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God … I miss the Soviet Union

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Anand Giridharadas buries a verbal hatchet into Amazon’s back – and his own two feet.

Is Anand trying to tell us that Americans were earlier all Santa Claus? (Cartoon by Jeff Stahler; 9/21/2011; source and courtesy - cagle.com). Click for larger image.

Is Anand trying to tell us that Americans were earlier all Santa Claus? (Cartoon by Jeff Stahler; 9/21/2011; source and courtesy - cagle.com). Click for larger image.

The prevailing American story line is seething anger at politicians: they’re corrupt, or heartless, or socialist, or dumb. But many other recent developments, suggest that the problem is significantly deeper.It is becoming a country in which people more than disagree. They fail to see each other. They think in types about others, and assume the worst of types not their own.

It takes some effort these days to remember that the United States is still one nation.

It doesn’t feel like one nation when a company like Amazon, with such resources to its name, treats vulnerable people so badly just because it can. Or when members of a presidential debate audience cheer for a hypothetical 30-year-old man to die because he lacks health insurance. Or when schoolteachers in Chicago cling to their union perks and resist an effort to lengthen the hours of instruction for children that the system is failing. Or when an activist publicly labels the U.S. military, recently made safe for open homosexuals, a “San Francisco military.” Or when most of the television pundits go on with prefabricated scripts to eviscerate their rivals, instead of doing us the honor of actually thinking.

The more I travel, the more I observe that Americans are becoming foreigners to each other. People in Texas speak of people in New York the way certain Sunnis speak of Shiites, and vice versa in New York. Many liberals I know take for granted that anyone conservative is either racist or under-informed. People who run companies like Amazon operate as though it never occurred to them that it could have been them crawling through the aisles. And the people who run labor unions possess little empathy for how difficult and risky and remarkable it is to build something like Amazon.

What is creeping into the culture is simple dehumanization, a failure to imagine the lives others lead. Fellow citizens become caricatures. People retreat into their own safe realms. And decency, that great American virtue, falls away. (via The Fraying of a Nation’s Decency – NYTimes.com).

Your Grace Spreads Darkness

Anand Giridharadas’ and his enlightened ideas have graced the web-pages of this blog earleir. His ideas continue to shine through – creating darkness, where there was no light. Had it been a good-natured, red-neck American who was writing this kind of tripe, it would have been understandable.

But Anand Giridharadas?

Graduate from an American University, journalist with IHT, for sometime consultant with McKinsey, whose articles gets reprinted in NYT. Whose books are sold on Amazon.

Surprising!

Talking Your Walk

First and foremost. Anand Giridharadas on the way some Sunnis speak about Shias. It is the same as some Americans speak about Muslims – or anyone or anything else. Like certain ‘Whites’ speak of ‘Blacks’. Or about obese people. No different. Why does he specify Sunnis and Shias, I could not fathom. Unless he is treading the beaten path of demonizing politically, unpopular people.

If Anand Giridharadas wants to talk of dehumanization, it unfortunately, does not stop at Others, or at American borders – or short of Muslims. It starts with You.

Humanity, by the way, is universal. वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम, vasudhaiva kutumbakam (meaning “vasudha”, the earth; “eva” = emphasizer and “kutumbakam”, “family”)is sumtin dat Anand Giridharadas, noz nuttin abot.

Said One WASP To Another

Coming to American decency.

I am sure that if Anand Giridharadas goes through some old copies of NYT, he will espy prejudices and discrimination against the Irish, the Polacks and the Eye-Talians. Dare I remind Bro Anand Giridharadas how the name of another Eye-Talian Bro has been rubbed out from history books. The man who gave Jefferson the ideas. The same ideas that Jefferson stumbled upon, while dining alone, and is today famous for.

The WASP Americans were also building character. Of the Native Americans, African-Americans, Chinese, Germans, 'Eye-Talians', Irish, 'Polacks', Jews, and others. Can their decency be doubted? (Cartoon by David Horsey; September 2008; source and courtesy - http://revart.blogs.com). Click for larger image.

