Saturday, April 14, 2012


By Ranjan Sreedharan, April 14, 2012

This post is about the class of left-liberals in general and the ones in India in particular, because these days they are ones who call the shots.

In essence, left-liberalism is an economic world view that starts off by beating one’s chest and wailing out loud because there is so much poverty around. It ends by prescribing solutions that tend to be the same, no matter which part of the world you live in. It is the “duty” of the government to step up and provide free food, jobs, education, income, healthcare—you name it— to whosoever needs it, and that all this can be done easily if only the government would lean harder on the rich. After all, don’t the rich enjoy so many undeserved benefits from the government anyway? Of course, between the starting point and the end point it generates a lot of verbiage as well, but all that can be safely ignored.

Within this left-liberal class, there is a sub sect, the class of the self-hating left-liberal. How do you know you hate yourself? Here’s a test. Imagine you are in a crowded public place and someone out of nowhere lands a hard punch right into your face. And your response is, “Oh, I’m sure I must have done something that caused the offence. Maybe, something’s wrong with my face.”

The self-hating left-liberal looks at all conflicts and all crimes from an underdog versus top dog perspective and further holds that the historical underdog—once identified as such—is never wrong. In other words, in all conflicts, the blame lies invariably with the side identified with the top dog, the dominant side, the majority etc. In a criminal act, if the perpetrator happens to be from the underdog class, without doubt the victim is to blame. If the evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary, be sure there are extenuating circumstances to explain why the perpetrator behaved the way he did. Of course, part of the delight of being a self-loathing left-liberal is a perverse pleasure in knocking down and demeaning your own people. After all, it is easy to convince yourself that you are being fair and dispassionate when you are harshest on your own kind. Isn’t the tendency to overlook the faults of your own people and lay the blame on others an all-too-common human failing? The self-hating left liberal therefore seeks to rise above this commonplace fallacy by going overboard, to the other extreme. The preferred narrative is that the fault is always ours, we are the ones to blame, and never “they” who’ve been the historical underdogs.

Not surprisingly, India’s left-liberals and their self-hating kindred go ballistic when the talk is about the riots that followed Godhra (which is a valid concern) but curiously, they would continue to cherish the belief that the train caught fire by a process best described as “self-combustion”.

Internationally, the most prominent example of a self-hating left-liberal is Noam Chomsky (professor of linguistics at the MIT) who traces all the ills in the world today to America and the deviousness of its successive presidents and governments. In India, the best example that I can think of—someone who runs ahead of even Arundhati Roy—is a frequently published international writer and journalist by the name Pankaj Mishra. He’s a good writer—incidentally, left-liberals are often good writers—and I’ve seen him on the NYT, Guardian and Bloomberg websites. I also understand he has a ready audience among the state controlled newspapers in the Gulf for obvious reasons.

I first noticed him sometime after the year 2000 when the Indian Express published a full page “expose” authored by him. It made the startling claim that the massacre of thirty-odd Sikhs at the village of Chhitisinghpura (J&K) in 2000 was actually the handiwork of the Indian Army, with the intention of maligning the militants. Recall that the year 2000 was before 9/11 and Pakistan’s role in fomenting terrorism was far from being the open and shut it is today. Those were days when we were desperately trying to make our case against Pakistan to an international audience that was still sceptical and it was a hugely damaging piece.

Looking back, we now know there was no shred of truth in his claims, but, at a delicate moment in our history, he damaged our credibility. Since then, his political writings have continued in the same vein, generally shedding copious tears at the plight, variously, of the poor, the minorities, the caste oppressed etc. with the recurring theme that the Indian state always represents elitist or corporatist or upper caste interests.

Not surprisingly, the greatest harm caused by the self-hating class is to the country’s minority population who end up with the facile notion that this lot actually speaks for their interests. And that is another fallacy. True friends stand for me when they also have the courage to tell me the truth when I go wrong. If someone flatters me insistently, tells me I do no wrong, can do no wrong, that all my problems have roots in conspiracies hatched by “them” who are my enemies, surely, he’s up to no good!

At the same time, there’s no denying that in a democracy the deluded left-liberal has as much right to his delusions as anyone else. But the truth is also that when left-liberal delusions run rampant and take over the national psyche, the entire country suffers, as India suffers now. So, what can be done about it? For an answer, we only have to go to America and look at how that great country has so effectively addressed the issue. For instance, Noam Chomsky is considered one of the foremost intellectuals in the world today. The left leaning British newspaper Guardian had once compiled a list of the leading intellectuals of the world and Chomsky was at the top. But go to America and the overwhelming majority of Americans have not heard of him. What is happening? Well, the truth is, as far as the mainstream American media is concerned—and it reflects mainstream opinion in America as well—Noam Chomsky does not exist. Between 1995 and 1997, I spent two years in America with a subscription to the New York Times and the New Yorker and I never heard his name. In contrast, a Chomsky in India would have monopolised our television airtimes and every evening, countless Indian middle-class homes would listen in rapt attention to his self-flagellating drivel.

I mentioned in passing that left-liberals tend to be rather good writers. It’s certainly true for India where most of them have come to their ideology after a start in literature and the fine arts where you are obsessed by aesthetics, and where the quest is for beauty and justice. In contrast, economic right-wingers have little interest in outward appearances. They don’t care for beauty because their priority is to try and figure out things that work (as opposed to things that don’t work) and what is the efficient way (versus the inefficient).

The left-liberal quest for beauty, symmetry and justice has absurd implications when carried into economics. Here’s an example. Imagine you’ve been made to hold up one your hands for a long time. It hurts a lot now. The simple remedy is to just bring the hand down. But the left-liberal will not stop here. He will say that the left hand has suffered for so long that in the interests of justice and equity, the right hand too must be held up for an equal length of time. In the meantime, it never strikes him that it is your own body that suffers. With all the passion he brings to the cause of justice, he’s only too happy to inflict more pain on you.

As I’m fond of repeating over and over, delusional thinking and left-liberalism go hand in hand.

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