|Progressive Calandar 07.19.09||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Sun, 19 Jul 2009 16:24:51 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 07.19.09 1. Palestine/film 7.19 9pm 2. Single payer 7.20 9:30am 3. Eviction/court 7.20 1:30pm 4. Peace walk 7.20 6pm RiverFalls WI 5. Organic/mushrooms 7.20 6pm 6. Japanese-Am/WWII 7.20 6:30pm 7. Terror/dissent/f 7.20 7pm 8. Oxfam Action 7.20 7pm 9. John Nichols - A real win for single-payer advocates 10. Alexander Cockburn - Watch what Obama does, not what he says 11. Arundhati Roy - Hollow language and hollow democracies --------1 of 11-------- From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Palestine/film 7.19 9pm "Slingshot Hip Hop:" Outdoor Film Sunday, July 19, 9:00 p.m. Bedlam Theatre, Rooftop Deck, 1501 South 6th Street (West Bank), Minneapolis. "Slingshot Hip Hop" is the first feature-length documentary about the Palestinian hip-hop movement. At the cutting edge of this emerging Middle Eastern youth, it is a fresh, complex and energizing window into contemporary life in Palestine and Israel, and into one of the many identities that Arabs are exploring today. Free and open to the public. Sponsored by: the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. Endorsed by: the WAMM Middle East Committee. FFI: Email ijan.tc [at] gmail.com. --------2 of 11-------- From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org> Subject: Single payer 7.20 9:30am July 20: Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition Health Care for All in 2009: How Universal Health Care Supporters Can Be Most Effective. Lunch provided. 9:30 AM - 2:30 PM at Minnesota AFL-CIO, 175 Aurora Avenue, St. Paul. RSVP is required. --------3 of 11-------- From: Lynette Malles <lynettemalles [at] msn.com> Subject: Eviction/court 7.20 1:30pm URGENT! Barbara Byrd is a 50 year-old African American working woman who is fighting eviction. Her duplex in Brooklyn Park was financed through EMC. The Bear Stearns Companies, LLC and its subsidiary, EMC Mortgage Corporation, recently agreed to pay $28 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they engaged in unlawful "predatory lending" practices in servicing consumers' home mortgage loans. Barbara is to appear in Hennepin County district court tower, 300 South Sixth Street in Minneapolis, at 1:30 in Room 1453 on Monday to appeal her eviction. In March of 2009, after Barbara had lost her tenant and fallen behind in her payments, EMC made notary date-errors in the foreclosure documentation. During her June eviction hearing in housing court, the judge had assured her that she should not have to move. Still a 24-hour eviction was posted on her door July 6th, and Barbara spent sleepless nights in fear of being thrown out. [IMAGE] Please join us in court to support Barbara's courageous stand against predatory lending. She has been receiving counseling and legal support through Jewish Community Action. On a personal note, yet another bank repossessed her car last week even though she had been trying to make arrangements and was only eight payments away from paying off the loan. Two days later, to make matters even worse, she sprained her ankle and now has been commuting by bus on crutches. This is late-notice so spread the word! Ona Kingbird's fundraising dinner was well attended. The father of one of her former students approached her at the event. Out of gratitude for how she had influenced his son, offered to help her out with a housing possibility. The months race by. Her redemption period is over at the end of September. Rosemary Williams continues to negotiate with GMAC and has two, possibly three options to consider for refinancing. Her People's Party on the 10th was great, and I enjoyed meeting many of you. We'll get fun-raising totals out in the next update. Tecora Parks' loan documents are in the hands of a Housing Prevention Project specialist who is looking them over for glitches. Any such errors would strengthen their resolve to fight eviction in a situation already aggravated by Indy-Mac's illegal lockout in May. A lawyer is still needed. The Parks' redemption period ends in November. --------4 of 11-------- From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at] comcast.net> Subject: Peace walk 7.20 6pm RiverFalls WI River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from "Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact: d.n.holden [at] comcast.net. Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls, Wisconsin 54022 --------5 of 11-------- From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org> Subject: Organic/mushrooms 7.20 6pm July 20: Women's Environmental Institute Organic Farm School "The Role of Mushrooms in Remediation and Sustainable Agriculture" with Ron Spinos of the Minnesota Mycological Society. 6 - 8 PM at Midtown Global Market in the Greenway Conference Room. Register. --------6 of 11-------- From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Japanese-Am/WWII 7.20 6:30pm FREE Third Monday Movies and Discussion: "Come See the Paradise" Monday, July 20, 6:30 p.m. St. Joan of Arc Church, Parish Center, 4537 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis. An enormously moving and nostalgic story of the World War II era with a background of the relocation of Japanese-Americans from their homes to armed encampments across the United States. (Mainstream Film--133 minutes) Discussion follows. Sponsored by: the WAMM Third Monday Movies Committee. FFI: Call 612-871-2229. --------7 of 11-------- From: info [at] rnc8.org Subject: Terror/dissent/f 7.20 7pm July 20 Terrorizing Dissent screening at Bryant Lake Bowl 7pm The first and most complete story of the 4 days that shook St. Paul. Doors 6PM Movie 7PM $6-20 pay what you can. Bryant Lake Bowl 810 W. Lake Street Minneapolis More info at bryantlakebowl.com