Perspectives: A Review of 2009
by Raju Peddada
(Swans - December 14, 2009) I have received more threats from my cantankerous, yet admirable editor than Salman Rushdie or Geert Wilders have received for their perceived "transgressions." I have been "requested" by the honorable editor, Gilles d'Aymery, to write a year-end-review without ranting, something that I loathe putting my mind to. Why? Well, I simply see it as the least intellectually redeeming or fulfilling activity for someone who is not inclined to observing the retardation or the advancement of someone's ideology or political agenda on the national socio-cultural and political terrain.
Let me preface this at the outset: I am not an advocate for anything, especially an ideology, since I find them very limiting and divisive. As a businessman, I deal only in hard facts, and despite the political or ideological vicissitudes, we adapt, improvise, and overcome. However, despite the editor's gag order on my alleged "advocacy" of the free enterprise system, I saw a challenge in it. Perhaps I could endeavor to grasp something more substantial and fundamental than your average year-end reviewer out there.
I know with certitude that most of the news that is actually worthy of review is always relegated to the back pages of the mainstream media and networks. This reminds me of a great scene from Lawrence of Arabia. Diplomat-politician Dryden, played by a deft Claude Rains, is sitting in the office of the British commanding general Allenby in Cairo, indulging in a repartee on Arabia. Dryden points out the back page of a local Cairo newspaper in English that claims "Bedouin tribes attack Turkish strongholds," to which Allenby exclaims dryly, "Storm in a tea cup." Dryden tartly retorts, "Big things have small beginnings." I don't know about you, but the discovery of these storms in tea cups is what reviews ought to be about: to discover small beginnings as harbingers of big happenings. Glaring headlines usually don't bring the hammer.
Remember that small march by the Wehrmacht in 1938 ordered by Hitler into the Rhineland -- a demilitarized zone -- agreed to by all the signatories of the Versailles Treaty, eventually ignored by Germany. And while this unfolded, the contemptibly timid leaders of France and Britain just turned their heads, after selling out Czechoslovakia. It was not even reported here in some papers. Anybody remember what happened next? How about those home-grown Islamists in the UK demanding the head of Geert Wilders, a Dutch parliamentarian, and Sharia law for some big communities in the UK? This is our front yard folks! Hello...anybody there with balls?!? And this just in: the Iranians have commissioned two more uranium-enrichment plants last week, despite all the olive branches extended by this administration. How about that "troop surge" for Afghanistan announced by the president, a policy reminiscent of the reviled previous administration?
Speaking of troops, how about honorably discharging all the extremists, Muslims or otherwise, from our armed forces and government organizations, so we can at least reduce the number of shooting rampages that originate from intolerant religious beliefs?
In another sphere, how is it that the president missed a splendid opportunity to make a visionary dedication, like Kennedy, for a manned mission to Mars, when the 1969 pioneers of the Apollo 11 mission came calling on the White House? It would cost an infinitesimal amount compared to the bailouts, Afghanistan War, wasted foreign aid, and all that pork spending. Isn't our future and technological growth worth it, or have we hocked our children's future to enjoy the present? I think NASA is the agency that can buck us up from all the gloom and doom out there, and also push the human potential for making another planet home.
Are there any germinal issues that were in the back pages that we must look at assiduously and contemplate the implications for posterity? You bet there are, but here is the problem: I haven't been looking at the newspapers lately, and I have less than a week to turn this into a sensible rant, notwithstanding reprisals. Suddenly it has become clear to me after lurking in my cranium for the whole night: it was a referendum about integrity versus ideology. Ideologies have a way of convoluting the facts and the truth.
In 1861, President-Elect Lincoln sneaked into the capital under the protection of a couple of Pinkerton detectives to get inaugurated. This is the president that rescued the union and had emancipated the slaves, who were mostly black, despite the war casualties and physical threats by the southern Democrats, who started carrying daggers, walking-stick knives, and pistols into the Capitol building. Today it is no different. The current Congress, chaired by Nancy Pelosi sporting a wafer-thin intellect and probity, wields its majority like a club pushing pork to meet their ideological mandate. Anybody looked at their approval ratings lately? Surreal as it may seem, Pelosi looks more like another "venerable" institution's former leader, Kofi Annan. On January 20th, President-Elect Obama was sworn into office with an inauguration invoice in excess of $200 million; that too on a nation teetering on the brink of financial abyss.
2009 actually began in the Clinton administration and was reaffirmed in 2000 with the election of an irresolute and idiotic George W. Bush over that bore of a Gore. I am not blinded by any ideology to hate President Obama. He is our president and we have a moral obligation to support him despite obdurate facts of demerits that unfortunately behave like static-cling on him, and he is also grossly overmatched for the task at hand. I will be ecstatic if he succeeds in restoring fiscal and budgetary sanity. His first acts as the president do not give me any reassuring blueprint of a visionary politician. However, I want to reign in my skepticism before I write the epitaph. Yet I feel trepidation for what might unfold in the ensuing years. In fact, unlike most of the zealous and overbearing right-wing polemists, I want my president to succeed and be pleasantly surprised, but I think he will be another road-kill under the road roller of history -- a mere footnote, who will live very long to collect his benefits.
What is infinitely more alarming happened when a mysterious American couple crashed the official state dinner in honor of the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh. It seems that the presidential political correctness had seeped into the Secret Service culture too, which allowed a devious man by the name of Tareq Salahi, along with his blond playmate, to waltz into the White House and mingle with the power elites of the world. What if this impostor had wrapped himself with an improvised explosive device and threw a big enough fit so the president himself would come and acquiesce to his demands and even escort the man inside? Once inside and amidst the power throngs, it would be click...boom. Get it Roger ram jet?!?
We in this country have had a tradition of smart electorates over the generations, people electing the right presidents for the wrong times, or let's say the tough times, like Washington, Adams, Lincoln, Jackson, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan. But that changed with hordes of illegal immigrants pouring in to suck at the free tits here. People who had migrated generations ago had an emotional investment in the country; migrants today have no interest in the country, except to bleed it dry and fill the commission coffers of Western Union for money heading back to all the desiccated places they come from. Yeah, I love multiculturalism and diversity, but this is pure adversity.
The fundamentals are not the same anymore, and regardless of the political party or ideology, we the people are getting shafted by whomever we elect. What is the remedy? Do we experiment with the old form of governance again -- a dictatorship, or a kingship, or an oligarchy? How many of us are really honest about the endemic corruption in our own elected people, or do we blindly support them because they hail from our ideology, despite their character? I think that is the reason we find ourselves in such a putrid state today -- we endorse and support people because of their ideology and not their veracity.
The editor had warned me against ranting and rants. But how is that possible? Everything I have ever read on Swans has been rants at something or somebody. I have developed a steel stomach and titanium intestines after digesting rants from the contributors as well as the editors on every conceivable subject. In this case the editor has asked me to "live without breathing" and ranting is akin to breathing for writers and rhetoricians out there.
Every form of writing is a rant on something or the other: fiction or non-fiction, subtle-tacit versus overt, direct, or indirect, euphemistically or in just plain old fashioned dysphemism. Consider this: Karl Marx lived in London enjoying the affluent social milieu, the epicenter of the industrial revolution and the largest capitalist empire at that time and ranted against individual liberty, individual creativity, and capital freedoms, espousing Orwellian reduction of humans to automatons. Ayn Rand ranted against totalitarianism after spending enough time in that scatological putrescence. George Orwell ranted about blissful ordinariness. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky ranted subtly in their copious writings. Boccaccio, Gibbon, Rousseau, Schopenhauer, and Max Muller ranted against the biblical doctrines of hypocrisy. The Bible and the Q'uran are violent rants against diversity, tolerance, assimilation, knowledge, queries, secularism, and peace. Mein Kampf was a racist rant that led to WWII. The US Constitution is a great rant against European feudalistic kingdoms, religious and creative oppression, and exploitation, the most original rant being the Magna Carta. These rants are by the people for the people, any doubts?
Every writer, obvious to obscure, rants; every Nobel laureate rants, especially two of my favorites: Orhan Pamuk rants for the glory of melancholy and Istanbul against the Armenian genocide and the Turkish reneging of responsibility, and Gabriel García Márquez, a communist, ranted against the capitalist empires, while owning five homes on three continents, and enjoying affluent societies everywhere. To write is to rant. Depending on the interpretation every fucking thing is a rant, including that health care bill in the Senate right now. So what does the editor mean by telling me not to rant? Is he tacitly suggesting I offer the weather for the next six months? Isn't that the bore-of-a-Gore's forte? If I cannot write about the seminal issues with a different perspective or a twist that affects us, then what am I to write about? Does he want a mindless choir chanting in unfettered unison with no diversity of opinions?
The editor has really put me in a drum, a real conundrum. By pushing me into this corner, he has serendipitously and inadvertently given me more ideas, which is the quality of a great editor, despite the foibles. If that was his original intent, I salute in gratitude. If the intent was to thwart my rants against his "platform," then it's understood. I think a good rant should be on all those year-end-reviews out there. A great invincible rant is a rant against oneself -- to look in the mirror and see if honesty and integrity have been obfuscated, sidetracked, and shoved aside for ideological agenda or gains. Honesty and integrity take unequivocal precedence over beliefs, whether religious or ideological, and in some cases they are the same. Please remember that not too long ago it is the ideological beliefs that sold most of humanity in Europe and elsewhere that the Earth was flat and the center of the universe, and was created 6,000 years ago -- muzzling the truth. Organized ideologies are a bane for the pure facts and truth, which are intrinsic and ingrained in us, but we keep the truths within ourselves shut just to fit in with the comrades -- perhaps that is the reason so many of us are disillusioned.
Even alphabetically: "H" for Honesty comes before "I" for Ideology. Every animal rants; science has proven that unequivocally. Rants are essential to life, but rants thwarting pure truth or honesty will direct all of us, the alleged higher beings, into the abyssal crevasse of intellectual damnation and oblivion. Despite this friendly chiding, if you all still want to rant in favor of your favorite ideology, then I reserve the right to rant an observation, and that is this: In the 21st century, there is a small anachronistic kingdom in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas called Bhutan, where the young king has made English and erudition mandatory; where people help each other build their houses under an architectural code honoring nature and traditions; where they charge $200 per day per person for visiting their country and littering. There is no national debt, social security, or defense budget. The Buddhist king's mandate is mystifyingly simple: he focuses more on the "national aggregate of happiness" than the "gross domestic product." This is a blissful anomaly, a fantastic kingdom of solace, shrouded in the nourishing Himalayan mist and its own pragmatism, firmly poised on the plateau of peace and sanity. In contrast, here we print currency that claims "in God we trust" and continue to elect people in the name of self-governance who are purveyors of "gross domestic negligence and idiocy."
Honorable editor, thank you kindly for this opportunity to reflect and rant.
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