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In Religion, We believe!!... so shall our State too ?

By Osman Nasir

On the cold night of 10th October 2031, the fast moving magnetic vehicle hurls towards
the city limits with an astonishing speed of 180mph, which is the speed limit on Chinese
Ultra Highways system. The figure inside is alone, reading through his prepared speech
for the night on the lenses of his electronic glasses, his nerves are tensed with the
realization of the fact that this will not be just any speech, the argument that he and his
colleagues are going to face tonight is probably the toughest argument anyone in China
has wondered ever since the 1979 Economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping.

Wang Yi Gang is the Vice President of the National People’s Congress of China a role
that makes sure that he is one of the most significant 25 men who write the fortunes of
Chinese people, being the members of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China.
His memory is reminding him that 120 years ago, on this very day the Wuchang Uprising
succeeded and followed by the official demise of Qing dynasty one year later. Today
again was a significant beginning for China, especially when he and his 24 others can
sense that the political system around them is slowly weakening. Though the economy is
in sound shape, and China emerged as the recognized Economic leader ever since the
Financial Crises of 2008, a depression which plummeted the fortunes of the western
hemisphere, but the two currency system of China eventually saved it.

Unlike their western predecessors of Economic might, the Chinese are well aware of the
importance of change, change is what has shaped the power of the country. Change is
what Mao demanded from his people some 80 years ago, change is what China went
through in 1979 again, change is what became the ultimate blessing during the 1990s and
early 2000 era when manufacturing was king and Oil was plenty, change is what starring
at them right now.

Today the Chinese people are enjoying the perks of life as the strongest nation on planet,
the per capita GDP has risen from $3000 in 2008 to $22000 today, Wang always liked
this estimation, although the US Dollar is not any more the standard for the GDP
measurement in 2031, but it was in 2010 when he was just finishing his PhD in
Development Economics from Princeton University.

But this prosperity has indeed brought in a change, a change in attitudes, a change in
thinking and a change in demands of the people. Wang smiled on the fact that how many
times in the debates about social-economic architecture, the theorists have rubbished
Maslow’s hierarchical model and how a very small contingent of Macro-economists have
ever linked it with the country’s development cycle. Wang was a firm believer that
similarly to an individual; a country also has the similar progression in Maslow’s
Motivational Pyramid of Needs.

Self actualization often redirects a mass of people towards the basic question, “Who Are
We?” Over the past 80 years the Chinese authority has done well to quell this question,
by harnessing the power of nationalism, in a sense successfully replying; “We are
Chinese People”, however in a country as vast and as diverse as China, the thinking
patterns are pretty loosely bounded and often a voice of descent is raised from one corner
or the other.

That voice of descent is growing stronger lately, but the demand is what most people
would recognize as the exact opposite of Chinese system of Governance, which gives the
least or no priority to religion, religious teachings and religious sentiments. Early this
year some 200,000 people in Shanghai took part in the mass prayers during the
anniversary Celebrations of Confucius, a similar crowd was reported in Guangzhou and
some other regions. This was an alarming display of defiance to the system, and upper
ranks of the government were shaken, which decided to remain oblivious towards
intervention in order to prevent a re-run of Tiananmen Square fiasco

Today the Politburo is convened to discuss the grant of permission to practice religion
along with maintaining the Party membership. Ever since Mao led his successful march
throughout the Chinese mainland, religion is condemned in China and is seen as an
obstruction to development and forward thinking. The communist party considers the
practice of Religion and Party membership as purely inconsistent with each other. Today
they are about to open this difficult discussion.

The discussion seems straight forward enough, but Wang understands that the variations
of China make it interesting, the problem with allowing the religion in the system of
government, is the questions which follow; “Which Religion?”, “Why his religion and
not mine?” and eventually ends with the “My God is bigger than your God” spat. But in
China it’s a bit more than just a spat, the demography of the country is deeply divided
among the Hans, Cantonese, Munchu, Mongols, Tibetans and Uyghurs, most of them
have a history of bloody feuds among each other, resulting in decade long wars leaving
thousands dead and millions displaced. Folklores, glorifying the martyrs and cursing the
enemy, have made sure that, even after centuries have passed, people may never forget
what went on and the grudges remain deep rooted in the inner psychological aspects.

Wang’s auto driver system announced that he has reached his destination, as he looked
out the window, his vehicle is moving towards his designated parking space at the Great
Hall of People building in the central districts of Beijing. Some ten minutes later he was
seated in the warm and imposing Great Hall, looking at the huge wall paintings depicting
the Mountains where Mao and his Red Army stood in battles against the Nationalists, but
his mind is racing towards the explosive nature of what is due to come next.

