Suchitra Mitra, A Legend

Suchitra Mitra

(Photo used only for non-profit, academic, informative use.)

A few years ago on January 4 — I think five or six years ago — I remember I walked into my college office early in the morning, turned on the computer, and went on to browse my routine newspapers. There was a news: Suchitra Mitra passed away.

For those who do not know, Suchitra Mitra was a legendary singer in Kolkata (Calcutta), who specialized in the songs of Rabindranath Tagore. She had a golden voice. Her enunciation was deep, meaningful, and flawless. Her dexterity in Tagore music was exemplary. She taught hundreds of students, and inspired millions more. She epitomized Tagore and his mastery of words, and inculcated it in the minds of us the intellectually disadvantaged youth.

For those who do not know, Rabindranath Tagore was a poet, philosopher, songwriter, novelist, and educationist. He got the first Nobel Prize ever in Asia — in any subjects. Tagore is an institution in the two Bengals and India.

For the musically oriented Bengalis such as myself, I grew up listening to diverse varieties of Indian and Bengali music. Classical Indian and Bengali, pre-Tagore oldies, devotional songs — Baul, Kirtan, and other genres, post-Tagore modern and contemporary, and also trashy and fantastic movie songs alike. But Tagore songs have always remained very special to us. And some Tagore exponents have remained in our hearts as our gurus, mentors, and teachers. As if they brought to us the Tagore whom we did not have an opportunity to see.

Suchitra Mitra was one such singer. Even my father, who had a Hindu fundamentalist upbringing and never understood Tagore that much (and regretted it in his later years), enjoyed listening to Suchitra Mitra. But he only liked her Tagore singing, and not her progressive political affiliation.

Suchitra Mitra was a lifelong believer in socialism. In her early years, she was a political activist, and in her later years, acted in a couple of socially-conscious movies. Her acting was wonderful. She was also a writer and poet.

Even though I have been at a number of Suchitra Mitra’s live performances over my years in Kolkata, I had only one chance to meet and talk to her. Students of the music school Rabi Tirtha (the Tagore Pilgrimage) that she founded gave her a lifetime achievement award, and I had a precious opportunity to be present on the occasion. She was gracious to grant me an informal conversation.

At the end of the conversation, I touched the feet of the legend. I was talking to her, and saying to myself, “Look Partha, you’re talking to someone who went to Tagore’s university, and spent her whole life mastering Tagore’s music. You’re talking to a legend who had once stopped a Hindu-Muslim communal riot by singing Tagore’s music of peace — in front thousands of arms-wielding people, about to kill each other.”

Suchitra Mitra also graciously gave me an autograph on that day.

I said to myself, “Partha, you are truly blessed.”

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York.

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Port Authority Terror Today!

Dec 11 NYC terror
Photo Courtesy: New York Times (for non-profit, one-time-only, academic use.)

I express my sadness, frustration, and anger on such cowardly terrorist acts, and offer my sympathy for those who were hurt. Thank God, nobody lost their life.

Then, we talk about Islamophobia and Immigrant Bashing.

Every time something like it happens, it automatically makes people even angrier against immigrants and especially Muslim immigrants. People start calling names, and refuse to be in any discussion, any dialogue, or any debate.

Some media flare up the sentiment, and profit more. I am sure tomorrow’s papers will be flooded with sensational, front-page stories, with zero substantive discussion about the immigrant communities. In fact, immigrant communities will continue mistrusting one another, and even more.

I am also sure people like Trump of USA and Modi of India do not mind that hiked-up hatred, to win more elections, exploiting the anger. Misplaced anger also diverts attention from other real-life issues, such as money, jobs, education, health, environment. Violence on women and children. Police brutality. War. Gun violence.

It works so well! They have done it over and over again.

Yet, based on reports today, this idiot named Akayed Ullah, who blasted the bomb at Port Authority today lived in Brooklyn, and was from Bangladesh, and I know literally hundreds of Muslims from Bangladesh living in Brooklyn and New York. I live here. I work here.

