There is a Little Arnab Goswami in all of us

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on October 11, 2016

How many times have you heard the below arguments from your progressive friends?

If you are not with Hillary, you are with Trump.
If you are not a multiculturalist, you are a racist.
If you are not a maoist, you are a class enemy.
If you are not a feminist, you are a misogynist.
If you are not a Tamil nationalist, you are a Telugu. (lol)
If you are critical of Arundhati Roy, you are an Indian state agent. (double lol)
If you are critical of the Indian left, you are RSS.
If you are critical of Islam, you are an Islamophobe.
If you are critical of JJ, you are DMK.
If you are critical of Kabali, you are PMK.
If you are critical of Vijay, you are an Ajith fan.

Binary thinking is the death of all creativity and critical thought. And Arnab Goswami is not the only criminal in this regard. As a Nietzsche commentator (Paul Glenn) rightly said “opposite values are an intellectual framework created by the mind to simplify reality, and as a result, the framework does not do justice to reality The rich details and vast subtleties of the world cannot fit into two starkly separate categories.”

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Feudal Feminism etc…

Posted in Uncategorized by Karthick RM on October 11, 2016

While Asian women who live ‘western lifestyles’ are slut-shamed on the streets, the academese counterpart of it is to criticize them for conforming to ‘capitalist delusions’. Like this gibberish which argues that Muslim women who conform to tradition are more liberated than Muslim women who supposedly conform to capitalism. By this article, the old Muslim lady who suspects love-marriages is a proto-feminist. I suppose then the Muslim man who slaughters his female relative for entering into a love relationship with someone he doesnt like is a fervent anti-colonialist. The Hindu Right must take note of these arguments; now, the Khap Panchayats can legitimately claim that their expecting Hindu women to conform to pure traditional lifestyles is actually a resistance to Western capitalism! I mean, if old Muslim women were liberated in their purdahs, I am sure old Brahmin and Rajput women are also quite liberated in their caste communities. And kindly dont expect Jats to conform to your liberal white western lifestyles please!

As objectifying as capitalism may be, the liberal Muslim women whom this author hates with a blind fury have the liberty to walk out of an abusive relationship, marry someone else, remain single, or go lesbian. The Islamist mothers and grandmothers whom the author glorifies, however, never had this choice.Liberal western feminism has many problems. Not conforming to Islamic feudal values, however, is definitely not one of them. And if there were a choice between the two, I will gladly go with the former.

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Joker – Some Points

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on August 20, 2016

1. Somasundaram is (again) one of Koothu Pattarai’s great gifts to Tamil cinema. This man deserves accolades at several levels. I fervently hope he does not get misused by the film industry like that other great Koothu Pattarai product, Pasupathi.

2. This movie shows how political satire must be made. Except maybe for MR Radha’s performances, this movie is an exemplar of the genre.

3. Strength: The story, the actors. It is really tough to elegantly play the role of a mentally unstable person who thinks that he is perfectly normal. DiCaprio did that in Shutter Island. Somasundram does it here. Madness plays in the iris of his eyes and on the corner of his lips.

4. Crux: The toilet. Normally, the suppressed, ‘dirty’ aspect of a caste society, the toilet is the center of this movie. The director’s genius is revealed here.

5. Flaw: The pedantic dialogue of Mu Ramasamy in the climax. His “religion is evil, caste is evil, politics is evil” perspective makes it look like AAP propaganda. The movie should have ended with Somasundaram’s death.

6. Comment: Someone should send Slavoj Zizek a subtitled copy of Joker. He may write a chapter on how not only Somasundaram’s character of Mannar “a beggar who believes that he is a king” is delusional, but ha ha, even the king who believes that he is a king is delusional. That is, psychopathology is not a obtrusion in society, but its core. So maybe, it is not just Mannar who believes that he is the President is mad, even the President who believes that the politics of development has delivered is also mad. And so on and so on. And so on.

7. On a serious note: Look at it this way. Mannar thinks that the President is a post that has power. The President knows that the post has no real power, but acts as though it does. So who is the Joker?

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Trump, Clinton, and Jurassic World

Posted in International by Karthick RM on August 19, 2016

How to understand the ‘to defeat Trump, we need to ally with Clinton’ argument? Through Hollywood of course!

