May 14, 2010

100s of 1000s

"Imagine this: There are hundreds of thousands of Delhiwallahs and Gujaratis among us, who took part in the killing, raping, burning, maiming and looting of thousands of Indians who did them no wrong."

That's Aakar Patel, writing here. Those and everything else in the essay, words I wish I could have written, but I'm glad he did.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Respek! no doubt...but some things really are troubling:

"All tribal societies avenge themselves when they get the opportunity."

"Our defense is that other cultures are also violent. We could point to European murder, of course. But theirs is the anonymous slaughter of the B-52 bomb and the Predator missile strike. The Indian, like the African, prefers a more personalized entertainment."

Really? Though again a very respectable article it does have an gratuitous euro-centic stench That ofcourse is forgivable as the main point as I see it has nothing to do with his eurocentricism.

I think its very important to point this out. It's not just intellectual tomfoolery. The basic assumption of civilization > savage Europeans aren't as blood thirsty is transparent rubbish point.

Today especially - 25 years anniversary of this
http://www.democracynow.org/2010/5/13/25_years_ago_philadelphia_police_bombs

1) Belgians in Congo
2) Slavery
3) Holocaust
4) Waco Siege
5) Vietnam War (not just the impersonal B52 - Mai Lai)
I am sure you know more than me...

Its ridiculous to say such things about tribal societies and civilized societies...blood thirsty violence is a human trait. We are in it together.

Its frankly pissing off the way he (and many Indian writers) uses "tribalism" and savage-ness as pejoratives like some 19th century Englishman.

Am I missing the sarcastic tone/ irony or something?

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Sorry. One more comment -

Its tricky, isn't it? What do you do in such cases? Support the guy for pointing out the correct facts and throwing it at our faces as we deserve to or do we point out the obvious rubbish nonsense in the article like his ridiculous statement about "Central African people being considered civilized because of Euroepan guilt". That is borderline racist. Its something Rush Limbaugh would say.

Darn...what do we do in such situations when a person who is so correctly morally outraged and exposing our hypocrisy and our violence uses age old steretypes, suspect racism and civilization / societal chauvinism to make the point....

what is your take

Anonymous said...

and the last one. I am so sorry..

Is he trying to use use "African", "tribal", "uncivilized" as pejoratives to taunt us?
What a stupidly racist taunt is that? Its almost like some European idiot saying "Thats what you are...a n!@#!@#" I am not sure how that reconciles with his other moral arguments.

Am I missing some context? Was he replying to some racist post differentiated Africans and/or tribal cultures with Indian and/or civilization?

Ofcourse we are very much like the Central Africans and so are his beloved impersonal-violent-perpetrators from Europe. 60,000 years of separation remember?

How stupid of him.

He has the right moral argument in my opinion and his taunts about our civilizational hypocrisy or societal double standards are enough. All else is distasteful and gratuitious and only makes us feel ashamed to have such people on our side. But this is a strategic problem? How do you deal with this? Do you accept the morality and reject the underlying racism? or wot?

Chandru K said...

Posted by "Shiv" in an Indian forum:

"It is basically the mindset of the colonised, where the slave will ingratiate himself with his real (or perceived) master by being scathingly critical of his own group while tending to be unreservedly admiring of even the master's fart, leave alone more yummy parts of master's anatomy like his backside. It is a form of fractal recursivity."

Anonymous, the mentality of Aakar Patel, and sometimes of D'Souza, is not far removed from the above description of the colonised. The tendency to be hyper-critical of anything/anyone Indian, while excusing, neglecting, even admiring gratuitous behaviour from the 'master' which could be the US, UK, France, China or whomever.

Chandru K said...

The amazing thing is that what Patel says about Europe is not even true. Anyone who has read detailed descriptions of WW2 killings in Europe knows that there were enormous numbers of people killed by mobs and by militias, particularly in Eastern Europe. Yugoslavia between 1941-1945 was a mass killing field, with very few B-52's and Predators. The story from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania is pretty horrific as well. In Western Europe, there were mass killings carried out by both pro-Nazi and anti-Nazi militias, the last one taking revenge against real or perceived 'collaborators' in an act of tribal type vengeance. Patel is ascribing sophistication where none exists.

Gurpreet said...

