My transnational accent: Spawned out of a lot of cultural crazy.

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Off late I’ve realized that my accent has changed.

Quite possibly a lot.

Back home in India, I had a distinctly Bangalorean Tamil, accent (as opposed to Bangalorean Kannadiga, Bangalorean Northy, Bangalorean Bengali, Bangalorean Telugu and so on), but also one that reflected the fact that English was my first language. The language I dreamed in.  English was, for all practical purposes, my mother tongue – alongside Tamil of course (us Dravidians are nothing if not linguistic elitists and could never accept a non-Dravidian language as our primary one, no matter how badly some of us might speak the languages of our ancestors.)

Nevertheless, while English was indeed my first language, it was a distinctly personal language, it was my English, spoken in my accent. Not American. Certainly not British. Not some generic, Hank-Azaria-voiced, North American stereotype of an accent.

For I was the son of Radha and Ananth, a mother and father who spoke to me in a Dravidian-Anglo linguistic mix of more-English-than-Tamil to me and my friends, and more-Tamil-than-English to each other and their families. (Add to that the Malayalam on my mother’s side, the Kannada in Bangalore, the Hindi of Bollywood, the Tamil of Kollywood, not to mention the languages of my friends – and you have a helluva mix.)

Now, Amma and Appa spoke to me in that mix of more-English-than-Tamil because I do believe that somewhere deep down they knew that I would have greater opportunities for myself in this Euramerican, colonial world if English was my first language.

Bless their souls. For all my Dravidian spiritualism (and occasional nationalism), I do know that English is one of the reasons I have made a transnational home across Toronto, Minneapolis, and Bangalore, with my awesome warrior-goddess of a partner and a burgeoning community of loved ones in each place.

Thus, my accent was one cultivated partly due to my parents’ foresight to ensure I spoke English from the get go, while ensuring that my Tamil wasn’t forgotten (even if slightly broken). It was a rich, beautiful-as-fuck linguistic environment I grew up in, quite effectively reflected in my accent.

When I left Bangalore in 2002 for a brief while to live in Gujarat, I think my English accent changed a touch, primarily because my spoken Hindi was forced to get much better due to the nature of my work there. (It still rankles me ever so slightly that my spoken Hindi is better than my spoken Tamil, but that will hopefully change as I start parenting.)

When I moved to the States, a mix of lefty political anger, racism that I faced, and a touch of assimilation anxiety in a white-dominated, settler-colonial society had me very rapidly shift to a more neutral accent. One that often had Americans remark at my “British accent” – making me cringe every time, while still secretly gladdening me since it proved I could blend in with greater ease into Euramerican societies when I needed to.

The accent shifted a bit with each move that I made. Baltimore. Boston. New Delhi. Minneapolis. Toronto.

Occasional racist jokes or references to crude Indian stereotypes by so-called friends in different North American cities shifted the accent in different ways. Often in defiance, but also in survival.

Whenever I visited friends and family in India, some would pass comments on my “American accent” or “Westernized accent”. And little shifts in the accent would occur each time. Usually quite subtle and probably unnoticeable to no one save myself.

But incrementally I do believe, especially after Sus and I moved to Toronto, I developed a rather unique transnational accent. One that shifts, depending on the company and environment, while still remaining very firmly mine. With Sus and I building community and family across three very different cities, two Euramerican, one Indian, the shift occasionally even catches me by surprise.

The best part about it, however, is that I’m able to experience laughter, satire, and sarcasm with the same linguistic diversity as the myriad sources for my proudly mongrel accent. The razor-sharp Tamil humor and Tam Bram cynicism of my parents, usually directed at our own communities. The laugh-out-loud goofery of Tamil and Hindi movies. Bollywood. Kollywood. Of course Hollywood. And British comedy. Good and bad. Plus a lot of American sitcoms. Good and bad. Not to mention my warrior-goddess of a partner and our daily humor. As well as that of all of our loved ones (including our cats).

That’s a lot of sources for one accent.

And that’s a lot of cultural crazy for one tongue.

 

The healing power of community (and other irritating things I learnt on my recent vacation)

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My partner and I (and our little one growing in her belly) recently returned from a vacation where we got to spend some quality time with our community of loved ones in the American Midwest (mostly Minneapolis and Iowa), strengthening the bonds of love we share with them, while simultaneously growing fonder of our community of loved ones in Toronto and Bangalore, thereby strengthening those bonds as well.

I’d like to say we had fun doing all that bond-strengthening while on vacation, but I’d be lying if I did.

(Trust me when I say that there was enough bond-strengthening to puke your ever-loving guts out.)

Nevertheless, the vacation did confirm that we were in the rather enviable position of having a transnational family across three countries, while unenviably having to navigate a few more immigration hurdles in each of the three. Not to mention colonial, patriarchal and/or neo-fascist societies as well.

(The quest to build a community of loved ones across international borders is nothing if not served with the occasional dollop of gut wrenching lunacy.)

Our transnational family is one that keeps growing and changing with a love that is neither perfect nor utopian but grounded in an honest reality. An honest reality that has no choice but to take on and engage with occasional moments of awkwardness and oppression.

Then again, it would be naive to imagine real love being fostered solely through fun and joy.

Human beings aren’t that cool yet.

Animals are. But humans aren’t.

For us humans, there are times when love has to be fostered via the painful fight against religious fundamentalism, crazy nationalism, ethnic chauvinism, and teeth-pulling patriarchy.

(Or whatever the hell satisfies the nihilist gene in our species.)

Because if we want to really be honest with ourselves, there are times when our loved ones drive us up the fucking wall.

I’m sure I’m on them.

But I suppose it’s ok, because it’s where real healing, and thereby real love, can truly take place.

It’s a pain in the ass, but it’s also worth it.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

So I guess what I’m trying to do here is explore the healing power of community – in all its glorious imperfections and occasional crappiness – while reminiscing about the semi-shitty, semi-lovely vacation we had wading through insecure, Midwestern whiteness.

The vacation began with a major rubikon crossed in the relationship with my younger-brother-cum-fellow-idiot-whom-I-nevertheless-love-to-hell-and-back.

(He’s not white or from the Midwest, in case you were wondering. But it still makes for a rather nice, if somewhat sentimental, start to this brief story.)

He and I had a delicious blow up aided by much painfully emotional hand-wringing, eventually ending in the realization that our love was fostered via the mutual strengths of man-childish immaturity, occasional insecurity, as well as the pure, dumb luck to have found far superior human beings as life partners.

(That, plus we both cuddle-torture our cats.)

So, that was the maudlin, Tamil Melodrama-type, start to the vacation, just before we departed Toronto.

Following that we landed in the land of Midwest Nice and Privileged White Timidity.

Why, you ask oh so patronizingly, must we take such a vacation if we know that to be the case, and then have the gall to complain in such cynical ways about it?

Why couldn’t we have gone to the Caribbean, now that I have the glorious settler-colonial, visa-free travel document that is the Canadian Passport?

Why, indeed.

Well, we have people we love to hell and back in those painfully insecure white societies.

Like really love them with all our heart and soul.

And let me tell you, it’s not easy loving people who benefit from something that oppresses you.

(Just ask any woman who’s ever loved a man.)

But the vacation wasn’t all bad.

One thing I learnt is that beatific, God-fearing, and likely well-meaning middle class white folk have carved out some amazingly beautiful spaces for themselves.

For instance, compare the place that I grew up in to the one Sus grew up in.

Bangalore is, generously put, equal parts shithole, equal parts moderately tolerable city. I say this out of a great deal of love for my childhood city.

And it’s with love that I say that Bangalore is getting shittier by the day. The price of capitalism in the erstwhile Third World is that the poverty caused by all that bling bling cannot be hidden. It’s very honest, in-your-face, pollution, chaos, and inequality.

But Charles City (no kidding, that’s the name of the town), the very much First World small town that my warrior-goddess of a partner grew up in, is absolutely lovely, with a pristine river, oxygen-rich air, and wide, green spaces that smell like fragrant pine cones.

And it’s not just the small towns.

Minneapolis, the second-largest Midwestern city, and also the one where I was fortunate enough to meet Sus during my ill-fated adventure in the wastelands of elitist academia, is absolutely gorgeous with hundreds of beautiful lakes and the breathtaking Mississippi River.

Even Des Moines had some tracts of beauty. Aided of course by four awesome souls who welcomed us into their hearts.

Ultimately – beautiful green spaces and majoritarian nervousness apart – the vacation had us building community, dealing with the odd irritating week or two, making new friends, and becoming soulmates with three dogs:

Crystal – the majestically depressed Alaskan husky…

Bailey –  the slightly hyper-anxious, adolescent-in-years-but-puppy-in-spirit black Lab/Husky mix, and…

Missy – the ageing, cocker-spaniel-resembling one, with a permanent cold, hailing from a breed meant for sitting on elite people’s feet to warm them up.

(I wish I was joking.)

The vacation ended with social meals and laughter in Minneapolis as well as back home in Toronto, spending many happy hours hours incessantly discussing – and likely irritating our friends and loved ones with – baby prep plans.

All in all, I’d say it was a win.

But I vouch for a Third World vacation next time.

Super Satchel Man: The Powerless Social Worker (ready to bang his impotent head on the brick wall of injustice)

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Superhero Avatar – Super Satchel Man

Description – The powerless social worker

Special powers – (1) banging a very frustrated head on the brick wall of banal injustice and manic bureaucracy; (2) ability to laugh cynically at the valiant failure of the same.

Alter Egos: Sri (aka Sriru, aka Sriram Ananthanarayanan)

Day Job – lovable loser and maladroit family man.

Super Satchel Man carries a satchel as he goes about his futile superhero duties of working in a healthcare system which mimics the behavior of a really gentle and benevolent fascist dictator prone to occasional bouts of rage.

Super Satchel Man’s Super Vehicle is provided by the public-commons-owned (and operated apparently) Toronto Transit Commission.

Batmobile it isn’t.

A smelly bus it is.

Super Satchel Man is a man of the people, because the people are just as frustrated and batshit insane as he is for even trying.

Life that is.

But Super Satchel Man doesn’t care, because at the end of the day, Super Satchel Man has a large and weird and loving family to go home to

And Super Satchel Man has a bunch of weird and loving friends to hang out with.

And Super Satchel Man has two amazing cats to confide in.

One of whom is Super Satchel Man’s trusted sidekick – snoring on the bed beside him.

[Our next piece will introduce Fuzzy Poo – The Pudgy and Politically Pacifist Siberian Tiger. Until then – here’s Super Satchel Man, ready to drift off into insomnia and a resigned but ultimately peaceful acceptance of his many dogged failures. Goodnight lovelies.]

