Demolishing Churchill’s myth!
America is now a police state!
UK is now a racially intolerant country!
Creating awareness about India’s new strengths!
In India we seem to be living in the past, in the mould of Nehruvian era. Even in higher philosophical discourses our view of the world, our view of the West seem to be cast in the S.Radhakrishnan exposition of a heavy Indian emphasis that seems to be with no takers today.
Our political ideological fixations are as good as no fixations, all transient thoughts of political survival. Inside India, outside India. I want to share here some of my present thoughts on the present world. India is now at a world stage where the world stage is itself changing fast. The world, though looks like being dominated by the American military power, American power, political and economic power, is not making the world look to the USA for any help. The USA is also losing much of its moral weight in a world that is distorted beyond our imagination. The US today, after the 9/11 event and more so after the 9/11 anniversary seems to be a different political entry. Whoever wins, whether it is George Bush or John Kerry, it seems American power will take new hues and there is every reason to speculate and even predict with some confidence, American can’t win the world, win the world opinion.
America would look more and more a confused country, after the 9/11 terrorist attacke changed the American attitude towards the rest of the world. Deeply shocked by the new and unexpected terrorist power that could damage the American might, the American people found in George Bush a new hero. Then, only the enormity of the damage to American power and American pride was noticed and the reality hit and the American President who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the American armed forces came out in the open and started to learn his political lessons and political responsibility. So, Bush, quite an unsuitable candidate for the new found situation, emerged as a hero, “hero” he went on to cast himself. In a role that unleashed the new Franskeintein monster that was the Iraqi war. Bush, in short, had created neither a safe world nor a safe America. Observers point out and there is near unanimity in the world capitals, more so in Paris, Bonn and Moscow, not so openly in other capitals too, in Biejing and New Delhi that today’s America is a police state. The Homeland Security, is all-embracing in its powers to reach anybody, anywhere in the world! Yes, real harassments, all in the name of security. The Homeland Security can gather intelligence, coordinate anti-terrorism efforts, prevent and respond to terrorism. More and more intrusive powers into the lives of citizens of that country. The investigative-intelligence-police agencies perform many work that is simply not there in India and India compared with America is a heaven of absolute freedom for citizens!
There is so much censorship of information, suppression of newspapers freedom, the description of the various undemocratic practices would surprise Indian intelligentsia. Military commission instead of courts, detention of non-citizens (permanent residents, temporary workers, students, tourists) for months even before filing charges! The US has a 28 crore population, where whites comprise 76% of the population, blacks 13%, Red Indians 0.77%, Hawaiians 0.14%, Indians 0.79%. Chinese 0.98%, Filipinos 0.74%, Vietnamese 0.46%, Koreans 0.43%, Japanese 0.30%, other Asians 0.46% and others 4.76%. There are seven million Muslims in the US most of whom voted for Bush in 2000. Now they feel cheated.
According to latest estimate, Indian students account for 11.5 per cent of foreign students in the US, the country earns something like 12-18 billion US dollars by “importing” foreign “students”. There are over 3,700 colleges and universities in the USA, the colleges offer something like 600 “programmes”, comptising a broad course in everything a student is interested. Unlike UK Oxbridge degrees that are more deeper and concentrated, even the European older universities have this classical traditions, classical learning, more emphasis on humanities and basic sciences, of course unlike Indian universities courses that are below per when it comes to the US broadness or the UK’s in-depth pursuit of knowledge. I want to see Indian universities get their freedom, debureaucratised, more self-reliance and more open recruitment system, our university men and women must be raised to acquired their social status, social recognition which you see in the West.
These are also thoughts that have to be fit into the Indian world view where India must be seen as a country, a people who matter.
American democracy, though a great role model for democratic governments and movements all across the world is a highly distorted government. Its elections costs billions, the current US election is the first billion dollar campaign and between the two Presidential candidates, between Democratic or Republican party belief system there is really no ideological divide. Presidential elections is all about big money raising and spending and ironically perhaps India comes nearer in its huge election funds raising and election corruption reaching unprededential proportions, here we beat the American election system, though our experience is undermining the power of the common man.
As for Americans dictating terms for India, it is still a reality. Yes, there is some pro-India tilt, as they say, but there is still the mutual suspicion, though politicians may otherwise, openly for record sake. Bill Clinton, though now a great friend of India and also friend of the rich American Indians, started his pro-India lessons from his deputy, Strobe Talbot, in his first term he was anti-India only during the last years of his second term he turned India-friendly, he went on win over all sections of Indians, including the Indian Left.
