Ranjan Sreedharan
India’s self-hating Left-Liberals
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

This post is about the class of left-liberals in general, and the ones in India in particular, because these days they are the ones who call all the shots. In essence, left-liberalism is an economic world view that starts off by beating one’s chest and wailing out loud because there’s so much poverty around. It concludes by prescribing solutions that tend to be the same no matter which part of the world you live in.

It is the “duty” of the government to step forward and provide free food, jobs, education, healthcare, pensions—you name it— to whosoever needs it, and all this can be done so easily if only the government would lean harder on the rich. Don’t the rich enjoy so many undeserved benefits from the government anyway?Of course, between the starting point and the end point, it generates a lot of verbiage, but all that can be safely ignored.

Within this left-liberal class, there is a sub sect, the class of the self-hating left-liberal. How do you know you hate yourself? Here’s a test. Imagine you are in a crowded public place and someone out of nowhere lands a hard punch right into your face. And your response is, “Oh, he’s hit me… I’m sure I must have done something to provoke him… maybe, something’s wrong with my face.”

The self-hating left-liberal looks at all conflicts and all crimes from an underdog versus top dog perspective and further holds that the historical underdog, once identified as such, is never wrong. In other words, in all conflicts, the blame lies invariably with the side identified with the top dog, the dominant side.

In a criminal act, if the perpetrator happens to be from the class of underdogs, without doubt the victim is to blame. If the evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary, be sure there are extenuating circumstances to explain why the perpetrator behaved the way he did. Of course, part of the delight of being a self-loathing left-liberal is a perverse pleasure in knocking down and demeaning your own people. After all, it is easy to convince yourself that you are being fair and dispassionate when you are harshest on your own kind.

Isn’t the tendency to overlook the faults of your own people and lay the blame on others an all-too-common human failing? The self-hating left liberal therefore seeks to rise above this commonplace fallacy by going overboard, to the other extreme. The preferred narrative now is that the fault is always ours; we are the ones to blame, and never the underdog.

Not surprisingly, India’s left-liberals and their self-hating kindred go ballistic when the talk is about the riots that followed Godhra (which is a valid concern), but curiously, they would continue to cherish the belief that the train caught fire by a process best described as “self-combustion”.

Internationally, the most prominent example of a self-hating left-liberal is Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at the MIT, who traces many of the ills in the world today to America and the deviousness of its successive presidents and governments.

In India, the best example that I can think of—someone who runs ahead of even Arundhati Roy—is a frequently published writer and journalist by the name Pankaj Mishra. He writes well (incidentally, left-liberals are often good writers) and I’ve seen him occasionally on the NYT and Guardian websites, and more frequently on Bloomberg where he writes a regular pot-boiler column. I also understand he has a ready audience among the state controlled newspapers in the Gulf region (for obvious reasons).

I first noticed him sometime after the year 2000 when the Indian Express published a full page “expose” authored by him. It made the startling claim that the massacre of thirty-odd Sikhs at the village of Chhitisinghpura (J&K) in 2000 was actually the handiwork of the Indian Army, with the intention of maligning the militants. Recall that the year 2000 was before 9/11and Pakistan’s role in fomenting terrorism was far from being the open and shut case it is today. Those were days when we were desperately trying to make our case against Pakistan to an international audience that was still sceptical, and it was a hugely damaging piece.

Looking back, we now know there was not a shred of truth in his claims, but, at a delicate moment in our history, he damaged our credibility. Since then, his political writings have continued to shed copious tears at the plight of the poor, the minorities, the caste oppressed etc., relentlessly hammering away at the point that the Indian state represents elitist, corporatist or upper caste interests.

The greatest harm done by this self-hating class is to the country’s minority population who end up believing in the facile notion that this lot actually speaks for their interests. And that is another fallacy. True friends stand for me when they also have the courage to tell the truth to my face when I go wrong. If someone flatters me insistently, tells me I do no wrong, can do no wrong, that all my problems have roots in conspiracies hatched by “them”, surely, he’s up to no good!

At the same time, there can be no denying that the deluded left-liberal has as much right to his delusions as anyone else. However, when left-liberal delusions run rampant and take hold of the national psyche, the entire country suffers, as India suffers now. What, then, can be done about it?

Go over to America and look at how that great country takes care of these irritants. Noam Chomsky is considered one of the foremost intellectuals in the world today. The left leaning British newspaper The Guardian had once compiled a list of the leading intellectuals of the world and Chomsky was at the top. But, in America, the overwhelming majority of ordinary Americans have not heard of him.

What is happening? As far as the mainstream American media is concerned, and this reflects mainstream opinion in America as well, Noam Chomsky either does not exist, or he does not matter. Between 1995 and 1997, I spent two years in America with a subscription to the New York Times and the New Yorker and I never came across his name. In contrast, a Chomsky in India would have laid siege to our prime time television and countless middle-class homes would find themselves unwitting hostage to his self-flagellating claptrap.

I mentioned in passing that left-liberals tend to be rather good writers. It’s certainly true for India where most of them have come to their ideology after a start in literature and the fine arts where your quest is for beauty and justice, and where you are obsessed with aesthetics. In contrast, economic conservatives have little interest in appearances. They don’t care for beauty because their priority is to try and figure out things that work as opposed to things that don’t work, what is the efficient way versus the inefficient, what is sustainable and what is not sustainable.

The left-liberal quest for beauty, symmetry and justice has absurd implications when carried into economics. Here’s an example. Imagine you’ve been made to hold up one your hands for a long time. It hurts a lot now. The simple remedy is to bring the hand down. But the left-liberal will not stop here. He will say that the left hand has suffered for so long that in the interests of justice and equity, the right hand too must be held up for an equal length of time. In the meantime, it never strikes him that it is your own body that suffers.

With all the passion he brings to the cause of justice, he’s only too happy to inflict more pain on you.