Pakistan Economy in the Domestic, Regional & Global Context:

Training Session in 24th Mid-Career Management Course, National Institute for Management Islamabad, Monday 24th Oct 2017

Brief Summary: Today’s world is dominated by wrong ideas. Every party spending time and effort on using media to propagate ideas IS AN INTERESTED party — no one spends time and money to spread PURE TRUTH. THis makes job of sorting out truth from falsehood very difficult. Many dominant, widely believed ideas are simply not true. For example, deaths due to Islamic terrorism in Europe and USA are about the same as deaths due to strikes by lightning — but perception is that these are much more. Similarly, the Corruption PERCEPTION index says that Pakistan is highly corrupt, but empirical evidence shows the USA is much more corrupt. — see my article: Corruption: Measuring the Unmeasurable, for more details

Ideas are far more powerful than is commonly realized –( See the Power of Ideas). In particular, good expectations about the future are self-fulfilling, because if people have confidence in Pakistan, they will invest in it, and help bring about a better future. Today. some people are talking about high deficit and debt of Pakistan as being signs of a weak economy. In fact, as explained in detail in the video lecture below, the two-gap model says that we need to have high deficits and debt in order to have high growth. Many bad ideas which economists have given us are the greatest obstacles to growth. Among this is the idea that growth is caused by machines and FDI and exports. Actually growth is caused by investing in our own people. This was realized by Mahbubul Haq after he applied the false growth theories from Harvad, and found that they did not work. He then created a radically new approach based on Human Development. This approach is of great value even today, since our policy makers are still using imported and failed foreign ideas, instead of tested and true domestic ideas. Among the main bad ideas is that WE the elite must carry out development, and then we will share the fruits with poor people of Pakistan. Instead, we have a large number of un-sung heroes who have actually created revolutionary, community driven, approaches to development, which are now being emulated all over the world. If we can liberate our minds from the shackles of colonization, and empower our people, giving them lives with security and dignity, our people will change the future of Pakistan.

