Random Thoughts

Immigration, Slavery, Apartheid, Sonia, Lula, Chavez and Bush

Jefferson the great hypocrite, who said that "all men are created equal" and "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever" kept slaves all his life, used Sally Hemmings as a surrogate sex slave and failed to free other slaves even at death or in his will, (unlike Washington) serves as the true portrait of humanity. Lincoln also was more interested in preserving the Union rather than freeing the slaves and explicitly stated so. He also had serious doubts about the whites and blacks living together peacefully due to prevalent prejudices and past maltreatment and proposed repatriating the blacks back to Africa. In fact the African country of Liberia with its capital named Monrovia after the American president Monroe was set up for that purpose. 

The racist ravings of Enoch Powell in England, Le Pen in France, the Australian woman politician wanting to deport all non-whites and Haider in Austria are examples of the persistence of this malignant prejudice. The current laws enacted or being enacted in Denmark, Netherlands, France, Britain and America are rooted partly in this prejudice and partly out of fear of radical Islamists and their terror tactics and the general inability of many Muslims to integrate in their host countries' culture. 

The present brouhaha in America has a different reason. It is a desperate attempt by the administration to create a diversion from its dismal failing misadventure in Iraq by appealing to the dormant racist xenophobia lurking in the minds and hearts of the population. The Latino illegal immigrants are hardworking, generally law abiding, desperate economic migrants, who are no threat to America. Americans have a short memory and are ignorant of history. They have forgotten the Aliens and Sedition Act, Exclusion Acts for the Chinese, Japanese and Southern Europeans, the Palmer raids, the Japanese internment and that the states of Texas, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and California were usurped violently from Mexico and Florida from Spain.

Let us look at the other side of the coin and reflect on the psyche and the behavior of the oppressed have-nots. Few freed blacks took up the American government's offer of resettlement in Liberia despite a free passage and some economic incentives. Similarly, hardly any Indian emigrated from apartheid South Africa or Ian Smith's Rhodesia (present Zimbabwe). The Indians would have been allowed to depart with their worldly possessions and accepted by India, but they stayed on as second class citizens. This is still happening in Fiji today. Muslim fundamentalists are not leaving Europe even as they hate the Western infidels. The reason is simple. They do not wish to give up their economic comfort for principles, religion or moral outrage.

That brings me to the voting patterns of free people in fair elections in diverse countries. Sonia Gandhi's thumping victory in the recent parliamentary election and her ability to control the ruling party despite her Italian origin and lack of formal education, raises the ire of many Indians. The real reason is the money and improvements she has showered on her constituency. American congressmen and senators do this routinely in pork barrel projects to the detriment of the nation and fiscal responsibility and get reelected. Their financial dependence on and fear of the clout of the Israeli lobby dictates the nation's foreign policy at the cost of native blood and treasure and even stifles debate by unbiased professional academic intellectuals like Mearsheimer and Walt.

No one questions the source of Sonia's wealth and her ability to fund her son's expensive education at Harvard or Bush's infraction of the SEC rules for insider trading. A Kennedy can walk away from Chappaquidick or the recent car crash at the US Capitol with police assistance instead of incarceration. Truly the rich and powerful are different. More importantly the common, ignorant and deprived person is more interested in personal benefit and instant gratification. Why else would the American Indians have sold Manhattan for a few beads and dollars?

Sonia's breed of politicians are enamored by power and smartly exploit the hopes and desires of the have-nots to capture vote banks by lip service without any concrete delivery of promises made. This is why they expand reserved seats in elite institutions of higher learning without even attempting to provide basic school; education, potable water, sewage systems or basic health care to the bulk of the poor and dalits who live in villages of India. The expanded quotas are a sop to urban vote banks of minority have-nots just as religious zealotry is to Hindus and Muslims in India and Pakistan. Such show without substance and the smug satisfaction of being in the controlling position amongst the hoity toity while bamboozling the hoi polloi is best exemplified by Perons of Argentina and the Peronistas. The current Indian Congress and its myriad splinters belong to the same genus.

