World Cup Begins. I Refuse to Follow It.

Putin world cupPhoto courtesy (for non-profit, one-time use): Daily Beast.
____________________
In this day and age, when nobody cares to read, or think, I am almost sure nobody outside of my few close friends and followers would read this post either. But because I have no other power than writing, I do this stupidity one more time: express my honest, heartfelt feelings.

I was a huge football (soccer) fan, and actually, quite a good player too. In Calcutta (Kolkata) where I grew up, football back in those days was the biggest sport. We played alley football (with a baseball-size rubber ball), and we also played field football (using an old, worn-out size 5 football with an inflatable rubber bladder inside the thick, rough leather skin). A number of times, at various leagues — mostly neighborhood leagues — I won the top scorer award, winning a small silver cup or more often a towel, which I flaunted to my classmates and family members.

Injuries were very common. Had countless doctor visits and minor surgeries. Then, playing cricket on a neighborhood London park, I broke my knee, ending my football career once and for all. Then, I coached for a while in upstate New York.

Some of my friends and I were almost like encyclopedia of football history. How many goals Pele scored in 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970 World Cup. How disingenuous was Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal. How England players brutally hurt Pele in 1966, and referee was silent! How Argentina’s Mario Kempes, Or Italy’s Paolo Rossi became household names overnight. And then, the long list of celebrity players like Socrates, Eusebio, Gordon Banks, Cryuff, Platini, Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Cameroon’s West-undermined Roger Milla…all the way to today’s Germany’s seven goals against Brazil … to Spain’s Xavi and Iniesta … to Neymar, Ronaldo and Messi … I can really give you a one-hour fun presentation on football.

Nobody knows, but our Calcutta was our champion Brazil. We loved Brazil, and we loved football.

But I don’t follow World Cup anymore — just the same way I have now unfollowed cricket and Olympics.

World Cup football, just like World Cup cricket and Olympics, has now become anything but sports. It has lost its gamesmanship, and billions of dollars of profit and corporate advertisements have taken over. Practically, all the major outcomes are pre-determined, and fixed. Players and clubs are extremely rich, making billions, and they couldn’t care less about the unbelievable income and wealth disparity the world sees right now. Players — except for a small few like Drogba of Ivory Coast — don’t care about the unthinkable poverty, health crisis, environmental crisis, and illiteracy their own countries see right now, let alone the vast number of unfortunate around the world.

Olympics and World Cup games are now huge distractions created by big media worldwide to distract people’s attention from real-life issues. The games have become one more powerful weapon in the arsenal of the ruling class, who divert people’s attention from issues such as the children who make the balls, boots, jerseys, and countless items these big events use — earning slave wages. Million of poor workers — countless child labor included — live and work in abominable conditions. Nobody cares to talk about them, and their lifelong suffering.

Football stadiums are built using blood and sweat of hapless immigrant workers. Millions of impoverished people are displaced, and their homes are neighborhoods are destroyed. Those who protest are thrown in jails, or killed mercilessly.

Russia is now a new ruthless, violent power, with dubious connections with autocrats, supremacists, and crazy megalomaniacs like Trump. But these few weeks, nobody will talk about them. Nobody will talk about Putin. Media will make us forget all about it.

In 2022, four years from now, Qatar will host World Cup football. Already, thousands of slave-like workers have died in the desert, building stadiums. Workers from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and such countries in particular. Nobody cares to talk about them either.

It has truly become an era of post reason. Nobody wants to know the truth.

I refuse to be a part of this inhumane, cruel, violent, exploitative history, in the name of fun. I refuse to follow these games.

I hope you join me too.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

Italy, France, and U.S. — Fast Trains!

high-speed-train-italy

When I was a TV journalist, I did a story for ABC network on America’s “new, fast trains.” Many years later, two weeks ago, I realized how incomplete my story was.

My story was on the Acela Express that U.S. launched back in those days. And my story was on that, given ABC TV slash their owner Disney slash American corporations slash my employers would love to show their consumers how great the accomplishment was.

Like, [drum roll] “One more feather on this mighty American cap: we have a very fast train launched, that can travel at a marvelous speed of…[drum roll]...150 miles an hour!” [cheers and claps]

And everybody in America would cheer and clap.

Problem is, that speed is laughably low.

Two weeks ago, we had a chance of a lifetime to travel Italy and France. In France, we did not have a chance to ride the fast trains. But definitely, even the commuter trains were much faster, greener, and cleaner compared to what we see here in the U.S. At least, what we see here in New York, where we live, and curse the subway system everyday. America’s commuter trains are slow, unclean, and almost always not on time.

Even my poor Calcutta’s subway trains and platforms are spic ‘n span, compared to the rat-infested, smelly New York Metro. Believe me, I’m not unnecessarily putting New York down. I truly love this city. I said it many times, if I can’t live in Calcutta, I would live in NYC.

And it’s not the fault of the hundreds of thousands of NYC workers who work very hard to maintain the trains and their schedules. A rampant, out-of-control privatized, pro-car, pro-oil system has defunded public transportation, driving it to doom. Add to it American’s strange psyche of car ownership, with zero regard for the environment.

But in Italy, we had a chance to ride the Italo trains — to travel between Rome and Naples, and back. The average speed was 300 kilometers an hour, which is 186 mph. We were awed. But that’s really an average speed for Europe’s trains, as shown in the picture above. Italo’s record speed is 575 km an hour, which is 357 mph!

Wow! We had no idea.

Japan, for your information, has a Maglev train that can reach up to 603 km/hour. But we never visited Japan, so we can’t tell you how it would feel to ride. Nausea, dizzy, nightmare?

On that Italo train with an “average” 300 kmph speed, however, we didn’t even realize it was going so fast. Everything seemed normal. And normal, average Italians were calm and cool: even that English-zero woman who asked me to get her luggage down to the platform (and profusely thanked me in Italian) never blinked when another train with an equally stormy speed stormed past us, and zoom-crossed almost in split seconds.

American powers and their corporations and media have all the money for making wars and bombs and drones and mines and Agent Orange around the world. They have all the money to bail out big banks that broke us down to bankrupt. But they have no money to upgrade their public transportation.

As I mentioned in my ABC TV story so many years ago — obliquely — that America’s train tracks are prehistoric. They are not capable of carrying trains like Italo or Maglev. Even Long Island Railroad or New York’s Metro North trains, with their miserably low speed, are crashing every now and then. Given that situation, I am thankful to God U.S. doesn’t have high-speed trains at all.

American powers and corporations and politicians and media are also thankful. They are thankful that the American people don’t have a clue how far behind this country is, compared with the rest of the developed, capitalist world.

The world turns faster today. Here in America, the speed is slow. Very slow.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

Fascinating France and Incredible Italy!

I’m borrowing this article from Mukti’s Kitchen, a well-known Indian cooking class in New York. Visit her website and Yelp reviews from her students.

Mukti and I just came back from a trip to Italy and France. It was wonderful. This is an overview of our trip. I’ll write more in the coming weeks.

Although the vacation was too short, and both the countries have so many beautiful places you can see, it was simply great to be able to visit Paris and Rome. It is only a matter of time before we go back, and check out places we missed this time.

In Paris, we took a bus tour to see the famous sites. Of course it included the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame Cathedral, Luxembourg Garden, the Pantheon, the Latin Quarters, and Louvre. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go inside the Louvre, and it was already very crowded in late May. But we compensated for that gap by taking a boat cruise along the Seine at night, and to see the Tour Eiffel lit up and glittering like gold was phenomenal.

Eiffel Tower

[Author and his wife Mukti in front of Eiffel Tower]

Paris is truly a wonderful, artistic city, and we had a knowledgeable, young guide who helped us to understand the depth of history that the city offers. And the cleanliness everywhere — on the street, along the metro trains, Paris can definitely brag to be one of the most well-cared-for big cities in the world. And Parisians were, unlike what we often hear, were extremely helpful and kind. Many French people speak English, and those who do not also try their best to help you out.

