The assassination of another great warrior-poet…long live Gauri Lankesh

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Yet another voice stamped out by the forces of fascism and farce in India.

This hits a little closer home.

The city of my childhood is beautiful Bangalore no more, but is now officially McTrumpuluru, clad in saffron, choking on it’s own polluted contradictions, infused with an abominable lack of humanity.

But the cold-blooded assassination that took place yesterday in Bangalore, is part of a violently depressing pattern across towns and cities in South and South West India; Bangalore just marks another nail in the coffin of the fascists; the assassination of yet another great voice of progress and reason. The martyrdom  of a warrior-poet who never took a step back in her glorious fight against the venomous right-wing forces that plague our times, Gauri Lankesh’s legacy will blaze a path forward for many, many others who will rise in her stead.

The forces of fascism and farce keep martyring great minds in various cities and towns around the Southwestern coast and inland in a curiously similar fashion. They seem to target those who light the way for others in life and death, particularly those who work utilizing vernacular media forms and are involved as rhizomatic figures in regionally strong, grassroots progressive movements in South and South West India, particularly Maharashtra and Karnataka (both states that the central, ruling BJP party, curiously enough, has established regional presences in but not as dominating political forces, which is what they desire.)

All the martyred warrior-poets were those who could clearly influence large numbers of people.

Narendra Dabholkar, anti-godmen and anti-superstition activist, martyred August 20th 2013, Pune. Shot at point blank range by gunmen on a motorcycle while on his morning walk.

Govind Pansare, leftist activist and best-selling regional author, martyred February 20th 2015, Mumbai. Shot at point blank range by gunmen on a motorcycle on Feb 16th, 2015 along with his wife, Uma Pansare, also a leftist activist, while returning from their morning walk. She survived the assassination attempt and continues to do courageous work in the area.

M.M. Kalburgi, progressive literary scholar and anti-superstition activist, martyred August 30th 2015, Dharwad. Shot at point blank range at his home in the morning by gunmen on a motorcycle.

And now Gauri Lankesh, progressive activist and editor of an influential regional weekly, martyred September 5th 2017, Bangalore. Shot at point blank range when returning home at night after work by gunmen on a motorcycle.

Oh, and did I mention that there are reports of cops thinking that the same fucking weapon might have been used in more than one of these murders? Not to mention the fact that they already have an organization as a prime suspect in the first three of them? Yeah, the Sanatan Sanstha, a fringe, Goa-based Hindu nationalist organization (with the most benign fucking website on the planet) but with direct ties to the mothership of Hindu nationalism, the RSS, via some militant group called the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.

If this doesn’t smell of some larger conspiracy to bump off voices of freedom and reason, I don’t know what does. And it took me all of two Google searches to get the above information.

I don’t have all the answers. Clearly the authorities who seem to move at the lightning pace of thick, viscousy molasses when it comes to these investigations don’t either. Or maybe they do and are just corrupted by majoritarian fascism – something the South Asian subcontinent is well susceptible to.

But at least I’m part of a growing majority in India and within the diaspora who will not allow ourselves to be cowed down by the ignorance and malevolence of the Hindu nationalist supporters infesting the diverse and gorgeous global ethos of the subcontinent. We will follow, in our own humble ways, the paths that have been blazed by our great warrior-poets.

Indeed, if I may cynically paraphrase the breathtaking lack of vision and intellect shown by the Hindu fascists and their running dogs as they keep martyring our great lights…

How dumb are they?

What the hell were they thinking?

That fear and intimidation would actually work?

Idiots.

Right now, as I write this, there are thousands upon thousands of budding journalists, activists, intellectuals, truth seekers, and bearers of free thought who are fired up to be the next Gauri Lankesh, the next Dabholkar, the next Pansare, the next Kalburgi across the length and breadth of India – with a spark lit in their souls that no text or philosophical thought could have ever achieved.

Hindu fascists, like fascists everywhere, are too stupid and cowardly to realize that by martyring our lights, they do nothing but sow the seeds for thousands more to rise in their stead, super-charging the advancement of social and cultural progress.

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A brief thought on Dravidian matriarchal spirituality

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A recent article I read on institutionalized transphobia in India sparked a little thought journey for me around gender identity and indigenous spiritualities.

Specifically it led me to realize how little we know of the inherent gender egalitarianism and fluidity in Dravidian and other indigenous spiritualities of the subcontinent (and by “we” I mean those of us utilizing neocolonial, Eurocentric, patriarchal norms of understanding sexuality and gender).

Probably this is because these matriarchal spiritualities only exist in corrupted forms in India and South Asia now (albeit having sizeable influence still) – having been brutalized by many centuries of Aryan patriarchy, caste-based Manuwadi Hinduism, and misogynistic Abrahamic religious dogma. This has resulted in a multi-generational, multi-millennia erasure and subversion of these indigenous, Dravidian, feminist spiritual practices and norms…norms rooted in Dravidian matriarchy and liberated, fiery goddesses (who would normally kick the ever loving shit out of any fair skinned male god, bearded or otherwise).

In India and South Asia as a whole (not to mention parts of East Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Mediterranean while we’re at it), I do believe if we go back far enough we will realize a time when we all were part of matriarchal societies that worshiped various versions of the divine feminine as well as the earth and non-human souls – and those times could well give us templates to engage with in order to reject current patriarchal religions (all of the major ones today across earth) and the oppressive social, political, and economic ways of thinking and living that these religions spawn.

Currently I’m particularly interested in South Asian Dravidian matriarchal spirituality because it’s personally very dear to me. And it’s not as much of a stretch as one might imagine to reach back in time to understanding these matriarchal spiritual roots. A brief exploration of Giti Thadani’s Moebius Trip reveals a stunningly beautiful glimpse into past societies in the South Asian lands, mostly Dravidian-rooted societies, even going as far back as the Indus Valley/Harappan Civilization (which many now consider to be a proto-Dravidian civilization) where the divine feminine, as well as matriarchal and/or matrifocal or at the very least gender-egalitarian and/or gender just norms prevailed.

Of course, ever since the invasion of Aryan patriarchy – the foundation for the current misogynistic, Manuwadi caste-based Hinduism – and the strong global influence of the major Abrahamic patriarchal religions, the older matriarchal forms of spirituality have been marginalized, subsumed, and heavily corrupted by the major patriarchal and misogynistic spiritual forces of today.

But the great spiritual matriarchs still live on – in the subcontinent and across the earth. Kali, Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati are still prominent goddesses across India and especially in the South and East but with major influence in the North as well. In many regional societies and cultures, again especially in the South and East as far as I can tell, goddesses like Mariamman, Yellamma, Periyachee and many others provide spiritual foundations for countless people.

No doubt, many of these practices are steeped in regressive traditions, but I’m sure that as we slowly move towards genuine matriarchal societies, the more oppressive practices will be whittled away – and these goddesses can help subvert the multi-generational patriarchal narratives from within the heart and soul.

For I do strongly believe that it’s not much of a stretch of imagination to refashion our matriarchal roots for the modern era, an era where we dismantle (occasionally with fire) the dominant patriarchal social, economic, political, cultural and – perhaps most crucially – spiritual frameworks of today.

Referenced texts (and recommended readings):

Thadani, G. (2007[2003]). Moebius Trip: Digressions from India’s Highways. Spinefex Press.

Harris, R. (2007). “Aryan Patriarchy and Dravidian Matriarchy” in Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything. Link (accessed on June 5, 2016): http://www.integralworld.net/harris32.html

Why I believe all Indians should support Kashmir’s liberation

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An opinion piece published in the June, 2016 Issue of The Kashmirwalla:

Why I believe all Indians should support Kashmir’s liberation

(here’s the url in case the link doesn’t work: http://thekashmirwalla.com/2016/06/all-indians-should-support-kashmirs-liberation/)

 

The Valley that stole my heart

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I wrote a political travelogue about Kashmir during a trip made a while back. It was published in The Kashmir Walla in their 5th Anniversary Issue, hot off the presses this month! Please click on the following link for the piece and do peruse their lovely publication:

The Valley that stole my heart

(or if that doesn’t work, here’s the url – http://thekashmirwalla.com/2016/05/the-valley-that-stole-my-heart/)

 

Race, caste, and friendship

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When I was in grad school in Baltimore finishing up an M.S. in the 2003-2004 academic year, I had quite a few Indian friends around the Baltimore-DC area. Apart from spending time with some distant relatives, I followed the scent of quasi-cultural safety and found my way to an organized group of Indian students who raised money for charities in India. Notwithstanding the somewhat tepid, middle-of-the-road politics in the group, it did give me a few Indian friends who provided a connection to the homeland and the painlessness of not having to culturally translate everything that was said. They were, thankfully, substantially better to interact with than the feudal morons in my previous port-of-call.

Speaking in a mixture of English and whatever Indian tongue suited our fancy, cracking cross-cultural jokes, whipping out puns that required an innate understanding of pop-culture in different parts of South Asia – being with South Asian friends is (and always will be) comforting no matter where I am outside the subcontinent.

At Hopkins, the fact that I briefly fell in love with one of them, while cultivating a nice, albeit very temporary, friendship with another only served to consolidate that bond. In addition, included in the group was a cousin of mine, who had come to the university the year before.

Something happened when I was with my Indian friends. Instantly I was no longer a walking poster-boy for the entire Indian or South Asian community. I didn’t need to step out of my comfort zone in order to interact. I could be myself; the stares and second looks from white folk didn’t pierce me as they did when I was alone. My accent could seamlessly shift from neutral to desi. I didn’t have to constantly watch myself to ensure I wasn’t garnering too much attention. There were no awkward, plastic smiles that one received from folks uncomfortable with who you were and not knowing how to engage with you.

Intriguingly, I had less in common with my Indian buddies in Hopkins than I would have normally needed for lasting friendships. It made me think twice about the power of being with folks who had superficially similar cultural moorings when navigating another world. It was the anxiety of assimilation in a new society that made one assimilate only partially while concurrently seeking a bubble of manufactured comfort. In India, I would have thought they were nice enough to have as acquaintances but probably not as friends, since I had the privilege to be able to cultivate bonds with those whom I was closer to politically and philosophically. In Baltimore, for those nine months, they were my entire world.

Sometimes you needed to travel thousands of miles to learn a little something about the place you just left.

Socially my Indian friends in Hopkins and I came from similar backgrounds. Middle to upper-middle class families, educated in English-medium school and colleges, armed with sufficient privilege to be able to pursue graduate studies in the West. With the class stratification of Indian society, this essentially meant that barring one or two exceptions, we all came from the so-called upper caste Hindu communities.

In short, we were the privileged white people of India.

And, interestingly enough, it was these somewhat similar social roots that brought about some of the sharpest political divisions between me and my friends.

In order to better explain this and highlight what for me was one of the most acute manifestations of this division, I will have to briefly shift to a little primer on one particular, longstanding policy of the Indian government.

It’s called Reservation.

You see, India has its own Affirmative Action program. From a purely legislative angle it is, in my humble opinion, even stronger than what one might see in the States. Most people around the world have heard of the abhorrent caste system. It performs a similar function in India to what race might perform in the Western world with respect to dividing the haves and have-nots. Indeed, I have found many white folk in America and Europe talk about caste with, dare I suggest, a hint of satisfaction that their own class stratification systems seem less intolerant in comparison – a bit of a pass I imagine from dealing with their own shit. But scale of oppression apart, most Indians would be hard-pressed to argue against the viciousness of the caste system, unless they choose to adopt the ostrich technique of sticking their heads in the proverbial sand, or up their not-so-proverbial asses. Those doing so, as is easily guessable, consist almost entirely of upper-caste Hindus. I should know, because it was the community I grew up in.

But somewhere along the line, through a combination of parents who encouraged me to question and learn, as well as some very eye-opening activism in India via participation in an anti-fascist movement that gave me inspiring comrades across caste, religious, and class divides, I was thankfully brought to a better understanding. As I journeyed into more progressive political frameworks, I soon had to face up to my own privilege, the way the system in India worked in my favor from the get-go, and how it was built on the bleeding backs of those who had historically been most brutalized by the caste system. One of the results of that (still ongoing) journey of reflection was that I became one of the most ardent believers in the Reservation system quite early on in my youth (my father, being a bit of a self-identified Nehruvian socialist, inculcated in me the importance of “correcting longstanding injustices with government policies that benefit the historically oppressed”).

Now, everyone knew that Reservation as a policy needed to be honed and bettered. But it was also one that was desperately needed as a minuscule, hardly-sufficient, state policy that attempted to undo centuries of brutal caste-based oppression – something which continues in full force in India to this day, regardless of legislation.

