A new social revolution is happening in the United States of America. It is exciting, and I hope you notice. I hope you participate. This is history in the making.
Minority and immigrant women are winning in mainstream elections. Yet, this is not news in India or countries that copycat USA. People in India, in particular, are totally uninformed about this new nonviolent revolution. Media never highlight them.
The people of power never allows them to discuss about women’s empowerment, and they use corporate media as a brainwashing machine. They never inform people about how middle-class, working-class women are fighting back in America — how they are rising at home, on the streets, at schools and colleges.
Big media never tell us especially in a country like India how these brave women are fighting elections from city councils to congress — against all odds. Why? Because it may be dangerous for the ruling class.
Of course, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh all have had women prime ministers, but these are three countries I know that have fallen way behind the rest of the world, when it comes to overall empowerment of women. The situation is pathetic, with the rape epidemic, acid throwing, bride burning and dowry deaths, and massive domestic violence — major and minor.
Yet, even Muslim countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Indonesia, Malaysia, or even Saddam Hussain’s Iraq, and Latin American countries like Uruguay, Columbia, Brazil have better social and economic situation for women. We are never told that in these countries, women have more economic freedom and equality than what we have in India.
We have a strange misconception that only Muslims are responsible for the population explosion in India. Our social leaders have told us that Muslims have four wives, wearing hijab, and they have too many children. And we have always blamed Muslims, without any reality checks.
I have hundreds of Muslims friends. As a rights activist and labor educator, I have attached with hundreds of Muslims — both men and women — from Bangladesh to Bolivia, Iran to Indonesia, Pakistan to Peru. That “four wives, countless children” propaganda is bogus. I am sure some backward places, they still practice it, but so do orthodox Hindus, Christians and Jews. In many areas here in the U.S., ultraconservative Christians are against any scientific family planning.
But many of us fall for propaganda and rumor, and they are brainwashed by media talks and newspapers and social media. Over time, many people have completely lost their ability of thinking rationally.
America is changing at the grassroots level. On one hand, ordinary people are standing up against Trump, his white supremacist administration, and their corporate power.
On the other hand, a revolutionary change is happening in the world of women and immigrants. Black leader Stacey Abrams is a strong candidate for the governor of Maryland. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28 year-old young Latina, defeated big Democratic party congressman Joseph Crowley, here in New York City. She is a Democratic Socialist from Barney Sanders’ camp. I have worked with Pramila Jayapal, recently-elected Congresswoman from Washington state. A young Muslim woman Ilhan Omar defeated another Democratic Party big boss in the state of Minnesota. These are the bright faces of hope and modernism. They help us believe in a progressive, revolutionary change unfolding on the ground.
True, fascism, hate politics, gun violence and such extremism are overwhelming us. At the same time, bright young women and immigrants are rising up, assuming political power.
Pornography is taking over the world, like wildfire in a haystack. It’s killing India, in particular.
[Foreword: India’s conservative government just lifted a ban on porn watching, under pressure from powerful lobbies. Yet, it would not lift a ban on Leslee Udwin’s British documentary on the horrendous Delhi rape that shook India.]
When we were teenagers in Calcutta, we had a couple of friends who would find black and white “yellow” booklets from strange, unknown places. And adolescent we were, we would devour on them. And be very excited.
These were stupid stories of impossible possibilities: a sixteen year-old city boy visits his uncle in a remote village, and suddenly gets sexually involved with a friend of his aunt, or a sister-in-law, etc. Occasionally, the thin booklets printed with horrible, laughable typos would have black and white photos too. Photos stolen from some secretly imported American magazines. Printed lousily.
But in a country like India and in a city like Calcutta with major taboo on sex education, those booklets served their purpose. They aroused us, and made us victims of uncontrolled lust. Those of us who did not have older brothers or sisters to mentor us, and warn us against such illicit carnal desires, had suffered from the greatest impact of pornography.
Our sense of social behaviors and appropriateness dissolved.
We were also terribly afraid of being caught of doing those activities. Getting caught by an elder, or a teacher if we did it in school, would result in major beating and other severe punishment.
But not anymore. India has “progressed.” And USA was always hundred miles advanced, when it came to such matters of life. Just like Hollywood took a big role in advancing cinema across the world, America’s underground porn magazines and movies also pioneered through the rest of the world on the dark, unrestricted pleasures of life. India with its zero sex education, has always been a big victim of American blue films.
India has always been a patriarchal country, at least for my lifetime, and Bollywood and Hollywood and hardcore and softcore porn made it worse.
Now, the porn industry is enormous in the two countries I’ve lived all my life — USA and India. In USA, small-town, isolated porn movie theaters gave way to a massive, online market. There are hundreds of websites that one can access — free of charge — to view blue movies. Small clips of two or ten minutes are free for preview. One can then subscribe to the site of their likes, paying with a credit card, just like any other shopping activity. It’s all legal as long as you follow the over-18 age rule, and perhaps some geographical area restrictions. Well, I live in New York City, and here, social permissiveness has taken a new height (or low, depending on your pov) long, long ago. Anything is possible in New York and California.
Porn industry is often riddled with violence, forced prostitution, and drugs. Sometimes, grotesque violence. And women are almost always at the receiving end of all of the above. But because America has long been a socially permissive country, where sexuality is no more a secret subject, and man-woman social togetherness is well established, in my opinion, compared to what is happening in India now, USA’s porn industry has not been able to inflict a direct, bloody wound on young minds to the extent that it creates depravity or a culture of violence and rape on women.
In India, it has.
Indian society is still by far one where open discussion about sex is a taboo. Indian schools are still by far totally devoid of any sex education. In India, men still look at women’s body in an obscene way, completely disregarding any rules of decency or social norms. In a crowded place such as a rush-hour train, bus or market, men would often touch a woman inappropriately, or at least pay dirty looks. I have heard many stories. I have seen some.
Rape and violence on women have reached a new, historic low. And some of it could perhaps be attributed to underground porn. But porn is not even underground anymore. Indian market is now open, and a biggest victim of the neoliberal economy. It has borrowed the American corporate mantra that “if people want it, you will sell it.” And what people want, media and entertainment industry will determine. If pornography is something that helps you to sell more, you shall use it.
No questions asked.
But there is zero accountability for the consequences. If porn makes an entire young generation hooked — to an extent that it must find a way to do porn, the industry will not take responsibility. Every Internet cafe or parlor in India — big cities or small — now has a vast number of young customers that would visit regularly only for porn. I have seen a number of times that the computers in an Internet cafe have history of porn viewing. School kids. College kids. You just sit at the back-row computers, and spend time, watching porn. The shop owner knows. He doesn’t mind, because you are his regular, devoted customer. You are making money on his habit. He knows you are going to return at a particular time when it’s relatively empty. He knows you are going to do it on a regular basis.
You are hooked. You must do it. It’s just like drugs.
In fact, recent scientific researches have shown that hormones that are responsible for drug and alcohol addiction are either the same or similar to those responsible for sex addiction or gambling addiction.
But in an uncontrolled corporate market such as India, there is rarely media discussions on the addictive and harmful aspects and impacts of the so-called “adult entertainment.” In fact, major newspapers and TV outlets now regularly feature porn-related stories, and glorify porn stars — both from India and USA — as if there is no reason not to include them as mainstream topics. There is hardly ever any media discourse on the potentially violent or unlawful consequences of this addiction.
Porn industry has billionaire producers, sponsors, and celebrity customers. They keep the industry afloat and prosperous, in the name of personal liberty and freedom.
The vast majority of the society is paying an incredibly heavy price. In case of India, I know for the fact that an entire generation is on a new, often-unknown, vicious drug. Their social behavior and sociability are falling apart.
And just like any other drug, this drug is slowing killing the mind.
Donald Trump knows he can’t be the next American president. America is not that intellectually advanced, but still, it has come a long way from the old days of hate, bigotry and fascism.
When Trump says he wants to ban all Muslims from coming to U.S., he kills his chances even more.
Really, Trump knows he doesn’t have any serious chances. People who are supporting him now are supporting his hate speech and message of bigotry, paranoia and exclusion. But nobody knows it better than Trump himself that he has zero knowledge about how the world turns, how tax is collected, how roads are paved, and how barbers run their unisex shops across America. For that matter, he never visited a barber shop in years.
