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Newsletter. Issue 2009-06. March 14, 2009

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The statements, opinions, or views in the articles may not necessarily reflect that of the Goan Voice Canada.


Change of mindset required within the Goan Catholic Community
1 Mar 2009, 0316 hrs IST, TNN

Arwin Mesquita wants Goans settled abroad and those of the Catholic community to do more to improve and therefore protect Goa

During my schooling years in Kuwait I was overwhelmed by the Goan community or shall I say the Goan Catholic community via the various functions and tiatrs. I perceived Goa's identity as Catholic, but to my gradual realisation Goan identity was actually an amazing cohesion of the Goan Hindu, Catholic and Muslim entities. I think many Goan Catholics don't appreciate the fact that Hinduism in particular, has had a significant positive foundation/influence on the Catholic community and that both these dominant religions together have shaped Goa's very unique identity, making us different, from other Indian and global communities.

I think with respect to Goan identity, both Goa's predominant religions can't do without each other. But then, we see divisions among these religious communities to the effect that most of Goa's critical identity issues are not addressed. This benefits politicians (corrupt ones) and non-Goans who (with respect) are taking increasing control of Goa and making us irrelevant in our own land i.e. the disunity/suspicion amongst religious groups are pushing Goans towards extinction.

For instance, despite the fact that a significant amount of Goans relate to Roman Konkani, this script is being opposed. Do Goans prefer to promote Konkani or to see non-Goan languages get increasing prominence via the backdooruncontrolled migration, migrant vote banks and other factors. Let's understand that Konkani (Devanagiri and Roman) will be irrelevant if Goans become a minority in Goa.

I will address issues in my Catholic community. Goan Catholics must realise that the first clear casualty of Goan identity will be Catholics themselves and in the immediate run, it will be all Goans, including Hindus and Muslims. We Catholics will have only ourselves to blame and in my view, we are significantly responsible for Goa's deteriorating identity, for the following reasons:

  1. Often unnecessary sales to outsiders for short term gains

  2. Konkani being shunned by the so-called educated/elite class

  3. Migrating to the USA, UK, Canada, Australia appears to give an imaginary boost to the self-esteem of many Catholic Goans; many of whom then come back to "hopeless Goa" looking for prospective grooms/brides for themselves or siblings

  4. Most Goan emigrants seeking permanent (not temporary) overseas residence, give various excusesbetter life, education for kids etc.

I appreciate that there are economic reasons for emigration, but let me pose the following questions:

  1. Do we really lack a long-term vision to see that the economic power is shifting east and so, do Goans really need to go west today?

  2. Why can't well-off non resident Goans use their resources to improve Goa and realise the very better standards that they use as an excuse to emigrate?

  3. What about true value of material gains versus the actual social/value losses?

  4. Yes, there are reasons for specific emigrations but then can't they give back anything to Goa or have they abandoned the land of their ancestors?

  5. Don't we appreciate that all developed countries were actually backward and it's the residents there who "made it happen"? Now, many Goans (particularly in the Gulf) are migrating to those countries instead of trying to develop their home to the desired standards.

I think that together, we can make Goa a world class state. It's easy to run away from problems and emigrate, but is this right in the long run? The Goan diaspora has the world's best practices but only a few have/are giving back to Goa. I believe that most issues causing Goans to emigrate can be resolved, some immediately, some in a reasonable time frame and some in a bit more time. The Goan diaspora can play a key role in the latter with their global skills/strengths, but will they?

There are many cultural events and conventions in Canada, Australia, UK, USA, surely all these will not be relevant if Goan identity is extinguished in Goa. Sometimes, I think that with the exception of a very few, most of these events are just socialising opportunities for the Goan diaspora and there is actually no serious will to do anything for Goa.

In politics, we Catholics are slaves to deceitful "secular parties" and vote for Catholics irrespective of how much his/her image is tarnished? Many of our Catholic religious leaders blindly call to vote for secular parties. Are they really secular or are they wolves in sheep's clothing? How different are these parties versus the labelled communal parties? I think they do more damage to Goa with their migrant vote banks that change demographics, create social imbalances and manipulate democracy.

Then there's water contamination, illegal conversion of agricultural land, facilitating large scale land sales to wealthy non-Goans, unnecessary mega-projects that destroy the fragile environment and again change demographics, coercion/strong-arm tactics/false police cases to subdue genuine activists fighting for Goa, deliberately flawed employment policies for illegitimate monetary gains from outsiders which works against Goan employment and forces Goans to leave Goa etc.

