23 October 2008

The S-word

We have been watching Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart, and somewhat frantically/fanatically reading blogs, news sites, and viewing YouTube vids to keep up with the election stuff, but also to follow in an anthropological sort of way how the discourse is turning. To see if you can see the contours of it, even this close, even without historical perspective to speak of. Well, one should have perspective of history (eg er, not inadvertently calling for a new McCarthyesque study of members of congress and their Anti Americanness.)

So in light of this, and in light of the "S" word being thrown around (Salsa dancing?) and in light of the "positive" McCain ad last week that still managed to zing a couple of negative bits at the Dems (Taxes are patriotic)--I found the following advert in the Economic and Political Weekly, an Indian publication that is quite good--sort of a slightly more scholarly Economist for South Asia and surrounding regions, with many top scholars publishing intellectually engaged, well-researched pieces on history, culture, economics, and politics. I recommend checking it out--the latest issue is usually free. Link.

As part of a piece I'm writing on architecture, modernity, and how architecture responds to/traces out the contours of the "New India" I was doing a little EPW reading, you know, from January 1980 (as you do). One of the pages of the article had this lovely advert on it:

Lil bit Socialist, no? Well, yes. India continued on a relatively socialist vein until about 1980, when liberalization started, and then in 1991 the government took an about-face on four decades of 5-year plans and started to embrace globalization. Ambassador cars to Honda SUVs. Thumbs up cola to Seven Up. Bisleri bottled water to Dasani. Sigh. I'm all about the responsibility to pay taxes. And part of me kind of wishes that the US was a wee bit socialist. We need some good slogans these days--drill baby drill doesn't cut it.

Pay Taxes Right
Build Nation's Might

Nailed it!

If anything, this advert, a reminder of a time just before India started to liberalize, not at all at the height of its socialism, and certainly not parallel in intensity to sloganeering in either China or the USSR, shows us how completely un-socialist the US is. How, aside from discussions of nationalizing the banks etc. blah blah, we have no frame for cultural socialism, for putting the nation/community/state up a notch on the priority list from "must by Cheetos for game tonight."

And paying your taxes early does allow you to avoid tension and anxiety (how nice of them to think of me!) and I am a good citizen! And I want to mobilze nation building! Huzzah!

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