Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Paris show unveils life in human zoo

Paris's most talked-about exhibition of the winter opened on Tuesday with shock and soul-searching over the history of colonial subjects used in human zoos, circuses and stage shows, which flourished until as late as 1958.
Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage, curated by former French international footballer turned anti-racism campaigner Lilian Thuram, traces the history of a practice which started when Christopher Columbus displayed six "Indians" at the Spanish royal court in 1492 and went on to become a mass entertainment phenomenon in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Millions of spectators turned out to see "savages" in zoos, circuses, mock villages and freak shows from London to St Louis, Barcelona to Tokyo. These "human specimens", and "living museums" served both colonialist propaganda and scientific theories of so-called racial hierarchies.
Human zoo
The exhibition at Paris's Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac's museum dedicated to once-colonised cultures – is the first to look at this international phenomenon as a whole. It brings together hundreds of bizarre and shocking artefacts, ranging from posters for "Male and Female Australian Cannibals" in London, which was the world capital of such stage shows, to documentation for mock villages of "Arabs" and "Sengalese", or juggling tribeswomen in France, which was renowned for its extensive human zoos. Thuram, who was born on the French Caribbean island Guadaloupe, said the exhibition explained the background of racist ideas and "fear of the 'other'" which persisted today.

Monday, 28 November 2011

The New Spirit of Economics

John Maynard Keynes, the architect of America’s recovery from the Great Depression and champion of the welfare state, believed that at its core, economics is ruled by “animal spirits.” That is to say that the free, equal and rational mind of consumers in the Locke/Smith economic paradigm does not sufficiently explain human action in the market place; that economies operate more according to Freudian animal heritage, or esoteric and emotional impulses, than reason. Other thinkers from this formative economic era, like Joseph Schumpeter, sensed that a violent, warlike impulse of “creative destruction” lurked at the heart of capitalism. And Karl Marx, the great dreamer, proposed that economic theory, rather than empowering and rewarding the selfish gene, could instead create a better social realm in which every person gave according to his abilities and received according to his needs..

...Today, as Gregory Mankiw’s widely used first year university economics textbook, Principles of Economics, shows, the “common weal” discipline has been reduced to a dry, boring, amoral and inhuman study full of pseudo formulas and cumbersome equations with little connection to ethical questions or social desirability. Graph upon graph on page after page of Principles of Economics reveal just how far economics has drifted from the poetry and prose of its roots – that often misread bible of global finance, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations – to the purposely obtuse and elite math of today.
Along the way, a host of radical (though not really radical – just traditional) thinkers tried to warn the logic freaks of economics that their profession was heading into a dead end. Nobel Prize winner Wassily Leontief said: “Departments of economics are graduating a generation of idiot savants, brilliant at esoteric mathematics yet innocent of actual economic life.” Author of The Origin of Economic Ideas, Guy Routh wrote: “The standard economic texts are powerful instruments of disorientation; for confusing the mind and preparing it for the acceptance of myths of growing complexity and unreality.” And the great American economist and historian Robert Heilbroner, famously warned: “Before economics can progress it must abandon its suicidal formalism.”

But to no avail… for half a century, these warnings have fallen on deaf ears.
So here we are. Great Depression 2.0 and finally the mystery of economics is again awakening from its long logical slumber. In the panic of escalating financial and ecological meltdown, the old certitudes are crumbling and the logic freaks are everywhere in retreat. In 2008 Bush-era Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, the man who oversaw much of America’s financial nose dive, told the public “those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect share-holders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.” That’s putting it mildly.. 