There may even be a few of the 8 there. --------8 of 11-------- From: Oxfam Action Corps - MN <minnesota [at] oxfamactioncorps.org> Subject: Oxfam Action 7.20 7pm On the 3rd Monday of each month, we gather to plan our nonpartisan grassroots activities. We've successfully organized events, lobbied policymakers, and have used sheer creativity to stand up for meaningful change. We meet at 7pm the unique Common Roots Café (2558 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis). --------9 of 11-------- A Real Win for Single-Payer Advocates by JOHN NICHOLS http://www.thenation.com/blogs/thebeat/452493/a_real_win_for_single_payer_advocates 07/17/2009 Canada did not establish its national health care program with a bold, immediate political move by the federal government. The initial progress came at the provincial level, led by the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation's Tommy Douglas when he served from 1941 to 1960 premier of Saskatchewan. The universal, publicly-funded "single-payer" health care system that Douglas and his socialist allies developed in Saskatchewan proved to be so successful and so popular that it was eventually adopted by other provinces and, ultimately, by Canada's federal government. For his efforts, Douglas would be hailed in a national survey as "The Greatest Canadian" of all time. But Douglas' regional initiative also offers a lesson for Americans. Those of us who know that the only real cure for what ails the U.S. health care system is a universal public plan that provides health care for all Americans while controlling costs recognize the frustrating reality that there are many economic and political barriers to the federal action that would create a single-payer system. This makes clearing the way experimentation at the state level all the more important. And, remarkably, the forces of real reform have won a congressional victory on that front, a victory that ought not be underestimated. By a 25-19 vote, the House Committee on Education and Labor on Friday approved an amendment to the House's health-care reform bill allowing states to create single-payer health care systems if they so choose. "There are many models of health care reform from which to choose around the world - the vast majority of which perform far better than ours. The one that has been the most tested here and abroad is single-payer," explained Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio Democrat who proposed the amendment. "Under a single-payer system everyone in the U.S. would get a card that would allow access to any doctor at virtually any hospital. Doctors and hospitals would continue to be privately run, but the insurance payments would be in the public hands. By getting rid of the for-profit insurance companies, we can save $400 billion per year and provide coverage for all medically necessary services for everyone in the U.S." Votes for the amendment came from progressive Democrats who favor single-payer - such as Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Lynn Woolsey, of California, and Raul Grijalva, of Arizona - as well as conservative Republicans who have no taste for single-payer but want states to be able to set their own agendas. Opposition to the amendment came mainly from Democrats such as committee chair George Miller, of California, who have resisted moves to create more flexible, innovation-friendly legislation. The Education and Labor Committee - one of three in the House with jurisdiction over health care - then apporved the amended America's Affordable Health Choices Act, H.R. 3200, by a vote of 26-22. The campaign for to add the amendment was advanced by a number of groups, in particular Progressive Democratic of America, which mounted a last-minute campaign to sway Democratic members of the House committee. PDA Tim Carpenter is right when he says: "This is a victory for single-payer advocates. Our job in the ensuing weeks will be to ensure that this amendment does not get stripped from the final legislation." And they will have powerful allies who will fight to preserve the amendment. After the committee vote, Rose Ann DeMoro, the executive director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, said, "This is a historic moment for patients, for American families, and for the tens of thousands of nurses and other single-payer activists from coast to coast who can now work in state capitols to pass single-payer bills, the strongest, most effective solution of all to our healthcare crisis." De Moro gets it. Allowing states to do what is necessary to provide high-quality yet affordable health care for all - even as a federal plan falls short of that goal - opens up vital new avenues for promoting, and actually implementing, single-payer systems. --------10 of 11-------- "Watch What We Do, Not What We Say" By ALEXANDER COCKBURN CounterPunch Diary July 17-19, 2009 "Watch what we do, not what we say," was the famous advice Nixon's first Attorney General, John Mitchell, gave the press at the onset of the Nixon presidency in 1969. It's a handy piece of advice in the Age of Obama too, as we roll towards the end of his first six months in office. There's the added difficulty that Obama likes to say two different things in the same speech, usually prefaced by his trade-mark "Let me be clear". "And let me be clear," he told the Russians in Moscow, even as he presses forward with the Clinton/Bush policy of NATO expansion, ringing Russia with missile bases, "NATO seeks collaboration with Russia, not confrontation". You think "saying" and "doing" are far apart on that one? Try this gem, also delivered in Moscow: "Now let me be clear, America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country. America will never impose a security arrangement on another country". The last guy in the White House to be