March 05, 2006
Bush at the Gandhi Shrine
After agreeing to help India develop nuclear power in violation of nonproliferation treaties, George Bush visited a shrine honoring Mahatma Gandhi. It's unfortunate that Gandhi was cremated, and nothing remains of him but ashes -- otherwise, most of India's power needs could've been satisfied by attaching a turbine to his body as he turned over in his grave. Matt from Cerulean Blue imagines the dialogue between Bush and the Indian Prime Minister at the gravesite:
"Gandhi...he was in a movie, right? That one about a skinny brown guy? Won a bunch of Oscars?"
"Um...no sir. That was a film about Gandhi. Gandhi was one of the great leaders in our struggle for independence. He prevailed against the military aggression of the British Empire using civil disobedience. He was a pacifist."
Bush looks confused. "Hmm...a pacifist. Gandhi was a rubber tit?"
"No sir. That's a pacifier. Gandhi was a pacifist. He practiced non-violence."
I have amended 'Ghandi' to the correct spelling, Gandhi. Via Dadahead.
June 02, 2005
Friends and Foes in India
My time as Ezra's guestblogger is coming to a close, and I want to thank him for giving me this opportunity. It's been a very rewarding experience!
I see that he's made room for a category of posts on India, and nothing currently seems to occupy that category. So as a final post, I'll say some very general things about Indian politics to give people a feel for the terrain. My knowledge of Indian politics isn't particularly great, but I should be able to say enough to give you an idea of what's going on and why it's exciting.
If you like Democrats, you'll probably be rooting for India's Congress Party. Congress is a secular party that stands for tolerance towards India's Muslim minority, overturning the caste system, and more friendly relations with traditional rival Pakistan. On the economic front, Congress is likely to support redistribution of wealth to the poor. Congress posted a surprising victory in recent elections, and the current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is surprisingly similar to Robert Rubin. He's a soft-spoken technocratic economist who served as a finance minister in the 1990s and set up economic reforms -- mostly in eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy -- that led to greater prosperity.
The BJP is pretty much the equivalent of America's Republican Party, combining Hindu fundamentalism with a generally pro-business viewpoint. One of the BJP's darkest moments in recent history occurred 12 years ago when Hindu rioters tore down a mosque that stood on what they claimed to be the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. In the ensuing violence, about 2000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. The BJP governor of the state, Narendra Modi, did little to prevent the mosque from being destroyed or stop the violence. There's a radical BJP-connected operation called Shiv Sena (Soldiers of Shiva) which is sort of a thuggish Christian Coalition-type operation. Making life hard for women, Muslims, gay people, and untouchables is what they do.
In some provinces -- notably Kerala and West Bengal -- the Communist Party is strong. As you'd expect from Communists, downward distribution of wealth and a generally secular viewpoint are what they're all about. In Kerala, the Communists have done pretty well, attaining the highest literacy rate in India (but also the highest unemployment rate.)
Those are your basic players. Now a thought on why any politically engaged Democrat should take an interest in Indian politics: it's like American politics, except all the stakes are multiplied by some large number. The gap between rich and poor in India is enormous, the state of women's rights is far worse, and there's a whole bunch of religious and caste-related prejuice that any Democrat would oppose. And unlike many other nations that have problems we wish we could fix, India is a democracy. Enormous things can be fixed, or set on the path to goodness, when the good guys win. It's just a question of how long it'll take before victory.
Well, that's it for me! Signing off,
--Neil the Ethical Werewolf