Wednesday, March 24, 2010

water boarding in fiction

The full horror of 'water-boarding' was borne in upon me by this story by Conan Doyle.

I strongly urge the reading of this short story to appreciate the diabolical and mediaeval nature of 'modern' American interrogation techniques. It seems this method of questioning goes back all the way to the middle ages.

In the story, an - admittedly guilty - woman is going to be tortured by forcing her to drink buckets of water through a funnel inserted in her mouth. She would have to keep drinking to prevent suffocation. Since the event has already occurred (it is recalled in a nightmare), the terrible torment is made even more terrifying.

The reader's attention should especially focus on the teeth marks on the funnel: what distress can force a human being to bite so hard?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Yet, freedom, yet, bikini torn but flying...

Vida Samadzai is not a totally free woman. Logic compels one to conclude that the less a women wears, the more free she is.

Samadzai here is wearing something. She is still not the antithesis of the burqua-clad slave: only when she appears in a Playboy centerfold will she be totally free (and us men would have something to drool - or worse - over).

But would that be enough?

Aren't the freest people those without any inhibitions at all? Surely, the freest people must be porn-stars. They reveal - everything. They have the courage to flout what I call "the monarchy of the gaze".

Go on, show us a little spunk, Samadzai - and let the men liberate theirs!

Monday, March 15, 2010

cultural imperialism

"Over the last several decades, major women's rights organizations in the Western World have focused attention on eliminating clitoridectomy and infibulation in Africa, the Near East, and among immigrants from those areas. In order to demonize these cultural practices, they refer to them as "genital mutilation" and usually insist that it is violence against women done as part of the male repression and control of women. The latter assertion fits Moslem dominated countries more than the non-Moslem sub-Saharan African societies that follow these practices. The reality in many non-Moslem African societies is that the surgery is performed by older women and is an integral part of the initiation of girls into the world of women. Men usually are not allowed to be involved in anyway. Continued political pressure from the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Organization for Women (NOW), and other groups has resulted in many Western governments and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopting as an important goal the global repression of clitoridectomy and infibulation. Some indigenous African women's organizations have responded angrily."

The above is from an anthropological website. UNESCO has never pointed out the use of young high school children in violent student politics in Bangladesh, but has had the gall to preach cultural imperialism in Africa.

Most of these do-gooder NGOs and supranational bodies have no knowledge of anthropology, nor could they care less. For instance, there are innumerable organizations and states trying to turn our society democratic even though that is against our culture (Samuel Huntington was one of the wise minds to make this point).

But the unkindest cut of all is when anthropologists, lured by lucre, join the imperialists.

Friday, March 12, 2010

when criminals prosecute

So, we have something else to look forward to after the recent hangings: a trial for crimes against humanity on the part of 'collaborators' in the 1971 civil war. Never mind that those who rape and murder these days are seldom brought to justice: what were crimes in 1971 have become mere peccadilloes today.

We have the moral high ground: we were the victims in 1971; all we wanted was recognition of our nationalist aspirations and fair play, but we got a bloody nose instead. Heinous indeed!

Then, after we achieved our nationalist aspiration, we were immediately and rudely confronted with the nationalist aspirations of the Chakma people: how dare they?

Of course theirs was a bogus nationalism, just like ours: Bengali nationalism was a super-duper elite phenomenon having nothing to do with the people. The Chakmas speak Bengali just like we do ('Chakma', Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition). So what was their beef? They weren't being persecuted, just as we weren't persecuted during our ersatz nationalist longings. When one bogus nationalism meets another, what happens?

"What the Pakistanis did to us," observed my late uncle, Major General M. Khalilur Rahman to me, "we did to them". Indeed. And western donors were content to let us do so during the cold war.

But it will be retorted by Bengali nationalists that we were merely trying to preserve our territorial integrity: well, so was West Pakistan. Besides, the Chakmas didn't want to secede, like we did: they 'merely' wanted autonomy, albeit on grounds of fictive ethnicity, closely resembling our fictive nationalism (indeed, the nation-state has failed throughout South Asia, according to Stanley J. Tambiah).

One wonders why the Chakmas have raised no demands for a tribunal to try crimes against humanity committed in the hill tracts. One fears that their leaders have sold out just like ours.

So, we do not have the moral high ground anymore. We are as guilty as any nation trying to preserve its territory, from Abraham Lincoln to Indira Gandhi....

Let's just stop pretending otherwise.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The gall of a Gaul

"In democratic ages men rarely sacrifice themselves for one another; but they display general compassion for the members of the human race. They inflict no useless ills; and they are happy to relieve the griefs of others, when they can do so without much hurting themselves; they are not disinterested, but they are humane."

I came across this piece of garbage, not in my rubbish can, but in the second volume of Democracy in America. Humane?

The author seems to have forgotten what he wrote about Native Americans and negro slaves in Book I: he noted the treachery, inhumanity, illegality, and indifference towards these people on the part of the 'democratic' white Anglo-Americans, as he called them.

Perhaps he means that the misery inflicted on Indians and Negroes were 'useful ills': certainly useful to the white people, and certainly not useful to the victims.

In Chapter 18 of Book 1, he makes the following observation:

"None of the Indian tribes which formerly inhabited the territory of New England--the Naragansetts, the Mohicans, the Pecots--have any existence but in the recollection of man. The Lenapes, who received William Penn, a hundred and fifty years ago, upon the banks of the Delaware, have disappeared; and I myself met with the last of the Iroquois, who were begging alms. The nations I have mentioned formerly covered the country to the sea-coast; but a traveller at the present day must penetrate more than a hundred leagues into the interior of the continent to find an Indian. Not only have these wild tribes receded, but they are destroyed; and as they give way or perish, an immense and increasing people fills their place. There is no instance upon record of so prodigious a growth, or so rapid a destruction: the manner in which the latter change takes place is not difficult to describe."

To cap it all, this (by no means feeble-minded) Frenchman, has the idiocy to observe that the Spaniards were able to assimilate themselves to the Indians because South American Indians practiced agriculture - it doesn't occur to him that it was precisely the absence of democracy - the citizen-versus-non-citizen antithesis - that enabled the Iberians both to assimilate the Indians as well as the Negro slaves (I have touched on these subjects elsewhere).

Monday, March 8, 2010


I am sick and tired of hearing newspapers extolled: apparently their only function, according to men like de Tocqueville and Amartya Sen, is to provide information. The former is a more discerning writer and reflects that newspapers serve to form associations of like-minded readers; that is, those possessing the same prejudices.
It is a short step – not a giant leap – from this consideration to one about the powers of language. These views totally ignore the persuasive powers of language. In Bangladesh, for instance, one of the chief functions of newspapers is to promote jingoism and nationalism. When the world is trying to move away from nationalism, with all its inherent destructiveness, our newspapers wholeheartedly devote themselves to perpetuating it.

Newspapers have been responsible for the misery of the Native Americans, for inciting wars, for inflating speculative bubbles thereby creating poverty where there was abundance…all with the power of language to persuade.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sir Flunkey, A Nursery Rhyme

Fazle Abed, Fazle Abed,

Where have you been?

"I have been to London

To see the queen."

Fazle Abed, Fazle Abed,

What did you do there?

"I munched on a mouse

Under her chair."