In memoriam: Chinua Achebe; here’s an old unpublished piece of mine using the same idea “things fall apart; the center cannot hold”

March 23, 2013

Today, Chinua Achebe passed away. He stood up for the rights of Africans threatened by imported colonial norms and religions. According to his Wikipedia entry, 

Chinua Achebe (pron.: /ˈɪnwɑː əˈɛb/,[1] born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, 16 November 1930 – 21 March 2013)[2] was a Nigerian[3] novelistpoetprofessor, andcritic. He was best known for his first novel and magnum opus,[4] Things Fall Apart(1958), which is the most widely read book in modern African literature.[5]

Raised by his parents in the Igbo town of Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria, Achebe excelled at school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. He became fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures, and began writing stories as a university student. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS) and soon moved to the metropolis of Lagos. He gained worldwide attention for Things Fall Apart in the late 1950s; his later novels include No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). Achebe wrote his novels in English and defended the use of English, a “language of colonisers”, in African literature. In 1975, his lecture An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” featured a famous criticism of Joseph Conradas “a bloody racist”; it was later published amid some controversy.

… deleted


In his honor, here’s an unpublished piece of mine from 2009, using the same metaphor of the “center cannot hold”. India has gotten steadily worse since then. 

Chinua Achebe’s trenchant criticism of whites and their religion holds many lessons for Indians and Hindus. 

The center cannot hold

Rajeev Srinivasan on the tenuous grip of the government on parts of India

The incidents in Lalgarh, West Bengal, have clarified that the writ of the Government of India does not hold sway in certain parts of the country. There is the dismissive story of how the last Mughal Emperor was sovereign of only a few square miles in Delhi by 1803, while the rest of the country was ruled by others. In all fairness, the Central Government today does control more territory than did Bahadur Shah.

But things have reached a point where the State has begun to unravel. I am reminded of W B Yeats’ The Second Coming, written between two World Wars (strangely apt given the second coming of the UPA). Here is the first part of the poem:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The center is not holding, and things are falling apart. Anarchy is loosed upon the nation.

The fact that Lalgarh was taken over by Communist Party of India (Maoist) terrorists, who displaced and even threatened the lives of the more tame Communists (the Communist Party of India (Marxist)), supposedly ruling the state of West Bengal, is worrying. Even more so is the fact the Communist terrorists called for a 48-hour general strike in five neighboring states (West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa). They appear to believe they have supplanted the states’ official machinery.

Belatedly, the Central government declared the Communist insurgents to be a terrorist organization, to which the more domesticated Communists (the CPI (M)) objected strenuously. This is strange, considering that the law and order situation in West Bengal, ruled by the CPI (M) for 30 years, is directly under threat by these very terrorists. (Haven’t they heard of Article 356?)

The obvious conclusion is that there is not much difference between these two types of Communists – and others such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) — and that quarrels between them are the results of minor theological differences and about the sharing of spoils. They are ideological twins, their goals are inimical to the Indian State and they are missionaries of a foreign power.

There are the ominous warnings – these have fallen on deaf ears – that Communist terrorists are active in as many of 180 of India’s 603 districts, and in fact control some of them. There is the infamous “Pasupati-to-Tirupati corridor” – that is, from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh – that the Communist terrorists have affirmed to be their goal. In other words, they fully intend to export their insurrection throughout India, with the likely result of dismembering the country.

And who are these Communists? They have been called “Maoists” and “Naxalites”; they declared, infamously, in the 1970s, that “China’s Chairman is our Chairman”, leaving no room for confusion about where their inspiration – and most likely their funding – comes from. (However, Barbara Crossette, a spokesperson for the New York Times and therefore for the official US view, claimed Nepal’s“Maoists” are not Chinese-funded. There might be American, specifically missionary, interests, also involved with the so-called “Maoists”.)

If we take it as a working hypothesis that the Communist terrorists are aided and abetted by the Chinese, a number of other Chinese actions in the recent past take on ominous overtones:

  • The Chinese fought to cancel an Asian Development Bank loan to India which included some development works in Arunachal Pradesh, arguing that it was Chinese territory that India was illegally occupying. In 2006 a Chinese envoy in Mumbai insulted a Central minister at a public meeting on the same issue. (Was the rude emissary declared persona non grata and kicked out in 24 hours? Of course not.)
  • The Chinese asked the United States to divide up the major oceans between them, the Americans to get the Eastern Pacific and the Chinese to get the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. This is similar to the Papal Bull in 1493 that divided up the non-white world between Spain and Portugal, as colonies to loot
  • In a rude editorial filled with dismissive rhetoric of the kind that one uses with a vastly inferior foe (a Chinese specialty, under the dangerous illusion that they are a Chosen People; they are particularly dismissive of Indians because of skin color and because they are considered  ‘useful idiots’), the People’s Daily, a Party mouthpiece, told India that it could not afford the consequences of confrontation with China, and that “India can’t actually compete with China in a number of areas, like international influence, overall national power and economic scale.”
  • Chinese have advanced their interests in Myanmar (natural gas sales overriding India’s pleas, and listening posts in the Cocos Islands), Sri Lanka (naval facilities at the port of Hambantota and strong support in the genocidal war against the Tamil Tigers)
  • China now enjoys a virtual monopoly over Nepal’s affairs.

China’s ‘string of pearls’ is choking India. There is more: Communist leader Pinarayi Vijayan is under indictment in Kerala for corruption, and the Party’s attitude is essentially that the court system has no business trying one of their bigwigs. Similarly, there are other pockets where the influence of the Indian government is nil: for instance, the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, certain religious establishments, and some districts the Communist terrorists are active in.

Over time, these pockets of “not-India” will expand until we will have Bahadur Shah all over again: the pomp and circumstance of the GoI will be confined to the National Capital Region.

957 words, Jun 23rd, 2009


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