Look What You Made Me Do!

One of the classic ways abusers internally deflect responsibility is via a twisted transferance of blame to the victim. In other words, it was something little Tommy had done (or heck, simply who he was) that made Dad (and, alas, it’s usually Dad) beat him black and blue.

What makes the dialectic particulalry insidious is that should Tommy accept the blame, the abuse leaps from being merely physical into psychological & emotional. In that strange realm, Tommy’s self-sufficiency & worth plummets as Good/Bad is no longer something he can independently judge for himself but rather, becomes wholly determined by the tormentor’s chosen response.

Sadly, the recent bombings of the Danish embassy in Pakistan has brought forth language that’s more fitting a domestic abuse case than international diplomacy –

Fauzia Mufti Abbas, Pakistan’s ambassador to Denmark, agreed that the Mohammed cartoons, first published in Jyllands-Posten newspaper in October 2005, had incited Muslim anger and were possibly the motivation for the attack, which killed eight and wounded as many as 30.

‘It isn’t just the people of Pakistan that feel they have been harassed by what your newspaper has begun,’ she said. ‘I’d like to know if your newspaper is satisfied with what it has done and what it has unleashed?’

Thankfully, the Dane’s recognize their values have worth & aren’t willing to accept blame –

Jørn Mikkelsen, Jyllands-Posten’s editor-in-chief, defended his newspaper’s decision to print the cartoons.

‘The decision to do so was in full accordance with Danish law, Danish press ethics and Danish press traditions. That the facts have been twisted in the rest of the world and misused for purposes that are no concern of Jyllands-Posten is something we can and will not take responsibility for.’

Bravo. The real criminals are the ones hurling bombs, not operating printing presses.

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Is Barack Obama a secret…Hindu?

No. Absolutely, unequivocally he is not. He is a Christian. For months now there have been slanderous and bigoted emails circulating around the internet suggesting that he is really a “secret Muslim.” This further appeals to the most base fears of a small portion of Americans who are just scared that the potential leader of the free world might end up being a man of color with a “funny name.” Snopes.com in particular does a fantastic job at discrediting all the false Obama rumors. However, my very observant friend Arun in L.A. sent me the following email with a link to a picture in Time Magazine. Says Arun:

I spend an extraordinarily unhealthy amount of time surveying political blogs for the most minute of minutia on the election. Mostly I marvel at the absolute inanity of most punditry (see: Stephanopolous, George) and the fact I’m stupid enough to waste time reading it. Occasionally, I’m surprised by something particularly astute or though-provoking (usually the blogs at the Atlantic). However, this picture caught me completely off-guard:

Caption from Time: Amongst the things that Barack Obama carries for good luck are a bracelet belonging to a soldier deployed in Iraq, a gambler’s lucky chit, a tiny monkey god and a tiny Madonna and child.

Yes SM readers, that is correct. The Democratic nominee for President carries Hanuman with him for good luck (although to beat McCain, who carries a penny, he might need to upgrade to this Hanuman, or else use this stick that he got earlier this week).

I’ve heard many of my friends who are minorities say that they can relate to Obama because he has a multi-ethnic background like them. In addition, he has lived abroad (Indonesia) and spent time in both Pakistan and India as I previously blogged, so it isn’t all that surprising that he is aware of Hanuman. Looking into Obama’s open hands above I am reminded about a great article by David Brooks that was in the New York Times a few weeks ago. In it he coined a new term “neural Buddhism.” He writes:

First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is. [Link]

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Fighting the name change

Real cute story on NPR this morning (part of the StoryCorps series) about a man named Ramon Sanchez who recalls how, during the 1950s while he was growing up, all the teachers tried to anglicize his name to Raymond. This got me thinking about all the poor Hardicks and Shitangs and Ashfaqs out there and the struggles they must have faced growing up. Even the Poojas probably had a tough time. Anyways, the punchline of the story is TOTALLY worth it so take a listen.

Since kindergarten he’d been known as Ramon. “Rrrrrramon,” he says with a thick roll of the R.

But when he got to the second grade, his name was Americanized. “Everyone was calling me Raymond.”

“On the playground, in the classroom. Raymond! Hey, Raymond! Hey, Raymond!” he says.

And it wasn’t just his name that got changed.

“If there was a girl named Maria, her name became Mary. Juanita became Jane,” he says. [Link]

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Can you spell L-A-M-E?