Tonight, Wang has to play the role of the facilitator in the debate regarding which of the
two great Chinese philosophies shall be adopted as the core mechanism behind the
Politburo’s new think. A Taoist Priest and a Confucius philosopher have been invited to
present their case. The ex-president of People’s Republic of China Hu Jintao is to speak
as the senior expert of the inter-faith harmony. Hu was considered an expert because he
was at the helm of China, when the entire world was grappled with acts of fanaticism and
war of ideologies. He is the leader who successfully negotiated with the Tibetans in early
2009, and quelled the Uyghurs Muslim uprising in the mid of 2008, with dialogues and
an invitation of progress rather than a military resolution. Wang has always admired this
soft spoken but hard worded gentleman, and was noticing how the ex-president is busy
reviewing his notes sitting in an elevated corner.

Wang suddenly noticed the murmurs picking up a little, and shifted his attention to the
Eastern entrance, a slim-built priest in his silken blue attire was entering the hall, with
him are his two followers holding old manuscripts for reference, he had quite a stern face
with a smile of triumph already. As they settled in their seats, Wan noticed that the
Confucian scholar was already present in the hall, he smiled warmly at Wan.

Wang officially announced the matter to the attendees, and introduced the Taoist priest
and the Confucian scholar. First both the parties will be given a chance to introduce and
explain their point of view, un-interrupted, followed by a dialogue among the two to
challenge each other’s point of view, after which the house will provide the conclusive
remarks.

The Taoist priest stepped up to the speaker’s table, and delivered his opening remarks,
“honorable members, we are a system of natural evolution, wu wie (non action), vitality,
peace, flexibility, refinement and spirituality. We are convinced of the fact that man is
most secured when he adheres to nature, and go by its rules. Man has made great
endeavors to subject nature, but has he brought anything else but destruction upon
himself and the balance of the planet? That is because Man has lost the path of co-
existing with the nature, rather than harnessing it to profit himself; man has tried to mold
the nature to his desires and has eventually suffered. Taoism is the way which guides man
to understand his inner-self and guides him how to live with his fears and advance with
his abilities. This is what has lead to Tai Chi, the symbol representing the opposites in
life, and Taoism teaches to balance these compliments so well that life starts to look like
an effortless composite of this balance.”

He paused to look at the audience and continued, “We may have some of our roots in the
Confucius school of thoughts but we have learned to better the old thinking and have
evolved with time. That is why Tao is defined as a Path or a Road, a structured
evolutionary way forward.”

Wang thanked him and nodded to the Confucius scholar to address the assembly. The
scholar approached the aisle, and started, “Dear friends, is there one word to define the
way forward for the rest of one’s life?” he paused and looked to the audience for an
answer, and then continued, “yes, there is, that word is Reciprocity, What one does not
wish for oneself, one ought not to do to anyone else; what one recognizes as desirable for
oneself, one ought to be willing to grant to others. This is the golden rule of Confucius.
Gentlemen, we are not a religion, we term ourselves as a system of life, social
advancements, self-correction, harmony with society rather than just mere one’s self and
advancement of spirituality not just to elevate the inner-self but to exemplify for the
others.”

He continued, “Confucius was not a mere scholar, he was a shepherd, a clerk, a book-
keeper, and later as a state minister. He was a common man but with the power of self
evaluation and humility, he understood the true meanings of life. He never claimed to be
a prophet, he was always insistent that he has learned a few lessons in his life and he
wishes to transfer these to anyone and everyone who wishes to learn.”

He looked at the crowd, who are slowly being captivated, “Confucius values the humans
above property and assets, so the model of business is pretty much towards seeking the
betterment of mankind rather than to gain cold profit.” A few eye brows rose among the
crowd.

The scholar pressed on, “Confucius believed in the system of governance through
invocation of natural morality, rather than strict laws and threat of legal action. Law of
man, may very well refrain a common person from committing a crime, but it makes him
void of any shame or guilt when the law is not present. Legal system pushes a man to
stop short of evil just before he may cross the legal limits, but it does not cultivates anti-
evil realizations, and when man realizes that law is not looking, he may be inclined to
cross all limits of morality and greed. This, gentlemen, is what has drowned the western
civilization twenty years ago, when accountants and financial engineers learnt to tap
around the law and bend it to their liking by exploiting the system to satiate their greed,
the eventuality unbalanced the economic system, and its collapse is still a harsh reminder
of what takes mankind centuries to build, greed and lust can devastate inside a few
years.”