It was in discussing Reservation that I realized how wide the gulf was between me and my Indian friends in Hopkins (and frankly, the overwhelming majority of upper caste Hindus in India and around the world). They were all manifestly against it, many offensively so. And because they had the advantage of numbers, the arguments that we had on the topic often played out under the paradigm of the lone, shrill, lefty weirdo arguing against those of apparently reasonable tongue and mind. There’s a way in which numbers help in lending a façade of authenticity to unjust frameworks.

I couldn’t really blame them (though I did want to occasionally beat the ever loving crap out of them). Were I to have missed the kinds of providential political experiences I was lucky enough to have, I would have joined them in their thinking.

Occasionally I ventured a couple of similar  conversations with American friends in the university community, white ones that is, who joined us for get-togethers or hangouts. Sometimes I had conversations with white folk in my classes. It was during those brief times that I understood the sterile stencil with which privilege etched itself on humanity. There was a deeply disturbing correlation with their disavowal of Affirmative Action programs in the States and my Indian buddies’ disdain for Reservation in India.

We were in Johns Hopkins after all. This was the place where an overwhelmingly black janitorial staff cleaned the halls and restrooms used by a student/teacher population consisting of white people, East Asians, and South Asians. Reservation and Affirmative Action were both the same – programs to haughtily dismiss while casting aspersions that they diluted merit or unfairly discriminated against deserving candidates. It was a place where centuries of racism in America and centuries of caste oppression in India could be blotted out from living memory in one fell self-congratulatory swoop. It was a place where those benefiting from different structures of oppression, thousands of miles apart, mostly unrelated, with different histories and local conditions, could find congruence in a false meritocracy. Had I gone to Spellman College or Howard University, my guess (or hope) is that it would have been a little different.

It made me realize that those who acted as the white folk of India where ultimately not a whole lot different, save a few nuances, than white folk elsewhere. It also made me realize that the institution I was in attracted, for the most part, people of a similar ilk regardless of skin color or ethnicity. All of us Indians who came here to study – we assimilated well. We were the acceptable people of color, who kept our heads down and didn’t assert ourselves too much. We filled the color quota of universities without shaking up the system. We didn’t have the history in America that our black and latino brethren had, so we came with a clean slate. We would be supplicant and grateful for having been let into the country to pursue our so-called potential. We didn’t cause trouble with pesky demands for reparations or restorative justice, because we didn’t like those demands when they were made in our own neck of the woods. We didn’t express anything other than pure and unadulterated willingness to integrate, while making sure our cuisine and movies provided non-intrusive pleasure to the society we were integrating into. We were the immigrants whom xenophobic bigots could tout as the kind of immigrants America wanted, unlike those “illegals” from south of the border. We could be the exotic friends of the white folk, without scaring them. We could give them the pass they needed from their history and, in turn, they gave us the pass we needed from ours. We would willingly play second fiddle, and not even dare to seek the lead. Be offended? Pfft…we would oh-so gladly be the Tonto to their Lone Ranger, the Kato to their Green Hornet, the Apu to their Homer Simpson (hell, we wouldn’t even give a crap that America’s most beloved Indian is voiced in breathtakingly racist fashion by Hank Azaria).

And if they declined our offers of compliant companionship, we would thank them nevertheless for their consideration, revert back to our own little bubbles, not cause trouble, and work hard in exactly the way they would like us to.

Wait…

Did I hear someone say model minority?

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…

A message to all Hindu fascists upon the election of their messiah in India

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(Image source: http://www.sacw.net/article7143.html)

It’s been over a month since I witnessed, with vicarious trauma, the meteoric rise of Narendra Modi to become one of the world’s most powerful men, commanding one of the world’s most brutal, nuclear-armed militaries. The two weeks of hopeless depression are over, and a slow, lightly simmering anger has set in. I believe it is time now to write a brief message to all Hindu fascists upon the election of their messiah in India.                             

Let me start with a caveat – I know that most of the people who voted for this speck of human refuse are not fascists and certainly not desiring the implementation of a fascist program in India. Indeed, I’m sure that many held their noses and voted for this piece of garbage, mostly by way of countering the uselessness and corruption of that giant pile of shit known as the Congress Party. But there are some folks (in India and, just as disconcertingly, among the Indian Diaspora) right now celebrating the arrival of the Great Hindu Hope, the torchbearer who will turn India into a theocratic Hindu state, who will suppress minorities and forge a raging Hindu Rashtra from the fire and brimstone of the hellish smelter known as Hindutva.