1. Living in a Post-Fact & Post-Truth World
We’re living in post-fact and post-truth world. Today, there are so many truths available that it’s very hard to know what is true and what is false. Islam gives has the responsibility to not forward anything without verifying it ourselves. Reality is not made of bricks, stones and mountains but we can see only reflection of reality which is inside our mind. Lot of things that we know is not part of our experience but we get to know by narration instead of direct observation.
This interesting problem is capsulated in story called, ‘Lady and the Tiger’. It gives us very important fact that all parties that give information are interested parties in fact. There is no dis-interested party in the world. So, it’s very difficult to find out the truth.
2. Ideas are Powerful Shaper of Reality
According to Keynes, the practical men feel themselves quite away from philosophy. But actually what they are doing is based on philosophy without their knowledge. It is true as lot of people without any knowledge of modern economics or philosophy they are living their lives but even then these things profoundly shaping our world.
“Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back”, John Maynard Keynes.
Number of deaths by terrorist attacks, in EU, are slightly larger than people killed by lightening. But people killed by homicide, consumer products, walking in traffic, sporting accidents, heat wave, traffic accidents, suicide, respiratory illness, heart disease and cancer are much larger, respectively, than by terrorist attacks. By this information one can easily decide that how much resources should be spent to stop terrorist attack and how much for cancer, heart disease and other things. Reality is that billions are spent on terrorist attacks and very little money is spent on all of the other causes. Same thing is happening in USA where right wing extremist (white people) are committing about 120 terrorist attacks compare to 60 by Islamist and 20 by left wing extremists (black people). Total number of incidents is negligible but department of Homeland security spends billions of dollars on fighting these but other causes of deaths, those are more harmful, are completely neglected.
3. Pakistan is among the most Corrupt Countries
Most of the facts that we know are not the reality like Pakistan is 116 out of 176 countries in corruption but it’s an appearance. It doesn’t have connection with reality of corruption. In fact US government pays CIA to fabricate the reports. Corporation generate huge sum of profits by wars so they do lobbying and finance campaigns for wars. Projection to the public was that Iraq has weapons of mass-destruction but it was known that it’s not true. Similarly big pharma finance the politicians to pass the laws in their favor like to stop importing cheap medicines so that they can sell at high price.
Global financial crisis is another trillion dollar scandal. Vast number of banks and financial agencies were involved in fraud at large scale. Book, ‘When Pentagon was for Sale’, describes the scandal of massive overbilling in Pentagon and also giving contracts on favoritism and so on.
But despite all these huge scandals, US is at 18 in list of most corrupt countries out of 176 countries. If only dollar value is calculated of these fraudulent activities then it will be cleared that there is highest level of corruption in USA.
There is difference between perception and reality. It is perception that Islamic terrorists are destroying the world but reality is entirely opposite.
4. Two Gap Model of Growth
There is well known Two Gap model of growth which states that if country wants to grow then investment should be made in future of country. For it money is needed to invest today to get results in future. Now there are two type of money. Some of the money is domestic and for imports of machinery etc. the foreign currency is needed. There are two gaps here of which one is domestic saving gap that how can we raise money to invest in domestic market and secondly how can we raise foreign exchange to finance imports. Standard recommendation is that public should have lot of savings from which investment can be made and secondly high exports are necessary to generate foreign exchange earnings. These two gaps leads to low growth of countries.
The solution to these problem is to borrow to finance domestic investment and to fulfill exchange requirements. There is a problem with this solution that if country borrow money and misuse it then it’ll cause great damage to the country. On the hand if borrowed money is invest efficiently then there is no harm in borrowing revenues can be generated by it.
Pakistan has lot of borrowing but there is no harm as all money is invest on power plants, roads, capital goods etc. These investments are massively important for growth of economy in long run. Pakistan will achieve self-sufficiency in electricity through these investments and it’ll help industry to increase exports in near future. Domestic borrowing is done a lot by Pakistan but it’s going in right directions. Fixed capital investment in Pakistan is very strong which requires confidence in the future.
One sided scare story is Pakistan is drowning in in huge debt and economy will collapse soon. But the reality check is that economy is projected to exceed 6% growth which is maximum that can be seen in decades.
5. Who is Circulating False Facts? Why?
Now the question is who is circulating the false facts and why are they doing it?
The reality is that majority of people are simple minded dupes. For instance, Taliban were created by RAW, but lot of simple minded Muslims have been misguided into thinking that Taliban has something to do with Islam. Pakistan has got huge diplomatic achievement when support Iran against KSA and President of Iran visited Pakistan. The relations were becoming good that could also be helpful for increasing exports to Iran. But all of this was sabotaged when all headlines were about Kalbhushan Jadav instead of Iranian president even though he had been caught 40 days earlier. Iranian President returned and relations with Iran went even worse instead of improving as one specific group didn’t want Pakistan to develop good relations with Iran.
6. Quran: Leadership is circulated among the People
Quran says that leadership of the world is circulated among the people. Giovanni Arrighi, famous sociologist, analyzed the trend in world power and see that after every seven or eight decades the world power shifts. For past few centuries the European powers are in lead but he says now Asian countries will take lead on Europeans. He predicts that China is going to be next hegemon as GDP of Chine, on the basis of purchasing power parity, exceed the USA.
Pakistan is lucky to have China as trade partner but India and now USA are opposed to it.
There is strong pro-US, anti-Chine lobby within Pakistan and doing everything to derail the CPEC. Investment in future requires confidence but if the confidence is shattered in the economy then it destroys the investment. Confidence is state of mind which can be disturbed by false facts. There is a self-fulfilling prophecy that if we believe in the future it generates the strong future but if we doubt ourselves it also weakens the power. So the importance of soft power is huge to manipulate the public opinion now a days.
Can we take Pakistan to top 10 economies in 2050?
Some outsiders have predicted it’s possible. If we look at physical resources and all the material facts then we’ll see that it’s not impossible but biggest difficulty is due to mindsets as out of the box thinking is needed to achieve this goal.
7. Obstacles to Rapid Growth
One obstacle to rapid growth can be the debt trap. When debt is taken for wrong purposes and used by corrupt politicians then the people has to pay interest on loan. Such debt proved to be burden on economy and it’s possible but difficult to lessen this burden. However, it is important to differentiate clearly between “good” and “bad” debt. If debt is taken for the right purposes, it can substantially help improve the economy. In Pakistan, currently, most of our newly acquired debt is being put to productive use, but there is a burden of bad debt from the past, so the picture is mixed. In general, most of the poor countries are caught in the debt-trap, but for Pakistan, more important issue than debt is the wrong theories of economic development used by policy makers.
8. Blocking All Paths to Development
East Asian Countries (EAC) achieve miraculous growth from agrarian economy to industrial economy. Everything that these countries did was against the World Bank’s (WB) policies. EAC had the big industries guided by the government whereas WB policies restrict the interference of government in the economy. EAC had industrial policies to create coordination and subsidies the favorite industries. It means instead of being out of the market the government play crucial role which is against the WB policies. There were also price controls and restrictions on FDI whereas WB suggest to promote free market movement. In EAC there was also tight government control of money but WTO strictly against the influence of government on monetary policy.
After the East Asian miracle the WB rules closes all these paths to growth for its member countries. In all of such policies there is half-truth but there is also element of half-falsehood. For example WB restrict the involvement of government in economy as it causes harm but it’s half-truth as good government intervention can also put the economy on growth path.
9. Liberating Our Minds
We need to liberate our minds from piousness economic theory. Export led growth says if we just focus on increasing exports that will lead to growth but it’s simply wrong. But it’s part of agenda of foreigners to promote export led growth policies. Actually to create growth we’ve to increase the productive capacity in domestic economy so correct theory is growth led export instead to opposite.
Privatization is recommended as solution to inefficient government but reality check negates this as China has 75% of all its industry in the public sector. So there is issue of improvement of management whether it’s private or public sector. Deception is created in our minds that we should for high life style and luxuries. But recent research on happiness shows that high standards of living causes unhappiness as we’ve to work very hard to maintain a high life style and real drivers of happiness are family, friends and social circle. Striving for luxuries is opposite of Islamic teaching of simplicity.
It is thought that high growth rate will change the future of Pakistan but actually it’s not right methodology. Right approach is to help the poor people because they’re the people who will drive country ahead.
10. Pak Development Experience: Mehboob-ul-Haq Phase-I
In 1960’s Harvard group came to Pakistan and implement the economic theory that is applicable currently. According to this theory growth occur by building factories and by putting saved money into machines to produce more. What happened as a result was that all the money accumulated in hands of 22 families. So growth did occur but it didn’t go to the people. Same kind of policy has been implemented in the world. Russia planned to adopt free market ideology but they were planning to adopt implement is gradually. But Sachs go for shock therapy and as a result the economy of Russia collapse and millions of people became poor except few billionaires. All the Washington-Consensus policies had the same result everywhere.
11. Pak Development Experience: Mehboob-ul-Haq Phase-II
Mehboob-ul-Haq created the Human Development Index and focused on humans instead of growth. He focused on education and health instead of machine led growth. These things were not part of economic theory before he created HDI. Even today economists target the GDP growth per capita but discourse must be changed. Instead of GDP growth the focus must be on malnutrition, unemployment, health, education etc.
12. Pak Development Experience: Mehboob-ul-Haq Phase-III
In phase III of MH development he came to the realization that human beings are means and ends of development. Conventional wisdom is to use human beings for the production of wealth but MH says the opposite of it and said wealth should be used for betterment of human beings. Conventional wisdom, currently being followed in Pakistan Planning Commission, is to first produce wealth and then distribute it to the poor. But we must do the opposite of it as first we’ve to help the poor and then they’ll produce the wealth. According to conventional economics the social development is burden but in actual the social development is essential for development. So development is all about human beings but not about factories and roads.
13. Key Lessons from Experience
One of the major lessons from alternative economics is that if we want development then millions of engines of growth are needed but government itself can’t do it. So, investment in local productive capabilities leads to growth. We’ve to create agents of change who are we but nobody else. We can’t wait for external forces to make planning for us and to develop us. We’ve to unlearn the dependency on foreigners for policy making and also in other fields. We also have to overcome the inferiority complex because it prevent us from thinking about our own problems. If we go to WB then can provide 20 things to follow to achieve growth but unfortunately the solution of our problems is not available in these recommendations.
Basically our bureaucratic system is designed to rule people but not to serve people. We need to change this thinking of bureaucrats and to motivate them to work for service of people as Islamic teachings taught us that leader of the people is actually servant of the people.
14. From Outcome to Process
One of the major problems with modern economic and social thought is they focus on outcomes. It’s not how change happens because change happens when we focus on process and on how we play the game. Islamic teachings are also similar that outcomes are not in our hands but what we do is in our hand. So, if we do the right thing right now then we’ve achieved success whether or not it leads to the word success. We should not think about consequences but do what is in our power.
Instead of external goals like how can I change governments and other people we must focus on internal goals like change in myself, home and neighborhood.
15. We’ve many Un-Sung Heroes
Pakistan has produced lot of thought leaders like we mentioned Mehboob-ul-Haq who changed the word Development and had massive impact on the world. Akhtar Hameed Khan created the idea of community development which is now very strong and powerful concept all over the globe. Similarly Muhammad Yunus created the Grameen Bank which is first viable model for microfinancing and it’s now being implemented all over the world. Fazle-Hussain Abid who is leader of BRAC had recommend the first intervention in poverty which has been successful in graduating people out of poverty. Adbus-Sattar Edhi has done huge service to society similarly Indus hospital gives free health treatment to poor. Education and health are responsibility of society to poor. Except these big heroes there are many other un-sung heroes in our society who has done great work for society in their capabilities.
This concept has been practiced for centuries in Muslim societies in which education was free for all children and give health care to everyone.

