Father Berrigan: For the Children and the Bread

Father Dan Berrigan died yesterday (April 30, 2016). He was one of the leading lights of the antiwar and civil rights movements of the 60s and 70s. Father Berrigan continued his activism till the last days of his life, in recent years protesting against the latest imperialist ventures including the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

During his long struggle, he was imprisoned several times. He rose to international prominence when he, together with fellow activists, burnt the draft files of 378 people who would have been forced to join the army and kill innocent Vietnamese. For this and other acts of resistance, he was also featured on the cover of the Time Magazine in 1971.

Along-with Noam Chomsky and Edward Said, Berrigan was also an early critic of Israel. All the way back in 1973, when there were only a handful of prominent western critics of Israel, Father Berrigan said, “[It was a tragedy that] in place of Jewish prophetic vision, Israel should launch an Orwellian nightmare of double talk, racism, fifth-rate sociological jargon, aimed at proving its racial superiority to the people it has crushed’.

Finally, it is important to note that Father Berrigan, a believer in God,  took part in efforts aimed at saving the lives of millions of people, and making the world a better place, together with his non-religious friends such as Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. Both parties were humble enough to put aside inconsequential personal differences to fight for a bigger cause. If only some new-atheists could learn from this, rather than self-indulgently preening their so-called ‘higher intelligence and knowledge’.

Lastly, I want to share one of my all time favorite poems by Father Berrigan. In my view, this poem is right up there with the very best of left, protest poetry, in the same league as the best poems by Pablo Neruda, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Sahir Ludhianvi.


Some stood up once
and sat down.
Some walked a mile
and walked away.
Some stood up twice
then sat down.
I’ve had it, they said

Some walked two miles
then walked away.
It’s too much, they cried

Some stood and stood and stood.
They were taken for fools
They were taken for being taken in.

Some walked and walked and walked
They walked the earth
They walked the waters
They walked the air.

Why do you stand
they were asked, and
Why do you walk?

Because of the children, they said, and
Because of the heart, and
Because of the bread.
The cause
Is the heart’s beat
And the children born
And the risen bread.

In his last years, with the imperialist machine killing millions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and going crazy in its blind power circus, father Berrigan confessed to having as little hope from the system as at any point in his long life. One can only imagine what he must have felt recently on seeing demagogues like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on the one hand, and war-loving hawk like Hilary Clinton on the other, squabbling for the chance to shape our future according to their ugly visions.

However, the fact is that despite all the ugliness and apparent hopelessness, Father Berrigan was among those “some” who walked the road to the very end, and he did it for the children, the heart and the bread. May his spirit inspire some others.


Patrice Lumumba-Never to forgive, never to forget

The Jewish culture has this very powerful saying, which many Jews especially repeat on a day called the holocaust memorial day: Never to forgive, never to forget. On face value, this statement might seem a bit extreme, especially the “never to forgive” part. Continue reading Patrice Lumumba-Never to forgive, never to forget

Blind Power Circus had to Trump!

What’s this liberal media’s hullabaloo and condemnation of Donald Trump all about? And lo and behold , even political saints like David Cameron, Ben Carson, Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and other angels and honest men in the media and intellectual culture, have combined to condemn poor old Trump. Actually, it’s quite hypocritical of mainstream media, intellectual culture and politicians to condemn Trump, when in fact they have laid the ground for someone like him to appear–in two ways:

Continue reading Blind Power Circus had to Trump!

Paris Attacks: Collective Moral Blindness Spells Collective Doom

What happened in Paris was heart-wrenching and tragic. My first reaction was intense anger at the monstrous perpetrators. Soon after, it was accompanied by an equally intense anger and sense of frustration at the western reactions that had already started coming in. As a Pakistani who has been living in Europe for some time, there was also bitter trepidation in anticipation of much worse reactions that would inevitably come in (as they did), surpassing the hypocritical reactions to the gruesome Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Continue reading Paris Attacks: Collective Moral Blindness Spells Collective Doom

Gorky in the lower depths of mother Russia

Maxim Gorky was arguably the most famous writer in the world at the turn of the 20th century. His novel Mother inspired millions of workers for generations. His play The Lower Depths, was among the first plays to detail the lives of the lower classes in a very realistic, unromantic manner.  But Gorky is now more or less forgotten. How did this happen? A key to this lies in the answers to the following questions: Why did Gorky, who had severely criticized the October 1917 revolution, go back to Russia under the regime of Joseph Stalin? Why did the man who would publicly denounce such gifted men as Lenin and Trotsky, succumb to the guile of the much less gifted (and more ruthless) Stalin? Continue reading Gorky in the lower depths of mother Russia

Rational Fools

Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, coined the term “Rational Fools” nearly 35 years ago. In his famous paper, Sen criticized the first principle of economics: “Every agent is actuated by only self-interest”. On top of this axiom of rational self-interest lie rational action and rational expectations, leading all the way up to the efficiency of the markets. As mentioned in my earlier post on Galileo, this is basically how science is done: models are devised using abstractions and idealizations. However, if the model turns out to be totally meaningless in explaining the world, then those who stick with such a model are indeed fools, rational fools.

Here is a song that I wrote and animated on such ‘Rational Fools’:

Dilip Kumar: The Chekhovian Amateur who redefined acting

Anton Chekhov revolutionized modern playwriting and short stories. And he is one my favorite writers. Thus, I remember being confused when I first read that Hemingway had said the following about him: “Chekhov wrote about 6 good stories. But he was an amateur writer”. I have never quite been able to understand why Hemingway called Chekhov an amateur. Whatever the truth of it, I now realize that its at least not an illogical statement, lest one feels that an ‘amateur’ couldn’t possibly redefine plays and short stories. There is another ‘amateur’ who also redefined his field and its a pity that he is largely unknown outside the South Asian sub-continent. That person is Dilip Kumar, Continue reading Dilip Kumar: The Chekhovian Amateur who redefined acting