Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Weekly Round Up

And, here is the much awaited round up of what I've been reading and sharing on Facebook.

Feminism, Gender Oppression and Equality

When will we stop calling successful women ‘abrasive’? explores how professional women - doing the same work as their male counterparts - are viewed differently:
Russian cosmonaut Yelena Serova hit the headlines as she prepared to blast off into space after years of training. But despite her considerable expertise, journalists bombarded Serova with questions about personal grooming and parenting. I can’t be the only one who felt like applauding when she finally snapped at a press conference after being asked how she’d style her hair on the International Space Station, replying: “Can I ask a question, too: aren’t you interested in the hair styles of my colleagues?”
These different cases reveal a pattern – successful women make people feel uncomfortable. They are seen as somehow unfeminine or unnatural and in need of being brought down a peg or two. And the best way to wrangle them back into manageability is to remind them of the fact that, regardless of their achievements, they will be judged first and foremost as women, and found wanting. Girls, after all, are supposed to be likable, pliant, polite, quiet and gentle. Be too smart, too successful, too accomplished, and risk facing a sharp reminder that you’ve done so at the cost of your feminine “appeal”.
The article really speaks for itself. A negative social view of professional women is indeed deep rooted. 

In my experience, I've overheard for example housewife aunties and in fact my own mother talk about working women with contempt and awe. Working women are almost always seen as aggressive for some reason.

I think human society - after thousands years of gender oppression - is still trying to figure out how to carve a non-patriarchal world. Until then, it's going to be very muddled. 

One of the sites that appears on my FB newsfeed is The Logical Indian and I love this meme:

I love Stop policing my daughter's appetite: "'You're not going to eat all of that, are you?' said a stranger in a cafΓ© to my four year old daughter Violet. Violet was tucking into a slab of chocolate cake with ice cream on the side. The woman meant her comment to be friendly, but it was the only thing she commented on to Violet. Violet is in kindergarten and already people — even complete strangers — are judging her food choices, intimating that she should distrust these choices and that her appetite should be ignored. What’s worse, Violet is learning that women policing other women’s appetites is a great conversation starter, or even a bonding ritual."

Apart from already making me think about how to help Kavita develop a healthy and guilt free relatinoship with food, this article really struck too. Women are nearly always apologising about how much and what they eat and, often crack jokes about never being able to follow a strict diet. They really do feel this is a good way to bond with another woman.

Animal Rights

I started to understand and appreciate issues related to the environment and animal rights well into my 30s although I used to detest the thought of my parents buying ivory while we were posted in Senegal from 1993 to 1995. 

Yes, chimpanzees should be given legal rights, just like us talks about a case that an animal rights group will present before a judge in New York. It seems it is a landmark case. See an excerpt from the article:
"Not too many years ago, many human beings were treated like property. Married women and children were simply the property of men, and many Africans were considered to be the property of white Europeans. But now people are waking up to the view that, as the author of The Color Purple, Alice Walker, put it, “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men”. It is this sentiment which inspired PETA US' ground-breaking lawsuit against SeaWorld three years ago, which sought to establish that five wild-caught orcas deserved protection under the US Constitution's 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery.

Tommy, the primate plaintiff, lives in a small cage at the back of a dark shed at a trailer sales park in New York state, with only a TV on a table to keep him company. There's no doubt that Tommy's psychological and physical needs are not being met in this barren environment and that a transfer to a sanctuary would do his welfare good. But that's not the point.

Keeping these highly intelligent, self-aware, autonomous, emotionally complex beings in any kind of captivity can never be justified. Chimpanzees belong in rain forests where they can forage for natural foods, make and use tools, build nests, groom each other and raise families. No amount of care can replace the natural lives of which they're deprived. Would any human swap freedom for a lifetime of captivity?"
My friend, a biologist who has worked with conservation groups in Africa, made the following very beautiful comment:  "See a chimp in its natural environment and you will see its relevance in the world. In captivity it merely becomes a joke, a caricature of human kind. When we laugh at a chimp in an artificial enclosure, we are really laughing at ourselves as ill-adapted misfits in a disappearing world."

Are the Olympics worth it?

