Nelson Mandela is not above suspicion as the man who killed socialism. Prizes like the Nobel and Magsaysay are dubious and so are its winners Mohammad Yunus, Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, and Kiran Bedi (even P. Sainath, Jayaprakash Narayan and MS Subbalakshmi are smeared in gentler terms as “acceptable” to the establishment). Also on the compromised list are all the kids who received funding to study abroad, liberal feminists, and “a great majority of the Dalit population, the backbone of the Indian working class, [which] has pinned its hopes for deliverance and dignity to constitutionalism, to capitalism and to political parties like the BSP, which practise an important, but in the long run, stagnant brand of identity politics.”
Grassroots efforts to alleviate poverty, too, are counter-productive, and serve the greater corporate cause: “Community development, leadership development, human rights, health, education, reproductive rights, AIDS, orphans with AIDS — have all been hermetically sealed into their own silos with their own elaborate and precise funding brief. Funding has fragmented solidarity in ways that repression never could.”
This is like rejecting a torniquet that could save a bleeding victim because it is bought on corporate money or administered by a compromised doctor. Better dead than impure.
For the greater cause, Roy even offers herself up as tainted goods:
But which of us sinners was going to cast the first stone? Not me, who lives off royalties from corporate publishing houses. We all watch Tata Sky, we surf the net with Tata Photon, we ride in Tata taxis, we stay in Tata Hotels, we sip our Tata tea in Tata bone china and stir it with teaspoons made of Tata Steel. We buy Tata books in Tata bookshops. Hum Tata ka namak khate hain. We’re under siege.
Of course, Roy is compromised in a myriad other ways, by the foundations and universities that bankroll her trips abroad, book contracts that pay for her forays into the jungles of Chhattisgarh. But that’s beside the point. What is more important is that there is no room for anyone to do anything of value in this claustrophobic, naysaying, closed loop theory of the world. Why would any sane person want to embrace this vision? And what good would come of it? We don’t need to shoot this messenger of doom — she is only too happy to shoot herself, albeit in the foot.
None of this lets the rest of us off the hook. In the end, with or without Roy, the problems with our trajectory of growth remain serious and urgent. Ignoring Roy may feel good, but allowing a knee-jerk loathing as an excuse to ignore the larger issues she raises is just foolish.
But we do, dutifully playing our roles in a drama that is tiresomely predictable. “As expected, on this forum, Arundhati Roy generates the most comment,” writes Outlook commenter Arun Maheshwari, “As always, she is a poor teacher as she just berates everything and everyone with no solutions — so no one really reads (to understand) her. So no one learns from her, she doesn’t learn anything from the comments, nor do the commentators learn from each other — as the views are pre-formed anyways.”
The great Arundhati Roy circus rolls on.
[You can read Arundhati Roy's essay in its glorious entirety here]