Arundhati Roy

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The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.
The secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again.

Arundhati Roy (born 24 November 1961) is an Indian writer and social activist

The invasion of Iraq will surely go down in history as one of the most cowardly wars ever fought. It was a war in which a band of rich nations, armed with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world several times over, rounded on a poor nation, falsely accused it of having nuclear weapons, used the United Nations to force it to disarm, then invaded it, occupied it, and are now in the process of selling it.

Articles[edit]

  • If you are religious, then remember that this bomb is Man's challenge to God. It's worded quite simply: We have the power to destroy everything that You have created. If you're not religious, then look at it this way. This world of ours is 4 600 000 000 years old. It could end in an afternoon.
    • The End of Imagination August, 1998 [1].
  • Power is fortified not just by what it destroys, but also by what it creates. Not just by what it takes, but also by what it gives. And powerlessness reaffirmed not just by the helplessness of those who have lost, but also by the gratitude of those who have (or think they have) gained.
    • The Greater Common Good May, 1999 [2].
  • India lives in her villages, we are told in every other sanctimonious public speech, That's bullshit. India doesn't live in her villages. India dies in her villages. India gets kicked around in her villages. India lives in her cities. India's villages just live only to serve her cities. Her villages are her citizen's vassals and for that reason must be controlled and kept alive, but only just.
    • The Greater Common Good May, 1999 [3].
  • Big Dams are to a nation's 'development' what nuclear bombs are to its military arsenal. They're both weapons of mass destruction. They're both weapons governments use to control their own people. Both twentieth-century emblems that mark a point in time when human intelligence has outstripped its own instinct for survival. They're both malignant indications of a civilization turning upon itself. They represent the severing of the link, not just the link -- the understanding-- between human beings and the planet they live on. They scramble the intelligence that connects eggs to hens, milk to cows, food to forests, water to rivers, air to life, and the earth to human existence.
    • The Greater Common Good May, 1999 [4].
  • The story of the Narmada valley is nothing less than the story of Modern India. Like the tiger in the Belgrade zoo during the NATO bombing, we've begun to eat our own limbs.
    • Preface to The Cost of Living July 1999.
  • These horrific murders are only a symptom of a deeper malaise. Life is hell for the living too. Whole populations — millions of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians — are being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault will come.
  • Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. It is a historical fact. Even the Indian government has accepted this.
  • Last night a friend from Baroda called. Weeping. It took her fifteen minutes to tell me what the matter was. It wasn't very complicated. Only that Sayeeda, a friend of hers, had been caught by a mob. Only that her stomach had been ripped open and stuffed with burning rags. Only that after she died, someone carved 'OM' on her forehead.... "A mob surrounded the house of former Congress MP Iqbal Ehsan Jaffri. His phone calls to the Director-General of Police, the Police Commissioner, the Chief Secretary, the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) were ignored. The mobile police vans around his house did not intervene. The mob broke into the house. They stripped his daughters and burned them alive. Then they beheaded Ehsan Jaffri and dismembered him. Of course it's only a coincidence that Jaffri was a trenchant critic of Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, during his campaign for the Rajkot Assembly by-election in February."
  • In a situation like the one that prevails in Gujarat, when the police are reluctant to register firs, when the administration is openly hostile to those trying to gather facts, and when the killings go on unabated—then panic, fear and rumour play a pivotal role. People who have disappeared are presumed dead, people who have been dismembered and burnt cannot be identified, and people who are distraught and traumatised are incoherent.... This and other genuine errors in recounting the details of the violence in Gujarat in no way alters the substance of what journalists, fact-finding missions, or writers like myself are saying.
  • The trouble is that once America goes off to war, it can't very well return without having fought one. If it doesn't find its enemy, for the sake of the enraged folks back home, it will have to manufacture one. Once war begins, it will develop a momentum, a logic and a justification of its own, and we'll lose sight of why it's being fought in the first place.
    • The Algebra of Infinite Justice September 29, (2001) [6].
  • Here is a list of the countries that America has been at war with - and bombed - since the second world war: China (1945-46, 1950-53), Korea (1950-53), Guatemala (1954, 1967-69), Indonesia (1958), Cuba (1959-60), the Belgian Congo (1964), Peru (1965), Laos (1964-73), Vietnam (1961-73), Cambodia (1969-70), Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), El Salvador (1980s), Nicaragua (1980s), Panama (1989), Iraq (1991-99), Bosnia (1995), Sudan (1998), Yugoslavia (1999). And now Afghanistan.
  • People rarely win wars, governments rarely (completely) lose them. People (do completely) get killed.
    • Why America must stop the war now (23 October 2001) [7].
  • The God of Small Things, published in the summer of 1997, was the result of a search for a language and a form to describe the world I had grown up in, to myself and to people I loved, some of whom were entirely unfamiliar with Kerala... Back home in Kerala, I was quickly labeled anti-communist, a crying-talking-sleeping-walking Imperialist Plot. I had been critical, it is true, and the sharp end of my critique was that the Left, by which I mean the various communist parties in India, has been not just opaque to caste, but, more often than not, overtly casteist... The consternation had as much to do with the novel's politics of caste as it did with gender... was not received with applause and hallelujahs. Five male lawyers got together and filed a criminal case against me, accusing me of obscenity and “corrupting public morality.”
  • Capitalism’s gratuitous wars and sanctioned greed have jeopardized the planet and filled it with refugees. Much of the blame for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the government of the United States. Seventeen years after invading Afghanistan, after bombing it into the ‘stone age’ with the sole aim of toppling the Taliban, the US government is back in talks with the very same Taliban. In the interim it has destroyed Iraq, Libya and Syria. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives to war and sanctions, a whole region has descended into chaos, ancient cities—pounded into dust. Amidst the desolation and the rubble, a monstrosity called Daesh (ISIS) has been spawned. It has spread across the world, indiscriminately murdering ordinary people who had absolutely nothing to do with America's wars. Over these last few years, given the wars it has waged, and the international treaties it has arbitrarily reneged on, the US Government perfectly fits its own definition of a rogue state.

