A. Roy–A Superstar of the Left

Znet has an interesting interview, dated August 31, 2004, with Booker prize winning author turned-global activist, Arundhati Roy here. And then here is a link-filled article about her recent talks on the Left coast.

In person, Roy is soft-spoken and nothing like a rabble-rouser. She seems to save her sharpest words for the printed page. For her public speeches in the United States, Roy usually reads essays she has written. In fact, Roy says, her onstage comments are really written for herself. That many people (especially liberal thinkers) agree with her statements is but a kind of bonus. “I think what probably drives me as a writer is a curiosity to understand and to keep understanding,” Roy says. “When I write, I write for myself, not just in order to let people know, because the writing clarifies things to me.”

Both make for interesting reads.

23 thoughts on “A. Roy–A Superstar of the Left

  1. Arundhati Roy, moral zero, wrote this after 9/11:

    Now Bush and Bin Laden have even begun to borrow each other’s rhetoric. Each refers to the other as “the head of the snake”. Both invoke God and use the loose millenarian currency of good and evil as their terms of reference. Both are engaged in unequivocal political crimes. Both are dangerously armed – one with the nuclear arsenal of the obscenely powerful, the other with the incandescent, destructive power of the utterly hopeless. The fireball and the ice pick. The bludgeon and the axe. The important thing to keep in mind is that neither is an acceptable alternative to the other.

    This worm, this waste of oxygen wrote this while the bodies of the WTC were still smoldering in her rush to blame the actions of insane Muslim fundamentalists on America.

    and it’s not an isolated incident:

    Democracy is the Free World’s Whore Democracy is the Free World’s whore, willing to dress up, dress down, willing to satisfy a whole range of tastes, available to be used and abused at will…Free elections, a free press and an independent judiciary mean little when the free market means they are on sale to the highest bidder.

    Down with capitalism, comrade! (/sarcasm). Roy is truly slime. Methinks her version of “true democracy” involves nothing less than the dictatorship of the proletariat.

  2. Roy is a fine novelist. Way too economically left for my taste. But you need to pick better quotes before using words like ‘worm, slime, moral zero, waste of oxygen.’

    That Bush and bin Laden both use religion as a political tool has been widely observed. It’s an intrinsically interesting point. I wouldn’t draw the moral equivalence she does to a mass murderer, but she writes impassioned op/eds and polemics, that’s her trade.

    That makes her the mirror image of Limbaugh/Coulter. They’re not ‘worms,’ they’re provocateurs.

  3. manish, what makes someone a moral zero? i think blaming 9/11 on america and being an unreconstructed communist qualifies. i wish this evil b**ch could smell the burning flesh that i smelt that day and still try to turn to me with a straight face and tell me that “america deserved it”.

  4. gc, why do people like you feel so much anger towards Roy. There are more than enough opinions like yours in this country so your’s is rather mainstream. It is the other perspective that is always ignored or silenced by the din of mad voices like yours.

    Roy has displayed character, courage and strength in opposing what is usually always against the grain of popular opinion.

    I for one am proud to say she’s from my country. The world needs more people like her and Michael Moore.

  5. GC (& My) anger towards Roy is simple & straightforward – she believes the US is the source of most of the world’s pathologies and we believe it isn’t. The logical conclusion of her Democracy-bashing and Capitalism Bashing is precisely the same intellectual fad that swept the writers and elites a generation or 2 ago – Elitist Socialism (one can readily imagine whether Roy sees herself as the Plebian or Proletariat in such a world).

    That failed experiment has killed and starved far more people than the US ever has and yet Roy so cheerfully continues to carry its flag. She fashions herself as some sort of intellectual and yet is sooo utterly painfully, even slanderously unwilling to connect the dots between the policies she advocates and their disastrous empirical results. I loved VDH’s assessment of her -

    Mimicking the theatrics of American intellectuals — Roy’s hands frequently gestured scare quotes — she went from one smug denunciation to another to the applause of her crowd. Little was said about the crater a few blocks away, the social pathologies back home in India that send tens of thousands of its brightest to American shores, or Roy’s own aristocratic dress, ample jewelry, and studied accent. All the latter accoutrements and affectations illustrated the well-known game she plays of trashing globalization and corporatization as she jets around the Western world precisely through its largess — all the while cashing in by serving up an elegant third-world victimization to guilt-ridden Westerners.
  6. T:

    Michael Moore and Arundhati Roy are not “courageous”. They are rich, pampered, pretentious, arrogant, disingenuous liars who sit comfortably in democracies while carrying water for the Milosevics, bin Ladens, Husseins, Maos, and Stalins of this world. They bleat about the dead ideology of Marxism, deny the Communist Holocaust, and gloss over the murderers of 100 million with their vicious lies. Roy says it herself:

    I’m not anti-Communist, I’m far from anti-Communist, but I believe that nothing, and nobody (and that includes myself and my book), is above criticism.

    Not “anti-Communist”. What moral person is not anti-Communist today, after the Cultural Revolution and the Red Terror and the Killing Fields and one hundred million bodies? I wish I could dump these two for just a month into the tender lap of the Taliban pre-9/11. If they survived they might think twice about drawing the puerile moral equivalences they do. And you might think twice about celebrating them.

    (But I doubt they’d survive. Roy would probably be shot in the head in a soccer stadium inside a minute, and Moore would be killed as an infidel.)

  7. btw, T, I wonder whether you endorse this bit by Roy:

    Could it be that the stygian anger that led to the attacks has its taproot not in American freedom and democracy, but in the US government’s record of commitment and support to exactly the opposite things – to military and economic terrorism, insurgency, military dictatorship, religious bigotry and unimaginable genocide (outside America)? It must be hard for ordinary Americans, so recently bereaved, to look up at the world with their eyes full of tears and encounter what might appear to them to be indifference. It isn’t indifference. It’s just augury. An absence of surprise. The tired wisdom of knowing that what goes around eventually comes around.

    Now, what exactly is the root of Roy’s babbling about imperialism and chickens roosting and whatnot? It’s very simple.

    Roy’s equation is this: it was justifiable to ally with Stalin to beat Hitler, but it was not justifiable to ally with far less murderous dictators to beat the far more bloody ideology of Communism.

    That is the long and short of it. If she acknowledged that the Cold War was a just war, her whole edifice of lies would come crashing down. She denies that the Cold War, the Iron Curtain, the gulag, and the export of international communist terror ever happened…or even worse, that they were worth resisting with all the might of the free world.

    And thus she frames the last 50 years not as America’s triumph in defeating Communism, but as America’s shame. Our support for Afghanistan against the Soviets? Well, in Roy’s world 9/11 must be blowback for that support…though why the Afghans should hate us for helping them resist an Communist invasion is never made clear. What is made abundantly clear is that Roy believes that resisting Communism is at a minimum declasse and just “not the done thing”, and at a maximum highly immoral. By failing to acknowledge that the Cold War was a world war and by denying that the overwhelming majority of people of South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and much of Latin America are glad we fought the USSR…she presents a skewed, Communist sympathetic view of the last 50 years.

    In her world, the sky is red – or she wishes it was. Somehow the fact that the US defended South Vietnam and South Korea against Chinese/Russian funded Communist invasions (yes, in both cases) is a strike against the US. We all know how South Korea turned out; compare it to North Korea some time. THAT is what America fought for.

    Now, I’m sure you’ll ask yourself why Vinod and I are bashing on about communism. The point is that her refusal to accept the reality of Communist evil is at the root of her condemnation of the US as an imperialist power, and her “goes around comes around” remark on 9/11. If you accept that the USSR was the bad guy and the USA was the good guy, well, things look a lot different from Roy’s bizarro world.