 

Liberating myself from racist animal slurs by invoking the pure souls of the animals themselves

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The caged bird sings with a fearful trill

  • Sriram Ananth (sriram.writing@gmail.com)

I have been called more animal slurs than I can remember ever since I moved to North America a dozen years ago. Generally those slurs include variations of primates, and sometimes even canines. Greetings like “sand monkey”, “Indian dog”, even “Paki cur” (or it might have been “Paki cunt” in which case I have been ascribing a touch more linguistic depth to the humans who choose to use these monikers than I need to). Also “big ape”, “ugly gorilla”, “fucking chimp” and more. Occasionally, other animals will be invoked. This one time in Toronto’s gay village I was called a “hot and spicy bear” if I’m remembering correctly, and another time in Boston I was called “the great Indian bull” (these last two slurs I think were meant to be exotic compliments by heavily deluded, older white men who were of the belief that their gayness excused them from a basic sense of humanity.)

This is, of course, in addition to the usual smatterings of other non-animal slurs. I often project an ambiguous ethnicity on the streets, so a fairly broad gamut of slurs periodically come my way.

Now, I don’t wish to project this as a daily occurrence, or even a very frequent one, depending on your definition of an acceptable frequency for folks to face this. (I’m one of those saps who thinks once is too many, but to each their own.)

Of course, barring loved ones and genuine friends, a lot of people who don’t face these kinds of slurs tend to be surprised that “this shit still happens?” when I tell them about these experiences.

Be that as it may, over the last many years, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been called some slur or the other in various parts of the US and Canada. After the first fifty or so times, one just blurs it out.

Now, I have found some awesome ways to liberate myself from the clearly dehumanizing intent of all those microaggressions. I’ve already written about how, ultimately, those who oppress or benefit from said oppression are the ones who are dehumanized, and not the ones the oppressive attacks are directed at. So I won’t belabor that point.

But what about also invoking the awe-inspiring pure souls of the animals themselves to liberate ourselves from the ugly manner in which they are twisted into dehumanizing slurs?

It worked wonders for me.

Equally importantly, it led me on a path of slowly destroying my anthropocentrism. It showed me that there was just as much love and liberation, if not more, that one could find with non-human souls as one could with human ones.

(Frankly, I’m seriously thinking of going the other direction and considering misanthropy as a solid life philosophy to incorporate – or maybe just misandry, considering women and trans folk are the only saving grace for humanity. But I think it might be best to keep the therapeutic rage for a later time.)

So let’s talk a bit about liberating ourselves by invoking the amazingly pure souls of the animals, who are unfortunately being dragged into this racism and colonialism nonsense for no fault of theirs.

But I’m not going to do it by addressing the slurs hurled at me in America and Canada. It’s easy to do that. Plus there are many eager liberals who will queue up to condemn those slurs and I don’t really feel like making myself angry right now.

Instead, what I would like to talk about is a body-image slur I faced when I was a kid, because that’s where this healing technique really began for me. Without realizing it, I used this very technique to liberate myself from the constant teasing around my pudginess when I was a kid. And when I recount that episode, it becomes easy to do it as an adult, which I hope you can as well should you ever need this technique.

In this case, i.e. my generously layered pre-teenage years, the animal used to tease me was the awe-inspiring, soul-liberating, elephant – one of my spirit animals. So, I’m going to first talk a bit about how that took place. Because it helped me many, many years later when the monkey/dog slurs were hurled at me.

Ok here goes.

So, I was a pudgy kid.

That much you have gathered.

And I got teased a lot. Don’t worry, I’m not going to dump all of my awkward insecurities on you with this article (that’s what I have my cats for). But I will have to recount some of those ego-busting moments, so try to not shuffle your feet too much.

Among the usual monikers, was your basic, never-going-out-of-style “fatty” in a variety of languages. The linguistic medium and environment of my childhood was a gorgeous mix of English, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Urdu, and Malayalam across friends and family, with the odd bit of Telugu and Bengali thrown in for good measure (usually in the form of crude jokes we would make of our friends who spoke those languages – yo, we all did it to each other).

Needless to say, the number of ways in which you can be teased also gets that rich linguistic and cultural diversity. From being compared to a variety of large, bulbous fruits native to the respective regions that my tormentors hailed from, to just being made fun of via a particular cultural or even religious trope, I heard it all.

When you come from a land that has every religion on the planet, including one that boasts over 3000 gods, chances are that there are some fairly plump ones too, such as Ganesh, the elephant god of goodness, knowledge, and other such desirable life entities.

Growing up, I hated his guts.

Because each god in Hinduism has umpteen different monikers and stories which – in Ganesh’s case – meant umpteen different ways of teasing us fat kids.

However, the one ubiquitous mode of teasing us across linguistic and cultural differences was to be compared to the (ahem, in reality, heavily muscled but admittedly good-personality-possessing) elephant.

We were in India after all.

The elephant.

What an amazing being with such a beautiful, liberated soul.

I realized that when, as a pudgy kid, I was on this trip to Guruvayoor, a small Hindu pilgrimage town, famous for the massive temple honoring the lord Guruvayurappan, a Tamil and Malalayalam moniker – and thus a naturally more tongue-tying one – for Vishnu, one of the dudes in the Hindu holy trinity.

(But one of the meh, not-so-cool, ones. Not like the awesome bad ass – Shiva.)

So there I was in Guruvayoor, placing various gods on a hierarchy of coolness, for this annual pilgrimage that my parents really liked taking. We always drove from Bangalore. I loved those trips because we all got to drive through Kerala, one of the gorgeous coastal states of the land and consisting about 60% of my roots, primarily on my mother’s side (tongue-twisters all).

When I became 18 and somehow connived to get a driver’s license (despite the testing officer’s eyeballs nearly popping out of his socket and chastising me for driving so rashly), I got to hone my driving skills under the patient tutelage of my father during the many road trips we took – the one to Guruvayoor always being among the most picturesque.

It was in Guruvayoor that I first met, soul to soul, an elephant. I was about 10 years old and it was the briefest of meetings, just long enough for a picture to be taken.

She was a kid elephant that the mahout (elephant man) told me was slightly younger than me in terms of our respective stages of childhood.

She looked at me and I looked at her. I felt her tough hide, with hair that stuck out like the sharp bristles of a brush. I felt her majestic breathing. She turned her face slightly, and grunted softly in friendship. Her trunk lightly enveloped my hips, not holding it tightly, but what felt more like a friendly, loving arm around my torso, except from a limb that could have crushed me with ease. Even as a child, she still had a raw power that I could barely contain my awe of.

But the tingle that went up my spine wasn’t due to her physical strength.

Like I said.

Soul to soul.

It was then that I realized a very simple truth that liberated me from the supposed slur of being compared to an elephant.

This being had a soul far purer than any of my tormentors.

Oh hell yeah.

I dug being compared to an elephant.

Or a dog for that matter. Or a monkey, a cat, a bear, a crow, a bull, or any other animal soul out there that we humans dare to invoke with our hateful misogyny, our racist bile, and our colonial entitlement.

Because if there are still people who think animal slurs can be used to hurt women, or people of color, or trans folk, or indigenous people – those hate-mongers should know this very simple truth:

Invoking the pure souls of animals liberates us and defeats the hatred.

In fact, I just realized something else…

We’re also happier as a result.

Purrr…

6 things men can do to be better human beings on public transit

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sara ahmed quote

  • Sriram Ananth (sriram.writing@gmail.com)

I am such a goddamn dick of a man-child.

Really.

I take up way too much space as a dude and I’m a loud, obnoxious asshole. It eats away at my soul. I dehumanize myself by being that way and I hurt others, especially women and trans folk, including those whom I love dearly.

Thankfully I have some amazing warrior-goddesses in my life – starting with a partner whom I truly believe to be the pinnacle of humanity – all of whom graciously and patiently guide me to greater humanization and being less of an asshole, even though it is none of their responsibility. To say I am blessed is the greatest understatement in the world.

So this article is quite personal.

(Hell, which one isn’t?)

Now, I travel a lot on public transit. I regularly hear and read about the daily horror stories that women and trans people have to deal with while on public transit with the unending supply of entitled, oafish men. It lit the spark for this piece. It’s written especially for men (i.e. cis-gendered men, i.e. those referred to as “men” across the vast majority of the world’s population, i.e. the overwhelming majority of asshole evil-doers on earth.)

So if you’re a woman or trans person reading this, consider forwarding this to some dudes you think would benefit from it. I don’t get enough hate mail to satiate my monstrous ego, so feel free to help out.

But really, all this focuses on is how men can be better human beings on public transit and life in general.

So, lets start with the first lesson.

(1) When sitting or standing, ensure that you occupy as little space as possible: Here’s a little practice exercise for all men to try out.

Take a chair.

Now sit on it.

So far so good?

Excellent.

Now bring your feet closer together, as close as you can, no more than a few centimeters apart.

(You’re doing great bro, keep going.)

Now that your feet are close together, bring your knees closer, approximately the same distance apart as your feet are.

Amazing.

(You’re almost there, just keep at it son. Take a beer break if you need to.)

Ok, now let’s work on your hands.

Tuck your elbows against the sides of your torso and hips.

Now place your palms on your knees.

Voila! Perfect seated position that takes up as little space as possible.

Try the same exercise standing and then again standing while holding onto something. Just remember that the best way to take up as little space as possible is ensuring that opposing limbs are brought close together and with reverence to the women and trans folk around you.

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice practice.

Way to go man-child! What say we work on your facial expression and eye line now?

Onward, kind sir, to lesson 2.

(2) Look away or look down and make efforts to show you are not a threat by practicing your “pleasant face” (don’t be overtly friendly by default): Looking away or looking down indicates that you’re not really interested in interaction, and ipso facto not interested in being a threat to anyone. It is an easy way to ensure that your fellow women and trans travellers feel safe and comfortable to travel. (You know, one of those gosh darned “human rights” that the bleeding hearts are always going on about).

This may seem unfriendly, but I beg to differ. I am of the opinion that, due to global gender-oppression, it’s really important for men to refrain from being overtly friendly, because it can often make women and trans folk feel extremely unsafe. Practice the simple art of speaking only when you are spoken to, ensuring that you are polite and thoughtful. Only engage to the limit that makes the other person comfortable, and then go back to looking away or looking down.

But remember to also practice your “pleasant face” for this. All men are capable of pleasant faces. It’s less to do with your countenance and more to do with your attitude really. Below is shown a simple exercise for you to try out.