The WASP Americans were also building character. Of the Native Americans, African-Americans, Chinese, Germans, 'Eye-Talians', Irish, 'Polacks', Jews, and others. Can their decency be doubted? (Cartoon by David Horsey; September 2008; source and courtesy - http://revart.blogs.com). Click for larger image.

Before the Irish, Poles and the Italians, we had the Americans who had certain kind of thoughts about Chinese labour. More recently the Mexicans may give Anand Giridharadas some ideas on American decency. I will not even start on talking to African-American or the Native-American chapters on American decency.

How Anand Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life

He might want to look up NYT archives on Thind vs United States (1923). By the way, Thind maybe the reason, why Anand can call himself an American today. Labour shortage, after WWII, was another reason.

His exalted opinion of the American people is surely wishful thinking.

The Organization Man

The third point is surely he should do some reading on the corporate environment in the 1930s and 1950s – to what was called the period of the Organization Man – the quintessential Company Man and his behaviour. The book warns that corporate culture may induce ‘individuals (to) sacrifice their personal beliefs, initiative, and imagination in order to belong.’ Writen in 1956, by William Hollingsworth Whyte, for sometime Assistant Managing editor with Fortune magazine, the chapter on Scientism,has been a useful template against flummery.

After Whyte, Scientism became ‘not Science! It is not Fact. It is Faith —in beliefs that are unsupported by Facts and Evidence’. Before him, in the 19th century, Scientism, was in fact scientific thinking – and people were warned of ‘boastful and blatant scientism and naturalism which does not hesitate dogmatically to negative the doctrines of faith.’

Industrial societies … Before and After

Whyte’s  narrative of the Ecole Polytechnique, partly explains the modern French ‘success’ with public sector. The less hopeful, greyer and bleaker version of Whyte would be Barbara Ehrenreich – whose books, Nickel and Dimed (2001) and Bait and Switch (2005) have explored the world of the American Unemployed.

Easier still, and for earlier accounts, he can read Charles Dickens (for British equivalent of the American Factory era), or see some Charlie Chaplin movies. I would especially recommend Modern Times to him. Even Roald Dahl’s, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory would give him a taste of the Amazon’s earlier avataars. He will realize that the front face of companies like Amazon, the gloss, glaze and polish, is maya.

At the end of it all, I am reminded of a doha by Goswani Tulsidas.

तेरे भावे जो करा, भला बुरो संसार | नारायण तू बैठ कर, अपनो भुवन बुहार||
Do whatever pleases you, forget about pointing fingers at the world;
You (who are in God’ image) sit down and first sweep your own house clean.

In search of post-racial fiction

Elephants in the room!

Elephants in the room!

The Help has its heart in the right place, and its “White” imagining of the Black women’s voice springs from an authenticity which only a personal experience could have supplied. In a moving afterword, Stockett reveals how she never understood the silent suffering of her own Black maid until long after her death which happened when Stockett was 16.

However, the book must be accused of borrowed characterisation. Consider Aibileen who matches every stereotype one may harbour about Black people, not seeing the irony of her observation when she meets one of the White kids, now grown up, she tended to:

“And how I told him don’t drink coffee or he gone turn colored. He say he still ain’t drunk a cup of coffee and he twenty-one years old. It’s always nice seeing the kids grown up fine.”

This description, and many such, made me uncomfortable, because they play into the mythologised image of the long-suffering Black — the gentle sacrifice, the immense capacity for self-denial. Why are Blacks, unless they drive the plot, so devoid of ill will in novels about racism? How does Aibileen stand being good to the children she raises, knowing fully well that they will grow up to become dyed-in-the-wool racists? (via In search of post-racial fiction).

This observation I like. Elephants in the room! Very similar to the myth of the ‘non-violent struggle for Indian independence.’ I wonder how much this works.

When tribal women came out and take on the might of the Indian State, one thing you can be sure of! India(ns) does not believe in non-violence – at any cost. There is point beyond which, Indians will not look at the cost and price – but only the value.