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Quran on Purpose of Life

Video Lecture by: Dr. Lang, Mathematics Professor at Utah University, who converted to Islam after reading Quran.

Following highlights and summary of lecture prepared by Maaz Javed: PIDE Student

When someone wants to know about another religion then the first thing that comes in mind is question about the views of that religion regarding to purpose of life or our existence.

Questions Raised in Minds of People before being Atheist:

It enforces skepticism of a person when it comes in mind that why world is dominated by random, consuming, undiscriminating violence, when he saw the senseless carnage of Vietnam, why did not God spare us all the sufferings, why did he make us so susceptible to sin why didn’t He make us impervious to it?

Is this the most perfect world He could create for our existence?

Same question is raised as that of atheist in Quran in Surah Al-Baqarah verse 30.

‘Behold your Lord, said to the angels: I’m going to place a vice (Khalifa) on earth and Angels said will You place the one who will spread corruption and shed blood while we (angels) celebrate your praises and glorify you?’

‘Why would God create this being, supposedly for some positive role, when he is capable of doing tremendous wrongdoing?’

Answer to these Questions:

God answered to Angels: ‘Truly I know that you don’t know.’

Next verse says, ‘God taught Adam the names of all things and then He placed them before angels and said tell me their names if you are right.’

Angels: ‘Glory to God, we have no knowledge except what you have taught us. In truth it is you are knowing the wise.’

God: ‘O Adam tell them the names and Adam told all the names and God said did I not tell you that I know what is unseen in the heaven and earth and I know what you reveal and conceal.’

So the Quran is saying that God taught man by Himself and man is learning and intellectual creature. God was taking one of the great stories in history of mankind and using it as a vehicle for an entirely original message. Human beings can do huge evil, can do wrong, can create misery but they can also do exactly the opposite. They can choose to choose evil but also can choose to do tremendous good, compassion, can be terribly ugly but can also be terrible beautiful.

Next verse: ‘We said to angels to bow down to Adam and they bow down but not so Ibless (satan), he refused and was arrogant, he was of those who reject faith. And notice why Iblees does not bow down because he refuses as he was arrogant’.

Bowing down can symbolize two things: Superiority or potential superiority of one being over another and can also mean that they serve that creature in some respect. Angelic and Satanic forces will be catalyst for those moral choices that they make. They will heighten the human beings awareness of the rightfulness and wrongfulness of choices, he is about to make. The soul (nafs) will have to make the ultimate choice between good and evil.

In west it is asked what is the root of all evils and it comes out that it is all about money, greed etc. Quran says that root of all evils is not always material wants but at heart of evil there is arrogance putting yourself above all others. So on one hand we hand magnanimous urging comes from one direction and on other hand we have satanic urgings coming from other direction so man is not only learning but also moral creature.

‘By the soul that which whispers into it its morality, its immorality and its God consciousness. Truly he is successful who causes it (soul) to grow and truly he is lost who stunts it.’

God creates us to be exposed to both influences, evil and good.

‘Oh Adam, dwell you and your spouse in the garden and it freely there is what you wish but come not near this tree for then you will be among the wrongdoers.’

It was actually an ordinary tree but Satan later come to Adam and tell him its tree of eternal life of a kingdom that never decays. It turns out to be if there was truly such power in tree then God should be frightened and ordered angels to guard the tree because if Adam eat from it then they will become God. But God just calmly said to Adam if you eat from that tree you’ll be among wrongdoers. God was not worried about itself but just making them clear that if you do this you would commit wrongful deed. God know exactly what He was doing.

‘But Satan cause them to slip and expelled them from the state in which they were. And We said go you all down, some of you being the enemies of others, and earth will be your dwelling place and provision for a time.’

Now it was expected there will be rage, violence, anger and jealousy as Adam eat from the tree. It was expecting God will punish in hard way, stub their toe, make them suffer, and will die in this. And women, she’s the one who will suffer the most, labor pains and greatest humiliation will be the man will rule over her. When man is obviously intellectually inferior because she was seduced by Satan and commit the wrong deed. But in actual the story is entirely different. The greatest sin in the history of human race is called a ‘Slip’ due to Satan. It was just as someone loses the focus for some time and not a big deal. It may be the ‘Slip’ in actual after all they did not commit murder, robbery, pillaging, assault but they just eat couple of fruits. We see that God originally intended to put man on earth as his vice and for it we see period of preparation where he’s being prepared intellectually and growing as moral creature. When God finally put man on earth, it was due man’s first independent choice. It showed that mankind was ready to act on his own but God has empowered him to make choices and he was ready.

‘Adam received words from his Lord and God turned to him mercifully, forgot his off returning ever merciful.’

If there was any doubt up till now, that God is not enraged by what this has happened, is gone but all this was preparation for mankind to begin his earthly sojourn.

‘Go down Adam from this state all of you together and truly there will come to you guidance from me and whoever follows my guidance has nothing to fear nor shall they grieve.’

The couple was feeling remorse and God reaches out to them and tells them nothing to fear. I know this is tough for you but you’ve prepared for it up till now through your entire existence. It had to happen as this is the necessary stage in your development but just hang in there, follow my guidance, be true to me and I’ll be true to you.

Most emphasized things: Intellectual, Choice and Sufferings.

These three things play a central role in our development on earth and are very purpose of our development.

  1. Intellectuality:

Does Quran really emphasize reason as essential to human growth?

Yes. Even western orientalists, people who wrote against the Quran, agree on this. Quran is not far from considering unbelief as an infirmity of the human mind. Rational tone of the Quran is one of its most salient feature beyond doubt.

Consider the following statements from Quran about logic and reasoning.

‘People ignore or reject God science and corrupt religion precisely because they do not use their reason.’

‘In Quran there are signs and lessons for those who are wise.’

‘Similarly Quran says about disbelievers who refuse to reason.’

‘Quran says perhaps you will finally use your reason.’

‘God teaches humanity both directly and indirectly and thumbs sometimes so subtly that we are unaware of His instructions thus He test us in multifarious ways.’

‘From viewpoint of Quran reasons and faith are allies just as logic and false belief are allies.’

‘Similarly, Quran mentions those who benefit most from Quran are persons of insights.’

‘Quran is firmly rooted in knowledge.’

And such statements goes on and on.

So Quran really does put great emphasis on reason and on our spiritual quest.

  1. Emphasis on Choice:

‘Let there be no compulsion in religion, the right way is henceforth clear from error’

It’s a choice between correctness and falsity.

‘Do no the unbelievers know that had God willed He could indeed guide you all mankind. Do the believers know that had God willed he could have guided all mankind. And if we had so willed we could have given every soul its guidance.’

Why did God let us creature of choice? Just program us to do the right thing and not to make a wrong choice.

‘If God had willed He could have made us all one community.’

‘Enlightenment has come from your Lord. He who sees so to his own good he who is blind is so to his own hurt.’

‘Whoever is guided is only to his own gain and whoever is stray I am only a warner.’

‘Revealed to you the book with the truth for mankind who lets himself be guided does so is for his own good and he who goes astray it’s his own hurt’

So, it is clear from above verses that Choice plays a key role in development of human soul.

  1. Suffering:

Every religion deals with suffering in a different way. Like something have to be saved from and some religion stress salvation or if it’s something that have to be transcend through meditation to not feel it. Some religion sees suffering as primarily punishment while some sees it as result of precarious control of many gods working against each other. But all of the religions consider suffering as not a good thing. But Quran says just the opposite. It says to human beings that you are going to suffer in this life but it will play fundamental role in your development as mentioned in following verses.

‘We will try you in something of danger and hunger and loss of wordly goods, with a loss of your lives and fruits of your labor. Most assuredly We will try you. But there is good news and be happy for those who are patient in adversity and suffering. When calamity befalls them they say truly unto God we belong and truly unto Him we shall return.’

‘Do you think that you could enter paradise without having the like of those who passed away before you. Misfortune and hard should be found them and so shaken are they the believers with him exclaim when will God’s help come.’

‘You will certainly be tried in your possessions. Every soul must taste of death and we try you with calamity and prosperity, both as means of trial and to Us you are returned.’

‘We certainly created man to face the stress.’

‘Does he think that no one sees him. Have We not given him the two eyes to see, a tongue and two lips to communicate with.’

It is not just talking about evil people but about good people too. So, the environment of world is made to be where we have to work and struggle and plays a key role. We cannot attain the faith until struggle. We should pursue the uphill climb which means reaching out your fellow man who suffers. We have to learn the wisdom in the book and revelation.

‘We have sent among you of yourself a messenger to recite our signs to you and to cause you to grow. Truly God was gracious to the believers.’

So the purpose, somehow, is to grow. When we came into the world this was actually the stage of our creation.

Quran on Purpose of Life:

‘Those who remember God in standing and sitting and lying down and reflect upon the creations of the heaven and earth and say that, Our Lord! You did not create all this in vain.’

‘We have not created heaven and earth and whatever is between them in play. If we wish to take a sport we could have done it by ourselves.’

God has created us to be believers. The ultimate that they are supposed to get is when they want to experience the relationship of love with God they will turn to God in love and God will turn to them in love. When Quran speaks of God’s love we would normally think of that as God’s love but actually it’s talking about something very special. Here love is presented as relationship between God and man. If we don’t turn to God in love then we will not get His mercy, forgiveness, kindness, beneficence, warmth and generosity but not love. This love is always there for us but unless we enter into that relationship that love never develops. The potential purpose of creation is may be to produce subset of humanity that will freely enter a relationship of love with God.

But then what is the purpose of all three factor (intellect, choice and sacrifice) in human life?

Now the natural thing to do is to study two partners in this relationship.

What are the good deeds according to Quran?

Good attributes according to Quran are,

  • Protect the weak /defend the oppressed.
  • Seek Knowledge and wisdom.

‘Truly those who believe and do good will the most merciful and endow with love and to this end We have made this scripture easy to understand in your own tongue so that you might convey a glad tiding to the God conscious and warn those given to contention.’

What does Quran tells us about God?

Quran tells us about God that nothing could be compare to Him. He is outside of anything that we may compare to Him. Our definitions don’t encompass Him. He is transcendent and we are finite. He transcends time and space and we are bound by it. He is immortal and we are mortal. So, there is no to compare ourselves to Him.

It seems that Quran says that we could never really understands God. But in the beginning of every Surah there is introduction of God in Bismil’lah i.e. God is merciful and most compassionate. God is forgiving and gentle. God is the kind and the generous. God is truthful. So there are ten of thousands of such references in the statements in Quran. Quran defines God’s most beautiful name and is repeated on almost every page His attributes of perfection which are God is the compassion, God is the mercy, forgiving, Just, protector, defendant of the oppressed, the knowing, the wise, the generous, the truthful, the loving, the peaceful and so on. So, every attributes that human beings are supposed to develop are infinitely present in God.

 

 

 

How to make relation to God?

We are here to develop a relationship with God but how can we make relation with God when He is transcendent and we are finite, when He is immortal and we are mortal, when He is unbound by time and space and we are, and so forth and so on.

If one person wants to be get close to other he needs to work on common attributes.

How can one become close to God? What can we share with Him?

We share with Him what He exactly gave us because the Quran tells us that when we were came into this life He breathes into our spirits something of His spirit. So the more we possess the above mentioned attributes those are also attributes of God but in infinites amount the more can we come close to God. The more we grow compassion, the more we grow in our ability to receive and experience the compassion from God and similar is true for truthfulness, justness, kindness and other attributes. It’s a convergence of essential beings.

Analogy: Let’s pretend I have a dog, a goldfish and three daughters. No matter how much my love, compassion, forgiveness, caring I pour upon goldfish it could only experience it to tiny degree while dog will experience it to much higher degree than goldfish. But my daughter, especially as they grow older can experience my being to much higher degree than my dog and goldfish.

But why we have to experience Intellect, Choice and Sufferings?

We are creatures and we grow and we can become anything He want. But we can’t contain any of the attributes that were listed above without Intellect, Choice and Suffering. And all three of these are definitely essential. For example, if we program any computer then we can’t say that its truthful. For this it is necessary for human beings to go through these three things. Because all those attributes (compassion, truth, forgiveness, etc.) are born out of Choice, Intellect and Suffering.

Why Quran talks about Sin as self-destruction?

Quran says when we sin we destroy ourselves. When we grow in very opposite of good attributes then we will be destroying our nature and not allowing ourselves to receive and experience the beauty that could be in store for us in this life and the next. It’s just like coming into this world and developing in the womb none of the physical things that are needed to experience the comfort and joy on a physical level in this life. So, if we don’t develop needed attributes to make relationship with God then we will experience terrible suffering in this life. When Quran is talking about heaven and hell it is essentially telling us we must imagine greatest joy, peace and serenity on the on end but on the other end imagine the most terrible suffering.

God says in Quran,

‘I did not harm you in the least but you destroyed yourself.’

The Islamic Origins of Science

[Short Link for this page: http://bit.do/azdos ]  [See comment after this post for the radical differences between views expressed here, and standard apologetics]

Chalmers in his book “What is this thing called Science?” explains why he is studying the subject. He wants to prove the superiority of scientific knowledge to all other types of knowledge. However. he frankly acknowledges at the outset that the book DOES NOT SUCCEED in its objective — it is unable to find a clear cut definition of science which would prove the superiority of scientific knowledge. This book summarized centuries of Western debate on the subject, as well as the current state of the dialog. He also notes that some participants in this debate, after centuries of Western failure to define science, have come to the conclusion that it cannot be done — scientific knowledge is NOT some special mode of knowing the world which is privileged above others.

One thing that is hidden in Western accounts is the issue of WHY does it matter? Why is it important to prove that scientific knowledge is superior to other forms of knowledge? If we reflect on our lives, we note that most of the knowledge we have of living, loving, spiritual and emotional is NOT scientific. Clearly, the most important things that we know, that make us human, are not derived from science. Then why this urge to prove the superiority of scientific knowledge? Why not accept that is it just one form of knowledge, like any other?

To this question, I offer a radical answer, very different from anything found in the Western intellectual tradition.

Science was invented in the Islamic Civilization — by Ibnul Haytham. This was a distinct and radical advance over Greek methodology which was based on axiomatics instead of empirics. The essence of science is that it reaches beyond the appearances to grasp the underlying reality which generates this appearance. THUS it is a way to reach an understanding of the Creator by looking at the Creation. Extending this methodology to natural sciences — to use study of how light behaves to deduce principles of optics — etc is the essence of Science. Similarly, many underlying HIDDEN UNOBSERVABLE causes and objects are revealed by science.  This position is closely related to the REALIST philosophy of science which is discussed and REJECTED by Chalmers — although the reasons for his rejection are not valid, but this would take us far way from the main points I am trying to make here

After the fall of Islamic Spain, the West acquired a VAST treasure of knowledge in the form of millions of books in Cordoba Library as well as other collections. This is what led to the ending of the dark ages of Europe, and the beginning of the Enlightenment. However, the West had a HUGE AMOUNT of difficulty in ABSORBING, assimilating and HARMONIZING this ALIEN body of knowledge with their own belief systems. The Catholic Church set up CENSORSHIP BOARDS which did a very strict control on translations of Arabic and Islamic books to ensure that no heresies were introduced. Every book had to be approved by the Church Censors before it could be published. The INQUISITION was set up to terrify and torture people and keep them away from the forbidden types of knowledge contained in the Islamic books. See “Is Science Western in Origin?” by CK Raju for further details about this.

Ultimately, the Catholic Church FAILED in its efforts to keep out the dangerous Islamic Knowledge. The book “The Enlightenment Quran” shows the crucial role played by translations of the Quran in influencing the thoughts of leaders of the Enlightenment. [See also Thomas Jefferson’s Quran to see the amazing impact of the Quran on the founding & constitution of America.] One of the impacts was the creation of the Protestant Movements, which shattered the unity of Medieval Church. Ultimately, fighting among Christian factions led to general dis-enchantment with religion in Europe, which led to the rise of SECULAR thought which continues to have monumental and extremely harmful effects on humankind and our planet.

Even though the Catholic Church failed to keep science out of Europe, it SUCCEEDED in its efforts to HIDE the Islamic roots of science. Copernicus was just a translator of Arabic Scientific works; he became known as a revolutionary because he was forced to hide the origins of his writings – he had seen one of his friends, Scultetus, tortured and punished for ten years for heretical writings, and did not want to suffer from a similar fate. He did not publish his writings until he was on his deathbed.  Newton was strongly influenced by Islamic ideas, to the extent that he hid his true religious beliefs to avoid being labeled a heretic. All of his three laws of motions, and much of mathematics, was available to him from the Islamic scientific works. He stated that he had “stood on the shoulder of giants” – however, European history of science hides the fact that these were intellectual giants of the Islamic civilization.  NOTE that the key accomplishment of Newton was to look at the motion of the planets and deduce the existence of gravity. This is the KEY to scientific methodology – deducing the existence of hidden unknown objects and causal laws from the surface appearances.

The enormous battle that took place between Science and Religion, spread out over centuries, has shaped European mindset. The victory of Science over Catholic religion did not end the animosity between the two, and hence the effort, spread over the centuries, to prove the superiority of scientific knowledge. In effect, after abandoning religion, the secular thinkers adopted SCIENCE as their new religion, and put their faith in the idea that Science would eventually provide a solution to all human problems. When we try to prove the superiority of scientific knowledge, we are participating in this program, the goal of which is to prove that all problems we face as human being can be solved by science — and we need not rely on religion for this purpose.

However what is most AMAZING and IRONIC is what I have discovered only recently. The West NEVER actually understood the nature of science which they imported from the Islamic Civilization !!!   It was clear that the Muslims paid a LOT MORE ATTENTION to empirical observations than the Greeks ever did. The Greeks did not think much of lowly CONTINGENT observations as a means to knowledge. These can change from time to time irregularly and cannot form the basis of a GRAND knowledge which spans the universe and the centuries. For the first time, the Europeans tried to make sense of how empirical methods can be used to advance knowledge. They made repeated efforts and repeatedly failed. The first major misunderstanding was expressed by Francis Bacon, in the form of INDUCTION. This fails to understand the essence of the scientific method, already described earlier. The erroneous idea of induction persists in modern econometrics, which is based on the false belief that if we see a pattern in a cluster of points, we can predict that this pattern will continue. This is why regression methodology so often leads to false and meaningless results (spurious regressions).

Later, Leibniz, Descartes, Hume, Kant and many others major Western philosophers tackled the problem of how we can get knowledge from observations — the heart and essence of science — but failed to understand the methodology of science. It is possible to discuss this in detail, and explain the errors made by these giants of Western philosophy, but that is not our purpose here. Chalmers is a good guide in this area. The MAIN reason for their inability to understand scientific methodology was because the battle between science and religion led them to assume that: SCIENTIFIC reasoning is the opposite of RELIGIOUS reasoning. This was taken for granted from the beginning, and continues to be assumed in all Western investigations of the philosophy of science. This automatically blocks the understanding of the key concept of science, which actually allows us to deduce the existence of God from the extremely well-ordered, and precision-tuned universe we see around us.

