Platoon of Leeches and the New Royal Parasite

By Saswat Pattanayak

 

BBC informed us: “Kate in Labour as the World Waits”, CNN’s Victoria Arbiter said Kate Middleton was “brilliant for delivering a boy”, Times of India updated Indian readers about “15 quirky facts” they “didn’t know about the royal baby”, while The Hindu kept up with the times as it ruptured, “It’s a boy! Kate gives birth to royal heir”. Not to mention, the famed liberal newspaper Guardian started worrying over the name with its headline, “Alexandra, Charlotte, George or James – all royal baby name bets are on.” There was perhaps not a single news establishment of the mainstream order that did not highlight this event. And not a single one among them that painted a bleak picture. Not one of them took this opportunity to question the frenzy and to demand the abolition of that celebration.

Among the less mainstream publications, some did give space to an alternative narrative. Reflective questions were posed regarding the needs for such euphoria. Some more radical observations even went to the extent of saying that funding for the royal families should be checked. Some have also opined that the royal family is almost an embarrassment. And the politically correct voices of dissent said the criticism of the baby can wait until he becomes an adult. At best, there has been an evasive quality to the informed criticisms, and at worst, a jubilation that paralleled the worldwide mourning around the death of Princess Diana several years ago. Regardless of the observations, and perhaps because of them, it’s time now to face and critique some inconvenient truths.

And the truth is royal family is not an embarrassment. It is a criminal institution. It is not a laughing matter. It is a despicable agency. It’s members are not saints. They are hooligans. It’s legacy is not of a cultural pride. It is one of racist supremacism. Royal positions are not ceremonious figureheads. They are active displays of colonial machismo. The very fact that they still exist in our times is testament to our collective failure to appreciate immense human sacrifices made at the alters of freedom struggles against these filthy criminals, these usurpers of powers, these enslavers of destinies.

Even the most brutal of dictators in world history would tremble at the mercilessness of the European empires, led in example by the British. For these parasites did not just fend off their compliant slaves at home in the name of taxes and free labor, but they also amassed their insatiable gluttony through exploitations of billions of people who lived outside their goddamned territories. Royal families were so vicious that even those they sent to America also writhed in agony.

As Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense (1776), “Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families….Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still….”

The monster had a special liking for those who it heavily penalized so that the royal family lived in luxuries. But special scorn was reserved for those it overtly owned as slaves so the family oversaw the growth of the business it called an empire. This business profited the masters and afflicted the slaves; salvaged the advocates and purged the dissenters; enriched the family trees of the royal parasites, while starving the countless minions.

So complete was its influence that Eric Williams wrote in Capitalism & Slavery (1944), “All classes in English society presented a united front with regard to the slave trade. The monarchy, the government, the church, public opinion in general, supported the slave trade…The Spanish monarchy set the fashion which European royalty followed to the very last…Hawkins’ slave trading expedition was launched under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth. The British government, prior to 1783, was uniformly consistent in its encouragement of the slave trade. The first great rivals were the Dutch, who monopolized the carrying trade of the British colonies. Soon, England’s victory over Holland left her face to face with France. It was a conflict of rival mercantilisms. The struggle was fought out in the Caribbean, Africa, India, Canada and on the banks of the Mississippi, for the privilege of looting India and for the control of certain vital and strategic commodities – Negroes, sugar and tobacco; fish, furs and naval stores. Of these areas the most important were the Caribbean and Africa; of these commodities the most important were Negroes and sugar. The outstanding single issue was the control of the Asiento.”

Against such backdrops of controlling resources and owning slaves, the royal families of Europe colonized the then vast and wealthy continents of Africa and Asia. When Clive entered Murshidabad in 1757, he wrote, “This city is as extensive, populous and rich as the city of London, with this difference that there were Individuals in the first possessing infinitely greater property than in the last city”. Speaking of all the provinces of India and especially of the region of Bengal and Bihar, Manouchi wrote in the eighteenth century, “The prodigious riches transported thence into Europe are proofs of its great fertility. We may venture to say that it is not inferior in anything to Egypt, and that it even exceeds that kingdom in its products of silks, cottons, sugar and indigo. All things are in great plenty here, fruits, pulse, grain, muslins, cloths of gold and silk.”

For the apologists of colonialism, it is worth reminding that countries like India were so drained of their resources and their peoples kept so deprived that the 1926 Royal Commission on Agriculture in India concluded, “Of all the disabilities from which the masses in India suffer, malnutrition is the chief, and most far-reaching of the causes of the diseases in India.” The 1929 Royal Commission on Labour in India reported that “in most industrial centers the proportion of families and individuals who are in debt is not less than two-thirds of the whole…”. In the “unregulated” factories and industries, in which the overwhelming majority of Indian industrial workers were employed, “workers as young as five years of age were found working without adequate meal intervals or weekly rest days, and often for 10 or 12 hours daily, for sums as low as 2 annas.”

Even without going into the details of ruling class atrocities, murders and human rights records under the colonial regimes supervised by the royal family, and even without dwelling over how much of the colonies it ravaged and left in abject poverty, in almost unrecoverable stages of development – the fact that the world media is swooning over the birth of the newest royal parasite today is a pathetic portrayal of our obsession for monarchies. It’s almost as though we have started relishing our states of servitude. It’s not merely bizarre that we have been witnessing the masses clinging unto the gate of the palaces, and glued to their television sets – for days in anticipation of the news of the birth of someone in the family that has entirely thrived at the expense of enslaving others, and continuing to relax at the expense of hardworking taxpayers of a country
that dares call itself civilized.

In Britain suffering under austerity measures, on that very fateful day, over 2000 babies were born, out of which 540 were born into poverty, and another 600 into families struggling with unsecured public sector jobs. In the British class society, the top 200 babies are 850 times richer than the bottom 200. With a model that still distinguishes the lords from the commoners, with a system that remains the greatest defender of inheritance and bloodlines, with a public outcry that loudly and proudly proclaims that its regressive traditions will never wither, it is only more tragic to see that the masses turn to proverbial scavenging, and the bloodthirsty hawks remain secured in their palatial abodes grinning like the sun never set on their empire. And for a reality check on their grins, one needs only to take a look at the numerous colonies they have profited from, after rendering them impoverished. Much of Africa and Asia – the Third World – stands still, as neocolonial projects, struggling with debates surrounding growth and development, charities and monopolies, foreign takeovers and domestic instabilities.

But what bears resemblance with the spirit of what Malcolm X used to call the nature of a “house slave”, these colonies still remain in awe, not disgust, of their former master – with teenagers sporting Union Jack on their tee-shirts; and even as the indigenous freedom fighters had overthrown their own little kingdoms in the colonies, the new generation parents not so secretly craving to call their children – little prince and little princess. At an international level, the Commonwealth of Nations very much exists, headed of course by Queen Elizabeth II. These are a shameless bunch of 52 countries comprising over two billion people, who still bask in the glories of their colonized legacies. Only Zimbabwe has had the courage to reject the Commonwealth membership, standing up against it like Lumumba once did while refusing to thank the Belgian monarchy, for anything at all.

Commonwealth of Nations is tolerated on the ground that it is symbolic, just as various Kings and Queens in Europe are accepted on the grounds that they are all symbolic. The truth is only by demolishing their palatial structures, and through imprisoning those evil scroungers on charges of evading taxes for centuries, the symbolic gestures of justice can be duly carried out. Since all the previous generations of these bloodline rulers cannot be anymore captured, simply by sentencing to life each of the existing heads, can the symbolic justice be finally served. By returning the stolen jewelries, artifacts, furniture, carpets, gold coins and the stuffed animals to the respective former colonies, along with the reparation amounts – can the symbolic humane gestures be exhibited. And if prison sentence for their masters sounds too loud for the civilized British slaves, what would truly become symbolic is when this newborn headline boy is raised in a working class neighborhood after the entire platoon of royal freeloaders is shifted from that monstrous Buckingham Palace.

Considering all the irreparable damages wrought upon the planet Earth and its billions of inhabitants over the centuries by this royal family, no sentence is too harsh, and no judgment too much. Yet if our unfortunate history is any indication, these bloodsuckers may well flourish under the garb of a fancy phrase “constitutional monarchy”. They may continue to combat every revolution by denouncing it as a “riot”. They may continue to celebrate their generational leeches by calling them “royal babies”. And we the commoners might only be allowed to bet our money on the probable name for the future king. Any more adventures may force us to die like that loyal Indian subject Jacintha Saldanha, the very first victim of the future King. And yet thanks to this newborn, we must finally choose: whether to evade suicide by upholding the sanctity of this royal family or commit to equitable redistribution of worldly resources by all means possible. And giving the devil it’s due, the choice suddenly appears to be abundantly clear.

 

(First published in Kindle Magazine)

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i-Solation

By Saswat Pattanayak

The association of loneliness with personal is based on a
lingering myth. Far from being an individual symptom, loneliness is an
inevitable outcome of an individualistic society. It is a state of being that
prevents a person from exercising class prerogative and realizing revolutionary
potential. And to that extent, loneliness is in fact a politically disempowered
experience.

Normalization of loneliness therefore typifies capitalism without
reference to its deliberate construction. Instead of recognizing it as a
contradiction within the irrational class society, it is glamorized, iconized
and in many instances mourned as an aberration, as individual failing. From the
suicides of celebrities to abstract artistries, select group of achievers are
exalted for leading the lonely lives. The abandoned in love is sympathized, the
Devdas is romanticized, the raw emotions of the jilted are exemplified. Reactionary arrangements of conservative ethos thrive through the cries of lamenting souls, the deep
nostalgia of the good old days making the lonely present ever more miserable.
The future appears cynical, pessimistic; its tone contemptuous and promises
wry.

A sense of helplessness supported by individual failures reifies
the collective – in identification and uncritical celebration of the lonely,
they may appear to be exceptions, but in reality, within a regressive system
founded upon irrationalities, the lonely can never be unique. Loneliness is the
rule of capitalism. Some of us merely live in denial of how lonely we are. Not
because we are intelligent enough to discern, but because we lack the courage
to embrace the facets of loneliness, to own our petals of dejection, to simply
give in and immerse in our wretchedness. Failing to completely appreciate our
loneliness, the inalienable alienation, the deep despondency that truly
characterizes us, we indulge in falsehoods, in make-believe worlds of romancing
the abstract and falling for our fellow commodities. As extreme examples, the
iPod, the iPhone, the iPad are not symbols of i-liberation, they are i-llusions
we must chase after, lest we end up like our heroes, the paragons of loneliness
– the suiciding artists – those who refused to live in denials of their
loneliness.

And we must sail through this ocean of denial as we emerge as the
alienated. The workers at the car factory who can never own one, the voters of
the democracy that can never rule, the consumers of the market who will never
get to monopolize, the crestfallen audience falling in love with stars of the silver
screen, the huge majority of paupers who will never don the clothes of the
prince, the rags who will never become riches, the slumdogs never to become
millionaires, the daily wage laborer spending the savings to hope for a
jackpot. The alienated must carry on because to even commit suicide, one needs
to feel sufficiently attached to loneliness.

As Ernest Mandel noted of alienation, it was “seized upon to
explain the miseries of modern life, and the ‘lonely crowd’, those aggregations
of atomized city dwellers who feel crushed and benumbed by the weight of a
social system in which they have neither significant purpose nor
decision-making power”.

