Liberal-leftists and Fight Club

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on June 17, 2015
'Marla Singer' from Fight Club

‘Marla Singer’ from Fight Club

Sometimes, I feel that the liberal-left meetings here, especially pro-diversity meetings and “people of color” meetings and literary discussions with exotic Asian writers, are much like the therapy sessions for people suffering from testicular cancer in the movie “Fight Club”. You know, get together in a group with some feeling of togetherness and identity (ooh la la) and attempt at catharsis by narrating your unique experiences, sharing sad stories, hugging and feeling each other and so on. Which is why the radical presence in that group in the movie is not the cynical narrator who does not have testicular cancer but who pretends to be a victim and joins the group to get some meaning in life – rather it is the character of Marla Singer who makes a parody of this group by participating in it despite obviously not having testicles. But she is the one in that situation who has the balls, in an allegorical sense, because she is the cynic who knows that she is a cynic and is also courageous enough to expose the cynicism of those who think that they are believers but are actually cynics themselves. Maybe that is the real radical act of politics today. More than speaking truth to power, we need to reflect on the lies that the liberal-left tells to itself to create an illusion of some happy harmonious community and throw them back in its face. Without doing this, let alone revolution, even substantive reform is not possible.

A late trigger warning: I hope I didnt offend anyone who gets touchy about the subject of testicular cancer. If I did, well, balls to you.

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What Does an Ape Want?

Posted in Uncategorized by Karthick RM on June 9, 2015

So now, some western pseudo-activists and fake philosophers like Peter Singer are arguing for extending human rights to apes. Am sure these folks found the new Planet of the Apes quite inspiring, especially the noble character of Caesar. I mean, Caesar is perfect for multicultural liberals. He builds this happy primate commune in the woods and keeps away from modernity, living harmoniously with nature. So Western liberals can look at him and feel pleasurably guilty “Oh look at them, living such egalitarian organic lives, whereas we corrupted modern westerns, we have violated mother nature.” Much like the ‘I love indigenous people’ (aka Avatar aka Arundhati Roy) arguments being made today. In all likelihood, the next liberal sexual fantasy would be to portray an interspecies romance between a Western woman and a handsome ape…

80437But what happens when these cute apes adapt to modernity and cross barriers with divine violence? Such an ape becomes a villain – like Koba. I really liked Koba. He is not some stupid nature loving particularist ape to whom you can be an ally. He breaks the barriers of nature, adapts to modernity, and tries to bring in a New World Order. Now, among the first people such a revolutionary ape would kill would be these moronic liberals who want warm artificial harmonies to assuage their own guilt. The language of liberal human rights itself is a product of such a useless guilt.

Well, Ape dont want rights. APE WANT REVOLUTION!!!

Note: Incidentally, Stalin’s nickname was Koba.

Killer Robots Might Be Humanity’s Redemption

Posted in Politics by Karthick RM on June 9, 2015

Originally published on Huffington Post

There has been considerable alarm among both activist and scientific circles over the developing of killer robots. No less a person than Stephen Hawking has warned about the possible dangers of Artificial Intelligence, including human extinction. A nihilist might be tempted to ask, well, given that people have been slitting each other’s throats since the birth of history, why not give someone else a chance?

The Terminator 'Killer Robot'

The Terminator ‘Killer Robot’

The dangers of AI has also concerned artists. In fact, we can say artists have anticipated scientists by centuries – what is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein if not a fear of scientific progress creating a sentient, non-human being? Likewise, this subject is also the core theme of the Terminator franchise. In the series, Skynet, a powerful military computer system, becomes self-aware and launches a devastating attack on all humanity. The cataclysmic event, biblically named Judgment Day, wipes out most of humankind but for small pockets who later unite to form the Resistance against the machines. This is crucial – a non-human entity achieved what humans have failed to do; unite people under the banner of humanity.

The reality is that humanity and human unity does not exist and has never existed. The greatest of visionaries, from the time of Alexander the Great, have tried to forge human unity and raise the standards of civilization – and failed. The last great attempt was Communism – after its miserable collapse, we witnessed the rise and legitimization of identity politics based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality and so on. These micro conflicts have dominated our thinking so much that even leftists nowadays are reluctant to contemplate about the really big picture.

