Brexit-busy Britain is due for an election. Amid the clamour, it’s quite difficult to bring up something other than the big BoJo-Jezza battle. However, the noise obscures the rapid and fundamental changes in British public life of a transformational sort. Long after Brexit is forgotten and today’s debates turn into stale pub-jokes, these changes will continue to shape British politics, life and ideas, and serve as raw materials for the future theorist.
One such trend is the increasing marginalisation of female MPs, 18 of whom decided not to run again. Just when it seemed that political participation of women is irreversible – Britain had a female Prime Minister only until a few months ago and two of the three shadow ‘great offices’ are held by women – history seems to be going back again. The women MPs stepping down cited the climate of harassment and intimidation, often unleashed very publicly on social media. Those who remained in the fray say that they feel afraid to knock the doors after dark. The memory of Jo Cox, the Labour MP murdered in Birstall in broad daylight for no other crime than her politics, is still raw in memory.
It is easy to overlook this trend as many MPs, male and female, are stepping down this time. Brexit has changed politics and political labels of yesteryear have shifted beyond recognition. Some of the female MPs stepping down have left their parties and now have no political constituency left to serve. It is also true that political abuse has not spared the male MPs. Yet, even in this climate, the female MPs standing down is worth a special note – this may be the start of a trend rather than a Brexit-induced disruption. Instead, this looks more like a long-term trend, a reversal in political participation of women, making Theresa May's premiership the last hoorah of women's politics in Britain.
The seriousness of the abuse has been duly denied – Boris Johnson has called the furore ‘humbug’ – by those who are benefitting from it at the moment. Jeremy Corbyn has met various requests for intervention with silence. Others, who raised the issue and spoke about online bullying of politicians in general, often failed to note the specificity of vitriol directed at women MPs. It’s always easy to sweep all abuse under one carpet and bemoan the general climate of intolerance, but when these become directed to a woman, whether one admits it or not, they become different because they are meant to be. The indistinction, which the gentlemanly types usually succumb to, is the very route through which sexism and racism creep into public life.
Such harassments are now an everyday tactic in contemporary politics. Not long ago, democratic politics was indeed about winning the majority mandate. Then, a few newspapers and a few TV stations reached a broad cross-section of population and ideas had to be debated in the open. But in the age of satellite TV and personalised social media newsfeeds, the public sphere has been segmented. The majority is now just a collection of opinionated, inflexible special interests. All politics has become politics of the vote-bank. There is no space for the politics of everyone anymore.
Right now, therefore, political harassment directed at women works at many levels. They are portrayed as expressions of political passion, unrestrained anger of an unfairly treated underclass to the urban progressivism the political women represent: Such conversations energise the political 'base'. At the same time, in more polite places or at international fora, these could be portrayed as evidence of the politics of intolerance, an excuse to shut down political expressions when it suits the government. Any protest against this bullying can be reframed as bullying and can be shut down using the legal provisions designed to counter bullying. All under the excuse that the majoritarian politics isn't vote-bank politics and being men can't be a politically divisive identity.
But this is not any spontaneous expression of rage, but rather a carefully calibrated messaging strategy! This is a different politics run by thousands of Twitter handles, WhatsApp groups and ever more sophisticated data analytics, Military psyops unleashed on the civilian population. It's a deceptively simple politics though - dog-whistling identity politics and implanting male chauvinism into every male alive on Facebook. In this dystopian world, any protest only feeds the cycle of division even more.
Britain is a strange country, after all. Its ordinary workers and ordinary soldiers have conquered the world, but all that only fed the powers of its aristocratic oligarchy even more. It's okay for Prince Andrew to be glib about his connections with Epstein, except that he was not supposed to talk about it. Hundred years of struggle - Suffragette to #MeToo - has given political women an identity, but one that, in the best British tradition, followed the 'do not embarrass' principle and left the British patriarchy in its place. However, in the perfect storm of the new politics of social media and Brexit divisions, Patriarchy is emergent again and it is seeking to roll back the gains made by political women. Therefore, this attack on women in politics isn't just an issue for the women concerned: Rather, it's a crossroad for the participatory politics in general.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Religi
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen was gui
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was, as
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
As India's democracy reaches a critical juncture, with a very real danger of a authoritarian take-over, Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary is a perfect occasion to revisit the founding idea of India once again. There are many things in his politics that we may need to dust up and reconsider: Tagore's political ideas, because of his inherent aversion of popular nationalism and enthusiasm about Pan-Asianism and universalism, were outside the mainstream of the Indian National Movement, seen as impractical and effectively shunned. He was seen mostly as the Poet and the mystic, someone whose politics remains in the domain of the ideas rather than action. Tagore himself, after a brief passionate involvement in politics during the division of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, withdrew from political action: He never belonged to the political class, despite his iconic status and itinerant interventions, such as returning the Knighthood after the massacre of Amritsar in 1919.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.