अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

January 9, 2011

One Suggestion for the Possible

At the beginning of this new year of a new decade of a new century, once again there is a cry from parts of the progressive left that what we need is some suggestion of the possible, rather than the ‘religious’ prophetic cry of ‘woe’ from the margins. So here is my brief attempt at the same.

Every sensible person now knows that there are two worlds, one which has all the resources and the power, and another that has close to nothing. The citizens of this have-world are few in number as most of the humanity belongs to the have-not-world. Mountains of evidence is available in favour of this ‘theory’. All the documentation is there. All the empirical evidence is there. And logic does not contradict it either. So this is as much of an established fact as any fact can be.

And the distance between the two worlds is growing.

How is it then that the have-world is able to maintain its hold over the vastly larger have-not-world? All logic seems to contradict such a possibility, but it is there.

The answer, not very original, is that there is something wrong with the binary division of the world between the haves and the have-nots. We know that this division has always been there. It has only become sharper in recent times.

For maintaining their stronghold over the world, the haves have always been promoting some of the have-nots such that another world is created. This is the world of the have-somes. You could call it the Middle Class, but that should be done only for the purpose of convenience, not as a technical term as used conventionally. It consists of managers, professionals, scientists, experts, intellectuals, artists, small businessmen (or whatever remains of them), doctors, security officers, bureaucrats and so on.

This second world, the world of the have-somes, the Middle World, serves the purpose of a buffer zone between the Top World and Bottom World. It does so very much in the sense Empires or even Great Powers talk of buffer zones between themselves and their enemies. It not just protects the Top World from the discontent and possible rebellion of the Bottom World through the passive act of just being there. It also actively manages the Empire of the Three Worlds on behalf of the Top World, with little concern for the Bottom World. It administers this Empire, it provides the security infrastructure. It curbs the tendencies for insurrections. It also looks after the Moral Affairs, which are very important if it has to carry out its complete brief. It keeps the Hope alive among the citizens of the Bottom World. Hope that is based on thin air. If all this doesn’t work, it can, perhaps with a heavy heart – perhaps not – resort to brutal violence against those who have little protection except the elements (where still available) or pure chance. It can create mythologies of fear to justify that violence, regardless of the comparative amounts of violence by those in whose names the mythologies are created and its own violence.

Note that I am talking as if it is the Middle World’s violence, whereas the consensus seems to be that it is the Top World’s violence. The violence (in all its forms, not just of the blood and gore variety) is indeed carried out on behalf the Top World, but the one that actually carries it out is the Middle World. No doubts about it. Are there? Well, there is a little imprecision here. At the ground level, much of the violence is carried out by citizens of the Bottom World – against their own brothers (if we can still talk in terms of the brotherhood of men) and also against the ‘bad citizens’ of the Middle World who refuse to accept the role they are supposed to play.

But these citizens of the Bottom World, agents of the Middle World, acting ultimately on behalf on the Top World, are acting just as drones. As humanoid robots. That’s what they have been reduced to. Being that seems to them the only way to a decent life. Hopefully.

The first question, then, is this. Why do the citizens of the Middle World accept this degrading role for themselves? The second question is, how are they able to manipulate the Bottom World for the benefit of the Top World?

The answer, again not very original, is that in return they get comfortable lives (to varying degrees), they get security, they get relatively satisfying work to do. But above all, they always have the golden carrot ahead of them. The chance to leapfrog into the Top World, either temporarily or permanently. This last one is the clincher.

But the last one is a bit of a lie. It’s basically the lottery system that can work both ways – the Calcutta Derby way and the Shirley Jackson way. Even the first part should cause at least some resentment. It does. Except that it is kept within manageable limits.

So how does this management of the Middle World itself happen? It mainly happens through the mediation of what is called the Media. By which we can now only mean the Corporate Media. Well, there are other aspects, but this one seems to me to be of prime importance. And I am only going to talk about one suggestion of the possible.

The Corporate Media ensures that the Middle World functions properly. That is because it lives in the in-between-world, with one foot in the Top World and the other in the Middle World. It is the buffer between the Top World and Middle World. Using a heady mixture of technology, psychology, language and images, it controls the minds of the people of the Middle World and to some extent even of the Bottom World. Control where control matters for its purposes. Where it doesn’t, the minds can be allowed to be free, thus causing the illusion of being completely free.

Yes, the above picture is a bit simplified. But I use it to lead up to a suggestion for the possible. You can take it as the idealization step of the scientific method.

The suggestion of the possible is to work for dismantling this crucial link, clearing up this buffer zone between the Top World and Middle World.

Work to get rid of the Corporate Media.

It is not as difficult as it seems. At least it is not so now, with the technology that CAN allow people to join together in REAL solidarity, even if all kinds of barriers have been put by the loyal (you know to who) citizens of the Middle World.

If we can get rid of the Corporate Media or any of its avatar, possibly the Top World will have serious problems managing the Middle World. And possibly the Middle World will not be so inclined to manage the Bottom World for the Top World.

It may not happen.

But it is possible.

However, to be able to achieve this, we need to change our ways too. One of hallmarks of the left has been its divisiveness, which was hilariously portrayed by the Monty Pythons in the Life of Brian (and that is just one example).

We can disagree with each other. We can criticize each other, sometimes severely. We can even fight each other sometimes. But we should stop being enemies. That’s the bare minimum. Otherwise everything is doomed.

It is already happening to some extent, but can we take it to its logical conclusion?

‘We’ specifically here refers to the little dissident ‘medias’ that we are involved in. In general, it can mean all the left. Or why just that? It could mean all decent human beings who believe in the Romance of Justice, more than they believe in the Romance of the Plunder.

We have to associate with each other (or is it ‘one another’: this is always a grammatical puzzle for me). In spite of our differences. We have build alliances. We have use each other’s work. We have contribute to each other’s work. We have to recognize each other’s work. We have to come to defend each other whenever it is needed.

We have to come out of our false (pardon a little exaggeration) but comforting little solidarities and form a big REAL solidarity. A solidarity that may not even require one to physically ever face another. It will be the solidarity of the mind. It will be a moral solidarity.

It may not, and sometimes it may, be a solidarity of everyday social relations. Can you be in solidarity with one who may or may not be willing to meet and talk to you in physical proximity or to have dinner with you, but who is willing to participate with you, work with you?

Can you now?

नीरस नाम की रोचक कहानी

7 जनवरी, 2011

(मूल लेख)

ज़ेड नेट या ज़ी नेट, आप अंग्रेज़ी वर्णमाला के आखिरी अक्षर को जिस भी तरह उच्चारित करते हों (जो इस पर निर्भर करता है कि आप पिछले साम्राज्य के प्रभाव में पले हैं या नये वाले के), का हिन्दी संस्करण शुरू किए अब चार साल से ऊपर हो गए हैं। एकदम ठीक तारीख दी जाए तो 1 दिसंबर, 2006 को हिन्दी ज़ेड नेट की वेबसाइट शुरू हुई थी। तब से काफ़ी कुछ बदल गया है। ज़ेड नेट खुद अब ज़ेड (ज़ी) कम्यूनिकेशन्स बन गया है, जिसका एक प्रमुख भाग फिर भी ज़ेड नेट है।

हिन्दी संस्करण की शुरुआत इस तरह हुई थी कि अपन ज़ेड नेट अक्सर पढ़ते रहते थे और एक दिन अपन ने देखा कि इसके कुछ अन्य भाषाओं में भी संस्करण हैं। पाठकों-उपयोक्ताओं के लिए लिखा गया एक निमंत्रण सा भी दिखा कि अगर आप इनमें से किसी में सहयोग देने या एक नई भाषा के संस्करण की शुरुआत करने में रुचि रखते हैं तो संपर्क करें। अपने को लगा कि भाई हिन्दी में भी इसका एक संस्करण होना ही चाहिए, तो अपन ने माइकल स्पैनोस, जिनका नाम संपर्क के लिए दिया था, उन्हें एक मेल लिख डाली। जवाब आया और ज़ेड नेट के लेखों का अनुवाद करके हिन्दी संस्करण की वेबसाइट बनाने का काम शुरू हो गया। पाँच लेखों के अनुवाद से शुरुआत हुई, जो नोम चॉम्स्की, माइकल ऐल्बर्ट, अरुंधति रॉय, जॉर्ज मॉनबिऑट तथा तारिक़ अली के लिखे हुए थे। उस समय वेबसाइट ज़ेड नेट के ही सर्वर पर बनाई गई थी, क्योंकि हिन्दी ज़ेड नेट के लिए अलग से कोई इंतज़ाम नहीं था।

बाद में कुछ अन्य लेखों के भी अनुवाद किए, मगर और कामों से समय निकाल कर उतना नहीं हो पाया जितना सोचा था। फिर भी धीरे-धीरे चलता रहा। उम्मीद यह थी कि अन्य लोग भी अनुवाद में सहयोग देने के लिए मिलेंगे, पर एकाध लेख के अलावा कोई और अनुवाद करने वाला नहीं मिला, लिहाजा एक व्यक्ति से जो हो सका वही होता रहा। एक समस्या यह भी थी कि हिन्दी की अपनी वेबसाइट न होने के कारण कुछ भी करने (चाहे टाइपिंग की कोई गलती सुधारने जैसी ज़रा सी बात ही हो) में भी काफ़ी समय लग जाता था क्योंकि ज़ेड नेट की वेबसाइट भी जिन लोगों के सहारे चल रही है, उनके पास भी पहले से ही बहुत से काम हैं और वे अन्य गतिविधियों में भी अपना समय देते हैं। और यह कोई व्यावसायिक मीडिया तो है नहीं जहाँ कागज़ी हरियाली की कमी न होती हो।

