Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Development as Oppression

If you read nothing else on The Commonwealth Games in Delhi read  P.K. Vijayan's "The World Of The Games: Warring Illusions" in Countercurrents.org (October 3, 2010).

It is a powerful and admirable argument against the colonial/class mentality that produces spectacles like the Games.

Vijayan writes:
A ‘world class city’ is coming up in India today, in the capital, where Delhi used to be. It will last from the 1st of October to the 15th of October, after which it will vanish as ephemerally as it will appear ...
During the period when the ‘world class city’ replaces Delhi, there will be only one ‘class’ that will occupy the space of the city – or rather two: the small but infinitely more powerful one of the ruling elite; and the much larger one of the middle class – multi-layered and heterogeneous in so many ways, but tragically homogenized by the blinkers of patriotism and paradoxically, also by the hunger to be part of a mythical ‘world class’. 
To become a "world class" city the poor are being shuffled and shut out from India's 'proud moment'.  Their place is a hindrance.  Their condition is an illiteracy of things marked by class.

Their rights in the Indian democracy are being made irrelevant.  The ruling elite know better.  The capitalist class and its global reach are overriding the constitutional right to matter and to exist.

How does a state that boasts to all who will listen about its democratic freedoms and the size of its constituencies trample on the rights of the poor, the marginal, in this manner?

How does a democratic state ban the poor from being in their own space(s)?

Vijayan writes:
... we didn’t need a dictatorship or an authoritarian regime to have these gross violations of democratic rights happen under our very noses: they happened precisely because we live in a purported ‘democracy’. But this ‘democracy’, which is in reality nothing more than a sort of extended oligarchy, ensures that the benefits of its democratic principles remain confined to the ruling elite, and to some extent, and in a much more diluted form, to the Great Indian Middle Class. The elite use the powers vested in them by this ‘democratic’ system to garner and accumulate wealth, not just for themselves but for their partners in the broad alliance that gives the impression of ‘democracy’. This mutual support system is what will ensure that the guilty in the Games scam-iana will never be brought to book ...
In this ‘democracy’, our elected representatives and their appointed officers tell us that it is in our interests that our democratic rights are being violated, and we paradoxically accept it  because we believe that our representatives, being products of the democratic system, represent democracy itself. Even when it is patently clear that they do not, we cannot conceive of their being anything but democratic, because to acknowledge that would be to acknowledge the systemic failure of this ‘democracy’. It would be to acknowledge that we are victims of the same system that we routinely participate in, that is used to routinely victimize the millions below us – Us, the Great Indian Middle Class – a process of victimization that at once defines Us and that we thrive on, indeed are dependent on ...
But this is the price we are being told to pay for participation in the ‘world class city’ – and we are willing to pay it because, on the one hand, of course, we get to be, for two weeks, citizens of a ‘developed world’, and on the other, it is nothing compared to the violence perpetrated – in our name and by us – on the rest of the populace of the country. Farmers dying by the hundreds of thousands because of the depredations of agricultural corporations that we own, or work in, or get dividend-profits from, will be cynically portrayed as ‘suicides-for-money’; tribals battling the established nexus between the government and big mining corporations, that is rendering them destitute in the millions in the process of capturing their lands, will be cynically portrayed as Maoist terrorists, and systematically crushed; tax-sops to the tune of several lakhs of crores will be proudly proffered to dollar billionaire industrial giants, but loan-waivers of a few thousand crores to peasants across the country will be bitterly resented; workers agitating against appalling working conditions and demanding no more than marginal increase in wages are berated for their greed and thrashed by an ever-willing police; the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy continue to remain beggars for our democratic favours, long after our ‘democratic’ system, with our silent collusion, allowed the villains of the piece to go practically scott-free – and so on.

Predatory capitalism, parasite capitalism, crony capitalism – call it what you will, it is thriving in our very real world, because that world is not the ‘world class’ world that we would like to imagine it as, but a deeply feudal, profoundly colonized, underdeveloped-in-every-sense world of caste-, class-, ethnic-, religious and gender-violence. The Great Indian Middle Class sits on the skin of this world – predatory, parasite, crony – like a hallucinating bug, insulated from the actuality of this world by its hallucinations, protected from its violences – however fragilely – by the chains of ‘democracy’ that bind this world and hold it tightly in place.
Save for a word here or there you can cut and paste this critique into the FIFA spectacle that invaded South Africa.

How sad it is that despite the yellowing of our independent constitutions and the tides of elite spittle that falls on the floors of our respective parliaments we remain, still, so utterly colonised.

Fanon called it right.


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