To convey a purpose and to build a power, the rebels among us
have recently manufactured an outlet, we conveniently call social media,
formerly known as virtual media. Traversing of this path from virtual to the
social has made compulsive liars of us; faintly suppressing our wishes to
emerge as legends in our own minds, we compete for our moments of online fames,
to aspire for a higher Klout score and to collect who we call our followers.
They follow us to our graves, for we as such are politically dead; merely
social, virtually. In the veil of status updates and tweets, we relinquish the
requirements of what comprises a political act. In the name of new media, we
comfortably ignore the need to organize a historical force that can effectively
challenge the status quo. In a refusal to surrender the comforts, we exaggerate
the role technology plays so that we can render judgments on armed resistance.
We equivocally denounce the violence perpetuated by ruling class as well as the
organized masses. Failing to physically stand with the resisters, we become the
virtual peaceniks, or depending on how co-opted we are, the virtual (paper)
tigers. We attack the military and the Maoists, the patriots and the Snowdens,
the police and the occupiers. Apparently we understand the repressive
governments and yet we are taken aback when oppressions occur closer home. We
recognize the illogic of the free speech, but we seem never to get enough of
that freedom as a birthright.

In isolation and without a political will, as relentless workers
and ceaseless consumers, we remain as alienated today as we were when Herbert
Marcuse wrote how the individuals are isolated from and set against each other
– “They are linked in the commodities they exchange rather than in their
persons. A person’s alienation from himself/herself is simultaneously an
estrangement from his/her fellow beings.” In so far as we keep producing
wealth, knowledge, or status updates for the growth of the entities that own
them, none of that matters as revolutionary tools. As Marx wrote, “The worker
becomes all the poorer the more wealth he/she produces, the more his/her production
increases in power and size. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the
more commodities he/she creates. The devaluation of the world of men/women is
in direct proportion to the increasing value of the world of things. Labor
produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as a commodity
– and this at the same rate at which it produces commodities in general.”

This reification (Verdinglichung) through which “capitalist society makes all personal relations between beings take the form of objective relations between things” (Marcus), has rendered our
most personal engagements essentially a matter of material exchanges, much as
we human participants are rarely treated more than commodities. In fact, with
the models of advertising that various media platforms adopt, we are no longer
the customers, but have emerged as products ourselves – as a result, our
personal information are sold to various corporations for commercial gains,
with or without our consent. In the world of mass produced yet scantly
organized dissent, devaluation of revolutionaries becomes a repercussion. When
being lonely in a crowd remains no longer an epithet but an accompanying
feature of our atomized society, powerlessness becomes a payoff.

Loneliness therefore stands opposed not to fun, frolic, requited
love; rather it clashes with the collective. One remains lonely no matter the
partying, but when it comes to effectively ruin it, the courage appears lacking
because zombies surround the scene as a matter of rule. And instead of
utilizing the history as a tool of mass liberation, we get seduced to the idea
of nirvana; self-actualization triumphs over all others as a goal, bank savings
a tactic, and retirement plans a reverie. From alcoholics to drug abusers, from
wealth addicts to fame chasers, our sources of inspirations remain
self-proclaimed nonconformists who otherwise conform to an individualistic
value system. Because within our impossibly competitive society, most of us
generally wait for our turns to die anyway, we find ourselves succored through
the war stories of our tragic figures. TED events and chicken soups sustain our
parasitical souls, while self-love fetishism goes parallel with our favorite
makeover actors.

As Marx observed of a society that has not yet altered radically,
“On the one hand, there have started into life industrial and scientific
forces, which no epoch of the former human history had ever suspected. On the
other hand, there exist symptoms of decay, far surpassing the horrors of the
Roman Empire. In our days everything seems pregnant with its contrary.
Machinery, gifted with the wonderful power of shortening and fructifying human
labour, we behold starving and overworking it. The new-fangled sources of
wealth, by some strange weird spell, are turned into sources of want. The
victories of art seem bought by loss of character.”

Fortunately, the options are still available while we have the
necessary means to critically explore loneliness. Even as an idealistic
pursuance would result in a state of resignation and make us fall in love with
solitude once more, a materialistic interpretation of our loneliness can indeed
convert the living history in our favor in an empowering, meaningful way,
considering the need to recognize the huge majority among us as the lonely –
rendered thus politically. Contrary to claims, people at the top are not
lonely, they are escapists. The lonely are at the bottom rung. And we shall
remain no longer so, once we see ourselves forsaken not in some inescapable
selfish love, but find ourselves unwilling to escape the political struggles to
break free from the chains that bind us to solitary confinements.

(Originally published in Kindle Magazine)