आखिर 2010 के मध्य में ज़ेड संचार नाम से हिन्दी ज़ेड नेट की अपनी वेबसाइट zsanchar.org के पते पर चालू की गई। इसे शुरु करने के कुछ समय बाद यह लगा कि जब वेबसाइट हिन्दी में है तो अंग्रेज़ी का अक्षर ज़ेड नाम में क्यों है? नतीजतन एक नये नाम की खोज की गई, जो ‘सह-संचार’ पर आकर रुकी।

आप अकेले नहीं होंगे अगर आप सोचते हैं कि यह नाम बड़ा नीरस है। अपना भी यही ख्याल है। नाम के साथ एक और समस्या है। ‘सह-संचार’ हिन्दी में सोशल नेटवर्किंग के समानार्थी के रुप में भी स्वीकृत होता लग रहा है। यह दूसरी समस्या शायद इतनी गंभीर नहीं है। जैसा कि भाषा विज्ञान में आम जानकारी है, एक ही शब्द के एक से अधिक अर्थ हो सकते हैं। बल्कि उच्चारण और वर्तनी एक जैसे होने पर भी दो शब्द हो सकते हैं, जैसे दिन वाला ‘कल’ और पुर्जा वाला ‘कल’। इसलिए दूसरी समस्या का समाधान तो हमने यह मान लिया कि एक शब्द है ‘सह-संचार’ जिसका अर्थ है सोशल नेटवर्किंग और दूसरा शब्द (या नाम) है ‘सह-संचार’ जो ज़ेड (ज़ी) कम्यूनिकेशन्स का हिन्दी संस्करण है।

पर नाम के नीरस होने की समस्या फिर भी बचती है। तो यह लेख उसी समस्या का स्पष्टीकरण देने के लिए लिखा गया माना जा सकता है। स्पष्टीकरण इस तरह कि नाम चाहे नीरस हो, पर उसकी कहानी नीरस नहीं है, बल्कि काफ़ी रोचक है।

वैसे हिन्दी संस्करण के नाम में ज़ेड (ज़ी) होने का भी एक वाजिब आधार है। और वहीं से हमारी कहानी शुरू होती है।

बीसवीं शताब्दी में कला का एक नया माध्यम सामने आया जिसे सिनेमा कहा जाता है। बहुत से शायद इस माध्यम की किसी भी कलात्मक संभावना से सिरे से ही इन्कार करते हों, पर उनसे बहस में भिड़ने का अभी अपना कोई इरादा नहीं है। तो इस नितांत नये माध्यम की सबसे बड़ी खासियत यह है इसकी पहुँच बहुत कम समय में बहुत बड़े जनसमूह तक एक ही समय पर हो सकती है और बहुत तेज़ी से फैल सकती है। इक्कीसवीं सदी और भी नये माध्यम लाती हुई दिख रही है, पर सिनेमा जितनी पहुँच तो अभी भी किसी अन्य माध्यम की नहीं है। टी वी की पहुँच कुछ मामलों में अधिक हो सकती है, पर उसकी कलात्मक संभावनाओं पर सवाल इस हद तक उठाए जा सकते हैं कि अधिकतर तो एकमात्र कला जो उस पर कभी-कभार नज़र आती है वो सिनेमा ही है। संगीत, नृत्य आदि भी पहले दिखते थे, पर वो ज़माना तो चला गया लगता है। इंटरनेट पर बाकायदा एक कलात्मक माध्यम के उभरने में शायद अभी कुछ समय लगेगा।

तो सिनेमा की इस असाधारण पहुँच के कारण ऐसे बहुत से लोग भी इसकी तरफ आकर्षित हुए जिनको प्रतिबद्ध कहा जाता है। हिन्दुस्तान के ही सर्वश्रेष्ठ सिनेकारों में से एक रितिक घटक, जिनका प्रगतिशील राजनीति और उससे जुड़े थियेटर से लंबे समय तक वास्ता रहा था, का कहना था कि उन्होंने सिर्फ़ इसलिए सिनेमा को अपनाया कि इसकी पहुँच बहुत बड़ी है और अगर हम अपनी बात ज़्यादा से ज़्यादा लोगों तक पहुँचाना चाहते हैं, तो सिनेमा को नज़रअंदाज़ नहीं कर सकते। रितिक घटक जैसे अन्य कई सिनेकार विश्व सिनेमा में हुए हैं जिन्होंने इस माध्यम का प्रयोग न केवल कलात्मक अभिव्यक्ति, बल्कि नैतिक-राजनैतिक कथन के लिए भी करने की कोशिश की है। उनकी राह में बाज़ारवाद, रूढ़िवाद तथा पूंजीवाद (भ्रष्टाचार को छोड़ भी दें तो) के चलते अनेक बाधाएँ आईं और वे किस हद तक सफल हुए यह कहना कठिन है, पर उनमें से कई काफ़ी लोकप्रिय फ़िल्में बनाने में कामयाब हो सके, या कहना चाहिए कि उनकी फ़िल्में लोकप्रियता हासिल करने में कामयाब हो सकीं।

