In God We trust

Atheists are identified as America’s most distrusted minority.

Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.”

Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public.

Today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past—they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society

Respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.

“Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years,” says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.

(Findings by the University of Minnesota, March 2006. To appear in the April issue of the American Sociological Review.)

Diversity in America is an oxymoron. Because the ideals that shaped the libertarian (and its varieties) thoughts of the founding fathers were necessarily a celebration of the marketplace. At times the marketplace was considered to be a civic space (as Jefferson would have wanted), and in more recent times, maybe a corporate space. But throughout, the stress on individual liberty in a marketplace of ideas has remained a defining hallmark of the American society.

In its simplicity, this is of course not quite such an acceptable proposition. For, if the aims of individual liberties were to sustain a socially desirable good, then it just implies that protection of those liberties will eventually result in these goods. However on closer examination, what is socially desirable are often times not the product of individual liberty prerogatives. Else, pornography industry and market monopolies would then have to be declared as socially good produce. So the checks on individual liberty (the practice) then become crucial to promotion of social good (the goal).

Individual liberties, being necessary corollaries of the marketplace, are thus, embedded with its ideologies. But the marketplace is never free, since it’s determined by the dominant actors there. Since the time America became torchbearer of individual liberties, there has been no marketplace of free access. First it was the class of slaveowners who flagrantly violated every possibly known human ethos of freedom thus restricting the marketplace to the same audience that Greece had, during its mythical democracy.

Then came the conservative moderators of the marketplace who while professing free values actually never shared the ownership of the free values with the subjects—hence no rights worth the bill were passed on to the freed slaves, the immigrants, the women and people needing special care. Here again, freedom meant a compliance to marketplace norms than a participation of an equal level.

In the third wave of freedom struggles of the 60’s, the marketplace set its own libertarian rules. Ghosts of McCarthy ruled the policies. Second class citizens and disenchanted black youths were the targets for immediate compliance. The liberties, in order to be relished, had to be subsumed as a trickled down grant than an inherent right.

Today, even as the individual liberties are being celebrated, the critical lens should suggest that they are the sustainers of the dominant marketplace player than anything else. Because just as the realization that certain individual liberties (like vandalism) should be curbed in order that they don’t flagrantly violate social good, and certain individual liberties (like appealing in the courts) should be encouraged so that the people don’t come on the roads, again to violate social good; what is crucial to know is that not all individuals have equal historical conditions of privilege allowing them enough “access” freedom to practice and “control” their realm of freedom.

This realization has come to acknowledge that upholding of individual liberties (lets say of the KKK) often can end up in curtailing the social good of the group liberties of some historically dispossessed (lets say of the colored people). The benefits of identity, then does not lie on individual’s prerogatives, but on the historically oppressed individual’s potential as a progressive group member/champion.

However this idea of promoting the minority groups’ causes then violates the essential framework of marketplace concept, which relies on promotion of individual liberties. Since the marketplace is governed by individual rules, and the dominant actors are the individuals who have infinitely greater influence on the market rules owing to their historical advantages, it is no wonder that to uphold the existing rules, it is desirable for them to further them too. So, implicitly the marketplace then promotes the values of naked individualisms—which benefit the individuals who have both access and control over the fruits of their liberty. For example, if the women are excluded as a group to vote, then the marketplace is free in its theoretical rules, but only in that it lets the men do the voting. Likewise today, the rules around the new immigrants is that the old immigrants who have had a say so far in the marketplace are professors of freedom, but only in terms of what appears to them as legitimate.

This internal contradiction of free marketplace that frames its own rules, promotes them through excluding certain players who want group freedom as well as individual freedom (thereby asking for recognition also as their identities in groups—LGBT, Latino/a, etc).

And the most chilling example is the marketplace of “Secular” state, where the actors surely claim a separation of church from the state, but only so as to theoretically uphold their argument of individual liberty. That is, if someone does not wish to join a prayer session in a school, it could be considered ok (although it’s also far from real). But what it has effectively done to promote its dominant actor class character is explicitly weave the market around its own set of rules. So what we have are educational institutions (including public universities) that host quite a few chapels. What we have are public gatherings where people are asked to seek blessing of Jesus to join the dinner. Recently when I went to attend an award ceremony for Women of Color inside the university campus, before the dinner was served, in a matter-of-fact way it was asked of the audience to show gratitude to Jesus. Considering the vast numbers of Christian organizations and their representatives (quite of few of them keep knocking my apartment doors to talk of God’s grace) who have been historically present, in furthering their causes, the reality is that there are not many non-Christian organizations to even provide a fare trade balance.

