MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Location: file:///C:/F06BB24E/AAVIntroduction.htm Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Content-Type: text/html; charset="windows-1252" INTRODUCTION

   

                   INTRODUCTION

    America and the Compulsive Rape of Asia:    

               Nationalistic Violence

                     = and Democracy at Stake

      =        “I’m fed up with democracy. In a democra= cy, people vote for the mayors.  

      &nbs= p;                                &n= bsp;I wanted to build a city where I will choose the citizens.”

            =             &nb= sp;            =                    &nb= sp;       Emir (Nemanja) Kusturica, director a= nd scriptwriter (with <= /o:p>

            =             &nb= sp;            =                    &nb= sp;       David Atkins) of the masterpiece: Ari= zona Dream (1993).

 

  The Yi Jing:= the Canon of Changes, the ancient Chinese book of worldly wisdom, describes life as nothing but conflict; in other words, life in all its for= ms cannot be sustained without conflict of all kinds, be it internal or extern= al in nature. This might sound like the unending bane of those who cannot reconcile themselves to a world without some hope of lasting peace, but an analysis of any given period in history would necessarily confirm this Taoi= st dictum. Conflict, as everybody knows, engenders violence, whether extraneou= s as in natural disasters or through the agency of self-inflicted acts. Here, in this issue, we're inevitably confronted by the choice of how individuals and nations, leaders and the led, oppressors and victims have had recourse to t= his basic elemental tool to wreak change in, for instance, self-hood or national independence, both, by the way, in many cases being willfully chimerical pu= rsuits. If this state of never-ending con= flictual confrontation were limited only to the individual, we could see our way out= of difficulty without much damage to the world at large. Alas, this's not the case as we know only too well. = The greatest damage - barring manifestations of nature’s growing pains - is primarily inflicted by countries upon other countries. Countries often form themselves into blocs of nations, either founded upon religious affinities and/or ethnicities, or on the other extreme, based upon secular ideologies.= In some cases, weaker nations, either for the sake of protection or for fear of encroachment upon their internal affairs by overly-protective interfering -= but self-justifying - nations, merely attach themselves to the benefactor bloc.= For the better part of Asia, the bête noire or nemesis during the past half a century or so has b= een America or rather that part of <= /b>America which has traditionally concentrated power in the realms of high finance.

 The world however has = come full cycle in a little less than a century, all over again. The catastrophic aftermath of WW1 thrust up Frankl= n D. Roosevelt who took the most industrially powerful nation through the thirties’ Depression with his New D= eal, and through nearly the subsequent American resolution of the world-wide conflict by 1945. President Barac= k Obama is faced, as = we all tend to recognize, by a similar predicament more than half a century after = the end of European colonialism, and, in the meantime, America has emerged as a combative and meddlesome neo-colonially self-protectionist nation. America's institutionalized cult of violence has finally reaped ripostes of= a nagging nature which may no more be quelled by invading other countries, ei= ther by invitation or by ruse through pacts with partisan Asian leaders. In shor= t, America= is right now in the process= of losing all the merit it had garnered through its magnanimously victorious W= W2 and post-war Marshall Plan efforts: it is very nearly becoming the whipping= boy of the world without the collateral to bail itself out of the bad name that sticks on for good. 

 America’s initiation a= s a contending power in the Philippines at the turn of the previous century prepared the country for other more crusading roles with renewed vigour first in the forti= es’ Japan; then in the fifties’ Korea; sixties and seventies’ Vietnam; and the nineties and beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, and of course by proxy in other <= span class=3DSpellE>neighbouring states as we= ll. Why does Asia matter so much to America? Or is it vice versa? = America= ’s meddlesome presence in As= ian affairs makes the old continent feel as if mocked by a wastrel, and its incorrigibility at the hands of lone Vietnamese tends to reveal a grave eno= ugh syndrome of pathological significance. Two of the most populous nations are right there readying themselves to take over from America= . Or make it impossible for = her to carry on as she has done during the past sixty years in the old continent.<= /span>

 Part of the reason why such a state of affairs continues to r= eign over the world lies in the failure of democracy, itself, that is, as a syst= em of just and munificent rule. Democracies also tend to rule li= ke oligarchies, dictatorships, and kingships. Elected leaders form a race apar= t: they have become the newly-rich nobles and chieftains of feudal societies t= hese days. Michael Backman in his "Malaysia's Indian Minority" precisely provides the evidence for the contempt in which the people are held by the leaders in a society yet to fully awake from the traditional feudal strangle-hold of the Malay aristocracy, a situation best illustrated by Ishak Haji Muhammad's novel: Putera Gunung Tahan, discussed in <= span class=3Dspelle>T.Wignesan’s “The forlorn destiny of a = Malay nationalist precursor”. In a way, leaders represent the people to the extent of, say, Wall Street executives their share-holders. When the poor of noisy tenement city dwellings steal or rely on subterfuge in order to feed their starving children, they are given the privilege of being gang-raped in over-crowded prisons. Some politicians and company executives stuff themsel= ves by contrast with whopping salaries, bonuses, and perks for so-called "telephoned" advi= ce and get off the hook to bask in the Bermudas or Bali. Wall Street executives gave themselves = $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year 2008 alone.  

 <= span class=3Dspelle>Nasira Jabeen and Zafar Iqbal in their scholarly lead article on "Good Enough Governance" try to come to grips with this sort of predicament in South Asia in as detailed a way as possible and by adducing evidence of corrup= tion in the higher echelons of power. To them, Mahbub ul-Haq's formulations on humane governance which requires ‘effective participation of people in state, civil society and private sector activities…’ remain the corner-stone of their blue-print for just and equitable rule in the sub-con= tinent. They draw the line where it matters: good enough governance must take the welfare and future development of the people, first and foremost, into consideration.

   The problem therefore is clear. Leaders may not ignore the people or give them short-sh= rift after being elected by a certain miniscule section of society. This = is the kind of violence which is blatant and inexcusable. And when elec= ted leaders vote to go to war for whatever reason, it is the people who are mai= med or starved and who give their lives to save their leaders’ skins and reputations. In other words, the people who cast their votes for their lead= ers vote also to deprive themselves of their own democratic voice; that is, they may be voting to sacrifice themselves and their families. Leaders in a democracy or a totalitarian regime do not hail from the people: they arise from the party system which in structure and organization, in vested interests and personality cults, is a proliferation= of miniscule private governments within any national government in itself = -  the very curse of democracy! In the final analysis, there isn't much of a difference between the Democratic and Republican parties in the States; nor is there between the Conservative and= Labour parties in the U.K= ., or between the Rightist and Socialist parties in France. Most of these leaders= use the same langue de bois, proffer the same promises, and the only difference - in private - may be t= he ritual of the lodge or obedience they belong to. And so is it with the leadership in Asian countries, barring the communist regimes, of course. But for how long might this situation persist? one may legitimately ask.

   It looks v= ery much like a journal of this nature - even with its catch-all, totally independent editorial policy - may yet appear to the present generation of Asianists even after five issues to pre-empt the coming of age of a whole continent. = An adolescent crisis is always a psychological issue par rapport à the ancient and tra= ditional past or the more recent colonial heritage. Far too many signs during the la= tter half of the old century point to Asia’s unwillingness to sever the old colonial apron strings. Enough signs to make one wonder if the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere policy, in fact, may not have failed to the detrim= ent of the same folk who went under the Rising Sun. That the latter policy d= id hasten the granting of independence to some countries perhaps - at this late date - might appear more credible. That the Japanese samurai spirit may have instilled courage into the various armed independence movements during and after the War may not be easily denied. Moteki Hiromichi's larded question ab= out the "Nanjing Atrocity" suggests, righ= tly or wrongly, a certain preoccupation with and sensitivity towards wanton blame,= for his country's violent past, ever since the scorching of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. In any case, Japan’s economic resurgence with the Meiji must have awoken - albeit belate= dly - the Asian sleeping Tigers and Dragons, and their breakneck hurry to divest themselves of American aid might appear a humdrum fact to be taken for gran= ted nowadays what with the People’s Republic of China underwriting the faltering American economy in 2008/9. Only the entry of the post-war super powers: U.= S.A. and the U.S.S.R. (y compris Russia) into the melée of the Middle and Central Asian countries harks back to a harsher, less humanitarian, post-Colombian c= onquistadore blindness to oncoming instability in this and the South-Asian region. Unbri= dled national violence for the sake of patriotic or nationalistic pride is held = up as justifiable. America allocates $900 million in a= id to shore up the Gaza strip after Israel’s 2009 incursions. First, t= he stick; then, the carrot! Original causes are conveniently forgotten for the lame excuse of immediate results. If the USA arrogates the right to firmly close its Cuban back door, in 1962, at the risk of bringing the world to the brink of total holocaust, so has China the right to pre-empt foreign intrusion right at its own Tibetan threshold.= The Maoist-Kuo Min Tang= civil war of the thirties and forties was also fought to keep the country free of foreign occupation, a fact that was borne out subsequently by Taiwan's tutelage. There's absolutely no paral= lel here to be drawn with the Pol Pot tyrannical regime and the indiscriminate massacre of its own people dur= ing 1975 to 1979, nor with the Indonesian suppression of indigenous folk in the= island of <= span lang=3DEN-US style=3D'mso-ansi-language:EN-US'>Timor. The same applies to Myanmar= 's military junta paranoia w= ith the outside world; the provoked ca= uselessness of the Malayan insurgency after independence, or the crushing of the Ta= mil minority in Sri Lanka. Sometimes, as in the case = of the oppression of East Pakistan by successive military regimes at Rawal= pindi in West Pakistan, Indian intervention, by invitation, to avert the slaughter of the Bangladeshis, in 1971, may be construed as licensed violence. The question is<= span class=3Dgrame>, where does one draw the line when Nature itse= lf indiscriminately destroys without mercy?    

