Arundhati Roy’s ‘an ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire’ (collection of her 14 essays or speeches she delivered in 2003-2004) became the first book, I finished in 2016. Thank you Ujjwal Acharya Dai for the gift. As Promised to Ujjwal dai here’s my summary of the book.
The book is a chilling & eye-opening account of the struggle of people against "empire"(cartel of self-interested corporate organizations & power hungry "pro-development" governments). How the other side of story of this struggle is continuously being repressed by continuous show of empire-side stories by "fair" media lead my same people against whom this resistance is waged in the first place. I felt her political/social writings and speeches are nothing short of illuminating and amazing and I regret reading Arundhati this late, ( I wish I hadn’t ignored her essays ), some of the essays from the book are eye-opener for me.
“The Loneliness of Noam Chomsky” (My favorite essay from the book) is Arundhati’s tribute to one of the world’s greatest and most radical intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, who showed us that nothing is what it seems to be in the free world. He showed us how phrases like "free speech", the "free market" and the "free world" have little, if anything, to do with freedom. And he analyzed the penchant of the United States to commit crimes against humanity in the name of "justice", in the name of "righteousness", in the name of "freedom".
The essay “Peace is War” deals with the importance of the "free media" in the corporate globalization project. She describes how neoliberal capitalists have managed to subvert democracy – by infiltrating the judiciary, the press and the parliament, and molding them to their purpose.
In “Do Turkeys Enjoy Thanksgiving?” she uses the allegory of quaint historic practices - like saving one good turkey and slaughtering millions - to say that there are always a few good turkeys from minority or oppressed groups that get rewarded, while the vast majority are penned and imprisoned. She warns us that the forces against us are too great for any one person, even a charismatic leader, to challenge.
In “Come September” that nationalism was the cause of genocides in the 20th century. Like a surgeon wielding a scalpel, she deftly shreds our most sacred doctrines. "Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead."
Roy analyses the power ordinary people like us wield in today’s world in her essay “Public Power in the Age of Empire”. The world today is a deeply skewed reality. She says that both terrorism and the war on terror share the same excruciating logic- they make ordinary citizens pay for the actions of their government.
The scope of Roy’s discussion is broad, the bulk of her evidence weighty, and yet her core messages are never lost from view. Some of the major refrains of this collection have to do with the ever-deteriorating, always illusory ‘free press’ and the need for truly independent media; the need to insist upon and assert a role for non-violent protest and resistance to imperializing projects; and the need to understand – and then denounce – grinding poverty as a form of violence.
Roy pays particular attention to the parallels between globalization in India, the devastation in Iraq, and the deplorable conditions many African Americans, in particular, must still confront.
She examines the role of resistance movements that can make a difference and return dignity to the term democracy. Whether writing about the so-called war on terrorism, the media, AIDS in South Africa, the war in Iraq, or caste politics in India; this passionate author puts before our eyes the cause of justice for the poor, the oppressed, and the overlooked in countries around the world.