that clear was in fact Nixon, who tossed in "perfectly" as a bonus. Obama has been perfectly clear on so many pledges, such as restoring constitutional protections such as habeas corpus, respect for international treaties and covenants on torture and the treatment of prisoners, ending eavesdropping and, when you take even a quick glance at what he's done, he's been perfectly awful on so many fronts. He was at his sermonizing worst in Ghana, telling Africans to shape up, a homily aimed at those same folks back home who thrilled to Obama's strictures on the campaign trail, using Father's Day a year ago to tell black dads - only black dads - to shape up, an act he just reprised to the NAACP's 100th convention in New York. "Africa's future is up to Africans," he said in Accra. No it's not. Africa's future is to a pervasive extent up to the World Bank, the IMF, international mining and oil companies, the US Congress (which for example votes cotton subsidies to domestic corporate farmers, thus undercutting and laying waste the cotton economies of Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali and Chad). "No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands," was his New York message for America's black youth. Rip the entrails out of America's manufacturing economy, hock the economy to Goldman Sachs and then tell the kids, if you fail, you've only yourself to blame. What does the Administration say about Iran? At the recent G8 meeting in Italy Obama talked tough. He said Iran has until September to show it is serious about curbing its nuclear weapos program. Remember that the CIA, to the fury of the Bush crowd said in 2006 there was no evidence that any such program is underway. In Italy Obama talked about an international September summit in Pittsburgh "It provides a time frame. If Iran chooses not to walk through that door, then you have on record the G-8 to begin with, but I think potentially a lot of other countries, that are going to say we need to take further steps." Watch what we do. As Afshin Rattanssi wrote on this site on Thursday, it's too early to tell the reason for the midday plane crash on July 15 in Janat-Abad, northwest of Tehran. All 168 people on board were killed in Qazvin province and there is an inquiry underway. But, even so, the relatives of the 168 that have died today may yet blame the U.S. and Britain for their dead, since sanctions are already creating a spare parts crisis in Iran's aircraft hangers. Sanctions are what destroy countries, whether it be Nicaragua in the 1980s or Iraq in Clinton-time. As Rattanssi says: "In the 1990s, Bill Clinton's U.N. sanctions on Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of children as discovered by its own agency, UNICEF. We now have a man in the White House who trumpets the use of sanctions over the war-war bluster of George W. Bush. President Bush's continual threats about the use of military force on Iran did nothing but entrench the Iranian people's support for the theocratic government. If much-mooted September is the date for President Obama's new sanctions, they look set to kill many more civilians than any threats by his former rival and now secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Hillary and her husband seem never to have been concerned about the lethal impact of sanctions on developing nations". In her election campaign Hillary was always eager to emphasize her willingness to nuke Iran and fry 70 million. Watch what I could do. To ABC's George Stephanopoulos a few weeks ago she hinted obscurely at a First Strike scenario. Here she is in full spate last week in the new Washington hq of the Council on Foreign Relations: "We know that refusing to deal with the Islamic Republic has not succeeded in altering the Iranian march toward a nuclear weapon, reducing Iranian support for terror, or improving Iran's treatment of its own citizens. Iran does not have a right to nuclear, military capacity, and we're determined to prevent that. But it does have a right to civil nuclear power if it reestablishes the confidence of the international community that it will use its programs exclusively for peaceful purposes. Iran become a constructive actor in the region if it stops threatening its neighbors and supporting terrorism. It can assume a responsible position in the international community if it fulfills its obligations on human rights. The choice is clear. We remain ready to engage with Iran, but the time for action is now. The opportunity will not remain open indefinitely". And then later, in answer to a hawkish question: "I think part of the attractiveness of engagement -- direct engagement is not only to make our own judgments but also to demonstrate to others that we've done so and to make clear what kind of reaction we've gotten, which I think lays the groundwork for concerted actions and certainly in just the last six months in our efforts in talking with other partners, I've noticed a turn in attitude by some, a recognition that it's not just the United States that should be concerned about what Iran is doing, but that there are implications for others who are much closer than we are to Iran". Now you could say that this was just HRC trying to put herself back on the map as a major player in the Obama administration, seeking to quell the snickers that she's just one more sidelined Secretary of State who can't even stop the White House from blocking her from hiring Sid Blumenthal. There were slabs of the speech that as wacky as Obama's shameless fictions about the freedom Africa and black kids in the US to shape their own destinies - unless, that is, you go with Lenin's bleak remark that Freedom is the recognition of necessity, later translated into song as Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. Try this pearl from our Secretary of State: "I believe