Typical of the exact same guys Akar Patel refers to... mention all the possible European massacres as if that in any way weakens the point, which is very very simply this - how do we square ourselves to the horrific murders we indians have committed??

But I've tried talking reason with ChandruK before with nil success. I expect nothing better this time. There is no reason in people who's starting assumption is that India is better than everyone else and all our crimes must be waived aside.

Gurpreet

Chandru K said...

While I have never said that India is "superior" - it should be acknowledged that India historically has not been an aggressive country or civilisational entity, and modern India is a responsible country internationally -Aakar Patel has almost flatly stated that Indians are inferior or backward, since they allegedly follow a tribal mentality.

Ketan said...

Akar Patel is right that Indians are brutal, savage, uncivilized, peace-hating. He's also right that Indians are so passive that they don't collectively nonbarbarically, nonsavagely, in a civilized manner & peacefully lynch the rioters, corrupt policemen, shrewd politicians & inefficient judges to change the system for the better. He's also right that Indians on the whole don't possess or exhibit sufficient literary prowess to auto-curse their (un)civilization poignant essays. Indians are guilty of trying to get on with their own lives as long as they're not personally affected, and many times, even if they are, to make their two ends meet or to make the most out of one given lifetime full of temptations. He's right on every count!

But, why distort & compare with other civilizations?

Does what happen or had happened in other civilizations make what happened in India any better or worse?

Dilip had asked me once how does the brutality of manner of killing matter:

"I feel insecure every day, and I mean this, because terrorists responsible for killing thousands are roaming free and unpunished on the streets of India. They may have been on the bus with me this morning, for all I know. Not only that, plenty of the guys who goaded these people into their killing are not just unpunished and free, but have actually been elected as MPs -- i.e. they are making laws for us. ... Point being not to form a scale of brutality, which I am completely uninterested in." - Dilip (click).

"But theirs is the anonymous slaughter of the B-52 bomb and the Predator missile strike." - Akar Patel

Do those firing the B-52 bombs & Predator missile roam freely on streets & travel in buses? Are the politicians who wage such wars elected to power? I do not personally know any rioter or riot victim. So, their killing was anonymous?

"Those and everything else in the essay, words I wish I could have written, but I'm glad he did." - Dilip.

Gurpreet,

"...mention all the possible European massacres as if that in any way weakens the point..."

...but nor does it strengthen the point (more so with attendant cover up of facts), so why mention European violence at all? And more so, praise the write up in entirety?

Anonymous said...

Gurpreet/Dcubed

I forgot to sign the first 3 comments that I wrote. I am not sure how Chandru K agrees with me. I am absolutely against all his ludicrous reasoning and all his points.

I agree with you and Dcubed and Aakar. Mr. Patel's moral arguments are completely correct and we are responsible, complicit for all the massacres that we tacitly and actively participated in.

All I was shocked by his rhetoric of making his point by making racist and chauvinistic assumptions of goodness and "civlization".

There is a marked difference between someone like Dilip and someone like Aakar Patel. Dilip's arguments have always been rooted in basic decency and morality not in fuzzy superiority of civilization or culture like Aakar Patel's seem to be. That of course, again, does not undermine Aakar's main courageous criticism which I admit is admirable. WE NEED TO BE ASHAMED. no doubt.

In no way I am towing the rubbish Hindutva/Patriotic Indian line of "Why don't you look at ____ before criticising us"

I do understand the most basic moral principle :

We are responsible for OUR actions.

So Dcubed/Gurpreet, don't mix my point with Chandru K's "hindutva apologetic".

Chandru K said...

"I am not sure how Chandru K agrees with me."

In your censure of Patel's vulgar anti-Indian and anti-African chauvinism, to be sure. But Patel's general position is not even correct. The idea that Africans and Indians kill in unsophisticated, almost tribal like ways, while Europeans et al kill with A-bombs, predators and missiles. Simply not true, as any perusal of the goings on in Europe during 1939-1945 will show.

Prashanth said...

Its interesting that the guy says that maybe Ajmal Kasab be hanged and the hanging should be shown on television since Indians are Primitive and "seek closure through violence, preferably participative"

I don't really know how good he is in General Knowledge but in India, even in death a criminal is given all the Privacy he needs. In contrast a Advanced country like US has a provision to invite persons to be able to view the proceedings.

