Sunday, January 23, 2011

iPhone Diaries #297 and Book Review: "Listening to Grasshoppers" by Arundhati Roy

Billed as the largest democracy in the world, India is a cautionary tale as to how the combination of nationalism (Hindu) and neo-liberal economic reforms in order to conform to the ideals of Western-style  democracy can lead to murderous and disastrous results.  Cautionary because the dangers that a divided and polarized legislative branch, coupled with an increasingly unaccountable judiciary and an impotent executive branch are becoming evident in the world's largest true (or closest to the ideal) democracy: the United States of America.
Furthermore, the conscious collusion between large corporations and the media, coupled with the "like-lambs-to-slaughter" mentality of the general population results in the rise of fascist-like, if not outright fascist sentiments. In this milieu, wanton environmental destruction and the accompanying population displacement is deemed as an economic necessity, micro-genocide (thousands murdered as opposed to six million) is considered justifiable, even acceptable. The so-called "emerging middle-class", invariably a very small percentage of the population, lives in a cocoon, in a separate nation within the bigger nation. The near monopoly on ideas by the colluding parts of the media feeds the gullible population what it wants to see and hear, while the government hands out (sells?) essential components of the national bounty.
Arundhati Roy exposes, for the Western-centered reader like myself who usually goes by what the mainstream media talks about, the underpinnings of a so-called "emerging" democratic and economic colossus and exposes it for what is: shaky,  unreliable, and not to be trusted. The Western world wants to see a democratic and prosperous India, "damn the torpedoes" as the cliche goes.
The book is a collection of essays written from 2002 to 2008, beginning with the state-backed massacre of Muslims in Gujarat (2002) to the 2008 uprising in Kashmir as well as the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. The ensuing investigations, trials, and judgements make for a truly scary tale.

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