Category Archives: Politik

Political Wave

I was watching a talk by economist Mark Blyth explaining Brexit and Trumpism (full speech is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWMmBG3Z4DI). It is very interesting. I recommend folks to watch it.

It leads us to the impending constitutional referendum in Italy, due on December 4. If this referendum fails for Italy’s PM Matteo Renzi (who is center of left in Italy’s politics to Silvio Berlusconi’s center right), i.e. if people vote NO (which is now leading slightly in the opinion polls), Renzi has vowed to resign. If he does, it could be a period of uncertainty and Italy may be out of EU, following UK’s vote in Brexit. That would in theory leave a vacuum which can be exploited by Berlusconi or someone to even his right (like Beppe Grillo, a comedian turned politician whose party is now leading the referendum).

Taken separately, it’s no big deal. But in France, Francois Hollande’s popularity is at 4%. Yes. FOUR percent. Let that sink in. Because there is a good chance that Marine Le Pen could succeed him to be France’s next President. She expelled her own dad from the National Front, a far right wing party whose policy is against immigration. They are on their own, mini versions of Trump. Again, this wouldn’t be a problem in itself because Merkel is stable in Germany. But in September, she lost her home state elections to the Social Democrats who are to her left. She can be considered centrist. But her party came third, behind the Alternative for Germany. AfG is an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim far right wing fascist party led by Frauke Petry whose party’s stand is to be able to shoot migrants in German borders. If they gain influence, think about the few million immigrants Germany has taken from Syria. Oops. Now, the direction in which France and Italy move could (not saying it will) influence the vote in Germany. If France and Italy swing right, Germany may (not saying it will) swing right too, in that curious phenomenon which can be called competitive nationalism. The last time that happened in the Western Europe was in the 1930s.

There are a few things to note here. AfG to power in Germany seems insane now. They are fringe. But so was Hitler in 1928. US went GOP for the White House, Senate and the House of Reps in 1928. They met with the Great Depression in 1929 (to be fair, a culmination of that decade’s policies). After that, it is only in 2016 that US has gone Republican in the White House, Senate and the House. Oops. If Trump bungles awfully, which he most certainly might, and US heads into a deep recession, it could impact world economics and it is here that the weakness of centrist parties could (not saying it will) crumble in Western Europe. Why?

Now Greece went proper left recently and shoved up the bailout referendum against EU asking them to bugger off. Brexit happened and UK (England more specifically) titled proper right. Canada has gone liberal left. But Trudeau is not anti-corporates (he could, not saying he would, but he could face a right wing backlash in the elections in 4 years). Obama, like Merkel and Matteo Renzi is largely centrist. Renzi unusually for his ideology (which is center left) but not unusually in the current climate, went right to pander to Berlusoni’s followers for their vote in the upcoming referendum promising to revive an infrastructure project of Berlusconi’s which he opposed in 2012.

And every influential EU member could tilt far right depending on how Italy and France tilt (and every possibility is there that they may tilt right/far right). Turkey and India are already on the right. Blaming all of this on racism/Islamophbia doesn’t make sense (that is one part). Rust Belt voted for Barrack Hussein Obama in 2008 and 2012. A black man with a Muslim name. It’s gone to Trump now. Now you can attribute it to sexism. That doesn’t however explain it fully. Like Michael Moore noted presciently, Rust Belt’s economics was at play. In what was the Manufacturing Hub of USA, Detroit, recession had corroded jobs and Detroit is literally in a state of decay. But if we look at the wage ratio of CEOs::workers in USA. It’s $475,000::$1. Boom. Trump simply went to Hillary’s left in economics, said no to TPP and NAFTA. And went ape shit right socially and courted all racists/bigots/Islamophobes/misogynists/homophobes. He won.

It is largely because the Democrats failed to stand up for the working class. And that is the trend across the globe. The centrists who are supposed to be center of left; Democrats, Labour Party, Indian National Congress, etc. were all sold to the corporates. And the middle class worker’s middle finger resonated/resonates. Now is it any surprise that INC got its ass handed to it by BJP in 2014? It’s just the larger trend. However, BJP is just as much in bed with the corporates like Ambani and Adani like the INC was, not withstanding their ‘fight against corruption’ which I deep down feel is snake oil they are selling to the voters. Which is exactly why in my opinion that Modi is still putting out rhetoric like he’s the opposition. He says ‘they’re coming after me’ like he’s still the anti-establishment opposition stud with the common man. As long as he’s able to sell his anti-establishment snake oil to the public, he’s safe despite the fact that he IS the establishment now. Which is why BJP was undone by the other charlatan, Kejriwal. Kejri just just went to his economic left, which Modi did to INC in 2014, and won with the resonating populist message in Delhi. But  Economic anxiety is the cause. Economic populism is the solution. Far right wing fascism is the vacuum created by corrupt centrists and exploited by fascists who co-opt economic populism.

Now this anti-establishment image Modi is trying to keep while simultaneously being the establishment is old snake oil sold by MGR in the 1980s when he’d bemoan that it was his ministers who were corrupt and that he’d fire them (he didn’t. ‘MGR: The Image Trap’ by MSS Pandian is a great reference book). And people bought that snake oil. It’s too early to say if people would buy Modi’s snake oil in 2019. Now Kejri would not have the wherewithal to take on the political machine of BJP on a pan-Indian scale. But unlike the real threat of right wing social fascism going unchecked unless the left regroups quickly in USA, Modi and BJP can be unseated faster in India (not saying they will be. They can be) by our multi-party democracy (a motley coalition so to say. We’ve been that road in the late 1990s. It wasn’t great. But that is one alternative (possibly the most viable one in the horizon with a feckless INC still yet to rise on it feet, getting nuked by BJP in every state where it is a straight contest). So you have to give it to Modi. He’s a clever man to still play the anti-establishment card.
But globally though, the last time Germany, France (Vichy France between 1940-42), Italy went right (oh and Japan has elections in 2018, 2 yrs into Trump and US is their biggest economic pillar now. Oh dear!), the Axis had more powerful antagonists in USA (under FDR, who was a Democratic Socialist. Now they’re under Donald Tiny Hands Trump. God save the free world). Soviet was under a megalomaniac totalitarian dictator (Stalin) and UK was a global power. Now it’s just the USA and they have more nukes than any nation with Tiny Hands having access to place his tiny hands on them. Oh and did I say Russia are pining for a Soviet era Russia and are seeing the kleptocratic authoritarianism of Putin attractive? (God save the free world).
I’m not saying it. But Edward Lutwak called it in 1994 about the effects of globalization, predatory capitalism and the centrist parties not standing up for the common man and selling out to corporates. He said Fascism is the wave of the future http://www.lrb.co.uk/v16/n07/edward-luttwak/why-fascism-is-the-wave-of-the-future
Now global politics is a complex maze and I’m an arm chair knucklehead who simply talks off his ass (notice how many may bes and coulds I’ve used). I’m too simple a guy to predict where every permutation and combination could take the world. But I just gave the worst case scenario (AND I DID NOT TOUCH UPON MAN MADE CLIMATE CHANGE AND ISLAMOFASCISM FROM ISIS ASSHOLES AND OMG THE INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD HADN’T FUCKED THE PLANET THIS MUCH 80 YEARS BACK AND MIDDLE EAST WAS UNDER FRENCH-ENGLISH CONTROL BACK THEN BUT NOW IT’S A CESSPOOL OF JIHADI TERROR).
And it isn’t just Italy, France and Germany that are tipping right. Norway, Serbia, Netherlands, Czech Republic and Austria may all end up on the insane right by the end of 2017.
fascism
(h/t @rayin for linking this image to me on Twitter.)
But there is a weak case for a best case scenario. Even if Renzi loses his referendum, he decides to stay for the time being, not creating a vacuum and even if Hollande loses, which is most certainly will, Le Pen does not rise to become President, Germany in response goes center leftist, giving time for the Democrats to regroup to take control of the Senate and White House by 2018 and 2020 and we’ll see what happens to India in 2019. Hey, that can (not saying it will *wink wink*) happen.
I’ll end with some food for the ears and thought, turning to art to provide an artistic mirror to the madness the globe could be staring into (I could share the climactic scene of Dr. Strangelove but I won’t) and as always, I shall plug in my most favorite artiste, Ilaiyaraaja. I am borrowing the words of a friend, @violinvicky, and what Victor Angel Ribero wrote on the album sleeve of Ilaiyaraaja’s private album Nothing But Wind (1989) for the title track.

Life can be defined biologically by those who understand its science. We call them the Doctors.

It can be (self) realized by those who walk the path. We call them the Philosophers.

But it can be expressed only as an art by those who interpret it. We call them Artists.

Ilaiyaraaja here powerfully expresses the conflict between
modern civilization and mankind. Inspired by the chirping of birds and crickets, and the rustling of the wind through bamboo thickets, man first cut himself a bamboo flute, and developed music. But those pastoral times passed as life became more complex and ever more industrialized; first the train, then the
plane, then the jet helped speed the process. Today, we hear the roar of rocket engines blasting off for the stars. On the one hand we seek relief from these pressures by reaching out to divinity through chants and mantras; on the other, we distract ourselves with disco music and earthly pleasures. Yet our society
will self-destruct; And after the inevitable
The musician will lay down his flute,
Unable any longer to play,
Convinced in spite of himself that
Music is, after all,
Nothing But Wind….”

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Kanavu Meippada Vendum

Fresh from discussing the plot of Inception with a friend, I went to sleep yesterday night.

In a dream I had, came Subrahmanya Bharathi. “Was this real?” I asked. No, this is a dream, corrected the Tamil bard. “How wonderful would it be if this were real?” I asked him.“POnathellaam kanavinai pOl puthainthazhinthE pOnathanaal, naanum Or kanavO? Intha gnaalamum poi thaano?” he sang, to correct me again. That was not the purpose of his visit. He wanted to share an anecdote.

It was 1907. The congress session was going to convene in Surat that year. The previous year, there was a big split in the Congress between the extremists and the moderates. This year, people were afraid, the split could deepen. The moderates’ policy was to extend a helping hand to whatever the Sarkar, the British, did in the hope that they would get favourable returns. The returns could be anything. Whether it was freedom or money, the moderates never told anyone. They were proposing to put the name of Rashbihari Ghosh for the post of the President. Of course, he had to be elected. The extremists, especially Bharathi and VOC, wanted Lala Lajpat Rai for President. They wrote to Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Aurobindo Ghosh, who replied saying that if there was necessary support, they could oppose the candidature of Rashbihari Ghosh. The moderates had, in the meanwhile, published an abusive article on Tilak, Aurobindo and Bharathi. The extremists requested the moderates to remove the article. The moderates refused and the extremists spoke about bringing in Lala Lajpat Rai’s name for the President’s post. Lala, however, refused to be drawn into the scene because the moderates told him that his candidature could cause unrest. However, he asked them to remove the article, which they refused. The day of the session came and the moderates put forth the name of Rashbihari Ghosh. Tilak went to the dais to oppose the candidature. He was shooed by the moderates. “’Go to your seat’ they shouted”, told Bharathi reminiscently. Tilak wanted to be given a chance to speak on why he was opposing the candidature. He was continually booed. He then stood there like a log till he’d be given the chance to speak. “It was like watching a silent lion in the face of a 100 elephants going berserk” told the poet. The moderates then started throwing chairs on Tilak. A lot of his supporters including Bharathi went to the dais, formed a ring around him and heaved the chairs away with their hands. Rashbihari Ghosh then started to read his acceptance speech without being elected. “I asked him not to read because he wasn’t elected”, told Bharathi with a laugh. “Suddenly goondas came into the scene and started beating us. The moderates called the police and left the scene”, he grimaced. The extremists were shown out by the police and a moderate went as much to show Bharathi and VOC to a policeman saying they were trying to divide the party at the behest of a vested interest. Moderates, Bharathi says, were absolute third-rates.

“Sir, did this incident inspire you to write ‘Nadippu SuthesigaL’?” I wanted to ask him, but I woke up.

This anecdote of Bharathi’s brought to my memory another incident.

Two weeks back, the Indian home secretary, Mr. GK Pillai called a spade a spade when he said that the ISI could be involved with Lashkar in the 26/11 attacks. Less than two weeks back, SM Krishna went to Islamabad for talks and asked Pakistan to curb Hafeez Saeed for making inflammatory speeches against India. SM Qureshi, his Pakistani counterpart, retorted saying India did not curb Pillay’s statement and they will not curb Saeed. Krishna gave a muted response and came here to say that Pillay’s comment was ill-timed and it did not create the right mood to talk. This was analogous to a landlord reprimanding the guard for stopping a thief. Period.

