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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Revisiting the Global 1960s

Widely recognized not just as a decade but as a cluster of experiences that stretched over a period of time, the sixties as we now know it drew into its fold, radical politics, Black power, sexual liberation, youthful rebellion, feminism and more. Intellectual currents flowered all across the world alongside a powerful critique of cultural and political authority. The fourteen day strike by students and workers in Paris in the summer of 1968 acquired a mythical after life. The American war in Vietnam triggered a force field of protest and danger all over the world. The spirit of counterculture led to a critique of the family, the creation of alternative lifestyles and drug culture. Latin American experiences of revolutions, military terror and violence; colonialism, anti-colonialism and racial oppression in Africa; the resonance of the Cultural Revolution in China – these reverberated locally and globally. A series of political assassinations rocked the decade. All theories of civilization, race,history, politics, culture and identity were put to test.


It would not be incorrect to suggest that cultural creativity was never quite the same after the sixties. Music, fashion, design, art, architecture, cinema,theatre and performance bear the marks and the traces of this turbulent period of global upheaval. If Minimalism in art practice emerged as a challenge to Pop Art then Conceptual Art posed a critique of formalism. Modernism and the Avant-garde faced a crisis with the rise of Postmodernism while in India, the dominance of the Progressives began to be challenged by an alternative modernism that had a polemical take on indigenism; one aspect of this developed into neo-Tantric abstraction. This decade also saw the first explorations of kitsch and popular culture that later provided the point of rupture with modernism itself. Political theatre acquired a powerful force and Brecht emerged as a new icon for both the West and the post colonial world. Beatlemania and the events of Woodstock transformed the future of rock music as technology reinvented the aesthetics of performance and reception. All Institutions of art faced political criticism even as cinephilia energized a renewed global art cinema movement. Michelangelo Antonioni captured the world of swinging London in Blow-Up, Jean Luc Godard playfully moved the camera to mount his critique of Hollywood, and the release of the first James Bond film gave rise to a new territorial and technological imagination. Latin America gave birth to the Third Cinema Movement and a politically charged Aesthetics of Hunger while in India the New Wave presented a challenge to mainstream film forms and practices.

The 1960s remains an under studied area despite two wars, the crisis of Nehruvian nationalism and modernization programmes, the genocide and traumatic birth of a new nation (Bangladesh) and revolutionary upsurges.

----Adapted from the pamphlet of conference on Revisiting the Global 1960s and its Cultural After life;

Quotation : "The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility." — John Lennon

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blog Post Number 500

The journey of four years of blogging has touch the milestone of 500th post today. What I learned in this journey has brought enormous changes inside me. Unlearning of false traditions has taken lot of time and efforts but it was a worth living experience. The idea of personal solidarity and the idea of societal cooperation are two conflicting concepts that has tormented me as a scholar. It is like dilemma of looking for the independence without becoming alien to one's surroundings.

Education is never over-rated. An institution is meant to broaden your horizon but self learning also makes you more open minded. We might go to an Ivy League/IIT/IIM and come out with nothing or might go to a decent school and come out with a lot. What has started as a hobby in the college has been taken by me as a serious learning portal and it has paid me much in the level of insights of human behavior.

These four years of writing creates the illusion of a linear narrative and gives events the semblance of a beginning, a middle, and an end. Real life is never like that; I had observed the past from a deterministic point of view, where causes lead to effects. While world is more probabilistic in nature here outcomes are driven by invisible or chance events.

To discredit uncertainty in a documenting rules of the process with the acquired knowledge is to deny the element of chaos and chance in planning for future. Predictions can be falsified and uncertainty has an empirical significance. Trial and error is only way to the growth in the world of experience and learning. That I learned on how to see the future.
We tend to fit our perceptions of the world into the model we have constructed in our minds about how the world works. It is easier to accept as valid evidence that fits our model than it is evidence that doesn’t. Some of this filtering is at an unconscious level – our minds are constantly trying to make valid perceptions out of the evidence of the senses.

I am still focused more on those matters in society which we can easily target, rather than those which needs to be self-corrected. The life has new goals as one of them is to empower individuals through education and to promote the kind of diversity which genuinely enriches a culture and democracy. I will present now a brilliant paragraph read today aptly suited on wisdom of life by Rational Fool :
Regimes come and go. So do gods, messiahs, and religions. What endure are ideas, ideas tested by reason and evidence. The ideas of liberty and equality - that all people are free and equal, and no individual or collective may be granted exclusive privileges and immunities in law - these are enduring ideals that have guided humanity along the path of civilization. The rest, however passionately embraced by the populace at a moment in history, are destined to perish in the Darwinian struggle for survival. I never tired of quoting Queen Sheelavati from the film, Anaahat, directed by Amol Palekhar: "Wisdom," she said to her troubled husband and the King of Shravasti, "is knowing the difference between the transient and the eternity".