The God of Small Things (1997)[edit]

  • The story of the tragic decline of an Indian family whose members suffer the terrible consequences of forbidden love, The God of Small Things is set in the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India.
  • In those early amorphous years of life, when memory had only just begun, when life was full of Beginnings and no Ends, and everything was Forever
  • The secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don't deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don't surprise you with the unforeseen.. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover's skin. You know how they end yet you listen as though you don't. In the way that you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won't. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn't. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and their magic. ...
  • Her own grief grieved her. His devastated her. (On Sophie Mol's death, describing Mamachi's grief, and Chacko's).
  • Ammu explained to Estha and Rahel that people always loved best what they Identified most with.
    • page 98
  • They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.
  • Kochu Maria watched with her cake-crumbs.
    The Fond Smiles watched Fondly.
    Little Girls Playing.
    Sweet.
    One beach-coloured.
    One brown.
    One Loved.
    One Loved a Little Less.
    • page 186
  • Ammu had an elaborate Calcutta wedding. Later, looking back on the day, Ammu realized that the slightest feverish glitter in her bridegroom's eyes had not been love, or even excitement at the prospect of carnal bliss, but approximately eight large pegs of whiskey. Straight. Neat.
  • Humbling was a nice word, Rahel thought. Humbling along without a care in the world.
  • She wondered what had caused the bald pilgrims to vomit so uniformly, and whether they had vomited together in a single, well-orchestrated heave (to music perhaps, to the rhythm of a bus bhajan), or separately, one at a time.
  • 'Ammu,' Chacko said, his voice steady and deliberately casual, 'is it at all possible for you to prevent your washed-up cynicism from completely colouring everything?'
    Silence filled the car like a saturated sponge. Washed-up cut like a knife through a small thing. The sun shone with a shuddering sigh. This was the trouble with families. Like invidious doctors, they knew just where it hurt.
  • It didn't matter that the story had begun, because kathakali discovered long ago that the secrets of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones that you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don't deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don't surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover's skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don't. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won't. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn't. And yet you want to know again.
    That is their mystery and their magic.
    • page 229.
  • To the Kathakali Man these stories are his children and his childhood. He has grown up within them. They are the house he was raised in, the meadows he played in. They are his windows and his way of seeing. So when he tells a story, he handles it as he would a child of his own. He teases it. He punishes it. He sends it up like a bubble. He wrestles it to the ground and lets it go again. He laughs at it because he loves it. He can fly you across whole worlds in minutes, he can stop for hours to examine a wilting leaf. Or play with a sleeping monkey's tail. He can turn effortlessly from the carnage of war into the felicity of a woman washing her hair in a mountain stream. From the crafty ebullience of a rakshasa with a new idea into a gossipy Malayali with a scandal to spread. From the sensuousness of a woman with a baby at her breast into the seductive mischief of Krishna's smile. He can reveal the nugget of sorrow that happiness contains. The hidden fish of shame in a sea of glory.
    He tells stories of the gods, but his yarn is spun from the ungodly, human heart.
    The Kathakali Man is the most beautiful of men. Because his body is his soul. His only instrument. From the age of three he has been planed and polished, pared down, harnessed wholly to the task of story-telling. He has magic in him, this man within the painted mark and swirling skirts.
    But these days he has become unviable. Unfeasible. Condemned goods. His children deride him. They long to be everything that he is not. He has watched them grow up to become clerks and bus conductors. Class IV non-gazetted officers. With unions of their own.
    But he himself, left dangling somewhere between heaven and earth, cannot do what they do. He cannot slide down the aisles of buses, counting change and selling tickets. He cannot answer bells that summon him. He cannot stoop behind trays of tea and Marie biscuits.
    In despair he turns to tourism. He enters the market. He hawks the only thing he owns. The stories that his body can tell.
    He becomes a Regional Flavour.
    • page 230-231.
  • He is Karna, whom the world has abandoned. Karna Alone. Condemned goods. A prince raised in poverty. Born to die unfairly, unarmed and alone at the hands of his brother. Majestic in his complete despair. Praying on the banks of the Ganga. Stoned out of his skull.
    Then Kunti appeared. She too was a man, but a man grown soft and womanly, a man with breasts, from doing female parts for years. Her movements were fluid. Full of women. Kunti, too, was stoned. High on the same shared joints. She had come to tell Karna a story.
    Karna inclined his beautiful head and listened.
    Red-eyed, Kunti danced for him. She told him of a young woman who had been granted a boon. A secret mantra that she could use to choose a lover from among the gods. Of how, with the imprudence of youth, the woman decided to test it to see if it really worked. How she stood alone in an empty field, turned her face to the heavens and recited the mantra. The words had scarcely left her foolish lips, Kunti said, when Surya, the God of Day, appeared before her. The young woman, bewitched by the beauty of the shimmering young god, gave herself to him. Nine months later she bore him a son. The baby was born sheathed in light, with gold earrings in his ears and a gold breastplate on his chest, engraved with the emblem of the sun.
    The young mother loved her first-born son deeply, Kunti said, but she was unmarried and couldn't keep him. She put him in a reed basket and cast him away in a river. The child was found downriver by Adhirata, a charioteer. And named Karna.
    Karna looked up to Kunti. Who was she? Who was my mother? Tell me where she is. Take me to her.
    Kunti bowed her head. She's here, she said. Standing before you.
    Karna's elation and anger at the revelation. His dance of confusion and despair. Where were you, he asked her, when I needed you the most? Did you ever hold me in your arms? Did you feed me? Did you ever look for me? Did you wonder where I might be?
    In reply Kunti took the regal face in her hands, green the face, red the eyes, and kissed him on his brow. Karna shuddered in delight. A warrior reduced to infancy. The ecstasy of that kiss. He dispatched it to the ends of his body. To his toes. His fingertips. His lovely mother's kiss. Did you know how much I missed you? Rahel could see it coursing through his veins, as clearly as an egg travelling down an ostrich's neck.
    A travelling kiss whose journey was cut short by dismay when Karna realised that his mother had revealed herself to him only to secure the safety of her five other, more beloved sons - the Pandavas - poised on the brink of their epic battle with their one hundred cousins. It is them that Kunti sought to protect by announcing to Karna that she was his mother. She had a promise to extract.
    She invoked the Love Laws.
    • pages 232-233.
  • He watched her. He took his time.
    Had he known that he was about to enter a tunnel whose only egress was his own annihilation, would he have turned away?
    Perhaps.
    Perhaps not.
    Who can tell?
  • Thirty-one.
    Not old.
    Not young.
    But a viable die-able age.
  • He stepped onto the path that led through the swamp to the History House.
    He left no ripples in the water.
    No footprints on the shore.
    He held his mundu spread above his head to dry. The wind lifted it like a sail. He was suddenly happy.Things will get worse, he thought to himself. Then better. He was walking swiftly now, towards the Heart of Darkness. As lonely as a wolf.
    The God of Loss.
    The God of Small Things.
    Naked but for his nail varnish.

