Thursday, 27 November 2008

Viva Obama! Viva the Black! Viva the Red Indian!

by Remigius de Souza

I write in solidarity with all ethnic/ aborigine communities and cultures of the World that still survive, as the Obama-frenzy of media cools.

We, here in India, Rejoice

Viva Barack Hussein Obama! Viva the Black in ghettos in the US! Viva the Native Americans, also called Red Indians, in the US Reservations!

Viva the Underclass of the US society, and of the World including India in the Third World India and the Fourth World India, which are the popular vote banks here for the First World India!

We, here in India, rejoice in the election of the first black President of the US: It’s a beginning!
The history of the US is the history of five hundred years, of the nation of migrants from Europe, of the black slaves from Africa, and of the Natives of America, and subsequently of the rest of the migrants from the rest of the World. It is the history of tow hundred years of nationhood of the US.

The Class (or classless) society of the US – the First World nation – lives at the fast pace of time set by the Industrial Revolution: the president elect Obama, of course, belongs there.

We hope this election is the beginning of the change for the better for the Underclass and the underdeveloped societies of the US, and also of the World, for their liberation from the tyrannies of colonisation and neo-colonisation (of the resources of the world by money and military power), at this historic moment, beyond the race, caste, class, religion, colour, gender, or political dogmas. It’s a payback time.

At this historic moment, when the boundaries of the nation-states are getting defused by the tsunami of globalisation designed by the vested interests of the few, we hope, there shall also be the end of neo-colonialism of the capitalist across the world.

Will the US and other powerful states retreat and withdraw from the lands they claim in the Arctic & Antarctica? They belong to the whole World. The – the land and the waters and the life there – are the World Heritage.

Of course, I can’t help remembering at this historic moment:
1. The warning in the book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed' by Paulo Freirre ; and
2. The hopes and dreams in the epic poem ‘The Mental Flight’ by Ben Okri; and
3. The recent research carried in the US suggests that “Even the most well-meaning liberal can harbour hidden prejudice. ...Even today, the study finds, Americans of various races still unconsciously dehumanise their black fellow citizens by subtly associating them with apes” (‘Racism still runs deep’, Editorial, New Scientist, 16 February 2008, p. 5). And
4. The words of Anand K. Coomarswamy, “Mark a final victory of the conquered over the conquerors.”

India is not an exception, but perhaps is the forerunner in this racial slur from the epic times of Ramayana, when the aborigine tribe of Hanumana–Vali–Sugriva clan was called monkeys. The Katkari tribe on the mainland near Mumbai claim themselves to descendants of Hanumana clan. We have heard Barack Obama carries a charm of Hanumana in his valet.

We also do introspect

Long before the words ‘India’, ‘Bharat’, ‘Hindustan’ etc. were coined for this nation / region, the aborigine communities have been living long before the civilised societies came. The boundaries of sovereign states have been changing time to time. The concept of ‘India’… as a nation was given to the elite Indian by the British. Earlier there had been many princely states and kingdoms.

Aryans had a service class or a caste called ‘shudra’, which perhaps later was treated as an untouchable caste, of course by elite castes of clergy and warriors. Aryans assimilated some of the aborigine people as ‘shudras’ (slaves?). Oppression of the untouchable casts is millennia old, which continues even today. They are now officially called Scheduled Castes in the Independent India.

Oppression of the aborigine tribes also is as old as that (civilised societies).

The late Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, from an untouchable caste, took the helm of write the Constitution of India. Neither that did change the lot of the untouchable nor his and thousands of his followers’ conversion to Buddhism. However they are taking education. They are politically aware. They are provided with ‘reservations’ in educational institutions and jobs (the reservations turned the elite and upper castes in loggerhead with the law.)… Even one of the untouchable castes became the President of India, in recent times, and many became ministers. Talking in numbers, still a large majority of the untouchable castes are languishing in poverty and illiteracy.

Despite a woman Prime Minister earlier, and now a woman President of India, the gender atrocities continue. The only difference is that some are reported, not all.

Before them, there were most revered saint-poets, both women and men, including those from the untouchable castes, over centuries (say, 11th to 16th centuries) but they failed to bring reforms to the whole society. With the growth of population, progress and development, the Indic society continued get more and more fragmented, leading to economic classes, where large majority, irrespective of their caste, languish in poverty. About 300 millions are Below Poverty Line.

Even before the saint-poets, 2006 years ago, came Gautama the Buddha, believed to be an Incarnation; but he failed. On the contrary Buddhism was driven out of India, of course, by the learned of the upper caste. However it is still being practiced outside India, mostly Asian countries.

Such is the power, and greed for more power, of the elite classes and castes.

The earliest example, which I know of the oppression of the aborigine, is of Ekalavya, a youth of Bhil tribe, in the Epic Mahabharata. He approached Drona, a Brahmin, and teacher of princes Pandavas and Kauravas, to teach him archery, which he rejected. Hence he learnt archery all by himself by self-access and excelled in the skill; he had installed Drona’s statue as his guru by proxy. When Drona came to know about Ekalavya’s skill, he demanded his right thumb as his fee, which Ekalavya dutifully complied. This is one of some of the sordid stories of Mahabharata.

The climax of this story is: The Bhil tribe practice archery without using their thumb for millennia to this date as a living memorial of Ekalavya. Bhils are excellent archers, but in the Independent India they don’t figure in any sports events, leave aside Olympics; there was a single exception of tribal from Rajasthan. On the contrary they are banned to carry bows and arrows. The reasons are obvious.

These are the lessons in the living history.

Five hundred years or five thousand years, it is a past. As for future it remains only as speculation. It is the present that matters: Time is the better judge.

© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

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