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: 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*

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 Mathematics

Tk. 4,400/-

- Studio Courses
- Lecture Courses

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

*subject to enhancement with a notice before a semester

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.