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HUMANISM VS SPIRITUALITY Covid-19 prefers humanism or spiritual innovations?

Benny Palatty Benny Palatty
19 Oct 2020
Weekly Magazine In India

Spiritual practices emerge from personal and individual beliefs, but they have a very strong connection with social and public life. In this critical pandemic time, it is necessary to find linkages between humanism – the centrality of human experience and man made institutions – and spirituality.

Covid-19 has not only affected public movements and institutions, but it has also brought new challenges that the current generation had never thought of or imagined. It is not just fear and loneliness, but also about food, life, confidence, future, social life and everything related to life. The principles and guarantees of institutions have been challenged; science and medical innovations are grappling; business and money are hard to come by; leaders who need to find solutions are all in a great silence (which they may not accept). There are many leadership concerns and strategies evolving at this time. 

“Crisis does not build character, it reveals it,” goes an old adage. All are trying to overcome and answer to the situation; but no one is bringing a reasonable answer to the table. The traditional assumptions of leadership, such as assertiveness, competitiveness and independence, are not working. And we hear noises from every corner trying to silence thought and meaningful internal reflections. 

In China, authorities tried to cover up the viral outbreak and punish doctors; in the U.S., President Donald Trump downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and identified it as “hoax” by political rivals; in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed the illness as a fantasy and “a little flu”; Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador held rallies, kissed his supporters and urged the citizens “to live life as normal,” and in India, ‘lighting (diyas) and beating (plates)’ were the steps taken to eliminate this devastating pandemic.

What is spirituality in the here and now? How does it open a new attitude towards life? How does it deal with social concerns and protection of humanity? Spirituality is to be understood as the happiness of human beings, emerging from their faith and relation with God. Spirituality is not just wellness and psychological fitness, it is also principles for daily actions and relations emerging from faith in God. The value and agency of human beings in trusting and moving as per faith is the focus here.

Politics uses religion to divide and control. The idea is to group the people in order to feed the support system. Government is unable to motivate people to live, to serve, to stay within responsibilities – what governments and business institutions do is exercise power and the principle of punishment. The business field is trying to reap benefits from the crisis; still, it is doubtful about its own existence. Professionalism and expertise don’t work; the number of Covid cases are increasing. Humans are being challenged and no one is strong enough to encourage resilience.

Each culture is an expert in its own areas of human flourishing. But, the ecology of emancipation is at the trial-and-error stage. Businesses take new shapes in this time of critical necessity and they develop new products. Politicians try to hold on to power and utilise the time to secure their positions for long. Internationally, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, “We are facing a game-changer for international peace, security. The world has entered a volatile and unstable new phase in terms of the impact of Covid”. Global politics proceed with experiments and trial. But the answer to social unrest, the pain of the vulnerable, exploitation, economic crisis, medicine for the sick etc. are all a distant dream. And it takes its own time.

Guterres issued an urgent appeal calling on politicians to ‘forget political games.’ “The world is facing an unprecedented test. And this is the moment of truth,” he added. Pain, loneliness, fear, financial crunch, health, educational crisis are part of the constant and living reality faced by people. Who can answer to these issues? Where can people trust? No solution is workable and proper. Power politics, governments’ agendas, business experiments are executed even at this time of great confusion. Though everyone hopes that things will change for the better, there are many who consider this crisis a bed of roses for personal gain and profit.Market, government and medicine are important areas. But, these areas cannot satisfy the essential preferences or safety of humans now. Human beings have to think of a nonmarket, non-political and non-medical allocation. It is here that religion and the spiritual meanings of life take the primary stage. They help people to reflect on the meaning-making process and the reality of this unprecedented time. This reflection leads to finding meaning, helping people and becoming Covid-19 warriors.

The absence of religion and spiritual reflections can worsen the situation. Acts like feeding the poor, devoting oneself in the medical field, finding motivation for existence and dreaming of a future are built on spiritual foundations and reflections. In many of these areas, the government and its machinery have shown themselves as sheer nonsense. The initial “lighting and beating” practices directed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, shutdowns, migration of the poor and the economic steps taken show the incompetency and ignorance of the government. Speaking about the inadequate responses from several countries in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, historian John M. Barry, who studied the Spanish flu, said, “It’s been disappointing in many countries – too many.  It’s been outright reprehensible – some leaders’ actions will unnecessarily kill many of their citizens”.
What is next? There is a new spirit of human oneness that has emerged. It is not a political and national spirit; it is a spiritual contribution to the humanity. This has to be used for national development and betterment of individual lives. The terroristic and divisive usage of religion should be stopped by increasing our focus on the positive sides.

Moral and ethical depository for a peaceful social life is the aim of the Indian Constitution. It is for all the people and protects everyone. But the principles of the Constitution are not followed by many, especially those who are there to protect and safeguard it. The abuse of Constitution with communal intentions is on the rise in this post-truth era. The freedom and rights of the people are encroached mostly by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Here we need spiritual principles and attitudes to accept the Constitution.

Due to terrorism and unwanted communal vicious engagements, religion and spirituality are labelled as ‘menial.’ The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the truth of religion and the path of spirituality. This path should be properly administered into the governance, business and medical fields for the proper existence and flourishing of humanity. It is a gift of God for humanity.The relevance of God should not be related to just belief and faith. It has to be included in the experiments conducted for medicine, care administered to the poor and the vulnerable, treating others with respect and justice by the government. Spiritual life should lead towards social transformation.

Human flourishing is not possible by government and is not in the vicinity of the secular missions in this situation. Their attempts have proved to be null and void. At this time of a great depression and economic upheaval, human beings should depend on love, support, mutual respect to maintain its flourishing. Eudaimonia can be attained by practical and ethical wisdom. The way towards it is faith and spirituality. It is the hope to exist.

Governments and all associations need proper principles to move further. The basic values taught by religion are to be respected and followed by the decision-making bodies. There is a long way to normalcy. These principles are not ideological and sectarian dividends. In order to have existence and future, routes of competitive business and divisive power tricks should be replaced with moral principles and spiritual orientation even among decision-making officials and professionals. The principles of spirituality should be of prime importance in all areas. Only this can accommodate the poor, the vulnerable, the suffering and fix targets beyond profit and power.
( Palattybenny@yahoo.com)

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