Christmas bombings by Boko Haram focused attention again on the possibility of civil war in Nigeria. An article from FP discusses the situation.
This and other article raise the inevitable point about poverty in Northern Nigeria and its relation to the rise of Boko Haram. On another blog, someone took umbrage at this “poverty root cause” meme. I am posting my rather politically incorrect reply to stimulate a discussion.
There may indeed be a way in which poverty and underdevelopment can be said to be deeply connected to such violence, though NOT its sufficient or direct cause (this does not excuse the Western media and intelligentsia’s routine use of the “root cause” meme, since the everyday usage we see is almost totally misleading and usually falls in the category of “not even wrong”…its just groupthink of the worst sort). Anyway, here is the argument:
There is a correlation between economic development and social development (with very contentious chicken and egg issues involved; the relationship is not unidirectional). Socially and economically developed societies dont easily fall into mass disorder or permit free-lance killing and are not ripe ground for the growth of murderous groups like boko haram. Even when they kill in large numbers (first world war, second world war) they do so in an organized manner, usually under “lawful” authority.
A poor and underdeveloped society undergoing demographic transition (increased number of young people) with vastly better living standards visible yet out of reach, with modern mass media and education available to groups that are otherwise barbaric and primitive, such a place has to sink or swim rather quickly..if they are unable to generate some critical mass of development and successful social organization (or rather re-organization, as older forms are dying and new ones have to be built up before the whole shithouse goes up in flames) then they are almost bound to see disorder and the rise of armed gangs.
What ideology organizes/aimates these gangs does depend to some extent on pre-existing cultural memes. It doesnt have to be religion; the violence can be ethnically based or can be mostly “criminal”. But it can be religious too.
Where Islam is the existing religion, salafist-jihadist memes are available and tend to become the default option when more modern postcolonial arrangements fail (Nigeria, maybe Pakistan one day) or have completely crashed and burned (Somalia, afghanistan).Other “Islamic” or secular options are usually unable to compete with the ruthless and purer salafists.
In this convoluted sense, poverty and underdevelopment did indeed set the stage for hyperviolent Islamist militias to arise…This is not the sense in which this argument is usually deployed.
But THIS sense is not going to be reversed by parachuting in some aid groups. They will be eaten alive, or will become a hostage cash cow for the men with guns. Either the local salafists will have to eventually build up a society capable of modernizing (It will eventually happen, but how they can do this before they get into fights with all neighbors and even people further away is a problem) OR (more likely) some relatively ruthless local force or very ruthless faraway force will have to establish order FIRST, then development can follow. Since its a harder job for the “faraway force” (usually lacks legitimacy), its less likely to succeed even though they may have far superior technical skills and even moral standards. Better for it to be done locally.
btw, corollary: where the population is already split into Muslim and non-muslim, a civil war until one party cries uncle is inevitable if the existing colonial or postcolonial order stops working (e.g. Nigeria if it fails to improve things very fast). The only other option is for the muslim or non-muslims to escape to another country. This civil war is inevitable because Salafist Islam cannot peacefully coexist with a large non-muslim community except in a state of “balance of terror” or complete submission. There is no third option.the anarchy will invite organization. Salafist Islam already has a blueprint for such organization and already has a basis in existing folk Islam. It will appear and then it will fight. Not necessarily in that order. .
Not that Nigeria is necessarily going to collapse. Its probably stronger than it looks and the karma of British Raj is an amazing thing, see Pakistan…
Oh, and Happy New Year.
1. PISA: one explanation for the very low scores in Himachal Pradesh and TN (and likely every other state) could simply be the anti-productivity effects of widespread infection by parasite. From Doctors Without Borders, I read about a sandfly-borne protozoan parasite, visceral leishmaniasis (Kala Azar), which hides out in a macrophage en route to your liver, spleen and bone marrow causing anemia, fatigue, fever and enlargement of the spleen and liver leading to death if untreated. Use of cheap treatments popular in the past, pentavelent antimonials, have generated a high degree of resistance in India, so MSF now uses Amphotericin B (much more expensive, course.) Diagnosis can only be done quickly through a combination of a rapid test and monitoring of symptoms–which, though i’m not a doctor, doesn’t seem easy nor 100% effective. Sandflies lay their eggs in dark depressions rich in moist organic matter–something you can’t avoid in many parts of rural India no matter how arid given hygiene standards, poor sanitation, etc. MSF finds that leishmaniasis infection is often co-morbid with HIV (in this project–Bihar) for which they say “outcomes are less certain”–a euphemism for, “they die often.” Continue reading →
For more than two decades, M. A. Hakeem has arguably done the job of the Indian government. His private Holy Town High School has educated thousands of poor students, squeezing them into cramped classrooms where, when the electricity goes out, the children simply learn in the dark.
Parents in Holy Town’s low-income, predominantly Muslim neighborhood do not mind the bare-bones conditions. They like the modest tuition (as low as $2 per month), the English-language curriculum and the success rate on standardized tests. Indeed, low-cost schools like Holy Town are part of an ad hoc network that now dominates education in this south Indian city, where an estimated two-thirds of all students attend private institutions.
“The responsibility that the government should shoulder,” Mr. Hakeem said with both pride and contempt, “we are shouldering it.”
The issue seems to be that in terms of what it provides the masses India’s public sector is an unmitigated joke verging on disaster. What India needs is greater federalism, as it seems that coordination from the center is just not possible with all the special interests tugging at it.
Half of Bangladeshi and Pakistani workers in the country (United Kingdom) are in jobs that pay less than £7 an hour, compared to less than 30 per cent of whites.
According to the last census, there were over 100,000 children of Asian and white origin, and 158,000 who were mixed Caribbean and white. Nearly half of British-born black men, a third of British-born black women, and a fifth of Indian and African men, have white partners. .. “it is safe to presume that this mixing is disproportionately happening in the working class.”
Source: Chavs (the demonization of the working class) by Owen Jones
According to Ayaz Amir (who seems to know such things) Imran Khan’s spiritual guide is Professor Rafique Akhtar, who also happens to be the spiritual guide of General Kiyani and many many other military officers and modern Pakistani Muslims. Since Zachary just mentioned that the spirit of Pakistani-Britain is Sunni-Sufi (some salafist Paki Brits would beg to differ, but those are mere details and who cares about details) I thought I would post a link to the source…the thinking that lies behind modern Sunni Sufism of the Paknationalist variety (a sufism that is indeed highly prevalent in the Pakistani-punjabi elite and needs to be carefully examined for that reason, if for no other reason).
I would add that this is specific to the paknationalist crowd (a significant and visible crowd, but not the only crowd in Pakistan). But those are details, maybe later.
The 2009 figures suggests 1.2mn Brit-Paks but I’ve been informed that the figure is much higher but again I haven’t verified the figure.
As always I’m shocked by the entrepreneurial spirit of Pakistanis. The number of successful Pakistanis, who go on to start their own businesses despite their professional background, is an undeserved story.
At any rate I think the fairly homogeneous profile of Pakistanis in Britain (Anglo-Urdu Punjabi-Pathan Sunni-Sufis) is a favourable weight for the community. More than 300 Brit-Pak top professionals gathered on Christmas day to celebrate a Gala Dinner to honour Quaid-e-Azim’s birthday; the passion for Pakistan runs deeper every year among the diaspora.
The answer, of course, is the NYT’s own saffron warrior, Mark Bittman. Here, he takes the dietary equivalent of standing on one leg and ups the ascetic factor by also hopping up and down on it, enjoy:
Among your other resolutions — do more good? make more money? — you’ve probably made the annual pledge to eat better…If defining this betterness has become increasingly more difficult (half the diet books that spilled over my desk in December focused on going gluten-free), the core of the answer is known to everyone: eat more plants. Continue reading →