Showing posts from January, 2012

Remembering Mahatma Gandhi: उड जायेगा हंस अकेला / जग दर्शन का मेला ।।

उड जायेगा हंस अकेला जग दर्शन का मेला ।। Kumar Gandharva - Ud Jayega

Why the online obsession with revealing every detail of your life?

By Charlie Brooker: "...I'm all for sharing thoughts, no matter how banal (as every column I have ever written rather sadly proves). Humans will always babble. If someone wants to tweet that they can't decide whether to wear blue socks or brown socks, then fair enough. But when sharing becomes automated, I get the heebie-jeebies. People already create exaggerated versions of themselves for online consumption: snarkier tweets, more outraged reactions. Online, you play at being yourself . Apply that pressure of public performance to private, inconsequential actions – such as listening to songs in the comfort of your own room – and what happens, exactly? It'll only get worse. Here's what I am listening to on Spotify. This is the page of the book I am reading. I am currently watching the 43rd minute of a Will Ferrell movie. And I'm not telling you this stuff. The software is. I am a character in The Sims. Hover the cursor over my head and watch that stat feed scro

Noam Chomsky: Remembering Howard Zinn

Editor's note: Today, January 27, is the second anniversary of the death of Howard Zinn. An active participant in the Civil Rights movement, he was dismissed in 1963 from his position as a tenured professor at Spelman College in Atlanta after siding with black women students in the struggle against segregation. In 1967, he wrote one of the  first, and most influential, books  calling for an end to the war in Vietnam. A veteran of the US Army Air Force, he edited The Pentagon Papers, leaked by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and was later  designated  a "high security risk" by the FBI . His best-selling  A People's History of the United States  spawned a new field of historical study: People's Histories. This approach countered the traditional triumphalist examination of "history as written by the victors", instead concentrating on the poor and seemingly powerless; those who resisted imperial, cultural and corporate hegemony. Zinn was an award-winning soc

Yudit Kiss on how Viktor Orbán has crushed Hungary's 1989 dream

Since the  April 2010 elections , a political tsunami has swept over the country. The existing regulations and institutions were dismantled and loyal Fidesz appointees were installed in leading positions, implementing the party's policies from economics to the judiciary, from the health system to municipal government, from education to the arts. More than 300 laws and regulations were hastily created (or modified) and pushed through parliament, many of which the deputies did not even have time to read before voting. Opposition parties have been reduced to a walk-on role. Viktor Orbán's regime  combines the extreme centralisation of economic assets (including the expropriation of the private pension funds, of several public foundations and the forthcoming centralisation of the municipal government's assets) and the monopolisation of power in a single party that intends to dominate every aspect of social and private life, turning citizens into subjects. The improvised nature

The Dreyfus Affair - book review

The Dreyfus Affair   Piers Paul Read;  Bloomsbury “What a poignant drama," wrote the French novelist Émile Zola about the spectacle of the Dreyfus affair as it unfolded in front of him. In 1898, he wrote an open letter entitled " J'accuse " to alert the public to what Piers Paul Read describes as an infamous miscarriage of justice. Read quotes Zola in defence of his decision to publish another book on the affair, hard on the heels of the excellent account by Ruth Harris, which appeared in 2010. His intention is to tell the story as it stands and he does so vividly and intelligently but he does not add very much to what is already known. The tale is perhaps as close as history gets to fiction, which may well explain why a novelist of Read's stature has taken it on . The case was a product of its time: a Jewish officer in an army full of Catholic diehards; growing fears and tensions between Third Republic France and imperial Germany; endless stand-offs between

How the Inquisition ignited the modern police state

In our imaginations, we offhandedly associate the term “inquisition” with the term “Dark Ages”. But consider what an inquisition – any inquisition – really is: a set of disciplinary procedures targeting specific groups, codified in law, organised systematically, enforced by surveillance, exemplified by severity, sustained over time, backed by institutional power and justified by a vision of the one true path. Considered that way, the Inquisition is more accurately seen not as a relic but as a harbinger ... O n a hot autumn day in Rome not long ago, I crossed the vast expanse of St Peter’s Square, paused momentarily in the shade beneath a curving flank of Bernini’s colonnade and continued a little way beyond to a Swiss Guard standing impassively at a wrought-iron gate. He examined my credentials, handed them back and saluted smartly. I hadn’t expected the gesture and almost returned the salute instinctively, but then realised it was intended for a cardinal waddling into the Vatican