The legitimate war against the greatest threat to civilization in the previous century, Nazism, failed to unite humanity just as the equally legitimate war against the barbarities of Islamism will also fail. Why is this? Even at their worst, the Nazis and the Islamists were only human. They did what their predecessors did, the Ottomans, White and Arab slave merchants, the Mongols, the Inquisitors, the Hindus. These genocidaires did not deny the idea of humanity – they just denied the idea of humanity to people who they considered less than human. But this too is a very human trait.

The idea of a essentially benevolent humanity is based on the same lies as the idea of an essentially benevolent God. Even when the worst among us – in the contemporary age, one can safely say that the award goes to the Islamists – are physically removed, they will only be replaced by others. Humankind’s propensity for violence towards its own species is intrinsic to its constitution. This is the greatest lesson from Freud’sclassic Civilization and Its Discontents.

And this violence of human towards human will continue as long as the enemy of a politics is a human. The terrorist, the racist, the sexist, the genocidaire, the capitalist and the people who oppose them all possess human identities, but not the identity of humanity though they may claim to act in its name. Is there a way out of this Gordian knot?

In Alan Moore’s epic graphic novel Watchmen, the brilliant character of Adrian Veidt resolves this paradox – at a time when the US and the USSR were heading towards nuclear war and mutual destruction, he invents something resembling an alien life form and unleashes it on earth, resulting in the death of millions. But this fear of the non-human other shocked the world powers so much, that they reconciled their differences and vowed to build unity.

In this age torn apart by ethnic and religious conflicts, it may very well be that these ‘killer robots’ might teach us the value of unity, the ridiculousness of the politics of difference, and what it is to be human. For once in history, we will be united under one identity against one common enemy – a non-human, who falls beyond the fallible concepts of feelings and morals. AI might actually provide us the redemption that we need from ourselves.

Losses will be great, but we have already lost so much at each other’s hands. Our victory, however, will be in our united, permanent struggle under the banner of a genuine, universal humanity.

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Combating Political Apathy: Taking Forward the Intellectual Legacy of Sivaram

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on May 16, 2015

Originally published on TamilNet

The assassination of ‘Taraki’ Sivaram, political analyst and senior editor of TamilNet, ten years back by the Sri Lankan state was a blow to the intellectual world of the Eelam Tamil nation in particular, the Tamil civilization in general. While 20th century Tamil nationalist movements in both Tamil Nadu and Tamil Eelam saw the rise of orators, poets, writers, novelists and dramatists of fine standing, and who had made no mean contribution to shaping modern Tamil identity, Sivaram was a unique phenomenon.

Informed by Tamil literature as much by Tamil history, Marxism as much as Poststructuralism, Thucydides as much as contemporary COIN theorists, Sivaram worked for the Eelam Tamil cause as a leading politico-military analyst and as a true “organic intellectual.”

The organic intellectual, as Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci defined him, gives a group an awareness of its functions and strategies in political, social and economic fields. What differentiates an organic intellectual from a tradition intellectual is that the latter claims neutrality but serves the status-quo; the former is a partisan for a cause.

Sivaram, without doubt, was a partisan for a sovereign Tamil Eelam. But what differentiated him from other writers was his no-nonsense, non-sentimental approach to politics and military affairs. Engaging with latest theoretical and practical developments in the military and the geo-political field, he wrote to inform both the fighters and masses of the designs of world powers in the island. In as much as he wrote about the military maneuvers of the Sri Lankan military, he also gave adequate focus to the global dynamics that were shaping politics in and geo-politics of the island.

In fact, Sivaram was most apprehensive of the manipulation of the US led axis during the peace process and the Oslo accords.

In an article written in the North Eastern Herald in March 2003, Sivaram said that the geo-political interests of US and India would “want Thamileelam to continue in its current ‘limbo’ statehood for their respective strategic reasons or precipitate its withering through ‘containment.’”