Apparently no one is interested in hosting the 2022 Olympics. Norway pulled out. See The Bidding For The 2022 Olympics Is A Disaster Because Everyone Figured Out That Hosting Is A Total Waste:
"Public expenditures on sports infrastructure and event operations necessarily entail reductions in other government services, an expansion of government borrowing, or an increase in taxation, all of which produce a drag on the local economy. At best public expenditures on sports-related construction or operation have zero net impact on the economy as the employment benefits of the project are matched by employment losses associated with higher taxes or spending cuts elsewhere in the system."
Is the same going to happen with the FIFA World Cup? The pre-Cup coverage was, as I remember it, almost evenly divided between social protests and actual coverage of the preparations. The recent London Olympics were also full of controversy.

The question is why does the staging of sporting events which supposedly unite humanity and are a fine example of the human spirit have to be so expensive? 

And talking of Norway

It is apparently the best place to grow old in: 12 Reasons To Move To Norway Right Now.

Selfies and Social Media

I don't know how accurate this is but it definitely a good commentary on how technology and social media can also be used. 


Opinion: International community must not isolate Liberia is a good piece adding a voice to the unfair quarantine of Liberia. It is an excellent article except for this one sentence:

"And when they do, they will dance and sing and praise God and move forward, and the world will be better off for it."

This is truly an uplifting story amongst all the articles, TV reports, blogs and photographs that have captured the ebola crisis in all its gory glory Woman saves three relatives from Ebola:
"It can be exhausting nursing a child through a nasty bout with the flu, so imagine how 22-year-old Fatu Kekula felt nursing her entire family through Ebola. Her father. Her mother. Her sister. Her cousin. Fatu took care of them all, single-handedly feeding them, cleaning them and giving them medications. And she did so with remarkable success. Three out of her four patients survived. That's a 25% death rate -- considerably better than the estimated Ebola death rate of 70%."
Another piece of reassuring news was the arrival of 165 Cuban medical doctors and nurses in Sierra Leone. This photo was posted by WHO:

"165 Cuban medical doctors and nurses have arrived in #SierraLeone to support the #Ebola response efforts.  All of the Cuban health workers have more than 15 years’ experience and have worked in other countries facing natural disasters and disease outbreaks. Some of the workers have already been working in Sierra Leone and #Guinea for some years and are willing to continue their service there."
See also the related article on the WHO website: Cuban medical team heading for Sierra Leone.

Thankfully, the Washington Post, an American paper, acknowledges Cuba in In the medical response to Ebola, Cuba is punching far above its weight: "On Thursday, 165 health professionals from the country arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to join the fight against Ebola – the largest medical team of any single foreign nation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And after being trained to deal with Ebola, a further 296 Cuban doctors and nurses will go to Liberia and Guinea, the other two countries worst hit by the crisis."

Liberian Senate calls for more transparency over Ebola funds emphasises the need for transparency and accountability in funds disbursement and usage both by national governments as well as the aid industry. See an excerpt:
"It is in times of emergency in recent years that the lack of accountability has been most apparent. More than four years after the earthquake in Haiti – and with a central role played by several former US presidents in coordinating relief efforts – it is hard to clarify exactly what happened to the $9bn in emergency aid. For example, one review indicates that only 0.9% of the more than $1bn pledged by USAid after the disaster has actually gone to Haitian organisations; while another US government report indicates that as of last year only 35% of pledged funds had actually been disbursed. Meanwhile, thousands of Haitians displaced by the disaster continue to live in makeshift housing, squalor and destitution.
The aid industry is often criticised for its lack of openness and effectiveness. While progress is being made – through efforts like the Aid Industry Transparency Initiative, for example – more must be done in times of crisis. Before demanding that west African governments report to their citizens, donors must prove that they too can remove bureaucratic red tape and spend relief aid judiciously and expeditiously. As the president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has repeatedly pointed out to donors, even before the recent Ebola outbreak, we must 'shorten the road from commitment to cash'.
In west Africa, we must act now to avoid the problems of past humanitarian relief efforts. Donors should embrace lessons from previous emergencies such as the Asian tsunami, including the need to emphasise local ownership, ensure participatory efforts, make transparency a priority, build capacity to manage funds and handle complaints effectively."
The article is co-penned by Blair Glencorse, a friend, who founded the Accountability Lab.

See Liberia imposes media restrictions on ‘invasive’ Ebola coverage:  "Journalists will need official permission to cover many aspects of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, under new rules that the government said aimed at protecting patient privacy. The move was announced on Thursday, the day an American cameraman working for NBC News in Liberia became the first foreign journalist to test positive for Ebola. There was no indication that the new rules were related to that case. Growing international media interest in the outbreak that has killed nearly 2,000 people and infected 3,696 in Liberia has highlighted the challenges to the West African country’s healthcare system."

No 'I' in the Fight to Quell Ebola is a personal blog by a friend who also lives and works in Liberia although out of the country at the moment. 

Don’t forget: Liberia, ravaged by the Ebola epidemic, was created by the U.S. is an excellent Washington Post piece that discusses the legacy of colonialism and how it continues to shape and influence not only trade and politics but aid. See an excerpt:
"As Helene Cooper of the New York Times reports, the international response to the crisis has played out along historic lines, with former colonial powers coming to the aid of their former colonies:

In an echo of the colonialism that characterized West Africa in the 19th century, Britain has focused its assistance efforts on its former colony Sierra Leone, as British troops head there to build and staff a 63-bed facility near the capital, Freetown. France has sent medical experts to its former colony Guinea.
That leaves Liberia, with its historic ties to America’s antebellum era, in the United States’ hands. In an interview on Thursday, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf said a perception by other countries that the United States would take care of Liberia had hurt the country so far in the Ebola fight. She said a health expert with the French group Doctors Without Borders told her recently: 'We’re French. You’ve got America behind you; why should we have to do this for you?'"
I was explaining the very same thing to a US Embassy staff that I met at The Hot Spot the other day. I feel I have become an Ambassador for Liberia and explain to friends and strangers how impoverished and ill-equipped the country is to deal with this crisis. Usually Ambassadors promote the more positive aspects of their countries but in this tragedy journalists and aid workers have become diplomats on behalf of Liberia emphasising how much Liberia needs help. None of us are being patronising. Liberians deserve to get all the assistance and support they need in this hour of need. Support and assistance must come not out of pity. It is the right of Liberians and indeed people in strife and pain to be helped.

Dallas Ebola Patient Thomas Eric Duncan Has Died was reported on 8  October.

Sadly, there is no shortage or reporting on ebola but substantive help is yet to come. In the meantime, let's read another article on how awful ebola is and read about the bravery of health workers: "Life, Death and Grim Routine Fill the Day at a Liberian Ebola Clinic."

I imagine ebola for the average lay person in Europe or North American must be like a horrifying and thrilling horror film as depicted by almost all the media - the initial plot revolves around show casing thousands of nameless Africans succumbing to a killer disease.  Later the stories are dotted by the actual names and faces of a few heroic Americans falling sick and being evacuated back to their homeland and given experimental drugs which suddenly appear on the screen. Apparently this drug has no viable market and research and tests are a long ways off. This drug does not reappear again although we continue to watch ebola ravage thousands more Africans. Local and international doctors plead for help for more doctors and help but they appear as irrelevant characters on the sidelines for dramatic effect. Towards the climax, the plague has managed to jump continents onboard planes and threatens a zombie apocalyse in the Western world. More screen time is given to airport screenings in Canada and the UK. The movie is now entirely shot in North America and how the President will show incredible leadership and save the say.

Pakistan's Raison D'etre Questioned

This is a great blog talking about the national identity of Pakistan: The Islamization of Pakistan. See an excerpt:
Quaid-e-Azam in his March 1940 presidential address said “It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religious in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders; and it is only a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality. This misconception of one Indian Nation has troubles and will lead India to destruction if we fail to revise our notions in time. The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, literatures. They neither intermarry nor inter-dine together and, indeed, they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspect on life are different. It is quite clear that Hindus and Muslims derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes, and different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other and, likewise, their victories and defeats overlap. To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built for the government of such a state.”  
The statement raises a serious question; how many states do we need to accommodate different nations, respectively?
I'm sure the younger generation of Pakistan is asking such questions more and more.

