Moby Dick, or The White Whale

My journey in reading Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick, was as arduous as the Captain of the Pequod’s in attempting to slay the White Whale. I even took a detour off the book for a couple of days with Tina Fey’s light-hearted but heavy on the funny-bone Bossypants to cure myself of the melancholia that Melville’s central protagonist, Captain Ahab, inspires in readers.

The book published by Bantam Classic also contains a sampling of reviews by Melville’s contemporaries, as well as a few modern interpretations of which John Parke’s interpretation stands out for his fine ability to understand Melville’s intention in writing such a complex book. First published in 1851, contemporary critics were unanimously preoccupied with denouncing the book as ‘blasphemous’ and Melville a ‘heretic’ for the book’s theme that delved into Man’s quest for understanding the Nature of the Universe/God, while the allegory was totally lost on them. Before i proceed to present my understanding of the book, i shall confess that the book has such finer nuances and mystical references that might’ve eluded me, that it requires at least more than one reading, nay, studying, if i am to fully comprehend it’s meaning.

The book’s central character, Ahab, Captain of the Pequod, has a personal score to settle with the White Whale. It is revealed that the Captain and the Whale had previously encountered one another years before where they battled for supremacy over the seas. The Whale, with his sentient malice, tore off Ahab’s leg, leaving him devastated in more ways than one. While Ahab is convalescing, his mind is adrift on shores alien to most 19th Century Christians – denouncing the idea of a benevolent God. He now identifies his own self by one thing alone – his physical mutilation, that traumatizes him to the extent of creating a corresponding mutilation in his soul and a distorted vision of a chaotic world that is conspiring on victimizing him. The Whale has left him so frustrated that he now assigns the Whale the burden of all his life’s miseries, failures and mistakes, and now swears to slay it in a quest to re-establish a just world. The following passage from Chapter 41, Moby Dick, is enlightening of Ahab’s altered state of mind –

And then it was, that suddenly sweeping his sickle-shaped lower jaw beneath him, Moby Dick has reaped away Ahab’s leg, as a mower a blade of grass in the field…Small reason was there to doubt, then, that ever since that almost fatal encounter, Ahab had cherished a wild vindictiveness against the whale, all the more fell for that in his frantic morbidness he at last came to identify with him, not only all his bodily woes, but all his intellectual and spiritual exasperations. The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung…All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick…Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form. Ahab’s fully lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted; like the unabated Hudson, when that noble Northman flows narrowly, but unfathomably though the Highland gorge. But, as in his narrow-flowing monomania, not one jot of Ahab’s broad madness had been left behind; so in that broad madness, not one jot of his great natural intellect had perished. That before living agent, now became the living instrument.  If such a furious trope may stand, his special lunacy stormed his general sanity, and carried it, and turned all its concentrated cannon upon its own mad mark; so that far from having lost his strength, Ahab, to that one end, did now possess a thousand fold more potency than ever he had sanely brought to bear upon any one reasonable object”.

Why, the reader might ask, has Melville imported such significance to The Great While Whale, assigned the responsibility of all of Ahab’s life’s greatest failures to him, and thereby created an entity of such titanic proportions, whose magnificence is only witnessed when he is pitted against Ahab, who matches him in all his strength and intelligence?

The answer I believe, lies in Chapter 42, The Whiteness of the Whale. This is the chapter that i believe was the greatest source of worry for Melville’s contemporaries who lynched him for his ‘heresy’ because it is here that he posits the White Whale being emblematic of the Christian Deity himself, whose Will Ahab no longer believes in and has sworn it’s destruction to establish a new order in the world, where Man control’s his destiny. It makes sense on several levels that I know of – White is the essential colour of the Christian God and Jesus was also represented as a Fish by the Early Christians as Ichthys. Hence Ahab’s quest to duel the whale is really Man’s power struggle with God/Universe. What Melville has done in this chapter can be separately regarded as a short treatise on the duality of the Universe, essentially concerning the colour of the Whale and the contrasting emotions it evokes. The most succinct argument he puts forth for his theory is the case of the Polar Bear, who is the best natural example of this duality –

…it is not the whiteness, separately regarded, which heightens the intolerable hideousness of that brute; for, analysed, that heightened hideousness, it might be said, only arises from the circumstance, that the irresponsible ferociousness of the creature stands invested in the fleece of celestial innocence and love; and hence, by bringing together two such opposite emotions in our minds, the Polar Bear frightens us with so unnatural a contrast.”

Thus, to Ahab the Whale becomes the physical manifestation of all evil in the Universe, and in order to eliminate the powerful force of an unjust Universe, Ahab must summon within him a counter-force potent enough to fight back the Universe; while this equally powerful destructive force also becomes the source of his own self-destruction in the end. This, is Melville’s message to the reader. Ahab’s failure to identify the duality of the created world has lead him to wrongly affix the notion of evil on the whole world, and in his struggle to set right the wrong in the Universe, he has also failed to recognize the evil it has created in his own self. The concluding part of Chapter 44, The Chart, forebodes at the possibility of Ahab’s eventual self-annihilation –

“God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart for ever; that vulture the very creature he creates”.

Though Ahab is unable to locate the source of his conflict, he is seen occasionally pondering over it. In Chapter 132, The Symphony where he is seen for the first time questioning the moral righteousness of the life he has led. The overwhelming force within him that bids all his actions ever since his tryst with the Whale, is so intertwined with the purpose of his soul, that it’s origin seems untraceable to him –

“What is it, what nameless inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; that cozzening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing myself, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great Sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven,; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I.”

Moments before the final showdown between Ahab and the Whale, Ahab finally comes to realize the duality of the deadly force that he has created within himself, as he notes –

Oh, now I realize my topmost greatness lies in my topmost grief”.

But it is too late for him to turn back now. All his life has come up to this point where he always wanted to be, and now realizing that his unnatural obsession might be the very cause of his own undoing is no deterrent to him as he heartily accepts it as his salvation in realizing one of life’s great mysteries.

The story of Ahab is the story of that half of humanity that is intrigued by the way of the world; add to that a heady mix of obsession and a troubled past. I say this because the book talks of other whaling Captains who encountered the Whale, and while they battled him they too suffered losses of personal bodily wounds, crew members and even a child in one case; but none gave him further chase. So why Ahab? Why didn’t those innumerable Captains who went before him feel the urge to follow and slay the whale? The answer to this riddle, i believe, lies in Ahab’s past, most likely his childhood. It is probable that Ahab suffered a crisis of faith in the world that we imagine it to be very early in life, and that it probably came from within his family(hence his aversion to familial ties). Having meted out with such a disillusionment on his vision of life lead him to reject all smaller joys of life as ‘lesser’ until he achieves his vision of life. It is this deep-seated discontent that sets him in pursuit of a life-long journey to fight for a world where he would be free to pursue his vision of life, and until then, he cannot rest. He abandons his young wife in the wake of his new ambition. So he is hard on himself whenever he feels himself getting distracted from his original goal. He cannot fully enjoy the interim joys of life because his mind is set on a distant, uncertain future where he shall seize the opportunity for a chance to be content with life again. So he pushes himself on and on for years, believing right till the end that his strength and resolution will see him through, failing to comprehend the magnitude of the odds stacked against him. Ahab made it his life’s quest to eradicate the source of his miseries because he believed that only by defeating Evil(the whale) can he be free. He could still choose to ignore it and live his vision of life away from it all, considering his repression as acts of individual agencies rather than an organized effort – but that is not good enough. Ahab is not convinced of it, and he is not concerned so much for himself as he is for ridding all men of this injustice.

Ahab’s eventual demise can point towards two possible conclusions –

a) That the Universe is what perceptions we impose upon it, i.e., it is the sum of all our beliefs. It is neither evil nor good. Hence Ahab was fatally wrong in attributing Evil on the Universe and his attempt to fight it was futile at the best.

b) That the Universe is dominantly controlled by Evil forces that conspire against the Meek, and Ahab alone was too vulnerable to it’s forces. An organized attack by the Meek could have delivered a fatal blow to the Evil forces and restructured the power equation.

A third scenario, which dictates that the Universe is dominated by forces that are Good, is not only naive, but preposterous. One look at the world around us, and there is enough empirical evidence. I have a theory as to why Melville would have us believe that the Universe is just what we attribute to it, a white canvass to be painted upon by our ideas, possessing no personality. A positive reference to the society of Freemasonry in Chapter 86 to me suggests that he was either a Mason, or a patron at the least, i would guess, considering how territorial they are about that sort of thing. Historians such as Caroll Quigley(Tragedy and Hope), Nesta Helen Webster(The Cause of World Unrest) and Bernard Fay(Revolution and Freemasonry, 1680-1800) have widely documented the involvement of Masons in shaping the global landscape to usher in a novus ordo seclorum(new world order; an expression that is still used today by American Presidents in times of national crises and honour); events for which the information dominating our academia can only be compared to the tip of an ice-berg. So it basically comes down to a conspiracy to deceive people about the nature of our existence. Again, it is just a theory.

Ahab is a tragic hero, but nevertheless a hero I admire – despite feeling victimized, he does not cry foul, but he philosophizes and musters up courage to hit back at the Universe. What audacity! I am certainly reading this book again, if not for discovering subtler meanings, but to remember the great tragedy of Ahab who traversed the length of this world to exact revenge on (his notion of) Evil with a force that eventually consumed him. Ah, Melville lives.

V for Vedanta

I watched Avatar this afternoon, and it reminded me of a long-forgotten blog I was supposed to do which got delayed because of college and work; but here it is now. Maybe now I know better to enable me to write on this subject.

As the expression goes, ‘Get them early’, I would recommend all parents to treat their kids for a screening of Avatar as soon as possible. Of course the expression is abused often to teach our kids all kinds of things way too early – sexism, racism, greed, passing on Ayn Rand’s gift to the world-virtues of being selfish et cetera; all things necessary to win in this world, because after all Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest  has a blanket application to every specimen on this planet, and we are all specimens.

When I first watched Avatar, i marvelled at its brilliance. No, i am not referring to it’s trippy visual effects or even the pro-environment message,  i am talking about it’s India-connection. As i left the theatre-hall i discussed with my friend if James Cameron had any inkling as to what his movie has the power to do for the gravest internal security threat in the country. Before we try and  generalize Avatar as a theme of good versus evil, lets look at the avatars of good and evil that the agents take in the film.

Inspired by the motion picture Avatar, this file photo shows protesters from NGOs Survival International, Action Aid and Amnesty International gathered outside Vedanta Resources' Annual General meeting in London.

In mineral rich Pandora, hundreds of indigenous tribes people are battling to stop RDA Corporation from extracting unobtanium from underneath what they say are their sacred sites including the Tree of Souls. Now, if i have to make a conservative guess, and i say this well-meaningly, i’d say a majority of the people who saw the movie rooted for the Na’vi to protect their homeland from the mineral-hungry industrialists(if you are one of those few who rooted for the RDA, please recognize that you have issues to deal with and see a shrink as soon as possible). And i rooted for the Na’vi too, not only because there is a human story behind all the magical special-effects, but because as an Indian I feel more empathetic to their plight as we have Avatar playing day in and day out in our country in the mineral-rich jungles of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. And what riles me up most is that while the crowds lap up the jingoism as Tarok Macto avenges the destruction and loss caused by the industrial race, but soon as they walk out of the theatre-halls, they display utter disdain to the Maoist/Naxalite struggle. Are movies just meant to entertain? Or is there more to Alan Moore’s quote from V for Vendetta – “artists use lies to tell the truth” ? Why else would Survival International, Amnesty International and Action Aid organize demonstrations outside Vedanta  Resources’ HQ in London in 2010, while the champions of industry discussed profits from the last fiscal year within?

Let’s focus on what’s been happening in our country. In impoverished but mineral-rich Orissa, hundreds of indigenous tribes people are battling to stop London-listed Vedanta Alumina Limited from extracting bauxite from what they say is their sacred mountain, the Niyamgiri Hills.

Could this be any more obvious?

What i would like people to understand, and hope that the movie would awaken them to, is that there is no reason to shy away from admitting to yourself that our  governments can be as avaricious and evil as any villain in the best of the dystopian movies we’ve seen. And Avatar is doing just that for contextualizing the Naxalite struggle – forced exploitation and deprivation boomeranging back as reactionary violence – you get the gist. Seldom do events come by when they surpass their own being and skyrocket to popularity because it rings with  the popular sentiment of an angry and frustrated longing for making some sense of the world, and that is why Avatar, at least for us Indians, is not just a movie. If only more artists would realize the power of connecting society by art, they’d be humbled by their responsibility. Was Woodstock about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll?

Let’s see why the movie provides much food for the Indian soul. First of all, the logic as furthered by many a viewer that Indians aren’t as moved by the movie on another level as others around the world because they fail to appreciate the exotica of their own indigenous tribals enough to root for them, is utter hogwash!!! What do you suggest then? Convert all the men and women of the Republic of India into Middle-Earth trotting creatures to milk sympathy out of Good Samaritans to save our lives?

Dongria Kondh tribe members protest against Vedanta

Has India's gravest internal security threat issue turned into a slug-fest of exotica one-upmanship?

Secondly, i don’t think  Indians realize that the situation on ground-zero in the Naxalite-dominated forests is much worse than they can imagine from Avatar. Certainly stories of systematic rape and authorities shitting in the locals’ wells to demoralize them and cut-off their supplies, all for grabbing their mineral-rich lands to be turned over to mining corporations didn’t make it to the reels of Avatar. Maybe what could help is an acquaintance with the native tribals of Orissa who’re under imminent threat from Vedanta Alumina and Posco, for their ancestral forest lands are up for grabs to be turned over for industrial production – which is what i shall attempt to do. The forthcoming material is sourced from the Report of the Four Member Committee For Investigation into the Proposal Submitted by the Orissa Mining Company For Bauxite Mining in Niyamgiri, prepared by Dr. N C Saxena, Dr S Parusaraman, Dr Promode Kant and Dr Amita Baviskar that they submitted to the MoEF on 16th August 2010, that is also open for public reading online. This study, i believe, shall put to rest a lot of myths.

***The forested slopes of Niyamgiri Hills and the many streams that flow through them provide the means of living for Dongaria Kondh and Kutia Kondh, Scheduled Tribes that are notified by the Central Government as ‘Primitive Tribal Groups’ and thus eligible for special protection under the Constitution of India. In addition, the Dongaria Kondh, whose total population is estimated at 7952 according to the 2001 census, are regarded as an endangered tribe. Schedule V of the Indian Constitution enjoins the Government to respect and uphold the land rights of Scheduled Tribes, which consequently applies to the entire Niyamgiri Hills region. While the Kutia Kondh inhabit the foothills, the Dongaria Kondh live in the upper reaches of the Niyamgiri hills which is their only habitat.

Now this is where fact and fantasy converge. In the polytheistic animist worldview of the Kondh, the hilltops and their associated forests are regarded as supreme deities. The highest hill peak, which is under the proposed mining lease(PML) area is the home of their most revered god, Niyam Raja – the giver of law. At a clearing at the foot of Niyamgiri, hundreds of Kondh tribes people gather to worship the mountain god who provides them with food, water, shelter, medicine and livelihood. They worship the mountains (dongar from which the Dongaria Kondh derive their name) along with the earth (dharini). These male and female principles come together to grant the Kondh prosperity, fertility and health. All the Dongaria and Kutia Kondh villagers that the Committee conversed with emphasized the connection between their culture and the forest ecology of the Niyamgiri hills. Their belief in the sacredness of the hills is rooted in a strong dependence on the natural resources that the mountains provide. Their customary practices in the area include agriculture, grazing and the collection of minor forest produce (MFP).

The Kutia Kondh in Similibhata village and Kendubardi use the foothills to cultivate cereals such as mandia(ragi, finger millet), kosla (foxtail millet), kango and kedjana, pulses such as kandlo (tuvar, pigeon pea), biri(urad, black gram), kulath (horse Gram) and jhudungo, as well as oilseeds like castor and linseed (alsi). Two women, Malladi Majhi and Balo Majhi, while showing us their millet stores said, “This is why we need the forest. All these things come only from the forest”. We can buy rice [at Rs 2 per kilo], but these [millets] are tastier and more filling’. Their cows and buffaloes spend six months grazing in the forest.

With small land holdings that average 1-2 acres, the Kutia Kondh of Similibhata depend heavily on the forest for their livelihoods. Since the forest resources satisfy the bulk of their material needs, only 4 households out of 50 supplement their income with wage labour. The tiny community of Dongaria Kondh, who live in the upland areas of the Niyamgiri hills, depend on the hills even more intensely. Their distinctive cultural identity is intrinsically linked to the Niyamgiri hills where they have crafted a diverse and intricate agro-forestry system that uses mountain slopes and streams to great advantage. (This is one of the most important rebuttals to the “Growth Story’ tellers of Indian Inc., who presume that tribals yearn to share a piece of the modern Indian growth-pie, when in fact, we have absolutely nothing that they need to have fuller lives. One of the reasons why the farmers in Singur agitated when Tata Motors bought their agricultural land in exchange for wage-labour to manufacture cars in 2008, is because they were perfectly content with having a self-sufficient economic model working for them, whereas had Tata Motors not yielded to their demands, they’d be subjugated to private contractual obligations and lost total independence. The business class perceives this sentiment as being anti-development or backward, when in fact we need to stop, stare and introspect our urban lives in gross contrast to the tribes of Orissa who have realized a sacred relationship with nature and co-exist in a symbiotic system, where one does not feed off the other, but provides for the other).

The Dongaria Kondh cultivate patches of land cleared from the forest, that are rotated to maintain soil fertility. Since their population is very small, they regard land as plentiful and leave most of it forested. Besides the crops mentioned above, the Dongaria Kondh also cultivate bajra (pearl millet) and beans such as kating(lobhia, cow pea) and sem (broad bean, Lablab purpureus). However, the skill that they are renowned for is horticulture: pineapple, banana, orange, lime, mango, jackfruit, turmeric and ginger are their most popular produces. This produce grown on forest plots fetch them a handsome income throughout the year. In addition, they collect a variety of forest produce: all the ones mentioned above as well as edible mushrooms and honey (both these items are important sources of nutrition in the Kondh diet as well as marketable commodities that fetch them a good income), edible leaves (koliari, betka and kodi kucha) and tubers, grasses for making brooms, and herbs for medicinal use. They also rear chicken, pigs, goats and buffaloes.

The maintenance of buffaloes is a challenge, because pasturage is scarce on the hill slopes where the villages are located. Hence villagers’ customary rights to graze livestock in the forest is crucial for their livelihood economy.

The Dongaria Kondh from Kurli, Khambesi and Lakpadar villages to whom the Committee spoke appeared to be substantially better off than the Kutia Kondh of Similibhata and Kendubardi villages. Their crops, animals and forest produce not only provide them with enough food for self-consumption (mandia and kosla are their staples), but also fetch them substantial returns from the market. One indication of this economic well-being is the bride-price recently paid in the Dongaria Kondh village of Lakpadar. Besides a jhaula payment of Rs 8,000 to the bride’s village for a community feast, the bride’s family was given a maula payment of Rs 50,000 in cash, two buffaloes, 20 kg of rice, 10 kg of ragi, salt, chillies and two canisters of mahua liquor(Not too shabbs!). Despite the scale of such outlay, no funds were borrowed from moneylenders. This self-sufficiency is a testimony to the prosperity of the upland hill economy. This entire sum was raised by the sale of agricultural and forest produce. Notably, no one in the village has ever worked for wages.

The Dongaria Kondh the Committee met were proud of their economic independence and freedom from want. Over and over again, they attributed their well-being and contentment to the Niyamgiri hills and their bounty. All Dongaria Kondh that the Committee spoke to expressed their strong attachment to the Niyamgiri hills, their stewardship of the land, and the legitimacy of their rights arising from their long-standing presence in these hills. They strongly voiced their contentment with life and their opposition to any destructive change of the ecology threatening their culture. As one Sikoka Budhga said, “We can never leave Niyamgiri. If the mountains are mined, the water will dry up. The crops won’t ripen. The medicinal plants will disappear. The air will turn bad. Our gods will be angry. How will we live? We cannot leave Niyamgiri.”***

The Committee established beyond any doubt that the area proposed for mining lease and the surrounding thick forests are the cultural, religious and economic habitat of the Dongaria Kondh. The Forest Conservation Act recognizes these rights and these facts are undisputed. The Orissa Govt. has to formalize the procedures of ascertaining forest rights claims of the indigenous communities and the rejection of the claims of the Primitive Tribal Groups on any grounds is illegal on part of divisional or sub-divisional committees. Based on this the Committee recommended the  Govt. of India to withdraw its clearance to the proposed project.

Pest Control?

One of the most glaring examples of the collusion between government authorities and the private mining corporations is evident from the Report’s find that Vedanta Alumina Ltd had already proceeded with construction activity for its enormous expansion project that would increase its capacity six-fold from 1 Mtpa to 6 Mtpa without obtaining environmental clearance as per the requirements of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 0f 2006 under the Environment Protection Act. This illegal and gigantic expansionist strategy of the corporation shows its disregard for the laws of the country; but that disregard pales in comparison to the unimaginable wanton damage that would be caused to the ecosystem in Orissa had no one apprehended it.

Enter Rahul Gandhi(that expression seems tailor-made for him considering  how frequently and unsolicitedly he drops in and out of opportune events). For months on we read in the papers about the determined resistance of the Dongaria Kondhs and how for the first time the Central Government was in a pickle because non-violent adivasis were protesting against the land sharks, when in comes Rahul Gandhi and steals their show…i mean, how desperate is he for attention? How needy is this guy? Though i understand where he’s coming from…people have gotten to hate UPA-II so much for all their corruption-happy ways, he has to stoop to the level of wrestling with the Kondhs for sharing credit in getting the MoEF to reconsider the clearance given to Vedanta in Orissa and ultimately rejecting it. All this pro-aam aadmi posturing shall last so long as he’s campaigning to be the next PM. Soon as he’s elected, he’ll be surrounded by a coterie of Ivy-League educated lawyers and managers who will more likely than not ignore domestic issues and concentrate on consolidating India’s position as the rising economic-power. How then will he defend his pro-adivasi stance to his investor friends in the US/EU? I’m not sure if Rahul Gandhi suffers from selective-amnesia or not, but that must be why he never apprehended Mahendra Karma for disbanding the Salwa Judum, an armed civilian-vigilante group of upper-caste villagers and landlords in Chattisgarh who were trained to fight and resist “Naxalites”, created by the Congress’ Chattisgarh MLA, considering how much power he wields on policy-making within the Congress without holding any portfolio within the Government. In July 2011, in the matter of Nandini Sundar and Ors. v. the State of Chattisgarh the Supreme Court has since declared the Salaw Judum to be unconstitutional and asked for it to be disbanded immediately. But you’ve got to appreciate the poetry in the name they chose for the illegal militia – Purification Hunt for purifying the state of those who choose to resist the state in acquiring their resources and uprooting their livelihoods for the sake of turning them over to private interests for our ‘growing economy’, in exchange for pittance. The compensation the rural folk receive for forcefully giving up their lands is a steal. Perhaps the most serious indictment of the collusion between private corporations and the government is the Ministry of Rural Development’s draft report of the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task of Land Reforms, and i quote:

