अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

June 1, 2008

Who’s Afraid of Arundhati Roy?

[This is an extended version of a comment posted on the Outlook magazine website in response to an article by Reeta Sinha.]

I couldn’t really understand what exactly is your point (if any). I do get it that you are enraged by the attention that Arundhati Roy is getting (through her ‘attention grabbing devices’). That’s fine with me. It’s true that she is getting a disproportionate amount of attention, just as her ‘one-book-wonder’ has earned a disproportionate amount of money.

Apart from that, I don’t understand what objections you have which made you write such a long piece on a non-issue. Are you objecting to some particular stand taken by her? To some particular protest she has been involved in?

Or are you just saying that all that she has been arguing for is wrong and that all her ’causes’ are unworthy of support? Or that the causes may be alright but her arguments are wrong?

Frankly, I am not able to get any clue about the answers to these questions from your lengthy tirade against Arundhati Roy, the celebrity.

Do you actually have any stand about any of those causes? Or do you believe they should be left to the experts?

I will tell you my opinion. Of course, what she is saying is not very original in terms of the content. It’s not meant to be original. The purpose of (explicitly) political writing is not to be original, but to effectively argue about some cause or some issue or even about the world in general. Effectively enough for people to pay attention. This means originality in terms of style, at least.

Now, even though you seem to be enraged by the attention she is getting (people interviewing her about herself), you seem to be suggesting that people are actually not paying attention to her, i.e., to what she is saying about the causes and the issues. Is that really so? I don’t think so. Yes, more people are paying attention to the members of the RSS family than to her. In fact, more people are paying attention to Narendra Modi than to her, but then the very nature of what she talks about is such that no one usually wants to listen to those things. Because it can make you uncomfortable and disturbed. It can even shake your very foundations, brainwashed as you may be by the whole system of manufactured consent.

Those people in Nepal who have been brought up on the culture of devotion to the King are still not able to accept the fact that monarchy is a bad idea. Devotion to the monarchy may be at the root of their philosophy of life. They are not going to be convinced easily. Perhaps some will never be. Till they die. But their children (or grandchildren) will have no problem in getting convinced.

So, even if, in absolute terms, not many may be paying attention to her political writing, in relative terms, a large number of people are paying attention to her. And people are not just paying attention to *her*, they are actually paying attention to the causes she is talking about. She has managed to convince some people. Not you, perhaps, but some people. And you may not think so, but a very large number of activists, including those who are scholars of the highest repute and the highest order, do believe that her arguments are convincing and persuasive. You are entitled to your opinion, but then so am I. And so are those who agree with her. And by any standards, the quality of people who agree with her is, on the whole, much higher than those who don’t. You can find the details about this claim if you do your own research (without leaving it to an expert) on her, and on the people I am talking about.

And also about the problems she is talking about.

Why don’t you take your own advice? Ignore the person and focus on the cause. That is, if you think there is a cause. I could have said more about this had you shown any interest in any cause while writing your piece and given some indication of where you stand. For example, what is your position on the War on Terror? Or on the Big Dams? Or on nuclear weapons? Or on Fascism? Or on globalization? Or on Salva Judum? The only hint I can get from your article is that you don’t think any of these issues are important enough for anyone to ‘shout from the rooftop’, as Arundhati Roy described her attempts. Like so many others, you perhaps don’t mind people shouting from the rooftop about safe issues (or non-issues), which doesn’t shake anyone’s foundations.

To make clear why I am writing this, I will repeat again. Ignore the person if you don’t like her talking about herself. Instead focus on the issue or the cause. It is possible, you know.

To me, it doesn’t matter much whether she likes being called an activist or not. Or a writer-activist or not, for that matter. To me, what matters is whether what she is saying about the Big Dams or about corporatization (in the name of globalization) or about Fascism has any validity or not.

Yes, she does get hyperbolic sometimes, but then no one is perfect.

You can avoid hyperbole completely by being a loyal obedient orderly, for example. But I would have no respect for her if she followed this course.

I prefer Kabir (who did use hyperboles quite a lot) to Birbal or Tenali Rama (who also used hyperboles, but in a very safe way).