At the other extreme are Bush and the Republicans. They are handmaidens of the vested rich and corporate interests and cater to them openly while obscuring the vision and scant intellect of the ignorant masses, too stressed in making a living, and inciting them emotionally by religious fervor and false propaganda. The Christian right in America is little different from the Islamic Salafists. They do not commit acts of terror personally, but connive at the ones that they permit their state to commit. The Republicans subtly use fear to slight their opponents and intimidate the American electorate to vote against its own economic interests by provoking the specter of gay marriage, abortion, welfare queens and terror attacks. Some of the strategies of the BJP are parallel. Interestingly both the American Democrats and Republicans, as also the Indian Congress and BJP are all financed by the respective plutocrats of their own countries and secretly committed to enriching and empowering them at the cost of the proletariat.

A recent article by Jorge Castenada, the former Mexican foreign minister in Foreign Affairs, the magazine of the Council of Foreign Relations of America divides the left into the old and new. The old are the wizened communists who have seen the failure of the Soviet Union and China and thus follow pragmatic policies of capitalism and international trade in the macroeconomic sphere while uplifting the poor masses by microeconomic policy. He cites Lula of Brazil in this category. Lula is a leftist who won elections in Brazil on the promise of improving the lot of the workers and the favela dwellers (slum dwellers). He has more or less followed the prescriptions of the IMF and World Bank and is paying down Brazil's huge foreign debt but has failed to deliver anything significant to the poor have-nots and now is desperately trying to wash off the taint of corruption on some of his prominent party cronies (reminiscent of the Indian Congress).

Castenada calls the new left, like Kirschner of Argentina, Morales of Bolivia, Chavez of Venezuela, Humala and Lopez Obrador running for the presidencies of Peru and Mexico respectively, populists. He calls them populists desiring power who end up with increased impoverishment of the nation like Peron of Argentina. One must not forget that Castenada though somewhat of a rebel is still an establishment figure of the Mexican PRI, itself the establishment like the Japanese LDP. According to him these leaders camouflage their selfish biased agenda by mouthing anti-American slogans and invective to incite the people while delivering little. They misuse the resources of the government from taxes and natural resources.
Mr. Castenada misses the important point that a country or region's natural resource wealth needs to be used to ameliorate the miseries of the indigenous first and their countrymen of the nation ( the current demarcated construct) before the foreign capitalists. India is facing the same problems in Jharkhand and Orissa leading to the Maoist insurgency. He lumps Chavez in the same lot except for being backed by a sea of oil with a spigot that will spew wealth for a long period.

There is an inherent problem with power and its linear corrupting ability as expressed in the words of Lord Acton and the quintessential query of Plato as to who shall guard the guardians. At one worst extreme are Marcos, Mobutu, Suharto, Duvalier and sundry Indian and Pakistani politicians who have amassed obscene personal fortunes without doing an iota of good, in the middle maybe the Iranian clergy and their Buniyaads with a mixture of personal enrichment and public good and at the good extreme the examples are Ashoka and Saladin. We may never know if Chavez has a secretly stashed personal fortune, but he certainly has alleviated the misery and lit up the dark life of many of Venezuela's have-nots. He won a fair and free election, survived a coup sanctioned by America, if not orchestrated by it and conclusively beat back a recall referendum fair and square. The hypocrisy of America lecturing the world about free and fair elections after its own debacle in 2000 and its bribing to influence them in Nicaragua, Palestine and the world over, should bring a cynical smile of amusement to the face of any thinking person. Anyway Chavez is unlikely to be the guest of honor at the celebration of the Indian Republic day like the paragons of democratic virtue, the presidents of Colombia and Iran and the King of Saudi Arabia. Sneer anyone!

What is the unifying theme of this diatribe? Greed, fear, love and hate are the Metternichean balancing forces of human behavior. Greed is the preponderant factor explaining human behavior and explains Sonia's triumph. It can be trumped by the other three in certain situations as the election of Bush, Chavez and Milosevic respectively prove. What is even more worrisome is the rebirth of a more malignant meme. Meme is a neologism of Richard Dawkins and a parallel Lamarckian evolutionary force. The new avatar of this genie of religious zealotry as manifested by Islamist Jihadi terrorism, is now out of the bottle due to the foolishness of America and is a full grown specter destined to plague the world for a long time. It was suckled at the American breast in Afghanistan against the Soviets, reared by its foster mother Pakistan and strengthened again by America because of the Iraq invasion and now haunts the world.  


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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