Sunday, April 03, 2011

Racism in Muslim Pakistan

By a Pakistani woman

In recent European debates, one can detect palpable tension when the issue of racism comes up. The topic arises in connection with a wide spectrum of phenomena: it’s one thing, after all, to deny young people of Asian origin entry into a hip nightclub in Copenhagen, and it’s entirely another to murder one’s daughter because she married a Kashmiri Muslim instead of a Punjabi Muslim. My opinion is that it’s very important for us here in Pakistan to address racism in our own society before we start railing at Europeans for being racist.

The first cry that goes up from the Muslim side when the issue of niqab or hijab is raised in Europe is that Europeans are racists, and that their criticism of certain aspects of Muslim “culture” amounts to a blatant swipe at a Muslim woman’s identity and religion. Yet when you actually look at the history of these pieces of cloth, it becomes clear that they originated as a symbol of class. Reference needs to be made to the fact that the veil was worn in pre-Islamic Arab society as a way of differentiating women of high social standing from slaves and prostitutes.

This brings me to one of the main problems which lead to violence and oppression in the Muslim world – racism. Yes, we Muslims are certainly not devoid of racism towards those we deem “lower” than us.

Growing up in Pakistan and being dark-skinned, I have experienced racism on the part of my peers. Even if they express it in a joking way, it’s there; it’s real. I’ve even been told by a close friend (a male who is Pathan in origin, hence very pale) that my features are beautiful – if only I were fair-skinned! I’m lucky enough to live in a subculture in which such things don’t matter. But the masses are constantly being fed with the idea that the lighter your skin colour, the more beautiful you are.

On any given day, one need only browse the Pakistani television channels for 30 minutes or so to get an idea of how deep-rooted this notion is. Because you’ll run across (for example) an advertisement showing you how a certain beauty crème entirely changed some girl’s life because it lightened her skin! In some cases the crème helped the girl to bag a husband; in other cases it snagged her the ideal job.

My own beautiful mother was told time and again by my father that she was lucky he married her, because she was dark-skinned. Racism, in short, is a stark reality of day-to-day life in Pakistan. It’s always there, in everything that goes on. If it isn’t about how light-skinned or dark-skinned you are, it’s about your actual racial origins.

Most honour killings of young couples are carried out because the victims married ‘out of the caste’. Syyeds (people who claim to be the direct descendants of the Prophet) are at the top of the hierarchy here. The bottom rung in Pakistan seems to be occupied by the Christians. They’re openly discriminated against, and are often referred to as “Chooras” – a disgusting term that is at once a slur against dark-skinned people and against Christians.

I remember clearly one time when a friend, who was also unlucky enough to be born brown in Pakistan, walked over to me at a party in tears. The reason? Her boyfriend had introduced her to his aunt, who was inebriated, and who said, “This is the girl you’re madly in love with? She looks like a Choori!” In one fell swoop the girl’s self-image was reduced to nothing. It didn’t matter that she was so beautiful that she could have been walking the ramp at international fashion shows, or that she had done brilliantly at school. No, what mattered was that she was dark, period.

Similarly, talking to an Arab of Jordanian origin once, I was blown away by the blatant racism in his interaction with anyone who was non-Arab. He proudly stated: “We’re brought up in an atmosphere in which we’re told that anyone who isn’t an Arab just isn’t as good as us.” The same individual had an American girlfriend for years. Then one day he came back from a visit to his country married to a young Arab girl. What was his explanation to our mutual friend, his girlfriend? “I always told you how I felt; I could never have children with a woman who isn’t an Arab!”

The problem is that racism prevails in our society. It’s ingrained. We feel that we’re better than anyone. It’s something we’re raised to believe. The racism doesn’t just pertain to skin colour. I’ve even heard mothers shout at their children for eating too fast with the admonition, “Stop eating like a bhooka [starving] Bengali!” Because we don’t even think that the Bengalis are as good as us, and clearly it’s okay to make your children feel the same way and to teach them that it’s a lowly thing to be poverty- stricken.

Someone once said that the prevailing problems in a society can easily be deciphered by analyzing the worst of the worst insults in its native languages. In Pakistan the worst insults are either misogynistic or racist, because nothing can be as bad as being “different”. This mentality coming from a nation of (mostly) converts! Yet most Pakistanis will proudly proclaim that they’re of divine decent – that they’re the children of the first Muslim armies that came to the subcontinent in A.D. 712. Of course, it’s not possible that that “pure” blood has been diluted since!

I’ve heard people in Pakistan – people with educated and wealthy backgrounds – refer to people of African origins as “Kalay”, meaning black in a derogatory way; to people of oriental origins as “Chaptay”, meaning flat-faced; and the list goes on. Sitting at the Norwegian embassy once, waiting for my turn to submit my visa papers, I heard one old man say to another, “I’m just going to visit my son. You can’t expect me to go and live forever in this suuar khanay walee qaum (pig-eating nation).” A young woman I know who recently returned from a holiday in Thailand said, “It was a nice place, but I just couldn’t stand it after a while – all Thai people have a particular stink!”