Mohammad Quayum dwells lengthily on some aspects of nationalism which have become stale= due to copious treatment of an especially twentieth century phenomenon. He does= so however with erudition while citing some of the theorists on the subject in= the English language. Every language somehow or other carries reams of theorizi= ng on the subject, and theorists in the field appear to falter where “national” and/or “linguistic barriers” need to be nuanced in their assessment of the definition. Quayum’s painstaking portrayal of Tagore’s struggles with nationalistic cogitations takes on suddenly a turn when he shows how the la= tter became disaffected with the concept in practice during the early pre-Gandhian years of the Independence Movement in the sub-continent. Bengalis like Subhash Chandra Bose, Jatindra Bagha or Khudiram Bose spearheaded the riposte to British rule by resorting to violence, and Tagore found then the intellectual means to divest hi= mself of an all-excusing creed called “nationalism”. Quayum’s treatment of this convenient unfoldin= g of character through Tagore’s oeuvre: Th= e Home and the World and Four Chapters quickens the pace and makes one disregard the numerous quotation-filled theorizing on a subject which is tr= uly - for the man-in-the-street or in-the-field - a matter rather of “heart”, i= .e., sentiment or a broader feeling of prideful emotion. By and large, language = is equated with ethnic community, race with country, and common natural borders with the convenient feeling of commonweal (where there is really nothing but divisiveness) for the sake of the common cause of security for one and all.=

Tagore would have been hard put to= justify his stand if thereafter the seminal figure of the Mahatma didn’t appear on = the scene with his record of accomplishments in South Africa achieved through ahimsa.=  Ram Punyani pays so= lemn tribute to the lonesome giant of the twentieth century who brought the bigg= est empire ever down on its knees. Gandhi never stood for elections and yet = he led an entire nation. He believed that religion was a personal and priv= ate matter and embraced them all. And yet, paradoxically, the Mahatma tried to rally all - Hindus and Muslims - to the Indian National Congress, upholding therefore the party system. He did that for the cause of unity, of course, = when the Muslim League was set on partition of the sub-continent. From the time = of the agitations against the Rowlat= t Acts in 1919, it took Gandhiji only a quarter of a century to obtain independence for his people and with = whom he identified himself heart and soul. He never wanted anything for himself. And yet violence has raged on the sa= me sub-continent ever since he was elbowed out by his own close followers.

