10 August 2014

Triumphalism gets unpacked

Celebrating the end of war, end of terrorist threats, being wary and mourning unnecessary deaths is 'WRONG'
For a couple of days in May 2009 much of Sri Lanka was adorned with flags. The streets were full of flag-waving, firecracker-lighting people. In many places, following customs of celebration, there were people dishing out milk-rice or kiribath.  Free.  It was all about celebrating the end of thirty years living under the threat of terrorist attacks; thirty years of check-points and being wary of parcel bombs and suicide bombers.  Thirty years of lamenting the unnecessary deaths of young people.  Reason enough for celebration, one would think. 

But no, it was named ‘Triumphalism’.  It was read as ‘crowing over by one community over the defeat of another’.  Balderdash of course, but there you have it – truth and fiction have ascribed values.  It depends on who gets to name the thing.  And that is all about power.  So it was ‘triumphalism’ back in May 2009. 
If the capture of a single bomber warranted such joy....!
Then came April 2013.  Boston.  Pressure cooker bombs.  Chasing of suspects.  A lot of men running around in all direction, armed to the teeth.  They were cheered on.  The cheering reached a crescendo when the suspect was caught.  It didn’t stop there.  Quite a spectacle.  It was not called ‘triumphalism’ of course but then again when the Ku Klux Klan were lynching African Americans those who cheered were not accused of indulging in triumphalism either.

But then again lynching was cheered too
And now we have Israel.  Well, we have ‘Gaza’.  And we have Israelis setting up arm chairs on top of hills from where they could see their brave military launch missiles into Gaza.  There was cheering.  Partying.  No one called it ‘triumphalism’. 

But in a parallel universe things can happen differently.  Let’s explore.

Barack Obama, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace decides he should do justice to the fact.  Barack Obama deploys the entire State Department to pressurize the world (not much needed given the resources at Washington’s disposal) to censure Israel.  Barack Obama gets things moving in Geneva to impose sanctions on Israel.  Most importantly, Barack Obama suspends all military and other assistance to Israel. 
Watching the bombs rain on Palestine is 'prime time entertainment'? 

In a parallel universe, the Western Media decides it is time to match truth with reportage, to keep to true dimensions of things and processes. 

In a parallel universe Ban Ki-moon, Navi Pillay and her successor get together and say ‘Look, we went overboard with Sri Lanka but we will be sober about Gaza – it’s far worse than all the horror stories we invented or believed about Sri Lanka’. 

In a parallel universe, Sri Lanka’s triumphalism-condemning NGO racketeers and self-styled social media pundits will say ‘We used that word because we had to have some consolation on account of our outcome preferences not materializing; and anyway we are ready to vilify the majority community at the drop of a hat’. 

And there will be agreement all around that what is being witnessed, ugly as hell though it is, is in fact the unadulterated, no-apologies-offered, ‘ultimate’ of western civilization.  In other words, Barack Obama could issue a statement on the following lines:

‘Look, we’ve tortured some folks.  Sorry, we tortured hundred and that’s routine for our military. We are multi-tongued. Get used to it.  ‘Double-standards’ is the watchword of our foreign policy.  And I am speaking not just as the President of the United States of America (May God Bless us!) but as the spokesperson for North America and Europe, for all white peoples and especially for Christians even if the true followers of Jesus Christ would disagree with us/me.  

'We are the Grandmasters of Triumphalism and that’s why when our allies indulge in some chest-beating we see nothing wrong in it.  This is why talking about Palestine is taboo in my country.  When we have to talk about it we will ask for “balance” which means something like saying “Israel fires missiles to defend itself from missile-firing Palestinians”.  We will say “It is complicated and complex”.  We know that such words are part of our set of prerogatives.  For others, it has to be black and white even when anyone with even partial knowledge would be able to see a lot of grey in it.  We will throw book and verse at anyone as and when we choose.  And folks, trust me, we don’t know the A-B-C of reading ourselves.  Guess what…we don’t give a damn about it either!’

In a parallel universe truth has half a chance.