Charlottesville-Attack
nationalism, Politics, Racism, Terrorism

Charlottesville: Wake up call to the terrorism we’ve been silent about

I watched Imperium a few weeks back. I was interested in seeing the transformation of Daniel Radcliffe from the Harry Potter stereotype, as much as I was interested in the theme of the film. An FBI agent infiltrates white supremacist gangs and factions to foil a plot to use dirty bombs in a rally. It was a difficult film to watch, almost cringing at the actors portraying the faction members. And it was difficult to watch knowing the fact that it’s not just a film but a true reflection of the society. These groups exist and these ideologies exist — knowing that was revolting enough. But assuming in reality, the clans must be behaving like this as well made the feeling much worse. I knew that somewhere, this must be happening already, as we are sitting on a ticking time bomb, and it’s just a matter of time when it all blows up. The Charlottesville incidents just proved my fears; not the first instance, but certainly the most broadcasted event in the recent times. It’s time to wake up to racism, and terrorism. And more importantly, to rid off the media bias and call a spade a spade. Charlottesville attacks were terrorist attacks and the governments must gear up to quash such extremist views.

9/11 had permanently changed the world. It made the world polarised. On one side, 9/11 meant more woes to the Middle East because that would just let Uncle Sam interfere in the region in the name of national safety, something that it had been doing for a long time anyway. For the Middle East, American intervention is seen as a symbol of West’s imposition of supposedly higher moral values in the region. This resulted in spreading of Islamist extremism like a wildfire since 9/11 that didn’t stay localised in the Middle East but spread across the globe. Disgusting is the ideology — of killing people of different faiths and race, and disgusting are the people who preach this and carry out the attacks. This is straightforward geopolitics so far.

The infographic here shows how the extremist attacks happened across the world.
(Source: YouTube)

Yet the less talked about change about 9/11 is equally sinister, and it’s not easily perceived. 9/11 brought the fear into the minds of the people — especially in the west. That these extremists can run their killing spree in the west, and that it’s not an issue of mad people killing each other in a faraway land — it blew the bubble of security people were living in. Growing up in the subcontinent where India had been constantly battered by terrorist attacks, we never had that safety bubble that it wouldn’t happen to us. In a day, that absurdity suddenly seemed quite possible.

Fear brings the worst out of us humans. We lose our sense of reasoning and stop trusting people. We look at everyone with suspicion. The heightened fear of a Muslim extremist attack became so apparent that overnight anyone with a Muslim name or appearance was subjected to scrutinies, hate crimes and proving their allegiance to the state. I’d like to mention another brilliant film that captured the transition of mentalities about Muslims during this epoch — The Reluctant Fundamentalist. People felt threatened and wanted to do something to feel safe again. And that paved the path for white supremacy and neo-Nazism.

Poster

Poster from The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Source: Covering Media

White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi rhetoric is not new. They have always been around but never reached a critical mass since WWII, because most people didn’t believe in their threats, nor did the groups have issues to preach their hatred against. 9/11 gave them an enemy. And with people losing their sense of judgement, the white supremacist doomsday threats started to appear credible.

Extremism alone didn’t pave the path for these extremist right wing voices. Over last few decades, the world had become more mobile than it has ever been. With an increased level of business and exposure to education, geographical barriers seemed to be disappearing. That facilitated greater global mobility and it’s evident that the net immigration has increased in the West, especially if in G20 states. Also, apart from the skilled migrants, a number of unskilled immigrants had been on the rise as well, caused by heightened social, political and religious unrest in countries. More people in those conflict torn countries were forced to flee in fear of their life. Not only did these new immigrants raise fear of the increased risk of extremist attacks (“who can say they weren’t terrorist disguised as normal people” etc.), but businesses employed immigrants more to pay less for the same work.

And thus, migrants are linked to joblessness, social unrest, their inability to integrate into the society and imbibe ethos of the state. People started to have a feeling that the minorities have better privileges than the non-migrant population of the country. A feeling that they are losing control of the stronghold they had over the local communities. The situation has worsened with the global economic downturn, and the working class was hit by the housing bubble, unemployment, relocation, poverty. In desperate times, people look for either something to salvage themselves or blame someone for their misery. Immigrants were an easy target. And thus the majority of the large economies with a high net positive migration has witnessed a growing sense of nationalism.

I don’t see any difference between nationalism and racism. Nationalism is a concept to differentiate people who belong to the land, pledge their allegiance no matter if the state is right or wrong, and dissuade diversity. The plague of nationalism is on the surge across the world, but it’s particularly noticeable in the US and Europe. There are docile ones, such as outfits like organisers of #whitelivesmatter, and there are the Neo-Nazi clans. It is even horrific to find that the right-wing nationalist outfits are finding their feet as legitimate set-ups. Recent elections in France, Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Switzerland – nationalists have not only found their foothold in the legislative system but also were close to winning the elections in some cases. That was scary.

It was scary seeing nationalist parties gather so much support, with their politics of hate, but two biggest events last year completely upstaged the notion that common sense will prevail. The UK left the European Union, spurred by the campaign full of lies and scaremongering about immigration. And on the other side of the pond, Donald Trump has become the most powerful man on earth. Different countries, same rhetoric. The UK, despite its receding importance in the global political landscape, delivered a boost to all nationalist voices around the world. The aftermath of Brexit is, of course, the election of Donald Trump. Desperate working-class people, trying to change their living conditions, have fallen prey to the opportunist vultures, supported by expensive campaigns, sourced from the donors who benefit most from the election results.

It’s a long prelude to the Charlottesville attacks. The conflict was always due coming. The signs were all there. Brexit wasn’t that much of a threat on a global scale, although the heightened levels of hate and race crimes since the Brexit results show that a lot of people wore a mask before, of being open-minded, liberal – and suddenly, their true self is out in the open. But the biggest threat is the orange clown sitting at the White House. A complete moron with immense power is never a good combination and seeing all nationalist people across the world hailing him a hero, it spells danger. This may sound controversial, but Donald Trump, with all his shockingly horrific views on Americanism, being elected to the White House is equally cringeworthy as was the declaration of Al-Baghdadi his Caliphate. One’s vile, the other’s evil, both morons, both have thousands of moron followers who hails them and acts to their orders without thinking…you get the picture, right?

Charlottesville is scary for another reason. For the nationalists, the common demographic happened to be white working class – disenfranchised, marginalised public. However, many of the Charlottesville alt-right protesters were university students, a segment typically seen to be left wing. It is worrying that the sphere of influence has grown in size. The anti-immigrant nationalist rhetoric has reached beyond its grassroots support base. People are more prejudiced and eager to show their racial bias under the helm of the new leaders. Yet the situation observed in Charlottesville was more disturbing, seeing the alt-right drop its reformist mask and show their white supremacist face. They gave Nazi salutes, bore the Confederate cross, chanted anti-Semitic slogans, and then stooped to another low by planning to use murdered Heather Heyer’s funeral. This is the real face of America’s alt-right. If their agenda of nationalism is desperate, their white supremacist ideology is pure evil. And if you think that’s an American problem, you’re making the same mistake as done while branding Muslim extremism a Middle East problem. Just look at the anti-immigrant sentiment that swept through Britain post-Brexit. Then there are anti-Islam Britain First and EDL, who want to portray every Muslim in the UK as terrorists. But there’s a larger hidden threat, from lesser known outfits, such as National Action.

