A Reasoned Voice: Arundhati Roy

This post begins a series to recognize people that speak about the world in terms of what they observe and what they can prove.  Their voices stand out in the crowd.  In their words, they speak not of fantasy, delusion and rationalization.  Instead, they utilize the gifts of human cognition, awareness to observe what is here in the world around us.  They are not dogmatic, but analytic and take in the world ‘warts & all’ for what it is and what it is not.  They do not separate humankind from nature in any form of grandeur.  In short, they look at things the way they are and not what we would have them be.

Note: The term ‘reality’ is subjective because of differing perspectives from one person to another.  Our individual experiences with language, sensory perception and associative cognition all conspire to individuate and isolate us from each other.  The differences can range from miniscule to incomprehensible.

Then, there are shared agreements of ‘reality’ that occur nonetheless.  We can look at a mass grave and all agree that there are dead people there.

Given all of this, it’s a wonder we communicate at all.

On to Arundhati Roy.  I first learned of her this year.  John Cusack quoted her in this article about his film “War, Inc.”

As Arundhati Roy says, we need to lay siege to empire with everything we’ve got. You know? Deprive it of oxygen, shame it, mock it, tell our own stories. This corporatist revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they’re selling … their ideas, their wars, their notion of inevitability.

Something in her calling out the Empire and naming the strategy to defeat it in terms of laying siege, strongly resonated within me.  I looked her up on teh Google. I found writings, videos and many, many opinions about her.

Arundhati Roy is a person standing up in the face of military empire armed only with unbending commitment for the good of us all.  She screams for the world to hear without screaming and is heard through the chaos.  She fights armies with words and is undeterred.  She opposes tyranny and calls the liar a liar.  She has used the gift of human existence – her mind to take the world in and relate to it for what it is.

Her position in the world societies is often assumed to be the weakest and most frail.  Our world governments, economies, mythology and family models are all built around empires and bullies.  The strong dominate the weak.  Bullies get their way.  Brutality, murder and threats of them both are woven into every new and old relationship.  Call it tradition, God’s will or Natural Law – it all amounts to taking by force.

She is a woman without a gun openly declaring herself as the enemy of Empire.  All empires.  She calls us to come together in both the present and the future, where we are and where we will be.  She stands in the face of guns, religious intolerance and brainwashing, centuries upon centuries of patriarchal society, ignorance, hatred, greed and fear.  LIke the fierce determination of the students standing up to Chinese Army tanks in Tiananmen Square, she is standing up for Humanity; hers and ours.

Her voice stands out in the crowd because she is calling us to acknowledge the world as it is and to reason together for the good of us all.  She is neither selling nor buying.

I highly recommend that you take in as much of her writing and speaking as you can.  Here are a few that I can point you to for starters.  She has written several books, including the Booker Prize winning The God of Small Things.  There are better literary reviewers than myself, so I will embarrass myself with such an attempt.  I will suggest that you read The God of Small Things.  I have and found it wonderful, intimate and poignant.

I will discuss as example today, two of her public statements about the world we live in.  They are about separate incidents and different countries but they point to a shared struggle between dogma and sanity.  Between irrational insanity leading to the ruin of us all and reasoned choice as a way to find our way together.

This talk was given here in the United States.  Ms. Roy speaking as “a slave who presumes to criticize her King”.

In this work, Aruhdhati Roy calls out the Imperial structure, intentions and horrific results of the United States.  She points to common threads of empires in our time: millions of people crushed by poverty, bloodshed and suffering.  Their plight made invisible by the lies of corporate owned governments or simply erased by the global epidemic of wars.

She rightly identifies the connection between the responsibilities of the citizen for its government and how the bloodshed caused by corrupt leaders is shared by we who elect them and stand by pretending to be helpless.

So here it is – the World’s Greatest Democracy, led by a man who was not legally elected. America’s Supreme Court gifted him his job. What price have American people paid for this spurious presidency?

In the three years of George Bush the Lesser’s term, the American economy has lost more than two million jobs. Outlandish military expenses, corporate welfare, and tax giveaways to the rich have created a financial crisis for the U.S. educational system. According to a survey by the National Council of State Legislatures, U.S. states cut 49 billion dollars in public services, health, welfare benefits, and education in 2002. They plan to cut another 25.7 billion dollars this year. That makes a total of 75 billion dollars. Bush’s initial budget request to Congress to finance the war in Iraq was 80 billion dollars.

So who’s paying for the war? America’s poor. Its students, its unemployed, its single mothers, its hospital and home-care patients, its teachers, and health workers.

She also states rather clearly, the all too common formula used to gain wealth for the empire and nothing for anyone else:

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft recently declared that U.S. freedoms are “not the grant of any government or document, but….our endowment from God.” (Why bother with the United Nations when God himself is on hand?)

So here we are, the people of the world, confronted with an Empire armed with a mandate from heaven (and, as added insurance, the most formidable arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in history). Here we are, confronted with an Empire that has conferred upon itself the right to go to war at will, and the right to deliver people from corrupting ideologies, from religious fundamentalists, dictators, sexism, and poverty by the age-old, tried-and-tested practice of extermination. Empire is on the move, and Democracy is its sly new war cry. Democracy, home-delivered to your doorstep by daisy cutters. Death is a small price for people to pay for the privilege of sampling this new product: Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (bring to a boil, add oil, then bomb).

The context of this occasion was the war in Iraq but it includes demonstrations of Empire across the globe.  In so doing, she outlines the war we are all in: the battle between humankind’s survival vs. the destructive, insatiable hunger of Empire.

She posted this a while ago, regarding the ramifications of choosing the context for understanding the recent massacre in Mumbai.

Speaking this time from her home nation and through the means of the blogosphere, she points to the very real choice faced by India and the world in how best to interpret and act upon the violence.

She points to an alarming disintegration of thorough, independent journalism.  The media seems to have become a drum for the right-wing proponents of military police states.  Independent thought, educated discourse are being assaulted as unpatriotic in an effort to railroad power into the hands of those that helped cause the conditions that led to the massacre in the first place.

Through the endless hours of analysis and the endless op-ed essays, in India at least, there has been very little mention of the elephants in the room: Kashmir, Gujarat, and the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Instead, we had retired diplomats and strategic experts debate the pros and cons of a war against Pakistan. We had the rich threatening not to pay their taxes unless their security was guaranteed. (Is it alright for the poor to remain unprotected?) We had people suggest that the government step down and each state in India be handed over to a separate corporation.

She covers in lucid detail, the consequences of choosing between understanding the conditions that caused the massacre or ignoring them for the same dogmatic blindness that is one of the causes.

She also sums up quickly, the very real world we find ourselves living in and the grim near-future.

We have a hostile nuclear-weapons state that is slowly spinning out of control as a neighbor; we have a military occupation in Kashmir and a shamefully persecuted, impoverished minority of more than 150 million Muslims who are being targeted as a community and pushed to the wall, whose young see no justice on the horizon, and who, were they to totally lose hope and radicalize, will end up as a threat not just to India, but to the whole world.

If 10 men can hold off the NSG commandos and the police for three days, and if it takes half a million soldiers to hold down the Kashmir valley, do the math. What kind of Homeland Security can secure India?

She points to the need to face the hard truths of how India and the many nations involved arrived in the current economic and political crisis.

To conclude this post, I wish to acknowledge Arundhati Roy for her single greatest contribution and her most powerful weapon in the ‘siege upon Empire’ – the invitation to join her.  So many tools in the service of Empire sell us the message of our selves as helpless.  By standing forcefully in the way of Empire, Ms. Roy is an invitation to us all to free ourselves from the shackles of Empire and the rituals of greed.

The place we are called to is a shared reality in which we are all stakeholders in the continued life or humans and everything else on Earth.  She does not believe that we will arrive in a stable society by embracing dogma.  Not only is she asking for help, she is stating that we are actively helping ourselves by thinking or we are passively assisting the Empire.

In reply to her call, I declare that I have heard her call and my answer is ‘yes, I stand with you to oppose empire’.  I invite my readers to make the same choice for the good of us all.

– arvan

Jaded16’s Note: Who knew White Dudes could speak more than sensibly about Dusty Ladies? If you thought this was in improbable event, I’d like you to check if your head is still there on your shoulders. Speaking of things that are still there, you know what page is still there? The Open Guest Posting Page of course!



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1 Comment

  1. I too recently discovered Arundhati Roy while clearing bookshelves. I have yet to read the God of Small Things but I should, soon.

    One small note though: Tiananmen Square itself is a carefully framed narrative. I know someone who was there and the students had mostly left well before the tanks arrived. The people killed were the proletariat, ordinary Beijing citizens, who were purportedly the original targets.

    I guess I’m saying: We don’t know. We really don’t. & so shouldn’t assume.


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