Two Nonconformist authors

Published:  12:00 AM, 19 January 2017

Arundhati Roy & Noam Chomsky


Arundhati Roy conquered the hearts of millions of readers with her outstanding literary creations particularly her masterpiece The God of Small Things and her latest non-fictional work Capitalism: A Ghost Story. The God of Small Things is a mind-blowing novel that won the Booker Prize in 1997. Later on, I had chance to read some other wonderful books by Arundhati Roy titled Listening to Grasshoppers and The Algebra of Infinite Justice and I loved those two books as well while going through the strong messages the author conveyed through her intrepid, straightforward and whetted words about politics, class conflict and human rights. Recently, I have read another spellbinding book by Arundhati Roy that contains some of her interviews taken by different journalists. The book's title is The Shape of the Beast. It is a monumental blend of the author's opinions about global politics, terrorism, women rights, social issues such as Indian caste system, literature and some more important matters. Her words are just as striking as ever. In her interviews she harshly slated the US wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and she expressed her views about Indo-Pak relations too. She was asked a question about her reactions to people who criticize her statements. Her answer was "I wear that criticism as a badge of honor." Arundhati Roy's nonconformist standpoint reminds me, in some cases, of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was a leading figure in the American Age of Enlightenment and who is still remembered for his extremely individualistic and unprecedented thoughts about idealistic values and social equity expressed through his essays.

The methods with which some global institutions are exploiting the poor countries are termed as 'colonization of knowledge' by Arundhati Roy in The Shape of the Beast. With highly qualified economists and policymakers, the donor states and donor agencies are in fact exercising a special form of intellectual imperialism, a neocolonial ploy sweetened with financial baits. And when third world states swallow those baits, the probable consequences are unfolded through the following expressions of Arundhati Roy, "We are tying ourselves into an intricate economic and strategic web. We're in the belly of the beast. Once you're there, you eat predigested pap. You do what you're told, buy what you're sold." Disobeying such western strategies may result into severe consequences including military interventions, according to Arundhati Roy.

While talking about the US war on terror, Arundhati Roy remarked that, by bombing Iraq and Afghanistan, the US and its allies have rather empowered terrorism instead of eliminating it. Terrorists are now virtual celebrities, often hitting the headlines of top news agencies. Even they have the power to destabilize a country or to jeopardize a country's government. In the author's words, "In effect, terrorists now have the power to ignite war. They almost have the status of heads of state. And that has enhanced the effectiveness and romance of terrorism." In the same context she further added, "The US government's response to September 11 has privileged terrorism. It has given it a huge impetus and made it look like terrorism is the only effective way to be heard." In other words, terrorism has been idealized by the so-called war on terror triggered off by the US and its political associates from other continents who assist the United States with warfare.

Arundhati Roy's approach to Indo-Pak tussle over Kashmir is also quite different from the opinions we hear from most of the political analysts. In her view, India and Pakistan are so deeply inimical to each other that they want to keep the dispute over Kashmir alive in order to exercise reciprocal antagonism and to keep up an ultra-nationalistic zeal among their citizens. She said, "Kashmir is the rabbit that the governments of both India and Pakistan pull out of their hats whenever they're in trouble. They don't want to resolve the conflict. For them, Kashmir is not a problem, it's a solution." This comment from Arundhati Roy about the long-standing Kashmir issue seems really astounding and it makes us think twice about the way we look into the blazing dispute. Political leaders of both India and Pakistan should come up with earnest and objective intentions to end this conflict, at least to save the lives of innocent Kashmiri people.

The unending bloodshed and civil wars in different parts of the world have been analyzed by Arundhati Roy in the following way: "War is also an economic necessity now. A significant section of the American economy depends on the sale of weapons. There has to be a turnover. You can't have cruise missiles lying around on the factory floor. The economies of Europe and the United States depend on the sale and manufacture of weapons. This is a huge imperative to go to war." The leading weapon-mongers of the west make an enormous amount of profit by selling guns and ammunitions to countries at war. So, if a war stops, a very lucrative profit-generating source closes down too. Therefore, wars, in the current world, are not kicked off to be halted.

Neocolonialism has another instrument-language. Arundhati Roy says, in her pointblank words, "And then, of course, even language has been co-opted. If you say 'democracy', actually it means neoliberalism. If you say 'reforms', it actually means repression. Everything has been turned into something else. So, we also have to reclaim language now." In connection with these words from Arundhati Roy, I can recall a 'language game' played by America during the Vietnam War. While Vietnamese villages were being bombed by the US forces, thousands of people were getting killed. Thousands of people were running away to Vietnamese cities to save themselves. Samuel Huntington, an American political expert of that time, called it a process of 'urbanization'. That was undoubtedly a ruthless piece of black humor and an inhuman euphemism.

In On Western Terrorism from Hiroshima to Drone Warfare Noam Chomsky, one of the most celebrated authors, linguistic scholars and philosophers of the current world focuses on the manipulation of power and propaganda by the western states. Andre Vltchek, an eminent American journalist born in Russia and the co-author of the book adds a broad spectrum of historic allusions to make the text a substantial one. The knowledge and experiences of both these writers expose a lot of things about global politics that often remain concealed to most of the people worldwide.   

Both the authors made frequent references to the colonial era while the European settlers migrated to the New World and built up present day America. These references to the colonial period seem highly relevant when the authors of the book recall the blood-spilling assaults mobilized by the Europeans on the Red Indian tribes of America during the initial days of American civilization. Moving stories about such clashes between the European immigrants and the Red Indians are found in some literary masterpieces like The Last of the Mohicans and The Leather Stocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper, an American novelist of the 19th century. Both Arundhati Roy and Noam Chomsky uphold the idea that the tribulations enforced on the native dwellers in different parts of the globe during colonial days are still going on under cover of the imperial intrigues of western powers.

The writer is a literary analyst for The Asian Age

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