Ten Issues - 12

1- Why We Have More Sympathy for Baby Jessica Than for Darfur by Dan Ariely. VIDEO
Focusing on the struggles of an individual appeals to our emotions and makes us care. As the numbers of people suffering get bigger, our cognition, calculation, and thoughtfulness are activated—and we care less ; A NGO on this concept is Rangde;

2- The danger of Being good : - The miracle of individual choice may be what is keeping us safe as a society. Some people just choose to be good, no matter what. This is the story of what happens to them

3- Freedom of speech and expression and the law of sedition in India: Text of keynote address delivered by Colin Gonsalves at the inauguration of Persistence Resistance 2011, New Delhi

4- Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright talks bluntly about politics and diplomacy, making the case that women's issues deserve a place at the center of foreign policy. Far from being a "soft" issue, she says, women's issues are often the very hardest ones, dealing directly with life and death. A frank and funny Q&A with Pat Mitchell from the Paley Center.


5- Jugalbandi: Hindustani music is our music By Namita Devidayal : Despite the modern claims to lineage, little is known of the Subcontinent’s classical music forms – beyond the centuries of cross-community collaboration that were required.

6-Jugalbandi: Divided scores By Yousuf Saeed : Though there was a general decline in classical music in Pakistan after Partition, there are many uplifting stories of how musical traditions have been kept alive and even enriched.

7- Poetry of Resistance, recited by Sudhanva Deshpande :



8- Indie and the Indian Middle Class by Arjun on PFC.

9- The Opening : If I was ever asked to host a Bollywood Awards night, here is how I would open it - BY Great Bong.
"Some people call this the “Oscar night for India”. I disagree. To quote a great man, we here dare to go beyond the Oscars. Tell me sir, would the Oscars have the Best Actress dancing an item number—-can you imagine Helen Mirren being made to dance if she wants an Oscar? Can you think of Robert De Niro fighting backstage and calling an angry press-conference because Al Pacino won an award? Can you imagine the award being taken away from Hillary Swank and given to Meryl Streep, just because maybe she is the brand ambassador of the event’s sponsors or because Hillary Swank came late to the show?Can you imagine Keanu Reeves winning The Best Actor Award every year? Can you imagine a movie like “Expendables” getting twelve nominations? No."
10- A Big Think Interview With the British author and activist Raj Patel.



Quote of the Day : Any concession to majoritarianism corrodes a democratic order. It creates two classes of citizens: those who belong to the definitive majority become ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ citizens, while those who fall outside this category have to be ‘naturalized’ through tolerance. Not only does constitutional majoritarianism create discontent and disaffection amongst minorities (reduced as they are to second-class citizenship), it allows religious extremists to set the political agenda because they can use the constitution as warrant for their never-ending quest to realize the perfect Buddhist or Islamic or Hindu state. --- Mukul Kesavan

Ten Issues - 11

1- State legitimacy and resistance : State derives its legitimacy from its institutions. Its these institutions that give State credibility and roots to live in the society of hostile crowds.

2-The ‘Viral’ Revolutions of Our Times – Post national Reflections by Aditya Nigam

3- Interview to Devinder Sharma :- On Food Crisis and Corruption. An Interview with One World South Asia: "Corruption has fuelled India's economic growth.

4- Growth and other concerns by Amartya Sen

5- Comments and Responses by the author : Socialism of 21st Century : Author Sunil

6-  An Interview with Guernica Magazine. In the wake of sedition charges by the Indian government, Arundhati Roy describes the stupidest question she gets asked, the cuss-word that made her respect the power of language, and the limits of preaching nonviolence.

7- The multi-individual society By Pratap Bhanu Mehta - An look on liberalism and multiculturalism.

8- Reluctant heroes: International recognition offers a degree of protection to investigative reporters. But, writes Lydia Cacho, being in the limelight presents a new set of dilemmas.

9- Information technology and economic change: The impact of the printing press BY Jeremiah Dittmar.

10- All Religions are not same, but Fundamentalists Are By M J Akbar : The four principles of a modern society, which is a necessary prerequisite of a modern state, are gender equality, political equality, religious equality and economic equity.

Quote of the Day: People do not like to be treated like fools, or backward infants, or extras in some parade. There is a natural and inborn resistance to such tutelage, for the simple-enough reasons that young people want to be regarded as adults, and parents can't bear to be humiliated in front of their children. One of Francis Fukuyama's better observations, drawing on his study of Hegel and Nietzsche, was that history shows people just as prepared to fight for honor and recognition as they are for less abstract concepts like food or territory. --- Christopher Hitchens

Monday, February 21, 2011

Islamic Countries and Revolution

People of the Middle East had been living under the tyranny of secular and corrupt governments, which were all supported by the United States and other Western countries. People have experimented with most other forms of governance. Where these experiments have failed to deliver and simultaneously education has been infused with religion, the attraction of the only untried one has increased. This context left them recourse to only one political alternative: religious fundamentalism.

Arab economy is based on oil and knowledge is not valued term their. That is why there academic does not have cultural inquiry and only revolve around theological discussions. The most educated young Muslims have lost the capacity to question the false Islamic history and ideology dished to them in academics. An Islamic country with ethnic, sectarian and religious diversity becomes a issue to fear within the Mullah and Army. And the worse response for any catastrophe is : ‘If only ...... imposes true Islamic system, we’ll be able to get rid of the hypocrisies committed in its name.

Nationalism can flourish without democracy, but democracy cannot have its existence without nationalism. The West does not really fear the rise of a Muslim Brotherhood as an alternative to dictators, since that is a socio-political movement that can be contained in a crunch. It is worried about an explosion of governments that place the people’s interest above that of sectional regimes at home and their mentors abroad. It was this worry that prevented the West from intervening even when dictators looted their own nations.

Foreigners are often accused of "exploiting" suffering for profit or cheap publicity. It is not new that religious parties consider themselves to be the most competent judges in matters of their own suffering – if not in an artistic sense, than in a moral one. The problem in Islamic case is that , like any other religions, they do not like it when foreigners interfere with "their internal reform". The reluctance to admit that something is wrong with their religion  is completely missing.Same nationalistic dare speak up against the  many gross acts of violence and injustice that take place in its heartland.

How long could Islamic world go on loudly supporting the rising and rhetorical tide of anti-Americanism while at the same time be the first to stand the long queues outside American and European visa offices? It’s a vicious cycle that denies us the patience and logic to reflect upon internal mistakes instead of always being on the look out for ‘corrupt Muslims’, ‘heretics’, foreign agents and media-made punching bags to blame for economic miseries, political chaos and moral confusion on.

1- What can Egypt and Tunisia teach us?: The protests in Tunisia and Egypt have won the first of what will have to be many victories. Mubarak and Ben Ali have fled and dictators have fallen to people’s uprisings – the street and the public square have, at least for the moment, reclaimed their voice from the boulevards and corridors of power.

2- On May 13, 2010 Iranian journalist and dissident Akbar Ganji received the CATO Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Upon accepting the award, he discussed his ideas about Iranian democracy, liberty, and U.S. policy in the Middle East.

3- The blocked elite- The problem with most middle-class political movements is that they know whom they don’t want, but rarely do they know what they want.

4-Is there a revolution underway in Egypt? by Daniel Little: Is what is going on in Egypt today a "revolution"? What about Tunisia? And how about the Georgian "Rose" Revolution (2003) or the Philippine Yellow Revolution of 1986? Do these social and political conflicts and outcomes add up to a "revolution" in those societies? Are they analogous in any way to other revolutions in the post-World War II period -- e.g. Cuba, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe?

5-Pakistan after the Arab Insurrections By Anjum Altaf : What do the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt portend for Pakistan? The question is on many minds. One approach to attempting an answer might be to try and infer it from below by investigating the morphology of Pakistani society and noting any significant similarities and differences in the process.

People don't propose for the alternative or recognize the diversity within Islam; Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahemdi, Bahia or Shia has different interpretations of Islam. In the end we have to finally accept (on an official level) that we live in a land of manifold ethnicities and multiple interpretations of Islam.  Neuroscientist and best selling author Sam Harris has openly criticized the term Islamophobia in an article stating :
There is no such thing as Islamophobia. Bigotry and racism exist, of course—and they are evils that all well-intentioned people must oppose. And prejudice against Muslims or Arabs, purely because of the accident of their birth, is despicable. But like all religions, Islam is a system of ideas and practices. And it is not a form of bigotry or racism to observe that the specific tenets of the faith pose a special threat to civil society. Nor is it a sign of intolerance to notice when people are simply not being honest about what they and their co-religionists believe.

On News

US Media Coverage :




The Last Word: (Indian) Media coverage of Egypt crisis



Paid News : Good morning! Your paper is free of paid news!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Books read in 2010

Language has a dominant effect in the knowledge level of various people and community. I had not read a single book in Hindi this year. That is a sad part of weakening of mine cultural roots in the zeal to know about the other cultures of the world.

The native language (like Hindi) gives us the culture root but the foreign language (English) only open the new doors of business and learning for most of Indians. The advantage of reading or writing in a second language – that it gives a diversified view of the world. There is a good chance that a foreign language makes a native culture as inferior, and mold learner to look down on his past and fundamental things like beauty, art, and politics as ‘a wasteland of non-achievement’. With the time, this educated person begins to understand himself and his culture through the eyes of the foreign concepts, categories, and judgments. Before too long, the native turns into a proxy for his foreign with a native face. I remember now that Bhagat Singh had aptly said that real independence would not come to us if Brown Sahibs replaced white Sahibs.

Writing in English is just a tendency where one assume that views will be given more importance and the outbound reach will be international. The staggering of regional conflicts of language can be well overcome by adapting international language as our own. This comes as a heavy cost as the power of observation reduces a great deal if one doesn't know the language of even his ecosystem.

But what is the use of language if it does not liberate person's soul from the bondage of tyranny and discrimination. A language is only tool to pass down ideas but it may lead one to either exclusive and elite position ( via English) in majority or neglected by dominant majority as voice of enemy or preexisting culture (Urdu).

