Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hear Me Ranting ...

Living in the US for a year now, I feel as if I am stuck in between two worlds. People have asked me how different America is from India ... and my responses to moving halfway across the world. It's very different, even if you are the sort of kid who grew up with classic rock and tons of western influences. This post has caught me in a particularly emotional moment.

Anyway, what's different? There are tons of concerts here, to witness the American spirit, you must visit a sporting event. The commentator will go, "Who wants ice-cream?"" and the whole stadium will yell and scream, like little kids, that they would love ice-cream. People are free. Happy.

But this post is not about America, it's about me. I usually find myself looking at the news in India and in the US at the same time. I look at the news in India first though. It is weird. I didn't care much for the news in India when I was home, but now it seems to be a big deal. I have closely followed the devaluing of the rupee. I know now that Congress stands for bureaucracy after watching the millions of scams in the Center and my own state -- Andhra Pradesh -- just look at the Chief Minister's son, Jagan, the richest kid on the block. The BJP, I am not sure yet. I think they stand for something like more economic reform and swifter action as opposed to Congress, but want to curtail our political freedoms (no short dresses for women, and obviously no kissing on the street ... duh). I think I am finally old and mature enough to start to see trends around me.

For example, the mind-body dichotomy in politics. One party wants economic freedom but wants to curtail our political freedoms. (BJP, Republicans) The other is "progressive" and "liberal" on the political front (respect for privacy, etc) but will not think twice in implementing a million welfare schemes. (Democrats and Congress) One party wants to control the mind, the other wants to control the body.

I think my greatest asset that I take away from studying in the US, regardless of whether I live here after I graduate or not, is contrast. I am seeing a society that quite literally works. Traffic is organized. It's the best law education I have ever had -- no question. They have a healthy political debate in the country about all the relevant issues. For instance, I could switch on the TV in India, tune into the news and feel complete indifference at the kind of stuff I see on TV. A Member of Parliament gets into a fight with a schoolteacher. Like dude, what the fuck are you doing? You're on TV for gods sake.

Here, they know the basic issue -- capitalism v. socialism -- in one form or another -- conservatives v. liberals, the Tea Party movement v. The Occupy Wall Street Movement, pro-choice v. pro-life and so on.

In India, people are simply utterly ignorant of the the relevant issues. From where I come from, there's a fight for a separate state, Telangana. Why? Well, one part of the state has more government schools, more government jobs, more government investment, and a million other government paid projects. Now they are fighting over the loot each of the participants wants. How do we resolve this? Put on a committee -- they will figure it out, somehow. How about rolling the government back? Huh?

Or take corruption. They now want a super committee that regulates other committees. If having a million committees created the problem of corruption to begin with, how could more of the same be a solution to the problem? If the Anti-Corruption Bureau didn't solve the problem, why would a new Anna Hazare committee solve the problem. How about banishing government from all human affairs? Huh? Are you a crazy communist or something? A communist -- really, you fuckking idiot?

I just read an article where a social activist in India was thrown into jail for making a pitch against the government. He kept a journal in prison. If you have the stomach, you can read all of its morbid details here. That was my emotional moment. Grassroot activists here are protected by the law regardless of how "extreme" their position is. They are not molested and beaten by the cops. Ultimately, given my passion for Objectivism, activism, and cultural change, the fact that such incidents happen in India may tilt the balance for  me to continue living in the States. I don't want to go to jail,  get raped, and live the worst life possible fighting for a better world. I have 60 more years perhaps, and I am going to make the best life possible to me.

In any case, I have probably broken all the rules of writing I set for myself. Never write without setting a theme. Never write without an outline. Never publish without doing three layers of editing on each level -- for structure, paragraph, and editing it line by line. It's my space after all, and if writing casually gets me going, then so be it.

Here is a comment I left on facebook, on the piece about the journal the activist kept while he was in prison.

It's an extremely dangerous job ... being an activist in India. Especially the kind that are anti-government as opposed to groups for the environment or animal rights and stuff like that. 

In a country where non-objective law knows no bounds, where laws are so out-of-touch with harsh procedural realities in remote villages and towns, where freedom of speech is disposable at a second's notice, and where human life is dirt cheap, one is exposing oneself to mortal risks by speaking up against injustices perpetrated by the government.

Objectivism is anti-government given the scope of government today. It can so easily be misrepresented and caricaturized as Naxalism or Maoism and whatnot by putting the activist in the worst of situations any accused could potentially face – an unsympathetic, unpatriotic communist terrorist.

Practically speaking, if one wants to be an activist in India – especially for Objectivism – such incidents tell me a couple of things. Activism should perhaps be limited to nicer looking, urban circles which could – could—preclude something horrible like this from happening.

In contrast, imagine if one started a college newspaper in India, like The Undercurrent in the US, which provided commentary to students on the political climate of the country. Obviously, this would require that such a paper be published in local languages that the student is able to read. Most colleges are not in the cities, they are spread across many towns and districts where the policemen state what the law is. I think it would be extremely dangerous to engage in such grassroot activism in India.

Your viewpoint will be twisted, you could be harassed, beaten, sexually assaulted (god forbid you the activist are a woman), and you will be left with no recourse to the law. I hope it’s not as bad as it sounds, but there is no getting around reports of such horrible incidents.

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