Yep! I agree with him that we should not hang Ajmal Kasab. We should have him safe and sound so that if some day another flight is hijacked, we have some chips to bargain with.

radhika misra said...

Anonymous, I also wonder if I missed a point or sarcasm or some underlying tone in that article.

To me, the reference to tribal societies, comparison with Europeans and the bits about Africans is offensive.

What takes the cake though is this gem "Like all primitive societies, Indians seek closure through violence, preferably participative. We do this now and then, as we shall see, and in that sense we are like central Africans, who are not completely civilised, but must be acknowledged as such because of European guilt".

In stroke, he has called us primitive, violent, uncivilised and unique (in seeking participative violent revenge). Of course forgetting the biggest example ie the CIVILISED United States of America. The US and the UK are killing and have killed thousands of innocents. Nothing civilised about that.

Though now i am dangerously close to the argument, to quote you ""Why don't you look at ____ before criticising us".

anyhow, it is tricky. This choosing between the underlying moral point of view and the manner in which it is presented. I agree with the point he makes about us, but am offended by the manner he makes it.....

Anonymous said...

Radhika

No you aren't close to the "Why don't..." point, neither am I because we are not saying that.

Aakar Patel is correct in pointing a finger at us. He is brave in justifiably condemning our violent society.

My only problem is his tactic. And its not a minor problem. How many times do you see Dilip pointing out at the violence of our society and inhumane injustice by saying such things as "central Africans, who are not completely civilised, but must be acknowledged as such because of European guilt"


But my problem is also essentially a sincere question to you and Dilip and decent reasonable people. What do we do in such cases. Strategically?

It's similar to the Feminist / Hindutva alliance on uniform civil code. Sometimes we are on the same side as people we have fundamental differences with.

Anonymous
http://puppymanohar.blogspot.com

radhika misra said...

Chandru K, we might be great internationally, but our domestic record, you have to agree, is pretty dismal.

Plus, what is a "tribal mentality"? I think that term itself is offensive.

Chandru K said...

"Chandru K, we might be great internationally, but our domestic record, you have to agree, is pretty dismal."

It is, but at the same time, there's almost no country India can use as a reference point, to compare itself with. With respect to the combination of size, population, diversity( of both language and religion) political system, geo-political location and historical baggage i.e being an exploited colony. Other entities, like Ireland for example, may have one or two of India's features, but not all. Comparisons with Japan, Switzerland or the US, to score debating points about India's inadequacy, would be really off-the-wall.

Ketan said...

Chandru K,

Very rightly put! We cannot take any country blindly as template to base our development on. Most countries that are ahead of us today have historically had some vital advantage or the other. Given the vastness & the variety of our populace, our problems are also unique.

But nevertheless, generally speaking, individual areas in which other countries currently excel, we must draw inspiration from, and try to incorporate their methods in our systems with appropriate modifications. We must not shy from acknowledging problems where they exist.

Anonymous said...

Dilip

Seriously dude? You wish you would have said things that this guys said? As appalling as that article is. Check this out:

http://www.livemint.com/2010/02/19213129/The-Thackerays8217-primitiv.html

You got to be kidding me! This dude is a douche-bag.

Look at your reports and writings on riots and look at his baseless stereotyping.

You are being unfair to yourself by saying you wish you had written this. You would never write such preposterous garbage. Because - and I dare say - you are a profoundly different person than this idiot.

Common Dude! Common! I am bereaved of all belief.

Baby V

Chandru K said...

Definitely, Ketan. There are many individual areas where India should and does take assistance from other countries. Take something as seemingly mundane as garbage collection. Actually, it is very important. The city of Chennai gave a contract to a Singapore company to help out with that problem. In technology, industry, education and agriculture, India can certainly learn from and/or be inspired by other countries. But in the area of politics and management of diversity and dealing with historical baggage, there's virtually no country India can look to and state "They're doing a better job of managing themselves than we are".

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sorry for not replying here -- I've been on the road for two weeks, much of it without access. Trying to catch up seems like a constant preoccupation.