The point is well-made by some observers and worth a mention here. Americans didn’t at all recover from their 9/11 experience. They have now become so obsessed with anti-terrorist strategies, they got messed up in Iraq and even now, one is not sure in what direction Americans would go from Iraq.
Indian democracy emerges successfully
On the contrary, India and Indian democracy had learnt to absorb the many shocks to its basic fabric of a democratic response to terrorist attacks, from the threats from Pakistan, China and for the past 50 years or more Indian democracy survived. It looks Indian democracy would survive for our foreseeable future. Perhaps, for ever. Is this too optimistic? Not so, I feel.
Why? One was the collapse of Soviet Russia and the fall of Communism in a string of countries. I was almost eye-witness to the daily events, the fast-paced collapses of one country after another. Gorbachev was on the lips of everyone. His two crucial concepts, glasnot and perestroiaka, openness and restructuring were the talking points. At the same year, there was in China the Tianaman Square massacre of freedom fighters and democracy demanders! The Americans have their own notions of freedom and democracy. For them, for George Bush, as he narrated to the UN General Assembly, in his fourth annual address stability and a new definition of security that allows nations to extend freedom to countries gripped with tyranny. This speech also was defiant to the criticism by UN Secretary General that war in Iraq was against international law, the war lack UN authorisation. Indian Prime Minister was also present on this occasion. This, inspite of Americans speak of freedom and democracy, these two concepts have different meaning for Indians, for the rest of the world, the world doesn’t see eye to eye with the US politicians.
Bill Clinton in his autobiography, My Life, makes some scathing comments on the way the American Supreme Court ruled over Al Gore’s Presidential election results. It is one of the most shameful episodes in the judicial history of America and set a very bad example of a partisan court. By a judgement of 7-2, the court declined the recount of votes and denied Gore the right to seek a fair count and the five judges who gave the verdict also, three days earlier stopped the recount gave Bush the election under some very illogical reasons. Clinton says of this judgement: “I disagreed strongly with the decision, it was an appalling decision” and the reason the court gave was : “Because the votes couldn’t be counted in the next two hours, Clinton further observes the court delayed, also delayed in giving the judgement until 10 p.m. “to make absolutely sure the recount couldn’t be completed on time”. (Page 932) Perhaps, the only place Clinton speaks his mind clearly is here. Otherwise, the autobiography of a much admired American President falls miserably short on serious issues of our times.
In many places, the tone is flippant, even on India where we all admired him for long, Clinton fails India by not even going into some depth of what he did to avert the Kargil war, for instance. In fact, the US / UK conspiracy is to keep the world established, so that they have a role, they choose the role of a military power according to their own time of showing. What a miserable failure the Iraqi adventure only the post-US Presidential elections might give the American people the time to think about. Clinton had some capable men in his administration. One was Strobe Talbott, then Deputy Secretary of State, now a heavyweight academic thinker and in the US parlance a strategic thinker, serving as President of Brookings Institution. It was he who as a long time friend of Clinton, both were Rhodes scholars at Oxford, who persuaded Clinton to see the wisdom of cultivating India and casting off the standard half-baked US policy of playing up Pakistan vis-a-vis India to win strategic parity in Asia. Thanks to Talbott’s coaching Clinton changed and the famous US policy tilt took place and Vajpayee, in association with Jaswant Singh, then Foreign Minister went on to cultivate US in a big way. The fall out is the still unchanged US position. To treat India on its own terms.
US help to India not certain
Though the current post-Clinton US continues the pro-India viewpoints, a positive viewpoint at that, there is no certainty surely for Indians to expect the US to help India, if I can say so, the develop on its own terms. There is no guarantee that Indian democracy can advance further, we can merge as a role model. America is so short-sighted when it comes to its own interests, be it education or technology (nuclear weapons programmes), outsourcing (the latest worry in the US) and the strategic interests. America would only like to dominate the world, economically, trade-wise, military-wise or even culture-wise (see the impact of Hollywood and the fast food culture) and the very new generation ethos of going to US even for an undergraduate course, staying back to become NRI workers, Green Card status and thus, willing to give up everything aspirations for Indian to fit into the restrictive and often-self esteem destroying US visa restrictions, citizenship demands, finger printing etc. The issues I am concerned here as an educator and as an Indian concerned with Indian education ethos, our unique cultural independence and as a proud Indian who want to elevate India in the eyes of the world.