REMEMBER THIS LADY - In memory of Irena Sendler

Look at this lady - Let us never forget! Irena Sendler (1910-2008) was a Polish Catholic social worker who served in the Polish Underground and the Żegota resistance organization in German-occupied Warsaw during World War II. Assisted by some two dozen other Żegota members, Sendler saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, providing them with false documents, and sheltering them in individual and group children's homes outside the Ghetto. During WW II, Irena got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an 'ulterior motive'. She knew the Nazi's plans for the Jews. Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack (for larger kids). She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered

Caging a Monster: In My Country (Today's China) by Murong Xuecun

A moving and honest plea by a Chinese citizen: I am a Chinese writer. Allow me to say a few words about my country. Everyone knows that in the past thirty years China has built countless skyscrapers, commissioned countless airports, and paved countless freeways. My country’s GDP is the world’s second largest and her products are sold in every corner of the planet. My compatriots can be seen on tour in London, New York and Tokyo wearing expensive clothes, chattering raucously. My compatriots also fill up casinos and line up to buy LV bags. People exclaim in amazement: China is rising, the Chinese are rich! But behind this facade of power and prosperity there are details of which many people are unaware, and it is precisely these details that make my country a very strange place. Living in China is like watching a play in a giant theatre. The plots are absurd and the scenarios are unbelievable—so absurd, so unbelievable that they are beyond any writer’s imagination. My country ma

BORDER PARANOIA by Pervez Hoodbhoy

BORDER PARANOIA: DEEPENING THE PAK-INDIA DIVIDE   Six years ago while on a speaking tour of nearly 25 schools, colleges and universities across India, I discovered that only a handful of students had ever seen a living, breathing Pakistani. None had heard an academic from across the border speak. A 12-year-old school student, who obviously did not know Hindi and Urdu were similar, wondered aloud how a real Pakistani could be speaking their language. For these puzzled students, Pakistanis are alien people belonging to an adversary country, not next-door neighbours. The numerous misconceptions and misunderstandings I encountered must be still greater today. With pre-1947 family links slowly withering away, the two countries are travelling on separate economic and cultural trajectories. As travel barriers become ever higher, their respective populations are becoming progressively more unfamiliar and estranged from the other. This is by deliberate design. Not long ago, Indian scienti


Saadat Hasan Manto’s centenary is being observed quietly by friends and admirers in Lahore. No official recognition or mention. He’s almost become a non-person. Manto died in Lahore in 1955. He was forty-three years old. The life of one of our greatest short-story writers had been prematurely truncated. I was eleven years old at the time. I never met him. I wish I had. One can visualize him easily enough. In later photographs the melancholy is visible. He appears exhausted as if his heart were entrenched with sadness. In these his face displays all the consequences of a ravaged liver. But there are others. Here his eyes sparkle with intelligence, the impudence almost bursting through the thick glass of his 1940’s spectacles, mocking the custodians of morality, the practitioners of confessional politics or the commissariat of the Progressive Writers. ‘Do your worst’, he appears to be telling them. ‘I don’t care. I will write to please myself. Not you.’ Manto’s battles with the literar

Communalism feeds on itself

Our intention was not to offend anyone's religious sensibilities, but to give a voice to a writer who had been silenced by a death threat. Reading from another one of his books would have been meaningless. The Satanic Verses was the cause of the trouble, so The Satanic Verses it would have to be. We did not choose passages that have been construed as blasphemous by Muslim opponents of the book – this would have been pointless, as these passages have overshadowed the rest of the content of the novel, which concerns the relationship between faith and doubt, and contains much that has nothing to do with religion whatsoever. We wanted to demystify the book. It is, after all, just a book. Not a bomb. Not a knife or a gun. Just a book... I refute absolutely the accusation of Asaduddin Owaisi, the Hyderabad MP who has accused me of "Islam-bashing under the guise of liberalism". I stand on my public record as a defender of the human rights of Muslims, notably my work for Moazzam