Friday, December 30, 2005

A new "Party of the European Left"

This came to my attention recently; apparently, a new "part of the left" has been formed in Europe:

Anyone following this closely? Comments? Details? I have been thinking about what it means to be progressive, left-of-center, etc. and would love to engage in some discussion.

Catching Up: Amartya Sen

A while back, while Dr. Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate economist was on a book tour, I mentioned his description of Pakistan's Civil Society. Coming out of my "blogger's block", I have been going through my backlog of notes and found a couple of other points in the interview I quoted from which I hadn't mentioned:
  • His opinion on the nuclear explosions by the two South Asian rivals was that they were a mistake for both moral and political reasons.
  • He also says that the "India is taken seriously because of the bomb" line is absolute BS; India is taken seriously because of its economy. He points out that the rightwing government did not mention/make a big deal about the newfound nuclear status in the run up to the very next elections soon after the explosions.
  • He also had stuff to say about the Iraq War. Check out the interview.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Talking to a Neighbour

Someone from the same neighbourhood as the one I live in posted a comment on a news story I posted a link to. Here's a reply. Thought others might be interested, too.

Well, hello, neighbour!

"true roots"? "Hindu India"? "Muslim Pakistan". Are you saying that only what is today the Union of India is the homeland of Hindus and Hinduism? Weren't a large part of the empires that are the pride of history in that area and its people based in what is today Pakistan and even Afghanistan? Gandhara? Taxila? Moenjodaro/Mohanjodaro?

Personally, I'd like to not restrict more profound concepts--like that what is a South Asian Muslim, or what is a Hindu and what is the homeland for Hindus--to modern geo-political entities. Political borders come and go--and very often cut across human, cultural, and genetic affinities. We often discuss Europe as a parallel for our region, especially to point that the global trend is of coming together. And personally, I think that South Asia in general and just the Union of India in particular have more diversity (and certainly a larger population) than all of Europe. And if you look at Europe, you have Germans in Austria (Oster Reich, or "Western Country" in German), Germany, Switzerland, and historicly in other countries. But does that mean that a person of German ancestry in Switzerland is necessarily to be treated with more suspicion than others if they apply for citizenship in Germany? Or an American of German ancestry whose grandparents fled during one of the world wars?

I would like to believe that people can hold warm patriotic feelings for their own country without being necessarily hostile to a neighbouring country, whatever the history has been.

And it has now been two generations since the "partition"/independence--the people applying for citizenship are by no stretch of the imagination the same as the ones that chose to live in one or the other country at that time.

As for the historical bases for the existence and shape of one country or the other. I am, I like to think, a self-confidently patriotic Pakistani who is married to a proudly patriotic Indian and who works in the movement for peace between the two countries, but I believe that if we as individuals and as national communities are comfortable in who we are, we should have the self-confidence to compete in the marketplace of ideas and ideologies without the kind of insecurity and pettiness that this kind of policy seems to reflect. Pakistan, particularly, claims to have an ideology. And I am not talking about "just Islam". In fact, what passes today for "Islamism" and "Islamic politics" in today's news and opinion is very far from what I was brought up to believe my community's ideology is or what the founders' intent was; the idea of a country where people can live as who they are and not have to be second class citizens. And all people. I might not know all the history, but your assertion that Pakistan did not say that Hindus who wanted to stay could strikes me as rather inaccurate. What was Jinnah's speech, so oft-quoted, where he said that as of independence, all citizens of Pakistan are Pakistanis and free to worship as they wanted and live as they wanted. Now the bloodbath that followed (and it happened on both sides) did not live up to either Jinnah's words or the dreams and aspirations of Gandhi; that's a separate story.

Don't get me wrong; I don't mean to pick on India exclusively--Pakistanis, both in and out of government, too often display symptoms of the same kind of underlying insecurities and the same pettiness. I mean this as a critique of all sides, and a call to everybody to aspire towards the moral high ground. We live in separate geo-political entities, but we have a lot in common--history, culture, religions, music, cuisine, you name it--and others with far less in common work together across boundaries. Let us try to build a positive atmosphere for ourselves, our nations and our children; that would be best for all of us.

Some come on over (within Ardenwood and across the border--whether you have an Indian or a Pakistani background, visit "the other side") and let's have some chai.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


This popped up at me out of Google's "Related Links" in my Gmail account:

What a Difference a Month Makes!!

It's been a little while since I wrote much, here or anywhere else. As excuses go, first it was earthquake-related work, and then a few other things at my day job, as we call it here in The States, and some personal developments (mostly good, besides the flu going around the house). Then I saw the item on Mojo yesterday and just had to write. That helped. Now I hope will write more. There are quite a few items in draft here at blogger, so watch out!

With that out of the way, the first thing I have to say is: Wow!

Wow! indeed!! What a difference a month makes. If you had gone to Mars or somewhere else where they don't have access to American media for a month and then come back, you might well have have thought that you had taken the wrong left turn at that last planet on the way back. Because it sure as hell doesn't seem like one is listening to the same group of people one was listening to a month or two ago.

Over the last few years, I have actually almost completely stopped listening to the mainstream electronic media in the US. Maybe a little "Hardball" once in a while, but that's about it. In fact, it wasn't for Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show", it would be difficult to even keep track of what's going on in the mainstream zeitgeist. But then, Mr. Stewart has become the most significant media item there is anyway. Of course, that is but natural; with the "electronic newsmedia" becoming so clearly and completely infotainment, that it is but natural that the best thing in that category would be something that makes no pretence of being hard news. [Of course, this has rather odd side-effects. For example, I was missing a lot of the effect of Steven Colbert's show because I wasn't too familiar with the format of Bill O'Reilly's show or much at all with Anderson Cooper, CNN's new blue-eyed, white-haired boy.]

Though, to give credit where it is due, 24-hour news has led to a lot of useless noise, but the US media does have some life left in it. On this blog, I followed the way they did birddog, to use an Americanism, the White House Press Secretary on the not-quite-scandal about Karl Rove:

I guess the change in wind direction really came after Hurricane Katrina. When Brian Williams came on The Daily Show after Katrina and he'd taken on Administration officials on his own show, for most the interview, I was feeling that Jon was going too easy on him. I thought Jon would start the interview with a "So y'all grew a new set, huh?" But then, by the end of interview, Brian W had gone out of the way to raise the topics that establishment figures anywhere in the world often dismiss without a mention or with disdain--that of institutional racism. Brian himself brought up the fact that he wondered why the army, which can airlift whole bridges in Afghanistan and Iraq couldn't have send in helicopters into New Orleans. And then he did something even more startling; he said that he wondered how many helicopters would have appeared and how fast, if this had been a city in New England where the population was of a different skin color. An African American saying the same thing would have been dismissed as playing the race card.

I just wish more people would raise issues like that, which express frank opinions about communities they are not part of. We'd all be better off for it.

And before I go, just to point out how much has changed in the MSM, it was a pleasant surprise to see a Newsweek infographic about Iraq that showed both US as well as Iraqi casualties.

Though one has to wonder about a "free press" that only follows up on story angles when the political winds make it "okay" to do so. The phrase "Fourth Estate" takes on a new resonance; the mainstream media--in any society, not just the US--has become such an integral part of the establishment in our societies today that it is distressing. Maybe the only hope really does lie in the Alternative Media to play the role of watchdog, keeping the establishment in check.

And a "programming note" before I go. In the new future, I will be writing some pieces discussing the fundamentals of various issues. The Iraq War; Islam; Jihad; US foreign policy in the world. See you then!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Holy Alliance

I have been agonizing and procastinating over how to handle my re-emergence from a new malady, namely "Blogger's Block". But I just saw something that I didn't want to delay commenting on. And I know this is going to sound pretentious, but.


But we, the moderates in the Muslim World--and I use that word advisedly, to mean people who have a strong faith, but who disagree with the "Islamic Parties" (notice I avoid the word "Islamist") on matters of ideology, politics, and how society should be structured and run; we who have have not, on the other hand, traditionally been either socialist-leaning, or, to put it in South Asian terms, in the "tharaqqi-pasandh" ("progressive"--then understood to mean "commie") camp--we, dare I say, the silent majority of the Muslim world (notice I avoid the word "Ummah"), have always felt that these "Islamic Parties" have been rather, shall we say, inconsistent between their rhetoric and their actual alliances ("qaul wa feyl" we say in the community). If you wanted proof, the documents are now available: