The Power of Exclusion

I watched with sadness as black smoke swirled out and over the magnificent Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai • India’s repeating globalized horror image, similar to the one of the falling towers in New York City seven years ago. It seems that the cost for going global is the accompanying stigma of tragedy that follows, which has to be televised and drilled into our brains to the exclusion of everything else.
I worked briefly in an office in the Taj back in the ‘70’s and was awestruck every time I walked through its opulent lobby; the women in Guest Relations, in their blue and gold saris, were the most beautiful I had seen in my life, cloned from a perfect mould it seemed. I took many walks through the lobby during that time, I must admit. But when I stepped out into the street, I saw another type of sari’d woman – the street dweller: haggard, dirty, with earrings and nose•rings that pulled down and disfigured her face, scraping dried fish off the bare sidewalk into a plastic bag as her three half•naked children wandered around, perilously missing scooters and rickshaws that sometimes jumped off the road in order to get ahead.
I could see the polarization even then, and there was the occasional conflagration of rioting when the frustrations could not be suppressed any more. The accompanying death tolls during those flashpoints were greater than in Mumbai last week, but no one seemed to care back in those days; they were news items reduced to footnotes in bloated newspapers more interested in commercial advertising than in highlighting life’s ignominies. Now, India has dared to step onto the global stage and bare its inconsistencies. This move has provided its oppressed and suppressed a golden opportunity to dissipate the fear, horror and emptiness of their lives and spread it like that black pall of smoke emanating from the Taj over all of us apathetic non•involved bystanders.
But why does this have to be done in this heinous manner? Why all this killing to make a point? Is it because, we have been blunted to the suffering of the world by having so much of it pumped into our living rooms via a relentless media machine? Is it because we don’t care anymore, being self•absorbed in our own pre•occupation to stay ahead of the curve? Is it because we have to be caught by the jugular, shoved in front of our wide screen plasma TVs and repeatedly told “watch you beggars, watch” before anyone pays attention?
It was a very short walk from the lobby of that fabled hotel into the dirty street outside. Did globalization provide that woman in the street a blue and gold sari, a makeover, and usher her indoors? Or did her grown offspring, fed on a diet of neglect, frustration and anger, rush into the lobby with machine guns shouting “Watch us beggars. Fifteen seconds of glory for the whole world to see, is the most we can ever hope for in this life”?

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