India a model for US/UK democracy
What is more interesting and gives hope and also raises much optimism is that a visiting NRI Indian leader, infact, a Lord in UK House of Lords, Lord Navanit Dholakia who is also the first non-British president of the Liberal Democratic Party in UK says that “It is amazing how India has managed to sustain so many governments with a coalition rule in Delhi. It is a lesson for the world that shared power is the solution to a better democracy and development. “Further he says and it is worth quoting him for what refreshing new views we get about the state of the world. He says:” in comparison to India, even UK, the birthland of democracy, lags behind India!”. This is his ironic playback to the country which had conferred the title of Lord! Queen Elizabeth conferred the title on him in 1997. In UK, he says the percentage of voting in 2000 was 58 and the he says ” I told my fellow/ House peers at the House of the Lords” Though Britain gifted us the concept of democracy, we Indians will bring back (a more worthy model) of democracy to UK”.
Further the visiting NRI noted that India had technologically more advanced, and in terms of what India had achieved on many fronts” India demands greater attention from the world”. India’s “unlimited human resources” he says is India’s great strength.
Indians are now in top positions in London financial world as well, three out of ten CEOs in this highly secretive business world are Indians, there are 10,000 Indian restaurants in London alone, they employ more people than the top big UK companies in high manufacturing, more Indian doctors and nurses in UK hospitals. India can still be a land of more illiterate population, poverty, yet Indian democracy is a great achievement, our judiciary is so much admired, our election process no parallel, so there is much to celebrate and more important to ponder over how India can exert more influence on the course of international events.
Manmohan Singh’s visits to UK and USA, though not dramatic there is at least a new awareness there is Indian Prime Minister who can articulate, if not any grand vision or high intellectual input to the UN deliberations in his own way, he had made his viewpoints more coherently and with a quite force of greater conviction. Thus, advocated the UN expansion or restructuring on a more broad based international reality. Of course, the Americans obsessed with their own security (or insecurity?) With the future not giving them any hope or nay basic conception of how to understand the world, India and Indians can make some real/ contributions. There are some disparate set of things we Indians have to give our thoughts to.
Tony Blair : untrust worthy
First, we can’t truth the Western powers, not all but some selectively. The top name is UK. Readers must have seen the photos of the UK Premier Tony Blair welcoming our Prime Minister! The very photo gives Blairs’ highly cultivated artificiality. The British are not given to over praise! But Blair says” a comprehensive strategic partnership” “work closely to successful WTO” business, UK would support” absolutely and fully” etc. Not long ago, we read a report how Blair casted himself in warrior role, a second Churchill, in waging wars, there by keeping UK in the international reader, though UK is reduced to a “third rate power”. Only those who know the British so well, would understand the many pretensions in which the British establishment drowns itself. The PM would make so many pretensions with the visiting heads of government, to welcome them at his door steps, some he would send off at that stage, some he would entertain, some he would hold press conferences with , some he would invite to his week end home etc. So too the Prime Ministers. They pretend for so many years there is a special relationship with the US. There is not. In the Iraqi war, Blair voluntarily thrust himself on Bush! The British have a long history of going to war, war-mongering is their second nature.
Demolishing the Churchill’s myth
Winston Churchill (I am just now going through a biography of him by a fellow political leader who is also no more, the late Roy Jenkins the 1000 page “Winston” by Roy Jenkins). What Winstone Churchill did was unheard of in other countries. He was a dud from the very start. He didn’t have much pedigree like other blueblood aristocrats. No proper education. No landed gentry back ground, nor any pretensions of values derived by the traditional Oxbridge education in Plato or Aristotle. You wont find such an instance in any other British leader of the past or the present. William Gladstone was perhaps the greatest British statesman, may be the others could be the great pits, more so the Younger Pitt. When he was serving as an ordinary return back and go to Oxford university, as his elder brother was contemplating at that time. The mother writes back:”: there is no money”. Eventually neither of the brothers went to Oxford.
Should we follow the West?
It is high time Indians ‘unlearn’ many things. Learn to shed their hangups about their colonial past, the still prevailing mindset. Time to burst the Churchill’s myth. Other things about Britain, once our master, now a third rate power!
Learn to doubt the American wisdom. About their world view. Assert India’s stable and sustainable democracy, the largest on the planet. Our independent judicary, Election Commission, our mastery of the General Elections. Should we follow the Western thought patterns? No, now is the relearning process, in our education processes and belief systems. Churchill proved that by sheer bluff and bluff one could rise up to great leadership position. That was because the second world war helped him to reach the top and remaining in public memory at the difficult period of history. The biographer notes with insight: “Though he was in India for under thirty months, “India was for several years in the early 1930s to dominate his political activity, and considerably damage his political prospects, he never felt it necessary to refresh his direct knowledge of the subcontinent, which he regarded as a geographical expression and ” no more a country than is the equator”
Even the humble Clement Atlee who succeeded him as Prime Minister and one who came forward to concede Independence to India had some character. Men like Stafford Cripps had more character, more wisdom and they did things with some conviction. On the other hand, we see Churchil, honestly didn’t himself believe in any principles whatever!
