Sunday, 15 June 2008

The Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire- Arundhati Roy


The time has come, the Walrus said. Perhaps things will get worse and then better. Perhaps there's a small god up in heaven readying herself for us. Another world is not only possible, she's on her way. Maybe many of us won't be there to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen carefully, I can hear her breathing.


This is a collection of essays, speeches and articles written by Arundhati Roy between 2002 and 2003.
Reading them has had a huge impact on me. I can’t call it exactly an eye-opener experience, because my eyes were already open, on a lot of the topics Roy talks about. I don’t claim to be an expert on international politics, neo-liberalism or imperialism. But her arguments on war, global injustices and world poverty are familiar grounds for me. My first anti-war protest was in 1991, when I was 10 or 11. I’ve attended three European Social Forum, I’ve been to countless demonstrations and meetings. I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place, and I believe that “another world is possible” is not just a nice slogan.
It’s just that recently I have withdrawn from all this. Now I want to start to read more, to be informed and have good arguments to use when confronted with someone who supports the war on terror, or neo-liberal agendas. It’s not enough to say “was is wrong”. You need facts and figures. And you need to know what you’re talking about.

Arundhati Roy definitely knows what to say and how to say it. She writes about Iraq and the Middle East, about Chomsky and Bush, about everyday people struggling for their right to exist. She writes about this and so much more, with confidence and passion, and even humour.
If you think politics talk is boring, think again.

I must admit that even if I believe that people can always make a difference and that it’s better to do something than just sit and watch, my faith in the power of protests has had some ups and downs.
In February 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq, millions of people, all over the world, got on the streets on the same day, and said no to war. All over the world. 800 cities. 60 countries. It was a global protest of unprecedented scale. And it still didn’t physically stop the war. Not that year, not the year after, and not the year after that. So, what’s the point?

Arundhati Roy, even before February 15, in her speech “confronting empire” in Porto Alegre, had said:
We may not have stopped [Empire] in its track – yet - but we have stripped it down. We have made it drop its mask. We have forced it into the open. It now stands before us on the world’s stage in all its brutish, iniquitous nakedness. Empire may well go to war, but it’s out in the open now – too ugly to behold its own reflection.

This is why I needed to read this book. With beautiful words, she urges everyone to have an opinion, and possibly do something to bring change, even a small one.
She is compelling and moving. She sent shivers down my spine more than once.
I can’t recommend this book enough.

5 comments:

Nymeth said...

Thank you for this review, Valentina. I love her writing, and this sounds like a very important book. I will definitely read it.

RAAZ-E-DIL said...

Hi
Many of Arundhati's articles are available in the net. You can visit the following site
http://www.zmag.org/content/AllByAuthor.cfm?Iname=Roy&fname=Arundhati&startrow=1

Trish said...

I just recently found out that Roy is an activist--so this sounds like a really interesting read. I have The God of Small Things on my TBR and am thinking about recommending it as a book club selection. Have you read that one?

valentina said...

Nymeth, I hope you will:)

raaz-e-dil, thank you for this link! I'll definitely visit this site, hopefully I'll find some that weren't in this book.

Trish, yes, I've read it and I've reviewed it too. It wasn't a great hit, but it was interesting nevertheless, and lots of other people loved it to bits.

Sandra said...

Interesting review. I have not read her non-fiction but she writes fiction so well I'm sure this must be good too. I thought The God of Small Things was fantastic by the way.