers and teaching had been allowed to be greatly undermined. With the Maoist affiliated students threatening teachers, a teacher admitted to me that he hadn’t failed a single student for a few years, even if they were not sufficiently up to standard—meaning a lot of these Maoist gangsta boys then reached SLC but didn’t actually have the academic chops to pass the final examination.

My purpose in sharing this story is to show that loans that operate on this level of conditionalities can be dangerous. Who thought it would be a “neat” idea to stop hiring lazy permanent teachers? Perhaps there was some wild new radical theory of social change (no doubt started by anthropologists) which posited than handing $4000 to schools would automatically make them hire good teachers, or teachers more suitable to their ethnic and /or caste group. In fact, the program seems to have backfired, since the permanent teachers, many of whom are actually selfless and dedicated individuals who happen to spend a lifetime teaching in extraordinarily difficult circumstances for very little pay (and often facing mortal danger, as during the civil conflict when they were targeted by both sides), are now no longer present in these schools, leaving the schools in remote areas even more vulnerable than before.

These loans, therefore, can lead down the slippery path where governments, businesses and individuals end up taking actions that are bad for the collective good. The ironic part of this whole story is that the very student who fails from this educational system then has to go to Qatar and work in slave-like conditions to amass enough wealth, some of which will be extracted from the government as tax in order to service World Bank loans—the same loans that made him a less educated and less skilled man. I cite an example of a loan from the Word Bank, an “international” institution that just happens to be headquartered in Washington DC, but it could just as well apply to private businesses as well.

It would be a strange world in which only America’s monster currency swallows all others, in some PacMan like movement through the banking system. Clearly some intervention of international proportions would need to occur, especially if these fluctuations of interest and exchange rates also effect the debts of the Third World countries, via the World Bank, amongst other international banks that have been loaning money to poor countries for infrastructure, governance, et cetera.

How will the loans repayment work out? Lets hope the American lenders will think about a way out for themselves, as well as for their borrowers. There could be solutions, including allowing the businesses to repay the loans at the interest rates, and the dollar exchange rates, at which they initially made the contracts. Of course, this would bring on a big loss to American banks, but this might be better than not getting anything back in return.





THE ASTAMASHANI VERSUS THE SADE-SATI: A JYOTISH ASTROLOGICAL ANALYSIS




In South Asia, popular jyotish astrologers create a great deal of fear about the time period known as sade-sati. But in my own estimation (and lived experience), the sade-sati is often a profoundly transformative as well as giving moment, whereas the less known astamashani tends to tear people apart.

Those who resist Saturn (who represents discipline, justice, authority, hard work, and maturity) will feel miserable during his transits through the Moon sign. But for those who are able to handle the demands of Saturn, the sade-sati is often the crowning glory of 30 years.

The sade-sati is the 7.5 years during which Saturn transits the signs on both sides of the Moon sign, as well as the Moon sign itself. For a Scorpio Moon (Vrishchik rashi), Saturn is in the house—meaning they are now in the middle part of their sade sati. Their sade-sati started when Saturn entered Libra, which is one sign ahead of Scorpio, and will end when it exits Sagitarius, which is one sign behind Scorpio.

To make this more concrete, lets take Narendra Modi, whose Moon is in Scorpio. His sade-sati started in November 2011, when Saturn entered Libra. It stayed there for 3 years, till November 3rd, 2014, after which it shifted to Scorpio. As you can see, these years have been fruitful years for Mr. Modi—he became the Prime Minister of India after a triumphant campaign and elections, and so far he’s been able to handle the demands of a 1.3 billion strong democracy without seeming signs of stress. For a man in his sixties, Modi is showing great aplomb and strength in this daunting task. That is because Modi accepts the Saturn lessons without fighting—he’s not out there bawling because his romantic relationships never worked out in his life, and that he’s unmarried and childless. If he had gotten into this mode, surely he would now be a drug-addict or in rehab. Thankfully, Mr. Modi seems to have chosen the wiser path—making him the father of about 1.3 billion people, who he serves (Saturn also represents “servant of the people”) most faithfully.

In my seven years of learning jyotish astrology, what I have learnt (and felt myself) is that the astamshani is often the nadir of human experience. The astamashani is the moment when Saturn enters someone’s Eighth House, or house of death. This doesn’t mean literal death—but the humiliations, fears, and deeply hidden psychosis that surface can change and transform a person in a way that feels like he/she is going through a transformation which creates the person into somebody entirely new. They transform, they become “reborn”. To make this more concrete, lets take Prez Obama, who has an Aries Moon (Mesh Rashi), and who is going through his astamashani period right now. You can see the man unraveling in the photographs—the gloomy face when he visited China and sat in front of all the brightly colored yellow ceramic dinner plates, watching the rise of Chinese power, being an example. President Xi Jinping was clearly holding a bigger party than him, and the reaction on Obama’s face was plain for all to see. Then there are those photographs inserted amongst those slide shows of royals in which Obama is shown with his nose in the air, sitting next to the elderly Japanese emperor, who looks faintly amused, as if he can’t understand why Obama is putting on such airs. Clearly Obama is out of his element, and the photographer caught the moment. That’s an astamashani moment.

Lets take another example: Angelina Jolie, who has a Pisces Moon (Meen Rashi), recently went through her astamashani period, from November 2011 to November 3, 2014. Jolie provides dramatic illustration of this moment. No sooner had Saturn slid into her Eighth House then the famous slit dress event occurred, with a mischievous comedian on stage parodying her posture. Soon, thousands of Internet parodies of her with the slit dress were floating around in the ether, forever changing the image of her as the glamour empress of the world. This was followed by various other Saturn-in-Eighth-House moments: Jolie in some war-torn African country, wearing a black cloak and looking like death. She was struggling to hold on to her image as the social activist, because for the first time people were looking at her intervention with a critical eye. Then the fear of death started to bubble, leading her to remove both her breasts. For someone whose entire identity had rested on being the sexiest female in the world, this would have had to hurt. There were some Internet postings that seemed to suggest Jolie’s children were not well cared for, and this was followed up immediately by PR postings of pretty children in happy moments. Clearly she was getting hit on all sides—but mostly, for Jolie, it was the fear of time—of old age, death, and decay—that decimated her. Note all these attributes-old age, death, and decay, as well as fear—are ruled by Saturn.