Lalgarh proved that!

Voting your caste

March 16, 2009 5 comments

When Yumm-Rika votes as Latinos, WASPS, Blacks, Asians, Gender, Age it is demographics. In India it becomes caste-system..

As Bal Thackeray once said, Indians don’t just cast their vote.

As Indians prepare not to cast their vote but “vote their caste”, as Bal Thackeray once said, our sadhus and sanyasis, mahants and maulvis, pundits and preachers must be rubbing their hands in glee.

Folk faith was common in the West too until the Age of Enlightenment and then the new economic order introduced by the Industrial Revolution led to mass education and material advance. That precursor of mental development encouraged the masses to aspire to elitist heights of thought and culture. In contrast, our elite is sinking to the level of the masses. India may lead the world in Information Technology and be able to send a man to the Moon, but the influence that the successors of Dhirendra Brahmachari and Chandra Swamy are increasingly gaining suggests that the intellectual revolution that is the essential key to modernity has passed us by. (via Sunanda K Datta-Ray: Voting your caste).

Caste by another name ...

Caste by another name …

Advanced West vs ignorant Indians

Now the US votes on the basis of gender (more women voters do vote for democrats), color (more Hispanics and African Americans generally vote Democrats), age (younger voters are traditionally democrats in larger numbers), religion (only one Catholic has become a US President), race (only WASP – White Anglo Saxon Protestants allowed real power).

Now Sunanda Datta K. Ray is a bad case of vacillation – sometimes pathos and sometimes bathos. Some of his columns (Have you eaten?) is memorable for its breadth – and then you see this kind of ignorance.

In US societal divisions are called demographics and is a matter of high academic interest.(click on this link to see an interesting device to gauge demographic effects in US elections). In India, the West uses a pejorative called the caste system. The US system has ensured that the US voter gets more (Republican) or less (Democrats) of the same swill. What choice does the US voter have? The Indian voter has created a choice for himself by voting for a wide range of issues, agendas and parties.

But then the Indian voter is unlettered, ‘uneducated’ and does not speak English – and Sunanda K. Datta Ray is possibly vernacularly challenged!!


Change in Voting-Age Population (VAP), 2000-2007: Selected Battleground States in 2008

State Total VAP increase Hispanic VAP increase
Share of Total VAP Increase
Selected racial/ethnic groups Metropolitan areas
Traditionally Republican States
Colorado 15% 32% Hispanics: 32% 47% in Denver
North Carolina 12% 53% African Americans: 23%
Hispanics: 18%
29% in Raleigh-Durham
25% in Charlotte
Virginia 10% 51% Hispanics: 21%
African Americans: 21%
Asian Americans: 15%
47% in Northern Virginia
(including exurbs)
Traditionally Democratic States
Pennsylvania 3% 44% Hispanics: 38%
African Americans: 24%
Asian Americans: 20%
40% in Philadelphia suburbs
Swing States
Florida 15% 40% Hispanics: 42%
African Americans: 19%
19% in Miami-Fort Lauderdale
16% in Orlando
14% in Tampa-St. Petersburg
Missouri 7% 48% African Americans: 15%
Hispanics: 13%
35% in St. Louis
20% in Kansas City
15% in Springfield
Ohio 3% 34% African Americans: 26%
Hispanics: 18%
Asian Americans: 14%
43% in Columbus
34% in Cincinnati
Note: Data for African Americans and Asian Americans are for non-Hispanic members
of these groups who did not identify with another racial groupSources: Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from U.S. Census Bureau,
"Annual State Population Estimates with Sex, 6 Race Groups (5 Race Alone Groups
and One Group with Two or more Race Groups) and Hispanic Origin: April 1, 2000
to July 1, 2007," accessed online at www.census.gov/popest/datasets.html on
May 31, 2008; and "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Selected Age Groups
and Sex for Counties: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2007,"
accessed online at www.census.gov/popest/counties/asrh/CC-EST2007-agesex.html,
on Aug. 31, 2008.

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