Wednesday, June 13, 2007

American Politics

Until now, I have deemed it below my dignity to talk about American politics in this blog. I still do find it demeaning to talk about American Politics - considering that they don't let me vote for their president (and why should they?). But I will make an exception this time.

Firstly, why do I consider it below my dignity to talk about American Politics? Because, (and this is true) - America is the land of plenty. American politics are the politics of plenty. I don't know about you, but I do hail from a land of over-whelming poverty. A land where it would be an insult to discuss obesity or abortion on a national stage. There, accroding to me are more pressing issues than the above. And that's why I manitain (from a third world perspective) that American Politics is a sad joke.

But I will discuss it here, because these trivial concerns (abortion, gay marriage and obesity) govern the world today. That's because the American people elect someone based (mainly) on these concerns. And the elected individuals have the capacity to destroy the world many times over. They are demonstrating this power in Iraq right now. I do believe I have a stake in this: this is my planet too!

I was watching the Republican and the Democratic debates on TV. They don't have a shortage of candidates, both the sides. The canditates range from the sincere to the pretentious - and the, well, deluded.

Among all the Republicans that talked, I thought there was one person who made a lot of sense. And he was from Texas (the irony is palpable). He is a republican that even Noam Chomsky (uttering whose name is a taboo on American Media) would be proud of. A conservative that convices you that conservativism need not be chauvansim. An American politician who is not ashamed of admitting to a series of foreign policy gaffes that Chomsky has been crying himself hoarse about since god knows when. I am talking about Dr. Ron Paul, perhaps the only reasonable, non hypocritical person running the race.

The tragedy is (and he knows it as well) that he will never win - not even the nomination. That's democracies for you! The sensible person seldom does win. It is usually the blow-hard. Take his argument with Guiliani in the aforementioned debate. He beat Guiliani hollow in the debate - and the latter managed to salvage some pride by taking a cheap shot at invoking patriotism.

Even the media, it seems, has lost its capacity to make independent judgements - though some will argue it never had any. I would guess the risk of being branded "unpatriotic" is too much for the media in this country - or any country for that matter. For the immeditate result would be an en-masse withdrawal of sponsors - which is the life line of the media. How unbiased can reporting be if there is a strong financial disincentive from making calls that one deems rational? And thus, you get a "mainstream" line: a line toed by everyone - except by the often courageous jesters such as Stewart, Maher and Colbert - and ostracized rationalists like Chomsky (and international students like yours truly).

To me, this is the ultimate failure of democracy and capitalism. A system that elects jingoists and kills rationalists - that's what democracy is. Back in India, Look at Modi. How on earth do you think the BJP is holding on to the reins in Gujarat? Good governance? Perhaps only partially so. Nationalism thrives on fanaticism, something that people earlier reserved for religion.

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