Monday, December 22, 2008

Charles Taylor and modern 'altruism'

I was terribly impressed by Charles Taylor's understanding of modern 'altruism': it is a codified, moralized altruism and blind to the consequences that it involves (A Secular Age, by Charles Taylor).

I shudder to think how many fathers are going to be burying their politically active sons after the election imposed by western governments this year (interestingly, Taylor mentions Mandela: he lied to his people about the first election - though Taylor doesn't mention this, probably out of politeness – but he approves of the code-defying behaviour of Mandela: he was after a 'higher' good, even if it wasn't rights-based, that is, formulaic. He waived the rights of the 'victim' for peace, to avoid civil war.)

Taylor contrasts this sort of 'goodness' with agape, which is a 'gut' feeling of love. Agape extends towards the living, breathing individual: the good Samaritan crossed a line, not because any code told him to (on the contrary), but because he was moved by
a man's suffering.

So many women have been raped in Bangladesh by politically active young men in the service of the political parties - and so many of these young men have killed each other!

Doesn't this move anyone, as the Samaritan was moved? NGO after NGO has evaded the subject, never mind western governments.

Here is an article that might be of interest:


http://unlikelystories.org/sayeed0808.shtml A Defence of Religion



It is, in fact, a defence of the irrational: I come at the subject from economics, since that's the discipline I (literally) laboured under. The whole idea of a rational producer-cum-consumer seems repellent since contrary to the evidence right under our noses!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

of cats and dogs – and their masters

A mullah was walking down the road, stroking a purring cat in the cradle of his arms. He crossed a Bangladeshi intellectual similarly cradling a dog, and they both stopped.

"Why are you carrying a cat?" asked the Bangladeshi intellectual.

"Don't you know cats are beloved of the Prophet, peace be upon him. And why are you carrying a dog. Don't you know they are unholy?"

"I'm carrying a dog because dogs are beloved of my masters, peace be upon them."

they know more about us that we know about us

When a Bangladeshi diplomat visits America, American journalists ask: "What's happening in Bangladesh?"

When an American diplomat visits Bangladesh, Bangladeshi journalists ask the same question.

development and democracy : the inverse relationship

"What makes infrastructure investments in developing countries tricky is politics. Even in China, where agricultural land has been ruthlessly acquired for new roads, opposition is growing. In democracies the obstacles are even greater. Mr. Kant [of Tata Motors] says that in the five decades after independence India built almost no new roads. That changed when the pro-business Baharatiya Janata Party came to office in 1999. But since a Congress-led coalition took over in 2004, road-building has dropped off again."

"About 40% of India's road traffic is carried on just 2% of its roads, most of which leave much to be desired."

The Economist, A Special Report on Cars in Emerging Markets, November 15th 2008, p. 17

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bangladesh Rural Advancement Company





In the early '70s, soon after the birth of Bangladesh, NGOs like BRAC were perceived as bulwarks against communism, according to a top NGO insider. That was when western governments began to channel money to NGOs.

Forward to 9/11.

Today, NGOs serve a different purpose: purchasing the allegiance of the elite against Islam.

This explains the Conrad H. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to BRAC.

And the tissue of disinformation printed in the page from The Economist (25 October 2008, p. 64).

Oral rehydration? The credit for that usually goes to the ICCDR,B – the international centre for cholera and diarrhoeal research. The kudos should go, if to anyone, then to the Institute for Public Health. Actually, according to a well-informed doctor, the remedy is an indigenous one that has been used for centuries.

Control of tuberculosis and malaria?

Tuberculosis has been on the rise. and not only in Bangladesh. Surely there is a limit to mendacity!

Malaria? Every time I go down to the Chittagong Hill Tracts, doctors urge me to start a course of chloroquine – even though the drug no longer works. I once tried to buy artemisinin, and I had to search the drugstores in Dhaka high and low – and when I found a few doses, the astronomical price put me off against buying any prophylactic.

I hoped to have better luck in the Hill Tracts. But I couldn't find a single store selling artemisinin (in fact, I couldn't find a single store or individual who knew what artemisinin was!). This is a familiar story throughout the malarial world. Surely there are limits to mendacity!

A university? Now we're talking. BRAC university is for the ultra-rich. If I had kids, I wouldn't have been able to afford the exorbitant fees charged by BRAC university. The ad above leads you to believe that the university is for the indigent: it is for the children of the extremely well-heeled.

Fees structure of BRAC University:

Fee Structure

Non-refundable Fees
Admission Fee Tk. 12,000 (one time)
Computer Lab Fee Tk. 1,000 per semester
Student Activity Fee Tk. 500 per semester
Library Fee Tk. 500 per semester

Tuition Fee per Credit*

BBA
BSc in Computer Science
BSc in Computer Science and Engineering
BSc in Electronics and Communication Engineering
BSS in Economics
BA in English
LL.B (Hons)
BSc in Physics
BS in APE
BS in Mathematics

Tk. 4,400/-

B.Arch
- Studio Courses
- Lecture Courses


Tk. 5,500/-
Tk. 4,400/-

*subject to enhancement with a notice before a semester

http://www.bracuniversity.net/admission/admission_instruction.php#FEES

Oddly enough, the ad says nothing about BRAC bank – an institution serving the mega-rich of Bangladesh.

BRAC is not a humanitarian institute – it is a business conglomerate.

It is like a giant pig with many teats, and everyone who is favoured has his/her lips to the teats. Or imagine a giant trough where the initiated come to guzzle – with donors pouring the fodder at both ends.

This silences criticism of BRAC.

Monday, November 17, 2008

a demagogue delivers - destruction and death

"First he [Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman] opposed British rule in India. After the subcontinent's partition in 1947, he denounced West Pakistan's dominance of East Pakistan with every bit as much vehemence. "Brothers," he would say to his Bengali followers, "do you know that the streets of Karachi are lined with gold? Do you want to take back that gold? Then raise your hands and join me."

TIME Magazine, Monday, Apr. 05, 1971



"And one of the worst clusters of grossly overcrowded shacks and hovels, unfit for animals to live in, lay beside the main route from one of the airports to the rich centre of the city. Visiting foreigners were appalled, not merely by what they saw and smelt, but by the apparent helpless apathy of successive political Cabinets towards this mass of human misery unmitigated on their doorstep. Probably nothing so discredited Pakistan internationally, during the confused years before the military coup, as the persisting shameful squalor along the pavements of her capital."

(Ian Stephens, Pakistan, Old Country, New Nation, Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1964, p 309)"

1) Sheikh Mujib campaigned against the British: no Muslim wanted that the British should leave. The 'Quit India' movement was an entirely Hindu movement. The terror that had driven men like Sir Sayyed Ahmed Khan was the terror of democracy where the Hindus would be the majority. Since 1947, these terrors have been amply well-founded. Apart from the violence against Muslims, Muslims' job prospects are worse than that for Dalits.
2) After 1947, West Pakistan could hardly dominate anyone – never mind the far more populous East Pakistan. Indeed, Jinnah's energies were consumed by the Kashmir struggle.
3) According to my late, lamented friend, Omar Ali Chowdhury, who was personal secretary to Hussein Shahrawardy, the only reason that Shahrawardy picked Mujib to run the Awami League was because he was rabble-rouser par excellence.
4) Shahrawardy and protégé were both inimical to the Pakistan concept. The former was hobnobbing with Nehru and Gandhi while Jinnah was trying to forge a state single-handedly. When the new Indian government taxed his property away from him, he emerged in East Pakistan to revive his fortune – a carpetbagger.
5) Mujib, therefore, brought to East Pakistan, the same nationalism that had enthused the Hindus. The distance between West and East Pakistan, and the linguistic majority of the Bengali Muslims, were fertile soil for the ambitions of a demagogue to reap a bitter harvest. We in the East tended to believe everything we were told about the West because we couldn't go there – it required an expensive plane ride, or a prolonged sea voyage. Whether the streets of Karachi were paved with gold or cobble-stones was something we couldn't verify.
6) The distance between East and West also helped Mujib and others to recreate the metropolis-colony, or Britain-India, dichotomy. The psychology was powerful since so fresh, and succeeding economics, Marxists to the last man (some of them were my teachers at Dhaka University in the '80s), provided 'facts' to back up this dichotomy.
7) Furthermore, we were told that 'they' spoke Urdu, while 'we' spoke Bengali. In fact, Urdu is the mother tongue of a fraction of the people of Pakistan even today. Contemporary Pakistan is a polyglot nation.
8) Democracy produces demagogues and the last straw was the election of 1970 – the most terrible event to befall the country – one in which our servant voted seven times.

Friday, November 14, 2008

sex, alcohol, smoking - and cinema






Is this a love scene? A murder scene? From an adult film? None of the above.

The picture is from "Constantine", a fantasy film starring Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz. It's obviously a movie for all ages.

Then what explains the revealing water scene, where the beautiful Weisz sports a diaphanous top and disports in a fetching black bra?

Scenes like these are very common in Hollywood movies: even where no hint of nudity is called for, a none-too-subtle suggestion of eroticism is inserted for effect. Weisz is beautiful in any kind of clothes: why exploit her body?

The pressure to reveal (and, incidentally, have sex) is immense in western culture.