It appears to me that the residual fear remains in Jolie, for she has now, despite moving past the astamashani moment, still gone on to remove her ovaries, as well. And that’s the Saturn heaviness that I think astrologers haven’t accurately quantified. In my judgment, the two houses before and after astamshani also deliver residual Saturn impacts, in much the same way as a sade-sati transit: for instance, those with Taurus Moons, whose Saturn is in Seventh House for another two years, and whose astamshani is upcoming next, are already showing fear and hidden dread on their faces, as if they can sense something dreadful is upcoming. In Nepal, ex-Prince Paras, born with Moon in Taurus, is feeling the heaviness of Saturn in his Seventh House of relationships. And in approximately two years, he will enter astamashani.  I won’t say who else has a Taurus Moon, but I would suggest that someone like Vladimir Putin, for instance, should put their house in order speedily, to avoid the worst of astamashani moments. Remember the Saturn attributes—discipline, hard work, justice, law and order. If you follow those, Saturn will transform you with the same weight but with immeasurably greater justice.

A few more Saturn observations: Jyotish astrologers often think that Libra is spared by Saturn because that’s the house where he is exalted. But I find Libra Moons (Tula Rashi) who are going through the last part of their sade-sati right now, and will be in this mode for 2 more years, are just as prone to Saturn anguish as much as any other signs—in case they have flouted Saturn’s rules.

In my own case, my 7.5 years of sade-sati was the time when I went from attending a high school in Kathmandu to Brown University—it was a difficult 7.5 years, but also the best time of my life. Those 18 years of extreme hard work in academics had paid off. Astamashani, however, was not as kind—I will spare you the details but lets say all of us have to go through these intense, death-like moments. I am an Aquarius Moon, which is ruled by Saturn-despite that, I felt the astamshani as fully and as painfully as all of the other rashi. Interestingly, my astamashani period coincided with a period Nine Ki astrologers (Nine Ki is a system of divination used in Japan, and possibly China) know as the time when we return to the “House of Karma.” From what I understand, this is a moment which we enter every nine years, and in which we have to face the deepest consequences of our past actions.

On the plus side: to be “reborn” is a second chance in life. And as astrology reminds you—these moments offered by Saturn to transform are actually a gift to move on to another phase in life, one that will take us ultimately towards the spiritual journey we all came here to experience.







19 March, 2015

Bill Gates and The New Yorker: advertorial journalism at its finest



The Gates Foundation has been out and about, promoting vaccination. With a backlash from parents cautious about the increasing amount of vaccines being given to children, they have also seemingly started to put advertorial pieces in magazines like the New Yorker. Rather than persuade people, however, I’d argue that these kinds of advertorial journalism, funded by big foundations, actually work to alienate people from the causes they are advocating.

The piece about vaccines that ran in the New Yorker is a mixture between the fine, old fashioned public service announcements crossed with a bit of authoritarianism: “Vaccinate your kids immediately, (stupid) parents.” Before this, the New Yorker also ran a piece about the Bill Gates and his new interest in recycled water. The piece then cleverly mixes up Monsanto’s bio-engineering, implying that both water recycled from sewage, and genetically modified seeds, inspire unreasonable disgust in people even when they are both perfectly safe.

The problem with this kind of juxtapositions, of course, is that its immediately apparent to any rational adult who’s been paying attention to these topics that recycled water, which is in fact safe to drink, is very different from Monsanto, which is a virulent global transnational corporation that has been rampaging throughout the world destroying farmers’ seed stocks with its genetically modified terminator seeds. Uh-uh, New Yorker—not the same thing at all, and just by putting those two things close to each other doesn’t wash away the global disgust people feel for Monsanto.

The vaccine piece that admonishes parents for not vaccinating their children also does not address the underlying unease that parents have with the pharmaceutical industry.

With new vaccines being developed like software, and new and untried pharmaceutical companies expecting to make mega-profit lining up at the stock market to offer their latest invention to the discerning stock-and-bond buyer, there is a sense of uncertainty about where exactly the vaccine enterprise is heading. This is no longer the days of the good doctors spending hours at the laboratories to come up with vaccines that save millions of lives. The process has now become highly commercial, actively traded in Wall Street with an eye to profit. And when that happens, the trust the public had in the good, old-fashioned pioneers of medicine erodes.

A colleague of mine, who had recently had a child, was telling me about the vaccines available in the market. Although there was the option of getting it for free (or perhaps very low cost), her husband insisted they get the expensive version. “I feel it’s the same thing, but of course I couldn’t say “no” since its my child and I didn’t want to appear like I didn’t care about my child in a matter like this,” she says. But, she added, the costly vaccines were very expensive. And increasingly, this is going to the choice that hits people in Third World countries: that although they know, rationally, the government subsidized vaccines are just as good (perhaps even better), there will be social pressure to buy the more expensive kind. And in places where a few hundred dollars are hard to come by—this is how much the “expensive” vaccines cost—then its going to lead to soaring health costs for already fragile budgets.

With the ebola crisis, it is even more clear to the “conspiracy theorists” amongst us—and I’d say by now the majority of the world believes in conspiracy—that until the opaque workings of the nation-security agencies of the US are revealed, the public cannot trust that disease is not being mobilized as a weapon of war against entire regions of the world. The CDC lists the ebola virus as an “invention” and holds a patent to it—their claim is searchable on Google. If the ebola virus is an invention, that what else can be invented? What other sorts of bio-technology tha could be used as weapons of war to destabilize entire regions are in the making? To add to the mess, the CIA used the polio vaccination program in Pakistan as a front to conduct its activities, leading to the erosion of community trust in vaccines in an already poor region. Until the US’s myriad dark agencies, including DARPA, come into the open and explain exactly what they are working upon, the public is going to remain suspicious, and the trust people once had in public health interventions are going to erode.