The problem area is this, while within the marketplace, the Christian rights are considered individual liberties (and hence the state vs “church” legalities), the rights of the other religious identities are considered as group liberties. And a marketplace dominated by worshippers of individual liberties (of the comfortable right-blinds), the group dynamic creates conflicts. It creates even more conflicts when it comes to the alternative identity beyond the interfaith tradition: the atheists.

Atheists just do not belong to the marketplace of free expression, because there is no leveling field out there. They are not instituted as anything (there is Islamic Studies, for example, not Atheistic Studies). They are not fostered as anything (there are state-sponsored minority religion ceremonies, not of Atheistic Award for Unity). They are not even acclaimed as anything (no governmental efforts are directed towards recognizing their philosophies).

Not just a complete lack of political will, but a near normalization of abhorrence towards anything related to atheism has historically bred contempt, and now breeding indifference (which is even worse, since the contends do not get discussed anymore). Films are not made to portray the sub-cultures of atheism, there is no funding for “advancement of atheism discourse”. Overall speaking, the dearth of popular knowledge on the subject of challenge to the structure and function of faith systems just are not allowed to exist in a society driven by the gatekeepers of its mythical free marketplace: since the key elements of power structure personally propagate their belief.

One wonders why no leader of any repute ever ends addresses as saying “Blessed be my Color” (the race discourse), whereas every leader of any repute starts with “God bless you all” (the religious discourse). For, the assumption is that the people have been conditioned enough to accept the God dynamic, since this has been the founding cornerstone of Western civilization (which has, for the records, merely gone ahead and ‘converted’ through will or coercion millions of people of various ‘races’ into a religious fold, including spectacularly mass converting the indigenous people of America on gun point).

The diversity discourse that exists today then exists because it is well within the parameters of the marketplace that legitimizes its recognition, but does not enforce its institution. So what we lack from the parlance of diversity are the elements that stand to challenge (which turns the question on its head) than to merely oppose (which forms a healthy continuum).

If the United States really needs to emerge out of the comfortable space of assumption making about human natures, then it will do well to promote the rich alternative thoughts that exist within western rational, eastern material, a worldly spiritual (devoid of religious adherence), and an earthly tribal tradition.
For, anything other than that, including a prolonged silence on the issue or even a complete absence of atheistic outlook from the power structures (considering that atheists would want to be ‘group’ed than individualized) will perpetuate vast regressive myths about atheism (like “oh, but you are so nice…I don’t believe you are an atheist”, often confusing moral conducts with religions), and people who believe not in an organized religion.

Advertisements

Oprah Winfrey, Tommy Hilfiger and Subtle Racism

Feel the power even of the anarchic online media? Let’s remind ourselves of the Pepsi-Kanye West chain mail. It claimed that the relationship had gone sour following his political rant and Pepsi had fired him. After a few weeks of online activisms, Pepsi declared that it was not the case at all. That Kanye West and the people of color should continue the support to Pepsi.

Recently the Oprah Winfrey and Tommy Hilfiger mail has started doing the rounds again. So once again, I received a mail that carries a subject line hailing Oprah in order to condemn racism. To substantiate it, there is a chain email which narrates her “interview” with Tommy Hilfiger.

But this time, it was from a friend in India. Clearly people in the Other World also got affected by racism. The accompanying text to condemn racism was the same: that a black man was discriminated against on a BA flight. Popularly known as “BA Flight anti racism” mail, you can read the entire content here:
And here. This piece has become sort of a joke to be appearing on even the humor sites! In fact the same narrative is offered on another page where it says it was not a black man, but a Hispanic man…

Since such attempts to “stop racism” has become so fashionable online, I wanted to offer a perspective. Also to correct bloggers like Adorable, who think Oprah said the same statements in a recent show (December 2005) although Oprah had denied it way back in 1999 (a fact which is never discussed since such emails are meant to be forever relevant…!)

Here follows the email conversation, slightly abridged.

“Let me offer an explanation. First off, you have not quoted the point of reference, as to where did you get this mail from. That way, the readers could have investigated the source for themselves. Secondly you should have yourself investigated the source too before sending such mails out, lest they end up misinforming.

Tommy Hilfiger is no social activist. He is in fact an elite designer serving only the capitalistic cause of wealth celebration. But clearly he never had such a show with Oprah and he has never given any such comments, let alone such blatantly racist ones. Oprah has in fact never met with him and had never him on her show.

This is part of the same junk mail chain letters that you receive increasingly about almost everything (from refinancing your house, to pay off credits, to get Viagra for cheap). It is well evidenced by Oprah’s own refutation of the incident. On a live “The Oprah Winfrey Show” taped on January 11, 1999, she had already clarified the same:
So I want to just set the record straight once and for all. The rumor claims that clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger came on this show and made racist remarks, and that I then kicked him out. I just want to say that is not true because it just never happened.
Tommy Hilfiger has never appeared on this show. READ MY LIPS, TOMMY HILFIGER HAS NEVER APPEARED ON THIS SHOW. And all of [the] people who claim that they saw it, they heard it — it never happened. I’ve never even met Tommy Hilfiger.” Her own magazine cites this show.