I have no doubts in my mind that this nut represents a small, miniscule number of nuts, and the vast majority of immigrants — Muslim, Hindu or Christian, with papers or without — do not believe in violence. They believe in peace. They condemn violence of any kind.

Let us not divide ourselves even more, and fall prey to the traders of bigotry and hate.

Let us come together. Let us live in harmony and peace.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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25 Years of Babri Mosque and BJP

babri-masjid

Twenty-five years ago, on December 6, Hindu fanatics (who now support Trump) broke the law, conspired with police and politicians, and rammed through barricades to demolish an old mosque in North India.

They did not do it only to show their anger against Muslims, or to reclaim a piece of land they believed was the birthplace of Hindu god-reincarnate Ram. It was a political ploy to start massive violence and bloodshed across the country, and permanently polarize Hindus and Muslims to consolidate vote banks.

Thousands of innocent people were killed — mostly Muslim men, women and children — by RSS and BJP supporters and thugs. The incredible violence and mass killing brought back memories of horror that occurred during the 1947 British partition. A peaceful land was turned upside down.

BJP, along with their ideological mentor RSS, were not in the seat of power in 1992. The nationwide bloodshed and religious polarization since the Babri Mosque massacres, followed by a similar 2002 communal violence in Gujarat, brought them to the highest seat of power in India. They created and exploited hate. Just the same way Trump created and exploited hate.

Now, their leaders who were once implicated in the bloodshed have stopped talking violence, and media have done their best to make people forget about the history. Now these leaders have new ploys: demonetization (scrapping of currency) and destruction of a traditional, familiar economy.

Absolute, purposeful nonsense!

End result: India is now one of the most polarized places on earth. Hindus and Muslims are more hateful than ever before. The rich is now super rich, and the poor is now…poor. Bollywood stars, cricket players, corporate business leaders, and politicians are incredibly rich and powerful and celebrated by media, and are guarded 24/7 by special security forces, spending public money.

For the 99% in India, a man can be killed any time, a woman can be raped any time, and a child can be molested at school any time. It’s not only impossibly suffocating to breathe air in India. It’s impossibly suffocating to live your daily lives. If you don’t know how to be a part of this cruel, corrupt system, or refuse to be a part of it, you are doomed.

In twenty-five years, India — a place so close to my heart — has forever changed.

India’s Climate Catastrophe

Courtesy Indian ExpressCourtesy: Indian Express (for non-profit, educational use).

Reports from today, November 11, 2017. From: Newsweek, Bloomberg, and NDTV.

(1)

New Delhi’s air pollution has reached levels so toxic that United Airlines flights to the Indian capital city until it improves.

UA canceled their flights between USA and India, after evaluations found the air quality to be around 40 times the World Health Organization’s safety levels. India’s pollution is so bad that the city has turned into a “gas chamber.”

United said the city’s air conditions were severe enough to be considered a natural disaster, and to be avoided like a hurricane or wildfire would be.

(2)

New Delhi’s air quality consistently ranks among the worst in the world, but the city’s air pollution last week registered 10 times worse than the air in Beijing, which is notorious for its smog. Residents complain of burning eyes and itchy throats, and doctors said chest infections and respiratory illnesses have surged.

Authorities ordered 6,000 schools to close, trucks except those carrying essential supplies have been banned from entering the city for a week, and construction projects have been temporarily stopped.

(3)

India’s environment minister Harsh Vardhan appears to question recent global studies that claim lakhs of people die in India due to pollution. Dr. Harsh Vardhan told NDTV in an interview that “to attribute any death to a cause like pollution may be too much”.

The Lancet Countdown 2017 last month said air pollution had claimed as many as 2.5 million lives in India in 2015, the highest in the world. There have been other estimates as well, putting a different number to the lives lost due to air pollution. 

