12 December 2008

Arundhati Roy on Mumbai

"But November isn't September, 2008 isn't 2001, Pakistan isn't Afghanistan and India isn't America. So perhaps we should reclaim our tragedy and pick through the debris with our own brains and our own broken hearts so that we can arrive at our own conclusions." ~ Arundhati Roy
Now there is a notion - think for yourselves. This is from the opening of this essay by Arundhati Roy in The Guardian. A commenter brought it to my attention and made the interesting comparison to the essay Susan Sontag published in The New Yorker directly after the 9/11 attacks (thanks Mike!). I'm sure there will be howls from the right. They'll be making her point.

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Blogger Judy Rice said...

I have a personal question....is your full name James Frank Johnson, Jr.? You really have no reason to answer this, other then being kind to a stranger. (or old friend) Thank you in advance and sincere appreciation for your blog....excellent! Judy (Polidan) Rice

13 December, 2008 16:12  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Judy, I am neither a "Jr." nor is my middle name Frank. So, I am afraid I am not the Jim Johnson you are looking for. Best of luck though. JJ

13 December, 2008 16:16  
Blogger Ray Lightning said...

The debate is not between side (A) which vilifies the terrorists and side (B) which tries to understand the "economic / political" reasons of terrorism as Ms. Arundhati Roy would like us to believe. No amount of apologism can justify the brutal acts of murder. Saying it was just poverty or illiteracy that drove these maniacal young people to murder is a clear disgrace. Recently, an Indian minister (Karunanidhi) wrote a lengthy article in the Hindu newspaper about how Muslims are being marginalized and being “forced” to take weapons. He invoked the plight of a Muslim boy who is refused a holiday for the Bakrid festival. So what else can he do ? except take up arms and join the Jihad ?

How stupid can we get ?

Saying that poverty and illiteracy is where terrorism is “grounded” in, amounts to mocking the spirit of millions of poor people who live their lives in a dignity amidst misery. It amounts to disrespecting their humanity. And for what sake ? Accomodating some murderous people.

Terrorism is a different problem from poverty. Poverty only exacerbates an already existing disease. The root cause of the disease is hatred. Let’s not hide this hatred amidst our shouts to recognize poverty, illiteracy etc.

This hatred is a simple black-and-white thinking which says (1) we are a group that is entirely pure, virtuous and shining (2) our group is under attack by filthy outsiders. This simplistic thinking is outrageously common amongst Muslims. This is what breeds terrorism. This is the itch which results in the scratching (brutal acts of murder). It is time this itching is eliminated to the root.

And it is not just Muslims who are guilty of this black-and-white thinking. It is obvious that such types exist everywhere in the world : As Ms Roy says, several people who subscribe to the Hindutva ideology are similar in thinking.

But exchanging blame, and highlighting unrelated issues like poverty only amount to apologizing for the brutal acts of murder and hiding the real cause of shame. So let’s stop doing that. We know the root cause; we have to eliminate it as early as possible.

14 December, 2008 09:31  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


Here is the problem. If you want to try to fix something, you need to have some vague idea of the causes. And stomping around saying kill the buggers is not going to be an effective remedy if there are larger causes. That does not mean - and nothing I have said on this blog, nor, I think, that Roy says anywhere - that perpetrators of violence go unpunished. Roy rightly denounces Hindu terrorism against Muslims (she, by the way, is neither) so can hardly think - 'well those poor terrorists are the product of X or Y and so we should thereby excuse their crimes.' I've never see a single place where she has said anything of the sort. Have you?

Identifying broader causes is possibly the first step in developing policies that might ameliorate those causes and, hopefully (no guarantees!) contribute to a remedy.
The alternative is what? More repressive policies? They've worked splendidly so far.


14 December, 2008 13:46  
Blogger LFC said...

I agree with a good deal of what Roy says, but not with the paragraph in which she criticizes the Indian govt for "inviting" the US to "meddle" in Indian affairs. What "invitation"? If she's talking about the US-Indian nuclear deal, that ship has sailed. Indeed, looking over the largely disastrous record of the Bush admin foreign policy, the improvement in US-Indian relations represented by that deal is arguably one of the very few bright spots. Roy has allowed her understandable detestation of the Bush admin to blind her to the fact that even a bad administration occasionally can do sensible things. I doubt the Bush admin's decision to improve US-Indian relations, contrary to what Roy seems to imply, is responsible for the increased terror attacks in India recently.

17 December, 2008 23:13  

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