Our second stop was Italy, where we spent one more day than we did in France. There, we depended on our walking skills to roam through the city of Rome. Rome has incredible history: from the Colosseum to the Forum to the Pantheon to some of the oldest churches including  Santa Maria in Trastevere to the markets at Campo di Fiori. Rome was simply fascinating!

Colosseum

[Photo by author]

Our added attractions were to visit the city of Naples by a 300-kilometer per hour high-speed train, and then also take a local train ride to the ancient ruins of Pompeii. Unbelievable history, incredibly precious experience. Pompeii  was destroyed by a catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius (which is still a live volcano!), and the skeletons of the little town houses, gardens, pools, markets, and streets still stand to tell us about that great tragedy. Even some of the bodies buried live in the mudslide and lava are preserved as “fossils”. A very touching, heartbreaking story we heard since our childhood in Calcutta.

Pompeii preserved body

[Photo by author]

In both Italy and France, we had many opportunities to taste their foods, beverages and desserts. Simply put, I have never tasted food so real, fresh, and delicious — outside of my own kitchen. Even at the moderately-priced hotel in Rome, the breakfast they served early in the morning was so normal and natural: the cheese and tomato and bread and fruits and yogurt were absolutely fresh.

France and Italy have done a remarkable job to keep their foods out of the clutches of food doctoring, preservatives, and artificial flavor- and chemical-producing companies. I remember when we went to Granada and Barcelona in Spain a few years ago, we had a very similar experience.

Whether it was the chicken dish we ate at a  restaurant in the Trocadero in Paris or the crêpe in the Latin Quarters, or whether it was the pizza or pasta we tasted at small streetside eateries in Naples and Rome, they were simply high quality. And not pricey at all. Very affordable: the average people eat there all the time. Even the fruit juices we tried in both countries were pristine. The orange juice tasted like real, fresh orange.

And the countless gelato (ice cream) corners in both countries — so lovely!

So glad we took the trip. Short, but memorable and sweet. We shall return.

###

Farmers Market at Campo di Fiori

[Photo by author]

Visiting France and Italy…and Comparing Them with USA and India — An Analysis

2018-05-26 12.46.42The Roman Forum — Relics of the ancient city. Julius Caesar was assassinated here.
(Photo by author)

[Blogs can sometimes work better than Facebook. At least, that’s the hope I have here. Or, maybe, in this Era of Post Reason, nobody cares. Maybe, nobody wants to read anymore about history, politics, economics, or such “boring” subjects. We gathering most of our knowledge from corporate media, and imagine the rest of it.]

I just returned from a short vacation in France and Italy, and planned to write a series of articles on what I saw there, comparing their situation with that in USA and India. I write them on this blog, segment by segment.

Here is part one: a historical narrative, sort of.

The Poor Immigrants Today: Politically Exploited and Socially Excluded

When Hitler rose to power in 1930’s Germany, he tricked his country’s men and women into believing that he was the true and honest voice of the ordinary Germans, who can rescue the country from “economic misery” and “social anarchy.” He created an environment of ultra-patriotism that made people believe that (1) Germany’s economy is unraveling because of a post-WWI “punishing” Versailles Treaty, and also because of Jews that he said were living as parasites with no allegiance for the nation of Germany and its supremacy, and (2) in order to get out of the mess and re-establish “Old Glory,” Germany must withdraw from global economic agreements, drive out its Jewish aliens, and assume military power by secretly building an incredibly huge arsenal.

We know the rest of the history.

In 2016, Donald Trump came to power in USA — once a laughable proposition — by championing an “America First” slogan that almost exactly copied from Hitler’s book of propaganda. He threatened to withdraw from global economic treaties, impose trade embargo on China and Europe, and through his far right media outlets, blamed Muslim and Mexican immigrants for the economic “ills” of America. In his many speeches, he openly called immigrants as “murderers and rapists.” His Republican Party that over the years became a far right-wing party with fascistic trends, sided along with him, and a weak and corrupt Democratic Party with its inefficient leadership failed to stop him from becoming the president of America. Hitler also had exploited a weak, corrupt and inefficient Weimar Republic for Germany’s “miserable” situation.

History is repeating itself today in other parts of the world. We have seen it in today’s India, where a far right, fringe grassroots organization called the RSS and its political front BJP have assumed an once-unthinkable majority in the parliament, with Narendra Modi as the prime minister of India, whose visa the U.S. government revoked after his alleged mastermind role in the 2002 anti-Muslim riot in the state of Gujarat where he was the chief minister. A man affiliated with the RSS had once killed Mahatma Gandhi. In 1992, these Hindu supremacist groups were responsible for a massive, bloody carnage across India.

History repeats, but people forget the history very quickly. Mainstream media and politicians make them forget.

In Europe today, we see the same scenario unfolding. In France and Italy, two countries I visited last week, see this trend. In the recent presidential election, far right wing candidate Marie Le Pen received an unprecedented high percentage of votes, and became the biggest opposition to liberal Emmanuel Macron, who eventually won the election. In Paris, we have seen many “Frexit” signs on lamp posts — following the “Brexit” (British economy out of the Euro Zone) fallout. Far right lives even among the free Parisians.

As we all know, the British powers have always colluded with American powers, to create war (Iraq war on a fake WMD pretext being the most recent example), violence and havoc across the world — going against the wishes of the rest of the human civilization. Brexit consequences helped Trump to consolidate his “America First” propaganda even further.

In Italy, the newly elected president Sergio Mattarella won against a powerful anti-EuroZone, far right coalition led by a heir of WWII dictator Mussolini. Chances are, Mattarella, a weak president, will not survive his presidency long. We just came back from Rome and Naples. People are not happy with the way the new government is running.

Anti-immigrant sentiments are high, and poor immigrants we spoke with look grim, scared, isolated, excluded, and sad.

In all of the countries above — during the present and past — poor, hapless immigrants are bearing the brunt of the economic chaos and social unrest that they are not responsible for. The 1% is now 0.0001% in USA, and the so-called “American Dream” is long lost — for most people. Northern Europe and Scandinavian countries practicing social democracy and with a strong labor union are doing a little better. The American situation is potentially catastrophic. The Indian situation is explosive.

America’s wars across the world and their aftermath have created a new generation of destitute, and millions have fled Bangladesh, India, Pakistan (former British colonies), Mali, Algeria, Senegal, Morocco (former French colonies), Tunisia, Albania, Libya, Ethiopia (former Italian colonies) — places which were even further ravaged by a global war-waging American military industry. Vietnam was also a French colony, before USA inflicted the historic genocide and barbarism.

Poverty, illiteracy, and health crises are dangerously high in the undocumented immigrant and refugee communities. They are trapped, with nowhere to go.

History repeats itself, but people do not remember history. Those who do, an ignorant, violent, or complacent populist culture excludes them from their association and awareness.

(To be continued).

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

Gun Kills 10 at Texas High School Today!

TexasStudentsGunsTEXAS Santa Fe High School gun massacre today. At least 10 dead.

[RISE UP, AND PROTEST THIS PREHISTORIC VIOLENCE. MARCH FOR OUR LIVES — NOW!]

Guns destroy innocent lives, again here in America.

Every time there is a mass shooting in America, we cringe in disgust. People across the world hang their heads in shame.

Of course, we mourn for the loss of innocent lives, and we shed tears for them. But then what? A president — Obama, Clinton, Bush, or Trump — comes on TV, and says some meaningless “we pray for the victims” type words. Nothing substantive happens.

There is ZERO action! Media and politicians will shed their crocodile tears.

Guns sell even more in America, after each mass shooting happens. Yes, it is true!

The traders of violence — NRA and Koch Brothers and Wal-Mart and gun manufacturers — keep trading away their weapons of mass destruction. But nobody in America calls these horrific weapons that kill men, women, and children like clay birds, WMD. People can’t think that way.

There is no debate about how a civilized society, and that too, one that brags itself to be the “best country in the world”, can continue on such a legacy of barbarism and brutal genocide, a legacy that is prehistoric, and exploits loopholes in the constitution. Most of the Republicans and Democrats look the other way, as soon as the mourning and TV tears are over.

I am sure, tomorrow when I start teaching EXTREMISM to my American students, the first example of extremism we use being gun violence, there will be a lot of heated arguments. Many will find bizarre logic to justify the presence of hundreds of thousands of gun shops in USA, many more than the number of gas stations around.

We shall wait for the next gun massacre to occur in a matter of days, weeks, or months. With a frozen heart.

In complete disgust about American powers’ inaction against gun terrorism,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

Gun control walkouts could mean suspension in Texas

Satyajit Ray’s Genius

Satyajit w Suhasini Mulay shooting
May 2 is Satyajit Ray’s birthday.

Most people outside of Calcutta or Bengal do not know much about this legend, this genius. Those who do know in India, America or Europe know him as a master movie director, who got an Oscar award for his lifetime achievement. Movie buffs may find out that major international film scholars and critics have included him as one of the top ten or twenty genius film directors, ever!

Great.

Yet, he was so much more than that. Not only he was also a bestseller writer, artist, and a master musician who had major expertise in both Western and Indian music, he along with some other legendary movie makers and storytellers changed the way people thought about film as an art form. We can perhaps put Kurosawa, Godard, Antonioni, Truffaut, Bergman, Di Sica, and so on.

Kurosawa RayKurosawa said this famously about Ray: “Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.”

Satyajit Ray was a major, very powerful departure from Bollywood. And he accomplished this great revolution with shoestring budgets, and often in dire financial predicaments. Especially his watershed movie “Pather Panchali” (Song of the Road, 1955) almost collapsed because of lack of funding. He sold his wife’s jewelry to continue.

Ray’s movies and his entire life’s work were symbols of progressive thinking, racial, caste and gender equality, rejecting hate, bigotry, fanaticism, and religious superstitions. He carried forward what we call “Bengal Renaissance” that challenged religious and social orthodoxy in India.

Three DaughtersIf Rabindranath Tagore was a most important lightening rod during the British Indian period, I believe Satyajit Ray played that role in modern India’s post-British era.

A comparison with Charlie Chaplin comes to mind, where they were both absolute masters in all areas of the art of film making, and combined entertainment and social education — with total, amazing ease.

Of course, his Apu Trilogy is much celebrated in the West, but if you asked me, my two other favorites were his Calcutta Trilogy, and later his anti-war, anti-fascism triology also known as the Gupi and Bagha trilogy

Today, when India, America and many parts of the world are going through a massive, scary surge of fanaticism, hate and bigotry, Satyajit Ray’s creations help us to rekindle faith in modern thinking, scientific reasoning, and employment of art as powerful social education.

Let us remember this Bengali Indian maestro.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

The Adversary

May Day: More Important Than Ever (and no, I am not a communist)

may-day-rally1
Today is May Day — International Labor Day.
Even though this special day began here in the U.S., in Chicago, corporate powers and their politicians and media have made us forget that glorious history.

And they have created this notion that celebrating the globally recognized workers’ day would automatically mean you are a communist. Celebrating together with the world community automatically would mean you are for a violent overthrow of the government. And most people have bought into that propaganda.

No, I am not a communist, but I believe May Day is very special, as it created for the first time in modern history a new consciousness for the working men and women — not just in America, but around the world. It gave working people hope and strength.

I grew up in Calcutta, and we saw May Day celebrated in a big way. All over India: but with the rise of a Trump-like, race- and religion-bashing government, it has dwindled. In the most advanced and equalized countries in Europe and Latin America, May 1 is still a very special day. People celebrate it with much fanfare, parades, music, and yes, reading books, and watching pro-people movies and theaters.

People here do not know much about the history of the labor movement — either from a global, or an American point of view. People who blast unions ALL benefit from the long and hard struggles our brothers and sisters have took on for many years: 8-hour workday, overtime, weekends off, family leave, sick day…you name it.

