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Indian Press ( 23 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Press On Gender Equality, Imran Khan And Joe Biden: New Age Islam's Selection, 23 January 2021

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

23 January 2021

• Even When Textbooks Preach Gender Equality, The Hidden Curriculum At Schools Can Still Undermine Girls

By Arpan Tulsyan

• Imran Khan Jumped The Gun. This Time, Over Pakistan’s Economic Turnaround

By Shishir Gupta

•  FATF Push May Not Alter Pak Strategic Interests

By Shalini Chawla

• Biden’s Challenges: How To Keep Trump Or A Clone From Returning To The White House In 2025

By Kanti Bajpai

• Democracy Is Fragile, Lamented Joe Biden

By Kurt Jacobsen And Sayeed Hasan Khan

• In Trump They Trust

By Hiranmay Karlekar


Even When Textbooks Preach Gender Equality, The Hidden Curriculum At Schools Can Still Undermine Girls

By Arpan Tulsyan

January 22, 2021

As we celebrate International Education Day tomorrow, this year’s theme reflects our collective global challenge to ‘recover and revitalise education for the Covid-19 generation’. The pandemic has disrupted the education sector across the world – more so in countries like ours, marked with stark inequalities and digital divide.

However, the silver lining is that we, as a nation, value quality in education more than before. We increasingly realise that education isn’t just about delivering lessons or filling worksheets, but perhaps more about teacher-student interactions, peer interplay and an experience of school life which supports development of a range of skills, competencies and attitudes. There’s also a growing realisation that widening inequalities mandate newer strategies to bridge the gap between quality of education delivered to learners from diverse backgrounds.

The pandemic period witnessed the much awaited National Education Policy, followed by an announcement of developing two new National Curriculum Frameworks for Teacher Education (NCFTE) and school education (NCFSE) by next year. As we reopen schools, it’s an opportune time to reflect on the need to revitalise education through curricula.

Ordinarily, curriculum is understood as a set of prescribed knowledge guiding teaching and learning in schools, often used synonymously with ‘syllabus’. However, educational thinkers have argued for a much broader understanding. From the idea of curriculum as fixed, prescribed and subject centred, the discourse needs to shift to a more fluid, interactive and child centred notion.

The focus needs to be on the outcome – what is learned – rather than on what is directly taught. In other words, the transmission of content in classrooms needs to be examined. This process is often highly contextual, and fraught with diverse tacit, indirect and often unintentional messages and cues which have been referred to as ‘hidden curriculum’. Although hidden curriculum remains unacknowledged and underexamined in India, it creates a powerful context of learning, shaping students’ self-perceptions and worldview.

For instance, while observing a class, I found the teacher listing ‘girl’ as the opposite of ‘boy’ on the blackboard, accompanied by a short monologue on how they are as different as night and day. While these words fall under the masculine-feminine (ling badlo) section, the teacher unwittingly decided that they are opposites (vilom shabd). In another class discussing teamwork, a teacher listed hero, heroine and ‘item girl’ as members of a film making crew.

My classroom observations at Delhi schools showed that both male and female teachers initiated twice the number of interactions with boys than girls, which included verbal interactions like encouragement and discussion of higher order questions. These also included non-verbal interactions like giving more time to answer a question, nodding towards them, looking at their side while teaching and walking more between boys’ side of the row in the segregated class and so on. Only high performing girls were found to interact with the teacher, at par with boys.

Conduct related interactions, however, were made nearly twice with girls even when boys disrupted the class more often. Verbally, teachers discouraged girls by making frequent references to girls’ predicament of marriage, housework and child rearing; and non-verbally through gaze aversion and frequent interruptions.

Hence, through an unequal division of their time, attention and energies as well as their interpretation and illustration of the textbook content, teachers were often found to subvert the formal curricular goal of achieving gender equality through education.

In a scenario of already aggravating inequalities, curriculum reforms must move beyond approaching quality and equity through the lens of representation alone. It is crucial that hidden curriculum is acknowledged as a vital area of curriculum design and educational assessment impacting both academic outcomes and social-emotional competencies.

