Culture and Intolerance
We live in a dangerous world, and it’s not the nuclear-tipped missiles in the West that are the biggest threat, but the poison in men’s hearts. This month, we step back from the minutiae of everyday lives that often distract us from the broader issues, and present an exclusive essay by poet and folklorist Ved Prakash Vatuk.
Vatuk is a proud Hindu, as well as a humanist who is deeply committed to a plural, just society. He is appalled by the intolerance that has infected a section of Hindus, creating a mirror image of the shrill, intolerant, violent ethos of the fundamentalist adherents of the Semitic faiths—Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
What’s more, this growing cultural tolerance is not limited to Hinduism, but appears to be a globalized phenomenon. In this month’s issue, Vatuk, whose lifelong political activism ranges from supporting India’s freedom movement and visiting Mahatma Gandhi to marching against the Vietnam war in the turbulent 1960s in Berkeley, Calif., offers a sober and sobering reflection on the cultural terrorism of today’s world.
Amid all the hullaballoo over the global economic downturn, the unquenchable thirst for energy of emerging nations may get lost in the shuffle, but it is nonetheless very real. The key role of energy in the functioning and economic prosperity of nations is not anything new—wars have been fought, and continue to be fought, over oil.
As India and China rev up their economic engines to bring a degree of prosperity, a critical component in their efforts is energy. Global reality presents a sharp irony: Just as these nations are beginning to grow after centuries of backwardness, the world’s energy resources have become sharply depleted, thanks to the profligacy of the West.
India and China are competing for scarce resources, and in this issue our India correspondent Siddharth Srivastava reports that China might be edging out India in this vital area.
Our focus is primarily—almost exclusively—South Asian in this magazine, but this month we have made an exception. The recent Israeli attacks on Gaza are so disproportionate and unconscionable, it should give pause to every sentient world citizen.
South Asians, with a history of colonial oppression, should be particularly sensitive to the misery of the Palestinians, who have been victims of what has been a brutal, thinly veiled colonial project for over half a century.
If this opinion makes some of our readers chafe, don’t take our word for it. This is exactly what Avi Shlaim says—and he is somebody whose view you cannot dismiss easily. Not only is Shlaim, an Oxford don, a distinguished Middle East historian, he is also a staunch Jewish supporter of Israel. Shlaim backs an Israel within its 1967 borders, and he actually served in the Israeli Army in the 1960s.
All the same, he is appalled by what Israel has been doing, and has written an essay which is a memorable corrective to the egregiously lopsided pro-Israel bias in the U.S. that prevents any intelligent discussion on this most serious of international crises in today’s world. We reprint his essay in this issue.