Obsessed With Morality

We have discussed and deconstructed how rigid notions of morality obstructs critical thinking. Thamizhavan extends the thesis to state that it also underpins the savagery of Tamil society at large:
தமிழ்ச்சமூகம் நீதிபோதனையால் இறுகிப்போன சமூகம். அதனால்தான் வன்முறையான சமூகமாகவும் இருக்கிறது. ’பிறப்பொக்கும் எல்லா உயிர்க்கும்’ என்ற நீதிபோதனையால்தான் பிராமணர்களின் பூணூலையும் குடுமியையும் அறுக்கலாம் என்ற கருத்து அங்கீகரிக்கப்பட்டது. எதிலும் தமிழ்ச்சமூகத்துக்குச் சந்தேகங்கள் இல்லை. கற்பு பிறழ்ந்த மகளின், மனைவியின் தலையை வெட்டிக்கொண்டு போலீஸிடம் சரண்புகும் சமூகம் இது. சினிமாவில் நியாயத்துக்காகப் போராடுபவன் உண்மையிலும் நியாயத்துக்காகப் போராடுவான் என்ற கருத்து எப்படி வருகிறது? நீதி, நியாயம் என்ற நீதிகள் சமூகத்தின் பிடிவாதம். அல்லது நீதி என்று கருதப்படுவதன்மீதான பிடிவாதம். விட்டுக்கொடுத்தல், அதுவும் சரி இதுவும் சரி என்ற நெளிவுசுளிவு போன்றன வேறு ஒரு சமூகக்குழுவின் குணம், நாம் ’வெட்டு ஒன்று, துண்டு ரெண்டு’ என்று பேசும் சாதி, பேசும் மாவட்டத்தவர் என்று பெருமை அடித்துக் கொள்வதுகூட நீதிசார் மனோநிலையின் விளைவுதான்.

Arundhati Roy's Awakening

Arundhati Roy is one of the most popular "leftist intellectuals" in India; known for her take on several issues including globalization, imperialism, and media.  Given this image, many Tamil activists hoped that she would join their cause in protesting against the GOSL and India. They probably didn't wish for a dramatic demonstration that she staged in the Narmada Dam site, but a 200 word op-ed  or a flashy statement at the end of her lucrative book readings. To get some attention from the English press in India, and possibly English television. But her indifference and silence about the Sri Lankan Tamil issue may have raised doubts about her intellectual depth and integrity even among her fans.

Some Tamil intellectuals -- who were left leaning themselves -- were not surprised, though. Some even likened her to 'Hindu' Ram. Thamizhavan, wrote a very insightful article about a month ago. He identifies the likes of Roy as elite, "half baked, cosmopolitan intellectuals" who pick up issues that "matter" in order to be recognized as progressive thinkers. He says, "talking extensively about Palestine while not blurting a word about Eelam is an important characteristic of this band." Thamizhavan expressed his views in regards to Chomsky's interview to Sri Lanka Guardian (SLG). He argues that politically regressive media houses like The Hindu, SLG, and top "cadres" of the communist parties in India try to "monoplize Chomsky and his ideas" to lend credibility to their politics.

My impression of Roy has always been that of a lazy thinker who picks up pointers from Noam Chomsky and other serious intellectuals. She frames templates based on Chomsky's writings and moulds her views on several issues with them; quite successfully, I must add.

The SL conflict, if she ever thought about it, must have put her in a tight spot, though. In the SLG  interview, Chomsky confesses that he is not well-informed on the ethnic conflict. (Why? We don't know.) So Roy probably didn't know what to say with nobody to plagiarize ideas from. She must have wondered if there is any scope to personalize this issue; something that would also appeal to the smug crowd that quotes her writings and gathers for her speeches. Or she felt that her histrionics can never match the self-immolations Tamil Nadu has seen -- and India hasn't -- the last few months.

With everything pretty much done and dusted with, Roy has stepped into the arena with her article in The Guardian. This article may not do any good to Sri Lankan Tamils, but at least now she cannot be accused of saying nothing about the genocide. The most infuriating aspect about it is that she insults our intelligence right in the first line and maintains that intent throughout:
The horror that is unfolding in Sri Lanka becomes possible because of the silence that surrounds it. There is almost no reporting in the mainstream Indian media - or indeed in the international press - about what is happening there. Why this should be so is a matter of serious concern.
You wonder whether she's talking to herself? Not so. For she absolves herself from the sinful crowd with this indisputable explanation:
Several of us - including myself - who should have spoken out much earlier have not done so, simply because of a lack of information about the war.
She has so much conviction in her defence that she presents the case like a reporter on field would; "breaking the news to the world." The article is also written with a matter-of-fact tone. Quite unlike her flowery expositions about 9/11 or Kashmir. "The few eyewitness reports that have come out are descriptions of a nightmare from hell," (emphasis mine) seems to be the best she could cook. Maybe she didn't realize there's no hurry to turn the article in. After all, she had the patience and intellectual commitment to gathering information for 30 years before she "broke her silence." Hope nobody breaks her jaw for the puerile recital of old facts.

©2009 english-tamil