Terrorist. That’s a term I consciously avoided so far because media semantics is another area that needs immediate rethinking. Okay. Imagine a terrorist. What do you see? A Muslim man, long beard, possibly carrying a rucksack? Was it far off my guess? What about hate preacher? Middle age Muslim man with long beards and even better if he wore a cap? Well, as far as Islamist terrorist or hate preaching goes, these images probably match the profiles of the most notorious ones. How do the following people fit in the profile of a terrorist? Timothy McVeigh, Anders Breivik, KKK, hundreds of killers involved in school shootings, IRA, ETA. They are all white, perhaps Christians as well. And that’s just one demographic section. There are examples from all corners of the world. There are governments carrying out organised ethnic cleansing – directly or indirectly. The new addition to that list of terrorists is James Fields. Yet, we seem to be too frivolous to use the term terrorist with Muslim attacks and try our best not to use the term for any other community. What about hate preachers? What about The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Britain First, EDL, Nigel Farage and UKIP, Front National, Jobbik, Geert Wilders, Golden Dawn? What about Katie Hopkins? And above all, the Donald Trump, spending more time posting halfwit tweets slagging off half the world’s population? Do you see these people as hate preachers? I guess not, but they no doubt are. The jihadi extremists do it in the name of their religion, and the other bunch does it from a moral high ground. They think they represent liberal western civilisation. They are wrong. Their views are as primitive as is the Islamist terrorists they are directing their hatred.

And this is what is worrying. That these opportunist people are given a platform – by the media, by the public, by the system – to spread their hatred. There was a speculation whether Charlottesville spelled the end of the alt-right in America. On the contrary, it was found that its supporters became bolder and flew Swastikas on their house in the open. It was all there in Charlottesville – Confederate flag, Swastikas, Nazi salute, chants like “Blood and soil” and “Jews won’t replace us”. It was a shameless display of blatant racism and equally shameful silence from a waste of a space president. He stayed silent as long as possible – which already emboldened the Neo-Nazis, and then a meek criticism that seemed completely unlike Donald Trump speech. His vocabulary does not stretch to repugnant. Then he made a U-turn by calling the protesters alt-left and tried to blame both parties of intolerance. And then he defended keeping the Confederate statues that caused the clash. The president spoke of bigotry, yet he turned out to be the biggest bigot during this crisis.

The killing of Heather Heyer and the two police officers are abhorrent. It was unfortunate that it took the death of three people to get the condemnation of the rally it deserved at the very first place. But it’s not all gloomy. The resistance and the counter-protests have gathered more supporters than the white supremacist militias did. It is a consolation that the picture is the same in most of the places, wherever the fascists held a rally, they either give up or outnumbered and overshadowed by the anti-racism supporters. There was a stream of photos that went viral where one Neo-Nazi is seen to be punched in the face after he did a Nazi salute. Now, the judgement is divided whether the use of violence was justified. Probably not. But let’s draw a parallel here. During an Islamist terrorist attack, the entire Muslim community is expected to prove their allegiance to the government, criticising the attack. If they don’t do it, it is expected that they discretely support terrorism. The white supremacists, on the other hand, adhere to the views of America’s dark racist past. If the Muslim terror suspects and sympathisers can be kept under surveillance and arrested, why couldn’t their counterparts? And lastly, it’s crazy how a Muslim terrorist is shot dead within seconds whilst Anders Breiviks and James Fields are safely led away by police, despite their crime was equally despicable. And supporting a movement that committed the most heinous crimes of the twentieth century, the neo-Nazis show that essentially there is no difference in them and the supporters of Islamist extremism. Their objective is no different. But there is not attempt to criticise them as terrorist sympathisers.

From that perspective, the best work is probably done by an anonymous twitter user @YesYoureRacist, by identifying all alt-right supporters on the rally. In a group, people do awful things, but when they realise that they are singled out, that might put an end to their little adventure with the big boys. It’s sort of vigilantism, which is a questionable trend, but it should have been the police and intelligence to identify them and monitor of their movements. They failed, so somebody had to bring it out in the daylight. The little escapades of these tin soldiers had to be made public. Some might end up losing jobs, being socially outcast in the community, rethink their mistakes and follow a normal course of life. The few others, let’s call them terrorist material, should then have to be kept under surveillance by the police as potential terror suspects.

Nazism didn’t happen in Germany overnight. It started with the election of an overzealous maniac by popular mandate. And the history repeated itself again last year. Unless uprooted at its nascent stage, it will be too late. The right-wing already are in the motion. They are given more voice in the media for some reason anyway. The popularity of the right-wing press is mind-boggling. Perhaps the media watchdog wanted to observe the freedom of speech a little more. But what is freedom of speech for rabid dogs? That’s what these fanatics are. It’s a pity that many feel marginalised in the new ethical world but joining a fanatical movement is not going to solve the problem. Brexit happened last year. Trump was elected eight months back. Where did all the promises go? Apart from the failed attempts to implement racist Muslim ban and the Mexico wall, Trump managed to do fuck all. Either people are already beginning to realise that it was all lies and empty boasts, or they are brainwashed enough not to see that nothing’s happening. They have become right-wing automatons. They can’t see that religion, culture, social cohesion — none of it is the root of the problem. It’s the wealth, and its distribution. This sentence might make you brand me as a Commie, but I don’t mind, just as I think that if you support this then you are a racist, and you are trying to sugar coat it with patriotism and culture and all other nonsense.

This is why, it is absolutely paramount that we do everything to prevent this wildfire of hatred. And for that, people will need to speak up. Disagreeing in silence will not give a clear message that you are opposed to the horrific ideas of the neo-Nazis. We need to square up to them. Protest can be as cynical as by brave Saffiyah Khan, smirking on the face of the Britain First scum, or literally punching them. You have to match them strength to strength. Violence cannot be the solution, but where the far-right form militias, hold camps on how to attack/fight the enemy (who is the enemy anyway?), or to the least, resort to intimidation and a racial slur, repeating lines of Das Kapital or Beatles is not going to make much difference, will it? There is no space for debate yet because that’s not what the Neo-Nazis are after. They have the pseudo alt-right mouthpieces like Milo Yannopoulos and Tommy Robinson but they are just red herrings, the agent provocateurs. They are dangerous as their reach spans the furthest, in terms of brainwashing the confused and misrepresented youth, but it’s the lesser known direct action groups that people need to watch out for. They are possibly hard to identify, and their whereabouts, therefore, stay unknown to the authorities and protestors. Take a parallel with the Islamist extremism. You have hate preachers like Anjem Chaudhury, who provokes the youth, and perhaps preaches them about carrying out attacks, but is never found to be linked directly to any of the terrorist attacks. Then you have/had the notorious terrorists like Bin Laden, Al-Baghdadi, the Samantha Lewthwaite…they are masterminds but are so heavily monitored that it’s unlikely that they’ll be involved in the attacks themselves. But it’s the unknown brainwashed misguided marginalised people, working in little sleeper cells, who are carrying out the majority of the terrorist attacks. London, Nice, Barcelona, Paris — it’s the less known or unknown faces that are involved in the attacks. Just like James Fields. An unknown and unsuspecting individual. It is important to gather and pass information so these terrorists are identified. Identified so police track their whereabouts and also identified amongst the anti-racism and other protest groups. Outnumbering the opposition is a great tactic and so far, it worked great in the UK where the protesters relentlessly outnumbered the right-wing demonstrators in every rally. And when the threat of white-supremacist zealots have calmed down, and people see the emptiness of their propaganda, then it’s the time to engage in talks. Talks to the vulnerable, underprivileged section of the population who have been continuously exploited and given false hope of a brighter future. It’s only by education, and by forming a truly inclusive society can we rid of the evils of racism and religious hatred.