  8. GC here is a reprint of a posting on my blog from January 27th of this year. I think it explains why people like me, like the part that Roy plays in the world order and think she is absolutely necessary:

    I read Roy’s article in The Nation Magazine last night and it articulated some very strong arguments in a very clear manner. I will not summarize her argument simply because her words are more eloquent than mine. You should take the time to read it yourself. What I will do is defend her viewpoint against those who have the strongest argument against it. The strongest argument against Roy’s anti-hegemonic, anti-capitalist views is that the current model for a global economy promoted by the United States has unequivocally raised the poverty level around the world, and that it is the only viable option that has been put forth (as opposed to the “anarchist” strategies that emanate from Roy and her collegues). I think the people who make this argument, although it may seem factual, have been co-opted by the system so thoroughly that they can’t see their way through its veil. Raising the economic level of an impoverished country at any expense is not good enough. Over the long term, the blowback such a strategy will result in, will offset any economic stability gained by engendering terrorist activity that grows as personal freedoms recede. What Roy wants and argues for is not just to bring everyone out of poverty as it seems at face value, but to provide access to justice and individual freedom for everyone that is left behind by the current system. My interpretation of her philosophy is that economic gain at the expense of individual freedom and human rights is not good enough. It is better for a man to starve rather than be fed only if he is a chess piece in a larger game in which he has no chance to be a king.

    Let’s look at why people consider the U.S. an empire. We prop up and then tear down regimes according to how they affect our country’s economic situation (via interaction with our largest corporations). Iraq is the most recent example of this. Can you even recall the last time the U.S. went to war to promote freedom? I can’t. Freedom has always been a feel-good side effect and not the cause of our action. I support the war in Iraq and am glad we went, but I do not support the President or his decision to take us to war in Iraq. Why this paradoxical statement? The civilian lives lost in the current war pale in comparison to how many would have been lost had Saddam remained in power. Despite this, the main reason our empire went to war was to secure our own economic stability by opening to our companies the second largest oil fields in the world and the opportunity to reconstruct Iraq. War has always been and will always be, good for the economy. Our empire has co-opted Iraq’s oil resources as a component in its machine. The standard of living for all Iraqis will unquestionably be raised in short order, but at what price? Their economy will henceforth be shackled to our economy. They will be producers and we will be consumers. All goods flow to Rome. The individuals of Iraq will not have the freedom to truly diversify their economy or provide a free and capitalistic environment because the fat-cats at the top of their eventual government will have no incentive to diversify or strengthen Iraq as a sovereign nation that can, one day, economically compete with the U.S. in anything. Their pockets will be lined with our oil company’s money. The oil companies in turn have no incentive to remain honest. The now corrupt government’s will deny their citizens their human right if it interferes with the flow of oil toward the capital of the empire. This model has repeated itself countless times in the fallout of our country’s foreign policy decisions. In India it was the electric companies instead of the oil companies. That’s where Roy’s crusade began.

    When I look around the world now I see mostly producer nations and just a few consumer nations. In this model everyone has their place. Every cog must work in its specified manner for the whole machine to run. Such a machine can only function at the expense of personal freedom. If a cog doesn’t work the way the machine needs it to, it is obvious that the machine’s only viable option will be to use any means necessary to “fix” the problem. The existence of this system was so clearly demonstrated in Cancun. The cogs banded together and told the machine to shove it. It was beautiful. It should be an uncontested fact that for the good of the empire the personal freedom’s of its individual components must be inhibited. But America stands for freedom above all else, doesn’t it? No. There are two kinds of freedom. Our freedom an their freedom. That is the core of America’s foreign policy. I WANT our troops to be the world’s policemen, to stop genocide, and blind aggression. I do not want our soldiers and our corporations to be the world’s mechanics however.

  9. abhi:

    I will respond to your post in detail (calmly) if you want. But first, can you answer a few questions for me?