NATO is the greatest alliance in history, but it was built for the Cold War. The new NATO is a democratic community of nearly a billion people, stretching from the Baltics in the east to Alaska in the west. We're working to update its strategic concepts so that it is as effective in this century as it was in the last". What the Obama administration most definitely will do is find as many reasons to be "unpersuaded" about the peaceful intent of Iran's nuclear program as was the Bush administration about evidence that Saddam had got rid of its WMDs. It's the same game, maybe with the same ending. At the very least they'll intensify sanctions, ensuring that many will die, starting with the very young and the very old. Meanwhile the troops and weapons flow towards Afghanistan, with vast, Vietnam-style "sweep" operations under way. And how is the antiwar movement here dealing with that? Answer, what antiwar movement? We certainly can't watch what it's doing, because the answer is nothing. And we can't hear what it's saying, because there too the answer is nothing. Where are the mobilizations, actions, civil disobedience? Antiwar coalitions like United for Peace and Justice and Win Without War (with MoveOn also belatedly adopting this craven posture) don't say clearly "US troops out now!" They whine about the "absence of a clear mission" (Win Without War), plead futilely for "an exit strategy" (UFPJ). One letter from the UFPJ coalition (which includes Code Pink) to the Congressional Progressive Caucus in May laconically began a sentence with the astounding words, "To defeat the Taliban and stabilize the country, the U.S. must enable the Afghan people". These pathetic attempts not to lose "credibility" and thus attain political purchase have met with utter failure, as the recent vote on a supplemental appropriation proved. A realistic estimate is that among the Democrats in Congress there are fewer than forty solid antiwar votes. Alexander Cockburn can be reached at alexandercockburn [at] asis.com . --------11 of 11-------- cd Into the Inferno: Hollow Language and Hollow Democracies What can we do, now that democracy and the free market are one? by Arundhati Roy Thursday, July 16, 2009 The New Statesman Common Dreams While we're still arguing about whether there's life after death, can we add another question to the cart? Is there life after democracy? What sort of life will it be? By democracy I don't mean democracy as an ideal or an aspiration. I mean the working model: western liberal democracy, and its variants, such as they are. So, is there life after democracy? Attempts to answer this question often turn into a comparison of different systems of governance, and end with a somewhat prickly, combative defence of democracy. It's flawed, we say. It isn't perfect, but it's better than everything else that's on offer. Inevitably, someone in the room will say: "Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia . . . is that what you would prefer?" Whether democracy should be the utopia that all "developing" societies aspire to is a separate question altogether. (I think it should. The early, idealistic phase can be quite heady.) The question about life after democracy is addressed to those of us who already live in democracies, or in countries that pretend to be democracies. It isn't meant to suggest that we lapse into older, discredited models of totalitarian or authoritarian governance. It's meant to suggest that the system of representative democracy - too much representation, too little democracy - needs some structural adjustment. The question here, really, is what have we done to democracy? What have we turned it into? What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasised into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the free market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximising profit? Is it possible to reverse this process? Can something that has mutated go back to being what it used to be? What we need today, for the sake of the survival of this planet, is long-term vision. Can governments whose very survival depends on immediate, extractive, short-term gain provide this? Could it be that democracy, the sacred answer to our short-term hopes and prayers, the protector of our individual freedoms and nurturer of our avaricious dreams, will turn out to be the endgame for the human race? Could it be that democracy is such a hit with modern humans precisely because it mirrors our greatest folly - our nearsightedness? Our inability to live entirely in the present (like most animals do) combined with our inability to see very far into the future makes us strange in-between creatures, neither beast nor prophet. Our amazing intelligence seems to have outstripped our instinct for survival. We plunder the earth hoping that accumulating material surplus will make up for the profound, unfathomable thing that we have lost. It would be conceit to pretend that my new book of essays, Listening to Grasshoppers, provides answers to these questions. It only demonstrates, in some detail, the fact that it looks as though the beacon could be failing and that democracy can perhaps no longer be relied upon to deliver the justice and stability we once dreamed it would. All the essays were written as urgent, public interventions at critical moments in India - during the state-backed genocide of Muslims in Gujarat; just before the date set for the hanging of Mohammad Afzal, the accused in the 13 December 2001 parliament attack; during US President George Bush's visit to India; during the mass uprising in Kashmir in the summer of 2008; and after the 26 November 2008 Mumbai attacks. Often they were not just responses to events, they were responses to the responses. Though many of them were written in anger, at moments when keeping quiet became