The manner in which this containment played out during the CFA, how supposedly ‘neutral’ observers like the SLMM tilted the balance in favor of the GoSL, has also been documented by the LTTE’s Peace Secretariat.

This grand strategy of containment of the LTTE while giving political and military legitimacy to the GoSL ultimately led to the escalation that was the Mullivaaykaal genocide.

In a follow-up article in the North Eastern Herald in April 2003, titled “LTTE’s big mistake: falling again for federalism”, Sivaram notes how the big powers and their comprador intellectuals were trying to trap the Tigers into working within a unitary Sri Lankan state. Condemning such Tamil intellectuals for their laziness to challenge this manipulation, he writes “by no logic can anyone gloss over the stark fact that political apathy is quite widespread and growing among the Tamils today, much to the delight of India and the US-UK combine that is masterfully choreographing the peace process.”

The Mullivaaykaal massacre, the protracted genocide in occupied Tamil Eelam, the pathetic sham of the LLRC and the several pro-LLRC resolutions that the US sponsored in Geneva must have shaken the apathy of several Tamil intellectuals post-2009. Unfortunately, that has not happened.

The regime change in Sri Lanka and the regime change in India have changed local dynamics. If reports of the US Pacific Command are anything to go by, the ‘Look East’ policy of America is being pursued aggressively. Modi India’s tilt towards Russia and China – preferring to have stronger relationships with regional hegemons – will also have deep consequences for the whole South Asian region in the future. All of this warrants deep, unemotional, sober analysis – Sivaram style.

Sadly, the vast majority of the Tamil intelligentsia has not lived up to its historical responsibility. From the Oslo fraud to the ‘human rights’ festivals in Geneva, from Geneva to the ‘Singapore principles’ of 2013, Tamil intellectuals and political activists are being taken for a ride. Along with powerful global organizations like the ICG, mediator countries like South Africa are also heavily involved in thrusting a ‘reconciliation’ discourse on the Eelam Tamils.

While the pro-establishment Tamil intellectuals blindly toe the line set by the powers, the mainstream Tamil left, or whatever is left in it, is only mouthing empty catch-phrases and pipe-dreaming. Questions around the larger narrative of struggle and the core question of geo-politics are diluted and instead human interest, personalized sad-stories, narrow identity politics, apolitical accounts of human rights violations and defeatist conclusions are drawn.

But this should not be a cause for pessimism. It is quite natural for a people who endured an atrocity at the level of Mullivaaykaal to be shaken for a while. Other oppressed nations like the Kurds also have gone through such phases. We must learn from them that a nation’s ability to spring back to its feet politically depends on how soon it is able to organize itself intellectually.

“My interest is to create a body of knowledge to help oppressed people all over the world help themselves get out from under oppression,” Sivaram told his biographer Mark Whitaker.

Only a new generation of organic Tamil intellectuals, who have a clear understanding of changing global paradigms and who are able to create paradigm shifts in Tamil political discourse, can preserve and take forward Sivaram’s legacy.

This is the need of the hour.

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Charlie Hebdo Deserves the PEN Honour and Why the Critics are Wrong

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on May 13, 2015

Originally published on Huffington Post

PEN American Center has decided to give Charlie Hebdo a long overdue recognition – its Freedom of Expression Courage award. On its website, PEN justified its decision arguing, quite legitimately, that “Only a handful of people are willing to put themselves in peril to build a world in which we are all free to say what we believe” and that the journalists of Charlie Hebdo belonged to this category.

Unfortunately, but predictably enough, few writers have decided to boycott the event where the Hebdo journalists will be awarded. One of them, American writer Rachel Kushner, defended her decision arguing that Charlie Hebdo promoted “cultural intolerance”. The others too gave similar arguments.

A most honorable and courageous exception, Salman Rushdie slammed these writers for their “very, very bad move.” He further said that “This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged minority. It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical Islam, which is highly organised, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence.”

