The defences of our double standards is what counts

nicola desouza, Martes, Septiembre 26, 2006 - 11:22

nicola desouza

WSF 2004 Mumbai.

A strange activism. (A journey of realizations)

I was involved with the WSF 2004 in Mumbai and this was my first interaction with so many people of various nationalities. I had many realizations and observations during this time. Not all of them made me feel very good about myself but in retrospect, I am grateful for those experiences. I realized that all of us hold biased prejudices, sometimes consciously but more often than not, subconsciously. This cannot be avoided. Because the basis of a stereotype, is the element of truth that it holds. What is important is how we defend our double standards. Maybe more than being important, it is interesting as well. Never forget this : THE DEFENCES OF OUR DOUBLE STANDARDS ARE IMPORTANT. It is January 2004. I admire the fervour of the WSF volunteers, many of them being from France, Germany Austria, Belgium and other countries as well. Of course there are differences of opinion however there is one thing that unifies them at all times, 'The common hatred against America, Bush, imperialism, capitalism, Coca Cola etc' And not to forget 'The intense love for Arundhati Roy and Che Guevera' :-) I will confess that I too am completely drawn into this thought process, and begin to despise all things American, it becomes almost fashionable to do so. I watch the volunteers at the WSF headquarters working on Linux, an alternative operating system to the Evil Microsoft. They staunchly refuse to use Microsoft, many struggle noticeably to grapple with the unfamiliar nuances on Linux. Me, being one of them. But it was all for a good cause..... Most foreigners in India cannot stomach the local water and so drink only bottled mineral water. In a major city like Mumbai there are 2 major players in the mineral water industry, Bisleri which was owned then by an Indian company Parle and has been the proven market leader through the years. And then a later entrant came in, Aquafina which is owned by Pepsi. I sit at a local restarant with the volunteers. One of them asks for mineral water, upon which the waiter gets himr an Aquafina bottle. She shrieks hysterically 'No, I will not drink zees Aquafina because it is made by Pepsi. Fu*@#ng American Capeetalism. Breeng me Bisleri. Nice Indienne Company' I am impressed, seeing the angst against capitalism, being actually put into practice. Then The WSF finally takes off on the 16th of January. A sublime antisemitic sentiment pervades the atmosphere. A Palestinian woman makes a fiery speech about the Isareli occupation, the evil Jews who exist solely due to the patronage of America. She works up a frenzy, the audience is all pumped up, every part of their being 'aching for the Palestinian cause' The media goes crazy capturing the highly charged atmosphere. Somewhere along, 'Free Palestine' scarves are distributed. The Jewish Community in Mumbai which has lived here for 1000's of years and never faced racism, is suddenly offered police protection. And they dont know why .. Some of them ask me why should their lives be endangered because of 'lots of white skinned people are having some huge gathering in Mumbai' Strange as this may sound, this was the exact question that the common man in Mumbai asked himself. Curious taxi drivers, urchins who have never seen so many foreigners in an obscure suburb called Goregaon all wanted to know 'Where have all these Goras (Whites) come from? What do they want? If they are fighting for the discriminated sections of society, they must be good and powerful people, no ?? And then ....... It's the end of January, and most of the WSF volunteers and delegates are on the road, travelling through India. I decide to go along, travelling through the desert state of Rajasthan. On the way, we meet young Israelis who've just finished army service. They are free spirited and loud but the the shadows behind their eyes, still so palpable. It is Friday evening and they invite us to join them to welcome the Shabbath. Men with dread locks, women pierced and tattooed,earnestly invite 'the others' to eat from their communal bowl of Jewish food, under a star lit sky. The air is filled with contentment and smiles and for the first time I believe that 'Another world is possible' But I feel uneasy and I am unable to soak in this surreal atmosphere . Somewhere in my head.. A harsh booming voice screams : KILL THE JEWS. WIPE THEM OFF THE MAP. Accented voices in Che shirts echo in agreement : 'Yes indeed they are evil. Because Bush supports them. They have to be evil. Every last one of them' I walk away. And the Israelis are offended. And they dont know why I walked away. They never will. ---- ----- ---- We are on the road again, this time in Udaipur. It is hot and we stop at a small roadside stall for mineral water. The keeper gives us a bottle of a local brand called Udaipani or something to that effect. The packaging is not as great as it's urban counterparts, the bottle is not firm and comes across as shady. Or was it just in our heads? Because as far as I can remeber, the water was crystal clear, no residue... nothing... The thirsty volunteer examined the bottled, and said 'Hmm do you have Aquafina" ??!!! ?????!!!! ???!!! Turns out, the shop sold Aquafina too. His face lit up seeing the firm familiar bottle with its very urban westernized packaging. 'I sink I will tsake Aquafina' The others nodded in agreement mumbling incoherently about how we should not take a chance with a seedy looking bottle like Udaipani. After all we have flights to take home to Europe. We cannot afford to fall sick. Another world is possible. Even if double standards are unavoidable. Because we are only human. But never forget this : THE DEFENCES OF OUR DOUBLE STANDARDS IS WHAT MATTERS MORE THAN THE STANDARDS
[EDIT (Mic. Lessard for the CMAQ * added the theme: Racism Themes are an important research method on the CMAQ. ]

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