harder than saying something, the essays do have a common thread. They're not about unfortunate anomalies or aberrations in the democratic process. They're about the consequences of and the corollaries to democracy and the ways in which it is practised in the world's largest democracy. (Or the world's largest "demon-crazy", as a Kashmiri protester on the streets of Srinagar once put it. His placard said: "Democracy without Justice = Demon Crazy".) In January 2008, on the first anniversary of the assassination of the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, I gave a lecture in Istanbul. Dink was shot down on the street outside his office for daring to raise a subject that is forbidden in Turkey - the 1915 genocide of Armenians, in which more than one million people were killed. My lecture was about the history of genocide and genocide denial, and the old, almost organic relationship between "progress" and genocide. I have always been struck by the fact that the political party in Turkey that carried out the Armenian genocide was called the Committee for Union and Progress. Most of the essays in Listening to Grasshoppers are, in fact, about the contemporary correlation between union and progress, or, in today's idiom, between nationalism and development - those unimpeachable twin towers of modern, free-market democracy. Both of these in their extreme form are, as we now know, encrypted with the potential of bringing about ultimate, apocalyptic destruction (nuclear war, climate change). Though the essays were written between 2002 and 2008, the invisible marker, the starting gun, is the year 1989, when in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan capitalism won its long jihad against Soviet communism. (Of course, the wheel's in spin again. Could it be that those same mountains are now in the process of burying capitalism? It's too early to tell.) Within months of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Indian government, once a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, performed a high-speed somersault and aligned itself with the United States, monarch of the new unipolar world. The rules of the game changed suddenly and completely. Millions of people who lived in remote villages and deep in the heart of untouched forests, some of whom had never heard of Berlin or the Soviet Union, could not have imagined how events that occurred in those faraway places would affect their lives. The process of their dispossession and displacement had already begun in the early 1950s, when India opted for the Soviet-style development model in which huge steel plants and thousands of large dams would occupy the "commanding heights" of the economy. The era of privatisation and structural adjustment accelerated that process at a mind-numbing speed. Today, words like "progress" and "development" have become interchangeable with economic "reforms", deregulation and privatisation. "Freedom" has come to mean "choice". It has less to do with the human spirit than it does with different brands of deodorant. "Market" no longer means a place where you go to buy provisions. The "market" is a de-territorialised space where faceless corporations do business, including buying and selling "futures". "Justice" has come to mean "human rights" (and of those, as they say, "a few will do"). This theft of language, this technique of usurping words and deploying them like weapons, of using them to mask intent and to mean exactly the opposite of what they have traditionally meant, has been one of the most brilliant strategic victories of the tsars of the new dispensation. It has allowed them to marginalise their detractors, deprive them of a language in which to voice their critique and dismiss them as being "anti-progress", "anti-development", "anti-reform" and of course "anti-national" - negativists of the worst sort. Talk about saving a river or protecting a forest and they say, "Don't you believe in progress?" To people whose land is being submerged by dam reservoirs and whose homes are being bulldozed they say, "Do you have an alternative development model?" To those who believe that a government is duty-bound to provide people with basic education, health care and social security, they say, "You're against the market". And who except a cretin could be against a market? This language heist may prove to be the keystone of our undoing. Two decades of this kind of "progress" in India have created a vast middle class punch-drunk on sudden wealth and the sudden respect that comes with it - and a much, much vaster, desperate underclass. Tens of millions of people have been dispossessed and displaced from their land by floods, droughts and desertification caused by indiscriminate environmental engineering - the massive infrastructural projects, dams, mines and Special Economic Zones. All of them promoted in the name of the poor, but really meant to service the rising demands of the new aristocracy. The battle for land lies at the heart of the "development" debate. Before he became India's finance minister, P Chidambaram was Enron's lawyer and member of the board of directors of Vedanta, a multinational mining corporation that is currently devastating the Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa. Perhaps his career graph informed his world-view. Or maybe it's the other way around. In an interview a year ago, he said that his vision was to get 85 per cent of India's population to live in cities. Realising this "vision" would require social engineering on an unimaginable scale. It would mean inducing, or forcing, about 500 million people to migrate from the countryside into cities. That process is well under way and is quickly turning India into a police state in which people who refuse to surrender their land are being made to do so at gunpoint. Perhaps