By Amitabh Pal on October 31, 2011

I know it is Halloween today, but I didn’t want to be startled the first thing in the morning. Bill Keller of the New York Times managed to do that to me, however, with his column unfavorably contrasting the Occupy Wall Street protests to a popular anti-corruption movement in India.

Essentially, Keller, the former top editor of the paper, makes two comparisons: First, the Indian movement is pro-capitalist, which is meant to be good, while the occupiers are anti-capitalist, which equals bad.

But that’s a central flaw of the Indian campaign, not a positive, as Keller would have us believe. The two-decade-old process of economic liberalization in India has resulted in a big business-government nexus that has given rise to unprecedented levels of corruption.

“If the lament of Indians is that political corruption pilfers public resources, then who are its chief beneficiaries?” asked leading Indian journalist Manu Joseph in Keller’s own paper a couple of months ago. “It is the companies that secure licenses at discounted rates in exchange for kickbacks.”

But those expressing their anger at sleaze in India are not directing their ire at the right targets. That is because many of them either work for corporate India or are admirers of India’s robber barons.

Second, Keller lauds the Indian movement for having a clear agenda and being driven by leaders with conviction, as opposed to the occupiers, who are without an obvious program and people in charge.

Keller fails to realize the elite class composition of the campaign in India has resulted in goals that may be clear-cut but are also extremely self-serving.

“I sense a lack of emotional proportion and a troubling hypocrisy from a middle class that refuses to get as moved to action by graver things, such as the murder of female children, child labor in homes, hotels and factories, or poverty outside our car windows,” wrote Samar Halarnkar a few months ago in the Hindustan Times, a prominent Indian English-language daily. “There is excitable talk now of the constitutional right to protest, but this is not something we like to give to Kashmiris, or bother too much when it is snatched from tribals or others on the margins of middle-India’s imagination.”

And the leader Keller extols, social reformer Anna Hazare, has a checkered history. In years past, he has ordered the flogging of people defying an alcohol ban in his model villages (which Keller fleetingly mentions). But Hazare’s conduct even lately has been problematic, with his arrogance alienating many in his support base.

Hazare has added to that a strident nationalism, an odd stance for a supposed admirer of Gandhi. He recently threw under the bus a close associate, Prashant Bhushan, who was beaten up by right-wing goons in his lawyer chamber for calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir. And he said, “If I have to, I’m ready to take part in war against Pakistan.”

Some Gandhian.

If this is Keller’s example of a leader-powered movement with a clear program, I will choose the occupiers he belittles over his role model any day.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Globalization Scorches Greece."

Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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