New curriculum frameworks should examine the cultural, ideological and political underpinnings of hidden curriculum and its manifestations in schools’ organisation and structure, unwritten norms and classroom practices. Lastly, they should seek to reorient this powerful force to support, rather than subvert progressive educational goals through continuous teacher training and school monitoring programmes.

Both NCFTE and NCFSE must articulate and account for the presence of hidden curriculum particularly with reference to marginalised social groups in diverse educational settings and teaching areas. It will pave the way for India furthering a formal ‘equal right to education’ into a much more substantive ‘right to equal education’.


Imran Khan Jumped The Gun. This Time, Over Pakistan’s Economic Turnaround

By Shishir Gupta

Jan 22, 2021

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government often pins the blame for the economic turmoil in Pakistan on his predecessors and coronavirus, in that order, and credits PM Khan for minimising the adverse impact of both. PM Khan and his government’s economists have lately been telling Pakistanis and the world about his government’s success in navigating the economy.

In November, Imran Khan told a meeting with political leaders and civil society that the difficult phase in the economic revival is over and the economy has recovered. The next month, PM Khan declared that Pakistan’s economy had made a “remarkable turnaround”.

To be sure, the pandemic did play a key role in ramming Pakistan's economy that contracted for the first time in seven decades. But the downward trend had been evident as early as mid-2018. Pakistan's GDP grew by 1.9% in 2019, down from a decade-high of 5.8% the previous year when Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came to power.

Pakistan watchers in New Delhi suggest PM Khan’s proclamation on the economy may have jumped the gun.

Not everyone in Pakistan outside the government is as convinced either. Like this opinion piece in the Dawn. “Whenever you hear the government proclaim triumph about rising exports, keep in mind that the trade deficit has grown even faster than exports in the same July to December period,” commentator Khurram Husain cautioned on the government’s spin to the data on PM Khan’s claims of economic recovery.

Besides, Pakistan is also struggling to contain inflation that shot up to 10.7% in 2020, up from 6.8% in 2019 and 4.7% in 2018 when the Imran Khan government came to power. A recent spike in food prices indicates that the rising trend is likely to continue.

Pakistan, in a desperate effort to contain food prices, ended up aggressively importing essentials like wheat, sugar and canola to such an extent that, according to a Bloomberg report earlier this month, the Karachi Port was jammed.

“The result: Pakistan’s cement exports declined 18% to 633,431 tons last month, steeper than the 5% drop seen in November, amid non-availability of berths to load the goods,” the Bloomberg report said.

The economy is also under strain due to rising debt stocks. By the end of September 2020, Pakistan's total debt and liabilities stood at Pakistani Rupee 44,801 billion ($280 billion), an increase of PKR 245 billion over a three-month period.

Moreover, around 30% of Pakistan's total debt is sourced through external borrowings and reflects an increase of $ 1.05 billion during the July-September quarter of the current fiscal. Pakistan would need to pay around PKR 1,200 billion towards servicing the debt and liabilities in the current fiscal.

Currently, Pakistan spends around one-third of the total budget on debt servicing. PM Khan admitted the impact of the debt burden recently even if it was to blame his predecessors. “Half of the taxes we [the government] collect go into debt settlement of loans taken by previous governments,” he told reporters this month.

Quite a bit of PM Imran Khan’s attempt to build the narrative around Pakistan’s economic turnaround has focused on the current account that had been in surplus for around five months till December, a rarity in a country dependent on imports and stagnant exports. PM Khan had, for weeks, lauded the current account surplus as “great news” and spoke about the ‘achievement’ with some pride last week too.

Economists have, however, pointed that the current account surplus was possibly one positive consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic that had slowed down economic activity and led to a decline in the demand for fuel in an era of low global oil prices. It also helped that travel restrictions around the world had impeded the flow of remittances via the informal channels and forced workers abroad to use the formal remittance channels.

But it is time for Pakistan to tighten its belt as it looks to revive the International Monetary Fund’s $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF). It was stalled in February 2020 after the Covid-19 outbreak that gave PM Khan the space to put off hard decisions.

The first one came on Thursday when the government announced plans to increase the power tariff by Rs1.95 a unit. Local media reports have indicated that the government could soon also withdraw PKR 150 billion worth of tax exemption to the corporate sector.

PM Khan did not refer to the corporate income tax rates and exemptions at the launch of a digital payments system 'Raast' earlier this month. But he did hint at the need to expand the tax base. Out of 220 million people in Pakistan, income tax paid by 3,000 people accounted for 70% of the collections, he said.


FATF Push May Not Alter Pak Strategic Interests

By Shalini Chawla

Jan 23, 2021

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) pressure is increasing on Pakistan with the global anti-terror watchdog all set to evaluate Pakistan’s progress in counter-measures against terror financing. The group’s findings will be presented at the Asia-Pacific Joint Group meeting and the decisive plenary session scheduled in February. Pakistan was put on the grey list of FATF in June 2018. News-breaking and eye-catching counteractions from the Pakistani regime have gained momentum sequentially in the last few months with the decisive deadline of February 2021 issued by the FATF approaching. Islamabad certainly does not want to be on the blacklist of the FATF. It anxiously wants to move out of the grey list which would relax the international financial aid and investment channels for the country, giving a breather to Pakistan’s frazzled financial situation. Even though the all out assistance from its iron brother, China, has been lavish for Pakistan, and Beijing recently rescued Pakistan by helping it to repay a substantial part of the Saudi loan of $1 billion, Pakistan needs external financial assistance to revive the ailing economy.

In a much predictable move, Pakistan claims that its actions of targeting UN-designated terrorists should not be linked to the FATF deadline. But the fact remains that Pakistan waited and pushed the required actions till the last moment in the hope that it might somehow be

rescued from adhering to the strict FATF guidelines. Pakistan’s response to the suggested FATF compliances has been on three fronts: First, in mid-2020 (even though it was placed in the grey list in mid-2018), parliament passed two bills after much uproar from the Opposition parties — the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the United Nations (Security Council) Amendment Bill 2020.

Secondly, the FATF, in its plenary meeting held in June last year, decided to sustain Pakistan on the grey list given its failure to control financial transactions of the terror groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). The final meeting is due next month and we see a surge in actions by the Pakistani regime. A number of UN-designated terrorists have been arrested and convicted. An arrest order has been issued against Masood Azhar, chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad, in a terror-financing case (not for an act of terrorism). Other important arrests on the charges of terror financing include that of 26/11 attacks mastermind Zaki-ur- Rehman Lakhvi.

Thirdly, Pakistan has been very active in recent months in revising its anti-India narrative. For decades, Pakistan built and sustained the narrative of victimhood and positioned India as a major threat to its sovereignty. In recent months, Pakistan’s India narrative has been focusing on projecting India as a dangerous state being run on a Nazi ideology under the BJP government and as a sponsor of terrorism in Pakistan. It submitted a terrorism dossier against India in the United Nations and blamed India for the January 3 terrorist attack in Balochistan which has been claimed by the Islamic State. By adopting an offensive posture with a revised anti-India narrative, Pakistan is attempting to counter India’s position on Pakistan’s strategy of terrorism.

Narratives have been a critical part of Pakistan’s strategic posturing at the international level to build alliances and seek military assistance from major powers, attract support from the Muslim world and build consensus amongst the Pakistani diaspora all across globe. At the domestic level, the anti-India narrative supports continued military dominance, significant investment in the military and nuclear build-up at the cost of the nation’s development and justifies the use of sub-conventional war. Two recent developments have further added to Islamabad’s discomfort: first, the US move to redesignate Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Lashkar-e-Taiba as terrorist groups, and second, India being scheduled to chair the Counter-Terrorism Committee in 2022 as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

While Pakistan will actively try to swing the FATF decision in its favour, the international community needs to realise that these actions are not reflective of a change in Pakistan’s strategic reliance on terrorism. Pakistan is attempting to intensify its covert war strategy in Kashmir with the freshly formed “The Resistance Front”.