Read more: http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/98/new-spirit-economics.html

Stalin's daughter Svetlana dies at 85 in the USA

Josef Stalin's daughter, who denounced communism after defecting during the cold war, has died in the US after living out her remaining years there in seclusion. Svetlana Peters, whose quest to find her own identity saw the only daughter and last surviving child of the dictator take on three names, had described her father as "a moral and spiritual monster" after the CIA helped her to escape the Soviet Union in 1967 which caused a diplomatic furore.
Born Svetlana Stalina, she adopted her mother's last name, Alliluyeva, following her father's death in 1953. But she ended her life as Lana Peters – the identity she adopted after claiming political asylum in the US. After living many years in the public eye, she spent her final days in seclusion. She died of colon cancer on 22 November in Richland County, South Carolina, it emerged. She was 85.
Frequently moving countries, sampling religions from Hinduism to Christian science, the four-times married Peters lived a life which could grace the pages of any novel, and saw her tales inside the Soviet Union earn her two best-selling autobiographies..
Peters was the only daughter of Stalin by his second wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva, who killed herself in 1932. She graduated from Moscow university in 1949 and worked as a teacher and translator before leaving the Soviet Union. At 18, she defied her father's wishes and married Jewish student Aleksei Kapler. The couple had a son but the marraige was dissolved and her ex-husband was banished to a Siberian labour camp.
Her second husband was Yuri Zhadanov, with whom she had a daughter, but the marriage was dissolved following the wedding to her third husband Brijesh Singh, an Indian communist, in 1964.
NB - the article fails to mention that the defection took place from New Delhi, in 1967, and that an Indian diplomat, Rikhi Jaipal, was sent to Geneva (where she had fled with an official of the US embassy) to interview her and ascertain that she was acting as per her own wishes. The Soviet government had insinuated that the Indians had helped her to leave Delhi. The story as recapitulated by Mr Jaipal is in his memoir, Memories of a Half-life,  Allied Publishers, 1991 - Dilip

Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose: If You Pick Us, Do We Not Bleed?

Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was a serious man of science. Born in what is today Bangladesh in 1858, Bose was a quintessential polymath: physicist, biologist, botanist, archaeologist. He was the first person from the Indian subcontinent to receive a U.S. patent, and is considered one of the fathers of radio science, alongside such notables as Tesla, Marconi, and Popov. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1920, becoming the first Indian to be honored by the Royal Society in the field of science. It’s clear that Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was a scientist of some weight. And, like many scientists of weight, he has become popularly known for his more controversial pursuits — in Bose’s case, his experiments in plant physiology.

Perhaps it was his work in radio waves and electricity that inspired Bose’s investigations into what we might call the invisible world. Bose strongly felt that physics could go far beyond what was apparent to the naked eye. Around 1900, Bose began his investigations into the secret world of plants. He found that all plants, and all parts of plants, have a sensitive nervous system not unlike that of animals, and that their responses to external stimuli could be measured and recorded. Some plant reactions can be seen easily in sensitive plants like the Mimosa, which, when irritated, will react with the sudden shedding or shrinking of its leaves. But when Bose attached his magnifying device to plants from which it was more difficult to witness a response, such as vegetables, he was astounded to discover that they, too, became excited when vexed. All around us, Bose realized, the plants are communicating. We just don't notice it.

The more responses Bose got from his plants, the more encouraged he became, and the more detailed his efforts became. Bose discovered that an electric death spasm occurs in plants when they die, and that the actual moment of death in a plant could be accurately recorded. As Sir Patrick Geddes described in his 1920 biography of Bose, the electromotive force generated during the death spasm is sometimes considerable. Bose calculated that a half-pea, for instance, could discharge up to half a volt. Thus, if 500 pairs of boiling half-peas were arranged in series, the electric pressure would be 500 volts, enough to electrocute unsuspecting victims. The average cook does not know the danger she runs in preparing peas, Bose wrote. “It is fortunate for her that the peas are not arranged in series!”...

...What concerned J.C. Bose was perception. He was interested in what plants perceive. But more important, he was interested in what we perceive about them and what we can learn about perception itself from them. With scientific tools and increased awareness, Bose demonstrated that it was possible to enhance our experience of the world by turning our attention to the silent, invisible phenomena around us.

In 1918, Bose delivered a lecture on “The Automatic Writing of the Plant.” A local newspaper reporter in attendance wrote this:

Sir J. C. Bose spoke of two different ways of gaining knowledge, the lesser way is by dwelling on superficial differences, the mental attitude which makes some say, “Thank God I am not like others.” The other way is to realize an essential unity in spite of deceptive appearance to the contrary.
Bose believed in the fundamental unity of all life, the fundamental unity of everything —  “a uniform and continuous march of law." But it wasn’t just a belief. Bose had scientific proof. For Bose, thinking of life as a unity wasn’t just about theories — it had real world implications. Though patents were granted to Bose, he never sought them out for personal gain, preferring that his inventions be "open to all the world to adopt for practical and money-making purposes." Likewise, the belief in the unity of all things was not Bose’s innovation, nor was it therefore an invention of science. Bose was well aware that he was bringing thousands of years of Eastern philosophy into his British-funded lab...

...One last thing about Bose. When he talked about the great connectedness of life, he wasn’t kidding around. Bose was also the first scientist to study inorganic matter in the same way a biologist examines a muscle or a nerve. Bose performed his plant experiments on rocks and metals, too. He found that, just like plants, the “non-living” responded when subjected to mechanical, thermal, and electrical stimuli. Even rocks and metals became numbed by cold, shocked by electrical currents, stupefied by anesthetics. He once invited Sir Michael Foster, a veteran physiologist at Cambridge, to witness the electrical response of poisoned piece of tin (as written by Patrick Geddes):
“Come now, Bose, (said Foster) what is the novelty in this curve? We have known it for at least the last half-century.”

“What do you think it is?” asked Bose.

“Why, a curve of muscle response, of course.”

“Pardon me; it is the response of metallic tin.”

“What!” said Foster, jumping up. “Tin! Did you say tin?”
If he were just a biologist, maybe Bose would have felt more constrained by the conventions of the field: What biologist would think of poisoning a piece of tin? But studying matter as a physicist allowed Bose to make big claims about the fundamentals of life itself by adhering to simple demonstrations of action and reaction. If something looks like suffering, it’s suffering. If it looks like it’s depressed, it’s depressed. Truly, Bose believed, all things — organic and inorganic — were determined not by an unknowable and arbitrary force, with different rules for different beings, but by a universal law, with the same rules for everyone.

It’s easy to accept that an animal is happy when we are nice to it. It’s less easy, though not impossible, to accept that a plant grows measurably better when we are nice to it. Harder to take seriously is the idea that grass feels pained by our walking feet. Harder still, the idea of a sad rock. The further things get away from their likeness to humanity, the more difficult it is to empathize with them, and therefore to feel that we should care.

But before we dismiss Bose as completely crackers, it’s important to understand the true implication of his work and that of Haswell, et al. Bose’s message isn’t that our care for the world must be based on the assumption that all things have a fundamental humanness. It is that existence and awareness are deeply connected, and that dismissing the fundamental unity of matter is dismissing a fundamental truth about life. Most of us will still keep eating our veggies in good faith. But will we ever approach our salad in exactly the same way again? Or, for that matter, our fork? 


The Blood telegram

Archer Kent Blood (March 20, 1923 – September 3, 2004) was an American diplomat in Bangladesh. He served as the last American Consul General to Dhaka, East Pakistan. The Blood telegram (April 6, 1971) was seen as one of the most strongly worded messages ever written by Foreign Service Officers to the State Department. It was signed by 29 Americans. The telegram stated:
Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pak[istan] dominated government and to lessen any deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy,(...) But we have chosen not to intervene, even morally, on the grounds that the Awami conflict, in which unfortunately the overworked term genocide is applicable, is purely an internal matter of a sovereign state. Private Americans have expressed disgust. We, as professional civil servants, express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that our true and lasting interests here can be defined and our policies redirected.

