Recently read the book War Talk by Arundhati Roy, who’s work I like very much. A poetic novelist and rabblerouser, the book is a short collection of her essays and speeches about the increasing fascism and religious violence in her home country of India, and the rise of American empire in the early 2000s. There are some great quotes in there, some of them which seem to… transcend their specific topic.
When referring to the attacks and counterattacks between Indian Hindus and Muslims, she says
The more the two sides try and call attention to their religious differences by slaughtering each other, the less there is to distinguish them from one another. They worship at the same altar. They’re both apostles of the same murderous god, whoever he is.
Obviously, that sentiment isn’t limited to just that particular conflict.
Referring to the rise of the Hindu nationalist/fascist political party BJP and its related tentacles, it struck me how much of this passage could easily apply to the US:
Over the past fifty years, ordinary citizens’ modest hopes for lives of dignity, security and relief from abject poverty have been systematically snuffed out. Every “democratic” institution in this county has shown itself to be unaccountable, inaccessible to the ordinary citizen, and either unwilling or incapable of acting in the interests of genuine social justice. Every strategy for real social change– land reform, education, public health, the equitable distribution of natural resources, the implementation of positive discrimination– has been cleverly, cunningly, and consistently scuttled and rendered ineffectual by those castes and that class of people which has a stranglehold on the political process. And now corporate globalization is being relentlessly and arbitrarily imposed on an essentially feudal society, tearing through its complex, tiered social fabric, ripping it apart culturally and economically.
There is very real grievance here. And the fascists didn’t create it. But they have seized upon it, upturned it, and forged it from a hideous, bogus sense of pride. They have mobilized human beings using the lowest common denominator– religion. People who have lost control over their lives, people who have been uprooted from their homes and communities, who have lost their culture and their language, are being made to feel proud of something. Not something they have striven for and achieved, not something they can count as a personal accomplishment, but something they just happen to be. Or more accurately, something they happen not to be. And the falseness, the emptiness, of that pride is fueling a gladatorial anger that is then directed toward a simulated target that has been wheeled into the amphitheater.
And then, her description of what empire is:
…it is a myth that the free market breaks down national barriers. The free market does not threaten national sovereignty, it undermines democracy.
As the disparity between the rich and the poor grows, the fight to corner resources is intensifying. To push through their “sweetheart deals”, to corporatize the crops we grow, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the dreams we dream, corporate globalization needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, authoritarian governments in poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies.
Corporate globalization– or shall we call it by its name?– Imperialism– needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend to dispense justice.
Meanwhile, the countries of the North harden their borders and stockpile weapons of mass destruction. After all they have to make sure that it’s only money, goods, patents and services that are globalized. Not the free movement of people. Not a respect for human rights. Not international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons or greenhouse gas emissions or climate change or– god forbid– justice.
So this–all this– is Empire. This loyal confederation, this obscene accumulation of power, this greatly increased distance between those who make the decisions and those who have to suffer for them.
Our fight, our goal, our vision of another world must be to eliminate that distance.
And that’s why I could never be a liberal. There are hugely powerful forces in every nation working for their common interests, which result in the death, suffering, oppression, and obedience of billions. Voting for Barack Obama is supposed to change all that?
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