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Arundhati Roy: ‘One of the great shortcomings of the left is the reduction of everything to materialism.’
Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer
Arundhati Roy: 'I don't want to become an interpreter of the east to the west'
Gary Younge: One of the things I’m intrigued by at this moment is the way that we keep getting shocked by elections. Modi in India, the Australian elections – these hard-right people who don’t just win, they win again. It’s possible that Trump could win again. It’s possible we could have Boris Johnson as a UK prime minister, and each time we get shocked.


Illustration: Nate Kitch
Our glorious past is what we remember. The brutality behind it we’ve forgotten
Immediately after the second world war, German people were required to watch documentaries about the horrors of the concentration camps before they could get their ration cards. But the fact that they went, Tony Judt points out in his book Postwar, didn’t mean they actually watched. “In the half-light of the projector, I could see that most people turned their faces away after the beginning of the film, and stayed that way until the film was over,” wrote the German author Stephan Hermlin many years later. “Today I think that turned-away face was indeed the attitude of many millions.”


‘Sooner or later progressives are going to have to stop being stunned by these electoral defeats.’
Illustration: Ben Jennings/The Guardian
Shocked by the rise of the right? Then you weren’t paying attention
The morning after both Donald Trump’s victory and the Brexit referendum, when a mood of paralysing shock and grief overcame progressives and liberals on both sides of the Atlantic, the two most common refrains I heard were: “I don’t recognise my country any more,” and “I feel like I’ve woken up in a different country.” This period of collective disorientation was promptly joined by oppositional activity, if not activism. People who had never marched before took to the streets; those who had not donated before gave; people who had not been paying attention became engaged. Many continue.


Tony Blair announces the invasion of Iraq on TV on 20 March, 2003.
Photograph: Paul Mcerlane/REUTERS
If you didn’t desert Labour over the Iraq war, why give up on it over Brexit?
In 2002 I accompanied Tony Benn for a short while on his lecture tour around Britain, watching him speak to packed auditoriums and outselling the magician Paul Daniels in Cornwall by three to one. It was a peculiar time that in many ways presaged the moment in which we find ourselves now.


Illustration by Thomas Pullin
The missing ingredient in today’s debates? Generosity
In the early 1960s a white student who had seen Malcolm X speak at her college went to the Nation of Islam restaurant in New York to challenge him on his philosophy. “Don’t you believe there are any good white people,” he recalled her asking, in his autobiography. “I didn’t want to hurt her feelings,” he wrote. “I told her, ‘People’s deeds I believe in, Miss – not their words.’”
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