This means Mr. Gates cannot simultaneously be a vaccine evangelist on the one hand, and then buy Monsanto stocks on the other. Monsanto, of course, seems to have its fingers in myriad sticky pies, including bio-engineering and pharmaceuticals. This is known as “conflict of interest.” If he’s really the philanthrophic figure he projects himself to be, Mr Gates cannot simultaneously buy stocks and share in a for-profit company that has a morally questionable history. Philanthropy has its own ethical guidelines, one that cannot be washed away with recycled water or by calling its critics stupid.

If the trust the public had in vaccines is to be restored, there should be strict guidelines that ban companies from trading in speculative profits on vaccines. The task of creating new medicines should return to the non-profit sector, with the pharmaceutical world tightly controlled through regulations about how much profit it can make from a medication.  And the SEC must ban Wall Street from listing the offerings of pharmaceutical companies.

VIRUSES, VACCINES AND WHY HAVING CHILDHOOD MEASLES COULD BOOST IMMUNITY


A few months ago, my boss, a young Australian woman with a very cool approach towards life, showed up at work and said: “I hope none of you are pregnant.” We all looked at her enquiringly. “If so, you should know that my two year old daughter has just been diagnosed with chicken-pox.” Apparently pregnant women should stay away from chicken-pox patients.

Later, when she was dropping me off in her car, I asked her why she hadn’t vaccinated the child. She said she’d been about to, but the child got the disease before she could get her shots. Then she said: “You know, I was talking to a friend of mine, and she said: getting this disease is like getting rid of bad karma. Its not a bad thing—it cleanses the body of bad toxins.” I nodded. It appeared, on a metaphysical level, to make sense.

I have a document of my immunization record. In it, I see my parents gave me my shots: the MMR, the DPT, and the BCG shots. I also got the polio vaccine.

Despite this, however, I came down with measles as a child. In boarding school in Kurseong, Darjeeling, cooped with lots of other children in unhygienic conditions, I contracted not just measles, but also twice got the chickenpox. Which meant the MMR shot I received as a child was basically useless.

It wasn’t the most pleasant time of my life—I was up on a hilltop in a small hospital in a small town in Darjeeling, looking longingly at the family of the hospital administrator who sat down every day with her husband and children to have their evening meals, while we were shut up in the next room with meagre rations and not much else, in a scenario rather sadly reminiscent of Jane Eyre. The good thing about these long, unending months of hospitalization, however, was the fact that I seem, in adulthood, to have better resistance towards disease. Now I don’t want to make that a scientific hypothesis without actually doing a large scale clinical study—but a casual head count of my friends tells me that those who were sick as children appeared to have better resistance not just towards physical viruses, but also in their approach towards being healed.

Disease in modern societies generates a lot of fear—primarily because disease, I think, also eats up precious time which could be used productively to make money, destabilizing financial stability. In societies where finance and relationships are intimately tied, it also destabilizes relationships in workplace, marriage and with peers. Disease takes us away from life moments which we engage together with peers. Because of the linear nature of modern life, a few months lost can have a major difference in school, leading to failure to pass that grade or class, or to get that job in time.

Those who faced disease as children, however, understand the nature of the body’s resilience, and are able to mitigate their psychological response when the next bout of illness hits. Whereas those who never faced a disease like measles or chickenpox often carry a larger amount of subconscious fear of what may befall them, in case they get ill. And this psychological fear, I would argue, is more toxic than any virus that can infect your body with a mild illness that can hit a child for a month or so.

I’m not advocating that the MMR shot should stop. There is absolutely no reason for people to get sick if there’s already a vaccine in the market that can stop them from getting a common, preventable childhood illness that spreads infectiously. What I am observing, rather, is that there may have been a reason for the body, biologically, to get these illnesses in childhood. While not life-threatening (at least in the present day, when people have access to lots of antibiotics and other medications to handle the side effects of measles and chicken pox), these diseases give the body a chance to fight off a minor disease—and in that process, the body may “learn” about the body’s own defense mechanism as well as the process of healing. Healing is long, slow and requires patience. The body also learns, in the process of these childhood diseases, that healing is a natural process and that the body has enormous capacity to correct imbalances.

Parents should give children the MMR shot, since its available. If a common childhood illness can be prevented with this shot, which parent wouldn’t give it? But in case the shot doesn’t work as its intended to, there may be a biological reason for it. In other words, these childhood diseases may be a rite of passage to understanding the body’s biological defense mechanisms, and for the young human to learn about how the body heals itself during and after illness.

THE BALANCE OF POWER JUST SHIFTED TO EURASIA TODAY


People, in case your local media failed to inform you, here’s the news: the New World Order just ended today. The balance of power just shifted to Eurasia, and its going to be a new and hopefully more peaceful century.

Italy joined the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank yesterday (March 17th, 2015), followed by France and Germany. England has also decided to join, despite vociferous opposition from the USA.

The USA’s ostentatious reason is that China doesn’t have the capacity to run a bank of this stature, because its culture is too corrupt and it doesn’t have the capacity to monitor corruption. And, it says, China will use this opportunity to consolidate itself as a global power, since it would have inordinate say in the workings of the bank.

All of these are valid concerns. The only problem with these arguments, though, is that the Third World’s big powers, long cut out of the decision-making processes of the World Bank and the ADB, has now come into their own. They are raring to provide infrastructure to the 7 billion or more people (I am guessing the numbers here) who do not live in developed countries, and the World Bank and the ADB are simply not moving fast enough for them.

The Europeans joining the AIIB is a good thing, because despite its hype, China actually doesn’t have the democratic firepower to keep an institution of this nature on course without it running into giant problems that affect banking and investment in China today. In particular, I am thinking of those giant ghost cities that were built entirely without consultation with the people who were going to use them, and the way they now remain empty. China’s top-down decision making process is apparent here, and the Europeans will hopefully bring a dose of realism, and democratic governance, which will make infrastructure not just a heady Superman endeavor that rich people indulge in to show off their powerful connections and access to capital, but also an endeavor by, and for, the people.