While I don't read for the sake of it, still I prefer to read more on blogs and e- magazines than books. May be it is due to concentration deficit syndrome born due to facebook. I am enlisting the names of books read by me in 2010 with their background and my feedback. Ratings are highly personal.

Tao: The Golden Gate, Tao: The Pathless Path and When the Shoe Fits :- Osho

The Argumentative Indian  :- Amartya Sen - English- 7.5/10
A slow reading is required for this work of cultural and economic depth of Indian intellectual history.

Letters from Burma :- Aung San Suu Kyi - English- 9/10
Description of peaceful resistance and endurance of the people of Burma by her leader.

Connect The Dots :- Rashmi Bansal - English- 9/10
Collection of the inspiring tales of 25 entrepreneurs from humble background.

The Tipping Point  :- Malcome Gladwell -English- 8/10
An out of box look into the phenomenon of social epidemics.

Imagining India :-Nandan M. Nilekani - English -8/10
A good book showing development of Infosys at par with the Indian growth story.

The Sunil Gavaskar Omnibus- Sunny Days, Idols and One Day Wonders :- Sunil Gavaskar -English- 8/10
Cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar memoirs, what more else is left to say.

Infidel :- Ayaan Ali Hirsi - Dutch (Read in English)- 10/10
A brave, inspiring and beautifully written life story of girl evolution from dutiful Islamic child into a freedom fighter.

Creating A World Without Poverty: Social Business And The Future Of Capitalism:- Muhammad Yunus and Karl Weber - English - 8/10 - Best and inspiring book on the social business.

The Motorcycle Diaries:- Ernesto Che Guevera- Spanish (Read in English) - 7/10
An adventure story of two boys that makes one a rebel legend of 20th Century.

The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid :-C.K. Prahalad - English - 8/10 - With the innovative ideas towards the eradication of poverty, this book focus on the emerging markets business development.

Poetry of Protest - 2


Tyrants always recognize the explosive potential of literature. An apparently harmless piece of text with simple words have power to make a common people realize his/her rights and dignity. I remember this year 2010 for mine introduction to Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poems. The book Dast-e-saba (The breeze’s hand) begins with a short introduction by Faiz himself, a small polemic on the responsibility of the artist. ‘The poet’s work is not only perception and observation, but also struggle and effort,’ Faiz writes :
A full comprehension of this ocean of Life through the live and active ‘drops’ of his environment depends upon the poet’s depth of perception. To be able to show this ocean to others depends upon his control over his art; and his ability to set in motion some new currents in the ocean depends upon the fire in his blood and the zeal of his passion. Success in all three tasks demands continuous toil and struggle.
One even as a writer also needs to give real direction to the country’s future—rather than posing neutral as a bystander. Poems and words are written to promote the values of equality, freedom of speech and human rights. Poetry is not any partisan propaganda. A person belonging to any political spectrum of nationalists, secularists, liberals, and leftists is moved by the power of poetry.

1- Resistance Songs of IPTA: A Revolutionary Legacy :- Sumangala Damodarane is collecting, archiving, reviving and documenting IPTA protest music. Members of this progressive artists association had written, composed and sung songs in many Indian languages.



2- Jugalbandi: Indian Ocean’s common minimum programme :- Indian Ocean member give us insight of the act of balancing politics and music in India’s best-known progressive band.

3- Amardeep Singh who teaches post-colonial literature at Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania has made notes on the role played by Arabic poetry in the uprisings.

Protest poetry and music sometimes rises to the surface during popular uprisings, crystallizing popular sentiments -- one thinks of Victor Jara in Chile, Nazim Hikmet in Turkey, Faiz Ahmed Faiz in Pakistan, or Woody Guthrie in the United States. At times like these, the right poetry and song doesn't merely describe how people are feeling; it can actually act as an intensifier that guides a protest movement, helping it spread and solidify.

4- The Poetry of Revolt : Elliott Colla ,an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University tracks about the actual poetry that has played a prominent role in the outset of the events at Egypt.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Poetry of Protest - 1

I am remembering the scene in the movie "Dead Poet's Society" where Prof. John Keating was inspiring his student with the beauty of poetry : We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

While most prefer to be didactic and dry in order to make a large statement at the expense of beauty, it is only one side of the coin. There is a passion, emotions, connectivity and power contained in the poems and songs of the people. Poems are sometimes frivolous and pretentious but are written with the Streams of the subconsciousness. The personal turmoil with the experience and observation of grimed reality make poems full of universal appeal. Free versus with the words flowed create a typhoon in the minds of freedom loving people.

Poetry is to create awareness, to create the desire for dreams, social justice, gender equality and to stand up for the downtrodden. To be a poet is dare to give voice to the silent victims witnessing endless suppression, discrimination and violence. To people like Neruda and Faiz, art is for the life and not just for art’s sake. Poems were never meant to be retained but often they end up to recited and remembered without even the efforts of the academia. As they are sing and enjoyed by the people, they created meanings more than if they can do on the paper.

Men are agents of self interest with a will to do good for others. No doubt people always began in good faith against power but insensibly, commitment by commitment, when not aware of dangers of owning power, individuals will become entangled in a web of lies, falsehoods, deceits and perjuries, until they lost their souls to the power. It is necessary to understand the larger ways that discourse supports power and also the larger movements for/against power in the reference of the culture. In the next part of this essay, we will move towards examples of protest and poetry in the real word.

Culture of resistance

While illusions of reform is creating a ground for revolutionary environment, one needs to see the relation between establishment and the unprivileged ones. Everywhere in the world, people are not suffering from an excess of civil disobedience, infact suffering from an excess of civil obedience of few elites. The case of protest and violence are heavily related.  As Johann Hari mentioned about effects of protest in the UK that has far reaching effect and it is true for all over the world : -
"There is a cost to this chilling of protest. Every British citizen is the beneficiary of a long line of protesters stretching back through the centuries. Every woman reading this can vote and open her own bank account and choose her own husband and have a career because protesters demanded it. Every worker gets at least £5.93 an hour, and paid holidays, and paid sick leave, because protesters demanded it. Every pensioner gets enough to survive because protesters demand it. What what your life would be like if all those protesters through all those years had been frightened into inactivity? If you block the right to protest, you block the path to progress. You are left instead at the whim of an elite, whose priority is tax cuts for themselves, paid for with spending cuts for the poor."
In a recent address Akbar Ganji, a representative of the Green Movement in Iran, characterized history thus: “Human history has been interpreted in many ways. I read this history as a sustained course of struggle for liberty—the struggle of slaves, women, people of color, the poor, the disenfranchised, of religious minorities and dissidents of various sorts, to rid themselves of the tyranny they have endured.” In a history of the revolutions in Paris, there is a provocative phrase: “The time of the oppressed is by nature discontinuous” – apparently there is more truth in it than any statement made about victims of power

Often war/violence is assumed as the last resort of the problem, but the first approach that the establishment prefers. The authority of state lies in the allowance of violence given to the state by the people. When the state tend to use violence against its own people, it loses that sanction and trust of masses. The opposite violence born due to the protest catch society between two poles. History has shown us that US authorities have started to talk with Martin Luther King, Jr. because Dr. King’s alternative appear moderate by comparison across all the political spectrum, stretching from Malcolm X and the Black Panthers.
 
Violence is not some abstract or theoretical question to be puzzled through. It’s simply part of life and protest also. And that doesn’t mean you participate or don’t participate. It just means that you deal with it.  A decision to resort to violence is not something to be undertaken without great care—and stated in terms that were addressed to reasonable people. Great  leaders like Nehru and Mandela have felt the historic obligation to make a stand and to define it. That is why once an independence  or prime aim of revolution was achieved, most of the sensible leaders elope with the peaceful democratic movements. Arundhuti Roy recently quote an apt statement about nature of violence  : It would be immoral of me to preach violence unless I’m prepared to pick up arms myself. It is equally immoral for me to preach nonviolence when I’m not bearing the brunt of the attack.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bohemian Rhapsody

The ones who do speak up in mainstream are irrelevant and noisy and the ones who could be relevant are quiet, unheard or ignored. It feels so good when you support and promote a project from the heart and later mainstream adopt and accept as its own. Same feeling is coming for the film 'Udaan'. I always have a gutsy feeling that big dreams of marginalized individual will bring monumental changes in India one day. There is a cynicism and lethargy attached in learning and doing of mainstream traditional institutions and people. Only few with passion are free from TBTC (Too Busy To Care) syndrome. The only difference between a professional and an enthusiast is that an enthusiast is willing to take risk and accepts deferred gratifications whereas a professional does not want to take the risk, and wants to be rewarded immediately. Leave apart these talks of others and come to the hotchpotch walk of my life;

As, the famous poet Al-Bayati moved between his homeland and the rest of the world. "I've always searched for the sun's springs," he said, "When a human being stays in one place, he's likely to die. People too stagnate like water and air. Therefore the death of nature, of words, of the spirit has prompted me to keep traveling, so as to encounter new suns, new springs, new horizons. A whole new world being born."

I don't travel much and has a monotonous work schedule in the life. While returning from office, I always watch the dusk. The sunset ignites the idea of mundane life, transient time and a deep urge for existence. I go deep inside and many questions are born in these vague moments of thoughtlessness. I transcend into an awkward reality with an invented illusion of abstract values. I always feel amazed that these moments shape up with/without purpose.

Life is somehow unfathomable by common mind. Each set of idea is countered by equally forceful reason and evidences. I observe the past from a deterministic point of view, where causes lead to effects. While world is more probabilistic in nature here outcomes are driven by invisible or chance events. So, how analysing the past can help me in documentation and drafting theories and making hypothetical narration about tomorrow. While the other part of brain argues that present is not entirely a random walk in the contingent—culture renders some steps more probable than others. Thinking of an individual is shaped by its surrounding. Inseparable from all narratives is a particular instantiation of politics, identity, and culture.The dilemma of split thinking continues...

In the time when everybody is in quest of high salaries, why I am tending towards some decent job with relaxation ? And in place of adventure and fun, why I am busy in learning about culture and development ? I make writing and reading as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music. Amid infinite space, no echo is heard and the questions of soul remain unanswered.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Road to Democracy - 2

People around the world are blogging, podcasting, and uploading photos, videos, and information across the globe, but unless in this ocean of data you know where to look, it can be difficult to find respected and credible voices. Global Voices is an international community of bloggers who report on blogs and citizen media from around the world.

The idea that is lost for most mainstream media and press is that their views must reflect public demand for reform and enforces government for the correction measure. Reality must not be dictated by the state censors or corporate media but by the people who are the lowest racks of power structure.

With the release of more than thousand cables so far, no nation is immune to the WikiLeaks phenomenon. There is a WikiLeaks now, that sort of journalism and institution we should built on. It has given an insight into the world politics and the interplay of power between different states.Most of these secrecy laws are being used to keep the public ignorant of gross dishonesty practised by their own government. When the risks of embarrassment and discovery increase, the tables are turned against conspiracy, corruption, exploitation and oppression. As Saul Bellow says at the opening of Augie March: "Everybody knows there is no fineness or accuracy of suppression; if you hold down one thing you hold down the adjoining."

In a democracy the functioning of a country should not be a mystery to its citizens; the government, indeed, answers directly to the people to whom it serves and owes its powers. Publishing document for public improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society where people can demand accountability from the power holders. Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organisations. Open government is bounded to answers injustice rather than causing it.

Reason appears to keep order in control when public is well informed about the developments and various acts of government. Practice of the reason and debate is cultivated by years of practice in the civil society through . Without substantial free discourse in the public, the state loses its trust of the people. A strong hold on reality is necessary for the society to come to a meaningful democratic norms. History of revolutions shows their birth is due to rage. Reason and peace comes quite later.

Censoring the voice of the people and killing opposition voice leads to suppression where only probability of violence and revolution grows is self defeating for the whole society itself. Blasphemy, Sedition, Honour Killing, Vigilante Justice, Caste Panchayats, Book Burning, Culture Policing, Moral Police and all such tendencies are tools to crush the democratic aspirations of different sections of people. As Orwell wrote in his essay "The prevention of literature": "Even a single taboo can have an all-round crippling effect upon the mind, because there is always the danger that any thought which is freely followed up may lead to the forbidden thought."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's People, Stupid

Long before internet, Samizdat was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader. Times are changing now with the tools of information, it's a revolution of facebook generation.

So was it Wikileaks, Facebook, or Twitter that is toppling dictators in Middle East? The people's revolution for liberty is spreading like a domino effect in the Arab world with the help of 1,000 satellite channels. The tools to report the struggle on internet like social networks, blogs, text messaging and mobile phone video clips that can be swiftly uploaded to YouTube are triggering the voice of people.

Those of us far from these upheavals face a powerful responsibility of making these voice heard on the global stage. The inspiration for next popular protest can come from anywhere in the world and people will not only aspire for liberty and freedom but will also know through TV, radio, press and Internet.

Theocracy has arrived in the Iran through popular tapes of Ayotullah Khomeni and so was the protest of Green revolution was sparked through Internet connection. What has started from eastern European countries have come to Islamic countries in thirty years.

In a society that does not tolerate social and cultural views that challenge the status and authority, the Internet presents Anonymity and Security ; Internet provides a platform for the exchange of views with like-minded individuals and for the establishment of local, national or international networks of the people.

By the time the dust settles and the smoke clears, plenty more incriminating pictures and videos will appear, chronicling a popular revolution in the making with all its glorious moments and its dark phases. For documenting everything from the colorful protests in Tahrir Square as well as Tunis, the huge marches of millions in Alexandria and Cairo, the awful scenes of cars running over pedestrians, we owe our thanks to many people whose names we will never know.

Leaders get power from the people that they lead on trust. If the people lose trust in the leader, no power can put the ruler on the throne forever. We have to be cautious that it is not a social change, but a step towards political democracy. It's not only the victory of the technology over censor , it is the victory of the people and liberal values.  I will quote here two paragraphs written by Linda Herrera about the use of technology in the revolution :

"Many have since asked: Is this a “Facebook Revolution?” It is high time to put this question to rest and insist that political and social movements belong to people and not to communication tools and technologies. Facebook, like cell phones, the internet, and twitter, do not have agency, a moral universe, and are not predisposed to any particular ideological or political orientation. They are what people make of them.

Facebook is no more responsible for Egypt’s revolution than Gutenberg’s printing press with movable type was responsible for the Protestant Reformation in the fifteenth century. But it is valid to say that neither the Reformation nor the pro-democracy rights’ movements sweeping Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, and much of the region would have come about at this juncture without these new tools. Digital communications media have revolutionized learning, cognition, and sociability and facilitated the development of a new generational behavior and consciousness. And the old guard simply do not get it."
What is happening in Egypt is not a Facebook Revolution. But it could not have come about without the Facebook generation, generation 2.0, who are taking, and with their fellow citizens, making history.The revolution is here to stay and more power will flow towards people only. The way ahead lies through peaceful protest against extremism and opportunism in democracy. Iran, Kashmir, Tunisia and now Egypt.... Protests are here to stay. Winds of change have start blowing in Yemen, Algeria, Gabon :-)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Education System and Media

The real apathy and indifference lies in the awareness of the complexity of the problem. Slogans and emotions can never replace facts. The clearer awareness that the world is more than mere a construction of words is lacking all around.

The education model needs to be transformed from teacher-centric to a learning-centric. The student navigates through a process in learning model that recognizes these two basic truths: the universe is connected, and every student is unique. The dire need of texts that make children excited about the social and cultural diversity that they encounter in their ethos gives an idea of monumental crisis. The education that fails to impart the urge to read as a matter of habit leads to the irrational reasoning in public debate and abysmal government policies.

The good thing about a democracy is that you avoid major disasters since every issue is discussed and debated quite a lot. But, an uninformed public, press and their representatives may fall in the trenches due to ignorance even if every issue is discussed and debated quite a lot. If hooliganism and slogan is what it takes to run government, the administration will move slowly onto the hired hardened criminals and not mere qualifiers as custodians of law, justice and order. Only Press and colleges have the ability to encourage people to discuss deep-seated problems and then analyze the problems logically.

Education :
Presently, elite schools mostly focus and prepare managers for work rather than giving training to entrepreneurs. There is a great danger lurking with the thinking of well intentioned and close brain persons without humility to accept their ignorance in their specialized areas. Even great intellectuals act by falling in the trap of the belief that they possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to their liking.

The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility against complexity. This will guard an individual against becoming an accomplice in human's fatal striving to control society.

“Only the working masses can change society; but they will not do that spontaneously, on their own. They can rock capitalism back onto its heels but they will only knock it out if they have the organisation, the socialist party, which can show the way to a new, socialist order of society. Such a party does not just emerge. It can only be built out of the day-to-day struggles of working people.” –Why you should be a socialist (1977). Paul Foot

Press and Media:
Most of our  leaders even highly educated ones are not thinkers but only holders of power, not its critics; Hence, our mainstream journalist and public looks like unaware of the different aspects of problem. This power centered model of education changes the relationship between authority and the press that must necessarily be adversarial if the latter is to fulfill its professional and moral obligation to the public.

"I see the journalist's role as both reporter and crusader. In a civilization that seems to be regressing into new holocausts, we must seek and speak the truth, for we are the voice of voiceless millions. Having chosen this profession, we cannot be afraid to speak the truth no matter what the cost. And by speaking, I personally believe we can change the world." - Razia Bhatti (IWMF Courage in Journalism award ceremony, 1994)

WTF in India ?

I will reproduce here Statement and opinion of Justice Ms. Sheela Khanna, the Chairperson of Madhya Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, made to the AHRC staff members during a visit to the Commission in October 2010). ---- “It is true that too many children die from malnutrition each year in this country. Some of their parents also die from starvation and hunger. But the children are more vulnerable … one of the reasons is the widespread ‘irregularity’ in the state and central government services … the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh state is a very kind person … the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres is not a solution for the millions of malnourished children. These centres are not cost effective. But now that the centres are there we must effectively use them. My suggestion is to appoint a Brahmin priest in each of these centres and require the priest to verify the horoscope of every child brought to the centre. After studying a child’s horoscope if the priest is of the opinion that the child will grow into a good citizen of this country, it must be provided treatment at the centre. For the rest, I would say, let us just leave them to their fate …if not where do we stop? … We cannot spend government money like this…

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Understanding Islamic Culture -4

Continuing from 1, 2 ,3 -

The people's uprising in Tunisia, Egypt or Yemen is not just about the state of the economy, but also about civil rights and dignity. The Arab regimes have exploited 'threat of terrorism' fears and blew them out of all proportion in order to justify its repressive policies and garner support for them. The revolt is an expression of the frustration at social injustice.

Currently, There is no organised political opposition except Islamic movement. The regime has systematically destroyed all peaceful alternatives, from the democratic parties to the political Islamists. All of this has happened over the course of time when manipulative world power were busy in supporting dummy dictators.

I am proceeding on 4th part of essay series to understand the reason behind such events with these articles explaining background and reason for this sudden arrival of wind of change;

1- Predicting a "de-Islamicised Muslim World" : Alphabetisation and a decline in the birth-rate. Courbage and Todd believe these two factors will lead the Islamic world into modernity – and away from religion. With their analyses the two French demographers add a new dimension to the ongoing debate over the clash of civilisations. Maik Meuser reports.

2- "Modernity, Democracy Are Only for the Privileged": The Egyptian scholar Hamid Abu Zayd criticizes the age-old border between the wealthy North and the impoverished South. It still exists, despite globalisation. Universal human values, however, cannot be a privilege restricted to the West

3- Recurring Revolts: In his essay, the renowned Moroccan philosopher Mohamed Sabila describes the generation gap in the three Maghreb states and the social plight of young people, who have turned away in disappointment from the political dogmatism of their parent's generation.

