115 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2004
Continuing where her earlier non-fiction books left off, Roy once again speaks around the world holding up a harsh light to leaders of economic and military might and power. One thing to note is Roy's wholistic view of resistance to injustice and progress by societies has evolved since her last writings. Many of her earlier speeches and essays stuck to a single issue- this book's speeches create links between economic power or powerlessness, racial or religious violence and the growing worldwide police state, and argues forcefully for a movement to stand up to these linked worldwide trends as a whole.
The speeches have the eloquence Roy's fans have always looked to her for. They also name names and provide numbers for those like me who like more than generalities. An all around great book. Just wish it was longer.
121 of 138 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2004
In this fine collection of speeches and essays, Roy stridently argues against the global injustice of imperial democracy, narrow-minded nationalism, corporate fascism, the military industrial complex, privatization, and the ideology of those who would bomb civilians as part of a war campaign with unparalleled passion, clarity and rhetorical flare. Hers is a voice confronting the powers of empire.
With the accuracy of someone weilding linguistic pruning shears, Roy deftly shreds our most sacred doctrines. "Flags", she reminds us, are nothing more than "bits of coloured cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead." They are the symbols of our government's imperialist ambitions.
'Freedom' is the mask government wears to "murder, annihilate, and dominate other people." It is the freedom "to finance and sponsor despots and dictators across the world. The freedom to train, arm, and shelter terrorists. The freedom to topple democratically elected governments. The freedom to amass and use weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological, and nuclear. The freedom to go to war against any country whose governments it disagrees with. And, most terrible of all, the freedom to commit these crimes against humanity in the name of 'justice', in the name of 'righteousness', in the name of 'freedom'."
Another word Roy takes issue with is 'Liberal Democracy' - a word the US government and its corporate cohorts have twisted, besmirched and spread over the world like an incurable STD. Liberal Democracy is simply a codeword for the type of imperialist market the US foists upon the world. It is a product we in the US sell to other countries, like Iraq, whether they want it or not, and death "is a small price...to pay for the privilege of sampling this new product: Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (bring to a boil, add oil, then bomb)."
"Meanwhile," while we all sit around debating the fate of the biosphere, "down at the mall there's a mid-season sale. Everything's discounted - oceans, rivers, oil, gene pools, fig wasps, flowers, childhoods, aluminum, factories, phone companies, wisdom, wilderness, civil rights, ecosystems, air - all 4.6 billion years of evolution. It's packed, sealed, tagged, valued, and available off the rack (no returns). As for justice," she says, "I'm told it's on offer too."
Roy also takes aim on the War on Terrorism - not for what it is, but for how it's conducted. "The underlying logic of the terrorist attacks, as well as 'retaliatory' wars against governments that 'support terrorism', is the same: both punish citizens for the actions of their governments." Neither Bush nor Osama bin Laden can face this fact, though, which speaks to their overriding similarities: "They both hold people responsible for the actions of their governments. They both believe in the doctrine of collective guilt and collective punishment. Their actions benefit each other greatly." Furthermore, they both converse with with a god who has sanctified their war against 'evil doers' - ie, each other.
The only thing not for sale, it would seem, is Roy's voice. Of all her books, this is by far my favorite. And of all the great social critics - Naom Chomsky, Edward Said, Howard Zinn, Edward Herman, Amy Goodman, Michael Albert, Chalmers Johnson, William Blum, Anthony Arnove - she writes with the most urgency and passion. Her talent is unmatched, her critiques scathing, her prose sublime.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2005
I have always found Roy's writing style very very compelling. I never thought 'God Of Small Things' was much of a story but the writing style was par-excellence.
In similar vein, these sets of articles / speeches by Roy are written in a very crisp and compelling language with lots of facts (referenced properly)to back them.
Reading the book, one is reminded (or made aware of, depending on your ability to see-through the news) of the wrongs that are being perpetrated on the world today (US's illegal occupation of Iraq, Godhra riots in Gujarat, the `war against terror' charade, the Israel-Palestine conflict).
As a soi-disant responsible and conscientious citizen of the world, I somehow feel ashamed. We are unable to do anything about them. Unable to set them right. That is because, we the people, are powerless. We are reminded, time and again, by Roy how power-less we have all acted. And in doing so, we are doing a dis-service to ourselves and our fellow brethren.