I like the idea that Italy was the first European country to join the AIIB. I always think of Italy, despite its corruption, to be a country where quality is valued highly, and aesthetics too. By aesthetics, I mean not just how things look, but the total ambience of any built environment, with the Italians paying very close attention to the interaction between humans and man-made edifices. So I think it’s a good thing that they will be sprinkled throughout this Bank, like spice, and hopefully they will have enough decision-making power to create institutions and infrastructure which will be not just giant and impressive, but also human and user-friendly too. And hopefully these structures built will also look beautiful.

I also like the fact the French will bring their bureaucratic foot-dragging into the Bank. After being the “beneficiary” of a road-building program initiated by local Nepali Maoist head honcho Baburam Bhattarai, and seeing the way in which environmental guidelines, concerns for groundwater recharging, historical neighborhood preservation, century old trees, zoning, children’s schools concerns, and monsoon water drainage were all thrown out of the window to bulldoze a historic neighborhood for the sake of “development,” I realize a little bit of bureaucratic foot-dragging is a good thing. Hopefully the French, who love regulation, will be able to insert some of their concerns, and their long history of democratic governance, into this new institution.

The Germans will bring their efficiency, without doubt. And hopefully it won’t get into a China-Germany tussle for power, as in Europe. The English, of course, will be ever ready to make a profit—and lets hope they will do so without replicating their colonial history. I am hoping the English will also be able to educate the Chinese on the idea that economic development happens not just through concrete structures, but also through cultural institutions, and that books, films, music, cinema and other forms of cultural production are equally in need of “infrastructure development,” and that proper investment in these fields could hold up the economies of entire countries—as the British have proved with their own economy.

Japan has till March 31st to join this Bank. I think its time for Japan and China to make up and realize this is a new century. Japan is part of Asia. It cannot stay apart and isolated—its economy has to become integrated with the rest of the region’s. With its aging population, its more than even necessary that it seeks ways to find new forms of economic sustainability. With the Silk Road initiative that China has started, Japan can find many different ways to create meaningful employment for its people, old and young. So I hope that Japan will forget old grievances and join up. Why not make an apology if its going to end this bitter feuding of the ages? (Incidentally, an apology from Japan about war-related atrocities should then bring on a similar apology from China to Tibetans for their own human rights violations and atrocities.)

 Lets hope the start of the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank is a true bridge between Europe and Asia, and that new forms of economic opportunities, as well as learning about governance, will arise through this exchange on both sides.

Here’s to peaceful co-existence!

(POP! Yes, that was champagne you just heard.)

PS: As to America… hmmm… I think America is busy fighting many wars in many continents…

01 January, 2015

WHO HACKED SONY? AND OTHER ISSUES OF HOLLYWOOD CULPABILITY




Sony was hacked this month. Nobody knows who did it.

It started off with some juicy revelations in the media that Sony’s hack had revealed several interesting conversations with Sony insiders talking about Angelina Jolie. “Spoilt brat” and “minimally talented” were apparently two terms used to describe her. The articles instantly got worldwide attention. Blame was put on North Korea, for purportedly hacking the company’s email system in retaliation for making a film about its President’s assassination.

North Korea denied it had hacked Sony, but said whoever did it had done a “righteous deed.”

Obama stepped in, and said North Korea was responsible. He added it wasn’t an act of war but cyber -vandalism.

The media went crazy, printing article after article showing how North Korea was an odious human rights violating state. They said America had bowed down to North Korea by canceling screenings. It appeared serious military action against North Korea would become likely, if the hawks had their way.

North Korea’s entire Internet network went down. Somebody had clearly hacked it.

North Korea's leader came out and called Obama a “monkey from the tropics.” He also said the America was responsible for the Sony hack.

The film “The Interview” was released online, and in select theatres. It became one of the biggest grossing films that week.

The series of events that occurred leads a connect-the-dots person to conclude that the hack may have been internally engineered by the US national security apparatus, in conjunction with Sony’s insiders, including the director of the film, perhaps the actors, as well as the producers and the marketing department.

This brings up the very serious issue of Hollywood’s collaboration with the US’s national security agencies. How close are these ties? How far do people think they can go with different tactics of false flag and diversion in the US’s obviously no-holds-bar wars against different nation states?

In the case of Hollywood, it is quite clear that the scripts of everything from historical to mythological films have had input from the military-industrial complex. Funding may also be provided by the same agencies—to what extent, this remains unclear. It is also clear that actors, individually, may have relationships or pal-ly friendships with other individuals working within the Deep State. Ben Affleck, for instance, is clearly close to the CIA. His film “Argo” won the Best Film Award, not because it was a good movie, but because the military-industrial complex has infiltrated Hollywood so deeply there is no longer a peer-reviewed, meritocracy at work, but merely the same old shite of propoganda passing for creative works, as in Nazi Germany. Remember Goebbels? Good old Leni? Right, this is the same stuff, people.

There might even be a certain amount of bravado and sense of prestige working for one’s country. This is all very well and good when the cause is good. But when the country has veered off track so vertiginiously, as the US has, and whose internal working are now a matter of deep concern for the rest of the world, working for this apparatus may not be as glamorous as people may think, at first. Witness the 80,000 people who came out in opposition to Ben Affleck’s next role, as Batman. They simply disliked the idea of seeing him as Batman. If Affleck though “Argo” would jump him onto to superstardom, he was about to find out the power of the masses to destroy a career with a simple “refuse and resist” campaign. (Incidentally, I didn’t watch “Gone Girl” because Affleck was in it.)

Imagine if the US had supported a film that showed the assassination of a Western power, and then played out a complicated set of maneuvers to blame the same country for a crime committed within the US, most likely by its own security apparatus? This would violate a lot of international laws. But somehow, it is considered to be okay in the case of North Korea. Sure, North Korea has a lot of prison camps—but so does the USA, if you could the millions of adult men who spend their time in jails which spin a hefty profit for the corporations that run them. Incidentally, the prison-industrial complex and the military-industrial complex seems to be deeply intertwined.