Charlie Hebdo demonstrated a moral and intellectual courage that most media in the Anglo-Saxon world refuse to show – the willingness to stand up to bigots of all types and colors. While the liberal-left here mostly only engage in White-guilt trips blaming Europe for all ills in the world, the Hebdo journalists, in the true spirit of the tradition of Voltaire and Moliere, mercilessly lampooned all those who wielded power, be it the French government, the Le Pens, or the Islamists.

Now, the Islamists might hail from ‘marginalized’ communities but they definitely are not an ‘oppressed’ community. A group which has the ability to strike journalists at will, which is responsible for the vast majority of anti-Semitic attacks creating a climate of fear causing an exodus of Jews from France, which intimidates members of its own community to follow archaic cultural practices is neither an ‘oppressed minority’ nor its representative, but a death cult.

And the writers who are boycotting the PEN event are inadvertently legitimizing the ideology, politics, and actions of this group. This only serves as an encouragement to Islamists that instead of being hauled up for their crimes, it is rather their victims who will be targeted for being ‘racist’, ‘intolerant’ and what not. This also discourages genuinely progressive intellectuals from both Muslim and non-Muslim communities from having a much needed dialogue on the structural problems within Islam. By placing Islam beyond criticism, the liberal-left may pander to their own guilt, but they are doing nothing to help the oppressed.

Europeans should not be guilty about the claims of discrimination that Islamists and their apologists frequently shell out as an excuse for Muslim extremism. We must be bold enough to recognize that Islamism is not a legitimate reaction of an oppressed group, but a powerful world movement funded by petrodollars, arms trade, drug trafficking and sex slavery. If there is anything writers in the West should be guilty about, it is the sordid history of how the Western powers funded these movements in the past to counter secular and socialist movements in the Middle-East and in the countries of the former Soviet bloc.

Unfortunately, what the liberal-left is practicing here is a worse form of Islamophobia – the fear of offending Muslim extremists. And White writers assuming that all Muslims get offended by Hebdo’s cartoons – as if there are no secular, sober and sane individuals and political movements in the so-called Muslim world – is also a form of racism.

But to further contemplate on Kushner’s comment that Charlie Hebdo promoted “cultural intolerance” – should we tolerate primordial savagery that is anathema to all forms of civilization? Can the French Partisans in World War II also be accused of “cultural intolerance” towards Nazism? GK Chesterton’s statement holds true here – tolerance is the virtue of those who believe in nothing.

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Mani Ratnam or Bala?

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on April 23, 2015

Watched Mani Ratnam’s “Anjali” and Bala’s “Naan Kadavul” back to back. Here are some thoughts:

A Still from Anjali

A Still from Anjali

Mani Ratnam’s “Anjali” was undoubtedly his best film. A middle class melodrama about a petit-bourgeois family with three children, the youngest of whom has a terminal illness, in addition to having a stunted mental development. Performance wise, everyone in the movie was brilliant (except the Janakaraj role, which is a caricature). And all central characters in the movie are cute, desirable, adorable. The central focus of the film, the child’s suffering and its impact on those around her, is converted to an aesthetic phenomena. By the power of her innocence, she converts an entire neighborhood of mean kids into shedding a tear for her. When the movie finishes, you too might be left crying, because you too are a target of this conversion. But what really lies beneath your platonic compassion is a perverse pleasure that you have enjoyed – that you have done your duty by feeling for an innocent, sweet, suffering child. You can leave feeling human.

A Still from Naan Kadavul

A Still from Naan Kadavul

Bala’s “Naan Kadavul” also deals with disability – but instead of the aestheticized, and anesthetized, suffering of an individual subject in a ‘normal’ middle class family, he introduces you to the suffering of the underclass among the underclass – beggars. Suffering, in Bala’s vision, is not some catastrophic event, but everyday existence. Bala takes pain to whole new level. He takes you to the the daily life of a class to whom the closest relationship the middle-class viewer might have had is one of condescending charity. The central character of the “man-god” (Arya) only lampoons the godlessness of religion. Spirituality and humanity are not venerated – their failures are exposed. There are no cute characters and the only character which you might find ‘tolerable’ – the blind beggar played by Pooja Umashankar – is beaten to a pulp and seeks salvation in death. (Note: Death is the only thing that the Hindu variant of liberation theology can offer.) Bala’s aesthetics, or anti-aesthetics, breaks the platonic trinity of the Good, the True and the Beautiful. In the end you are left feeling overwhelmed by emptiness. Or, closer to the human essence.