A civil war like situation has gripped the Southern districts of Bastar, Dantewada and Bijapur in Chattisgarh. The contestants are the armed squads of tribal men and women of the erstwhile People’s War Group now known as the Communist Party of India(Maoist) on the one side and the armed tribal fighters of the Salwa Judum created and encouraged by the government and supported with the firepower and organization of the Central Police Forces. This open declared war will go down as the biggest land grab ever since Columbus, if it plays out as per the script. The drama being scripted by Tata Steel and Essar Steel who wanted 7 villages or thereabouts, each to mine the richest lode of iron ore in India…Behind them(Salwa Judum) are the traders, contractors and miners waiting for a successful result of their strategy. The first financiers of the Salwa Judum were Tata and Essar Steel in the quest for ‘peace‘. The first onslaught of the Salwa Judum was on the Muria villagers who still owed an allegiance to the CPI(Maoist)…640 villages as per official statistics were laid bare…3,50,000 tribals are displaced, their women folk raped, daughters killed and youth maimed…Villages sitting on tonnes of iron-ore are effectively de-peopled and available for the highest bidder…Essar and Tata Steel are willing to take over the empty landscape and manage the mines.”

The final report of the MRD has conveniently edited out the inconvenient truths that could potentially kill India Inc’s image on the global stage. I can imagine that the Tatas and Ruias won’t be jumping with joy with corporate-genocide on their resume.

Let’s not forget that the current Home Minister, whose main job it is to ensure the security of the nation, and who is mainly in news for his hardliner approach in dealing with the Naxalites, what with deploying the CRPF men in areas of Chhattisgarh and the Maharashtra border-district of Gadchiroli earlier, or now bringing in the army in Chhattisgarh since June 2011, served on the Board of Directors for Vedanta Resources Ltd. and also provided legal representation to them until his job as the Finance Minister in 2004. Is it hard to imagine that P Chidambaram is karmically-indebted to his friends in the mining industry; ‘cleansing the forests’ of Chattisgarh  at their behest?

If mining is permitted on this site, not only will it be illegal but will also destroy the most sacred site for the Kondhs; centuries-old trees, hundreds of species of plants with medicinal properties, endanger the self-sufficient forest-based livelihoods and scores of perennial streams which flow down the mountain will be lost, say activists. Our Constitution enjoins us with a special duty to protect our tribals as it considers us developed enough to be responsible for them; developed in the sense of evolved human beings, not industrialized . Everytime we fail to protect the meek, we destroy the idea of India that we pride ourselves for; a country where multi-culturism never found it hard to make a place. For those who doubt India’s ability to uphold multi-culturism, remember, Hindu and Muslim villagers from in and around Ayodhya themselves never had any issues with the alleged existence of the Babri Masjid over Ram janmabhoomi. 

Let us salute the brave protesters from the tribal villages of Bhubaneshwar, Orissa in their peaceful struggle to reclaim their lands and yet again show to the world that the idea of justice can kick big money in it’s face…even $12 billion  of it!

Villagers and their children lie at the proposed site of a $12 billion steel plant by South Korea's POSCO during a protest in Orissa June 11, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer

(The descriptions Naxal and Maoist are used inter-changeably in the article. The Maoist struggle as we know it today, has its origins in 1960s Naxalbari, a small village in Darjeeling, Paschimbanga.)

Notes – 

1. Report of the Four Member Committee For Investigation into the Proposal Submitted by the Orissa Mining Company For Bauxite Mining in Niyamgiri: http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/Saxena_Vedanta.pdf

2. Judgement of the Supreme Court in the matter of Nandini Sundar & Ors. versus State of Chattisgarh – http://www.pudr.org/sites/default/files/nandini%20sunadar%20vs%20chattisgarh_0.pdf

3. Ministry of Rural Development’s draft report of the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task of Land Reforms, Vol. 1, March 2009 – http://www.rd.ap.gov.in/IKPLand/MRD_Committee_Report_V_01_Mar_09.pdf

Fear and Loathing in Hindustan

Joseph Lelyveld, an ex-NYT Editor, has attracted a lot of flak recently from various quarters of the Indian society(correction: the Hindu Fundamentalist society), for a book he recently authored on Mohandas K Gandhi. Lelyveld’s book is the result of pouring over extensive records of correspondences that Gandhi exchanged with his friends staying in South Africa and Germany after he returned to India in 1914. His controversial find? That Gandhi might have had too much of a soft-corner for his German friend, Hermann Kallenbach, as the careful reading of the letters suggest, Gandhi was gay…at most, bi-sexual!

This is tantamount to blasphemy according to Indian standards. Very sadly, when it comes to unflinching, political commentary on national leaders in India, there is a silent code of self-censorship that a great majority of us exercise, all ingrained by overt acts of violence, threats and divine displeasure that is directed at outspoken citizens by politicians. The Congress as well as the BJP are deft at creating demi-gods of their senior leaders; and once the mythological heroes have mounted the tree-stumps, they develop a protective sheath around them, that manifests itself either in the form of swashbuckling, saffron-decked fanatics who swear by the BJP’s ideology of a Hindutva nationalism of a by-gone era, or a coterie of Ivy League-educated lawyers and managers who spew jargon to confuse and threaten the Indian electorate while keeping it content with the ‘prospects of a globalized world’ . Of course, then there’s those of us who choose to monitor ourselves, despite being better-off than the vulnerable majority, for no other reason than utter lack of moral courage.

Several people from the sports and entertainment industry, apart from the political class, have chosen to speak out on Lelyveld’s attempt to ‘besmirch’ the Mahatma’s reputation. Let us reserve our commentary here to the responses of three primary ‘persons of interest’, if I may, to the issue at hand here, and really try to analyze the problem.

Person of interest – Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of the State of Gujrat

In Gandhi’s birthplace, which once held the promise to be the cradle of many ideas of an independent India, ideas which now seem to be relegated to the proverbial dustbin, Narendra Modi was quick to retaliate the very next day the book was announced in the Indian media. Modi spoke of how ‘saddened’ he was to watch somebody ‘humiliate’ a world icon who influenced people globally in the better hope of a peaceful world. As a self-appointed custodian of Indian values, Modi launched into his rhetoric of how Lelyveld had ‘offended’ Indian sentiments by ‘defaming’ an international icon. He then threatened on pursuing legal action against Lelyveld for ‘defamation’. Next step, he maneuvered his State machinery to ban the sale, distribution, publication and broadcast of the book, and even lobbied with the Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily on proposing a country-wide ban on the book, which shockingly, the Minister connived to. Modi’s famous for being a prompt decision-maker and tough administrator – like in 2002 when he and his friends from the BJP led a murderous mob in Godhra and committed  genocide against Muslims.