I am not lobbying for any particular party but rather want to ask Catholics to vote for the right candidate for Goa. If we really want to back secular parties then let's demand that they put up good and untarnished candidates. Else, let's put up people's candidates via the gram sabhas. It is high time we Catholics take a long hard look at ourselves and realise how our actions/non-actions are destroying Goa and its identity. Let's change our mindset else we probably will deserve what becomes of us.

The writer is based in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The views expressed are those of the writer.

This weekly column allows readers to have their say on important issues. Write in to . Kindly provide your contact details.


England People Very Nice: why racism and comedy do not mix
Socialist Worker 2138, 14 February 2009

Playwright and activist Hussain Ismail is shocked at the racism of the National Theatre?s England People Very Nice. I wasn?t surprised by Carol Thatcher making racist jibes. She is after all the daughter of Margaret Thatcher, who once declared that immigrants were ?swamping? Britain.

What did surprise me was the number of commentators who defended her ?golliwog? remark as harmless. The truth is that racists have often hidden behind ?humour?. Jokes about ?pakis? were once considered acceptable. Growing up in east London during the heyday of the National Front, I didn?t find them remotely funny.

Thankfully this old English tradition ? once a kind of national sport ? waned and almost disappeared from public life over the last 20 years. But recently it has started to make a comeback. Richard Bean?s new play England People Very Nice at the National Theatre is a case in point. It is meant to be a comedy about immigration, and it?s meant to make you laugh. It doesn?t.

The play is trashy, and tries to mask its ugly prejudices behind claptrap, cheap humour and tired stereotypes. The Irish and the Bangladeshis come off worst. The Irish are wife beaters, alcoholics and incestuous. Bangladeshi youth are muggers, drug dealers or jihadis. This comedy goes from bad to worse as it presents a potted history of migration to Spitalfields in east London.

It starts with Huguenots who came from France in the 18th century. Local residents are shown taking up arms against the new arrivals in what appears to be an early version of the ?British Jobs For British Workers? struggle.

Later the Irish arrive and the now assimilated Huguenots take up arms against them.

Then with the arrival of the Jews, the Irish take up arms. Bangladeshi arrivals after the Second World War displace the Jews. And finally the Somalis end up clashing with the Bangladeshis. Apart from the historical inaccuracies and banalities, the message is that migrant groups are always at loggerheads and can only really integrate if they have sex with the locals. Is this really the level of debate on immigration and multiculturalism that goes on at the National Theatre?


I went to the first night of the show. All I could see was a sea of people laughing at immigrants. Surely there must be a way of talking about such an important and sensitive topic without making it one big joke against people who have borne, and continue to bear, the brunt of violence and prejudice?

This crap really got me thinking. Did racist humour ever really disappear, or, did the rise of multicultural Britain just drive it underground?

Jokes about Muslims have been doing the rounds for a while, but after 9/11 it became acceptable to openly ridicule and dehumanise Muslims. But Muslims are by no means alone.

Remember the Morecambe Bay disaster where at least 21 Chinese cockle pickers died? After that tragedy Tory MP Ann Winterton joked about sharks ?going to Morecambe Bay to get a Chinese?.

Evidence from surveys also shows increasing tolerance of jokes directed against ethnic minorities and those from ?other nationalities?.

One found that the French were considered the most acceptable targets, followed by the Irish, who were also considered ?fair game?. Knocking the Chinese came third. Phew! At least Muslims are not alone. That?s really comforting.

The multicultural Britain that we have fought for over recent decades is the place where I want to be. Britain is a paradise compared to what it was 20 years ago. But the growing use of ?humour? to legitmise racism shows that our past victories are always under threat and that there is still along way to go. My advice to playwright Richard Bean would be to read Molière, the great comic writer of 17th century France.

Molière loved to lash out at the hypocrisy of the powerful. But he never attacked the weak and powerless ? that would be too easy. So what would he have made of racism in Britain today? He would have lampooned anything that sniffed of xenophobia.

I only wish he were alive today, because after seeing England People Very Nice I could definitely have done with a good laugh.

Hussain Ismail is a playwright and theatre artist who works with the Bangladeshi community in east London. If you want to help his campaign to challenge the National Theatre?s stereotypes and racism, email him on

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