It was here that Bharathi’s idea was implanted in my mind, becoming a seed. To clarify, there is another incident to be recalled.

It was 1526. Babur was in Kabul with 12,000 men. He was up against the Indian king, Ibrahim Lodi, who had 100,000 men. One of his generals tried to dissuade him against the enterprise, cautioning him that he was up against formidable odds because the Indian king had a huge army of elephants and men. After listening to him patiently, Babur replied calmly, “Don’t worry. We will win because Indians never learn from history”.

As I was thinking thus, there was a pat on my back. “A lesson well learnt”, said Bharathi. “I think, Sir, you are terrific”, I was telling him but he kept patting me stronger.

It was my mother and I was finally awake. Or am I?

P.S. The first incident, apart from my dream, appears in “VOC yum Bharathi yum”, a book containing letters, anecdotes and diaries from the pens of VOC and Bharathi. Regarding the dream, I shall not reveal if it happened or not, because I have promised Bharathi I will not.

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Media’s 26/11

Posted in FB on 26/11, 2009.

Disclaimer: It is all fiction and a work of imagination. Not to be confused with anyone real.

Today is 26/11. Or is it India’s 9/11??? Right now in NDTV, Amrita Rao, Suneil Shetty and Akshay Kumar are speaking about national integrity and paying their odes. So are all the Media houses… Don’t Forgive, don’t forget…. runs a caption. India remembers… We will not forget… runs another. Oh shucks!!!! I just thought I can as well add an ode, albeit comical, if I can call it so. I wrote this a year back. Not in Facebook then, I mailed it to a few friends. Now in facebook, I guess I can inflict the torture on all of you. I’ve recycled it a bit, having a year’s hindsight, no doubt.

So here goes…

Dated 29/11/2008.

The indian politicians sat down today for an all party meet. Here’s what a secretely fit recorder would have had to say:

There’s a lot of chattering going on. Lalu and Paswan are bickering in a corner and there are other politicians who are speaking excitedly. Brinda Karat and Jayanti Natarajan are heard giggling.
And then all of a sudden, Sonia and Manmohan enter.
There is a classroom like silence. Sonia begins:

Sonia Gandhi: I’ve got to say that the people are enraged at the politicians.

Brinda Karat: Is it anything new?… in fact…

Shivraj Patil: er… What are we exactly here for?

Sonia: Shivrajji… To counter terrorism. I want some proactive measures taken by the government.

Shivraj: I dont think there’s anything to worry. We are in no way responsible for the terror attacks. The terrorist himself has said that he’s responsible. Nothing to worry.

Manmohan: May I speak?…

Sonia: In fact I want some measures put forward by all party members.

Lalu: v need a phaarmula to phight terrar…

Sonia: Very good. I want more such bright solutions.

Farooq Abdullah: In fact, I want the Indian hand in the terror attack probed. I dont think the Pakistanis would’ve done it. They never told me before doing this. I’m pretty sure it’s an Indian group which has done it.

Sonia: shhh… The BJP would be outraged if they hear it.

Sharad Pawar: I dont think there are any BJP members in this hall… *in hindsight, they are bickering amongst themselves.*

Manmohan: May I offer an opinion?…

Lalu: The role of tha opposison is doutful. I want it probed… Advaniji and Modi were the phirst politisians to vijit mumbai. That is what criminals do. Don’t they?

TR Balu: He is right. BJP would do anything to split the nation. That is why we split from the NDA after 6 years of trying to save the country from being split. In fact Mr. Thalaivar Karunanidhi has offered certain suggestions.

Sonia: Very good. I want more such suggestions.

Sharad pawar: What did he say?

TR Balu: That he condemns terrorist attacks in mumbai. We strongly feel it’s because of the AIADMK the attack took place. We must investigate on those lines also. If you want, our CM will take a flight to Mumbai and tell the same thing to the FBI and massage. This was how he guided the Chennai police with the law college situation.

Manmohan: Isn’t it the Mossad?

TR Balu: Whatever… if you can implement our suggestions, we can celebrate vanquishing terror in Chennai. The film stars will be called to dance. Manmohanji and Soniaji will be the chief guests. Our CM will address the state. It will go down in posterity as something unique.

Sonia: I want some more of such interesting suggestions.

Manmohan: May I speak?

Sonia: Manmohanji.. when did you come?… Anyway, please go ahead.

Manmohan: Why dont we set up an NSG base in all the four metros?

Sonia: That will be looked into. I want all the members to…

Mulayam: If we are setting up an NSG base, all communities must have a share in the allocation.

TR Balu: That is what our CM would also have said.

Paswan: How can these people say that? I wanted to be the first person to say this.

Amar Singh: Arre kya baath hai… you tell the same thing in Bihar. We’ll tell it in Uttarpradesh. Baaluji will tell it to the Tamil people.

Lalu: This is a conspracy against the nason. I want an all committee probe againt Paswan.

(Paswan shouts… Lalu retaliates. Oh!!!… it’s all getting very ugly. Both Lalu and Paswan are escorted out. Both lead their parties to dharnas)

Manmohan: I would also like to bring in a suggestion of setting up an FIA… A federal investigating agency… along the lines of the CIA.

P Chidambaram: What do have the RAW for?

Sonia: That’s a brilliant point. I want Mr. Shivraj Patil to resign. P Chidambaram will be the new Home Minister.

*PC is close to tears*

Shivraj Patil resigns and walks out.

Manmohan: Who will then be the FM?

Sonia: That’s also a brilliant point Manmohanji. You will be the next FM. *Adding in hindsight: If we do scrape through next year’s elections, we’ll relieve you and make Pranabji the FM. We can think about the defence later on. Is it very important? I have a plan. I’ll make Pratibhaji fly fighter planes and the country’ll think that the defence is in safe hands.*

Amar Singh: We cannot accept this. The congress party is having the cake and eating it too. We want a share in the ministry.

Farooq Abdullah: I dont see this meeting going anywhere. Why am I here when Kashmiris are boiling because of the Mumbai attacks. I must calm them.

D Raja (CPI): Yes… The congress is irresponsible. We don’t wish to stay here. It’s an insult to the nation.

(Brinda, Amar Singh, Mulayam, Farooq and Raja leave the hall)

TR Balu: So if that’s it, I’ll make a move. I have to brief our CM that his suggestions were accepted. He can then give a statement saying how hard he’s working for the welfare of the people of the country (he leaves).

Sharad Pawar: I guess I’ll leave. I have to meet Shashank Manohar and other BCCI officials on how to counter Mr. Dalmiya’s notice (he leaves). *In hindsight, it’s still not been resolved.*

Sonia: We’ll tell the press that we condemn the attack and you brief them on the reforms… Jayanti, you meet the press and condemn the BJP for politicising the issue. I have to urgently talk to Quattarocchi.*In hindsight,that talk has worked out the best.*

Manmohan: …

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The Two Escobars: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Once famous for emeralds and gold-now notorious for drugs and violence-Colombia is a soccer mad country whose troubles have taught it the value of compromise. This is the introduction given about the country in Reader’s Digest’s Guide to Places of the World, 1987 edition.

He was born in 1949 in Rionegro, Colombia, to a peasant father. As a teenager, he started indulging in car thefts, starting a life of crime in Medellin (pronounced Me-de-yin). By the 70s, he ventured into drug trafficking and started smuggling drugs to USA. In 1975, he started Cocaine operation, murdered his Boss and became the Number Uno drug lord in his country. He spoke about himself being a decent man who exported flowers and had a simple policy, plata o plomo (“silver or lead”, figuratively, money or bullets). This made him out of reach of the law. He was the most accomplished assassin of the 20th century, having killed 5,500 people. Killing was his day job. His passion was soccer. So passionate he was about the game, it made him build a number of small stadia across Medellin. He was Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria aka Pablo Escobar.

From one of the hamlets in Medellin came Andres Escobar Saldariago aka Andres Escobar, born in 1967, in a devout middle class Catholic family, whose passion was soccer. So passionate he was about the game, he started playing it with vigour. As a teenager, he lost his mother to cancer. When it came to a choice between studies and soccer, he chose the latter and was spotted by Fransisco Maturana, the coach of Atletico Nacional, in 1987. Atletico Nacional was owned by Pablo Escobar.

