Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Aftermath of Orlando

The immediate aftermath to the horrific killing of about 50 people at an LGBT nightclub by an ISIS inspired gunman gave rise to the usual kinds of reaction in general. We knew what the Left would say and we knew what the Right would say and they all did. However, looking at some of the columns in the Western press, I did notice a recurring thing of how this one incident has been extra divisive.

This article in The Washington Post, soon after the attack, titled : The new norm: When tragedy hits, Americans stand divided , had a very succinct summary in it's first line:

Three of the most contentious questions in American culture and politics — gay rights, gun control and terrorism — collided in a horrific way in an Orlando nightclub early Sunday. 
And to drive home the point about divisiveness, the article had this to say:

Not since 9/11 has a moment like this brought the nation together, and that evaporated quickly. Since then, calamity seems only to drive the left and the right further apart, while faith in the nation’s institutions deteriorates further.
Across the ideological and partisan divide, it no longer seems possible to even explore — much less agree upon — causes and solutions. So the response has been muddled, even while the next tragedy looms.

This short article in The American Interest: How to Tear a Nation Apart, explains how the use of guns by ISIS inspired terrorists is virtually splitting America, down the middle. The last two paras explain this point vividly.
Guns occupy a critical space in America’s increasingly acerbic culture wars, a manifestation of the broader social convection currents taking place below the surface. For Jacksonians who are losing faith in the ability of established institutions to preserve order, the Second Amendment is a bulwark against totalitarian movements, like Islamism, that would undermine American liberty. Under this deeply held view, attacks by ISIS-enthusiasts strengthen, rather than weaken, the case for gun rights. But for cosmopolitan liberals, gun rights are an anachronism—a symbol of all the wrong-headed views espoused by working class whites. Set these two warring camps against each other in the context of an ongoing terror threat, and you push an already divided society even further down the path of tribalism and fracture.

The attackers in Orlando and San Bernardino accomplished something the attackers in Boston and New York didn’t: They drove a wedge between patriotic Americans, and managed to ensure that our grieving over the dead was polluted from the outset by a din of vicious political assaults. By any measure, they and their fellow travelers must consider this a great success. Perhaps terrorists who choose to carry out their massacres with guns are actually “taking advantage” of American society in a rather different way than many liberals think.
There has been much hand wringing by Liberals and the Social Justice Left after this. From blaming homophobic society in general to Christians who oppose who Gay marriage, and saying all religions are equally to blame - every attempt has been made to conflate issues and deflect blame from Islamists : the one group about whom they will not take names. In India, we had this tweetstorm against Narendra Modi about who he was not eligible to express grief at this event as Sec 377 was still on books in India. This was of course, not original, Republican politicians like Marco Rubio faced similar treatment on twitter.

Of course,this sort of Left Wing rhetoric which does not distinguish between, but rather conflates various levels of opposition - that ranges from opposition to allowing gay marriage to throwing them off buildings - two vastly different things, needed pointing out. Douglas Murray, writing in the National Review had this:
It isn’t surprising that most gay spokespeople and publications lean left. For historic reasons — principally the political Right’s opposition to gay rights — most gay spokespeople continue to think that the political Right is the sole locale from which anti-gay sentiment can come. For many years Pat Robertson was their worst nightmare. But Pat Robertson just wanted to stop gays from marrying. He didn’t call for people to throw us off high buildings.
Despite the growing awareness that this was precisely what the Islamists wanted, gay “spokespeople,” publications, and groups went through the 2000s sharing the old leftish delusions. These included the idea that, as a “minority,” gays only had things in common with other “minorities.” So gay people were meant to be the natural political and social bedfellows not just of other gays but of people with disabilities, racial and religious minorities, and even, perhaps, women. Of course it was ridiculous. Gay men don’t have much in common with lesbians. Why — even if they had a unanimous view and voice — would they inevitably share the concerns of “all” people with one leg? Or Sikhs? Or Muslims? For this worldview to make any sense at all, you have to believe that there is a dominant, “patriarchal” voice in society, that this is the only bloc capable of bigotry, and that all these mini-communities ought to unite against this fantasy mainstream. Of course this not only fails in its reductive analysis of mainstream politics. It fails to take any interest in the crucial details of “minority” politics. Such as whether your interests are remotely aligned. Who could have known that one minority, Muslims, might not be hot for another minority? Such as gays.
Whichever side makes sense to you, these are bleak times or as Mark Steyn mentioned how the Pulse Night Club would have felt like a Party at the End of the World

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Alt-Right or SJWs, Populism is winning

A few months ago, around the start of the year, I had written this blog post trying to analyse the trends in political and cultural clashes around the world. Things have moved on from there, of course but all trends seem to indicate a further sharpening of the divide. Donald Trump has won the Republican nomination, while even though it looks like the Socialist Bernie Sanders, will not win, it is quite likely that he will push the eventual Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton more towards the Left. In fact, we have already seen something like that in India - it is now quite a popular view among Pundits, that the Suit-Boot jibe by the weakened Congress party, in opposition, pushed the Modi govt to a much more populist trajectory than initially expected. On a more contemporary note, the now recurring clashes between the entrenched Far Left  and the upcoming Right in India's elite universities is another illustration of this sharpening divide.

If Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) was the buzzword for 2015, with their trigger warnings, micro aggressions and enforcement of PC culture across the board, the new phenomenon gaining headlines in 2016 seems to be the Alternate Right (Alt-Right). To be clear, the Alt-Right, in it's various avatars is not a new thing per se and has been around for a few years, it's just that it is now beginning to get a lot more mainstream attention. Just over the last few months, many major "Liberal" publications have covered it, like Ross Douthat in The NYT and this more detailed piece in Vox. The reason for this heightened awareness is of course the Donald Trump presidency campaign and it is believed that most of the Alt-Right are Trump supporters. For those who have absolutely no idea of these groups, they are interesting

Well, some random YouTube surfing landed me to this talk by Jeff, Deist, who is the President of the Mises Institute, a Libertarian institute promoting Austrian economics. I was not aware of the speaker or the institute till now, but the topic "Alt-Right vs. Socialist Left: What It Means for Liberty" was interesting enough for me to listen. It turned out to be an excellent talk in which Deist breaks down - what used to be the so-called Clinton-Bush consensus at the center of American politics, and how these two growing movements are totally smashing this consensus.

I took a screen grab of the talk and this list gives an excellent idea of the positions of the Socialist Left / SJWs, the Alt-Right and the Mythical Consensus, as Deist, puts it.

I recommend anyone interested in all this, to listen to the video. If one has to summarize this rather complex clash in terms of it's cultural dimension, it is basically Identity Politics gone global. And while there are major divergences on the economic front as well, it is very important to note that Market Liberalism isn't exactly the flavor of the day. From a spectrum of Socialism to Populism, free trade and market capitalism aren't necessarily a given anymore even in the United States.

In India, of course, Socialism is part of the preamble to the constitution. So called Right Wing governments are those which happen to be less socialist/ populist than the opposition, rather than true champions of free markets. Sure, India's socio-economic realities are very different, however populism has always been popular and continues to remain so.

The Rajya Sabha MP, B.J. Panda recently wrote a piece on how India needs to overcome market phobia to join the group of prosperous countries. Such opinions from India's mainstream politicians are incredibly rare and Mr Panda, often appears to be a totally lone voice in India's politics. Meanwhile Sadanand Dhume was lamenting how Arvind Kejriwal's economics resembles economics policies of the 1970s. And while he is absolutely right on how bad the outcomes are going to be, populism seems to be winning the battle everywhere globally; expecting India to buck this trend given our own history is a bit far fetched.

Among all this, one crucial point. The youth seem particularly enamored by Socialism and Populism. Bernie Sanders wins "yuuuge" among the youth bracket. Conversely the Alt-Right too is a youth based movement right now. Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party and his brand of populism is quite popular with the educated youth, at least till now. Well, given colleges worldwide teach Karl Marx a hell of a lot more than say Milton Friedman, given universities are almost exclusively left leaning what else can be expected. Add increased polarization and politics will be more and more toxic all round.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A good lecture series on Indian Conservatism by Swapan Dasgupta

Some random YouTube surfing landed me to this lecture series by Dr. Swapan Dasgupta on The History of Indian Conservatism. Not seen them promoted on social media at all, but I found them extremely educative and riveting. These three speeches comprised the Tagore Centre Distinguished Lectures 2015 at King's College, London.

1) How conservative is Indian conservatism

2) Indian conservatism as a protest movement

3) Indian conservatism and the compulsions of political power

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