Silent Desis and the American Autumn

It took about a year for the Arab spring to reach America in the autumn of this year. In fact the youth-led protest that started early this year from North Africa, after sweeping three strong autocracies in Tunisia, Egypt, and more recently Libya, has become a world wide movement challenging the very system of capitalism that was credited to bring prosperity in these countries. From Finland to Italy to France and Greece, by October more than 200,000 people became part of this movement in 900 cities of 82 countries all over the world.
In the Mideast and North Africa the revolt was about changing the suffocating system of iron-fist dictatorships, in the U.S., however, it echoes a public outcry against the same capitalist system which brought the overall economic dynamism and transformed America into an imperialist-capitalist empire in the post-World War II era. While labor unions, youth and celebrities are becoming part of this mass movement, one wonders where are American Desis?
The grassroots agitation against the exploitative capitalist system is challenging the powerful businessmen, financial institutions and politicians in the United States. The recent issue of the progressive journal “The Nation” reports the deplorable economic conditions in the United States in these figures:
o Twenty five million Americans are unemployed who are desperately looking for jobs
o While corporate CEOs are paid handsomely, wages of 70% Americans without college education are declining
o One in 6 American lives below the poverty line
o One in four homes, considered to be the largest asset for most Americans, is at the verge of foreclosure and eviction by banks for nonpayment of mortgage loans
o Fifty million people are unable to afford health insurance as healthcare costs are soaring
o The economy works well for the rich 1% who control 40% of the wealth
o Multinationals have conveniently transferred domestic jobs in other countries to reduce production costs
o The rising cost of education is becoming unbearable for youth and they are burdened with a record high education loans
The movement that initially was shrugged off by democrats and republicans both as an isolated protest, has now become a mass based pressure group against the overwhelming power of the 99% wealthy who dominate political and economic space of America. The average 1% population, with an average income of $54,000 per year, has come out to the streets protesting against the 99% whose average income reaches a handsome amount of $1.5 million annually.
The ongoing movement has not only become a social agitation against the government, corruption and financial mismanagement, it also demonstrates frustrations of the unemployed youth and the suppressed middle class who cannot afford paying mortgages in a worst kind of housing downturn.
The movement that just celebrated its 30 days of agitation throughout the country is now strategizing its goals and specific demands on these lines:
o Creating job opportunities for the unemployed youth
o Regulating banks, financial institutions and loan agencies
o Helping families who are losing homes and jobs at the same time
o Controlling bad mortgages and streamlining the home financing system
o Regulating election campaign financing and political contributions to candidates
o Bringing American troops home
o Controlling rising costs of higher education
o Reforming the healthcare system to provide access to the poor
Interestingly, the same youth and Bush haters, who supported Obama in the last election, have enthusiastically become part of the “Occupy Wall Street” rallies. President Obama who came to the White House with a hope of transforming the ailing economy has failed to come up to the expectations of millions of young Americans who were once his main supporters. His compromised policies on healthcare, energy, finance and unemployment did not improve the deteriorating economic conditions in his first term.
While the American silent majority has spoken lodging its protest throughout America, the so-called model minority of Desis seems to be in a state of perpetual silence. Most South Asian-Americans are absent from these protest rallies besides a few Desi entertainers like Basim Usmani of the Kominas music band (U.S.) and Riz MC (England) who publicly support this historic movement.
Although they are only 0.85% of the U.S. population, the South Asian diaspora is touted as a model minority based on the census data that identify it as the most affluent minority group with the highest per capita income among all ethnic groups. They are also credited to be a highly educated group with an annual buying power of $20 billion.
The glowing data, however, tend to be highly misleading as there are several poor communities in large cities including New York, Chicago, Las Angeles and Houston. Although a large number of South Asians, mostly Indians, are affluent, several Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Afghani and Nepali communities belong to a low income working class. If this proves to be true the myth of South Asians as a model minority is broadly ill-conceived.
This also explains why Desis are widely absent from the current grassroots movement. The affluent are part of a capitalist system which they cannot afford to oppose anyway. On the other hand, the disadvantaged communities of the diaspora are so isolated from the American society; they do not feel to be part of a grassroots movement.
Their noticeable absence, however, demonstrates a typical Desi mentality to be inactive in public movements but happily embrace it when it becomes a successful movement. While hopelessly trying to prove that they are a model minority, they tend to reap the benefits of a capitalist system. At the same time they refuse to be in the limelight when it comes to becoming part of a genuine movement.
As it looks, Desis have become a silent minority in a country where the majority has started lodging its protest against an oppressive-capitalist system that only favors the affluent. But the question is how long they can afford to live as a community isolated from their own surroundings?

(From Viewpoint Online)

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