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Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Bou-oum!" E.M. Forester: A Gov. Romney Echo

Governor Romney seemed inappropriately gleeful as he surreptitiously told a Chamber of Commerce audience how he likes firing people, during a Nashua New Hampshire campaign talk.

It reminded me of the famous echo episode in E.M. Forster's classic "A Passage to India", written about England's colonial period known as "Raj" (1848-1947).

In Forester's story, the English characters Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested are excited about visiting India's famous Marabar Cave. A horrible encounter with a frightening echo within the cave turns an innocent sightseeing expedition into a tumultuous court trail.  Tragically, Adela's encounter with the echo explodes from an unfortunate incident into a controversial accusation of assault, fueled by class discrimination.

"Bou-oum!" is how Forester described the echo, in this passage: "The echo in Marabar....the same monotonous noise replies and quivers, up and down the walls until it is absorbed into the roof..."...

Romney's "I like to fire people" hits the roof in the daunting Republican debate about who is the most electable candidate to potentially defeat President Obama in November 2012.  His "firing people" statement was unrehearsed, for sure, but the echo of it raises the specter of class discrimination, in much the same way  Forester's "bou-oum!" eventually caused chaos among the established English Raj.

In other words, the same monotonous noise repeating his comment in the media, is causing Romney's Republican colleagues to squirm. They are completely unprepared to defend a capitalist concept at odds with the prevailing work ethic they mantra. "Get a job" is their response to all things tax supported. In GOP speak, if you work for the government:  "Get a real job" (Bou-oum!).  If a poor person needs Medicaid coverage: "Find a job to pay for health insurance, in spite of how expensive it is!" (Bou-oum!).  If your company looses money due to competition from cheap labor markets: "It's the capitalist way!" (Bou-oum!)
How do you turn an unprofitable company into one that generates profits? "You lay people off" - euphemism for "fire people".  (Bou-oum!)

In Forster's novel, the character Adela is put on the witness stand and questioned about the Marabar Cave incident. She is compelled to relive her encounter with the echo.  To the embarrassment of everyone, including her English colleagues, her mentor Mrs. Moore and the people of India, who collectively felt indicted by her accusation of assault, she cannot substantiate her accusation. But Adela knew she could not recall the emotional damage caused by her emotional accusation.

Likewise, Governor Romney cannot take back his terribly mistimed remark. It will resonate like the echo in the Marabar Cave. Like the Raj, his comment opened an economic schism, by creating an unpleasant environment, just as treacherous as walking the crevices of the Marabar Cave.

He raised the economic disparity issue, similar to the Raj, a period when native people in India felt marginalized by the colonial English.

Indeed, the entire Capitalist economic system, now on public trial, must defend how ordinary people are protected by our free market system, rather than becoming a by-product of profiteering.


Romney's comment about firing people is his Passage to India echo.  It may render him as not electable.

See the report of Governor Romney's comment:

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