Monday, December 29, 2008


Disclaimer: This article is based on MY understanding - this writing draws heavily on the latest book that I have read titled, "What the Bleep (F---) do we know".
Dr Pert says, “Our emotions decide what is worth paying attention to…The decision about what becomes a thought rising to consciousness and what remains an undigested thought pattern buried at a deeper level in the body is mediated by the receptors” in our system. These receptors thrive on the chemicals released in our body depending on our emotions. So, of the 400 million bits/ second that we receive, some of it is discarded as unreal, irrelevant, and the balance is then prioritized based on our emotions. Only 2000 bits/ second of the prioritized data gets through to our consciousness, based on our emotions. Why are emotions involved in our perception process? Joe Dispenza says that, “Emotions are designed to reinforce chemically something into long term memory. That’s why we have them”.

Our emotions are also linked in at a low level of sensory perception. This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. Imagine a tiger jumps in front of you while you are walking. Your eyes will process the information and you will start to run without giving it a second thought. Guess why? The emotion of fear has activated the ‘Fight or Flight’ reflex before you could even register the tiger in your brain, as emotions are a hard wired shortcut to perception. Emotions also give us the unique capability to not see what we simply do not want to see. (Guess why one never sees anything good in the person/ country/ system that one does not like). Now, imagine a dark alley and you see a shape that looks like a tiger. Guess what, the body will go in to the ‘fight or flight’ mode as the hypothalamus would release the chemicals in to the blood stream and your body would be conditioned to run. This is the trap. In case you could stop and reason that ‘how can there be a tiger here’? You investigate a little more and find that the tiger look-alike is just a garbage bag thrown into the alley. This is now a new possibility and the brain will start to re-program the neuro-nets. (This is just an example of how the system functions. One has to be careful any time emotions are involved). In case we do not deal with, and retire this emotion in to wisdom, then we would never evolve and will keep re-experiencing this emotion, and the pre-conditioned response, and this would then result in cumulative emotional history which would get further etched or hard-wired into our brain. This brings us to this question, ‘Do we actually need these emotions’?

Yes, we do. Emotions make life worth living. Remember your first crush in school? How did it feel? Coming first in class? First day at your dream job? The day when you felt very close to your Creator? 29/ 11/ 2008 - when the Commandos completed their mission? Etc. One can remember the incidents vividly even now – thanks to the emotions involved. Emotions are good but one must remember the trap too……. Imagine who makes use of them the maximum? Our politicians – listen to their rhetoric; BJP – Congress is soft on terror; Cong – BJP will be anti-minorities; MNS and SS – Marathi manoos; DMK – Tamil language; go through the non-issues that they get people all emotional about: Mumbai and not Bombay; Bengaluru not Bangalore, etc. etc. These issues are emotional, and help our politicians to side step the main issues of development, growth, job creation, etc. The advertisers are another lot – they give you facts, sometimes distorted too, along with a lot of emotional appeal; and others who want to imprint the message in the long term memory of your brain. Repeated appeals of this nature solidifies your neuro-nets.

My readings have convinced me that Jinnah was one of the most secular leaders (Advani was not wrong), but he still was the chief architect of a country based on religion. He did not believe in it, but he was convinced that with Nehru and Patel around he had no chance of becoming the PM. Personal power ambitions led him to mislead people. How did he do it? Emotions – Muslims will be slaves in free India. People believed him, and followed him. Emotions were involved and he was successful in giving a new paradigm to the Muslim population. Before departing Bombay though, on 14 Aug 1947, he wanted to reverse his propaganda and urged the Muslims left behind in India to be “Indians first and Muslims later”. Similarly after landing in Karachi, he urged people there to be “Pakistanis first”. Was he right about the state of Muslims in India? I do not think so. However, we still have this old baggage of the partition era with us – ALL communities have it. Why? I believe because we have still not “retired in to wisdom” some of the very same emotions that were experienced during partition. These are on display on the internet for any one to see, and the internet is only visited by educated people. Guess the state of the illiterate masses. Many more have been added thereafter – 1984, 1992, 2002 etc. etc. These are hardwired in our brains, to start riots at the slightest pretext. We still have politicians, like Jinnah, who use the same techniques even today. How do we guard against the long term damage they can cause to the citizens psyche?

How do we change our reality, which is based on our perception - that is dependent on our sensory inputs, our learning, our experiences, our emotions and our paradigm? The answer is in the question itself. We need to go beyond the box that we live in right now. We need to increase our reference library in the brain, analyse our experiences, make a paradigm shift and most of all, we need to QUESTION everything that has emotions attached with it. We need to believe in a new paradigm that says that all people born on this land are Indians, irrespective of their personal beliefs, and everyone has equal rights and responsibilities based on the letter and spirit of our Constitution. No one can claim lack of opportunities, based on one’s personal beliefs. I believe that India provides equal opportunities to all who believe, and behave, like Indians. How else could we have a person from the Muslim community from a small Tamil Nadu village become the President of India; a person from the Sikh community become the PM, Air Chief Marshal Idris Latif as the Chief of Air Staff, Mayawati and Antulay as CM, and so on.

Talking of equal opportunities, I am reminded of an incident that took place when I was doing the staff college in Montgomery Alabama. We had a Muslim officer who had just finished Air War College at the same location. We had a Christian Air Marshal who was on a visit to the US; visit us at the staff college. This led the wife of the Pakistan Air Force officer to naively ask my wife as to how India permitted a Muslim and a Christian officer to reach such high posts in the military. In Pakistan, she said, Hindus and Christians could only be employed as dhobis and domestic help.

I was in the Indian Air Force and saw India as it should be - a microcosm of what India can be. My perception and reality of India is vastly different from what people have in the civilian world, primarily because I have seen how people with diverse thoughts, beliefs, languages, cultures etc. can come together as Indians to enrich each other’s lives, and that is also the India that our founding fathers envisioned. Experience has widened my reference box. In case similar experience is not available, we need to get more knowledge to widen the box, other wise our reality will always remain limited, primarily because we cannot perceive beyond our limitations.


Ajit said...

Brilliant Sir!!!
You have captured in these few words, what we all need to do....
I liked the last line:
"we need to get more knowledge to widen the box, other wise our reality will always remain limited, primarily because we cannot perceive beyond our limitations."

yes, we do need to get different perceptions.
If I am right, Jinnah actually declared Pak to be a secular country...
Emotions are good and are needed but unfortunately the wily netas use it to their advantage...

Renu said...

In Pakistan, she said, Hindus and Christians could only be employed as dhobis and domestic help.

This is the Pakistan I read from many peiple and I feel sad that still our countrymen in kashmir and elsewhere dont undertand the value of freedom, secularism and democracy of our country.

J P Joshi said...

Ajit: Thank you for your comment. Jinnah was indeed a very secular person. His personal ambitions wanted a separate country - a secular Pakistan, with a Muslim majority. However, he was in an advanced stage of TB and could not steer his country in that direction for long. Pakistan's, as well as our, loss that he died very early.

Emotions are needed, BUT we the people need to avoid the trap that these can get us into. The only way out is to QUESTION everything that comes tied with emotions that logically should have been tied to facts. Marathi manoos versus genuine employment generation policies, etc.

Renu: Our countrymen do understand, but our politicians, like politicians all over the world, are masters in misleading people. The people need to understand that they should not be misled by emotive non-issues by our politicians and should hold them accountable to real issues of governance and development.

This has happened in J&K in this election. The voter turnout of 61.5%, and the mandate given by the people is just a dream come true for the champions of democracy, anywhere in the world. The mandate given by the people is for development and governance and that too to moderate elements of the political spectrum in J&K. J&K has done democracy proud.

Quirky Indian said...

Your take on Jinnah is spot on. Advani was right. Jinnah was very secular, and it was his feeling of being sidelined because of what he saw as Gandhi's favouritism that prompted him to align himself with the Muslim League.


Quirky Indian

Renu said...

But the nop. of seats and their calculations, all make a mockery of democracy, last nite, Omar seemed to be making the govt with the help of Cong. today in the morning Cong. seems to be making it with PDP, so how important is the voters verdict? i think the party getting the max. seats only should be allowed to make alliances and form govt.

J P Joshi said...

Quirky Indian: Thank you for your comment.

My take is slightly different, based on my readings. Jinnah differed with Gandhiji on how to govern, because of their different world views - Gandhiji was a lawyer and a leader who understood India, Jinnah was an aristocrat, and a lawyer until 1937.

The 1937 elections in which the Muslim League lost in every province was the turning point, I believe. Jinnah transformed from a barrister in Western attire to the Sherwani and black lamb cap leader thereafter.

After the 1937 debacle, Jinnah wanted two Muslims from 'Muslim League' to be part of the Viceroy's Council whereas Nehru, against Mahatma Gandhi's advice, adamantly said that since the Congress had won, the two Muslims would be from the Congress. So, it was not 'Gandhi's favouritism', but power play and ambition that drove him to abandon his strongly held beliefs, and move on to make the famous 1940 Pakistan Declaration.

J P Joshi said...

This is just the usual political activity to extract maximum mileage for their own parties.

PDP is willing to give the CM's chair to the Congress for the full term. Imagine, after all that the two went through just before the elections.

NC - Adjusted to make Omar the CM, with the proviso that Farooq would be accommodated in Delhi.

Cong. - Want's 50% term for their own party candidate as CM.

This is, I believe, the democratic process. However, if done for public good then it is most desirable, but we generally have this for personal reasons and that is what hurts.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello JPJ 

Very interesting and thought provoking post!

Emotions are important for self preservation. If a tiger jumps in front of me, I know I have to run to save my life. If I’m going to stand there and analyse whether the tiger will attack me or not, the risk I am taking is too high. Is it worth it? It is a matter of life or death. Similarly, I see a shadow which looks like a tiger and even if there is no possibility of a tiger being there, my self preservation instinct will tell me to keep away rather than go and investigate although it might be only trash.

Wisdom can be used only when we have time to think. When we have an emergency, we will act instantly based on our experience and self preservation instinct. Sometimes it can be a wrong decision and sometimes it can be a right decision. Our success as human beings will be based on making more right decisions and less wrong decisions. No one is infallible. Every one makes mistakes even if the decision is based on wisdom.

There was a wise saying that ROLLING STONE GATHERS NO MOSS. Now the trend is to move from place to place to gather experience and to build a successful career. Any one who is sticks to one job is finished.

As far as your experience in the Armed forces is concerned, I fully agree with you that all communities have excellent rapport with each other. Again this is a matter of self preservation. The enemy will not care whether you are a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian. He will shoot to kill for his own self preservation.

This reminds me of an incident when I participated in the selection camp at Red Hills, Chennai for the Republic Day Parade way back in 1968. There was a smart, young, friendly malayalee Major who used to come to supervise our training for the final selection. We were very impressed with him, his style, his bearing and his charm. But he belonged to the JAT regiment. Once during a friendly discussion, I asked him why he did not choose a South Indian Regiment since he is from the south, he replied with a broad smile that he selected the JAT regiment because JATs will do anything he ordered without hesitation and questioning unlike the South Indians. We all laughed at that time but now I can see that he did it more out of self preservation than any anything else. In a war not only Indian Armed Forces but Armed forces all over the world will unite to fight for their own countries out of self preservation.

Similarly politicians all over the world are the same and Indian politicians are no exception. I do not want to lengthen my comment. So I am stopping. Perhaps another time I will be able elaborate on this.

Best wishes to you and your family for the New Year 2009.

Smitha said...

I just came across your blog and have to say that I have found your posts very thought inspiring! You are so right when you say that we need to increase our perspective! Wonderful post!

J P Joshi said...

JP: Thank you for your considered comment.

You are right - self preservation is one side of the coin, the other side is putting your own life at risk for your comrades. I heard Maj. Unnikrishnan's last words, on TV (narrated by one of his subordinates), to his troops before he got hit. These words ARE the other side of the coin. In short, it is more about being there for one another, than just self preservation.

Smitha: Welcome, and thank you for your comment.

Poonam J said...

Very well presented.
Emotions do impact our decisions.One just has to be self aware.Oue Politicians are smart enough to know which way to take us emotionally.They are aware of the people emotional gauges....and so the emotionally charged speeches.We on a personal level are but puppets to our emotions....very thought provoking

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello JPJ :)

I strongly believe that Major Unnikrisnan lost his life because there was no planning before attacking the terrorists.

The terrorists had a good plan and our security forces were pressed into action on the spur of the moment. Like true soldiers they obeyed the command and lost their lives.

They didn't even study the layout of the hotel. What a pity! How unprofessional!What a shame to let good officers to lose lives so easily!

Best wishes :)

J P Joshi said...

Poonam: Thank you. C U soon.

JP: I have no answer to your comment. When it is a first, you can never be prepared enough.

Until Sep 11, 2001, I could never have imagined some one using a commercial airliner for attacking civilian targets without declaring war. I am a pilot and know how to use an aircraft as an offensive weapon, but certain things are beyond you perception, and thus your reality!!

The point at issue though is, Maj. Unnikrishnan was there for his troops, and not for self preservation.

Kislay said...

Brilliant article Sir . I loved the last paragraph , the IAF as a microcosm of what India should be it . Beautiful thought .

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello JPJ :)

The main purpose for which Major Unnikrishnan went inside the hotel was to fight the terrorists and not to save a wounded comrade. Saving the comrade was only incidental to the principal purpose of killing the terrorists entrenched firmly inside the hotel. Therefore, fighting the terrorists and saving a wounded comrade cannot be treated as two sides of the same coin. Saving is only side business.

Again, I find it difficult to stomach , if you say that it is the first time security forces are facing terrorists. I don’t think the attack on Indian Parliament was in any way less important than the attack on Taj Hotel. Many security forces lost their lives when the Parliament was attacked. Security forces should have taken a lesson from that. Committing another blunder by professional fighters is inexcusable. A movie director would have done a better film shooting.

I have absolutely no intention of denigrating any one because such things do happen and we have to accept them without any reservation. Therefore, I agree with your contention whole heartedly with a pinch of salt.

Cheers and best wishes for the New Year 2009.

Usha Pisharody said...

A brilliant second part!

Indeed, being part of the Services does bring that perception of the microcosm so much more tangibly than being anywhere else I think!

I did have a wonderful and educative time this afternoon, with the time I spent here!

Happy New year, again :)

J P Joshi said...

Kislay: Thank you for your comment. I love your passion, and if I may, would take the liberty of advising you to channel it to action, in a positive way. God bless.

JP: Agreed. You have a point. Thank you for sharing, and a Happy New Year.

Usha Pisharody: Thank you for visiting. Seems you are done with your corrections. Nothing like the IAF, for me. It sure is a different world. You move around the country so much that the whole country actually becomes your home - that is the way it should be.

Kislay said...

Thank you very much Sir . I hope to accomplish the same , because Actions do speak louder than words .