Power is what the book is about. Lord Action's comment that "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" seems as relevant today as when it was made in the 19th C. The people who are in power carry out deeds that are, ironically, at variance with what is good for mankind and also at cross purposes with what is beneficial for the poorest of the poor. Instead their actions are meant to fill the overflowing coffers of rich corporations and empires (people like Mr. Cheney). Their actions, which we as citizens of the world should see through and protest, are all about increasing one's power. But then, you ask yourself, don't these leaders (read rulers) derive their power from us people [go back to the lesson on democracy in political science class : demos (people) + cratos (power)]. And oddly the same people who bring cratos to these rulers are cratos-less in influencing their decisions. Why then, Roy argues, would the European countries support the US occupation of Iraq when no more than 11% of their citizens support this illegal occupation? The book is littered with compelling facts like these.
That is the question the book leaves us with. It asks us, why we don't stand up and point out and, in the process, somehow prevent the wrongs being done by our 'democratically' elected presidents and governments. If we all put our minds to it, we can, and should, prevent the blunders that are being made by the George W's of the world.
The book asks more questions than answers them. Yet isn't that what a writer is supposed to do? Bring ideas / questions / doubts in front of others and, through healthy debate, search for answers.
A must read for every citizen of the world who claims to have a conscience (yet does nothing about it).
36 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2004
Arundhati Roy is an accomplished writer. This much was established early in her writing career when she won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first book, a novel called "The God of Small Things."
Subsequently, she began to nurture an instinct for activism and has never looked back.
Her first non-fiction piece, published in 1998 in response to India's juvenile nuclear test explosions, lambasted India's BJP-led government for acting irresponsibly toward its impoverished and illiterate citizens.
Roy masterfully pointed out the sheer absurdity of aiming for the 6th slot on the list of overt nuclear powers while occupying the 127th rank on the UNDP human development index (2004).
In the event, Roy had also expressed disgust at the hypocrisy evident in Western expressions of alarm at the prospect of colored peoples with WMD.
In "An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire," Roy continues in that trajectory and directs the might of her rebellious pen at America's irresponsible use of power worldwide.
Contrary to John Zxerce's simplistic review (Amazon, October 25, 2004), Roy makes no blanket statements such as "Democracy is a sham."
Roy's arguments have nuance, which George "War-monger" Bush supporters brought up on a strict diet of Fox News sound bites aren't competent to grasp.
Arundhati Roy, trained as an architect, is a spectacular blend of Michael Moore's wit, Noam Chomsky's intellect, and Howard Zinn's hands-on approach to activism.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2005
This is a very moving and persuasive work, exactly the sort of passionate argument one should be able to expect from writers of Roy's power, lucidity and ethical stand, yet so often we are disappointed. I would recommend any of her books to readers wanting readable pamphlet-style pieces on hot topics, but this is very much my favorite. An excellent introduction to a topic of our times.
23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2005
Some of the people have taken this book way out of context quoting specific lines and grossly misinterpreting them. what the hell.
i came to this country with my parents at the age of 10.
and there are a few things i've learned.
The American government is not nearly as corrupt as India's, but it surely is controlled by the rich. so not all of what the middle income and poor people have to say is legislated.
Roy is a humanitarian. she has equally criticized the governments of both India and the USA. How dare India pursue nuclear interests while so many in their country barely have enough to eat?! How is there billions of dollars being spent on a space station while global poverty is still such a major issue? have you ever wondered about that?
How does America claim to justify war started by politicians who refuse to send their own blood to the front lines?! I recently saw the polls on CNN that said the majority think that IRAQ was a mistake. Well...all i have to say to that, is only time will tell about that.
Some of Roy's points may come across as baseless for someone who has absolutely no idea where she's getting this information from. is it all true? you never know, but that's the birth of your curiosity to question your own governments for making the decisions they do. that's the start of academic discussion. That's the beginning of everyone acting like global citizens.
So instead of buying the next big toy that comes out in our unregulated free market, did you ever question how that could possibly benefit the world you live in?! well read this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2008
Roy is a controversial writer. Her insights and conclusions often make the reader, if from the west, uncomfortable about the unfolding economy and world relationships with India. Having traveled in India a number of times, and having many Indian friends, this book highlights little understood cultural and economic issues taking place in one of the world's exploding economies. Whether you agree with Roy's conclusions or not, a reader wanting to be more aware of the expanding global economy on the Subcontinent will find this book a starting point for reflection and informed connection with India and its complex cultural relationship with the west.