In Jurassic World, you have the cruel genetically altered mega-monster Indominus Rex which goes on an indiscriminate killing spree of anyone in its path. So, to defeat it, the humans ‘strategically ally’ with Tyrannosaurus Rex (which is also a genetically altered monster that wreaked havoc in earlier movies, but that history is conveniently forgotten). In the climax, T Rex saves the humans from Indominus Rex and rules over Jurassic World like a triumphant, well um, liberal democrat. But a radical ending to this movie would have been to show T Rex defeating Indominus Rex and proceeding to eat the humans.

That would have been a fitting commentary on the Clinton supporters. Because in real life, the ‘humans’ are Bernie Sanders and co.

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Liberal Feminism or Subaltern Misogyny? No Thanks!

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on August 14, 2016

The subaltern hypermale dominating and disciplining the upper-class, ostensibly upper-caste, female is a usual theme in Tamil cinema. While MGR did this by his mere presence by his being the patriarch par-excellence, the later ‘heroes’ did so almost always by recourse to physical violence. This is why Rajanayagam’s analysis in his “Popular Cinema and Politics in South India” where he argues that MGR emphasizes the valorous man and Rajinikanth emphasizes the virile man needs to be expanded. Rajini, Vijay, Dhanush and others, NEED to emphasize the image of the virile man to compensate for the lack of either virility or valor. And the only way this compensation plays out is on the body of the independent woman who is harassed, harangued, and humiliated to play a disciplined role.

As bad as the reel world is, real Tamil society is a lot worse. Women wearing leggings, women driving two-wheelers or cars, women in academia, women on facebook, women writing poetry, women supporting radical politics, women seeking protection of the law, or women just living their own lives, are all subjects of vulgar attacks by self-declared subalternists who need to demonstrate their virility (i.e. compensate for a lack) by attacking such women and claiming it to be part of a class struggle and what not.

Liberal feminism has a thousand problems and raises a thousand questions. But defending and glorifying subaltern misogyny has no answers to it.

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A Note on the Paris Attacks

Posted in International by Karthick RM on August 14, 2016

Why didnt the Western media cover Beirut as much as Paris, a writer for Al Jazeera asks. Why didnt Al Jazeera cover the Tamil genocide as much as Palestine, can we ask? We dont because we maintain this minimal decency that we should not compare deaths, massacres of civilians, that each tragedy is unique in itself and should not be compared. Yes, the dominant Western media covers Western issues more, just as a dominant Arab media covers Arab issues more just as a dominant Indian media covers Indian issues more. Why is that surprising? (To be honest, among the three, there is more diversity in the Western media.)

We have friends, family, comrades, lovers, who died in Paris. If we in the Europe mourn them, it does not mean we do not care about Lebanon. It is only because the Paris attacks were closer to the places we frequent, closer to the places our loved ones frequent; and humans as a species relate more to tragedies closer to home. This is what makes us human. To mock this requires a level of coldness which the ISIS share.

I can sympathize with the outrage that the Lebanese may feel at the media coverage in the West. Tamils who were active during 2009 can relate to this, how the Indian media, especially the lib-left ones, blacked out or twisted stories about Sri Lanka. But if we started asking the left “what about us” with respect to the Tamil case, there will be no end, and nothing fruitful in the end. We can challenge this media coverage with more dignity and without trying to exploit the other person’s guilt.

Yes, there are people who changed their profile pics to the French flag without any politics whatsoever, just as a stunt. But if these are fakes, I can say with confidence that the entire Indian “pro-palestinian” group is one big fake and the worst stunt pullers that I have met. These fakes do not represent the tragedy that either the Parisians face now or the Palestinians have faced for long.

Yes, Obama who is worrying about Paris but not Beirut is a hypocrite. So is Fidel Castro who accuses the US of creating ISIS but gave all diplomatic and political support to a state that resembles both in deed and ideology the Islamic State, the Sinhala-Buddhist regime of Sri Lanka. In fact, Sri Lanka is the perfect example of what the world will be if ISIS wins. And what coverage and solidarity did the Tamils get from the mainstream left? Imperialists will behave like imperialists will behave. They are brutal, hypocritical, cynical and manipulative. The sad part however is that the mainstream left is no different.

At some level, this also exposes the hypocrisy of certain ‘postcolonial’ activists – first you claim that you dont need attention from the West, next you scream if the West doesnt give you more attention. Just what and where is your politics exactly? To be honest, this “whataboutery” insults the victims more than the Western media people who you claim were ignorant to their plight.

Let us not undermine one person’s suffering in the name of highlighting another. Its like going to a house where a family has lost a loved one and making a statement that “Hey, this is sad, but you know in a road accident in New York in 1945, a whole family was wiped out.” There is nothing even mildly political about this.

Let us use this really grave moment to convey solidarity with the people who are standing up to racism and fundamentalism, be it in Paris, Lebanon, Tamil Eelam, Kurdistan, Baltimore, or Nigeria. But let us not do this “what about” games, especially with people who are our potential comrades, especially at such a time of crisis. The blood shed in Paris is the blood shed in Beirut is the blood shed in Jaffna is the blood shed in Diyarbakir. Praying for and showing solidarity with whatever is closest to you does not make you a racist. But trivializing the suffering of another makes you an absolute disgrace to humanity.

A little tribute to Vidrohi

Posted in General by Karthick RM on August 14, 2016

I believe there are two really smart decisions I have taken in my life – joining JNU for my Masters, leaving JNU immediately after my Masters. Jawaharlal Nehru University is always a Dickensian scenario. You meet the best of people and the worst of people there; inevitably both will be from the left. Imagine 1968 Paris being repeated over and over again – the slogans, the sexual liberation, the orgasmic enthusiasm for revolution, the wild dreams… and just like the 1968 revolutionaries, the Guevaras of JNU too succeeded in doing absolutely nothing to change the system. But then, JNU’s biggest magic trick is the illusion that it gives you that you are actually doing something. Much like the five star hotel in Chennai that promises to give you an authentic fisherman’s cuisine, JNU too allures you with the promise of being part of an authentic revolutionary event.

But once a while you run into a really genuine character who really believes in the JNU dream. Vidrohi was one of those rare characters. This humble unassuming man was a powerful poet, speaker and a treasure-trove of knowledge. Vidrohi could be seen at several protests, offering his poetry to add color to the demonstrations. His admirers would clap and cheer. But most of his admirers had clear career plans. To them, JNU was a stepping stone to something higher. I know quite some ultraleftists who believed armed struggle was the only way who later joined NGOs, earning good money. But Vidrohi’s universe was the university.

Vidrohi genuinely believed in the JNU dream. He died poor.

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Excerpt From my Review of Christopher J Lee’s “Frantz Fanon: Toward a Revolutionary Humanism”

Posted in Politics by Karthick RM on August 14, 2016

See full review at Marx and Philosophy Review of Books

““Concerning Violence”, a recent documentary by Goran Olsson, a Swedish filmmaker too reinforces the ‘angry black man’ stereotype, albeit unwittingly. Olsson’s documentary takes select passages from The Wretched of the Earth to make a case against European colonialism. The Fanon we see here is an anti-European, who rejected all that Europe stood for. Yes, Fanon was genuinely angry towards the brutality of European colonialism, but he nevertheless believed that there was something worthy of redeeming in the European tradition.

Fanon writes in the Conclusion of WOTE – and this is a passage that the documentary conveniently missed – “All the elements for a solution to the major problems of humanity existed at one time or another in European thought. But the Europeans did not act on the mission that was designated by them.” These are not the words of a man who hated Europe; these are the words of a man who accused Europe of not living up to its own egalitarian values. This is a Fanon that neither the Right nor the Left recognize, and this is the Fanon desperately needed now. The “prophet of violence” who allegedly hated all things Europe is a person whom Fanon would have loathed. But one can suppose this is the fate that befalls all great thinkers. Nietzsche remarked that a martyr’s disciples suffer more than the martyr. What he should have added is that a martyr’s principles suffer most in the hands of his disciples.

Lee’s reading of Fanon provides a much needed nuance that is often missing when dealing with Fanon. “Fanon must be viewed not only as a critic of colonialism but a critic of postcolonialism.” (175) Arguably, Fanonism provides not just a compelling condemnation of the brutalities of European colonialism, but also a pre-emptive critique of the postcolony. While Fanon is most prominently used by the postcolonialists to denounce the alleged arrogance of European universalism, often they produce a narrative that excuses the worst excesses of nation-states in the Third World by attributing it to a hangover of colonial ideology. But this is an approach that Fanon scrupulously avoided, if the last chapters of WOTE are read diligently. And it is this Fanon that needs to be retrieved now – his “radical empathy” and universalist humanism do provide crucial insights on the several problems of identity that plague this century.”

