Some Thoughts on Love

Posted in Uncategorized by Karthick RM on February 14, 2015

‘Is Love a tender thing?’ asked Romeo. ‘It is too rough, too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn,’ he concluded.

If someone were to say in contemporary Western society that they were willing to suffer, maybe even die for Love, they would be looked on as a mad person. Yet there exist men and women in Third World societies who defy the primitive cultural diktats of caste, tribe, religion and community, who dare to transgress boundaries, who dare to Love. Some of them succeed. Others are lynched in grotesque rituals that goes by the name of ‘honor killings’. And in their suffering, they become flesh and blood monuments to this thing called Unconditional Love.

I find it hard not to believe that it is easier to find Unconditional Love in restrictive societies than in societies that are excessively permissive. It appears to be easier here in the West to say ‘You know, I slept around with four people on the same day’ than to say ‘This is the one person I want to be with all my life.’ The latter, not the former, is the test of passion. Indeed, the word passion itself has been corrupted in popular parlance to mean some excess of desire. On the contrary, passion, derived from the Latin patere means to embrace suffering. The Passion of the Christ was the man’s willingness to undergo torment for the sake of the object of his Love, universal humanity. The closest thing to Christ in the previous century, Martin Luther King Jr, spoke about how absolute and Unconditional Love alone could guarantee the creation of a human and a humane community. Was not King’s martyrdom yet another sacrifice for the sublime cause of Love?

But to talk about sacrifice is something too much, too dangerous for the liberal. The problem with our liberal society is the moral nihilism that infects it, corrupts it from within. I look at nihilism here not as an urge to destroy all icons, but rather as the lack of firm belief in anything of value, a reluctance for passion, an unwillingness to commit. Sex, to our liberal nihilist, has no deeper value. It is a mere contract for mutual pleasure between two (or more) persons. And with the multicultural baggage, you can have sexual experiments with people of different races and genders and boast to yourself about your supposed transgressiveness, your fling with an exotic person.

And there are these ridiculous ‘empirical’ studies of what men like in women and vice versa. Sizes of breasts, noses, penises and vaginas. Women with short or long hair. Clean shaven or bearded men. The skin color that attracts most. It is as if Love is to be reduced to an object on a human body that has no meaning by itself. Down the years, we might also have such enlightening empirical studies on whether the possession of an Apple iPad increases your prospects for sex and if the use of robots for threesomes can save your marriage… This is particularism at its cheapest. You do not desire a person for what they are in their totality (a matter of soul) but for some specific aspect which they have (a matter of body, and other extra fittings). Frank Sinatra in his inimitable style rubbished these fetishes in My Funny Valentine where he sings that though his lover might not have all the perfect bodily features, she is his ‘favorite work of art’, beseeching her not change even a hair, for he loves her as she is.

Is this prioritization of sex over Love not the logical conclusion of the so-called sexual revolution of the swinging 60s? I believe a popular slogan in May 68 Paris was ‘Making revolution is like making love’. After the initial orgasmic outburst of having multiple sexual partners on one hand and putting up fashionable street protests on the other, things just went back to normal in the system. It is as if the activists’ lack of absolute commitment while screwing each other prevented them from being absolutely committed to screwing the system…

This is not an indictment of Western society. Nay, in my opinion, the best accounts of Unconditional Love were produced by Western novelists, poets, dramatists and philosophers. A real life Love story that moved me the most was that of Austrian thinker-cum-activist Andre Gorz and his English wife Dorine. Political students of Sartre and Beauvoir and active participants in May 68 protests, the couple believed in radical freedom. But they also believed that they found radical freedom in their unswerving commitment and fidelity to each other. In his tribute to the Love he had for his wife, a fascinating little book called Letter to D, Gorz writes ‘being passionately in love is a way of resonating with the other, body and soul, and with her or him alone.’

Decades after a life well-lived together, Dorine was diagnosed with a deadly cancer. Not willing to ‘outlive the other’, Andre took his own life on the same day that Dorine passed away. This sort of a relationship might appear as a miracle in our cynical times. But precisely because these are cynical times, it is a miracle worth believing in, one worth fighting for.

Yes, Love is rough and it pricks like thorn. It strikes at your ontological core and mutilates your identity, your sense of Self. It calls for commitment, sacrifice and suffering. It involves a leap of faith into the Other, a willingness to embrace her/him in her totality, in a journey that creates different conjoined individuals of both. It involves seeing the Universality of humanity in the beloved, rather than a fetish for particularities (ooh, I like your hair, I like your skin color etc). The pleasure of such Love is beyond trivial physical releases; It is, as Gorz wrote, ‘a way of giving yourself and calling forth the gift of self from the other person.’

Happy Valentine’s Day to all those who can relate to what I am talking about.

To others, miracles exist.

J’accuse: Charlie Hebdo and the Rank Stupidity of the Infantile Left

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on January 20, 2015

Originally published on Huffington Post

In the wake of the brutal murders at the office of the French satirist magazine Charlie Hebdo, did you come across any article which read something like the following?

‘While the Hebdo murders are sad (add few token lines of phony sympathy) France has killed many people during colonialism. And it has a history of white racism. Plus, it is also engaged in neo-colonial endeavors. Likewise, Charlie Hebdo is Islamophobic (give few examples). The murderers are just isolated madmen and do not have an ideology. etc etc.’

Well done! You’ve just had a generous dose of infantile leftism! Criticism is reserved only for the West and Israel. Only the Whites and Jews have it in them to be the super-villains of the world. The rest are just innocent suffering victims. And yes, the ‘resistance’ of these ‘victims’ – whatever form it might come in – ought not be criticized. Ironically, this sort of Manichean thinking, that of the bad West vs the poor Rest, is precisely the mirror-image of the Bush doctrine of “either you are with us or against us”.

Slovene philosopher Slavoj Zizek made an interesting comment about such trends among the left: “For the multiculturalist, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are prohibited, Italians and Irish get a little respect, blacks are good, native Americans are even better. The further away we go, the more they deserve respect. This is a kind of inverted, patronizing respect that puts everyone at a distance.”

The irrational hatred for Whites and Jews (including those from the working class) apart, this is precisely the kind of patronizing respect that the infantile left in Western countries shows towards Islamism. In reality, this left is much like the right, in that it secretly accepts that Muslims are incapable of radical social reform, and hence, becomes a patron of Islamist identity politics. And the bogey it invents to hide its own failures and to shut down legitimate criticisms of Islamism is that of Islamophobia. And the ‘name-and-shame’ campaign this coterie launches against critics – not to mention the real, existential threat posed by Islamic fanatic groups – create a climate where there is self-censorship that writers, intellectuals and comedians impose on themselves. The implicit message seems to be this: criticize Islam, and you are an Islamophobe. Should you be killed, you probably deserved it.

Isn’t that what is also transpiring in Hebdo attack case? Though the magazine was clearly an equal-opportunity offender some on the left have used even this tragic circumstance to paint the institution as ‘Islamophobic’.

I did come across a few nauseating articles but this one by Richard Seymour on a magazine that goes by the name “Jacobin” takes the cake. Let alone a solidarity with the victims – which the writer believes to be “platitudinous” – there is not even a word of condemnation of the terrorists (again, a term which the writer opposes to categorize the killers) who executed this barbaric attack. Instead there is a banal sermon on the possible dangers of Islamophobia, a totally irrelevant anecdote about Thatcher coupled with an inappropriate comparison with the IRA, and accusations at Charlie Hebdo which make it sound as though the magazine invited the attack.

It is precisely this sort of irresponsible justifications of acts of blind terrorism that shrink the already limited political space for progressive activists, representatives of the working class and oppressed nations. And no less a person than Lenin condemned these sort of acts. Seymour asks his readers to check up on Said’s Orientalism (and it is not a wonder that he is disapproving of Zizek). But maybe he should re-read – and try to understand – what Lenin meant when he called terrorist-glorification tendencies an ‘infantile disorder’.

A true leftist would realize that the attack on Charlie Hebdo is not merely an attack on a liberal freedom of press – it is an attack of a core Marxist value, namely, the ethical imperative to critically examine every ideology under the sun, and Islam is no special exception. For a leftist to ignore that is imbecility at its worst.

As far Islamist terrorism goes, maybe the Left should remember what Robespierre, the patriarch of modern day revolutionaries, said – “To punish the oppressors of humanity is benevolence; to be benevolent to them is barbarism.” This, and this alone, is real Jacobinism.This, and this alone, is real Jacobinism.

Islamophilia Cannot Be an Effective Answer to Islamophobia

Posted in International by Karthick RM on December 24, 2014

Originally published on Huffington Post

The recent siege by an Islamist in Sydney has raised all too familiar debates about Islamophobia. The general right-wing argument, of course, is that such acts of terrorism are justified by a hard-core minority of Muslims and that downplaying the role of Islam is potentially harmful. On the other hand, the general liberal-left argument is that expecting all Muslims to condemn such acts is bigoted because a whole community cannot be held accountable for the actions of a few ‘deranged lunatics’.

Central to both arguments is an unstated belief that the Islamic identity is central to all Muslims, and while the former despises it, the latter preaches a patronising tolerance of the same. And both are wrong.

We have to look at Islamophobia as the tendency to blame Muslims as a whole, without any differentiation of nation, culture, class, gender, and political orientation for terrorist acts committed by Islamists.

Likewise, we have to look at Islamophilia as the tendency to exonerate Islam as an ideology from the crimes that are committed in its name, as the belief that the Muslim identity is good in itself and is central to an adherent of the faith.

Reality, if anything, shows the contrary. Proponents of the two sides are unlikely to remember that the first state to declare itself officially atheist in the world happened to be a predominantly ‘Muslim’ country – socialist Albania. Under Enver Hoxha, the state banned religion and religious preaching, shut down mosques, and tried to achieve gender parity in all services. In practice, the ‘Muslim’ Hoxha was the most rabid Islamophobe of the previous century. Incidentally, it was precisely those western governments – who are now accused of harbouring Islamophobia – who railed against Hoxha for curbing religious freedom for Muslims.

Several other examples could be given. The Indonesian Communist Party led insurgency, the Kurdish movement in the middle-east, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (Turkey), the Communist Party of Iran – all militantly secular movements led by ‘Muslims’ – have faced brutal repression from variants of Islamism. It would be a brutal illogic to say that the murder of thousands of individuals from these movements had nothing to do with the Islamic ideology that the states they challenged upheld.

Why is this important? Drawing parallels from other cases, can we say that the Inquisition’s slaughter of tens of thousands of heretics at the stake was just an act committed by a few ‘deranged lunatics’ and that the ideology of the Church had no role to play in it? Can we say that the discrimination against Dalits, the lowest castes in the Hindu hierarchy, owes to a few bad individuals and is not a structural problem in Hinduism? Can we say that war crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan state against the Tamils were just acts of bad soldiers and they can be divorced from the genocidal intent of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism?

Similarly, we cannot excuse the Islamic ideology from the terrorism and violence that is committed in its name. There is a lot in political Islam that justifies violence against non-Muslims, sexism and terroristic acts and those Muslims who have been fighting it for long have written the best testimonials. For liberals in the West to ignore this and to engage in downright immature acts, like wearing a hijab to convey solidarity with Muslim women, is tantamount to mocking those progressives in Muslim communities who resist the cultural diktats of political Islam.

A more critical approach to political Islam is needed. Commenting on the Rotherhamchild abuse scandal, which saw the sexual abuse of over a thousand white, mostly working class, children by men of Pakistani-Muslim origin, Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek argued that raising questions about inherent sexism and violence in these communities is neither racist nor Islamophobic. Rather, it is this questioning alone that can guarantee an authentic co-existence.

Liberals and leftists in the West are right to condemn the bigotry of the majority community, but the fundamentalism of the minority community cannot be spared from criticism. If those identifying as left and liberal fail to criticise the dangerous trends of Islamism, the right will step up for the task. That is a future no one wants and political correctness can do little to fight it. Maybe one can start by expressing critical solidarity with those progressive movements from within the Muslim communities that are willing to think beyond narrow religious identities and are willing to challenge the bigotries in Islamic ideology.

Excerpt from my review of Chomsky’s On Anarchism

Posted in International, Liberation Struggles, Politics by Karthick RM on December 8, 2014

Read full review at The Oxonian Review

Inspired by anarchist ideas, the Kurdish struggle in the Middle East led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliated groups is a particularly successful and spectacular movement. Though initially conceived as a Kurdish nationalist-cum-Marxist-Leninist movement, it evolved into a movement that seeks to transcend barriers of nations and states, and seeks instead to establish autonomous sovereign communes of peoples based on equitable distribution of resources, mutual recognition, and tolerance. The PKK-led Kurdish struggle, under the theoretical guidance of its founder-leader Abdullah Ocalan, is based on direct democracy and grassroots participation. It is of note here that Ocalan was greatly influenced by the ideas of the American anarchist Murray Bookchin. The latter’s idea of “libertarian municipalism”, the creation of local level democratic bodies as opposed to a centralised state apparatus, contributed to the development of Ocalan’s idea of “democratic confederalism” which forms the theoretical basis for the praxis of the PKK. Even though a critical situation like the one with which the Kurds are now faced—confronting ISIS—requires strict military discipline, the vanguard of the Kurdish struggle has not established a vertical decision-making process, choosing instead a more horizontal approach to cultivating cadres and leaders.

The effects of such an approach can be seen in the enthusiastic participation of Kurdish women in the struggle. Unlike most nationalist movements that symbolically use the bodies of women in the peak of a military campaign but send them “back to the kitchen” once the goals are achieved, the Kurdish struggle in Kobane involves women as an integral, organic part. Kurdish women in Kobane are the agents of their own liberation, and are as politically equipped at resisting chauvinism within their own communities as they are fierce in resisting the brutalities of ISIS. Few movements in the world have been able to rival the PKK when it comes to gender parity. And, while Chomsky himself has written little on the Kurdish struggle, it might actually be the best contemporary example to validate his own position on the moral superiority of anarchism.

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Pirapaharan at Sixty: The Meaning of the Man

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on December 8, 2014

Originally published on Sangam

Is Pirapaharan dead?

Ten years back, TamilNet senior editor and military analyst Taraki Sivaram wrote a brilliant piece on the political legacy of Pirapaharan at fifty.  Come 26 November this year, the founder-leader of the LTTE and one of the most brilliant military minds of South Asia will turn sixty.  Quite a lot has been said, by both admirers and adversaries, about the life of the man.  But what is his meaning?

It is impossible to understand Pirapaharan unless one understands the interrelated essences of Sangam poetry – love and war – and its influence on the Tamil military tradition.  The ethics of Tamil akam poetry, that of unconditional love towards the object of concern influences the ethics of the puram poetry, which calls for unconditional fidelity to the king and the kingdom.  However, even this unconditionality carries within it a condition that reinforces the unconditionality.  For instance, the woman of virtue (Tamil progressives will, and with ample justification, criticize this, but let us leave discussions about gender problems in epic poetry for another day) is the object of love because she is a woman of virtue, the love has a platonic character because of the virtuous nature of the object.  Likewise, the soldier’s fidelity to the king is because the king is loyal to the kingdom, and the king’s loyalty to the kingdom commands the soldier’s fidelity.  The object of love and the object of fidelity function as cornerstones in a discursive network, without which the network would collapse.  In other words, they provide meaning to the meaning of things.

In a sense that is Pirapaharan.  At sixty, in what some call the ‘post-conflict era’, the symbolism of Pirapaharan speaks that Tamil nationalism is alive and kicking.   The 5 lakh students who got out on the street in Tamil Nadu in early 2013, and thousands of protestors in the diaspora who challenged the injustice of the international community carried his image.  These activists believe that this image signifies Tamil nationalist resistance to oppression.  But isn’t this ‘idol worship’ problematic?

Commenting on the veneration of revolutionary leaders, Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle writes “‘Hero-worship’ becomes a fact inexpressibly precious; the most solacing fact one sees in the world at present.  There is an everlasting hope in it for the management of the world.  Had all traditions, arrangements, creeds, societies that men ever instituted, sunk away, this would remain.  The certainty of Heroes being sent us; our faculty, our necessity, to reverence Heroes when sent: it shines like a polestar through smoke-clouds, dust-clouds, and all manner of downrushing and conflagration.”  An oxymoronic, mostly moronic, ‘liberal left’ discredits the idea of leadership.  No less a person than Lenin believed that a revolution required revolutionary leaders who stuck to their principles, and were willing to make decisions that the ordinary could not make.  This belief is reinstated by contemporary philosophers like Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou, who also argue that a true revolutionary leader represents a Universal over and beyond narrow particulars.

While Lilliputian minds would fix a region, religion or caste label to Pirapaharan, the real ideological significance of Pirapaharan is that he transcends these narrow particularities and serves as a Universal referent for Tamil nationalists.  Not only is Pirapaharan now a symbol of Eelam Tamil nationalism, he has also transfigured as a symbol of Tamil civilizational consciousness.  What else explains the tens of thousands of youth in Tamil Nadu considering an Eelam Tamil leader as their own Tamil hero who provided a promise of Tamil renaissance?

But every great uniter is also a divider.  As Pirapaharan becomes the symbolic standard that unites patriots, he is also the standard that separates traitors.  The Pirapaharan school of thought, which is the radical extension of the thoughts of V. Navaratnam and SJV Chelvanayagam, as much as it is a standard for evaluating patriotism, also becomes the scale by which treason is judged.  To be a true Christian, it is imperative to believe in the struggle between Good and Evil, not just external Evil, but also the Evil that is internal.  Likewise, to be a Tamil nationalist in the footsteps of Pirapaharan means not just an opposition to the Sinhala state and its allies, but also traitors who undermine the struggle from within.  And for that, we need to keep reminding ourselves what Pirapaharan means, what is the idea of Pirapaharan.

Coming back to the original question – Is Pirapaharan dead?  This might confuse some people, but I would say that Pirapaharan the individual died when he founded the LTTE. Ever since, what has existed is an idea.  An idea that means sovereign Tamil Eelam; the creation of a society that is based on universal principles of justice and equality; a society without regionalism, communalism, sexism or casteism; a society where the love of heroic passions replaces the lust for trivial sentiments; a society without particularist chauvinism or cheap liberal cosmopolitanism; the creation of a people who resonate the glories of the Tamil past purging it of all darkness and enriching it with the emancipatory narrative of a universal future; the idea that the impossible can be made possible by the Will to Freedom.

And ideas, like heroes, are immortal.

Finally, when people ask questions like “Will Pirapaharan come back,” I remember a conversation I had with a Jesuit in Chennai.  I asked him “Do you really believe in the Second Coming of Christ?”  He replied nonchalantly, “I do not know if he will come or not. But if he does, I want to be sure that I have remained a true Christian, that I have done all in my power to serve the humanity he so loved so that he will be pleased on arrival.”  This is precisely the spirit that Tamil nationalists must adopt now.

The battle for Kobane offers a glimpse of Kurds’ new model democracy

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on December 8, 2014

Article originally published on The Conversation

As the battle against Islamic State fighters draws in viewers across the world, there has been some attention given to the men and women resisting them in northern Syria. The Syrian part of Kurdistan, or Rojava, as the Kurds would like to call it, has been fighting Islamists for well over two years now but only recently has the battle for the border town of Kobane brought them to light.

And while it’s easy to portray the Kurdish people as pitted against this new terrorist threat, they are actually involved in something far more profound. Kobane is symbolic and the conflict there carries a universal significance. Not only are the Kurds battling the Islamists, but they are also attempting to create a model of democracy that might actually bring stability to a war-torn region.

The Kurdish political vision is not founded on any particular racial, ethnic, regional or religious belief but rather on an idea, or a set of ideas, that should resonate with people everywhere.

Fighters in Kobane claim to be standing up for the freedom of everyone in the region, be they Kurds, Turks, Arabs or anyone else. The way the fighters in Kobane have challenged stereotypical gender roles is just one example.

As far as religious difference goes, Kobane disproves both Islamophobes who believe the Middle East to be incapable of progress and politically correct Islamophiles who push the patronising idea that religious identity is a top priority for Muslims the world over. In their readiness to defend the Yazidi minority against persecution from IS, the Kurds have essentially been promoting a radical secularism and a vision of tolerance in a region torn by religious strife.

What is novel about the Kurdish struggle for self-determination is its very definition of self-determination. The concept, when applied to nations, is generally taken to mean the right of nations to secede and form states of their own, but the Kurds see it differently. Many believe an experiment in democratic confederalism is what the region really needs.

This is an idea espoused by PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan, who is a central intellectual and moral figure for Kurds. The PKK, or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has been fighting Turkey for greater autonomy since 1978 and has also trained Kurdish fighters in Kobane. Ocalan’s writing, compiled from within the confines of a Turkish prison where he has languished for about 15 years, has provided a solid ideological plank for the Kurdish struggle. He believes nation states are inherently oppressive. While oppressed groups might have a legitimate desire to form states of their own, even such newly formed states only serve to replace one form of domination with another. For him, the nation state is linked to xenophobic nationalism, sexism and religious fundamentalism.

Democratic confederalism is a system of governance that would be based on greater collective consensus and voluntary participation. Ecology and feminism are seen as central pillars for local self-governance. It calls for an economic system that should be based neither on exploiting human labour nor the unsound use of natural resources.

Kobane has essentially implemented this theory in practice. The ideas might seem utopian and realists may, quite legitimately, question the sustainability of autonomous communes that do not have the political or military backing of a centralised state. But as Oscar Wilde said, progress is the realisation of Utopia. Maybe Kobane’s progress is just that.

The struggle for Kobane is an event of global significance on a par with the Declaration of Independence, the Storming of the Bastille, the Paris Commune, or the Vietnamese victory at Dien Bien Phu. Success for the Kurds would challenge established intellectual, ethical and political horizons.

At a time when right-wing parties are growing in Europe and elsewhere, and minority fundamentalism is growing in parallel, the Kurds are offering something different and it should not be ignored. In that sense, they are fighting for everyone.

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The glass is full Sir. But where are you?

Posted in Uncategorized by Karthick RM on November 11, 2014

The first party at your house in New Delhi. You asked me “Karthick, why is your glass empty?”

The glass is full today Sir. But where are you?

I know that you didn’t like me calling you ‘Sir’. You said that it was a legacy of colonialism. You wanted me to call you just Pandian. As a friend. As a comrade. But sorry Sir, I am just too much a product of a colonial mentality. You will always be ‘Sir’ to me.

As you will be ‘Sir’ to my good friend Kalai. I knew you as a mentor and a great teacher. He knew you as a father figure. But today, both of us are alone. Sir, Kalai called me from Cambodia where he had gone for a conference a few days back. He is doing very well. He told me how much I still had to learn from Pandian Sir. He told me to re-read your writings on Periyar and the Dravidian movement. You had so much confidence and faith in him. He was your prodigal son. He was with you in your last hours. How could you leave him? How could you leave us? Where are you?

You have inspired countless students. You have left your indelible mark in the academia. You are, without doubt, the foremost among Tamil intellectuals. You have stuck to your principles. You defended Periyar and that great old man’s principles in a context when a horde was out to unjustly defame him. You were tooth and nail opposed to all forms of casteism and exposed how it operates both at the level of the political and the personal. You have always stood by the cause of the oppressed. At a time when several Tamil intellectuals behaved in a most unprincipled manner, you said in the middle of a class in JNU that you supported the LTTE’s cause. You supported Kashmir even before it became popular in Tamil Nadu. You, the eternal iconoclast, took on several icons and brought them down. Can I talk of certain really subversive acts that you did during your tenure in JNU? Or maybe that is strictly between us? You have been a great family man to your wife and your daughter. You have been a great human being. What have we lost? What has the world of the South Asian oppressed lost? A Sartre? A Fanon? A Gramsci? I know that you would say that I am being too emotional here. Go ahead and say it Sir, with that affectionate laughter that accompanies whenever you chide me. But where are you?

You taught me to re-evaluate my political understanding. You taught me to challenge everything I thought I knew. You introduced Zizek, Schmitt, Sontag and Agamben to me. You re-introduced Periyar to me. You helped shape my PhD proposal. You gave me academic references. You gave me invaluable feedback on my chapters even though you were pressed for time. But there was so much still left for you to teach me. But where are you?

You dropped several words of wisdom to me in your lighter moments. “Karthick, cook for the one you love.” “Karthick, don’t take yourself too seriously.” “Karthick, at times, letting go can be as important as holding on.” “Karthick, there is fine difference between a pamphleteer and an academic.” “Karthick, understand the line between being and acting.” Have I grasped them all? I need you to tell me. But where are you?

I know that I could not push my intellectual horizons as much as you wished me to. I know that you were disappointed that I could never transcend the nationalist paradigm. You thought it was your failure. No Sir, it was mine. Maybe this is what I am meant to be, what I need to be. This might be our eternal disagreement. More than anything else, I would love to debate with you just to hear you prove me wrong.  But where are you?

In our last conversation a few days back on gchat I told you “you were the best teacher I had. but I am still structurally unable to transcend the ‘alternative nationalism’ paradigm.”

You replied, “Get rid of the thesis. We will have a long long conversation. That is a promise. Bye, brother. :)”

I will be done with my thesis soon. I will come to Chennai soon. The glasses will be full again soon. There will be a long, long conversation soon. But where is your promise? Where are you?

Maybe you are still here. Maybe you always will be.

Friend. Comrade. Guide.

Check Your Tamil ‘Progressive Intellectual’ Privilege

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on September 20, 2014

After deep consideration, discussion and deliberation for about 20 minutes, we decided that Tamil ‘progressive intellectuals’ have too many privileges in our society. So, since we are pretty jobless at the moment, and since we also want to try fighting privileges by naming and shaming instead of participating in deep theoretical and political struggles, we have come out with the following list of privileges that Tamil ‘progressive intellectuals’ have. We use ‘progressive intellectual’ as a generic pejorative term to designate those writers, journalists, academics, artists, (non)thinkers, poets, sculptors, wine-shop owners, dappankuthu dancers, etc. who consider themselves as ‘progressive intellectuals’ and feel that it is their task to criticize real or imagined injustices even if they are absolutely clueless on how to change them, who also take it as their divine right to pass judgments on people’s movements.

We place ‘progressive intellectuals’ within single quotes because that sounds a lot cooler.

These points were jointly written by myself, Catwoman*, and Bane*. Mostly myself [expects standing ovation]. Many thanks to Magneto* and Mystique* for their feedback. [*Names changed to protect identities.]

Please, please, please like and share this post. The authors will also send private mails/fb messages/tweets to their contacts appealing to circulate this post as much as possible.

  1. You call yourself a ‘progressive intellectual’. That is the first joke. A bad one at that.
  2. You think your lived experience validates your political position. FYI, it doesn’t.
  3. You do not want to take responsibility for your choices.
  4. You want to criticize everyone who has contributed in practical terms to the Tamil cause, be it Periyar or Pirapaharan. Fine. But if your criticism is criticized, you react like a monkey whose ass is on fire.
  5. You demand the freedom to criticism as an inviolable right, but you can stay aloof from a people’s movement while judging it in your terms.
  6. You can have no knowledge of Tamil history, politics, culture, art or philosophy but can still claim validity to your arguments just because of lived experience.
  7. You say that there is no essential Tamil culture and yet use an essentialized notion of a Tamil culture to condemn it.
  8. You can only identify differences in Tamil society – and there are many indeed – but you would deliberately thwart all attempts to create a unity.
  9. The reason you would give for doing the above is that you claim to oppose the domination of a particular region, caste, or gender. Nothing new. That was Karuna’s rationale for splitting.
  10. You want to solve the problem of class, caste, gender and region disparities by just talking (mostly whining) about the same. The idea of these being resolved in a struggle led by a genuinely progressive party does not strike you.
  11. This brings us to the next point – you want to replace political struggle with political correctness. Since we do not want to be like you, we want to say that we think that you are a bunch of whiny wimps.
  12. You want to celebrate the difference of identities while refusing to acknowledge that a brutal free market capitalism precisely thrives on the proliferation of different identities.
  13. Your excuse for political and theoretical bankruptcy is usually a sad life story designed to provoke cheap sympathy.
  14. You (half)read Marxists, anti-racists, feminists and other culture critics from a western context and try to apply their methodologies to a totally different Tamil context. Again, you will explain your lack of originality with a sad story.
  15. You take Marxism totally out of context and judge social revolutionaries like Periyar for being ‘reformist’ or a liberation struggle like LTTE for being ‘fascist’.
  16. Your idea of feminism or gender justice is derived solely from advanced liberal democracies. The gender justice of movements like the LTTE, PKK, FARC are anathema to you.
  17. To quote the bard, your wit makes wise things foolish.
  18. You think a dozen likes by dullards on facebook has won you allies and you write in a manner to appeal to their unrefined emotions. You are the Tamil academic version of TR Silambarasan. [And the authors apologize to simbu for this analogy]
  19. You can call Tamil Nadu activists as ‘mobs’ and ‘fascists’ when they democratically criticize an anti-Eelam movie, but remain conveniently silent when the Indian state bans and censors pro-Eelam movies.
  20. You can ally with a thoroughly brahminical CPI(M) to degrade Tamil nationalists and Periyarists.
  21. You can use brahminical establishments and the space that they provide to condemn Tamil society as casteist.
  22. You can claim to be above the Tamil identity while at the same time forcing Tamils to subscribe to micro-identities. If you can transcend your Tamil identity, why cannot Tamils transcend their caste identity?
  23. You can drop terms like intersectionality in abstract without any principled consideration or sober assessment of the concrete.
  24. You can claim to oppose White-imperialist-capitalist-patriarchy (only because that’s the easiest way to get attention) but you welcome the pro-LLRC US resolution.
  25. Tell the truth. You are afraid of freedom.

[points 26-999 are just repetitions of above points, reworded in more cool sounding academese.]

1000. Ok. We need to go out now. It’s SATURDAY. WE HAVE A LIFE. To quote the bard again, you are not worth another word.

1001. But maybe we can spare three words as a goodbye. Piss off losers.

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Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on August 20, 2014

Some wars are more brutal
Some pains more poignant
Some tears more salty
Some screams more loud
Some children more innocent
Some genocides more terrible
Some oppressors more horrible
Some pictures more aesthetic
More newsworthy
More solidarityworthy
More worthy, always more worthy
Sometimes 1000 is a world tragedy
Sometimes 150000 is just a local statistic

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Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on August 15, 2014



We have counted
Every bomb
Every bullet
Every shrapnel
Every death
Every torture
Every widow
Every orphan

We are weakened
but not weak

We are scarred
but not crippled

We are without power
but not without strength

And we have counted

So that
we can repay with interest

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