Why the elite in the Rest yearn for the West

I’ve become an old hand in the developing world since I’ve done a fair bit of travelling.

I’ve noticed that elites throughout the world (and middle classes) dream of the West even when they lead fairly prosperous lives at home.
I could never really fathom why this was the case because if one has money (and lots of it) what’s the functional difference between Bombay and London (also the advantage being in the developing markets one can be part of the elite class at much lower wealth levels, which are not possible in the West).
I’ve realised that it’s all to do with self-actualisation and the stress of individuality that seems to be the distinctive hall mark of Western culture. In the East & global South the collective spirits is so strong that people take human connections for granted.
In the West self-actualisation is so pronounced that human ties take a very secondary role to the life of the individual (reality is far more blurred but this is the ideal).
So when Hollywood and Cable Tv bombard images of well turned-out successful Western individuals it takes a hold on the national imagination. Hence the global developing elites aren’t necessarily yearning for personal prosperity but the dream of becoming one’s own self that only seems possible in broadly prosperous and largely middle class societies (even if the US may be among the more unequal societies the huge size of its middle class still holds pronounced cultural sway).

Baloch terrorism?

A train has been derailed by a bomb in Southern Pakistan and it seems the Baloch Republican Army may have claimed responsibility (I am relying on twitter here, I have not yet seen a formal claim of responsibility, but it is certainly a strong possibility given that there have been earlier train attacks claimed by Baloch separatists). Several children are among those killed and children have died in almost every train bombing to date. This has started the usual back and forth about terrorism as a tactic and someone mentioned the inevitable “terrorism is the weapon of the weak”.  

My first thoughts, and I hope others will step in with informed comments: 
If the BRA is responsible, then they are being very self-defeating here. It is a Pakistani myth that terrorism is the weapon of the weak. It may be a weapon sometimes used by the weak, but it has never gotten them very far on its own. From Palestine to Chechnya to Kashmir to Balochistan…it just makes the strong more easily justify their oppression. Terrorists like TTP are winning because they have inside support, they have a more coherent narrative than their enemies, they have strong (minority) ideological support throughout Pakistan and above all  because they are STRONG enough to beat up the so-called army and get away with it. 
The Baloch are not that strong. They will only increase their own suffering. Armed struggle is not an end in itself, it is a tactic. Like all tactics it has to form part of some greater whole. If sensibly applied, it can be critically important. If not, its just so much more pain and suffering with nothing to show for it…or it makes things worse. This is just sad.

Some quick additional points (just because I know from experience that they will come up):
1. I am not discussing the morality of terrorism (I personally believe deliberately targeting innocents is ALWAYS morally wrong, but that is not my point here). 
2. Can it sometimes work? Sure it can. There is no universal umpire making sure such things never work.  As part of some larger effort, where some clever and ruthless leaders are using the careful application of terror as one element in a larger strategy it can (unfortunately) be part of a winning effort. But not by itself. In this case there is no well defined and united Baloch leadership out there, who may be using these attacks as well defined parts of a larger effort.  A Baloch Lenin or Mao (or even a Baloch Molvi Fazlullah) could use terrorism as one part of a larger, well thought-out effort. A Baloch group that just blows up stuff here and there is only getting more innocents killed. 
3. Could Balochistan see a more serious and more dangerous (and potentially successful) liberation struggle in the days to come? It could, mainly because the people oppressing them are so good at scoring own goals and messing things up. Even so, it seems unlikely to succeed unless an outside power (aka the United States) makes (or is making) a VERY serious effort to make this happen. Otherwise, this struggle can go on for a long time, but it wont lead to successful secession. 
A Gandhian approach will not necessarily work either, but may be a better bet. It could conceivably co-exist with a relatively narrowly targeted armed insurgency, but not with one that uses indiscriminate terrorism…the state will simply use the terrorism as justification to wrap up the non-violent side and nobody will be able to stop them; “civil society” and international pressure will be blunted by the existence of terrorism….. and.the terrorists will not be able to help their civilian sympathizers because a bit of terrorism here and there is all they have, unlike the TTP, who can turn it on and off and negotiate concessions for their front organizations using calibrated and credible threats. 

Hello from Baroda

It’s my fourth visit to India since Dec’12. I’m very find of the place but it seems the Indian economy is definitely in slow-down mode, most of the bill boards around Calcutta airport were empty of ads.