इन्हीं में से एक बहुत बड़ा नाम है कोस्ता गाव्रास। यूनानी (ग्रीक) मूल के गाव्रास का नाम लेते ही तस्वीर उभरती है ‘राजनैतिक’ फ़िल्मों की। यहाँ राजनैतिक से वैसा अर्थ नहीं है जैसा प्रकाश झा आदि की फ़िल्मों से जोड़ा जाता है, बल्कि वैसा है जैसा प्रतिबद्ध साहित्य के साथ जुड़ा है। यह अर्थभेद राजनीति तथा राजनीतिबाज़ी का है – पॉलिटिकल और पॉलिटिकिंग का।

ऐसी राजनैतिक फ़िल्मों में भी एक खास श्रेणी है उन फ़िल्मों की जो हमारे ही समय (यानी पिछली एक सदी के भीतर) की वास्तविक ऐतिहासिक घटनाओं पर आधारित फ़िल्मों की है। कोस्ता गाव्रास ने ऐसी ही फ़िल्में बनाने में अपनी महारत दिखाई है। ‘मिसिंग’, ‘स्टेट ऑफ़ सीज’, ‘एमेन.’ (पूर्ण विराम नाम में ही है) ऐसी ही कुछ फ़िल्में हैं। पर शायद उनकी सबसे प्रसिद्ध फ़िल्म है ‘ज़ेड’ (या ‘ज़ी’)। यह आधारित है यूनान की ही राजनैतिक घटनाओं पर जब वहाँ अमरीकी दखलंदाज़ी की पृष्ठभूमि में फ़ासीवादियों द्वारा एक लोकप्रिय उदारवादी नेता की हत्या कर दी गई और उससे जो घटनाकृम शरू हुआ उसकी परिणति सेना द्वारा सत्ता पलट में हुई।

‘बैटल ऑफ़ अल्जियर्स’ तथा ‘ज़ेड’ वे दो फ़िल्में हैं जिन्हें इस श्रेणी की फ़िल्में बनाने वाला हर निर्देशक अपना काम शुरू करने से पहले देखना ज़रूरी समझता है।

कोस्ता गाव्रास के नाम के साथ यह कहानी भी जुड़ी है कि ‘ज़ेड’ की असाधारण (और शायद अप्रत्याशित) व्यावसायिक सफलता के बाद उन्हें (फ़्रांसिस फ़ोर्ड कपोला से पहले) गॉडफ़ादर निर्देशित करने का ‘ऑफ़र’ दिया गया था, पर उसे उन्होंने रिजेक्ट (या कहें ‘रिफ़्यूज़’) कर दिया क्योंकि उनके अनुसार स्क्रिप्ट माफ़िया का महिमामंडन करने वाली थी और वे उसमें कुछ बदलाव करना चाहते थे, जिसके लिए स्टूडियो वाले तैयार नहीं थे।

खैर, यह समय था विश्व युद्धों के बाद अमरीकी साम्राज्यवाद के पहले बड़े फैलाव का, यानी वियतनाम युद्ध का और ढेर सारी अन्य जगहों पर अमरीकी समर्थन प्राप्त सत्ता पलट और तानाशाही का। पर यह समय अमरीकी नागरिक अधिकार (सिविल राइट्स) आंदोलन का भी था। नोम चॉम्स्की और हावर्ड ज़िन जैसे लोग इस आंदोलन में सक्रिय थे, और जो छात्र इसमें शामिल थे उनमें एक थे माइकल ऐल्बर्ट,यानी ज़ेड नेट के संस्थापक।

जब मैंने पहली बार ज़ेड नेट पढ़ना शुरू किया था, उसके कुछ ही समय बाद मैंने यह अनुमान लगाया था कि हो न हो इसके नाम में यह अंग्रेज़ी का आखिरी अक्षर जो है, उसका कुछ संंबंध कोस्ता गाव्रास की फ़िल्म से है और यह बात मैंने अपने ब्लॉग पर भी लिखी थी। बाद में खुद ज़ेड नेट पर ही यह लिखा देखने को मिला कि यह अनुमान सही था।