Wang suddenly realized the difference between the Priest and the Scholar, the priest has a
frame of reference to speak within, the priest has a religion to defend, by definition,
religion always considers itself the authority over everything, and that is where it
becomes difficult to be defended. On the other hand, the Scholar is free of any
compulsion to defend his way of thinking, because he is advocating a loosely bounded
system of beliefs, not a defined religion, he knows that someone can disagree to his way
of thinking and is accommodative of the fact. This has surely broadened his spectrum.
Wan now understood fully why the chairman Mao insisted upon banishing the religion
for his people and instead asked to adopt a theory of life.

Wan, moved on to the next phase of the debate, where he will put a set of questions to
both the men, and the house will evaluate their answers. Wang’s first question was
straight forward, “How will you define the political inclinations of your respective
advocated philosophies?”

The Taoist Priest spoke first, “Taoism is convinced of the fact that controlling the society
doesn’t work, if the government keeps the life of common man simple enough, it will be
easier to satisfy his needs. A good leader is the one which sticks more to the natural
inclinations of the people, rather than trying to mold their views. Governance is best
when its presence is least felt. Taoism believes in governing like a supportive mother
rather like a demanding father.”

The Confucius scholar uttered, “We do welcome the thought of a society which is
advanced enough to govern itself, but the reality is of a stark difference, never a society
in the entire human history has been capable of governing itself by mere self control.
Order in the social system is a must, if it is left to the people to define their own laws,
very soon a race to the bottom starts and ends at complete annihilation of all sanity.

My esteemed friend, the priest, believes that all humans are equal, and hence the sense of
morality for one person will be the same for the other, however, the established fact is
that all humans are different, and so are their individual sense of morality. In order to
have equivalence in the system, a strong imposition of political views is almost always
required.”

Wang, acknowledged the replies from both the sides and moved on to his next question,
“How do you view social and economical advancement?”

The Confucius Scholar spoke first, “Confucius was himself a working man, who believed
in the economic system and understood that the advancement is the only way forward,
the only guiding principle that he provided to argument was to develop without greed, he
emphasized on the fact that Enrichment of the people should come first, followed by their
education which will inculcate sound morality among the masses.”

The Taoist has a mocking smile on his lips, and he said, “What development will come
without greed? What advancement will occur without conquering the others? The notion
of advancement and greed can never be inconsistent, hence the model that my Confucius
colleague represent, is mostly non-existent. The Taoist model of advancement is only
striving for the advancement which is offered naturally to any society, and for which no
extreme measures are required, we welcome all advancements where exploitation is not
required.”

Wang could immediately tell that most of the part members have more in agreement with
the Confucius point of view. But he intended to further the discussion before leading
towards a conclusion, since he could now see the arguments getting deeper and wider. He
politely asked Hu Jintao to present his views on the topics discussed thus far.

Hu, despite his imposing personality, was polite and humble when he spoke. “The
tragedy of religion or religious sentiments is that they always tend to term ‘Different’ as
‘Wrong’, each religion is entangled in terming itself right and in the process edging every
other religion as wrong. The reason, our great leaders over the past 75 years, have kept
religion out of the affairs of state, is that they believed that there are higher motives for a
nation to pursue than just the blindly following their religions.

What we have witnessed today, tells us that both the sides have some pretty strong
arguments, but why anyone of them has to be Wrong? Why can’t they both co-exist and
leave it to the masses to acquire any of the ideology they may like?”

He paused and furthered his argument, “My humble suggestion to the Politburo is to
allow its members to have the ability to practice any religion that they may like, but make
sure that they don’t adopt that religion by simply the virtue of being born in a family that
practices that religion. Any member cannot declare his religious inclinations until and
unless they are 30 years of age, so that, by this time they have questioned the merits and
demerits of all the religious systems around them and can freely adopt, whichever
religion they may like the most. It is then the responsibility of the state to make sure that
the educational system is powerful enough to carve a mentally strong willed human being
and is transparent enough for helping him to make unbiased choices. Once we are
responsible enough to choose our own religion, we learn to co-exist and also celebrate
our differences.”

Wang knew that the ex-president’s experience has very shrewdly summed up a wonderful
solution for the members to discuss in their future meetings regarding this particular
issue. He knew that the road in front of them is long and difficult, but they do clearly
have a route to follow.