“…people do not take arms, in an organized fashion, against the might of the state, or against fellow human beings without rhyme or reason. Guided by an instinct for survival, and according to Thomas Hobbes, a fear of lawlessness that is encoded in our collective conscience, we seek an order. However, when that order comes with the price of dehumanization, of manifest injustices of all forms perpetrated against the weak, the poor and the deprived, people revolt Supreme Court of India
For the last few years Pakistan has experienced a lot of debate on the doctrines of liberal democracy, the role of judiciary and civil society. These tenants were repeated in the form of mantra again and again by the network of corporate controlled media monopolies and a section of western funded NGOs who have chosen the label of civil society for them. The major emphasis of their resistance model for Pakistan was strengthening of a section of Pakistani establishment represented by superior judiciary. Instead of focusing on the new “democracy in transition” these groups choose to support an institution which had a long history of collaboration with military junta in Pakistan. Over-emphasizing the cleft which emerged between Chief Justice of Pakistan and the ruling section of Pakistani establishment as “change of heart”, they put their full force behind the unelected institution which had a clear right wing agenda. As the “Black Revolution” took hold over Pakistan things started moving in the direction which was being predicted by a minority of analysts including our selves. The superior judiciary instead of attacking the legal barriers which prevent the subalterns of Islamic Republic from achieving the status of “equal in front of Law” re-affirmed those very legal standards which form the basis of legal and cultural apartheid in the Islamic Republic. This was made clear by their re affirmation of Objective Resolution, Two nation theory and infamous and murderous Blasphemy law. In a move highly unusual for British legal tradition the superior judiciary even restrained the parliament from reviewing the infamous Blasphemy law. The total lack of interest in the state sponsored reign of terror in Balochistan clearly defines the superior judiciary of Islamic Republic which was presented as Liberal Messiah by the liberal spokespersons of establishment. The court has never questioned the colonial and post-colonial policies of Islamic Republic in Balochistan, her continuation of Divide and Rule the province applying on the Pashtun section of the population especially the Frontier Constabulary which has been accused by Independent Human Rights groups and Left wing activists of implementing a silent genocide of the Baloch people. “Dr. Nandini Sundar In comparison the supreme court of India has recently passed a judgment which is land mark to say the least. In the judgment of “Dr. Nandini Sundar and others Vs State of Chhattisgarh and Union Government” The supreme court of India declared the state government sponsored “Salwa Jadum” as unconstitutional. The honorable court also prohibited the deployment of local tribal community as SPO (special police officers). The Indian state of Chattisgargh was deploying the British policy of divide and rule and arming the local tribal as militia against the Nexal and Maoist rebels to stop the Left Wing insurgency which is affecting many states of the Union. These Left wing insurgencies have been declared as “single most important threat to Union of India by the Union Government” and multiple operations have been launched. Despite this the honorable court has disregarded what which judiciary of Islamic Republic considers as “National Interest” which prevents them from interpreting the law in “pro-people” way. The Supreme Court of India remained within the scope of Law unlike our Judiciary which has been criticized by president of Supreme Court Bar Association for exceeding its mandate in giving decisions which only have political implication and no pro-people value. The Indian Supreme court in one of its best decision compared the situation in Dantewara, portrayed in Joseph Conrad’s classic “Heart of Darkness”. It then squarely contextualizes both the neo-colonial nature of the Indian state and the fundamental tenets of classical liberal democracy, all the while sticking to the law in its entirety. There is a lesson for Pakistan especially the activists, to understand the difference between the “real” and the “fake”, one cant carve out an Independent pro people judiciary from core of a totalitarian state , it can only come from a process. The difference is the stated objectives of two states, one committed to liberal secular and socialist state and other to an Islamic utopia. “What is important but obviously outside the scope of a judicial review is the cause of violence, the paramount question in the discussion on violence is “exclusion”. Its exclusion which leaves no other option for a human other than violence. When one is reduced ans dehumanised to extant of non human and non entity he transforms to what he is being “described as” the monster, the lesser being the evil incarnate. This is true for the Nexilite, the failure of communist party of India to