बात इतनी अजीब नहीं है। दरअसल (आधुनिक) ग्रीक भाषा में इस अक्षर का अर्थ है ‘वह अभी जीवित है’ और उस फ़िल्म के अंत में यह अक्षर या शब्द इस अर्थ में एक लोकप्रिय नारा बन जाता है कि अमरीकी दखलंदाज़ी के विरोधी जिस जनप्रिय नेता की हत्या कर दी गई थी वो जन-मन में अब भी जीवित है, यानी जैसा कि ज़ेड नेट के मुख्य पृष्ठ पर लिखा है, प्रतिरोध की भावना अब भी जीवित है (द स्पिरिट ऑफ़ रेज़िस्टेंस लिव्स)।

सार यह कि ‘ज़ेड’ अंग्रेज़ी अक्षर नहीं हुआ, बल्कि एक राजनैतिक कथन हुआ। इसीलिए अगर हिन्दी संस्करण में भी यह रहता तो उसका वाजिब आधार था।

फिर यह ‘सह’ क्यों आया? मज़े की बात है कि यह भी ऐसा मामला है जहाँ एक ही उच्चारण और वर्तनी होने पर भी दो शब्द हैं – पहला तो सहने के अर्थ में और दूसरा सहयोग के अर्थ में। हमारे लिए दूसरा वाला मामला लागू होता है, हालांकि पहले को भी अक्सर झेलना पड़ सकता है।

लेकिन उससे भी मज़े की बात एक और है। वामपंथियों के खिलाफ़ एक आरोप जो अक्सर लगाया जाता है वह है कि जो व्यवस्था (या मनोहर श्याम जोशी के अनुकरण में कहें तो प्रतिष्ठान) अभी हमें जकड़े हुए है उसकी बुराइयाँ तो आप बहुत बताते रहते हैं, पर उसका कोई विकल्प आपके पास नहीं है। जो विकल्प माने जाते थे, यानी साम्यवादी व्यवस्था आदि, वे भी असफल साबित हो गए हैं। ये आरोप सच हैं या नहीं इस पर तो हम अभी नहीं जाएंगे, पर जिन माइकल ऐल्बर्ट का ज़िक्र हमने किया, यानी ज़ेड नेट के संस्थापक, वे एक विकल्प (पार्टिसिपेटरी इकोनॉमिक्स या पैरेकॉन) की परिकल्पना और विकास की कोशिश में अनवरत लगे हुए हैं, उसे हिन्दी में ‘भागीदारी की अर्थव्यवस्था’ या ‘सहयोग पर आधारित अर्थव्यवस्था’ कहा जा सकता है। तो सह-संचार के ‘सह’ को आप उससे जोड़ सकते हैं।

पर वो तो बाद की बात है। उससे पहले की बात यह है कि ‘स’ और ‘ह’ (संयुक्ताक्षरों को छोड़ दिया जाए तो) हिन्दी या देवनागरी, बल्कि ब्राह्मी, वर्णमाला के आखिरी ‘अक्षर’ हैं, जहाँ ‘अक्षर’ शब्द का प्रयोग अंग्रेज़ी के ‘लेटर’ या ‘कैरेक्टर’ की तरह किया जा रहा है।

आपके बारे में नहीं मालूम, पर अपने को तो यह कहानी बड़ी रोचक लगती है। अगर ज़्यादा हो गया हो तो चलिए थोड़ी बहुत रोचक तो है ही। नहीं क्या? अगर नहीं तो कोस्ता गाव्रास की कुछ फ़िल्में ही देख डालिए। और देख ही रहे हों तो लगे हाथ रितिक घटक की फ़िल्मों पर भी हाथ साफ़ कर दीजिएगा।

(जो भी हो, यह याद रखा जाए कि सह-संचार अनिल एकलव्य की वेबसाइट नहीं है, चाहे अभी तक इसका ज़िम्मा लगभग पूरी तरह उन पर ही रहा हो। यह ज़ेड कम्यूनिकेशंस का हिन्दी संस्करण है। आप इस संचार में सहयोग करना चाहें तो एक बार फिर निमंत्रण है। संक्रामक रोग का कोई खतरा नहीं है।)

November 25, 2010

Drones, Aerial and Otherwise

[This was meant to be a comment in reply to an article on the ZNet by Pervez Hoodbhoy about aerial drones and what he calls ‘human drones’.]

I feel very strange, in fact disturbed, to have to make this comment, as this comment is critical of the ideas of someone with whom I have a lot in common, whereas I have almost nothing in common with those he proposes should be killed by any means possible. The strangeness also comes from the fact that the author not only recognizes but has actually been writing about the grounds on which I will put forward my criticism.

