The Anti-Colonial Roots of Contemporary s.e.Asian Fascism

Where might one find the contemporary roots of fascism in s.e.Asia?

My opening salvo would be, ‘Gandhi was fascist, and the anti-colonial movement was, intrinsically, a fascist movement. That validated a generic perspective that has been the bane of the s.e.Asian experience ever since, i.e. Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and to a lesser degree, India, amongst others.

Some might say to me, ‘how can you as an Indian say such a thing?!’ To which, I would say, ‘you have confused me for an Indian for my appearance, just as some amongst you confuse the potentials of your progeny for the caste of their forefathers.(by the way, the refusal to be cast in a specific cultural light is a quintessential component of ‘Indianness’, and which is illustrated, amongst others, by the Hindu ‘OM’.) And anyway, the west is too busy compensating for its bigotry during the colonial period via cultural magnanimity in the present. So, it is up to 'one of us' to do so.

In a nutshell, why did Gandhi, Nehru, and the Indian National Congress, ask the British to leave? The short answer, ‘because they were white’. I don’t see any reason why one oppressor had to be less preferred than a home-grown one. It's not as if the class system was evicted along with the British. Rather, as I've been often inclined to say, 'colonialism didn't end, it just got franchised to the natives'. And if anything exonerates the British from being as oppressive as the ‘noble native savage’, then it is the fact that they were willing to leave. That cannot be said of the native elite. The Indians could think that it was a combination of fasting, prayer, garnished with intermittent white-thrashing, that got the British out. But think about it, if it was the Chinese whom were occupying India, do they think that Mandarin wouldn't be the national language in India now?

Why could the Indians not integrate the British into India as the Mughals did by integrating them into the pantheon of rulers? So whilst I do respect Gandhi for his non-violence, humility and great fashion sense given the sweltering heat (which cannot be said of the suited idiots of the present), I cannot recognise his title of ‘Mahatma’ (the great soul) as he failed to appreciate this crucial point – but I also have to say that he is absolved by his not possessing the hindsight available to us. If the Indians deemed it appropriate to evict the British, then why did they not do the same with the Muslims? Both, be it in terms of ‘race’ or faith, were not home-grown were they? - is what I always say to those whom celebrate India’s independence.

I recall watching a south Indian (tamil) film where a bloke who was planning to attend a demonstration was discouraged by another who said it wouldn’t work. The demonstrative bloke retorted by arguing for the value of demonstrations for bringing about significant change by alluding to the work of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. To this the other said, ‘stupid, the only reason why Gandhi was successful was because he was dealing with the British!’ (I must say that I absolutely love the Indian penchant for critical slipper-throwing introspection – and which is why I love watching older pre-90s south Indian films.)

The eviction of the British on the basis of race and not being ‘natives’ validated the basis upon which fascism took ‘local’ forms. For instance, in the face of the British, the stance was, ‘we the natives are the majority here, and you, the thus-defined ‘minority’. So get out.’ And at the same time, the Muslims and Hindus were doing similarly. It is no wonder that Gandhi didn't disagree to the partition later. How could he, given that he had contributed significantly to the eviction of the British along similar lines. I suppose he realised this, subconsciously.

And we saw similar events taking place in other s.e.Asian states. In Singapore, in the face of the native Malays and Indians, it went, ‘we the Chinese are the majority here, so of course we will favour ourselves.’ In Malaysia, it was, ‘we the Malays are the original natives here, so its natural that we institute our Bumiputra policy (‘sons of the earth’ – whereby the ‘original natives’ gave themselves advantages that weren’t deemed to be the right of, what I would term, 'foreigners of local origin’ such as the Chinese and Indians - and which, incidentally, is an Indian word.) In India, came the Hindutva movement that sought to turn India into a ‘Hindu’ country and exorcise Hinduism of what is intrinsically a historically cosmopolitan and all-embracing spirit. After all, if a perspective has been proved to deliver a ‘good’, such as the eviction of the oppressors-come-lately, one is desensitised to it enough to not deem anything significant amiss when it is applied between ‘natives’. The anti-colonial movement in India, when one considers its history of embracing difference, was a wholly un-Indian endeavour. Hence, I cannot see any great divergence between Singapore’s Confucian fascist party, the ‘sons of the earth’ fascists of Malaysia, the ‘not white is blight’ BNP in the UK, the BJP of India, and Singhalese supremacists of Sri Lanka. And unlike the BNP, these parties are not, as is to be expected, in opposition, as the proposition that fuelled the anti-colonial movement fit in very well with their pogrom against difference thereafter. They may be speaking in different tongues, but the meaning differs little in translation.

Of course, significant credit for this also goes to the nationalist rhetoric that was doing its rounds in the west as well. And as the natives of otro mundo were busy imbibing the exhortations of the west, as all good savages aspiring to the western elite’s definition of nobility ought to, they inevitably began to make sense of their own future identities via the paradigms that had founded the recent phenomenon that is the ‘nation-state’. Their own pasts had been relegated the position of irrelevance within a global nationalist/capitalist ethos, so in anti-colonial response to the hand that bled, they inevitably turned to it to be fed. That is when India, for instance, moved from being a conglomeration of difference to a ‘nation’, whilst China happily found its 2000 year old nationalist condition to be congruent with the ‘modern’ version of the extended but flag-shrouded family.

The biblical line, ‘he who live by the sword perishes by the sword’ is certainly underrated in its cross-applicational value, methinks.



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