"Diseases which half a century ago mostly affected men and female prostitutes are now affecting men and women in roughly equal numbers. STDs affect people in all sections of society, though in Britain the most noticeable increase in numbers of patients is among teenagers(Don MacKean and Brian Jones, "Human and Social Biology", London: John Murray 2004, p 267)."

Incidentally, in this film Constantine is a chain smoker – he had been smoking since he was fifteen – and is now coughing up blood: he is going to die. He lights up in nearly every scene: young boys are known t be influenced by "macho" scenes of men smoking like chimneys. In the end, Constantine pops a chewing gum into his mouth, of course, but kids have seen him puffing in more manly fashion.

Smoking, alcohol and sex are a heady combination for teenagers – and movies help to promote all three.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

a demagogue delivers

"First he [Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman] opposed British rule in India. After the subcontinent's partition in 1947, he denounced West Pakistan's dominance of East Pakistan with every bit as much vehemence. "Brothers," he would say to his Bengali followers, "do you know that the streets of Karachi are lined with gold? Do you want to take back that gold? Then raise your hands and join me."

TIME Magazine, Monday, Apr. 05, 1971



"And one of the worst clusters of grossly overcrowded shacks and hovels, unfit for animals to live in, lay beside the main route from one of the airports to the rich centre of the city. Visiting foreigners were appalled, not merely by what they saw and smelt, but by the apparent helpless apathy of successive political Cabinets towards this mass of human misery unmitigated on their doorstep. Probably nothing so discredited Pakistan internationally, during the confused years before the military coup, as the persisting shameful squalor along the pavements of her capital."

(Ian Stephens, Pakistan, Old Country, New Nation, Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1964, p 309)"

"God Damn America" (2)

Postscript: one would imagine that America's southern neighbours would have been electrified at the prospect of a black person running their northern neighbour. Guess what?

Only 29% thought a Barack "biofuel" Obama victory would be good for their country; 8% thought the other cove would be better; and – wait for it! – 30% believed there would be no difference whatsoever, while – and I love this! – fully 31% were totally ignorant of the proceedings. That means a whopping 61% were indifferent to the so-called "epochal" election (The Economist, October25th 2008, p 52).

Being so close to Uncle Sam, these guys know that nothing changes for them; indeed, after 9/11, when Europe, Canada and even Iran were crying rivers, Latin Americans did not mount a single vigil; they felt that America deserved it.

One more observation: a few years ago the first Amerindian president, Evo Morales, was elected Bolivia's president – the world did not even notice! Why? For one thing, persecution of both slaves and natives was less intense in the Iberian colonies than the Anglo-Saxon one up above; secondly, Bolivia hurts nobody but itself, while America hurts everybody, including some of its own people.

As a Latin American leader once lamented: "so far from God, and so close to America".

Friday, November 7, 2008

"God Damn America"

It would appear that the election of Barack Hussein Obama has galvanised the intelligentsia of Bangladesh. According to Dr. Muzaffer Ahmed, ""From the verdict of the American people, we shall learn that the dissenting voice is more important than the supporting ones."


"It may be a lesson for our political parties that people may not accept [them] if they take any anti-people policy or go back to the old confrontational political culture," said Dilara Chowdhury. "Through active participation, people can liberate themselves from unhealthy politics which results from manipulation of the powerful and the corrupt who disempower them and undermine the democratic institutions with the help of money, the media and other instrument of control," gushed Dr Kamal Hossain.

One can draw inspiration from any event, no matter how trivial and distant, but surely there should be some relevance to the situation in our own country. For instance, I have never heard the intellectuals go ga-ga over the achievements of China, which has raised hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Now, why might this be? Why are our binoculars trained on America, and not further east?

Barack Obama, like many American politicians, was generously larded with benefits by the mortgage agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These people allowed "regulatory capture" to take place under their very noses, because they needed the dosh. They actively encouraged the agencies to make as many loans – of whatsoever dubious quality – to as many people as possible to grab their votes. Result: the subprime meltdown, and today a world recession, pushing millions of people throughout the world back into poverty.

Barack Obama pandered to Iowan farmers saying that he would continue to subsidise biofuels – he had the interest of American farmers at heart, not the interest of the Bangladeshi poor. Biofuel subsidies caused poverty worldwide, as farmers switched out of food crops into maize. So, we received a double whammy from the US of A.


As for the complexion of the new president, I think his former pastor (whom he disowned outright after being mentored by him for years) said most eloquently what the relationship between God and America, and our prayers for the latter, should be.

"God Damn America."

Amen.

http://thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=62088

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Untold Story of Bangladesh - How Journalists Failed A Nation

For years, I tried to bring to the attention of the international mainstream media how student politicians in Bangladesh were raping girls and killing each other – and failed.


I recall writing to New Hope International, and the editor sending me a terse note saying that if I found democracy so deficient, what alternative did I propose? Earlier, the chief editor had said that they would have been happier if I had attributed the violence I described to the market-friendly policies of the World Bank and the IMF!

I approached the Christian Science Monitor – they weren't remotely interested. I wrote to The Nation – thinking that this paper would surely be concerned about the plight of teenage boys used as thugs by the political parties; I never even heard from them.

I sent an article to the New Statesman. I got a reply saying that the relevant editor would get back to me after the Christmas holidays. I never heard from him again.

Then, my own analysis told me what was going on – these major newspapers were part of what I have come to call "The Freedom Industry". Since their readers have been indoctrinated into believing that democracy is God's gift to mankind (George Bush's phrase), any criticism of democracy would not go down well with them. Prestige and money were at stake.

Finally, I learned about the Alternative Media/ indymedia.

My first break came when Csaba Polony of Left Curve published a cycle of poems on the murder of student politicians by student politicians. I was grateful: I realised that criticism of students – who were supposed to have overthrown a dictator in 1990 – would only be acceptable to low-budget, low-circulation. non-mainstream newspapers and magazines.

And that turned out to be the case: I sent my article to an online journal called Axis of Logic. The editor was breathless with excitement: he immediately published it, and even tried to call me from America – but it's not easy to get through to Bangladesh!

You can access the article here:

http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_23393.shtml

It's called THE FREEDOM INDUSTRY AND STUDENT POLITICS IN BANGLADESH: every year, on the average, 50 student politicians were being murdered after the democratic transition of 1990. Why? Because these kids were being used by the political parties to bring down the incumbent in street battles and campus violence. Those street battles are called 'hartals' (these are not 'general strikes'!). Here's a description of a hartal: " Salahuddin (33), a fisherman, was killed in a skirmish between the two student wings of the political parties in the latest hartal. Two rickshawpullers – one of them unidentified, the other Badaruddin (32) - were bombed while they were pulling their rickshaws during hartal hours. It took them 24 to 48 hours to die. An auto-rickshaw was burned to ashes, and when the driver, Saidul Islam Shahid (35), tried to put out the flames, he was sprinkled with petrol, and burned to death. It took him more than two days to die. Truck driver, Fayez Ahmed (50), died when a bomb was thrown on his truck. And Ripon Sikder, a sixteen-year-old injured by a bomb, died on 4th May at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital after struggling for his life for eleven days." The whole idea of a hartal is to keep traffic off the roads to paralyse the country and discredit the ruling party – and that's where you need the boys.

The boys were allowed – even encouraged – to rape with abandon. According to the Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, the number of rapes skyrocketed from 407 in 1990 to 2224 by 1997.

In September 1998, a committee investigated allegations of sexual abuse at Jahangirnagar University against boys from the Chatra League, the student front of the then ruling Awami League. It revealed that

“more than 20 female students were raped and over 300 others were sexually harassed on the campus by the "armed cadres of a particular political party. "

No one was charged.

In desperation people resorted to lynching: lynching was unknown in Bangladesh. If people caught a thief, they used to give him a good beating and hand him over to the police. Now, they started killing them. And then came the public torching of muggers and robbers – they were cremated alive in broad daylight by a populace that had had enough.

Then, I realised that reading newspapers – ranging from The Economist to the Guardian to the New Statesman – would not give me a true picture of the world.

Only anthropologists could do that.

The first eye-opener was Stanely J. Tambiah of Harvard University. In his book, Ethnonatioalist Conflict and Collective Violence in South Asia (a book that, to my knowledge, no mainstream paper ever reviewed), he blames the rise in violence throughout South Asia on the party political system.

He says: ‘...participatory democracy, competitive elections, mass militancy, and crowd violence are not disconnected. (Stanley J. Tambiah ,Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia, (New Delhi: Vistaar Publications, 1996), p. 260)."

I noticed that none of the NGOs ever raised their voices against student politics. Odd: these were supposed to be "civil society". Then two anthropologists revealed the truth.

The writers speak of an "aid market" that local NGOs know how to exploit.

“The political significance of such a massive proliferation of NGOs in Africa deserves closer attention. Our research suggests that this expansion is less the outcome of the increasing political weight of civil society than the consequence of the very pragmatic realisation that resources are now largely channeled through NGOs.”

The authors also - like myself - attribute the spread of democracy since 1990 to foreign donor pressure, and reject outright the notion of an emerging civil society: “It cannot simply be a coincidence that, now that the West ties aid to democratisation under the guise of multi-party elections, multi-party elections are taking place in Africa.” (Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument (Oxford: James Currey, 1999)23, 22, 118).

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, donors insisted on multi-party elections. The Economist finally acknowledged the truth after fourteen years: “...the cold war’s end prompted western donors to stop propping up anti-communist dictators and to start insisting on democratic reforms” (December 18th 2004, p. 69).