I am not sure whether Pervez Hoodbhoy is one or not, but I am an unapologetic atheist and have almost the worst possible opinion about religious fundamentalism of any kind, especially when it is of the organised kind or has organisational support. I also have no hesitation in stating that there IS something that can be called Islamic Fascism and it should be called by its proper name. But I also recognize that often things get mixed up and we can have a resistance movement that is also a Fascist movement. That makes it difficult to analyze them, let alone judge them. We can, however, still analyze and judge specific facts and events and be mostly right about them if we have sufficient evidence and we make sure that we keep our intellectual integrity intact.

Thus, for example, the people who are being targeted by the American drones (excluding those caught in the ‘collateral damage’) have been doing things which no sensible human being can support. These include the horrible terrorist acts, but more importantly (as the author rightly points out) they include their atrocities on their own people: women, protesters of any kind, ‘blasphemers’ etc. I can very well see what would happen to me if I were living in that kind of society.

I also share most of what the author has been saying. The trouble is that, he also makes some leaps of logic or conclusions which seem patently wrong to me and I think I have to register my disagreement with them, because they are far too important to be ignored.

I could, perhaps, write a longer article about it, but for now I will try to say a few things which matter more to me.

The first problem is that the author mixes up the literal and the metaphorical and this logical error leads him to atrocious conclusions. We can surely talk about ‘human drones’ where we are using the word drone metaphorically and the usage is justified as he has eloquently explained by comparing them with the non-human aerial drones. But the comparison itself is metaphorical. And the justification does not remain valid when he goes on to establish a straightforward literal equivalence. The ‘human drones’ might be brutal, unthinking, destructive, (metaphorical) killing machines and so on. They might be, in a sense, inhuman or anti-human, but they still are not non-human. They do have bodies, minds and thoughts. To say otherwise is to abandon one’s thinking in a fit of rage. What they deserve or not may be a matter of debate, but it has to be based on a vision that does not ignore the fact that they still are human beings, however detestable and dangerous they may be.

I am sure the author is aware of some of the history of the world which seems to indicate that there were a lot other people – and still are – who might also be justifiably called ‘human drones’ and who might be considered as bad as the ones he is talking about. That definitely can’t justify their actions, but it has a bearing on what those taking up the task of judging them should think and do.

If you agree with my contention here, then the analysis will lead to different directions. What those directions exactly should be, I won’t go into, because I don’t claim to have the answers, but they would lead to conclusions different from those of the author.

Even the metaphorical comparison here has some problems, which can, as I said, be guessed from what the author himself has been writing. There are some similarities, but there are also many differences. The ‘human drones’ still come from a certain society and they are part of it. The aerial drones are just machines, they don’t come from any society. The ‘human drones’ come from societies which have seen destruction of the worst kind for ages, whereas the aerial drones are (literally) remote controlled by those who played the primary role in bringing about this destruction, as the author himself has written and said elsewhere. If you ignore these facts, you will again be lead to very risky (and I would say immoral and unfair) conclusions.

With just a little dilution of the metaphor, haven’t most of the weapon laden humans (soldiers, commandos etc.) been kinds of ‘human drones’? The ones author talks about may be deadlier, but the situation is more drastic too. On the one hand you have an empire that is more powerful than any in history and on the other you have an almost primitive society that thinks it is defending itself, just as the empire says it is defending itself. Will it be improper to ask who has got more people killed? What about the ‘human drones’ of the empire: thinking of, say Iraq?

As far as I can see, the use of aerial drones to kill people, whoever they may be, is simply indefensible. Because if their use is justified on the grounds of the monstrosities of the Taliban ideologues and operators, what about chemicals? If some people were to form an anti-Taliban group and they were to infiltrate the ‘affected’ villages and towns and if they were to use poisoning of the water supply or something similar to kill people in the areas where these monsters are suspected to be, would that be justifiable? The aerial drones are, after all, just a technological device. There can be other such technologies and devices.

There must have been some very solid reasons why the whole world agreed to ban the use of chemical and biological weapons after the first world war and stuck to that ban (with a few universally condemned exceptions), though they were very effective and the Nazis were very evil.

The other big problem I have with the author’s opinions on this matter is that he suggests that the American aerial drones are one of the unsavoury weapons we should use against the fundamentalist Islamic militants. This is a logical error as well as a moral one. The logical error is that ‘we’ are not using the weapons at all, the empire is using them. And it is the same empire that created the problem in the first place, once again as the author himself has said. We have no control over how these drones are or will be used and who they will be used against in the future. Can’t they, some day in the future, be used against ‘us’? Why not? Perhaps the empire won’t use them directly, but it can always outsource their use: think again of Iraq. Iraq of the past and Iraq of the present. The author, in fact, knows very well the other examples that I could give.

To put it in Orwell’s words, make a habit of imprisoning Fascists without trial, and perhaps the process won’t stop at Fascists.

The use of aerial drones, they being just a technological device, might perhaps be justifiable for certain purposes, for example in managing relief work during large scale natural disasters, e.g. the wild fires in Russia or the frequent floods in India and China (but not as just a cover for their more sinister use). Their use for killing humans is, however, of a completely different nature.