Going back to where I started, talking about Daniel Radcliffe, I am a big fan of Harry Potter books. They drew inspiration from many modern day events and that’s why the significance of the books never fade away from the memory. You just keep on identifying incidents with the book, and you get a new meaning of the series. The reign of terror ran by Voldemort and his death eaters were reminiscent of the Nazi Germany. The persecution of the muggles and witches born in non-wizarding family reminded of the atrocities of the Third Reich. Apart from the historical accounts of the WWII, Harry Potter books showed how the reign of terror actually started. A sudden appearance of the dark mark in the sky. March of past by the death eaters. Death of an individual. The government’s attempt to play it down. Persecution of the ones who asked for tougher measures. Failures of the government to protect the vulnerable. Until it’s beyond control. This is how just things unfold in Harry Potter. And this is how the first signs have started appearing. Terrorism is evil for humankind. The governments are doing enough to curb Islamist terrorism, but not enough to eliminate the threats posed by the Neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, the alt-right. The threat should have been taken seriously for a long time, but the movement is nigh on getting its critical mass. It’s time to act fast. It’s not the time to be philosophical about the problem but quash it brutally, before it turns into a raging wildfire of communal hatred that will engulf our entire society irrespective of colour, race, religion.

I am an alarmist. And I see patterns. And the patterns like above do not bode well. At the end of Harry Potter, everybody fought together to defeat the evil forces of Voldemort. Battle of Hogwarts gave us hope. That in the end, the Good wins. Yet, the reality is far more complicated than the book. We don’t always get the happy ending. Can we fight together shoulder to shoulder forgetting our petty differences? Because that’s what is needed to achieve that goal. To give Donald Trump and his “fine people” alt-right a kick up their backside. Let’s hope that the history doesn’t repeat itself, and we keep on hoping that the threats of white-supremacist and far-right extremisms are uprooted at its nascent stage.

As I write this, 16 people were killed in a terrorist attack in Barcelona, two were killed in Finland, and there were a number of attempts including in Buckingham Palace, Paris and Brussels. So the threat of Islamist terrorism is very real, and it’s not going to be resolved in our lifetime. But creating another monster to eliminate that threat is suicidal. Killing terrorists or even surveillance are reactive measures, which is necessary, but not sustainable. The threat of homegrown terrorism can only be countered through the social inclusion of the youth. And it is essential to change the perception of the public on terrorism. All the events above are well covered in the media. What unfortunately didn’t get so much public attention is the fact that the death toll is much higher in a number of attacks carried out in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Nigeria. Most of these are carried out by Islamist terrorists. The public apathy towards extremism outside Europe and North America is one of the main reasons how the dangers of religious/nationalist extremism have spread across the world. And the proliferation of the nationalism and racism. Islamist and Right-wing extremism aren’t even the two sides of the coin; they are absolutely identical in nature. They rely on hate, they are divisive and wants to destroy the fabric of the modern multicultural society. It’s reassuring that the threat of Islamist terrorism is well identified, but it’s also essential that we don’t turn a blind eye to the other. Wikipedia shows there are 199 terrorist attacks in August across the world. But Heather Heyer does not feature in that list of victims. She damn well should.
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Equality, Politics, Socialism

Two observations on equality inequation

We were just returning from our week long break in Paris. The day was hot, at times in mid-thirties. We anticipated a cooler weather in the UK. When we reached Folkestone, the temperature didn’t plummet. I thought for a brief moment that it was perhaps the wrong week to be on holiday. It would have been better had the weather here been worse.

But that thought made me think further. Why is it that the weather had to be worse here to make a holiday abroad seem more pleasant? Is it because spending all the money and effort for a break away from the usual cold and damp weather now seemed worthless because anybody who stayed here enjoyed the sun just the same? And is it not the same problem with the wealth? No matter how well off one seems to be, they don’t feel exclusive enough if the others had what they have. That we are not happy with what we have got, no matter how much it is — isn’t that the first symptom of inequality of wealth? Sunshine is ubiquitous, just like all resources on earth that we exploit, but we all want a bigger share. So when we look in contempt at other people for being wealthy and not doing enough to help the poor, we should look at ourselves as well. WE, are part of it, and it needs reminding all the time if we even hope to make a difference one day.

The day after, we were eating Father’s Day dinner in a restaurant. It’s not a Michelin star place, but a chain restaurant mainly catered for middle-class clientele. I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation at the table next to us. A middle-aged man, his Aussie partner and opposite them sat a young man of early twenties with headphone on the ear and a woman about the same age. It seemed it was the boy’s family and the girl was the girlfriend. They were talking about the Grenfell Tower and the young woman was vociferously explaining the shortcomings of the councils, the legal implications, where Labour was wrong, where Tories were wrong. She sounded compelling and had won the debate at the table.

Yet, her argument, albeit filled with facts and legal jargon, lacked a basic factor. It lacked empathy for the families that were ruined — the human factor in the equation of the accountabilities. She is a Uni student, and with her knowledge, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was doing politics. I thought of the a time if she became a politician. She could present an excellent speech but could still be totally aloof from the people she’s standing up for.

The political elite of this country, irrespective of the party, has this issue of connecting with the common public. If not all, the majority of them, especially the party frontbenchers, hails from a privileged upbringing, and learned politics as theory and analysing the history rather than following the first principles of politics — understanding people. And by not understanding the public or by making the public think that politicians are above their class, it alienated public from most mainstream politicians and paved paths for opportunistic populist parties. The image of one Nigel Farage holding a pint of beer comes to mind.

Brexit results showed the danger of populism and the permanent damage it’ll inflict on the course of UK’s future. It’s about time that the mainstream parties start diversifying their candidate portfolio. A number of barriers have been broken in recent years in terms of politics and inclusion of candidates of various background, but classism is another hurdle to overcome. Social engineering in UK public service is a fact, and unless this prejudices are removed, a politician will never be representative of the public they are meant to represent.

And this realisation brought home the two random thoughts together. We live in a society where we are taught seek more, have more than others. Our actions define our own future, and others’ as well. Until we reach a point where we learn to think differently or our inherent tendency to create inequality is neutralised by a system fair to all, we will not be living in a society we can be proud to be a part of. And to achieve an equal society, the equality should not be devolved or merely representative, but the equality which will be entitled, ubiquitous.

But then, will it ever happen? After all, sitting here, writing about all this rather than doing something about it, I’ve just followed the benevolent socialist bandwagon, who talks about reforming the world but does nothing.
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Equality, Racism

The white man in that photo: Griotmag homage to Peter Norman

It was a historic moment. I had seen the photo in many books on Olympics, a fascination of my teens. Most of the photos only featured Tommie Smith and John Carlos in their epic Black Power salute, fists in black gloves, thrust indignantly in air, and their heads bowed down, feet bare. I did not fully understood the significance on the photo then, but it exuded a sign of defiance, just as did the photo of the lone protester in front of the tank in Tiananmen square. Knowing about the Civil Rights Movement, the enormity of the protest became clearer. It was one of the momentous photo of the twentieth century, a photo that makes time stand still, a photo made me speechless, in anger, in solidarity and in respect.

But media is a weird thing. They go at great lengths obscuring the complete picture, and only represent the distorted version to suit them and their reader base. And thus, the story of Peter Norman, another legend who was as much part of the protest as was the two Americans, remained out of limelight. He remained “The other white man” in that iconic photo. Nearly 50 years later, his record still remains an Australian record for 200m sprint. Yet, Norman was shunned in his own country for donning the badge Smith and Carlos wore during their salute, and never represented Australia in Olympics again. It took Australian Parliament to officially apologise for their discrimination that ruined the career of one of their greatest sporting heroes.

Apart from the record books, Peter Norman was not known to me until today. Yet, his enormous athletic achievement during the final race was eclipsed by what he did on that award ceremony. On that day, he stood up for humanity, he stood up for a cause that he believed in, against injustice, only to go back home in ignominy and shame.

Peter Norman, the Silver medal winner stands in the podium with Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their momentous Black Power Salute, seen wearing the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge
Source : Griotmag

The main article from Griotmag is shared here, featuring Peter Norman, The white man in that photo1

Once the famous poet tagore dedicated this song to the Indian freedom fighter Subhash Bose:

If they answer not to your call walk alone
If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall,
O thou unlucky one,
open your mind and speak out alone.
If they turn away, and desert you when crossing the wilderness,
O thou unlucky one,
trample the thorns under thy tread,
and along the blood-lined track travel alone.
If they shut doors and do not hold up the light when the night is troubled with storm,
O thou unlucky one,
with the thunder flame of pain ignite your own heart,
and let it burn alone.

On that epic day in Mexico City in 1968, three young sprinters stood up in solidarity for the oppression of the black Americans. They knew what awaits them once they came off that podium. Smith and Carlos later became a champion for their cause as USA embraced diversity following the Civil Rights Movement. Norman remained a pariah even after his death, the retribution of the AOC still denying his due respect. But they were well aware of their fate, and decided to stand for what they believed in. In the words of Tagore, they trod on the blood-lined track alone, for humanity, for a balanced society, for a better world. They are inspirations to millions, who believe in a cause, yet, don’t stand up for it against the whole world. They made us believe that if we stand by our ideas, and beliefs, and if the whole world does not agree, stand firm still in defiance to the world, and it will change, if not in our lifetime, but one day2…So let’s not forget Peter Norman, the unsung hero of the Olympics Black Power salute, so his sacrifice of a lifetime does not disappear into oblivion.

1. The original article by Italian writer Riccardo Gazzaniga L’uomo bianco in quella foto.
2. Australian Parliament issued an apology for their discrimination against Peter Norman. Australian Olympic Committee, however, refused the claims and in fact asked for a retraction and apology from the author and the magazine retraction and apology from the author and the magazine

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Feminism, Politics

Planned parenthood shootings and the future of pro-Choice debate

Ever since reaching the age of conscience — that is becoming a twenty-somethings for me, I was always at the pro-choice side of the debate than pro-life. I still am, but perhaps the hard pro-choice stance, which could often be misconstrued as anti-life, had softened over the years, especially during and after the birth of our first child. As we went through various stages of my wife’s pregnancy, and looking at numerous books showing how the fœtus must be doing and looking like, it made me realise that taking a stance for or against abortion on an absolute basis is not as straightforward because of the multifaceted nature of the issue. The two opposing camps have always waged a battle against each other, trying to undermine the views of the other side, and an empathic reconciliation has never taken place. I must admit, taking the pro-choice side, I have always been cognisant and critical of the pro-life arguments, and therefore, rightly or wrongly, I thought that the pro-life argument has always been very loud and desperate to win over supports, compared to the pro-choice campaigns. Adding the religious dimension on pro-life, the arguments also appeared seemingly outdated. The recent Planned Parenthood shootings took the perennial debate to a new and dangerous level, where people would be ready to kill the dissidents. Planned Parenthood shootings demonstrated the root of this rift between the two warring camps transcends the bias or prejudice of the pro-life campaigners and it delves into their identity, religion, race and other dimensions.

Growing up in 80’s India in a middle class background, discussions around sex was limited to sex education classes in a handful of private schools. Beyond that, everything was discussed behind closed doors. Whilst women still had their mother or other motherly figures to turn to, men ended up in a much worse situation with no sexual education apart from turning to porn or that one famous friend who magically managed to have some sex. The concept of abortion was taboo, partly due to religious and societal paradigm and partly due to lack of knowledge and government help. The contraception had just started to dawn on people, as an alternative to accepting each pregnancy with joy or stress.

With such a background, my first encounter with abortion was through opening of a new Marie Stopes Clinic in Calcutta — in a lush green parkland I often visited. Before the privatisation and swank private hospitals, the edifice of Marie Stopes clinic was a shining beacon of private healthcare. On various advertisements and at the entrance of the building showed a sign ‘Infertility clinic’. Although I wasn’t very familiar with the term infertility, I guessed what it was after a few years, whilst reading John Grisham, Erich Segal and Sidney Sheldon, coming across the term “back alley butchers”. It was perhaps those late teen years when I first realised the trauma, social stigma and persecution surrounding the issue of abortion.

A banner from Marie Stopes clinic in India

A banner from Marie Stopes clinic in India
Source: Marie Stopes Clinic India website

During my first thirty years of life in India, the issue of abortion revolved around gender and religion, than personal choice in most of the time. India had had a long history, especially in the majority Hindu caste system, of a patriarchal society, and thereby treating women as burden to the parents and men as the bread winners as well as the superior genders. Birth of a girl child not only meant a lifelong debts for the family to afford the dowry to “marry off” the girl, but also and end to the family line, carrying the family surnames and the heritage forward into the next generation. For the age old despicable dowry system, birth of a girl child was unwelcome and often resulting the parents keeping on having children until they had a boy, or in worse case, female infanticide in rural areas. With the advent of modern medical science, detection of the gender if the foetus gave rise to another malicious practice — predetermination of the sex and termination of the foetus if it was a girl. It was only in the nineties that the government decided to act and banned the prenatal sex determination to abolish sex selective abortions. Before this rule was passed by the Supreme Court of India, millions of women have been subjected to inhuman treatments — from quacks prescribing unknown drugs and herbs to the back alley butchers — it was not just the foetus that was terminated, but the mothers ended up permanently unable to have children any more, leading to another societal stigma of being infertile, or worse, being killed in the termination process. Not to mention the social trauma of going through the experience without any support in order to avoid drawing neighbours’/extended families’ attention. The sex-selective abortion was not as dominant in the Muslim population, but apart from religion, the Muslim community was and still is primarily patriarchal like Hindus; thereby putting a preference on the male child. If the Muslim women were not protected by the Islamic rules, the gender superiority, often observed in a Muslim household, would have forced many more women into terminating the foetus due to the societal preference of gender. Marie Stopes and similar clinics provided a professional and compassionate alternative to women through the period prior to the actual procedure. However, in an urban setting, with possibly extortionate prices, this may have provided an alternative to only a handful of women from affluent background. The suffering for rest of the women still continued until the Prenatal gender detection was banned.

However, amongst the Gen Y population in the urban areas, with education and more liberal points of view compared to the previous parochial generations, the taboo of abortion was much less stigmatised than before. The conversation amongst men and women were more open, although the areas such as sex, abortion, pregnancy, period were still veiled under a secrecy – only being revealed to the close confidantes. In late ’90s and early 2000s, abortion in the urban setting was discussed more openly and people were aware of the modes of contraception, and the morning after pills in case of unprotected sex. The fact that the medical help is available to discuss termination of unwanted pregnancies itself lifted a weight off the women from the new generation. Nevertheless, the plight of rural women continued with illegal street-side health centres mushrooming in small towns ready to carry out gender test under the guise of checking the health of the foetus. These clinics also carried out abortions as an outcome of the gender determinations. In the urban areas, however, abortion started to become a choice finally, rather than an imposition from religious or social situations. The women did not shy away discussing the technical details with the doctors and get professional opinion on the methods of abortion based on the stages of pregnancy. It became a question of more women having specific plans for the future and a child did not fit in that plan, nor was there any impulsion to continue with a pregnancy by mistake for the rest of the live. Even though the question of abortion was becoming a question of choice, the secrecy and shame has not been lifted entirely, and it appeared that if the female fœticide factor is removed, the amount of Indian women choosing to have abort a fœtus was still a small number.

When I emigrated to Western Europe, I expected the amount of pro-choice people would increase significantly. On the contrary, what I found from the media, is that the society is more pro-life orientated. In fact a report showed that Western Europe has the lowest abortion rates in the world at 12 per 1000, whilst Eastern Europe top the list with approx 43, and the rest of the world is scattered somewhere in between. My initial ideas of more liberal places to have more liberal views on burning issues like abortion were shattered. It was expected that the percentage of the population pro-choice in the USA would be relatively low due to large conservative republican belts, but finding the rates for Western European was entirely perplexing. However, the more I acclimatised with the Western European society, the reasons became clearer for the low rates.

First, the entire Western Europe has a phenomenal welfare system in place, including healthcare and its access to the majority of the population. Apart from religious grounds and misogyny, perhaps the biggest factor for women deciding on abortion is their financial situation, the affordability of providing for another life. The welfare system ensures that that worry is taken away, and the parents/ mothers get state allowances for each child to cater for their needs. The healthcare and education is free as well for children and this may have swayed the women to carry on with the pregnancy. Second, the quality and value of life is seen at a different perspective in Western Europe compared to many places in the world. That the fœtus is still a living organism with possible feelings and sensations make people less willing to carry on with the termination. The education and behavioural aspect of treating living beings with compassion perhaps deters many of the expectant mothers terminate the fœtus. Third, and this perhaps applies to numerous women in developing countries where premarital pregnancy is still a social stigma that resulted in abortion. In Western Europe, the social stigma around children outside wedlock or single parenthood is nearly abolished other than pockets of orthodox conservative regions/communities. Also, the religious bias and the doctrines from Christian and Muslim — the two biggest communities excluding atheists, are against abortion; hence, regardless of the strong affiliation to a religion, people generally tend to live by the religious values and thereby deciding against their choice to abort the fœtus.

The previous few sections described how the observations regarding abortion spanned a large number of wider aspects such as religion, economic situation, values, lifestyles etc. However, that only represents some possible reasons why abortion rates vary across regions and the factors influencing that difference. The main debate of this article between pro-life and pro-choice camps. So, what can be observed from the pro-life and pro-choice campaigns across the countries and various places?

One fact is very clear that neither of the sides are very accommodating to the views of the other nor are willing to lose any ground. The pro-choice campaign obviously gathered momentum with more number of women becoming independent in the patriarchal society and growing number of liberal voices in favour of leaving the decision to the woman, who is actually going to carry the child. The pro-choice supporters however, at times, go beyond their primary objective of letting the mother choose whether to keep the baby, and meddle with branding the pro-life activists as primitive, oppressive and authoritative. With such adversity and acrimony, the purpose of the pro-choice movement is often lost. Often the pro-choice movement appears as a reactionary pressure group against the provocative pro-life campaign. On the other hand, the pro-life campaign has held the moral high ground since the religious texts existed. The life was treated as a gift of almighty God that humankind cannot refuse. Certain texts define the time when the fœtus transforms to life and be considered as containing a soul, thereby prohibiting it to be terminated. Since then, the rhetoric has kept being evolved and the tactics adopted by the pro-life campaigns on present day still are passively coercive, and abominable. Apart from making the women feel continuously guilty by reiterating the “life” and “feeling” of the fœtus in various contexts — be it the pædiatrician telling what the baby can and can’t feel at different stages, or the numerous pregnancy books charting the fœtus’ progress from first week, or the sensationalist media heralding every celebrity childbirth as cover story. The inherent message is quite succinctly delivered as though motherhood is the pinnacle of a woman’s identity. Apart from such implicit anti-choice messages, there are direct actions to discourage abortions, such as legislations for doctors to make women listen to the fœtus’ heartbeat before termination, banning entities supporting abortions from public schools, or in case of recent Planned Parenthood clinic, a reduction in state funding. Whilst writing this article, I came across an article how thousands of women travel from Ireland to England to have abortions, as abortion is illegal in the republic and punishable offence in the Northern Ireland. The political bias is in most cases conservative — irrespective of the parties implementing the policies, to avoid losing public support as the majority in Western Europe are still pro-life. The pro-life campaign had successfully stigmatised the abortion through such connotative and explicit actions. And since this process has been going on across generations, children grow up accepting that is the only version truth, not following the norm is tantamount seceding being a model person.

As the voices against such organised brainwashing became louder, the pro-life line of attack changed its subtlety and started direct threats to the activists supporting for pro-choice or the clinics carrying out abortions. There has been incidents of violence against pro-choice such as mob raids, arson and bombing at abortion centres in the past with the authority turning a blind eye on the perpetrators. On 27th November, a man entered a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, and opened fire killing three people and injuring many more. After a long stand-off with the police, a certain Robert Dear was arrested, yet he is only referred as a suspect. Where police shoots innocents in other parts of the USA on the basis of their colour or ethnicity, it was surprising how Dear was arrested without any injury despite the gravity of the attack, and the police is still very silent about convicting him. During his interview, it was rumoured that he mentioned “no more baby parts”, exactly the same words shown in the media coverage on a series of sting operations at Planned Parenthood Colorado Springs centre, allegedly giving body parts to the research laboratories after the abortion. Although Planned Parenthood categorically denied the claims, the link between these sensationalist media coverages and the shootings cannot be denied. The aftermath of the shooting was even more shocking and only proves what significance do women’s rights hold in the USA. Rather than passing stricter gun control laws or providing extra security for other clinics, the state authorities defunding for the Planned Parenthood clinic, citing a legislation that abortion is not family planning! Each year governments pass numerous legislations, debated by male dominant parliaments and committees, and the majority of such legislations are anti-choice, taking funding away from clinics, discussing parenting and prenatal developments to women undergoing elective abortions, and many other small measures that are seemingly insignificant but collectively undermine the pro-choice rights and options.