It also appears a lot of idealistic young actors may get caught in the subtle web of the security apparatus, without realizing it. For instance, Django Unchained. On the surface, a very good film about slavery and freedom. But then, China banned it. Why would China ban Quentin Tarantino? Because if you watch it again, the underlying subtext, in some horrifying way, is still white supremacy, and what happens to people who oppose the entitlement of white people to enslave other people. Anybody who watches this film walks away with a creepy feeling that while this may be about history, perhaps it may be about the present as well. Leonardo Di Caprio, one of my very favorite actors, may have fallen into the liberal trap of agreeing to do a film he saw as anti-slavery—when in fact the subtext runs very much in the opposite direction. Clearly the main character walks away, free. But many others don’t. And the chill you feel watching this film is the chill of knowing that the mentality of slave-holders very much runs contemporary banking, economics, international relations, as well as domestic governance within the USA. Slavery hinges on the notion the slave can have no freedom, and this underlies the very underpinnings of new military research being done in the USA. The Brain Initiative done funded by the White House, in which brain-to-net scientific experiments are being done to download people’s thoughts onto the web, forever destroys the individual’s right to privacy by making his thoughts available to government surveillance.

How deeply does the culpability run? Do filmmakers know when they get approached by a friendly group of men with a funny idea about North Korea, and deep pockets, that they may be working for the military-industrial complex? That the aim may not be just to bring about “freedom” to those who resist it, but that there may be a deeper, more sinister reason that keeps Hollywood churning out one film after another, glorifying the supremacy of the racist, military-industrial state?














28 December, 2014

THE MASTER MONKEY HEALER, OR WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR CURRENT HEALTH SYSTEM




Did you catch the “monkey reviving his electrocuted friend” video? If you didn’t, you can watch it in the link below. Do you think you could have reacted with that much common sense to heal a human who was electrocuted?

Monkey saves electrocuted friend:
http://fox6now.com/2014/12/25/monkey-saves-other-monkey-after-being-electrocuted/

While watching this video, I was struck by how calm and collected The Healer was. Besides being surrounded by a large audience of unruly, loud humans, and besides being aware that he (or she?) is in an urban environment which could turn threatening to a monkey any minute, he continues with the work of resuscitating his friend without missing a beat.

The Healer knows, first of all, that the monkey underneath his hand is alive. That despite looking like a potato crisp, his friend is alive and well. Secondly, he doesn’t rush in and use the Western method of resuscitation: thumping the monkey on the heart would have been so easy, and would have shocked him back to consciousness immediately. But note the monkey doesn’t do that.

What he does is interesting, especially if you follow his step-by-step method. Watching this monkey, you also realize that white men are not the only people who are trained in the linear method of thinking—this monkey too seems to have mastered the art of doing things one at a time, step by step, in a logical way.

First of all, he rolls the electrocuted victim from a flat surface, and with his mouth drops him in-between some railway pipes and sidings. Now this made me scratch my head for a bit—why throw an unconscious monkey into a pit? Well, if you watch carefully, you will see his next act is to pick him up again, with the mouth, and do this several times. Now anybody who’s done acupressure or any other form of massage knows, that pulling and pushing of the body is an essential part of reviving the flow of energy in the body. If you note carefully, the monkey actually pulls his friend up by the eyebrows—which to our superior human eyes, can look like a stupid monkey thing to do, but in fact if you’ve ever had a massage in which people have pulled and pushed at your ears, you realize there are some vital meridians right in in the appendages close to your head. I had an acupuncture session done to me by an Indian woman who worked, amongst other population, with people in jail who had never had mental health care. She would put five needles into people’s inner ears, and the people became so relaxed they fell asleep in these mass relaxed prisoner batch. This is known as the “Five Point Protocol” in acupuncture language. When she put those needles to my ears, I feel this unbelievable sense of relaxation and calm that I’d never felt before. In other words, The Healer knew that the ears were one of the first points of contact where he could revive the nerves that rule sensation.

Notice he then pulls his friend up, and places him on the pipe, in this sort of: “I’m about to give you a massage” posture. More pushing and pulling of limbs follow. If you go to Wat Po in Thailand, and ask for a medical massage, the massage therapist will do something pretty similar to you.

The second-last step is to dunk the body in the cold water, and it comes in the perfect sequence. Dunking the monkey earlier, before his blood had started to flow and his body temperature hadn’t risen, would have meant more shock and cold.

The last step is to lick the face. Why, you wonder, wouldn’t he have done this before? Surely the face is the place closest to the head, and you’d imagine a massage to the face would be the first step in reviving an electrocution victim? But no, the face comes last in these steps—because The Healer knows that the love and concern shown to the face, and communicated through “the kiss”, is less important than the pushing and pulling and monkey-handling that has come before.

My favorite part of the video came at the very end, when the victim revives, staggers up blearily and holds on to a bar, as if to say: what the hell just happened there? That’s when The Healer looks around at all the staring humans, and then gives the smallest pat to his friend, and does a brief groom and pretends to eat a lice or two, as if to say to the voyeurs: hey guys, all good here. You can stop staring now. Buddy here just had a little fall. And the pat, which so often human doctors fail to give, communicates: good job buddy. All good now.

It is that no-fuss attitude that got me thinking. Because lets think about it, the health care system as we know it now has just become way too chest-thumping for its own good. If that monkey had been human, somebody would have shocked his heart into action within a few minutes—instead of doing the long, slow revival of the nerves, blood and energy meridians, which in the long run was probably less of a shock to the monkey’s system, and brought him back to consciousness with less harm to his organs.