And for the knowledge, Oprah is a big loyal fan of Tommy. She adores Hilfiger and personally gives testimonials to the public so that they can go buy them. There are countless examples.

On the online front, there have been disclaimers to reinstate Tommy’s lost image too:

So now that we know that Tommy is actually innocent and a “poor victim”, what do we learn from this recurring mail (which was already refuted way back in 1999!). Surely someone like me would have quite easily read between the obvious lines and sent proofs to the contrary, as they have done. Just like I read the exchange among the people on a BA flight. Was it 1934? Was it 1962? Or was it 2005? No one knows. But that chain mail about British Airways incident is also very unlikely. And no airhostess would make such comments: “However, given the circumstances, that it would be scandalous to make someone sit next to someone so disgusting.” At least not in today’s world as we know it. Not because the white airhostesses are not racists. Then why not? I am explaining.

If those two chain emails are so grossly wrong, what good do they achieve? What is the motive of the people who are originating such mails? To fight racism? Nah…actually to perpetuate it. You see, after the Tommy incident was deconstructed, people started celebrating his designer lines. “Oh you see, he is not a racist. He never said. So we folks should buy his clothes.” The negative publicity actually did quite good to Tommy. Tommy was known to be making white clothes, but was in need of the black market (just like Kellogg’s needs an Indian market for its corn flakes). It did quite good to Oprah too in promoting her television show (in 1999, more people were watching dumb Disney shows than they were watching her). Today, both Tommy and Oprah are big superstars without any merit. They have used numerous cheap publicity stunts like this to become the symbols of success.

Likewise everyone who lives in the US or western world (since these mails were primarily meant for the first world—not many in the Other World actually buy original Tommy lines in India and flies first class of BA) know that no one makes such racist comments and get away with it. So there is a celebration also to the point that we are not a racist world any more. If someone asks “Do you hear such racist thing anymore?” The honest answer is “Of course not. You must be kidding. Look at all those black people in the first class. They have bought those tickets. Look at the diamonds on the hip hop stars. They are not rented. Blacks are successes.” Even look at Oprah Winfrey.

Precisely, that is the whole point. A first class seat need not be considered so dignified as to create a class barrier among people. Quite the contrary folks should not feel happy or lobby for a black man to get into the first class. Or should not cheer for Oprah Winfrey for any matter. The reason is both smack of downright celebration of undeserved opulence. Oprah is no different from Tommy Hilfiger, in that she wears million dollars jewelries herself and walks with pride on those red carpets of elite Hollywood. Top line designers are her close buddies and the club of suckers make pathetic acting sessions on those shows on how people should have freedom to do what they want to do. They even offer personal examples of their past lives and how gloriously they have left them behind (in other words, left behind the poverty and the poor people).

You know the reason why they chose Tommy to be the point of scandal with Oprah? Precisely because both of them had never met (Oprah had other designers to her show before….). So they knew this myth will be broken and the public will sympathize with both businesses well. This is what the spin makers do for the capitalists.

Racism is not frivolous. It’s not counted in terms of who gave what slurs. Most black ignorant people sing “nigger” today and call their women “bitch”. That does not make them racists/sexists. But if the white racist folks will say the same terms, they will be sent to jails. That’s because the white supremacists have created a yardstick to judge what racism should constitute. They claim it has to be ‘uttered’ by the privileged class. Now there is a popular argument that if the blacks can say nigger (and that’s because they have been conditioned to speak like black folks—in order to star in a movie you should talk like “black people” using an accent), then the whites should be allowed to. But yet it finds no taker. They are no fools. They will not utter such words in public. Because they don’t talk. The white privilege is acted out. They practice racism in the way it was meant to be.

Part of the reason why racism has become so implicit. It’s very subtle in nature. How many people in India will come out and say that because they are Brahmins, they are superior than the “lower castes” (sic) or they believe in untouchability? Yet the Brahmins in India will make friend circle largely with Brahmins, they will protest against reservations (not in terms of caste, but in terms of ‘merit’—a word whose parameters they themselves define), they will certainly not invite a non-brahmin person to preside their religious functions. Are all non-brahmins actually uneducated about citation of Vedic hymns? Think of our own discriminations and how it works in India to understand the basic nature of racism.

Racism has to be so subtle, so illusory that it has to be normalized. It has to be normalized into our fabric without revulsions. Just like the ‘majority’ democracy or the ‘free’ market economy. Do you really think majority governs or the market is free? No, just like their social counterpart, racism also does not become visible.

