May 5 is Karl Marx’s Birthday.
May 5 is Karl Marx’s Birthday.
Final Episode (Real Life).
So, in a week or so, my wife is leaving for India, and then, I’m going to join her in another couple of weeks.
Every year, whenever we get a chance, we return to India, and particularly Calcutta, places that are so near and dear to us. It doesn’t matter that we’ve spent thirty years in America, and have become mainstream Americans in every possible way. Returning to India is always exciting.
This time, however, there is a problem. We have no money.
The Indian government, in its most egregious, unconstitutional, immoral, cruel and inhumane way, has scrapped the currency overnight, putting 500 million-plus people in complete jeopardy. Media are painting a rosy picture of this so-called demonetization and digital India, because they are all sold-out to big corporations and their bribed politicians. Most Indians do not have a bank account, most places do not have a bank, and only 2% Indians have heard of a credit card. Demonetization is a historic crime on India.
So, why are we, privileged Americans bothered with it, with our wallet full of money and credit cards and online banking?
Here is why. We want to go to our neighborhood green market for vegetables and fish and groceries and flowers and fruits: we can’t do it, as we don’t have cash, and the village farmers and city grocers don’t have cash. We want to savor the sweets and samosas we grew up with. But we won’t have cash to get them. Many — countless — small places across the country are doing no business at all.
We will have managed to get the new 2000-rupee notes, but guess what, auto rickshaws, minibuses, electric trams and taxis won’t accept them. Calcutta subway (metro) does not accept credit card to sell daily tokens, or do they? Street-side vendors on Gariahat Road and at Ballygunge Station are practically empty. Soon, they will fold their shops that their refugee parents started at the time of the partition. That history will be forever gone.
The coveted Calcutta Book Fair that we religiously attend will have a sad and depressed look: people can’t buy and sell books from most places at the fair; heck, people who attend only for fish rolls can’t even buy fish rolls.
Yes, we could buy expensive saris and suits and jewelry and electronic devices at South City Mall, using our VISA, but guess what, we never go there for shopping. The only time we went was when we bought gifts for our daughter’s wedding.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg: situation in villages and small towns is horrendous and terrifying, and media — either Indian media or New York Times and CNN — won’t report. I keep calling it Journalism of Exclusion.
So, yes, excited that we’re going back to a place that is like ants licking up Rosgollah from a Bengali’s sweaty cheeks, but that’s about it.
Never did we think we would return to our own place, a beloved place which is now completely destroyed by the new fascists in power.
Never did we think we would return to our own place, where nobody asks any questions, and everybody stands in a long line, to comply with the government and their corporations and media, to give up their OWN money.
(Photo: Parichay Dey, during our Assam reserve forest tour, Kaziranga National Park.)
A Real-Life Story — Part 2
It was December 1, 2016.
The cool weather has slowly set in, with the usual fog and really, more smog, due to the clay ovens still used in numerous households, and wood chip urns millions of slum- and street dwellers and roadside eateries use in Calcutta.
Add to it the city’s archaic and dilapidated state and private buses and trucks that run mostly on leaded petrol and diesel, accompanied by an enormous number of private cars, auto rickshaws, and motorbikes. And the countless, underground battery recycling places, where boys of twelve or thirteen years of age use sulphuric acid to clean the used electrodes.
We call them underground, but they are truly not. Nothing is underground in India — good, bad, ugly or evil. It is perhaps the most transparent country in the world.
December and January evenings, in cities such as Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Benares, Agra, Bhopal and Bangalore, you cannot breathe outside of your home: the air is so thick with pollution that you can vomit, faint, or go blind. Your lungs burn. Especially if you’re from outside. Indians and Bengalis do not vomit, faint, or go blind. They die slowly of cancer or diabetes or heart problems. Like my mother, who died of cancer at the age of forty-two.
Well, this is not my memoir, and definitely this story is not about my mother. This is today’s story.
On December 1, 2016, at seven in the morning, the middle-aged maid named Lakshmi’s mom showed up at the Mitra residence. Everyone calls her Lakshmi’s mom, as nobody ever asked what her own name was. She has been working in this household for the past fifteen years. When she started, she was a married woman with a working husband and two little children named Kartick, and of course, Lakshmi. Her husband Jibon worked in a lathe factory.
After fifteen years of working as a daily maid with this family, she is still married, but Jibon lost his job when he lost two fingers under the lathe machine at the shop, which went out of business, and Jibon got zero compensation. He now stays home, and cooks and cleans. He has developed asthma. They live in a slum just outside of Calcutta. Needless to say none of them has any medical insurance. They can’t afford it.
Lakshmi was married and sent off to a village in the state of Orissa, but came home one year after, abused by her husband and in-laws. She stayed for a couple of years with her mom and helped out, but she was very beautiful and soon fell prey to a Calcutta thug’s lust. What happened then to her, nobody really knows. Sujata, Deb’s wife, came to know, but she would not tell anyone except for Deb. They gave Lakshmi’s mom two thousand rupees. Neither the Mitra family, nor Lakshmi’s mom, talks about Lakshmi ever since.
Kartick is now eighteen years old, and works part time at the basement storage of a wholesale clothes store near the Sealdah rail station. He makes 2000 rupees a month, at 25 rupees an hour — way below the living wage. But his employer is a Hindi-speaking man from the state of Bihar, and prefers his country people over Bengalis. He often cheats Kartick, miscalculating his hours, a phenomenon we call wage theft here in America. Kartick, however, never heard of this political term. He did not go to school after seventh grade, and he is slow in arithmetic. In fact, he is a slow kid. It’s real easy to cheat him.
Today is the first day of the month, and Lakshmi’s mom is expecting her monthly salary from Deb and Sujata, after work. It’s Sujata, a primary school teacher, who normally pays her. Fifteen years ago, when Lakshmi’s mom began working at this family, her pay was 125 rupees a month. Now it is 600 rupees.
Deb’s father Hari Sadhan grumbles: he calls it “daytime dacoity,” which in America is known as high-noon robbery.
“Six hundred taka (rupees) for the cleaning maid? Bouma (daughter in-law), what age are we living in? Do you know my father made eight rupees a month?”
Sujata smiles. She knows it’s meaningless to explain inflation to an 80-year-old, who rose from a very humble beginning. She knows silence is often the soothing layer of ointment on soreness.
But kind and patient Sujata is, today she cannot pay even that 600 to Lakshmi’s mom. Since the scrapping of 500 and 1000-rupee notes on November 8 by prime minister Modi, banks and ATMs ran out of cash. The 100-rupee notes are scant, and people are holding them very carefully like their sick children. And they are running out fast.
Sujata now only has seven 100-rupee notes and two 2000-rupee, newly floated notes. She doesn’t want to part with all the 100s.
She pulls Lakshmi’s mom on one side and whispers, as if she committed a crime, “Lakshmi’s mom, I can’t pay you in full, okay? I have no money. Take two hundred now, and I will pay you two hundred more next week.”
Lakshmi’s mom didn’t know about prime minister Modi and his demonetization speech that made rupee bills useless like scrap paper. She only knew she had to buy food, oil, coal, and asthma medicine for her crippled husband.
She was speechless, and then she was angry. She broke down in tears.
(To be continued)
By Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York
Photo courtesy: LadiesLiveandLearn.com
A black man has shot and killed five police officers in the city of Dallas. Seven people were wounded.
Naturally, the incident has inflamed America.
Killing policemen? In America? That too, five policemen? That too, by a black man?
Those of us who live in America, and work with people on the streets – manslaughter, getting hurt, getting raped, thrown in jail, police brutality, gun violence, deportation, getting entangled in lengthy judicial processes, etc. are not new. These are commonplace incidents. People who do not live in America do not know the extent of violence in this country.
Ten million black Americans rotting in U.S. jails. Men and women. Even children — twelve or fourteen years of age. A large number of them are in prison without committing any serious crimes. Because they are poor, and so could not appoint a good lawyer. The lawyers government allotted to represent their cases failed the victims.