Pakistan’s linkages with the Al-Qaeda are well acknowledged and it was not too long ago when Prime Minister Imran Khan, in parliament, addressed Osama bin Laden as a ‘martyr’. Pakistan continues to rely on a dual policy in Afghanistan where, on the one hand, it proudly takes the credit for facilitating the US-Taliban agreement, and on the other, continues to support terror groups and create instability in Afghanistan with an objective of establishing a pro-Pakistan regime in Kabul. Prime Minister Imran Khan, during his maiden trip to Afghanistan late last year, was greeted by anti-Pakistan slogans and demonstrations in Afghanistan. According to a UNSC report, approximately 6,500 Pakistani terrorists are operating in Afghanistan.

Although recent legal actions in Pakistan have been targeting global terrorists, Pakistan’s strategic calculus remains unaltered. However, the positive side of the recent FATF-instigated actions is that for the first time, Pakistan has recognised and accepted the presence of these terrorists within the country and their role in terrorism-related activities!


Biden’s Challenges: How To Keep Trump Or A Clone From Returning To The White House In 2025

By Kanti Bajpai

January 22, 2021

Joe Biden is finally President of the United States. A passable speaker, he nonetheless made an inspiring inauguration speech. No Indian leader since Jawaharlal Nehru has done better. As India continues to embrace majoritarianism, Biden was urging inclusivity – and putting it on display with two black women on the stage with him in leading roles: his vice-president and the Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman.

Impressive as Biden’s start was, he faces enormous problems. The first is his own survival and vitality. The president will face serious threats to his life from right-wing extremists. These include extremists within his own security detail. Veterans from two decades of wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East have filled the police and other forces. A portion of these are right-wing sympathisers and worse. There are others who wish him ill. Beyond Biden’s safety from assassination is concern over his ability to lead energetically given his age. He is the oldest US president ever.

The second problem is dealing with Donald Trump’s followers, from fanatical white supremacists to sedate conservatives. An American friend of mine, an erstwhile staunch Democrat, voted for Trump twice. He detests Trump as a person but would vote for him or a political clone without hesitation. Why? Because Trump is aligned with his new-found social conservatism. Also, a significant portion of white Americans has slipped into poverty, joblessness, and opioid related destitution and despair. Biden must help disadvantaged minorities but also this segment of whites. Otherwise, Trump or a clone could be back in the White House in 2025

The third problem is Trump himself. Should Biden ignore him, from the lofty confines of the White House? Or should he allow Congress and the legal system to go after him on tax and other high misdemeanours including encouraging the invasion of the US Capitol? The former course of action may cut the oxygen off Trump, but it risks alienating the left-wing of the Democratic Party. The latter course may be the correct thing to do legally but seemingly contradicts Biden’s calls for “unity” – or will be made to look that way.

The next problem is dealing with both the Democratic and Republican Party. The Democrats’ leftists are already sniping at the new administration and are unhappy over some of Biden’s appointees. There are in addition conservative Democrats who might side with Republicans on various issues. The Republicans are wounded and divided, but the party is still a force in the two legislative houses. More worrying is the possibility that Trump will either decimate the Grand Old Party or take it over completely. The former president has already hinted he may launch his own party. Third parties don’t have a great history in US politics, but these are extraordinary times. If Trump does launch a new party, many Republicans may join it or lead a rebellion that leads their party into Trump’s new “Patriot Party”. The resulting chaos will not help Biden – it will at the very least shift attention to Trump once again.

Finally, Biden has to bring Covid-19 under control for public health and economic reasons. But this is a political challenge too insofar as millions of Americans refuse to take the most elementary precautions. How to persuade them to change? Vaccination is one way out of the difficulty. But many Americans won’t take the vaccine either, and these are not just right-wing sceptics but the very people that Biden would extol – those who take precautions and worry that the vaccine’s long-run effects on the body are unknown. They would rather “mask up” than be vaccinated.

The world has breathed a sigh of relief with Trump’s exit. His brand of politics though is far from fatally tarnished or defeated. Biden knows it and must find a way to deal with it and the carnage Trump has wrought. No challenge has been greater since the American civil war.


Democracy Is Fragile, Lamented Joe Biden

By Kurt Jacobsen And Sayeed Hasan Khan

January 22, 2021

Democracy is fragile, lamented Joe Biden when he was still several nervous days away from inauguration. It’s not clear yet if the Capitol Hill rampage was a serious coup attempt or a shambolic, if bloody, circus ~ we think the latter ~ but this political shambles was a long time in the making. It goes way back beyond Donald Trump’s petulant charge that he was robbed of re-election. In 2004 ***New York Times*** reporter Ron Suskind interviewed high figures in the George W. Bush White House during the Global War on Terror when things still seemed to be going gangbusters for them. A year before, most well educated people believed, or had swallowed doubts about, the accusation that rabid Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear missiles that were ready to rain anywhere that annoyed him. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair reliably egged things on, claiming an Iraqi missile could strike Britain in 48 minutes flat, while his intelligence officials played along or were forced to keep mum. Iraq was doomed on the basis of cherry-picked information, duly refined to serve determined leaders who were just as sure of their fanciful facts as Trump is of his own. In this painstakingly cultivated atmosphere of fear, an exultant official, believed to be Bush’s aide Karl Rove, told Suskind that “we” in the White House “create our own reality” now. The rest of you pathetic mortals ~ OK, he did not say ‘pathetic mortals’ ~ must stand in awe and behold the realities “we” make and “you will be left to study what we do.” What everyone actually was studying were smug political bullies in action, a phenomenon which preceded Trump by a long chalk. The Iraq War, alas, did not work out as these clairvoyant imperialists hoped, but, on the bright side, none ever answered or even apologized for the war and all its costs. They generated torrents of self-serving deceit and got what they wanted in 2003, which was US troops storming Baghdad and, in Trump’s case today, red-hatted, flag-waving zealots and fools storming the Capitol Building, utterly convinced that they were preserving democracy.

Flash backward further to the 2000 election when, during a crucial juncture in the stormy recount of Bush versus Gore, the infamous “Brooks Brothers riot” in Miami-Dade County occurred in which a braying gang of Republican Party officials in suits and ties shut down a recount that worryingly was going the Democrat’s way. The break-in enabled Bush to take the presidency, with a little head-scratching help later from a friendly Supreme Court. One reckons that the clownish right-wing militia figures in the violent forefront of the invasion of the capitol had exactly that same scenario in mind in their effort to shut down certification of Biden’s victory, which in this case could not possibly have succeeded.

We heartily agree right off the mark that had the unruly crowd in Washington been A Black Lives Matter or other left-leaning group the security services would have picked off the intruders before they reached the entrance. A blood bath was precisely what some loonies sought in order generate martyrs to their reactionary cause. So we are glad the authorities treated them for the most part, with a restraint that was almost touching, as if they were wayward brothers and sisters. (We likewise are glad for once that the Democrats, as always, passed the bloated Defense Bill, so as not to irritate Generals in a position to decide whether coups work or not.) The last time one of us joined an anti-war demonstration during the Vietnam War the police joyously clubbed and tear-gassed indiscriminately (attacking many ordinary D.C. employees) and arrested thirteen thousand degenerate longhairs. What the police saw the other day were their own kind, and so many were complicit, taking selfies with invaders, removing barricades, and ignoring the rioters’ antics. There were dress rehearsals in Wisconsin and Michigan where armed militia earlier swaggered openly in public spaces, and were unmolested.

