In the field of development (especially if one is studying development studies) one hears of these words ‘globalization’ ‘neo-colonialism’, ‘neo-liberalism’ ‘democracy’ ‘non-violent movements During lectures, teachers and guest speakers have tossed these words around and they have bounced off walls and reached our ears. Some of us absorb them and even write them down in the notebooks before us, some of us don’t. Globalization is the new type of colonization, one says, or ‘new-colonialism’ to use the exact word. Then there is neo-liberalism. First define ‘liberalism’ then add new. Is neo-colonialism the same as neo-liberalism? They didn’t tell us that. Then there is ‘imperialism’, ‘facism’, ‘democracy’ and a whole loada catch words of the ‘neo-development’ paradigm (I made that one up, anyone can!). In the course of 3 years and a few months of college, I’ve read handouts after handouts relating to these topics, they seem to explain these words, but then leave you pondering if you understand them or not.
A few months ago, my sisters’s school had a fundraising fair, families bought in new and old stuff to sell. I was ecstatic that there was going to be a book stall, being a lover of a good read. Haven taken a minor pocket money allowance from my mum, I went over the book stall, saw a wide variety of books, from kiddie stories to Harry Potter, to good housekeeping magazines. I saw a book I liked, Soheir Khashoggi’s “Mirage” it looked new and expensive. ‘How much?” I asked the nice lady at the makeshift counter. Tentatively, holding my breath, I was expecting “Rs 200” or 150 or something on those lines. “20 rupees” she said! On the joy the joy!! “Really?” I asked. “Yes” came the reply. And that set me off. I mean who on earth gets a good book for Rs 20? I grabbed the first books that caught my eye, like a hungry beast out for blood (ok not really). There was this one particular book, red and black hard cover, women in full khimar holding her son and walking, looked like Iraq, “An ordinary person’s guide to Empire” said the title. What did that mean? Who’s the author to this title? Arundhati Roy. Ok Il take it. But she’s writing about Iraq now?
The book stayed on the shelf. Just another book about Iraq. I read the 7 other books I bought, 5 other good housekeeping magazines and one Saturday afternoon, was scavenging my shelves for a book to read, something inspiring, something different. I saw Roy’s book and decided I couldn’t put it off anymore.
“To those who believe in resistance, who live between hope and impatience and have learned the perils of being reasonable. To those who understand enough to be afraid and yet retain their fury”. Wow! I thought.
The first article (in a series of articles and speeches) was “Ahimsa”. She spoke of the non violent resistance against big dams in India. “The world over, non-violent resistance movements are being crushed and broken. If we do not respect and honor them, by default we privilege those turn to violent means.” Her first chapter brought me to tears. I wanted to read on, take notes, write again. In the chapters to follow she spoke of September 11, war in Iraq, corporate revolution, imperialism, neo-liberalism, globalization. All the mega huge development buzz words thrown at us, was never explained this humanely by anyone. She linked these words to the life of an ordinary human being. To the life of the poorest, most affected person, to our life. What we feel doesn’t affect us, she shows that it affects us very deep, complex ways.
I promised many people a book review and I will do so once I finish reading the book properly. But I do want to recommend it to everyone, if u can get hold of it, do read it because it worth a sit down with. It may tell you things you already know, but it will do so in a humanizing way. Or it may reveal many things you wished you never knew, because the truth will leave you burdened.
“We’re running out of time. Even as we speak the circle of violence is closing in. Either way, change will come. It could be bloody or it could be beautiful. It depends on us.”
Original post in Tinge of Blue