The moral error is that the author’s conclusions unambiguously imply that ends justify the means. As long as these monsters producing (or becoming) ‘human drones’ are killed, it doesn’t matter whether the weapons are, to use the author’s word, unsavory. It also doesn’t matter that they are being used by an empire ‘we’ are opposed to and which started the mess. (Actually, the mess was started long ago by another empire, but then we could say there were even older empires who played a role in creating this mess, so let’s not go into that).

I even sort of agree with the author’s idea that recommending the standard left meta-technique of “mobilizing” people (actually, it is not just leftists who use such techniques) may not be very practical under the conditions prevalent in this case. But, as I said, though I understand the severity of the problems, I don’t have the solutions. I only want to say that the kind of errors that the author makes can lead us to a worse situation. We should not forget (I am sure the author knows this too) that it is not just a case of some bad apples. Even if these were to be removed by using ‘unsavory’ forces and weapons, the problems are not going to be solved so easily. Because there is not just one clearcut problem but many problems which are all meshed together and the meshing is too complex and barely visible.

At the risk of making an unpalatable statement, I would say that if any party in conflicts like this has to be excused for using unsavory weapons or tactics, it will have to be the much weaker party, not the strongest party in history. But I don’t think I would include suicide bombing among those weapons or tactics. And I also realize the limits to which I can be entitled to sit in judgement over people living under such conditions.

The author need not offer me (business class or mere economy) tickets to Waziristan. I am scared to even go to places in India.

One more problem that I have with the author’s writings is that he seems to have assigned blame to most parties involved in the conflict: the Army, the militants, the Taliban, the Americans etc., but has he (I haven’t read everything written by him) considered, equally critically, the role of the Pakistani elite (not just the leftists) and the somewhat ‘secular’ middle class? He seems to have hinted at their role, but it seems to me that their role was, is and will be far more critical in determining what is happening and what will happen. After all, the rise (if we can call it that) of the Taliban closely parallels the Islamisation of the Pakistani society in general. How did the Pakistani elite (intellectual, feudal and official) help in this and what can they do to solve this problem?

That, it seems to me, is the crucial question to ask (though it won’t lead to a quick fix), apart from what people around the world can do about those controlling the aerial drones, towards whom, as the author earlier wrote, “we still dare not point a finger at”. After going on to point a finger at them, the author seems to have now moved to the position of accepting their support in terms of killings by the aerial drones in order to contain the ‘human drones’, which (to be a bit harsh) doesn’t make sense to me.

Related to this is another question: does the natural antipathy of the Pakistani elite towards these ‘primitive’ tribal communities has something to do with the position that the author has taken and which he says many others (‘educated people’) share?

There are, of course, other actors. The author has mentioned Saudi Arab, but Iran has a role. Even India has (or at least wants to have) a role.

But I want to end on a positive note. It’s heartening to see that the ZNet allows this kind of a dissenting view to be presented on its platform. That should be a good sign for the discussion.

[Unfortunately, I have to end on a slightly negative note. As I was going to add the comment to the article, I realized that I have to be a ‘sustainer’ even to post a comment. And I have not been able to become a sustainer for reasons I won’t go into here. Hence I post it here.]

March 3, 2010

Howard Zinn

Another man done gone. But just the body. The Howard Zinn I knew (even if only slightly and not personally) and lot of others knew, is not going to die so easily, in spite of the manufactured consent and the manufactured dissent (of the Caine and Melnyk kind, not the Michael Moore kind).

I am not mad about meeting people, even great ones, but I wish I could have met him and told him that I have translated one of his articles in Hindi.

Still, I might translate more.

In case you don’t know anything about him, his is the book to find out about the American (US) History: A People’s History of the United States. But he didn’t just write. He participated in as many movements for justice as he could and faced beatings and arrests. He could do that because he didn’t have to juggle for maintaining a privileged place in the establishment and also a place as an acceptable honorable dissenter. Some of you might be disappointed now if I mention that he served as a bombardier in World War II and was no loony hippie.