I like Ramachandra Guha’s writings, but I like P. Sainath’s writings more. But some might say that Sainath also gets hyperbolic. Some might even say that he is glorifying suicides. I know what is the problem with such people.

Literary writing, fictional or non-fictional, explicitly political or implicitly political (there is no such thing as non-political), is not (fortunately) dictated by what teachers of English composition say.

Ever heard of James Joyce? Samuel Beckett? Kafka? Gabriel Garcia Marques? Salman Rushdie?

Pablo Neruda? He was a big celebrity too.

Shakespeare? He is so full of attention grabbing devices. And all his devices have been adopted into the English language. Did your English composition teacher tell you this?

Arrogance! Arrogance!

What about ignorance?

More importantly, what about willful ignorance?

4 Comments »

  1. Devotion to the monarchy may be at the root of their philosophy of life. They are not going to be convinced easily. Perhaps some will never be. Till they die.

    —-Similar to Monsieur Gillenormand of Le miserables who wont accept his grandson’s ideals.

    I like Ramchandra Guha’s writings, but I like P. Sainath’s writings more. But some might say that Sainath also gets hyperbolic. Some might even say that he is glorifying suicides. I know what is the problem with such people.

    —-In a recent award ceremony in hyderabad for rural journalists Sainath makes this point. Lots of people are dying and the exposure the suicides get are due to the efforts of the rural journalists but the events themselves and the necessity to cover them is a thing which is very unfortunate and a very bad thing.

    Comment by Taraka — June 3, 2008 @ 12:41 am | Reply

  2. the very nature of what she talks about is such that no one usually wants to listen to those things.
    And is that figment of her imagination supposed to be honored as true?

    Because it can make you uncomfortable and disturbed.
    Yes, much like horror movies- which are also real (sic)

    It can even shake your very foundations, brainwashed as you may be by the whole system of manufactured consent.
    Other people’s opinion is manufactured consent- that of a brainwashed individual? WTF are you talking about? How can you stink of freedom of expression in the same blog man? You got balls or what?

    Comment by K — July 4, 2008 @ 9:53 pm | Reply

  3. > the very nature of what she talks about is such that no one usually wants to listen to those things.
    And is that figment of her imagination supposed to be honored as true?

    And it’s figment of her imagination because?

    > Because it can make you uncomfortable and disturbed.
    Yes, much like horror movies- which are also real (sic)

    So?

    > It can even shake your very foundations, brainwashed as you may be by the whole system of manufactured consent.
    Other people’s opinion is manufactured consent- that of a brainwashed individual?

    Arundhati Roy is also ‘other people’ to me. So are many others whose opinions I don’t consider just part of the manufactured consent. If you have been reading this blog (which I think you have), then you might have read my posts about so many others whose opinions I don’t share but I have heaped praised on them. I don’t have to agree with everything that the other person says to have respect for that person. But if someone just mouths the opinions of the establishment and jumps to attack anyone who doesn’t share those opinions, I would have reason to call that person a brainwashed individual.

    WTF are you talking about? How can you stink of freedom of expression in the same blog man?

    What has freedom of expression got to do with what I have said? I will defend the freedom of expression of every individual, including those whose opinions I oppose. I am not calling for the arrest or persecution of those I consider to be brainwashed. In fact, I will oppose that if anyone suggests it. Can you understand this?

    You got balls or what?

    I am not sure what that means. If you elaborate, I could perhaps answer.

    One important question:

    I have no authority to punish or harm you in any way. Nor any wish to do so. I am not part of a government or of a big corporation. Not even of a powerful resistance movement. Then what it is that makes you so afraid that you have to resort to anonymous abuse instead of having an argument with a person as a person?

    Come on, man, if you have got balls, identify yourself and try to carry on a meaningful debate.

    Comment by anileklavya — July 4, 2008 @ 11:44 pm | Reply

  4. You seem to be firmly on the side of the establishment. What do you have to fear?

    Perhaps the realization somewhere in the depths of your heart that you are, after all, wrong.

    Comment by anileklavya — July 5, 2008 @ 8:31 am | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: