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12. Arundhati Roy on nation, nationalism and national symbols
In India, those of us who have expressed views on nuclear bombs, big dams, corporate globalisation and the rising threat of communal Hindu fascism—views that are at variance with the Indian Government´s—are branded ´anti-national´. While this accusation does not fill me with indignation, it´s not an accurate description of what I do or how I think. An ´anti- national´ is a person is who is against his/her own nation and, by inference, is pro some other one. But it isn´t necessary to be ´anti-national´ to be deeply suspicious of all nationalism, to be anti-nationalism. Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the 20th century. Flags are bits of coloured cloth that Governments use first to shrink- wrap people´s minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead. When independent, thinking people (and here I do not include the corporate media) begin to rally under flags, when writers, painters, musicians, film-makers suspend their judgment and blindly yoke their art to the service of the ´nation´, it´s time for all of us to sit up and worry. In India, we saw it happen soon after the nuclear tests in 1998 and during the Kargil war against Pakistan in 1999 (´Not again´ on the first anniversary of 9/11).
Speaking for myself, I´m no flag-waver, no patriot, and am fully aware that venality, brutality, and hypocrisy are imprinted on the leaden soul of every state. But when a country ceases to be merely a country and becomes an empire, then the scale of operations changes dramatically. So may I clarify that tonight I speak as a subject of the American Empire? I speak as a slave who presumes to criticize her king (Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy-Buy One, Get One Free, presented in New York City at the Riverside Church on May 13, 2003. The talk was organised by the Centre for Economic and Social Rights).
Now we know why Arundhati Roy was awarded the Sydney prize and why she accepted it while, typically of her double standards and public posturing, this Resident Non-Indian (RNI) refused to accept the Sahitya Akademi award in January 2006.