Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The largest democracies have mainstreamed hatred!

Back in graduate school, Steve, who was a big guy from Canada, joked about how his family seemed excited whenever they came across names of people in sports and other entertainment, or politics, or journalism, or anything for that matter, if the name sounded Jewish.  Oh, yeah, Steve was Jewish.  He even had a joke about how he and his high school coach wanted him to play hockey and how his mother refused to because she had paid for his expensive orthodontic work and there was no way she wanted that to be smashed up.

The more I have lived here, the more I am reminded of his comment because I seem to always get a kick of noticing Indian-American names. Especially in journalism these days, which is a huge marker of how much the Indian immigrant ethos has shifted away, thankfully, from a focus on engineering, medicine, and business.

One of the commentators, from a libertarian perspective, is Shikha Dalmia, who thinks and writes clearly that it is a pleasure to read her commentaries even when I disagree with her.  And when I agree with her, it is all the better, like in this essay where she comments that "America may have lucked out" with Donald Trump's crass statements and behavior:
The only thing worse than an ill-read, repulsive, sleazy Trump becoming the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination may have been a well-read, likable, upright Trump becoming the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination.
If history was going to hand America a demagogue, Trump might be the best kind.
I agree with her.  Because if Trump had advocated for the kinds of things he is drawing the big crowds--like building a wall, keeping Muslims out, deporting 11 million Mexicans, etc.--"with the appropriate-level of chin stroking" then, ahem, Trump would have been a winner all the way to his second term in the Oval Office.

Dalmia's arguments get even more interesting when she contrasts with the slick demagogue from half-way around the world:
Democracies are not immune to demagogues and, in recent years, the world has witnessed its share of them. India has elected Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi and Turkey Islam-booster Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The difference between them and Trump is not that they had less extreme views than him, but that they communicated them with more civility, decorum, and command of the issues. Modi, in particular, argued his positions with such rigor and wit that people up and down the social strata from peasant to pundit forgot that thousands of Muslims were slaughtered on his watch when he was chief minister of a state. India handed him a landslide victory.
Of course, Dalmia is not the first one to compare Trump with Erdoğan, Modi, Putin, and other such "strongman" leaders.

This essay is focused more on Modi and less on Trump--naturally, because the author is an Indian journalist in India:
In both nations, the stigma attached to openly professing hatred for the “other” seems to be disappearing. Xenophobia is being embraced by at least a segment of the population that has taken its cue from Trump and Modi.
The open and loud display of negative attitudes have been mainstreamed in the old country and the adopted country alike.
It is true that Modi and other top leaders of the Indian government or the ruling BJP haven’t been seen indulging in Trump-ist instigation during the string of violent incidents—be it “beef lynchings” or the “nationalism” debate—that have rocked India since Modi took power.
However, that could be deceptive. Calculated silence at the top during social crises is often a tacit approval of the lower rungs’ intrigue and provocation. And this has been rampant in the recent past, with even ministers and senior BJP members openly indulging in rabble-rousing or insensitive commentary during tinderbox situations.
In short, from fanning the flames from under his breath during campaigning, prime minister Modi shifted gears to maintaining strategic silences, playing wink and nudge. So, unlike Trump, whose depraved exhortations have a direct causal relationship with real physical violence in the US, there’s been a time lag between Modi’s rise and its repercussions.
I like that phrasing of "depraved exhortations."
When punctuated by chants of “USA! USA!” or “Vande Mataram”, the worst forms of bigotry gets camouflaged under nationalist jingoism.
America and India now have top mainstream politicians who have mastered that lesson—adding a whole new spectre of political malevolence to the world.
What an unfortunate turn of events!

Most read this past month