I'm thinking it'll showcase something.
I've been considering writing a piece on this for the last few days, but it's big and complicated. Fortunately, Jim Yardley at the New York Times has written an excellent summary of the action so far. Here's a nice bit:
India had hoped the Commonwealth Games, a quadrennial athletic competition among nations of the former British Empire, would serve as a public relations vehicle to show off the economic progress that has made the country a rising power. Instead, the world is witnessing an ugly spectacle of bureaucratic dysfunction that only confirms the image of governmental ineffectiveness that Indian leaders hoped to dispel.That's pretty much it in a nutshell. But read the whole article, especially if you're interested in seeing a weird sort of reverse cultural relativism applied to standards of hygiene.
But my perspective on the whole affair is colored by my preoccupation with Tea Party idiocy in my home country. Most frustrating about that 'movement' is its deep commitment to delusion, its skill at lying to itself about taxes, governance, economics, President Obama. Perhaps the link between my thinking about the Commonwealth Games and my thinking about the anti-intellectual conservative fringe is Dinesh D'Souza, the right's favorite Desi lapdog -- though he's less a lapdog, I guess, than a human version of Cuddles, the Anglo-identified Chatterjee family's mean-spirited mutt kept chained to the piano in A Suitable Boy. I mean, what D'Souza does, what Glenn Beck does, all of them: they simply make shit up. And then they tell people that shit they made up as though it were natural fact.
And this is exactly what Indian officials -- and I mean at every level, from those who work at the driver's license office to those overseeing the preparations for the Games -- this is exactly what they do: they make shit up. And they say it and it gets quoted in the paper and [universal hand-dusting gesture] that's that. And it works here, for a variety of reasons. It works because of the terrible illiteracy in this country, the perception of powerlessness among the institutionally and socially oppressed, the far-reaching commitments to keeping that institutional oppression intact. It works because lots of Indians are too busy trying to find something to eat to worry about whether or not India really is one of the world powers, now. It works because an ascendant middle-class wants desperately for it to be true.
And that's all well and good, I guess. Until the audience changes. India can lie to itself until the water buffalo come home, but it's finding it difficult to lie to others. Its fictions, its delusional pronouncements are now daily confronted, in Delhi, by reality, by the gaze of the world looking in and saying: "hey, WTF?"
But, frankly, India isn't my concern. My concern is the U.S., where we're seeing an entire political movement in the model of Indian politics: D'Souza, Beck, Palin. What they're 'building' is an open-sewer of rank dishonesty, a self-deluded, self-convinced, and self-righteous mob of angry people. They lie to increasing numbers of Americans who want to believe what they're hearing. Worst of all, they're building on the legacy of an administration caught lying baldly, internationally. And they're saying: "it doesn't matter what the world thinks. What matters is we're the greatest . . . blah blah blah. We're paying too much in taxes . . . blah blah blah. Obama is a socialist . . . blah blah blah. If you can't afford health care you probably wish you were dead anyway, blah blah blah."
But then there's the world outside; in its atmosphere, these fictions, they wither.
India wants to cling to its fictions, its narratives of growth and market domination, but it also wants to be a part of the world outside. This is a good thing, an opportunity to calibrate those narratives, to review and revise. Press freedom, for one thing, is clearly pretty healthy in India. That's going to help.
At home, from my perspective here, it feels too much like we're moving in the opposite direction, retreating from the world -- when we're not bombing it from unmanned drones. Like we're locking ourselves in our still-overstocked pantries and telling stories about the way it is.