If it becomes pronounced, racism becomes easy to be checked. All of us will get really angry if Tommy actually said that! Or if a tribal girl is actually raped. After taking action to an ‘event’ we are lulled to silence. And then we thank ourselves that “lo! We imprisoned that guy. Now, don’t call me a racist”!

What we don’t recognize is that we often lend our help to the racism that prevails by implicitly supporting it. Race is a social construct. A construct that emerged out of a class society. A construct just like religion, became instrumental in helping the wealth usurper class to subjugate people throughout the ages. India’s Hindu kings, Mughal rulers, Brahmin Prime Ministers—all used the same class/caste dynamic to continue the rule to their favor. They integrated in us a need to adhere to their laws, which were based on dominant religion of the time which were in turn, founded on clear superstitions aimed at keeping the mass helpless/predestined/oppressed.

Today’s universal companion to all religious power is capitalism. Just like it was feudalism or monarchism in the past. It was easy to revolt against the kings and the landlords because their exploitations were so obviously apparent. Very shocking. But the bourgeois capitalist ruling class partners which actually led many of such anti-feudal and anti-colonial and anti-monarchy battles (by claiming leadership and sacrificing poor peasants in the struggles) emerged as the power holder this time in the most sophisticated fashion. Indian mainstream (and thus the power hungry) freedom struggle shows the clear direction too. It was led by industrialists (like Birla’s money), Hindu supremacists (like Patel’s crusades) and Hindi Aryans (like Rajendra Prasad). Of course they were all so well mannered that we engage in a north Indian dominant culture without even questioning it (the respect for capital, power and fame in line with Mumbai and Delhi, as opposed to respect for communities, matriarchy and indigenous cultures of Orissa and Kerala).

The progress of humankind has always been in this direction. From crude to sophistication (not uncivilized to civilized). For another example, the ruling class had women in harems, then in brothels and now they have them objectified on peep shows and webcams. And this has a lot to do with the calm, compassionate, sympathetic approach that we have been imbibed to learn through religious discourses of the ruling agents. Because of which we clearly overlook the negativities of Oprah’s billion plus undeserved wealth, and pick on an uneducated poor street youth who robs a wallet for survival, and send him/her to jail and subsequently for ‘spiritual rehabilitation’. Because the white privilege structure has put a “model minority” section to legitimize its supremacy by claiming that everyone can become like Oprah if they went to church and believed in the power of religion (and hence the God blesses America, just like in the east the politicians have godmen frauds like Sai Baba and Chandraswami, if not a thousand other symbols of faith systems).

Clearly, we know that not everyone can become a billionaire. We don’t even have that kind of wealth in the world! And this elite club hardly changes much over the period to let others have a share. They control more than 95% of world’s resources…and they are a club of less than 200 people.

It’s a shame that we have to cheer for Oprah instead of questioning her for the privileges she enjoys by towing the white power line which has just succeeded in making her loyal to the free market economic structure, maybe to oppose it at times so that democracy can contain with a proxy pepsi vs coke war. But never to challenge its orders, for if she did that she would have had to let go of her expensive wardrobes and tickets to the elite fame.

This is a just crash course on racism. For more, we should question our own privileges and check if we were having more in life (and hence can check out internet deals), not because some God gifted us the favors, not because we are inherently superior, or “more intelligent” (sic), but because we supported our families in everything they did to convince us that there is nothing wrong with the privileges we had. The privileges we enjoyed while walking the streets when no one judged us because we were Brahmins, but definitely a “lower caste”(sic) person was judged because she or he was one.

The first step is then, to educate our own families to get rid of their “holier than thou” beliefs. If the basic units of our everyday interactions such as families do not recognize their unjustified privileges, we need to get rid of them from our worldviews; instead of passing those racist heritages to subsequent generations to perpetuate racism for longer periods.
Yes, what appears to be a political decision is actually always result of a personal struggle.

No Worker Is Illegal!

Where would one read all this at one point?
1. Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, JF Kennedy, Mother Teresa, Freedom & Unity, You!, and Me!
2. Chicano Power!
3. We did not cross your borders—The border crossed US!
4. Dignidad!
5. Bush is the real criminal. Not us!
6. Bush & Fox Build a North America with Open Borders! Reform USA, Mexico, Canada.
7. All Americans are immigrants to this country—USA! Increase peace and love to all people of color
8. Arnold—Back to Hollywood
9. We are the People
10. My Hands built America Each Day. I am not a Criminal. We are not terrorists
11. You say Immigrants, like it’s a bad thing!

At today’s rally where more than a half a million people took to streets to denounce the HR 4437 (aimed at amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to strengthen enforcement of the immigration laws, to enhance border security, and for other purposes).

What the president says on Thursday as “I urge people who like to comment on this issue to make sure the rhetoric is in accord with our traditions” is being interpreted on Saturday as violating the real American tradition of being a country of immigrants. What’s the real issue then?

Well the issue is actually beyond the rhetoric. The President in 2004 had proposed a change to the existing immigration laws. And this was even way before the polls. He said: “If an American employer is offering a job that American citizens are not willing to take, we ought to welcome into our country a person who will fill that job… We should not give unfair rewards to illegal immigrants in the citizenship process or disadvantage those who came here lawfully, or hope to do so.” He proposed then that the workers should be asked to leave. Not as an entirely ungrateful gesture, the workers should be given incentives. For example, retirement benefits in their land of births.

The heartening thing here is that the highest officials in America realize that there are certain jobs that “American citizens are not willing to take”. Like cleaning the dishes, standing by the fast food counters, handing gas stations, working at 7-Elevens, selling goods to immigrants speaking their language, road constructions, building repairs, or even installing cables for telecom giants.

And yet, these are the strenuous jobs that build any country. Without these works being done by the “illegals” and “aliens” that provide food, clothing and shelter to “American citizens”, this country would not be imaginable. The image of America worldwide is synonymous with huge roads, big buildings, and trendy people. This image would have changed long back if not for the ablest helps coming from the immigrants—legal and otherwise.

Of course, the country is not unequivocal about it. As the post 9/11 experience clearly showed, America was no more the country of the immigrants. It was suddenly a country blessed by God meant for Americans. Large scale distrusts were permitted to flow towards people who did not affix that bumper sticker with “God Bless America” despite the fact that people had to shave their beards so as not to look like followers of different types of Gods.

Today, many immigrants of the earlier generations have been convinced by a rhetoric of “what constitutes an American” that they—who form a majority among the minorities, more than 41 million people—are believing that they are now more Americans than the prospective immigrants. Simply because they have been recognized as thus, and are being rewarded for being thus. In an entire movement which should be directed at understanding the underprivileged 11 million “illegals”, today even their own counterparts are prompt to condemn them. These benefited immigrants now do not consider the issues of the illegals as an “American issue”. For them, it’s just an “immigration issue” which they have overcome already in their life! The common shared struggles of all people of color in this country is now being deliberately wiped off the collective memory by categorizing them into different resident status, thus weakening the already weak further. This divides not just a movement to reclaim what’s due to them, considering the arduous hourly jobs they have done with honesty and in return paid paltry sums, of which 40 per cent goes to unknown quarters, it also defeats any amount of potential discourse that can be held regarding the sensitive issue.

“Guest Worker” is the real rhetoric, and the country should have an understanding of it. If the president wants people to believe that being American is a lifelong experience, not a process of legal naturalization (“An understanding of what it means to be an American is not a formality in the naturalization process, it is essential to full participation in our democracy”), then it is obvious that living in America to tirelessly labor and serve is part of that lifelong experience. 11 million people residing in this country are being considered as illegal, which also means they have been living in a state of despair (low wage, no work benefits). The proposed law merely aims at “legalizing” them, not “Americanizing” them. Years of their cheap labor have always been perpetrated by the employers who have been full American citizens. The onus must not lie so much on the disadvantaged $6/hr worker as it should be on the billion dollars/year profiteering multinationals that have hired them at that. Agreed that’s little more than the minimum wage, but the minimum wage standards in this country have not been revised at par with the profit scales of the monopolists.

There are just two ways of working at it. One, to grant citizenship to the people who are willing to stay in this country and continue to work laboriously–of course after their minimum wages are increased. Or, two, to let them stay and work in their present status quo—where they have at least a liberty of social mobility without being discriminated against by a system that distrusts immigrants to begin with. (How many more Law and Order episodes will show immigrant hookers and how many more awards will Crash movie receive for stereotyping Chinese as “human smugglers”?)

The middle ground, which is being proposed now, is quite fishy. Maybe by documenting the illegals now, it is easy for the administration to keep a track of them. But at the same time, since they are not going to get privileged by their “participation in American democracy” (of casting a vote, basically—many of which as we know were not even counted at crucial juncture that would have saved all these posts today), they are clearly going to be discriminated against–‘systematically’ this time. Once someone is branded as an entity that’s not going to evolve into higher stages of humanly dignified life of being acknowledged in the country of work, the employers sure know how to throw their weights around. Not that the case is any different now. Now the undocumented ones are clearly facing wrath. The politicians who do not come out of the Hill should take a public transport sometimes just to see the state of those people—standing in a queue for daily wage works at Langley Park squares—15 minutes from the Downtown DC! But if the undocumented ones are allowed to work undocumented, the only difference would be that they keep their money in their own pockets, and not in a bank for direct withdrawals.

