The birth of a ‘fascist’

Behind Enemy Lines

rudra_reddy_online

I didn’t start off as a fascist. Anybody who has an inkling about politics in my home country of India knows that the only role left for a reasonable observer is that of an obituarist. The burgeoning bureaucracies, endless corruption and the rampant nature of identity politics act to dissuade reasonable persons from running for public office, leaving the posts empty for those who are willing and capable of exploiting the ordinary man.

For the crowd of leftists who think that the Berkeley College Republicans are an assault on freedom, I would like to invite them to the third world where they would witness what real right-wing tyranny looks like. A few weeks ago, a right-wing student group that had associations with the ruling party in India attacked other students at a college literature festival at Delhi University for inviting a speaker they didn’t find politically palatable (sound familiar?). Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election, I saw a slow but steady resurgence of a potent variant of Hindu nationalism that is not only corrosive to Indian national identity but also to basic human rights, such as the right of free expression. The past three years have seen far-right Hindu groups organize campaigns to convert Muslims and Christians to Hindus and calls for a nationwide beef ban to be enforced for the reason that the cow is a sacred animal for Hindus, a flagrant violation of the principles of secularism.

Guided by my desire to maintain liberty, I started my political odyssey on the left after being disillusioned by Modi’s government. In fact, my introduction to political debate was in the form of a rousing defense of the free speech rights of a left-wing activist, Kanhaiya Kumar, when his speaking event was canceled by right-wing agitators at Jawaharlal Nehru University. At this time, I was a committed Marxist, believing in true leftist ideals and writing odes to the hammer and sickle.

Hence, when this U.S. presidential campaign began, I was naturally drawn to Senator Bernie Sanders. My friends back home too leaned left ideologically, and in their company, an echo chamber was created where the Democrats were the party of the ordinary people while the Republicans favored the bankers on Wall Street and the Ku Klux Klan. “Why shouldn’t college be debt-free?” we used to ask each other. Why shouldn’t the greedy capitalists (the 1 percent) pay more in taxes? Why shouldn’t free health care be a right, not a privilege?

One night, I chose to watch a Republican primary debate just to observe that clown Donald Trump and the other bigots surrounding him make a fool out of themselves. To my surprise, however, for all the claims that the Republicans were the party of white supremacy, the Republican stage was very diverse with two Cuban Americans (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) and one African American (Ben Carson). Besides ethnic diversity, the candidates made some really interesting points, and, for the first time, I found myself questioning my political beliefs. To create more employment opportunities, wouldn’t it make sense for the government to empower job creators? Did socialized medicine really lead to better health care outcomes, and would such a system be financially feasible? Wasn’t an open-borders immigration policy impossible with a welfare state in place? In the course of that Fox Business debate, I heard a bubble in my mind pop as I was forced to confront Republicans’ policy positions after months of calling them white nationalists who were not meant to be taken seriously.

Slowly but steadily, I started to shift towards the right, as my appreciation for capitalism and free markets began to grow exponentially. By the time I arrived at UC Berkeley last year, I was a soft Republican who was open to new ideas and the vibrant political discourse that U.S. colleges were known for.

What I found, however, was that American liberals were straying dangerously close to the Indian right, as embodied in the Modi government, in their tactics. The suppression of free speech on the grounds that it was “dangerous,” the continual division of the public into victim constituencies along ethnic lines and the slandering of political opponents as moral enemies of civilization all sounded reminiscent of the playbook used by the tyrannical Modi regime back home. Soon enough, I had found my place on the conservative-libertarian part of the American political spectrum.

If there has been one guiding principle in my politics, it has been the quest for freedom. I supported the Indian liberals when they were getting beaten up by deluded mobs for the right to protest and express oneself. I was a Marxist until I wrapped my mind around the lack of liberty and moral incongruity inherent in that ideology. I didn’t become a Republican because I hated myself or my skin color. It is because I agreed with the Republican Party’s principle and appreciated the fact that it was fighting an enemy that I had come to despise through my own experiences.

Mine was a genuine political evolution based on ideas and personal experiences. Despite what my comments section says, I’m not a fascist. If I really wanted to be a fascist, I would have remained a liberal.

Rudra Reddy writes the Monday column on resisting indoctrination. Contact him at [email protected]

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  • Jorge Carolinos

    Before you swing too much from one extreme to another I would suggest some Eric Hoffer. It’s best to pick and choose what you like and avoid labels.

  • jim hoch

    Ted is actually a “Cuban-Canadian”

  • ShadrachSmith

    The 1st amendment is a good rule, Berkeley should follow it too.

  • Man with Axe

    It is a sad commentary that in this day and age a university student actually has to argue that freedom is a good thing.

  • read_a_book_pls

    1. The beef ban has been long a part of Indian politics – practised by the left, right and centre. Please read on the history of beef bans in India.

    2. The far-right groups you talk about have had rather bad relations with Mr Modi recently. Modi took them head on as Chief Minister of Gujarat when he called for destruction of Hindu temples (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/80-temples-demolished-in-Modis-capital/articleshow/3706244.cms). Your understanding of Indian politics smacks of naivete and myopia; it’s a lot more complicated than just painting all right-wing organizations with a single brush. Mr Modi, unlike Mr. Trump, never attacked any community during his 2014 election rally. He spoke of inclusive growth (‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas’ – i.e. Growth of everyone with everyone’s support) and has in fact been instrumental in trying to ameliorate the condition of Muslim women, who suffer from archaic Islamic laws like triple talaq.

    3. PM Modi has a solid understanding of the tenets of Islam – http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/prime-minister-narendra-modi-at-world-sufi-forum/article8366628.ece. He has come out in support of Sufism, which is probably the only antidote to Islamic radicalism today. To say that he hates Muslims or vice versa is laughable; his huge mandate in UP is testimony to Muslims who look beyond religion towards development and growth. This is just the tip of the iceberg; I shall leave the rest of the reading to your better judgement. Google is your friend.

    4. Also, please do understand that student politics is a very different ballgame from national politics in India; both the left and the right student groups have been crushing on freedom of speech. Both of them need to be condemned. This doesn’t however indict Modi in anyway.

    5. Last but not the least, while India is secular in letter, it is pluralistic in spirit. Indian society is far too rooted in culture and religion to be able to successfully divide nation and church, as it were in European secular ideals. The Indian constitution does take into account religious and cultural values, and is an accurate reflection of Indian society. Please read up on what Arun Shourie and other right-wing intellectuals in India have to say on this topic.

  • baybutter123

    There is probably also something to be said about the intellectual excitement of being a contrarian, as well as the ease with which you can find fault when you are “Behind Enemy Lines” of a prevailing culture that you imagine yourself in opposition to. The author might find his perspective broadened were he to spend time deep in Bible-belt America, or at least talk to more people from that part of the country. Many of them make the exact opposite political shift, from right to left, for reasons that are equally legitimate.

    • lspanker

      You ever spent time in the Bible Belt or the Deep South? I have, and while I have certain political and theological differences with some of their views, I find them far less autocratic and regressive than your typical Berkeley progressive. Social conservatives from red states treat people who disagree with them far better than your typical liberal.

      • jim hoch

        Have to agree with lspanker here. People in the south are much less likely to get in your face about many things that Berkeley “progressive” would feel privileged to harass strangers about. There are more mask wearing thugs in Berkeley than in the State of Mississippi.

      • baybutter123

        I have, and for the most part agree with you (although I have a few gay friends from that part of the country who tell a different story), but I think that social conservatives would become much more boldly regressive and autocratic if they had more of popular culture and academia backing them up. The ugliness of Berkeley politics is more a function of an echo chamber that has become too powerful and blinding, rather than anything inherent to the specific ideology. Rabid tribalism is something that all groups are susceptible too, rather than being a feature of any particular ideology.

        • Jorge Carolinos

          Various southern cities had their town councils taken over by birchers in the 60’s and these councils acted much the same way as Berkeley’s nutty types do.

      • Anax of Rhodes

        Out here in the Southwest, people just don’t give a darn about your or your opinions. Libertarian safe haven. Requires too much personal responsibility, I imagine.

    • Jorge Carolinos

      In bible belt America you will find born again types who have the same exact thinking pathology as progressives. The majority of people in these areas are not as true believer oriented, just as the majority people in the Bay Area are not authoritarian progressives.

      People go to a church that they identify with, colleges should not be like churches.

  • Left Unsaid

    Good reading. Keep questioning the progressive agenda. You will find much intolerance and outright bigotry.

  • YeEast

    When you read Marx without Hegel, you get twats like this incompetent person.

    • Brad Fox

      A true Hegelian philosopher king in our midst. You must be a genius to understand those big concepts.

      • YeEast

        I pride myself over my record of reading the Phenomenology from front to cover in a week and teaching your lost mom about bad consciousness.

        • lspanker

          Unlike others who pride themselves on being able to use facts and logic to persuade others as to the legitimacy of their views, correct?

          • YeEast

            Logic and facts are an affirmation of the stance that mistakenly imposes what’s objective as the true, which in itself is not a complete way of carrying out action in this world. Try again.

          • lspanker

            You’re obviously of the school that believes if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with BS. Do yourself a favor and lay off the bong for a bit before you post again.

          • Man with Axe

            You wouldn’t want to fly in an airplane designed by a Hegelian philosopher. But maybe you should try. Let me know how it went.

  • baybutter123

    Hopefully your views will continue to evolve. No ideology is complete, and the failure of one side (the progressive left here, and apparently the right in India) is never a vindication of the other. Free markets are important, but so is having some measure of government protections. All of the successful developed countries of the world are mixed economies, as are we, although we are perhaps the most free-market leaning, for better and for worse. The question is finding the right balance, which I think requires us to look beyond the left/right ideological paradigm. For instance, we could model our health care system based on what works in the rest of the world, leaving out what doesn’t work or doesn’t fit our needs. Unfortunately, this would require the right to let go of their ideological hangups, which they prioritize over overwhelming mountains of public health data, as well as the basic economic reality of inelastic demand for health care. Then there is the question of the cult of Trumpism, which is currently leapfrogging the social justice cult in the race of unreason. Long story short, every group has blind spots, so learn to think for yourself.

    A relevant Bruce Lee quote:
    All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.

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