The environment minister continued:

“Certainly if you have a diseased lung and if the pollution is continuously damaging your alveoli (air sacks) then one day when you die, you can attribute the cause of death, to some proportion, to maybe pollution. But I don’t think we can generalise and say that millions of people are dying only due to pollution,” Harsh Vardhan told NDTV in an interview.

Dr Harsh Vardhan’s comment is in contrast to his response in February this year when another global study that estimated 11 lakh (1.1 million) deaths due to air pollution in India in 2015. He had then called air pollution a “silent killer” and a “slow poison” that could kill people, particularly children. “It can be a killer also. It can be like a slow poison. Which keeps destroying your alveoli in the lungs at a slow pace,” he had then said.

But Dr Harsh Vardhan wasn’t the environment minister in February. He is now.

And that is another example to show the people in power do not work for the ordinary, suffering people. We know who they work for. They don’t care if millions of innocent children, women and men die of carcinogens in a man-made, toxic environment. India is dying of a toxic environment.

I rest my case. You judge.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Courtesy Indian Express 2
Courtesy: Indian Express (for one-time, non-profit, academic use.)

A Labor Strike Happening in NYC Now

Spectrum CEO RutledgePhoto by Partha Banerjee.

America’s 1% and Their Depraved Greed.

Look at the picture above. The man on the left — Tom Rutledge — is the CEO of Charter-Spectrum, the big Internet, cable TV, and phone service company.

He made $98,000,000 last year alone, which translates to $47,000 per hour, calculating a 52-week year, and a 40-hour week. I’m sure I’ve missed his lavish perks, bonuses, stock options, and other luxurious compensations. This is only his reported earnings in 2016.

But this man won’t give his workers a decent pay, and is denying health benefits, retirement benefits, and pension. And Corporate America, its president, and pro-Wall Street media are all on his side. He thinks he is invincible. He wants to break union.

Therefore, after a long wait for a fair contract, 1800 IBEW Local #3 union workers have decided to strike against him and his company, and they’re striking for over seven months now. I was at a Times Square rally today, where labor leaders and workers again pressed their demands. I doubt, mainstream media will ever cover this rally.

Our media is our word of mouth, and our media is our social media, such as this blog. We need to maximize the reach of our awareness campaign, to let people know how grotesque the injustice is. Tell them the numbers I’ve shown above. People will know.

Times Square rallyWorkers rally at Times Square today, October 30, 2017. Photo by Partha Banerjee.

This is a very precious labor strike in America today. Corporate America knows if they can break the unions in New York, they can break them anywhere.

But they don’t know the resolve of these workers. Speaker after speaker after speaker today — leaders and striking workers alike — loudly and clearly voiced their resolve. They are united, and they are strong. Many other unions came out to support the striking brothers and sisters. I saw brothers and sisters from CWA, 32BJ, teachers’ union, health care workers’ union, hotel workers’ union…and some more.

Among the speakers, IBEW Local #3’s Business Manager Christopher Erikson, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, NYC Centra Labor Council’s Vinny Alvarez, NY State Senator Jose Peralta, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Building and Construction Trade Union’s President Gary LaBarbera, et al. electrified the huge rallying crowd, with their message of solidarity for Local 3, as well as the union movement in New York.

NYC mayor Bill De Blasio spoke too.

They all chanted, “One Day Longer…One Day Stronger.”

We shall overcome. Corporate America and their one percent will be defeated.

Support the striking workers, wherever you are.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Chris Erikson at Times Square rallyIBEW Local 3’s Business Manager Christopher Erikson speaking at the rally. Photo by Partha Banerjee.

America’s Dirty Little Secrets

Newsweek

Photo courtesy: Newsweek (only for one-time, educational, non-profit purpose.)
_______________________________________________________________

Most Americans, and most people around the world, believe that USA is the greatest country on earth. Like, look at the American flag on the moon!

They talk about a whole bunch of things that they feel are wonderful about America.

Older generation brags about the much-touted “American Freedom.” They believe America keeps the world in order, preventing it from falling apart. They believe America keeps peace around the world through its army, navy, and air force. They believe, without the U.S., there is no civilization around the world.