The frothing Trumpist mob believed that the dedicated corporate servant, Joe Biden, is a far left socialist, which in their eyes means not universal health care, free education, good jobs, improved environment and better social security benefits but a tyrannical state run by alien creatures who might as well have descended from outer space. Antisemitism, of which there are not a few ardent fans in the crowd, aptly was called the ‘socialism of fools”, of dimwits searching for an easy target to blame for all their woes. It costs many billions in media propaganda to mis-educate people as thoroughly as these deluded people are, and 43 per cent of Republicans approved of them too. One can appreciate the high stakes. What would happen if they realized that conman Trump (and his corporate cronies) was not their good buddy? That instead they were chief reasons for manufacturing jobs being exported, wages frozen or cut, benefits diminished, work hours extended, pensions made flimsier, healthcare more expensive, and the cost of a house for their children prohibitive unless their parents croak and leave one to them? After the Georgia election, whose election of two Democrats likely enflamed the rioters even more, Joe Biden now has a Democratic- controlled Senate and Congress with which to work out a recovery plan. If he fails, his advantage will last as long as Obama’s did. Two years. Then comes a smarter, slicker version of Trump, if not the oaf himself again. So why would anyone bother with another coup attempt?


In Trump They Trust

By Hiranmay Karlekar

23 January 2021

Why do Americans in such large numbers continue to support the Don? Could it be the search for security that drives them?

What explains the fact of tens of millions of Donald Trump’s supporters remaining fiercely loyal to him even after his role in the deplorable storming of the Capitol Hill on January 6? The question is important. The army of supporters is numerically huge and, reports say, the Right-wing extremist groups in their ranks are likely to continue to resort to violence and terror on an escalating scale.

Any search for an explanation must begin by identifying those involved in the January 6 outrage. A Reuters report by Ted Hesson, Ned Parker, Kristina Cooke  and Julia Harte, datelined January 8, cites Devin Burghart, executive director of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which tracks extremism, as saying that protesters at the Capitol building on January 6 included some of the most extreme elements of Trump’s base, including White nationalists, militia groups and QAnon conspiracy theorists.

The last-named perhaps played the most important part in the storming as well as in organising it. As a report, by Drew Harwell, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Razzan Nakhlawi and Craig Timberg in The Washington Post — datelined January 13, 2021 — puts it: “The siege on the US Capitol played out as a QAnon fantasy made real: The faithful rose up in their thousands, summoned to Washington by their leader, President Trump. They seized the people’s house as politicians cowered under desks.” It further states: “Born in the Internet’s fever swamps, QAnon played an unmistakable role in energising rioters during the real-world attack on Jan 6.” A report by Mike Wendling, datelined January 6, in BBC, states: “Supporters of the QAnon movement were among the crowd that stormed the US Capitol building on Wednesday. Several prominent activists were spotted inside the building….”

According to these reports, QAnon propagates the baseless theory that Trump is waging a secret war against a cabal of deep State operators, entrenched in the Government, business and media, who are paedophiles worshipping Satan and trafficking in children for sex. They, according to The Washington Post report, hold that there will be a final day of reckoning when “prominent people such as former presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, will be arrested and executed”.

The other Right-wing organisations involved included the Boogaloo movement, which comprises Right-wing extremist groups whose ideologies and stand on issues like racism sometimes differ. Some of them are White supremacists, some are not. Many of them believe in Neo-Nazism. The movement’s adherents, known as Boogaloo Boys or Boogaloo Bois, are, however, united in their opposition to gun control measures and in working towards a second civil war to bring down the US Federal Government. Also involved was the far-Right, anti-immigrant, all-male group called Proud Boys, which has a history of street violence against its Left-wing opponents. It stands for glorifying entrepreneurship, ending welfare, everyone’s right to own guns and women playing traditional gender roles, like being housewives.

One now returns to the question: Why do people in such massive numbers continue to support Trump, with many joining the Right-wing extremist groups advocating violence to achieve their goals? According to Erich Fromm in Fear of Freedom, the search for security is the most powerful factor drawing people to militant mass movements. He adds that despite the biological separation caused by birth, a child “remains functionally one with its mother’s world for a considerable period”. The primary ties which link a mother to a child “offer security and basic unity with the world outside oneself”.

