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Book 4: War Talk

November 3, 2009



Arundhati Roy is a great writer.  This is a book of essays and speeches by her around the time of 2002.  She gained a lot of notoriety for her book, The God of  Small Things, which is a novel set in small town India and shows how small things in life can build up.  This description is very basic and doesn’t do justice to this incredible book, but I want to get back to the one I just read.

War Talk involves critique of militarism, globalization, religious and racial violence and other dangerous ideological infestations in politics and society.  I found her writing to be superb and worthy of performance in each essay.  I love the way she can write from the perspective of what seems to be many cultures combined, yet always comes back to her origin and how scared she is as an individual in what can be at least, cold war india and pakistan, and at most a burgeoning nuclear holocaust.

The main theme is the clashing of muslims and hindus in India and along the border.  I do not have much knowledge on this subject and will not try and overstep myself here.  I just want to write a little about my perspective, seeing that I read an inordinate amount of news and literature and still don’t know much about this conflict.  I find it interesting that a conflict of this magnitude can be down played today.  I realize that focus has been shifting to Pakistan over the last few years for obvious reasons, but the conflict from the socially aware Indian perspective is damning.

For instance, I am aware of Pakistani suicide bombers attacking India, but even after reading this book, am unaware of the other way around.  What I am now aware of is Hindu violence against Muslims in India.  Over the past few years, I have read a lot of Atheist literature, and reached the conclusion that the critics of religion don’t go after Hindus or Buddhists very much.  Perhaps they are more difficult targets, or perhaps the west just doesn’t care as much about the day to day operations of those religions.  I knew that Hindus had a political mean streak in India, but did not know the extent, basically utilizing a fascist agenda to essentially make Muslims second class citizens, not to mention the poor throughout the rest of the country that have very little already.

She mentions, over and over again, the slaughter of Muslims in the town of Gujarat, saying that while it was in the media, nobody cared and nobody was held accountable.  What happened was a government backed destruction of a religious population by some of the poorest Hindu people in India due to a difference  in faith and a nationalist agenda with its roots in a nuclear stand off.  Some of the outside world detested what happened publicly, but, as she argues, incoming globalization into India made atrocities like this acceptable as long as companies, like Enron, could continue to steal and build infrastructure upon India’s human and natural resources.

The other 2 main ideas in the book involve damns in India to increase power capacity.  The hundreds of damns have misplaced thousands of extremely poor people with no contingency plan in place, killing too many to keep track of.  It is a land grab by the powerful and not an understandable utilization of natural resources.  I had some interest in this subject a few years back but sadly have heard little on the subject since.  The other main idea is optimism through critique.  In an introduction written for a Noam Chomsky book, she argues that thinkers like Chomsky are  extremely important for the fact that they have publicly and successfully argued against things like American hegemony and first world doctrine.   Its not that they have changed the world by toppling states, but they have made people aware of the issues at hand. Her optimism is inspiring when she says that like communism, these powerful rulers of business and politics disguised as nations and corporations will fall not because they will be defeated but because their system is seriously flawed and that is what happens to problematic doctrine disguised as democracy.

I enjoyed this book a lot and recommend her novel as well.


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