Arundhati Roy - highlights from ‘Azadi’


I have often caught myself wondering -- if I were to be incarcerated or driven underground, would it liberate my writing? Would what I write become simpler, more lyrical perhaps, and less negotiated? It's possible. But right now, as we struggle to keep the windows open, I believe our liberation lies in the negotiation. Hope lies in texts that can accommodate and keep alive our intricacy, our complexity, and our density against the onslaught of the terrifying, sweeping simplifications of fascism. As they barrel toward us, speeding down their straight, smooth highway, we greet them with our beehive, our maze. We keep our complicated world, with all its seams exposed, alive in our writing. After twenty years of writing fiction and nonfiction that tracks the rise of Hindu nationalism, after years of reading about the rise and fall of European fascism, I have begun to wonder why fascism -- although it is by no means the same everywhere -- is so recognizable across histories and cultures. It's not just the fascists that are recognizable -- the strong man, the ideological army, the squalid dreams of Aryan superiority, the dehumanization and ghettoization of the "internal enemy," the massive and utterly ruthless propaganda machine, the false-flag attacks and assassinations, the fawning businessmen and film stars, the attacks on universities, the fear of intellectuals, the specter of detention camps, and the hate-fueled zombie population that chants the Eastern equivalent of "Heil! Heil! Heil!" It's also the rest of us -- the exhausted, quarreling opposition, the vain, nit-picking Left, the equivocating liberals who spent years building the road that has led to the situation we find ourselves in, and are now behaving like shocked, righteous rabbits who never imagined that rabbits were an important ingredient of the rabbit stew that was always on the menu. And, of course, the wolves who ignored the decent folks' counsel of moderation and sloped off into the wilderness to howl unceasingly, futilely -- and, if they were female, then "shrilly" and "hysterically" -- at the terrifying, misshapen moon. All of us are recognizable.

So, at the end of it all, is fascism a kind of feeling -- in the way anger, fear, and love are feelings -- that manifests itself in recognizable ways across cultures? Does a country fall into fascism the way a person falls in love? Or, more accurately, in hate? Has India fallen in hate? Because truly, the most palpable feeling in the air is the barbaric hatred the current regime and its supporters show toward section of the population. Equally palpable now is the love that has risen to oppose this. You can see it in people's eyes, hear it in protesters song and speech. It's a battle of those who know how to think against those who know how to hate. A battle of lovers against haters. It's an unequal battle, because the love is on the street and vulnerable. The hate is on the street, too, but it is armed to the teeth, and protected by all the machinery of the state.


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