Stand in front of the mirror and think of something that makes you smile. Then practice making that smile slight, i.e. not super obvious but still noticeable. The Mona Lisa is a great template to practice with for that perfect slight smile. Don’t smile too wide (that could get creepy). Once you’ve got that down pat, remove traces of a scowl or furrowed eyebrows as much as possible. Then look at your eyes. Try to get a sense of calm and peace of mind to get those eyes into a lovely peaceful gaze that shows the same level of threat as The Buddha (the real one, not the pot-bellied garbage hawked to eager white folk who recently returned from a trip finding themselves.)

And there you have it, an easy practice exercise for developing your “pleasant face.” When in doubt, think of someone you really care about, and the pleasantness will show on your face with greater ease.

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.

Way to go man-child! What say we work on tone of voice and way of communicating, talking, and laughing now?

Go forth, intrepid gentleman, to lesson 3.

(3) Don’t be a loud, obnoxious asshole (especially when children, seniors, and other more vulnerable populations are around): Now dude, before you get all whiny, please note that no one’s telling you not to enjoy yourself. Joy and laughter are gorgeous things. Just don’t take up so much space that it’s just you and your equally loud, obnoxious friends doing it. And remember that there is way less social and cultural space for women and trans folk to speak loudly, enjoy themselves, or laugh with abandon.

(Why, only recently, we had the lovely Napa Valley Wine Train episode where a group of Black women were essentially told by authorities that Laughing While Black And Female is a strict no-no from sea to shining sea.)

It is our goddamn responsibility as men to ensure that we are taking up as little space as possible to create more space for women and trans folk to be able to express joy and emotion.

(For our own sake bud. For our own sake.)

All you need to practice in not being a loud, obnoxious asshole, especially with more vulnerable populations around who might be justifiably nervous around this kind of behavior.

Again, very simple to implement.

When in doubt as to whether you are being loud, quieten the fuck up.

When in doubt as to whether you are being obnoxious, quieten the fuck up.

In fact, in general, unless necessary, just quieten the fuck up.

If you actually need a goddamn reason to do that, try to imagine someone you care about who might be more vulnerable and who might feel threatened by such behavior. Try to behave in a way that would make that person proud to share your love.

If you catch yourself being loud and obnoxious, be open about your contrition, apologize even (don’t worry, no one really gives a shit about your posturing, only about what kind of a person you are).

And then, oh yes, quieten the fuck up.

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.

Way to go man-child! What say we work on general demeanor and way of being now?

Stride forward, caring human being that you are, to lesson 4.

(4) Don’t ogle, stare or pass lewd comments. (Also, don’t wear sunglasses in closed spaces unless medically necessary): Do I have to actually write about how you might successfully implement this point? Really?

Fuck me. Alright, here goes.

Ogling and staring makes people feel extremely uncomfortable and unsafe. Women and trans folk, as well as many people of color, immigrants, homeless folk and others face this all the time. It’s a violation of space, it’s a violation of a person’s fundamental human right to feeling safe, and it’s just a really, really dickish thing to do.

Same goes for passing lewd or offensive comments. Again, when in doubt, just shut the fuck up. You’re not doing yourself or anyone else any good by being this way. You hurt others and you dehumanize yourself, damaging your soul in the process, eventually becoming a pathetic shell of a human being hanging around other assholes merely because it’s only assholes who will hang out with you.

(And then you die, and the great goddess Kali feeds you to her tiger companion, as she does with all assholes on earth, but that’s another trip…)

A small, but important, side-point to the ogling issue – unless medically necessary (and we know what those sunglasses tend to look like, so don’t try fooling people) please try and refrain from wearing sunglasses in closed spaces. The reason is that many men use sunglasses to cravenly cover up the fact that they are, in fact, ogling at someone.

Now, we can’t really do much about it outdoors (though if it’s night time, the unsafe creepiness factor goes up by about a million). So just try not wearing them inside. If you absolutely must wear sunglasses inside, stare the fuck out the window or away from people whom you know might feel uncomfortable with your line of eyesight. Or just engage in conversation with your companion if you have one travelling with you.

An added issue is that even if you’re not actually doing any nasty ogling, but just zoning out or something, many folks will still get uncomfortable because your man-child peepers are hidden behind tint.

(Yes, dear ol’ backward-hat-wearing, beer-brat-inhaling, pal of mine – sexism is an extremely intricate and leviathan social structure. And it’s our responsibility to ensure we’re not reproducing that shit as much as possible.

For ourselves bud.

For ourselves.)

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.

Way to go man-child! What say we work on social skills and trying to be a more caring, egalitarian human being?

Gleefully hop-step-and-jump, oh polite and kindhearted beast, to lesson 5.

(5) Always stand the fuck up politely and give your seat to seniors, pregnant women, folks with accessibility issues, and other more vulnerable populations: This is a simple one that doesn’t really need much detailed instructions to implement. Just do it without questioning it or being a dick about it. For starters, not only is it (again) the fundamental human right of vulnerable populations who need seating more acutely than others, but it also marks you out as a decent human being, and therefore also someone who is unlikely to be a threat to anyone.

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.

Way to go man-child! And as we wrap up this session, what say we now work on the kind of mindset that would make men better human beings on public transit?

Carry on, with a heart that brimeth over with love for humanity and the world, to lesson 5.

(6) It’s totally fine to be a nice person, but not a creepy person who doesn’t respect personal space: Be a nice person.

Really.

It’s awesome if you’re a nice dude. So do practice the fine art of being a nice person, a goodhearted person, a person who cares about people, and is keen on ensuring their health and safety to the greatest degree possible.

But also remember that it’s not anything more than should be expected from you.

(Truth be told, I’m stroking that ego so you’ll stay with me here. It’s ok, I don’t mind, I know how pathetically fragile a man-child’s sense of self is.)

Thus, just as it’s important to be a nice person, it’s equally important to not be a creepy person. Often what is “nice” behavior according to you could come off as very creepy and unsafe to someone else. The best mindset that you might occupy is one of empathy and honest-to-goodness care.

Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice.

Congratulations man-child! You did it! You made it all the way through to the 6th lesson.

Oh, I am so proud of you. I wish there was a certificate I could print out or perhaps an embossed, laminated membership card into the illustrious Platinum Club Of Marginally Less Dickish Men.

Here’s a thought – why don’t you make one for yourself and carry it around with you on public transit? Check it out whenever you find yourself regressing on some of this stuff. It’ll do you wonders.

But wait…

There’s more!

Since you successfully completed the course, we have a bonus lesson…

(6a) Bonus lesson for boneheaded jocks – coming from one who is currently undergoing an intense, 12-step, Boneheaded Jock Rehabilitation program called Assholes Anonymous (we meet secretly at tailgating parties): Listen bud, it’s fine to love sports, get fit, build muscles etc. especially if you’re doing it as part of a transformation to becoming a better person.

Just don’t be a dick about it.

In fact, this entire article can be summarized with one very succinct sentiment that all men on public transit, indeed all men, all the time, would do well to implement in their daily lives. It also happens to be a great sentiment to taking that first step in purging all that misogynistic gunk that clogs their soul:

Don’t be a dick.

With that rare brevity on my part, I’ll sign off.

Bye for now, man-child.

Now go practice, practice, practice until all this becomes instinct.

(And if you expect to be applauded for this shit, consider stabbing yourself in the eye with that spork you just used to eat your Hungry Man microwave dinner.)

Make note of these 6 types of condescending co-workers and reject their snot by laughing at them behind their backs

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going to clown college

As this Anti Oppressive Healing series has evolved over the last few weeks, it has been an absolute blessing to be noshed on by the ever-benevolent writing bug. From a goal of two posts a month when this series first started in March 2015, and the hope of getting to three posts a month in about six months of posting; I am now very fortuitous to be averaging a post a week for the last five weeks and I hope to keep up with this new pace of writing and publishing. It’s been such a lovely learning experience and it helps me remain committed to improving by doing. After many years of having a bloated, taking-my-writing-way-too-seriously ego getting thankfully deflated, I feel grateful to be in this liberated head space. It helps me clear away the haze and do my level best to keep producing work that tries to remove the “wannabe” in my self-imposed identity of a “wannabe healer, writer, and mama elephant.”

Long may this writing bug sink its emboldening fangs into my hitherto oafish brain so it may shake those verbiage-plodding neurons free from their privileged priapean perturbation.

(May it also always make me re-read jargony crap constructed utilizing nothing but an online thesaurus and a prayer.)

Now, I do believe the reason I am in this liberated head space is partly because of blogging.

Blogging, with it’s potential for free expression, limitless creative possibilities, and liberated thought- not to mention unfettered consumption and distribution – is tailor made for a wannabe healer-writer (healter? heriter? hwriter with a silent h?) trying to get some much needed improvement for his craft, as well as write and publish as much as he can without worrying about getting paid for it.

I feel compelled to mention that I am of the inviolable belief that all artistes need to get paid for their work, and I will always fight for everyone to get a fair wage for their creative/artistic work, but I’m privileged to have a life where I can exercise the option of writing and publishing for free consumption/distribution, without worrying about making a living from it because it’s what I need right now to get better. So I just plan on attempting a steady assembly line of posts for anyone out there who’s interested, and for as long as I can. As of now they will all come under the umbrella series, and focus, of Anti Oppressive Healing, but I’m sure that will evolve too.

Ok then. Enough navel-gazing and product-peddling. If you’ve stuck it out thus far with this post, please know that I appreciate you bearing with me as I gazed unabashedly into my unflattering and very-much-not-follicly-challenged belly button while sheepishly pointing you in the vague direction of other posts I have on this blog (sidebar to your left, b t dubs).

On that rather pleasant note…

This post continues in the Healing from Work vein of articles within the series. Only this time it’s trying to reject the hurtful actions of condescending co-workers utilizing that defiant cynical side of ours.

Now, obviously it’s based on condescending co-workers I have interacted with in previous workplaces or continue to interact with in my current workplace. But for obvious reasons I will not give away names or markers of any sort, suffice to say these generic types of condescending co-workers will be recognized by many of you.

And how best to deal with such cosmic ass-warts?

I believe the best way is to mentally reject them. I don’t mean cease interaction, for that might not be a luxury all of us have. What I do mean is that we reject the condescension of these co-workers in our hearts and minds, and commit to not being defeated by it. I’ve already written about investing as little of our souls as we can when selling our labor to capitalism for our sustenance, so I won’t repeat those points.

With this post, all we’re doing is coming up with a list of identifiers that mark out condescending co-workers who need to be rejected in our heads so we can then heal by laughing about them behind their backs.

Before we do that though, our generic colleagues are going to need generic names (and this article needs, you know, a thing). You need these names and many, many more you should strive to come up with on your own. They are your tools of resiliency to deal with those officious office  mates of yours. So let’s discuss a couple of options to get the juices flowing.

Perhaps Sanctimonious Sam? Could that be one of them?

Or if that’s a bit too meh, maybe Sydney Self-Righteousness? It certainly has a certain oomph to that surname.

But if that’s too many syllables for you, you really can’t go wrong with the delicate flow of Peyton Pomposity though now can you?

(See, I gotta be honest, all I did right now was a google search for synonyms of the word ‘sanctimonious’ and vaguely gender-neutral christian names on the net and strung a few of those bad boys with the same starting letters together. I’m going to follow that as an m.o. for this article fyi. I’m also going to take the opportunity, in this particular parenthetical segue, to finally admit that I am a pathetic con job of a writer. Hell, the only reason I even come out of this hack artiste closet is so I can then seek lazy refuge in meta humor as opposed to actually trying to be a better writer. Whatever. It’s therapeutic. Plus, when hipsters do it, no one complains, and most of those assholes have trust funds, so bite me.)

Ok, that was cleansing – and probably disturbing. I’m not sure. Lets just quickly move on to the six common types of condescending co-workers before I go postal with a BB gun in a Kensington Market coffee shop.

For instance…

  • You know that Goody-two-shoes Gabriel, the sniveling little suck-up, who never fails to note down all the times you went on vacation or took time off? Ol’ Gugga will never fail to bring it up in the snarkiest way possible when you return to work, which is the real kicker. (“Oh, hi there! Haven’t seen you in a looong time. Wish I could take time off like that too. Forgot you even worked here for a while. Lucky for you your supervisor’s office is all the way on the other side of the building, am I right? By the way, how did it go last week, you know, with the birth of your first child and all?”)
  • Ahem, simultaneously we don’t want to forget how Bobby Bootlicker – that giant pile of priggish pus who never fails to highlight their work, occasionally repeating a project or two from a couple of different angles, almost always at all-staff meetings and only when the bosses are present. Usually this is done by raising a hand during Q&A, and providing a surreptitious, albeit astoundingly detailed, reconstruction of all the work Bobo did as a lead up to asking a question. They will then conveniently forego asking a question but they will crack a dainty little joke about being a hopeless workaholic. (You can then feel the earth’s axial tilt shift ever so faintly as every eyeball in the room rolls upward in remarkable, albeit exasperated, unison. The goddesses in the sky look down in sympathy as a collective sigh of indignation then descends upon the meeting when Bobo flashes that impossible smile – impossible because it’s being performed by lips vacuum-sealed on the ass of a program director.)
  • But heavens forbid we forget that slimeball, Pharisaical Fadnavis. The duplicitous drool of that duplicitous drooler can be smelt a mile away. P-Fad will always be a picture of politeness with you. Always “on” 24/7, this source of angst will display a propriety that would make Martha Stewart’s heart glow like black granite in the prairie sunshine. P-Fad bustles with a bumblebee earnestness and buzzes, martyr-like, about how helpful they are to everyone around them, though the jury is still out on who exactly “everyone” is. Like Bobo though, rest assured the tone gets positively joanofarcian in those preciously public all-staff meetings with all the bosses present.
  • Ok, enough of that, because now it’s time get really filthy, like bottom of the barrel type stuff, when we recount that slice of smarm, Wheedling Waleed Bin Talal? (More like Wheedling Wally B Buttwipe, am I right?) Now there’s a walking ball of brown-nosing bullshit. Seriously, how can so much of that brown gold be slung with the bosses with nary a stain nor stench? Wally B knows how, let me tell you. Those laboriously shined shoes and immaculately creased trousers will not allow it any other way.
  • Wally B induces the nausea, but can I have a “fuck me, not this asshole again” for Unctuous Ulysses? That Jesus-Loves Me-bracelet-wearing, beatific jive joker – always fresh faced, well hydrated, and with a gleaming smile. Unfortunately for the rest of us this smile emanates from the face of a person who’s ego isn’t healthy enough to attempt moderation when applying that tempting teeth-whitener the previous night. He doesn’t talk about his pompous piety. This literal leap of faith doesn’t need to. It blooms from his being, radiating outward, washing over us like the healing aromas emanating from a landfill. He jades and jehovizes those of us going to hell, making our souls impatient to get there just a little bit sooner so we don’t have to smell his eau de parfum.
  • And finally, can we ever conceive of a list of condescending co-workers without referencing the one we all love to hate the most, your favorite office pest, Vainglorious Venkatanarasimharaju? This is the one who thinks that the office would fall apart without him, yet even a friendly query on what exactly he does in order to keep this office so brilliantly functioning will be met with the kind of exasperation that you do not want to be facing from The V2 Rocket. Nothing more needs to be said about this puddle of piss – primarily because I’m running out of steam thinking about these people and doing google searches for adjectives describing their sorry asses so I can hack out this post.

I think it’s best now for all of us for me to sign off with this very simple mantra…

Remember to never allow the insecurity and inadequacies of your condescending co-workers defeat you.

Your best bet would be to look at your work life via the lens of an over-the-hill but well-adjusted Looney Toons character who doesn’t take their work too seriously and possesses enough cynical zeal to treat some of your more cloying colleagues with the intentionally cartoonish disdain they deserve.

Now, seriously, don’t forget to clock the fuck out before 5pm and go have fun with your loved ones.

And do give a big smile to Paulus Publius Pecksniffian Poopy Pants on your way out.

An ode to a good dump and a grouchy fuck of a grandfather

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prime minister digestion

The last article I wrote on suicide gutted me a bit, so I’m going to be talking about bowel movements for this one, while invoking the late wisdom of a strange, grumpy old man.

I don’t know why really. I think it’s because writing this article made me laugh while invoking a giant middle finger to pain and trauma. Read on if you’d like. It’s a short piece anyway.

When I was about eight or nine years old, my late grandfather on my mother’s side drew a diagram for me and my older brother, a diagram I will describe shortly. First let me briefly describe this man as I remember him.

Thatha died when I was about ten or eleven after his heart gave out, so I do remember him being my first experience with death, and crying when I saw his body, not because I particularly gave a crap that he was gone but merely because I had never seen a dead body in real life. He was a very harsh, abusive disciplinarian to his children, and felt that the most strict and economically productive societies like Japan were the epitome of humanity. He wished to be born in a country like Japan for his next life, so he could work hard and spend his life in strict discipline (no kidding) without having to deal with the chaos and corruption of a messy place like Bangalore.

Weird little fucker he was.

I wasn’t particularly close to the man, nor did I like him very much. From a very young age, I’ve never particularly enjoyed the company of men who thought of themselves as stern family patriarchs or portrayed that kind of behavior, especially in strict or angry ways. They’re often a stressful pain to be around, and it’s only when they change their ways and become gentler, more loving men can I bond with them. Unfortunately with Thatha, he kicked the bucket before that could happen. So I only remember him as a bit of a dick, not a particularly cruel or evil one, just a strict jerk with a quick temper.

However, he did have a deliciously wicked sense of humor and he taught me one, just one, invaluable thing before he died; a life lesson I have never forgotten and one that I am realizing has been a key feature to whatever health and fitness I might possess or have the potential to possess:

Daily, healthy bowel movements.

I kid you not.

And he did all this via a diagram and a very brief lecture.

The diagram he drew and the lecture that preceded was in response to my elder brother not taking a shit this one special morning. I feel compelled to emphasize this god-honest truth – one weekend morning my brother happened to not feel like taking a shit as soon as he woke up, and because he happened to wile away a lazy hour or two of his (weekend) morning without hitting the throne right away, it merited a lecture from my grandfather. The morning had not ended mind you, so there was every chance that my brother would have indeed taken a shit that day before the sun hit the tall sky, even without the lecture that was to follow.

But Thatha believed a household needed to be run like a Toyota factory striving for a level of efficiency that would make the founder emit a gratifying, albeit adequately humble, sigh from the grave.

You see – if you haven’t been able to gather this already from my glib and absolutely unabashed usage of the word “shit” and my regular veering off in the direction of bowel movements (see previous titles on this blog for further, surreptitiously self-aggrandizing, reference) – I come from a family that takes a strange pride in having excellent digestive systems.

Yes.

I did just say that.

I’m going to repeat it for good effect.

I come from a family that takes a strange pride in having excellent digestive systems – and I’m going to keep talking about it, thank you very much, dignity and family pride very much intact.

I grew up in a great family in Bangalore, barring a couple of jerks, which is par for the course with humanity I think and not something to really complain about. No jokes, great family, especially my parents and joint family kin in Bangalore (and now Toronto as well). Very lucky block I am indeed.

Now, I’m not suggesting for a second that they were awesome because they all had great digestive systems – aided by a fibre heavy diet of course. I am however saying that a good shit first thing in the morning can give you that oh so perky start to the day – something I realize all members of my family get. So, at the very least, their good digestive systems make them, uh, less shitty.

(Sorry for that bad pun right there btw. While digestion was one our strong suits, risque humor was not. We were, for all our public talk of bowel movements, an astoundingly prudish lot. Quite bovine in nature actually. Thatha even had the whole cud chewing thing going.)

Ok, back to our story.

Now, in order to lecture my brother (and me too apparently because I was putzing around the garden looking at earthworms), Thatha semi-cogently sputtered about the value of good digestion – occasionally taking a delightfully appetizing break to gurgle and spit brown tobacco juice with jet-stream like precision onto the plants of our grandparent’s front yard, a stray droplet or two landing ever so lovingly on our cringing faces.

To emphasize his point, he drew the following diagram:

First, in profile, he drew the outline of a human being. Or at least a globular, vaguely human form.

Within that outline of a human being he drew an outline of the digestive system from mouth to asshole, with a stomach in between.

Then, within the outline of that digestive system, in the little protrusion representing the stomach, he drew a turd.

As he amused himself to the increasing disgust of his only daughter’s children, he then proceeded to provide his idea of a succinct, medically sound, rationally grounded lecture on daily healthy living. It took all of ten seconds before my brother walked away gagging.

The shiny pearls of wisdom he so graciously provided us can best be paraphrased thus:

We eat.

Then our body converts what we eat to shit.

We need to remove that shit every morning.

Because if we don’t, for the rest of the day, whenever we open our mouths our breath is going to smell like shit…

the same shit that is still in our stomach because we failed to remove it that morning…

because shitting in the morning is something that all good, disciplined human beings (ahem, such as your grandfather) do.

So go take a shit right now.

QED.

He then, as my brother started to gag, proceeded to literally draw the smells of the turd travelling through the digestive system, emanating out of the mouth. By the time he was finished with this final illustrative flourish, there was just the two of us (me a tad surprised that I was still kinda peckish for the scrambled eggs my mum was making for me that morning).

Now, I leave it to you to judge the value of such organic inter-generational advice. I know for sure that I’m likely to adopt a slightly different approach to telling any young ‘uns about the importance of good digestion.

But believe you me – ever since that lecture, over a quarter century ago, I have never gone a day in my life without at least one healthy bowel movement.

You may cringe. You know, tmi or whatever…

But nothing perks you up like a good dump.

And that’s the real value of that lesson. It actually converts the lesson into a truism I admittedly had to glean for myself after talking to people a tad more even-minded than my grandfather (rest his tobacco-chewing, very regular, soul).

But I think what Thatha tried to tell us in his crude and amusingly memorable way was this:

The seemingly inconsequential (and often more unpalatable) daily activities of life constitute the bedrock of health and healing – and we ignore them at our own peril.

Thatha, you grouchy fuck – take a bow in that old Toyota factory in your paradise that you are a loyal comprador, middle-manager of – because whenever I take a dump, I think of you and I’m strangely grateful you drew me that nasty diagram.

(Now, that’s a weird family to get your genes from.)

A bowel in humanity’s digestive tract: Fascists and the characteristics unifying them in fecal harmony (Part 2)

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In Part 1 of this Cracked-style article I explored a few commonalities to fascists across the globe and the manner in which they’re hellspawned from some common venomous goo. It was basically an angry rant taking the slightly more accessible form of irreverent, bullet-pointed scorn. I will continue to do the same here in Part 2. However if you haven’t read Part 1, you might enjoy Part 2 more if you do so, but don’t feel obligated or anything. Here’s the link just in case: https://loveliberationstruggle.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/59/

In Part 1, following a rambling introduction, I amateurishly discussed the ways in which fascists are united by some form of religious and/or nationalist chauvinism, playing up their own community’s victimhood, and focusing on some designated “other” as the enemy to evoke support from a highly disillusioned population of salivating morons by generating fear, anger and, eventually, dehumanizing hatred. In Part 2, I’d like to continue the rant by pointing to some more fascist commonalities, like how they generate that dehumanizing hatred because they…

  • Are hyper-masculine, sexist and homophobic: Here’s an example of how Hindu fascists in India trumped up their leader, Mr. Modi, in the recently concluded Indian parliamentary elections – they often spoke about how he possessed a 56 inch chest. I kid you not my fine, non-Indophile friends. They would announce it before political rallies. An objective, completely non-hyperbolic, translated paraphrase of such an announcement would go something like: “Here comes our great leader, a lion among men, bearing a 56-inch chest!” and then the acolytes presumably genuflected in gluteus romance as he strode on stage. For the sake of clarity, this is what Modi looks like.

 “I bench-pressed four clay-idols of Krishna today!”

 

And this is approximately what a 56 inch chest looks like.

“I have issues…serious issues”

 

Judge for yourselves the amount of delusion that Modi’s supporters would apparently need to live their lives.

But size doesn’t matter here (Get it? My humor is all risqué and understated like that). What matters to them is that he is portrayed as a man’s man. Hyper-masculinity tends to veer in the general direction of sexism and homophobia, with women in the community being burdened with the responsibility of maintaining purity. Indeed, quite possibly the biggest source of rage and anger for racists, right-wing nationalists, and religious fundamentalists alike is “their” women getting stolen by “those” boys who are from the community on the receiving end of that fascist hate. My partner and I face variations of this on a regular basis. She’s a white American woman and I’m a dark-skinned South Asian man. We get stared at in the US and Canada all the time, especially in more homogenously white spaces, and periodically with hostility. Indeed, I’d be willing to bet our life savings that there are quite a few people across America, mostly disgruntled men, who would get really, really angry if that little innocuous titbit of information was conveyed to them. To them I suggest a strong dose of the most difficult plant to hate and a true internalization of its all-mellowing properties.

 “Contrary to popular belief, when you’re stoned, you tend to refrain from stoning other people”

 

This specific kind of hatred is not just a product of racism or religious fundamentalism, but equally so a manifestation of hyper-masculinity and sexism (I’m in the mood for doling out sermonizing truisms today). The idea that men have some sort of ownership over the women in their communities, and that men can determine who those women ought to fall in love with or their preconceived roles, has always gone hand-in-hand with racism, ethno-nationalism, and religious fundamentalism. It ultimately boils down to the fact that “their” women aren’t reproducing “their” people, and that is often why fascists are virulently homophobic and transphobic too, because that is also a threat to their hyper-masculinity and their fucked up frameworks for human reproduction. All that macho hatred within fascist movements can only lead to a state of mind that is…

  • Violent or dangerously prone to violence: Here’s an exercise for you. Let us say some guy announces to the rest of the world that you, your friends and your family are the enemy of their fascist movement. What is your reaction likely to be? Let’s say that this man is dressed in a very well-crafted aluminum hat tastefully ordained with dry cheese from a leftover slice of pizza and a dapper cape made of torn polyester that smells like pee. Regardless of who you are, I am going to assume that your reaction is a combination of incredulity, revulsion, humor, voyeuristic curiosity, and some version of “Okaaay then…I have to see someone about my need to not be uncomfortable.” You are unlikely to feel fear though. Now let’s assume there are thousands like him. All the aluminum foil in the land has been retrieved for headgear and the country’s polyester has been seized for cloaking needs. And they’re armed with actual weapons, guns, knives, the whole shebang. What’s your reaction likely to be now? If it doesn’t have a modicum of fear, then I truly do worry about you because you should always fear an army of aluminum-hat-wearing, pee-stained-cape-adorned men with dangerous weapons who think you’re the enemy.

This example might seem silly, but the fact is that fascists across the world are on the same scale of crazy as weapon-wielding men in cheese-stained aluminum hats and wee wee capes. (Not to mention the same sense of fashion…check out a young and dapper Mr. Franco below)

 “My fellow nationals and patriots – never again will we tolerate the scourge of unassuming nuance and subtlety!”

 

And the only way such levels of insane batshittery can be taken seriously is via violence, or at least projecting violence.

This ensures that those with the guns control the narrative.

There is probably no better example than the state of Israel and its brutalization of Palestinians. Whether it be the periodic massacres that Israel conducts in Gaza, the ever-increasing settlements as part of their ongoing colonization of Palestinian land that are always accompanied by violence towards Palestinians in the West Bank, the house demolitions, the extra-judicial killings or any other form of violence, one thing is clear: violence is how Israel gets its way.

The mere fact that Israel is one of the most powerful militaries in the world, and easily the most powerful in the Middle East, testifies to this. It has gunships, assault boats, armored personnel carriers, advanced fighter jets, tanks, nuclear weapons, missiles, attack helicopters, unmanned aerial drones, and even military robots; all operated by soldiers armed to the teeth and clad in multiple layers of armor with some of the best communication equipment in the world. This war machine does periodic battle with a ragtag bunch of militants armed with rusty Kalashnikovs, hand-me-down rocket launchers, and checkered scarves around their faces, living amongst a mass of civilians who have nothing but a prayer to protect themselves with. Regardless of where one stands on this issue and even stepping away from the politics of it all completely, I’m sure most would agree that it’s not a fair fight.

The point that is often missed is that it’s not meant to be.

It’s like America’s many, many ethno-fascist wars of imperialism at the behest of the political-economic elite of the country. Iraq, Afghanistan, Central America, Somalia and countless others…all unlikely to put up much of a fight against the American military. Military violence is then glorified and converted into martial valor, highly spurious martial valor, that draws in even supposed progressives (for example, the big-business unions in the US). And that’s how the narrative is controlled.

I for one have never understood what exactly is so brave about an armed-to-the-teeth military butchering swathes of civilians and a smattering of poorly-armed militants…but those are concerns that will not pass through the mighty din of anthems, the heavy fluttering of flags, and the loud polemics of ethno-national pride, often in the form of martial chauvinism.

“They kill the oppressed so you don’t have to”

 

And this is the case across the world. China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Colombia…pick a point on the globe and there are some fascist fuckers out there with control over militaries of varying strengths oppressing the fuck out of a mass of civilians under a facade of martial valor. But there’s another side to it. There might be brutal violence meted out by the fascist powers-that-be…

  • Yet many of their supporters are actually quite benign and can be quite underprivileged themselves: The picture’s a little fuzzy, but do try to have a little visual gander at these lovely flag-bearers of humanity doing their bit by mercilessly beating up impoverished immigrant workers and destroying their market stands.

“Could you be a dear, and maybe not bleed so much on me while I club you? I’m skyping in for a meeting with our New York branch today evening.”

 

Who do you think supports them? If you thought, teeth-gnashing, violent racists, think again. Yes, they do exist, sometimes in large numbers, but the brutally violence fascists are in reality a small percentage of the likely membership of any fascist movement. Most of the numbers are actually made up of mom-and-pop types, who might barely be able to kill an annoying fly. For instance, I am absolutely certain that I have relatives and friends in India who voted for Modi in the recent, May 2014 parliamentary elections.

Among all the points made in this article, this is the one that has convinced me that those of us who believe in things like equality, justice, and peace need to always be vigilant. There is nothing to prevent what happened on the streets of Athens, Greece from happening on the streets of, say, Athens, Georgia (See what I did there? I’m all into witty word play like that). Most protests staged by right-wingers against undocumented immigrants tend to have some of the most vile and racist language, such as the lady with the below placard protesting against undocumented women and children with a placard that says “Protect your kids from diseases.”

“I’m doing this for our kids! Kick those damn illegal children out of here!”

 

Now, I’m not one of those progressives who calls every right-wing group fascist, because I think it dilutes the term. And I don’t believe the groups shown above are necessarily full-blown fascist either, though I do think they’re getting there. Readers of this article might have a variety of positions on immigration, amnesty etc. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, I argue that it’s not too much of a stretch to see such reactions exploding into violence, sporadic or organized. Think about it. This is the reaction in parts of the US to undocumented Latino immigrants, by people far more privileged and materially well-off, when unemployment is less than 6%. That’s the lowest it’s been in years (by comparison Greece’s unemployment is around 20%…which is depression-era unemployment levels). I’m not saying that, economy-wise, things are great in the US (and by extension in Canada too). I’m saying things could be worse, a lot worse. And when that happens, we could have a home grown fascist movement in the US or Canada not unlike the Golden Dawn in Greece. And then, not only will we have to deal with that…but also *shudder* the getup.

*sigh* “The sacrifices I make for my country”

 

How do these groups get their message across to people in as quick and explosive a way as possible. Well, among other things, they…

  • Communicate primarily in harsh, hateful polemics: There is a political party in Switzerland called the Swiss People’s Party. They along with parties like Golden Dawn in Greece, the UK Independence Party in the UK, the National Front in France, the FP in Austria and a host of others have come to prominence on a wave of support for far-right-wing parties across Europe (which is difficult to imagine as anything but scary) mostly establishing themselves on a highly aggressive form of ethno-nationalism (the monocle-wearing, snooty, rich alter ego of “violent racism”). This manifests, for the most part, in two ways – hatred for immigrants and hatred for Muslims, which in some parts of Europe can overlap a fair bit (they’re not the European Union for nothing folks). The Swiss People’s Party is currently the largest party in the Swiss Federal Assembly, riding on a wave of anti-African, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric. This was one of their national campaign posters.

 “I tell you what, the Alps don’t go down easy”

 

If you wonder whether I’m inferring too much here with those black birds. Am I one of those bleeding-heart progressives who just sees racism in everything? Then accept my apologies for not providing an explicit enough example. I guess the poster could be interpreted as their way of communicating that the Beatles were wrong and that those winged critters don’t take broken wings and sunken eyes to learn to fly and sing, but actually to snack on Switzerland. Ok, here’s another one for you.

“Look, it’s not because you’re black, really…we would just really like our country to be all white, is all.”

 

Looks like subtlety is dying a rather quick death as far as the far-right in Europe are concerned. And that’s what makes them so popular. They work primarily through harsh, hateful polemics that rile people up without making them go through the laborious process of applying a modicum of thought or rationality. It is the reason why they get strong support in a really short time. Fear of an already oppressed community and a loud group with a one-line, hateful slogan that can tap into that fear is a vicious cocktail. Also, they often tend to be starkly lacking in any form of creativity or originality.

The openly racist and xenophobic posters used by neo-Nazi extremist parties in Europe:  The German NPD, the Swiss SVO, the now-defunct Czech National Party, and the new Dawn of Direct Democracy (Úsvit) movement in the Czech Republic. (Collage:  Romea.cz)

One day while sitting on the toilet, enjoying a luxurious lightening of the load, the Honorable Chairman of the European Coalition of Ethno-Nationalist Parties and Institutes of Focused Misanthropy thought to himself “You know, those Swiss could be on to something with that poster…” and from that little burst of brain cell activity sprouted yet another example of European efficiency.

 

This just makes me believe all the more that the tactics of the far right haven’t evolved much since the time some random cave man decided to hate (and therefore proceed to kill) another cave man simply because they preferred a different kind of mammoth for dinner, thereby launching the foundation for future fascists across the globe. Despite their obvious insane batshittery and virulence, they still get massive support because they…

  • Loudly claim to have all the answers, and that no one else does (and should therefore be killed/hurt/removed): Real socioeconomic problems such as inequality and poverty are not easy to solve. No one has all the answers (at least not ones that can be implemented in real life and not, you know, in your latest version of SimCity or that irritating Facebook game your lonely 6-cat-raising aunty plays). And no one should claim to have all the answers because it’s just insulting to humanity in general to be that Also I think your vital organs implode or something. In any case, despite humanity being generally clueless, there are many people trying to deal with these fucked up problems in a variety of ways that doesn’t involve blaming communities who are often the worst affected by those problems in the first place.

“Even if our protests don’t work, at least we made cool friends.”

 

Most people doing good work understand how difficult it is and therefore how time-consuming/laborious it can be in order to, for example, work on multi-decade struggles to raise the minimum wage, or unionize precarious workers, or fight for a borderless world, or protect the rights and liberties of undocumented immigrants, or abolish the prison-industrial complex, all of which would actually go some distance in addressing inequality and poverty. But humanity in general has a short attention span, something we’re altogether familiar with in America. Why bother with a lengthy social justice campaign when we can just blame the Mexicans? It takes way less time to explain, plus we get to brandish our guns while anticipating ourselves, in Rambo-like headgear, defending the land of the free and the home of the brave from becoming Aztlan. The best way to make this happen is to claim to have all the answers…and do so loudly.

What is interesting, and occasionally heartening, is that fascists…

  • Often hate each other as much as the rest of the world hates them: I believe that ultimately ideologies/philosophies that stand the test of time are based on love for humanity, warts and all, rather than hatred.

“I’m tired of being accepted by the Western imperialists.”

 

But that’s only in the long haul. Hatred tends to work faster in motivating people to violent action that is fiery for a while and then burns out within a relatively short period of time, but not before conducting unimaginable evil. For instance, in the US and Canada over the last 2 centuries, I would argue that systems of racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and other forms of oppression have slowly but surely weakened as more and more people struggle against them. Those systems of oppression have not completely disappeared of course, not by a long short, and there’s always the danger of society regressing. But as a brown-skinned immigrant, despite the racism and xenophobia I have faced on multiple occasions, I would still contend that it’s much better now than it was 50 years back, based on stories I’ve heard from older brown-skinned immigrants (we all get together as part of an underground cabal intent on taking over America…it’s nice, usually we have cake at the meetings). Hell, I’ve been in the US and Canada for the last 12 years, and I’ve seen an improvement in that time alone. When Obama gave his speech at the 2004 DNC, my friend who was a huge Obama-supporter at the time, said with sadness that she felt it would be almost impossible for Obama to one day become president, that America didn’t seem ready. And yet, despite there being very real concerns that Obama’s race would cause him to lose votes that, all things being equal, a white man wouldn’t have lost, i.e. the racist vote, this happened…

“My fellow Americans (especially white ones) – I’m proud to wash away your guilt and boldly ensure that the prison industrial complex and racist immigration system become stronger than ever!”

 

This doesn’t mean things are perfect (as the above caption suggests with such delicate subtlety). Indeed, Obama himself has had to face unprecedented levels of hate and bigotry for a US President, both in the first term and the second, culminating in the unabashed, gutless, but ultimately unsurprising abandonment of him by the Democratic Party.

As already mentioned, I’m one of those irritating progressives who believes that the Obama administration has done all of jack shit for oppressed communities, but despite all that, overall I do believe things are getting better than they used to be in many ways. I mentioned earlier that my partner is white, and as an inter-racial couple we’ve faced our fair shares of looks, stares, comments, and malice. But I’ve listened to stories of older inter-racial couples who faced far worse, including violence and intimidation. However, and this is the sobering part, this slow trajectory towards social progress has always, and I mean always, been interspersed by episodes of shameful and gratuitous violence against racial minorities, immigrants, women, and the LGBTQ community. And that is because I believe hatred and division might lose out to love and humanity in the long run, but can always get the upper hand for a brief while (with a flexible understanding of “brief” to mean a few years to a few decades, occasionally longer).

However, and in my mind this is a vicariously sinful silver lining, the funny thing is that this hatred among fascist groups also manifests itself in a hatred for each other. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could just leave us alone and duke it out with each other on an island appropriately stocked with a variety their favorite weapons…swords for beheading, drones for bombing out of sight, a bunch of guns to blow each other up, and of course a host of corporations to engage in speculative finance.

Despite their hatred however, they…

  • Can be surprisingly popular and democratic: A friend of mine once said that Germany had been a democracy ever since WW2 ended, and I had to remind him of the fact that it was actually a democracy for much longer than that. “But before that time was Hitler, remember?” he said, in a tone that barely concealed his sense of victory at having reminded me of the most famous man of the 20th century. I asked him, “How do you think Hitler came to power?” And then I whacked him over the head with a rotten codfish. At least that’s how I remember the interaction. Piscine resolutions to lively discussions apart, what was particularly interesting about the conversation is that he immediately ascribed a lack of democracy to Germany before WW2, and while Germany wasn’t a democracy during and just before WW2, it was one when the Nazi party came to power, and remained so for a while after. And my friend is not alone in thinking like this (but fuck him nevertheless). Many people ascribe democracy as being essentially good, or at least goodish, on the scale of good to evil, but most don’t realize that democracy is not inherently good or bad, it is merely a form of political governance and representation where people theoretically choose their leaders via a fair voting process (which generally translates to choosing leaders anointed by the capitalist powers-that-be…but that’s another article). Well, what if people decide they want a mass-murderer,

or a goofy mass-murderer,

or want to experience what it would be like to do exactly what the world’s only superpower did to great regret, possibly in the hope that being on a different hemisphere reversed the polarity of that part of the brain responsible for qualities of statesmanship,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Tony Abbot, Prime Minister of Australia

 

When such events happen, as they do all the time, does it suddenly mean that the system was less democratic? It’s possible that said lunatic-in-chief might institute legislation that makes the system less democratic, but the process itself that brought him into power was no more or less democratic than when a less-James-Bond-villainy type person was elected. Remember that what is popular is not always right, political philosophies based on love and humanity are often not very popular, while those based on hatred and division can often invoke great mass-support and that is how many fascist movements in the world today are able to wield sizeable power via the ballot. But there is always a silver lining because they tend to…

  • Rise quickly and (thankfully) die ignominiously: As sappy as it may sound, the idea that that the arc of the moral universe, while long, bends ever so slightly towards justice is, in my not so humble opinion, ultimately true. (I apologise for the mush. Here’s a picture of Turkish oil wrestlers to get your mind back in the right place.)

Turkey apparently has very evolved frameworks for masculinity.

 

Extremist movements that are based on religious or ethnocentric nationalism might get a lot of support very rapidly, but it tends to be short lived and soon the leaders are either dealing with some system of restorative justice (either in their own countries, or elsewhere).

“We will punish war criminals from the least powerful countries by questioning them very thoroughly and imprisoning them in a guest house of your choosing – this is the solemn promise of European justice.”

 

Or maybe they end up batshit insane in their mother’s basement. Right? Ha! More soberingly often than not, they just end up living somewhere in fairly decent luxury, but hopefully in morbid fear of appropriate comeuppance played out in their heads.

(A little side note: As you can probably gather, I’m not a follower of any organized religion or spiritual practice, but I am a believer in a vaguely metaphysical human spirit, like a soul or something…not because of some cheesy notion of inherent human goodness or spiritual purity, but because I’d like to think that the souls of evil people eventually get processed in some cosmic meat plant into cosmic hotdogs eaten by other cosmic spirits who then proceed to pass it through their cosmic digestive tracts very, very slowly, breaking cosmic wind while doing so. Like I said – a bowel in humanity’s digestive tract. A spiritual practice that believes evil people will face cosmic retribution in the form of cosmic shits and farts is a spiritual practice that truly deserves a tax break.)

No fascist or right-wing extremist movement has been able to hold on to power for a significantly long period of time. People eventually wake up to the evil they’ve been supporting, and even if they are slow to the task, there are ways of helping them hesitantly see the light. However, even as fascist parties and movements tend to have a short half-life, there will usually be some members, new converts, fresh acolytes, and lunatic diehards who will linger on beyond their expiration date, eventually becoming the ideologues and leaders of the newly reborn and repackaged forms of fascism. (It is probably the reason you can pick up their putrid stench a mile away. That, and the voluminous amounts of bile they generate…enough to dissolve a large box of Labrador puppies.) Thus the cycle begins anew with fresh types of crazy, regenerated ways to hate, exciting new forms of historical oppressions, and, of course, absolutely flaming hot lines of couture.

A bowel in humanity’s digestive tract: Fascists and the characteristics unifying them in fecal harmony (Part 1)

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Introduction:

There is a reason for this article being titled the way it is and the reason, as most reasons tend to be, is personal. A little while back I participated in a Palestine-solidarity event at the University of Toronto. Someone extremely dear to me was one of the main organizers of the event, which was a launch for the Graduate Students Union campaign to divest from three companies benefiting from the continued Israeli occupation, apartheid, and colonization of Palestinians. It was rather violently disrupted by this group calling itself the Jewish Defense League who, with their penchant for dehumanizing themselves, proceeded to use their usual cache of racist, Islamophobic, and misogynistic expletives. Campus police, instead of throwing them out, decided to cancel the event (apparently they were ordered to by the administration, something that happens regularly to Palestine-solidarity events on university campuses). This got the resolute organizers to merely shift the event to another location and keep on trucking.

Interestingly enough, I saw this entire episode as a positive thing. It was ultimately an example of the increasing fear and frustration felt by Zionists as their virulent project slowly comes apart at the seams due to the indomitable Palestinian liberation struggle and those in solidarity with them. When fascists fight you, you know you’re on the right track. During the disruption, I was advised, in the loudest way possible, by various JDL activists to blow myself up, behead someone, ride a camel, fuck a goat, and go back to my “Muslim shithole country in fucking Iran or whatever…”

I hail from a rather benign Hindu family in Southern India, but that’s unimportant. The one thing I am grateful to dehumanizing bigots for is always reminding me that, for better or for worse, those of us facing and/or resisting dehumanization need to stick together…preferably with sufficient quantities of herb to go around (helps deal with the rage).

As they displayed their very focused misanthropy, in my head I went, “Wow…these people really are pieces of shit…” which is an oft-used and admittedly crude paraphrase for people we find odious, but also a useful one on occasion. You see, something happened when those words formed in my head – a crystal clear realization that summed up everything about the virulence of those Jewish fascists and that of their counterparts in other religions, nationalities, and ethnicities:

These people really are the refuse of humanity.

This helped a great deal, because picturing them as walking turds did wonders for my soul, which has been in a permanent state of stress after what we’ve seen this year.

Two momentous geopolitical events occurred in 2014 that much of the world might not be attuned to or care about, but both impacted me quite significantly, in a muscle-seizing, aneurism-inducing, rage-unshackling kind of way.

In July we witnessed the brutal ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza by Israel to the macabre cheering and posturing by right-wing Zionists, who seem to now be an ascendant majority in Israeli society. They’re also forcing moderates within the Jewish community worldwide to choose between justice and Israel…two entities that have stayed away from each other for a long, long time now. Only a couple of months earlier we saw the gleeful acceptance of and applause for the newly minted fascist-in-chief by large sections of the upwardly mobile classes of India, who for the most part are upwardly mobile, upper-caste Hindus, many of whom have turned into Hindu fascists, either ideological or by default due to their love affair with predatory capitalism. Their diasporic members seem to be following the playbook of their Jewish counterparts in riding the coattails of imperialism. (If you are unaware of what I mean by the “fascist-in-chief” in India, it will be explained soon enough…but feel free to let your imagination go wild.)

These two events are of course joined by the ever-present and continued brutality of the American empire buttressed by the All-White, All-American, Flag-Waving, Christian Right and the latest mutation of this multi-headed hydra in the form of the astoundingly cruel and morbidly brutal Islamic State (which seems to want their membership resembling the caricaturized villains of a Chuck Norris movie). While acknowledging vast power differences locally and globally, all these examples ultimately crystallize into one inviolable truism that all of us know only too well: fascist scum are all the same (certainly for the purposes of poking fun at them).

Thus, I have decided to vent my helpless horror and tragically disillusioned anger with some rambling, self-indulgent, bellyaching, and no small amount of cynical sermonizing (aided by some images from the web with captions in italics to keep it interesting). I do this in the form of a Cracked style list article (one likely too lefty for their site) that provides a very cursory glance at fascism across the globe.

(To those who actually give a shit about copyright issues with images lifted from the web for an article on a freely available blog post read by, with luck, a dozen people, I have the following disclaimer:

All pictures are used under the Fair Use Doctrine as well as the doctrine of go fuck yourself.)

I dedicate this 2-part article to fascists – religious, ethnic, national or otherwise – wherever they may be. Know this – No matter how many people you kill, marginalize, brutalize, convince and/or brainwash with your virulence, you are and always will be a bowel in humanity’s digestive tract…one movement away from being flushed down history’s toilet bowl.

The newly elected fascist-in-chief in India and the new Nazis of Israel:

Recently, on May 16th this year, in the world’s largest elections, India elected this man to be their Prime Minister.

“The eye of Sauron was modelled after my left one”

 

His name is Narendra Modi. Now, traditionally the leaders of India have generally portrayed a rather beatific, kinda pacifist (i.e. boring as fuck) image to the world…quite possibly due to the ever-present Gandhian hangover. For instance, check out the virile pomp and chutzpah projected below by the faces of Messrs Manmohan Singh and A.B. Vajpayee, the two previous Prime Ministers of India. In the picture, Mr. Singh is presenting a bouquet of delicately arranged red roses to Mr. Vajpayee on the latter’s 82nd birthday…which is a sentence I bet the overwhelming majority of you didn’t imagine reading in this article.

“I hate your guts, but my wife will kill me if I don’t do this”

 

Regardless of where you might stand on their politics, I’m sure we can agree that they’re not likely to appeal to much of the lay public that has been culturally hegemonized to admire hyper-masculine world leaders. Them former premieres of India don’t exactly evoke much aggressive fear or manly awe which, for some inexplicable reason, is a trait many people would like to see in their leaders. I’m not one of those people, primarily because I’d prefer that elected officials not scare the crap out of their citizenry, and also because uber-masculine men at the helm of affairs hasn’t exactly worked wonders for humanity.

Putin didn’t know this but the photographer was actually shooting for a very tastefully produced gay porno.

 

Now, India has never had anyone with even the slightest claims to badassery, at the helm of affairs. Corrupt? Yes. Starkly lacking in charisma and most scientifically proven signs of life? Most definitely. But never badass or openly malevolent towards a large swathe of the Indian population. It’s different now. Despite a vaguely Santa Clausian countenance and a curiously stoner-like smile (see picture of Mr. Modi above for further reference), make no mistake…the current Indian Prime Minister is a very evil, dangerous man. Like, genocidey (genocidesque?) evil and dangerous. You see, over a dozen years ago in 2002 when he was just a mere Chief Minister of this north Indian state called Gujarat (in India, the Prime Minister has powers akin to the President of the US, while the Chief Minister is like a Governor), Mr. Modi orchestrated a Hindu fascist pogrom of Muslim and Christian minorities in Gujarat that left thousands dead or maimed, and many more brutally suppressed.

He is now one of the most powerful men in the world, heading the 4th largest, nuclear-armed military.

One of the most revealing responses to Modi being elected came from Mr. Netanyahu, the head of very, very fascist Israel and bum-chum of American Empire. Speaking in dangerously ethnocentric terms and happy at the apparent landslide victory of the Hindu nationalists (which, in a gargantuan parliamentary democracy like India, requires around 35% of the popular vote) Netanyahu along with other leaders of Israel, including even more virulent right-wingers like Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennet, tumbled over each other to court their new transnational, ethno-fascist, best bud.

This is independent of, but remarkably consistent with, the rapidly rising culture of right-wing, anti-Arab, fascist hate brewing in Israel…to the point where they’re alienating and scaring even hardcore, pro-Israeli folk who might be just a little less overtly fascist, such as liberal Zionists (which is kinda like saying “moderate Nazis” or “feminist Boko Haram members” but whatever…).

Among the multitude of examples of this latest culture of hatred embedding itself in Israeli society include mobs of right-wing Israelis laughing and chanting that there wasn’t a need for schools in Gaza anymore since there weren’t any children there (you know, because out of the 2000+ Palestinians massacred in Gaza recently, over 500 were children…and that’s a good thing to them), or Netanyahu (ably supported by the entire US political elite, including Democratic Party stalwarts like Hillary Clinton) lamenting about the “telegenically dead” children in Gaza being shown in the world media, that was just such a pesky distraction from celebrating Israel’s existence. Netanyahu and his party btw can be considered moderate compared to the fast-rising Yisrael Beiteinu or The Jewish Home party, both of whom advocate even more vociferously for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and whose respective leaders currently hold ministerial positions just below that of the Prime Minister. Avigdor Liebrman is the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Naftali Bennet holds the twin positions of Minister of Economy and Minister of Religious Services (go figure). Bennet was quoted last year saying: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that.

Subtlety or refinement is not exactly a forte for most fascists. You remember the JDL I spoke of earlier? Below is some of their artwork in Palestine (where they, alongside other Zionist groups, routinely harass, intimidate, even kill Palestinian men, women and children…usually during breaks from building settlements and pushing Israel ever further towards naked fascism and military brutality against Palestinians).

“We must never forget what the Nazis did to us!”

 

*Sigh* We live in difficult times…which is something everyone across time has probably said about the times they lived in. But one thing that is rather unique about the times we live in is the amazing access that people, middle-class people at least, have to voluminous amounts of information, all readily available with nary a click of yet another link online. This presents itself as useful and useless at the same time. As a form of political masochism and insanity-inducement (not to mention time-wasting), during breaks in my day-job I tend to peruse articles about fascism, religious fundamentalism, and right-wing nationalism. I also peruse articles and papers about a variety of other topics too, but fascism is of particular interest to me because apparently it’s fascinating to bang your head against a wall wondering how so many people can so passionately and so fervently believe in so much shit. It’s kind of a hobby of mine, in a let-me-count-the-ways-animals-are-better-than-humans kind of way. From right-wing Christian fundamentalist or ethno-fascist movements in the West, to Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and South Asia, to the afore mentioned Hindu fascism in India, and Jewish fascism in Israel and America, even Buddhist fascism in places like Sri Lanka (no kidding).

