Cheery Thoughts after Light Reading

23:59 Sun 16 Mar 2008
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I finished reading Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance today. It’s an excellent book, covering a broad swathe of life in India during The Emergency, a period of what was essentially dictatorship form 1975 to 1977. It’s also extremely depressing.

There’s some hope that comes out of it, but not much… most of it is about the powerless being ground up by the machinations of those further up the ladder. Casual violence and an utter disregard for human life abounds, some of it arising from the still-extant caste system in India, but much of it bound up in simple economic/power inequality.

While it’s about India, and much of it is unique to that country, the politics of it are clearly seen across the globe. I have no doubt that horrific abuses on par with those in A Fine Balance go on in some sectors of many Western nations (in American prisons, for example). There are significant difference, and things are unquestionably better for the majority of people in the West. A lot better. Nevertheless, the question of which direction we’re headed in remains. Economically we’ve been stripping away barriers to inequality, with predictable results, and encouraging grossly irresponsible practices in the financial markets (where things are not looking good), which is not a recipe for political progress.

Further, while the idea that America was some kind of uniquely moral actor in world affairs has always been ludicrous, the acceptance of torture and executive writs of attainder seems worse. The former was delusional, but underlying that delusion was some kind of decency, whereas decency and torture are rather difficult to reconcile—and decency does not fit at all with the acceptance of torture as a state practice, nor with the acceptance that the state can imprison whoever it pleases.

But there’s still some hope drifting around in my mind, a belief in other people, in the human capacity for compassion, in our ability to resist, to overcome fear, to seek and embrace understanding, and to see through the same old divide-and-conquer bullshit that the elites have been manipulating us with for millennia.

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