Approximately one in five of the human race live in what is generally referred to as the Indian sub-continent, a geographical area that includes Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and of course India itself. Within this geographical region there have been civilizations since the dawn of human history, many of which have been at the cutting edge of our collective understanding of mathematics, science and the arts. Consider these few lines;

‘Scientific inquiry flourished alongside religious mysticism. The highest intellectual achievement of the subcontinent was in mathematics. By 200 BC detailed geometry was making possible the calculations for arcs and segments of chords. Romano-Greek science made its influence felt in southern India, but mathematics went beyond Ptolemy’s method of reckoning in terms of chords and circles to reckoning in sines, thereby initiating the study of trigonometry. This was followed by the perfection of the decimal system, the solution of certain indeterminate equations, an accurate calculation of the value of pi by Aryabhata and, by the 7th century AD at the latest, the use of zero, something unknown to the Greeks and Romans.’ (A Peoples History of the World, Chris Harman, Verso, London, 2008) P52


And once again, after centuries of foreign subjugation and humiliation, India is again moving to the forefront of human intellectual progress, notably in the fields of computer science, pure and applied mathematics and rocketry. Now, one fifth of the human race is again stirring after a brutally imposed centuries old slumber which, you might think, ought to be a cause of great human celebration. Yet, to read much of the Western commentary on the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi, you would think that India was some kind of alien race, or worse still, some sub-species of the human race.

Being resident within the old Imperial heartlands, it is still extremely difficult for English people to comprehend just how brutal the British Empire was during its three hundred year occupation of large tracts of the world. Even Britain’s behaviour in its first and closest colony, Ireland, is totally surrounded in myths and deceits, so that ordinary working class English people would rather look down upon their Celtic neighbours than offer them material and political support in their long and just struggle for national self-determination. As for the Irish, so it is with the peoples of India, who have long been treated with disdain and racism by the Anglo-Saxon world. To Western journalists and public opinion generally, India represents endemic poverty, national slothfulness and incurable corruption. What is rarely understood, even by those who have been privileged to a liberal education, is that India is poor precisely because she was deliberately and callously de-industrialised in order that she could not present herself as a competitor to the up and coming British industries of the 18th & 19th centuries. Had the embryonic Indian industrial revolution been allowed to take its natural course, it is highly likely that India would have been among the first to industrialise, thereby avoiding centuries of crippling European imposed poverty.

The wealth and enterprise of the Indian sub-continent were systematically destroyed by European colonialism, the bitter repercussions of which are still being felt to this day.

Taking all this history on board, it is little wonder that commentary after commentary, both in the tabloids and the so called thinking broadsheets, are dripping with the same old colonial poison that has been force fed into the British psyche for centuries. Even when journalists attempt to serve up some empathy, you can feel the colonial bile just beneath the surface. Take Justin Cartwright writing in The Evening Standard this week who, without any recourse to the historical background that has impoverish India, blithely writes, ‘If, as looks likely, these Games are blighted, then India will no doubt blame the media and racism rather than corruption and incompetence.’ No attempt by Mr Cartwright to place the corruption, incompetence and infrastructure difficulties in any historical context.

The Telegraph went further into historical blindness by printing a picture of Indian child labourers on its front page in an effort to further demean the entire Commonwealth Games enterprise. Yes, child labour is the ugly side of a resurgent Indian capitalist economy, exactly the same ugliness that blighted British capitalism in its early period. Remember though, Imperial Britain was not just content to bleed its own children in pursuit of profit, it willingly participated in and benefited from the global slavery markets both at home and in its colonies. So Britain is hardly on the moral high-ground when it comes to lecturing India about its inhumane labour practises. Remember also that much of the cheap manufactured goods we enjoy in Britain today are produced by that same child labour that The Telegraph pretends to be so appalled at, but you won’t read any investigative journalism in The Telegraph on that score. A case of British hypocrisy if ever there was one.

As for corruption, surely it is now apparent post Enron, that this is not some Asian or African disease but an integral part of the DNA of global capitalism. Where profits are concerned, corruption is never far away. The key difference between corruption in the developed world as opposed to the developing world is the army of smart lawyers and accountants whose job it is to keep the lid on the cesspit and thus keep some of the muck and the stench out of the realm of public scrutiny.

Even Owen Gibson and Simon Jenkins, both normally outstanding journalists, slip into ahistorical mode in their otherwise sympathetic articles on the Delhi Games. Gibson talks of India’s reputation being at stake and Jenkins has the audacity to write that, ‘India’s planners take gold in the corruption stakes.’ I would have thought Enron, The Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and AIG would be far more likely to be on the corruption podium than their relatively small-scale Asian counterparts.

In respect to security, there is a high risk of a terror attack. But again, some historical perspective might be useful here. Britain spent centuries employing a ‘divide and rule’ strategy in India, as indeed it did throughout its empire. Turning Hindu and Muslim against each other where once they had co-existed, was a key feature of the British Raj. And now the chickens have come home to roost. Enmity between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India, with Kashmir a continual cause for dispute, have much to do with the machinations of both British colonial rule and the more recent anti-Soviet Cold War, the reverberations of which are still being played out. Any terror attack on the Commonwealth Games will have clear and unambiguous historical roots.

The good news is that things are changing. The world is no longer a play thing for European colonial powers. The whole planet is coming alive and awakening to the beat of the capitalist drum. China and South Africa have already had the dubious privilege of hosting a corporate global sporting jamboree. Now it is the turn of India. Brazil will follow. Once again, he entire planet is firmly locked into the global capitalist juggernaut, but this time with every continent now being represented at the top table. That ought to be a cause for some rejoicing because it leads humanity one tiny step closer to world governance. What type of governance that will be is another question, but there can be no doubting that all citizens from all continents will increasingly demand a say in the outcome.

The world is no longer an exclusive European or Anglo-Saxon club. That the billionaire Indian Mittel brothers now own what is left of British Steel underlines this new reality better than anything else.

As for the Delhi Games, we should all wish it well as a symbol of a resurgent Indian subcontinent and be collectively culpable for any of its infrastructure or security failings. Sniping from the sidelines is a relic of the colonial past.

End JPK 25/9/10 Copyright

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 03 October 2010 14:44 )