Here in USA there are more blacks in jails than in colleges – even today. Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition published this information a while ago. A scandalous fact for any nation.
Indians, however, do not want to know about these facts. We stay away from blacks, and in all practicality, choose to detest them. We are afraid of them. Many of us avoid places where blacks are a majority. We look down upon them. Many of our family friends are terrified to visit our home in Brooklyn. They refrain from saying anything but come up with excuses for not visiting. Those who find the courage to come, want to leave before night. Almost all of our neighbors are black. For so many years we have been with them. We never had any untoward incidents. When we travel to India, we leave our home keys with our next-door black neighbor. The look after our house when we are away.
Yet, the incident in Dallas will reiterate the fear and hatred amongst Indians, against black Americans.
I do not support this mindless killing. Like any American with social consciousness, I strongly condemn it. Like President Obama said, we are all aghast about this “planned, horrific act of violence.”
Across the U.S. — from New York to California, from Chicago to Dallas – people are condemning it. Candidates for the upcoming presidential election in November – Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, or Green Party’s Jill Stein — all have labelled it as a dark chapter in America’s recent history.
Of course, Trump has always been bizarre in his remarks. He said that this massacre happened because of the “black adulation” from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. He said Democrats do not find it to their taste to uphold the use of “justified police action” over blacks. He said Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary’s support to “Black Lives Matter” movement has been indirectly responsible for this attack. Otherwise, Trump said, no one would have dared to kill these policemen.
Right-wing ralk show host Rush Limbaugh branded BLM a terrorist organization. He supports Trump.
The twenty-five-year-old killer, Micah Johnson said he hated white people. He hated the police. He said that indiscriminate violence by the police on black people forced him to show his anger like this. Now he’s dead. Killed by a robot bomb set up by the police. What was astonishing was that before he was killed he said that he also hated “Black Lives Matter” movement. The reason? He said BLM was only about big talks and no real action to bring an end to this rampant police violence.
Innocent people are getting killed every day in this country, in the suburbs, in the cities — in police firing or gun violence. The violence in daily lives has increased manifold due to the presence and easy availability of guns. No country, unlike USA, has so many guns, pistols, rifles, automatic weapons available randomly. An added fuel is drugs and racism.
If you start thinking about this, you will lose your sleep. We who live in this country can get killed any time anywhere from gun violence. They say there are more gun stores than gas stations in America. You can buy a pistol and large number of bullets along with your bottle of Coke and bag of potato chips from the same store, come back and have a barbecue party on a Sunday afternoon. No background checks done or police verification taking place – in many states.
Some of the recent mass killers got to use their guns bought and kept by their family members. Micah Johnson also did the same. Police found a large amount of arms in his Dallas home.
We do not support violence, murder, bombing, gun violence or war, ever. At the same time we are also against the barbaric, violent racism that has continued for more than two hundred years in USA.
Is this a civilized country, where everyday somewhere or other a black person dies from police brutality? To find the lifeless body of a black youth on the steps of a housing project, or on the dark side of a road, or highway, left in an old car – how disturbing, how distressing! The killer police is never caught, or rarely, if caught, they are readily released, acquitted by the trial judge, making a farce of justice. Surprisingly the documentation of these ruthless, mindless killings do not stir the collective minds of the judge or jury.
Blacks are getting killed one after another. Just a few days ago, similar incidents happened in Baton Rouge of Louisiana, and one in Minnesota. Brutality is rampant in places like New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Miami, Saint Louis, and Los Angeles, in almost all the black-majority areas. Even black women are being killed by the police.
For people like us who are associated with the struggle of common people, when we see the pictures of these atrocities, these brutalities, at times we also freeze. We see that everyday the barbarism photos online, sometimes the people take to the streets to fight for the rest of the body, the mind becomes numb. This is the celebrated concept of American equality? This is the much talked about American pride – the model of diversity?