File:Blood telegram.png

In an earlier telegram (March 27, 1971), Blood wrote about American observations at Dhaka under the subject heading "Selective genocide":
1. Here in Decca we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pak[istani] Military. Evidence continues to mount that the MLA authorities have list of AWAMI League supporters whom they are systematically eliminating by seeking them out in their homes and shooting them down
2. Among those marked for extinction in addition to the A.L. hierarchy are student leaders and university faculty. In this second category we have reports that Fazlur Rahman head of the philosophy department and a Hindu, M. Abedin, head of the department of history, have been killed. Razzak of the political science department is rumored dead. Also on the list are the bulk of MNA's elect and number of MPA's.
3. Moreover, with the support of the Pak[istani] Military. non-Bengali Muslims are systematically attacking poor people's quarters and murdering Bengalis and Hindus.
(U.S. Consulate (Dacca) Cable, Selective genocide, March 27, 1971
See also: 
Deb Mukharji: Bangladesh and the recovery of history

The secret speech that changed world history

Fifty years ago Nikita Khrushchev shocked the Soviet Union by denouncing Stalin in a special address to Communist party comrades. The text, detailing the dictator's crimes, was smuggled out of Moscow and later published in full in The Observer. John Rettie recalls his part in the mission and reflects on a pivotal episode of the 20th century..It was an evening half a century ago, a week or so after Khrushchev had denounced the horrors of Stalin's rule to a secret session of the Soviet Communist Party's 20th Congress.

That was only three years after the death of Stalin, mourned by the great majority of Soviet citizens, who saw him as a divine father. So soon afterwards, here was their new leader telling them they had made a cataclysmic error: far from divine, Stalin was satanic. The leaders who inherited the party from the old dictator agreed that Khrushchev should make the speech only after months of furious argument - and subject to the compromise that it should never be published.

Its consequences, by no means fully foreseen by Khrushchev, shook the Soviet Union to the core, but even more so its communist allies, notably in central Europe. Forces were unleashed that eventually changed the course of history. But at the time, the impact on the delegates was more immediate. Soviet sources now say some were so convulsed as they listened that they suffered heart attacks; others committed suicide afterwards...
In the next few days diplomats of central European communist states began to whisper that Khrushchev had denounced Stalin at a secret session. No details were forthcoming. I was working as the second Reuters correspondent in Moscow to Sidney Weiland, who - more for form's sake than anything - tried to cable a brief report of this bald fact to London. As expected, the censors suppressed it.
Then, the evening before I was due to go on holiday to Stockholm, Orlov telephoned to say: 'I've got to see you before you go.' Hearing the urgency in his voice, I told him to come round at once. As soon as he said why he had come, I deemed it wise to confuse the microphones we all thought we had in our walls by putting on the loudest record I had. So, through soaring trombones, Orlov gave me a detailed account of Khrushchev's indictment: that Stalin was a tyrant, a murderer and torturer of party members.
Orlov had no notes, far less a text of the speech. He told me that the party throughout the Soviet Union heard of it at special meetings of members in factories, farms, offices and universities, when it was read to them once, but only once. At such meetings in Georgia, where Stalin was born, members were outraged at the denigration by a Russian of their own national hero. Some people were killed in the ensuing riots and, according to Orlov, trains arrived in Moscow from Tbilisi with their windows smashed.
But could I believe him? 

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Personality_Cult_and_its_Consequences
Khrushchev began the speech shortly after midnight; it took some four hours to deliver. Shortly thereafter, reports of it were conveyed to the West by Reuters journalist John Rettie, who had been told about the speech by Kostya Orlov a few hours before Rettie was due to leave forStockholm; it was therefore reported in the Western media in early March. Rettie believes the information came from Khrushchev himself via an intermediary.

The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in acoordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.
But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk."
In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.
To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping. 

