Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A sign of the apocalypse

I don't know if other people have noticed, but an age is ending with the Chicago White Sox on the brink of their first World Series Championship since 1917. This follows the Red Sox victory of 2004 which also lifted their curse dating back to 1918 when they traded away Babe Ruth.

These two curses have spanned the entire American century, marking the emergence of the US as a global power at the end of World War I. That baseball has long been considered America's pastime, and thus a potent symbol of the country's cultural and political supremacy, is even more compelling for elevating these events as a historic turning point.

That the twin curses of the Soxes is being lifted now, must portend something earth-shattering, such as the either the final decline of the American Empire, or the beginning of its most expansionist stage.

Coupled with the lose-lose scenario with peak oil on one hand bringing about economic collapse and global warming on the other bringing about ecological catastrophe, we are in for interesting times.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Kashmiri tragedy

When a disaster like this comes along, we must repeatedly ask, why are the poor left to their own devices? Why is the state almost purposefully incompetent and inadequate in its response? This article by Aasim Sajjad goes further and revisits the painful history of Kashmir, while squarely framing it within the political economy of the region. The difficult terrain has also complicate matters, and the UN has just recently claimed that this may be the worst logistical nightmare the agency has ever face, ever worse than the Tsunami.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Nobel Prize Winner Blasts Bush and Blair

Here's an abbreviate version of the speech Pinter delivered upon receiving the Wilfred Owen Poetry Award. (Wilfrid Owen wrote that classic anti-war poem, "Dulce et Decorum Est" as a soldier in WWI): The Independent.

Scathing and entirely accurate, Pinter cuts to the chase, calling a spade a spade in the Iraq war.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Ravanas of this Age

As Dussehra is around the corner, I thought it fitting to adapt the central mythos of the Ramayana to the contemporary era.

Ravana, the most powerful lord of the heavens and earth and villain of the story, has often been compared with the great evil of the day. As recently as the film The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey, Ravana was used to describe the East India Company, with his ten greedy heads representing the structure of the corporation.

Of course, Ravana being the most powerful king of the wealthiest nation in the world at the time, has a direct corollary to George Bush in today's Kaliyuga. Both indulged in great acts of hubris born of their arrogance and self-assurance in the righteousness of their cause.

Here are some more specifics:

How is Bush like Ravana?

Like Ravana, Bush is an ostensibly extremely pious person of high birth (although I think he really worships the other guy, not God). Like Ravana, his arrogance led him to assume divine status and grow evil and selfish. Both believe they have been favoured by divinity, and are infallible.

How is Ravana not like Bush?

Ravana was a brilliant and charming leader, whose 10,000 years of exertion gained Shiva's favour. Bush never really worked a hard day in his whole life. However, if you take Ravana with his 10 heads to represent the cabal behind Bush, then it does make sense. Just think of a beast with the heads of Bush, Rove, Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft/Gonzalez, Wolfowitz, Perle, etc. stuck together. Better yet, don't think about it, as it might be too horrific to behold!

Who is Ram?

Well, if the current net chatter is to be believed, Al Gore may run in 2008 for president. Gore would make a formidable candidate, especially as he has returned to his progressive roots and has emerged as a major statesman. Like Ram, Gore was cheated of his kingdom in 2000. His triumph would be akin to Ram's return from his self-imposed exile to defeat Ravana and ascend the throne. This would mark an incredible come back for Gore, who was gored (no pun intended) for accepting the Florida debacle at face value without putting up more of a fight (he had also greatly disillusioned progressive voters with his own drift to the right). However, no one could have expected that the last 5 years would prove so catastrophic!

Another interpretation can place the fate of this world in the hands of ordinary people -- thus that other superpower of global public opinion. Ravana in praying for invulnerability towards a whole series of deities, demigods, demons, and spirits, forgot to mention humans and animals. This allowed Ram, a human avatar of Vishnu, and Hanuman, lord of the monkeys, to team up and defeat Ravana.

Unfortunately, in researching this topic I came across opposite representations. It seems that many wealthy American Hindus have warmed to George Bush, caring little how many Muslims have to die or how many of their principles they need to betray to gain his favour (although not many, as they have tended to hold similar elite positions in society). Of course, the same people also served the British very well in administering their empire and oppressing their less fortune Hindustani brethren. It's an ugly part of Indian history in that the conquerors have always found willing collaborators amongst Indians. In this case, a common chauvinism with fascist proclivities has infected some powerhungry individuals in the Hindu community, as it has the Christian (religious right), Jewish (right-wing Zionism), and Islamic (retrograde conservativism). Very sad really, but each tradition has also given rise to prophets, mystics, avatars, and reformers who have repeatedly condemned the cozy relationship between the religious leaders and the power elites of each society. Hopefully, they will do so again, and reclaim the banner of peace and compassion for their great faiths.