Friday, February 04, 2011

Review: An ordinary person's guide to empire by Arundhati Roy

An ordinary person's guide to empire by Arundhati Roy
200 pages, softcover ISBN: 0896087271

Yes, revolution is in the air.
I actually read this book a couple of months ago. I've since then passed it on using So I don't have it in front of me, but I think I can remember a couple of points and share them because as I'm looking at different situations around the world I feel that Arundhati Roy's analysis is spot on.

The book is a collection of speeches she's made. They're easy reading, and she's very good with the rhetorical thrusts against her targets.

My lessons from this collection:
  1. Political democracy is no longer a guarantor of the masses' rights because transnational, corporate interests and their local oligarchical allies have become too adept at manipulation of the political apparatus and its buttresses such as intelligence services and media.
  2. Corporations and their local allies deliberately create ethnic and religious tensions to divert people from solidarity based on class interests. The example Professor Arundhati uses is India's Hindutva movements.
  3. Solidarity must become transnational in scope and global in outlook (an unedited version which I like better) to have a chance of restraining corporations and their local representative elites.
Earlier this year, southern Sudan voted on a referendum for secession from Sudan. While many difficult details remain to be negotiated, it appears that secession will occur. As a Pan-Africanist, a 3rd World Solidarity, a Pan-Arabist, a Pan-Islamist ideologue, I'm saddened by this and I can't help but think that the new state will not solve people's problems. However, the fault lies not with "Western" governments or "crusading" evangelical organizations, although one may certainly find inconsistencies between their positions on Sudan and their positions on other troubled regions. The fault lies with the Khartoum regime's favoring of a small group of Sudanese over the rest and its use of extreme violence to quell the resulting dissent.

Similarly, as much as I think a Kurdistan in Northern Iraq is a terrible development, I can understand why Kurds want an independent state.

So I urge Muslims in North America to read this book to understand that until we join others in a more universal, more global perspective on rights beyond our limited "these people are like me, I should support them" reflex response, we're not going to be effective.