SM Tipster Vishal informed us of something today that I just assumed was a bad joke until I visited the website. There is a new Spelling Beeexclusively for South Asian children:

About the South Asian Spelling Bee

The South Asian Spelling Bee is a platform that will give all South Asian students the opportunity to test their skills within their core peer group. In the 78th Nationals Scripps Spelling Bee, over 11% participants were South Asian and over the years many South Asian students have been champions. It is the effort of the South Asian Spelling Bee contest to encourage and promote South Asian talent across the US and to bring this aspect of a South Asian student’s life into the foreground by broadcasting this contest on National Television. [Link]

Are you kidding me? Is it not good enough that we already dominate the spelling world like the Kenyans do long distance running, or like Mr. T dominated Rocky in their first fight? Then again, that many geeky South Asian kids competing against each other is bound to provide an environment that engenders accelerated evolution (via hyper competition), resulting in the emergence of a super-speller. Its the same reason why you should always finish a course of antibiotics. If you don’t then the strongest bacteria will survive and multiply to create a superstrain. Speaking of multiply, desi parents can even use this venue to arrange child marriages like in the good old days. Mixing the right genetic lines would guarantee us victory in Scripps for years to come. Perhaps this new event has some merit after all.

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Too close for comfort

I don’t know how I missed this article in the NYTimes when it came out a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully, a writer at Slate cited the article and how, with his wife tied to his hip, they duplicated this couple’s lifestyle for a single day. First, an excerpt from the original article:

TEN years ago, Michael Roach and Christie McNally, Buddhist teachers with a growing following in the United States and abroad, took vows never to separate, night or day.

By “never part,” they did not mean only their hearts or spirits. They meant their bodies as well. And they gave themselves a range of about 15 feet.

If they cannot be seated near each other on a plane, they do not get on. When she uses an airport restroom, he stands outside the door. And when they are here at home in their yurt in the Arizona desert, which has neither running water nor electricity, and he is inspired by an idea in the middle of the night, she rises from their bed and follows him to their office 100 yards down the road, so he can work.

Their partnership, they say, is celibate. [Link]

Admitedly I am terrified by the institution of marriage, even though I do hope to be married some day. I have Siddhartha-esque anxieties about the possibility that I may want to walk off into the woods some day. I emailed this story to four of my married-couple friends and three of the four responded with mild revulsion. “No freakin’ way,” to paraphrase. One of my friends responded that she had, due to circumstances, simulated this type of experience for stretches of days at a time, more than once since she’s been married (they travel a lot together). She also described it as soul-sucking to some degree. Even the Dalai Lama is a bit turned-off by the idea and wouldn’t allow it to be promoted in India:

… their practice — which even they admit is radical by the standards of the religious community whose ideas they aim to further — has sent shock waves through the Tibetan Buddhist community as far as the Dalai Lama himself, whose office indicated its disapproval of the living arrangement by rebuffing Mr. Roach’s attempt to teach at Dharamsala, India, in 2006. (In a letter, the office said his “unconventional behavior does not accord with His Holiness’s teachings and practices.”)… [Link]
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“She’s a female wizard… She’s also extremely sexually arousing”

Last night, Sir Salman appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss his new book The Enchantress of Florence and his bit-part in the movie And Then She Found Me.

Given the fact that the book seems written in a post-Padma haze of vituperation, the following exchange was particularly funny:

Colbert: “I bet the women just fall at your feet.”
Rushdie: ” I wouldn’t bet against it.”

Here’s Rushdie on the “lotions and potions” women use, why the fatwa made him feel like Tippi Hedren, why video games and YouTube will change the world (“when people see what garbage everyone else is consuming, they want it too”) and why playing Helen Hunt’s gynecologist appealed to him:

Previous SM Rushdie coverage. Continue reading

The presumptive Democratic nominee

Earlier today I wrote a post about the presumptive nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic Presidential candidate. I have now taken that post down because, after discussion with the other mutineers, I came to the conclusion that it crossed the line and was too openly partisan.

We have, despite the scoffing of a few readers, endeavored mightily to be a non-partisan blog, one which is open and welcoming to brownz of all political stripes and affiliations. That is very important to me, and is something we all want to maintain.

In the post I took down there were two broad points I was trying to make, and I do want to explain what they were and defend my general intent in making them:

  1. I wanted to talk about the way in which my political behavior was constrained by the racialization of the campaign and the attitude of voters in the region where I live. Because of my experiences with racism in the midwest, I have not felt comfortable using my own name or canvassing door to door, and so have made the tactical decision to limit my political behavior, lest it backfire.
  2. I wanted to talk about how one candidate had used racially excusionary rhetoric while the other candidate had used racially inclusive rhetoric.

Both of these are very relevant to a South-Asian American blog. I had waited until the primary was over to raise them to avoid the appearance of partisanship, but in retrospect, I don’t think I succeeded.

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Outsourcing “Exotic” Indian Nurses

Trailers for books are pretty commonplace nowadays, but bestselling author Robin Cook (mastermind of the medical thriller) and former Disney head Michael Eisner have cooked up (no pun intended!) an online plot that takes this concept a step further: Foreign Body, a “50 episode exotic thriller” (each two-minute episode can be watched for free on your computer or downloaded to your cell phone) that’s essentially serving as a prequel and promo for Cook’s forthcoming novel of the same title, which will be published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in August.

A doctor by training, Cook began writing medical thrillers 36 years ago, and has made his name with books such as Terminal, Shock, Seizure, and his most popular Coma , which was published in 1977.

In recent years, he began noticing that his readers weren’t getting any younger. “The trouble is, now there are so many other things trying to get people’s attention – in particular, the younger people — and rather than try and fight it, you really have to kind of use it,” Cook told NPR’s Nate DiMeo. [see full NPR story ] last week.

To the rescue is this low-budget ($500,000 budget) “exotic thriller” which zig zags from Malibu, California to New Delhi, India and has at its heart a plot of intrigue and drama about outsourcing—of the medical kind. That is, the growing industry of medical tourism in India, which brought over 500,000 foreign patients to India for medical care in 2005. (Estimates project medical tourism could bring India as much as $2.2 billion per by 2012).

The story:

A group of dangerous Indian beauties, brimming with hope and desire are brought to the sunny shores of Southern California and are promised the American dream. They are taken in by a group of young, cutthroat medical entrepreneurs who hope to train them and cultivate their nursing skills for their own mysterious ends. The women soon become seduced by the brash and ambitious charmer who lords over them, but for him, his lust for the one, mysterious, unattainable beauty threatens to unravel the very conspiracy he built. But who is seducing whom and what exactly are the women really being trained to do? With freedoms in America they could never imagine, the girls discover they just might get what they want, no matter the consequences or the risks involved.

If you’re rolling your eyes or arching your eyebrows already, don’t stop. The first episode has a bunch of bikini-clad Indian nurses frolicking in the Southern California beach and the second or third episode has a scene where a US-based entrepreneur is interviewing candidates to come to the US. The opening scene has a quote from the Bhagavad Gita.

I started watching the series as soon as I heard the NPR story on its launch date. My impression so far: Think Baywatch meets ER meets Zee TV drama meets daytime soap with a twist of “here’s another reason to vilify globalization and outsourcing” thrown in. Of course, I don’t know how this will end, but it’s leading up to a novel about a “sinister, multilayered conspiracy of global proportions” so, need I really say anymore?

Here’s a compilation of week one’s episodes.

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Floating Guantanamos in the Indian Ocean

The Guardian is reporting something we probably should have suspected: According to the human rights watch group Reprieve the United States has been, and continues to operate floating prisons to extrajudicially interrogate and house suspected terrorists:

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped. [Link]

I think that as G.W. Bush’s term ends we will be seeing ever more skeletons (pardon the pun) fall out of the closet. Traditionally, as soon as the Democrat and Republicans have chosen a nominee, they begin to receive briefings from the CIA on a host of national security topics and current operations. This is done to assure some degree of continuity by keeping the potential president elect informed. A transition is also a time when you’d expect increased leaking of information as new people look under the hood.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans. [Link]

We have previously written about Diego Garcia here and here (where the use of the island as a secret detention center was discussed). Continue reading

Your nepotism is my family values


p>I’m a big fan of Tyler Cowen over at Marginal Revolution and this summary of one of his talks reminded me of a story from early in my career….. Although (or perhaps because?) I’m more libertarian than anything else, I’m also quite a bit of a culturalist and civil societarian. The distinction being that I think in many cases, informal culture (no matter how impossible it is to precisely define) has a far greater bearing on “social progress” than formal economics or policy. So, Cowen’s Libertarian Heresies don’t rattle me too much .

The example Cowen cites in his talk is the relationship between wealth and corruption in Russia

He then moved into territory that is politically dangerous, but needs to be addressed: one of the things that helps promote both liberty and prosperity throughout the Anglosphere is citizens’ widespread ability to be loyal to a set of abstract concepts. Russia, he pointed out, is failing as a free society not because it is poor – Putin’s shrewed management of high commodity prices has put paid to much Russian poverty – but because Russians tend to privilege their friends and contacts above all else, leading to epic levels of corruption. Corruption, of course, is a signal rule of law failure.

He then asked, somewhat rhetorically, if liberty was confined (and defined) by culture: ‘We should not presume that our values are as universal as we often think they are’. What happens, he asked (also rhetorically), if – in order to enjoy the benefits of liberty and prosperity – societies have to undergo a major cultural transformation, including the loss of many appealing values? Cowen focussed on Russian loyalty and friendship, but there are potentially many others. Think, for example, of the extended family so privileged throughout the Islamic world, or the communitarian values common in many indigenous societies.

Of course, a particular country is where extended familial-warmth is lauded & a place that mutineers know quite a bit about is …. India. Continue reading