The younger generation talks about being rich in America. They believe America is the richest country on earth, and anybody who wants to be rich can be rich, regardless of how poor they were born. The American saying is that by being American, “You can go anywhere.” They say, “The sky is the limit.”

In fact, they have given it a name. They call it “American Dream.”

And that’s why, they say — both old and young Americans — people flock to America in large numbers from across the world. They believe globalization is now all about Americanization.

American games, American movies, American fun, American gun…look, they say, what else is there? It’s all about America now.

Most people believe that America, i.e., USA is the heaven for democracy. They talk about how free and fair American elections are, and compared to countries such as Russia, China, Pakistan or India, how the American election system is open, transparent, and free of corruption. Any American can vote, and their votes will be counted. For presidential elections, there will always be a series of nationally-televised debates, and to them, that is the ultimate proof that the system is not rigged. Yes, money plays a big role, but it’s all accounted-for, “white” money. Unlike India, Pakistan, Brazil, or Bangladesh.

Privacy is another precious thing Americans frequently brag about. Your privacy is the ultimate secret, and nobody can touch it, or pry upon it. The concept of a private life is as sacred in America, as its Christian church. It’s like God, personified.

Others outside America have other Godly ideas about America. They believe America invites and adores its immigrants. They believe American education system is world’s best. They say, look at the Nobel Prize winners! Every year, it’s almost all from American universities and research institutions. They believe American health care and hospitals are on top of the world. They believe America’s cars, roads, bridges, and railway transportation are immaculate. There are so many cars on any supermarket parking lot! Look at so many millions of fantastic supermarkets and malls! USA is a shopping paradise.

And then, wow, MacDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and the thousands of places to eat and drink…Coke, Pepsi, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi…oh, you name it, they have it! And then, Budweiser, Miller, Heineken… and thousands of beer and hard drinks!

But hardly anybody talks about the dirty little secrets USA carries with it, secretly. And those who open up their mouths are not liked at all. In fact, they are despised — by friends and foes alike. In their own circles, they will be outcast. If they say too much, well, nobody knows what will happen to them.

Media in America and around the world, along with its Hollywood and entertainment industry, have done an incredible job to keep the secrets, secrets. They have created illusions about America that are almost impossible to overcome.

We are going to find out in the next few blog posts about the truth behind the facade.

Can we face up the truth? Can we find out if the American Dream exists?

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee
(a simple man seeking God)

Brooklyn, New York

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Stephen Paddock’s Motive

American media is still at a loss on Stephen Paddock’s motive.

Remember Paddock? Long time ago…like…way back when…on the first day of October 2017…this white man got himself a massive stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, and killed at least 58 innocent people in Las Vegas. He also hit 500 other people with his American guns, rifles, and bullets.

And the entire thing is going down memory lane…fast. Very soon, it will be another forgettable history. Nothing will happen here in the U.S. to stop the violence and bloodshed. Nothing will happen to stop the NRA and its gun monster.

Media is sketching the killer’s psychological profile. And FBI and police and law enforcement are trying to find his motive. Why did he kill so many people? They are scratching their heads. The ISIS connection theory that some floated is debunked.

Here’s why and how Stephen Paddock killed so many people.

An ordinary white, wealthy man. He has no meaning of life. He curses himself everyday. He is alone, divorced twice. Gambles with hundreds of thousands of dollars…in fact, millions of dollars…and this big addiction for money seems to be his only reason to live.

He knows his father was a bank robber and a notorious criminal: he keeps a dark trauma secretly in his mind. He doesn’t have any faith in the system, and wanders in life aimlessly, making money and more money.

At one point, he doesn’t want to live anymore. He wants to kill himself. Just before that, he sends his girlfriend away to her native Philippines, and sends her a bunch of dollars. Nice gesture! His mortal duties are now done. He is ready to die.

Up to this point in this story, there’s little difference between Stephen Paddock the mass murderer and any other average white, black, brown or yellow man living in Sweden, Germany, India, Nigeria, or China. This is not an extraordinary profile of a lone wolf.

Here comes the difference. The men in those other countries want to kill themselves. And they do. In fact, suicide rate is much similar in Sweden to what is it is in USA: about 10 per 100,000 people. In Germany, it’s 9; in Finland, it is 16; in India, it’s 22; and in China, it’s 22.2.

The difference is this. The other countries — none of them — have such primitive, medieval lax and laughable gun control laws. Their gun lobby is not so fiercely strong, they don’t have a rabidly reckless organization such as the National Rifle Association that buys off politicians from both parties. Example: John McCain alone got $8 million from NRA.

The other countries’ media is sane and common sense, and their education is much more modernized than that in America. They know guns and civilization don’t go together. In fact, they know violence has no place in a civilized society.

Here in the U.S., however, violence is glorified, and the ordinary people are brainwashed into believing violence is fun and harmless (until it hits them personally): look at America’s Hollywood and its relentless violent movies, look at America’s extremely violent video games and billion-dollar often-violent porn industry, and look at America’s culture of violent sports and games. The American powers and media have always portrayed open violence and sex and gore in a glorified way, and it has made people desensitized.

A man who is a lone wolf, frustrated and unhappy and wants to kill himself could decide to kill a bunch of happy people (such as the concert-goers in Las Vegas, or the little elementary schoolchildren in Connecticut) — because he has an emotional and depraved sense of revenge for his inability to cope with his own life vis-a-vis the happy young people’s happy, full life. He doesn’t know anymore if he is killed five, fifty, or five hundred people. He is mindlessly carrying out his life’s final wish: kill them, and then kill yourself.

Period.

A primitive, medieval American system supported by the gun and WMD industries, their media, and politicians gives him the opportunity to buy and stockpile WMD, and plan a mass carnage at the time he decides to take himself out.

And that’s precisely what happened in Las Vegas. And that’s precisely why USA has three times as many gun deaths as Finland, five times as many as Sweden, and six times as many as Germany. The number of gun deaths in USA could actually be higher, by some other estimates.

The other developed nations – even developing nations — have developed on gun control and education on WMD. America has not.

Pure and simple story. CNN and NBC and ABC won’t tell you this simple story in such a simple way.

You decide. Let me know what you do.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Gun sale in America

Gun Violence in America: It’s the Gun, Stupid!

Not that I’m going to say anything radically different from others who have more, professional expertise on this subject.

Here’s a short summary of this blog post: Guns. Kill. People. Children. Period.

National Rifle Association, and their WMD industries and favored politicians — mostly Republicans, but some Democrats too, would disagree with the above statement.

But let them disagree. Would the sellers of poison ever agree that poison is bad for your health? At least, they have a warning label. Do Wal-Mart guns carry such labels too? Or, the weapons of mass destruction Stephen Paddock bought at Guns and Guitars in Nevada?

Like, Warning: Guns are Deadly Weapons. Guns Kill.  ??

To make it short, I’m posting a few charts below, to enunciate the epidemic of gun violence in America. You look at them, and you decide for yourself.

I rest my case.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Chart 1.

Gun_Murders-01-UPDATED1

Data from CDC. CDC is a federal organization.

Chart 2. 

Toddler gun stats

Chart 3.

ByTheNumbers7_93American

Source: CDC.gov

Chart 4.

guns_per_capita

Chart 5.

Country shooting list

Chart 6. — Last but not least. I want to laugh…but this is no laughing matter.

Pat Robertson on Las Vegas massacre

 

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This is Not Religion. This is Anti-God.

bahubali

Durga Puja makeshift temple, built with millions of dollars. In Calcutta, where the poor sleep in the street, and their children go hungry.

(Photo courtesy: Financial Express. For one-time, non-profit, educational use only.)

In the name of worshiping Goddess Durga the Demon Slayer, corporate business-sponsored grandiose, glitzy events are doing precisely what Hinduism teaches us not to do. The organizers of these community celebrations in the city of Calcutta — often political leaders and their henchmen — are spending millions for fun and festivity, fighting for competitive awards, getting more political mileage and media glare, coercing ordinary people to pay for it, and making lives miserable for countless people who do not want to be a part of it.

Goddess Durga is not happy with them. In fact, she is angry.

Let the supreme Goddess’ wrath befall on these demons.

I am aghast at this completely unethical, morally bankrupt, scandalous use of money — in millions (taxed or untaxed) — in a place where countless people do not have enough to eat. They sleep in the street, can’t afford to send their children to school, or buy them a nice shirt at this festive time of the year.

This is the same place where recent floods caused havoc, and made countless poor people homeless. This year in particular, with the scary climate change, the floods across India and Bengal destroyed many lives.

This is the same place where women are victims of sexual violence on a daily basis.

I have no political power, and I live in New York, USA. But I grew up in Calcutta, and I love the city and its sane, intelligent people. I have talked to many people in the past few days. They are all aghast too. But they have no political power, either, and therefore fear for their lives. The entire country of India — my motherland — has now fallen to the rules of religious fanaticism, hate, violence, corruption, misogyny, and mafia.

I do not know exactly how much money is spent on these extravagant, lavish festivities. I have heard that one deity of the goddess is entirely adorned with real gold ornaments costing Indian rupees 6.5 crores, which is one million U.S. dollars. 

One millions U.S. dollars for a four or five-day festivity!

Only one of these grandiose events — the money used for it — could save thousands of children from hunger, diseases, or death. The money could educate school and college children against sexual violence, and institute special programs for saving women from rape and molestation.

Only one such festivity — the cost of it — could do so, so much more.

The makeshift temple I showed above is another example of this grotesque extravagance. This temple will come down in four or five days too!

There is no media outrage, no government outcry, no investigation, no meaningful audit, no income tax raids — things that a clean government (promised by both India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, and by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee) must do, or support. In fact, some of the biggest puja organizers are their party stalwarts.

Through this little blog of mine, I am drawing attention of people everywhere — people who feel such misuse of money and abuse of power are outrageous and criminal, and must be stopped at any cost.

This is no religion. This is not Hinduism. This is pure and simple, total moral degeneration. I invoke Goddess Durga to bring the perpetrators curse. May her wrath burn them.

Slay these morally depraved, dishonest, cruel demons, O Mother. Save our yearning for sanity and humanity from a total, irreversible destruction.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

Bengal village Durga Puja

A real, religious, ordinary peoples’ Durga Puja in West Bengal. Priest invoking the Goddess.

Photography of village home puja: Pallabi Pal.

Irma and Harvey Exposed America Naked

Maria destroys Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria now ravaged Puerto Rico. The entire island is in dark. Curfew is on. This is United States of America. (Photo from SFGate dot com. For non-profit, one-time, academic use only.)

__________________
August ended and September started in America with two humongous, historic hurricanes.

Those who do not live in USA cannot fathom the calamity that knocked down the doors of some of the poorest people here. People in India and elsewhere are not able to understand what is happening in USA – one of the richest nations on earth.

As I write this article, Hurricane Harvey has turned Houston into an ocean before leaving for new destruction. Many in the city famous for NASA have their lives literally under water. People have left their homes just like the time when Katrina had struck New Orleans.

Dailyreadlist dot comHurricane Harvey, Houston, America. Photo courtesy: Dailyreadlist dot com .

Just when Harvey left a trail of devastation, Irma struck the Caribbean islands. It left, but not before sinking Havana. After pummeling through South Florida and its many small keys, including Hemingway’s Key West, Hurricane Irma has destroyed lives in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Jacksonville in North Florida. People have died — more than a hundred from the effects of Harvey alone, and the counts of death from Irma are yet to be fully known.

News from the “savage” Cuban and Caribbean islands do not deserve space in “civilized” American media. One of my acquaintances had gone for a holiday on an island in the  Bahamas. She came back safe. But she noticed that all the media coverage there was focused on the imminent threat faced by the tourism industry of Miami, Tampa, and South Florida. None of the news channels did much to warn the people of these “God-forsaken,” out-of-the way islands about the danger lurking. People there were not prepared to face the storm: there was no serious evacuation plan for millions directly in the path of the hurricane’s eye.

Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Martin were destroyed for a lifetime. But, American media’s wisdom is, “It happens all the time.” Who in their right mind lives there? Only poor black and brown people. They will survive anyways. Why, haven’t the people of Sunderbans survived after Super-Cyclone Aila of 2009? Havana – oh yes, the communist den! It is because of them that there’s so much trouble in this world in the first place. It’s God’s will, can’t you see? No one dies here in God-believing America.

America is great! For the moment let us overlook that St. Croix, St. John, Virgin Islands – all American places – are destroyed. But, heck, the coasts of Florida with their bikini beaches, casinos, golf courses are safe. Mercy to God!

The problem, however, is that America is not really so great. Not anymore. Numerous people in Florida — white, black, brown — still have their lives in major peril. Their houses and apartments and mobile homes were washed away. Hurricane Sandy had drowned New York City a few years ago, and today, Florida and Texas are under water. Thousands of people have taken refuge in government shelters. Basketball stadiums were turned into refugee camps, along with public schools. Government is supporting the poor with food, clothes, medicines, water. Many Non-profit organizations are also helping.

Irma shelter Florida BBC

Hurricane Irma shelter in Florida, USA. Photo courtesy: BBC News.

In this age of rampant corporatization and privatization, and the naked euphoria for everything “private,” it is actually the government that is supporting the vulnerable – countless of them in this so-called First World. If you notice carefully, you will find that all the warnings were issued by the National Weather Service and NASA. The heavy task of evacuation was carried out by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It is them who have relentlessly planned to save the poor children, men, women and elderly from danger, death and starvation. It was public transportation and roads and highways that made the evacuation possible. With government police, military, and other such agencies. Not for profit organizations and volunteers helped them enormously.

Ronald Reagan said, there is no need of a government, because “Government is the problem.” No Sir, Your Honor, government is not the problem. Unchecked, unprecedented privatization, and out-of-control greed of private corporations is the real problem. Their fossil fuel burning, big, gas-guzzling cars and SUVs, exploitation of Mother Nature for oil, natural gas, or coal, combined with massive deforestation and urbanization have destroyed all the ecological and environmental equilibrium. This disaster is due to the havoc it has played with never-in-history emission of carbon di-oxide and other toxic gases, forcing a massive global temperature rise, and a catastrophic climate change.

Scientists have warned many times over, but the rulers in USA, China and India have not taken any heed. The environment is in the face of a major calamity today. The great scientist Stephen Hawking said that this world as we know it today would be completely uninhabitable in the coming hundred years. Environment disaster will bring forth new violence, unbelievable misery, and refugee crises for the people in all corners of earth. USA, India will not be spared.

And here in America, the far right president and his anti-people ruling class still deny climate change. They don’t believe in science, and honestly, this is the only developed country in the world that has so much science-ignorance and illiteracy. Again, you have to live and work on the ground in America to know how miserable the situation truly is.

There is no doubt that recent, major hurricanes like Harvey, Irma, Sandy and Katrina have left America naked to the world, exposing its poverty and illiteracy. It exposed its unpreparedness to major disasters. Its science-ignorance. Its rulers’ total apathy about the ordinary people and their misery. The question, however is, will a neoliberal, USA-modeled India learn from these catastrophes, or resist this system that punishes the poor, and keeps them in perennial dark? Will they look for the truth? Accept the truth?

My wishful thinking is – the sooner we do it, the better.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Stephen Hawking ecowatch dot com