Zero Sum
How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress. — Neils Bohr
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Posted Feb 27th, 2017 by ravi    / Permalink /

As violent anti-democratic forces spurred by a demagogue start to engulf both nations in which I find a home (the USA and India), it may be tempting to recycle the old poem by Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The temptation is understandable. The writing is emotionally powerful as a call to action. But the appeal to self-preservation which lies at the heart of the poem gives away the real truth of the situation.

The promise of Trump and Modi is exactly that they will go after the other. The creation of external threats, valorisation of the military and militarisation of the police, the constant stoking of “us vs them” — these might all be unsubstantiated, but the underlying promise is real.

The concern for your safety from remote or non-existent threats (Muslims, Mexicans, students, activists, transgendered people, so on) is in truth a reassurance of your safety from the near and existent threat: them.

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