Mani Ratnam tests your middle class sympathy. Bala tests the limits of your middle class stomach. Mani Ratnam offers you a pseudo-reality for you to enjoy the illusion of reality without its harsher side-effects. “Beer without alcohol”. Bala on the other hand offers you that very reality that you are unwilling to admit, that dark corner of humanity that society tries to repress. If great art is meant to be something penetrative, Bala is the greater artist. Mani sir only scratches around the surface.

So, Bala > Mani Ratnam.

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Excerpt from my Review of Slavoj Zizek’s “Trouble in Paradise”

Posted in Politics by Karthick RM on April 13, 2015

Originally published at The Oxonian Review

This drawing of simple binaries on unqualified distinctions of oppressor and oppressed is precisely what afflicts the Left political spectrum today, especially in Anglophone countries. Of course, the right-wing discourse that every Muslim is a potential terrorist is downright racist. But what does one call the equally problematic response of the multicultural left that any criticism of Islam, or the cultural practices of Muslim communities, is tantamount to Islamophobia? If one can excuse away the Charlie Hebdo massacre by reference to the brutality of French colonialism, then one can also excuse Nazism by reference to the brutal political and economic stipulations laid on Germany post-World War I. There is a monopolization of the discourse on Islam by Islamists and liberal Muslims which is being actively, or passively, assisted by the Western multicultural Left at the cost of those within the so-called “Muslim world” who care little for the Islamic religion, and the real or imagined offences against it, and who are instead working towards radical political struggle and social reform within their communities. This is the “Third” that is being ignored. An honourable exception, Žižek is miles ahead of his leftist peers in his insistence that Islamism is not a legitimate response to, but rather an inherent part of, global capitalism–an illegitimate child.

Excerpt From my Review of Simone de Beauvoir’s “Political Writings”

Posted in Politics by Karthick RM on April 13, 2015

See full review at Marx and Philosophy

Beauvoir’s essays on Israel provide a sober and ethical approach to a contentious issue. As the recipient of the Jerusalem Prize in 1975, at a time when several left-wing French intellectuals were vociferously condemning Israel, Beauvoir argued that her acceptance of this award was a symbolic act because there existed in political discourse ‘a deliberate will to symbolically do away with Israel, and a symbolic elimination is very dangerous because it implies a profound desire, conscious or subconscious, for real annihilation.’ (314) While being sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians and their demand for statehood, Beauvoir, taking into account the historical persecution of the Jews, believes that Israel too has a right to exist and that any solution, to be valid, must recognize the state of Israel. (316)

Contemporary debates on Israel are often so polarized – with right-wingers in the West dubbing the whole Palestinian movement as terroristic while the left-wingers make rather exaggerated allegations against Israel –that both obscure the truth and frustrate attempts for a solution that can guarantee peace and co-existence. The disproportionate media coverage and condemnation of Israel’s war crimes, at times when similar or worse crimes happen in other parts of the world, does contribute to a Jewish sense of insecurity. For instance, when the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict was going on, thousands of left-wing activists took to the streets across the world condemning Israel, and, in some cases, even supporting the Islamist Hamas. About the same time, the Islamic State massacred hundreds of Yezidi Kurds in Northern Iraq and captured over a thousand Yezidi women as sex-slaves. These incidents, however, did not provoke the same outrage as Israel did. Apprehensive of trends in the left that selectively targeted Israel, Beauvoir astutely notes how this only contributes to the militarization of that state as ‘fear and isolation lead to a rigid attitude of refusing any measure that is not immediately a security measure.’ (317) Her perspicacious writings on the subject are a must read for Israelis and Palestinians and their respective supporters today.