this is what makes it so easy for P Chidambaram to move so seamlessly from being finance minister to being home minister. The portfolios are separated only by an osmotic membrane. Underlying this nightmare masquerading as "vision" is the plan to free up vast tracts of land and all of India's natural resources, leaving them ripe for corporate plunder. Already forests, mountains and water systems are being ravaged by marauding multinational corporations, backed by a state that has lost its moorings and is committing what can only be called "ecocide". In eastern India, bauxite and iron ore mining is destroying whole ecosystems, turning fertile land into desert. In the Himalayas, hundreds of high dams are being planned, the consequences of which can only be catastrophic. In the plains, embankments built along rivers, ostensibly to control floods, have led to rising riverbeds, causing even more flooding, more waterlogging, more salinisation of agricultural land and the destruction of livelihoods of millions of people. Most of India's holy rivers, including the Ganga and the Yamuna, have been turned into unholy drains that carry more sewage and industrial effluent than water. Hardly a single river runs its course and meets the ocean. Sustainable food crops, suitable to local soil conditions and microclimates, have been replaced by water-guzzling hybrid and genetically modified "cash" crops which, apart from being wholly dependent on the market, are also heavily dependent on chemical fertilisers, pesticides, canal irrigation and the indiscriminate mining of groundwater. As abused farmland, saturated with chemicals, gradually becomes exhausted and infertile, agricultural input costs rise, ensnaring small farmers in a debt trap. Over the past few years, more than 180,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide. While state granaries are bursting with food that eventually rots, starvation and malnutrition approaching the same levels as in sub-Saharan Africa stalk the land. It's as though an ancient society, decaying under the weight of feudalism and caste, was churned in a great machine. The churning has ripped through the mesh of old inequalities, recalibrating some of them but reinforcing most. Now the old society has curdled and separated into a thin layer of thick cream - and a lot of water. The cream is India's "market" of many million consumers (of cars, cellphones, computers, Valentine's Day greeting cards), the envy of international business. The water is of little consequence. It can be sloshed around, stored in holding ponds, and eventually drained away. Or so they think, the men in suits. They didn't bargain for the violent civil war that has broken out in India's heartland: Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal. As if to illustrate the connection between "union" and "progress", in 1989, at exactly the same time that the Congress government was opening up India's markets to international finance, the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), then in the opposition, began its virulent campaign of Hindu nationalism (popularly known as "Hindutva"). In 1990, its leader, L K Advani, travelled across the country whipping up hatred against Muslims and demanding that the Babri Masjid, a 16th-century mosque that stood on a disputed site in Ayodhya, be demolished and a Ram temple built in its place. In 1992 a mob, egged on by Advani, demolished the mosque. In early 1993, a mob rampaged through Mumbai attacking Muslims, killing almost 1,000 people. As revenge, a series of bomb blasts ripped through the city, killing about 250 people. Feeding off the communal frenzy it had generated, the BJP defeated the Congress in 1998 and came to power at the Centre. It's not a coincidence that the rise of Hindutva corresponded with the historical moment when America substituted communism with Islam as its great enemy. The radical Islamist mujahedin - whom President Reagan once entertained in the White House and compared to America's Founding Fathers - suddenly began to be called terrorists. The Indian government, once a staunch friend of the Palestinians, turned into Israel's "natural ally". Now India and Israel do joint military exercises, share intelligence and probably exchange notes on how best to administer occupied territories. By 1998, when the BJP took office, the "progress" project of privatisation and liberalisation was about eight years old. Though it had campaigned vigorously against the economic reforms, saying they were a process of "looting through liberalisation", once it came to power the BJP embraced the free market enthusiastically and threw its weight behind huge corporations like Enron. (In representative democracies, once they are elected, the people's representatives are free to break their promises and change their minds.) Within weeks of taking office, the BJP conducted a series of thermonuclear tests. Though India had thrown its hat into the nuclear ring in 1975, politically, the 1998 nuclear tests were of a different order altogether. The orgy of triumphant nationalism with which the tests were greeted introduced a chilling new language of aggression and hatred into mainstream public discourse. None of what was being said was new, only that what was once considered unacceptable was suddenly being celebrated. Since then, Hindu communalism and nuclear nationalism, like corporate globalisation, have vaulted over the stated ideologies of political parties. The venom has been injected straight into our bloodstream. In February 2002, following the armed raid on a train coach in which 58 Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were burned alive, the BJP government in Gujarat, led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, presided over a carefully planned genocide of Muslims in the state. The Islamophobia