What the novel coronavirus tells us about our society: biopolitics, capitalism, and the class divide

The recent escalation in the cases of countries affected by the Covid-19 outbreak has underscored several problems that are embedded within our global society – some that we had known about, like racism and xenophobia, and some that are perhaps more hidden, like our reliance on capitalist materialism to placate our psyche.

I am heading back home from university to start the first of what could be several weeks of self-isolation and social distancing. I am anxious about the precarity of it all, of when I will get to see my friends again, of the health of my older relatives and friends, and of the impact on the world economy and the job market for when I will be graduating. It is true that we can never predict the future, but it is truer now more so than ever.

Amidst this social and economic chaos – and even political, if you look at the xenophobic comments made by Donald Trump, the rise in racially instigated violence, and the UK government’s lack of response to the spread of Covid-19 among other cases – the themes of biopolitics and capitalism become more and more apparent.

Government imposed quarantine can become a necessity – as the case of Italy has shown – to manage the virus outbreak. The role of borders has suddenly become more important than just keeping out ‘illegal’ immigrant – as the case of India’s strict immigration policy has highlighted. Small businesses and corporations can suddenly be subsumed under an unprecedented economic crisis, something that I saw first-hand while walking around what used to once be busy cafes in Covent Garden.

It is this very unprecedented nature of the virus outbreak that has generated so much chaos in our society. Our governments are always ready for defensive – and sometimes even preemptive – measures when it comes to military conflicts. But emergency healthcare and a distribution system that ensures accessibility to all sections of the society are often overlooked despite previous cases of SARS, Ebola, and HIV.

I am in no way a Foucauldian, but Michel Foucault’s conception of biopolitics and how the government strives to control its population through a nexus of knowledge/power relations suddenly seems so relevant to describe this situation. On one hand you have the Prime Minister of UK warning citizens to get ready to ‘loose loved ones’ whilst taking little to no preemptive measures to control the spread on the virus. On the other hand, you have an overwhelming deluge of information on social media about the ‘global pandemic’ and the next biggest ‘calamity’. You have NHS (National Healthcare System) beds overflowing with potential Covid-19 cases and the government having to rent beds from private hospitals to make ends meet while simultaneously having small businesses close down and people in service sectors lose jobs with very little cushioning from the government.

Those in the bottom rung of our society’s ladder will be the worst affected by the crisis. Take India for example: It is one of the most populated countries in the world with a large section of its population living in poverty. Most of these poor people cannot afford to distance themselves socially. They also cannot afford anything besides poorly managed governmental hospitals which are sparse and already overcrowded. How is the government going to manage this population which cannot afford to take the measures recommended by their government?

Another case that I have been thinking about as well is that of asylum seekers in Europe. They have managed to escape the eyes of media that only seem fixated on the wellbeing of citizens. Perhaps a lack of vocalization of the situation of these asylum seekers in news stories tells us something about the knowledge/power nexus and how media can become a tool to direct hysteria only in a specific direction while silencing a whole section of the population.

How are these asylum seekers – living in unhygienic and overcrowded refugee camps in a foreign country whose language they cannot speak – going to access healthcare and take preemptive measures to protect themselves from this pandemic?

Herd immunity or any kind of social Darwinism or ‘survival of the fittest’ – as advocated by the UK government – is just another policy that privileges the already privileged class (the wealthy and the abled) over others. It reifies the social divide introduced through capitalism, making it stronger and proliferating it deeper into our healthcare system.

If the government had enough money to bail out banks during the global financial crisis in 2007, it can certainly take out enough money to ensure that every single person – regardless of their income, social standing, or citizenship –  are in a position to afford to take preemptive steps against the virus and have access to necessary healthcare.

This is a difficult time, but it doesn’t need to be just that. The Covid-19 outbreak has accentuated the flaws in the biopolitical functioning of our governments that we already knew existed. Perhaps the peculiar global nature of this situation can unite us against and despite these flaws to set a new precedent to better manage our communities and societies.

Women’s Day, 8th March 2020: On violence against Women

On this Women’s Day, I’d like to raise awareness on violence against women rampant in India. The Citizen Amendment Act, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindutva nationalism, and violence against students and journalism has recently surged in the Indian political scenario. While these issues have gained considerable media coverage, I want to highlight an issue that is often brushed past media and hardly ever sustained in day-to-day discourse: the growing rate of violence against women.

The National Crimes Records Bureau shows that rape cases have doubled in the past 17 years. 

  • 4,15,786 rape cases were reported across India between 2001 and 2017
  • 16,075 cases of rape were reported in 2001 across India.
  • In 2017, this number rose drastically to 32,559 which showcases an increase of nearly 103 per cent
  • According to these statistics,  67 women were raped every day across the country during these 17 years

There is also a tendency for sexual violence to discriminate against caste and class. The Indian society is highly stratified in its casteist roots. Upon reading news on sexual violence in India, women from lower income backgrounds and especially those belonging to castes considered to be ‘low’ are more likely to a victim of violent rape and murder.  Cases like these are also less likely to be reported or handled with diligence due to caste biases in the police administrative sector.

India also has the highest number of acid attacks in the world, with women from ‘lower’ castes being extremely more vulnerable to such attacks. Despite the acid attack epidemic, Indian government has not passed a bill to effectively monitor the sale of acid.

Another issue that creates grounds for violence against women in India is a non-existent sexual education system and a culture that represses the expression of sexuality. This makes rape a tool of violent sexual expression on the side of the criminal while creating an environment that silences the survivor.

There has been a general increment in violence in India in the past two years and Kashmiri women have faced the brunt of this violence. For a society that holds its women on a moral pedestal and worships and idolizes deities, there are still immense measures that need to be taken to make the country safe for women.

ESG and it’s growing impact on businesses

In the early 1970s, Milton Friedman hailed the capitalist, market economy as the primary driving factor for economic growth. Repudiating the Keynesian claim for a ‘big government’ and social spending, Friedman placed his faith on the market forces to raise demand and bring about equilibrium – and growth – in the economy, thus giving birth to the neoliberal regime. It is this strand of neoliberalism that prevails within the industrial framework of rising corporations, economic globalization, and increasing mobility of capital across borders. With multinational corporations as well as smaller firms operating within the domestic realm gaining power over socio-economic structures, an adherence to some form of criteria that regulates the social impact of industries has become increasingly important.

Thus, steps in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This list of 17 developmental goals to be achieved by 2030 set a precedent for all economic actors to start thinking about the social impact of their economic activities. The environmental, social, and governance criteria (ESG) has helped facilitate the connection between businesses, which have been traditionally alienated from socio-political processes, and the wider society for which they cater to. The ESG compliments the Sustainable Developmental Goals and gives firms a coherent criterion to measure and curb their externalities in tandem with profit-maximizing goals. The 2005 UN report ‘Who Cares Wins’[1] has shone light on how commitment to the ESG framework can benefit businesses in the long run. In this article I will be explicating a twofold analysis of the benefits of ESG for businesses by focusing on its environmental impact and impact on workers within a firm, especially along the supply chain.

Environmental conservation has gained traction, not only in social movements and international organizations, but also within businesses that seek to sustain their long-term profits by gauging their carbon footprint. Long gone are the days where short term profit overrode the need to make structural and policy changes within firms in order to minimize carbon footprint. One of the strongest impacts of being environmentally conscious in investment and broking decisions is the foundation of a resilient financial market and an added contribution to sustainable development which will benefit all the stakeholders involved. In fact, the ESG has become one of the most important criteria that investors look at whilst analyzing the strategy and output of a firm. During my time as an intern shadowing a corporate lawyer in Dubai, I was able to witness firsthand the importance attributed to ESG within the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC). Many clients of the law firm, including HSBC and real estate developer, DP World, had started embedding environmental regulations into their policies in order to make DIFC a sustainable financial hub in the region. The result was better credit ratings, highlighted by the Dubai Financial Markets ESG guide, as credit rating companies like Fitch Ratings, are increasingly looking at non-financial performances of companies in order to evaluate credit risks.[2]

Besides environmental consciousness, the social and governance criteria also has implications on the long-term sustenance and profitability of a business. A transparent governance system makes it easier for investors and stakeholders to analyze financial risk and to trace a firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion policies. Within the UK, diversity and inclusion policies and corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an important platform where corporations can demonstrate their social commitments to wider stakeholders. Moreover, globalization has allowed firms to outsource labour, and many of these firms, including Nike and Apple, have come into public scrutiny for mistreating supply chain workers, especially factory-workers in outsourced areas like Bangladesh and India. Adhering to social guidelines and producing a transparent report can allow investors to create a moral portfolio and invest in not only business, but also the betterment of the general public. Nielsen Holding substantiates how ethical social practices within firms can be optimal for economic profitability. Nielsen has effectively introduced ethical social branding in its supply chain which has resulted in greater stakeholder satisfaction as outlined by their recent Supply Chain Responsibility Report.[3] One of the key ways that the firm does this is through supplier engagement by creating close connections with their supplier so as to monitor their social performance.

Whether the neoliberal trend has exacerbated inequality and irreversible global warming is a discussion that is yet to culminate, the ESG initiative has definitely created a reconciliation for business interests with the interests of society. It is, perhaps, through ESG that corporations can play a leading role within the social infrastructure of globalized economics.

[1]https://www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/issues_doc/Financial_markets/who_cares_who_wins.pdf

[2] https://www.dfm.ae/docs/default-source/default-document-library/esg-reporting-guide_en.pdf?sfvrsn=60fa7681_0

[3] https://www.nielsen.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2019/09/2019-Supply-Chain-Responsibility-Report-FINAL-v2.pdf

 

Is socialism the answer to climate change?

IMG_8819.jpegOn the 15th of March I walked alongside a tide of youths across the Parliament Square in London for the Youth Protest for Climate Change. Growing up in Dubai, I was kept under a façade of feigned calmness. We didn’t have open protests there and nothing was a “crisis” until the government explicitly said it was. Almost everyone around me lived under a sturdy roof with the air-conditioning blocking out the Middle-Eastern heat just like monarchy blocked out the consciousness of public mobility. Attending that first climate change protest and blockading the Waterloo bridge allowed me to witness the enormous strength of public action. It molded my belief in what we can achieve if the government listens its people instead of the big corporations that hide behind numbers and superficial economic growth.

Whenever I talk about climate change as a policy issue, the age-old debate on capitalism versus socialism never ceases to cross my mind. I immigrated from India to Dubai at the age of five with my family and we would come back to Delhi every summer for holiday. This way, I never really escaped the stark differences in the political and social realities of both the countries. While one was a corporate haven, filled to the brim with convenient facilities, the other was still staggering in its development. Despite this, I found that policies implemented in India, especially regarding waste management and pollution control, were far more progressive than those in Dubai. When I go out shopping in Delhi, I always have to pay an extra paisa for a plastic bag and in some stalls jute and cloth bags are given out for free. In Dubai, on the other, a jute bag costs around five dirhams and plastic bags are seemingly omnipresent. What this made me realize is that capitalism affords you the privilege of ignorance: to be subsumed by consumerism and be dismissive of your own collective collapse. It made me realize that what we need is a systematic change in the governments that we have already established. We need a comprehensive shift from liberal capitalism to socialism if we want to see an actual solution to the climate crisis and not a mere prolongation of our survival.

The answer to this change cannot be found simply in the left-wing promise for a social democracy. Given the rise in contemporary left-wing populism, as can be seen across the globe from the US presidential election campaigns to Labor Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s, promise to cut back “carbon leakage” from the UK, the imminence of climate change has increasing come to the forefront of media. But the most important catalysts that gave rise to this new focus on climate action was public mobility and the government’s reaction from the same. The wind that picked these waves of protests up was Greta Thunberg, now a near household name, a Swedish teenager who protested in front her Parliament every week. She won the attention of the media which in turn won the gratuitous approval of the public. Soon, the left-wing politicians started finding it in their electoral best to give voice to the policies that the public had been protesting for. What I have found in my few years of reading about political activism is that the policy direction a party chooses to take within the bipartisan nature of modern politics is largely reactionary to what can most comfortably win them more votes in the next elections. Although the leftist leaders might support environment protection measures more vocally, the framework that they work with is not any different than the right-wing leaders.

It is the very essence of working within a capitalist framework, be it one headed by the Labor or the Tory party, that drives the problem of climate change further beyond repair. Capitalism might have given us industrialization and a stunning economic hightide, but it also gave as a perpetual growth philosophy that leaves us restless unless we are accomplishing something materialistic. But a victory over the climate calamity is not going to look attractive under what capitalism has accustomed us to view as success. Just like in Aldous Huxley’s famous dystopia, Brave New World, our soma is retail therapy culture and “impulsive” buys. As long as we keep demanding more products, industries in the Global South will keep producing cheaper trinkets for us to momentarily dwell with while we permanently damage our planet. The riptide of climate atrophy that we are in currently cannot be eliminated by mere populist leaders who claim to solve the crisis by making the country’s carbon emissions more transparent or by signing the Paris Agreement. This sort of flimsy change that the left speaks so loudly of, without giving any reproach to what is intrinsically wrong with our socio-economic systems, is not one which can suffice an issue as dangerously important as climate change.

