criticalvoices

On issues that matter …

Alternative Hopes for Alternative Facts January 24, 2017

Ah well I guess it behooves this blog to talk Trump because it’s the first since he has been sworn into the Oval Office – an already refurbished Oval office to be precise.

The new Donald Trump administration in the US has ably, and expectedly, started off on a brand new theme that is likely to be the bedrock of his reign. The theme being: Alternative Facts. Oh yes, that’s the new mantra the post-truth world seems to be waking up to and although it has been a guiding light for many a political leader across the world, it has found legitimacy in the active lexicon of the Trump Administration.

This is an era when truth is simply what you believe in and what you want to believe. Where there are facts, there are always “alternative facts”, they would have us believe.

Coming from administrations, as with regimes, people are used to a certain amount of secrecy, the closed door meetings, the situation room decisions, the intelligence briefings, the classified dossiers, the need-to-know-only files and so on. Although a lot of that got blown thanks to platforms like WikiLeaks and people got a good glimpse into the shenanigans of the government agencies and top administration officials, by and large the media community trusts the information released by the White House, and in turn people trust the media that reports on that information. And that unwritten rule, it would seem, has been dispensed with by the Trump yarn spinners who are peddling information from the sacrosanct podium in the White House briefing room, that they have labelled, “alternative facts”.

For the die hard supporters of President Trump, alternative facts, much less facts, do not seem to matter. Clearly, they see a proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. My only prayer for these people is that his many promises to them do not end up as alternatives to hope.

The most common refrain among the more rational of Trump supporters and some of those that didn’t vote for him seems to be “let’s give this guy a chance” and see what he can do. And I would like to think I am among those that holds an unapologetic, if not indulgent curiosity on how transformative the Trump era will prove to be for America and the rest of the world.

So, here I am preparing myself mentally to overlook the fact that he loves to stress upon and exaggerate his audience numbers and ovations; that it will be a long time before he gets over the fact that he won the primaries (!); that he lies with impunity; that he has surrounded himself with waxy ‘yes’ men and women; that he keeps reminding us of how smart he is; and that he has created a sphere of alternative reality which his followers have unquestioningly embraced. And these are ‘facts’ that can be cross checked.

But in all fairness, as I expect the worst of President Trump in the years to come, I am also open to his unexpected best to show up. Alternative hope, maybe?

Srirekha Chakravarty

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A Presidency of limited vocabulary January 17, 2017

For all Americans, I guess, “Happy Democracy” greetings are in order. Come January 20, as they step into the new Presidency with trepidation – no kidding, they are all in it together whether they celebrated or protested on National Mall on inauguration day or watched the circus of democracy live on TV or simply slept through the great transition – this is the democracy they helped shape.

Before they go to bed tonight, there are a few things that they should all collectively pray for President Donald Trump to do or not do, not just in the interest of Americans, but in the larger interest of the world.

Personally, if my understanding of human psychology is right, I’d say Trump is all bark and no bite. And even the bark is almost invariably from the safety of his private surroundings as he sends out obnoxious tweets, or from the comfort of having his family behind him or having rabid fans in front. Face to face and one on one he is desperate to get the other person to like him. And it shouldn’t take very long for the rest of the world to realize this.

Nevertheless, while all I expect is a daily freak show with previews on twitter, I think it might help Americans to start praying.

Pray that he does not directly or indirectly start a war – any war – US-Iran, Israel-Palestine, North Korea-South Korea, Russia-Poland, China-Japan, India-Pakistan. His tweets alone are capable of launching a thousand war ships. And the world cannot afford war-induced inflation or recession. It took almost a decade for the world to get to economic stability in the wake of the post 9/11 wars.

Pray that he doesn’t go after Mexico with a vengeance. An impoverished Mexico will mean pouring into the US of more drugs, criminals and illegal immigrants. And no wall will be high enough to keep them away.

