Modi-Sharif Class Interests

By Saswat Pattanayak

Narendra Modi’s newfound love for Sharif only proves how Class triumphs over everything. Capitalists can forgo all their differences in coming together for common cause. Adani/Jindal commercial interests in Pakistan ruled by a feudal lord whose family has profiteering interests in collaborating with the new souled-out India show how even the worst form of jingoism from either side has no locus standi when it comes to safeguarding class interests. No matter the religion or caste (Sharif being a Sunni Muslim and Modi being an OBC Hindu) or nationality and gender, when it comes to class interests, there is no stopping in their consolidating efforts. Likewise, Reagan (Presbyterian) and Bush (Methodist) were buddies with Taliban and ran family businesses with Osama bin Laden (Wahhabi Muslim) in their common interest, putting aside nationalistic rhetorics employed domestically to retain their patriotically misguided fan bases.

While the corporate bosses collaborate with each other representing their own class interests, they make sure to let the working class folks fight with each other in the name of various distracting absurdities. The more the working poor continue to distrust and hate each other in the name of religious fixations, the easier it is to rule over the divided lot. “Workers of the world, unite!” is the only anathema to the ruling bourgeois elites. And to subvert the revolutionary potential, the ruling elites at times project themselves as humane and just. In the latest instance, Modi-Sharif may appear to be shockingly generous in their “neighbors-are-irreplaceable” offering, but in reality they are merely throwing lavish parties for each other to celebrate future corporate collaborations.

(Photo: NDTV)

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Looking for Jesus and Finding them

By Saswat Pattanayak

Perhaps the prevailing eurocentrism in the world makes more non-Christians celebrate this day with such fanfare, than they would observe an occasion from any other religious text. December 25 resonates in all, regardless of religious backgrounds, owing to our colonized subconsciousness. Amidst humanized samaritan renditions of a generous Santa rewarding submissive kids, most folks today set aside their intelligence while momentarily forgetting how Christianity has been the most gruesome and atrocious religion in the history of the world, single-handedly responsible for genocide of indigenous peoples all over the planet through its spread of terror and imperialism.

The only redeeming feature of this horrendously traumatic saga of lies and outright deceit is the possible salvaging of Jesus as a working class hero, albeit a nonviolent one. Like any other religious icon, Jesus too is imagined to be on the side of the oppressed and the dispossessed, on the side of truth and justice, on the side of the revolutionaries, the imprisoned and the conscientious, on the side of the internationalists, the communists and the labor organizers.

Malcolm X said, “they charged Jesus with sedition” because he went to the exploited and the downtrodden. Woody Guthrie said, Jesus was laid in his grave by the preachers, bankers, landlords, rich men and their soldiers. If every revolution needs a few myths to provide hope, every religious text provides to the believers some myths to cling unto. But for revolutions to succeed, humanization of icons is not adequate. It does not suffice to celebrate that alone which is dead, but also to embrace the best of what is living. What is needed is to recognize today’s revolutionaries as Jesus. Ideally, all religions should be declared extinct, as they historically have been tools for the ruling elites to exploit people of the world by dividing them up into various conflicting sub-groups. Unfortunately, majority of the world is still not ready to prioritize struggles for liberation from superstitions. As Lenin had said, “No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.” Until the time the working class is awakened to unite itself, we may find it empowering to wrest the gods from the tax-free temples and churches and mosques – and to find them in revolutionaries amidst ourselves instead.

And therefore, the trans woman Chelsea Manning who languishes in the jail past six Decembers for sharing powerful truths, is Jesus. Physically disabled GN Saibaba, the revolutionary from Delhi University who is suffering the brunt of a fascist Indian state for holding radical views, is Jesus. The Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera suffering from a sentence of 70 years in an American prison, charged with “seditious conspiracy”, is Jesus. Black Panther and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal who remains the undying conscience of a world crying for freedom, is Jesus. Countless freedom fighters “hard-working and brave”, to quote Woody, across the globe resisting ruling class excesses and facing charges on behalf of us today, are all Jesus – today, and they are various other gods too, on other religious days. With due apologies to George Carlin, Gods don’t just need money to remain relevant; they also need great human beings, to survive their purpose.