Then, when democracy threatened to turn Bangladesh into another failed Muslim state, western governments intervened: they again allowed the army to take over on January 11th 1997.

The number of student politicians murdered plunged from 48 in 2006 to 10 in 2007 and 6 so far this year. The restoration of (colonial) democracy in December means that more kids are going to be killed every year, and more women raped by these kids.

But no newspaper will ever tell you that.


(For more articles on Bangladesh and violence, you can visit http://www.geocities.com/if6065/farvardin

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Robert Sowell and history

Robert Sowell makes an absurd claim during the online discussion of his book "Economic Facts and Fallacies".

He maintains that colonialism never touched the poorest places on earth.

What about Congo?

Surely he must have read 'Heart of Darkness'? He will claim that it was post-colonial rule that failed the country; even if that can be proven (and it hasn't been proven), it doesn't alter the fact that colonialism did touch one of the poorest places on earth today. The only country to have benefited from colonialism in Africa was – Belgium.

Throughout his discussion, there is an unhistorical - indeed, anti-historical – bias. It shows when he maintains that markets (say, for credit) don't discriminate against black people because, in that case, they also discriminate in favour of Asians.


Asians are high net-worth people; more so than white people on the average. Asian values are world-famous; so is the "Protestant ethic". And Asian-Americans are immigrants to boot – a group that often out-achieves the natives.

Black Americans did not come to America voluntarily; they were not immigrants; they were not free; they were systematically denied their rights; the net worth of a black person in the bottom quintile is – hold your breath! - $57; while that of a white person runs into five digit figures.

Markets always discriminate – that is their function ("effective demand", remember?). Markets allocate goodies according to purchasing power. To "allocate" is necessarily to discriminate. And why should credit, for instance, be allocated to somebody who's worth $57? Markets don't care about history. They care about returns.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2008/02/sowell_on_econo.html

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

infanticide in Britain


"For parents in Britain, 2004 marked the first year in which other people were more likely to kill their children than they were themselves."

The Economist

http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10881198

Saturday, October 18, 2008

nothing extraordinary about renditions: they started with Bill Clinton



"In 1993, Bill Clinton was pondering whether to authorise what is now called 'extraordinary rendition', when American agents snatch a suspected terrorist abroad and deliver him to interrogators in a third country. The White House counsel warned that this would be illegal. President Clinton was in two minds until Al Gore walked in, laughed and said: 'That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.'

"To understand how the Bush administration went crashing off the rails, it helps to know where the train was coming from."

The Economist, August 2nd 2008, p 82

Friday, October 17, 2008

tragedies and statistics

STALIN: The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of a million men is a statistic.

COROLLARY 1: Jihadis are only capable of tragedies; Americans and Europeans are only capable of statistic.


"Health Ministry Statistics say that the incidence of abnormal births has increased 400-fold since 1991. The Iraqis also say that, all told, 1.7m children have died because of the various effects of UN sanctions."

The Economist, September 14th 2002

COROLLARY 2: Therefore, Americans and Europeans are admired; jihadis are not.

COROLLARY 3: Only if (and when) jihadis are capable of statistics will they be respected.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

burqua versus The Story of O


French equality on display (left)








"It is not a religious sign but the visible sign of a totalitarian political project preaching sexual inequality".

These spirited words come from Fadela Amara, France's cities minister of Algerian origin, who should know what she's talking about(after all, France murdered one million of her compatriots)). What prompted the remark was the denial of citizenship to a Moroccan woman for wearing the burqua by the Conseil d'Etat. It was reported that "the woman adopted the burqua at her husband's request in France where she 'lives in total submission to the men in her family'. ("A burqua barrier", The Economist, July 19th 2008, p 53)"

"It is not a religious sign but the visible sign of a totalitarian political project preaching sexual inequality".

Let's go over the text: number one, it is not a religious sign; unlike, say, the wimple? Perhaps nuns are not all required to wear the wimple, but I haven't seen any in mini-skirts and strappy, high-heeled shoes – not yet, anyway. I haven't even seen any lay Catholics wearing such minimalist attire either.

Number two: the burqua is the visible sign of a totalitarian project – and the French know all about totalitarianism, don't they? After all, they invented the phenomenon in 1789 and welcomed the Nazis and sent Jews off to their gaseous deaths (only two French collaborators have been prosecuted to date). Perhaps there are invisible signs of totalitarian projects, unlike the burqua. But only the French know about these things, I suppose.

Number three: sexual equality. The more a woman covers herself, the less equal she is. Therefore, the more naked a woman, the more equal she is. Therefore, a stripper is more equal after doffing her garb than before – especially as she does that before applauding or jeering men, who probably respect her equality like crazy. So a woman can acquire equality after just a few minutes on the stage.

To take matters to their logical conclusion (and why not, since the French are a logical people): the ultimate act of equality must be the sex act – provided it is performed before an audience. In short, pornography. Pornography glorifies woman, raises her to new heights of respectability, and – of course – equality. "The Story of O" – that's equality a la Francaise.


Postscript: It follows that if the lady in question had been a stripper or a porn artist – thereby regularly exposing every square inch (and more) of her body to men for their cash – she would have been granted citizenship. This is not a society that values liberty – this is a society that's taken leave of its senses.



Further reading: http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_070503_the_wicked_civilisat.htm

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Roman Catholic Church and dictatorship

"Latin America's crop of military dictators received no condemnation at the archbishop's hands. Where there was chaos, he reminded his bishops, people needed firm government."

- Obituary of Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, The Economist, May 3 2008, p. 93

Friday, September 26, 2008

of genocidaires and democracts

Rober Mugabe goes to Europe, and Angela Merkel lectures him - and Gordon Brown refuses to attend because he's there.

Yet both Merkel and Brown fell over themselves to meet the mass murderer George Bush. And Brown was perfectly happy to work alongside Tony Blair, genocidaire extraordinaire.

A strange world, indeed.

Yunus doth protest too much

"I am shocked – shocked! – to learn there is gambling going one here."

Devotees of the film Casablanca will recall these lines by the Chief of Police, a constant gambler at the club.

Mohammed Yunus's protestations of ignorance at the jiggery-pokery at Grameen Telecoms sound the same. Frankly, there's no cause for anyone to be shocked – or surprised. These things are par for the course.

To quote a pithier saying: "He doth protest too much".

Monday, September 15, 2008

Six Poems

Sayeed.pdf (application/pdf Object)





VOICES my schizoid uncle hears voices – god or demon – and so do we – voices from the west

hartal not all words can be translated, and this is one of them

arafat day we don't recall the passing away of yasser arafat, but recall the death of noor hossain, because western donors would disapprove of the former and approve of the latter

compassion sometimes, kindness is cruel

little by little we are the little people, but the little can go a long way...


fiat justitia in his essay "You and the Atomic Bomb", Orwell was terrified of the prospect of the atomic bomb, not killing humanity, but empowering big states against small ones...he need not have despaired

"We know people want martial law, but we can't print that!"

I remember, back in the late '90s, I submitted an article to the Daily Star, the last line of which Mahfuz Anam refused to publish – and I refused to alter. His sub-editor, Modon Shahu, called me once day and urged me to change the line.

He chuckled and said: "We know people want martial law, but we can't print that!"

Pause and ponder the implications of the sub-editor's statement.

The battle-cry of The Daily Star is "Committed to the People's Right to Know"; also, "Journalism Without Fear or Favour". Add "Not" before the first, and change "Without" to "With" in the second shibboleth, and you have an accurate idea of the newspaper's ethos.

When a newspaper knows what people want, and what they are saying, it is its duty to report that. Instead, we have a so-called newspaper in cahoots with western donors and NGOs, trying to force-feed democracy down our collective throat.

Well, we finally regurgitated on January 11, 2007 – the day democracy ended: the conclusion of a sixteen-year-old nightmare.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Two-hundred-fifty years of mental subordination

Decline in religious belief ("desacralization") is associated with "progress" (that is, Europe) by our intellectuals.

Since the British ruled us for 200 years, it is still with Britain (and Europe, by extension) that our intellectuals identify. They are caught in a time-warp, as if last year was 1947.

Since our intellectuals don't have a single original idea, (rendered incapable of thought by the Pax Britannia), they growl like dogs at a stranger at the slightest hint of religion.

But not all religions.

Since the intelligentsia are incapable of thought, they are thoroughly incoherent: their hatred is directed, not at all religions, but at Islam, and their love towards Hinduism (and by extension all things Indian).

