Aruhdhati Roy's Porto Alegre speech

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Wed Jan 29 17:15:23 MST 2003

(One of the truly great moral leaders
of our time. Study and learn from her!)

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing"
 (Arundhati Roy; January 28, 2003 Porto Alegre, Brazil)

Confronting Empire
by Arundhati Roy; January 28, 2003

I've been asked to speak about "How to confront Empire?" It'
s a huge question, and I have no easy answers.

When we speak of confronting "Empire," we need to identify
what "Empire" means. Does it mean the U.S. Government (and
its European satellites), the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and
multinational corporations? Or is it something more than

In many countries, Empire has sprouted other subsidiary
heads, some dangerous byproducts - nationalism, religious
bigotry, fascism and, of course terrorism. All these march
arm in arm with the project of corporate globalization.

Let me illustrate what I mean. India - the world's biggest
democracy - is currently at the forefront of the corporate
globalization project. Its "market" of one billion people is
being prized open by the WTO. Corporatization and
Privatization are being welcomed by the Government and the
Indian elite.

It is not a coincidence that the Prime Minister, the Home
Minister, the Disinvestment Minister - the men who signed
the deal with Enron in India, the men who are selling the
country's infrastructure to corporate multinationals, the
men who want to privatize water, electricity, oil, coal,
steel, health, education and telecommunication - are all
members or admirers of the RSS. The RSS is a right wing,
ultra-nationalist Hindu guild which has openly admired
Hitler and his methods.

The dismantling of democracy is proceeding with the speed
and efficiency of a Structural Adjustment Program. While the
project of corporate globalization rips through people's
lives in India, massive privatization, and labor "reforms"
are pushing people off their land and out of their jobs.
Hundreds of impoverished farmers are committing suicide by
consuming pesticide. Reports of starvation deaths are coming
in from all over the country.

While the elite journeys to its imaginary destination
somewhere near the top of the world, the dispossessed are
spiraling downwards into crime and chaos. This climate of
frustration and national disillusionment is the perfect
breeding ground, history tells us, for fascism.

The two arms of the Indian Government have evolved the
perfect pincer action. While one arm is busy selling India
off in chunks, the other, to divert attention, is
orchestrating a howling, baying chorus of Hindu nationalism
and religious fascism. It is conducting nuclear tests,
rewriting history books, burning churches, and demolishing
mosques. Censorship, surveillance, the suspension of civil
liberties and human rights, the definition of who is an
Indian citizen and who is not, particularly with regard to
religious minorities, is becoming common practice now.

Last March, in the state of Gujarat, two thousand Muslims
were butchered in a State-sponsored pogrom. Muslim women
were specially targeted. They were stripped, and gang-raped,
before being burned alive. Arsonists burned and looted
shops, homes, textiles mills, and mosques.

More than a hundred and fifty thousand Muslims have been
driven from their homes. The economic base of the Muslim
community has been devastated.

While Gujarat burned, the Indian Prime Minister was on MTV
promoting his new poems. In January this year, the
Government that orchestrated the killing was voted back into
office with a comfortable majority. Nobody has been punished
for the genocide. Narendra Modi, architect of the pogrom,
proud member of the RSS, has embarked on his second term as
the Chief Minister of Gujarat. If he were Saddam Hussein, of
course each atrocity would have been on CNN. But since he's
not - and since the Indian "market" is open to global
investors - the massacre is not even an embarrassing

There are more than one hundred million Muslims in India. A
time bomb is ticking in our ancient land.

All this to say that it is a myth that the free market
breaks down national barriers. The free market does not
threaten national sovereignty, it undermines democracy.

As the disparity between the rich and the poor grows, the
fight to corner resources is intensifying. To push through
their "sweetheart deals," to corporatize the crops we grow,
the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the dreams we
dream, corporate globalization needs an international
confederation of loyal, corrupt, authoritarian governments
in poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and
quell the mutinies.

Corporate Globalization - or shall we call it by its name? -
Imperialism - needs a press that pretends to be free. It
needs courts that pretend to dispense justice.

Meanwhile, the countries of the North harden their borders
and stockpile weapons of mass destruction. After all they
have to make sure that it's only money, goods, patents and
services that are globalized. Not the free movement of
people. Not a respect for human rights. Not international
treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear
weapons or greenhouse gas emissions or climate change, or -
god forbid - justice.