Person of interest – Manvendra Singh Gohil, openly-gay member of the royal family of former Princely State of Rajpipla

Manvendra’s ordeal of coming to terms with his own homosexuality and finally coming out to his family in his 40s is something that obviously made him speak up in this case, though not necessarily in its favour. He’s well-known for his contributions to the LGBT community in India; he established the Lakshya Trust in Gujrat which educates people of the LGBT community on HIV/AIDS, and has already added a hospice centre which caters to senior citizens globally. As India’s second-most famous openly-gay personality after Ashok Row Kavi, Manvendra spoke up against ‘irresponsible practices’ in journalism and how one needs to be ‘delicate’ when dealing with history while he also invoked that shaky bogey that is ‘public sentiments’.

Peeling the Onion – We couldn’t have asked for two better people for commenting on this ‘burning issue’, one diametrically opposite from the other, for reasons of morality, of course, and yet there is a disturbing conformity to their reactions.

I have a problem with the way this entire episode has shaped up for either ulterior reasons, or much less, with much greater prejudices and bigotry under the surface. What is Modi really saying when he ‘defends’ Gandhi against Lelyveld’s imputation of homosexuality to him? What is Manvendra being apologetic for when he begs writers to be more careful with history, lest they offend public morality? Is everyone missing the obvious here, that at the most Lelyveld could be guilty of perversion of history if his research proves to be less than authentic? Or are they? This collective-hurt of the majority of the society on ‘defaming’ Gandhi; what does it really say about us?

Allow me to quote from one of the best pop-culture references that is the film Philadelphia, where Joe Miller defends his client Andrew Beckett against a wrongful dismissal for being homosexual –

“Because this case is not just about AIDS, is it? So lets talk about what this case is really all about: the general public’s hatred, our loathing, our fear of homosexuals, and how that climate of hatred and fear translated into the firing of this particular homosexual”.

So the AIDS is the notion of a gay Gandhi in this story. How great is that?

The Delhi High Court’s judgment in the matter of Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi & Ors. in 2009 as it read down a part of S. 377 of the Indian Penal Code that formerly criminalized consensual acts of sodomy between men, thus outlawing homosexuality, was a landmark judgement that spelled an evolution in India’s progress towards protecting individual freedoms and liberties. More importantly, what Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice S Muralidhar need to be celebrated for is their pronouncement that homosexuality is not a physical or psychological aberration, but in fact a natural expression of an alternative sexuality, and it was finally time to rid the  homosexual community of the notion of being unapprehended criminals and proudly embrace their identities. The Judiciary finally reconciled with the boastful history of sex in India as is depicted at the Khajuraho Temples. Hell, if the highly graphic erotica at Khajuraho is anything to go by, the Delhi bench would have to read down the entire S. 377, which currently forbids buggery and bestiality.

The point is, it has been two great years since another weight of guilt has been lifted from India’s collective conscience, but discriminatory sexual-profiling is still rampant. Consider the case of the Aligarh Muslim University Professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras. Siras was expelled in February 2010 because a group students on campus unlawfully recorded him having consensual sex with another man and showed it to the authorities at AMU. Having consensual sex in the confines of your own apartment apparently is a shocking scandal that no institute of great repute can tolerate, that merited Siras’ expulsion. It gets worse. The media kept reporting that Siras was with an auto-rickshaw puller when he was caught in the act. I’m not sure if it is the media or the AMU that chose this narrative, but it reeks of fascist classism. How does it matter if Siras was in bed with an auto-rickshaw puller or the Dean of AMU?  Siras died two months after the incident. Unlawful gross breach of privacy, discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and classist – looks like the AMU has blood on it’s hands.

"I spent two decades here. I love my university. I have always loved it and will continue to do so no matter what. But i wonder if they have stopped loving me because i am gay."

If Modi considers himself to be a guardian of Indian morality, he is sadly very delusional. He must not confuse his electoral victories as the the electorate’s declaration of him as a great leader. Sure enough, he’s turned around the developmental scene in Gujrat – revenue for the state by roping in big corporate, employment and an endorsement by Amitabh Bachchan(a big-time sell-out…very, very shameful!) – but does that compensate for all the gross abuse of human rights that his government is responsible for? He’s even barred from travelling to USA and Canada, in recognition of his roles in inciting riots and genocide against Muslims. But the US is contemplating a classic turn-around on this commitment as Modi is projected to be the next Prime Ministerial candidate by the BJP, and claims of an industrial revolution in Gujrat are having a Pavlovian-effect on Washington.

Truth is, against all likelihood of gay rights soon being recognized all over India, it drove a stake of fear right through Modi’s heterosexual-supremacist heart in coming to terms with the fact that soon he would have free men who love men walking unabashedly on the streets of Gujrat…unless he created an atmosphere of hatred and intolerance to send out a message, the message being that to be even considered gay, is a slap on the face, an abomination, a disgrace, a disrepute – hence the smooth transition from perversion of history to defamation in attacking not just Lelyveld’s book, but homosexuals as well. Modi’s words and actions are outright un-Constitutional, in that they’re violative of the freedom of speech and expression and the right to life.

I am also surprised at Manvendra’s timid reaction. Notwithstanding his contribution to the LGBT community and appearing on Oprah, I expected him to be the first one to point out the utter irrelevancy of the issue of defamation in this case, as anyone who brings defamation and homosexuality together is suggesting that homosexuality is a debasement, a lowering of reputation, something disgusting or something that shocks the conscience of society – all of which has been ruled against in the Delhi HC’s 2009 judgement, wherein it upholds homosexuality just as natural as heterosexuality. Where’s your gay-pride, Manvendra?

Person of interest – Tushar Gandhi, Founder of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, Grandson of M  K Gandhi

Tushar Gandhi has lived up to the reputation of belonging to a lineage that chooses swaraj over slavery, be it from the colonialism of the British, or the corrupted ideologies that Indian leaders now promote. I applaud him for reacting to the situation with the dignity and intelligence that we beg for in our national leaders, when he said ‘How does it matter whether Bapu was straight, gay or bi-sexual? Each time he would still be the same man who led India towards freedom‘.

Think about it – Would Leonardo da Vinci’s art be anymore/less beautiful had he been heterosexual? Would Elton John’s music be anymore/less wonderful had he been heterosexual? Would Edward Norton’s movies be anymore/lesser great had he been homosexual? Would Noam Chomsky’s political commentary be anymore/less thought-provoking had he been homosexual? Would Tina Fey be anymore/less funny had she been homosexual? Would Gandhi’s ideas be anymore/less revolutionary had he been homosexual?

Even as sixteen year old sexually frustrated teens, when we watched Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi as part of our history lessons at school, for all his talk on civil disobedience and self-rule, we sniggered everytime Gandhi appeared semi-naked in the company of his female devotees…even worse, sleeping with some of them in the same bed to test his avowed celibacy. We told ourselves, ‘This is why you want to become great, so that one day you can fool them into sleeping with you under the pretenses of attempting to unlock some hidden human potential’. Let’s presume without admitting that Gandhi whored around with these women. Obviously that doesn’t make him the best husband in the world, but failing that, does he automatically also fail the test of a humanitarian who pushed the boundaries of peace like no one had attempted before? In effect, are character and chastity mutually exclusive ideas? It also brings up one of my favourite unresolved topics – Do great humanitarians make great humans themselves? (just by the way, the not so great part about Gandhi that i’m talking of refers to his difficult relationship with his wife, Kasturba, not his ambiguous sexuality)

Modi’s initial reaction, which might’ve well been shared by a vast majority, was that of ghastliness as he tried to make semblance of the book that dared to ‘disrobe’ a great figure; one who inspired many by demonstrating that peace can have an audience too. Let us try and imagine a homosexual Gandhi. I am not positing Gandhi’s sexual orientation, I am merely asking you to and try and reconcile the two seemingly divergent Gandhis – Mahatma and homosexual, in an attempt to appreciate the difference between character and chastity. Would the course of the independence struggle and post-independent India be any different had he been gay?

