Listening to the Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy

Arundhati Roy's "Listening to the Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy" (2009) is a collection of essays, written during the 2000s. The topics span a range of issues, largely occurring in India. While the "field notes on democracy" were present, they were often implicit - which is somehow expected as the content was not written as a book, but a series of disconnected essays. A few noteworthy, often very witty and wise, reflections:

  • "The system of representative democracy - too much representation, too little democracy - need some structural adjustment." (p. x)
  • "The space for nonviolent civil disobedience has atrophied. After struggling for several years, several nonviolent people's resistance movements have come up against the wall and feel, quite rightly, they have to now change direction. Views about what that direction should be are deeply polarized. There are some who believe that an armed struggle is the only avenue left... Others are increasingly beginning to feel they must participate in electoral politics - enter the system, negotiate from within." (p. 37)
  • "A political party that represents the poor will be a poor party. A party with very meagre funds. Today it isn't possible to fight an election without funds. Putting a couple of well-known social activists into Parliament is interesting, but not really politically meaningful. Not a process worth channeling all our energies into. Individual charisma, personality politics, cannot effect radical change." (p. 39)
  • "We need vision. We need to make sure that those of us who say we want to reclaim democracy are egalitarian and democratic in our own methods of functioning. If our struggle is to be an idealistic one, we cannot really make caveats for the internal injustices that we perpetuate on one another, on women, on children... If opportunism and expedience come at the cost of our beliefs, then there is nothing to separate us from mainstream politicians. If it is justice we want, it must be justice and equal rights for all - not only for special interest groups with special interest prejudices. That is non-negotiable. We have allowed nonviolence resistance to atrophy into feel-good political theatre, which at its most successful is a photo opportunity for the media, and at its least successful is simply ignored." (p. 41)
  • "What we;re experiencing now is blowback, the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes and dirty deeds. The carpet's squelching under our feet. The only way to contain - it would be naive to say end - terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror." (p. 197)
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