17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2005
Award-winning writer Arundhati Roy presents An Ordinary Person's Guide To Empire, an anthology of her lectures and essays highlighting the injustice, greed, and corruption behind the "poverty draft" of the United States (in which the military is disproportionately made of individuals of indigent backgrounds, and very, very few politicians have a child serving in Iraq), murderous pogroms against Muslims in India with atrocities that bring so-called ethnic cleansing to mind, the transformation of South Africa that ultimately only further concentrated wealth and power in the hands of a few, and more. From the obsessive nature of crisis reporting in the media that ignores underlying problems and history, or summarizes them in a backward progression if at all, to propaganda as a tool of empire-building, to the ruthlessness of the police state in so-called "democracies" that get their hands as bloody as any fascist, An Ordinary Person's Guide To Empire spares nothing in its effort to show the raw, real, and often vicious truth. Highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It's a new world order in which the public infrastructure, productive public assests - water, electricity, transport(roads/freeways), telecommunications(internet), health services, education, natural resources(parks) - assets the American government is supposed to hold in trust for the people it represents, assets that have been built and maintained w/public money for generations - are being sold to private corporations. To steal these away & sell them as stock in private companies is beginning. U.S.A. Pvt. Ltd. is on its way to being owned by a few corporations and major multinational$(allegiance to no country). The CEO$ of theses companies will control the country, its infrastructure and its resource$, its media & its journali$t, but will owe nothing to its people. They are completely unaccountable(Blackwater) - legally, socially, morally, & politically. Soon, democracy will be just theater.
The role of government$ in the New World Order of globalization will be increasingly authoritarian, loyal, & corrupt.
In Russia, they say the past is unpredictable.
The U.S.A. is not far behind.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !!!!!!!
on August 18, 2009
Arundhati Roy is a social justice advocate with solid non-violence credentials and a lucid view of globalist corporatism. When Ordinary Persons' Guide to Empire (OPGE) came out, it was received as an anti-Bush/Cheney polemic. Given the September 2004 release date (right before mid-term elections) that may be understandable, but it is erroneous. Although much of OPGE does relate to the conflict in Iraq and Bush's "war on terror", trying to force this book into the framework of partisan politics completely misses the point. For one thing, there is no significant difference between Democrats and Republicans on these issues. More importantly, Iraq and the war on terrorism are incidental to the overarching chronicle of the Empire Roy describes. The Empire is not America, or even "the West"; it is an interlocking network of stateless predatory finance/defense/media conglomerates. If the Empire seems to have a strong American character lately, it is only because America currently holds the strongest node in the network. Before that, it was Britain (see The House of Rothschild: Volume 1: Money's Prophets: 1798-1848). In the future it may be China.
In point of fact, nation-states and supranational organizations (e.g. the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization) do not drive the Empire. They are merely tools to carry out a geopolitical agenda. Through lobbyists, campaign donations, and purchase of treasury notes, corporations garner great political power. Under this perverting influence, nations can be steered in unexpected directions... frequently onto paths contrary to citizens' best interests, which may violate national ethos, or contravene founding principles. John Perkins and Alan B. Jones describe the mechanisms of predation in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and How The World Really Works, respectively.
That is not the focus of this book. OPGE is about ground-level resistance, particularly in the realm of information exchange. Speaking truths is the bedrock revolutionary act from which all other forms of opposition follow. Speaking truth to power is part of this, but even more important is speaking truths to each other. Pointing out the hypocrisies, lies, and inconsistencies of Empire is an empowering act. Roy tells plenty of truths in these pages, pulling back the curtain on the coalescing corporatist global order. The challenges of rebuffing our would-be oppressors are great, but readers should be inspired. The financial and political might of the Empire cannot stand in the face of an informed civil society. Radio host Alex Jones frequently refers to the "infowar" ("there is a war on for your mind"). This includes the struggle to speak and spread truths outside the controlled mainstream media. Arundhati Roy is one of the bright shining stars in the constellation of info-warriors exposing the Empire.