He had in fact a contempt for such talks, he seemed to be telling at every turn of his life that he had utter contempt for such things!
Churchill didn’t have any sense of history, though he indulged in writing history! He was always the man of the moment. He only had a big ego, as displayed by his cigar an whiskey! Such a high drinking British leader couldn’t be any other but only Churchill. Yes, he was an orator and in the second world war he gave leadership. But when compared with other world leader of his time, President Roosevelt had more character and wisdom, Truman was a true leader, even Stalin seemed to have stood for some principles, De Gaulle certainly stood apart from Churchill even in most difficult times.
How history would judge him? He would be remembered for the war time leadership but he is no great man, no great and good human being.
The writer of the biography, while no great admirer of the subject, except at the end of the book he finally concedes his opinion in favour of Churchill. There is this limitation of the bias of a writer. In this case Lord Jenkins, being a politician who just missed becoming Prime Minister himself, has his own subjectivity and also his own ignorance of the outside world, specially about India. Thus, we have to make room for the insensitivity of Churchill and also of Jenkins.
The point is that we Indians can be proud of our leaders, Gandhi and Nehru. Given the current status of India becoming a home for a stable democracy, demonstrating more positive features than Britain, we can safely conclude, that between Churchill and his long-time Indian “beet noire”, Gandhi it is Gandhi makes more lasting impact on the course of world events than Churchill.
Such was his arrogance, self-centeredness, it is time we Indians learn to call Churchill’s overrated buff and bluster. He is no more for me at any rate than a John Bull, the ultimate perfidious Albion. He had many doubtful claims to aristocracy, the very parentage of his brother, Jack, was questioned, he always did underhand deals to earn his early military commissions or buy landed property or house, Chartwell or even change parties to get ahead in politics. A many utterly foreign to any scruples whatever and he deserves to be exposed even at this stage of his lingering reputation. At any rate Indians must learn to place Churchill in his true place, that is at the bottom of our estimation of world leaders. Churchill was, it is said privy to the dropping of the atombomb in 1948, though US didn’t inform the British government though Churchill was ware of the decision. What, a thoughly unprincipled politics.
Churchill’s foolish acts
One of the most foolish things Churchill did was in his opposition to India’s demand for dominion status in 1932 (Round Table Conference). The reference to the topic in this biography written almost 70 years, still sounds less than totally objective historic event. There is lighter remarks, Linlinthgow, who was Viceroy in 1936-1943 had a bitter exchange of views with Churchill, who used to call India only a dependency, holding India to Britain’s commercial rights seemed to Churchill ” the tide turned, you will be engulfed by the time” (457). His noncooperation with the Select Committee that drafted the Government of India Act 1935, says the biographer reminiscent rather” ironically worthy of Gandhi (Churchill’s Indian betenoire). No Indian can countenance the British people’s such insensitivity in this time of Britain being seen as a declining power in the world. Churchill made a total of sixty-eight speeches duringthe massive with over 400 clauses massive bill. He never reconcilded himself to India winning freedom. Till, we can say that very end of his life, in spite of India winning freedom, Gandhi and Nehru turning the table against such a strong opponent who went on to preside over the dissolved British Empire! It is high time Indians reassess their understanding of the exact role of Britain and Churchill in particular in India’s freedom. (P.423)
In India, in the pre-Independence days it was the pro-British upper class, the rajas and maharajas and the other educated high society that set the thought process. Of course, the rebellion in thought and action too sprang in a way, rather ironically what the British ruling class inherited from its own intellectual currents. Thus, it was the British ideas of freedom, democracy, Constitutional government etc that set Indian leaders on the war path against British rule.
The point is that even today, it is the establishment views that determine much of the intellectual and official tenor of any government. It is so in India and so elsewhere, in UK or USA.
Thus, I want to make a point here. That is, even in India we need a change in the establishment view about what India should do in the modern world. I put forward the thesis that unless we in India understand this and also try to understand the undercurrents of the establishment views in UK, for long our mental fixation, we wont understand the emerging new relationship with Britain. Let me state this unequivocally: unless we understand the pretensions of the present British establishment, we wont make progress, be it Kashmir or UN membership or even in education change. We can’t trust the British, let us first be clear about this!