Julian Assange: Internet Has Become 'Surveillance Machine'

"The United States government does not want legal protection for us," he said, referring to a US Justice Department investigation into his whistle-blower website for releasing secret diplomatic and military documents. The former hacker criticised journalists and the mainstream media for becoming too cosy with the powerful and secretive organisations they were supposed to be holding to account. In a 40-minute address, he also accused credit card companies such as Visa and Mastercard of illegally cutting WikiLeaks off from funding under a secret deal with the White House.
"Issues that should be decided in open court are being decided in back rooms in Washington," he said. The Internet itself had become "the most significant surveillance machine that we have ever seen," Assange said in reference to the amount of information people give about themselves online. "It's not an age of transparency at all ... the amount of secret information is more than ever before," he said, adding that information flows in but is not flowing out of governments and other powerful organisations. "I see that really is our big battle. The technology gives and the technology takes away," he added.

White-collar workers are China’s newest underclass.

At first glance, Guo Yilei looks like a Chinese success story. Born to a poor peasant family in China’s remote Gansu province, he’s now a 26-year-old computer programmer in the Big Cabbage (as some call Beijing nowadays). By Chinese standards he makes decent money, more than $70 a week. When he has work, that is. It can take months to find the next job. And meanwhile, he’s living in Tangjialing, a reeking slum on the city’s edge where he and his girlfriend rent a 100-square-foot studio apartment for $90 a month. “When I was at school, I believed in the saying, ‘Knowledge can help you turn over a new leaf,’” says Guo. “But since I’ve started working, I only half-believe it.”
Guo and an estimated million others like him represent an unprecedented and troublesome development in China: a fast-growing white-collar underclass. Since the ’90s, Chinese universities have doubled their admissions, far outpacing the job market for college grads. This year China’s universities and tech institutes churned out roughly 6.3 million graduates. Many grew up in impoverished rural towns and villages and attended second- or third-tier schools in the provinces, trusting that studying hard would bring them better lives than their parents had. But when they move on and apply for jobs in Beijing or Shanghai or any of China’s other booming metropolises, they get a nasty shock.
They may be smart and energetic, but some are starting to ask if the promise of a better life was a lie. They’re known as “ants,” for their willingness to work, their dirt-poor living conditions, and the seeming futility of their efforts. “These ants have high ambitions but virtually no practical skills,” says Prof. Zhou Xiaozheng, a leading sociologist at the People’s University of China. It’s a potentially explosive situation. Unrest is sweeping the manufacturing sector, where strikers at several factories have demanded not only better pay but also the right to elect their own representatives for collective-bargaining efforts—a demand that could pose a serious political challenge to the regime.
The discontent rising among the ants is even more worrying. Read more:http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/06/19/smart-young-and-broke.html

Tattoo by Muhammad Al-Maghut

Muhammad Al-Maghut

At the third hour of the twentieth century
Where nothing separates the corpses
from pedestrians’ shoes
except asphalt

I will lie down in the middle of the street
like a bedouin sheikh
and will not get up
until all the prison bars and suspects’ files of the world
are gathered and placed before me
so I can chew on them
like a camel on the open road
Until all the batons of the police and protesters
escape from grips
and go back (once again)
budding branches in their forests

In the dark I laugh
I cry
I write
I no longer distinguish my pen from my fingers
Whenever someone knocks or a curtain moves
I hide my papers
like a prostitute during a police raid

From whom did I inherit this fear
and this blood
scared like a mountain leopard?
As soon as I see an official paper on the threshold
or a hat through the door
my bones and tears tremble
my blood runs away in all directions
as if an eternal patrol of ancestral police
is chasing it from one vein to another

O darling
In vain I try to reclaim my courage and strength
The tragedy is not here
in the whip, the office, or in sirens
It is there
In the cradle. . .
In the womb
Surely I was not tied to the womb with an umbilical cord
It was a hangman’s noose

Muhammad Al-Maghut (1934-2006), was a Syrian poet, playwright, and journalist. He is one of the pioneers of the Arabic prose poem.