address the question of revolution and its persistent failure to distance itself from the discourse of Indian Bourgeois and the failure of development of a genuine revolutionary socialist party in India pushed new untouchables of Indian Union to depths of heinous violence. But the Irony is that even the most deplorable violence committed by these groups testifies the genuine need for change. The desperate cry of the people for solution to emerge from the very heart of darkness!!. The very fact that a superior court which in final analysis is nothing but an instrument of state build to maintain the rule of the privileged classes hints at the cause of violence must be seen as signal to ruling classes of India that India is not as shining as portrayed in global posters! But for some one who is used to judiciary of the Islamic Republic its very refreshing. The case of Baloch resistance is similar, the despicable violence being committed against the immigrant working class in Baloch areas, the murder of Punjabi, Siraiki and Kashmiri labourers and chokidars is clearly the result of dehumanisation which Baloch has suffered. The failure of Bloch nationalist leadership, their ambiguous stand on right of self determination, their alliances with Punjabi chauvinists and Islamic Republic’s ruling elite had left no option for these young men and women to loose human Essences! I say human essence because Emanuel Levinas in his post-Holocaust studies has recognised the “first philosophy”, the duty to protect the other, and the first thing human perceives before even cognition is to recognise the need to protect other! , Baloch are killing because it’s what we want them to do. Its what we demand from them, They are the Jew, RAW agent, Infidel , the Jahil out of religion of peace out of the reign of submission , the rebel of Islamic Republic , Rebel to cause of Islam. The sons and daughters of Ignorance. Their daughters are not worth anything, Shazia Marri can’t be Aafia Siddiqi. If brother of Marri take up arms its heinous, it’s despicable yet its understandable! When a court of law recognises the plight of those who are abandoned to violence its heartening, its a living experience like creation of Adam from clay!” If only we can open our eyes and start the process unless it will be a never ending series of black revolutions which but the results will be counter revolutionary. Below is the report by Asia Human Rights Commission on the said judgment An Article by the Asian Human Rights Commission. INDIA: Supreme Court – ‘Salwa Judum’ is unconstitutional by Rolly Shivhare “People do not take arms without reason” — Supreme Court Salwa Judum The recent judgment of the Supreme Court of India in Dr. Nandini Sundar and others Vs State of Chhattisgarh and Union Government indicates that the country’s judicial system is alive, and a citizen can hope for justice from it. In the decision rendered on 5 July 2011, the Supreme Court declared the Chhattisgarh government sponsored Salwa Judum to be unconstitutional. The Court prohibited deploying members of tribal communities as Special Police Officers (SPOs) in any counter-insurgency operation by the state against the Naxals or Maoists, or against any extremist leftist groups operating in the state and/or region. The Court’s decision to prohibit civil militias is a landmark step in protecting marginalised communities from ongoing human rights violations. In essence, the judgment underlines that certain duties of the state cannot be subcontracted out, and further, that the state has the unalienable duty to protect its citizens. The Constitution of India mandates law and order to be the state’s responsibility. When the protector becomes the violator however, it is a threat to democracy. This is exactly what is happening in Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh is one of India’s three states–the other two being Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir–where the government formed private militias to combat anti-state movements. When this was challenged publicly as well as in the court, the government argued that it is its constitutional privilege to adopt modes it sees fit to deal with Naxalite and Maoist activities within the state. In essence, the government was arguing that it has a right to perpetuate, indefinitely, a regime of human rights violations, by adopting the same modes deployed by Maoist and Naxalite extremists in combating them. It is this argument that the Court has thrown out, holding it as unconstitutional. The government of Chhattisgarh had deployed 6500 tribal illiterate people as SPOs in the state. The government provided arms to these men and women and let them fight the leftist extremists, an act which within days turned neighbour against neighbour. The state took refuge in the century-old Indian Police Act, 1861, which provides for the appointment of SPOs to perform duties as guides, spotters and translators. SPOs can work as a source of intelligence, and sometimes are also allowed to carry firearms supplied to them for their self-defense. However, in Chhattisgarh, the government appointed SPOs to fight Maoists and Naxalites. It must be noted that the government even recruited minors as SPOs. In