Between Iran and an American invasion

…lies a small West Bengal village

…lies a West Bengal village

Who would have thought?

(link via email from Salil Tripathi)

***

When informed that a certain prize-winning novelist’s name is missing from the list of signatories, Salil replies:

Ms Roy said a year ago, to Tehelka, that she now doesn’t believe in Gandhian tactics; violence is needed. (But since that could mean getting killed, and not just doing the killing, I presume she’s taken herself off activism, and is writing another novel, to add to her repertoire of fiction – God of Small Things, Algebra of Infinite Justice, Greater Common Good, and all other great works of fiction she has written over the years).

As Navdeep Suri, former Indian government spokesman at the Indian High Commission in Britain put it so eloquently a few years ago during a BBC interview: “Arundhati Roy is India’s pride and is a fine fiction writer.”

31 thoughts on “Between Iran and an American invasion”

  1. From Tehelka’s interview with Arundhati Roy (via ZMag):

    Q: You once remarked that though you may not resort to violence yourself, you think it has become immoral to condemn it, given the circumstances in the country. Can you elaborate on this view?

    Roy: I’d be a liability as a guerrilla! I doubt I used the word ‘immoral’ — morality is an elusive business, as changeable as the weather. What I feel is this: non-violent movements have knocked at the door of every democratic institution in this country for decades, and have been spurned and humiliated. Look at the Bhopal gas victims, the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The nba had a lot going for it — high-profile leadership, media coverage, more resources than any other mass movement. What went wrong? People are bound to want to rethink strategy. When Sonia Gandhi begins to promote satyagraha at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it’s time for us to sit up and think. For example, is mass civil disobedience possible within the structure of a democratic nation state? Is it possible in the age of disinformation and corporate-controlled mass media?

    There was a time when mass movements looked to the courts for justice. The courts have rained down a series of judgments that are so unjust, so insulting to the poor in the language they use, they take your breath away.

    In a climate like this, when people feel that they are being worn down, exhausted by these interminable ‘democratic’ processes, only to be eventually humiliated, what are they supposed to do? Of course it isn’t as though the only options are binary — violence versus non-violence. There are political parties that believe in armed struggle but only as one part of their overall political strategy. Political workers in these struggles have been dealt with brutally, killed, beaten, imprisoned under false charges. People are fully aware that to take to arms is to call down upon yourself the myriad forms of the violence of the Indian State. The minute armed struggle becomes a strategy, your whole world shrinks and the colors fade to black and white. But when people decide to take that step because every other option has ended in despair, should we condemn them? Does anyone believe that if the people of Nandigram had held a dharna and sung songs, the West Bengal government would have backed down? We are living in times when to be ineffective is to support the status quo (which no doubt suits some of us). And being effective comes at a terrible price. I find it hard to condemn people who are prepared to pay that price.

  2. Looks like a split between the Chomsky faction and the Roy faction. The Roy faction now believes in a violent revolution with the Maoists on the vanguard.

  3. The Roy faction now believes in a violent revolution with the Maoists on the vanguard.

    And the Roy faction is the vanguard of the Chomsky faction?

  4. Like Bhasmasura, the commies are now self – destructing. She seceded from India after the 1998 nuclear tests. Said so and claimed to be an “independent mobile republic”. Now she has broken away from that sinking commie boat too.

    Thanks Nitin, you just made my day!

  5. It comes full circle…now the opposition to nuclear deal by the commies becomes even more clear – it isn’t just about the Chinese, it’s also about commies in the west. Interesting…

    What’s also interesting is the books these guys wrote – corporations control media?

  6. Commies are self destructing? Call someone a pinko commie and kill off the whole argument. Convenient.

    Chandra:

    You seem to be very surprised by what these “commies” wrote about corporations and their control by the media. Why so, can I ask? Have you read the book “Manufacturing Consent” or “Hegemony and Survival” by Chomsky?

    And I don’t quite understand what point this post is trying to make. The title itself seems very disingenuous. What was wrong about this statement by Chomsky:

    We are faced with a world power that has demolished one state (Iraq) and is now threatening another (Iran). This is not the time for division when the basis of division no longer appears to exist.