I have no idea whether Aakar Patel was being sarcastic or something. One thing I find interesting about the article is that it gets under people's skin, gets them thinking, arguing, etc. Which is what journalism or writing should do. (The old adage, always, about afflicting the comfortable).

(It's in that broad sense that I meant I wish I had written this).

Yes, there have been plenty of instances of horrific killing/injustice in other countries. To me, that's not the point. The point is our record. Why do we tolerate 25+ years without justice for killers of 3000 Indians in 1984? (And thus tolerate those killers wandering unpunished among us). Was it somehow less of a crime than the killing Kasab did? I know at least one person on this page believes the answer to that question is "Yes", and that's what amazes me.

Ketan said...

Dilip,

I'm afraid, getting under the skin must not be the aim of a journalist. It ought to be presenting facts as accurately as possible, & using their experience to analyze an issue from all possible perspectives. If you agree with this, then Aakar Patel in my opinion has failed on more than one count.

As far as getting under the skin is concerned, consider following two propositions:

1. "Chanting Gayatri mantra 108 times a day cures people of AIDS."

2. "Survivors in Manglore plane accident prove that God exists."

Both the above statements would greatly irritate me. But despite their being irritating what's their truth-value? First one (if anyone makes such a claim), irritates because it's a blatant falsehood with possible ulterior motive to glorify Hindu tradition &/or degrade medical science. Second one because, analysis is irrational & incomplete.

So, grating potential of a write up is not a good indicator of its value.

As another example, I find most of the news presented nowadays highly irritating, not because it pains or shames me, but because it's biased, sensationalist & highly opinionated.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Ketan, if a journalist/writer does not make his readers think and question, he should be re-evaluating his job. This is not meant to suggest that he tell lies: a liar will immediately be found out. So getting your facts right is paramount, that's a given.

But really, it's the old adage all over again (first attributed to Finley Peter Dunne): journalism must "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable".

Finally, if you find "most of the news" is "biased, sensationalist and highly opinionated" I'd suggest a look at your own biases and opinions.

Ketan said...

Facts must be accurate and must not be covered selectively as doing so leads to off-mark conclusions.

Most of the news I find biased, sensationalist & opinionated do not even involve my preformed opinions, e.g. insensitive manner of covering Manglore plane crash.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Dilip. I think you owe us a better explanation than that. If you think, you don't owe anyone any explanation then its okay, but I will forever remain suspicious of you as I am of Aakar Patel.

I think its clear from my unnecessarily garrulous comments and those of Radhika Mishra that we DON'T think "our crimes < their crimes". So please don't club us with that "at least one person"

We have made it very clear - I know I have - that he is CORRECT and JUSTIFIED in criticizing our society for OUR crimes.

It is his logic and the axioms of 'civilized vs tribal', 'african hence inferior', 'european guilt' that I have a problem with.

And your "gets under people's skin, gets them thinking, arguing, etc. Which is what journalism or writing should do." is almost irrelevant. Would you say the same thing about the 24 hour video replay of police torture? Is that good journalism because it exposes police torture? Wouldn't you raise some questions of intent?

Anonymous said...

Dilip

Also, Ketan is accurate when and if he says

"most of the news" is "biased, sensationalist and highly opinionated" I'd suggest a look at your own biases and opinions."

It has been proven by Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman in "Manufacturing Consent", this is in fact an accepted fact in mainstream journalism. This is of course if he means "most journalism"

The authors do have a bias and are certainly opinionated. Their biases are the same as mine and perhaps yours. Basic human decency, human empathy and solidarity. I believe all serious journalism should be biased towards that.

- Baby Vaijayanthi

Dilip D'Souza said...

Baby V: May I say, first of all, that I would urge you to remain suspicious of me. I believe that any reasonable writer only welcomes sceptical, alert readers who keep him on his toes with their questioning.

I do not by any means club you (or RM) with that one person.

Of course there are issues of intent. But to me that's similar to what Ketan raised about "truth-value". To me, a lot of things make up good journalism, or good writing, and then it's got to get people thinking. (Under their skin, if you like). If it is bland, it will be immediately forgotten and then what purpose did it serve?

Having said all that, certainly I would have written the article differently than Aakar P has. (I write differently, after all, and all I'll say until such time that I write something like this is that I would have made some arguments differently). But I have little argument with the thinking he is trying to provoke, which to me is the real issue here. (Again, as I said it's in that broad sense that I said I wish I had written it).