So this - all this - is "empire." This loyal confederation,
this obscene accumulation of power, this greatly increased
distance between those who make the decisions and those who
have to suffer them.

Our fight, our goal, our vision of Another World must be to
eliminate that distance.

So how do we resist "Empire"?

The good news is that we're not doing too badly. There have
been major victories. Here in Latin America you have had so
many - in Bolivia, you have Cochabamba. In Peru, there was
the uprising in Arequipa, In Venezuela, President Hugo
Chavez is holding on, despite the U.S. government's best

And the world's gaze is on the people of Argentina, who are
trying to refashion a country from the ashes of the havoc
wrought by the IMF.

In India the movement against corporate globalization is
gathering momentum and is poised to become the only real
political force to counter religious fascism.

As for corporate globalization's glittering ambassadors -
Enron, Bechtel, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson - where were they
last year, and where are they now?

And of course here in Brazil we must ask .who was the
president last year, and who is it now?

Still . many of us have dark moments of hopelessness and
despair. We know that under the spreading canopy of the War
Against Terrorism, the men in suits are hard at work.

While bombs rain down on us, and cruise missiles skid across
the skies, we know that contracts are being signed, patents
are being registered, oil pipelines are being laid, natural
resources are being plundered, water is being privatized,
and George Bush is planning to go to war against Iraq.

If we look at this conflict as a straightforward eye-ball to
eye-ball confrontation between "Empire" and those of us who
are resisting it, it might seem that we are losing.

But there is another way of looking at it. We, all of us
gathered here, have, each in our own way, laid siege to

We may not have stopped it in its tracks - yet - but we have
stripped it down. We have made it drop its mask. We have
forced it into the open. It now stands before us on the
world's stage in all it's brutish, iniquitous nakedness.

Empire may well go to war, but it's out in the open now -
too ugly to behold its own reflection. Too ugly even to
rally its own people. It won't be long before the majority
of American people become our allies.

Only a few days ago in Washington, a quarter of a million
people marched against the war on Iraq. Each month, the
protest is gathering momentum.

Before September 11th 2001 America had a secret history.
Secret especially from its own people. But now America's
secrets are history, and its history is public knowledge.
It's street talk.

Today, we know that every argument that is being used to
escalate the war against Iraq is a lie. The most ludicrous
of them being the U.S. Government's deep commitment to bring
democracy to Iraq.

Killing people to save them from dictatorship or ideological
corruption is, of course, an old U.S. government sport. Here
in Latin America, you know that better than most.

Nobody doubts that Saddam Hussein is a ruthless dictator, a
murderer (whose worst excesses were supported by the
governments of the United States and Great Britain). There's
no doubt that Iraqis would be better off without him.

But, then, the whole world would be better off without a
certain Mr. Bush. In fact, he is far more dangerous than
Saddam Hussein.

So, should we bomb Bush out of the White House?

It's more than clear that Bush is determined to go to war
against Iraq, regardless of the facts - and regardless of
international public opinion.

In its recruitment drive for allies, The United States is
prepared to invent facts.

The charade with weapons inspectors is the U.S. government's
offensive, insulting concession to some twisted form of
international etiquette. It's like leaving the "doggie door"
open for last minute "allies" or maybe the United Nations to
crawl through.

But for all intents and purposes, the New War against Iraq
has begun.

What can we do?

We can hone our memory, we can learn from our history. We
can continue to build public opinion until it becomes a
deafening roar.

We can turn the war on Iraq into a fishbowl of the U.S.
government's excesses.

We can expose George Bush and Tony Blair - and their
allies - for the cowardly baby killers, water poisoners, and
pusillanimous long-distance bombers that they are.

We can re-invent civil disobedience in a million different
ways. In other words, we can come up with a million ways of
becoming a collective pain in the ass.

When George Bush says "you're either with us, or you are
with the terrorists" we can say "No thank you." We can let
him know that the people of the world do not need to choose
between a Malevolent Mickey Mouse and the Mad Mullahs.

Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to
lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To
mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our
stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer
relentlessness - and our ability to tell our own stories.
Stories that are different from the ones we're being
brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy
what they are selling - their ideas, their version of
history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more
than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a
quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

-Arundhati Roy

Porto Alegre, Brazil

January 27, 2003

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