Slowly, the child becomes aware of its separateness from its mother and others. With physical, emotional and mental development, an “organised structure guided by the individual’s will and reason develops. If we call this organised and integrated whole of the personality the self, we can also say that the [sic] one side of the growing process of individuation is the growth of self-strength”. (The italics are Fromm’s). On the other side, one, on becoming an individual, and facing the world with all its threats and perils alone, experiences an increasing feeling of “aloneness” and insecurity.

Fromm believes that to overcome the feeling of loneliness and insecurity, one needs “to relate to the world in love and work; in the genuine expression of one’s emotional, sensuous and intellectual capacities”, becoming “one with man, nature and himself, without giving up the integrity and independence of his individual self”. Not all can do this. Those who cannot, resort to sadism and masochism.

Fromm holds that the infliction of pain is not the essence of sadism. “All the different forms of sadism” are rooted in the simple impulse to have complete mastery over another person, “to make him a helpless object of one’s will, to become the absolute ruler over him….” The feeling of strength and power arising from the exercise of absolute control enables the sadist to overcome his/her feeling of insecurity.

Masochists “attempt to become a part of a bigger and more powerful whole outside oneself, to submerge and participate in it. This power can be a person, or an institution, God, the nation, conscience or a psychic compulsion”. One “surrenders one’s own self and renounces all strength and pride, one loses one’s integrity as an individual and surrenders freedom” but gets a new security and a new pride in the participation in the power in which one submerges. One also “gets security against the torture of doubt”. Clearly, masochism plays a critical role in driving people to totalitarian extremist organisations — whether of the Left or the Right — demanding total, unquestioning acceptance or its creed.

Two questions arise here. What causes insecurity among large sections of people in a rich democracy like the US? A feeling of insecurity need not be caused by actual physical threats or apprehensions thereof. It is a psychological phenomenon caused by social, economic and cultural conditions. Success, for example, is highly valued in the US — perhaps more than in any other country. Failure to achieve it often leads to a feeling of inadequacy, triggering a feeling of insecurity. The fear of failure can haunt even the very successful as an uninterrupted continuity of upward progression cannot be taken for granted.

A more specific cause of insecurity — certainly a factor in the emergence of the White supremacist groups — is the fear of a large section of White Americans of being marginalised by non-Whites — African-Americans, Asians, Latin Americans and others. They see in Barack Obama’s election as the President, and Kamala Harris’s as Vice-President, both celebrations of American democracy and a corroboration of their fears. There are other causes of insecurity — fear of an economic downturn, job loss, violence in the streets and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, among others.

The Right-wing variety of it, however, is not the only kind of extremism the US has seen. The hippie movement of the 1960s and ’70s, albeit of a harmless and peaceful variety, was another. It stood for the wholesale rejection of the American way of life with all its values and symbols — the pursuit of success and wealth, the culture of consumption, personal cleanliness, living in comfortable houses and so on. Its cause was similar but a tad different from that spawning Right-wing extremism. Eric Hoffer identifies it in The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements and says: “A rising mass movement attracts and holds its following not by its doctrine and promises but from the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence. It cures the poignantly frustrated not by conferring on them an absolute truth or by removing the difficulties and abuses which made their lives miserable but by freeing them from their ineffectual selves, and it does so by enfolding and absorbing them into a closely-knit and exultant corporate whole”.

What is to be done? A comprehensive congressional investigation into all aspects of the January 6 outrage should begin even as the identification and arrest of the perpetrators continue. It must cover a wide range — failure to prevent the storming, causes of security and/or intelligence failure, possible extremist infiltration of the armed forces and intelligence agencies, and any other matter that may come up during hearings. Simultaneously, the social, economic and cultural causes of large-scale alienation need to be probed and corrective educational measures and the establishment of an extensive network of counselling services, discussed. Finally, there has to be a global view. The challenge of violent extremism is a global menace.



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