generated all over the world by the 11 September 2001 attacks put the wind in their sails. The machinery of the state of Gujarat stood by and watched while more than 2,000 people were massacred. Gujarat has always been a state rife with tension between Hindus and Muslims. There had been riots before. But this was not a riot. It was a genocidal massacre, and though the number of victims was insignificant compared to the horror of, say, Rwanda, Sudan or the Congo, the Gujarat carnage was designed as a public spectacle whose aims were unmistakable. It was a public warning to Muslim citizens from the government of the world's favourite democracy. After the carnage, Narendra Modi pressed for early elections. He was returned to power with a decisive mandate from the people of Gujarat. Five years later he even repeated this success: he is now serving a third term as chief minister, widely appreciated by business houses for his faith in the free market, illustrating the organic relationship between "union" and "progress". Or, if you like, between fascism and the free market. In January 2009, that relationship was sealed with a kiss at a public function. The CEOs of two of India's biggest corporations, Ratan Tata (of the Tata Group) and Mukesh Ambani (of Reliance Industries), celebrated the development policies of Narendra Modi and warmly endorsed him as a future candidate for prime minister. Only two months ago, the nearly $2bn 2009 general election was concluded. That's a lot more than the budget of the US elections. According to some media reports, the actual amount that was spent is closer to $10bn. Where, might one ask, does that kind of money come from? The Congress and its allies, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), have won a comfortable majority. Interestingly, more than 90 per cent of the independent candidates who stood for elections lost. Clearly, without sponsorship, it's hard to win an election. And independent candidates cannot promise subsidised rice, free TVs and cash-for-votes, those demeaning acts of vulgar charity that elections have been reduced to. When you take a closer look at the calculus that underlies election results, words like "comfortable" and "majority" turn out to be deceptive, if not outright inaccurate. For instance, the actual share of votes polled by the UPA in these elections works out at only 10.3 per cent of the country's population. It's interesting how the cleverly layered mathematics of electoral democracy can turn a tiny minority into a thumping mandate. In the run-up to the polls, there was absolute consensus across party lines about the economic "reforms". Several people have sarcastically suggested that the Congress and BJP form a coalition. In some states they already have. In Chhattisgarh, for example, the BJP runs the government and Congress politicians run the Salwa Judum, a vicious, government-backed "people's" militia. The Judum and the government have formed a joint front against the Maoists in the forests, who are engaged in a brutal and often deadly armed struggle. Among other things, this has become a fight to the finish, against displacement and against land acquisition by corporations waiting to begin mining iron ore, tin and all the other wealth stashed below the forest floor. So, in Chhattisgarh, we have the remarkable spectacle of the two biggest political parties of India in an alliance against the Adivasis of Dantewara, India's poorest, most vulnerable people. Already 644 villages have been emptied. Fifty thousand people have moved into Salwa Judum camps. Three hundred thousand are on the run, and are being called Maoist terrorists or sympathisers. The battle is raging, and the corporations are waiting. It is significant that India is one of the countries that blocked a European move in the UN asking for an international probe into war crimes that may have been committed by the government of Sri Lanka in its recent offensive against the Tamil Tigers. Governments in this part of the world have taken note of Israel's Gaza blueprint as a good way of dealing with "terrorism": keep the media out and close in for the kill. That way they don't have to worry too much about who's a "terrorist" and who isn't. There may be a little flurry of international outrage, but it goes away pretty quickly. Things do not augur well for the forest-dwelling people of India. Reassured by this "constructive" collaboration, this consensus between political parties, few were more enthusiastic about the recent general elections than major corporate houses. They seem to have realised that a democratic mandate can legitimise their pillaging in a way that nothing else can. Several corporations ran extravagant advertising campaigns on TV - some featuring Bollywood film stars - urging people, young and old, rich and poor, to go out and vote. Shops and restaurants in Khan Market, Delhi's most tony market, offered discounts to those whose index (voting) fingers were marked with indelible ink. Democracy suddenly became the cool new way to be. You know how it is: the Chinese do sport, so they had the Olympics; India does democracy, so we had an election. Both are heavily sponsored, TV-friendly spectator sports. Even the BBC commissioned the India Election Special - a coach on a train - that took journalists from all over the world on a sightseeing tour to witness the miracle of Indian elections. The train coach had a slogan painted on it: "Will India's voters revive the World's Fortunes?" BBC (Hindi) had a poster up in a caf near my home. It featured a $100 bill (with Ben Franklin) morphing into a 500 rupee note (with Gandhi). It said: Kya India ka vote bachayega duniya ka note? (Will India's votes rescue the world's currency notes?) In these flagrant and unabashed ways, an electorate has been turned into a market, voters