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Excerpt From my Review of Roland Boer’s “Lenin, Religion, and Theology”

Posted in Politics by Karthick RM on August 14, 2016

See full review at Marx and Philosophy Review of Books

“Boer is also quick to point out the loophole of the blind optimism of inevitability that lies in the Christian eschatological narrative, something Lenin was also sensitive to despite his great regard for Lunacharsky. Lenin must be read here as an atheist Christian: Christian, in so far as he inherited the radical tradition of liberation theology, atheist, since he opposed the deification of any material or immaterial category, be it the proletariat or the revolution. The Revolution might be a miracle, one of a touching point between “spontaneity and organization, between the unexpected and the expected” (135), yet, without a professional vanguard – the Jesuits of Communism – no revolutionary movement could capture and retain power.

This book is important at a time when matters of religion, especially Islam, are the hottest topic of debate in Western media. While the extreme Right is happy to portray all followers of that religion as potential terrorists, some sections of the Left treat any criticism of Islam or cultural practices of Muslim communities as Islamophobic. Which is the wrong side here? To use Stalinist rhetoric, both right-wing deviation and left-wing deviation are wrong!”

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The Rise of the European Right Is a Wake-up Call for the European Left to Abandon Multiculturalism

Posted in International by Karthick RM on August 14, 2016

Originally published on Huffington Post

The astounding success of the Front National in the first round of France’s regional elections brought me no surprise. Though they didn’t win in the end, they have significantly increased their presence in France. The Right has been on an offensive insurgent mode in Europe for quite some time now. Quite strong Right-wing regimes rule Hungary and Poland. Anti-immigrant parties are on the rise in Denmark, Belgium and even in liberal Sweden. And at home, we have the UKIP that is steadily expanding its influence.

The success of the Right is not the validation of some inherently European racist tendencies as the politically correct would like to accuse, but rather the inevitable result of multiculturalism. The Right has capitalized where the Left has failed, weaving criticisms of practices of migrant communities into a strategically articulated discourse of xenophobia. The liberal-left, in its assumption that the best way to fight xenophobia is to treat the cultural practices of migrant communities as sacrosanct, has given ammunition to the Right’s discourse that immigrants will always remain alien to the European way of life.

Multiculturalism, and its dogma of uncritical tolerance of minority communities, has morally and politically undermined the Left and enabled the Right to project themselves as the defenders of Europe.

If in the era of colonialism the European liberal saw himself as the superhero responsible for saving all of humanity, in the era of multiculturalism, he sees himself as the supervillain responsible for all of humanity’s problems. To use a Freudian argument, the self-flagellating masochism of the European left-liberal is a form of a perverted narcissism. The left-liberal is secretly pleased at the ‘punishment’ being meted out to him by the exotic other, since he still remains the object of attention. This is why we could find so many apologetic rants in the wake of the Islamist terror attacks in Paris. “Yes, the attacks were bad, but we were the guilty ones.”

This sort of ridiculous posturing not only alienates the Left from the European masses, but also makes the vitriol of the Right more endearing. To be brutally honest, if I were a politically uneducated White working class person in a Parisian suburb, I would find the diabolical xenophobic frankness of the Front National more appealing than the sophistries of the liberal who expects me to bear responsibility for aggression committed against France.

If backward cultural practices of Muslim migrants are to be tolerated under the argument that they are integral to Islam, soon Hindu migrants too can make a claim, not without legitimacy, that practicing casteism is integral to being a Hindu. Indeed, Hindu lobby groups have opposed Britain’s attempts to criminalize the practice of casteism. There will be no limit to this, and the only politics that the Left will encounter from such groups is the politics of blackmail. As Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek rightly observed, “The more Western liberal leftists wallow in their guilt, the more they are accused by Muslim fundamentalists of being hypocrites who try to conceal their hatred of Islam.”

We need to differentiate between defending the lives and democratic rights of migrants and minorities and serving as apologists for the bigotries and backwardness among them. In fact, the only way to effectively defend the democratic rights of migrants is by being unapologetically critical of backward cultural practices among their communities and extending full support to progressives from such communities. The failure of the Left to do so is the only success of multiculturalism, and this provides the best rhetorical weapon for the Right to denounce migrants en masse as a backward lot.

As an ‘immigrant’ who has been in this country for about four years now, I agree with the Prime Minister David Cameron that British values need to be defended. But what are the British values we are talking about? The utopian communism of Gerrard Winstanley, the secular Republicanism of Shakespeare and the romantic Jacobinism of PB Shelley are the real British values, and very much European values. To think that migrants need not subscribe to these and should stay in their own little closeted cultures is also a form of racism.

In the name of multiculturalism, we cannot allow an infantile liberal-Left deny and denigrate all that is radical and emancipatory about Europe. Because only the far-Right, which hates egalitarian European values as much as the Islamists, will be the eventual beneficiary of this.

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