Friday, December 31, 2010

The Meaning Lies in How You Use the Word

“We are scared to the point where we are no longer free.”

This observation was made by Max Price, vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, to The Economist ('The Great Scourges', A Special Report on South Africa, '5th June 2010) after the murder of yet another member of the staff last March.

The murder rate in South Africa is 33 per 100,000, compared to 5.1 in the United States. The rape rate is the highest in the world. 50 murders, 100 rapes, 330 armed robberies and 550 violent assaults are recorded every day. And the violence is often mindless.

Yet - and this is even more mindless - Freedom House gives South Africa a ranking of 2 in its 'freedom of the world index'(7 being completely unfree).

If you are not free not to be raped or murdered, then what kind of freedom is that? Clearly Freedom House's definition of freedom is very different from what most of us mean by that word.

The Mule

“A class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals, and in intellect.”

Thomas Macaulay thus proposed to train a new class of English speakers: neither Indian nor English, but an illegitimate offspring of the two cultures - in short, a mule.

This mule has proved remarkably sturdy.

It has carried the twin loads of equalitarian democracy and inegalitarian caste; of election by the people and a Lok Shova of criminals, of popular rule and a durable dynasty, of an English-speaking elite and regional linguistic nationalism...and so on.

A mule is sterile, as we all know - we can expect nothing further from it. And here the analogy ends. When the mule dies, what happens? Do we once again get a horse and a donkey? Or perhaps Pegasus - or pig-asses?

UK/USA made use of Uzbek torture

UK/USA made use of Uzbek torture: "Anybody who is a religious Muslim of any kind, no connection to terrorism, anyone who prays five times a day, is described, will be arrested as a terrorist. Any young man with a beard will be arrested.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

The US and UK have used Uzbekistan as a torture centre: reading the transcript, it is hard to say whether Uzbekistan practices torture or the US/UK practice torture in Uzbekistan. I suppose there is hardly any difference: Uzbek torture is part and parcel of US/UK interrogation techniques. To blame Uzbekistan as a country that tortures its own people seems wrong: it has been encouraged to torture not only its own people, but people from outside, by the UK/US.

So we have the world's great democracies practicing torture literally with their own hands and preaching liberalism to the rest of the world.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The army, our constitution and our history

Front Page: "‘Two military regimes, the first being with effect from 15th August 1975 and the second one being between 24th March 1982 and 10th November 1986, put the country miles backward. Both the martial laws devastated the democratic fabric, as well as the patriotic aspiration of the country,’ the verdict said.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Did the military regimes put the country miles backward?

Let us review the facts. 50,000 people starved to death even when there was enough food in the country - and that food, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (15th edition,'famine'), was exported to India. Was this part of the 'democratic fabric' and 'patriotic aspiration of the country'?

Next, a one-party rule was instituted by the beloved Bangabandhu, thereby being guilty of violating the constitution himself, yet, to the learned judges of the Supreme Court, he is 'Bangabandhu' - friend of Bengal.

"The original constitution of the republic of 1972 was mercilessly ravaged by General Ziaur Rahman who erased from it, one of the basic features, “Secularism” and allowed communal politics, proscribed by Bangabandhu, to stage a comeback." This language, with all due respects, doesn't sound like the language of an apex institution of the country. 'Bangabandhu' was not the name of the first prime minister and president of Bangladesh. His name was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. One would expect the learned court to use the legal, certified name of an individual, no matter who he is, instead of a popular appellation in a landmark judgment. The uncharitable may discern a certain servility here, of which our honourable judges are surely incapable.

Besides, the 'original constitution of the republic of 1972 was mercilessly ravaged by' Sheikh Mujib himself, as we find in the fourth amendment. It was the fifth amendment that nullified the fourth. One tyranny was replaced by another - a far better one. The country moved away from the choking socialism of the early '70s towards capitalism and free trade. Today, it is because of the move away from socialism undertaken by General Zia and General Ershad that the country's private sector is flourishing and GDP growth rate is high (although the poor have not benefited much, yet they are not starving in their thousands either).

Again, the military had to take over the country in 2007 because democracy was driving us to civil war. The current prime minister was indicted on five counts of murder - and yet there she sits in power and pomp. The two begums spent nearly a year in prison, where they, unfortunately, could not be kept confined for all 'eternity' (to borrow one of the words used by the judges) because of our constitution and its supporters. It seems that the people exist for the constitution, not the constitution for the people. But we will not commit 'shirk' and worship a few pieces of paper.

‘Martial law is totally alien a concept to our constitution.’ Fair enough. But it is not alien to out culture and civilisation - the Muslim civilisation. In his prayer for the emperor, Sheikh Saadi in the Golestan, refers to him as 'The shadow of Allah' - 'zel Allah' in the original language. Al-Ghazali and Al-Mawardi find no place for democracy in a Muslim polity. Sheikh Saadi observes: "A sultan rules by means of his troops'. Every learned person with whom I have discussed the subject, be he Bangladeshi or Iranian, has concurred with my view of the subject. "Zel Allah" is the attribute of a Muslim ruler. He is beyond criticism and controversy - the very opposite of democracy.

The Muslim polity - autocracy - has been the most tolerant of polities in history. A civilisation cannot be eliminated by a mere flourish of words; the apex court may command that a man be put in prison, but it cannot command that a man rid himself of his civilisation - or that an entire society comprising mostly of Muslims should do that.

History cannot be writted away.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Zahra's Paradise - Zahra’s Paradise

Zahra's Paradise - Zahra’s Paradise: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

It is impossible to feel any sympathy for Iran's middle- and upper-classes. They hate Arabs and Palestinians; they hate their government for building hospitals in occupied Palestine; for supporting Hamas and Hezbullah - in short, for supporting the Umma. And, of course, they love the Great Satan.

Let's be precise: according to independent pollsters everywhere, Ahmedinejad would have won the election anyway. It was just the scale that the regime wished to expand. For, the truth is, Iran is split between an America-loving middle-class and an Iran-loving people. An Iranian journalist once asked me "Why doesn't America drop a nuclear bomb on Cuba?" She meant to say that America is so good that it refrains from nuking the small island. And this was a journalist talking. No wonder her paper was banned! America won't use nukes because then others will up the nuclear ante, simple as that. Besides, Cuba's too close to shore...imagine all the noxious radioactivity killing the fish on the Miama beaches.

John Locke observed that revolutions would be rare events, for he was advocating them. He was wrong. Today, revolution has become a habit - and with it coercion. In Kyrgyztan, there have been two revolutions in five years. In Bangladesh, there is perpetual revolution. Thailand is having a long-drawn-out revolution after regime change in 1992. The removal of Estrada in the Philippines was a shabby middle-class triumph.

As for elections, they are there to be rigged. Take the US election of 2000. According to S.E.Finer, rigging elections is one of the pathologies of democracy. In Bangladesh the Carter Center and the EU actively connive at rigged elections. The 1994 election in South Africa was rigged. In Africa today, western governments turn a blind eye to rigging - because there's just too much of it around, and without rigging there would be even more violence.

The Iranian middle-class has plainly become ungovernable. If they want paradise on earth, then they should wait for paradise - including Zahra.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The new constitution of Bangladesh

The revised, complete and unexpurgated edition of the constitution is forthcoming. I see that we draw our inspiration from Islam as well as the Franco-German religion called nationalism (which the Franco-Germans have been trying to inter for the last sixty years).

At any rate. I shall no doubt sleep better knowing that the next morning I might find that my assets have been nationalised. There will be an equally soporiferous effect on foreign investors.

Now that the document has been revised, we are surely about to take off like a rocket. After all, the only obstacle between Bangladesh and development has been a few sheets of paper.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Behind Julian Assange's Arrest: Sweden's Sex-Crime Problem - TIME

Behind Julian Assange's Arrest: Sweden's Sex-Crime Problem - TIME: "Each year, Sweden records 46 cases of reported rape per 100,000 people, roughly twice the rate in the U.S. or the U.K. Yet the conviction rate is a measly 10%, one of the lowest in the developed world.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

And why is the conviction rate so low? Victims "drop their charges out of fear, shame or loyalty to the accused." That doesn't sound like an empowered lot of women; rather, the reverse.

It may well be that both claims are correct: rape has been increasing in number, and women feel more empowered to report it (but not to follow through).

It is a well-kept academic secret that men are evolutionarily programmed towards rape: it is a low-cost effort to procreate. Given female assertiveness, greater male assertiveness is likely to be the case. There's nothing the Swedish state can do about it: millenia of evolution lie behind such phenomenon. A society that regards men and women as the same is going to do its weakest members a great deal of disservice.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Grameen Bank's Yunus 'stole' $100 mn

Grameen Bank's Yunus 'stole' $100 mn: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Is this really so surprising? NGO people are slick operators; every gentleman I know who has tried to do good has come to grief. You have to be cold-blooded and sly to create a money-generating organisation.

What is even less surprising is the donors' complicity in keeping the matter hushed up. Donors know well how sleazy the world of NGOs is: only 25% of donor money ever reaches the poor.

Furthermore, during the caretaker government rule, it was found that Grameen Phone was guilty of massive illegal activity in the provision of VOIP services which were illegal. Yunus, of course, knew nothing about such shenanigans.

One NGO that collapsed because the protege got out of hand was GSS (Gono Shahajjo Shangstha): donors had known for years that the director was a predatory skirt-chaser.

Another large NGO that imploded was Proshika: its former director eventually resorted to vandalism of his own erstwhile offices to try and get it back. He had packed the board with cronies and gone into politics, something an NGO is not supposed to do.

The function of NGOs in Bangladesh and elsewhere is not to help the poor but to buy the loyalty of the elite.

In this, they succeed admirably.

Bangladesh: Stalker kills victim's father

Bangladesh: Stalker kills victim's father: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

This kind of youth violence has occurred in the past couple of months because the ruling party patronises student and young thugs.

This is how politics is conducted in Bangladesh. When ruling party thugs can get away with any crime, it encourages the others.

This explains why such events are so new - they never used to happen before.