Friday, May 18, 2007

India's Crisis of Democracy

According to Martha Nussbaum:
''What has been happening in India is a serious threat to the future of democracy in the world.''

From the sound of it, she's right. What has been happening? Religious nationalism, rioting, all the sort of horseshit that seems to be so popular lately. India's actually been having these sorts of problems for some time- the horrifying Gujarat riots took place five years ago- and what's more than a bit disturbing is how often the mobs act with relative impunity, as if India is headed towards some sort of mobocracy. It's also a tough situation for Indian historians, who have been frequent targets of mob violence for things they've written. I remember talking to a historian who came to America for just this reason and thinking to myself, ''Thank God nobody cares that much about Chateaubriand!''

Nussbaum's larger point is astute as well:
''The real "clash of civilizations" is not between "Islam" and "the West," but instead within virtually all modern nations — between people who are prepared to live on terms of equal respect with others who are different, and those who seek the protection of homogeneity and the domination of a single "pure" religious and ethnic tradition. At a deeper level, as Gandhi claimed, it is a clash within the individual self, between the urge to dominate and defile the other and a willingness to live respectfully on terms of compassion and equality, with all the vulnerability that such a life entails.''

There are a few points that I think she hits a bit too hard but, overall, these sorts of articles are why public intellectuals like Nussbaum are so valuable.

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