I have mentioned at the beginning that going through my wife’s pregnancy for our first child was an amazing experience and it moderated my views on abortion from hard pro-choice to pro-choice with some appreciation for the fœtus that develops at a phenomenal rate. Whilst sex-selective abortions should be banned as legislated in India, taking a point from the pro-life campaign, never mind the soul, but the fœtus should only be terminated up to a period when it does not experience pain. On the other hand, is there any medical research that can unequivocally say when it starts having feelings? Aren’t most of the existing literature regarding childbirth focus on how wonderful the phenomenon of birth is? Don’t they almost emotionally blackmail a pregnant woman about choosing to continue with the childbirth? The answers aren’t probably straightforward, and in the end, abortion could be a stressful procedure, both mentally and physically. How I interpret it is, that the pro-choice argument, contrary to how it is portrayed as anti-life campaign, is not about preaching the killing of fœtus at all, but merely presenting a choice to women whether they would want to continue with their pregnancy. It’s all about removing the social stigma of abortion and as a result passively force women to continue with the pregnancy. Pro-choice is about the way of life, where one always has the two options unanimously and chooses to take the path as desired by their plans for the future. Abortion should be a natural questions and scenario to be discussed with the paediatrician where they could ask the woman if she wants to keep the child, as well as the women should expect the question and not be offended by the suggestion of termination being an option for the pregnancy.

Pro-choice is still an utopia in this present world. Whilst pro-life campaigners turning more violent with time, and the governments bringing more legislations that are anti-choice, the pro-choice movement does not have the momentum to effect the change in public psychology nor the legal side of the matter. It will need more campaigns, more people speaking out about abortion rather than treating it shameful and taboo. People like Jex Blackmore, who, through her Unmother diaries, shared experiences undergoing an abortion and the stereotyping she experienced. The campaign needs to be loud enough to be heard beyond the closed doors of the parliaments, so one must be vociferous about their support to the pro-choice campaign, but at the same time, hostilities towards pro-lifers would not help achieve the objective. However, I hope that with time and more liberalisation of the society, a pro-choice society will not be a far-fetched dream but a reality of tomorrow, despite the trials and tribulations and demonisations of today…

PS: I believe abortion and pro-choice campaign is a feminist agenda at present, rather than humanist, and I am unsure how and where a man like me, with their own prejudices, should stand. Reading from various contemporary newspaper articles and blogs, it appears that one arm of feminism is completely anarchic – it treats even men supporting feminism to be patronising, and thus consciously or unconsciously emboldening their patriarchal nature. I cannot argue against that school of thought, as not being sure what a man’s position should be on issues such as this. The other line of thought is more classical feminism, where women fight for equality and earn it rather than the male-dominant society divesting the powers to women as they pleased. With that line of though, I could identify myself as a feminist or a humanist supporting equality on all fronts. From that aspect, I would treat this as a feminist blog, but if this does appear patronising, I apologise in advance for my ignorance.
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Economics, Politics

Greek debt crisis: A mockery of European policies

In one of her recent speeches, the youngest MP in Britain Mhairi Black referred the Labour Legend Tony Benn, who once said that in politics there are always weathercocks and signposts. Weathercocks spin incessantly, no matter what direction the wind in blowing. On the contrary, signposts are always pointing to the right direction they are meant to represent. We all talk about politics is a game of charades and in our time this has become a fait accompli. During my postgraduate year there was a lecture on the session for organisational behaviour and how one should never deviate from their true north, which are the core ethos for their very existence – their raison d’être. During recent times, no worse event demonstrated the bigotry of the political powers in today’s world, than the debacle of the Greek austerity drama and the Grexit paradigm. 

 
To the rest of the world, Europe appears to be the shining beacon of socialism, equality, culture, diversity — the land of prosperity and fairness. It was difficult to conceive that any European economy would be on the brink of disaster. I was first aware of the problem with the Greek economy in around 2000 when IOC expressed serious concerns of the ability of the Greek government to host the 2004 Athens summer Olympics. They finally did put on a great show but it was beyond possible to mask the fact that the country was struggling financially. In recent time, the state of disrepair and dilapidation of the Olympics sites around Athens are shown as evidence of Greece on the verge of bankruptcy — the state the world is much indebted to as the forerunner of modern philosophy, science and governance. The juggernaut of time has brought a state that ruled the entire known world to a penniless desperation. Beyond Greece’s penury, this begs an even more pertinent question to the rest if the world — this is happening in Europe, within the Eurozone, and how did this ever allowed to happen? 
 
The aim of this essay is not a quantitative analysis of the Greek economy and its decline, nor of the Eurozone, but an assessment of the situation from a wider subjective angle, asking more basic questions of economics and the underlying political dogma. This will also view EU in a different light, where the benevolent champion of humanism and societal excellence will appear as the autocratic Tsarist state threatening any doubters or dissidents to subjugation. To great believers in the EU and Eurozone project, including myself, this is an affair ringing a wake-up call on whether the EU has become a Frankenstein of our time, as has in recent past the likes of Al-Qaeda or ISIL. 
 
In simpleton terms, it perhaps all began in late twentieth century, when Greece joined the Eurozone and changed their currency to Euro from Drachma. This cannot be assumed that everything was impeccable before joining EU, and at the early stage this must have helped the Greek economy massively due to the reduced borrowing risk as well as exporting merchandise outside the Eurozone. The fissures started to show after introducing the Euro to Greek economy, whereby the labour costs suddenly soared making the Greek businesses less lucrative to the outside world as well as the profit margin decreased, and hence the shrinkage of the GDP. It can be imagined that in 2008, when big European economic powerhouses like Germany and France were trying to put their house in order, all excessive funding Greece have been receiving must have dried out. At this crucial juncture, Greece faced the hardest time for its economy as the jobs were lost, unemployment risen the a record high and all European finance aid stopped. As a result the government failed to pay the loan payment to the likes of IMF. It turned out that failing to pay the loan is partly Greek government’s fault as they continuously published lower trade and budget deficits than actual. The other issue was tax evasion, where the economy was badly affected. One colleague would tell me an anecdote how people leave the steel rebars out of the roof of the buildings showing it as incomplete, so they pay less tax on properties. It was at this desolate time when the Greek government had failed a number of repayments, the moral of the citizen at the rock bottom that the people of Greece chose the communist party Syriza, to take a different line of approach on governance, corruption and the European big brother dominance. At the helm of the party — a young leader Alexis Tsipras and in charge of getting the economy back on track was an economic professor at the university of Athens, Yannis Varoufakis. 
 
Syriza’s ascension to power came at a time when Greece was going to be hit by more stringent austerity measures, while it was already teetering on the edge. Syriza promised a massive shuffle up in the governance as well as reject any austerity measures that put Greek people in further misery. They tried to do as they stated, and thwart back to the lenders and the EU superpowers like Germany, and instantly became the bad boys of the EU, the cowboys playing with the harmonious European existence with their cavalier economic theory and political polarisation. Since then, the Syriza party leadership has been through enormous threats and arm-twisting, which Yannis Varoufakis quite aptly put “closed door mental waterboarding”. The Grexit as we know it, was a possible outcome of this period of contest between Syriza and the European lenders, more commonly known as troika. The Greek economy went into a state of frenzy as people withdrew money in fear of a possible exit from EU, banks ran out of money and the troika refused to issue any more money to allow liquidity in Greek economy.  Syriza, to show that they are not a conglomeration of quixotic Cowboys, and that they actually express the opinion of the Greek populace, have conducted a referendum where the Greek people said a resounding No to accepting the austerity measures proposed by the troika. The outcome only exasperated the EU leaders and they threatened Greece and Syriza with an ultimatum to accept the conditions put forth by the ECB, IMF and the European banks. This resulted in the resignation of Yannis Varoufakis and the marathon meeting by Alexis Tsipras with EU leaders, at the end of which Greece capitulated to the conditions and even sturdier austerity measures in order to stay in the EU. The dream that Syriza painted to the Greek people were nipped in the bud by the harsh reality of belonging to the European brotherhood. 
 