Also see: http://arablit.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/the-tattoo-and-other-poems-by-muhammad-al-maghut-to-consider-on-an-election-day/

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Umberto Eco: 'People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged'

"As a scholar I am interested in the philosophy of language, semiotics, call it what you want, and one of the main features of the human language is the possibility of lying. A dog doesn't lie. When it barks, it means there is somebody outside." Animals do not lie; human beings do. "From lies to forgeries the step is not so long, and I have written technical essays on the logic of forgeries and on the influence of forgeries on history. The most famous and terrible of those forgeries is the Protocols."
Eco says it is not conspiracies that attract him, but the paranoia that allows them to flourish. "There are many small conspiracies, and most of them are exposed," he says. "But the paranoia of the universal conspiracy is more powerful because it is everlasting. You can never discover it because you don't know who is there. It is a psychological temptation of our species. Karl Popper wrote a beautiful essay on that, in which he said it started with Homer. Everything that happens in Troy was plotted the day before on the top of Olympus by the gods. It's a way not to feel responsible for something. That's why dictatorships use the notion of universal conspiracy as a weapon. For the first 10 years of my life I was educated by fascists at school, and they used a universal conspiracy – that you, the Englishman, the Jews and the capitalists were plotting against the poor Italian people. For Hitler it was the same.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Maoist insurgency in India: End of the road for Indian Stalinism? Interview with Jairus Banaji

"..The key fact about the Naxals in the late 1990s and 2000s is that they began to reverse decades of fragmentation through a series of successful mergers. The most important of these was the merger in 2004 between People’s War, itself the result of the People’s War Group fusing with Party Unity in 1998, and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI). That 2004 merger, which resulted in the formation of the CPI (Maoist), reflected a confluence of two major streams of Maoism in India, since People’s War was largely Andhra-based and the MCCI had its base almost entirely in Jharkhand—the southern part of Bihar which also became a state in 2000.

To explain the successful reemergence of Naxal politics in the 1990s, we have to see the People’s War Group (PWG) as the decisive element of continuity between the rapturous Maoism of the 1960s–70s, dominated by the charismatic figure of Charu Mazumdar, and the movement we see today. The PWG was formally established in 1980 after some crucial years of preparation that involved a unique emphasis on mass work, the launching of mass organizations like the Ryotu Coolie Sangham, which was like a union of agricultural workers, and a “Go to the villages” campaign that sent middle-class youth into the Telangana countryside. Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, its founder, was able to attract the younger elements because he was seen as more militant because, among other things, he refused to have anything to do with elections.

Following a dramatic escalation of conflict in Andhra Pradesh from 1985, PWG was able to build a substantial military capability and a network of safe havens for its armed squads (dalams) across state borders, in Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, directly north of the A.P. border, and in the undivided region of Bastar or southern Chhattisgarh to the north and east. Regis Debray in his Critique of Arms points out that no guerrilla movement can survive without rearguard bases, by which he means a swathe of territory which it can fall back on with relative security in times of intensified repression.2 This is exactly what happened with the squads that had been trained and built up in Andhra, or more precisely in Telangana, the northern part of the state, in the 1970s and 1980s. The recent flare up of conflict in Chhattisgarh is largely bound up with the intensified repression of 2005 that drove even more fighters into the Bastar region..." 

Read more :http://platypus1917.org/2010/08/06/the-maoist-insurgency-in-india-end-of-the-road-for-indian-stalinism/#sdendnote8sym

Also by Jairus Banaji: Fascism, Maoism and the Democratic Left

Kate Bolick: why marriage is a declining option for modern women (and a riposte, see below)

