November 7, 2013.
Fly me to the Moon… or Mars. It doesn't really matter as long as the Indian political and economic elites and sections of the cheer-leading middle classes quench their insatiable patriotic thirst for delusional superpower status. Noises coming from those involved in ‘Mission Mars' state that sending a probe to Mars (ahead of China) will only boost national morale.Read the rest here.
How will sending a probe to the red planet make ‘the nation' feel better? How will spending so much money on such a project make the vast majority of people struggling with rising costs and poor infrastructure feel good? Because the media and certain opinion leaders say it should? Because India will be sitting at the same superpower table as the US – again, because the media and the rich imply it will.
Let's forget about all of India 's problems and focus on the ‘good points', the rich are fond of telling all of the critics. Formula 1, Forbes rich-listers, nuclear weaponry and space: what more could a country desire they state, as its leaders cede food sovereignty to multinational corporations by handing over nature's seeds to Big Agra, sell its public sector infrastructure to private concerns, kill and abuse some of its poorest people to drive hundreds of thousands of them from their lands and leave a legacy for future generations of a chopped down, sold off, wasted, poisoned environment?
Like the mind-numbing dross pumped out of Bollywood, the ‘good points' merely serve to sleep walk the masses into believing in the great Indian dream. And, as with the US version, you have to be asleep to believe it. Part of that dream is an existing prosperous India with its burgeoning middle class, a thriving India with its recent record of high GDP growth and a powerful India straddling the world stage with its new found propensity for self delusion.
But the reality is an India of broken roads and other crumbling infrastructure made from skimped-on materials and dodgy parts courtesy of backhanders and siphoned off cash, an India that harbours its dirty little secret of mass killing of the girl child in (and out of) the womb, an India of media-friendly candlelit marches protesting crimes against the middle classes, but which has little to say about the daily atrocities that constitute a terrible normality for the majority.
Scam after scam, illegal capital flight after illegal capital flight into Swiss banks. The ‘nation-builders' who like us all to concentrate on the ‘good points' and who talk much about boosting national morale with some or other project, while conspiring to stab the people in the back by robbing them of a decent healthcare system, education system, welfare state and infrastructure (2). Yes, India, a country that could have been a shining example of social development, was sacrificed on the altar of greed and corruption for bulging Swiss accounts, for the private pockets of many of the country's public ‘servants', ‘wealth creators' and the multinational vultures who long ago stopped circling and are now swooping (3).
The nation's politicians and rich are often castigated for their criminality. But their actions stem in part from an ‘Indian mindset' that is all too common. It's a mindset nurtured on self-aggrandisement, casteism, bribery, patronage, patriarchy, envy and cheating, traits that are pervasive throughout all social strata. And so when discredited politicians end up within touching distance of being elected PM due to very smart PR work (4) and a mass support base, should we be too surprised that India is in the state it is?
Throw garbage into the street, drive directly at pedestrians with horn blurting to intimidate them out of the way, demand money from local businesses if you are a police official who is that way inclined, watch the latest Bollywood dross, run out and buy some useless product because Kareena, Priyanka or another icon of deception says ‘because you're worth it'… but never ever let this narcissism, this beggar thy neighbour attitude, this ubiquitous mindset, give way to contemplate why the rivers and soils have been poisoned and people are being been made ill (5), agriculture is being hijacked by the likes of Monsanto, land is being grabbed on behalf of any number of corporations, the great nuclear power money fest is in full swing or why people are violently opposing state-corporate power. Much of this is the result of deals hammered out behind closed doors (6,7). Much of it results because too many are conditioned to be ignorant of the facts or to accept that all of the above is necessary.
Bow down to Krishna , Sachin Tendulkar or GDP growth figures? Take your pick, but the outcome is the same. This is a country where the majority sanctify certain animals, places, rivers and mountains for being representations of god or for being somehow touched by the hand of god. It's also a country run by Wall Street sanctioned politicians who convince people to accept or be oblivious to the destruction of the same. The paradox of India , the extremities of India … the glib clichés abound in the literature and brochures on India . As the tourism department says: Incredible India!
And as the herd, the herd conditioned to be bewildered, to loosely paraphrase US commentator Walter Lipman, buys into the rat race imported wholesale from the West and is manipulated by corporate-backed, product-touting celebrities and media, is there any hope for India ?
The same question could also be asked of the US or Europe because similar forces are at work and play on insecurities and weaknesses of people and societies. The damning critique set out here is not reserved for India alone.
*****Comment: This post is in the argument vein of my post comment below.
Some might say we are picking on India and with a peculiar bias but that misses the point of the argument to create sustainable, human rights based democracies.
India's pretensions is about elite manipulation and that does not mean that some in the citizenry do not find solace in its quest to be a world power; this is after all the business of nationalism.
But stoking nationalist fervor is fraught with contradictions, danger and uncertainty.
In whose interests is a mission to Mars?
Last night the public broadcaster here in the delusion trotted out a specialist from South Africa's space agency (yeah we have one) to explain that "we" will be helping guide the Indians to Mars.
Big whooop !!!
We can't fill potholes in most municipalities let alone provide a working infrastructure for healthcare for the masses of poor but we can f*cking help India find its way to Mars. Who knew hey?
This nonsense is the business of elite manipulation and it is at the seat of the trouble we having in creating a post-country that is working and sustainable.
Too much resources are spent on fluff and pretense - and all the makings of neo-liberal fixations on the marketplace, capitalization and entrepreneurship (I hate that f*cking word and the compliant idiots who use it thinking it is somehow a progressive and intellectual concept).
The problem is with the politics of capitalist ascendance - inclusive of its faux aspirations. The state and its elites along with the pretend-wannabe-middle classes are willing to buy into the symbols of arrival.
We need a space mission to Mars to show we have arrived in global politics and power. We not like Lesotho even if there are many Lesothos hidden by our ambition to be just like the US and Russia and China and so on ...
We need expensive German automobiles and clothes off the rack from Paris to look like those in the developed West who sell us our symbols of freedom?
And what about the masses of huddled and impoverished folks blind-sided by all this ambitious manipulation?
Well if they "don't have bread let them eat cake"!
How far have we really come?
And we are not free.