In short, this could explain what went on in the long standing drama that unfurled in 2015. Perhaps this allows us to look back in the past and analyse what has driven this fracas and the aftermath to Europe and Greek people. The beginning of this problem happened many years back, at the time of introducing a common currency across all European countries. In the world of economics, a struggling economy can overcome the recession by either fiscal expansion or monetary adjustments. Monetary policy measures include quantitative easing, which basically means printing more money to introduce more liquidity in the system. In order to retain the value of the Euro, ECB retains the sole right to issue more cash to any country. Had this not be the case, struggling Greek economy could have adopted the quantitative easing and infused more cash in the system. Not having this ability made ECB hold Greece random to their demands of the austerity measures. Many economists including Paul Krugman suggested that Greece would be better off exiting the EU and switch back to Drachmas, and sort the economy out. This was prevented by the complicit and protectionist nature of the European leaders, who threatened implicitly or explicitly that exiting EU, Greece will shut the door to having trade relationship with any of the member states. Some likened the Syriza going to negotiations with EU without any back up plan to playing pokers but this postulate would not stand against the fact that the leadership has tried to prevent accepting the austerity measures and had to succumb the extreme duress put on by the troika. 
 
Although the IMF and ECB have been most vociferous and unyielding to the remedial measures put together by Alexis Tsipras and Yannis Varoufakis, the real impediment came from the counterparts of these two men — the leaders and finance ministers/chancellors of various member states. This perspective on the Grexit brings to front another crisis the Europe is facing at the moment, which is lack of credible leadership across the continent. Angela Merkel and François Hollande are the most drab and dispassionate leaders one came come across. They belong to the designer suit clad-extremely vacuous-circumlocutory-monotonous army of people, who do not have any charisma or passion for doing their job, and hide behind tenuous, long-winded speeches for their lack of appreciation of any economic matters. It is astounding to realise that these leaders who had no concept of economic policies and ideas were at the forefront of the talks on economic reforms of a country! The worst example was Wolfgang Schauble, who perhaps was more concerned about what the Greek leaders wore to the meeting than the content of their negotiation offerings. Both Angela Merkel and Hollande are losing credibility to their population, let alone be respected everywhere else in Europe. Then there were the minnows David Cameron and his sidekick George Osborne, who still believes Britain has any say in how EU decisions are made, and delivered pompous speeches how they are very concerned about the Greek situation and won’t give any British taxpayers’ money to bail Greece out. Surprisingly enough, during the last stages of the negotiations, it was the smaller peripheral states that were more scathing in criticising Greek premiere and Syriza. In a way, it appeared that all European leaders weighed in unison against the Greek contingent because they chose to be different, in their appearance and in their negotiations. The mass loathing will have a component of the common notion that Greek people are lazy and want a free lunch at the expense of other EU countries sharing the burden, but the main  thorn on the leaders’ flesh was one person — Yannis Varoufakis. 
 
Since the demise of the Soviet Union, Communist economists are hard to come by, and finding one who is not corrupt or deluded, and has a strategy to practically implement them is a rarity. Yannis Varoufakis belongs to this rare category of economists and it is a rarity itself having an economist as the finance minister of a country, which is usually fulfilled by ex-bankers and finance directors and other fat cats. Varoufakis went to the negotiations from the time Syriza gained power in Athens with one argument — austerity does not work. Critics may point otherwise as the statistics shows Greece has cut down the deficit immensely during first years of austerity, but the human price paid for the same was enormous. Squeezing the people even further when the country is on the brink of disaster could only have meant one thing — the powers-to-be in Brussels did not want to know about wellbeing of Greek people, all their interest was money. Being an economist, Varoufakis could pick holes in the argument for the austerity. This has riled the cast of European leaders as they stood in the meeting red faced having their notion of Eurozone shred into pieces by a Greek economist, and he did it in his casual manner, in simple words and not hiding behind jargons. His whole persona and lifestyle of riding a bike to the parliament, arriving to negotiations in leather jackets set him stand out amongst a bunch of automatons, and they were quick to attack him about his lifestyle, his approach to negotiations as they were left clueless when he defeated them in their own game, and laid bare the ineptitude of their proposal from the charade of verbosity that these leaders often resort to. As a result, Yannis Varoufakis failed to make friends with Brussels as he was seen as a pariah, who could put the European brethren to jeopardy by not being like one of them. When the referendum results were declared, Varoufakis had to go as the European leaders won’t deal with him anymore, and within 48 hours, Syriza was forced to sign on to the austerity. It’s true that part of Syriza was not in favour of Varoufakis’ reform measures as they seemed too reactionary, but the fact cannot be denied that he stole the sleep of the European leaders during his tenure as the finance minister of the Greek government. 
 
The folly of the Eurozone became more apparent in the unified vilification of Greece especially by the smaller states. During the crisis this was more than clear that Eurozone is nothing but a German project, and the small peripheral states are just ‘tagging along’ in fear of losing the favour and hence the funding from the ECB. Speaking to a friend from Slovakia, they felt it was unfair that their country has to pay for bailing out Greece so their pensioners get €160 pensions whilst Slovakia’s pensioners only get €140. This is a fair argument, but it makes it clear that, despite sharing a common currency, the standard of life is not the same amongst the member states and this itself is the biggest fault of the EU. It is expected that by introducing monetary controls, all the countries should have same value for the Euro and the standard of living will not be a stark dissimilarity amongst the countries. With time, this means that the Eurozone will also have limited mobility within the working population for economic benefits only. However, the purchasing power of a Euro is still different by a large extent in the core members and the smaller nations who joined the currency union later on. Due to this imbalance, there is still a large amount of migrant population within EU member states only, raising concerns over radical nationalism and right wing politics. 
 
One factor greatly contributed implicitly to the ostracism of Greek government in the corridors of Brussels, but it was hardly ever brought into the fray by the media— its the elephant in the room, Syriza is a Communist outfit. Some friends suggested that this did not contribute to the Greek austerity, it cannot be denied that there is a massive animosity towards the communist parties. The history of Europe’s past will prove that more lives were lost by the expansive imperialist movements than by Communism. People often wrongly associate communism as synonymous to Stalin/Trotsky/ Khrushchev/Mao/Castro. Syriza therefore started the negotiations in the back foot, already being tarnished with the same brush. Modern day Europe, although a melting pot of breakthrough ideas, innovations, thoughts and philosophy, in certain instances like this, is still blinkered, Machiavellian. Also, it cannot be denied that troika is influenced by large multinational conglomerates, whose main ideal is to maximise wealth by punishing the working poor. Marx’s theory of class divide has never been diminished, instead the gap has got wider in recent times. The wage for the working class has increased but never at par with the inflation and media is so focussed on bottom 20% that they never reported what the top 1% doing and how their growing wealth is going unnoticed. These conglomerates, for their own interest, did not want a communist party in power and dictate terms with them. Marxist views are branded anti-trade by these big corporates and their media, and hence the egalitarian socialist aspect is lost forever. Had Syriza been a party purported to express any other political ethos, the outcome of the negotiations might well have been, if not significantly enough, different than the more austere measures Greece was subjected to. The main aim of the corporate run EU was to maintain the hard stand against Greece so Tsipras has no choice but to capitulate, and then as an aftermath, that might break Syriza into factions based in political views of the party members. 
 