To find a solution to this crisis we need to look back to what started this tide of awareness in the first place. It was public mobilization fueled by the knowledge that our present system does not have the right mechanisms to solve the problem we are facing. It was common people on the streets and not elites in their offices making six-digit salaries off of neoliberal economic exploitation. This mobilization of the masses, however minuscule it might seem given the enormity of population, has given us the platform to create real change – a system change. The shortest, and perhaps most crisp answer to what fundamental economic and political change is need is: socialism. We need an effective government, one which is not overshadowed by corporate interests, to have the means to phase out the incessant usage of earth’s natural resources and, more importantly, to shift the culture of consumerism to one in which we learn to live within the earth’s biocapacity. We need an institution that cares about its people and their long-term future over short-term profit maximization and destructive electoral politics.

Re-thinking Migration: Greece

Greece is one of the most topical and relevant places to discuss when thinking about migration, especially within the European context. In the past decade, there has been an influx of migrants coming in from Middle Eastern and African countries to Greece with the hopes of finding a stable and secure home somewhere in Northern Europe. For many of these people, Greece is just a transitory point. Owing to its geographical location, close to Turkey and Asia, asylum seekers come into the islands of Greece hoping to be sent to the mainland from where they can build a new home in one of the Nordic countries.

However, lately the issue of migration has been securitised in political rhetoric, with conservative governments all across Europe, and especially in Greece, making it harder for asylum seekers to get a refugee status. Just like most socio-political phenomenon, this issue around migration impacts women and unaccompanied minors disproportionately. It was this topic, “Women and unaccompanied minors,” that was the subject matter of the workshop that this article explores.

In the one-week long workshop held by Inter Alia, a non-governmental organisation in Greece, with the help of Kairos Europe, we discussed more in depth the various factors affecting the migration situation in Greece. Our group consisted of ten participants coming from diverse backgrounds and having a similar interest in migration patterns across Europe.

On the first day we had a brief introductory meeting with one of the co-founders of Inter Alia, the host organisation in Greece. It set up a solid prefatory basis for us to start our workshop and gave us a framework of what to expect in the week to come. During this time, we were also able to network with the rest of our team members.

Day 2: Understanding the Migration Issues of Southern EU Countries

On the second day we were provided with a premise on the migration discourse through the two talks that we had with Elina and Ruby, both of whom were working in non-profit organisations facilitating the rehabilitation and integration process for asylum seekers. We learnt about the AMKA and white card applications along with the different refugee camps that are operating both in the mainland and in the islands of Greece. This workshop gave us a good prefatory basis to start more research work into the issues surrounding migration. It gave special focus to the conditions of women and unaccompanied minors in refugee camps and their specific needs.

Day 3: Greek example – solutions by institutions and practitioners; visit to refugee centre

On our third day we learnt about various organisations operative within Athens that deal with rehabilitating refugees. On visiting one of the Municipality Clinics we found out that due to the transitioning government in Greece, pro bono doctors weren’t available to check up on refugees even when they had gotten their AMKA card. This made me realise the precarious position refugees are often put under during times of elections. If pro bono gynaecologists aren’t available for consultation, pregnant refugee women often have to rely on their migrant diaspora for support, but the lack of professional advice does put them at a position of risk.

We also visited the ACCMR office where we talked to a brilliant academic on the importance of rehabilitating refugees and integrating them within the Greek system. Through this we were able to learn about the unemployment crisis of migrants in Athens.

After this, we visited a Danish organisation called FAROS that deals with housing unaccompanied minors. It was very interesting to learn about their specific housing needs along with how educational facilities are set up in order to best integrate them within society.

Day 4: Recognising hate speech, and educational opportunities for migrants and refugees.

On our fourth day, we visited the Afghan Community Centre, one of the most active migrant community centres in Athens. This visit allowed us to directly get in touch with a migrant community active in Greece and it allowed us to see the human aspect of all the migration policies we had been studying so far.

