Wednesday, September 01, 2004

ZNet |Imperialism | Interviewing Arundhati Roy

ZNet |Imperialism | Superstars and Globalization: *Sonali Kolhatkar*: The last time I saw you, you were in Mumbai, India. You were on a very big stage and you were speaking to tens of thousands of people at the World Social Forum and you were one of the few people who made a specific suggestion about boycotting a couple of American companies that were profiting from the war in Iraq and you got a lot of applause for it because that was sort of a rare thing – there were mostly platitudes at the WSF. Has anything come of that suggestion?

*Arundhati Roy*: Well I don’t know that anything has come of it concretely but I think people are working on that idea. How exactly it should be done is a difficult issue. But I would just like to repeat the fact that it’s really dangerous for us to limit our protests to purely symbolic spectacle and that we have to begin to inflict real damage and we have to be able to signal to these absolutely heartless multinational companies that they cannot function like this. And if we don’t do that, then we’re going to take a very big hit. We’re just going to be a comical movement of people who like to feel good about ourselves.

*Sonali Kolhatkar*: But you’re also very much a believer in non-violent struggle. How does one hit the empire without using a little violence – and can boycotts be effective?

*Arundhati Roy*: I don’t also want to go around being the Barbie doll of non-violent struggle. To confuse non-violence with passivity is one of the things that’s dangerous. And the fact is that neither am I a person who feels that I have the right, or I am in a place where I should be dictating to people how they should conduct their movements. Personally I’m not prepared to pick up arms now. But maybe I can afford not to, at whatever place I am in now. I think violence really marginalizes and brutalizes women. It depoliticizes things. It’s undemocratic in so many ways. But at the same time, when you look at the massive amount of violence that America is perpetrating in Iraq, I don’t know that I’m in a position to tell Iraqis that you must fight a pristine, feminist, democratic, secular, non-violent war. I can’t say. I just feel that that resistance in Iraq is our battle too and we have to support it. And we can’t be looking for pristine struggles in which to invest our purity. But I feel that for those of us who are prepared to resist non-violently, the economic outposts of empire are vulnerable. These same companies that first did business with Saddam Hussein, then were on the Defense Policy Board advising America to go to war, now are getting huge contracts from the destruction of Iraq, are also the same companies that are privatizing water and privatizing power and so on, in Latin America, in Africa, in India. Therefore we do have a foothold and we can shut them down if we wanted to. "

by Sonali Kolhatkar
and Arundhati Roy


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