According to Ian Stephens, this was the attitude of the British (and the Europeans) towards Islam and Hinduism – loathing for the former, and admiration for the latter. As editor of the prestigious Statesman (which first blew the whistle on the famine of '43), he was in a position to know and articulate what his fellow Britons thought and felt on the subject: "But the attitude towards Islam of westerners, American and European – a less obvious but interesting matter – needs some discussing here and now. Their lack of interest in a country so exceptional as Pakistan, so populous, so strategically important, a country, moreover, which has allied itself with them militarily; their frequent symptoms of a vague emotional repugnance; their inclination to turn elsewhere, towards other less significant parts of the map, combine, on reflection, into something strange, which asks for inquiry. (Emphasis added)." After considering practical matters of administration and empire, Stephens turns to religious history: "It is the rough military fact of seizure of European soil by, for him [the Occidental], an alien, infidel regime, that grips his thoughts....Or, delving deeper into European group-memory, where the hurt of it still festers a little, he may think of the high hopes, the chivalry, the faith and then the disillusioned, ignominious end of the Crusades."
"It can scarcely be questioned that, though detailed attempts to analyse them would be absurd, thoughts like these do distort the westerner's attitude towards Islam, and therefore towards the interesting country dealt with in this book." (Ian Stephens, Pakistan, Old Country, New Nation, Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1964, pp 15-16, 19)"

Despite sixty years of "independence", we still think the way our former masters wanted us to think.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

al-Ghazali on Democracy

[This essay was written before the military takeover of January 11, 2007]

There are some writers who would identify democracy with Christianity. One of them is Larry Siedentop. In his book Democracy in Europe, he observes: “For the Christian God survives in the assumption that we have access to the nature of things as individuals. That assumption is, in turn, the final justification for a democratic society, for a society organised to respect the equal underlying moral status of all its members, by guaranteeing each ‘equal liberty’. That assumption reveals how the notion of ‘Christian liberty’ came to underpin a radically new ‘democratic’ model of human association.” (The italics are the author’s.)
His words are not to be taken cum grano salis. In respect of the family, he makes a trenchant observation. The family, in Christian teaching, takes a back seat to the individual. “And he said unto them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9: 23) Here is Christ asking for free, voluntary sacrifice on the part of his disciples. So did the Prophet Mohammed; but the difference lies in the fact that Christ asked his follower to ‘deny himself’ – renounce family life, earthly good – in a voluntary association. According to Siedentop, this supremacy of the individual over the family was the herald of the civil society and western democracy. This supremacy is absent in Islam. “And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. And he said unto them, take nothing for your journey....” (Luke 9: 2-3) Siedentop concludes: “...Christian and liberal norms have always had difficulty with assessing the claims of the human family, often treating it primarily as a preparation of adult freedom – a view which can perhaps be traced back as far as Jesus’s radical pronouncement on the need to reject family ties when the service of God, in conscience, requires it”.
This explains many anomalies in the practice of democracy in Bangladesh. Its chief proponents – ambitious men and women with careers rooted in the west - hold despotic sway over their children’s lives and careers. The nepotism that is rife within so-called ‘civil society’ in Bangladesh appears inevitable. In their desire to maximise their gains from the west, our democrats and NGO people try to have the best of both worlds – the Christian and the Muslim. They preach against nepotism, and practice it openly with donor money. They preach against despotism, and practice it openly in their institutions and organisations. For we admire the man who takes care of his family – it is an Islamic injunction – and we despise the person who neglects his family. We are awe-struck when we see Catholic priests give up home and hearth to come to this God-forsaken country from the United States or Europe to ‘serve the people’. If any one of us did the same thing, we would ostracize him – or bung him in an asylum!
Thus, Muslim society cannot be an association of individuals; there has to be a father figure at the top. There can be no democracy in Muslim society. In 1990, we rebelled against despotism: this was un-Islamic, a sin. This is not my view: it is the view of al-Ghazzali.
Al-Ghazali and al-Mawardi are only two examples of Muslim political philosophers who defended absolute despotism absolutely. “Sixty years of tyranny are better than an hour of civil strife,” maintained al-Ghazzali. Even today, Arab children are taught since childhood to fear chaos. Al-Ghazzali said that it was a religious duty never to overthrow a ruler "no matter how mad or bad". So long as he could maintain the peace and protect against external enemies, he must be tolerated – nay, it is our religious duty to preserve and respect his rule.
To quote al-Mawardi: ‘An evil-doing and barbarous sultan, so long as he is supported by military force, so that he can only with difficulty be deposed and that the attempt to depose him would create unendurable civil strife, must of necessity be left in possession and obedience must be rendered to him, exactly as obedience is required to be rendered to those who are placed in command”. The individual has a positive duty never to resist the sovereign.
I have deliberately emphasised the reference to military force – for this reference is not accidental. From the Prophet onwards, every khalifah and sultan and emir in Muslim civilisation was a military ruler. Initially, of course there had been no standing army - the citizen body itself was the army - just as there was no bureaucracy. Later both army and bureaucracy developed together. Whoever had military power had civil power as well, and never the other way around. (This extends to the navy also; Muawiyah was the author of the Muslim navy - the English word "admiral" comes from the Arabic "amir al-bahr", Commander of the Sea).
Our civilisation is, therefore, based on military rule and obedience.
Then Europeans came along and told us that it was barbaric for the military ruler to be the civilian authority – the former must serve under the latter. Since the Europeans conquered us and offered us rich rewards, we accepted their views and renounced 1,400 years of our civilisation.
If democracy and Christianity are identical (and they share many aspects, as Siedentop has demonstrated), what we are witnessing today is nothing short of mass conversion of our society. Even in Pakistan, the mawlanas – yes, even the mawlanas – insist that General Musharraf must relinquish his military post if he is to remain president: what arrant rubbish! Surely, one would expect learned mawlanas to recall the words of al-Ghazzali! But no! They, too, have sensed power, and election as the avenue to power, and are singing western songs. Throughout Muslim history, after the period of the Khalifa-i-rashidun, religious authority had been subservient to the secular powers, as al-Mawardi makes plain.
I can vividly imagine what al-Ghazzali would have said today had he been here: “Unhappy people! Fifteen years ago you rose in rebellion and sinned; today, you and your children suffer for that act of impiety; rape and murder are your everyday lot; some among you, inspired by alien ideas, think that merely because you can criticise your rulers, your are blessed. Criticise rulers! Heaven forbid! Would you criticise your father and mother? It is your religious duty not to criticise your ruler – of whom there must be only one, not many. You have learnt to despise military rule, and yet I lived and wrote under military rule. Your ancestors have prospered under military rule: and you think your ancestors barbaric! Where will you hide your shame? You who spit on yourself! The calamities that befall you daily can only be reversed if you reverse your rebellion of fifteen years ago. May Allah show you the true way, and may He protect you!”

Saturday, August 30, 2008

China, and democracy in Africa

"Western-style democracy simply isn't suited to African conditions but rather it carries with it the root of disaster. The elections crisis in Kenya is just one example."

These words from the Chinese government were greeted with the usual derision by the western media, including the Economist (from which they have been taken, February 9th 2008, p. 41).

Interestingly, two highly respected and intelligent anthropologists – Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz – made the same observation in their contemporary classic "Africa Works" (Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz, Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument, (Oxford: James Currey, 1999))

Chabal and Daloz say: “Indeed, the wholesale adoption of a political vocabulary issued from the Western democratic experience is eminently misleading: the words do not correspond to the realities which they are supposed to embody...The vote is not primarily a token of individual choice but of a calculus of patrimonial reciprocity based on ties of solidarity. ”(pp. 38 – 39) (Emphasis added.)
Again: “Democracy...simply has no proper role for political losers in Africa....Politicians are expected to represent their constituents properly, that is, to deliver resources to them. It is, therefore, comprehensively useless to be an opposition politician....” (p. 56).
The individual is part of the patron-client nexus.
It should be natural – and rational – for Mwai Kibaki to rig the election for himself; similarly for Robert Mugabe. In a personal e-mail to the author, Patrick Chabal observed that the breakdown of the neo-patrimonial state in Africa has dire consequences.
The Chinese would agree.

Monday, August 25, 2008

changing the diapers

Politicians, like diapers, need to be changed, and for the same reason.

Our politicians stink to high heaven – they've been around for smelly decades. Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia are walking stink-bombs, yet we don't even hold our noses.

It took a suicidal attack to remove the awful pong of Benazir Bhutto. But her husband is still there, mal-odoriferous.

Then there's Nawaz Sharif, twice flushed down the commode, run into the sewer, and back, all soiled and dirty and covered in faeces.

India twice removed the diapers – and very violently too. The first time they got rid of Indira, and the second time they unbundled her son.

In Bangladesh we nearly removed the nappies on one occasion, but Sheikh Hasina survived.

Why don't we change the diapers? It seems we love ordure and odour, the messier and smellier, the better. That, or our olfactory nerve (and cerebral cortex) is severely damaged.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

the sozzled Abul Barkat

Mr. Abul Barkat recently observed that Bangladesh was galloping forward on the economic front when the military intervened like a party pooper (they removed the punch-bowl just when everybody was sozzled and disorderly).

Iraq is galloping away at 7% GDP growth rate (faster than Bangladesh ever did).

Would Mr. Barkat like to live in Iraq – or perhaps visit the two rivers as a tourist? It shouldn't be too expensive: after all, he'll be leaving his family behind and will only require a one-way ticket. (I would have suggested Sudan, but it has very few tourist attractions).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Justice B. B. Roy Chowdhury on the events of December 6, 1990, and more....

The late Justice Bimolendu Bikash Roy Choudhury was one of the finest and most upright gentlemen it has been my pleasure to know. His respect for the constitution was such that he was furious with the events of December 6, 1990 – years after they were over – for he realised the long-term consequences of the fateful day.

December 6, 1990. President General H.M.Ershad resigns and hands over to the Chief Justice. Chief Justice Shahabuddin, rather than the then vice-president (as was demanded by the constitution), becomes acting president. The former vice-president belonged to General Ershad’s party, and, to have him excluded, the constitution was gleefully raped by lawyers, intellectuals, donors – and the Chief Justice. After elections, the chief guardian of the constitution had the constitution amended – by the 11th and 12th amendments [*] – by Parliament to legalise this act of illegality! And we had been taught to believe that the doctoring of constitutions was the prerogative only of military dictators!
The chief guardian of the constitution had become its chief violator, and, henceforward, none in this nation can ever believe that, in the face of sufficient international and domestic pressure, the highest court of the land, the only independent institution of the country, will never cave in.

Justice Chowdhury had great respect for General Ershad. He told me that the General had never tried to influence the judiciary. This was in stark contrast to the – democratically elected – Awami League, whose ministers took tot he street with sticks when the learned judges declared themselves too embarrassed to hear the appeal against the killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. A lower court had found the men guilty and has decreed that they be executed by "firing squad" – which is not allowed in Bangladesh, as the judge well knew – and, if that were not possible, by hanging. One can imagine the pressure that had been brought to bear on the magistrate, or his enthusiasm for the ruling party and its leader and prime minister at the time, Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Sheikh Mujib. One can imagine to what depths of barbarity we had descended when we reflect that our ministers carried sticks – against the judges!

Another interesting fact that Justice Chowdhury imparted to me (a fact that is never mentioned in our papers) was that General Ershad had tried again and again to separate the judiciary and the executive – and had repeatedly been frustrated by the bureaucrats. Our newspapers like to paint General Ershad as a "brutal dictator" – the facts speak otherwise. What kind of a "brutal dictator" tries to separate the executive (which he heads) from the judiciary. It was tantamount to trying to cut off his own legs!

And then in 1996 – after the Awami League shut down the country for several months and the ruling BNP tried to cling to power in a farcical election – some genius had the diabolic foresight to bring the Supreme Court into the democratic process by instituting a system of caretaker government before every poll – the chief caretaker being the last retired judge of the Court!

The Court, as was to be expected, became highly politicised – just like the bureaucracy and the army had been – and finally the western donors had to ask the army to take over on January 11, 2007: we had politicised every institution and faced near-civil war.

[*]
The appointment of, and the administration of oath to the Chief Justice of Bangladesh as Vice-President on the 21st day of Agrahayan, 1397 B.S. [local calendar] corresponding to the 6th day of December, 1990, and the resignation tendered to him by the then President and all powers exercised, all laws and Ordinances made and all orders made, acts and things done, and actions taken, or purported to have been made, done or taken by the said Vice-President acting as President during the period between the 21st day of Agrahayan, 1397 B.S. corresponding to the 6th day of December 1990, and the date of commencement of the Constitution (Eleventh Amendment) Act, 1991 (Act No. XXIV of 1991) (both days inclusive) or till the new President elected under article 48(1) of the Constitution has entered upon his office (whichever is later), are hereby ratified and confirmed and declared to have been validly made, administered, tendered, exercised, done and taken according to law. (The Constitution of The People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Section 21, Fourth Schedule [Article 150])

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

an evening with a lunatic

My wife and I spent an evening with a lunatic. We didn't realise he was barking mad until it was too late to extricate ourselves. After all, the seemingly sane chap was a very senior bureaucrat. His wife sat with us, knitting, not looking up, in a long skirt and top. The two kids – for the lunatic had sired two children – played in a corner.

"I don't believe in the god of Islam or Judaism. This god wants loyalty, and I don't like that."

My wife and I listened without interrupting: that is usually the wisest strategy with someone who's not all there.

We expected him to be against all religion, since he was a vigorous nationalist, and kept a picture of Sheikh Mujib in his office when it was mandatory to keep only the prime minister's picture there. When the nation – and its language – is your god, other divinities must be anathema. But we were wrong.

"I like Apollo – and Siva." In fact, he only liked Siva, because he was a Hindu deity. Curiously the Bengali nationalist loves Hinduism and all things Indian. He's non compos mentis, you see.

"I use the seal of Siva on my pads."

He asked the servant to bring his seal. It was a metal contraption, and looked as though it had been designed for torture or circumcision – or perhaps both.

He placed a sheet of paper inside the machine, pressed down the lever, and looked delighted (as schizos and psychos do with their handiwork).

"Look!"

He handed us the sheet and there was an embossed print of Siva.

We smiled appreciatively. We were dying to get away.

I have heard of nationalism that rests on one's own religion – Ireland and Israel come to mind – but nationalism inspired by an alien religion, a religion not of one's own people but of foreigners, must take the recherché biscuit, to use James Joyce's expression.

The lunatic, as you will recall, was a bureaucrat. And he was a (covert) member of the Awami League, the nationalist party that hates Islam and the Muslim world, and loves Hinduism and India.

A bureaucrat is not supposed to engage in politics – yet he kept a photo of Mujib in his office even when the other party was in power (of course, after the rebellion of the bureaucrats in 1996, loyalty to party has replaced loyalty to the state even among civil servants).

Before an election, the caretaker government had sent him out of the country and told him to stay out until the polls were over.

A senior bureaucrat like him was bound to try and help rig the election in favour of the Awami League (in the event, it was rigged in favour of the BNP!).

When the lunatic finished, we ran.

Monday, August 18, 2008

the savage beasts of politics must be caged

I congratulate the caretaker government on its proposed Political Intelligence Office. It is imperative for the state to keep an eye on the people who have made the lives of anonymous, hardworking, ordinary people like me miserable, to put it mildly. We, after all, have to earn a living, and anyone who denies us our daily bread must be constrained and invigilated. If the proposed PIO can prevent hartals, murders, campus violence and other assorted villainies we have come to expect from the political parties, then even more power to the PIO. It is as though wild and dangerous beasts are about to be unleashed on the people, who seek frantically for protection. We (the people minus the politicians) will be eagerly looking forward to the speedy implementation of the PIO.

Friday, August 15, 2008

my morally challenged elders (2)

One of my relatives (a perfect jerk) scolded me in no uncertain terms when I expressed my fervent hope that the military would take over the country (this was just before 1/11).

According to this minion of the west: "The army is for external defence, and it has no business running a country".

Well, I though to myself, none of your daughters have been raped by student politicians...if they had...!

Where did this British-period, America-inspired, Europe-indoctrinated retard get these ideas from?

Now, the bugger claims to be a devout Muslim, and he doesn't know the first thing about Muslim history - or Muslim literature.

Sheikh Sa'adi says: "A sultan rules by means of his troops."

Al-Ghazzali said: "Sixty years of tyranny are better than an hour of civil strife."

Al-Mawardi said: "An evil-doing and barbarous sultan, so long as he is supported by military force, so that he can only with difficulty be deposed and that the attempt to depose him would create unendurable civil strife, must of necessity be left in possession and obedience must be rendered to him, exactly as obedience is required to be rendered to those who are placed in command."


These people – our ancestors – lived and thrived under, and sanctioned, complete autocracy. My devout relation had never even heard the expression 'zel Allah' – the shadow of Allah, the Muslim world's expression for a ruler.

He is the shadow of Allah because he stands between order and chaos, which is Satanic.

This freak, with whom I am unfortunately related by blood, hasn't noticed that Muslims have a history, too – a far more benign and greater history than the white masters he bends before ("The white race is the cancer in human history," observed Susan Sontag http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Sontag).

The military is only for external defence? Jeez!

Western civilisation since the Dark Ages has never had powerful kings because they couldn't raise taxes without the consent of parliament – a creature that was born in the stinking cesspool of the medieval world. (And this explains why the king and queen of Spain had to conquer the New World and enslave its inhabitants for gold and silver to fight their European wars – so that they could bypass parliament!)

WE – the Muslim world – NEVER had a Dark Age; WE have NEVER had any foul-smelling, nauseating, stomach-turning beast called 'parliament'.

Of course, I could never - much as I would have loved to! – tell mon oncle to shove democracy up his backside, to stay loyal to the west where he lives and to stop – stop! – exporting his masters' ideas here (the moron had the vapours when his son married a Hindu girl who refused to convert to Islam – he nearly went off his rocker, the modern, westernised bugger!)

But I never said all that – why not?

Because he is my murubbi, my elder – and, in our culture, you mustn't argue with an elder. He can tell me off, but I must remain silent.

That's our culture.

It is a non-democratic culture.

It is a culture of frigging obedience.

He knows it, I know it.

And yet he wants democracy, equality, argumentativeness (then why get the bends when your son marries a Hindu who won't convert to Islam!), the tearing off of pubic hair, freedom of expression, blasphemy, pornography....

Maybe I should give him a dose of his own democratic medicine and tell him to kiss my (equal) ass.

Monday, August 11, 2008

my morally challenged elders


I shouldn't speak ill of my elders, but with all due respects, they are a bunch of scumbags.

One moment, they will say "Joy Bangla! (Victory to Bengali)", and the second moment, they will say to their children, "Get out of this country; this country has no future; what will you do here?"

Most of my elders are Awami Leaguers, though there are some BNPers. Both groups are mad, especially the former (the latter are focused on money, which, as economists will tell you, is highly rational).



As Harvard anthropologist Stanley J. Tambiah has observed: “In India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, the attempt to realise the nation-state on a Western European model has virtually failed. The nation-state conception has not taken deep roots in South Asia or generated a wide-spread and robust participatory “public culture” that celebrates it in widely meaningful ceremonies, festivals, and rituals”.