  On the contrary,= Prithwindra Mukherjee revels in t= he bravado of having to faire face à l'ennemie, that is, t= he refusal to kow-tow = to the master colonial race. Here, he takes the exploits of two pre-Gandhian freedom-fighters= : Aurobindo and Bagha Jatin ( the latter happens to be his grandfather and t= he former his spiritual guru in Pondicherry<= /st1:place> where his own father sought= refuge from British rule in India ) in order to make a case o= ut for violence in the struggle for independence in the sub-continent. History has shown to both: the players and the thinkers in the field that Bengali insistence on taking on the colonial master by force - primarily incarnated= in the person of Netaji - has led to the dismal rejection of a method with dire consequences for those who espoused the cause of violence. B= agha Jatin met a prematu= re death at the hands of the British authorities for seeking arms-aid from the Germa= ns: courtesy of Wilhelm II, and Subas= h Chandra Bose a mysteriously ignominious disappearance after being bolstered= by both Berlin and Tokyo during the Second World War= . Yet, both these men still continue to fascinate and inspire young Turks in the e= nterprising Shining India of today. The author’s portrayal of Aurobindo somehow doesn’t quite explain the sh= ift – even sudden shift – from vociferous independence leader to spiritual guru. There is much scope for a deep psychological study of many of these leading Indian independence figures, a study which can only be undertaken by an ast= ute historian with the necessary background in the psychological sciences.

    Such= a dilemma, however, does not arise in the case of Ishak Haji Muhammad, the Malaysian anti-colonialist intellectual. His is a lone attempt to inculcate the spirit of independence amongst his own lay people who were used to a feudal sy= stem of sultanates. In his first novel, Putera Gunung Tahan, Ishak satirises British intervention in the Malay states by trying to show up their "real" intentions: acquisition of power realized through greed, stealth, and the lack of morals, but he does not disavow violence as a mean= s of keeping the foreign intruder away. Yet, he prefers the art of diplomacy to = outright hostility.

    C= hung Chee Min, on the othe= r hand, dissects the anatomy of a murder in the Malayan capital. Here, violence is = the product of passion, but it is wanton violence nonetheless, a product of pretty picture colonial comfort in lethargic plan= tation life, propped up by the promiscuity beer and skittles culture promotes.

    The = literary page is devoted entirely to Yo= ginder Singh Sikand's six day feuille= ton in Iran in 2007. The theme of the Mahdi, the Islamic Messiah, and his com= ing to set the record straight on earth en= thuses conferencees in the= Iranian capital where Yoginder Singh happens to be an invitee. The meet is graced by the milling presences= of mullahs and even President Ahmedi= nejad. We see another hidden world come to life through the eyes of one of = India's most perceptive intellect= uals. His account of his sojourn in Iran in six installments attests= to his own literary gifts and his detached sense of observation, while serving as = an entertaining tour-guide of a little-known Shi’ite world. Iran waged an eight-year long wa= r with the Iraq of Sunni Saddam Hussein and where= the majority was/is also Shi’ite.

    The = bane of America= 's balance of payments: o= utsourcing compels Maya Kulkarni's attention in "Nalini<= /span> by Day, Nancy by Night", an apt topic in f= ast bailing-out America.    &nb= sp;            =                       &nb= sp;      

    All = the reviewers of books in this collection deserve to be thanked profusely for t= heir sincerity and arduousness: Aakash Singh Rathore, Valentina Gentil= e, Lucy Sai-ki Cheah, Dhruv Pande, all of Luiss= University, and Adam Donaldson Powell. Minute and close reading of hefty academ= ic works is not a task to be relished or, on the other hand, belittled. Their considered opinions based on careful analyses lend depth and understanding = to a highly complex and complicated subject that is the study of the Asian conti= nent and whose component states are still in the throes of sorting out their div= erse and wholly individualistic personalities.  

    Let'= s hope the tasks of these countries will be made the easier by non-interference fr= om the outside world. And that those who persist in interfering will heed the eminent Cambridge sinologist Joseph Needham’s warning in the early seventies about China and Asia - come true already in our very own lives.&n= bsp;

                                                       T. Wignes= an -  = Paris, February 2009


          

       =      Art= icle appeared in Volume 5 of  « The Asianists= ASIA » (2008) edited by T.Wignesan

Centre de Recherches sur les Etudes Asiatiques, B.P. 90145,  94004 Créteil Cedex, France

E-mail : = t.wignesan@neuf.fr Wignesh@aol.com  ISBN 978-81-8253-138-3 =

      http://www.cyberwi= t.net/wignesanjournal.htm

  = ;            &n= bsp;            = ;              &nb= sp;            =             &nb= sp;            =