But alternatively healing, which probably is closest to how our ancestors healed themselves, is not seen as healing or “health care”, in most countries. In Nepal, the Western system of medicine has rapidly caught up and people are now so dependent on it they cannot even cure a common cold. I was sitting at a sweet-shop one cold winter day when I noticed a young boy with a wistful face sitting with an older man. The older man was in a big panic. He called up someone who turned out to be the boy’s aunt, and I overheard their conversation. “I’m in such a big panic I’m ready to leave my job,” the man said. The aunt berated him and said that he should have told them about the boy’s illness. “I just found out myself,” the man said. It appeared he was the father—it occurred to me Kathmandu was now an urban city like any other place, and once people started to work 9-5 jobs, they were distant from their children as in other major metropolises. During their phone conversation, I overheard him say the doctor had just told him that the little boy could “only inhale 78% oxygen.” The doctor had suggested they return the next day so he could use a fancy machine to test his oxygen intake again.

I looked at the gloomy and frightened little boy, who looked perfectly rosy and healthy, albeit with a winter cold, and I felt sorry for him. Obviously the father had never taken care of the boy’s little ailments, and the first cold was enough to send him into a major panic. The medical establishment, of course, banks on this parental panic to make a profit. “Can I ask you what’s wrong with him?” I asked. It sounded like a massive emergency, but my reading of the situation told me the boy had a cold. “You know, you shouldn’t believe everything the doctor says. In my house, we believe in Ayurvedic medicine,” I blurted a little tactlessly. The father, who obviously believed his son was on his deathbed, looked at me like I was a cockroach, and walked out abruptly. The sweet-shop owner looked at me reproachfully, and I felt guilty but also glad in a way I’d gotten my little word in.

In Dhulikhel, where there’s a very good hospital, I had a chat with an Austrian doctor, who told me that the biggest problem in Nepal was the massive usage of antibiotics. Parents self-prescribed antibiotics to their children for respiratory infections. This was causing resistance to the antibiotics, which were now useless for big operations. But more to the point, the antibiotics did nothing to cure viral infections, which is what most of the winter flus were.

Also in Dhulikhel, I had another nice chat with a German tourist who walked by with his girlfriend on a trek. He said he’d been brought up in East Germany, where there wasn’t much medication. His grandmother, he said, would make cammomile tea when they had a cold, and they would inhale the fumes before drinking it. “Who knows what ingredients caused the healing?” He said. “It was the heat, the steam, the herbs, a mixture of so many things—the loving hand of my grandmother on my brow, wiping away the sweat…”  Then he told me that in rural parts of Eastern Europe, people put yogurt on the back of the calf to lower fevers—but the fever has to be a certain temperature, and high enough, before it can go down again. Putting the yogurt too early wouldn’t work, or could actually be harmful. He also said that in certain countries, people use peach schnapps, an alcohol, for the same purpose. I said to him this was a marvelous remedy and would have saved so many children in Nepal from blindness—I know of a few people in Nepal who went blind from high fevers, and not knowing how to cure it. Yogurt is easily available in most Nepali communities, and it would be a wonderful new way to cure high fevers. We agreed that people all over the world have always known how to heal themselves of common remedies, and the way the medical establishment was trying to usurp this knowledge was getting very frightening.

In Nepal, I grew up with dozens of herbs that can be used to cure the common cold. Everything from turmeric tea, jwano and methi (ajwain and fenugreek), tulsi plants, ginger, garlic, salt-water gargle, and herbs from high altitude Himalayan pastures have been used to cure the common cold. Depending upon the nature of your cold-whether its dry, or mucous-full, or with a cough, or with a sore throat, different remedies have been used in different proportions to cure colds. According to Ayurvedic theory, colds can be caused, and show symptoms of, kapha, pitta or vata, the three doshas. There are different ways to deal with all three manifestations. Knowing even a little about the nature of the cough and cold, and being able to make simple home remedies, can keep parents out of the ominous medical grasp.

In the USA, there’s a major outcry about a “flu vaccine” each winter, as if the winter cold was something that had to be determinedly suppressed with a vaccine. This year, the hysteria is about how the vaccine no longer works! People have developed resistence! Of course, this is not the major emergency the pharmaceutical companies would like to make you believe. In fact, many people believe colds are necessary, and that healthy bodies get a seasonal cold a few times a year to build up their resistance and to build up immunity.

Watching the monkey healer video made me realize what I’ve always known-that we are fundamentally equipped with the knowledge to heal ourselves and others, even during seemingly unknown situations. And perhaps its time now to return back to natural way, rather than trying to handover our health to machines and chemicals.





21 December, 2014

The Global: A proposal for a new global currency



 I don’t understand economics all too well, beyond what a sporadically employed writer can be expected to understand.

Having said that, I think that puts me in a unique position to explain to you, in simple terms, what I see unfolding before me in the world of currency.

The American dollar, shored up by oil and its free access to the printing press, courtesy of the Federal Reserve, is under enormous pressure. Despite assurances that all is well, and despite the rising stock prices, insiders seem to think the dollar’s day is over. All over the world, nations have started to use their own national currencies to trade, which means that America’s middleman fees have been eliminated. In addition, there’s the questioning of where the “safe haven” is, in reality. With the USA printing 17 trillion dollars in the last decade, under the confident assumption that its economy would always be the eternal safe haven, there’s an oversupply of dollars. And what happens if you print too much money? Eventually, someone ends up with too much of it. And that means whoever’s hoarding dollars is going to see a serious dip in their stock when the dollar eventually plunges. Which many American commentators seem to think has already happened—but is being withheld from you for fear of what may transpire after this news comes out.

Insiders also seem to think the Feds are not going to change their ways. Despite telling the world they are finally going to quit their dollar printing habit, they will secretly continue to shoot up with the greenback. This sets a dangerous precedent, because this means all other nations (Japan, the EU, Thailand, etc) all want a hit of this good stuff. This is known as QE, or “quantitative easing”, and basically it’s a fancy term to mean that countries decide to print money even when their economies are not going all that well. Easy money, however, is rarely easy—when all nations start clamoring for easy cash, it means the initial nation who’d climbed up a bit above the rest is now in the position of finding out its easy cash is worth the same as before, because essentially everyone else has cottoned on and done the same as them. As you can see, this is a game that has no ending.

So who controls the printing of money? It appears that besides the Fed, there are a number of private banks able to set this operation in action. In addition, there seems to be a secret cabal of insiders, otherwise known as the Bank of International Settlement, that has been telling countries since the end of Nazi Germany how much money each nation can print. As you can see, this makes it easy for some countries to become richer than the rest—if you are printing a trillion dollar a year just to run your government’s expenses, and a lot of this is going to bailout private banks, and those banks are selling stocks to private citizens, this means that even when the stocks fall it doesn’t really matter because the government just keeps printing more money to shore up the banks. This means crappy Silicon Valley companies designing apps for head waiters, and crappy Hollywood making films about frankfurters having an existential crisis, and crappy military-industrial companies designing mosquito drones to torture political activists at night, will never run out of funding.

US dollars were so good that in 2008 George Bush was selling billions of worth of military crap to Saudi Arabia, where the sheikhs happily bought up the hardware. In 2014, however, even the Saudis seemed to have decided not to co-operate with the New World Order—allowing the oil prices to fall, in essence, is a way for OPEC to destroy the petro-dollar.

In other words, people have realized that the New World Order, headed by the US and supported by Europe and the rest, is no longer a tenable way to run the world’s finances. Not to mention its geo-political landscape, which has been riddled with one invasion after another of sovereign countries,  false-flag operations, and torture and genocide that the US takes as a divinely entitled right.

So how do we move forward, as a world community, now that people realize that this way of managing the world finances is no longer good enough?

The IMF and its SDR basket currency is a bad idea, because again this is the same Western dominated model, where a centralized authority decides on the value of currency.

I think therefore that whatever will come from this moment is not a centrally controlled currency. What has to evolve is a currency that is available to all countries, and that all countries are able to control it, in a way that is fair and equitable, according to their economic worth. I am unsure what the mechanisms of this will be, but it appears to me that having a currency that is not tied to a national currency is the best solution.

So lets call this new currency “The Global.” And lets say that it is slightly less than the euro in value, and slightly more than the dollar. It is available to the National Banks of all nation-states, which will print this international currency alongside its domestic currency. All countries will print this new international currency, which will be used to trade between different nations. The agreement of which country can print how many Globals will be set by international authorities more efficient than the UN. They will, after crunching numbers, decide each country’s economic worth and its concurrent Globals.

Nepal, for instance, has no money to speak of, but in the last decade it has exported almost all its youth to the Gulf countries, which in turn supply the USA with oil. The Gulf countries are not always good about paying their workers, which means in the last two decades, these countries in all likelihood owe the Nepalis about a trillion dollars in unpaid back pay. Now lets say this trillion dollars is the obligation of the international community to repay-especially the countries that have been consuming Gulf oil, and selling military hardware to the Gulf, and so on. So when this international authority that regulates the Global currency comes into operation, it has to factor in these non-accounted for currency transactions from the last few decades—allowing Nepal’s government, in essence, one trillion Globals to trade with other economies. That is just reparations for unpaid labor. Nepal should also get a separate package for climate change harm done to its environment and communities by oil-dependent economies. These two packages would be added to the other Globals Nepal can print due to the size of its economy. Ditto for India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and all those other labor exporting countries which have seen great suffering and exploitation for little gain.

To avoid African dictators and so forth from stealing all the Globals from their people, we could introduce a model in which the Globals can only be traded for certain goods and commodities, and not others. Meaning that Globals cannot go straight from a dictator’s bank account to the latest Lamborgini model or the latest Gucci bags—there will be certain checks and balances in place to ensure the trade is within limits and that the benefits of trading is shared, more or less, by the citizens of that country. Perhaps a certain percentage of the Globals’s profits must be reinvested back into health, education, social welfare, et cetera. 

As we have all realized, the idea of Western countries printing money and handing it out in dribs and drabs to Third World countries to “develop” themselves hasn’t really worked out in the long term. Nor has the neo-colonial model of rape and pillage of natural resources in the peripheries to feed the center.

Now that I have explained my nifty little concept of the Global for you, I hope some of you will take that into consideration the next time a nation decides the IMF is the way to go. And by the way, as someone beset by piracy and who has had her books and stories stolen multiple times by Western publishing houses, I would be glad if you could give me credit as the original source when the Global comes out.

Enjoy the last four months of the greenback’s supremacy—I predict this is the last 4 months before the dollar becomes just one currency amongst many others.

***





14 December, 2014

THE STORY OF MY HOMEOPATHIC CURE



I recently read an The Economist blog post explaining homeopathy. The tone was condescending, and derogatory. I felt it didn’t do justice to a healing system that seems to have helped many people. I was also healed by a homeopathic doctor—rather to my surprise. I share the story with you so you can make up your mind about the intangibles that make up the process of healing.

In 2007, I attended the Berlinale Film Festival. I was part of a contingent of filmmakers that attended the Talent Campus, which was a “campus” aimed to bring together young filmmakers and provide them with access to mentors from different filmic disciplines. We saw Gael Garcia Bernal, Frederick Wiseman and Wim Wenders. We heard the composer who’d done the music for “Peter Pan,” and we met the cinematographer of “Red, Blue and White.” The time I spent in Berlin was fun, and took my mind away somewhat from an incomprehensible accident that had killed a close friend of mine from college on New Year’s eve.

On the way back from Berlin, I stopped over at Thailand for one night. Bangkok’s flea hotels can be bad. How I ended up at this windowless room I can’t say—all I know is that I paid $30 to spend one night in a room that felt like it was an enclosed box. It was hot and stifling, and I seem to catch a dry cold there. On return to Kathmandu, I came down with a severe case of fever, cough and cold. When I recovered, I could hear a wheezing deep inside my throat and lungs that didn’t seem to go away. The asthma may have been triggered by the extreme cold of Berlin, transition to abrupt tropical heat of Bangkok, then back to a colder Kathmandu. Underlying it all was the loss caused by my friend’s death. I could hear a rattle in the throat that was so loud it woke me at night.

I talked to my doctor, who prescribed an inhaler. The spray of chemicals in my system made me feel worse, and I felt a sense of despair at the thought I would be forever dependent on this medication. During college, I had a friend who also had childhood asthma, and who had overcome it as an adult, so I knew it could go away. It appeared to me there was a cure. But where was it?

During this time, I ran into a German musician who lives part-time in Bhaktapur, an old mediaval town close to Kathmandu. Gert Wegner was known to me through two of my friends. Sarina Rai, the most well known punk rocker of Nepal, had started her musical career by taking guitar and drum lessons at the Bhaktapur School of Music, which had been started by Gert. So I knew Gert as Sarina’s guru. On one memorable occasion, Sara, a friend who was managing study-abroad program for American students, had also invited me for a program at the Bhaktapur School of Music, and I had seen Gert in his element, in an old garden with wooden pavilions, encouraging girls to take up the big dhimmay baja drums, which traditionally were only played by men. So I knew Gert to be a kind, capable and thoughtful man, who had not just started an institution of great repute, but was also well-respected in the Newari community where he lived.

Bhaktapur retains its mediaval culture, and Gert is discreetly embedded in this town. His home is an old crumbling Newari home that looks like any other house from the outside. During one festival at Dashain, I learnt that Gert had been given the status of an elder, respected guru by the community of butchers he’d worked with for many years, and that he was in charge of leading a team of musicians to honor Nasa Deo. During that Dashain, we watched as team after team of highly drunk, out-of-tune, rollicking musicians went past—following by the ramrod straight, disciplined military march of Gert’s men, all playing their music in harmony. Needless to say, they won the competition that year.

I can’t remember how or when I ran into Gert again in 2007, but sometimes during this asthmatic days, I happened to go to Bhaktapur, and I ran into Gert at the yogurt shop. This is the famous yogurt shop of Bhaktapur, and I saw him casually chat with the owner in the local Newari language. I was impressed—clearly Gert was a local in this small town. As to how I told him I had asthma I don’t remember, but I wasn’t feeling good, and if he asked me how I was, perhaps I mentioned the asthma to him. Then, perhaps in that same conversation, or perhaps in another, he mentioned, in an off-hand manner, that he too knew homeopathy. I was curious now, and requested him for a diagnosis. He agreed. That same day, I walked with him through winding lanes and a little garden with flowers to the entrance of his old interconnected house. This is the kind of strange thing that looking back Hindus call “karma”—Gert is someone I have met perhaps 5 times in 10 years, but that moment, when I was most in need of a cure, I happened to run into him.

Gert had rented one of the floors of this old house. It still had its mud floor and walls, and on the floor on a straw mat I could see his tablas. We went up to his beautiful kitchen, and he offered me some tea. I admired the old kitchen utensils that he had placed around as objects of decoration. We had a nice conversation as he told me about his teaching at the Free University of Berlin. He explained to me he himself was not trained as a homeopathic doctor, but his former wife had been, and she had been the one to teach him.

After I’d drunk the tea, we went down again into another room. This had a cabinet full of small vial-like bottles, with the small white homeopathic medicine in them. They were all neatly labeled. I wanted to go closer and look, but didn’t want to appear too inquisitive, lest he think I was being invasive. I got the sense he didn’t want me to go too close to those neat bottles. I sat and watched him as he opened some big books, and started to read them. Then he took up a little metal instrument which was like a little metal pendulum. He swung this back and forth a few times, looking very intent. It looked like he was testing something, perhaps the magnetic direction of the poles—or perhaps the energy my body was putting out in the room. This looked like some wacky, New Age cure—not at all the rational, Germanic pharmaceutical solution I thought I was getting. I thought about Ouija boards. I felt an urge to laugh. But because he was an elder man who clearly had earned his respect, I maintained my composure. I sat there, curious but willing to see what he had to say.

This is what he had to say.
“Do you feel the sorrows of other people deeply?”

Rather surprised, I said that indeed I did feel the sorrows of other people deeply. He rifled the pages of his big encyclopedia-like book again, searching for something. Looking at the book, he asked me a few other questions that seem to me to be equally out of range of what a doctor asks a patient who has just told you they need a cure for asthma. It appeared he was trying to place me into a certain category. I felt slightly discomfited, wondering what that category was.

Then he said: “I think you are a causticum type. I am fairly certain you are a causticum type.”

He then rifled around in his closets till he found a small bottle. He put a tiny white ball in a small piece of paper. “All you need is one,” he said. I must have looked disappointed to see the tiny white ball. After the long process of diagnosis, the medication appeared incredibly small and token. Seeing the look in my face, he said: “But I will give you three, just in case you need it.”

I was grateful for this medicine, and eager to try it out. That night, I took one pill of causticum. The white sugar taste vanished on the tip of my tongue.

The next day, my asthma, which had been troubling me for a few months, vanished. And it did not return. This was too good to be true. Just to additionally sure, I took the other two white balls as well, even though I didn’t need it.

I have no idea how, or why. I have no idea why irradiating my throat with a broth of pharmaceutical chemicals didn’t help, and why a tiny white sugar pill did. That’s the mystery of healing. You can’t tell me I didn’t have asthma, because I know I did, and I was suffering from it. Perhaps it was the presence of this elder man who exuded an aura of wise healer energy. Perhaps it was his old adobe house, full of objects that seem to exude magical power. Perhaps it was the time and place of Bhaktapur, and the episodes of music that had followed before this one healing moment. All I know is that homeopathy worked for me, and I was grateful towards it.

Healing is a magical act, in many ways. Germ theory may explain one part of disease and healing, but it doesn’t explain everything. Which is why homeopathy, and other systems like it, find increasing adherents all over the world. This story is not aimed to make you “believe” in homeopathy. This story is only aimed to make you take a closer look at what makes people ill, and what heals them again. This story is also aimed at those policymakers who design healthcare programs in which pharmaceutical companies are given great importance, but ignore alternative systems of healing--in fact, oftentimes, the latter can be more effective than the former.