The new airports cropping up in the metros are simply amazing (admittedly I’m referencing this to Africa but Bombay Airport’s can trump even Heathrow – the brief given to the interior decorators at Bombay airport was that amenities should be of such a standard that “people should miss their flights”).
I think the world is beginning to segment where we are also beginning to see a “Frontier” First, the urban regions (probably coastal America, Ny-Lon, Tokyo-HK) that are on the cutting edge of development and than the stable First World (Berlin, Paris). 
I think that the upcoming elections in India are going to be a watershed and it seems that Modi will be good for the economy. However the Gujarat riots were really something else (in the aftermath of those riots however they’ve come to a complete stop) since apparently there were detailed lists of minority-owned businesses and it had spread from Ahmedabad old town to the prosperous suburbs (one Hindu woman who had owned a Benneton? business with her Muslim husband had to stand outside it and recite the Gayatri Mantra? to prove she was Hindu).
Anyway I think that though Modi’s track record is patchy (the riots do seem to be a failure either way) he is the man to bring India back on track. Big government just cannot work here (or in Africa or elsewhere for that matter) since the largesse gets distributed all around.
My journeys to India now span east (Calcutta), south (Chennai), west (Mumbai, Baroda, Kolhapur) but ironically not the heart and north of India (the most “Pakistani” parts of the country Lolz).

The Islamic System of Government

The opening of the farcical (probably intended as such) “negotiations” between powerless pro-Taliban negotiators selected by the government of Pakistan and equally powerless pro-Taliban negotiators selected by the Taliban (2 of their representatives, including cricket star and political buffoon Imran Khan, have already dropped out) has led to a rash of TV appearances by various luminaries discussing the suitability or otherwise of the Taliban’s demand that “Western Democracy” be replaced by the “Islamic System” in Pakistan. In this debate the Islamists obviously have a huge advantage, in that the founder of the state promised a state “based on Islamic ideals” where there will be “nothing but Quranic principles as our constitution”,  the first constituent assembly duly passed an “Objectives resolution” that states that Pakistan will be a state where Muslims can live “in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah” and the current constitution includes detailed “Islamic” provisions including the statement that no law shall be repugnant to the holy quran and sunnah. Still, there is some wriggle room in that the anti-Islam panelists can raise the question of “whose Islam” and thus defer the enforcement of Quran and Sunnah till such time as agreement can be reached about what it is that the Quran and Sunnah actually require of us. In the interest of the infidels and unislamic panelists, I want to point them towards a more substantive argument: The Shariah as traditionally understood (and various left wing Iranian jokers notwithstanding, there IS no other shariah yet) simply has NO POLITICAL SYSTEM. 

 No details about division of powers, method of selection of ruler, transfer of power, institutions of the state, etc etc. Nothing. Nada. There is no there there. If shariah is the set of rules and laws put together by the jurists of the four madhabs of Sunni Islam (nobody pretends that Pakistan is about to enforce some sort of Shia shariah, so that is besides the point) then they are practically nothing except detailed rules of inheritance, marriage laws and few penal regulations (regarding robbery, adultery, alcohol, murder but not, for example, about rape or transporting banned drugs across state lines). There are, of course, endless arguments about minor rules of social and personal conduct and hundreds of volumes of conflicting fatwas about farting during prayers and prayers to be said before and after sex.
But there is practically nothing about the political system or the constitution of a modern state. Any ruler and any state arrangement is OK as long as it is nominally Muslims and enforces the above rules for its Muslim population (and some humiliating ones for its non-muslim population). Once this is made clearer, we can proceed further.

Unfortunately for the infidel panelists, where we proceed next is also troublesome. It will turn out that while the constitution of Pakistan (or ANY other constitution) is more or less kosher as far as division of powers, elections, parliaments and supreme courts is concerned, the shariah DOES have a few rules about alcohol, amputation of hands and conversation with women…. and those rules are not being enforced in Pakistan.
Back to square one.

On a more serious note, i highly recommend Carl Brown’s Religion and State; the Muslim approach to politics. Must read. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2074197.Religion_and_State
Religion and State: The Muslim Approach to Politics


GHQ Response to Taliban Demands

The TTP (Pakistani Taliban) has issued a list of 15 demands in the course of the farcical Taliban1 versus Taliban2 “negotiations” currently being used to keep ppl busy till the next operation in Pakistan.
In response, Mr Imtiaz Mahmood has issued a set of 15 demands that GHQ would have issued if it was not participating/directing/watching this insane farce.