Being thought-provoking by definition means you're going to have people disagreeing with you, on all kinds of different counts -- and that's exactly what his article has stimulated.

Finally biases: I believe everyone is biased, and I see nothing wrong with that. Give me that rather than some phony claim of "objectivity", every time. You are exactly right when you say this: "Basic human decency, human empathy and solidarity. I believe all serious journalism should be biased towards that."

Ketan said...

Dilip,

I think I'd misunderstood your usage of "getting under the skin". If you'd simply meant making the readers think, then I agree, that must be one of the important aims of the media. Information-dispersion in vacuum after all is pointless. But at what point does "making readers think" turn into "making readers think a certain way"? It is the latter that I object to because I see such attempts as affront to my intelligence. It amounts to the writer telling me - "you're stupid; you don't know what to think, so here I've 'ready made' opinion for you", & that hurts my self-esteem.

If media were truly biased towards "basic human decency, human empathy and solidarity", I would be very appreciative of such attitude. But unfortunately that's not the case. Unlike what Baby V feels, I attribute media's flawed approach to commercial interests. Most news are presented from a pure 'good v/s evil' perspective to make the reader/viewer stake an emotional claim in the story. Most would want to side with the 'good' & hate the 'evil'. But this effect is usually achieved through exaggeration & concealment of facts. We in our urgency to side with the 'good' miss glaring logical inconsistencies. So, having seen how people react to news, I disagree with: "a liar will immediately be found out."

As a case in point, I suggest performing a mental exercise.

Please do go through the following news article: Women doctors in Raigad force rape victim to deliver, kill infant - India - The Times of India (click).

Take a stock of your own emotional response. Then, see the readers' comments on that page.

Now, read a different version of the same news:

Two women doctors arrested for killing rape victim's newborn - dnaindia.com (click).

Following that, do read my analysis of the news, here (click)...

Ketan said...

...Lastly, I agree that everyone has biases, but they should be reflected in how people react to a given piece of information rather than manipulating the body of information itself. Biases (which fundamentally give rise to opinion) are desired in analysis of events, but not in their reporting.

Also, I'd like to add one more point here, having biases should not come in our way of trying to be objective. Both being biased & being objective have degrees. I think we must appreciate attempts at objectivity.

Consider the following two statements:

1. "Intellient design is merely creationism masquerading as a scientific theory. It's baseless & junk. Darwin's survival of the fittest perfectly explains how sophisticated mammals evolved from simple unicellular organisms."

2. "While intellient design makes intuitive sense, there is currently no known biologic mechanism that could make the DNA undergo mutations specifically suitable for the organism's environment. Whereas, in light of working of genes, the hypothesis of natural selection is the one which best accounts for how organisms could have evolved & got segregated as different species over time."

Though, statement 1 is what I believe in, if I truly want to make people who do not have much knowledge of biology think for themselves, 2 is what I would say. Because, 1 would put off many theists. They will outrightly reject my words as propaganda. Because they too will look at it as an affront to their intelligence accumulated over years.

But very importantly, if someone trusts me, then I'd feel guilty of 'using' 1 on them. Of course, it would be great ego-massage to have people think the same thing as me, but when I pass on information to someone ignorant of facts, my being strongly opinionated would be akin to leading a blind person to an alley where I want him to reach without telling what other alleys contain. Whereas, if I truly have good intentions, I'll try to tell what each of the alleys contain, and let the ignorant person make informed choice.

When a reporter-news editor-newsreader tag team present 'facts', viewer is the ignorant blind person who had not himself witnessed the reported event, hence the need for accuracy & objectivity.

Ketan said...

One more thing, I feel a more skeptical society is actually desirable. Skepticism expressed towards each others' intent (when reasons to do so exist) or rigor of analysis should not be taken as offensive. But having said that, I'm myself still trying to reach there. :)

Dilip D'Souza said...

Ketan,

A writer who says, or writes in a way as to give the impression that he says, "you're stupid; you don't know what to think, so here I've 'ready made' opinion for you" is a writer who might as well be telling lies. He will very quickly alienate his readers and lose any effectiveness his writing may have had.

Using such a writer to make your point is, to me, futile. No reasonable writer whom I read and respect would write like that. The best writers and journalists respect their readers, and it seems to me you should in turn respect that.

For me, your two statements about intelligent design only undercut your point. If statement 1 is what you believe (as you say you do), I would hope and wish you'd say that instead of 2. If you believe that ID is "merely creationism masquerading as scientific theory", but you say that it "makes intuitive sense", to me that's a lie.

To me, ID makes no sense at all, and I have no problem saying so.

Give me the strongly opinionated guys who are willing to state and stand by their opinions, every time, instead of people who mould what they say so as not to offend someone or the other. Being true to yourself, I believe, is the greatest respect you can show to your readers.

Ketan said...

Dilip,

I have no problems with people expressing their opinion in most explicit manner possible, in fact, I too welcome it, but it should not be seamlessly merged with news. Opinions are subjective; whereas reporting news is a process by which information is passed on, and must be verifiable & objective.

If reporting itself is tinged with PoV & weasel words, I get put off.

You've misunderstood my approach on ID. I would say 2, when I'll be passing on information, but 1 when I'd be passing a judgement. And very honestly, evolution in terms of intelligent design used to make intuitive sense to me! :) But that changed with my turning atheist, & understanding natural selection better. So, if I tell a layperson unaware of concepts of genetic mutations, gene expressivity, penetrance, effect of mutations on reproductive fitness, etc., that intelligent design makes intuitive sense, it would be an attempt to bring them from their plane of understanding to that of mine. I feel, when we state someone is wrong, much more important than expression of disapproval is to state the reason behind it. Hence, I'd be in favor of approach 2, rather than 1.

To digress a bit, Intelligent design makes intuitive sense because whenever a picture depicting a quadriped tree-dwelling lemur is sequentially shown to become more & more erect & turn into a completely erect biped human, it is tempting to believe there was a grand 'scheme' behind such transformation. In fact, understanding natural selection (less frequent passing on of alleles coding for traits less conducive to survival in a given environment in comparison with alleles coding for traits enabling survival) involves a lot of lateral thinking compared to intelligent design.

Returning to original issue, most writers I dislike for being biased do not make apparent that they're reporting facts selectively. It's only after digging greatly into the facts & close scrutiny of arguments, that one can reach such conclusion.

Let me give another example - I feel, using nuclear energy for electricity production is very important for survival & progress of our country. But why should a reader support use of nuclear energy merely because I support it?...

Ketan said...

...Now most media persons would try to build readers' opinion for or against nuclear energy by selective quoting of facts or their exaggeration, further by quoting some prominent personality/organization or statistics ("this much percentage of surveyed population likes/dislikes nuclear energy") etc. But except only cold facts should be involved in opinion-making, & not who or how many feel what. It is very rare to find essays that cover all the attendant factors on such complex issues. If I respect my readers' intelligence, I would provide them with facts & let them decide. What use is my opinion (after all, everyone has an opinion on almost everything!), if not backed by reasons? And how can I provide reasons without mentioning dry facts?

Jai_C said...

1. The first thing to mind when I re-read this at leisure was a headline on the lines of:

"100s of Banias let off for spying"

and Dilip saying something like:

"I wish I had said that!"

didnt sync at all, so I guessed he didnt really mean "every word" etc.

2. On topic I dont have much to add, but the sense that 100s or 1000s of killers are still loose among us is disquieting.

3. Tangential relevance to death penalty:
While looking up bystander effect I came across the following passage at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitty_Genovese

Winston Moseley confessed to the murder of this lady (and two others and several attacks). He was convicted and a death sentence was passed on him approved by an "anti-death penalty" judge.

He was later able to argue medical insanity and get a life term.

"..In 1968, during a trip to a Buffalo, New York hospital for surgery (precipitated by a soup can that he placed in his own rectum as a pretext to leave prison), Moseley overpowered a guard and beat him up to the point that his eyes were bloody. He then took a bat and swung it at the closest person to him and took five hostages, raping one of them in front of her husband, before he was recaptured after a two-day manhunt.[10] He also participated in the 1971 Attica Prison riots..."

So this convicted killer broke jail and managed to re-enter society and re-inflict considerable damage.

regards,
Jai