'...That we would marry, and that there would always be men we wanted to marry, we took on faith. How could we not? One of the many ways in which our lives differed from our mothers' was in the variety of our interactions with the opposite sex. Men were our classmates and colleagues, our bosses and professors, as well as, in time, our students and employees and subordinates – an entire universe of prospective friends, boyfriends, friends with benefits, and even ex-boyfriends-turned-friends. In this brave new world, boundaries were fluid, and roles constantly changing.
In 1969, when my 25-year-old mother, a college-educated high-school teacher, married a handsome lawyer-to-be, most women her age were doing more or less the same thing. By the time she was in her mid-30s, she was raising two small children and struggling to find a satisfying career. What she'd envisioned for me was a future in which I made my own choices. I don't think either of us could have predicted what happens when you multiply that sense of agency by an entire generation.
But what transpired next lay well beyond the powers of everybody's imagination: as women have climbed ever higher, men have been falling behind. We've arrived at the top of the staircase, finally ready to start our lives, only to discover a cavernous room at the tail end of a party, most of the men gone already, some having never shown up – and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don't want to go out with...'
'..For thousands of years, marriage had been a primarily economic and political contract between two people, negotiated and policed by their families, church and community. It took more than one person to make a farm or business thrive, and so a potential mate's skills, resources, thrift and industriousness were valued as highly as personality and attractiveness. This held true for all classes. In the American colonies, wealthy merchants entrusted business matters to their landlocked wives while off at sea, just as sailors, vulnerable to the unpredictability of seasonal employment, relied on their wives' steady income as domestics in elite households. Two-income families were the norm.
Not until the 18th century did labour begin to be divided along a sharp line: wage-earning for the men and unpaid maintenance of household and children for the women. Coontz notes that as recently as the late 17th century, women's contributions to the family economy were openly recognised, and advice books urged husbands and wives to share domestic tasks. But as labour became separated, so did our spheres of experience – the marketplace versus the home – one founded on reason and action, the other on compassion and comfort. Not until the postwar gains of the 1950s, however, were a majority of American families able to actually afford living off a single breadwinner.
All of this was intriguing, for sure – but even more surprising to Coontz was the realisation that those alarmed reporters and audiences might be on to something. Coontz still didn't think that marriage was falling apart, but she came to see that it was undergoing a transformation far more radical than anyone could have predicted, and that our current attitudes and arrangements are without precedent. "Today we are experiencing a historical revolution every bit as wrenching, far-reaching, and irreversible as the Industrial Revolution," she wrote...'   

Read a rejoinder: Single women: an American obsession
There are many things one can say about how feminism has affected women's attitudes to marriage but one theory of Bolick's exemplified a certain attitude that makes so many depictions of marriage in the media here feel so retrograde. "American women as a whole have never been confronted with such a radically shrinking pool of what are traditionally considered to be 'marriageable' men – those who are better educated and earn more than they do. So women are now contending with what we might call the new scarcity." Yes, we might call it that, if one could only countenance consorting with men who earn more than oneself.

This weirdly monetised and loveless view of marriage in America will not surprise anyone who has gawped at the "Vows" section in the New York Times' Sunday edition. Photos of grinning couples sit atop detailed descriptions of not just their jobs and social standing ("Mr Jaeger, 28, works at Markit, a financial information services company in Manhattan, for which he heads product development for the index, exchange-traded-funds and research-data businesses," read one typically romantic entry from this weekend) but those of their parents ("His mother is a member of the board of trustees at the Jewish Museum of New York," another entryassures readers.) To read this section is like reading a satirical chapter of an Edith Wharton novel without a punch line, yet it is an established part of the paper, probably best known here for its appearance in an episode of Sex in the City, in which one of the characters frantically tries to be featured in it.
Clearly, Vows is no more representative of New York – let alone America – as a whole than Bridget Jones's daily life was of Britain, but it does reflect an attitude that plays into the fascination the American media has in single women. Such is the popularity of investigations into the enthralling mystery of single women that these articles are pretty much their own genre of journalism in America, characterised by gloomy warnings about the dangers of feminism, cod anthropological claims, regrets about leaving a nice man because the writer wanted an unspecified "more", self-flagellation dressed up as "honesty" about feminism and they are always – always – written by a woman.
Bolick's piece is a perfect example of this, as was Lori Gottlieb's similarly hoo-hahed 2008 article Marry Him!, also published in the Atlantic. The reason they attract so much attention is because the media love any stories that suggest independent women will be punished and because many women readers, in my experience, glob on to articles that voice their worst fears. Read more:

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Javed Anand: A different sort of Valley ‘protest’

Eating your cake and having it too may be a tempting thought. But you can’t have it both ways. The sooner Muslims realise it, the better for the ummah... and the image of Islam.