15 point response to Taliban’s demands, should be as follows if Pakistan army had any balls, but we all know that they are deficient in that department:

1. Surrender. 
2. Face trial for your crimes against the state
3. Compensate your victims under Qisas and Diyat. 
4. Apologize to the entire world especially Pakistanis.
5. Deposit your weapons with the Pakistan Army
6. Name your handlers both in Pakistan and abroad
7. Rebuild all the schools you blew up.
8. Rebuild all the mosques, churches and Sikh Gurduwaras you blew up.
9. Confess to being child molesters and rapists.
10. Deposit all your funds in the state treasury so that these can be used to build girls schools in your area.
11. Admit that what you did was un-Islamic and against Shariat.
12. Repent
13. Take a shower.
14. Agree to voluntary castration.
15. Make a Gangam Style rendition video in FATA with Pakistani and US soldiers.

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A stirring reminder of India’s role in the British Empire

WWI – Indian taxpayers bore the brunt of Britain’s war.
By Armistice day 11 Nov 1918, the First World War had cost India, £379,000,000 (military expenditure, equipment, food). If that wasn’t enough the Viceroy presented the British Government an additional £100,000,000 in Imperial taxes. That’s a staggering £479,000,000 in total which would be worth approx £30,000,000,000 in today’s money. The next time some anti immigrant, anti Asian ****** asks what you’re lot have done for Britain, don’t get mad, share the facts.

I must say that the poster is somewhat amusing; how can a millennia old civilisation such as India be considered a “young lion” on par with Australia, Canada and NZ is somewhat surprising. 

The global face of Islam

More Muslims live in India & Pakistan than all of Mideast & N Africa.

It seems Islam has really grown in the last decade, for some reason I’d always there were around a billion Muslims but it seems I was off by a fair margin. Global Religions:
Religion Adherents
Christianity 2.1 billion
Islam 1.6 billion
Secular*/Nonreligious*/Agnostic/Atheist ≤ 1.1 billion
Hinduism billion
Chinese traditional religion* 394 million
Buddhism* 376 million
Ethnic religions excluding some in seperate categories 300 million
African traditional religions 100 million
Sikhism 23 million
Juche* 19 million
Spiritism 15 million
Judaism 14 million
Bahá’í 7 million
Jainism 4.2 million
Shinto 4 million
Cao Dai 4 million
Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
Tenrikyo 2 million
Neo-Paganism 1 million
Unitarian Universalism 800,000
Rastafarianism 600,000
Scientology 500,000

Where is My Family In the Media?

Ever since the first Cheerios commercial last year showing an interracial family in a banal non-controversial context, there has been a lot of talk in the media about the topic. But one thing that has stood out in these treatments is a relatively narrow understanding of what interracial is. This is illustrated by an op-ed in The New York Times, Where Is My Family on TV? I looked up the various references to an interracial family/individual/relationship within the piece (I don’t watch television, so many were unfamiliar to me), and every single instance except for the very last, pointing out Bruno Mars at the Superbowl, is of a black-white nature.

The problem is illustrated by this pie chart produced by the Census: most interracial interaction in the United States is no longer black-white. About 20% of the people who chose more than one race on the 2010 Census selected black and white. When the original controversy over the first Cheerios ad occurred I remembered a Facebook share which featured interracial families. From what I saw ~80% were of the black-white variety. Perhaps this is the reflection of the background of the family in the Cheerios commercial, but it does get a little tiresome that a broad and general term like “interracial” gets totally specified in a way that excludes many people.

To be fair, perhaps I am not being especially sensitive to the history of black-white relations in the United States. Though most minorities in this nation are no longer black, the vast majority were black until the 1965 immigration reform, and this remained the case up to the 1980s. America’s history of race is to a great extent its history of black and white, and modern non-black minority consciousness is strongly influenced by this older template. And to be honest I don’t think of my own family as “interracial” very much, because in my own life race is not that big of a day to day factor. And, unlike the very cute actress in the Cheerios commercial my daughter is not visibly of mixed race*, so presumably her primary interaction with racial issues is going to be the small moments of surprise people feel when they realize that the brown-skinned man is her father. All this is likely related to the emergent reality of America’s true race dynamic being that of a black/non-black divide.

But if that is really what’s going on here, we need to update it more explicitly. Too often the media seem to assume a world that is stuck in 1965, with a white majority and a black minority. We’re nearly 50 years on from that. Our discourse should reflect that in some consistent manner.

* It seems that people of mixed South Asian and European ancestry can look totally South Asian or European in appearance, with most in the middle. My daughter for whatever reason happens to be much closer to a European appearance.