I had spoken to Noam Chomsky on this. He said that this is the shameful history of the United States of America. It has encouraged the growth of a polarized society. This polarization is the weapon of the ruling class – to rule. His words reminded me of the eternal division between Hindus and Muslims in India. This division has been used for political gains. Or for that matter take the politics of caste in India. It’s the same.
Micah Johnson’s hatred against whites is much the same. His massacre is also similarly abhorrent. His killing of innocent police officers is also a horrible crime.
But who will speak up for the deaths taking place in the streets, in projects, in all corners of the country, simply because the colour of your skin is black? Or, rotting in jail forever without a reason? Who is there to redress these crimes?
Let there be justice for all the sufferers. Let there be punishment for all the criminals.
(Translated from Bengali.)
Trump is now the Republican presidential candidate. He basically got the final nod from the Republican Party, after Cruz dropped out last night.
It means, Donald Trump could now be the president of America.
A quick analysis — in case anybody cares.
Question. — What is the ONE thing that made Trump a racist man Donald Trump a presidential candidate, and stopped Bernie Sanders to be known to America and the world?
Answer.– MEDIA. Big media. Corporate media. Media that does what Noam Chomsky called Manufacturing Consent.
Trump got the angry, anti-establishment Republican votes across the nation — votes of people who are against NAFTA, and for all the wrong reasons, against outsourcing jobs, and immigrants. They want to kill the government as we know it, create more violence globally in the name of fighting terror, and want to enhance the trickle-down economic system that is in place since Reagan. They want to bust labor unions. They want to do away with all the pro-people laws that the 99% won after centuries of struggle.
Trump does not believe climate change and global warming are real.
On the other hand, Bernie Sanders is getting HUGE support from anti-establishment, anti-Wall Street Democrats (and millions of independents), and young people who are much more informed than the older generation about U.S.’s war policy, environmental policy, the incredible income equality, private prison, anti-union politics, and media’s lies — are supporting Bernie.
But Hillary Clinton is ahead of Sanders, MAINLY because while Republican media — such as Fox, New York Post, Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, and the countless radio talks shows — kept supporting Trump, Democratic media such as New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, NPR and such kept supporting Hillary — nakedly.
Even last night, when Bernie won Indiana against Hillary by a substantial margin, and that too, after the rigged voting in New York, that news is practically a footnote. Wolf Blitzer of CNN called it a “narrow” win.
If you think I’m making it up, let’s have a debate.
If there was any way to take the media element out of the political equation, Bernie Sanders would have already become the presidential candidate. But from Day One, corporate media had decided that on the Democratic side, their chosen candidate was Hillary Clinton. CNN’s owner Ted Turner has been one of her biggest financial supporters.
If media were fair and balanced, the American people would have known that some of the most evil corporations on earth have been funding Hillary all along. They include Monsanto (GMO corporation that destroyed farmers globally), Wal-Mart (biggest union buster), Exxon (one of the largest polluters on earth), private prison industries (that profit on keeping a maximum number of people in jails), and especially Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest, global financial giants responsible for market crashes both in U.S. and around the world.
People, courtesy America’s media, got to know about Trump on the Republican side, and voted for him. People, courtesy America’s media, got to know about Hillary on the Democratic side, and voted for her.
This is Manufacturing Consent — live — as we speak.
Think, and act.
Brooklyn, New York
Why did Hillary win last night?
By Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York
Of course, it’s not so simple to describe, but based on my years of experience working in elections both in India and USA, and also years of studied observations on how media and politics work, here is my two cents.
If you want to to add anything, please feel free to do so. Thank you so very much for reading and sharing.
1. Name Recognition. — Thanks to media’s blackout (which I now call “Journalism of Exclusion”), most people didn’t even know who Bernie Sanders was, until recently. Whether it’s U.S. media such as New York Times, CNN, NPR or NY Daily News, or foreign media such as Times of India or powerful, local media across the world, nobody heard about Sanders, or his lifelong work for the 99%. People have always associated the Clintons with liberal politics, and famous personalities praised them as saviors of the powerless and disenfranchised. There was no analysis as to what they have done all these years, both in the U.S. and overseas. Nobody knows — outside of a small, informed circle — Hillary’s Kissinger or Monsanto connection, or Bill’s role to overturn Glass-Stegall Act. Few people could actually connect the dots.
2. The Jewish Vote. — Bernie Sanders’ strong criticism of Israeli government especially the tyrannical Netanyahu regime and its Gaza bloodshed was, in all likelihood, not received well among the conservative Jewish community that is a big percentage of NYC voters. Again, pro-Israeli-1% media such as NYTimes, CNN and Washington Post played a role to spin the news in Clinton’s favor.
3. Big Union’s Hillary Endorsement. — Unfortunately, many big unions endorsed Clinton. Hillary’s long and close association with Wal-Mart (anti-union) should have been enough reason for them not to endorse her. And her Goldman Sachs and Verizon speeches, $225,000 a speech, and the transcripts never disclosed. But they did. It was still great to see that CWA (on Verizon strike), TWU (union that understands how public transportation is breaking down), and a major nurses’ union endorsed Bernie. But much bigger unions such as 1199 or Randi Weingarten’s teacher’s union supported Hillary. They have money and power, and have strong NYC base.
4. African-American Vote (and Latino Vote). — People who are the most disenfranchised, and have been victims of racism, police brutality, poverty, Bill Clinton’s disastrous crime bill, welfare reform, or harsh immigration law, serious health crisis, and incredible illiteracy voted for Hillary in a big way especially in big cities. If you look at the NY state map I hand-drew last night, following NYTimes’ results map, primarily, NYC delivered Hillary the victory. The rest of entire NY state, except for small Hillary wins in Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo, voted big for Bernie. Again, I would not blame black voters for their decision. They simply didn’t know Bernie Sanders well. And they put their faith on Hillary, just the same way they put their faith on Bill for many years.
5. Huge Voter Suppression. — Hundreds of thousands of voters could not vote in NY yesterday. It was so disastrous that even the pro-Hillary mayor asked the board of elections to investigate the large-scale exclusion. Now, would these excluded voters vote for Hillary or Bernie? Not sure. But the entire, archaic and primitive election system in America got exposed once again. Powers — the 1% — always validated democracy through no-show primaries where 5-7% people usually vote, and this time, when such a large number of people turned out, the voting machinery crashed.
6. The Trump Factor. — Contrary to many polls where they showed that Bernie has a better chance of defeating Trump in November, many New Yorkers believe Hillary can do it better. A friend called from Albany last week, and said he was going to vote for Hillary for that reason, so that Trump can be stopped. Yet, fact is, if Hillary becomes the Democratic nominee with help from superdelegates, Trump’s chances drastically increase, and we could see a racist-sexist-fascist man to be the next American president. A scary thought, but it is now more possible than ever before.
7. A First Woman President. — Again, some friends tell me this is the one single reason they want to vote for Hillary. They have now seen a black president, and they now want to see a woman president in America (and they lament that unlike the rest of the world, America has not been able to elect a woman head of state yet). They say it will be historic. To me, it is purely a sentimental reason, and just by being woman, one does not become pro-woman, or gender neutral. In fact, in India, we have seen Indira Gandhi who was a dictator, and her politics destroyed my youth. The real question should be, is this candidate pro-1%, or pro-99%? If she refuses to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, is that going to help the poor woman workers and their families and children? If she works with Wal-Mart, is that going to help the poor woman workers who work for Wal-Mart with slave wages and no union rights? Why at Clinton Foundation, women make much less than their male colleagues?
8. Media’s Scandalous Bias. — Journalism was a joke. New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, NBC, ABC, Wall Street Journal, etc. etc. got exposed. Naked. I have studied media at a famous journalism school here in New York. I know how it works.
ISIS — we all know, now, through the horrific carnage in Paris (and Lebanon).
But what the heck is Journalism of Exclusion?
Let’s talk about it.
Only recently, John McCain praised ISIS, and took pictures with the terrorist group’s top leaders. New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NPR, NBC, and other major media did not report it, let alone publish photos that are now easily available online.