An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire (2005)[edit]

  • While, legally and constitutionally, speech may be free, the space in which that freedom can be exercised has been snatched from us and auctioned to the highest bidders.
    • p. 48
  • Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe.
    • p. 86
  • The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.
    • p. 86
  • Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
    • p. 86
  • Modern democracies have been around long enough for neoliberal capitalists to learn how to subvert them. They have mastered the technique of infiltrating the instruments of democracy—the 'independent' judiciary, the 'free' press, the parliament—and moulding them to their purpose.
    • p. 91

The Shape of the Beast: Conversations with Arundhati Roy (2008)[edit]

  • Osama Bin Laden and George Bush were both terrorists. They were both building international networks that perpetrate terror and devastate people’s lives. Bush with the Pentagon, the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank. Bin Laden with Al-Qaeda. The difference is that nobody elected Bin Laden...
    • Arundhati Roy in The Shape of the Beast: Conversations with Arundhati Roy (2008) p.91
  • The United States supported Saddam Hussein and made sure that he ruled with an iron fist for all those years. Then they used the sanctions to break the back of civil society. Then they made Iraq disarm. Then they attacked Iraq. And now they’ve taken over all its assets. p. 126-127

Interview with Arundhati Roy, by David Barsamian (July 16, 2007)[edit]

(The Progressive magazine, Text)

  • Women from Kerala work throughout India and the world earning money to send back home. And yet they'll pay a dowry to get married, and they'll have the most bizarrely subservient relationships with their husbands. I grew up in a little village in Kerala. It was a nightmare for me. All I wanted to do was to escape, to get out, to never have to marry somebody there. Of course, they were not dying to marry me [laughs]. I was the worst thing a girl could be: thin, black, and clever.
  • The only thing worth globalizing is dissent, but I don't know whether to be optimistic or not. When I'm outside the cities I do feel optimistic. There is such grandeur in India and so much beauty. I don't know whether they can kill it. I want to think they can't. I don't think that there is anything as beautiful as a sari. Can you kill it? Can you corporatize a sari? Why should multinationals be allowed to come in and try to patent basmati rice? People prefer to eat roti and idlis and dosas rather than McDonald's burgers.
  • It's so frightening, the nationalism in the air. I'm terrified by it. It can be used to do anything. I know that a world in which countries are stockpiling nuclear weapons and using them in the ways that India and Pakistan and America do to oppress others and to deceive their own people is a dangerous world.
  • The nuclear tests were a way to shore up our flagging self-esteem. India is still flinching from a cultural insult, still looking for its identity. It's about all that.
  • Indian intellectuals today feel radical when they condemn fundamentalism, but not many people are talking about the links between privatization, globalization, and fundamentalism. Globalization suits the Indian elite to a T. Fundamentalism doesn't.
  • In Delhi the cars are getting bigger and sleeker, the hotels are getting posher, the gates are getting higher, and the guards are no longer the old chowkidars, the watchmen, but they are fellows with guns. And yet the poor are packed into every crevice like lice in the city. People don't see that anymore. It's as if you shine a light very brightly in one place, the darkness deepens around. They don't want to know what's happening. The people who are getting rich can't imagine that the world is not a better place.
  • I can't be a part of the large convoy because it's not a choice that you can make. The fact that I'm an educated person means that I can't be on that convoy. I don't want to be on it. I don't want to be a victim. I don't want to disappear into the darkness. I am an artist and a writer, and I do think that one always places oneself in the picture to see where one fits. I left home when I was sixteen and lived in places where it was very easy for me to have fallen the other way. I could have been on the large convoy because I was a woman and I was alone. In India, that's not a joke. I could have ended up very, very badly. I'm lucky that I didn't.
  • I think my eyes were knocked open and they don't close. I sometimes wish I could close them and look away. I don't always want to be doing this kind of work. I don't want to be haunted by it. Because of who I am and what place I have now in India, I'm petitioned all the time to get involved. It's exhausting and very difficult to have to say, 'Look, I'm only one person. I can't do everything.' I know that I don't want to be worn to the bone where I lose my sense of humor. But once you've seen certain things, you can't un-see them, and seeing nothing is as political an act as seeing something.


Interviews[edit]

  • When India and Pakistan conducted their nuclear tests in 1998, even those of us who condemned them, balked at the hypocrisy of Western nuclear powers. Implicit in their denunciation of the tests was the notion that Blacks cannot be trusted with the Bomb. Now we are presented with the spectacle of our governments competing to confirm that belief.
  • It’s not just the one million soldiers on the border who are living on hair-trigger alert. It’s all of us. That’s what nuclear bombs do. Whether they’re used or not, they violate everything that is humane. They alter the meaning of life itself. Why do we tolerate them? Why do we tolerate these men who use nuclear weapons to blackmail the entire human race?
  • Where there is oppression, it will always be challenged by those of us who will challenge it with greater intensity, you know? So that's why I don't believe that there can ever be peace without justice, you know? The two go together. And there cannot be peace in the world with full-spectrum dominance or, you know, nuclear warfare or any of those things. They won't help, because always there will be people who demand dignity, who demand justice, who demand their rights.
    • From an interview with Andrew Denton on Enough Rope screened 18th October 2004 on ABC Australia [8]
  • Well.. for so many years, people—let's say in India—have been fighting this very idea of progress, of infinite growth, of this form of development which has resulted now in what we call jobless growth, what everybody knows to be the case. You have nine individuals who own the same amount of wealth as the bottom 500 million. This is what infinite growth has led to—infinite growth for some people.
    So this idea that you will never question your idea of progress, you will never question the comfort of the Global North. And by Global North—now and the elite South, and the downtrodden North, you know?
    Years ago, I wrote an essay which ended by saying, “Can we leave the bauxite in the mountain?”...Can you look at the mountain and not just calculate its mineral worth? Can you understand that a mountain has much more than just the value of the minerals in it? And there is—it's a civilizational issue, right? That for people who have lived there, have known that mountain, they know it sustains not just the people. It's not just a question of who is getting displaced. But how does, for example, that bauxite mountain—which stores water and waters the plains all around it, which grows the food, which sustains a whole population—but it's meant for a corporation that is given the mining contract. It's just, how much does that bauxite cost? Can we store it and trade it on the futures market?
  • It is like what I said, that the elite of the world have all seceded into outer space, and they have a country up there, and they look down and say, “What is our water doing in their rivers, and what’s our timber doing in their forests?” So there is a psychotic refusal to understand that the survival of the species is connected to the survival of the planet, you know? Because this sort of progress is a kind of church now. It is not amenable to reason. So it is very difficult to know how any real conversation can happen...
    A month or two ago, the Supreme Court of India...said that two million indigenous people should be evicted from their forest homes... Because that forest needs to be preserved as a sanctuary. But when, for the last 25 years, people were fighting against projects which were decimating millions of hectares and acres of forest, nobody cared... And when you are talking about evicting two million of the poorest people, stripping them of everything they ever had, there is little outrage. Any sense of talk of equality or justice seems to just have the same effect that blasphemy has in religious societies. That is what capitalism has become—a form of religion that will brook no questioning.

Speeches[edit]

  • … To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget. ...
    • From the book "The cost of living".
  • "What does peace mean in a world in which the combined wealth of the world's 587 billionaires exceeds the combined gross domestic product of the world's 135 poorest countries? Or when rich countries that pay farm subsidies of a billion dollars a day, try and force poor countries to drop their subsidies? What does peace mean to people in occupied Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Tibet and Chechnya? Or to the aboriginal people of Australia? Or the Ogoni of Nigeria? Or the Kurds in Turkey? Or the Dalits and Adivasis of India? What does peace mean to non-Muslims in Islamic countries, or to women in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan? What does it mean to the millions who are being uprooted from their lands by dams and development projects? What does peace mean to the poor who are being actively robbed of their resources and for whom everyday life is a grim battle for water, shelter, survival and, above all, some semblance of dignity? For them, peace is war."
    • A selection from a speech entitled "Peace given on November 7, 2004 while accepting the Sydney Peace Prize.
  • "Another world is not only possible, she's on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe."
  • The tradition of "turkey pardoning" in the US is a wonderful allegory for new racism. Every year, the National Turkey Federation presents the US president with a turkey for Thanksgiving. Every year, in a show of ceremonial magnanimity, the president spares that particular bird (and eats another one). After receiving the presidential pardon, the Chosen One is sent to Frying Pan Park in Virginia to live out its natural life. The rest of the 50 million turkeys raised for Thanksgiving are slaughtered and eaten on Thanksgiving Day. ConAgra Foods, the company that has won the Presidential Turkey contract, says it trains the lucky birds to be sociable, to interact with dignitaries, school children and the press.
    That's how new racism in the corporate era works. A few carefully bred turkeys - the local elites of various countries, a community of wealthy immigrants, investment bankers, the occasional Colin Powell, or Condoleezza Rice, some singers, some writers (like myself) - are given absolution and a pass to Frying Pan Park.
    The remaining millions lose their jobs, are evicted from their homes, have their water and electricity connections cut, and die of AIDS. Basically, they're for the pot. But the fortunate fowls in Frying Pan Park are doing fine. Some of them even work for the IMF and the World Trade Organisation - so who can accuse those organisations of being anti-turkey? Some serve as board members on the Turkey Choosing Committee - so who can say that turkeys are against Thanksgiving? They participate in it! Who can say the poor are anti-corporate globalisation? There's a stampede to get into Frying Pan Park. So what if most perish on the way?
  • The invasion of Iraq will surely go down in history as one of the most cowardly wars ever fought. It was a war in which a band of rich nations, armed with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world several times over, rounded on a poor nation, falsely accused it of having nuclear weapons, used the United Nations to force it to disarm, then invaded it, occupied it, and are now in the process of selling it.
  • I speak of Iraq, not because everybody is talking about it, (sadly at the cost of leaving other horrors in other places to unfurl in the dark), but because it is a sign of things to come. Iraq marks the beginning of a new cycle. It offers us an opportunity to watch the Corporate-Military cabal that has come to be known as 'Empire' at work. In the new Iraq the gloves are off.
  • As the battle to control the world's resources intensifies, economic colonialism through formal military aggression is staging a comeback. Iraq is the logical culmination of the process of corporate globalization in which neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism have fused. If we can find it in ourselves to peep behind the curtain of blood, we would glimpse the pitiless transactions taking place backstage. But first, briefly, the stage itself.
  • Before Washington's illegal invasion of Iraq, a Gallup International poll showed that in no European country was the support for a unilateral war higher than 11 percent. On February 15, 2003, weeks before the invasion, more than ten million people marched against the war on different continents, including North America. And yet the governments of many supposedly democratic countries still went to war.
  • The question is: is “democracy” still democratic?
  • Are democratic governments accountable to the people who elected them? And, critically, is the public in democratic countries responsible for the actions...?
  • It's not a real choice. It's an apparent choice. Like choosing a brand of detergent. Whether you buy Ivory Snow or Tide, they're both owned by Proctor & Gamble. This doesn't mean that... the Democrats and Republicans are the same. Of course, they're not. Neither are Tide and Ivory Snow. Tide has oxy-boosting and Ivory Snow is a gentle cleanser.
  • Before Washington's illegal invasion of Iraq, a Gallup International poll showed that in no European country was the support for a unilateral war higher than 11 percent. On February 15, 2003, *There are differences in the I.Q.s and levels of ruthlessness between this year's U.S. presidential candidates. The anti-war movement in the United States has done a phenomenal job of exposing the lies and venality that led to the invasion of Iraq, despite the propaganda and intimidation it faced. This was a service not just to people here, but to the whole world.

Come September (29 Sep 2002)[edit]

(Speech, Santa Fe, NM, Full text)

  • Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century.
  • Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead."
  • When independent-thinking people (and here I do not include the corporate media) begin to rally under flags, when writers, painters, musicians, film makers suspend their judgment and blindly yoke their art to the service of the “Nation,” it’s time for all of us to sit up and worry.
  • Recently, those who have criticized the actions of the U.S. government... have been called “anti-American.” ..The term... is usually used by the American establishment to discredit... its critics. Once someone is branded anti-American, the chances are that he or she will be judged before they are heard, and the argument will be lost in the welter of bruised national pride.
  • What does the term “anti-American” mean? Does it mean you are anti-jazz? Or... opposed to freedom of speech?...That you have a quarrel with giant sequoias? Does it mean that you don't admire the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who marched against nuclear weapons, or the thousands... who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam? Does it mean that you hate all Americans?
  • This sly conflation of America's culture, music, literature, the breathtaking physical beauty of the land, the ordinary pleasures of ordinary people with criticism of the U.S. government’s foreign policy (about which, thanks to America's “free press”, sadly most Americans know very little) is... extremely effective strategy.
  • To call someone “anti-American”, indeed to be anti-American, (or for that matter, anti-Indian or anti-Timbuktuan) is not just racist, it's a failure of the imagination. An inability to see the world in terms other than those the establishment has set out for you... If you don't love us, you hate us... If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists.
  • Last year, like many others, I too made the mistake of scoffing at this post-September 11th rhetoric, dismissing it as foolish and arrogant. But I’ve realized...It’s actually a canny recruitment drive for a misconceived, dangerous war.
  • It’s being made out that the whole point of the war was to topple the Taliban regime and liberate Afghan women from their burqas, we are being asked to believe that the U.S. marines are actually on a feminist mission
  • None of us need anniversaries to remind us of what we cannot forget. So it’s no more than co-incidence that I happen to be here, on American soil, in September – this month of dreadful anniversaries. Uppermost on everybody’s mind of course, particularly here in America, is the horror of what has come to be known as 9/11... The tears have not dried. And a strange, deadly war is raging around the world. Yet, each person who has lost a loved one surely knows secretly, deeply, that no war, no act of revenge, no daisy-cutters dropped on someone else’s loved ones or someone else’s children, will blunt the edges of their pain or bring their own loved ones back. War cannot avenge those who have died. War is only a brutal desecration of their memory.
  • To fuel yet another war – this time against Iraq – by cynically manipulating people’s grief, by packaging it for TV specials sponsored by corporations selling detergent and running shoes, is to cheapen and devalue grief, to drain it of meaning. What we are seeing now is a vulgar display of the business of grief, the commerce of grief, the pillaging of even the most private human feelings for political purpose. It is a terrible, violent thing for a State to do to its people.
  • What does loss mean to individuals? What does it mean to whole cultures, whole people who have learned to live with it as a constant companion?
  • Since it is September 11th we’re talking about, perhaps it’s in the fitness of things that we remember what that date means, not only to those who lost their loved ones in America last year, but to those in other parts of the world to whom that date has long held significance.
  • This historical dredging is not offered as an accusation or a provocation. But just to share the grief of history. To thin the mists a little. To say to the citizens of America, in the gentlest, most human way: “Welcome to the World.”
  • Twenty-nine years ago, in Chile, on the 11th of September 1973, General Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in a CIA-backed coup. “Chile should not be allowed to go Marxist just because its people are irresponsible,” said Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Laureate, then the U.S. Secretary of State.
  • In 1999, following the arrest of General Pinochet in Britain, thousands of secret documents were declassified by the U.S. government. They contain unequivocal evidence of the CIA’s involvement in the coup as well as the fact that the U.S. government had detailed information about the situation in Chile during General Pinochet’s reign.
  • Sadly, Chile was not the only country in South America to be singled out for the U.S. government’s attentions. Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Mexico and Colombia – they’ve all been the playground for covert – and overt – operations by the CIA. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been killed, tortured or have simply disappeared under the despotic regimes that were propped up in their countries. If this were not humiliation enough, the people of South America have had to bear the cross of being branded as people who are incapable of democracy – as if coups and massacres are somehow encrypted in their genes.