    Q: Was WW2 a just war? Q: Was the Cold War a just war? Q: What is the accepted body count for the Nazi Holocaust? Q: What is the accepted body count for the Communist Holocaust?

    I have reasons for asking these questions – they drill down to axioms – so it will be more efficient to debate at this level and then recurse up.

  10. Vinod and gc,

    My point is that the anger you show towards Roy is not rational or warranted. Has she or Moore been responsible for the death of even one person? Yet people like you demean them in words you don’t use even for people who are actually responsible for the deaths of thousdands of innocent people.

    Questioning authority and dissent is essential for any free society. And Vinod, she is not a mirror image of Coulter, Hannity or Limbaugh. They are mean spirited people.

    gc, your arguments are idiotic. One can argue that Gandhi and other freedom movement protesters in India would have received bullets in their heads if they had agitated against someone other than the British.

    As for being courageous, they are a lot more courageous than people who are basically preaching to the choir. Also 9/11 was a tragedy which affected people from all over the world — from people who lost loved ones and those who lost jobs to others far away who lost the ability to come here because of visa and other restrictions. So don’t co-opt it into your position.

    The tragedy here does not justify the tragedy of thousands of innocent civilians dying in Iraq or Afghanistan.

  11. T:

    Anger is a natural emotion. GC and Vinod make solid points with respect to why they don’t agree with Roy along with venting their anger.

    Have Moore/Roy been responsible for a death of a person? Probably not. But supporting ideas that have killed many in the past, and as some believe would lead to a weaker position today one and the same? Here example: Say someone supports a Neo Nazi or the KKK in a peaceful manner and promotes that ideology, would it make people angry? Sure it would. I am not drawing a moral equivalence between Moore/Roy and a racist, but the idea is same. They represent ideas that many believe are not in the best interest of us.

    Using your logic, I don’t think there is a world leader on the planet that can claim not being ‘responsible’ for someones death.

    Only time and the people of Iraq or Afghanistan can give judgement on the ‘Thousands of dead civilians’. In say 5 years, if these places are self relaint with functional governments and people are happy, you may get a different answer.

    Also, the United States is not a free for all community. A Visa is the privilege the Government gives to a foreigner, not the right of the applicant. None of my buddies had any problems with getting Visas into the United States. Certain places are scrutinized harder simply as a result of basic logic. You know where most of the folks are coming from, a more thorough eye does not hurt.

    The extreme right and the left are the same, maybe not in the eloquence or marketing of their words, but in their intent.

  12. Abhi: Thanks for stepping in. It’s nice to know there’s another tolerant person here.

    S: My guess is that you don’t have a muslim-sounding name or have applied for a visa to the US in a muslim country. You’d change your tune if tomorrow some Hindu radicals from India did something terrible here and people like you become the ones being rounded up or denied visas.

  13. I don’t think GC or Vinod are intolerant in any fashion. Nor am I. As a matter of fact I do have Muslim friends, and a few had some issues on the US-Canadian border despite being US citizens.

    Now my buddy was treated unfairly and he was 1) A US citizen 2) Had nothing on him.

    He got some flak for it, and it sucked. I did not agree with the treatment handed to him. It was conducted in an unprofessional manner.

    The level of scrutiny today is a necessary by product of trying to let the good people in, vs. the bad. The system is not perfect and there have been gaffes. I am also not saying that all policies are correct. But the general idea is right. There needs to be a better filtering process in place. The INS is notorious for inefficiency and also tends to drop the ball quite a bit.

    Despite this, I am not yet ready to point a finger at the USA and say we are to blame. We are trying to work out practical solutions feasible for all parties.

    Even though I would feel pretty crappy if some Hindu fundamentalists did something bad, I first and foremost consider myself an American and would worry about the loss of American lives, not go on the defensive claiming bais against me or my ethnicity.

    Yes, people would be denied visas, and I may get a look or glare, but that is a natural reaction. And again, a Visa is a privilege, not a human right. As a natural law, things will eventually reach an equilibrium again, but it takes time and patience. I work with Egyptians time to time. They don’t really have any issues getting visas. They did mention the process has become more lengthy and time consuming, but they got here.

    Either way, I apologize for dragging this off topic.

  14. gc: i think blaming 9/11 on america and being an unreconstructed communist qualifies… What moral person is not anti-Communist today, after the Cultural Revolution and the Red Terror and the Killing Fields and one hundred million bodies?

    Vinod: That failed experiment has killed and starved far more people than the US ever has…

    Nobody’s pointed out yet that Roy comes from a socialist state and a poor country? She’s in the mainstream in Kerala, where the Communist Party is in power. She’s from a country where hybrid socialist/capitalist parties dominate at least two provinces, Kerala and Bengal. She’s from a country where the poor really are severely mistreated, where economic opportunity really is hard to come by, where socialist attitudes are common because people really are shit-poor.

    GC, you are linking her naive economic proto-socialism, the common, non-genocidal Indian strain, with half century-old authoritarian mass murderers in distant lands as if she were Stalin himself. That’s so off-topic.

    You should absolutely be besides yourself that she advocates a system that leads to economic failure. But calling her views genocidal is even more strident than her own writing.

    As for ‘blaming 9/11 on America,’ the quote you cited is: the Stygian anger that led to the attacks has its taproot [in]… Where does she say the 3,000 innocents who were murdered, deserved it? The quote says many detest U.S. foreign policy. That’s hardly news. Is she over-the-top in her choice of words (‘military terrorism’)? Yep. She’s a provocateur.

    T: she is not a mirror image of Coulter, Hannity or Limbaugh. They are mean spirited people.

    When dealing with Romans, speak Latin :)

  15. GC, you are linking her naive economic proto-socialism, the common, non-genocidal Indian strain, with half century-old authoritarian mass murderers in distant lands as if she were Stalin himself. That’s so off-topic.

    Uh, NO, it’s not.

    She’s trying to make the point that the US is an imperial power, killing people and invading countries at random for its self aggrandizement. If asked for specifics I bet she’d babble about “death squads” in Latin America, etc.

    That kind of frame on the 1945-1989 period ONLY comes about if you think killing Communists was bad. So, NO, it’s not “ancient history”. As much as leftists would like to deny the Communist Holocaust, unfashionable types like myself and Tacitus will go bashing on about those hundred million bodies till people like Roy ACKNOWLEDGE that the Cold War was a just conflict.

  16. You should absolutely be besides yourself that she advocates a system that leads to economic failure. But calling her views genocidal is even more strident than her own writing.

    Naivete is no excuse. She preens as educated, right? So here’s a clue: Communism doesn’t just lead to economic failure, it leads to mass murder. Had Communists taken hold of the Indian armed forces during the Cold War, I have no doubt there would have been a blood bath.

    I mean, you understand what the elimination of private property entails, right? It means guys with guns storming into your house, carting you off to a slave labor camp, and expropriating everything you’ve ever owned.

    Roy thinks that the US fight against Communism was immoral . That is why she bashes the military bases abroad and why she has her head so firmly planted up her posterior: she refuses to acknowledge the purpose of the Comintern (google it), the nature of the NKVD, the fact that the USSR funded Communist revolutions all around the world, and the FACT that without US resistance that bloody empire would still be extant.

    Even aside from her comments re: 9/11 (which would be enough to condemn her to the darkest pits of hell, if there were a God), that’d be enough to damn her. Who really can profess ignorance today about what Communism led to? How many times do we need to run the same reel, from Russia to China to Cambodia to North Korea to Vietnam and on and on and on? I’m sorry, but naivete just doesn’t cut it.

  17. GC, you are linking her naive economic proto-socialism, the common, non-genocidal Indian strain, with half century-old authoritarian mass murderers in distant lands as if she were Stalin himself. That’s so off-topic.

