This is a write-up by Shelley Walia that appeared in the Hindu Metroplus of 12th August.We must take note of this as, in talking about the irrepressible Gore Vidal,it educates us about the forces which govern us as citizenry of a global world.
Gore Vidal,who died recently, was a leading novelist, essayist and public intellectual of the last half a century in the US.He identified organized religion, repressive state apparatus and corporate elites as the defining forces which have robbed the citizens of this global world of their dignity and freedom.Their awesome success lies in the fact that they have persuaded the common citizenry to root for them even as they heap, anabashedly and unapologetically, their regime of loot and destruction on the citizenry and despoilation of the air and water of this Planet Earth, our common home.
I have seen many people getting stung to the quick on bracketing religion with this unholy troika.Now religion is a very private matter between us and Nature, this cosmic realm that we inhabit. Our temples,churches,mosques and rituals are an integral part of our everyday life. This is not what is attacked in this world view. What is criticized is the tendency to use religious frenzy to create a concept of "the other" which destroys public peace and makes people war with one another.
The question is what is the way out for us, the common citizens, to find our voice, our dignity and freedom.This is a question we have to deeply ponder over.Simply to criticize the perpetrators is passe. We have to synergize our strength and resources to fashion an equitable order where each human can live with dignity.
--- On Mon, 8/13/12, avinash sahay <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: avinash sahay Subject: The Troika that Deprives Citizens of their Dignity and Freedom To: "Avinash K. Sahay" Date: Monday, August 13, 2012, 4:19 PM
He brought a new sensitivity to human rights with his deep sense of conviction. Shelley Walia remembers a life passionately lived.
IN His Prime:Gore Vidal inLos Angeles in 1974.Photo: AP
Auschwitz and Kolyma, Vietnam and the war on terrorism, racial prejudice and neo-imperialism, have all led us to doubt the infinity of human wisdom. Into the second decade of the century we are experiencing both joy and sadness, and though we think that ours is the most progressive century, one wonders if material progress and political and economic development are the criteria of absolute good for the human order. Are we not closer to self destruction than our ancestors ever were? Is not the world ruled by the rich nations in collusion with the rich client regimes of the poor nations? Power and profit are the sole motives behind the Western ideology of “benevolence”, “harmony”, and “globalisation”.
This complex reality encountered by the most radical of ideals of an anti-imperialist like Gore Vidal, who died a few days ago, has brought a new sensitivity to human rights, thereby challenging and unmasking illegitimate authority with the purpose of extending the scope of freedom and justice in a world where, in his words, “public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice.” As he was to comment many years later about America’s intervention in Iraq: “You don’t lie to a country, get it into a war, waste a trillion dollars, kill a lot of people all because of your vanity and lust for oil and admiration for your corporate partners. If that isn’t treason, I don’t know what is.”
Like most enthusiastic readers of dissident literature, I came to know Vidal first as an author and a playwright. I had read his fictional works Julian, Burr, Lincoln, The City and thePillar and his play The Best Man . It was only in 1994, when I attended the Amnesty Lectures at Oxford delivered by six eminent writers —Edmund White, André Brink, Wole Soyinka, Taslima Nasreen, Nawal El Saadawi and Gore Vidal — that I first met him over the weekend at a couple of seminars, lectures and in the Hall over lunch and dinner. These writers were in Oxford to speak on “The Dissident Word” and express, in the words of Gore Vidal, that “the rulers of any system cannot maintain their power without the constant creation of prohibitions that then give the state the power to imprison or intimidate anyone who violates any of the state’s new-minted crimes.”
I happened to be sitting across him at dinner one evening and the talk drifted to the status of the subject in the contemporary world. On the few occasions that I met him, he came across as a man with a scathing sense of irony and wit, a brutal use of forceful language and, most of all, a deep sense of conviction. I still remember how ferociously he criticised religion and the state apparatus as a constraining force. Behind his conversation I could see clearly a life passionately lived, that of a champion of democratic values underpinned by a strict adherence to the moral imperative of justice and freedom. As he put it so precisely: “Policy formation is the province of a bipartisan power elite of corporate rich and their career hirelings who work through an interlocking and overlapping maze of foundations, universities and institutes, discussion groups, associations and commissions…. Political parties are only for finding interesting and genial people to ratify and implement these policies in such a way that the under classes feel themselves to be, somehow, a part of the governmental process. Politics is not exactly the heart of the action but it is nice work — if you can afford to campaign for it.”
His disdain for war, for American Puritanism and the nascent powers-that-be, compelling them to blast Islamic fundamentalism or the oppression of minority cultures by mainstream culture was so visible in his arguments that day in Oxford. Having read some of his works, I could easily decipher in his outspoken yet humane tone his counter discourse to the cruel workings of state repression and its nerve-racking effects. Staunchly standing up against the Vietnam War, he emphasised: “Well, pornographers are using the mailing lists of Cub Scouts. Persuading the people to vote against their own best interests has been the awesome genius of the American political elite from the beginning.”
He did not mince his words while attacking the modern-day state apparatus where physical and psychological intimidation and subjugation are not only common under totalitarian regimes but are widely practiced in any modern state. I remember how in his inimitable manner, original and authoritative, he went on to argue that the nation should hold the leadership responsible for any lapse in the moral and ethical aspect of governance or for that matter in the prevalence of modern day offence or misconduct. It is a well known fact today that for electoral expediency the leaders of both the parties in the US are reluctant to displease the electorate by introducing a change in the easy availability of arms to the American public, a step so essential in the wake of the recent mindless killing of innocent people watching a film on Batman. Gore Vidal could have been the force behind such legislation had he lived a little longer.
I remember him today as a man with unbelievable courage, intelligence and humour who in a short span of our few meetings touched on important issues of war, ethnicity, religious strife, tribalism, and people killing people in the name of race, religion, language, and culture. His deep-seated concern was always the victim and her freedom which can come only from “struggle”, a word that becomes affirmative only if it means being proactive and speaking up. Intellectuals often forget this. I will always remember Gore Vidal as a progressive through and through, standing on the side of the exploited masses and their rights to economic equality. Being with him for a brief spell showed a glimmer of some hope for a world where people still believed in freedom — “freedom to live, freedom to express and freedom to die peacefully.”