  • On the 11th of September 1922, ignoring Arab outrage, the British government proclaimed a mandate in Palestine, a follow-up to the 1917 Balfour Declaration which imperial Britain issued, with its army massed outside the gates of Gaza. The Balfour Declaration promised European Zionists a national home for Jewish people. (At the time, the Empire on which the Sun Never Set was free to snatch and bequeath national homes like a school bully distributes marbles.)
  • How carelessly imperial power vivisected ancient civilizations. Palestine and Kashmir are imperial Britain’s festering, blood-drenched gifts to the modem world. Both are fault lines in the raging international conflicts of today.
  • In 1947, the U.N. formally partitioned Palestine and allotted 55 per cent of Palestine’s land to the Zionists. Within a year, they had captured 76 per cent. On the 14th of May 1948 the State of Israel was declared. Minutes after the declaration, the United States recognized Israel. The West Bank was annexed by Jordan. The Gaza strip came under Egyptian military control, and formally Palestine ceased to exist except in the minds and hearts of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people who became refugees.
  • Young Palestinians who cannot control their anger turn themselves into human bombs and haunt Israel’s streets and public places, blowing themselves up, killing ordinary people, injecting terror into daily life, and eventually hardening both societies’ suspicion and mutual hatred of each other. Each bombing invites merciless reprisal and even more hardship on Palestinian people. But then suicide bombing is an act of individual despair, not a revolutionary tactic.
  • Israel’s staunchest political and military ally is and always has been the U.S. The U.S. government has blocked, along with Israel, almost every U.N. resolution that sought a peaceful, equitable solution to the conflict.
  • When Israel attacks Palestine, it is American missiles that smash through Palestinian homes. And every year Israel receives several billion dollars from the United States – taxpayers money.
  • The world is called upon to condemn suicide bombers. But can we ignore the long road they have journeyed on before they have arrived at this destination? September 11, 1922 to September 11, 2002 – eighty years is a long time to have been waging war.
  • In 1988, Saddam Hussein razed hundreds of villages in northern Iraq, used chemical weapons and machine guns to kill thousands of Kurdish people... that same year the U.S. government provided him with $500 million in subsidies... The next year, after... his genocidal campaign, the U.S. government doubled its subsidy to $1 billion... provided him with high quality germ seed for anthrax...helicopters and dual-use material... to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.
  • So what changed? In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. His sin was not so much that he had committed an act of war, but that he had acted independently, without orders from his master.
  • The first Allied attack on Iraq took place on January ’91. The world watched the prime-time war as it was played out on T.V. (In India in those days you had to go to a five-star hotel lobby to watch CNN.)... Over the last decade American and British forces have fired thousands of missiles and bombs on Iraq. In the decade of economic sanctions that followed the war, Iraqi civilians have been denied food, medicine, hospital equipment, ambulances, clean water – the basic essentials...about half a million Iraqi children have died as a result of the sanctions. Of them, Madeleine Albright, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, famously said, “It’s a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.”
  • The U.S., which George Bush has called “the most peaceful nation on earth”, has been at war with one country or another every year for the last fifty [years].
  • Wars are...usually fought for hegemony, for business. And then of course there’s the business of war...
  • Protecting its control of the world’s oil is fundamental to U.S. foreign policy.
  • In the last ten years of unbridled Corporate Globalization...the numbers of poor in the world has increased by 100 million.
  • “The American Way of Life” is simply not sustainable. Because it doesn’t acknowledge that there is a world beyond America.
  • Fortunately, power has a shelf life. When the time comes, maybe this mighty empire will, like others before it, overreach itself and implode from within. It looks as though structural cracks have already appeared... America’s corporate heart is hemorrhaging.
  • For all the endless, empty chatter about democracy, today the world is run by three of the most secretive institutions in the world: The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, all three of which, in turn, are dominated by the U.S. Their decisions are made in secret. The people who head them are appointed behind closed doors. Nobody really knows anything about them, their politics, their beliefs, their intentions. Nobody elected them. Nobody said they could make decisions on our behalf. A world run by a handful of greedy bankers and C.E.O.’s whom nobody elected can’t possibly last.
  • Soviet-style communism failed, not because it was intrinsically evil but because it was flawed. It allowed too few people to usurp too much power. Twenty-first century market-capitalism, American style, will fail for the same reasons. Both are edifices constructed by the human intelligence, undone by human nature.
  • Perhaps things will become worse and then better. Perhaps there’s a small god up in heaven readying herself for us. Another world is not only possible, she’s on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.