This message is for them:

Live it up you miserable minions of hate. Have your little celebration, do your little dance, drink your little libation, thump your little chest. But know this – You. Will. Lose.

I don’t postulate this as speculation. I don’t express it as hope. I don’t mention it in careless passing. I declare it as an inviolable fact. Sure, you might have this day in the sun. Perhaps you will even break down a couple of mosques or churches, like you did in Ayodhya in 1992 or Orissa in 2008, maybe even conduct a few pogroms whereupon you will kill some members of various minority communities, like you did in Mumbai in 1992 or Gujarat in 2002. There will be some bloodshed and you might run riot for a little while, maybe even puff your cowardly chests out in murderous pride. But India is different you scum. It is a fact that doesn’t seem to have penetrated that densely virulent mindset of yours. Let me see if I can break it down for you. Don’t worry, I’ll try and use small words so your miniscule brain can comprehend it. I’ll be brief so that those words at least stand a fighting chance of hitting home before getting sucked in by that black hole of turpitude in your beings. Indeed, I promise to say my piece before it’s lost to the vacuum in your pathetic forms that formerly held your souls.

You see, fascists like you are no different than your counterparts in other religions and nationalities. (It’s funny, you all hate each other, but yet you all seem to have been hell-spawned out of the same venomous goo – really you guys should consider getting your own planet and leaving the rest of us alone – but I digress). You don’t seem to understand that humanity is just far too diverse and beautifully chaotic to allow such virulent homogenizing. India is no different. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that India is the ultimate representation of that diversity and awe-inspiring chaos. That’s what you don’t seem to have internalized, you malicious marauders.

Please note that I don’t believe Indian society has some inherent progressiveness and inclination for secular tolerance, no more than I believe any other society does. What I’m saying is that Indian society doesn’t have a choice in the matter despite the baser elements within it.

What do you think would happen, you perfidious puddles of piss, if you took that smear of dung you call an ideology to the various linguistic, regional, and cultural identities across the country? Seriously, do you actually believe that you can homogenize India? The very concept of a national identity is tenuous at best, and you think you can bring in your Hindutva crap into the picture? Let me paint a panoramic picture for you. There are, at last count, 22 official state-level languages in India, each spoken by millions upon millions of people, not to mention hundreds of other languages and dialects, grouped under four distinct linguistic families. Every religion and belief-system on earth is represented in India, many in huge numbers, not to mention the innumerable aspirations of caste, creed, and community (there are approximately two thousand ethnic groups in the country, you might be interested to know). I’m curious, what are the logistics of your program in such a land? How might you, for example, kill 210 million Muslims (or, as you are wont to scream, drive them away to Pakistan), or kick out 35 million Christians, or convert 130 million Adivasis, or suppress 230 million Dalits, or reconvert 25 million Buddhists, or homogenize 500 million OBCs? What about the millions of atheists, agnostics, rationalists, humanists, and ardent leftists who will resist you tooth and nail? What’s your plan for them? You might even cite Hitler’s program – I know many of you would love to lick his boots in reverent supplication of his virulence – but you also seem to forget that Germany is not India, Germany is 1/100th, nay, 1/1000th of what India is in terms of sheer diversity. What happened in Germany will never happen in India, you bilious bottom-feeders. Even the fucking capitalists in India wouldn’t want anything to do with you if it hurts investment, which it ultimately will. Hell, the capitalists in Gujarat, Hindu nationalist though many of them may have been, baulked at your murderous program in 2002 the moment there was capital flight, their greed sufficiently trumping any latent desire for fascism.

So, enjoy this brief moment in the sun, you piece-of-trash-waiting-to-ultimately-reside-in-the-garbage-dump-of-history; because the subcontinent is laughing silently at your pernicious castle in the air. Like the Islamic fascists, the malevolent mullahs, the violent nationalists, and the evil ethnocentrists in other parts of the subcontinent, she knows that she will see you ultimately fall in an ignominious heap of humiliation.

So, good luck in your cesspool. Live it up on the wrong side of history. You will crumble into dust and be seen for the vile poison that you are sooner or later.