Arvind Kejriwal Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai?

Arvind Kejriwal suddenly discovers in Modi a coward and psychopath, simply because he finally becomes a victim of fascist vendetta now. However, this outrage is a social media melodrama as it was Kejriwal himself who has contributed the most in the resulting chaos that prevail today. Modi/Shah and their BJP goons are professionally committed as communal politicians and xenophobes who have always practiced hate politics to perfection. Indian public had always rejected such right-wing fanatics throughout the country’s democratic history. It is Kejriwal who lent them a humane face through his creation of a hoopla over the corruption bogeyman, only with the sole aim to destabilize what he and his right-wing allies Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Kumar Vishwas felt as “dynasty politics”.

Bhushan who funded the creation of AAP was also the same man who was one of the founders of BJP in 1980 – the only aim at that time was to oppose Indira Gandhi because she had dared to “misuse her power” by ensuring that India aims to become a “socialist” and “secular” country. When BJP failed to gain any momentum in India owing to their rabidly communal agendas, these reactionaries floated an outfit by the name of AAP to espouse the same anti-Congress politics, but on a more populist political plank: Corruption.

Prior to advancing the carefully orchestrated political party AAP, Kejriwal was at the forefront of the anti-socialist formation called “India Against Corruption” and an anti-secular formation called “Youth for Equality” – the sole aim of these so-called apolitical movements (ably supported by the likes of objective corporate media comprising Arnav Goswami/Rajat Sharma) was to excite the otherwise indifferent middle class students into getting wet dreams over the potential demise of Congress and the Left in India; to materialize the RSS reveries of a Congress-Mukt Bharat into reality.

Aam Aadmi Party – many of whose stalwarts subsequently have gone back to their BJP family – thereafter emerged as the New Right in India, the first outfit to succeed in legitimizing capitalistic meritocracy as an acceptable political proposition in a society whose collective progress depends on reservation policies, to allow for a political scope for rabidly communal elements of this society to gain a respectable electoral mandate that was virtually impossible to obtain prior to Kejriwal and his team arrived as the educated “we-are-not-political-we-are-you” actors, and to create for the first time in India’s history a Parliament without an empowered Opposition.

It is not Modi, but Kejriwal who created an imagination for a new India whose socio-economic policies could be drafted without the Congress and the Left. And when Kejriwal is not given that rightful due, and instead is treated like he were an outsider, it is only natural that he calls his former bosses names. But even then, Modi continues to heave a sigh of relief, because Kejriwal once again is letting him to be used as a tool to diminish the current debate just when Rahul Gandhi cries vendetta. Because educated Indian bourgeois class and its aspirants know quite well, that when vendetta too appears meritocratic, it is no longer to be treated as a misuse of power.

(Saswat Pattanayak – Written for Facebook)

Eurocentrism as Terrorism

The War on Terror has been raging since the hegemony of the West was first challenged, says Saswat Pattanayak.

By Saswat Pattanayak

Let’s not romanticize terrorism. Terrorists blew up Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Terrorists organized the White Army to kill over 3 million Russians. Terrorists funded the Nazis and the Fascists, killing nearly 12 million Jews and Communists. Terrorists killed nearly 3 million Koreans in an anticommunist war. Terrorists killed 2 million Vietnamese, half a million Cambodians and Laotians in the name of Cold War. Terrorists killed nearly 200,000 Algerians whom the French colonized. Terrorists infiltrated into Greece and colonized Philippines. Terrorists disrupted lives in Albania and Iran. Terrorists flew into Guatemala and killed Syrians and Costa Ricans. Terrorists targeted Indonesia and Haiti and Ecuador. Terrorists colonized and killed over 8 million people of Congo under Belgian kings. Terrorists introduced death squads in Brazil and went on a rampage in Peru and Dominican Republic. Terrorists threatened Ghana and tortured working poor of Uruguay and killed Che Guevara in Bolivia. Terrorists funded Pinochet in Chile and invaded Grenada. Angola, Zaire, Jamaica, Seychelles, Morocco, Suriname, Nicaragua, Libya, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, El Salvador – terrorists imported their dreaded forms of democracy through murders, rapes and territorial invasions.