We then had a workshop on Media Literacy at the Inter Alia office. This was very interesting as it helped us analyse the contemporary phenomenon of populism and hate speech and how that can be incorporated into media to promote right-wing policies against migration.

Day 5: Sociological dimensions of integration; social exclusion; economic migrants and refugees; the “gateway” to Europe

On our fifth day in Athens, we tried to understand the space that migrants were occupying through photography. Xenia, a member of our team, led a photography workshop which helped us to take a step back and explore Exarchia in a way that we would otherwise not have. We looked at all the political graffiti on the walls, we saw the migrant families at Victoria Square, and we looked at remnants of political activism all over the city. It helped me understand the value of art and activism and how important that is for the discourse around migration, especially since it helps to escape language barriers.

We then watched a documentary produced by Inter Alia on the topic of refugees coming into Europe from African countries. It was informative as it allowed to us to see conversations taking place between different refugee communities in the same country and how these communities were being impacted by conservative migration policies.

Day 6: Support for refugees and migrants: skills, mental health, and homelessness; cultural diversity in Europe; promoting common European values.

On the penultimate day of the week-long workshop, we dealt with some sensitive topics like mental health issues and sexual and gender-based violence affecting women and unaccompanied migrants. During our visit to the NGO, Amurtel, we were able to learn about the pre and post-natal needs of pregnant women. We also learnt about how different migrant communities, like the Afghan community or the various African communities, handled mental health and pregnancy related issues. Overall, we got to understand the holistic needs of refugee women.

After this, we had a group activity at the Inter Alia hospital where we constructed a privilege star. Here, all the team members tried to understand the privileges they have and how that impact their trajectory through society. This helped us develop empathetic skills which allowed us to understand the lack of these privileges within the migrant and asylum-seeking community.

29/10 Day 7: Workshop; reflection and evaluation of the training

Our final day in Athens was very nostalgic as the team had developed a strong relationship. We visited three grassroots level organisation that allowed us to witness how local action can help rehabilitate refugees. Of the three organisations that we visited, Melissa and Amina, both of which are community centres for refugee women, we learnt about the various issues that impact this particular demographic of refugees. We learnt more about gender-based violence and the need for rehabilitating pregnant women and mothers of infants and toddlers. At Melissa, it was very empowering to see refugee women start up a community centre where women could come together and talk about the issues that they were facing, get advice on childcare and reproductive and mental health and also form strong friendships along the way.

One important sentence that the co-founder at Melissa said which really stuck with me is, “we don’t help others because we have more, we do it because we know what it feels like to not have anything.” This sentence really encapsulates the importance of grassroots level work and its subsequent positive impact on migration in Greece.

Overall, the workshop in Greece proved to be very informative and helped us develop skills to better understand the complex patterns of migration in the area along with the different rehabilitation requirements for refugees and asylum seekers. Through this workshop, I was able to build friendships with the participants as well as discover organisations that were operative in the field of acclimatising refugee women and minors.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Kairos Europe, its partners or their employees.

This entry was first published on Kairos blog

 

 

Assam: The cost of BJP’s quest to make India “great again.”

Ever since the Indian Independence, Assamese people have been complaining to the government about the flood of illegal migrants from the neighboring country of Bangladesh. Having formed a majority over the local Assamese population, these illegal immigrants fled their villages in Bangladesh in order to find better work opportunities and to be able to raise their families in what they thought would be a democratic, safe haven.

But Amit Shah, the President of India’s leading party, BJP, has denounced these illegal immigrants as “aliens.” It doesn’t take a lot for this to remind me of the drastically inhumane treatment of illegal immigrants from Mexico by the Trump administration. But what sets India apart from the America’s brutality towards illegal poc (people of color) immigrants is that while America’s policies are increasingly racist, India’s play on the religious divide already existing in the country.

BJP has promised to the local Assamese community that they are going to fish out all the illegal immigrants and send them back to their home countries. But who exactly are these so called “illegal immigrants”?

According to the party’s policies, all those targeted by the immigration officers are made to produce similar authentic identity documents that act as evidence of their Indian citizenship. But most of the people targeted are rural communities who are too poor to possess any documents or navigate their way through the relentlessly hard process of providing proof of citizenship. And what’s more is that most of these communities are largely Muslim.

Moreover, Amit Shah has said to provide means of acquiring naturalized citizenship to some members of the communities, but these are only Indians, Sikhs, or Christians. Muslims have no such opportunity to avail to the government.