About Arundhati Roy[edit]

  • Arunadhati Roy is a 'one-book wonder', as a woman who has shot her literary bolt and now keeps herself in the news by making increasingly outrageous anti-Indian statements for the benefit of the foreign media. Her caricature of India as some sort of neo-Nazi state where minorities are routinely persecuted and the poor cheerfully exploited offers foreign journos a useful counterpoint to the 'Indian success story' headlines and gives them a lazy way of adding dissenting notes to the usual India pieces.
  • But nothing beats the mischief and arrogance of Arundhati Roy's blood and gore reporting of the same story on the basis of hearsay.... Disturbed by this account, Balbir Punj, BJP Rajya Sabha MP personally contacted the Gujarat police and asked them to verify the story. Clearly, no such case had been reported to the Gujarat police. Therefore, they asked Roy to provide leads that could help them reach the victim's family and book those who were guilty of the crime. She responded through her lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, to say that the police had no right to issue summons to her. In the same lengthy article in Outlook, Roy had reported that the daughters of Ehsan Jafri, the ex-MP from the Congress Party who was done to death in Gulberg Society, were also raped and killed along with him. In this case, Roy got caught spinning gory tales by none other than Jafri's son who issued a clarification that his sisters were not in the city at the time of the riots. In fact, one of them was living in the United States. Unfazed, Roy replied that she had got the information from two other sources, one a report in Time magazine and another, a supposedly independent fact-finding mission. Incidentally, this “fact finding” team had actually been organised by Teesta Setalvad and Shabnam Hashmi with one of the most corrupt and compromised retired IG of Police as a lead member of the pack. The much-venerated Retired Supreme Court Judge Justice Krishna Iyer was used as a figurehead but the report was put together by professional BJP baiters.... Since the then Outlook Editor Vinod Mehta is a die-hard fan of Roy's writings, she got away with her bloody fantasies without having to offer a half-decent apology.
  • Arundhati Roy... was expected to produce some titillating atrocity literature about how unspeakably evil Hinduism is; and she did. She made the story more colourful by claiming that Ehsan Jafri's two daughters had also been raped and killed. However, their brother issued a clarification that his sisters had not been in town at the time, one even being in the US. Being so diametrically contradicted after such a high-profile claim would have shamed a lesser mortal, and certainly been reprimanded and disowned by the editor formally responsible for a statement that turned out to be slanderous in the extreme. (...) The same acclaimed fiction writer related how a pregnant woman had her stomach ripped open by the Hindu rioters. Tehelka, Harsh Mander in Times of India, even the BBC ran with it: “But nothing beats the mischief and arrogance of Arundhati Roy’s blood and gore reporting on the same story on the basis of hearsay.” In Roy's version, after the woman died, “someone carved OM on her forehead”. What a gruesome illustration of Hindu inhumanity, almost too good to be true. And indeed, BJP MP Balbir Punj contacted the police, who had no such case booked. They contacted Roy, who, through her lawyer, refused to cooperate.
  • Arundhati Roy goes lyrical about the torture of a Muslim politician's two daughters by Hindus during the Gujarat riots of 2002, even when the man had only one daughter, who came forward to clarify that she happened to be in the US at the time of the "facts".
    • Elst K. Religious cleansing of Hindus, The Hague, 7 Feb. 2004, at the Agni conference
  • Arundhati Roy risked the international fame she so clearly cherishes by going public with blatant lies about atrocities against named Gujarati Muslim women who turned out to be either non-existent or abroad at the time of the riots. Perhaps a fiction writer can afford this, but the news media with their deontology of accuracy and objectivity made themselves guilty of similar howlers.
  • The writer Arundhati Roy asserted that a pregnant Muslim woman had been murdered and then her foetus ripped from her womb by rioters. When it became clear that nobody knew of the incident and Roy was asked to come and help the police inquiry to find the unfortunate victim, she replied through her lawyers that there was no power which could compel her to attend. She claimed in addition that Ehsan Jafri's daughters had been murdered alongside him at Gulbarg Society. This prompted Jafri's son to write from the United States that there was only one daughter and she was in the US with him.
    • Marino, Andy (2014). Narendra Modi: A political biography. Ch. 7.
  • And concomitantly, Roy has put her brilliant linguistic skills to the service of "truth". Read her graphic details—"The mob broke into the house. They stripped his daughters and burnt them alive"... Anyway, it reads heart-rendingly honest. Heart-rending, yes, but honest, no. Jaffri was killed in the riots but his daughters were neither "stripped" nor "burnt alive". T.A. Jafri, his son, in a front-page interview titled 'Nobody knew my father's house was the target', says, "Among my brothers and sisters, I am the only one living in India. And I am the eldest in the family. My sister and brother live in the US. I am 40 years old and I have been born and brought up in Ahmedabad." So, Roy is lying—for surely Jafri is not. But what about the hundreds of media lies that haven't been exhumed as yet? Her seven-page long (approx: 6,000 words) hate charter against India and the Sangh parivar is woven around just two specific cases of human tragedy, one of which—by now, we know for sure—is a piece of fiction. The rest is hyperbole, punctuated with venom and vitriol to demonise the parivar. Precisely this type of demonisation had resulted in the macabre incident at Godhra. The vicious propaganda unleashed by the secularists for over a decade had made ordinary and gullible Muslims see the innocent Ram sevaks as demons who deserved to be burnt alive.
  • I have always criticised violence in my speeches but the way the trouble in just two per cent of the area is blown up and used against us should be countered. Arundhati Roy paints Gujaratis as rapists and then goes scot-free by apologising. Isn't it an insult to Gujarat?

External links[edit]

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