All these terrorists have had one religion – Christianity. All of them have had one civilization – Western. All of these terrorists have been upholders of one ideology – Eurocentric colonialism. And they have one common claim – that, they have been fighting terrorism and civilizing the savages, one Thanksgiving at a time.

The so-called “War on Terror” has been going on ever since slavery was challenged by African freedom fighters, feudalism was challenged by the Russian communists, and colonialism was challenged by the nationalists of the Global South. In the latest instance, the War on Terror is a series of targeted attacks on the Arab countries and allies that currently challenge the unipolarity of NATO powers.

Žižek and the spectre of Western Values:

The renewed “war on terror” in the wake of Paris attacks is merely a continuation of the moral argument that the Eurocentric colonialists need to protect the cultural purity of western civilization. Slavoj Žižek’s latest argument decrying the refugees that are threatening the fabrics of “radical western roots” through attacks on the soil of western lands is an intelligent summation of racist justification for colonialism; a nostalgic tribute to the “good old days” when France used to be an apostle of “liberty, equality, fraternity” while it enjoyed brutalizing its colonies (Algeria, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Tahiti, China, Lebanon, Syria).

Advocates of Eurocentrism have not only deemed themselves superior on basis of “Western values” which Žižek pays rich tributes to in his latest essay, they also preempt the possible conjecture, if not an informed critique, that a response/retaliation may be warranted. Take the case of “pitiless” actions of France in Syria, the day after Paris attacks – 10 aircraft dropped 30 bombs hitting among other things, a soccer stadium, a museum and medical facilities and destroying electricity facilities affecting 200,000 people. Most likely, the human casualties in Syria in coming months will not even be counted, let alone mourned.

Just as there were no European tears shed following deaths of 26 in Iraq the very day Paris was attacked. Or, over the killing of 43 in Lebanon the day before, over the deaths of 66 in Pakistan, and of 56 Palestinians, last month. 300,000 have died following the NATO’s “War on Terror” in Syria. Over 4 million Muslims have died world over in the process of reclaiming Western values of liberty and democracy. And there have been no civilized grief over these.

In fact, quite the contrary. Defense expenditures among NATO nations are on an increase. If the United States as leader of the rogue nations spends $1,891 per capita on defence, the allegedly peacenik Norway is not far behind with $1,328 per capita in funding the war on terror. They are able to persist with such military spendings against the interest of working class in those countries, precisely by employing a moral parameter that defines terrorism as the act conducted by the people of Global South, by people not practicing Judeo-Christian faiths.

Scholars like Žižek and Richard Dawkins take pride in rational views, as enlightened Europeans who are clearly not conservative rightwingers. But while at it, they consistently depict the roots of Western civilization to be categorically progressive and advanced. In many ways, they conveniently overlook the subtle contradictions in their preferred narrative by overtly attacking the regressive elements, that are more obvious. A case in point is the way Dawkins refused to acknowledge the slave-owning heritage of his family estate, while attacking Islam as a religion that has produced no Nobel laureates. Likewise, Žižek refuses to attribute centuries of racist wars and genocides to European onslaughts, while riding high on the allegedly “Western legacy” of “egalitarianism and personal freedoms”.

Fanon and the Wretched:

What is the Western legacy that Žižek and Dawkins take pride in? What is this Europe if not a region built upon the sweat and blood of the Third World? As Frantz Fanon wrote on the Violence in the International Context, “Moral reparation for national independence does not fool us and it doesn’t feed us. The wealth of the imperialist nations is also our wealth…Europe is literally the creation of the Third World. The riches which are choking it are those plundered from the underdeveloped peoples. The ports of Holland, the docks in Bordeaux and Liverpool owe their importance to the trade and deportation of millions of slaves…..Colonialism and imperialism have not settled their debt to us once they have withdrawn their flag and their police force from our territories. For centuries the capitalists have behaved like real war criminals in the underdeveloped world. Deportation, massacres, forced labor, and slavery were the primary methods used by capitalism to increase its gold and diamond reserves, and establish its wealth and power.”

