Thursday, September 30, 2004

How Empire Works

Arundhati Roy's book An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire is insightful and chilling, yet ultimately hopeful. The book consists of seven essays and speeches that range from language, the media, Indian politics, American politics, treatment of protesters, treatment of the poor, and the global economy. Roy calls a spade a spade, nothing is sacred if it oppresses, murders, or disregards the wishes of ordinary people. It is difficult to make any kind of concise summary of all of these essays. The book is a must read for people who are interested in power politics and how it all plays out in one nation and around the world. So here is a sampling of some of Roy's thoughts:

for most people in the world peace is war--a daily battle against hunger, thirst, and the violation of their dignity. Wars are often the end result of a flawed peace, a putative peace. And it is the flaws, the systemic flaws in what is normally considered to be "peace," that we ought to be writing about...We have to use our skills and imagination and our art, to recreate the rhythms of the endless crisis of normality, and in doing so, expose the policies and processes that make ordinary things--food, water, shelter, and dignity--such a distant dream for ordinary people.("Peace is War")
On Iraq:
if Saddam Hussein was evil enough to merit the most elaborate, openly declared assassination attempt in history, then surely those who supported him ought at least to be tried for war crimes? (Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy) Operation Iraqi Freedom, Tony Blair assures us, is about returning Iraqi oil to the Iraqi people. That is, returning Iraqi oil to the Iraqi people via corporate multinationals. Like Shell, like Chevron, like Halliburton. Or are we missing the plot here? Perhaps Halliburton is actually an Iraqi company? Perhaps U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney (who was former director of Halliburton) is a closet Iraqi? ("The Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire")
On the thinking that people like President Lula of Brazil or Nelson Mandela can actually change the way a government works:
To imagine that a leader's personal charisma and resume of struggle will dent the corporate cartel is to have no understanding of how capitalism works, or for that matter how power works. Radical change will not be negotiated by government; it can only be enforced by people. ("Do Turkeys Enjoy Thanksgiving?")
On non-violent resistance movements:
If opportunism and expediency come at the cost of our beliefs, then there is nothing to separate us from the mainstream politicians. If it is justice that we want, it must be justice and equal rights for all--not only for special interest groups with special interest prejudices. That is non-negotiable. ("How Deep Shall We Dig")
And finally, on freedom:
It is important to remember that our freedoms, such as they are, were not given to us by any government, they have been wrested by us. If we do not use them, if we do not test them from time to time, they atrophy. If we do not guard them constantly, they will be taken away from us. If we do not demand more and more, we will be left with less and less. ("Peace is War")