This tactic of appealing to religious sentiments is a form of communal politics that has long plagued India and brought into question the validity of it so-called secular constitution.

What will happen to those Indians who have sought refuge in the Eastern borders of India and called this country a home for more than half a decade? They do not have the citizenship of Bangladesh, they are not educated enough to appeal to the international community or fight the religiously segregationist laws of India. Where will they go when the only country they have known as home turns them out?

Indian public needs more awareness of the atrocities that the leading government has been conducting against the minority Muslim communities. We are not going to let BJP hide their Hindu extremism behind nationalism.

What Democrats need to bring to the table to defeat Trump in the 2020 Presidential elections

The Democratic Debate which took place on the 27th of June sparked an interesting discourse on the left-wing political structure of the United States. Despite the unity of being under the Democratic Party, every candidate brings a nuanced policy approach to the election campaign. We have candidates from across the political spectrum like the centrist Pete Buttegieg who has been accredited for providing a bridge between Conservatives and Democrats to the populist, left-wing leader, Bernie Sanders. Sanders has, in fact, famously called himself a democratic socialist – perhaps becoming the first presidential candidate to bring with him the principles of socialism into a widely corporate America.

Although the debate brought issues of healthcare and the American economy to the forefront, with Kamala Harris pushing for progressive taxation reforms and Buttegieg criticizing Sander’s “medicare for all,” what lacked was a comprehensive statement from any candidate on their foreign policy stance.

Electoral politics has been inevitably imbedded in all democratic institutions, making it hard to deny the blatant fact that the politicians go where the voters are. For this reason, election campaigns have largely focused on issues that the American public can resonate with and healthcare and the domestic economy are top on that list. For issues to be brought up, they have to have the capacity to be directly related to the common person because at its very essence, that’s how electoral politics works. Quite unfortunately, rarely does foreign policy makes this cut.

But the foreign policy of any country impacts citizens much more than they can imagine, more so if it is in a hegemonic position like the United States. The tariffs imposed on the Chinese government have setbacks for American corporations which eventually affect the prices of products – and hence, inflation – in the domestic economy. The threat of war with Iran, although far from imaginable for the common American man, is a threat that could easily become a reality depending on the foreign policy adopted by the president.   

Most Democratic voters are looking for a candidate who can defeat Trump. They need someone who incentivizes a systematic change away from the political environment that Trump has created. The best way to do this is for these Democratic candidates to bring their foreign policy proposals to the table. They need to be more specific about how they are going to be dealing with imminent foreign problems that will have a trickle-down effect on the American people.

What I want to see, above all else, in the next debate are explicit foreign policy proposals that link to domestic issues, because this is essentially how any Democrat will be able to have a standing against Trump. The candidates need to educate the public about the impact of foreign policy decisions on domestic issues and exactly how the changes that they promise to make will benefit the overall public.

Is India on a One-Way Road to Fascism?

“There is a powerful and continuing nationalism tearing into our national fabric.” – Mahua Moitra

I couldn’t agree more with the words Moitra of Trinamool Congress spoke out so bravely at the Motion of Thanks in the Indian Parliament. In a country riddled with BJP and alt-right Hindu propaganda, it is becoming so hard to find voices online that actually call out the truth of the dire Indian political scenario.

In her speech, she listed out the signs of increasing fascism in India, ones which you cannot hide behind a facade of economic growth. Any political dissent toward the government can quite possibly make you lose your job and have you excommunicated, if not imprisoned. Article 19(2) of the Indian constitution allows the government to restrict free speech if public mobilization could lead to political disruption. I guess in BJP’s case, any voice that might bring down their voter pool is a disruption to the political process. Only in September of last year, a student was arrested for calling BJP “fascist.” (see: Student Sofia arrest for calling BJP ‘fascist’)

Furthermore, the rapid increase in hate crimes is becoming so hard to ignore, and I really wonder how long it’s going to take for Modi’s government to realize the religious war they have incited in this country. Or perhaps that was the motive all along? Turn the principles of secularism to encompass only the definition of Hinduism.

The lynching of Tabrez Ansari is just one amongst many hate crimes that our plaguing our so called “secular” country.  Our country has never had a vacuum of communal violence; electoral politics where Hindus are pitted against the Muslims in order to gain more votes has always been a trend in India. But the relentless exploitation of India’s communal history so as to divide our nation reminds me of only one event in our country’s history: India-Pakistan partition.

Is this what the Modi government is trying to do? Make our country so hostile for any minority that they are forced to leave; and if they stay, then they are tortured and humiliated in front of an agitated, extremist mob held together by a Hindu identity that has lost any meaning beyond its politicization.

Identity Politics – how movements like White Nationalism and Hindutva have given rise to right wing populism

With the BJP winning the recent Indian elections and the US presidential elections just short of a year away, it is perhaps safe to say that we will be witnessing another surge in right wing populism.

Populism has been a political appeal used by politicians and thinkers since the history of politics itself. However, it’s birth can be traced back to the origins of left-wing socialism and communism wherein the economically impoverished were pitted against the capitalists who were seemingly corrupting the foundations of our society. The populist appeal targets the “many” against the “few” or the elites who control most of the resources. While left wing populist campaigns have been overshadowed by champaign socialists – the ethics of which I might not completely disagree with but neither will I dwell on in this piece – the right wing populist appeal is dressed with blatant hypocrisy.

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign focuses on white nationalism; mobilizing the white middle class against any “outsiders” who might steal their jobs, albeit through better skills and an intrinsically exploitative economic system that benefits off of cheap labor. Not too dissimilar was India’s Prime Minister, Modi’s, campaign. He rallied the Hindu middle class against any and all Indians who didn’t fit the idiosyncrasies of the Hindu mind. Supporters of BJP would never admit that the rise in Hindu nationalism spurred infamously by the party has led to cases of lynching against Muslims and Sikhs, especially in the state of Uttar Pradesh under Adityanath Yogi.

Trump’s advocation of white nationalism and Modi’s backing of Hindutva have created a platform where agitating the citizens of a country through identity politics has become a norm. As someone who is not very fond of the idea of nationalism and the idea of a separate or better humanity that this instills in the 21st century, the very concept of identity politics seems like a failure of the national community in integrating and appreciating diversity.

Populism does not always have to be synonymous with the division of national identities, but the right wing has effectively made it so. How incredibly infuriating that a movement that was started to give a platform to the minority (the economically deprived class) has been turned against religious and ethnic minorities.

Can populism be salvaged from this nightmare? Should it be?

Why there is no room for climate action under capitalism

Climate change is a hot topic of debate as of presently, and rightly so since the only planet known to give life to humans is under genuine threat of irreversible destruction. There are protests drowning the streets, popular media has turned its attention to this devastating crisis, polar ice caps are melting, and people are switching to metal or paper straws. But is that enough? Are all these protests rendered futile if the very foundations of our society rest on a system that is designed to destroy the planet?

Capitalism has grown roots into almost every aspect of our lives, from the exorbitant rent we are made to pay to the prevalence of corporations in both the political and the social sphere. Globalism, which has bought us together and has provided us with access to knowledge and has been a catalyst for free speech, too, has its roots connected with capitalism. It would be foolish to say that it is feasible to do away with this system completely. But still, there are grounds for change and perhaps awareness is the first pillar we need to build in order to combat our own extinction.

The problem with climate action under capitalism is that its very requirement is based on foregoing profit that corporations make. There have been plenty cases of oil companies and land mining companies destroying native land at the expense of indigenous people and the environment. The most recent case that comes to mind is the Waorani people’s long fight to protect their ancestral territory in the Amazon forest from being large-scale deforestation by an oil company. Although the Amazon tribe from Ecuador did end up winning the law suit, they were the exception rather than the rule of what happens to land under a purely profit-driven system.

The capitalist drive is plagued with a sense of efficiency. We strive to make everything, from machineries that produce our products to the services we employ, to be as efficient as possible. While efficiency is usually seen in a positive light, its association with capitalism sadly has a negative connotation as it is pursued for the purpose of maximizing profit, even if that is at the expense of the workers or the environment.

Several indigenous tribes in India have been displaced due to construction of multi-purposes dams which have been heavily destructive to the marine life and the surrounding environment in general. In North America, more than thirty thousand square kilometers of land is taken up by oil corporations, this is more than three times the size of the Yellowstone National Parks. This only goes to highlight that the environmental damage caused under unchecked growing capitalism affects both the developed and the developing nations.

Corporations need to held more accountable for the waste they produce and the rapid rate at which they deplete our limited resources. Economic profit will soon mean nothing if the planet that sustains us is dead.