Some of my relatives refuse to 'salam' people – that wouldn't be 'Bengali' (sorry, Bangalee); that would be – Allah forbid! – be Muslim. One branch, my mother assures me, used to wear the "dhoti" – including the women. My parents themselves get the vapours whenever they see a burqua!

Their nationalism consists of identifying with the pre-Islamic "culture" of South Asia, I suppose. But then, why stop at Hinduism? Why not Buddhism? After all, Bengal was the last redoubt of that noble religion. The magnificent ruins at Paharpur are those of the first Buddhist monastery in the world, drawing tourists and experts regularly from east Asia.

Or why not Jainism? Or Sikhism? These are South Asian religions, too.


The answer is that nationalism, a western ideology when transplanted to the east becomes
incoherent – all manner of contradictions result. It becomes a dogma only for fools and the intellectually challenged.


A similar phenomenon can be seen in Iran. Some – certainly not most – of my Iranian friends are nationalist.

What does that mean?

That means that they 'believe' in Takhte Jamshid, or Persepolis. They 'identify' with Zoroastrianism and the Achaemenids – like the deranged Shah.

But – at the same time – they are immensely proud of the great (very Muslim) poets – Hafez, Rumi, Sa'adi....These poets were devout Muslims, but Iranian nationalists reject Islam and yet cling to Muslim poetry.

And why identify with Zoroastrianism? Why not with Manichaeism, or its many variants?

Indeed, why not identify with the religions of the Central Asian linguistic group, the Aryans (from which the word 'Iran' comes)? Why not identify with Central Asia?

How far back in time should we go? We should go back to East Africa, where humanity was born (if you believe in evolution; otherwise, with Adam and Eve, if you are Jew, Christian or Muslim); and there are Hindu, Buddhist....cosmologies and cosmogonies – take your pick, it's a la carte, not table d'hote.

If we stop at central Asia – at the Aryans – then Indians and Iranians are – wait for it! – the same people!

Nationalism in Asia is the ideology of morons. In Europe it was the ideology of lunatics (I say 'was' because the European Union is the attempt to destroy nationalism where it was born.)

German nationalism (the reflex of French nationalism, which cost around 2 million lives all told) was internally consistent. The German race was the Aryan race (consistent, but factually incorrect, for 'Aryan' refers to a linguistic, not racial, group). The blond beast was the greatest of all beasts – the uberman, to vary the metaphor. Given this premiss, all else follows with horrible logic: the lebensraum struggle, the killing of the mentally retarded Germans, a punishment extended to gypsies, homosexuals, and, finally, the Jews.....

How can any human being want to be a nationalist?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Damazine – The Cuckoo and the Author – Iftekhar Sayeed (a poem)

Damazine – The Cuckoo and the Author – Iftekhar Sayeed


It is a Muslim belief (found, for instance, in Sheikh Sa'di) that birds do not merely utter calls, but actually read the rosary (tasbih).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The British-period relics

31st December 1999.

A young woman named Badhan went out to the university area to celebrate the coming-in of the new millennium.

She was stripped nearly naked by the student politicians of the ruling party, the Awami League. She somehow got away.

On January 25th, the subject came up in parliament – by means of an Awami League MP, a criminal called Joynal Hazari. The opposition was, of course, absent – that is what the opposition does in Bangladesh: it stays away from parliament.

"How could a Muslim woman go for an outing in the dead of night during the month of Ramadan?" he queried rhetorically. "Was it wrong that the drunk young men jumped on the lady who was dancing on the street with half her body exposed? It was natural that she was treated this way. (Star Magazine, February 11 2000, p. 22 "(That Muslim boys are not supposed to drink seemed to have slipped the MPs mind.)

Now, the above might seem to have issued from a rabid, Islamist political party. In fact, the Awami League is considered (and described as such by the western media) to be "the secular party".

"The Daily Star reported that Hazari finished his statement uninterrupted. Even the Chair, Professor Ali Ashraf, did not use his power to stop him under rule 270 of the Jatiya Sangsad's [Assembly] Rules of Procedure. Under the rule, a member is not allowed to use any offensive, abusive or vulgar expressions, or defamatory word."

What the Daily Star Magazine conspicuously failed to mention (the title of the article is "Badhans of a Male Chauvinist State") was the fact that there were thirty female MPs present, and not one of them uttered a word of protest, then or later.

Among them was – you guessed it – Mrs. Chitra Bhattacharya.

Party loyalty in Bangladesh comes before everything else – decency, humanity, morality....

I must credit my family with having instilled in me such notions as that it is wrong to hang out with rapists, murderers and other criminals. (However, when I grew up, I found my elders enthusiastically supporting rapists, murderers, and other criminals. In fact, one of my cousins even sought nomination from the BNP! My elders are British-period relics who try their best to pervert younger people – and succeed.) But here was a woman I had regarded as a lady since infancy keeping the very company I was meant to abhor.

Joynal Hazari and his thugs later beat up a journalist within an inch of his life; another MP, Shamim Osman, had the prostitutes at Tanbazaar brothel evicted (after one of them was murdered to create the necessary crisis)to seize the property.

And then there was the rape and sexual assault of over 300 girls at Jahangir Nagar university by the student politicians of the Awami League – and again Mrs. Bhattacharya's deafening silence and continued membership of a barbaric party.

"Hasina, in fact, has been the biggest disappointment for even AL supporters. Throughout her term she showed incredible tolerance to her party-men, who virtually unleashed a reign of terror all over the country. She did not ask any of her cabinet members to resign even after knowing about their criminal activities. The student wing of AL the Chhatra League carried on the legacy of their predecessors, the Chhatra Dal, with equal zeal, occupying the university halls, controlling tenders and spreading crime across the country. One group became famous for their serial rape spree in Jahangirnagar University where a Chhatra League (interestingly former Chhatra Dal) leader celebrated his 100th rape on campus. Again Hasina remained silent." http://www.thedailystar.net/magazine/2004/03/04/coverstory.htm

Mrs. Bhattacharya should have resigned after this, for sure.


For details on the political parties' abuse of students (and the rapes they committed), visit:

http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_23393.shtml

For newspaper reports collected by the author (for these devilish democratic diversions were printed in all the papers, and were known to everybody), please visit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/13927522@N02/sets/72157605980597097/

Monday, July 21, 2008

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL exposed!

What I have written about Amnesty International here is spot on:

http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_23393.shtml

For detailed analyses of AI's publicity stunts, etc. read these invaluable articles by PAUL de ROOIJ

Amnesty International
http://www.counterpunch.org/rooij11262003.html


Amnesty International & Israel:
Say it isn't so!

http://www.counterpunch.org/rooij1031.html

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Khagrachari


Khagrachari
Originally uploaded by if6065
just outside Khagrachari town

Teknaf


Teknaf
Originally uploaded by if6065
paddling on Jalil's Island


Jalil's Island - Joilla Deep - is no longer what it was when my wife and I first went there. It was a place unspoilt and virginal. Today, right across from the Parjatan Motel stands the admittedly unbucolic spectacle of the Teknaf River Port. Noise and light pollution have invaded the scene. And above all, a boat ride to Jalil's Island no longer makes for romance.

Tyrannicide, or murder?

Immanuel Kant first drew the distinction between morality and law. Since then, the distinction has become commonplace, even trite: we know that what is illegal is not necessarily immoral, and what is immoral is not always illegal.

On August 15, 1975, this bifurcation of law and morality made itself apparent in our country. The question is: did what happen on that day constitute an immoral act, as well as an illegal one?

That murder is illegal in peacetime is well-known: is it also immoral? Did the assassination of Sheikh Mujib constitute justifiable tyrannicide or plain, ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill murder? Were the circumstances of the president such as to warrant a violent end to his life?

People may be forgiven for thinking that they did. After all, Sheikh Mujib had become hated by then, and with good reason. To take one instance: while a famine raged in the country, he permitted the export of food to India by domestic merchants (“Famine”, The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition). Further, his sons and his private army, the Rakhshi Bahini, terrorized the nation. Further examples of tyranny can be adduced from history books (for instance, Albert Reynolds observes in his book “One World Divisible: A Global History Since 1945” - New York: W.W.Norton and Co., 2000, p. 217 - - “He failed to disarm the guerrillas or check the rampant corruption, and the country soon degenerated into anarchy”), but the memory of those frightening days are as vivid as yesterday’s events.

Had the soldiers not acted, would they not have been even more culpable? Not to come to the aid of your nation when it is sliding into anarchy must surely be immoral, even wicked – though illegal. They made it possible to take the nation away from atheist Soviet Union and polytheist India; away from a disastrous socialism that refused to feed the people; towards what prosperity this unfortunate nation has known over the last decades.

And can it not be argued that what they have received so far is victor’s justice – but for an electoral quirk in 1996, the indemnity ordnance shielding them, and conferred on them by an approving and grateful government, the law would have remained silent on the subject. For every honour was heaped on the soldiers by successive governments: the nation rejoiced on that day as it has never done since. These are facts: they testify to the gratitude of the people, whatever the law may decide.

And in South Asia’s dynastic democracy, it is a pathetic fact that assassination needs must extend to the family: the soldiers, it can be said, are being tried, not for killing the first family, but for failing to kill the first family.

And should they be denied a presidential pardon, and walk the gallows, will it not be said that they were condemned merely by the law, and exonerated – nay, perhaps even elevated – by a higher law?