Ferguson: Taking the fight beyond identity politics

Posted in International by Karthick RM on April 13, 2015

Originally published on The European magazine

It has been reported that two police officers were shot at Ferguson on Thursday, hours after the city’s police chief resigned in the wake of an inquiry into the excesses that his department committed under his reign. This assault follows on the heels of another fatal attack on two NYPD police officers in December by a young Black man who claimed to be taking revenge for police brutalities in Ferguson and elsewhere. Ironically, the cops whom he murdered also happened to be “people of color”. Can these incidents, the general mood of public unrest in Ferguson, be read as acts of “divine violence”?

Disease of the old world order

Slavoj Zizek evokes Walter Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence” to defend this argument. Without condoning or condemning, he rightly observes that such outbursts “with no concrete programmatic demands” are sustained “by just a vague call for justice.” Indeed, Benjamin’s thesis is that “If mythical violence is lawmaking, divine violence is law-destroying”. But this is only a part of it. Benjamin further adds, “if the former sets boundaries, the latter boundlessly destroys them; if mythical violence brings at once guilt and retribution, divine power only expiates; if the former threatens, the latter strikes; if the former is bloody, the latter is lethal without spilling blood.” Did the reactive violence by the oppressed in Ferguson achieve, or even aim at any of this? Sadly, no. Why is this? The “irrational outbursts” such as Ferguson are not symptoms of a new world order – they are symptoms of the disease of the old world order.

The advocacy of indiscriminate violence to combat White racist power centers is nothing new. In the past, Black activists like Eldridge Cleaver advocated rape of White women as a form of resistance to White racism – though he later expressed regret for such ideas. Life came full circle when he eventually joined the Republican Party and became a Christian conservative. What does this say? The reality is that the American system is more than capable of defending itself against such violent excesses by its minorities. If anything, it would prefer the pampering of such particularist minority identity politics because the postmodern logic of global capitalism requires the proliferations of multiple minority identities. This impotent violence of particularist identity politics, fueled only by anti-Whiteressentiment, creates more boundaries and comes nowhere closer to destroying them, which alone would be the real act of divine violence. So the White racists who are phobic about the “brutal Blacks” and the multicultural left who, to overcome a misplaced sense of guilt, celebrate “Black resistance by any means necessary” are actually conforming to the logic of the same system.

Overcoming black separatism

Frantz Fanon was precisely talking about this when he wrote in his “Black Skin, White Masks” that those who adore the Black person are as pathological as those who hate him. His message is crucial – the practice of attributing an immutable identity to an exotic Other and preaching phobia against it, as the racists are wont to do, or preaching a patronizing tolerance for it, as multiculturalists are wont to do, damages the possibility of an universalist political project. In fact, more than Black nationalists in America, it was Martin Luther King Jr. who took this message to heart, when he argued it was necessary to overcome Black separatism and fight on a universalist plank for all the oppressed in the country.

Where does this place those on the radical left? Of course, we have to, without any hesitation, acknowledge that the police system in several parts of America is totally racist. But at the same time, we should not slip into the quite problematic multiculturalist position of endorsing everything that goes by the name of Black/minority identity politics. One can acknowledge that a section of the population has been systematically marginalized, convey solidarity with their struggles, while also remaining critical of reactionary cultural and political tendencies within those minority communities. We can learn a few lessons here from VI Lenin who, while being extremely sensitive to the precarious position of the Jews in Russia, was also boldly critical of isolationist Jewish Bundist politics. To make an excuse that reactionary politics of minority communities have to be tolerated just because “they are different from us” is after all another form of racism.

Defending the egalitarian aspects of Western society

What is needed is, as Zizek suggests elsewhere, a “radical emancipatory Third” that rejects both an identity politics based on anti-Western ressentiment and a shallow liberal multiculturalist tolerance. It is this Third alone that can defend the egalitarian aspects of Western society. This might take the form of a reinvented Jacobinism or a heretical Leninism, but the urgent need is to imagine such a politics of universalism, one that breaks boundaries, expiates both guilt and ressentiment, strikes potently, and is lethal even without spilling blood.

Only this force which the current system cannot accommodate and liberals cannot imagine can bring forth the real event of divine violence.

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The Promise of the Women of Kobane

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on April 13, 2015

Originally published on Huffington Post

A few years back, a cartoon was doing its rounds on social media. It shows a White woman in a skimpy bikini and a Muslim woman in a full burka, each thinking that the other is oppressed. Both are right.

Or, both are wrong.

Why is this? This a false ultra-simplistic binary that we should avoid like the plague. Today, liberal hedonistic permissiveness and primitivist religious adherence are two sides of the same coin. One privileges material freedoms without commitment and the other privileges commitments without material freedom – and the ideology of the global order is fine with both. The alternative is to find radical freedom through commitment, in commitment for a genuine emancipatory project. And that is something neither the liberal hedonists nor the religiously motivated can offer.

But this is precisely what the women in Kobane are struggling to bring to fruition. French philosopher Alain Badiou says that according to him, “something is universal if it is something that is beyond established differences.” And if there is anything that is to be learnt from the struggle of the women in Kobane, it is that it consciously strives to transcend all established differences and particularist fetishes.

10647061_622770834499068_4673590614763759272_nRejecting both a nihilistic capitalist modernity and primitive religious and sectarian thought, the fighters of the Kurdish YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) are building a radical democracy that aims to shatter long held gender prejudices, promote an equal division of work in private and public spheres, with an emphasis on local self-governance and the building of an economic system that is based neither on the exploitation of human labor nor on the pilferage of natural resources.

The Western media’s general coverage of these revolutionary women has been miserable to say the least. Either there is ignorance, or a bizarre exoticization – something on the lines of “Here are beautiful Kurdish angels fighting ISIS devils.” A Kurdish feminist academic rightly denounces such views as “they cheapen a legitimate struggle by projecting their bizarre orientalist fantasies on it – and oversimplify the reasons motivating Kurdish women to join the fight.” The Kurdish women are not just involved in a fight against Islamism – they are also fighting for something more. And that is the real beauty – the beauty of their politics – that eludes liberal Western eyes.

What is this politics? This is the politics of Democratic Confederalism as espoused by the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. A novel experiment for the Kurdish regions which, as a system of governance, will rely more on collective consensus of the peoples involved and voluntary participation of individuals. Rejecting the traditional state-centrism, Democratic Confederalism is meant to be “flexible, multi-cultural, anti-monopolistic, and consensus-oriented” where “Ecology and feminism are central pillars.”

Ocalan is light years ahead of several postcolonial academics in his courage to note that “Islam’s perception of sexism has produced far more negative results than Western civilisation in terms of the profound enslavement of women and male dominance.” He also rejects capitalist modernity as “a system based on the denial of love”, whose unrestrained individualism corrupts society, turning individuals into automatons. And it is a society that is corrupted neither by feudalist bigotries nor the brutalities of the industrial capitalist state that Ocalan imagines.

It is this politics that the women of YPG are putting into practice in Kobane. And it is this politics that is being ignored in the West. It is quite ironic that for all their claims to be opposed to Islamofascism, many Western governments still consider PKK and its affiliates – the organizations waging the most resolute and principled war against Islamism – as terrorists. One is compelled to think that the West – conservatives, liberals and mainstream leftists alike – are more frightened of what the PKK is fighting for than what it is fighting against.

A sensible thing for sensible leftists to do would be to reject the vulgar exoticizing that the Western media indulges in, and try to probe the theoretical and practical implications of the Kurdish struggle for the global feminist movement. Also, the Left in the West should push for a delisting of the PKK from the “terror list” and also urge the Western governments to secure the release of the PKK leader Ocalan who has been languishing in solitary confinement in a Turkish prison for over 15 years now. Most importantly, we must appreciate the women of the YPJ for the beauty of their politics and the promise it holds.

The promise of the revolutionary women of Kobane is poignant. It is a promise that democracy, radical freedom and social justice are not meaningless terms, but are lived realities. It is a promise of a society where equality is a practice, and not a word on paper. It is a promise that generations of progressive women activists have been fighting for across the world. The Kurdish women of Kobane are fighting for this promise and they are extending their hand of universalism, a universalism that is desperately needed in these times. Let us reciprocate with the solidarity that they deserve.

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