The one percent is now 0.0001 percent (as calculated by some of our union brothers and sisters on the last weekend’s class I teach on Long Island) — roughly a few hundred, extremely rich, powerful and violent rulers have taken the country of 330 million over. Labor union here is only 8-10%.

The calculation was like this:

(1) 330 to 3,300 people — extremely rich — have influence the election system in America with their millions of dollar, under the leadership of Koch Brothers.

(2) 330 million people live in America.

Therefore, 330 or 3,300, divided by 330 million = 0.0001 to 0.00001 percent.

(Q.E.D.)

That is the ruling class — horrific, violent, cruel, anti-worker, anti-poor, and extremely rich and powerful.

Today, to be organized with new knowledge, education, and insight, it’s even more important to celebrate May Day — to feel solidarity with the labor movement worldwide. If the corporate powers and their media can unleash their global reign of terror, we can fight back together — globally — and nonviolently.

May Dr. King and Gandhi be our guiding lights.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

May Day Protestors March For Immigration Reform

Korea’s Choose Peace. Why Can’t India and Pakistan?

Korea peaceIt’s mighty good news for people around the world who reject war and violence, and demand coexistence and peace. The Korea’s — North and South — decided to end their seventy-year-old war.

So, American propaganda to demonize North Korea did not work. Just the other day, U.S. media corporations and their mouthpiece politicians — Trump and all — declared North Korea was a demon, a major threat for world peace, and it must be destroyed. In fact, Republican and Democratic administrations for decades have told us that.

Suddenly, the two Koreas met at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, and American media and their Trumps began scratching their heads. War industries were terribly upset at the prospect of peace between the two countries.

Not only the two Koreas declared peace, but according to New York Times today, Korean Leaders Meet, Eyeing a Peace Free of Nuclear Arms!!!

Of course, war industries would be terribly upset, but let them be more upset.
__________

India Pakistan peace
Now, if only India and Pakistan could learn how to make peace! Their 24/7 media propaganda and political parties would be bankrupt, if the two countries with thousands of years of common history could realize it! Only if the people realized how their ruling class has cheated us, based on lies and concocted violence!

Yet, the situation is so strikingly similar. Just like South Korea and North Korea, India and Pakistan have been at war and major armed conflicts since the British left the subcontinent after two hundreds years of looting and ravaging one of the most peaceful and prosperous places on earth, and then cutting up the country in three different parts — causing incredibly misery and bloodshed.

Just like the Koreas, or like places in the Middle East, partitions and artificial boundaries were imposed by the occupying forces. In case of India and Pakistan, the line of partition often went through a piece of land, where the kitchen and bedroom of the same houses fell in two different countries!

All the rulers — democratically elected rulers in India and mostly military regimes in Pakistan along with a couple of elected leaders — kept the violence and armed conflicts alive. Indian and Pakistani rulers greatly benefited from this long, bloody, cruel wars and hostility that killed and impoverished millions of Hindus and Muslims.

Every time the government is in trouble, a cooked-up war would break out!

And USA powers and corporations are now deep inside India, in an unprecedented, disastrous way. American corporations have practically taken over the Indian economy. I have never seen such a complete takeover of India’s economy by foreign forces. This is neo-colonization at its peak!

American rulers have supported Pakistan for decades with arms, and they have supported military dictators in Pakistan. In 1971, with active support from Kissinger and U.S. government, Pakistani military caused havoc in Bangladesh (which was East Pakistan at that time), killing and raping hundreds of thousands of ordinary innocent men and women. They had extremist Muslims helping them on the ground.

But that’s another story. For now, if India and Pakistan take note of this peace declaration and de-nuclearization of the two Koreas, and find a way to emulate them, it would bring a very long-overdue peace in the land of Gandhi and Tagore.

We have had enough! We do not want another war. And do not war any N-bombs! 

Hands off, America! Hands off, Trump! Hands off, British and European powers!

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

tagore-gandhi

America’s New War, and Our New Year.

air-force-usa-bombing
Trump’s new war on Syria is immoral and illegal.

USA is not the world’s police, and nobody attacked USA. Trump wants to distract people from his imminent filthy problems, and that’s why the new war. And even if the bombing stops, that is no reason to believe U.S. has the right to invade and bomb other countries, whenever they like. They have been doing it for ages, since WWII — on various excuses. It’s outrageous. And as always, they have U.K. and France on their side. ONLY THEM.
________________________________
With that strong note of resistance, I’m writing about something totally different.
________________________________

April 14, and sometimes April 15 — based on the lunar calendar — is New Year’s Day in many parts of India — in various, spectacular forms. I am not an expert, but I know it’s celebrated in Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Punjab — under various names. We Bengalis call it Pahela Baisakh (the first day of Baisakh). Baisakh is the first summer month.

Our Old World New Year’s Day used to be celebrated with much fanfare — some places with flying kites, wearing new ethnic dresses (saris and kurtas in West Bengal and Bangladesh), fantastic masks and colorful costumes, AND social and religious gatherings around small sweet and samosa shops, garment tailoring shops, hair styling saloons, Indian-Chinese restaurants…or tiny goldsmith garages — you can imagine the rest…in a hugely crowded city like Calcutta, or Dhaka. People laugh unnecessarily this day, and they do it a lot. Believe it or not, they also hug each other.

Music and poetry is big — last time I checked — in both Bengals. In Bangladesh, the precious, silvery Hilsa (“Ilish”) fish features any menus, in major delight of the revelers.
Hilsa

These are places where new accounts would be officially inaugurated with sweets and fruits (ras gollas, mangoes and bananas in particular), and old accounts would be closed: all borrowed money paid up and off today (hopefully). Of course, thanks to corporate capitalism Wall Street and Wal-Mart style, they drove most small shops out of business, and those still in business would be out of business very soon. And India doesn’t have banks in most places, but its government has forced everybody to go plastic instead of cash, and it has caused havoc, beyond belief. But that’s another story.

Haalkhata

Of course in the Western world, thanks to what I call “Journalism of Exclusion,”
hardly anybody knows what we the “under-civilized” do, eat, wear, worship, or celebrate. We never existed in human civilization, and we still don’t, unless we are rich, white’ish, snob’ish, and famous — enough to donate enough to big politics, media, or both. Indian civilization to American media means new Wal-Marts, multiplexes, Pizza Huts, KFC’s, Coke, and fancy cars. Well, I believe a vast majority of Indians today think that way too.

(Human rights for the untouchables, the 24/7 rapes and murders of young women and girls, Hindu fanatics killing Muslims in India, and Muslim fanatics killing Hindus in other places — really, these are not fun stories for media or the mass: so, why bother? They tell us to be happy, and never question.)

But this Old World, forgotten civilization with its “Journalism of Exclusion” celebrations of its New Year’s Day — in some disorganized, unrehearsed, sometimes hilariously chaotic ways, keeps celebrating its history, language and cultural traditions — with absolute disregard and disrespect for the corporate media’s lack of inclusion. In fact, the people — more than one-sixth of human population — all know very well that an American-variety corporate capitalism and its sold-out politicians and media are slowly but surely crushing them to death. Some know it directly — for example the small sweet shop that ran its business for four generations, and now is about to be extinct because a big chain Reliance supermarket is selling fancier cakes and chocolates that younger people like a lot (and nobody questions what kind of sugar or preservatives were used, or how some child slaves harvested the chocolate — it’s not a part of human consciousness anymore).

But, still, ordinary people — with or without the knowledge of this new, crushing-them-to-death global corporate economy — keep celebrating their colorful, musical, food-and fun-filled social and religious celebration of their own New Year’s Day, the way many generations before them did it.

A story that I told you just now — would NOT be featured on tomorrow’s CNN, NBC, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal.

We don’t wish a Happy New Year, in case you want to know. It’s Naba Barsha in Bengal, Baisakhi in Punjab, Bisuba in Orissa, Bihu in Assam, and so on. We refuse to be a part of a media-dictated global cultural conformity.

I don’t know about you, but I am very, enormously happy to be that way.

###

 

Bangladesh celebrates New Year

What Is Media? Really, Do You Know?

International Politics

Do you really know what media is, or how it works? Do you know media’s politics?

Here is my two cents. I have actually studied media ethics, and even got some acclaim, when I studied journalism at the well-known Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. I’d like to share my observations with you.

Media — like New York Times, CNN, Fox, BBC, Times of India, etc. — do not work for us the ordinary people. They work for, and owned by, the 1%. Murdoch, Ambani, or Disney. Or, by special interests. And they are almost always dictated by the policies of the corporations that advertise in them. Media can never go against the will of their owners, or advertisers. Outside of the small world of alternative, not-for-profit media, there is no such thing as free press.

American media, Indian media, or British media — are not free.

How do big media treat us, or rather, use us? We the 99% are their market to sell their news, and make maximum profit, and political power. News is not neutral, objective, or balanced. In fact, news is not even news. It’s an item to sell on this market, just like a car, potato chips, pizza, or say, guns or grenades. Or, private prisons. You add your list of items to buy, sell, and make profit from.

Media houses and corporations have no reason to work for us, even though there are many dedicated, honest, often risk-taking journalists working for them. But these journalists do not decide what news is, or how it is printed, aired, or broadcast. It’s the owners and their fat-cat editors who decide it. They decide what is news, and what is not. They decide how to twist and manipulate news. They decide what is first-page news, or to be aired first. They decide who is an expert, and who is not. They decide which issue to prioritize, and which issue to exclude or undermine. And we follow them, often blindly, even though privately many of us talk about how dishonest media channels are, or joke about a newspaper’s self-professed honesty.

Big media make Trump, Obama, Clinton, Blair, Queen Elizabeth, the British princes, or India’s Modi. Basically, big media always give coverage to the big parties, and their big-named leaders, who are often corrupt and extremely rich, in varying degrees. Personally corrupt, or politically corrupt. Or, as in case of Trump, both.

Leaders like Bernie Sanders are always undermined by big media: we the people do not get to hear their POV. Big media make Iraq war, Kashmir war, North Korean war…or many other wars American powers have always been involved with — for ages. Big media demonize Cuba, Palestine, Vietnam, or using a most recent example, undocumented immigrants. Big media create friends and enemies, angels or villains. Media make us forget, with their propaganda, that before Saddam Hussain was demonized, the U.S. government loved him, and gave him national honors when he visited this country.

No Lies Radio

How do media do it? They do it by journalism of inclusion (i.e., what gets in), and they do it by what I call “Journalism of Exclusion.” That is, what gets out. That is, not covering, de-prioritizing, or lying or gravely distorting about news that matter to us. Like, a union strike: why do workers strike? What are the circumstances, when workers brave the harsh winter, lack of pay, lack of health care, lack of family life, and lack of a normal life? How much does the company’s CEO make, and how much do the workers make? Why would the rich CEO and his people cut benefits and wages for the workers? Think of the ongoing Charter-Spectrum strike here in New York. The workers are striking for nine months already! Where is the media coverage?

Big media let big banks and Wall Street CEO’s off the hook, and legitimize government bailouts of the extreme rich. Our pension cut is not important news for them, and police killings of the poor is trivial news. They don’t report clearly how much the cricket players, baseball or golf players make, or film stars make, and do not report their tax evasions. They do not tell us how toxic junk foods or many prescription drugs are. Most people have no idea what they eating, drinking, or using as medications.

Big media, corporate media perpetuate an impression that this is a functioning democracy, that this is the best working system in the world, and that there are no other alternatives. It’s a political game, and it’s also a game of monopoly.

Most people do not understand their politics, or their game of profit.

I hope you use your real-life experience and intelligence to observe and analyze media.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

Acknowledgement:

Cartoon from International Politics, and No Lies Radio. Used for one-time, not-for-profit purpose.