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«We have to acknowledge the deep crisis within the democracy»

Indian author Pankaj Mishra: «Inequality received a new sanction, a new legitimacy.»

The «Washington Post» called the fire in the Grenfell Tower «a symptom for the crisis of Western democracy because of the systematic neglecting of the poor». Can you elaborate?

Boris Johnson was a terrible mayor of London, even though he is hailed as a gentle, benign person.

Even the «Financial Times» noted after the fire that the Anglo-American world had become victim of its own arrogance.

You live in England and northern India, I think in a small community. What do you notice is happening to you when you make the trip back to your country of origin?

«Brexit, for instance, fuelled a fantasy of empire: that we were once great imperialists who brought benefits to the rest of the world.»


He seems dangerous.

India is a state with an ambiguous future, isn’t it? It can develop into something good or bad. What is your take?

We always hear about this awful violence from men towards women in India, especially in Delhi. Where does that hatred come from?

There is an argument that comes up time and time again in your latest book [«The Age of Anger. A History of the Present» New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux]: this elite that we are part of likes to think in terms of, you know, liberté, égalité, fraternité. But we do not see or realise that this will never be true for everybody. But the people who are the losers of globalization realise it. And this is where their hatred comes from.

«This is what demagogues always do. They offer themselves as solutions to complicated problems. Of course they have their own agenda once they manage to seduce the masses.»

What struck me during the Irak war: How stupid the American troops were for not protecting the museums, that is the history of the country. And while I’m at it: don’t you think that people all over the world love American films, American music? Hollywood is the best propaganda machine America has. And that it has done little to work with that, right?

No, it’s because he’s a great artist.

Coming back to the last elections in Britain: Would you say that they contain a - however small - reaction both to Brexit and Donald Trump’s election? Theresa May suffered a significant defeat, Marine Le Pen did surprisingly badly in the French elections, Geert Wilders was not elected for Prime Minister in the Netherlands.

But Bernie Sanders has never been vetted, so we don’t know what he would have been like as a nominated candidate. But you are right, is is interesting that these older men find so many young followers who passionately believe in them.

I saw the «Occupy Wallstreet» movement in New York, but it was mostly older people, and it looked sad. Do you thing it might become more active again?

When we talk about hatred we have to talk about the Internet. Such a brilliant instrument for equality. And what a terrible instrument for Fake-News and bullying it has become. Do you think this will be corrected or correct itself?

Every new technology is ambiguous. As the Nazis proved with radio.

Back to America. Do you think that Robert Mueller and his jurists will find something that will lead to an impeachment of the President? They seem to be extraordinarily capable and bound by the Constitution and nothing else.

Trump boasted that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue in Manhattan and still get elected. And he got elected. That would have been unthinkable until he came along.

It’s just exhaustion after a war.

I would like to talk to you about Sigmund Freud whom you mention repeatedly in your new book. His theories have been largely discredited, yet he won’t go away. What do you think has remained from what he thought and did?

Also Freud refused to promise some kind of healing like so many spiritual leaders do.

A friend of mine who is a correspondent for the African continent told me that in Africa there will never be real democracy because of the standard of education. So you can easily buy votes. Do you think this might happen to us as well if the political degradation goes on like that?

«Many more people read these absolutely disgusting tabloids like the ‹Daily Mail› and the ‹Sun›, full of lies, falsehoods, malicious disinformation, vicious propaganda.»

Democracy has become too weak to defend itself against its enemies within itself.

It always amazes me how people can vote for a cause or a president against their own interests.

But, and I know this sounds cynical, he is authentic in a way that Hillary Clinton never was.

Before we round up our conversation I would like to go back to England. What is it that you like about it the most?

This is what Robert Mueller thinks, the special prosecuter into the Russian connections of Donald Trump and his team: If you live by the press, you die by the press.

When Margaret Thatcher died, Ian McEwan wrote this piece in the «Guardian» where he said one had to be grateful because she inspired so many books and films and so forth. One could say the same about Donald Trump. The «Washington Post» for instance has become a much better paper in the last two years.