    Oh, and btw, I should note that the left constantly associates the right with “half century old authoritarian mass murderers in distant lands” for its support of most any issue they don’t like. In this case, though, Vinod and I can draw a pretty straight line between Stalin and Roy: she is what in an earlier time Lenin called a “useful idiot”. She’s someone who just refuses to acknowledge – or, worse, knows and chooses to LIE about – the reasons the United States had to fight the Soviet Union.

    In her prattling on and on about Allende and the supposed unjustness of US “imperialism”, she refuses to accept that without the US half the world would still be under the Communist boot – and India would still be finlandized. She’s like someone complaining about the fact that US troops are in France in 1946…ignorant or dishonest about why they were there in the first place.

  18. Where does she say the 3,000 innocents who were murdered, deserved it?

    Um, right here: The tired wisdom of knowing that what goes around eventually comes around.

    Look, I don’t know why you’re apologizing for her. You excuse the most viciously anti-American rhetoric on her part because she’s just “naive”. She’s not naive – she knows about what the Taliban and the USSR were like. She just chooses to ignore that. There’s a word for that…

  19. Nobody’s pointed out yet that Roy comes from a socialist state and a poor country? … socialist attitudes are common because people really are shit-poor.

    Ah, but as a self-styled public intellectual, Roy’s greatest sin is to not recognize that the causality is reverse – the people in her state/country are shit poor because socialist attitudes are so common.

    She’s digging a deeper hole despite nearly 100 yrs of history providing a clear demo of what lies beneath.

    Some intellectual. As they say, the message often says more about the audience than the speaker.

  20. gc: You really need to lighten up:)

    I’d hate to see what you’re like when someone really pisses you off. There’s a word for that too…

  21. I’d hate to see what you’re like when someone really pisses you off.

    heh, well, you know I’m not really angry. I just think that Roy et. al. have dumped enough vitriol on me and my country that she deserves a little back. As laid out in detail above, her argument rests on a foundation of lies, most crucially and centrally that the Cold War was somehow unjust and Communism wasn’t worth fighting.

    Pull out that stick, and it goes Kerplunk…she’s sunk…

  22. I know most have moved on from this, but I was just catching up to it; so, GC, I was wondering if you could explain this to me:

    http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0434/barrett.php “10 Ways Bush Screwed New York”

    7) What could be worse than lying to GZ workers and residents about the air they were breathing? The original EPA draft of a September 13, 2001, press release, for example, said that the agency considered even the low levels of asbestos that surfaced in their GZ tests “hazardous in this situation.” The final White House version of the release simply scratched out the phrase. And when a September 16 EPA draft warned of “higher levels of asbestos,” the White House changed it to the hot-air hoax that “ambient air quality meets standards and is not a cause for public concern.” The EPA chief of staff conceded in an interview with the agency’s inspector general that the “desire to reopen Wall Street” factored into the releases, saying she did not feel the releases were her own.

    NYC will live with the consequences of what the IG concluded were White House efforts to “add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones” for years, if not decades, to come. Asbestos is a long-term and relentless killer. We have already learned that 2,500 firefighters alone have diminished lung capacity due to inhaling WTC debris. Six hundred have already retired with GZ disabilities or are seeking these costly pensions. Lower Manhattan residents are suing EPA because it left them to fend for themselves, dodging interior cleanup responsibilities until a year after the attack. Eighty percent of the homes have still never been tested or cleaned. Do you think that will be the Bush attitude in a post-hurricane swing state?

    Now, I’m not sure how far the cloud of debris went, but let’s say about 1 mile. How many buildings and resident’s live within that area? I’m guessing anywhere from 10,000 – 30,000 minimum (there are more than 8 million people working and living there, right?). This means that children, women, pregnant women (!), elderly etc. were not given the chance to protect themselves; wow, talk about the compassion…