So I thought I’d write about the commonalities in this 2-part article. For instance, almost all fascist movements…

  • Tend to either be religious or nationalist or a combination of both: We’ve all heard about some fascist movement or the other, and by fascist I mean the way the term is generally used in this day and age; i.e. an oppressive, tyrannical movement/government of a far-right-wing ideological persuasion, usually based on religious fundamentalism, ethnocentric nationalism, racism, or some combination thereof (as opposed to the way the term was conceived of originally to mean the complete merger of the state and hegemonic private corporations which we now tend to think of as corporatism or Texas). At the very least we might remember the Nazi regime, white supremacy in the United States, and the apartheid regime in South Africa. Most of us know that pretty much every religious practice and form of nationalism has its fascist underbelly, some might even say fascist core. This isn’t surprising when you think about it. Getting people riled up over an exclusive identity tends to be faster than getting people to support a program that provides grounded, incremental, positive change. Shouting “India is for Hindus!” or “America is a Christian country!” or “All non-Muslims are infidels!” or “Jewish people are the chosen ones!” or some such counter-humanist catchphrase from a community’s socio-cultural rooftops can become far more impassioned rallying cries than, say, your local social democrat stating, with rigorous reason and admirable equanimity, something like: “You know, one of the root causes for hatred and violence is social marginalization and poverty so we really should be advocating for secure jobs with proper labour rights and a strong system of social assistance as a safety net in addition to social programs that ensure everyone’s basic human rights are protected.”

 

“Care to sign a petition? It’s for poor, brown kids in some poor, brown part of the world. The petition magically makes you believe that you care about them.”

 

Most would tune out by the time the words “root cause” were uttered and get back to their beer pong and pay-per-view porn (because I apparently hold discussions on these issues in local frat houses). Thus it becomes substantially easier to rally people based on an exclusive identity. And religious, nationalist, and ethnic identities tend to be the ones most easily combustible in terms of fostering divisions and rallying people with fiery rhetoric, ultimately resulting in the dehumanization of others who are considered a threat to that identity. But how does said dehumanization happen? Humans aren’t born to hate each other. We’re born to depend on each other for survival, sustenance, and care, very occasionally leading to a wholesome, loving, and completely liberating orgy. We learn to dehumanize one another from our socialization. And one of the ways in which fascists are able to inculcate the dehumanization of another community into a society’s DNA is to…

  • Play up their own community’s victimhood: It is possible that, upon starting this article, among the many analytical critiques and rational thoughts that swirled around in your head when you first read the term “Hindu fascism” was: 

“Eh?”

(Unless you’re South Asian of course.)

I don’t blame you, generic person I made up in order to contrive a kooky way to start this point. Yes, a Hindu fascist movement. The same body of philosophy and faith that gave the world a certain someone by the name of Gandhi and produced those beatific-looking, orange-robed “Hare Krishna” chanters in San Francisco communes, has a homegrown fascist movement (one of the largest in the world) that is now heading the fucking Government of India. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise, not because Indians are any more or less prone to becoming right-wing nut jobs than the rest of humanity, but because Indians are just as gullible. The way fascists gain power, quite possibly the single biggest reason is playing up the victimhood of their own community, which is almost always a community that generally tends to have the odds in their favor, with exceptions of course, over other more historically oppressed communities.

“I’m a middle-class, straight white man…it’s time to stop those damn illegals and welfare queens from getting all the benefits”

 

That last bit is crucial because they prey on the fears of traditionally more privileged communities (such as Jews in Israel, upper-caste Hindus in India, white Christians in the US, Shia Muslims in Iran, Sunni Muslims in Pakistan, upper-class Han Chinese in China etc…maybe Mormons in Utah and Red Sox fans in Boston too, who the fuck knows). And they do this in order to sell themselves as the saviors of that community. Thus the Hindu fascists in India sell themselves as the saviors of Hindus from being victimized by, first and foremost, Muslims (because, well, who doesn’t hate the Muslims these days), followed by Christians, Communists, Socialists, Feminists, and progressive Hindus who don’t buy into their bullshit. This is not unlike other fascist movements – from the NPD in Germany and Golden Dawn in Greece to the afore mentioned Israel Beiteinu and Jewish Home in Israel or the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan and various Tea Party stars across our land, and countless others across the globe. Because when you successfully play up your own false victimhood, you can then move on to the next step which is to…

  • Have an “other” as an enemy: Quick…imagine someone selling themselves as the savior of, well, you.

 “We have cake at our church. It’s our prophet’s personal recipe.”

 

Maybe you’re really, really lonely, or maybe you’re just having one of those days when you feel like you need a good savin’, so you actually decide to consider this person’s offer. In that case, first off, please accept a remote hug from me, and secondly my hope is that at some point in time you would feel the need to ask said savior what or who exactly you need to be saved from.

That is where the “other” comes in. Fascists prey on the baser instincts of humanity, and one of the ways to do that is to have some clearly demarcated community as the enemy…whether it’s African immigrants in current day Greece and Russia, or Jews in Nazi Germany, Shia Muslims in the territories controlled by Islamic State, or Palestinians in Israel, far-right wing extremists have always needed a well-defined “other” to fear, hate, and eventually kill. Of course, this is accompanied by a wilful whitewashing of all the horrible things that are done in mongering that fear and hatred. For instance, one of the favorite lines of the fascist acolytes of the aforementioned Modi is for the rest of us to “move on” from the brutality of Gujarat 2002, in the interests of India’s economic development (you know, why bring up pesky little market-downers like human rights and restorative justice). Yet, we are told not to forget the Muslim Mughal empire that destroyed Hindu temples and oppressed many Hindu communities in the subcontinent, 500 years ago, which is the basis for Muslim-hatred among the Hindu fascists.

In fact, I wonder why they don’t just go a step further and blame the Africans for everything since Africa was the cradle of humanity tens of thousands of years ago…or better yet, blame the protozoa from whence we were forged millions of years ago.

 “Single-celled organisms are a drain on the system, kick ’em out for ‘murica!”

 

Please note: I don’t for a second believe that past historical oppressions should ever be forgotten. Let me repeat that because whenever someone starts a sentence with “Please note” it bears reiteration to wriggle oneself out of a potential ideologically defensive corner those two words can put one in. So here goes: I don’t for a second believe that past historical oppressions should ever be forgotten. But there is a difference between genuine claims for restorative justice (such as reparations for slavery, or getting back land stolen by a military occupation or historical colonialism) and an already privileged community claiming victimhood from a highly oppressed community (Muslims in India are discriminated in every way possible and rank among the lowest in Human Development Indices among the various demographic groups in India, primarily due to rampant discrimination and bigotry)…and oppressing an already oppressed community tends to be the case with pretty much every other fascist movement across the globe. They do this because they can then…

  • Use fear, anger and hatred (often in that order) to evoke support: In general people get riled up faster with negative emotions and feelings than positive ones. Like other tricks in the fascist playbook, it works only for a relatively short period of time, but for that time it can work quite devastatingly. Take the afore mentioned fascists in Israel as an example. Pretty much all the political parties that are in the ascendancy there are using the kind of rhetoric that evokes fear, anger and hatred (in fact, occasionally skipping the fear part…because what the fuck do you need to be scared about when you are an imperialism-supported, technologically advanced, nuclear armed military and your “enemy” consists of a ragtag bunch of freedom fighters with rusty Kalashnikovs and rocket-launchers). 

One of the main reasons they’re doing this, apart from ideological motivations, is that it actually works. To be openly anti-Zionist in Israel, for instance, is utter social, economic, and political suicide. However, being bloodthirsty is apparently quite alright, even if you’re an MP. In fact  it might just be quite a positive check mark to have on your CV. Witness the cold shark eyes beset in the Este Lauder face of Ayelet Shaked.

Stare at her eyes for more than 5 seconds and your brain slowly but surely starts liquefying.

 

Ms. Shaked had no problem posting this quote on her facebook page: “Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

She also happens to be one of Israel’s rising political stars (of none other than the Jewish Home Party, you know, led by the dude who’s just fine and dandy with slaughtering Arabs). Contrary to what people might think, this is actually quite normal in a state and society where fascism has taken over. The reason it might seem abnormal to most Western eyes and ears is likely because of grand narratives of Israel’s spurious claims to democracy and human rights. Akin to many other political movements, fascists are interested in gaining power. Negative feelings like fear, anger, and hatred are often very successful motivators for people to support fascist or right-wing political movements.

We have experienced this all too well, in a different kind of way, in this part of the world during the presidential elections in 2008, when we all realized that America was actually ready for a black man to be president, (a man blessed, anointed, and made ready by the capitalist elite to “lead” America, no doubt, but a chunk of the public still kinda, sorta had to be ok with it). Nevertheless, there was a whole host of far right-wing nut jobs who went absolutely ballistic. Many Republicans used fear, anger, and outright racist hate when the possibility of Obama becoming President emerged as a very real possibility and more than just the wishful glint in a guilty white liberal’s eye.

I feel compelled to clarify that by no means am I suggesting that the Republican party is homogenously fascist. Not by any stretch. Indeed, I think it is lazy politics and useless polemic to do what many progressives do, which is to label all right-wingers as fascists. I think the Republican party has many racists in it (by admission of their own members no less), as does the Democratic party, but the Republican party itself is not wholly fascist, at least not quite yet. Fascism, the way I deploy the term here, is a specific, far-right ideological persuasion based on a hyper-aggressive religious, ethnocentric or nationalist fundamentalism. It is an extreme version of right-wing politics. There are many people holding conservative positions that are based on –and I have to really psych myself up to say this while preventing the gag reflex – rational thought and reason. I might not agree with them, but an intelligent, judicious conversation can be had, and we can agree to disagree, following which we can partake in intellectual activities that really matter such as figuring out the best beer chaser after a shot of Jack or discerning the best fried food to satisfy the munchies. I have had conversations in grad school (often drunk and high) with neoclassical economists for instance that were quite productive and in no way exhibiting dehumanizing hatred.

Because I think dehumanizing hatred needs something else. It’s got to do with dicks. More precisely it’s about the hell brought about by a sub-section of humanity possessing them. And we’ll explore that delightful topic and others in Part 2 of this article. Stay tuned and all…