Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Revolt of the "Deplorables": Trump's Electoral Victory Analysed

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Hilary Clinton famously describes Donald Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables". A few years back, in more politically incorrect and honest times the phrase may have been a lot more colourful" Poor White Trash. Surprisingly Trump's supporters took that label as a badge of honour and wore it on their bumper stickers and hats. Unfortunately the irony was lost on Hilary Clinton and her self righteous crew. Donal Trump triumphed not only against the Democratic Party nominee, Hilary Clinton but also against a whole slew of vested interests and institutions arrayed against him. He fought against his own party establishment which did not take kindly to an interloper gate crashing into the Nomination process. He fought against 16 other rivals and except for the elegant and honourable Dr Ben Carson, none of his rivals wholeheartedly endorse or support his candidature. Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, was constantly carping about the rise and rise of Donald J Trump. He fought against the White dominated corporate media which projected such a negative image of him, that Donal Trump appeared a caricature to the rest of the world. His statements were viciously torn apart and the debate was more on the language and rhetoric rather than the substance of what he said. The Media in the USA, both Print and Electronic, has not covered itself in glory as the rest of the world sees it as a handmaiden of American political and strategic interests. The complicity of the US media in the Iraq WMD scandal to a large extent dented the image of USA as having a free and fearless press. Negative propaganda, character assassination, innuendo, exaggerated and distorted projection of Donald Trump's alleged character flaws were all dished out and we were expected to lap this up as wisdom from the high table. And it is here that the Revolt of the Deprorables is important.

Hilary Clinton took American Exceptionalism as given. Her public utterances revolved around the messianic goal of USA to transform the whole world after its own image. It is less important to her that the rest of the world does not want to be a split image of USA. Her own incompetence in the chosen arena of foreign policy was apparent in the monumental mishandling of the Libyan Crisis. A prosperous, stable and fairly progressive state was brought to the brink of barbarism by USA and its surrogates operating under the shadow of the Arab League. Her use of the private E mail server even as she worked as Secretary of State violated American Law and in all probability Obama will protect her by issuing a Presidential pardon before he leaves office. Her association  with Clinton Foundation and the contribution raised from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Easter tyrant states shws that she was not above board as all the monies raised were when she was heading Foggy Bottom. a clear case of conflict of interest. Yet the media kept quiet and even when the FBI director told the Press that she was under investigation, the corporate media framed the issue as though the Secret Police was interfering with the democratic process. At the end of the day the "deplorables' saw trough all this and did not endorse her.

Donal Trump on the other hand was faced with an uphill task. He was caricatured from the very start. His business deals were paraded in public as though he had made money the wrong way and his reluctance to open his tax returns to scrutiny was made out as a sinister confirmation of fraud. The rather sad and unpleasant episode of Trump University was given a great deal of play. The Whitewate scandal and the large number of people who were killed investigating Hilary and Bill Clinton was not talked about. Even the sexual escapades of Bill, Clinton's husband, were ignored. Worse, the fact that WikiLeaks clearly exposed the underhand manner in which the candidature of Bernie Sanders was subverted, was not discussed in the press at all. It is now clear as daylight that had Bernie Sanders won the nomination, there was a possibility   of victory. Covert means were used to undermine the democratic process and Julian Assange had exposed the entire tranche of emails from the DNC.

All the problems afflicting the Clinton campaign were laid at the door step of Russia. Instead of asking Hilary Clinton why she was cheating, the Press went after Putin as if he was the cause of the problem. Shooting the messenger has always been the medicine of failed tyrants.

Why did Donald Trump win? The USA of today is tired of wars and foreign adventurism . US intervention in the Middle East has resulted in the destruction of an entire region and more than a million deaths can be attributed directly to US invasion of the region. Trump did address the issue of Islamic Terrorism and he wants to insulate USA from the backlash of American Invasion. Maybe his methods and strategies have not been articulated in a meaningful way but to brand his approach as Islamophobic is suicidal. Islamic Terrorism is a fact of life and USA cannot ignore the elephant in the room. And Hilary Clinon's astute use of Identity Politics also came a cropper. Dividing the entire population into demographic groups, ethnic groups, color coded groups may have been OK thirty years ago. But now with the decline in US economy and  the growing ill effects of globalization on the American Working class, the Economy is in shambles.

Donald Trump was able to connect with the American people because he had his finger on the pulse of America. Jobs, Security and Social Welfare were the main concerns.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Search for the Bones of Queen Ketevan

TheA look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The Ruins of the Agustinian Church

On September 22, 1624, Shah Abbas I, the Safavid ruler of Persia had Queen Ketevan killed and subjecting her to horrific unspeakable torture. She died firm in her belief in her faith, and she was canonized  by the Roman Catholic Church in 1824. Her life and, more importantly, her afterlife is stirring and evokes a sense of awe/ Was her apparent "martyrdom" a political act designed to strengthen her son.s tenuous hold on the throne of Kekhetia, one of the warring principalities of medieval Georgia. Or was it an act of supreme defiance a la Antigone: whose law is supreme--the Law of one Conscience or the Dictates of an earthly ruler. We will never know the answer and probably, the Queen herself may not have been able to answer this question. The fact is that several centuries after her terrible death,an apotheosis is underway and the Queen is emerging as a symbol of Georgian Nation and her death is now being appropriated to push forward a national identity.
The Belfry of the Church
The Tower
Medieval Georgia was a shimmering mirage of quarreling "little kings"and politically ambitious monks and priests. Ketevan herself seems to have been instrumental in using her family to have the reigning king of Kakhetia, Konstantine assasinated and this led to her son Teimuraz I ascending the throne. King Teimuraz I (1589-1663)wrote a poem on his mother.s martyrdom, ThePassion of Queen Ketevanwhich is generally regarded as a National Epic of Georgia. His turbulent reign saw the killing of his two sons at the hands of Shah Abbas I (1587-1629) and the execution of his mother and in a sudden unexpected efflorescence of poetic inspiration composed the poem which recounts in great detail and feeling the treatment meted out to his mother. Interestingly, the tone and persona adopted by the King-Poet was one of irony and he does not condemn either the Governor of Shiraz, theImam Quli Khan who carried out the order of the Shah or the Safavid ruler himself. And this absence of rancour has raised this poem to the ranks on one of the great poetical compositions of medieval world literature.

The Tower that I have illustrated on the left is the only standing structure of the Augustinian Church which was constructed in the early seventeenth century in Goa. The last few years of her life, Queen Ketevan  had tqo Augustinian friars who acted as her confessors. It is certain that after her execution these two priests smuggled her relics to Goa and had them interred in the transept next to the Altar on what was referred to as the Epistle side of the Altar.
Goa State and Central Library

The Augustinan Church and its associated complex of buildings were regarded asthe most magnificent buildings in Goa. They were constructed atop the Holy Hill, close to the Office of the Grand Inquisitor who carried out his nefarious work from the Se Cathedral. After the religious orders were disbanded in Goa, the building was abandoned and by 1850 it lay in ruin. The Altar was overlaid with vegetation and the whole building covered with bushes, rubble and fallen masonry. Locating the Altar, the Transept and the Window to the right of the Altar was not easy as there was no plan of the structure. The original building plan and other documents were destroyed in the Great Fire of Lisbon in 1755 after the Earthquake which devastated the Kingdom.

Fortunately a historian called Antonio da Silva Rego had made detailed record of the tombstones in the Cathedral based on two earlier chronicles of the Augustinian Church. The complete set of documents are preserved with great care in the Goa State and Central Library. The Curator of the Portuguese Collection, Dr Carlos Fernandes is a man of great erudition and dedication and he shared the collection with me. In volume XII pg 92, this chronicler of the Salarzarist regime has faiffully recorded that the bones of "Reino Ghatiavanda" were located on the second window to the right of the Altar.

In 1998 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and when Georgia became independent, the then Government approached the Government of India for help in locating the bones of Queen Ketevan. The Archaelogical Survey of India, Goa Circle, under Mohammad Taher conducted the excavations and close to the exact spot mentioned in the records of Sila Rego were found the bones of a woman. A long femur wasuncovered and DNA analysis has shown that the bones belonged to a woman from Central Asia. The exact DNA is shared by less than one percent of the Indian population and more than 35% of the Georgian Population. Of course there can be no 100% identication unless the DNA is matched with that of a living descendant of the Queen.