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!

7 comments:

Anne in Salem said...

Yuck. Just yuck.

Mike Hoth said...

Such is the fate of a world in which the majority rule regardless of consequences. Majorities are very, very easy to convince that they are in danger and need to band together. Those minorities can be Muslims, Jews, Mexicans, the rich or any category one could possibly invent. That group mentality is what pushed you into hermitage on campus, is it not?

gils said...

!!! Grimacing to note that Trump is equated with Modi. Modi is from a party of motor mouths whose first experience with being voted landslide into power have made them punch drunk. But those crapheads keep blabbering the same even when not in power is something no one would notice as they're expected to behave responsibly now. Coming back to the comparison point, its unfair to say the least. Trump strives hard to prove that he is the new messaiah and never shies away from pouring vitriol as he has tasted victory with this approach. Whereas Modi is carrying the albatross of being branded as anti minority and every single incident in the country, he is made scapegoat and answerable. Media is making it his fault that he is a hindu by birth.

Sriram Khé said...

"majority rule regardless of consequences"
Yes, this is one of the many downsides in a democracy. It is also why the governance system in the US is designed to prevent the tyranny of the majority. This means that Prez Drumpf can easily be neutered and he won't be able to do anything.
But, the problem with that dream is that there is the issue of party loyalty and party ideology. If the GOP folks even now are willing to say that they will support Drumpf if he becomes the nominee, then it is not impossible that the GOP in the House and Senate will also eagerly work with Prez Drumpf--despite the fascist, racist, misogynist, bigot that he is.

As for Gils' comments, that is exactly the point that Dalmia discusses. Gils agrees that Trump has been loud with his obnoxiousness. Modi and Erdogan have been very slick and civil in packaging their hate and intolerance. While the rest of the world worries that Erdogan is rapidly moving towards a dictatorship, he continues on as if he is unstoppable. Putin the strongman enjoys popularity that American presidents cannot dream of. When we worry about the tyranny of the majority, we always watch out for how the minorities are treated and the minorities's perception of their own status. Modi and his political party--the BJP--and his ideological grassroots--the RSS--have a track record of threatening minorities and not making sure the minorities feel safe and secure and a part of the political fabric. If one wants to be a strongman, then the strongman will be "made scapegoat and answerable."

gils said...

In a political setup if the leader is as strong or as weak as the motormouth partymen then there can be no leader at all. even in a classroom full of kids or teenagers unruliness is something that cannot be controlled. Its after all the emotion of another being. In institutions like schools with set of rules and harping on obedience if the situation is difficult to control the teacher would obviously be called upon by the HM or correspondent and questioned over their ability to control their kids. Can the same be equated to a political party leadership who are supposed to be leading a bunch of "mature" people and who are supposed to have joined the party as a follower of "ideology" and not for making quick bucks when in power. Modi is no saint. That can be underlined in any thick a line. But he is being witch hunted and demonized by our media as he choses not to interact with them but directly talk to public, is the reason he is winning public sympathy. His works and the core promise of clean governance is for all to see in past 22 months. If he manages this streak for another 38 more months, i would pledge my vote right away to his governance style. In any country the minorities are always a pampered lot which often leads to any grievance being blown out of proportion. Proportion being the key word here. Any crime nowadays is first seen from cast angle just because the party on power is of majority. Such a watchdog approach can be appreciated but when it paints every single act with caste angle, it rings alarm bells on their credibility. I subscribe to both news feeds and is astonished at the level of news being blacked out and how a deliberate spin is put on each issue.

Sriram Khé said...

I see that we will simply have to agree to disagree about our respective takes on Modi as India's Trump ;)

I will, however, respond to this: " In any country the minorities are always a pampered lot"
Seriously? The Muslim population in India is pampered? The Sikhs are pampered? The Christians are pampered?
In India, there was one "minority" that was awesomely pampered for the longest time--the Brahmins!

gils said...

Are they pampered - Yes. A resoundingly absolute yes. The right question would've been by who. The answer is the politicians. Are the minorities pampered by the society where they live in. Probably not. I would stick my neck out and say definitely not in many cases. But the situational chaos created by politician paint a totally different picture. Take the case of your residing country. Had a colored man been convicted now,of a widely publicized crime, which side would the contenders for nomination sway? Had the same been in power, what would've been the reaction? That should answer your question.
You are bang on target in the quote about brahmins. Different topic of debate which i would try to voice in my blog :)