    I will wait for someone to call me a pinko commie Chomsky supporter now. *taps foot.*

  7. Aman, I haven’t read any Chomsky’s book but I listened to him at length at number of occasions and was completely befuddled as to why people take him seriously. His circular arguments and his end state of state of things, if one considers seriously, is laughable. Is there one place the Chomsky doesn’t see a conspiracy?

    I bring up corporation ownership of media, which apparently means they don’t give space to left winger like Chomsky, because of the people who shameless co-signed the letter, which implied, btw, that it’s okay to hush hush the brutality of Nandigram because they have social experiments to run – sounds familiar(I am sure the close 100 million souls who perished during these experiments in the 20th century will remind one)? – published in The Hindu are all part of media conglomerates and got their rather insane books published by those same media conglomerates.

  8. Dear Aman

    From what I can tell from your comment, you are a Chomsky supporter. Pinko or not, it’s hard to tell. What’s ‘pinko’? 😀

  9. Chandra

    I would sincerely suggest you read “Manufacturing Consent” – a classic by Chomsky before judging the man. You also have to keep in mind where he is coming from and what shaped his view. I am not aware of your geographical location but if you know the state of the current media in the US, you would be hard pressed ignore the corporate ownership of the media propagating their corporate agendas. When the White House approves broadcasts on Faux and Coal industry tries banning and sometimes succeeds in preventing the airing of Global Warming reports, what do you call that? And this view of Chomsky is no longer in a minority. It is a majority point of view. Do read the book though. You won’t be disappointed provided you don’t read it with a preconceived bias.

    Nitin

    Yes, I am a Chomsky supporter. I do agree with him on a lot of things because most of what he has written has been about the hegemonic US designs across the world, a topic that fascinates me. I don’t however, subscribe to all his views on social issues. His and Arundhati Roy’s idealist views aren’t practical in the current world. That doesn’t mean they are wrong though.

    For clarity’s sake, let me state that I don’t think communism or socialism has any place in the current world we are living in. “Pinko” and commie go together in the US of A. Start having an argument with someone in the US and as soon as you espouse comparatively liberal views you’re called a “pinko commie” and thus ends the argument.

    From Wikipedia: Pinko is a derogatory term for a person regarded as sympathetic to Communism, though not necessarily a Communist Party member. The term has its origins in the notion that pink is a lighter shade of red, the color associated with communism; thus pink could be thought of as a “lighter form of communism” promoted by mere supporters of socialism who weren’t, themselves, “card-carrying” communists.

  10. Aman,

    Then Nick Cohen’s book is highly recommended for you.

    As for America’s hegemonic designs: Realists accept that as a given. The natural behaviour of all states in an anarchical international system is to attempt to hegemonise as much as they can. What you seek then is stability that comes from a balance of power. Talk to India’s neighbours and they’ll complain of India’s hegemonic designs. If showing up US hegemony is Chomsky’s and Roy’s greatest contribution to mankind, then they’re selling us a truism.

  11. Aman

    An excerpt from my post on Nick Cohen’s book:
    One little bit from the book concerns Arundhati Roy. She, along with Chomsky, Tariq Ali and Harold Pinter, wrote an open letter to the editor of Ordfront, a Swedish magazine, in support of Diana Johnstone. Johnstone had defended Slobodan Milosevic and argued that there had been no genocide at Srebrenica..

  12. Nitin

    You and me might call it truism. Talk to a majority of Indians and see what they say. I sometimes feel ashamed that India is one of the few countries which still sees US in a largely positive light. The same is also true of a majority of Americans who feel the need to bring in pseudo patriotism and name calling. The underlying principles of the any nations foreign policy would obviously be the same in order to further their own interests. The way you go about it however, is what makes the difference. Also what matters are the underlying factors shaping your decisions.

    Iraq war- the so called War on Terror- what do you think this is being fought for? I don’t know the extent of your knowledge in this field but what do you know about the Military Industrial Complex in the US. Eisenhower warned against this but the military technological innovation was largely privatized in the US and this is the lobby pushing for more wars to sell more weapons and a continuation of conflicts. US interests are not the sole consideration for all the interventions and conflicts. I see the same thing happening in India and there is no doubt that with the defense sector being opened up to the private players it will lead to a spurt in innovation and self-reliance (maybe) but it is also worth remembering where the US ended up because of that. Not everything exported form the West should be considered progress.

    Ask any citizen in the US who occasionally decides to get his news from some other sources than govt mouthpieces like CNN and Faux and every one of them will tell you that democracy in US is a myth. Corporations have taken over.

    Watch this video – John Perkins – Author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman

    I will try to get my hands on the book you suggested. Will take some time though. A lot of reading to catch up on. Currently reading George Orwell’s – 1984 – another fascinating book.

    Btw, have you read any of Chomsky’s books? I find it very hard to believe that a person who advocates empowerment of people would defend genocide in the manner you have quoted.

    It has become fashionable to criticize people like Roy and Chomsky by just quoting one word – commies. Hardly anyone I have ever talked to has ever read one of his books. I find that strange sometimes.

  13. Aman,

    Talk to a majority of Indians and see what they say. I sometimes feel ashamed that India is one of the few countries which still sees US in a largely positive light.

    It turns out that a majority of Indians see the US in positive light. [For instance, see this post] Of course Chomsky would counter that this is because they are being fed propaganda by the capitalist controlled media and hence are misguided. Frankly, I think that is rather patronising, and I’ll politely tell him to stuff it.

    I find it very hard to believe that a person who advocates empowerment of people would defend genocide in the manner you have quoted.

    Drop reading Orwell. Start with Nick Cohen.

    As for your arguments about the US military industrial complex: please read Atanu Dey’s blog. He’ll give you a very coherent way to look at the issue that’s rather different from Chomsky’s.

  14. Chomsky’s thesis on the manufacture of consent is true. Except that 1) everybody is into this consent-manufacturing business, including Chomskytes and 2) corporations are not necessrily the ones sponsoring this manufacture. For example, in India, The Hindu is busy manufacturing consent for the actions of Communist governments in India and elsewhere (specifically China), NDTV is busy manufacturing consent for CPIM, Indian Express, IBN and Hindustan Times are busy manufacturing consent for the Congress government, ToI manufactures consent for anybody who compensates it for its labors etc,etc. It is just that leftwingers scream the loudest about the manufacture of consent, though they are far more gulitier than anybody of resorting to this practice. It’s like a member of a thieving gang shouting “thief, thief” to divert attention to elsewhere. Mitrokhin Archives showed that a good part of the Indian media was under KGB pay: why don’t we want to talk about this sort of manufacture of consent?

    Furthermore, the talk of corporations being behind all this manufacture is bakwaas, at any rate in India. The Hindu carries ads for luxury cars and swank apartment complexes — not exactly ads directed at the proles. Why are corporations willingly giving revenue to a paper whose virulent ideology, if it triumphs, leads to destruction of themselves?

    The situation is not simple or black and white as commies — yes, commies — would have us believe.

  15. Nitin and others:
    Reg. Chomsky’s support for Johnstone’s book, quoting from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2005/nov/17/theguardian.pressandpublishing :
    “..he told the Guardian that he supported Ms Johnstone’s rights to freedom of speech and that he had never denied the fact of the Srebrenica massacre.

    “Ms Brockes misrepresentation of Prof Chomsky’s views on Srebrenica stemmed from her misunderstanding of his support for Ms Johnstone,” the readers’ editor wrote.”
    Chomsky’s letter in full: http://www.chomsky.info/letters/20051113.htm

  16. Aman, all I can say is we have been through these arguments before. To say that because corporations own businesses, there is a remote control that controls the editorials is bogus. Until now I have not seen one US editor who says he/she was told what to do on a day-by-day basis. If Murdoch wants his point of view, the point of view becomes clear in London Times newspaper or cable news channel – there is no conspiracy there. Ditto with NYT. One really has to suspend belief that all the media is orchestrated by the government. It happens, but in communists countries like soviet union and current China or during dictatorships like Indira’s emergency or current Gen. Musharraf’s crackdown. Instead of reading Chomsky’s conspiracy books, consume the news for yourself and be your own judge. Finally, if Bush could control the media so much why is he rated in the low 20s – lowest rating ever for a president; and the congress even lower?

    With regards to suppressing global warming report, that’s Bush’s public policy position – he doesn’t believe in global warming. And the opposition beat up on him and made the report public. If that’s not democracy I don’t know what is – may be Ms. Roy violent revolution. Again world has been there and done that. wrt. Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex, are we still fighting the nazis? When Rumsfled wanted to shut down Crusader, a cold-war howitzer, the politicians over-rode him, not Bush, taking money from defence contractor lobby, because they wanted to protect jobs to protect their own seat. Do you even know how small the US military has become prior to 9/11? If you believe, like Ms. Roy believes, that CIA or someone else within US govt perpetrated 9/11, for bring back the US military, then let’s just stop here. You can continue reading Chomsky or who ever. After all, they have to make a living too.

    While I understand anyone can take any position they want, however silly, it always stuck me that once someone can write well, they automatically become crusaders of one kind or another. Chomsky is brilliant linguist and Ms. Roy, a so-so fictional writer (and I’ve read her first fiction). What makes them special, beyound that, fails me.

    Also, using a bit of Chomsky’s conspiracy theory, may be Indians have a favourable opinion of US not because they like American people/culture but because they like the land that produced the likes of Chomsky? May be then you don’t have agonize so much about, and be ashamed of, us stupid Indians.

  17. Chandra

    Have you watched Outfoxed? Did you read the news where a lot of scientists said they were censored because they were proponents and not opponents of Global Warming by the White House? Christian Amanpour said the same thing. Again, Chomsky when he says these things, he is primarily talking about US and that is not a fringe far left position. A lot of people say that.

    I see you are getting rather hostile and your tone is becoming rather condescending. So yes, lets stop as you suggested. It is surprising though that no one here seems to have read any of Chomsky’s books. I will end with some humour here. Seems like you need it. (Surprise, I can be be sarcastic and condescending too). George Carlin – One of the stand comic greats.

  18. Nitin

    Any response on jujung’s post?

    Also you never answered whether you have read any of Chomsky’s books. It seems very surprising that you would read a book that is critical of Chomsky without reading Chomsky himself- and by this I mean his books and not op-ed’s.

    I will check out Atanu’s blog, but you are assuming that I read only Chomsky with blinders on. Thats not very fair to me, is it? And then to call it “coherent” is the icing on the cake.

    I guess from now on I will be considered one of the “far left loonies” without any of the commentators knowing my position on a variety of issues. Why do I think someone above asked me to open my eyes and mind?

    Oldtimer

    Chomsky, when he talks of this stuff, it is primarily about the US. By the way what did you think of the US embassy and state dept getting involved in the Pepsi/Coke manufacturing plants controversy and almost dictating to India on what to do?

  19. Chandra

    This is my last comment, I promise. Just one question: How many false flag operations are you aware of in history? If you don’t quite know what false flag operations are – try this

    Clarification: I don’t believe either story is accurate enough when it comes to 9/11 and 7/7. So chill out 🙂

  20. Aman

    A discussion on a blog post is grossly unsatisfactory for a free ranging discussion that would pronounce a judgement on Chomsky’s life work. What we can say is that we exchange information about what we didn’t know. So I’ll thank anyone who brings illuminating facts into the discussion: jujung’s links, for instance. It caused me to look at Wikipedia which offers a good account of the episode.

    And like Chomsky’s life work, your personal description and competence is beside the point too. Oh sure, we can make recommendations, but what books I’ve read or you’ve read doesn’t count as much as what our arguments are. So let that not enter the calculus.

    All that about Chomsky is a nice intellectual exercise. We could assume that he is right about everything else. But this discussion is not about everything else.

    This post is about a letter where Chomsky & Co ask the Left to stand united so as to…prevent the US from attacking Iran! Now that implies a moral equivalence between the oppressors and victims of Nandigram. Rapist and victim, arsonist and victim, Murderer and widow, please make up in the interest of the greater cause! A fine morality on display, don’t you think?

  21. Aman, false flag is old war tactic. I am not really sure how that’s relevant here. I know our LoP friends and some silly Bharatiya analysts use it to throw conspiracy theories around when ever there is terrorist attack.

    With regards to my comments, there is no hostility towards anyone – just expressing my views, may be with a bit of exasperation.

  22. Nitin:

    Sure it counts Nitin. When you quote Nick Cohen’s book with a little excerpt suggesting how they exposed Chomsky as a liar, it does become relevant. It also becomes relevant when some comments question the whole premise of corporations controlling media and then I do have to bring in some of the books. The author of the comment and indeed others who discard those positions rather cavalierly have never even read the book and thus it is relevant that I ask them the question if they have read it or not. All that about Chomsky is a nice intellectual exercise. We could assume that he is right about everything else. But this discussion is not about everything else.
    OTH, I do agree with this statement of yours:

    We could assume that he is right about everything else. But this discussion is not about everything else.

