Collateral damage of breaking news: discussion part two
Duration: 00:56:10; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 8.180; Saturation: 0.189; Lightness: 0.170; Volume: 0.082; Cuts per Minute: 5.447; Words per Minute: 137.352
Summary: Roy, Liang and Shuddha discussion on the collateral damage of breaking news continues.
L. Liang talks of parrhesic speech and how the answer to hate speech is not censorship but more speech, and the ability to speak under conditions of fear
Yeah, I mean for me I think the.. the idea of the ability or the freedom to speak entails equally on the part of the speaker, you know I mean if you have the ability to speak fearless you also need the responsibility to listen fearlessly, which entails for example the ability to listen to hateful speech, you know homophobic speech for example, but not to listen in silence. So the answer to speech which is hateful for me cannot be censorship, but more speech. So, how do you produce or counter hateful speech through a range of speech acts that we.. we all engage in? And there is often for me I think an overrated, you know, quality to the idea of speaking fearlessly. If you were able to speak fearlessly, then your speech does not involve, you know, a quality that Foucault would call parrhesia. Foucault says in fact that the ability to speak under conditions of fear are what mark fearless speech, right? And, Arundhati I believe has done this rather successfully, having gone to Tihar Jail for precisely being a parrhesiac, so what would you say to this?
World Information City
Roy talks of contempt of court.
Well, that's why I've always cringed under the.. you know, when people use the adjective 'brave' because 'brave' somehow always goes with 'stupid' for me, you know? I.. I think it's important to be frightened. It's important to know what you're up against. And.. you know, the thing is that it's.. it's.. you're obviously referring to the whole.. you know incident of.. of contempt of court where I was accused of criminal contempt of court. It was like a.. I was like a serial offender - they kept warning me and warning me and warning me. But, see, for me, that.. that whole episode had a lot to do with trying to.. trying to call attention to cer.. you know it had a lot to do with trying to call attention to what I still think is one of the major issues that we face in India, certainly, today.
Which is that we have a.. a law called contempt of court, where basi.. basically.. it has two sections, one section has to do with you know the implementation of Supreme Cou.. I mean of court orders, which is not the section I'm talking about. But this is a law which says that.. what is it Lawrence? (Liang: Tends to lower the dignity of authoriy) Yeah, tends to lower the dignity of the court. Now, under this law hides a lot of.. a lot of very regressive, dark stuff.
One of the things that this law means is that, supposing today, I had photographic evidence, documentary evidence of, say, the fact that a judge of the Indian High Court or Supreme Court was corrupt, and I had actually filmed them taking a bribe, I'm not allowed to submit this in court because it will lower the dignity of the court. And even truth is not a defence. You know even if I can prove it, it is not a defence.
So now we have a situation in which you have a Supreme Court which, as Supreme Courts go in the world is amongst the most powerful Supreme Courts in the world. It micromanages our lives. It takes decisions about everything: whether dams should be built, whether slums should be cleared, what should be in the history books, what fuel we should use in our public transport, whether garbage should be picked up every ten minutes or whether we should pick our nose or shouldn't pick our nose.. everything is controlled by decisions of the Court, but you are not allowed to criticize it. You're not all.. you're allowed to criticize an individual judgment, but you're not allowed to put a series of judgments together and say, 'look, what is this institution about?'
For example, one of the former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Kirpal, he.. if you look at the judgments he gave, he gave a judgment on slum dwellers, saying slum dwellers are pickpockets of urban land. He gave a judgment on the Narmada dam, allowing that dam to be built while the court knew that the people who were being displaced were not being resettled. Ok, so you support the displacement of people from rural areas. You support the bulldozing of slums in urban areas. Then he gave the judgment saying that small scale industries, hazardous waste industries in Delhi should be closed down. So he gave the judgment shutting down their forms of livelihood. He gave the judgment saying that rivers in India should be interlinked. And when he retired, he joined the board of Coca-Cola.
Roy continues about the courts.
Roy talks of her sentencing in court.
You know, and you're not allowed to say this, because.. and this is a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. What does this mean? What is this institution up to, you know? Why can't we talk about it?
So, I was.. I was trying to make a point that, look, you cannot have a law like this, you cannot have an institution in a democracy that is micromanaging our lives, and say that it can't be criticized, you know? You cannot have a corporate media that is not accountable. These things have to be accountable. Otherwise we're.. I mean a judicial dictatorship is as bad as any other kind of a dictatorship.
So, for that, they told me that I wasn't.. initially when they first.. when.. when they first got angry with me, and warned me that I was committing contempt of court. It was because in one of my essays on the Narmada dam, when I was talking about displacement, I said that to give a tribal person, an adivasi, cash compensation, is like giving a Supreme Court judge his salary in fertilizer bags.
So they.. they were very annoyed with it. Then they threa.. they sort of warned me and so on. And then this went on. And in court they used to throw my book from one judge to the next, and say.. and refer to me as 'that woman'. So I used to refer to myself as 'the hooker that won the Booker.' And then, when.. when it came to actually sentencing me, they wanted me to apologise.. they wanted me to apologise.. and they knew that, you know, now they'd really put their head in the noose, because, you know, whatever they did they were in deep shit. So, they.. they started complaining that I wasn't behaving like a reasonable man!
L Liang asks a question about the meaning of 'free' and whether the idea itself seems vacuous.
So the fertilisers did come to use then, finally. So what then is the, you know, I mean, as a writer, the idea of free speech is critical, but yet from whatever you've said, the very phrase free speech, free press suddenly seems.. (Roy: Free market) free market, it seems to be so vacuous, the idea of the free. What.. what does it mean? What then is the.. the future of the ability to critique? What does speaking truth to power then mean?
Roy talks of the sale of platforms of free speech in the USA, and of the oppression of society itself, in contrast to the oppression of the State.
Shuddha (off-screen): You're asking Arundhati for a plan again?
Roy: Well, I.. I.. you know I'm one of those who.. if I could raise an eyebrow, I would when you talk about free speech, because I frankly don't know what it means. You know there's.. look at the United States of America. Here's a country which has the most sophisticated legislation and makes the maximum amount of noise about free speech.
But it has auctioned the platforms on which speech can be practiced to the highest bidders. So we know that, you know, the media is owned by like five major corporations now, the mainstream media in America. So, you know, it's a.. it's a.. it's all posturing. Who, I mean, free speech is.. is important, but the point is what about the people who have been silenced, you know? That I think is.. is.. is.. the.. an issue that doesn't get much you know, much havaa. And it's.. it's very, very important for us to know that one of the most undermined, overused and discredited words today is free, you know? We know that Iraq has been liberated. Iraq is free. It has a free market, and it has free speech, so.. so.. so you know, the whole sort of.. I think as a writer for me what is of concern is how language has been slaughtered, you know, what does.. what do words mean anymore?
And, also how.. you know, when.. when the state perpetrates violence on us, or repression, it forces you to respond in a way in which you have to posture, you know like, you have to be sure of yourself. But where is the place for ambiguity, uncertainty, gentleness, doubt.. you know? Like, all of us, today, all.. or no one ( ) I'm fighting battles on the side of often on the side of people who.. who.. who would have no space for someone like me in their social imagination, you know, they'd probably put me in jail if they won their battles, you know? Be the first casualty of.. many of us are doing that, and how do we I mean the state has become such an oppressive machine that sometimes we forget how oppressive society can be, I mean, how oppressive is Indian society to the Dalit, you know? How easily do we forget to bring that into our equation of anything at all, you know? So, we've almost been.. we've almost forgotten that we can be pretty nasty people without the aid of the state.
But, also, I mean, talking of free speech, I'm.. I'm also struck by the fact that it's not always speech that is the problem; silence can be difficult as well. We've both.. you have been involved in this.. the case of S.A.R. Gilani where, critically, it was his silence, it was his refusal to speak that became the real problem, and that is why he was.. he had to endure torture, a death sentence that fortunately has.. has been overturned at the higher courts, but what I'm trying to say is that there is also this incessant demand that one must sometimes speak for.
I mean, I'm referring for instance to the.. to the often.. you know, you yourself have probably faced many times the demand that 'oh, but you must..' 'but you don't speak about this or that', 'you don't speak about how much, you know, things have been.. how things have got better. You only talk about things.. how things have got bad.'
And I think that, you know, just, when we talk about the freedom of speech, we should also sometimes qualify that by.. by asserting the freedom not to speak about certain things, if one chooses not to, you know, and that for me is.. is actually tied into this constant scrutiny. It's not a question of privacy for me, to be faced constantly with the form and the questionnaire, it's also a certain qualified refusal to let some people know some things, or some people know what I think about some things..
Roy: ...has to be transparent, but we don't.
We.. we can.. I mean, I see no reason why.. why everything we think or feel must constantly be on display. Because sometimes the things we think and feel may.. may invite us.. you know, may invite danger to ourselves. Or maybe morally, you know, difficult for us.
Shuddhabrata talks of the right to speech and the right to remain silent, and the judgment passed on silence.
Also you may have a very complex view of something, you know, for.. for instance I'm at the moment.. I mean I was telling Shuddha I don't want to speak in public because I'm sure of nothing. I'm sort of.. 'it's too late to agree with me; I've changed my mind.' So I'm in that sort of place.
And.. I'm.. I'm, you know, and.. and the point is if you look at anything, you know, you look at the whole sort of secular rhetoric about, you know, 'we are world citizens' or 'we don't believe in religion' or 'we don't believe in ethnicity', but if you look at it from the other end, if you look at an adivasi in Orissa who says 'why is it that adivasis have always been targeted?' or 'why are Dalits treated like this?', can you say that 'no, no, you mustn't think of yourself as a Dalit', you know, it doesn't matter you're getting, you know, messed over, but you mustn't think like that.
So everything changes depending on where and.. where you're looking at it from, what you're saying, at what time, you know, you have to have a sort of flexibility which isn't just based on sort of a kind of manifesto, and, I mean, you talk about.. about Gilani refusing to talk under torture. There's a joke in Delhi about a policeman who went to his sort of inspector and said, 'saab, mein ne Osama ko pakadh liya', means 'I have caught Osama!'. So the guy says, 'Really? Where is he?!' 'There he is.' And there's some poor, you know, terrified little man there. And he says 'That's not Osama..'. He says 'bolega na saar', which means 'I'll beat him and he'll say anything. He'll admit to being Osama.' You know, he'll say it.
Roy talks of secular rhetoric and needing flexibility in the manifesto, and not being compelled to commit to a statement.
I actually want to return, you know, to two of the examples you've raised, but along with the question of the relationship between law, morality and the ethical. One of the first things the US did when it freed Afghanistan was it introduced precisely the Plant Varieties Law, for Afghanistan, which protected seeds.
But to come back to this point of the.. the law making, or interpolating all of us as illegal subjects, and how do we re.. rescue the ethical. Traditionally, if I was the kind of person who shared my food with you, you would think of that as a virtue. Or if I shared my books with you, that would be an even greater virtue because I shared knowledge, or if I shared my music, as a generous person.
But you have a scenario where the law criminalizes acts of sharing, acts of caring, right, and all.. and in some senses creates a morality which has absolutely no foundation, because it asks of you to think of yourself as being immoral for sharing knowledge. And I think it's critical for us to bring back the ethical question in this, by talking about how sometimes in order to be ethical, one has to be illegal.
Liang talks about the traditional sense of sharing/caring, and the new morality with no foundations, and the problem of needing to be illegal if wanting to be ethical.
Absolutely. I think, you know, I mean I can only.. the only good way of looking at.. at this inexorable process of disempowerment by trying to make everybody illegal, what are you doing? You're basically trying to, you know, put people on the back foot, like, you're disempowered.
To operate as an illegal person you have to be somewhat strong, like.. but of course, people who are, you know, people like in Delhi or Bombay, people who are hawkers, pavement dwellers, you know.. people are just all the.. all the time running, either running from the police or paying them a share, and everyone's implicated in.. in.. in that whole business of illegality, but I think there has to be a sort of anger about this, because you know recently I was talking.. I think I did an interview where.. where I was talking about the fact that why is it that the state is lauded for being, sort of, immoral, you know, when you're discussing this new business of aligning yourself with, you know, America, India is trying to say 'We're a natural ally of America'.
Inside India, you know, the same government that wants to ally itself with America, I said if you have.. if you have, you know, such a cozy relationship with George Bush then why are you losing sleep over Modi? What's the issue?
And.. and there are any amount of sort of strategic affairs experts who write about how it's necessary for the government to act in its own interests, and in its own interests means at the cost of maybe Iraqis or Iranians or whoever. Everything is a strategic decision, whereas citizens are expected by that same immoral state to be moral.
Poor people mustn't steal; terrorism is bad; violence is bad; you mustn't let.. let people out of jail. Well, why not? I mean, maybe it's strategically important for us to let people out of jail. You know, I feel it's important to let people out of jail because, honestly, ninety-nine percent of the people in Indian prisons are not criminals.
You know, the criminals are all outside, everybody knows that. So we should let them out, you know. And, wh.. why shouldn't.. and the fact is that everything has to be a strategic decision. You can't have different standards for the state and the individual. Why shouldn't the poor be strategic then?
Roy talks of the process of disempowering citizens. The different yardsticks of morality for the state and the individual.
That's why you have a Right to Information Act and then you have an Official Secrets Act, so as to take care of the Right to Information Act.
Perhaps it's time to open out the conversation to everyone on the floor, so I'm going to ask my mics.. move it along.
I mean there was so many interesting points in that debate but the one thing where the.. that kind of stuck is still that metaphor of the buffalo and the bees. It left me with an uneasy feeling because I would rather identify actually.. when it's just about these animals, I'd rather identify with the buffalo, because, how do the bees live? Is that my.. my concept of organization? Is that the.. is that the.. my.. my definition of a.. of a good life? A bee's life? A fulfilling life of a.. of a bee?
I think, I rather thought this metaphor has to be turned upside down, and it's about like.. how can the buffalo defend against the bees? And exactly against the bees of.. of advertising, of surveillance, of control, of.. of motivation, of evaluation etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I'd rather see the.. in.. in that metaphor the individual as the buffalo and.. and.. and political struggle as adopting some of the virtues of the.. of the buffalo. Like a certain stoicism, a way of knowing that you have time, and that the bees are just temporal, and actually very weak, and I think if you learn something about.. exactly.. and.. and I'm serious about this.
You can learn from the buffalo about resistance. Like resistance to being forced to move, is probably also closely related to that right not to speak, the buffalo would maybe just.. maybe just move its head, but even refuse to. Like to.. a position. There's a certain calm to it, to the buffalo type of resistance that is rather long-wave and that seemed to me, may, in certain circumstances, be more of a revolutionary virtue than the short-wave attack mode of.. of the bees.
Resistance against like this spectacular commodification we're all pretty aware of.. can probably learn from the buffalo so much because to larger and larger degree, capital is exactly the bees, the swarms, the flocks, this type of mode of constant micro-attack, and that's why I think it's important to maybe revisit that metaphor.
Sebastian asks question about revisiting the bees and buffalo metaphor from the perspective of political resistance, and turning it on its head.
Roy talks of day-to-day subversion and outing the ownership of media houses to contextualise media.
Well, I think it.. it could be a.. it could be a goal to reverse the metaphor, you know, but I think when we're talking about.. in this case I mean if you read the essay it's referring specifically to the media, you know to the mainstream media, and not about resistance. But I think what is important is to actually you know do a sort of Photoshop on the buffalo and 'click' and it's.. it's.. it's.. you know, for instance, I feel that one of the important things we need to do is to out the, let's say in India, to out the ownership of media houses.
'Cause once we know that it's a sort of boardroom bulletin, it ceases to be as important as we think it is. So, the issue is not to rail against it, but to cons.. contextualize it in order to make it irrelevant, you know? That's what.. that's what I feel we should.. we should be aiming at.
But I.. I also think that it's very important, I mean if you want to use this metaphor in terms of political resistances, then I think it's very important to.. to understand that our modes of operation so far have been good, but now there has to be a change in gear, you know, we cannot have short-term stings, we cannot have weekend rallies and.. ok, you know, there has to be a way of being able to be political while you're sitting at home, and being subversive while you're in your life, on a day-to-day basis, everyday, all the time.
I want to bring an issue relating.. excuse me.. relating to.. you asked the question about blueprints. You know, they may not be so blue, they could be some.. you know, more faded prints, but, partly I agree with the response that was given, in the sense that it is a politics that is demanded out of you, but also I think what is missing is that given the history of 20th century and given the history of failures of kinds of attempts to change, what is missing is you know, that one's connection to larger bodies, organizations, that the urgency that I think is very clearly evident in today's talk, is also placed at the centre of your response to the need for change. In other words, when you bring in the question of the organization or larger body, and you insist that urgency, that political urgency has to be there..
Question asked about the missing urgency when connecting to organizations/bodies.
I mean, I'm at a place right now where I don't know what to think, you know, because I feel that there.. there's, you know, there's a.. there's a.. at.. at this point of time the most important, I mean, the most optimistic feeling I have is.. is when I think about subversion. And is subversion tantamount to resistance? I don't know, you know, I really don't know.
But I do feel that, you know, one of the things we have to do is to inflict damage on the system somehow, you know, and how that should be done.. it can't be done by being good, you know? It can't be done by being good.
So, what are the ways in which we should be padmash, we should be bad, what.. how far is who prepared to go, I don't know. But I, on the one.. you know, and I feel that it.. there is reason for optimism in that if at some point everyone is in any case illegal, you know, it's like, in Jharkhand and Chattisgarh and Orissa, whether you're a Maoist or not, you're counted as a Maoist, so you might as well be one, you know?
So, it's.. it's like wh.. what, you know, what safe-houses are we prepared to breach, you know, and how? I don't know the answers to that, because I just feel that, you know, what has happened in.. in.. in the formal social resistance movements in India is that many sort of Gandhian non-violent movements have been just reduced to going to court.
You know, then you have a.. a few middle-class activists who are the only people who know how to deal with courts and affidavits and, so, even though they don't mean to, they become empowered and the rest are sort of left out of that process because you're negotiating with this.. with this behemoth which doesn't speak the language of those people, it doesn't even speak English, it speaks some other language, you know, and you've to be an expert to deal with it.
Roy talks of subversion, but the manner in which resistance movements can break down due to only some of the participants being empowered and the others being left out
And those people who are involved in sort of militant resistance movements, once again, you know, those who are prepared to go the distance are the ones that are powerful. And the rest, who want some political space, don't have it. So, both ways it's sort of undemocratised or de-democratised resistance movements.
And, of course, you know the whole project of neo-liberalism has created a.. a.. a.. a.. a very, a very much vaster, happier middle-class than we used to have, you know, so, you know like, let me.. let me.. for example.. give you the example of Kashmir.
For many years, the Indian state has treated it as a.. as a nationalist battle, and so have the people there. You know, it's a battle of Kashmiris against India. And that battle has been fought by the Indian army. So, I don't know how many of you know this, but there are a 125,000 American troops in Iraq. There are 800,000 Indian troops in Kashmir, you know? You cannot breathe. They're like pollen there. You cannot move without a gun up your nostril.
Now the new way of dealing with this problem is.. you know, the talk is to raise the stakes in peace. You know what that means? That means creating a massive class divide, creating a sort of corporate elite which will break the.. which they hope will break the unity that is there now, you know? And it seems that class struggles are easier to manage than ethnic struggles or religious struggles or nationalist struggles.
So these are the ways in which you break movements. Whether it's.. and anywhere else.. you know.. how.. you just, instead of killing people you just buy off the leaders, you just give them an.. you know, a house or a job or you know.. whatever. These are very interesting ways in which, you know, in which.. I mean.. I'd say that one of the things that fascinates me is how absurdly bad the Indian government is at administration, and how completely sophisticated it is when it comes to repression, you know? I mean, they know.. the Indian army knows every household in Kashmir, how many brothers, how many sisters, how many young children, how many grandparents, who's where, what's going on, if a bomb-blast happens here, body is found here, you know, it.. everything is predicated on information gathering which doesn't matter if you don't have digital technology send soldiers out.
You.. either way you get the information. And the repression is complete. And the.. and the understanding is very (indistinct)
Roy talks of undemocratised resistance and takes the example of Kashmir where she says it's easier to try and create a class struggle to break the unity.
Just a very brief intervention, there's an anecdote that, not an anecdote, a fact that until two years ago I think, mobile telephones were not.. you were not allowed to have mobile telephones in Kashmir. Until the Indian Army said, we should have mobile telephones, so that we can listen in.
Every, I mean, if you know, every terrorist that is killed in India or in Kashmir, they have their full life story in their pocket, they have, you know, all the phone calls they've made, the whole network, and a packet of dry fruits, you know?
So, I've actually got Kashmiri friends who are terrified of buying dry fruits, because they say you never know what'll happen you know, if you have dry fruits in your pocket.
I have a.. actually a small question, might seem a bit tangential. I've been really enjoying this discussion, but anyway. By listening, and the sense I'm getting, and I may be wrong of course, is that there seems to be a difference in the ways in which spaces are available for capture in the cities and the rural.. the countryside.
At least there seems to be a binary that's emerging.. (indistinct) So for instance, in the city, there's a way in which people can capture, or in all kinds of ways, through the ways in which Solly indicated, through slow processes of negotiation, through access to technologies of information and all, so you have networks through which all kinds of commodities are produced, in violation of the law, Jawahar's presentation shows us how in fact they're not so easy to control, so even though you have a way in which there are sharp conflicts and no one is denying that cities (indistinct) sharp conflicts, there's a way in which people make do, or there is an agility to life in the city.
But the sense I'm getting from the discussion, and also from a lot of the things that Arundhati has been sharing is that, is it then that in the countryside it's more difficult, that the avenues through which you can articulate resistances in whichever way you define that resistance, and I'm not talking only of vocal political protest because often in the cities from what we've been seeing in the past few days the space of resistance is not vocal political protest, I mean it takes that form sometimes but not always.. but is that.. is that true? Is that.. I mean I'm just trying to work through..
Question about spaces in cities and the countryside, and whether conflict in the latter is more difficult to articulate than in the former.
I think it's a very interesting question, and it's remarkable when you think.. if you just think.. imagine the city, and you imagine the countryside, you would imagine that the space in the city is much more contested and regulated, wouldn't you? But actually if you look at what's happening in India, like, squatters can come and live in slums and slums take over cities and then they get demolished and.. you know, there's a lot of informalness that settles in the cracks of the urban institutions.
But if you look at what's happening in the countryside, is very interesting that all massacres, killings, caste wars, everything happens over land. And, if you look at radical social movements, you know for instance year before last.. two, three years ago.. two years ago I think in February, a group of 4000 adivasi people in Kerala, who had been promised land, who had been displaced and then promised land by the Kerala government, and that promise was never kept, went and occupied space in a national park.
The response was furious. It was firing at women and children openly. Every time the government opens fire, it will be because they're protecting territory. Not necessarily government territory, if it were private territory it would be protected even more because it's even more threatening, you know, so all disputes are over land.
And those disputes end in bloodshed, you know, so if you like, if.. if for instance the people who had been protesting for all these years in the Narmada valley, had they decided to go and.. and grab land, the mo.. the non-violence of the state would have disappeared in one second. One second, you know, they just.. it.. it's something that is patrolled and policed with ferocity. That. And that's a very interesting thing, that, you know, that land is at the heart of everything, in rural India.
Roy talks of the importance of land in both urban and rural areas, and the non-violent posturing of the state that evaporates the instant territory is under threat.
It's a.. very interesting Arundhati, thank you, and thanks to you all for being here. But one question that's always been on my mind, and has been answered in different ways, and now that we're talking about land and actually possessing it..
I always got into trouble, for something.. part of some collateral damage as I saw it, standing there but I got caught for trouble I didn't make.
And, the old adage was that the mango tree that hangs the most amount of mangoes gets the most amount of stones thrown at it, ok?
So then my next question to the world was, So what do I do? Stop growing mangoes? Stop producing mangoes or, you know, stop creating something that I can share with the world? You have any takes on that?
Did you get that? Yeah?
Roy: I didn't.
Ok, the tree with the most mangoes gets the most number of stones thrown at it, ok? The mango, the mango tree? So.. In Kerala we call it the 'mao', so my grandmum used to say 'Ey, you know, the tree with the most amount of mangoes gets the most number of stones'. So my question to her was, so does the mango tree stop producing mangoes to stay away from stones it got.. yeah?
No of course not, it starts enjoying having thro.. having stones thrown at it.
You know, like, what's dissent without a few good insults? You have to enjoy being a shit-stirrer.
Q: You accept it, right?
I'm afraid I only arrived right at the end of the discussions, so I didn't in fact hear most of what you said. But I have the impression that the.. that the talk has really been about what's wrong, both in India as well as often in the US, I'm not sure whether enough has been said about how to tackle what's wrong.
And I wondered whether in fact there's another option available to protest, which is that given that, or assuming that a nation is also an organism, it might simply have to die, for it to be born again. And if one sees the level of imbalance in the country today, in all spheres, both establishments as well as non-establishments, it looks very difficult to imagine that reform whatever it means is going to be enough to turn the ship around. And I'm not even sure that we really want to eradicate corruption and etcetera etcetera.
I only recently arrived in Bangalore, about three -four months ago, and I was surprised to read in the paper recently that there was an attempt by some people in one of the colonies in Bangalore to have illegal constructions stopped. In fact what they faced was the ire of the other residents who didn't want their homes to be demolished. And in.. the reality is eighty to ninety percent of all constructions has an illegal component to it, so an attempt to actually redress a wrong produces a backlash from so many who are knee-deep in the wrong, and this applies right across the board in any.. in any activity you care to examine.
So, why is it that reform alone will work? It may simply have to be that there'll be, in the next twenty, twenty-five years that different levels of anarchy, already twenty-five percent of the land space we are told is under Maoist control, or under Naxal control, so why won't one option simply be that we'll have to die off, and restart again in a different form, I don't mean a different human form, I mean a different form as an organism?
Question about whether humans can evolve out of the situation.
That would be nice. But the point is that I think, I mean, one of the.. one of the things I.. I do want to say is that, you know, I.. I mean, I don't think Shuddha or me or Lawrence are.. we are not people who are searching for some kind of ideal society where every right is going to be.. every wrong is going to be righted and everything is going to be ok, because actually people who.. who thought that.. were often.. genocide has been the precursor to this kind of thinking, you know, the Stalinists, or Hitler.
And.. and.. and the point is I don't know what, I mean, what somebody means by anarchy, someone else could think of as a wonderful thing, you know? And what some, like, what we were talking about, I mean just because, you know, the.. the municipality says 75% of the city is illegal, it doesn't make it wrong. But there will always be conflict, you know, and.. and I think the.. the thing is that we.. many of us anyway are people who sort of oscillate in a space where you're, you know, back-ended by two juggernauts.
One is a juggernaut of some kind of, you know, thinking which says that if we just kill off a few million people and we just get rid of this race and do that and the world will be a perfect place. And the other is, you know, the lazy notion of Hindu.. the lazy Hindu notion of karma which suits the upper classes just fine, you know, which is that everything will be resolved in the next life.
So, between those two, we sort of try and.. try and, you know, create an energy and an anger and a life and a.. and some beauty, and some naughtiness and whatever it is. But, I don't think we have a very jumped up notion of ourselves in terms of what we're trying to do.
But I.. I.. I think it's important to know that you know, to.. to someone sitting in an urban area it seems like Oh, the Maoists have taken over, you know, all these various places in India, but maybe for them it's a good thing, you know? So, who's to say that it's not something wonderful that's happening, you know? I mean, I've always felt that India is one of those few countries where you can come and be among the very poor and feel safe. And I don't know what to think about that, cause I feel, what about the anger? Where is it, you know?
And.. so.. so, safety is also something that privileged people seek, but those who are unsafe are up for anarchy.
Lawrence, with your permission, since the subject of death is always close to my heart..as you know.
I take your point about organisms with some amount of seriousness and some amount of skepticism. I'm very hesitant to describe social entities as organisms, or try and think of any natural metaphor for social processes, because then we start falling into the trap of are.. are we sick societies or healthy societies and so on and so forth.
Having said that, I think it's also perfectly reasonable to expect social forms to wither, you know? I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect the nation-state to wither.. wither away. Even human beings to wither away over time; dinosaurs have withered, so must we.
But, that's not necessarily.. that does not necessarily mean that whatever takes its place will naturally be something better or wonderful. I mean, probably we.. we're not in the position to judge because we don't live in the future. So speculation about that future is.. is.. is difficult.
I also want to say something about the.. the idea that.. why aren.. why don't we talk about what is right, where I want to invoke the right to remain silent, about what is right. I'm certain about what's wrong. I'm not always certain about what's right, because there are certain things that are right in the world that I feel are right in con.. in contingent ways. They're right for some people, they're right for some time, they're right in.. in specific ways, but not in general ways.
But it's probably more interesting to think about what one does that can let one, you know, sleep, or as you (points at Roy) said, or not stay awake all the time. And it's.. it's more interesting for me to think about.. to.. to.. to not even speak about what one is doing, but.. but do certain things in ways that you feel constantly respond to what is wrong, or create conditions where.. where what is wrong has to respond to you.
Where.. to take the.. to take the turn of phrase that Sebastian invoked to.. to.. to suggest the slow, obstinate movement of the buffalo, knowing that you have time, knowing certainly that just as other forms of social organization have withered, so will the state. And the state of those that imagine to rep.. imagine that they will replace this state, because, I mean, the Maoists have their own version of the state that they wish to create, I'm certain that that too will wither, you know? I don't know what will come afterwards.
I'm just a little tempted to add.. a bit to this as well. Maybe the lazy notion of karma needs to loses its laziness where the dicta to act or the inevitable.. inevitability of action without however having a prior notion of the right or the wrong, but outside of the act, but then be the.. you know, the.. the answer, so that the myth of Sisyphus is no longer a myth. Maybe the.. you know, there is no top out there.
Liang talks of needing to shed the lazy notion of karma.
I also think that much of what we say, I say anyway, has to do with trying to understand and intervene in the game between power and powerlessness, you know, whether it's the state, or whether it's a big farmer and a small farmer, or a CEO and an employee, or a.. you know, even within personal relationships. I think there are people who have a comfortable equation with power, and there are people who are automatically, almost genetically, sort of opposed to accepting that, you know? And.. and.. lot of.. a lot of what we do is in the questioning of power.
I.. I.. I once.. recently I met a.. old man in.. in Orissa.. he was a old sort of Gandhian academic, and he said something very sweet to me. He said, you know, the Naxalites, the Maoists, they keep coming to me and.. you know, for help or shelter or whatever it is, and I keep telling them that I'm with you as long as you're in the opposition. But I know that, you know, if you ever were to gain power, I would be the first person that you'd eliminate, you know?
So, it's really of.. who's on which side of the line, you know? What happens to people when they cross the line? People.. even people like I mean even if you look at it in formal terms.. what happened to Nelson Mandela, what happened to.. who's that Brazilian? .. what happened to Lula, you know, what happen.. what happens when you cross the line? It's not a.. it's not a personal character certificate. It's not like these guys were good guys, and then they became bad guys.
But they were one thing in one situation and then the forces that were upon them when they crossed the line made them change into something else, you know? So to understand that, I think whether it's politically or personally is.. is what would interest me.
Roy speaks of intervening in the game between power and powerlessness and how one changes when crossing the line from powerlessness into a position of power.
We have time for just two more questions.. ok, three. The last three.
Just a small comment for that question raised about the Maoists..
if you look at the Urban states, it's good.. multinationals.. (indistinct)
Talking about the more substantive issues that media might cover going beyond the cycles of crisis.(indistinct)
what kind of coverage would you like to see (soft)
Shall I repeat? Ok, sorry.
Yeah, I had a question for Arundhati Roy and this goes back to this whole question of media coverage and substantive issues that might be covered beyond these cycles of crisis, and looking specifically at this Act that provides a hundred days work to families in rural areas, what kind of coverage would you like to see of that?
Just to clarify, she's talking about the new rural employment guarantee Act that the government is going to pass. Well I think, you know, I mean, I'm.. I'm very circumspect about it, because I find it hard to understand how a government that is pursuing policies that are directly leading to a loss of employment, then wants to pass an Act which says that it's going to guarantee employment at minimum wages, it's.. if you, I mean, if you read it, it's full of caveats.
And one of the.. one of the things that.. in, you know, in the years that I've been involved with the Narmada issue, one has come to know quite intimately.. is that there is a whole industry of writing policy, of writing judgments, of passing laws which simply cannot be implemented. Because it's much better to do that than to.. you know, it's much better to say you believe in free speech and then find ways of subverting it than to overtly censor someone.
So it's a way of.. it's.. it's.. it's a kind of smoke and mirrors, you know? How do you reduce the target, you know, how do you play games with that, how do you get publicity for yourself? I mean, I.. I think one of the.. one of the most spectacular sort of events that happened in India around the general elections, you know, was how you saw the huge media coverage, all over the world, of the biggest democracy at work, you know, and the people coming on camels, and the old ladies and.. you know, all that, coming to vote, and.. and.. and the huge turnout in rural areas was a vote in anger against the economic policies of.. of the BJP.
And, even before the dust had settled, even before we knew who the new Prime Minister was going to be, even before the names of Ministers had been announced, because the Congress had campaigned saying that they were going to re-look at privatization and so on, the stocks began to fall. Even the.. even the stocks of the television companies began to fall. And immediately the r.. reporters moved from the rural hinterland to outside the Bombay stock exchange, and even before the government was announced, people had to come out and say that they were not going to radically revise the economic policy, you know..
You no longer have ideologies that.. that are around.. on party lines. You have only ideologies of government and ideologies of opposition that can be switched whenever you want to, which makes a joke.. I mean elections are like some kind of circus now.
So, you know, given all that is happening, given that the Prime Minister has never been elected, he was working for years with the World Bank, the head of the Planning Commission is an IMF man, the Finance Minister was the lawyer for Enron and was Harvard Business School.. they don't have another imagination, you know? They just don't.
The.. the Finance Minister was on the board of all the big multinational mining companies till the day before he becomes Finance Minister. There's an enquiry against the.. arbitration of Enron, but the Finance Minister was the guy who.. who was their lawyer. And the Planning Secre.. Planning Commission secretary was the person who facilitated the signing of that outrageous contract in the first place. The so-called, like, you know, those Victorian bedroom farces, if it weren't so sad.
Roy speaks about being circumspect about the government's employment scheme, and believes it's only smoke and mirrors. Even before ministers were announced, the Congress went back on what they had campaigned. Also speaks about the death of party ideology, and the outside influences and possibly vested interests in the actions of people in the government.