4- Acts of self-immolation have set off waves of protest across Tunisia and Egypt. Amira Muhammad spoke to Ahmed Okasha, president of the "Arab Federation of Psychiatrists" about how Arab psychologists are interpreting this protest phenomenon.

5- The Syrian philosopher Sadiq Al-Azm is one of the highest-profile and most strident critics of the Arab world. To this day, his ideas are between all fronts, making him enemies of both Islamist and secular dogmatists. Sadiq Al-Azm is soon to celebrate his 75th birthday. A portrait by Kersten Knipp

The Road to Democracy

The political institutions and economic structures in the Middle East haven't changed much since they were put in place. They worked well from the 60s through the 1980s and the state was basically redistributing wealth buoyed by oil. Democracy was dismissed as an invitation to chaos by the dictators. Economic reasons are never immediate reasons but skewed distribution of wealth among peoples form a strong pillar for this democratic movement.

The Pan Arab liberation movement ended in the years following the defeat of 1967 (The Six-Day War) – and even more so after the war of 1973. The Islamic movement has filled political and cultural he vacuum. In the following thirty years, Islamic movements have moved Arab societies into a more conservative and traditional Islamic direction. They are now in a position to exert control over cultural, intellectual and political issues. In the past, the public discourse in the Arab world were dominated by the political left, by pan-Arabists and by the secular parties. Now, however, Islamic movement/ Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as leading voice. The Muslim Brotherhood: Who Are They? : The Muslim Brotherhood is currently playing an active role in the unrest in several Arab countries.
The Americans have been paying Hosni Mubarak $2 billion a year to support Israel. The successors to the Mubarak could take a different view of this support. EU and most of the pro western mind now fears from Muslim Brotherhood or any Islamic party coming to the power. I think there is a strong likelihood that Tunisia and any other Arab country that changes it's government will end up with Sharia Law. Whilst the middle class might have started this revolution, the majority population is typically ignorant and religious and the US supported despots that rule them have ensured hatred of the West, compounded by the blind US support of Israel. This is not time to observe idly the development. Once monetary help from Saudi arrived, it will gulp all the social development happened throughout the years.

Sadiq Jalal al-Azm, one of the most prominent Arab intellectuals makes a valid point about democracy in the Arab world : The battle for democracy and human rights values does not merely take the shape of a conflict between East and West and between Islam and Europe. It is an internal battle in every country. Every country that has developed certain civilization standards goes through that battle – whether we talk about Germany, China, India, Syria or Egypt. Each of those countries has reached a particular level in achieving these standards, strengthening them and implementing them. It is therefore necessary to remember that the battle is not only a battle between East and West, between the Middle East and Islam on the one hand and liberalism on the other.

A society cannot be democratized by outside powers. The development towards democracy is the result of the internal dynamic of a society, which can take years to produce a civil society. Contrary to the European experience, secularization in the Islamic world preceded a religious reformation – with profound negative consequences for political development in Muslim societies. To remake state-building and democracy-promotion in the Muslim world as an international responsibility, rather than a messianic American ideal.

Point of Views---

Revolutionary Change In Egypt: Internal or Made in USA? Stephen Lendman points out American foreign policy that democracy is messy and unreliable. Dictatorships are much easier to control, and when one despots proves unreliable or outlives his usefulness, replace him with another, perhaps smoothed by transitional authority.

It's not radical Islam that worries the US – it's independence : The nature of any regime it backs in the Arab world is secondary to control. Subjects are ignored until they break their chains writes Noam Chomsky.

The Arab crisis: food, energy, water, justice : Tunisia’s popular uprising is reverberating across the Arab world. But such movements face problems that go far wider than dictatorship to encompass the whole range of human security, says Vicken Cheterian.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Aaj Baazar mein

Faiz Ahmed Faiz is amongst the most famous poets of the Urdu language. Faiz, who was hounoured by Lenin Peace Prize in 1963, was seldom subjected to arrests by the right-wing pro-imperialist military regimes of Pakistan. Once, during the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq, he was arrested and taken to the police station in front of the public. In this context, he wrote 'Aaj Bazar mein'.



The video starts with a 'mushairah' (public recitation), where Faiz presents the poem, and describes its context. Then the video, with the melodious voice of Nayyara Noor in the background singing the verses of Faiz, shows the sufi culture of Pakistan, which was suppressed by the religious fundamentalist government of Zia-ul-Haq. Then, there are some clips of public floggings and public hangings of political dissidents, which were employed to ingrain terror in the people of Pakistan. Public floggings were a norm during Zia's time. The video, then, takes us on a trip to a well-known red-light area of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This red-light area is in the neighbourhood of a very famous mosque, a contradiction unresolved !

Quotations:

1) I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right. – Abraham Lincoln.

2) If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.– George Washington.

3) It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. – Thomas Jefferson.

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