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Obama and Modi: Ethics of Different Gods

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come to power by promising development and growth. United States President Barack Obama, after a series of meetings with him about developmental investments that America as a nation can involve itself in, gave a public lecture saying if a nation’s civil society does not follow religious tolerance, development itself will be hampered.

The leaders of the Sangh Parivar must understand that the development that Narendra Modi promised to Indian masses is nothing but the capitalist mode of development, which has its roots in Western Christian ethics. The father of capitalist economic theory Adam Smith before he wrote the base book of capitalist development-- The Wealth of Nations—wrote a much more fundamental book—The Theory of Moral Sentiments. This book laid down moral and ethical codes that need to be nurtured in civil society for capitalism to take a positive course of human development.

A number of Western scholars also wrote about the ethics that a given civil society should follow in order to develop the capitalist model of development, and the relationship between civil societal moral ethics and positive capitalist development. They based their thoughts on the spiritual ethics evolved in the Christian West.

They all banked up on the Biblical ideology of moral ethics and production. The first and foremost moral code that Bible prescribed for all human beings is that they all should live by ‘’the sweat of their brow’’. This gave a dictum to the individual to realise that labour is most dignified in the scheme of God.

In Narendra Modi’s Hindutva, or even in the entire Hindu divine scheme, labour is not a dignified process. Even in the scheme of the Hindu Gods—Brahma to Ram—productive labour is not a divinely dignified task. Let us assume that Modi sets himself to develop India in the ‘’Rama Rajya’’ model , nowhere Ram as god has given a dictum to every individual to work, produce and live. After all god’s directive is more powerful than that of a prime minister.

The second ethical directive that a civil societal culture that ensures development and sustained productivity comes from Jesus himself. He said: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." This makes for a civil society that respects such division of resources of individuals and companies, and that they should earn and pay the tax that is due to the state and give whatever they can to the poor, in the name of god. This is a moral obligation of the rich.

The Indian companies and the rich have no respect for moral directions that come from an universal God. They have constructed their own gods. The Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh calls them national gods and hence the rich do not pay taxes and do not spend on the poor. In their scheme of Ghar Wapsi no Indian should get into the ghar of universal God/Allah. This is where Obama’s intervention came from.

The rich that follow immorality stock money in foreign banks, while the poor keep dying for want of food and shelter and the state says that it does not have money to take care of the poor and destitute because the rich are not paying taxes. Since the welfare notion of giving something to the poor is seen by the rich and their economists as a waste. In their view ‘’the working people have no right to beg’’ either. The Indian rich have no sense of shame and guilt because for them their own spiritual system does not compel them to have sense of shame and guilt.

Obama’s source of third ethic is that of God creating all people—men and women—equal. The right to equal share in everything that God has given has become a natural right in the West. The earliest rights theorist John Locke proposed the ‘’natural rights’ theory based on that ethic. No thinker from India could propose such a theory till date. Parroting Western theories that engendered in a different social base does not help India much. After all every theoretical formulation would have a social base of its own.

Narendra Modi’s belief system does not have such an equal rights theory in its ethical and moral source at all. That was one reason why he could easily forget his Chaiwala roots and wear the golden name pinstriped suit worth Rs ten lakhs. Modi’s pretence that he would take Indian development, in the direction that the Western systems have taken, has no social basis. It is because of this fundamental difference between Obama and Modi’s social base that Obama felt compelled to make the Siri Fort speech.

If Obama were to indulge in a display of gaudiness, as our PM did, his own wife and children would have disapproved, and more surely his church. The equivalent of Obama’s church to Modi is his RSS shakha (one hopes he would attend it in diamond studded khaki knickers). What Obama speaks and does reflects his church culture and what Narendra Modi speaks and does reflects his shakha culture. President Obama has powers to veto even the senate decisions but Prime Minister Modi as a loyal Swayamsevak does not have any powers to veto ghar wapsi or church burning programmes.. We know that even if Modi proposes something for the Indian poor the Sangh would dispose it.

Modi was addressing the president of America as Barak—Barak...Barak... nineteen times he was not doing that not because he was his school mate in Vadnagar or Hawaii but because Obama was/is a black African American and Modi was/is a red Indian (though an OBC), not the one that Columbus discovered in America, but the original Indian claiming to be infused with the blood of the Aryan.

The blacks and Dalit bahujans of India share many things, including historical cultural humiliations. We respect the African Americans, their leader Martin Luther King Jr. as much as our leader Mahatma Jotirao Phule, who wrote about our slavery way back in the nineteenth century taking inspiration from black struggles. Modi has never acknowledged Phule’s role in our nation.

The people of India cherish Obama’s Siri Fort speech as it was intended to protect the religious and social rights of Dalit/Tribal/OBCs (Muslims, Christiana) of India. They do not want to go to a ghar wherein they cannot even enter in—leave alone sit and sleep. We thank Michelle Obama, the first lady of America, for understanding our problem and advising her husband to do what he did in India.

Kancha Ilaiah Obama and Modi: Ethics of Different Gods

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