Trump never read history or geography or science or arts books…none of his colleagues did. He never paid taxes…none of the American one percent did in recent years, especially since Reagan. He never drove on the road…in fact, his class only rode the helicopter from Wall Street straight up to their New Jersey, Connecticut or Rhode Island mansions.
That is how their world turns…as we’ve seen on soap operas and Hollywood. Their lives are fantastical and frivolous. I would give it an F. If you look carefully at his face, you know that he knows he is an F.
And again, we all know Trump never went to a barber shop. In fact, he has the most unkempt hair that we have seen in recent years. It’s shameful.
But here on this blog, we don’t talk about shamefully unkempt hair. Or, Hillary Clinton’s $600 hair. Here, we talk about more serious and important things.
Six months ago, I said this to my labor union students [paraphrasing]:
“Trump will not be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, and he knows it. But he is doing what he has been asked to do: move an already right-wing media discussion to an even further right, and the 2016 campaign will be fought within that narrow, right-wing, hate and war spectrum. All else will be excluded. That is the plan.”
Let’s go global for a second, given this is a globalized economy today, and elections are not local either. They are global. Monsanto farmer suicides in India can make it an election debate issue between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
In USA and India, the two largest “democracies” in the world, the one percent is doing precisely this, what we call distraction from the 99 percent’s bread and butter issues, and putting spotlight on sensational issues. That is the plan.
In USA, Trump and Kruz and Carson and Huckabee and Bush the juniormost president-to-be all want to tell us how tough we must be, and how evil Muslims and Latinos are. Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. When that didn’t go very well, ISIS came along to help. Now, it’s all about terror and ISIS and Mali and the imminent threat to American security and American way of life.
(Without telling us who and what created ISIS and Mali in the first place, that is. Hillary won’t talk about Libya and Mali. Bush and New York Times and Judith Miller won’t talk about Iraq, Syria and ISIS.)
(This tagging sounds familiar too…just go back on history a few decades.)
And American big media — New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NPR, PBS, NBC, ABC and CBS, plus the right wing nuts on their TV and radio shows — have all decided that the 2016 elections should not and must not have any discussion on subjects such as the unprecedented income inequality in America, the hidden, massive unemployment, the anti-labor treaties such as Obama’s TPP (or Clinton’s NAFTA), or global movements such as the ones on climate change or women’s equality. No more debate on police brutality and Black Lives Matter. No discussion no more on immigration reform.
They have succeeded. It is very likely that Bush or Cruz from the Republican side and Hillary Clinton and Blue Dog Democrats from their side will be made the candidates for another four years of dumb charade, aka presidential elections.
Serious people who talk about serious issues — like Bernie Sanders — will be officially ostracized and excluded. Unless Bernie’s people can bring in so much pressure that DNC has no choice but to nominate him.
Noam Chomsky once said,“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”
That is the plan. Trump and Cruz, with help from Hillary and Obama, are moving the spectrum of the election debate to far right.
New York Times and Washington Post and CNN and NBC are making sure that is where the “lively debate” stays.
When I was a journalism student at Columbia University, some professors and students said I was doing “advocacy journalism,” because I was writing about the poor and powerless. When I said to them, what about you also doing the same thing because you’re *always* reporting news on behalf of the status quo, they got angry. Then, I invited Noam Chomsky to speak in our department, and they got angrier.
Yesterday, a well-known journalist (who is also Indian and a co-alumnus at Columbia) showed again big media’s strong bias for the people in power when she said violence on women was not really so bad in India: she was referring to the BBC documentary “India’s Daughter” — now banned in India — on the infamous gang rape in Delhi.
She said that India has already elected a woman head of state (Indira Gandhi) and U.S. hasn’t; therefore, it is proof that India’s women are better off than what U.S. and Europe had thought. It’s like saying, look, a black man is America’s president now; therefore, all this news about brutality on blacks and their poverty and hopelessness is plain nonsense.
Sometimes, I wonder, if these journalists are just elitist and out of touch, or are they actually paid for by their owner corporations and politicians to speak on behalf of them. This is also proof that women can also be a part of a terribly patriarchal system.
RAPE is an epidemic in India. Not just rape. Sex trafficking. Daily violence on women. Big violence. Small violence. Ridiculing. Name calling. Improper touching. Luring. False promises. Threats. Publishing intimate photos online. Destroying women’s careers. Stealing their money and land. Robbing women of their human rights, economic rights, political rights, workplace rights. Religious subjugation. There is NO concept of equality.
Of course, there have been women prime ministers (Indira Gandhi, a dictator) and chief ministers (Jaylalitha, an Imelda Marcos, Mayawati, a corrupt caste leader, and Mamata Banerjee, leader of an illiterate, mafia-run force) and noted journalists and even a few police officers and scientists and astronauts. And India has had a laughable, rubber-stamp woman president too.
But that does not mean India has any iota of gender equality. People who tell us otherwise are either a part of the status-quo and do not ever want change; or they are elite and privileged class and out of touch. Or, right-wing ultrapatriots who believe women should be put in the kitchen and dark and dingy birthing rooms.
An Indian woman works very hard at home and outside, and is mostly used for her labor she puts in or money she makes. Often, she is forced to give all the money she made to her husband, father, or in-laws. Hindu, Muslim, no difference. A woman is forced to give birth to children against her will; or, if found early in her pregnancy, is forced to abort a girl fetus.
I don’t need to read a book, or hear erudite conference or media speeches. Many poor and working-class women are fighting back against this horrendous patriarchal and male chauvinistic system, but the establishment and their media do not support them. They undermine their struggles, and impose their own, elitist solutions.
We who came from poor and struggling backgrounds know the reality on ground. The others, including Indian powers and “Born Into Brothels,” “Slumdog Millionaire” or “City of Joy”-type missionary West exclude and distort the truth, and offer phony solutions.
India’s gender discrimination and disparity is no less than an apartheid. Let us not fool ourselves no more.
(And there is NO comparison between gender violence and 24/7 discrimination there, and the ones we see here in America. NO comparison. Period.)
Otherwise, it’s no news these days. Even though we still occasionally wake up to the brutality of it.
Not that one rape is more barbaric than the other. Not that a New Delhi girl’s gang rape and murder that shocked the world in December, 2012 was any different from so many other rapes and tortures that happen in India — where I was born and grew up — on a daily basis.
Yes, daily basis.
Just in six days, five gang rapes and murders of young, village girls happened only in one state of India. The news shocked us again to the core of our heart. They reminded us one more time that liberals’ candle light vigils, politicians fiery rhetoric, or even Indian court’s amended, harsher laws would do nothing to stop the relentless horror against women there.
Something is seriously wrong in India. No, don’t tell me it’s Hinduism or its caste system, and all that rubbish. I don’t have time for it.
And I can go on and on. The grotesque nature of the crimes, if we actually think about it, puts a chill through our spines.
And because this time these incidents are happening in rural areas with zero political limelight, and because the usual suspect upper castes or Brahmins or their perceived protector BJP or RSS were not found responsible for the crimes, and perhaps because a caste-based, sexy story could not be cooked up, and also because Muslims were also found to be committing the crimes, Indian liberals are not anymore outraged. Heck, they’re not even doing too many candle light vigils.
U.S. media, unlike the New Delhi rape in 2012, are not showing their outrage.
Obviously, when I write about criminals belonging to lower castes (I don’t believe in the caste system even though by birth, I am a Hindu Brahmin), or when I write about criminals belonging to Muslim communities, some people automatically charge that I am either a BJP-RSS man myself, and by default, I am an anti-Muslim, low-caste-hater.
To those people, I only say this: fools.
I shall continue writing against any crimes and against any criminals, and I shall not spare any religions, castes, colors or nationalities. I have done it all my life, and I vow to keep doing it for the rest of my life.
I am ashamed of these crimes, and I am ashamed of India, a country I have always loved so much.
But most of all, I am ashamed of the double standards of elite media and privileged liberals — of India and USA.
Media and pundits are not talking about these very serious issues. So, I am.
Because people simply don’t have the time or energy to go through long texts, I’m posting some pictures here. I hope some of us look at them carefully, and put pressure on the Indian and international media and establishments to discuss these issues.
These are only some of the issues. I hope to add more in the coming weeks, before the April national elections.
Without discussing these issues, however, this so-called biggest democracy with its 1.2 billion people, and the so-called open and multi-party voting system is truly a farce.
You decide how important these problems are. You decide where India stands after over sixty-five years of its so-called independence, relative to other countries. You decide which powers are responsible for this situation.
You decide how to bring these issues to limelight, and how to address these issues.
To me, they are extremely, crucially urgent.
Thank you. Comments and feedback much welcome.
Brooklyn, New York
P.S. — BTW, there is no reason for anti-India elements to rejoice. I’d advise them to find very similar problems in their own countries.
The new Indian-American Miss America and racism cries. All fuss and no substance. Period.
No, I am not a fundamentalist: not a Hindu or Christian Taliban. And guess what, I’m not a communist either. So, go figure what makes me write it.
Well, let me help you before you lose patience.
(And, by the way, this is not about undermining racism. Racism is alive and well in America. But, joke is that Indians are crying racism and color bias. Just go to India and find out how dark-skinned women are treated back there. And how Indians treat blacks here. Come on…I mean…it’s pathetic!)
Now I’m writing about it because I have a major problem with the way women’s beauty is sold out. I have a problem with the way beauty itself is now defined by those who only use beauty for making big profit. And nothing else.
Fashion parade, in particular, is something I’ve always had deep trouble with. The straitjacket way they dress up women. The way they select a particular variety of women. The way they require them to stand and walk on the catwalk.
Catwalk? Like, even stray cats in Calcutta have much more freedom than these women. Even those cats…neglected and abused…walk way better.
Sure, cats don’t make money walking, and these women are making money doing it, but at what cost? Who’s making the real big money? Who’s trashing these women when their “time is up?”
Beauty? Are you kiddin’ me?
Being pencil-thin — practically starving yourself to death. Yes, that’s the life of these fashion cats…I mean…models. Depriving yourself of a normal, happy feminine life…with motherhood, sisterhood, family, society, and all. Subjecting yourself to the whims, and lust, of the designer and business owner. Drug abuse is all-pervasive. Many models, especially the failed ones, end up in the huge porn industry.
Yes, all of the above.
Hadley Freeman, fashion journalist, wrote in The Guardian:
“Anand Jon Alexander, known professionally as Anand Jon, has achieved a certain kind of success since moving to America from India: his clothes have been worn by Paris Hilton, he has appeared on America’s Next Top Model.
Then, last week, he was sentenced to 59 years in prison, having been found guilty of 16 counts, including sexual battery and performing lewd acts on a child. In other words, Alexander, 35, had for many, many years been raping models who worked for him, some of whom were only 14 at the time. These 16 counts only relate to charges in California – he is still awaiting similar charges in Texas and New York.
Yet this was barely reported in the UK, and even the US coverage was pretty limited, certainly compared to that of the PR stunt of the model showing her tummy.”
But this was NOT an isolated incident.
Ms. Freeman wrote:
“Even more than eating disorders, the fashion industry’s real dirty secret is the sexual abuse of models, male and female, and last week when I spoke to models and editors about the Alexander case, the only surprise they expressed was not at what he had done, but that the models had come forward at all. This rare conviction going almost unnoticed is a missed opportunity of literally criminal proportions. One picture of a normal-sized model is commendable, but it will not effect any real change. Widespread coverage of the Alexander case, however, could have forced the industry to at least acknowledge this issue. Instead, it has been brushed aside.
Anand Jon Alexander, jailed for 59 years. One of the rarest exposures, quickly swept under the rug by big media.
It is impossible to say how common assaults on models by people in the business are because so few are reported, partly for the usual reason assaults often go unreported (a sense of shame on the woman’s part), but also because of some factors specific to the fashion industry: models are often very young; they fear they won’t work again if they “cause a fuss”. Model Cohen describes it as “a reality in the industry”.”
So, WHAT makes this all-pervasive sexual and emotional abuse of women different from the violent abuse that’s now all-pervasive on Indian streets? I’d let YOU decide.
I just have a serious problem with the way one of God’s best creations — feminine beauty — is defined, straitjacketed, distorted, used, abused and sold. It’s a global, corporate item — only for profit. Nothing else.
Women’s situation — either in “savage” India or here in “civilized” America — does not change. If anything, women lose their respect and dignity even more. Because now the new-generation perception is that respect and dignity do not matter.
Cats in Calcutta now have better respect.
Plain and Simple Writing by Yours Truly,
Brooklyn, New York
How scary…they’re training children how to smile!!