actual fact, the government created a division in the community. By identifying persons as either with the extremists or with the government, neutral space in the community was reduced. SPOs, like the Naxalites and Maoists, used their new power for everything, from settling private disputes to silencing political opposition. According to media reports, the number of cases of rape, murder, and other atrocities increased. The Supreme Court judgment noted that the Chhattisgarh government was appointing SPOs without following any legal process, and without evaluating the capacities of appointed tribal youth in undertaking counter insurgency activities. In 2010 the number of SPOs was 3000, but this year it increased to 6500. Unfortunately, these are the persons who become the first target of the Naxalites/Maoists. The Court also held that appointing a civilian as an SPO was a threat to his life, and in violation of article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life, with dignity. It must be mentioned here that this is one of the best judgments of the Supreme Court. It begins with a comparison of the situation in Dantewara, portrayed in Joseph Conrad’s classic “Heart of Darkness”. It then squarely contextualises both the neo-colonial nature of the Indian state and the fundamental tenets of classical liberal democracy, all the while sticking to the law in its entirety. As far as Chhattisgarh is concerned, it is rich in natural resources, with 32 percent of its population made up of tribal people, who believe the trees and rivers to be their Gods. These tribal people are forcibly evicted from their ancestral land however, so that their land can be given to private companies and state interests for their gain. When such communities resist eviction, they are tortured to the extent where the only choice left for them is to take up arms. This was humanly acknowledged by the Court when it stated that …people do not take arms, in an organized fashion, against the might of the state, or against fellow human beings without rhyme or reason. Guided by an instinct for survival, and according to Thomas Hobbes, a fear of lawlessness that is encoded in our collective conscience, we seek an order. However, when that order comes with the price of dehumanization, of manifest injustices of all forms perpetrated against the weak, the poor and the deprived, people revolt. A milestone in Indian democracy, this heartening judgment sees the Supreme Court render a brilliant exposition of the rule of law in the context of the violence unleashed by the Maoists, which has completely distorted the mindset of the state administration. Moreover, the judgment does not end with Chhattisgarh; it has wider implications where similar myopic and irresponsible tactics are employed, like in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir. About the Author: Ms. Rolly Shivhare is a staff member of Vikas Samwad, a partner organisation of the AHRC, working in Madhya Pradesh. The author is currently interning at the AHRC’s office in Hong Kong and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Courtesy: Asian Human Rights Commission About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong based group was founded in 1984
July 24, 2011
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April 23, 2009
After an interesting discussion with fellow blogger and friend Rabia Shakoor of Grand Trunk Road , i thought that this theoretical piece will be helpful in understanding the concept of Banality of Evil which i have been continuously utilizing in my work on Fascism, Racism, esp lynching and Bengali and Balochi genocides. Rabia raises an important issue of “deniability”. I have utilized the concept of “silence” in this regards. The theoretician talks about “normalization”. This essentially is illusionary. All these in one way or another lead to deniability. The point of further research will be how conscious is this denial?. Is it delusional? Opinions exist on the subject. Levinas for example doesn’t consider it unconscious. In a symposium on forgiveness in Paris he said “Its difficult to forgive some Germans , its difficult to forgive Heidegger”. Hannah Arendt on the other hand herself the victim of Holocaust has defended Heidegger. She had a relationship with him as well. Was Heidegger conscious of what he was doing? Was it routine? or Was he indifferent to all of it , or was he in denial. These are still unsolved issues. Wasnt the complicity of Heidegger in purging German academy it self an example of Banality of evil? or was the great philosopher genuinely unable to understand what was going around him??
From the book Triumph of the Market
by Edward S. Herman
The concept of the banality of evil came into prominence following the publication of Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which was based on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt’s thesis was that people who carry out unspeakable crimes, like Eichmann, a top administrator in the machinery of the Nazi death camps, may not be crazy fanatics at all, but rather ordinary individuals who simply accept the premises of their state and participate in any ongoing enterprise with the energy of good bureaucrats.