On a fundamental level, Pakistan's problems are not dissimilar to that of any other nation state:  a violent beginning, civil war, tyranny of the majority, identity crises, foreign adventures, and a blood sucking elite. And somehow, Pakistan has managed to not completely disintegrate and fall apart. Maybe Pakistan is a managed chaos. 

Even if Pakistan does not become another Afghanistan or Somalia, what is the greatest risk and tragedy? That the majority of Pakistanis are poor, disenfranchised. That minorities and women are not safe. That the average Pakistani is being brainwashed by rabid mullahs. 

Analysts bemoaning our state of affairs frequently bring up the origins of our state and hence the question: "how many states do we need to accommodate different nations, respectively?" If Pakistan was meant to protect Muslims, why are Muslims killing each other? 

Eid ul Adha or Tabaski in Senegal

This is a cool article about how Eid or Tabaski is celebrated in Senegal and how Senegalese abroad use a website to send sheep and goats back home.

I reminded me of how I, as a snotty Pakistani kid abroad, used to find it "incorrect" that Eid ul Adha is referred to as Tabaski when we lived there as a family from 1993 to 1995. Of course as adult I appreciate that Islam like many other global religions is diverse and local.  

Also, I also realise how many Muslims do not appreciate this fact, from the Arabicisation of Islam in Pakistan by the state to more fundamentalist groups who interpret the religion as static and never having moved beyond 7th century Arabia and consider any localised version to be corruption.

See an excerpt from Ecommerce: Tabaski rams bought in Paris, eaten in Dakar: "This is Tabaski - known elsewhere as Eid al-Adha - the biggest festival and holiday of the year in Senegal, a country that is 90% Muslim. This year it falls on 4 October. ecommerce start-up called Niokobok comes in.

The company lets the Senegalese diaspora around the world shop online for food, electronics and solar systems sourced in Senegal to be delivered to family and friends there. They also deliver rams and goats for Tabaski - as well as all the traditional trimmings: potatoes, onions, and sauces. Customers can go to the website and view videos of the animals for sale, before making their selection."

Insincere Revolutions

I picked up Pique from one a bookshop and not only loved the fantastic cover but the main feature Insincere Revolutions. Read it, I insist.


First Muslims to arrive in the subcontinent were Ismailis’ is a summary of lecture by Dr Mubarak Ali at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation. See an excerpt from the article: 
"Dr Ali said in Pakistan, after 1947, history was written in different stages. First rulers started to devise ways how to identify Pakistan as different from India. Instead of looking for its roots in the Indus Valley Civilisation, they tried to identify Pakistan with Mesopotamia. Even Prof Ahmed Ali wrote a piece saying Mesopatamian culture was deep-rooted in us.

In the second stage a lot of other distortions were made. Dr Ishtiaq Hussein Qureshi wrote that Akbar was responsible for the fall of the Mughal Empire. And that the Muslims who arrived in India did not have their ethnic identities. After the fall of Dhaka, Z. A. Bhutto formed a cultural department which tried to prove that Bengal had nothing to do with the Indian subcontinent. Then Dr Dani came up with the idea that we had our links with Central Asia and not with India.
In Pakistan, history was not considered an important subject; therefore, in the 1960s it was replaced with the discipline of Social Studies, which began history with Moenjodaro, then jumped to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and then to the two-nation theory — it was discontinued, interrupted history. Such an attitude would lead us to have no historical consciousness."
It's precisely what I have been thinking about as I have been sightseeing in and out of Islamabad. What Dr Ali is explaining is essentially the impact of particularly poor nationalism. 

And, speaking of national narratives, this wonderful meme-like reduced history of Christopher Columbus apparently all comes from A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn (which I started reading in Chicago in 2012 when I was there staying with my friend Chipo). Apparently, one US city or state is going to do away with Columbus Day. 

The War That Gets Waged in Our and Our Children's Names

Humour of All Kinds

I love this cover and the featured piece "Insincere Revolutions'' in

Arrogant Humour

New York Times apologizes over India's Mars Mission cartoon is a Times of India article. I was quite s
hocked by the unbelievable arrogance and racism of this cartoon. Was the Editor sleeping?

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