TO THIS DAY, as Chalmers clearly states in his state of the art book — the West DOES NOT UNDERSTAND “What is this thing called SCIENCE?”. This point is of EXTREME IMPORTANCE — because TODAY we can launch a REVOLUTION in the social sciences by starting with a CORRECT understanding of science and applying it to the study of human beings and societies. An immediate objection to this will arise in the mind of the reader – if Western philosophers have failed to understand science, how could it be that the West has made such spectacular progress in science? To understand this, we must differentiate between theory and practice. Chalmers states that scientists are very poor philosophers. Scientists learn by apprenticeship to other scientists, learning-by-doing. Just like a superbly fluent speaker and writer of a language may have no conception of the rules of grammar for the language, so the scientists know how to do science, but cannot articulate the methodology which lies at the root of what they do. However, misunderstanding scientific methodology has had a tremendous impact on Social Science – this is because in social science an effort was made to follow the philosophers’ ideas about how to do science, leading to very deep and fundamental flaws in the social sciences. In particular, modern economics is based on a logical positivist methodology, and is completely wrong. See my paper on Logical Positivism and Islamic Economics for a detailed explanation.

I am in the process of creating an entirely different approach to economics. In my recent course on Advanced Microeconomics, I have explained how ALL of modern economic theory — utility maximization by consumers, profit maximization by firms, supply and demand equilibrium for determination of prices — IS STRONGLY REJECTED by empirics — if we study consumers, we find that they do not maximize utility ( see my paper: The Empirical Evidence Against Neoclassical Utility Theory: A Survey of the Literature). Similarly, there is very strong empirical evidence that firms do not maximize profits, and that prices are not determined by forces of supply and demand. Nonethless, because modern economic theory is based on an AXIOMATIC methodology which goes back to the pre-scientific Greek Methodology and is NOT based on scientific methodology which pays close attention to empirical evidence, it comes to completely wrong conclusions.

I recently taught a course on economics in which I explained how nearly everything found in current modern economics textbooks is wrong, and how we can replace it with correct knowledge. One lecture within this sequence is linked below. This lecture details the ideas presented briefly above — that is the origins of science in Islamic Civilization,and the failure of the West to understand science.

The video is slightly less that one hour. I have also explained the fundamental methodological mistake made by economists in particular and social scientists in general, in using a misunderstanding of science to analyze human beings and society in a number of short articles. These are available from this link:

https://sites.google.com/site/azamanpublications/positivism

Today, the biggest problem of the Ummah is that we have become mesmerized by the IDOL of Western Knowledge — Although it is a bitter thing to say, the Ummah as a whole currently believes that the Western knowledge they acquired over the past few centuries is SUPERIOR to what was given to us in the form the Wahy — The Quran re-assures is that it is FAR BETTER than anything that others can gather. Unfortunately we have lost trust in this promise of the Quran — EVEN TODAY the Quran provides us with far better solutions to our human problems than the latest finding of Western Science. But Muslims as a whole no longer believe this and keep searching for solutions within the Western intellectual traditions.

May Allah bless us with the Noor of Eeman and GUIDE US all from out the darkness and into the Light.

My Most Popular Posts & Videos

POSTS:

  1. Summary of the “Great Transformation” by Karl Polanyi — has been on top ten posts lists of RWER blog for many years.
  2. Economic Theory as Ideology — my top post on LinkedIn, with 1500 views last year.
  3. Spirituality and Development. Outline & Video of a lecture to Cambridge Students.
  4. The Methodology of Polanyi’s Great Transformation. Outline of essay and video.
  5. Urdu: Motivational First Lecture.

MPDR Seminar: Improving Planning and Policy

22 Feb  2107: Seminar at MoPD&R on how we can improve planning and policy making in context of Health & Nutrition.  The seminar was based on the Outcomes and Conclusions of the Brainstorming Session on Policy Priorities for Health & Nutrition held at PIDE Friday 17th Feb 2017. An Executive Summary and outline of points made at the seminar is listed below. Somewhat more detailed minutes of the Brainstorming Session are also given below. SHORTLINK for this page: bit.do/azmpdr1

A Brainstorming Session on policy priorities for “Health & Nutrition” was held at PIDE on 17th Feb 2017, with the goal of identify the major issues that we urgently need to address in this sector. Participants from Planning, PIDE, PPAF, SUN Network and Shifa Medical College attended the meeting (List attached below). An executive summary of actionable items arising from this discussion, and subsequent seminar on the same topic, is presented below for necessary action.

  1. The body of the planning process is sound, but the spirit of serving the people is missing. This is as essential as petrol to run a car. We need to encourage the development of this spirit among bureaucrats, who should see themselves as “public servants” in the true meaning of the word. A seminar on this topic was delivered by Dr. Asad Zaman, VC PIDE, at the Planning Commission on 21st February as a model of the effort that needs to be made in this direction.

ACTION PLAN: Member Communications + Our own Communication Strategy Person should brainstorm on initiatives that need to be taken, to promote the spirit of public service everywhere in general, and in PIDE and Planning Commission in particular.

  1. There is a strong tendency to ignore and criticize existing on ground projects as failures, and start fresh projects without studying the ground realities, and the causes of success and failure of earlier projects. Buildings cannot be constructed if everyone abandons previous structures, and starts putting bricks down on a new location. This tendency needs to be combatted in the following ways.
    1. Quite often, there are successful planning interventions, but we do not learn from them, and replicate them at large scale. Just being able to transplant best practices would achieve marvels in developments – we do not need to borrow models from outer space.
    2. Quite often, failures are just one small step away from success, and they are abandoned or neglected. Large amounts of effort need to go into an evaluation of existing projects, with the goal of tweaking them to improve their performance.
    3. We need to do a thorough job of evaluating existing projects, ensuring completions of PC-IV and PC-V for at least the larger projects. This is essential to learn from experience. As it is, we keep repeating the same mistakes

ACTION PLAN:  A systematic failure is the expectation (never fulfilled) that those executing the project will themselves evaluate the project. This creates the wrong incentives and ensures the perpetuation of current state of affairs where no projects are evaluated, and no lessons learnt from experience. In the future, simultaneously with the approval of the PC-1, an independent body of auditors and evaluators should be hired to report on the performance, and to produce the PC-IV and PC-V. They should be paid directly by the Planning Commission out of funds reserved in the PC-1 for this purpose. For major ongoing projects, we need to implement this right now: fund an independent audit group to (a) suggest how we can improve efficiency of the project and (b) create the PC-IV evaluation forms, with the idea of documenting the experience, so that we can learn from it. Again, it would be of great importance to involve the stakeholders in this evaluation – those involved in service delivery as well as those who are recipients of the service being provided. PIDE is prepared to facilitate this process. Money for evaluation should be built into the project PC-1 and should be released directly to the auditors, instead of asking project executors to hire auditors, or to do self-evaluations. A SEPARATE TASK FORCE should identify major success stories in projects, and devise strategies to replicate best practices across the board.

