Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Engendered Space (satire)

Iftekhar Sayeed, Engendered Space

(click above for article)

Anthropologists are supposed to use their sense organs – at least, the pair of eyes. But, thanks to the agenda they have to have to swell their CVs, they use other parts of their anatomy – like the head, for instance.

Friday, May 16, 2008

US Ambassador Says He Rules Bangladesh

“I wouldn't dream of getting involved in your internal affairs.”

James Moriarty, US ambassador to Bangladesh, speaking to the local press.

[Aside: "Why would I dream about it? You bunch of hicks know I run the country!]

Fidel Castro, ethanol, food shortage and the nationalist editors of Bangladesh

"In his first political intervention since undergoing surgery last year, Cuba's Communist president, Fidel Castro, published a newspaper article claiming that American plans to boost ethanol use would lead to food shortages."
- The Economist, April 7th, 2007, page 6

Inside, the Economist – for the first and probably last tine – agreed with the old dictator.

That was more than a year ago: yet it has been only over the last month that Bangladeshi newspapers have stopped blaming the caretaker government for the rise in food prices and come clean about the international dimension of the problem.


Because – to propose a not-too-bold hypothesis – their darling nationalist leader (that is, the leader's daughter) has been bunged in jail by this audacious government.

[NB: it would be wise for most people to get their news from the internet, and not from our local press: only in developing countries is the demand for newsprint increasing; in the developed world, newspaper circulation is declining. This gives third-world newspapers – and their corrupt/agenda-driven editors – power to distort and disinform and spread propaganda. The mainstream media ALWAYS lies. Here's a great newsletter – and it's free!]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

St. Gregory's College recalled

Notre Dame College in Dhaka, Bangladesh, has quite an institutional memory. For instance, I learned that the late Fr. Gillespie could never reconcile himself to Kamal Hossain being both the author of the constitution of Bangladesh and the young student who, during the 1952 language movement, chanted the slogan: "Rashtro bhasha Urdu chai" (We want Urdu to be the state language)!

liberal and illiberal democracy: an empty distinction

A distinction has recently been made between liberal and illiberal democracy – with America being the paragon of the former variety.

America has never been a liberal democracy – until 1865 it was a slave-owning republic. Then the 'Jim Crow' period followed; the blacks were lynched at the drop of a hat until 1964; until the Civil Rights Act, they were not allowed to mix with their white superiors; today, they comprise 40% of the US prison population, even though they constitute only 14% of US population.

And that's ignoring all the other illiberal tendencies of the US: the decimation of the he Native Americans in the great westward expansion under the slogan "Manifest Destiny" (which, according to Norman Finkelstein, was Hitler's model for his eastward push under the slogan 'lebensraum'); the wars that followed the fulfillment of 'manifest destiny'; the overseas adventures, such as the Vietnam War, and today the illegal war in Iraq.

Similar crimes can be attributed to most, if not all, the democracies: that is to say, the idea of a 'liberal democracy' is a red herring, to pursued for profit by the canny and to their ruin by the foolish.

China, Bangladesh and our rotten intellectuals

The Chinese government is making overtures to third world countries: it has proffered a blank check to Bangladesh for development.

Does that mean we're going to lean in China's direction, giving up our hated democracy and imitating good government and high growth?

No way!

For to restore sanity to this nation, the intellectuals have to be bought, and currently America and Europe are willing and able to pay then far more than China can.

And not just in terms of cash.

In terms of prestige, America Universities confer more of that intangible asset than the Chinese currently can (though that should change in a few decades). A degree from the University of Chicago or Columbia University has more cachet than one from Beijing University.

And the days when Moscow could confer prestige on an academic career are long gone: China has no universal ideology to offer.

How much money would it take to re-corrupt our intellectuals? It has to be a sizeable amount, with the most important having to be paid in millions of dollars to compensate for the loss of prestige of a western career. Lower down the pecking order, the price should drop substantially, with the teachers in the science subjects commanding the lowest premium.

But China can do it: it has the money.

There is, of course, a third alternative: neither Chinese, nor western.

And that is to live with dignity and self-respect: two words that never go with the word 'intellectual'.

witches' knickers

"Witches' knickers" is the term for polyethylene bags: the reason is that they tend to stick to trees in strong winds, and float in the gale (you may not find the term in the dictionary, though – not yet, anyway).

The first thing that Khaleda Zia did when she became prime minister for the second time was to ban the use of these knickers; I sorely missed those undergarments: they were so sturdy! You could carry a ton of stuff in them without breaking them. Naturally: witches need strong panties, no doubt.

Now, Khaleda Zia is rotting in jail.
Moral of the lesson: don't mess with witches – especially their knickers.

[for the etymology of 'witches' knickers', see "Plastics of Evil", The Economist, 31st March, 2007, p. 40]

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sister Carrie and the Leisure Class

Sister Carrie and the Leisure Class

(essay at link above)

The year after Thorstein Veblen's classic Theory of the Leisure Class appeared, Theodore Dreiser's novel Sister Carrie followed. Coincidence? Not really: the two books shared many of the same themes.


What of Carrie herself? That she was capable of such sensitivity of feeling testifies to the fact that sensitivity can occur in the absence of wealth – pace Thorstein Veblen. Yet Veblen would have been right about Carrie: her entire view of life was based on the desire for consumption, and a concomitant loathing for production. Therefore, she was sensitive to everything that the leisure class accumulates – from clothes to manners.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Lessons from the River Kwai

Lessons from the River Kwai

Iftekhar Sayeed at Unlikely 2.0

(essay at link above)

For me, the film "Bridge on the River Kwai" urges dignity despite the fact of being a prisoner. Merely because we are in hock to western countries doesn't mean we are slaves – we can live like dignified human beings. This is the central message of the film: the distinction between master and slave endures, not because the master has you in his power, but because you sink into passivity and lassitude.


"The subsequent scene in the botanical garden records the undoing of Commander Shears as the giant hand of Destiny assumes the guise of Major Warden. A very light-hearted, almost comical, scene in which the Major inveigles, and finally, entraps, Shears into joining an expedition to blow up the bridge, conceals profound insight into the nature of slavery. The essence of slavery lies in denial of the ego, in trying to be what your master wants you to be, and not affirming your true self. Commander Shears turns out to be an impostor!"