Critique: Arundhati Roy’s “The Algebra Of Infinite Justice” Article Reviews Examples
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The style of Arundhati Roy’s essay, “The Algebra of Infinite Justice,” reeks with an insightful and justifiably vitriolic treatise and stands as an excellent written work, in terms of an effective argumentative essay. The reasons why are many. In her introduction for example, Roy dives right into the open wounds that most American felt with the shock of what occurred on September 11th, 2001. It is noteworthy that Roy does not refer to the event as 9/11 or September 11 – but instead references the event by pointing out the bereavement of Americans’ “eyes full of tears,” after which she proclaims the strike of terrorism to be “augury” (“Arundhati Roy, Algebra Infinite Justice”). The introduction is powerful in drawing attention to profound mourning that ensued, for the American people’s friends and loved ones who died in the attacks, as well as tapping into the doleful national collective. It was an extremely interesting way to begin an essay. The organization of Roy’s essay proved very easy to follow, as she offered an initial setting of the tone (which held its intense philippic throughout) and was consistent during the whole essay. For example, Roy comments that Bush II originally named the U.S. retaliatory campaign ‘Operation Infinite Justice’ but later changed it to “Operation Enduring Freedom” questioning the freedom for whom. Roy’s cohesiveness in her essay, I thought, kept the ideas, tone, and evidence for her evaluations very tight. She never did seem to wander or falter in what she wanted to express. Also, the persuasive strategies she used both entertained the readers’ emotions and established supportive facts – and historical background – to help the audience gain a proper understanding. One example of one keenly effective rhetorical strategy, employed by Roy, is when she coolly tells how half a million Iraqi children died as a result of U.S. economic sanction, to which Madeline Albright replied “we think the price is worth it” (“Arundhati Roy, Algebra Infinite Justice”). It really made you think about the entire situation from different perspectives.
Roy displays pure genius in her mixture of tones, vocabulary, and imagery. She integrates these things into an elaboration of evidence that serves to substantiate her essay’s argument. In terms of giving a list of statistical data, Roy peppers the information among paragraphs to support her opinions and admonitions. Although not all would agree with her assessment, and given the fact that so much has happened since she first wrote the essay in 2001 – when the 9/11 event sat fresh upon the world’s memory – Roy was convincing in chronicling historical conflicts, and CIA involvement in the 1979 Russian-Afghanistan warring scenario. Roy made the essay convincing when she gave the numbers regarding the 500,000 dead Iraqi children resulting from U.S. economic sanctions, and when referencing the CIA hand of awareness in allowing (in cooperation with the Pakistani government) the existence of “hundreds of heroin processing laboratories,” from farmers planting opium that serves as “the biggest producer of heroin in the world” earning an estimation of annual profits “between $100 and $200 billion” (“Arundhati Roy, Algebra Infinite Justice”). She adds that the enormous monetary gains were re-invested to arming militants and their training. Basically, Roy does more than insinuate. She downright accuses the U.S. government of being covertly involved with the enemies they publicly propose to foil. In other words, Roy does a pretty good job of convincing readers that the U.S. is instrumental in playing both sides of the coin – both perpetrating and denouncing the evils of terrorism. One other key example of evidence Ms. Roy provides is in reference to the Bhopal gas tank spillage in India, which she blamed CDO Warren Anderson (of Union Carbide at the time of the writing) for, having resulted in 16,000 deaths of Indians. In continuing her diatribe in this vein, Roy strongly rebukes all multinationals (companies) in taking control over our air, ground, waters, and thoughts. These admonishments apparently refer to big-corporate tyranny commanding price and occupancy control over all real estate lands on the earth, outrageous costs of access to reasonably clean water (and its pollution), and dominating our thoughts by choking freedom of expression in media.
Roy’s use of different rhetorical appeals was quite masterful. The imagery and analogy of big, powerful governments wielding violence unethically towards the people on the planet was compared to the sporadic efforts of terrorists. The details of her imagery claimed that both entities invoked “God” into their respective mission statements, and called them “the fireball and the ice pick,” and “the bludgeon and the axe” (“Arundhati Roy, Algebra Infinite Justice”). Perhaps due to Roy’s academic background in being a visionary student of architecture, and having obtained worldwide recognition for her international best-selling novel, The God of Small Things, the experiences helped boost her skills in knowing how to create imagery that engages the souls of people, moving their emotions. I think the effect on the audience by using these terms of ‘fireball’ and ‘ice pick’ with ‘bludgeon’ and ‘axe’ renders a realism that people can relate to. In other words, she paints a picture with language showing how formidable militarized violence can be (fireball) in comparison with equally passionate violence, in spotty ways (though terrible) of terrorist groups stabbing in ‘ice-pick’ fashion in their efforts to protest their religious or political objections to U.S. policy around the world. This aspect is reinforced by Roy’s previous explanation that she understands the trending events of history. For instance, when she mentions how the Taliban were hardliners but had advanced to successfully infiltrate their ‘regime of terror’ into Afghanistan by kicking women officials out of their administrative posts, and closing down schools for girls. Also, she illustrates the ‘ice-picking’ of how the Taliban buried women alive and stoned others to death in an enactment of instigating Sharia Law – a severe Muslim practice of extremism. But, despite the fact that Arundhati Roy is an absolutely brilliant essayist, writer, and thinker there may still be room for improvements to the essay she penned.
For starters, I think perhaps Roy came off as too harsh in her introductory words of the essay when referring to Americans’ justifiable bereavement over the 9/11 terrorist attack event – no matter who or what forces were behind the horrific shenanigans. Also, she may have jumped the gun a bit by writing the article too soon after a somewhat cataclysmic event when people all over the world were either cheering for America’s destruction, or mourning the human and infrastructural losses sustained. In retrospect, I think Roy might agree with this opinion. However she did do a very good job in relating the pain that Americans felt, and making a distinction that U.S. foreign policy was hated and detested – not the American people. I like how Roy sort of displayed an attitude of tongue-in-cheek when she mildly seemed to sneer that American citizens are so ignorant about Afghanistan’s geographical whereabouts that there was a ‘run’ on map stores to locate the place.
In conclusion, the overall validity and point of view about the essay is that it was very valuable to bring awareness how American policy affects people around the world. It is easy to operate in a vacuum, in terms of being an American citizen all your life especially if you have never traveled outside of the country. But not all Americans are as ignorant to the plight of people in nations around the world, or lack geo-political knowledge pertaining to policy. For example, whatever one’s opinion is about Edward Snowden, that young man put his entire life on the line and had to flee his country (friends and family, forever) because he recognized as high-powered forces plotting against the people. What I took away after reading the essay, was how her intelligence and passion placed a complex situation in world affairs and put it in a framework to stretch the perspectives of people in trying to understand the plight of many people in nations around the globe. The strengths in Roy’s essay are her convictions, her erudite dexterity in language utilization of imagery. The weaknesses, as mentioned before, include a bit of callousness in characterizing Americans’ ‘tears’ and having maybe written the article too soon after the event was so fresh.
[Class handout]. Department of World Affairs, Your University, City, State.
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