Fanon is right. Contrary to what Žižek claims, egalitarianism and personal freedoms do not comprise western legacy – their suppression in the name of colonialism is. One cannot rule over and plunder another country for decades if not centuries, and then blame the “backwardness” on the ruled subjects. Has Žižek analyzed the role of French colonialism in treating Algerians and Syrians as little more than animals and forcing them to be refugees in their own lands before equating the issue of terrorism with the issue of “refugee crisis”?

Žižek squarely blames the victims while ridiculing the “anti-Islamophobia” in the following words, “Multiculturalist or anti-colonialist’s defense of different “ways of life” is false. Such defenses cover up the antagonisms within each of these particular ways of life by justifying acts of brutality, sexism and racism as expressions of a particular way of life that we have no right to measure with foreign, i.e. Western values.”

A scholar of Žižek’s repute can indulge in some more word games to create a dialectic therein, but the above postulation as a normative already exists in the mainstream. He merely fuels it by using it as a proposition, no matter what conclusion he derives at the end. For instance, it is already a widespread belief, thanks to the new-age atheists, that Islamic believers are intolerant brutes. This analysis based on Charlie Hebdo shooting is Islamophobic precisely because it does not take into account the hostile pattern in France towards Muslims as a historically gruesome reality. Hebdo incident was a reaction, not an initiation. The denial of Paris massacre of 1961 was for decades not considered an act of Christian terrorism. But come Hebdo, and it was suddenly Islamic terrorism. So much so that 54 people who exercised their free speech rights to defend the attack on Charlie Hebdo were arrested as “apologists for terrorism”.

In India too, we now witness branding of Mani Shankar Iyer, Salman Khurshid, Azam Khan and Shakeel Ahmad as apologists for terrorism, simply for failing to parrot the grand Eurocentric narrative that demands unconditional regrets over acts of terrorists of a specific faith – Islam. Not only one needs to condemn “Islamic terrorism” (Iyer has been criticized for being anti-Islamophobia instead of simply calling Paris attacks as terrorism), but in case of Ahmad’s tweet, one cannot bring in religion into picture to depict a terrorist who is a non-Muslim (Chhota Rajan as a Hindu terrorist is inadmissible because the “Hindu terrorism” is still a misnomer in India, just as “Christian terrorism” finds no usage in Europe/US).

Violence: Whose Prerogative?

As a lazy researcher, Žižek repeats the charges of “brutality, sexism and racism” against the anti-Islamophobes. A closer look at the global situation would reveal that these very features are tools of oppression for the ruling elites precisely everywhere in the world. Žižek does admit to the anti-immigrant racists in power while conceding slightly – but where he fails to discern the all-important distinction is the necessary Marxist critique that is completely absent in his analysis. Who gains from these weapons and who suffers? Islamophobia has been claiming lives world over, just as Eurocentric colonialism had been. Racism/sexism/brutality as state policies are radically different consequential tools compared to those as reactionary mechanisms with the subjects. Anti-colonialism which Žižek mocks, is not an ideology created to profit those who are suffering due to NATO’s Eurocentrism. It is a necessary tool to oppose all too-familiar colonial aggression about which both Fanon and Sarte have extensively written. But it is in no way a shield to protect values of brutality, sexism and racism – whose primary manufacturers and sustainers as such happen to be the former colonial masters.

What are the wars, whether “world war”, “cold war”, or “war on terror” – if not a front to prove who is the bigger champion of brutality, sexism and racism? Imperialist wars in the name of “war on terror” have been notorious in usage of tortures and brutality – sleep deprivation and waterboarding of prisoners; they have wrought nothing if not rapes of women as prized captures, and have achieved nothing if not ethnic cleansing. The “Torture Memos” advising the CIA to use enhanced interrogation techniques that are otherwise illegal, but are permissible under the pretext of “War on Terror” are revealing in this regard. Let alone, “Western values”, where is humanity in all of this?

Selective Humanity

Was any humanity there when Paris attacks happened? This has an expected answer: of course not, because no matter how ghastly the past maybe, nothing can justify the killing of innocent people who are watching a rock concert. However, this type of feel-good assertions are deeply problematic, in that they assume that violence of any sort is just immoral – when it occurs in France or in the United States. When Facebook activated a “Safety Check” button for folks who have relatives in France, to the exclusion of similar buttons for relatives of victims of terrorist attacks in Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iraq or Yemen, then there is something else to the “humanity” question that we subconsciously overlook.