Normalizing the Unthinkable
Doing terrible things in an organized and systematic way rests on “normalization.” This is the process whereby ugly, degrading, murderous, and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as “the way things are done.” There is usually a division of labor in doing and rationalizing the unthinkable, with the direct brutalizing and killing done by one set of individuals; others keeping the machinery of death (sanitation, food supply) in order; still others producing the implements of killing, or working on improving technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive napalm, bomb fragments that penetrate flesh in hard-to-trace patterns). It is the function of defense intellectuals and other experts, and the mainstream media, to normalize the unthinkable for the general public. The late Herman Kahn spent a lifetime making nuclear war palatable (On Thermonuclear War, Thinking About the Unthinkable), and this strangelovian phoney got very good press. ~
In an excellent article entitled “Normalizing the unthinkable,” in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists of March 1984, Lisa Peattie described how in the Nazi death camps work was “normalized” for the long-term prisoners as well as regular personnel: “[P]rison plumbers laid the water pipe in the crematorium and prison electricians wired the fences. The camp managers maintained standards and orderly process. The cobblestones which paved the crematorium yard at Auschwitz had to be perfectly scrubbed.” Peattie focused on the parallel between routinization in the death camps and the preparations for nuclear war, where the “unthinkable” is organized and prepared for in a division of labor participated in by people at many levels. Distance from execution helps render responsibility hazy. “Adolph Eichmann was a thoroughly responsible person, according to his understanding of responsibility. For him, it was clear that the heads of state set policy. His role was to implement, and fortunately, he felt, it was never part of his job actually to have to kill anyone.”
Peattie noted that the head of MlT’s main military research lab in the 1960s argued that “their concern was development, not use, of technology.” Just as in the death camps, in weapons labs and production facilities, resources are allocated on the basis of effective participation in the larger system, workers derive support from interactions with others in the mutual effort, and complicity is obscured by the routineness of the work, interdependence, and distance from the results.
Peattie also pointed out how, given the unparalleled disaster that would follow nuclear war, “resort is made to rendering the system playfully, via models and games.” There is also a vocabulary developed to help render the unthinkable palatable: “incidents,” “vulnerability indexes,” “weapons impacts,” and “resource availability.” She doesn’t mention it, but our old friend “collateral damage,” used in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, came out of the nukespeak tradition.
Slavery and Racism as Routine
When I was a boy, and an ardent baseball fan, I never questioned, or even noticed, that there were no Black baseball players in the big leagues. That was the way it was; racism was so routine that it took years of incidents, movement actions, reading, and real-world traumas to overturn my own deeply imbedded bias. Historically, this was a country in which human slavery was firmly institutionalized and routinized, with abolitionists in the pre-civil war years looked upon as violent extremists by the dominant elites and masses alike in the North.
The rationalizations for slavery were remarkable. A set of intellectuals arose in the South before 1860 that not only defended slavery, but argued its moral superiority on the grounds of its service to the slaves, to the disadvantage of the enslaving Whites! Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, … is a superb account of how U.S. science at the highest levels constructed and maintained a “scientific” case for racism over many decades by mainly innocent and not consciously contrived scientific charlataury. The ability to put aside cultural blinders is rare. And it appears that what money and power demand, science and technology will provide, however outrageous the end.
Mainstream history has also successfully put Black slavery and oppression in a tolerable light. A powerful article by the late Nathan I. Huggins, “The Deforming Mirror of Truth: Slavery and the Master Narrative of American History, ” in the Winter 1991 issue of the Radical History Review, shows well how the “master narrative” in historiography has normalized Black slavery and post-1865 racism. Slavery was a “tragic error” (like the Vietnam War), rather than a rational and institutional choice; it has been marginalized as an aside or tangent, rather than recognized as a central and integral feature of U.S. history; and it has been portrayed as an error in process of rectification in a progressive evolution, rather than a terrible permanent scar that helps explain the Southern Strategy, the current attack on affirmative action, and the enlarging Black ghetto disaster of today.
Profits end Jobs in Death
Normalization of the unthinkable comes easily when money, status, power, and jobs are at stake. Companies and workers can always be found to manufacture poison gases, napalm, or instruments of torture, and intellectuals will be dredged up to justify their production and use. The rationalizations are hoary with age: government knows best, ours is a strictly defensive effort, or, if it wasn’t me somebody else would do it. There is also the retreat to ignorance, real, cultivated, or feigned. Consumer ignorance of process is important. Dr. Samuel Johnson avowed that we would kill a cow rather than forego eating meat, but visits to slaughterhouses have made quite a few people into vegetarians. A cover story of Newsweek some years ago, illustrating U.S. consumption of meat by showing livestock walking into a human mouth, elicited many protests-people don’t like to be reminded that steaks are obtained from slaughtered animals; they like to imagine that they are manufactured in factories, possibly out of biomass.
The bureaucratization of the use of animals for human ends is a large and controversial subject, but the potential for abuse is continuously realized as stock raisers, slaughterhouses, trappers, the Pentagon, the Animal Damage Control Agency, chemical, medical and cosmetic researchers, and academic entrepreneurs search for ways to improve the bottom line or fill in niches of “knowledge” that somebody will pay for. At the University of Pennsylvania a few years ago there was a Head Injury Lab, funded by the government, in which baboons were subjected to head injuries in the alleged interest of helping us (i.e., creatures with souls, the culmination of the evolutionary process, and the realization of the purpose of the cosmos). The lab was invaded by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who among other things took away some records and films. The documentary which PETA made out of these materials, which showed these intelligent creatures having their heads smashed and rendered into zombies, also gave clear evidence that official rules of treatment of lab animals were violated, and, most important, that the participants’ attitudes toward the animals were insensitive and ugly. It was not hard to think of death camps watching the documentary of this lab in action. Yet the scientific community at Penn not only defends the use of animals against outside critics with passion and apparent unanimity, but has never to my knowledge admitted in public that the Head Injury Lab got out of hand.
In building weapons, contractors and the Pentagon have become quite sophisticated in spreading business over many states, to reach a critical mass of jobs, profits and legislators/media by congressional district to maximize the lobbying base for funding. Jobs are jobs, whether building schools or Peacekeeper Missiles or cutting down thousand-year-old redwood trees. I was slightly nauseated during the Vietnam War era by Boeing ads soliciting workers for its helicopter plant, touting itself as an “equal opportunity employer (EOE).” Maybe the Dachau camp management was also an EOE, for jobs that needed to be done and for which there was an effective demand.
Normalizing Shooting Human Fish in the Persian Gulf Barrel
In the Persian Gulf War of 1991 Uncle Sam was an EOE, and our boys and girls over there were doing their assigned jobs, repelling naked aggression in another Operation Just Cause. The war was forced upon us by Saddam Hussein’s rejection of the UN’s and “allies” insistence that he disgorge Kuwait, much as Bush “plainly” did not want war (Anthony Lewis).
Having made it Operation Just Cause No. 17, and a game with winners and losers, we could reasonably root for us-the moral force-to win. We were also defending Kuwait, and if once again the party being “saved” was “destroyed,” well, this was not our fault. Besides, there is the “principle,” of non-aggression, to which we are utterly devoted.
The media could thus focus on our brave boys, girls, generals, and officials to tell us all about their plans, moves, reactions, and miscellaneous thoughts. We could watch them in action as they took off, landed, ate, joked, and expressed their feelings on the enemy, weather, and folks back home in the Big PX. They were part of an extended family, doing a dirty job, but with clean bombs and with the moral certainty of a just cause.
The point was not often made that the enemy was relatively defenseless, and in somewhat the same position as the “natives” colonized, exterminated, and enslaved by the West in past centuries by virtue of muskets and machine guns … Our technical superiority reflected our moral superiority. If it all seemed like shooting human fish in a barrel, one must keep in mind that we were dealing with lesser creatures (grasshoppers, two-legged animals, cockroaches), people who don’t value life as much as we do, who allowed “another Hitler” to rule over them, and who stood in our way.
One of the effects of high-tech warfare, as well as the exclusive focus on “our” casualties, plus censorship (official and self), is that the public is spared the sight of burning flesh. That enemy casualties were given great prominence during the Vietnam War is one of the great, and now institutionalized, myths of that era. Morley Safer’s showing a GI applying a cigarette lighter to a Vietnamese thatched hut is used and referred to repeatedly as illustrating media boldness at that time because other cases would be hard to find. It caused CBS and Safer a lot of trouble (and he has been trying to make up for this sin ever since). Enormous government pressure and flak from other sources caused the media to provide grisly photos of enemy victims only with the greatest caution, and very infrequently, especially in light of the grisly reality. Capital intensive warfare in itself makes for distancing the public from the slaughter of mere gooks and Arabs. This is helpful in normalizing the unspeakable and unthinkable.
On February 5, 1991, the Philadelphia Inquirer carried an Associated Press dispatch by Alexander Higgins, “Marriage finds new expression in gulf: Honey, pass the bombs.” It is a little romance of a newly married couple, located at an air base in Saudi Arabia-and therefore regrettably obliged to sleep in separate tents-whose function is to load bombs on A-10 attack jets. It is a personal interest story, of two people and their relationship, with a job to do, in an unromantic setting. A fine study in the routinization of violence, of the banality of evil and the ways it is impressed on the public.
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