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Issue #1781      June 14, 2017

View from outside

Indian writer Mari Marcel Thekaekara was in Britain during the elections, and writes her impression of campaigns and results.

So Jeremy Corbyn achieved the impossible. A hung parliament!

The British media, with a few rare exceptions, were merciless in their decimation of Corbyn.

Corbynista friends were hoping desperately for anything that would keep the Tories in general – and Theresa May in particular – at bay. But no one was even remotely optimistic.

Now, people on both sides of the political divide are still in a state of shock. I’m currently near Glasgow. Malcolm, a veteran, amateur analyst, says he predicted Corbyn’s result long before the rest of the world. And during the last few days, apparently, so did a local betting site.

The odds, Malcolm recalls, were 40 percent for Jeremy Corbyn making it as Prime Minister. “The narrative gets defined by single words or phrases,” Malcolm notes. “This time it’s been triple pension lock, housing, education. And of course the Remain voters swung to Labour.”

But first, full disclosure. I discovered that Jeremy Corbyn took an issue of New Internationalist that I had co-edited with Nikki in 2005 to Parliament and raised the question of caste discrimination. I received many jubilant letters of support and thanks from Dalits all over the world congratulating us. Corbyn also came to the World Social Forum Mumbai and listened carefully to the stories of discrimination from the many Dalit groups present. He has also been aware of the issue of communalism, the ongoing crisis of hate-mongering in India.

Unlike some other British MPs, he has not shied away from these issues out of fear of offending casteist British Indian voters in his constituency. He’s stood by his principles. Reams have been written by now, by expert analysts and psephologists on this election, the winners and the losers, the whys and wherefores of it all.

As an outsider, I’ve been riveted by the coverage. Before the election I was puzzled by the slandering of Corbyn even from the so-called liberals. The British media, with a few rare exceptions, were merciless in their decimation of the man. I feel it’s more important to look at what good can come out of this result, no matter which side of the electoral debate you stand on.

After Manchester, I heard howls of protest from ordinary people who, led by the tabloids, asked how this man could have spoken to Hamas. I heard this in Scotland too. Scottish people who may have favoured Corbyn’s manifesto said they balked at his having dealings with people who have celebrated the bombing of British citizens. I also heard a great deal about Corbyn’s anti-Semitic remarks. I happen to have friends on both sides of this particular issue.

As Corbyn has proved a good listener – not a fanatic – I think he could practise what he preached.

Young Israelis and young Palestinians are sick of the violence and the never ending deaths, terrorism, the bomb attacks. They want peace, now more than ever before. They need someone who listens.

I would urge Corbyn, since he’s brought young voters in for the first time in decades – and has done so in droves apparently – to give the young a worthwhile cause to fight for.

Something pure, something worth striving for. A real cause that will keep them engaged. Beyond cynicism. One that can give people something to be passionate and political about. We had that in the 1970s. People are looking for meaning in their lives again. The age of materialism is nearing its end.

Yet, I’m willing to bet that without the hippie gear, without presenting flowers to soldiers, people will rally around to see an end to the scourge of our decade. Terrorism.

The young are intelligent enough to know that bombers didn’t appear from out of the blue. Anger and hate have emerged from a sense of injustice and futility. From unjust wars. This generation and its older folk want peace, desperately. There’s been enough killing. I hope Corbyn can make peace the plan for this century.

New Internationalist

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