Apart from the emotions involved in this issue (which is why it is so sensitive)—and the emotions must be considered while dealing with deprived human beings (oh come on, I know capital, not society that takes precedence here, but with all the talks about God, at least it should be a good ethical try)—there are direct economic issues at stake here. There are no guarantees that once these people go back to their countries, they will receive their ‘incentives’. I mean, not only are there no previous examples of this kind, but there are ample evidence to suggest that not all regimes everywhere in the world actually are friendly with the current Bush administration to agree to its proposal. And certainly not the opposition parties in those countries, who after coming to power will stop recognizing any such deals. Thirdly, if those countries were wealthy and willing enough to accommodate these people, the people would not land up here. Fourthly, and the most basic one, is the rightful claim of the workers. They have so far toiled hard in bettering this country, by managing, repairing, amending this country. They have always tried to learn how to make sense of different accents of American English spoken with variety of tones, often laced with racial slurs, slangs and sexual overtones. The least claim they can make is to get a parity. A full participation in the democratic process of the country, as the President said. The question is if they are made devoid of eventual citizenship, their legal claims to grey areas will still remain inaccessible. Without citizenship, any of their claims can land them in a way that may still lead to their deportation. And now, all the baseball and basketball fans of the land know, that is not fair. Heads they lose, tails they lose?

The movement of more than 500,000 people at LA is a symbolic protest against the long line of unfair treatment. However, it’s not such a Catch22 as it is made out to be. The choice is clear in this case. People, who are already citizens, who are otherwise legal immigrants, and the clearly privileged yet sensitized Americans must realize that the accrued benefits do not need to be at the cost of inflicted injustice. At that point, silence becomes unethical.

A flyer on my table top reads: “We put food on the table and clothing on people’s backs and do the work most Americans don’t want to do for less money than many Americans will work for; and now they want me to say I’m thankful because they’re giving me amnesty, even though most of the people I know won’t get it. Just because I am legal all of a sudden doesn’t mean I’ll forget those who aren’t.”

This should wake the fellow immigrants to make it a 41-million legalized support for another 11 million illegals. And the rest of over 250 million people who realize that we all are immigrants to the country at one point or another (and in not so distant past!) should lend a strong support to either completely naturalize the unfortunates, or let them not pay as taxpayers to prolonged hawkish causes.

And for the fellow jubilated privileged immigrants who every now and then feel they deserved to get the ticket to the polling booths, they should realize it’s merely incidental. So incidental that they cannot even “fully” participate in democracy to challenge a presidential candidate simply on the grounds that they were not born in this land. Now if that’s incidental, why can’t the “illegalities” of the “aliens”? Because it’s written on the wall of a system?

No Worker can be Illegal. Its the ones who do not work and instead live off the labor of others who need be put to test. “First they came for the illegals, but we were not one!…?” Look out!

A spectre is haunting Europe

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

(Bob Dylan (1963). His anthem for the American Freedom Movement of the 60’s!)

Class societies thrive on racial discriminations. And Europe provides the recent most glaring example.

In November 2005, when a huge number of young people from the minority communities protested in France, it was being called a riot. The race-blindness that afflicts the privileged French exhibited its true color when the Blacks and the Muslims were being systematically deprived of what has been their overdue.

Of course the skepticism was thus because the protestors were immigrant youths who took to the street to register their discomfort against mass-scale discriminations. Although it continued for weeks, there were no signs of organized violence or even sporadic assaults. They could not yet be termed as the so-called “terrorists” for acts they never committed. But they were treated as just short of it. The French government did not care a franc for their demands. The elite people of the mainland France turned their cheeks to the “Other France”—the France which we rarely read about, the France that is suppressed beneath the sleaze and neon of perfumes and Eiffel Tower.

In November, the official statements coming from France dismissed the protests as riots that needed to be controlled by the police state. And control they did. Towing the democratic norms, the country went back to business as normally as possible. The resisting voices were silenced. The media changed headlines and the protestors were detained mass-scale.

I talked to some of my friends from Europe who professed complete ignorance regarding consequences of such vandalism. They claimed it was just a minority work and is probably a race thing, but since the government says France has no race issues, then it must be just some kind of agitation. It will be over very soon, just like the strikes at Charles de Gaulle.

Well, undermining the race factor came easy for the administration the last time. But the embarrassing fact is that Muslims still constitute the largest proportion of unemployed youth in that color-blind country.

This time, more than a million French youths are on the streets! They have actively and vociferously supported the just demands of the “immigrant youths” who took to the streets last November. Not only that, a huge majority of French youths, of all colors have decided to follow the examples of the minority protestors. This must be really awkward for the administrators to know, but historically, every race based conflict has culminated into a larger class warfare where majority of working class people have always lent their support to the discriminated social minorities.

The elites, who are elites both in terms of their inherited race privileges and acquired class privileges must be on guard now, because they are now going to combat not just some small group of disciplined protestors who are too scared to harm anyone, but a huge majority of disenchanted, alienated organized youths who are not scared to topple the power structure.

Hundreds of youths have already been involved in violence that saw bottles and rocks hurled at the police and journalists and left at least two cars burned, three others overturned and dozens damaged. Railways have been blockaded, airports disrupted, and up to two thirds of France’s universities and schools have been occupied or disrupted. Clashes with police have been occurring throughout the country.
Some of the Indymedia pics demonstrate the facets that the mainstream media is gleefully ignoring: That it is a united effort by people of all races who are affected economically. This is a large scale Class war, and it can happen anywhere in today’s world!

The so-called democratic state will obviously not wake up. It has proven what a zilch it cares for labor laws when it proclaims that young people can be fired anytime without any reason! The Union-bias of French administration sounds as shallow as the Liberal-bias of American media. The lip-service has been done for way too long now. The reality is that no law in the world has ever been passed in favor of the working people anywhere until and unless the people have taken to mass demonstration to demand for fair treatment. The French students, just like the American students in the times of Dylan in the 60’s, are demanding for social justice, anti-war stances, pro-minority treatments, and secured pro-labor laws. France is reeling under huge unemployment rates, starting from 10% for the Whites to 50% for the minorities. 80% of all education institutes are under-funded and in even worse shape than the equally less-talked about public schools in Washington DC. Only a small elite population, just like in the days of the royals (not that it has withered away anywhere from the enlightened Europe), keep enjoying the privileges of secured life.

Vilgot Sjöman had created I am Curious-Blue and Yellow, to showcase the class society of Sweden even at the prime of its so-called claim to petty bourgeois socialism. And the film revealed in multi-layers the utter hypocrisy that exists among Swedish society that claims to have socialist pro-labor stances and yet thrives only upon a class society assumption. People everywhere in Swedent were shown justifying why manual workers need to get paid much less than the thinking elites.

In France of today, the situation is no different. All these underfed schools are producing students in an atmosphere that does not respect manual labor works. French government not only projects its elitist biases in promoting the cultures of France as that of a monolithic sophistication, it even looks at the societal unrest issues from that very lens (of elitism). Unfortunately, the governments in such hoax democracies that do not give two hoots even to its future (the young insecure students) will always be run by the elites, for the elites.

Race war, it could have avoided despite Algerian crisis, but the class war is one the whole of Europe will need to watch out for; for the crisis rests not in Africa, its actually nearer home. Right outside the windows.

Recalling Bhagat Singh

As an initial conversation with the Unrepentant Marxist Louis Proyect regarding the Indian revolutionaries, I produce in full a letter written by Bhagat Singh to his father Sardar Kishan Singh, who in the eve of judgment submitted a petition to the trial judges for permission to produce a defense witness to save his son.

I have typed it out from a chapter written by Bhagat Singh’s friend and comrade Bejoy Kumar Sinha. For reproducing this work, I am thankful to the Delhi-based People’s Publishing House for the book “India’s Freedom Struggle: Several Streams”, edited by Sarkar, Bardhan, & Balaram, 1986; and to my dear father who introduced me to this work of eternal significance.

The letter is being published online for the first time to commemorate March 23, 1931– the date that saw Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom. I am sure readers will go beyond the sentiments to view a glimpse of India’s freedom struggle, and yet understand that the deep seated well meaning sentiments do affect revolutionary goals negatively at many times. The line between professed selfish love and practiced social goals need to be one of the bold revolutionary nature, sans which it becomes quite easy to tow the line of individualistic aspirations and solely personal freedoms.

There are too many distractions in the world today, from Ayn Rand to God Blessed Flags; from salary hikes to Friday parties; from getting an Oprah ticket to being ticketed for drunk driving; from life on the celebrity fast lanes to life on edge of thrilling video games; and it’s quite easy to fall prey to the “good family”, or “happy couple” theories of the heterosexist preachers and the model minority status of the aspiring educated urban youths. Too many temptations, I am sure.

However, there are just a very few goals in order to attain social justice for the most, and despite that, its often invariably less taken. And they are not so difficult to head towards, if one knows that individual life is as precious as one’s convictions would lead one to believe. Bhagat Singh as an instance, clearly overlooked, ignored and trampled the individual yardsticks (and came down heavily on his ‘good-family’ background in the following letter) when it came to deciding between the individual liberty and social equality principles, and clearly upholding the need of social equality, he took the road less taken.

At the same time, its important to remember that he never acted alone, and never on an impulse. Never as a terrorist. Never as a trigger-happy war-monger. Never as a violent reactionary.

He was a great organizer and agitator, and to educate his own self and that of his comrades, he looked into oceans of progressive literatures. His was a planned commitment to attainment of freedom from imperialistic designs, not just a national liberation that would have transferred power from the colonialists to petty bourgeois. As this following letter would amply show: he was “pursuing a definite policy”.

I am always deeply moved by Bhagat Singh’s sacrifices and so have at times found his death was in vain. There have been such occasions while looking at the state of affairs among today’s youths when it has seemed so very hopeless. Yet, revolutionaries do not look backwards to proceed, they look back only to learn so as to march forward even with greater vigor. Hence the reality is that Bhagat Singh must continue to be an inspiration to many of us in our different worlds and we must feel the resonance every time there is a struggle against religious fundamentalism, against irrational superstitions, against orthodoxy, against conservatism and against narrow nationalists. Every time there is an uncompromising battle against the warlords, the police states, the rogue powerholders, a battle that has international sentiments echoing with the courage of Che Guevera and valor of Salvador Allende. All of them have represented the need of global unity against forces of injustice, against mighty powers of economic and social exploiters.

I am sure the following letter is a good prologue to the example we need to exemplify:

“Respected dear father,
“I was astounded to learn that you had submitted a petition to the members of the Special Tribunal in connection with my defense. This intelligence proved to be too severe a blow to be borne with equanimity. It has upset the whole equilibrium of my mind. I have not been able to understand how you could think it proper to submit such a petition at this stage and in these circumstances. In spite of all the sentiments and feeling of a father, I don’t think, you were at all entitled to make such a move on my behalf without even consulting me. You know that in the political field my views have always differed with those of yours. I have always been acting independently, without having cared for your approval or disapproval.

“I hope you can recall to yourself that since the very beginning you have been trying to convince me to fight my case very seriously and to defend myself properly. But you also know that I was always opposed to it. I never had any desire to defend myself and never did I seriously think about it, whether it was a mere vague ideology or that I had certain arguments to justify my position, is a different question and that cannot be discussed here.

“You know that we have been pursuing a definite policy in this trial. Every action of mine ought to have been consistent with that policy, my principles and the program. At present the circumstances were altogether different but had the situation been otherwise, even then I would have been the last man to offer defense. I had only one idea before me throughout the trial, i.e., to show complete indifference towards the trial in spite of the serious nature of the charges against us. I have always been of opinion that all the political workers should be indifferent and should never bother about the legal fight in the law courts and should boldly bear the heaviest possible sentences inflicted upon them. They may defend themselves but always from purely political considerations and never from a personal point of view. Our policy in this trial has always been consistent with this principle. Whether we were successful in that or not is not for me to judge. We have always been doing our duty quite disinterestedly.

“In the statement accompanying the text of the Lahore Conspiracy Case Ordinance the Viceroy had stated that the accused in this case were trying to bring both law and justice into contempt. The situation afforded us an opportunity to show to the public whether we were trying to bring law into contempt or whether others were doing so. People might disagree with us on this point. You might be one of them. But that never meant that such moves should be made on my behalf without my consent or even my knowledge. My life is not so precious – at least to me – as you may probably think it to be. It is not at all worth buying at the cost of my principles. There are other comrades of mine whose case is as serious as that of mine. We had adopted a common policy, and have so far stood shoulder to shoulder, so shall we stand to the last—no matter how dearly we have to pay individually for it.

“Father, I am quite perplexed. I fear I might overlook the ordinary principles of etiquette, and my language may become a little bit harsh while criticizing or rather censuring this move on your part. Let me be candid, I feel as though I have been stabbed at the back. Had any other person done it, I would have considered it to be nothing short of treachery, but in your case let me say that it has been a weakness—a weakness of the worst type.

“This was the time when everybody’s mettle was being tested. Let me say, father, you have failed. I know you are as sincere a patriot as one can be. I know you have devoted your life to the cause of Indian independence; but why at this moment have you displayed such a weakness? I cannot understand.

“In the end I would like to inform you and my other friends and all the people interested in my case, that I have not approved of your move. I am still not at all in favor of offering any defense. Even if the court had accepted that petition submitted by some of my co-accused regarding defense etc., I would have not defended myself. My applications submitted to the Tribunal regarding my interview during the hunger-strike were misinterpreted and it was published in the press that I was going to offer defense, though in reality I was never willing to offer any defense. I still hold the same opinion as before. My friends in the Borstal Jail will be taking it as a treachery and betrayal on my part. I shall not even get an opportunity to clear my position before them.

“I want that the public should know all the details about this complication and therefore, I request you to publish this letter.
Yours obediently,
Bhagat Singh