Tuesday, December 18, 2007

“Consumerism and materialism deadlier than armed occupation”
Ramsey Clark,former U.S. Attorney General, on globalisation, the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, the Iraq war, and more.... (this is an interview that appeared in The Hindu on 17th Dec 07.)
Here's an excerpt:
The sweep of globalisation, strongly associated with accepting U.S.-style capitalism, has spawned fresh inequities across the world. How do you perceive the phenomena?
It’s a terrible threat to civilisation, to humanity: not only a political threat, an obviously economic one, but at the most fundamental human level a threat to distinct cultures — the same technology, the same entertainment, the same fast foods so to speak. Based on economic power, it is pushing itself into different parts of the world. Consumerism and materialism have a power of their own and perhaps the greatest victim is culture that in a way represents the accumulative imagination, the pains, suffering, and history of the people.
But there has been the emergence of alternative strategies for development in different parts of the world to counter the one under whose cover the U.S. is alleged to be establishing its hegemony.
I see an enormous increase in awareness to the problems thrown up by the globalisation process. As an optimist I think we can see a slowing down in the rate of globalisation and more importantly an awareness of its true meaning, what it is doing to individual societies. Globalisation is often perceived to be a mirror image of neo-colonialism. Would you agree?
The difference between the old imperialism and the new globalisation process is illustrated well in India. The country suffered the brutalities of foreign domination, the impoverishment that resulted from it. But until globalisation, if you look at the Indian movie industry for instance, its facial aspects remained Indian. Now, with the intensity of globalisation reaching into every little corner of life, even the comedians, the jokes, the rhythm of the music has started changing.
This really makes consumerism and materialism deadlier than armed occupation.
In the old colonialism you at least knew who your enemy was, you felt the knife on the back. You knew what had to be done if you wanted a better life. In the new consumerism you are captive and unaware. When the prisoner is unaware of his chains then it’s hopeless. If you look at globalisation you are completely captive in imagination and desires and this is where the greatest danger lies.
Yet you have countries in different parts of the world that are closing ranks against the U.S. designs of world dominance.
Domination in itself is hard work. You dominate to exploit. That is how you get your wealth. You hold others down and get your wealth. But you also distract them so that they cannot see the changes, see what you’re doing to them. If you look at the new independence in Latin America, it is startling. You have the old Cuban revolution whose survival is a miracle; the country has the highest reading scores, the [highest] maths score in the hemisphere in their grammar schools though under powerful sanctions for decades. Then you look at Venezuela, what is happening in Argentina. You look at Brazil and Chile where a woman who was imprisoned by Pinochet and whose father was murdered by him in 1974 is President. These countries have broken their chains and they are coming up.
I think India too sees the enemy in ways it never has never before. So does China. There is power in this region, given the sizes of these two countries — which the U.S. cannot manipulate and handle very easily. So what we have to do is to spread an understanding of the problem. The imbalances in military power can mean us going in for an awfully bloody time if we do not see it.
But above all we have to come up back to values that are better than simply consumerism — that which means ‘I want things, I want better food, a better house, a bigger car’; that which means ‘I want to buy my kid every toy in the world.’
Don't miss the full interview at:

Monday, December 17, 2007

When there was only one news channel...

The news of Tejeshwar Singh’s demise instantly took me back those growing-up years when TV news was synonymous with Doordarshan news. I remember him for something more than his rich baritone voice, and the bearded look that kept several of his female fans glued to TV during his news reading session. For me, he represented a time when news reading was an innocuous activity devoid of any present-day aggressive sensationalism, and it was to be passively watched and listened to as the newscaster read the bulletin with few actual video footages and fewer live reports. The voice of the newscaster, the diction, and the delivery style could command and hold the attention of any viewer, whatever may be the news content. Tejeshwar's voice had that rare magical quality.

That was the time when there was no breaking news, no citizen journalists and absolutely no advertisements. Competition among news channels and commercial dimensions was unheard of, since DD was the only channel for news and entertainment. That was also the time when watching news was more of an after-dinner activity when all of us would sit in front of our B&W Dyanora TV in our CIEFL campus house. That was when news reporting was still conservative, cautious, non-commercial and staid sort of a presentation in a bureaucratic style fully owned by the government channel. That age belonged to news readers like Komal G B Singh, Tejeshwar Singh, Ramu Damodaran, Neeti Ravindran, Rini Khanna and the likes - all TV stars in their own right and their voice was the voice of the medium, be it for DD documentaries, live show commentaries, international film or cultural festivals or even a funeral or a swearing-in ceremony of a natioan leader. Perhaps, that was also the time when fledglings like Rajdeep Sardesai and others were being mentored by Dr.Pronnoy Roy whose ‘World this Week’ was hugely popular.

Cut to 2007...looks like we've come a long way in news broadcast: today news is not read, it's presented and anchored, and it’s a commercial commodity that competes globally with other channels. It involves direct and live reporting, sting operations and exciting exposes. It calls for people to ‘participate’ through SMS and amateur videos. It has Rajdeep, Barkha, Anubha, Udayan and Pronnoy who sustain our curiousity for information and present tons of it, as and when it happens.