The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Indian Subcontinent

The Palestinian Option for Kashmir?

Back in 1980, I visited Kashmir with my parents. This was before the troubles, and it remains perhaps the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.

Last week, India’s PM, Modi, abrogated clauses in the Indian constitution relating to Kashmir, which does not allow non-Kashmiris to buy property. As Margolis says:

Modi is clearly copying Israel’s Netanyahu by encouraging non-Muslims to buy up land and squeeze the local Muslim population. Welcome to the Mideast Conflict East. China is also doing similar ethnic inundation in its far western, largely Muslim, Xinjiang (Sinkiang) region.

Dai Lake, Kashmir

By their friends, you shall know them. I’ve never liked Modi, his demonitization was incredibly damaging to the Indian economy and hurt the poorest Indians. That he spends all his time buddying up to Israel’s Netanyahu tells you all you need to know about whether he’s more good than bad. (If it doesn’t, you need to self-reflect a bit.)

But Indians did vote for Modi in droves. It’s another episode of people, who are scared and have shitty lives, voting for the tough guy, thinking he’ll be tough for them, rather than for his core supporters. In Modi’s case, hard-right Hindus.

It’s worth remembering that the UN called for a referendum in Kashmir and that India never held it, because they know that, given a choice, Kashmiris would rather be part of Pakistan.

So, ethnic cleansing time! This is the world we live in, more and more, a place where the weak do as they must and the powerful do as they will (ever has it been thus, but sometimes it is less thus). For now, India’s the powerful one. Soon enough, it won’t be–because this BS is a distraction from actual existential threats to India, mainly around water. I can’t think of any major nation which is going to get hit harder than India.

Meanwhile, of course, both the Pakistani and Indian militaries are on hair-trigger alert, and both have nuclear weapons. Because India has a much larger army, if war does break out, Pakistan either goes to nukes or loses.




Globe on Fire

The Insanity of India and the Future of Humanity

You’ve probably all heard that Indian Prime Minister Modi ordered two of the most common high denomination bills (500 and 1,000 rupee) out of circulation and that they would no longer be legal tender after only a few days.

India’s economy is, well, not modern. Most people do not have or use credit cards. Only 53 percent have a bank account, and cash is still preferred for transactions. 43 percent of those who have a bank hadn’t used their bank account in the last year.

India also has a vast corruption problem and huge black and grey markets. The corruption makes it very difficult to fix problems, whether they be removing pollution from the Ganges, building enough toilets so people stop shitting in the streets, or anything else.

The black money (money never taxed or declared) market is supposed to comprise about 23 to 26 percent of the Indian economy. I don’t know if that’s a low estimate (I doubt it’s high).

Black money and corruption go hand-in-hand, for obvious reasons: You can’t declare the bribes you receive or gave, at least not with some way of laundering them first.

So cleaning up black money should help clean up corruption.

But many Indians live in the black money economy. It’s just that simple. Someone gives them money, they spend it, no one is declaring it.

De-monetization isn’t just about a couple of bills, it’s about pushing people towards electronic money, which can be easily tracked. There have even been suggestions of forcing beggars to use electronic money.

I regard this push to de-monetization as fundamentally insane in an economy like India’s, and it screams rentism. Yeah, black money can’t be taxed, but it also isn’t “bank-fee’d” away. When everything is electronic through banks (this isn’t bitcoin), then transaction fees and so on eat away at it. Every hand it goes through can make a little stick, and only very strict law can make it not happen.

It’s free money from the point of intermediaries; they have to do very little to get it once the system is set up.

It’s leeching. Nearly pure rentism.

I do not support universal e-cash for this reason. It is to easy to do rentism, and rentism (transaction taxes and fees) kills monetary velocity and kills economies. The move to transaction taxes (GST) is one of the things that took the oomph out of Western economies, and it was designed to do so, to reduce inflation by reducing spending.

Despite our era’s absolutely crazed fixation with inflation, there is NO evidence that inflation from about 10 percent a year on down does ANY harm to the economy in and of itself and there is plenty of evidence that moderate levels of inflation have a myriad of good effects on the economy.

Yes, people who earned their money in the past hate inflation. Too bad, past contributions should be discounted, and proper government policy can easily ensure that people are still taken care of and have enough. Crippling the economy so that people who earned their money years and years ago retain power long past their period of productive contribution is economic malpractice.

