When you live in the United States, with the roar of the free market, the roar of this huge military power, the roar of being at the heart of empire, it’s hard to hear the whispering of the rest of the world. And I think many U.S. citizens want to. I don’t think that all of them necessarily are co-conspirators in this concept of empire. And those who are not, need to listen to other stories in the world – other voices, other people.
Under the shelter of the U.S. government’s rhetoric about the war against terror, politicians the world over have decided that this technique is their best way of settling old scores. So whether it’s the Russian government hunting down the Chechens, or Ariel Sharon in Palestine, or the Indian government carrying out its fascist agenda against Muslims, particularly in Kashmir, everybody’s borrowing the rhetoric. They are all fitting their mouths around George Bush’s bloody words.
After the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, the Indian government blamed Pakistan (with no evidence to back its claim) and moved all its soldiers to the border. War is now considered a legitimate reaction to terrorist strikes. Now through the hottest summers, through the bleakest winters, we have a million armed men on hair-trigger alert facing each other on the border between India and Pakistan. They’ve been on red alert for months together. India and Pakistan are threatening each other with nuclear annihilation. So, in effect, terrorists now have the power to ignite war. They almost have their finger on the nuclear button. They almost have the status of heads of state. And that has enhanced the effectiveness and romance of terrorism.
The U.S. government’s response to September 11 has actually privileged terrorism. It has given it a huge impetus, and made it look like terrorism is the only effective way to be heard. Over the years, every kind of nonviolent resistance movement has been crushed, ignored, kicked aside. But if you’re a terrorist, you have a great chance of being negotiated with, of being on TV, of getting all the attention you couldn’t have dreamt of earlier.
(…) The policies the U.S. government is following are dangerous for its citizens. It’s true that you can bomb or buy out anybody that you want to, but you can’t control the rage that’s building in the world. You just can’t. And that rage will express itself in some way or the other. Condemning violence is not going to be enough. How can you condemn violence when a section of your economy is based on selling weapons and making bombs and piling up chemical and biological weapons? When the soul of your culture worships violence? On what grounds are you going to condemn terrorism, unless you change your attitude toward violence?
ARUNDATHI ROY. The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile – Conversations With David Barsamian, Foreword by Naomi Klein. South End Press. Published in 2004. p. 51/52 & 117. Available at Toronto Public Library.
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“The one fact that shocked me was that Noam Chomsky had searched mainstream U.S. media for 22 years for a single reference to American aggression in South Vietnam, and had found none. (…) I’m still taken aback at the extent of indoctrination and propaganda in the United States. It is as if people there are being reared in a sort of altered reality, like broiler chickens or pigs in a pen. (…) Reading Chomsky gave me an idea of how unfree the free world is, really. How uninformed. How indoctrinated.
There was a poignant moment in an old interview by Chomsky when he talked about being a 15 year old boy when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He said that there wasn’t a single person with whom he could share his outrage. And that struck me as a most extreme form of loneliness. It was a loneliness which evidently nurtured a mind that was not willing to align itself with any ideology.”
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“If you look at the logic underlaying an act of terrorism and the logic underlaying a retaliatory war against terrorism, they are the same. Both terrorists and governments make ordinary people pay for the actions of their governments. Osama Bin Laden is making people pay for the actions of the U.S. State, wheter it’s in Saudi Arabia, Palestine, or Afghanistan. The U.S. government is making the people of Iraq pay for the actions of Saddam Hussein. The people of Afghanistan pay for the crimes of the Taliban. The logic is the same.
Osama Bin Laden and George Bush are both terrorists. They are both building international networks that perpetrate terror and devastate people’s lives. Bush, with the Pentagon, the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank. Osama Bin Laden with Al Qaeda. The difference is that nobody elected Bin Laden. Bush was elected (in a manner of speaking), so U.S. citizens are more responsible for his actions than Iraqis are for the actions of Saddam Hussein or Afghan for the Taliban. And yet hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans have been killed, either by economic sanctions or cruise missiles, and we’re told that this deaths are the result of “just wars” If there is such a thing as a just war, who is to decide what is just and what is not? Whose God is going to decide that?
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“We belong nowhere”, Chako said. “We sail unanchored on troubled seas. We may never be allowed ashore. Our sorrows will never be sad enough. Our joys never happy enough. Our dreams never big enough. Our lives never important enough. To matter.”
Then, to give the twins Estha and Rahel a sense of Historical Perspective, he told them about the Earth Woman. He made them imagine that the earth – 4600 million years old – was a 46-year-old woman. It had taken the whole of the Earth Woman’s life for the earth to become what it was. For the oceans to part. For the mountains to rise. The Earth Woman was 11 years old, Chacko said, when the first single-celled organisms appeared. The first animals, creatures like worms and jellyfish, appeared only when she was 40. She was over 45 – just 8 months ago – when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
“The whole of human civilization as we know it”, Chacko told the twins, “began only 2 hours ago in the Earth Woman’s life.”
It was an awe-inspiring and humbling thought, Chacko said, that the whole of contemporary history, the World War, the War of Dreams, the Man on the Moon, science, literature, philosophy, the pursuit of knowledge – was no more than a blink of the Earth Woman’s eye.
“And we, my dears, everything we are and ever will be are just a twinkle in her eye…”
ARUNDHATI ROY, The God Of Small Things (1997).
Winner of the Booker Prize 1998.
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In 1997, Arundhati Roy’s first novel “The God of Small Things” made her the first Indian woman to win the prestigious Booker Prize. More than six million copies of the book were sold worldwide.
Since then, she has turned her pen to politics. During the Bush years, she was a fierce critic, calling the invasion of Afghanistan “an act of terror on the people of the world”.
In India, she has campaigned against mega dams projects, denounced the rise of Hindu nationalism, and has been imprisoned by the Supreme Court of India for “corrupting public morality”.
Her latest essay describes her trip into the heart of India’s Maoist insurgency, the movement that India’s government has launched a major military campaign to crush…
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