Month: February 2006

Du Bois and American Amnesia

With February being declared and celebrated as the African-American Month in this country, it is only apt that we need to reflect upon the history a bit and evaluate for ourselves where we are up until now, and if this actually tantamount to celebration. A couple of years ago, on my journey to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, I did a small survey of the personalities, events and processes that are given due recognition and the tones attached to them. Specific to my interest was the reception to the most brilliant African-American by any yardstick: William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. Since a couple of weeks now, I have been again approaching few students to get an idea of what they know of Du Bois and how they came to know of it. The students I interacted with came from different races, they studied various subjects and are well-educated in American schools. The findings are predictable: there is an official version of telling history. We know it when we have the flawed historical account …

Malcolm Vindicated, Yet Again

It was a perfect tribute to Malcolm X. The country almost forgot to recollect or celebrate him on the day he was assassinated 41 years ago. It was perfect because he would have loved it this way. He would not have loved to be idolized, by the system of exploitation he gave up his life struggling against. Neither would he have liked to be converted into a heritage site or a street name or a public controversial holiday. He would not have liked to be eulogized by the presidents nor discussed over in a relaxed talk show. He would not have wanted us to remember his face on the postage stamp nor to have him imprinted on colorful tees that could be worn in rallies. In every way, the silence of betrayal that spirals the country’s knee-jerking responses to his death anniversary was the befitting tribute to Malcolm X. The betrayal is deafening at the point when God is being called upon every so often to bless America, as though the destiny of this good …

Why Schaefer must be Schaefer?

Once again, let’s stop making the individual an issue. Let’s not become patrons of decency by crying foul at one old politician. Maryland Comptroller 84-year old William Donald Schaefer did ogle at a 24-yr old female aide to Governor Ehrlich. He even called her back at Wednesday’s Board of Public Works Meeting and asked her to walk again in front of everyone so that he could watch her. And the entire country now is being fed with the video for endless times. Going by the way the video is playing into the headlines of television channels, it appears that the whole of America is shocked. Clearly highlighting the moral standards of a capitalistic hypocritical fiber, Schaefer has become the safest bet. He is eliciting reactions like “what a shame!” to “how can this be?” A channel like Fox has gone on exhibiting the video to public on the streets and telecasting their responses. No one is feeling any sense of déjà vu. The entire country is shown to be appalled. All the while, making Elizabeth …

Goal-setting for Indian Economy

India’s economy is now fully liberalized. With the retail market open to international competition, the economy that was once predominantly agrarian is now fully capitalistic. I spoke to few fellow Indian bloggers over the past week and found out that the scene is so euphoric that there seems to be no need to challenge even the mainstream coverage of this issue. After all, the argument goes: more flow of capital eventually helps in more residue of capital. According to the proponents of this school (which is as varied from purely libertarian school to overtly capitalistic), the rich not only get richer, even the poor get rich. The ‘rich’ poor now own television sets at most homes, and they understand well enough to distinguish the fine products from the rotten. So why deprive human beings from their right to choose? The arguments in favor of the blatant liberalization in India run from philosophical quarter (freedom from the angst) to social (right to aspire) and economic (privilege to own). Freedom from angst: I have been brooding over …

Remembering Sahir Ludhianvi I

Sahir Ludhianvi (1922-1980) is the poet who was neither afraid of authority, nor afraid to be outspoken. Neither afraid of going to jail nor to voice against the prison system. Neither afraid of the momentary life, nor of the eternal death. His involvement in the Left politics in the pre-and post-independent India, in organizing the peoples’ theatres, in writing for the peasants, farmers and the factory workers should serve a reminder to the wordsmiths of the present day that there is indeed a tool to choose a side with. But that’s a side between the material and the mystical; between the working class and the owning class; to side with the profit-hungry or the wage-hungry. To Sahir, just like to Robeson , and to Neruda there was nothing to debate about which side an artist must choose. The question is redundant. The artist cannot afford to establish bonds with the heaven and the promises of spiritualism. The artist must cry with the beloved oppressed peoples all over the world. The choice is clear, as Robeson …