Tariq Ali: We shouldn’t despair

28 Jun

The Tariq Ali lecture at Sydney’s Seymour Theatre on 26th June is anything but dry. Minutes after he came onstage, the acclaimed author of books on political commentaries, political history and novels such as, ‘A Sultan in Palermo’ , ‘Clash of Fundamentalisms’, and ‘The Leopold and the Fox’ wastes no time in giving his audience a brief introduction on the growing increasing resistance movement against US imperialism that has burgeoned in Latin America.

Throughout his lecture, which sees the hall packed to close to 600, he would talk about this growing movement and the current world-wide political situation.

Tariq Ali provides the setting of the rise of the Bolivian revolution, touching on how Chavez, with humble beginnings of a young military officer, became the country’s popularly elected President. His rise to power has nevertheless attracted scorn and derision from the American Administration which has since tried countless times to destroy his Presidency by painting him as a dictator, plotting coups and backing strikes.

He describes how Latin America, inspired by the Venezuelan example, has become more independent from Washington. Other Latin American countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador have since, elected leaders who are trying to forge a more re-distributive and socialist system, away from the earlier disastrous neoliberal policies that have plunged the countries in poverty.

On the Palestine – Israel conflict, Tariq Ali feels that a one state solution in which Arabs and Jews are treated as equal citizens will be more plausible than the current proposed two state ideal. He also opined that the Middle East, with the Iraqi invasion, has plunged the country into further crisis with deeper sectoral violence and divisions. Besides the countless number of deaths from the American troops and Iraqi civilians, the conditions of living in Iraq has plunged to dismal levels with an increase of war refugees while ancient artefacts dating back to the Mesopotamian civilization have been largely destroyed or looted.

In Australia, he also said the Howard government which is pro-American, needs to reassess their relations with other growing neighbours such as China and Japan.

During the Question and Answer segment, Tariq Ali dismisses a few misconceptions such as the rise of Islamic fundamentalism by arguing that there exists Islamic groups, which would have been no diffferent from the Christian democrats in Europe. He also dispelled the notion that the majority of Afghans are welcoming of the NATO forces which has chalked up a significant number of civilian casualties in its war against the Taleban, which was ironically trained by the Americans during the Cold War. He also said that the non-renewal of the permit for Radio Caracas Television had to be viewed in perspective as it was involved in attempts to incite assassinations on Chavez’s life.

At the end of his speech, he told the audience that one shouldn’t give up hope of building better societies as history is never a straight-forward linear process. Even at the darkest of times, an unexpected turn of events might alter the situation altogether.

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