Pablo Escobar was at the peak of his powers in the late 70s and 80s. But his origins were mediocre. He was very poor that he couldn’t afford fee and dropped out of school. He’s supposed to have told his brother Jamie, “Jamie, look at all the rich people. They move around in cars. They don’t give us a penny. Why don’t we steal them to be as rich as they are?” Thus began his criminal life. In 1976, he established the Medellin Cartel, a powerful drug lobby that dominated by either bribing or killing officers. The same year, he was caught by two officers for smuggling and had them killed. He was a billionaire in no time and in 1987 was listed by The Forbes as the 7th richest person in the World. But on another side, he was sympathetic to the poorest in Colombia, especially Medellin, having suffered the same neglect of the system. The system created him. He took it on. He converted a dump yard that was home for 2000 families and built hamlets, promoted social gatherings and sponsored soccer stadia. He was the poor’s Messiah, their Robin Hood. But he was wanted by the US and in order to gain diplomatic immunity, contested the elections and was elected to the House of Representatives from Medellin in 1982, using enormous goodwill from the poor. He started investing in football, his passion, and had a major stake in the club, Aletico Nacional. By investing in the club, he could launder money, converting black money into white, something that’s happening to Cricket in India with the IPL. It was called “Norco-soccer”. Soon, other drug lords followed suit. The game was cash-strapped and the sudden influx of huge money was welcomed by the Football Federation. Football in the country was so passionate that once, a referee on account of been bought by a rival drug lord’s club and having defeated Atletico Nacional, was killed by Pablo’s men. He was the Boss. “There can only be one King”, he used to say. The result of such massive currency was that the game in Colombia took off. Andres Escobar was in such a time when the clubs could afford to keep the best of the local footballers and buy the best foreign talents. This took the game to an altogether different level. In 1989, he was captain of the club and led it to its first and so far only Copa Libertadores success, similar to Champions League in Europe. They were the champions in South America. Andres Escobar wasn’t a fan of partying but Pablo Escobar used to organize parties for the footballers. He considered them his pals. It was heady days for Pablo and football in Colombia.

However, in 1989, the voice for his extradition was growing and the Presidential candidates promised to extradite him. Three of them were murdered. “Sometimes I’m God, if I say a man dies, he dies the same day” was his quip. In 1990, the new government under Cesar Gaviria Trujjilo started to hunt for him. They had had enough. But they weren’t prepared for the retaliation. With the poor behind him, the streets of Medellin and Bogota burnt. Pablo is said to have killed close to 5000 people during this period, the worst in Colombia’s history. “Better a grave in Colombia than jail in the united States” was his motto. He bribed the legislators who voted to ban extradition. Having done that, he surrendered and was put into La Catedral, The Cathedral, a prison he built for himself with all the facilities and ran his empire from inside. However, he was still glued to soccer. When he was on the run with his associate Popeye, they were hiding in a ditch and the latter could feel the army moving in. He tensed his Mac-10 pistol and turned to Pablo who screamed with the radio in hand, “Popeye, Colombia has just scored a goal”!!!

The national team was the pride of the people and they were out to show Colombia was not all about drugs. They finished first in the South American qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup in the United States. They beat Brazil and hammered Argentina 5-0 in Buenos Aires, 1993, and were given a standing ovation by the Argentine crowd. They brought a style of play thought to be lost from South America. Their game was an art to behold; so much so that Pele thought they were the favourites. Andres Escobar was Colombia’s captain and one of the best defenders in the world. He was “El Caballero del Futbol” or Football’s gentleman. He was an inspirational role model people looked up to and was the President’s and Pablo’s favourite. During a qualifying game, Pablo’s guerrillas and the Colombian armed forces watched the game together and celebrated. Remember India vs Pakistan in the 1999 world cup where in the midst of the Kargil War, armies from both sides watched the game together and resumed hostilities later? Sport does that to men. It binds us and football in Colombia made the rich and poor, the ruler and the criminal; Colombians inside the stadium. The football team was the national ambassador set to repair national image at the international stage. A few months prior to the World Cup, Rene Higuita, their maverick goalkeeper, visited Pablo in prison and played football with him. He was hounded by the Press and a visibly enraged government that wanted to portray football as the squeaky clean side of the nation was embarrassed beyond measure and had him arrested on charges of kidnapping.

They were sadly mistaken. Football owed its rise to drug money in Colombia and the two were interdependent; the former on the latter for money and the latter on the former to legalize it. They were just two levels in the tree of the Colombian society helping each other off due to neglect from the higher echelons; they were the middle class and lower classes. The root was rotten. The lower class were the roots. What the system tried to do was polish the outer surface for the world to admire. But the rotten roots would pull it down for the world to laugh at. Pablo was the King. When the King calls, the subjects go. Andres wasn’t keen on going but had to. So had Rene and the rest of the team. Only Rene was caught. He was persecuted. Pablo in prison shot two drug lords because they peddled drugs unknown to him. Anyone had to ask him to break law. That was his law. Exceptions were not entertained. Soon the government, for the nth time, thinking was enough was enough, went after him. He escaped. The government disbanded the ban on extradition and allied with the US to form Los Pepes or the PEPEs, People pErsecuted by Pablo Escobar, to persecute those with him. His brother was gutted. Another brother was shot. His people, the poor, were threatened with dire consequences and were forced to ally with The PEPEs, who did the dirty work for the government; much like Osama did for the US against Russia. PEPE comprised of Pablo’s rival drug lords and his former allies, led by one Carlos Castano. Pablo was asked to show up on Dec 2 1993 or was threatened that all his family would be killed. Pablo Escobar ventured out on December 3 1993. He was shot to death.

The wealthy celebrated, the criminals cried in prison and the poor went to Pablo’s burial. The wealthy were anyway only a few. Without the head, each one was their own boss and Colombia sank further into the abyss. Pablo had banned kidnappings. There was order in the Underworld under Pablo. Now there was none and the roots began to die. The tree was falling apart. Days before the World Cup, a national footballer, Chonto Herrera’s son was kidnapped. He was rescued after the ransom was paid but the rot had set into football. The favourites went into the tournament disturbed.

In the prelude to the event, a witch had called a few players to curse the team. They were shocked in their first game by Romania, 1-3, with the Romaninan legend Gheorghe Hagi scoring one of the best goals ever. In the aftermath, another team member’s brother was murdered for the team having lost. Drug lords had placed huge bets on the team and were seething. They too are from the system. They want the fruit from the tree. They don’t mind chopping it if there’s none. The next game literally was do-or-die with many team members getting death threats. They looked up to Andres, their captain and he strung himself to play the USA in the next game, whom they had beaten in tons of friendly games. But that day, a dark force had entered their psyche. They attacked from all angles but couldn’t score. Then in a routine attack from the USA, their forward angled the ball into the 18 yard box. Andres, as was his routine, tried to deflect it away. He ended up deflecting it into the net. Colombia had lost and was out of the World Cup. It was a tragedy. Andres, by his own goal, had pushed his country out. Back home, people were coping up. The favourites were back. Wanting to show his face to the people, Andres Escobar ventured out on July 2, 1994. He was shot to death. He was the scapegoat for what happened. He was their favourite son and had written in a newspaper after his own goal: Whatever happens, we must not let anger cripple us. It’s been a rare and exciting journey that I’ve had the privilege of being a part of. But life must go on. The rich, poor and the criminals mourned his death. Two drug lords were found to be responsible and their bodyguard was arrested and imprisoned for 43 years and let off 11 years later due to good conduct. The drug lords were Gallon brothers and their escape was mediated through Carlos Castano.

Pablo and Andres Escobar were portrayed by the system to be the villain and the martyr. They were verily two sides of the same coin that was Colombia. One’s life mirrored the others’. The system created Pablo. He took the system on. With him rose football. It raised Andres. He was a part of the system and played along. The system created Carlos Castano to destroy Pablo. With Pablo fell order in the underworld. With it fell law in Columbia. Someone had to pay. It was Andres. The rise of Pablo Escobar mirrored the rise of football and Andres Escobar. His death mirrored the death of football and Andres. Today, 14 of the 18 clubs are bankrupt. Colombia has not been represented in any further World Cup. Heads rolled. The football federation President was arrested for allowing drug-money. The higher echelons didn’t want anything to do with the roots that were now exposed. The system said Andres Escobar was killed for being a soccer player. He was a soccer player killed by the system.

“The difference between a good and a bad man is and will always be the one who does not get caught”: Pablo Escobar.

P.S. This note was inspired by a documentary I watched with my friend Swaroop on the two Escobars.

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