  1. A major problem identified was lack of ownership of the projects, and a very paternalistic attitude, a leftover remnant of the colonial bureaucratic tradition. Instead of letting communities take the lead in identifying their own problems and finding means to solve them, we wish to do it on their behalf, which results in lack of ownership. We should strive to ensure that the PC-1 projects are planned and initiated by the communities being served, and provide them help with this process.

ACTION PLAN: Current PC-1s have provision for ensuring that community being served has some input into the project but this is not taken seriously in evaluation of PC-1s. We need to insist on community participation in the preparation of PC-1s. In addition, some change of rules is required to enable and empower communities to originate their own PC-1s for projects with the assistance of relevant ministries.

  1. Behavioral psychologists have identified a major source of irrational human behavior: our tendency to find free offers irresistible. Whenever foreign donors come in with strange projects, we don’t look gift horses in the mouth, and agree to do whatever they suggest on the false assumption this is a free gift. Millions are wasted, and certain types of debt traps are created because we too eagerly accept gifts without close examination.

ACTION PLAN: A sophisticated evaluation of all projects with foreign donors using independent auditors is required to ensure that we don’t allow donors to test experimental medicines and treatments on our children. This can be done along the same lines as in the previous actions plan.

Brief: Minutes of the Brainstorming Session on “Issues Related to Health & Nutrition”

held at PIDE, on February 17, 2017.

The subject session was held on February 17, 2017, at 11:00 am, in the Office of the Vice Chancellor, PIDE, Islamabad. Dr. Asad Zaman, VC PIDE chaired the meeting. Session participants were from the Planning Commission of Pakistan, PPAF, SUN academia and research network in Pakistan, Shifa medical college and PIDE.  The following attended the meeting:

  1. Dr. Asad Zaman                                         Chairperson (VC, PIDE)
  2. Iffat Zaman                                                  Shifa medical college, Islamabad
  3. Dr. Durre Nayyab                                        PIDE
  4. Dr. Atiya Yasmeen Javed                            PIDE
  5. Adeeba Ishaq                                               PIDE
  6. Muhammad Nasir                                        PIDE
  7. Mahmood Khalid                                         PIDE
  8. Dr. Irshad Danish                                         SUN academia & research network Pakistan
  9. Zafar-ul-Hassan                                           Planning Commission of Pakistan
  10. Dr. Mubarik Ali                                           Planning Commission of Pakistan
  11. Syed Tanwir Hussain Bukhari                     Planning Commission of Pakistan
  12. Dr. Asma Haider                                          Planning Commission of Pakistan
  13. Muhammad Fazal                                        PPAF
  14. Dr. Seema Raza                                           PPAF

The meeting started with the recitation from the Holy Quran.  In his opening remarks, the Vice Chancellor, PIDE welcomed the participants of the meeting. After brief introduction of participants, Dr. Asad Zaman (VC, PIDE) explained that the objective of this session is to identify top priority issues of health and population in Pakistan. Three areas i.e. IMR, MMR and Malnutrition were focused in discussion.

Following issues were discussed;

  • Many countries are economically poor compared to Pakistan but have less Infant mortality rate. Pakistan’s score (107) is poor on world hunger index. High rates of malnutrition, stunting in Pakistan. Lack of immunity among children causing malnourishment that results in high infant mortality rate. Health issues arising because of poor hygiene practices, unavailability of safe drinking water and inappropriate sanitation facilities. In certain cases, Pakistan has adopted world’s successful health practices but still it is failing to make remarkable improvement in malnutrition statistics. Hence, innovative/creative adaptation of world’s best health practices is missing resulting in failure of health sector interventions. Absorption of vaccination delayed or failed because of malnutrition. Behavioral problems in food consumption also causing malnutrition in Pakistan i.e. even the rich are not food insecure but are facing nutritional deficiencies. Feeding practices specifically among children are not optimal or healthy (exclusive breastfeeding causing health issues, complementary feeding is required to lower IMR. A study conducted by PIDE on determinants of malnutrition suggest that maternal factors are crucial for IMR). Awareness and health dimensions of poverty should be addressed in poverty research. It’s not only food security that causes malnutrition. Right social norms needs to be promoted e.g. in food choices and food manufacturing both taste and nutrition value must be considered. Ethnic/geographical diversities are mostly ignored in studies identifying causes of malnutrition. Poverty is not only cause of malnutrition. It is often over emphasized. Integrated/compound programs required for malnutrition solution. Health issues are causing more damage to GDP compared to energy shortage issues.
  • Immunization practices/behaviors must be improved from community point of view. We need to think about “No missed child concept” and how to execute it into our own communities? NHC department tertiary healthcare are important but Primary healthcare level needs attention. Primary healthcare investment can be more productive than tertiary healthcare investment. Preventive healthcare more important compared to curative healthcare. Promote prenatal care as it has serious consequences for malnutrition, stunting and IMR (Fetal origin hypothesis). Also awareness about mental health and its connection with domestic violence must be created. Community resource person programs can be very effective here.
  • Lot of Foreign Aid available in health sector but effective indigenous strategies lack to channelize aid to address curative health issues. How to increase effectiveness of different health and schooling interventions or what are effective interventions in social sector? (Researchable areas). One suggestion is that Medical anthropologist must be part of design and implementation of health and population interventions. Post program evaluation or impact evaluation of interventions/ongoing programs is required to rectify interventions’ failure reasons. Also we need to go beyond increase in GDP only and emphasize social indicators importance in growth studies.
  • Sector specific PC-I should be designed and they must be demand driven. Indeed if societies get necessary awareness they can make their own PC-I. Ethics standards must be defined for PC-I. Budgetary allocations for process and execution are minor in PC-I compared to other heads in ongoing practice.

Dr. Asad Zaman concluded the session with following three points;

  1. PC-I should be originated from owners (community) and not from 3rd party (consultants)
  2. Planning commission should prioritize projects (both completed and ongoing) and get them audited from external auditors.
  3. Foreign donors’ projects must be validated by planning commission of Pakistan as external evaluators.

Guide to Guides

This is a jumbled assortment of collections, later to be organized more neatly and coherently.

Pursuit of Wealth

The Nature of Human Knowledge

  1. Eurocentric History is an expression of European Power.
  2. Logical Positivism. A disastrously wrong theory of knowledge
  3. Deification of Science — science is valid knowledge.
  4. Materialism: Only Observables matter for science
  5. Power/Knowledge. Knowledge is shaped by dominant power
  6. UNLEARNING: Knowledge requires unlearning rather than learning.
  7. Islamic views on the nature of knowledge

Methodology — Critiques of Economics

Critiques of Social Sciences

When Did America Give Up on the Idea of America?

VOICE (from Foreign Policy)

When Did America Give Up on the Idea of America?

