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War Talk by Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy, a young Indian Woman living in New Delhi, exposes the deceit and risks of the recent issues on terrorism, at the same time revealing the ruthlessness and paranoia of power now prevalent in India and the United States (Roy, 2002). Ms. Roy, trained as an architect, is a Booker Prize winner for another piece of work, albeit fictional, entitled The God of Small Things. War Talk is non-fictional, and a collection of a half dozen essays or speeches addressing political and social issues about which Ms.

Roy is obviously passionate about. Ms. Roy rages about the connection between the abysmal violence on earth, the appalling poverty, and the surge in military and corporate globalization. She writes with the most intense emotion for those who are considered dispensable by capitalism, and muses on how we can retain our collective humanity in the face of our callous sometimes disdainful disregard for the other one’s inherent dignity.

One of the essays in War Talk begins with the story of four activists who, in 2001, went on a hunger strike in protest of the apparent lack of government concern for the fate of about a thousand indigenous Adivasi people uprooted from their land because of a new dam in India, to provide irrigation and hydro-electric power (Roy, 2002). Ms. Roy says that India’s legacy to the civilized world — in the form of non-violent protest — was in danger of vanishing from the world due to the escalating tendency of governments to ignore it, a natural consequence of which will be violent protest, or terrorism (Roy, 2002).

In another essay on her native land, she tackles the topic of religious hatred and bigotry in the Indian State of Gujarat, wherein an attack done by Muslim terrorists on a train left 58 Hindus scorched to death (Roy, 2002). This ensued in a massive reaction War Talk 3 from the Hindu population, which was largely ignored by the government (Roy, 2002). The government’s indifference, in effect encouraged the resulting murder and mutilation of thousands of Muslims, whose women were violated, and whose shrines were destroyed (Roy, 2002).

In this particular essay, Ms. Roy makes the best argument I have ever read for why government and its agencies should never be penetrated by religious dogma. There are other, equally provocative issues in this book. Through all of them, Ms. Roy becomes the voice for many who have become brutalized and impoverished by the myth which is American goodness. Wars, she points out, “are never fought for altruistic reasons (Roy, 2002). They’re usually fought for hegemony, for business (Roy, 2002). But, whether one agrees entirely with Ms.

Roy’s philosophies, half-heartedly or whole-heartedly, her ability to prove her point is superb and her skill in writing is exquisite yet powerful. While her book is entitled War Talk, it is quite ironic that it is actually an enactment of peace talk, an attempt to counteract the prevailing military zeal. In War Talk, Ms. Roy’s political writing weaves together complex issues, exposes the hazards and hypocrisy of power, and the contrast between the powerful and powerless. Simultaneously, Ms. Roy encourages those who are oppressed to the point of despair, to resist. The stakes are definitely turning out to be really high.

The struggle is between evolving fascism and the violent ventures of empire (Roy, 2002). And fascism, Ms. Roy suggests, usually appears unnoticed because it is all about the slow erosion of civil liberties (Roy, 2002). It does not merely appear at the exact moment clean elections are War Talk 4 cancelled, and dissidents are incarcerated (Roy, 2002). Indeed, in occurrences like these, the process has already fully evolved, and it is often too late (Roy, 2002). Despite the despairing gravity of the issues, Ms. Roy effectively utilizes humor and wit to reveal duplicity, and to amusement to the downtrodden Left.

America’s invasion of Afghanistan, Ms. Roy writes, came in the guise of war to bring down the Taliban regime, and free Afghan women from their burqas (Roy, 2002). If the Marines were truly “on a feminist mission,” she adds, one would expect them to stop over on their way home for a short excursion in Saudi Arabia (Roy, 2002). By exposing the glaring contradictions American foreign policy rhetoric, Ms. Roy helps her headers see through the never-ending efforts to scare us. In War Talk’s last essay, “Confronting Empire,” which is based on her speech to delegates at the World Social Forum, Ms.

Roy conveys a message to fellow advocates for peace: Expose the emperors wearing no clothes, reinvent civil disobedience (“come up with a million ways of becoming a collective pain in the ass”), and publicly, loudly, consistently refuse to be herded into the “for us or against us” model of citizenship (Roy, 2002). So when George Bush says, “You’re either with us, or you are with the terrorists,” we, as Ms. Roy maintains, can reply, “No thank you (Roy, 2002). ” “We can let him know that the people of the world do not need to choose between a Malevolent Mickey Mouse and the Mad Mullahs.

Our strategy,” she continues, “should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness — and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that War Talk 5 are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe (Roy, 2002). ” Peace speaks all throughout Ms. Roy’s War Talk; the question, will people listen? Generally, War Talk is written certainly with passion and moral clarity.

By empathizing with the struggles of the lower and middle classes against their increasing exploitation by the powerful, War Talk serves as an indictment of increasingly violent global capitalism. Ms. Roy implies that war is merely an extreme manifestation of an elitist capitalist system sustained by subsuming all available labor, land and resources to its own ends. Although Ms. Roy first made her name as a novelist, her skill in prose was put to very good use in this book. In recent times when the corporate media basically treats moral issues in an indifferent manner, Ms.

Roy’s convictions come across as almost revelatory. For instance, when discussing conflict between Pakistan and India over the issue of Kashmir, Ms. Roy says, “Why do we tolerate the men who use nuclear weapons to blackmail the entire human race? ” Why, indeed? A Critique In a nutshell, I believe that War Talk encourages us to turn grief and rage into courage. Unfortunately, Ms. Roy “dressed up” much of the book in an ambitiously gorgeous package that she sometimes fails to manage. She “inflates” story into epic, perception into an occasionally clumsy bit of magic realism.

There are also moments of weakness in Ms. Roy’s emphasis. She writes that free market is undermining democracy, yet she over-emphasizes the dark nature of state power. This is a bit weird since these ideas are coming from one who has devoted a War Talk 6 chapter to Noam Chomsky’s work, has written on corporate assaults in India. No one should be misled: Even after 9/11, the corporatization of politics is still the biggest threat there is to democracy. War Talk, unfortunately, happens to be a collection of material that has already been published.

Among the half dozen essays, no new works was created for this book — aside for some minor editing. Majority of the work is available on the Internet, and any reader who has read some of Ms. Roy’s material online could be disappointed to see most of it replicated in the book. For me,The best piece in the book is an essay written to introduce to Noam Chomsky’s book “For Reasons of State. ” Because the pieces are not written as a single work, the pieces tend to overlap each other. They also sometimes overlap with some of Ms. Roy’s essays in her previous book, “Power Politics.

” If you’ve read that particular book, War Talk will add little new insight. There are times when Ms. Roy sounds like an angry teenager lashing out at her parents. A bit immature. She conveys anger in pointing out the negative points of the new world order, but offering no solution. She criticizes everyone and everything powerful – from Indian prime minister to US president to the media. Like a preacher who lifts verses from the Bible that can be play expounded on, Ms. Roy quotes words from personas like George Bush or Vajpayee and utilizes them to project some negative perception.

Like the preacher, Ms. Roy gives her audience what they want to hear. This could be dangerous. Ms. Roy tends to be overly-Leftist. There are no original arguments in War Talk. Why read Democratic talking points when you can hear them on television every day? Nevertheless, War Talk is a good War Talk 7 read if one keeps his/her head on his/her shoulder, and reads it critically. War Talk 8

Reference

Roy, Arundhati. (June 2002). WarTalk. Frontline. Retrieved August 6, 2008, from < http://www. frontlineonnet. com/fl1912/19120040. htm>

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