If only Gandhi was openly gay or bisexual, we wouldn’t be coming out on the streets today, now would we?

Notes – 

1. State of Gujrat declaring an unqualified ban on Great Soul – http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/04/01/gandhi-lelyveld-and-the-great-indian-tamasha/

2. Judgment of Delhi High Court in the matter of Naz Foundation v. Governemnt of NCT of Delhi & Ors – http://www.nazindia.org/judgement_377.pdf

3. Prof. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras’ ordeal as reported in The Hindu – http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/article113334.ece

In conversation with Prof. Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus in the Dept. of Linguistics at MIT, is a prominent American dissident whose activism has been a beacon of light for decades to Warriors of Light. His persistent efforts at exposing America’s criminal hypocrisy in dealing with its greatest ‘service’ to the 20th Century, democracy, and expanding on ideas of universal justice and peace are inspiring to say the least. I was recently reading What We Say Goes, wherein interviews with David Barsamian, a leading radio-journalist of the alternative-media in the US, he discusses US power in a changing world. I wanted his opinion on a few things, so I wrote to him, and living up to his reputation of a public intellectual, he replied in great detail. Here goes –

MAIL #1

—– Original Message —–

From: suraj sanap (by way of Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>)

To: Noam Chomsky

Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 3:21 PM

Subject: Seeking further information on your book “What We Say Goes”

Respected Professor Chomsky,

I am Suraj Sanap, 22, a first year law student. I live in Mumbai, India.

Since a couple of months I have been superficially engrossed with your body of political works, and I immediately bought a copy of What We Say Goes to get a quick read on your views, before going on to more extensive writings. I am familiar with your audacious criticisms of the United States and Israel, and I find it very reassuring to have someone to look up to tell us the truth with so much painstakingly done research. I am close to finishing “WWSG“, and on the most part I am overwhelmed by the facts stated, and appreciate such good insight, but there are certain sections I needed further clarification with which left me wanting for more. If you may oblige, I will be highly grateful to receive some more light on following matters –

Towards the beginning the book laments the reality of election fraud in the United States. For instance, the 2004 Presidential elections, where George W Bush (Republican) and John Kerry (Democrat), both of whom went to Yale and joined the secret society Skull & Bones and then ran on much the same campaign. It’s mocking to the process of democracy, to suggest that irrespective of whom you elect, the same shadowy-elite clubs are pulling the strings from behind the smoke-screens.

Prof. Chomsky – This is only one illustration of the narrowness of the selection process and its class basis.  But it is far from the real evidence of how concentrated private capital sets the framework for political decisions, no matter who is elected from the two factions of our one-party system (the business party).  I don’t recall what is in WWSG about this, but I’ve discussed it elsewhere, citing the major sources.

What is your opinion about the society of Freemasons, considering a number of elite political figures are known to pledge allegiance to the club since history, viz. Henry Wallace, FDR, the current Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, the First Director of FBI – J Edgar Hoover, Pt. Motilal Nehru and let’s not forget, the Founding Fathers of your country. Please clear the light on the Freemasons’ contribution in the global balance of power, and also about the ‘network’ of such societies.

Prof. Chomsky – I frankly don’t think this is a very serious influence on policy.

While we’re at it, if you may please humour me, for sometime I have harboured certain perceptions on the Freemasons after some preliminary research, so I’ll be glad if you could ratify/rectify my observations-

a) Is Freemasonry a Jewish brotherhood, as the Star of David suggests?

b) The USA Seal bears 13 stars that arrange themselves in the shape of the Star of David; is it right/wrong to infer that America is a ‘front-country’ for Israel to propagate it’s interests, considering America’s Masonic roots? I am asking this in context of a broader conspiracy, that of Global Dominance.

I beg your pardon if the tenor of my questions suggest any form of anti-Semitism, that is not the least of my intentions.

Prof. Chomsky – I’m familiar with the conspiracy theory, but it makes no sense at all, in my opinion.  And there are dramatic counterexamples, such as the refusal of the countries of the world, including the US, to lift a finger to save the victims of the Holocaust, even the survivors.

2. On the matter of the Israel Lobby in the States, you emphasize that the lobby is not strictly restricted to Jewish-interests groups like AIPAC and ADF, but that it is represented by a broader intellectual class of writers, media, professors, artists etc. with sympathies for the Israeli cause. Oliver Stone, in a recent interview about his next documentary “The Secret History Of America”, expressed that the Holocaust is not adequately debated because of ‘Jewish-domination’ of media. How far is that correct?

Prof. Chomsky – I don’t know what Stone said, but the serious issues about the Holocaust are quite extensively debated, with fine and careful scholarship.  Questions about its existence and general scale are not debated, because they are not serious.  Also not debated is the important question of why the Holocaust became a huge topic after Israel’s military victory in 1967, establishing the firm alliance with the US, while when there was a chance to save the victims it was completely marginalized, and that continued pretty much until those events.  That, however, is not a question about the Holocaust, but about the cynicism of Western intellectual culture.

3. One of your arguments that I find difficult to accept is where you reject any credibility to the Truth Movement to uncover valuable information on the JFK assassination and September 11 2001 attacks. While I understand your point of view that it is a government policy of psychological warfare to foment such frenzy as they successfully divert attention from important issues like corruption, nuclear-arms race, illegal foreign involvement etc., but to totally reject the TM furthers the fallacy of incapability in the capacity of governments to do evil, which history has proven otherwise much too often, while a majority of public opinion in the US suggests that the Republican Party/CIA executed both the jobs.

Prof. Chomsky – There is one serious question about the JFK assassination: was it a high-level conspiracy with policy consequences. That’s important, and I’ve discussed it at considerable length, carefully reviewing the rich record of documents. They refute that claim quite conclusively.  As for the remaining question — who was/were the actual killers — I don’t see why that is of any more interest than the question of who was responsible for the latest murders in downtown Boston, apart from worshippers of royalty. Evidence that the Republicans/CIA were responsible simply does not exist.  On 9/11, the same is true. There is no such evidence.  Furthermore, to believe that the Bush administration was involved is to accuse them of literal lunacy, for pretty obvious reasons that I’ve repeated over and over, and that are never answered.

It is a hard pill to swallow to see your good judgements give George W Bush total immunity for his direct/indirect involvement in the 9/11 attacks, merely on the probabilistic theory that Republicans would never plan anything like that because it would spell their political doom if exposed, as the information system is too porous to withhold leaks. Is it then safe to presume that governments never, and will never, orchestrate false-flag operations for strategic purposes?

Prof. Chomsky – What you cite is a very marginal reason for the conclusion that Bush et al. could not have been involved.  The real reason, repeated over and over and entirely ignored by the “truth movement,” is what I just mentioned.  Barring literal insanity, if they’d been involved somehow they would have blamed Iraqis, not Saudis, for entirely obvious reasons.

I am very excitedly awaiting a response from you, Professor, as I have immense respect and love for your work and your principles, especially for your passion to encourage debate to further the understanding of subjects.

Thanking You,

Suraj Sanap,

Govt. Law College,

Mumbai, India.

MAIL #2

—– Original Message —–

From: suraj sanap

To: chomsky@mit.edu

Sent: Saturday, October 16, 2010 5:54 PM

Subject: A few rebuttals, Sir.

Dear Professor Chomsky,

I am very delighted to have heard from you personally. It’s a fantastic moment for me, and all of us who write to you, to have someone we hold so high on moral and intellectual ground, write to us tirelessly.

I wanted to get back to you on certain rebuttals, and I apologize beforehand again for any unintentional anti-Semitic and conspiratorial predispositions – I am just trying to sift fact from ‘point of view’, ever since realizing the history we studied in schools was tailor-made for one of US’ ‘indispensable ally’…

1. On the question of the Holocaust, there has been debate about a large section of “useful Jews” in Germany, in cohorts with the American/British bankers, who co-operated with the Nazis and helped them perpetuate the horrors of that regime. Is this a reference to the elite sections of Jewish community then, who helped execute the Final Solution by massacring a large number (reportedly 6 million) of “ordinary” Jews, in order to accomplish the larger Zionist objective of establishing Israel as a nationhood of the Jews, by gaining world sympathy?

Prof. Chomsky – With regard to the Holocaust, there are lots of minor technical questions, as with any complex historical event, but no serious question about the major facts.  US-UK bankers and industrialists, and the governments, were quite supportive of the Nazis through the ’30s, and there were some supporting activities indirectly during the war, but that does not affect the main uncontroversial story.  Doubtless there was a very small number of Jews who cooperated with the regime, as is always the case, but to say that they helped execute the Final Solution is a vast exaggeration, and it’s simply outlandish to suggest that Jewish cooperation with the Nazis was aimed at gaining sympathy for the Zionist project.  The real facts are ugly enough without adding tales like these.

2. In 1974, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, during a televised interview with CBS’ Mike Wallace, alleged that the American-Jewish lobby has an unwarranted influence over the American people and the President himself, for the benefit of Israel, through  their control of news papers(NY Times, Washington Post), electronic media, banks, and he restraints himself towards the end saying, ‘And I am going to stop there’, alluding to the conclusion of the Jewish lobby having influence further higher in the echelons of power. What does that mean for America?

Prof. Chomsky – It’s uncontroversial that the Israel lobby (which is only part Jewish) has considerable influence.  It’s not true however that they control the press, etc.  The press has generally followed state policy, as usual.  Until 1967, for example, the NYT, though Jewish owned, was non-Zionist.  Today that most extreme supporter of Israel in the mainstream is the Wall St. Journal, the journal of the business community, and of the two political parties, the most extreme are the Republicans, the more extreme business party.  That reflects the support for Israel in high tech and military industry, which are vastly more influential than the Israel lobby.

3. There is one public scandal that rings hard about the involvement of secret societies in institutions of governance – the Propaganda Due(P2) Lodge of Italy-scandal of the 1970s, wherein it was discovered that the Italian Freemasonry was attempting to infiltrate the Vatican Church by control of its finances, mainly through the Vatican Banker, Roberto Calvi, member of the P2 Lodge. There was widespread speculation that Pope John Paul I was assassinated by the Lodge as he sought a restructuring of Vatican’s finances, and the Lodge eventually installed Pope John Paul II, who was instrumental in giving the Polish inspiration for the fall of communism, by channeling funds of the Vatican and US to the Polish resistance.

I have theory, the validity of which can only be debated. The most fundamental criteria for anyone to join the society of Freemasons is the acknowledgement of ‘God’, whether one believes in Jesus, Yahweh, Buddha or Allah being a trivial matter . Thus it is clear that the society does not invite Secularists, following which, it can be generally asserted that it filters out Communists from joining the society, which de facto establishes the Freemasons as a religious-capitalist organization.

Is it then right to contend that the P2-scandal is a case in point of the above proposition?

Prof. Chomsky – You’re right about P2.  There’s good work on it.  But it wasn’t just the freemasons, who have little influence.  The CIA, the right wing Fascist groups, and others like them were far more significant.

4. The P2 Lodge of the Italian Freemasonry-scandal further threw light on contemporary historical events – Argentina’s Dirty War. Documents seized from the lodge containing a list of members, includes the architects of the Dirty War as members of Freemason lodges in South America – Argentinian President Raul Alberto Lastiri, governments officials such as Jose Lopez Rega and commander of the military, Jorge Rafael Videla. The war was a period of state-sponsored ‘cleansing of society’, whose victims included left-wing/Marxist activists, trade unionists, students and journalists – in short, it was a War on Communism. This reiterates my point, that Freemasons are active in positions of power to destroy communism – and how. I would like your opinion on this case, as it is pretty evident from history what the nature of this organization is.

Prof. Chomsky – On the Masons, I’m frankly a skeptic.

5. JFK’s assassination was probably inevitable because had he continued as President, he would have ensured premature withdrawal from the Vietnam War, which went against the interests of the military-industrial complex already building around Pentagon. Also, he sought to limit the powers of intelligence agencies, when he said he would “shred the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the four winds“. Doesn’t that amount to serious policy consequences for self-interest groups to act on?

Prof. Chomsky – The evidence is overwhelming that JFK was towards the hawkish end of his administration, and though he reluctantly accepted McNamara’s proposals for withdrawal, he added the crucial condition that it could be considered only after victory.  He was undoubtedly upset by the CIA failures and incompetence at the Bay of Pigs, but soon turned to them to carry out his massive terrorist campaign against Cuba, which was being escalated up to the day of the assassination. There are many illusions about these topics.

5. You’ve said that if George Bush and the government were involved in plotting 9/11, they would’ve blamed Iraqis for it, not the Saudis. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was carried with the objective  ‘to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s alleged support of terrorism and to free the Iraqi people.” The US did indeed blame Iraq for harbouring Al-Qaeda/Osama Bin Laden, using that rhetoric to launch the attacks.

Also, on what basis do you think that Arab-nations claim that MOSSAD’s involvement was instrumental in the 9/11 attacks, alleging that 4,000 Jewish employees from the WTC were absent for work that fateful day?

Prof. Chomsky – The point is different. Since they wanted to invade Iraq, if they had had anything to do with 9/11 they’d obviously have blamed Iraqis. They would then have had overwhelming support, NATO participation, a UN resolution, etc.  By blaming Saudis they failed to get support, had to concoct fairy tales that were quickly undermined, discrediting them, and were diverted into a pointless quagmire in Afghanistan.  Barring lunacy, it follows at once that they were not involved.

There isn’t a particle of evidence about Jewish employees being absent, but it’s irrelevant. If Mossad were involved, they’d have blamed Iranians, not their ally Saudi Arabia.

Sorry, but it just won’t work. There’s no way out of this bind, which is why none has been suggested in the past 9 years of intense engagement in the Truth Movement – a wonderful gift to the US and Israel, because it has diverted so much attention and energy from combating their crimes.

6. On a different note, I have discussed your work on Linguistics preliminarily with some of my friends, and from what I can understand, correct me if I am wrong, the research is modeled on the fact that all modern languages apply similar generative techniques of grammar, emanating from similar ancient languages. Is it right then to understand, that application of this research, when completed, could be used to create a ‘universal language’, one that becomes the modern, international language, with no hint of ethno-centricism?

Prof. Chomsky – The work has nothing at all to do with a universal or international language.  It seeks to find the principles common to all human languages, part of essential human nature.

I’d like you to acknowledge that I have humbly submitted the above enquiries based on whatever limited knowledge I possess, so please forgive my ignorance in propagating any speculation, and correct me wherever I have erred. I shall not be troubling you frequently, but every once in a while whenever I am in doubt, I will turn to you.

I would like to express my immense gratitude for all your help and let you know that I will forever cherish these exchanges.

