UNCEASING WAVES

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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The Multicultural Inquisition of Our Times

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

Originally published on Huffington Post

In a sense, the Stalinist persecution of political dissidents was a lot more brutal than that of the fascists. Dont get me wrong, if the option was only between Hitler and Stalin I would gladly prefer Stalin, despite all the atrocities that he committed. But it is also important to recognize that the leftists who were murdered by the fascists knew that they were being martyred for a noble cause. Those murdered by the Stalinists, especially through the show trials, underwent a double murder. A spiritual one, followed by the physical. As Orwell put it in 1984, they were compelled to believe, against all reason, that two plus two was five. Their spirit of dissidence was broken, they were forced to confess their infidelity, and later unglamourously executed or made to rot in a gulag. In comparison, the greater moral crime was not the political genocide of leftists by fascists, but rather the mass murder of dissident leftists by the Stalinist dogmatists. One can say that Stalinism was a continuation of murders of heretics by the Inquisition.

Historically, the brutal and absolute power of the Inquisition lay not just in breaking the body of the heretic, but in breaking their soul. It was necessary to show the heretics as sinners against a divinely established body of truth, by virtue of which they had to be excommunicated and purged. In a sense, this is what the multicultural liberal-left is doing in the name of ‘defending minority cultures’. By default, any one who criticizes these minority cultures is considered a White patriarch/racist/Islamophobe etc and publicly shamed. There is a tacit assumption that these cultures matter to all individuals from non-Western societies and that they need not be integrated into Western Enlightenment standards. And while this liberal-left does not have the power to physically murder like the Catholic Inquistion or Stalinism, they still have a power to enforce censorship and mark labels on individuals in the media. So in place of the “heretic” or the “traitor”, we have the “White imperialist capitalist patriarch” or the “Islamophobe”.

As a “minority within a minority” (Tamil) in the West, I find these uncritical approvals of minority cultures frightening. Worse, I find it hard to get my articles published because they do not criticize the West and/or Israel enough. I can claim a triple discrimination here – racists here detest me because I am a “bloody immigrant”, my “fellow South Asians” hate me because I unconditionally oppose their cultural bigotries, and the liberal-left Whites censor me because I do not fit into their “lets blame the West for everything and exonerate the rest from everything” dogma. And several of my progressive ‘Muslim’ friends from Kurdish, Turkish and Iranian communities face the same problem.

It is dark humour that for all their ire against Samuel Huntington’s ‘clash of civilizations’ theses, in fact, it is precisely the multicultural liberal-left who are the true Huntingtonians of the modern times. Why? More than the right-wingers, it is they who believe that there is something called a ‘Muslim world’, as different from the other worlds, whose inhabitants prioritize the Islamic identity over all else, and that it is a liberal duty to respect this identity. A critical interrogation of the ideology that nurtures this identity or the bigots that it privileges is to be avoided, well, because it would be Islamophobic. Obviously, the right-wing belief that “Everyone from the Muslim world is a potential terrorist” is wrong. But what do you call the left-liberal dogma that “Everyone from the Muslim world loves their Muslim identity and we must love them remaining that way”?

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, a collective of writers, artists, lawyers, academics and activists – most of them ‘Muslims’ – from across the world signed a petition urging governments to not recognize “moderate” Islamists, but instead combat Islamism through “political means and mass mobilisation, not by giving extra privileges to any religion.”

Of course, the right-wing media did not cover any of this. It would undermine their theory that anything progressive would elude the Muslims. But the general silence of the liberal-left in engaging with these viewpoints from the ‘others’ in the ‘Muslim world’ was painful. Isn’t their privileging of both “moderate” and “hardcore” Islamist voices contributing to the further silencing of those who reject the Muslim identity politics and seek alternatives in radical emancipatory political projects?

In an interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson commented on the three phases of the life of a scientific truth – First people say: “It can’t be true”. Second they say: “It conflicts with the bible.” Third they say: “It’s true all along.” The same applies for political truths. The great political truth of our time is this – Islamism is a problem by itself and there are progressives from various Muslim communities across the world waging a life-or-death struggle against it. It cannot be excused or explained away by blaming Western imperialism. Western liberal-leftists now say that this can’t be true. They will next say that it conflicts with the multicultural gospel and censor all those who reject this thesis. Eventually they will say that it is true all along.

But by then, there will be many more victims of terrorist attacks like the Copenhagen shootings which the European Right will cynically manipulate to further their indiscriminate xenophobia. And if we do not stand up to the Inquisition that the politically correct multicultural left have forced upon us, we might as well embrace a century of competing fundamentalisms.

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.

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