Sunday, March 24, 2013

Too Stupid To Live

Sometimes I am so enraged by a story it sticks with me for more than 24hrs after I leave it in disgust. This is a good case of a story that might have one significance to its author and to imperialist audiences, but it has a drastically different significance from a different perspective. And from that different perspective, the "heroes" are evil and the "villains" are good.

This is one of those times. On Instant Netflix I found an old movie, Thunder In The East, with Alan Ladd, Deborah Kerr, and Charles Boyer set in India during the Partition. After several decades of parasitism, the British Raj cleared out of India. In so doing, they created a power vacuum wherein 1.5 million people died.

This movie concerns a remote province where a contest for control is taking place between the local maharaja and a bandit army who the movie claims is Really Bad--along the lines of Gabbar Singh. Alan Ladd flies his DC-3 into this place with a cargo of machine guns, rifles, and ammunition. The sorts of tools a local government might want when fighting off rebels trying to take over.

Alan Ladd gets an appointment with the maharaja's main guy, Charles Boyer, who keeps a picture of Gandhi on his desk. Boyer tells Ladd that war is not the answer and that violence and guns don't settle anything. (It sounds sooo fitting in a French accent.) So, no-thanks, he's not buying.

After Ladd leaves Boyer's office, Boyer calls the airport and tells the airport people to steal the guns and ammo. He says "confiscate" & "impound" but when you take something without paying, it's stealing, even if you're from the government.

Meanwhile Ladd meets the other white folk who are in a snit because they took down the "whites-only" sign at the British Social Club.

After it becomes clear that things aren't safe--particularly the roads, Ladd offers to fly the white people back to Mumbai at market prices. The Brits call him a thief and he raises the price--good for him. He only has 20 seats on the airplane after all. (Market prices are the most efficient way to allocate scarce resources.) Meanwhile, Boyer seizes the DC-3, but Ladd steals it back, and Boyer's flunky disables his airplane. Instead of saving 20 people, everyone's stranded.

The maharaja has decided to spend the summer in France and he has escaped in his own airplane.

Maybe those rebels are freedom-fighters who have the support of the people and they have more legitimacy to rule than the craven maharaja and his thieving crew.

At this point I stopped watching, because I knew how things would play out. Alan Ladd would lead the defense of the white people using his own guns & ammo, Charles Boyer would see violence save his worthless hide, and Debora Kerr would civilize Alan Ladd. It sickened me because every single character in this movie was too stupid to live. And that evil "heroes" would triumph over the "bandit-army" freedom-fighters.

Alan Ladd was stupid to leave his cargo unsecured. The British were too stupid to stay behind after the British Army left and stupid to insult the only guy who could save them. Charles Boyer was stupid to order the airplane disabled.

The only people I sympathized with were the Indian citizens.

When the US won our independence from the Brits, the victorious Continental Army helped George Washington maintain order. India and Pakistan had a power vacuum created by the British withdrawal.

Alan Ladd and Debora Kerr could fly to America and the Brits sail to the UK, but what of the Indians who remained?


  1. not convinced that the us independence is the same as Britain pulling out of India, Britain wasn't occupying the US it was a colony who ultimately looked for self rule, India was a separate nation with a different culture and historical tradition.

    1. This is an apt distinction, but I don't think it bears on my point that when the locals pushed the Brits out of the States there was no power-vacuum, but when the Brits left India/Pakistan they did leave a power-vacuum.


Those more worthy than I: