COLUMN/ THE HOT POTATO
January 8, 2021, New Delhi: Since the January 6 storming of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, there has been a tsunami of reactions worldwide, calling the event shocking, surprising, stunning, unbelievable, unimaginable, surreal, and words like that – descriptions that basically convey an element of unexpectedness.
For those who are truly aware of US politics and the American society’s culture and temperament, it was not a shocking or unusual turn of events.
It was expected.
Because this is what America actually represents.
Hooliganism. Chaos. Anarchy. Vandalism. Misrule. Dereliction. That is the real America, as we just saw. And all that is wrapped up in a giant balloon of hype called the greatest democracy on the planet.
Sloshed, incensed, uncouth, mindless hoodlums – representing America as much as the country’s decent citizens also represent the country – collectively burst that balloon of hype on the night of January 6 right at the seat of government.
Instead of sitting back in ‘shock and awe’ (a term popularised by the US military), and feeling sorry for what happened at the nerve centre of – unfortunately – the most powerful empire of our times, let’s take this opportunity to unlearn the gigantic hype surrounding the USA.
It’s time to deconstruct. To shed this over-respect for the US that is long overdue. We need to persuade ourselves that for all its tall claims, America has no right to call itself the ‘First World’.
If it indeed were the wisest part of the world, those ridiculously insane scenes wouldn’t have unfolded in Washington, DC. For all the problems that the so-called second and third-world countries have – such as India – uninformed idiots don’t rampage inside national parliaments just because their party lost the elections.
Come to think of it – on what authority does the country’s political elite claim they are the world’s model democracy?
To just think of the word ‘democracy’! Yes, that’s something the US specialises in. But it does not specialise in exhibiting democracy. It specialises in going from country to country to shamelessly dismantle democracy.
Think of the countless number of nations where the US diplomatic, business and war machinery has used brute force or deceptive skills to topple democratically-elected governments. Repeatedly. And often openly.
Think of the audacious invasions and interventions the US has unilaterally carried out in the name of war on terror, justice, freedom, liberty, democracy, decency and what not.
Vietnam. Cambodia. Afghanistan. Across West Asia. Almost the whole of South America.
Think of it as a case of a state carrying out terrorism abroad. And you’ll realise it’s hardly a surprise that scenes of drunken mobs in funny comic book gear ransacking the parliament were on show in that country’s capital.
Think of the 600-plus military bases the US has all over the world – most of them unwelcome. Think of the arrogance of that country, and you know that the Capitol chaos was hardly a surprise.
Also, think of the cultural invasion that the world has to tolerate.
The junk called burger, the hype called Hollywood, the eyesore called showbiz wrestling, the obscenely overpriced pharma products, the tons and tons of non-essential Made-In-USA branded commodities – among many, many, many other ‘rots’ that the US exports.
Think about all that forced, worthless dumping around the globe, and you’ll realise that the Washington hooliganism was hardly a shock.
To go back even further, think of the perverse history of the country’s modern form. How European opportunists bulldozed the natives and later gift-wrapped the invaded land into a sought-after model nation. The January 6 carnage was hardly a surprise if you look back at that appalling back story.
While it’s time we shed this baggage of calling America a beacon of democracy, the country needs to learn a few important lessons from us – from countries that it calls regressive, poor, uncultured, undeveloped, underdeveloped, ‘filthy’ (remember Donald Trump’s remark about India last year?)
The United States needs to learn from these other societies that it looks down upon how to uphold democracy. For all our faults, in democracies such as India, at least we don’t see the parliament being taken over by crazy mobs over election results.
Democracy is not a lesson that we should learn from America. It’s a virtue that America’s political elite as well as its violent voter base need to learn from us.
Take the farmers’ movement in India, for example. The Washington hooligans can take a leaf out of the book of India’s farmers and learn how to protest within the bounds of decency and democracy.
New Delhi is right now surrounded by hundreds of thousands of angry, protesting farmers who are engaged in a tense standoff with the government over a set of laws they want scrapped. And it’s been a good while since the standoff began.
Yet, it’s highly unlikely, rather impossible, that the protesters will do in Delhi what the American vandals did in Washington, DC.
When protests happen outside America, they don’t make a mockery of democracy.
Disturbingly, a crack that the chaos in Washington has widened is that of governments around the world now perhaps rethinking how they should tackle dissidence at home.
If hell can break loose in the US Congress – the parliament of the biggest empire of our times – so can it happen here, many iron-fisted, autocracy-inspired governments might now start thinking. Include India, China, Russia, Turkey in that worried bunch, among others.
Capitol chaos has given us a golden opportunity to break down our hyped fascination for the USA as the top-most rung of the social ladder.
Capitol chaos has also given America a scope to learn some lessons in democracy, decency and freedom of expression from us.
For those of us outside the US, let’s rework our idea of America before we slip back into the artificially engineered state of buying the fake American Dream, again and again.
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