Give people who can’t/shouldn’t/don’t work a decent income through a pension/welfare plan or even a basic income system and get rid of all transaction taxes except for those where you deliberately want to slow down a particular type of economic activity, rather than all activity altogether. If it’s carbon you don’t want to see too much of, tax it. If oil inflation is the problem, figure out how to tax that, and so on.

Demonetization without very strict anti-rentism is a bad idea. India is a shitty country to try to demonetize due to its lack of technological infrastructure. It’s also not ideal, ironically, because of it is weak rule of law, vast corruption and huge inequality in both money and power.

India, in general, is far more of a clusterfuck than most understand, including many middle class Indians. Calories per capita are lower than they were 30  years ago, and most people are worse off than they were before neoliberal dogma took over.

Meanwhile, much Indian agriculture runs off of aquifers, and they are being depleted, leading to farmer suicides. Climate change is making the monsoons erratic, and it is causing problems with runoff from the Himalayas, which is to say, where northern India gets most of its water. Earlier this year, one of the source rivers for the Ganges was dry for weeks.

India is going to go pear-shaped. The question is when, but when it does, I expect hundreds of millions to die. The issue will be water, pure and simple, but India’s inability to deal with even basic problems like open defecation and pollution of the Ganges, means it literally cannot deal with longer term issues.

Reforms, which have, yes, created a robust middle class, have not improved the situation of most Indians. Yes, many stats say they have, but when I find out that calories/capita is down, I start thinking that GDP/capita is not measuring real welfare. It’s not like Indians were overfed 30 years ago.

I simply DO NOT believe many of the Panglossian statistics that people are using to say the world is the greatest ever. In many cases, I can’t prove it (and no, unless you have a 100k you want to give me, I’m not going to prove it), but I know, for example, that proverty stats in America are absolute bullshit: The poverty level has not kept up with increases in cost of living, especially in food, rent, and medicine. Not even close–and that’s using formal inflation statistics, which systematically understate price rises in various categories.

So, when the US stats are shit, and knowing what I know about how places like India and most sub-Saharan African countries run, and how incentives to show progress work for the people who measure this shit, I just do not believe a lot of the stats.

I think the world is in worse condition than many make out. I know India is. I’m now receiving information that China is as well (more on that at a later date, maybe).

So, shit is going to hit the fan, we are in worse shape than we think we are, we are strangling all growth rather than merely counterproductive growth, and we are lying to ourselves about the real shape of our countries and our world, and when we’re not lying about it, we’re ignoring it.

This is going to get ugly. Hundreds of millions in India. And the same in many other places.

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Stephen Moss tells us the powerful do as they will and the weak can suck it up

So, here’s Stephen Moss interviewing Arundhati Roy:

    I want to talk more about Mary Roy – and eventually we do – but there’s one important point to clear up first. Guerrillas use violence, generally directed against the police and army, but sometimes causing injury and death to civilians caught in the crossfire. Does she condemn that violence? “I don’t condemn it any more,” she says. “If you’re an adivasi [tribal Indian] living in a forest village and 800 CRP [Central Reserve Police] come and surround your village and start burning it, what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to go on hunger strike? Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation.”

    Her critics label her a Maoist sympathiser. Is she? “I am a Maoist sympathiser,” she says. “I’m not a Maoist ideologue, because the communist movements in history have been just as destructive as capitalism. But right now, when the assault is on, I feel they are very much part of the resistance that I support.”

    Roy talks about the resistance as an “insurrection”; she makes India sound as if it’s ripe for a Chinese or Russian-style revolution. So how come we in the west don’t hear about these mini-wars? “I have been told quite openly by several correspondents of international newspapers,” she says, “that they have instructions – ‘No negative news from India’ – because it’s an investment destination. So you don’t hear about it. But there is an insurrection, and it’s not just a Maoist insurrection. Everywhere in the country, people are fighting.” I find the suggestion that such an injunction exists – or that self-respecting journalists would accept it – ridiculous. Foreign reporting of India might well be lazy or myopic, but I don’t believe it’s corrupt…

    I question her absolutism, her Manichaean view of the world, but I admire her courage.

Could Moss be a bigger sack of sanctimonious shit?  Calling her Manichaean for allowing that people have the right to self defense, while not recognizing his own Manichean thinking that only the state should engage in violence, no matter what it does?  Thinking that his business is not corrupt, the business which repeated the lies which lead to the Iraq war, and that he knows better what’s going on in India than she does.  Thinking that what journalists think matters, as if such injunctions can be disobeyed when they are enforced by editors neither assigning such stories nor running such stories if submitted without being asked for.

There has been a major insurrection going on in India for a long time, it’s true that newspapers like the Guardian don’t cover it, but a cursory google search brings up plenty of information: entire provinces are in dispute, this is not in question.  Moss hasn’t even bothered to do any research before dismissing Roy.

The sanctimony of Moss, where ordinary people who might kill people fighting back should just take it and always engage in peaceful protest, while the nations of the world, including India, kill far far more people than those guerillas do, ever day, is staggering in its immensity.  The willful ignorance, the assertion of moral superiority, the smug judgment is all immense in its self-absorption.

It’s such a pity that the Glorious Revolution and Founders of the US, and so on, didn’t have people like Stephen Moss around to tell them that non-violence is always the way to go.

Non-violence works when you are dealing with people who give a fuck what you think.  When you’re a bunch of dirt-poor peasants whose only value is the land you’re living on, you have no leverage.  None.  There is nothing you can do that outweighs the money that is to be made by moving you out of the way, and if moving you means getting you dead, that works too.

This lesson, of the sharp limits of non-violence, is one the world’s effete leftists are going to have learn, and learn the hard way.  At the very least you have to be willing to make life unpleasant for your enemies, to get in their face, to shut down their hotels, their factories, their airports, their refineries, their businesses.  That is at the least.  Modern elites are selected for their ability to do make decisions based on cost-benefit analysis, taking into account only money, the possibility of harm to self or the immediate family, and the possibility of going to jail (minimal).  Everything else is irrelevant to their decision making calculus.  If the cost of moving you aside, to them, not to you, or to the environment, or society, or to the children, or to God, is less than the benefit of doing so, for them, they will do so. End of story.  Morals and ethics do not come into it.  Period.  The communications industry runs on minerals out of the Congo, which is a region ruled by mass systemic rape.

There used to be some in-groups.  That is to say, if you were American or European, you could expect to not be treated like a black African.  You could expect that the benefits of hegemony would be spread around.  And as Asian nations joined the club, their governments took care of them too.  If you didn’t have a government capable of or interested in looking out for you, well, too bad (see South America, post-war decline).

Those in-groups are fading.  In the Western world they are gone or going in major nations.  American elites do not think they need share anything with Americans.  The Brits are heading down this road.  The French still will share with whites, but dark immigrants can suck on it.  Harsh austerity is being pushed on Spanish, Portuguese, Irish and so on, and their own elites are have their hand on the pointy end of the stick, driving it into their citizens throats.  “Cough it up,” they scream, “we know you have more blood to give! More!  More!  MORE!”

This is the modern world, where in nation after nation the elites have become unmoored from any concern, not for general humanity, neither they nor the populations they rule have ever had that, but even for concern for their own populations.  The disease is not at the same stage everywhere, the Chinese still care for the Han, the Indians take care of non-aborigines, but the in-groups are shrinking, and what is shared with them, what they are seen as deserving, is being reduced, step by step.  I remember when I was in England, being told by a friendly ex-Pol that of course austerity was no big deal, and those multi-generation welfare bums had it coming, as if welfare had anything to do with the financial crisis, and if the amount of money which could be saved by screwing the poor would be enough to make a difference.

As Thucydides said, “the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must.”  I don’t think he approved of that maxim the way that Moss appears to.

Instead men like Stephen Moss are there to justify the abuse of the weak by the strong, to denigrate the right of people who are having everything taken from them to fight back, to spew their bullshit about how violence is only justified when it’s the state bombing someone, but never in fighting back against an unjust state.  The world has many Stephen Moss’s, the world will have many more, and the world has always had Stephen Moss’s, the moral apologists of corrupt systems, the men who wring their hands and tell the powerless they should stay powerless, that they should never fight their enemies with the same violence their enemies use against them.

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