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

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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

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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

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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

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May Day Protestors March For Immigration Reform