It points directly to the dehumanization of black and brown people. While flags of many countries went half-mast in many countries to honor those who lost lives in France, and many monuments lit up with colors of French flags, there was no such display of official mournings by these countries when terrorist attacks were occurring in countries like Pakistan and Palestine and Lebanon. What explains this is a climate of extreme racism amidst media and their consumers in the world today, which in turn remains entirely Eurocentric. And this invalidates Žižek’s longing for the missing Eurocentric values. Indeed, the Eurocentric values themselves are central to this crisis, not alien.

The Eurocentric tears are in the backdrop of a denial that the countries worst affected by terror attacks are indeed Muslim countries themselves. According to Global Terrorism Index (GTI), in 2014, 82% of those killed in terror attacks were in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria. And ever since the “War on Terror” has been launched, the number of deaths from terrorism has in fact increased five-fold: from 3,361 deaths in 2000 to 17,958 in 2013.

Not only NATO member-states have suffered the least from terror attacks so far, more importantly, they have enabled terror organizations through direct funding and military assistance to “rebels” who have subsequently grown beyond their intended purpose (if at all). If Taliban was enabled by Reagan administration to destabilize the secular fabric of Afghanistan in an effort to contain the Soviets, and Al-Qaeda was funded to destroy Libya’s stability under Obama, it was Bush and subsequently Obama administration which were also responsible for funding the hate that produced ISIS at the first place. Thus far, these outfits have been causing significantly more havoc among the Islamic societies than in the NATO countries. It is to the credit of the Islamic countries that they are not only bravely fighting these terrorists who have been emboldened via foreign fundings, but these societies are also retaining a calm that is infinitely more surprising than it is praiseworthy.

The video clips of women and children on the streets of Baghdad beating their chests and cursing the aerial bombardments in search of the mysterious WMDs are not isolated ones. The Abu Gharib torture and Guantanamo Bay abuses are part and parcel of inhuman foreign policies instituted and indeed continued to this day by the NATO member states, principally led by the United States. To assume that there will be retaliations on part of those we have “othered”, is infinitely more prophetic, than it can ever be justified.

Glorification: Gun, bombs and violence

Gandhi did remind us once: “an eye for an eye only ends up making the world world blind”. And he was right. We are headed that way. But if we must take shelter in Gandhian ideals, then we should be in a position to condemn violence in all its manifestations. It is wrong when people take up arms and aimlessly shoot others. And it is all the more evil when the state uses military force to strategically eliminate innocent people of foreign lands under the pretext of killing a select few terrorists. Violence needs to be treated as bad each time one violates the principle of non-violence. One cannot endorse political parties that retaliate swiftly with drones and indiscriminate shootings and then blame a handful of terrorists for what was coming. One cannot remain indifferent when people are bombed to deaths in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Libya and then get all teary-eyed at Paris shootings.

ISIS has spared none and has been criticized by all sections and people across all religions. Precisely due to this then it is like the inspector who called in; the conscience gone wrong, horribly wrong. ISIS aside, the deaths of innocent beings in Paris still must be looked within the prism of manifestation of reactions. Waterboarding and torture tactics done by NATO folks are equally evil, more so, because they are carried out in the name of taxpayers. As citizens, we partake in the glorification of militarist exhibitionisms. Our violent-prone culture is such that the decorated war hero of Indian origin in Canada is actually being applauded for being a “badass” defence minister because some reports suggest he is expert at torturing enemies. One Putin meme is circulated widely because it shows Putin saying he can send the terrorists to the God. Killing of human lives whether through capital punishment or via cop “encounters” are cheered by enthused citizenry. Indeed, the foremost patriotic song of India that make us emotional has these lines, “Thi khun se lath path kaaya, phir bhee banduk uthaake // Das das ko ek ne maara, phir gir gaye hosh ganvaake”.

