Friday, March 28, 2008

Rich and poor, men and women: dark contrasts in India

Jaguar logo image source:

Two sets of strikingly contrasting stories in the last couple of days. What all four stories have in common, though, is that they are all dark:

On Wednesday, March 26, 2008:
(a) An Indian company bought the very British Jaguar and Land Rover. Many may celebrate this as the empire striking back (this is not striking back!), or India's triumphal economic growth. I just think those attitudes reflect little besides the fact that corporate and middle-class India have bought into a received notion of success that has been only very questionably successful for a couple of decades now (try a Google News search for "Ford layoffs" or "GM layoffs"). And do I need to remind anyone that crude oil is has been at $100-111 a barrel. Gas retails for over $3/gallon now, and I seem to recall it at around $1.25 in the year 2000.

(b) While Indians are so gung-ho that their roaring economy is allowing "them" (yeah, I am personally rich, now that "we" own Jaguar!) to buy big foreign companies like Corus, Arcelor, blablablablabla, the finance minister is angry that rich countries, greedy for energy, are threatening poor ones where people starve, like.... um... India by diverting food crops to biofuels.

And on Thursday, March 27, 2008:

These are the two items that are on BBC's front page right now, one below the other, under "South Asia":

(a) Indian villagers 'killed witch'

(b) Indian men in US 'slave' protest

The former news item is about a woman being hunted and killed. The latter is about a protest in DC by about 100 men who came all the way from New Orleans, following news that Indian men were working in slave-like conditions in a Mississippi shipyard.

Hopefully a day will come when men won't fight against the abuse of just men, and women, just women. Currently, that's how it seems to happen nearly all the time. I think there's no disputing that women are by far more often victims of violence, murder, rape, and sexual assault as compared to men. For heaven's sake, we don't even allow millions of women to be born. Yet Indian men love to hate the laws that protecting Indian women from domestic violence, on the grounds that the laws are abused by women to harass their husbands. The view that rape or assault victims "got what they were asking for" remains horrifyingly central. Even self-styled "radical" Indian men who volunteer with well-known "progressive" movements in the US are arguing vigorously and insistently that women's clothing provokes rape, and discussing how women can dress culturally appropriately in various settings, rather than clearly saying or supporting the statement that "women deserve safety and respect". The very few women who joined the discussion briefly have withdrawn altogether, and the men don't even seem to have noticed their absence. I can't post the link, or name the people or organization here, because the message board where this is playing out is members-only, and naming anyone would possibly get me into trouble, and probably cause inordinate harm to the organization concerned (which does, sometimes, do good work). Still, message me if you're really curious or want to share a guess (although I do reserve the right to remain silent!)

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