A Christian pastor — Reverend Chander Mani Khanna, the presbyter-in-charge of All Saints’ Church in Srinagar — is being hounded both by the state and society for his “crime-cum-sin” of converting, allegedly through inducements, a number of Muslim youth from the Valley to Christianity. The priest was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police last Saturday. More ominously, the arrest was precipitated by a growing Muslim outcry in the Valley, apparently sparked by a poor quality video clip on YouTube showing the baptism of the new converts.
There have been protests on the streets, protests on the campus. Leading the charge is Kashmir’s sharia court. After forcing the pastor to appear before them, a group of Islamic scholars claimed he had “confessed” his crime. Addressing the media, Kashmir’s official grand mufti, Mohammed Bashiruddin warned that such activities “warrant action as per Islamic law” and will not be tolerated. “There will be serious consequences of this. We will implement our part and the government should implement its,” he thundered.
What’s Islamic law and a sharia court doing in a secular democratic polity? Your guess is as good as mine. The J&K government, it seems, knows better. Acting suo motu, the police arrested the priest within 24-hours of Bashiruddin’s warning.
For what crime has Khanna been booked? Unlike states like Gujarat, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, J&K does not have a law against conversions. But where there is a will there’s a way. The pastor has been charged under sections 153A and 295A of the Ranbir Penal Code, the J&K equivalent of the Indian Penal Code.
Section 153A pertains to “promoting enmity between different groups... and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.” Section 295A has to do with “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”
Why should conversion of a few Muslims to Christianity be deemed a malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings? Why should it be tantamount to promoting enmity between different groups? These might be questions for you and me. But Omar Abdullah and his police may well be wondering whether the FIR and the arrest are enough to douse the flames.
The worse, quite possibly, is yet to come. A Dharam Sansad comprising of leaders of different Muslim sects in Kashmir is to meet soon to deliberate over the “grave issue” and decide on a further course of action. Meanwhile, as is obvious from an appeal purportedly written by his son — posted on the website Christian Persecution Update India — that the pastor’s family and flock fear his life may be in danger. The responses to the video clip have apparently been venomous. “We promise to kill all Christian missionaries and burn their buildings, schools and churches!” pronounces one commenter, while another proclaims, “we should burn this priest to death!” Echoes of Pakistan’s obnoxious blasphemy laws?
It is far from clear whether the priest is in fact guilty of a cash-for-conversion deal. Only a thorough and impartial investigation could establish if there’s any truth in the charge. But in the brand of Islam Bashiruddin and most mainstream Muslim organisations espouse, the issue of inducement is irrelevant. The theology is simple: for conversion into Islam, there’s divine reward aplenty for both the converter and the converted; but conversion out of Islam is gunaah-e-azeem (mahapaap), treason of the highest order, deserving of the harshest punishment.
What’s at issue here is not just something confined to the Valley but a global Muslim malady. Islam is today the fastest growing religion in the world, many a Muslim will proudly tell you. He’ll also tell you with equal aplomb that the punishment for a Muslim apostate is death. The ulema call this Islam; the world calls it hypocrisy, a double standard.
Obviously, not all Muslims are ethically challenged. Take the unusual case of Sudan’s Dr Hasan al-Turabi, a man accused by many in the West of fanning Islamic extremism. Turabi, otherwise an advocate of an Islamic state and sharia law said in an interview in 1995: “If a Muslim wakes up in the morning and says he doesn’t believe any more, that’s his business. There has never been any question of inhibiting people’s freedom... The function of (Islamic) government is not total.”
Human rights groups and Muslim bodies from the Valley and elsewhere must denounce the hounding of the pastor; the Islamisers should be reminded that Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees to all citizens “the right freely to profess, practice and propagate (their) religion.” Perhaps they could also be reminded of the Quranic injunction: “La ikraha fiddin” (There is no compulsion in religion).

The writer is general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy