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Archive for the ‘Rajiv Gopie’ Category

The Politics of Pleasure and Distraction

In Rajiv Gopie on August 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm

What do the Olympics, Paul Ryan’s abs and gay marriage have in common? No it’s not that they are all great trivia but rather that they have been the central focus of much of the mainstream media for the past month. As the world burns and economies continue limbering, driven only by the dying gasps of industry across Europe and America, the political class along with the easily amused media have pulled their ace: distraction and pleasure. Wine and Games for the people!

Admittedly the Olympics celebrate the best that money can buy…… I mean “the human spirit,” as long as those humans are well paid professionals and good little ambassadors for their respective sponsors. As far as London 2012 was concerned, the events turned out well, the UK people….. well Londoners were temporarily distracted, not nearly as much by the games more than the fact that many had deserted the capital city and the country for warmer climates. Bumbling Boris Johnson was made a star and the much maligned David Cameron, was left alone for a few days to enjoy his vacation. Across the pond Paul Ryan’s abs are making waves and the left wingers have been blinded by the shimmer of his flat stomach, even the Huffington Post seems flattered. Gay marriage continues to be the lurking spectre that has the right hot and bothered, how dare two consenting adults dare to affirm their commitment to each other in the eyes of the state and their loved ones. It is an abomination… we cannot let people have their right to life and equality, this is America!

The political class can teach Hollywood a thing or two about good entertainment. Most people, and more so the media, have fallen for it. In the midst of a presidential campaign which has money pouring in like never before the best thing that they can do is speculate on the number of crunches Paul Ryan can do. This is the guy who had and probably still has posters of Ayn Rand and is committed to axing a large number of social programmes in the USA and his abs are focused on. The UK is dying, the seat of the largest empire the world has ever known is crumbling into ruin and as millions struggle to find a job and many millions more eke out a living; all glory is given to the Olympics, where corporatism ruled supreme and glowed more than the sacred flame.  Miserably poor states in the USA, struggling under unemployment and low productivity, are all being distracted by their Republican masters who use gay marriage to rile up the masses. It does not matter that we cannot run the state, it does not matter if you have lost your jobs, as long as we can stop those damn gays from marrying then God will provide, when we get to heaven our cups will overflow, never mind the journey from now until heaven may see you living in squalor and handouts.  And once again the people fall for it hook line and sinker.

There are innumerable political, social, cultural and religious research programs into why people care about cultural issues and non-issues over the ones that have the ability to affect them, such as the economy. All those amount to is academic fluff, I say the masses are too easy to distract and the media is not helping. The media in the UK and the USA both left and right should be focusing on grilling the respective opposing candidates and politicians to have them on their toes. They should be focusing on the issues and informing the public. A little distraction is good but it does not have to come at the expense of the national interest. Is it too much in 2012 to ask the media, the politicians and the people to multitask?

-Rajiv Gopie


The Changing World: Brazilian Values in International Politics

In Rajiv Gopie on February 19, 2012 at 11:40 am

The world is changing, fundamental structures of power that supported the international system are being challenged. The emergence of the BRIC countries has been viewed with fear and apprehension by some, but for the billions in the developing world these emerging powers represent a beacon of hope. The economic and military implications of the rise of the BRIC countries have been written and theorised ad nauseum but what has for the most part been ignored are the socio-cultural ramifications that will ensue from the rise of these great power. Perhaps most interestingly Brazil may be poised to exert a bigger influence in the social sphere than the other BRIC powers.

Brazil has a long and colourful history too complex to engage in here but suffice it to say that the Brazil of the past decade shines as an example of a socially conscious society. Brazilian politics offer a nuanced approach to socialism and capitalism preferring to use a Latin American model of free markets but with state intervention on the behalf of the people. The “left-wing” politics of Brazil looks much different from the evil communist narrative espoused in America; it resembles more closely European models but with more sensibility and a more robust economy. What is interesting is Brazil’s record on human rights, humanitarian intervention, gay rights, green policy and personal liberty.

The ideas of the “liberal west” meet with the traditions of Catholic Brazil to produce a compassionate society that embraces the new and the different but has a toehold in the institutions of home, family, community etc. This model of old and new ideas interacting may in my humble opinion be the course that the rest of the world should embrace. Following the financial crisis our world did a little soul searching and many were the musings of the “fairer” past when people cared about each other. This nostalgia for the past may be selective but it is accurate to say that past generations were more family and socially oriented. This was sacrificed on the altar of the economy and for personal gain. Brazil, however, in its transition is managing for the moment to hold on to its culture whilst at the same time growing and developing at a dizzying rate.

Despite its many social problems and the stark poverty still present in the favelas, Brazil is community oriented and tilted towards a more humanistic society. The sponsoring of sexual minority protection initiatives and green initiatives by Brazil in the UN are examples of the socially liberal and responsible nature of Brazil. As the country continues to rise in influence it may continue to spread its socially liberal humanistic identity across the globe. Whilst the other BRIC powers are all status quo powers with China and Russia concerned with self interest at the expense of international responsibility (Russian veto on Syria, China and human rights) and India is starting to struggle, Brazil is a transformative power and comes with many cultural and ideological principles. It will be interesting to watch how far Brazilian social ideology will spread.

(Author admits to a great love for Brazil and Latin America).

Republicans need to get over Cuba

In Rajiv Gopie on January 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm

“Cuba will be free” the top Republicans candidates stated in a Florida debate, crystallising the unhealthy obsession that the GOP has with the small Caribbean nation. As they tried to woo Florida’s sizeable Cuban population the candidates spoke in narratives that were decades behind the current state of Cuba. Seeking to play on family ties and the nostalgia of older Cuban migrants they spoke of Cuba as some sort of oppressive North Korean-style regime ruled by tyrants and a place where all the evils under the sun gathered.

It would be folly to think that these witty men are not aware of the real situation in Cuba but instead are using old wounds to gain cheap political points amongst a sizeable but shrinking demographic. Cuba may not have the free enterprise and trappings of America or Europe but it also does not have the poverty of the Southern US states nor the vast income inequality. It does not have the millions without health care and access to basic services like the USA nor does it have the rising xenophobia of Europe. Instead the unfairly suppressed island has worked towards a society without poverty and homeless children, a place where healthcare of phenomenal quality is free and so too is education.

Cuba is far from perfect and I disagree with many of its policies; its imprisonment of political dissidents, its suppression of free speech and its opposition to free actor choice, but it is far from the Orwellian nightmare that the GOP is narrating. The changing tide in the island since the retirement of Fidel Castro points to a more open future. The EU has recognised these changes and is seeking to build bridges with the island. The USA needs to get over its obsession with Cuba. This piece may target the Republicans but the Democrats are just as guilty of exploiting old rhetoric to win over the Cuban vote in Florida.

The old Cuba and its old guard will be washed away by the waves of progress, we already see the daughter of Raul Castro openly advocating for gay equality, a group that was demonised and hated by Fidel (who later apologised for the mistreatment of GLBT people during and after the revolution), and overtures by the regime to open up the island to investment etc. and grant amnesty to political prisoners. If Cuba can change why can’t the US? Will the course be the continued opening of old wounds and the fostering of hate and sorrow or will it be about engagement and reconciliation? Will the USA continue its proud tradition of reaching out and helping the promotion of democracy or will it deny its own nature for cheap political points?

(The author is no communist but would like to one day live in a fair world.)

-Rajiv Gopie