Thank you,

Suraj Sanap.

Prof. Chomsky – Many thanks, much appreciated!

Sharia-influenced video game sets precedent for global Gaming Industry

Garshasp is something that is surely going to make many Americans sit up and revisit their stance on Iran. More importantly it’ll challenge the authority of American institutions – right from the U.S administration, the media and the software industry, at least that’s my hope – all having been dealt with a PR blow that’ll force each one of them to re-examine their existing standards – be it ideas for a better world or simply ideas for better video-games.

In August 2010, Arash Jafari, an Iranian, launched his first video-game through Fanafzar Game Studios, ‘Garshasp’. It is the story of a Persian hero who goes on a voyage to reclaim his fatherland from evil-monsters. Arash Jafari states that he got approvals through the Iranian ratings authority, ESRB (Entertainment Ratings Software Board), in order to get his game launched.

“The game should be fun, at the same time must honour Sharia, to conform with Iranian and Islamic cultures” confesses Arash.

It would be hard for Islamophobics to believe that the ESRB in Iran works with psychologists and sociologists, not the Grand Ayatollah, to develop sensitively-approved games. ‘Garshasp’ fights only demons and monsters in the game, as it is forbidden to kill human beings, even in a virtual landscape. Portrayal of drugs and pornography is also prohibited, as it is perversion of culture according to the National Foundation of Computer Games. Hmm, after learning of such unprecedented corporate ethic, I would really love to know what sales pitch do the pro-rape(yes, rape, not sex)-and-drugs gaming software developers exploit!

We are so over-fed with the Iran-bashing propagandist news that such revelations about Sharia come like a bolt from the blue; I guess we owe it to the ‘scotoma of the mind’, if there is such a thing, that the Zionist-media is so adept at proliferating. I won’t be surprised if the American gaming-software industry is already commissioning ‘independent studies’ to learn the success potential of such ‘radically-pacifist’ games, in the environment of ‘radically-decadent’ markets. They are inoculated with the idea that teenagers thrive on sex, drugs, violence and all sorts of aberrations their games depict, and soon they might club catering to such needs, all that is dangerous about human nature, under the umbrella of social-entrepreneurship, because ‘society needs a release’. I can only imagine how jaded society will be when one will need medically-prescribed violent/sexed-up video games that give a vent to the angst; but what many people might fail to question is that this numbness was a direct consequence, if not a long-standing grand marketing strategy, to effect such mental incapacity on society, so as to eventually get us to turn to these exact same perverse media to have a harmless vent for all the shit that’s built up in our heads, lest it all spiral into chaos.

The bottomline is, Arash Jafari’s liberal interpretation of the Sharia as an essential element of creating a healthy and enjoyable video-game, that sets a conscionable tone for others to follow, brings to light the fact that Iran is not all that we witness on FOX NEWS/CNN and newspapers, that receive heavy advertising revenue from American business interests. There are of course criticisms of the nation, as there are for every other. The Sharia practice of ‘Rajm’, an act of stoning a person convicted of a crime, is barbaric alright. Most of us lately read about Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani from Iran being awarded 99 lashes and then ‘stoning unto death’ on charges of adultery. How a society punishes it’s ‘astray’ talks a lot about itself as a nation. Saudi Arabia, US’ greatest ally in the Middle-East, is most infamous for it’s fanatic adherence to religious code, and compared to it, Iran stands out as a democratic heaven, as pointed out by Prof. Noam Chomsky, prominent American dissident. Be it the Republicans(overtly psychotic) or Democrats(covertly psychotic), both unscrupulously exploit the occasional Sakinehs of Iran as poster-campaigns for their diatribes against the Islamic Republic, in guise of “women’s liberation”, “civilization”, “spreading democracy” and “containment”.

Depiction of the Iranian Government and Sharia as barbaric, fundamentalist and absolutist is a product of the propaganda machinery that people can only learn to see through if they base their information independent of the mainstream media, because history tells us that the mainstream media’s job is that of stenography for the diktats of the elite; manufactuing consent. Of course there are several valid arguments against Iran – the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ controversial crowd-control tactics, hard-liner clerics and sponsoring insurgency amongst Shia-rebel groups in neighbouring Iraq, but these instances certainly don’t give it’s ‘Not so Holier than thou’ rivals a permit to declare a pre-emptive strike on Iran. For those who have a strong aversion to Islamic fundamentalists, it bears well to read Noam Chomsky’s political works to understand that American & Israeli governments have for decades directly contributed to their emergence, by crushing secular nationalistic movements in those very states taken over by fundamentalism now.

The current “hard-liner” Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a more learned and philosophically sound leader than all of his Western counterparts (a benign dictator if you will), a staggering majority of whom derive their titles via claims to a network of royal dynasties, corporate & banking lobbyists and other such megalomaniac categories. Barack ‘Yo-Mama’ Obama, President of America and Nobel Laureate(!), who has upped US’s Foreign Policy ante against Iran’s peaceful development of Nuclear Energy, has, like much of his predecessors, a misplaced sense of self-righteousness. If one has heard Ahmadinejad during conferences or interviews, one can dissect him as a reasonable person who has a more peaceful vision for the world than his Western “think-tanks”; albeit he is zealous in his condemnation of Israel, which needs to be interpreted through the obvious prism of Israel’s atrocities. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited as the sole international leader to speak at Columbia University in 2008 as part of a discussion on social/political issues, he was cheered with loud applause unanimously by students present there, making up of Jew & ‘Gentile’, when he re-iterated his position on the situation in Palestine, in that they deserve their right for peaceful self-determination.

I know of only Switzerland so far that is putting into place laws to enact a total ban on all kinds of violent video-games, while other countries have relative definitions of ‘violence’ depending on which they allow distribution of games. Iran’s gaming industry is the first in the world to come out very candidly, proclaiming ‘incessant killing of human beings in video-games makes young minds accept violence more readily than before’. Fanafzar Game Studios has to be applauded for taking such a high moral ground in creating a video-game in a world dominated with games that ‘wire young minds’ to accept debauchery, alcohol and drug abuse and disregard for human sanctity as ‘everything goes’. Americans being the most outspoken critics of Iran, have also a lesson on corporate ethics to learn from this.

It is pleasantly surprising to see that the most sensitive and ethically-sound video-game currently in the world emerges from the philosophy of Sharia, slammed outside the Islamic world for medievalism. The persistence of Sharia highlights Muslims’ affinity to traditional values while protecting them fiercely. It would do good to the Islamic world to amend it’s application in the 21st Century, dial down the force and use dialogue more effectively. I hope erstwhile Islamophobic readers, will appreciate the difference between Sharia per se and the hardliners’ interpretation of it, because to condemn Sharia would be tantamount to condemn the Bible and Torah, each one being Abrahamic offshoots and occupying a major if not equal share of the global religions-pie; hence the wisdom lies in understanding that Islam isn’t regressive, rather it’s custodians have failed to contemporarize its’ philosophy, cases of which have also been made against Christianity and Judaism – Slavery was legal as recent as 19th Century, Homosexuality is still considered an abomination in many parts of the world.

I wonder if Garshasp and the Sharia will develop what author/journalist Naomi Klein dubs a ‘Co-branding’ relationship – while Sharia could gain a positive reinforcement and understanding of its values from it’s depiction in the video-game amongst a large population of ardent gaming fans, ‘Garshasp’ can use the idea of non-violence against human beings as the ultimate marketing strategy to appeal those parents who are especially concerned about the content of games/T.V. children are exposed to. It is ironic, that an industry that thrived on fetish-ization of video-games, is turning to religion to compete now.

As-Salaam-Alaykum