Pray that he does not cut humanitarian aid or funding for the United Nations and NATO. Again, poverty in the Third World will mean more potential ISIS recruits.

Pray that he does not fan the passions of the radical nationalists within the country. A civil war fueled by racial tensions would be hard to put out.  All the guns in the country will find cause for indiscriminate use. And Trump will not have enough people to blame.

Pray that he holds good on bringing manufacturing back to the US. Let’s see if he can bring Apple back along with its couple of billion dollars in cash reserves stashed offshore to save on taxes, and more importantly make Apple pay its fair share of taxes to Uncle Sam. This I dare Trump to do more than him building that darn wall along the southern border. Getting a small air conditioning plant with 750 jobs to stay put in America is not really an “art” of deal making.

Pray that the mainstream media gets a grip on him. A discredited media and intelligence community in the eyes of the common people is a free ticket to dictatorship.

And please pray that someone gifts him a thesaurus. Believe me, his limited vocabulary will get tiresome, especially since it’ll rarely go beyond I, Me, Myself predicated by the adjective “terrific”.

Srirekha Chakravarty

 

 

When liberalism degenerates into elitism… November 15, 2016

Honestly, I think Americans need to just hit the pause button in their brain and take a deep breath. Like the past several months of campaign cacophony wasn’t enough for them, their brains are now having to deal with the reality of wrapping around the outcome of the Presidential election.

When 61,047,207 people vote for Hillary Clinton to be their President, there is bound to be heartache when the guy that only 60,375,961 people voted for becomes the President. It was heartening however, to see the outpouring of angst and frustration onto the streets of American cities by kids who, in this age of technological interconnectedness, perhaps find the conservative call for exclusive societies unacceptable.

Still, for all those who voted for Hillary Clinton, and those who voted against Donald Trump, and those who wrote in their vote for Harambe, here’s a piece of advice: Get over it. It’s not Trump’s fault that he won. Remember the movie ‘How to lose a guy in 10 days’? Well, Trump’s campaign objective seemed to be, ‘How to lose an election in 10 months’. But what is a guy to do when 60 plus million people fall in love with him despite himself?

Who said democracy was an easy way of life anyway? As difficult as it is for those who run it, it is even more difficult for the people to decide who they want running it. There are no perfect choices, nor are there perfect voters. And when it comes to electing a President, more often than not, we are only electing the presumptive best of the given and not necessarily the best that ought to be.

Scarily enough, an emerging reality of democracies the world over is that increasingly, winning candidates are being perceived as standing singularly for those who voted for them rather than as unifying representatives for all including their ideological opponents.

We saw something similar in the election of Narendra Modi two years ago. It’s undeniable the popularity Modi still enjoys among his electorate and general followers.

Unfortunately such popularity of individuals of redoubtable agendas always seems to fall outside the sanctimonious ambit of the so called liberal media making them myopic to what some people on the conservative right see.

Sometimes, I feel, intellectualization and even over-analyzation, kills objectivity. But more than that it is the arrogance of the intellectuals, especially the armchair variety, that clouds their view of the polarizing political phenomena, which ride inherent inequalities in society. Like for instance, in this opinion piece in The New York Times the other day, one Pankaj Mishra writes that Modi “appears to be an opportunistic manipulator of disaffection with little to offer apart from the pornography of power and a bogus fantasy of machismo.” Mishra sees Trump following that lead.

Opinionators like Mishra should know that gobbledygook pontification such as this is not read by people who support the likes of Trump and Modi. Worse, such verbose ideation insulates those who do read it, from ground realities.

My liberal bashing does not automatically put me in the company of the irrational. It is just that I hate the ironic degeneration of liberalism into elitism.  My ilk does not wear labels.

But Mishra’s ilk should know that human society is not a factory assembly line where all products are identical. And that in a democracy, everyone – including racists and conspiracy theorists – get to be heard.  They have the vote. They just have to wait their turn.

Srirekha Chakravarty