Gandhian/Buddhist/Christian values do not distinguish between people as they do between values. What sort of violent world we are building up for the future generations depend on our endorsements of terror tactics or opposition to them, regardless of who is the perpetrator. As long as we use guns and bombs and drones as tools to resolve crisis, both the state and non-state agencies will take the cues and up their games in the contests within the ambit of conventional warfare/terrorism. When police officers can be awarded in India with medals who torture and sexually abuse women prisoners like Soni Sori, then we have a real lack of humane values. Against the backdrop of violence and flaunting of “license to kill”, from Singham to James Bond, our popular culture overflows with justifications for gory violence to end all ills.

A few months ago, one of my articles opposing death penalty for Yakub Memon had invited the wrath of the lynch mob, one member of whom publicly stated on a Facebook page that I should be handed over to the RAW for torturous interrogation so that I can confess to my ties with terrorist groups of Pakistan. The audacity to make such serious remarks in such casual fashion points to the level of normalization in ourselves regarding the acceptance of terror tactics, and any tool of violence as a legitimate measure to win even an argument.

Unsurprisingly and not entirely unrelated to the issue of terrorism in civilized lands, the gun violence in United States does demand special attention. In this year alone, from gun violence, 11,696 have dies so far, and 23,787 have suffered injuries. There have been 293 incidents of mass shootings within last ten months. 627 children (age 0-11) and 2,329 teenagers (age 12-17) have lost their lives so far. Violence has become not just commonplace, but also the preferred method to reach a resolution.

However, not all violences are condemned and therefore gun violence is not taken as seriously within the United States. That is because, unfortunately in the current world, which of the mass shootings are acts of terrorism indeed depends on the religion of the perpetrator than on the nature of shooting. And the spiraling silence around this prejudice, while pitiless responses await innocent civilians outside the zone of NATO member states, should have been disturbing us even all the more. Alas, thanks to an Eurocentric world, we still need an imperialist narrative to define what should be considered to be terrorizing us today.

(Written for Kindle Magazine)

Meritocratic Jury

(In the backdrop of Supreme Court of India’s bench comprising Justice Misra and Justice Pant citing national interest to scrap quota in higher education institutions)

 

Looks like you have the merit –
Birthright of the nationalist.
Wearing that Sacred Thread.
Making a call to daddy’s
old boys network every now & then.
Misra uncles and Pant uncles
And their colleague uncles.
Uncle’s uncles. Bhagwat uncles.
Generationally scholarly.
Proud Indian Hindus.
Feeling the national interests
Merit runs in their veins.

Your access not denied
to the temples.
Of gods and sacred texts.
Interpreted by
sacrosanct gatekeepers.
High Court
Jagannath Temple
Supreme Court
Meenakshi Temple.
Looks like you have the merit
To determine the fate
of those you get to oppress.
Alas.
Cannot reverse the caste,
whose virtues and vices –
are determined at birth.
No automatic entry
Into life of dignity.
But Hinduism is not religion.
Just a way of life.
Savarna – Salvation.
Dalit – Damnation.

No fault of Brahmins –
Just born that way.
Conspiracy of the galaxy
Coming together of forces
To offer them higher birth
infinite inborn meritocracy.

Being born a Brahmin
Is it a reservation –
Or is it a merit?
Who gets to answer?
The Brahmin himself.
The enlightened one.
So, end of argument.
Dialogues among his peers.
Their judicial reviews, their revisions.
Recommendations. Directions.
Judgements. Death penalties.
Fake penalties. Bail penalties.
End of reservations.

High priests of justice
Enlightened enough
to believe in no caste.
They create caste, they dispose caste.
Just a state of mind.
Situationally enlightened sign.

Unlike, those that decide
to liberate themselves,
for their own interests.
Not for the Brahmin nation’s –
sacred temples
sacred cows
sacred courts
sacred definition of merit.
A nation of monopolists
over professions of science,
law, medical, engineering,
historical lies.
All things intellectual,
no things scavengential.

Looks like you have passed
the Brahmin-Savarna IQ Test.
Standardizing the merit –
since the founding of
the Hindu religion,
not the disease.
Working to promote
the national interest,
not nepotism.
Feeding the country’s
collective conscience,
not meritorious lynching.

 

– Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet, 2015