THE BLOG

The Spell That Rowling Casts

18/08/2017 14:10 BST | Updated 18/08/2017 14:10 BST
Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

Every time Donald Trump, or any other great white bigot who presumes to be the leader of the civilized West, expose themselves for the racists that they are, Rowling strikes. Not with her wand, but with her tweets. Her 140 characters are as powerful as the spells in her stories and they capture the attention of those that follow her. Besides, they also make it to the news of leading media outlets.

Recently, Trump, in his characteristic disgraceful manner, ran into controversy when he equated the left and anti-racist protesters in America with the White supremacist racists who killed Heather Heyer. The American President's absurdity was condemned by many. Even someone like Arnold Schwarzenneger, hardly an intellectual of any leaning, said in the clearest of terms that Nazi/fascist violence cannot be equated with that of those that oppose it.

Yet, there was something oddly familiar about Trump's arguments. Then, a friend on social media posted a damning tweet of Rowling from roughly a year back where she echoed similar sentiments, by stating that Britain needed to free from both left and right fascists. Rowling was responding to Nichola Davies, a socialist supporter of the charismatic Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who accused Rowling of supporting the Labour elite. Rowling anticipated Trump by equating those who are fighting for universal healthcare, affordable education, taxation of the rich and greater government spending for the poor with those whose politics is based on xenophobia, bigotry and defending class hierarchies.

One should not see here a hypocritical difference between the author's political opinions and her works. The arch-nemesis of Harry Potter, Voldemart, might appear to be similar to the likes of Hitler in the previous century and Trump, Farage, and Le Pen now. But the hero, in his sickeningly sweet purity, can exist only in children's fables. The characters of the good side in Rowling's books are oblivious to class differences or the social structures that deny those like the house-elves education or parity. The author brings closure for such disparities through momentary and symbolic acts of kindness and warmth - Surprise! Surprise! Even fascists are capable of such acts.

The war against fascists was not won by people who believed in abstract notions of kindness and vulgar charity that the rich like to engage in every once in a while to assuage their consciences; the war was primarily won by a disciplined army of workers of the nations that comprised the Soviet bloc. These are the men and women whom Rowling would morally equate with fascism.

In the previous century, those opposed to the left and favored free-market capitalism read Ayn Rand. Those who opposed the left, but favored some form of basic social justice within the system read George Orwell. Now, both read Rowling who combines the anti-authoritarian tendencies of the above two writers, without the minimal intellectual depth of the former, nor even the superficial understanding of tyranny of the latter.

In Rowling's works, flamboyant sentimentality, banal humanism, and a nauseating optimism are packed and rolled to defend symbolic diversity, an abstract freedom of choice, and a social condition of harmony sans conflict; i.e. everything a free-market ideologue would want you to believe about a liberal capitalist utopia. Rowling markets this well, finding immense popularity among children and millions of adults across the world who refuse to leave childishness behind. She is thus one of the richest women in the world and probably the most highly paid author. No wonder she is terrified by the radical socialism that Corbyn represents.

In his preface to The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx said that circumstances in 19th Century France "made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero's part" referring to the dictatorial rule of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who was a pale imitation of his ancestor. Circumstances in Britain today, where celebrating diversity of peoples and cultures is valued more than addressing crucial questions of power and economy, create a scenario where Rowling is the ideal writer who can save the establishment by appearing to be anti-establishment. She is the heroine who provides fairy tales to a mediocre lot that believes that a struggle against the violence of fascism will be as charming, as benevolent, as white as the protagonist of her stories. That many genuinely believe so is both hilarious and worrying.

Controversial French author Michel Houellebecq in his novel Submission was unnecessarily worried about a dystopian scenario where everyone is forced to read the Koran and to praise Muhammed as a savior. My idea of a dystopia is a society where everyone voluntarily reads Harry Potter and praises Rowling as a leading figure of the anti-establishment.

That dystopia is already here.