And should a verdict be reached, the Supreme Court will be accused of taking political sides; our learned judges are well aware of the schism between law and ethics. Whether they say “aye” or “nay”, the Court will make itself controversial, for one cannot legislate over men’s hearts. And the sorry tale would have an even sorrier epilogue: a compromised judiciary. And the nation itself shall feel the cleavage within, one half approving, the other half deploring the outcome of a trial – whatever the outcome. For the country is so divided along partisan lines that not even a word can be breathed without having to nominate the faction for whom, and against whom, it is intended.

Such are the perils that await the nation since passions cannot be disinflamed by the magistrate.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Muslim women's satisfaction highest in the world

"Dahlia Mogahed, who overseas Gallup's research on Muslim opinion, has made some stark observations about that poll. There are, she notes, many Muslim countries where men and women alike are fed up with life. But of the ten places with the highest correlation between being female and (relatively) satisfied, nine are mainly Muslim: Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Palestine, Jordon and Morocco. Ms. Mogahed says this reflects the travails of being a Muslim man as much as any blessing of being female. In traditional lands, where men expect to be breadwinners, many suffer the trauma of being jobless or doing hard, ill-paid work. Another factor, she thinks, is that one big source of female and child poverty in the West – single motherhood – hardly exists in Muslim societies."

- The Economist, July 14th 2007, page 62

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quad Scripsi, Scripsi (3): The Badhan Episode

31st December 1999.

A young woman named Badhan went out to the university area to celebrate the coming-in of the new millennium.

She was stripped nearly naked by the student politicians of the ruling party, the Awami League. She somehow got away.

On January 25th, the subject came up in parliament – by means of an Awami League MP, a criminal called Joynal Hazari. The opposition was, of course, absent – that is what the opposition does in Bangladesh: it stays away from parliament.

"How could a Muslim woman go for an outing in the dead of night during the month of Ramadan?" he queried rhetorically. "Was it wrong that the drunk young men jumped on the lady who was dancing on the street with half her body exposed? It was natural that she was treated this way. (Star Magazine, February 11 2000, p. 22 "(That Muslim boys are not supposed to drink seemed to have slipped the MPs mind.)

Now, the above might seem to have issued from a rabid, Islamist political party. In fact, the Awami League is considered (and described as such by the western media) to be "the secular party".

"The Daily Star reported that Hazari finished his statement uninterrupted. Even the Chair, Professor Ali Ashraf, did not use his power to stop him under rule 270 of the Jatiya Sangsad's [Assembly] Rules of Procedure. Under the rule, a member is not allowed to use any offensive, abusive or vulgar expressions, or defamatory word."

What the Daily Star Magazine conspicuously failed to mention (the title of the article is "Badhans of a Male Chauvinist State") was the fact that there were thirty female MPs present, and not one of them uttered a word of protest, then or later.

Among them was – you guessed it – Mrs. Chitra Bhattacharya.

Party loyalty in Bangladesh comes before everything else – decency, humanity, morality....

I must credit my parents with having instilled in me such notions as that it is wrong to hang out with rapists, murderers and other criminals. But here was a woman I had regarded as a lady since infancy keeping the very company I was meant to abhor.

Joynal Hazari and his thugs later beat up a journalist within an inch of his life; another MP, Shamim Osman, had the prostitutes at Tanbazaar brothel evicted (after one of them was murdered to create the necessary crisis)to seize the property.

And then there was the rape and sexual assault of over 300 girls at Jahangir Nagar university by the student politicians of the Awami League – and again Mrs. Bhattacharya's deafening silence and continued membership of a barbaric party.

"Hasina, in fact, has been the biggest disappointment for even AL supporters. Throughout her term she showed incredible tolerance to her party-men, who virtually unleashed a reign of terror all over the country. She did not ask any of her cabinet members to resign even after knowing about their criminal activities. The student wing of AL the Chhatra League carried on the legacy of their predecessors, the Chhatra Dal, with equal zeal, occupying the university halls, controlling tenders and spreading crime across the country. One group became famous for their serial rape spree in Jahangirnagar University where a Chhatra League (interestingly former Chhatra Dal) leader celebrated his 100th rape on campus. Again Hasina remained silent." http://www.thedailystar.net/magazine/2004/03/04/coverstory.htm

Mrs. Bhattacharya should have resigned after this, for sure.


For details on the political parties abuse of students (and the rapes they committed), visit:

http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_23393.shtml

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Quad scripsi, scripsi (2)

The other day I received an irate e-mail. It accused me of being 'indecent' and 'insensitive'.

Why?

Because I had revealed certain unpleasant truths about his parents – and said that they were 'alleged' lady and gentleman.

I'm sure he is right, being a sober, scholarly gentleman, soft-spoken and with good taste in his choice of reading and viewing material.

Let me review the facts regarding the 'lady' first.

I have known, and respected, Mrs. Chitra Bhattacharya since I was a child. They are family friends.

I remember her now as the MP during the rule of the Awami League. I remember it as though it were yesterday, the violence that preceded the election. For months, Dhaka city was besieged by the thugs, goondas and foot soldiers of the Awami League. The other thugs and goondas of the ruling BNP resisted them, as did the police.

Then what I had predicted three years earlier started – the state began to split. Some bureaucrats joined the opposition!

Anyway, Mrs. Chitra Bhattacharya was selected MP (women were not elected) by the triumphant Awami League. The preceding violence seemed not to have disgusted her at all. Au contraire. She served the party very loyally.

I remember one evening my mother received a call from Mrs. Bhattacharya.

The 'peace treaty' with the insurgent PCJSS in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) had just been signed.

My mother was breathless with excitement – she had caught the infection. I was utterly despondent. It was not because I did not want peace – but because the treaty was an eyewash. It stipulated that there would be a Land Commission in the CHT, which would hear all land disputes.

But its judgements in the disputes would be final – no appeal would be allowed.

Thus, in one stroke, the residents of the CHT were denied the right of appeal to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, and the country became split in two, with two ultimate arbiters.

This was absurd, and ultra vires of the constitution, and so to this day the treaty has not been implemented (it was signed in 1997). Indeed, the treaty caused a split among the Chakmas – the dissenting faction styled itself the United People's Democratic Front (UPDF). The two factions, according to newspaper reports, killed 200 of each other's members between 1997 and 2007. So much for the 'peace' in the 'peace treaty'.

A lawmaker should have known (and must have known) that this was a piece of skulduggery – indeed, Mrs. Bhattacharya's husband, Debesh Bhattacharya, was a retired supreme court judge. Wives in Bangladesh derive high-flying careers from their high-flying husbands.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Quad scripsi, scripsi

Dear Dipen,

I understand how you feel (and I'm sorry about that), but your comments are way off the mark. (And frankly I don't see why you should take up with me what I wrote about your parents. That strikes me as distinctly odd.)

That Debesh Uncle was not a formal member of the Awami League, we all know: but he was definitely associated with the party. After all, Chitra Auntie (to her credit), was not a career politician: she wasn't elected, she was selected. One of my points was that this is how politics works in Bangladesh : behind the scenes! One doesn't have to become a member explicitly.

Secondly, please read my language carefully: I said "she [Auntie] was to be" MP – that means after 1994, when the Chatra league student-thug came to extort money from my father; she "was to be" MP. I did NOT say she was MP before or after. ["was to be" = "was going to be"]

I have shown considerable restraint in what I wrote about everyone. There's a lot of dirty laundry that I did not air about all the people mentioned in the article. I hope you will appreciate that: not what I wrote, but what I did not write.

The strange thing about your e-mail is that you did not find appalling the fact that a young boy was used as an extortionist (and thousands like him) by the party where Auntie was MP – and that he's rotting in jail. After all, a person is judged by the company they keep – to keep company with the League is...well, words fail me here.

It's curious that nobody finds that appalling. After all, that poor bugger is no relation of mine.
It is needless to add that these are my last words on the subject. Quad scripsi, scripsi.

With immense regret,

Ifti

--- Dipen Bhattacharya wrote:

> On browsing through the internet, I came across an
> article of yours where you write:
> http://www.opednews.com/maxwrite/print_friendly.php?p=genera_iftekhar_070811_a_family_affair.htm
>
> "My parents were close to two members of the Awami
> League, Justice (retired) Debesh ýBhattacharya and
> his wife, Chitra Bhattacharya, who was to be MP
> after the next election ýthat would bring the AL to
> power (these threats were, incredibly enough, being
> made ýwhen the AL was the opposition! This was a
> foretaste of what would happen when the ýAL would
> come to power). ý
>
> It was only later that I had enough leisure to
> ponder the fact that these two people – the ýretired
> judge who had sat on the highest court of the land,
> and his distinguished wife – ýwere allied to a party
> that drew its funds with the agency of
> students-turned-thugs: and ýthis was no secret.
> Everybody knew that the parties employed the
> services of musclemen ýý– more like muscleboys – to
> extort money. But what were an alleged gentleman and
> lady ýdoing with these people? "ý
>
>
> What’s striking about these two paragraphs is first,
> that they expound inaccuracies. My father was never
> a member of the Awami League and was never
> associated with it and you may want to look up his
> historic judgments on civil rights during the early
> years of Awami League rule. My mother was a member
> of Awami League only during her tenure in the
> parliament (not before or after).
>
> Second, the level of insensitivity that you have
> shown in writing about my parents is simply
> incomprehensible. “An alleged gentleman and lady?”
> You have no idea what my parents had to sacrifice to
> stay in erstwhile Pakistan and later in Bangladesh.
> But more than that, you have taken the memory of
> these two families’ friendship and turned it into a
> spectacle that ultimately could only make life
> difficult for my mother and maybe to a certain
> degree your parents. This is especially appalling
> because my parents had no bearing on the case that
> you mention. Why bring up their names on the
> Internet? This is simply indecent.
>
> Dipen
>

Friday, July 4, 2008

vilage paths


vilage paths
Originally uploaded by if6065
the well-trodden paths connect huts on hills newly planted through the slash-and-burn method

dawn at Nilgiri, Bangladesh


dawn at Nilgiri, Bangladesh
Originally uploaded by if6065
midsummer sun rises in the north-east

the sanghu river


the sanghu river
Originally uploaded by if6065
seen from Nilgiri in June

rapes committed by student politicians

uring our 16-year democratic nigtmare, student
politicians were encourages to rape by the
politicians, with impunity - it was part of their "spoils"

the sanghu river


the sanghu river
Originally uploaded by if6065
the Sanghu river emerges from Burma, travels through Bandarban in Bangladesh, and finally reaches the bay of Bengal.