    And maybe I was wrong, because rather than limiting my comment to your post, I allowed myself to get a little carried away and respond to some of the comments.

    This post is about a letter where Chomsky & Co ask the Left to stand united so as to…prevent the US from attacking Iran!

    This I find rather ridiculous. Is that really your position. Is there the slightest chance that Chomsky was asking like minded people on the left to stay strong and united. Is there a possibility that he was warning people of “divide et impera” in face of all that is going on in the world. I find that position of yours in the above statement disingenuous at best.

  23. Chomsky is a very crafty and unprincipled piece of …. “The Hindu” is a post-Stalinist authoritarian phenomenon, one where the very forces of status quo have come to make peace with the extremist rebels to create a new totalitarian order – much in the fashion of a Nazi/Fascist economy. It is amusing to see Khilaphatists/Calphatists themselves proponents of a regressive authoritarian dispensation make common cause with scoundrels from the communist establishment. Odious crooks, one and all. India and its well wishers should have nothing to do with such scumbags and garbage pails.

  24. Aman

    This I find rather ridiculous. Is that really your position. Is there the slightest chance that Chomsky was asking like minded people on the left to stay strong and united.

    Indeed it is ridiculous. And it’s not my position. It’s Chomsky’s. And from your rhetorical question, it appears to be yours too. Asking like-minded people on the left to stay united against what? America, Chomsky says. And at what cost? By asking offenders and victims to forget their differences. And this interpretation is disingenuous? I think not.

    So let’s take your word on Chomsky’s life works. And let’s focus on his open letter about Nandigram. The implied morality is reprehensible. Let’s remember that we are the country that has on the face of its currency notes a man who found such moral equivalences repugnant.

  25. Aman,

    Nobody has any dispute with their call for Leftist unity, it would actually help such unity if they based it on a more honest evaluation of the events that transpired at Nandigram including the abdication of responsibility from the state. Instead they seem to suggest, what’s a little scrap between brothers, when the big bad wolf is at –*Iran’s*– door?

    Have tangled on this blog already with my claims that there was a fair bit of violence from the BUPC end (greatbong’s very informative post at: http://greatbong.net/2007/11/21/the-killing-fields-of-bengal/) Maybe that’s what they were referring to with that rather weak and equi-equi call but it was not enough.

    And that stretch from division to invasion of Iran, arent you slightly embarrassed by it? That’s all the OP referred to – am not getting into various books and positions here.

    Thanks,
    Jai

  26. I don’t it in that manner at all. My interpretation of the statement is what I mentioned above. And there is no way for you to know that your interpretation is what he really meant. After reading about him a lot, I find it almost impossible to believe that he would be suggesting anything remotely close. At the same time, I can’t prove it and if the understanding of his letter in this manner prompted this post, I have to accept it.

    No I am not embarrassed by it Jai. It was a simple message I think and all it said was there are far more important things going on in the world and the need to be united.

    Anyway this is my last comment.

  27. Aman,

    How many readers of The Hindu would have ‘read him a lot’? If that number is small, and I’d bet you that it is, then wouldn’t most people simply take him at his word? No only is asking you to prove the true intents of his words, it’s sufficient if you accept that it’s likely that most people will read it the way I have.

  28. I don’t know Nitin and neither do you. We are both making assumptions here. I read it the way I mentioned above and you read it a different way and I didn’t even understand your interpretation of it until you “really” spelled it out for me. I would have never understood that was one way it could be interpreted.

    Sorry for the whole diatribe into the books and all – I will try to constrain my comments to the topic of the post from now on.

  29. FWIW,

    There is considerable lefty anger at the Chmosky-Zinn-et al. statement, emanating from Kafila.org and a counter-statement signed by among others Arundhati Roy -among other things the call for lefty unity is sent up. There are criticisms of Tariq Ali by self-declared lefty fellow travellers. All links thanks to Rahul’s (horadecubitus) blog post.

    regards,
    Jai

    http://www.kafila.org/2007/11/24/response-to-noam-chomsky-howard-zinn-et-al-on-nandigram/
    http://kunal-radicalblogger.blogspot.com/2007/11/open-letter-to-tariq-ali.html

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