What has gotten into those Canadians? Aren’t they supposed to be our allies in the war against radical Islam? They have agreed to take 25,000 Syrian refugees from camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey over the next three months. They have ceded much of the work of vetting those refugees to the International Organization of Migration, an intergovernmental body based in Geneva. And now they plan to distributethe refugees to 36 cities across the country. Don’t they know those people are terrorists?

No, they don’t. Jane Philpott, minister of health in the new government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, explained to me that the process of approving Syrian candidates “is not so different from our usual vetting process.” The whole process, she says, takes a few days, from pre-interview by international agencies through security screening in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey by Canadian officials. Philpott told me that Trudeau had made the 25,000-refugee target an important element of the party campaign platform as early as last March. And are the Canadian people nervous? Not at all, she said. “There was a tremendous outpouring of compassion once Canadians understood what was at stake.” Philpott is herself a refugee advocate. “It has made me very proud of my country.” (Polls in Septemberfound that three-quarters of Canadians wanted to take more refugees, though by the time the new policy was announced, in November, the mood hadshifted, with 51 percent opposing the policy.)

It makes me very proud of her country too — and yet more ashamed of my own, where Donald Trump can plausibly calculate that he will help his political chances by proposing to bar all Muslims from our shores. The question Americans must ask themselves is: Why are Canadians so calm about a transaction that provokes hysteria in the United States? Why have Republican candidates for president and Republican (and some Democratic) congressmen and governors reacted to President Barack Obama’s plan to bring in 15,000 Syrians, over a far longer period of time, after the kind of vetting process normally required in order to be nominated secretary of state, as if he had agreed to surrender American national security on a whim?

Of course, 14 Americans just died in a terrorist attack apparently motivated by Islamic extremism. For Obama’s enemies, that cinches the case against the refugees. The United States, Ted Cruz has declared, must not take any refugees “with a significant al Qaeda or ISIS presence, such as Syria.” Of course, he already thought that. Even before San Bernardino, Chris Christie, self-styled post-9/11 pillar of courage, told an interviewer that even “orphans under five” aren’t being vetted thoroughly enough and shouldn’t be admitted.

I was in Sweden immediately after the terrorist killings in Paris. The Swedes have agreed to take up to 190,000 refugees this year, far more than anyone save Germany. Plenty of Swedes told me that they didn’t believe their country could integrate all those newcomers, but scarcely anyone mentioned the alleged terrorist threat from refugees. They were worried, but they were not frightened.

Canada itself has suffered from lone-wolf terrorist attacks, including one last year on the Parliament in Ottawa. That, in turn, sparked calls for tougher surveillance measures. Nevertheless, voters welcomed Trudeau’s call to reverse the policy of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and take in more refugees. Of course, Canada (and Sweden) is every bit as devoted to its security as is the United States. That being so, the American response can’t be explained by the threat but by something else. So what is it?

For a long time, my answer was “9/11.” Americans had lived for generations with an expectation of security that had been utterly shattered; the ensuing overreaction was unavoidable. When the wildly hyperbolic debate over whether alleged terrorists could be tried on American soil broke out in 2009 and 2010, I blamed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who put impossible conditions on a proposed trial, for surrendering to Americans’ still-raw feelings about their vulnerability to terrorist attacks. The same fears, it seemed, stymied Obama’s effort to close Guantanamo.

The towers fell more than 14 years ago; the statute of limitations on post-9/11 panic has expired.

The towers fell more than 14 years ago; the statute of limitations on post-9/11 panic has expired. Yet Americans have never been more fearful. I’ve increasingly come to feel that I don’t recognize my own country. I was a little boy in the early 1960s, and, of course, we all had mushroom-cloud nightmares then. But the threat of nuclear war was real, not imagined. And even the anti-communist paranoia of that time could not eclipse Americans’ fundamental self-confidence. The besetting national sin has always been self-righteousness and complacency, not fear and loathing.No longer: The distinctive national mood today is a combination of anxiety and wrath — a blind wish to strike out at all the enemies that have laid American low. That’s why the emotional high point of so many of Trump’s rallies involves turning on a reporter, or a protestor, in the midst of the crowd; heckling him, giving him the bum’s rush, sometimes even manhandling him. Trump encourages his followers to find a scapegoat for their fear, an outlet for their anger; they eagerly accept the invitation. Maybe Father Coughlin, the 1930s fascist leader, inspired this kind of ugliness. But it’s something most of us have never seen.

Is it because Americans cannot accept the loss of unchallenged global supremacy — because we can no longer dash our enemies to the ground with a sweep of our mighty hand? Perhaps we’re more like Russia than we’d care to think — furious and frustrated that the world doesn’t cower before us as it once did. Is it the violent echo chamber of the Internet and social media and the shock jocks of radio and TV? That, too, is part of it. The idea of a rational center, emotionally detached and ideologically neutral — the old image of the mainstream media — now seems quaint beyond measure. Our emotional reaction to everything is hyperbolic.

Yet who is orchestrating this potent mix of adrenaline and resentment? Our political leaders — or rather, an entire right-wing political culture. The relentless collective message of the right is: America is helpless. Trump has based his entire candidacy on an inchoate, all-encompassing sense of American failure that only he can right. But so, in a less bullying way, have the other leading candidates and their supporters. Obama now devotes much of his rhetorical energy to counteracting the hysteria, as he tried to do in his Oval Office speech. But the extraordinary relationship he forged with Americans during his first campaign is long gone; he no longer has the ability to shift the public mood.

Here, then, is the formula: Politics, cranked to the highest volume by the Internet and 24/7 everything, acts on a very real sense of vulnerability to stoke fear and rage. Americans worry that immigration will harm the economy and change forever the texture of daily life. Those are legitimate anxieties. But Republican candidates and conservative media evoke an apocalyptic invasion, to be held in check only by immense walls and an army of border guards. The Syrian refugees are not people in need but emissaries from the land of jihad. Refugees are terrorists; terrorists are super-predators. Our institutions are weak; our enemies strong. The only inexcusable mistake is weakness. If the world hates us, let’s make sure that it fears us, too. Was it only seven years ago that Obama ran for office promising to restore America’s good name in the world? That was no small part of Obama’s pledge to voters. Yet today, a growing number of Americans look at the world beyond their borders with bristling hostility.

It feels like we’re in that stage of a Jimmy Stewart movie before our hero finally steps forward to remind the townspeople that they’re Americans, for goodness’ sake, and they’ve got to stop running around like chickens with their heads cut off. That always works in the movie, because the townsfolk have only temporarily lost sight of their better selves. I don’t think our problem is that we lack a Jimmy Stewart. The problem is that our loss of self runs much, much deeper.

Photo credit: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images