Friday, June 26, 2009

The Fallacy of Accent Revisited

How many women are broken into the brothels of Lahore every month? How many women are trafficked into secular Pakistan and raped into whoredom?

We don't know.

But we know that one woman was whipped by the Taliban: and since this video was circulated throughout the world, it seemed that the Taliban are serial whippers.
This single video clip was enough to galvanise Pakistan public opinion against the Taliban, and in favour of the military action against men, women and children. M.J.Akbar devoted an entire column to refute there can be anything as a 'moderate Taliban' – on the strength of the solitary video clip.

Yet nobody has ever filmed the goings-on at the Lahore brothels.

Behavioural psychologists have dubbed this the "availability heuristic": "The availability heuristic tends to bias our interpretations, because the ease with which we can imagine an event affects our estimate of how frequently that event occurs. Television and newspapers, for example, tend to cover only the most visible, violent events. People therefore tend to overestimate incidents of violence and crime as well as the number of deaths from accidents and murder, because these events are most memorable (Kahneman, Slovic, & Tversky, 1982). As with all cognitive shortcuts, a biased judgment occurs, because the sample of people and events that we remember is unlikely to be fair and full."

Friday, June 19, 2009

People power in Iran?

"Iran’s rural population has historically been very deeply apolitical". This, according to the Economist, is wrong: 66% of poor and rural voters vote as against 33% of the urbanised middle class. But never mind that.

A 'class' analysis doesn't take that modern fact into account: the agent provocateur. In this brilliantly researched article by Seymour Hersh, he shows in vivid detail how America has been priming the pump in Iran:

Also try : Iran mosque blast plotters admit Israeli, US links: report:

They also admitted carrying out "one or two minor operations," the agency said, without providing further details except to say the group launched military operations a year ago.

Besides, we know that people are dumb: they must and will be led and manipulated. Leo Strauss's Iron Law of Oligarchy has always held true.

"They are openly, and in millions across the country, questioning the legitimacy of the establishment, represented at the moment by Ahmadinejad. The people, in short, have moved beyond Mousavi". Millions of people out of a population of 70 million, most of whom are above 15? That doesn't sound like "the people" to me: it sounds like the impressionistic and ill-educated Gucci class of Iran.

I have seen it happen time and again in Bangladesh: a couple of people take to the streets, and they call it a revolution, when the vast majority is farming or fishing.

The writer mentions the misery index: inflation plus unemployment. Inflation has always done nutty things to people, especially the middle class because they see their savings eroded; unemployment creates the hooligans who take to the streets.

What the writer failed to mention was the multiplication of the number of university students: whenever this happens, society becomes unstable. An educated middle class is the worst calamity that can befall a nation: it led to the violent break-away of East Pakistan from West Pakistan in 1971, to the anti-British attacks of the Bengal terrorists earlier.

A wise government, like Malaysia's and Indonesia's, would have kept tertiary education down to a minimum and maximised primary education. However, sooner or later, tertiary education becomes necessary, and then you have lunatic movements like 'reformasi' and Tiananmen.

fear and loathing in the land of the free

Funny you should mention fear of torture in Iran. When I email my Bangladeshi friends and relatives in America, they are terrified if I make any reference to rigged elections in Bangladesh, or electoral violence in Bangladesh, or any aspect of US foreign policy that has anything to do with Bangladesh. And, of course, I must NEVER say anything about extraordinary rendition, Gitmo, etc, and I never do; but I can't help talking about US foreign policy here, on my soil, in my land....
They are terrified that somebody is reading their e-mails, so they beg me not to write about these things, even though I am only writing about events in Bangladesh. I have to confine myself to subjects like appendectomies and caching the cold from my students....

As for controlled elections, well, that's a well-trodden subject nowadays, so I won't bring it up. A recent historian, David Reynolds, has observed that the US electoral system is so tightly controlled that no outsider can ever possibly hope to win. Like Ralph Nader, perhaps.

My friends are afraid, at the least, of losing their jobs, their careers, their bread and butter; and, at the worst, losing sleep for nights without end, and waterboarding….If I lived in such a state, I would be scared dead too.

It's no use saying that these people's fears are unfounded: after all, the US government hasn't (yet) drawned and quartered anyone for criticising their foreign policy.

But that misses the point: their terror is perfectly real – largely because they have Muslim names.

twitter in Iranian skies

"and gathering swallows twitter in the skies"

- John Keats

I wonder what percentage of Iranians twitter (the same percentage of birds that are swallows?).

I seem to recall another upheaval (revolution being too strong a world) of semi-people power where those with mobile phones won out against those without mobile phones. That was in the Philippines.

Nothing like that in Iran, of course: perish the twittering thought!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Intersexuals

A businessman I know describes our intellectuals as 'intersexuals'. One can see why.

Take the two chairmen, Mozaffer Ahmed of Transparency International, and Rehman Sobhan of the Centre for Policy Dialogue. They have recently become brothers-in-law: Rehman Sobhan married the former's sister-in-law.

Rawshan Jahan, wife of Mozaffer Ahmed, is a personality in the NGO world – especially where women's affairs are concerned.

Depapriya Bhatacharya is an acolyte of Rehman Sobhan – a very beneficial nexus. The former's mother was an Awami League MP after 1996.

Rehman Sobhan's son is a big man at the Daily Star, run and partly owned by Mahfuz Anam, whose wife is the Big Woman at the mother of all NGOs 'Manusher Jonno'.

This is how 'consensus' is generated in society: western donors need to control only a few minds at the top, and the rest of the body, testicles included, follow, quite the reverse of Nixon's doctrine ("if you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow").

These people are frequently miscalled 'civil society'. In fact, they are The Intersexuals.

(Please forward any more connections in this incestuous world to yours truly.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tale of the Intellectual Harlot

There was once a whore who wanted much more

Than a career in spreading her thighs;

She thought she recognised a customer disguised

By the feel (she was wrong) of his size.

“Are you Kamaldin?” “No, I’m Aladdin.”

“Aaaah!” she gasped, “I won’t charge you if you’ll

Make me - easy, my boy - an intellectual.”

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day

And ceased to say her permitted say.

At the NGO the donors then became her new owners

Who asked her to denounce the Caliphate,

Sing democracy’s praise, and their secular ways,

And to parrot that laissez-faire wasn’t great!

And before each meeting she observed

That the rights of women must be preserved!

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day

And ceased to say her permitted say.

But her bottom would smart just as when she was a tart

From the sitting position she used;

And her mouth would be sore like it used to before

While some flaccid old fool stood amused.

So she wanted her honesty back

And let Aladdin have one more whack!

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day

And ceased to say her permitted say.