Even today, after the Paris (and oh yes, Lebanon) massacres, they did not report that Obama govt. and a Republican congress have been in continuous touch with ISIS, and nobody is held accountable for their support and praise of the terror group. U.S. and Western “liberal” media pretend they did not know.
Not too long ago, New York Times reporter Judith Miller cooked up a so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction story, which the globally-feared paper printed on its front page for weeks, where defying all journalistic standards, it used one (and only one!) globally discredited source named Ahmad Chalabi.
The report validated Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to begin the Iraq genocide.
New York Times never bothered to mention that Chalabi was a paid CIA agent, a fact they disclosed only weeks ago, in a Chalabi obituary.
Now, let’s talk about the 2016 U.S. elections, that will decide the fate of an entire world and its people.
NYT, Washington Post, CNN, NBC and such powerful, global media never mention that Hillary Clinton is supported by (1) Monsanto, GMO corporation responsible for a massive number of farmers’ suicides in India, (2) Goldman Sachs, one of the primary culprits behind the 2008 economic crash, (3) Wal-Mart, corporation responsible for the destruction of American manufacturing jobs, and (4) private prison corporations that make huge profit by putting blacks and immigrants in American jails.
The above are all examples of Journalism of Exclusion.
I am a student of Noam Chomsky, but I don’t know if he has ever used the term “Journalism of Exclusion.” I have been using it, and asking my politically conscious and courageous friends to challenge big media head on. Only this fierce yet nonviolent challenge can save us from another generation’s time of mass deception and stolen democracy.
The current, global terrorism — both ISIS and American — finds its roots and refuge in this mass deception and the pretense of a free press and open democracy.
Do we want to put up with this violence, lies, and exclusion?
Brooklyn, New York
Today is the Bengali New Year’s Day — the first day of Baisakh, the first month in the Bengali calendar. Today is also the Punjabi New Year’s Day — Baisakhi.
In many other parts of India and Bangladesh, today is a very special day. On this day, small merchants and business owners — along with their employees — celebrate their trade with worshiping Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi, the two Hindu deities of wealth, success and prosperity.
Many parents decide to give the first formal education lesson to their children on this auspicious day. A Hindu or Muslim priest or an elderly in the family hand-holds the child and makes them write a vowel or a consonant with a piece of chalk or a pencil. Then, there is a sumptuous Bengali feast: the proverbial fish and sweets. Bengalis and Punjabis are both known for their food, fun and festivities. No fun festivity is full without food. Food. First! Food. Fast! 🙂
Today is also the day when at Vishva Bharati, Rabindranath Tagore’s university in the West Bengal village of Shantiniketan, they celebrate the birthday of the poet of all poets. It’s the tradition of the school to celebrate it today, even though Tagore’s real birthday is the 25th day of Baisakh, which normally falls on the 8th or 9th of May.
In Bangladesh also, many people follow Shantiniketan’s tradition and celebrate Tagore’s birthday on this day. In all, globally, at least a couple of hundred million people celebrate this day as their traditional New Year’s Day. Western media do not know or care to know. They never report it.
Regardless of the West’s ignorance, apathy and exclusion (I now call it Journalism of Exclusion OR Education of Exclusion), today is a very special day in our lives — lives of Hindu and Muslim and Christian and Sikh Indians and Bengalis across the world. It’s a happy day. It’s a day to forget about the ills of the past and move on to embrace the future.
I wish you all — my readers, friends and sympathizers all over the world. I wish you all a happy, prosperous and peaceful year ahead. May Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha bless you. May all your wishes and dreams come true.
The poet of all poets Tagore wrote:
“Jeerna ja kichhu jaha kichhu kheen
Nabiner majhe hok ta bileen.”
“জীর্ণ যা কিছু যাহা কিছু ক্ষীণ
নবীনের মাঝে হোক তা বিলীন”
whatever is old ‘n doomed and whatever is low
may they all vanish in the young and green’s glow.
I hope we can usher in a new era of knowledge, wisdom and insight. I hope we can learn from the mistakes of the past, and walk together on the shiny, glowing path of a prosperous, progressive future.
Brooklyn, New York
Liberals are going gaga about today: the International Women’s Day. Especially, the elite and the privileged — women and men — are speaking and writing and singing and dancing and drinking and candlelight-vigiling…and celebrating womanhood.
They have every right to do it. But I’m not sure what exactly they’re trying achieve doing it…year after year after year…other than speaking and writing and singing and dancing and drinking and … well, you know what I mean. They’re doing it for themselves: the “me” and “us” in them, and not for the “them” and “those out there” in them.
I’m sure you know what I mean.
I think the way International Women’s Day started and the way it’s now become an annual showcase of elitism and individualism for the privileged are way separated and detached from each other. In fact, in my opinion, very few of these celebrating elite and privileged know or care to know the history behind this precious day. In case they care to know: it was actually all about the “them” and “those out there” in them.
Big media, corporate media and big textbook companies and corporate authors have done their part to exclude that history from the mosaic of the celebration. I keep calling such a phenomenon the Journalism of Exclusion. I might also call it now the Education of Exclusion.
International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.
1909: The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on 28 February. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.
1910: The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.
1911: As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
1913-1914: International Women’s Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.
1917: Against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for ‘Bread and Peace’ on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
So, that’s the real story behind the celebration. That is the history that most celebrations today — the NOW celebration, the NOW-kind of celebration do not care to include in their discussion.
So, a small, powerless and unimportant man I am, I updated my Facebook status today:
“COULD NOT HELP WRITING (apologies). — NOW and the NOW-type feminists celebrating International Women’s Day is like looking out today’s snow here in New York from inside a heated, cozy living room. Pretty, feel-good, almost like poetry. (For those women who must drive their old, beat-up car or take the dirty, crowded subway trains or walk in this very windy, cold, wet and slippery situation, it’s not so pretty and feel-good. They don’t want to write poetry; they just want to come back home safe…in one piece. They must work because otherwise they have no money.)”
Some of my female friends were not so happy reading it. One of them wrote back:
“I know Partha is a loving co-partner in resisting oppression, I just felt like this message was telling women with some perceived (or “real”) privilege to shut up about feminism. I don’t want anyone to be quiet about feminism, least of all any woman. I don’t care if she doesn’t have to work two jobs or not. It’s like saying “be quiet if you have the luxury of time to make your voice heard, since you should have pity for those who do not.” I know he didn’t mean it that way, though.”
“It’s just I don’t think men need to be telling women how to behave or think or express on International Women’s Day. Sorta rubbed me the wrong way.”
Then, she put a beautiful heart emoticon at the end of her statement. So, she still loves me, it seems 🙂
I had to reply now. I said:
“I am pointing out the farce and hypocrisy of celebrating such days by the privileged — men or women. The history I just posted tells how the real purpose of IWD has been hijacked by the elite — men or women. Just the same way 80 percent of men are suffering because of this extreme class disparity perpetuated by the elite man, even more women are suffering because of it — where elite women have done nothing to create rights, justice and equality.”
That is really what I meant. And that’s really what I mean — always. Elite and privileged celebration of a U.N.-sponsored International Women’s Day means NOTHING if it does not take care of the larger society where 80 percent or 90 percent women worldwide are going through unending, closed cycles of poverty, inequality, disempowerment, lack of education, lack of health care and other such basic human rights — for generations.
In fact, I strongly believe that the NOW-type, elitist, rabid-individualist celebration and candlelight-vigiling and dancing and drinking and big-talking and film-making have produced ZERO equality and ZERO justice for the 80 percent or 90 percent of women — all over the world.
And in my book, this kind of celebration is hollow and really, a farce.
The pictures I posted here might make a point. It’s your call if you want to keep celebrating a fake celebration, or change it back to where it was…when it all started.
Otherwise, only one woman would be happy: Ayn Rand, the Eve of the World of “Me.”
Brooklyn, New York