Tuesday, April 10, 2012


After reading this, please learn what you can do to act for judicial justice.

A couple of weeks ago a petition to “Save Dharun Ravi” appeared to get wide circulation amongst the Indian and Indian American community. The group on which I first saw this is not given to any kind of political commentary, petitioning or action. In spite of the seeming broad-mindedness of the original appeal :
Instead of drawing lines in the sand and taking sides, let's come together as people and prove that we can make tough decisions and show some compassion, understanding, and sympathy.
Please sign this if you believe that equality and tolerance should be achieved through honest, open communication and not through a vicious and vengeful prosecution that only serves to fuel tempers and alienate us even further.”,
I questioned the motives of the re-broadcasters:
RST: “There are tens of thousands of other innocents in US jails and on death row, why
does this one in particular deserve my attention and the withdrawal of that
attention from the more general problem? Why is it more important to appeal one
_flawed_ instance of justice than to overturn the systemic racial and class bias
in US Justice?

If this was some poor Appalachian white boy, a Hispanic gang-banger or an inner
city black would any of us give a shit? Have any of us given a shit? I haven't
so far, why should I start now?

To which, a response was
H8': “First they came for the Hispanic gang banger and I did not speak out.  Then they came for the Applachian white boy and I did not speak out.  Then they came for the inner city black kid and I did not speak out.  Then they came for Dharun Ravi and I said,
why should I start now?

I thought there seemed to be some misunderstanding, and tried to explain:
RST: “My point, and Niemöller's, is precisely the opposite of how you seem to construe it. If you wait to protest until they come for you (or someone "sufficiently" like you - are not most other human beings sufficiently like you?) it is TOO LATE. You should speak out against injustice when it starts, you should protest injustice when you first become aware of it, and you should make yourself aware of it (by distrusting the MSM, authority, the official line; by being skeptical of what you hear) so as to not be caught unawares. By all means go ahead and sign the petition to Obumama pleading for Dharun Ravi if you are so moved,  but I fear that we, the Indian community, will only come across as insular, ignorant, idiots for attempting to use our clout over such a triviality.

Unless ...

Unless we use this as a starting point for getting involved in something bigger than ourselves, to see this incident as a reason to question authority, use this incident as a catalyst to inform ourselves of the institutional racist and classist biases and to show that we do also care about Hispanic and Native American men sentenced to death on trumped up charges and planted evidence, that we care about black men sentenced to death
in spite of contrary genetic evidence.

H8': “What you are saying seems to be that there are so many injustices out there so if one doesn't take up cudgels to oppose all of them, one has no standing to protest when one is stirred by a particular "sufficiently close" injustice.

RST: No, what I am saying, by way of analogy, is that prevention (of an epidemic) is better than amelioration (of individual cases).

H8': “Tate,
 Look at all the attention you have given already.
If you have the time, you can give attention to every innocent. I would like to do the same, but probably won't be able to find the time.

RST: The right wing strategy on this and every other issue is to force us to dissipate our energy and bandwidth on individual cases (and states), and it explains your apathy, “I can't do everything, so I will do nothing.”

H8': “Honestly, this one got my attention only because of the Indian origin, and it is a college close to my current home, where children of many friends study.

RST: Nuff said?

H8': “I agree I would probably not give my attention if he was of a different country or origin. But I am sure that for them, their friends/country folks must be doing what I am trying to do.

RST: Ummm, see Martin Niemöller.

H8': “I cannot possibly "overturn the systemic racial and class bias in US Justice"

RST: I agree, neither can I; not as isolated individuals, but together perhaps, we can. And, “a good fight should be fought for its merits, not abandoned because of its unwinnability.” - which is what Krishna said to Arjun in the Gita (or should have).

H8': “But this small thing, yes I can do.

RST: Wonderful! And you can do much more!

A supportive friend rightly pointed out my high-mindedness in this and challenged me to come up with an action on the broader issues I raised that we as a community could participate in. But he immediately cast doubt on the viability of anything beyond the “Dharun Ravi” petition by wondering whether it would get any traction within the Indian-American community.

The answer to that doubt, I don't know. It will be determined by how you respond and act. Let's show that we can act from a higher principle, that of human rights for all, in the tradition established by Ashoka, promulgated by Akbar and eloquently described by Amartya.

Inform yourself, involve yourself and ACT!
(Will send you to a post with links to 'action' websites.)


Anonymous said...

Selective editing....
the rest of the comment was:

Very little mention has been mentioned that Clementi's suicide was in a very large part probably due to his family's reaction to his sexual orientation. As injustices go, Ravi's sentence is far from being one of the most heinous, though it does indeed appear disproportionate to his crimes. I paraphrased Niemoller because you airily dismissed the Dharun Ravi petition with a "why should I start now?"

Indeed I would argue if every aggrieved individual strove to redress only those injustices that aggrieve him (or her)....intending only to satisfy his own parochial grievances, he will be led by an invisible hand to promote an end which is not part of his intention. By protesting his own injustice, he frequently fights the broader ills of society as whole more effectually than when he actually sets out to do so.

In other words, simply not in line with the claim that "The right wing strategy on this and every other issue is to force us to dissipate our energy and bandwidth on individual cases (and states), and it explains your apathy, “I can't do everything, so I will do nothing.”

I'm simply asserting that doing something, is better than doing nothing.

Ranjeet said...

@Anonymous: I very much appreciate that you've taken the time to respond.

"Selective editing": guilty as charged.

My "why should I start now?" was rhetorical. But perfect opportunity for you to paraphrase Niemoller!

The boldfaced quotation from an earlier exchange: I respectfully disagree, but with
"doing something, is better than doing nothing."
I agree, unless it is not well thought out or if it is ineffective and dissipates your energy to something larger.

For example, recycling is actually a harmful act in terms of your overall carbon footprint because: it dissipates political will, it dissipates individual energy, it is ineffective in that it ignores the upstream waste which on average is 70 times as large (hence the difference between recycling and trashing is 70:71, essentially insignificant), is ineffective because most "recycled" stuff ends up in a landfill further downstream anyway, but it still allows you to give yourself a "green" pat on your own back for "doing something".