Flickr

This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

the early mangoes (poem)

the early mangoes

http://www.decompmagazine.com/

(poem at link above)

a poem inspired by the sound of mangoes falling on tin roof

Carthago delenda est (article)

Carthago delenda est

(click above for article)


"Carthago Delenda Est" – these were the words uttered by Cato repeatedly to persuade his peers to destroy Carthage. The Third Punic War gives the lie to the thesis, touted by McCain and Tony Blair, that "democracies never go to war against each other". The League of Democracies is just an idea for the democracies to remove all checks on their powers.

Excerpt:


Now, why is it that democracies want to spread democracy, but autocracies don't want to spread autocracy?

It's something in the DNA, of course. I have argued that the flipside of "freedom" has been "slavery", which was widely practiced in the west, but not elsewhere . Western civilisation has been a civilisation of domination. Another Englishman made statements similar to Messrs Skidelsky, Blair and McCain. He said: "Surrounded by congregated multitudes, I now imagine that . . . I behold the nations of the earth recovering that liberty which they so long had lost; and that the people of this island are . . . disseminating the blessings of civilization and freedom among cities, kingdoms and nations. " Now, who could have uttered such an unholy wish, so redolent of George Bush, Tony Blair, the neo-cons, and other assorted ruffians?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

John Maynard Keynes and the Bangladeshi intellectual

Keynes: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

Bangladeshi intellectual: "I...er...wait for...er...the western donors...to tell me..er...if I should change...my mind...or if...er...."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Vercingetorix (essay)

Vercingetorix


(click link above for article)

Vercingetorix was the leader of the Gauls who dared to rebel against the mighty Roman Republic. Irrational? Sure, but also dignified. The pursuit of dignity often entails the irrational. But we in Bangladesh are no "doofuses" like the great Vercingetorix – we are rational, and without an atom of self-respect or dignity.

Excerpt:
"From Vercingetorix, my mind moves, by association, to a more recent figure. Mullah Omar was promised "a carpet of gold" or a "carpet of bombs" by the American Republic. He -- totally ignorant of neoclassical economic theory -- chose the latter. Some people are just born losers ("doofus," I think, is the word)."

ELECTIONS AND MURDER: The Case of Nixon and Kissinger

'[Nixon AND Kissinger were] willing to see lives sacrificed for domestic political advantage. In late 1970 Mr. Kissinger believed that America could get out of Vietnam any time it wanted and that it would do so before the 1972 election. The president wanted to plan the removal of all American troops by the end of 1971. Mr. Kissinger counselled against that idea because, if America's South Vietnamese allies were then destabilised, it might hurt Nixon's re-election campaign. He recommended a pullout in the autumn of 1972, "so that if any bad results follow they will be too late to affect the election". Nothing was said about how many Americans, or Vietnamese, would die in Vietnam. '

Book review of "Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power" (author: Robert Dallek), The Economist, May 19th 2007, page 83

Guns or Bombs: The Assasin's Dilemma

The botched attempt to kill Sheikh Hasina holds valuable lessons. It shows that the Harkatul Jihad (Huji) don't do their homework, for one thing. Killing a leader with a bomb has a success rate of only 7% and killed bystanders. Of course, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was remarkably successful, but then the bomber got sufficiently close tot he target to blow her up (as well as himself). Ditto the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Huji would have done better to use firearms, which have a kill rate of 30%. The killing of Sheih Mujib and sundry other public figures (Bandaranaike, Kennedy, Bhrindranwale, Indira Gandhi....) was accomplished with guns.

Killing leaders (especially if they are in power) is not easy: between 1875 and 2004, there were 298 attempts made on the lives of leaders – of which only 59 hit the bull's eye, and killed the bull.

In the 1910s, a leader had a 1% chance of being done in; today, a measly 0.3%, according to research by Benjamin Jones and Benjamin Olken.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

sexist observations on blue stockings

sexist observations on blue stockings

Whenever a bluestocking descants at length on the glories of democracy, I am focused on the glory beneath her saree or kameez or T-shirt.

What kind of lingerie must an emancipated woman like her get into? As she talks about transparency, I have another kind of transparency in mind. Nude in my head, she goes on and on about how we are all equal beneath. True, true! But some are surely more equal!

As she gets excited and uncrosses her thighs, my pulse races.

"We need deeper penetration of democracy!" she exclaims, red in the cheeks.

Deeper! Deeper! Absolutely, my beauty.

"Deepening and enlarging democracy, that's what it's all about," she raves.

Is she making a Freudian pass at me, I wonder wistfully. The ballot box with its tiny aperture becomes a metaphor – of democracy entering the sacred orifice, a bacchic rite, a Tantric orgy....

She keeps fisting her fingers, up and down, up and down...what a repressed female, I think to myself. Then she licks her lips, naturally devoid of lipstick (intellectuals don't wear lipstick, as you know). The layer of saliva gleams on her upper orifice, hinting at – o, so much!

Why does Plain Jane part her hair down the middle, and not visit a beauty parlour and get it done up nice like other women?

The parting so reminds me of the other parting! It is agony.

Then her face – utterly devoid of grace. Why can't she get a facial? I don't mean the kind of facial they get in lewd movies, of course.
Bluestockings wear as little as possible – they deplore the hijab and the niqab. Which is just fine by men folk like me: the fewer clothes women wear, the more happy are men.

As the poet observed:

"No beauty she doth miss
When all her robes are on
But Beauty's self she is
When all her robes are gone."

I then give my guest an ice cream cone, and she finally shuts up and sucks and licks on it deliciously.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

PLUTONIUM (four poems)

Sayeed


(click link above to read)

PLUTONIUM: Inspired by the obituary of Glenn Seaborg, this poem looks at the choices facing the Japanese before they entered the war, and the choices facing the Americans as they created the atomic bomb: Seaborg was among the scientists who wanted the Japanese to be given a demonstration of the destruction they could expect, but their demand was turned down.

UNTO OTHERS: we ask of the west, "What can it do for me", and do not realise what the west has done to collectives and may do to us in the future.

THE THIRD: What prevents us from getting at each other's throat? The state. And when that breaks down, the Third is some kind of Deity.

THE WISDOM OF CHILDREN: Wordsworth (and the Romantics) thought children were wiser than adults, and glorified the irrational, which culminated in the crazed nationalism of the French Revolution; these ideas came to us in 1952....

A Defence of Religion

A Defence of Religion


(click link above to read)


Certain western thinkers use rationality as a ground for the superiority of western civilisation, a ground that gives them the moral authority to look down upon, and manipulate, the "irrational". It may come as a shock to them to learn that we are all irrational, equally human.


Excerpt:

Hermes Trismegistos was believed to be Moses' contemporary: his writings gave an alternative account of creation, one in which man played a more central role. God, according to Hermes, had made man fully in his own image – not just as a rational animal, but as a creator in his own right. Man can imitate God, and he can create like the Creator, through alchemical applications – doing away with disease, want and old age. "It was a heady vision, and it gave rise to the notion that, through science and technology, man could bend nature to his wishes. This is essentially the modern view of science, and it should be emphasized that it occurs only in Western civilization. It is probably this attitude that permitted the West to surpass the East, after centuries of inferiority, in the exploitation of the physical world. ("science, history of." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, document.write(new Date().getFullYear()); 2008.) "

Retracing our steps a little, we shall recall the heliocentric preoccupations of Copernicus: these were directly influenced by Hermeticism. Inspired by Platonic mysticism, Hermeticism emphasized the source of light, the sun. The 15th century Florentine translator of both Plato and Hermetic writing, Marsilio Ficino, composed a work that very nearly idolized the sun: the young Copernicus was heavily influenced and went back to his native Poland to work on the problems of the Ptolemaic astronomy.

Therefore, the leading minds of Europe – Paracelsus, John Dee, Comenius, J.V.Andreae, Fludd and Newton – sought in alchemy "the perfection of man by a new method of knowledge" (Eliade, Volume three, p. 261 ).

It would appear, therefore, that modern science would have been quite impossible without religion as a source of inspiration; pace Bertrand Russell, religion contributed more than the calendar to civilisation.