As of now, the Greek debt crisis situation is finished, or that’s how the media tends to present to the general public. The liquidity is reinstated, although there is a daily withdraw limit, people have cash in hand, no more sensationalist picture of dejected pensioners sitting by the pavement — that picture is replaced by migrants breaking though the fence at Eurotunnel. However, the problem is far from over. Greece will pay off the first tranche of the loans owed to IMF, but the picture is not so rose-tinted for future payments. Will there be another layer of austerity burdened on Greek people? The ramifications of the aftermath of this debt crisis are many, but this is the most important lesson to be taken away from this experience by the world. 
 
The biggest effect this will have on Greek economy is the likelihood of another payment failure and further austerity measures. This brings back the spectre of the housing bubble in 2007-08, where people were allowed to borrow much more than what they can afford to repay. If Greece has failed to pay the loans, burdening them with further loans and more austerity will not provide enough economic rent to the people to be motivated to work. What Greece needed is a debt write-off, exactly what Greece supported for the Post-WWII Germany to adopt. Also, as seen after the 2008 recession, it’s hard to gain people’s confidence in the economy, hence all the extra Euros injected in the market will be drawn out by people who had their savings in the banks and had to wait for weeks to draw money out and they certainly would not put the money back to the back and would rather save it inside tin boxes on kitchen cupboards. To them, if Greece ever goes out of the EU, the Drachmas will be worth next to nothing, whereas Euros will retain the same high value. The Liquidity will still ensue but not immediately as expected. As for Syriza, they might suffer a slow annihilation as the more belligerent faction of the party will cause a revolt against Alexis Tsipras blaming no resilience against the European politicians. This austerity also sends a strong message to all other struggling states such as Italy, Spain, Portugal that any ideas on exiting the Eurozone will be severely castigated, and as Greece is set as an example, a bad one, there will be no recourse to any funding. Rather than helping the struggling countries and their industry, the banks will be set out to pilfer the wealth from the poorer countries to benefit the more powerful members such as Germany. 
 
The other possible consequence of the Greece debacle is far worse than all the above effects together. In recent times, Greece has already seen the rise of far right-wing politics in the form of Golden dawn. The entire Europe has seen a surge in right-wing politics and advent of newer fascist groups. Oddly enough, these parties and factions do have a lot of public backing as well, who mainly hail from the working class. Failure of Syriza to resolve the debt crisis to a more humane solution will mean further austerity and as people tend to get worse off, in order to apportion blame, they tend to pick up an enemy, and that’s how nationalist radical parties thrive. Also, if Syriza loses its credibility, there will be no mouthpiece for the left-liberal parties in Greek political environment, which is a frightening possibility. On a wider scale, by discriminating against communist parties and ideologies, the banks and other transnational organisations as well as the powerful capitalist economies are trying to create a world full of their automatons, devoid of any humanity. This will pave the path for far right parties to reach out and influence people, and gain popularity as they did in the form of Jobbik in Hungary, Marine le Pen in France, EDL and UKIP in UK, PEGIDA in Germany. It is surprising how the rise of fascist right-wing has not been met with such vehement criticism from Europe’s leaders as did Syriza. These outfits spreading hatred will gradually push the harmonious equilibrium that was achieved over years of conflicts and negotiations since WWII into a complete disarray. And that, will bring a definitive end to the EU thanks to the cataclysmic policies adopted by its leaders since the introduction of Euro. 
 
Perhaps, to draw a conclusion to this debate, the last area to be looked at is what needs to happen to avoid this downward spiral of austerity. The first requirement is an unequivocally simple solution of writing off part of the debts Greece owed. This will let the governments treat the situation as turning a fresh page and start from scratch building the country. ECB could devolve its powers so in situations like this, member states will have the ability to print money in order to maintain the liquidity. It could be argued the benefit of this, but Euro in EU has failed to bring a balance to the purchasing parity anyway. What Syriza should do is use the popularity it presently has and bring mechanisms to leave a long term legacy such as tighter taxation regulations, pay more wage at par with Western Europe. When it comes to paying next tranche of the debt, Greece should stay firm about further austerity unless that squeezes the top 1% rather than the working poor. Also, rather than being browbeaten by the European superpowers, Greece should make a back up plan to leave Eurozone. There will be heavy opposition, but after the initial setback the situation will improve. 
 
In terms of future of Europe where the member states are not in a perfectly synergistic situation, there is an audacious proposal, which can reinstate the balance and purchase power parity. Rather than struggling economies like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland leaving the EU failing to accept austerity terms, it should be the economic powerhouses that will need to move out of the EU. Germany exiting alone will have made significant changes. Eurozone will be struggling without Germany but they will recuperate faster as the economies will have a degree of autonomy rather than being dragged along to the German utopia. On the other hand, leaving EU will not affect Germany as much as it would have to Greece or Spain. 
 
To conclude, the Greek debt crisis is an eye opener to the European policy makers that forcing countries to accept further stringent terms and condition will only increase the rift amongst the member states. This time will be remembered as the time when Europe failed its member states. EU is a brilliant project and it has produced excellent synergies so far, but instance such as Greek crisis will stick out like a sore finger and a constant reminder that there is a dark side of the European integration which need to be curbed at all times in order to keep the Eurozone a successful programme to bring harmony to the lives of millions of people. 
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Anarchy, Politics

হোককলরব

নিষাদ রাত

ওরা জেগে রয়
নতুন দিনের আলোর আশে
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ওরা গেয়েছিল গান সে রাতে
সিগার, ডিলান 
লেনন, সুমন
হয়তোবা ছিল কারো কোলে কারো মাথা
ওরা যে বেঁধেছিল 
মানবশৃঙ্খল
রাত বেড়ে চলে, চলে গান
ওরা জেগে রয়

তারপর শুধু কালো আর কালো
বিদ্যুৎচমকের মত
ফিরে ফিরে আসে গুটিকয় ফ্ল্যাশব্যাক
ছাত্রীর স্তন খামচে ধরা লোলুপ পুলিশি হাত
লাঠির হানা, চটি পরা পা
চুপ একদম হাপিস করে দেব

নতুন সকাল
সবর্ শরীরে তখনো শুকনো রক্ত লেগে
গ্লানি বেদনা সব ধুয়ে মুছে ফেলে
ওরা তবু উঠে দাঁড়ায়
ফের ধরে গান
ভয় পেয়েছেন, তিনি ভয় পেয়েছেন বটেই
এবার দোহাই দেবার পালা যে তাঁর
মাদক থেকে এল মাও, 
এল হামার্দ থেকে হটপ্যান্ট
ওরা হেসে ওঠে, আরো স্ফুর্তিতে গায় গান
কসাইয়েরও বুক তবে কাঁপে

তবে ওরা আর সেই ওরা নেই
দশক ছাড়িয়ে শত, সহস্র, অযুত ওরা আজ
হাওয়ায় ভেসে যায়
ওদের বেসুরো সুর
দিক থেকে দিগান্তরে
আগুন তবে এখনো জ্বালানো যায়
এ প্রতিবাদী শহরে
ওদের গানের কন্ঠ রূদ্ধ হবেনা আর
চেয়েছিল শাসকের হাত
গলা টিপে সেই গান রুখতে
আজ তারা অবাক পৃথিবী
কী মন্ত্রে আজ লক্ষ মানুষ যেন
নেমে দাঁড়িয়েছে পথে
হোক কলরব

পাশে না থেকেও সাথে আছি যাদবপুর
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