are seen as consumers, and democracy is being welded to the free market. Ergo: those who cannot consume do not matter. For better or for worse, the 2009 elections seem to have ensured that the "progress" project is up and running. However, it would be a serious mistake to believe that the "union" project has fallen by the wayside. As the 2009 election campaign unrolled, two things got saturation coverage in the media. One was the 100,000-rupee ($2,000) "people's car", the Tata Nano - the wagon for the volks - rolling out of Modi's Gujarat. (The sops and subsidies Modi gave the Tatas had a lot to do with Ratan Tata's warm endorsement of him.) The other is the hate speech of the BJP's monstrous new debutant, Varun Gandhi (another descendant of the Nehru dynasty), who makes even Narendra Modi sound moderate and retiring. In a public speech Varun Gandhi called for Muslims to be forcibly sterilised. "This will be known as a Hindu bastion, no ***** Muslim dare raise his head here," he said, using a derogatory word for someone who has been circumcised. "I don't want a single Muslim vote". Varun Gandhi won his election by a colossal margin. It makes you wonder - are "the people" always right? The BJP still remains by far the second largest political party, with a powerful national presence, the only real challenge to the Congress. It will certainly live to fight another day. The hoary institutions of Indian democracy - the judiciary, the police, the "free" press and, of course, elections - far from working as a system of checks and balances, quite often do the opposite. They provide each other cover to promote the larger interests of union and progress. In the process, they generate such confusion, such a cacophony, that voices raised in warning just become part of the noise. And that only helps to enhance the image of the tolerant, lumbering, colourful, somewhat chaotic democracy. The chaos is real. But so is the consensus. Speaking of consensus, there's the small and ever-present matter of Kashmir. When it comes to Kashmir, the consensus in India is hardcore. It cuts across every section of the Establishment - including the media, the bureaucracy, the intelligentsia and even Bollywood. The war in the Kashmir Valley is almost 20 years old now, and has claimed about 70,000 lives. Tens of thousands have been tortured, several thousand have "disappeared", women have been raped and many thousands widowed. Half a million Indian troops patrol the Kashmir Valley, making it the most militarised zone in the world. (The United States had about 165,000 active-duty troops in Iraq at the height of its occupation.) The Indian army now claims that it has, for the most part, crushed militancy in Kashmir. Perhaps that's true. But does military domination mean victory? Kashmir is set to become the conduit through which the mayhem unfolding in Afghanistan and Pakistan spills into India, where it will find purchase in the anger of the young among India's 150 million Muslims who have been brutalised, humiliated and marginalised. Notice has been given by the series of terrorist strikes that culminated in the Mumbai attacks of 2008. India's temporary, shotgun solutions to the unrest in Kashmir (pardon the pun) have magnified the problem and driven it deep into a place where it is poisoning the aquifers. Perhaps the story of the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world, is the most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times. Thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers have been deployed there, enduring chill winds and temperatures that dip to minus 40 Celsius. Of the hundreds who have died there, many have died just from the cold - from frostbite and sunburn. The glacier has become a garbage dump now, littered with the detritus of war, thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice-axes, old boots, tents and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human beings generate. The garbage remains intact, perfectly preserved at those icy temperatures, a pristine monument to human folly. While the Indian and Pakistani governments spend billions of dollars on weapons and the logistics of high-altitude warfare, the battlefield has begun to melt. Right now, it has shrunk to about half its size. The melting has less to do with the military stand-off than with people far away, on the other side of the world, living the good life. They're good people who believe in peace, free speech and human rights. They live in thriving democracies whose governments sit on the UN Security Council and whose economies depend heavily on the export of war and the sale of weapons to countries like India and Pakistan. (And Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan . . . it's a long list.) The glacial melt will cause severe floods in the subcontinent, and eventually severe drought that will affect the lives of millions of people. That will give us even more reasons to fight. We'll need more weapons. Who knows, that sort of consumer confidence may be just what the world needs to get over the current recession. Then everyone in the thriving democracies will have an even better life - and the glaciers will melt even faster. 2009 The New Statesman Arundhati Roy was born in 1959 in Shillong, India. She studied architecture in New Delhi, where she now lives, and has worked as a film designer, actor, and screenplay writer in India. Her latest book, Listening to Grasshoppers: Fields Notes on Democracy, is a collection of recent essays. A tenth anniversary edition of her novel, The God of Small Things (Random House), for which she received the 1997 Booker Prize, was recently released. She is also the author of numerous nonfiction titles, including An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8
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