Here is one of his recent interviews and below is another:

(It seems to have suddenly become unavailable here, though all other videos are working. You can still read the transcript here)

And you might also be able to watch, or rather listen to (unless that too suddenly becomes unavailable) readings from parts of The People’s History of the United States by Matt Damon. I am adding the first part below, from which you can navigate to the other parts:

April 19, 2008

हिन्दी ज़ेडनेट – नये अनुवाद (1)

तो आखिर मैंने हिन्दी ज़ेडनेट के लिए तीन और अनुवाद पूरे कर ही दिए। इतना समय लगने का एक कारण यह था (इसके अलावा कि मेरी उम्मीद के विपरीत और कोई अभी तक इस काम में शामिल होने के लिए आगे नहीं आया है) कि एक लेख काफ़ी लंबा था और उसमें दो कविताओं के उद्धरण थे, जिनमें से एक शायद दुनिया की सबसे अधिक पढ़ी गई कविताओं में से एक है।

उम्मीद है कविता अनुवाद के बाद भी कविता जैसी ही लगेगी।

नये अनुवाद ये हैं:

  • ग़ैर-टिकाऊ अविकास: नोम चॉम्स्की
  • कला, सच और राजनीति: हैरॉल्ड पिंटर
  • सभ्यताओं का टकराव: नोम चॉम्स्की

और हाँ, ज़ेडनेट की साइट पूरी तरह बदली जा रही है, परिणामतः हिन्दी ज़ेडनेट भी यहाँ से अब यहाँ आ गया है।

और यह भी कि कुल अनुवादों की संख्या अब एक दहाई यानी दो अंकों तक पहुंच गई है।

तीन अंकों तक अकेले पहुंचाना मुश्किल होगा, फिर भी…

March 30, 2008

Discovering Delightful Connections

I have been thinking about writing a post about what (at least one thing) to do when life seems unbearably depressive and you are in the grip of the EIM (Everything Is Meaningless) syndrome. When you feel that you can’t really believe in anyone or anything. Even the ‘best’ people start turning out to be unreasonably mean and nasty. And there seems to be no point in doing anything. Even waking up. Or eating.

By the way, psychologists would love to have this one more syndrome. Or have they already (gladly) got it?

I just came across something that reminded me of one such thing. I mean one of the things you can do at such EIM etc. times. And that is discovering delightful connections. I discovered one such connection.

A few days ago I had seen a movie (La Mome) about the legendary French popular (female) singer Edith Piaf. I will write about her later, but one of the things I learnt during my post-movie (re)search on the singer was that another legendary French popular (male) singer Yves Montand was discovered and mentored by Edith Piaf. He was also, for some time, her lover. Anyway, after seeing this movie, Edith Piaf became one of my favourite (favorite for the dominant party) singers.

Some months ago I had written about the director Costa Gavras and one of his movies called ‘Z’. This happens to be one of my favorite films. But I forgot who played the role of the assassinated (really) democratic leader in that movie. I am not very good at recognizing French (or other non-Indian and non-Hollywood) actors, though I have seen many many French films. Probably because they don’t have as strong a star system as Hollywood.

Today I (re)discovered that it was Yves Montand.


This is what I call a delightful connection.

One that can bring a smile on your face.

One that can make you recall that not all is meaningless.

One that can make you happy.

A little bit, if not much.

And make you Happily write a post again.


(In case you are wondering, the use of a capital letter above is not arbitrary).

But there are one or two more connections that I would like to mention. At the end of the movie ‘Z’, when the military takes over the government, a list of things is announced which have been banned. The list goes something like this:

Peace movements, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, The Beatles, other modern and popular music (“la musique populaire”), Sophocles, Leo Tolstoy, Aeschylus, writing that Socrates was homosexual, Eugène Ionesco, Jean-Paul Sartre, Anton Chekhov, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, the bar association, sociology, international encyclopedias, free press, and new math. Also banned is the letter Z, which was used as a symbolic reminder that Lambrakis and by extension the spirit of resistance lives (zi = “he (Lambrakis) lives”).

This list is from the Wikipedia page about ‘Z’, but I remember one more banned item from the movie: Pinter. The writer Harold Pinter.

Where are the connections? First, note the inclusion of popular music in the list. Second, ‘the spirit of resistance lives’ is used as a kind of a motto by the site ZNet (or ZMag) where articles (among other things) by a great many of the world’s intellectuals and activists are published.

The Hindi section of ZNet (still pretty small) was started by your’s truly. Another thing I found out today is that some of these translated articles have started making appearance on other (Hindi) sites and blogs.

Reason enough to smile. Even if the ‘best’ people are turning out to be (at least) mean and nasty and you feel EIM.

Does it sound somewhat Frank Capraesque (as in It’s a Wonderful Life)? No, I wouldn’t go that far.

A smile is enough.

December 8, 2006

हिन्दी में ज़ेडनेट

ZNet/ZMag पर एक बेहतर दुनिया के लिए कोशिश करने वाले लोगों के विचारों और उनकी गतिविधियों के बारे में लेख प्रकाशित होते हैं। हाल ही मैं मैंने ज़ेडनेट के हिन्दी संस्करण की शुरुआत की है। यह शुरुआत केवल पाँच लेखों के अनुवाद से की गई है, पर उम्मीद है और लोग भी साथ देंगे ताकि ज़ेडनेट की सर्वोत्तम सामग्री हिन्दी में उपलब्ध हो सके। आप भी इसमें सहयोग कर सकते हैं।

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