Take a look at the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who is on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy. The whole argument began when she offered a few Muslim women a glass of water from which she had been drinking while they worked. The Muslim women refused to drink from the same glass, which angered Asia. What she said after that no one knows, since you cannot repeat blasphemy in Pakistani courts to prove or disprove it, but she was given the death sentence for it.

At this point I must bring up the fact that the most racist white person could not make me feel as bad for being a Muslim or Asian as a number of people have in Pakistan for being brown. It’s ironic to me that there’s so much hue and cry about racism supposedly taking over Europe. I don’t see it. What I do see is a lot of people using the word racism to derail important debates about rising crime statistics and about the abuse and oppression of women in Muslim communities. One thing I know from living in Pakistan is that there’s enough real racism in the world – especially in the Muslim world – to invent it where it doesn’t exist.



Corrupt Elections are Undermining Governance

One of the most surreal experiences of our lives was watching an unelected bureaucrat pick and choose what ballots she wanted to count in the closely contested election featuring pseudo-Republican Lisa Murkowski and Tea Party Favorite Republican Joe Miller in Alaska. Having spent decades watching ballots be counted in hundreds of elections, and never once have we seen a situation with such outrageous manipulation of the vote.

But I guess we weren't in Colorado. Hot off the presses is a report that documents 5,000 non-citizens voting in that states highly contested elections. According to a report in The Hill, the "Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican, told the panel that his department's study identified nearly 12,000 people who were not citizens but were still registered to vote in Colorado.Of those non-citizen registered voters, nearly 5,000 took part in the 2010 general election in which Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet narrowly defeated Republican John Buck. Colorado conducted the study by comparing the state's voter registration database with driver's license records."

In state after state corruption is beginning to undermine the credibility of the fairness of elections. We all remember the election officials in Florida holding up ballots looking for hanging chads in the Presidential race between Al Gore and George W Bush. The presidential race in 2000 was sadly decided in the US Supreme Court, and it undermined the credibility of President Bush until his more convincing re-election victory in 2004. To his day, we still see bumper stickers that say re-elect Gore in 2008.

In Washington State Dino Rossi lost a Governor's race in 2004 only after the ballots were counted three times. Every new count featured the Liberal King County election officials discovering votes that were not counted the first time. These votes just appeared from nowhere weeks after the election was over.

All citizens left, right, center, Republican, Green, Democrat, and Libertarian should be able to have confidence in the integrity of the voting process. Without faith in the process, the illegitimate election results undermine the ability to govern.

Let us suggest some reforms.

1. Identification should be required to vote. No American should be offended for having to produce identification to prove residency and citizenship. This will give us all confidence in the outcome, and we will be confident that some activists are not attempting to vote in multiple jurisdictions.

2. Every time someone votes it should produce a paper record of the votes cast. Machine tabulation is open to hacking and manipulation by the individuals running the election. If every vote produces a paper ballot, it leaves an audit trail that will insure integrity. A laser printer could be attached to voting machines and the print out could be reviewed by the voter for errors. Every ballot could feature a control number to keep it from being miscounted.

3. Write in voting should be eliminated in this era of instant information. Instead of write in candidates, the actual ballots should adjust to allow additional candidates on the ballot. Filing deadlines could be extended to accommodate multiple participants and parties. Systems that limit the number of candidates in any race should be eliminated. A wide open process with maximum participation is best.

4. Ballots not entered into the counting process during a pre-approved voting period would not me counted. Officials could say if a ballot is not found within a week of the election it would not be valid.



An overview of the Great Depression

In Depression, War, and Cold War, Robert Higgs divides the Great Depression into three phases. The Great Contraction occurred during the Hoover years and went from 1929 to 1933. During this period private investment fell by about 84 percent. This set the stage for the Great Duration, 1933–1945. As Higgs shows, GDP and private investment increased during the early years of the New Deal, but as the 1930s wore on, President Franklin Roosevelt became ever bolder about undermining property rights. This delayed complete recovery. Finally, there was the Great Escape, which occurred after and in spite of World War II, not because of it. Higgs argues that the Great Escape occurred as a result of a partial dismantling of the regulatory infrastructure that had grown up during the Depression and the war; in effect, it was a rediscovery of the market and a new birth of freedom for entrepreneurs and workers.

In discussing the Great Duration, Higgs introduces the term "regime uncertainty" to argue that the Roosevelt administration's aggressive interventions produced considerable uncertainty in the entrepreneurial environment. Investors did not know whether they would enjoy the fruits of their investments. One of my mentors in graduate school, a Keynesian, pointed out once that firms will not produce what they do not expect to sell. I would generalize this to say that they will not invest in what they do not expect to control. The possibility of incurring the costs of an investment without enjoying any of the benefits made private investment much less attractive.

How do we know that regime uncertainty was responsible for the lack of recovery? Higgs brings several types of evidence to bear on the issue. First, business leaders who were polled expressed uncertainty about the entrepreneurial climate. Second, and more convincingly, Higgs shows that the risk premiums on long-term corporate bonds were substantial, suggesting fear of expropriation. A firm that wanted to borrow long-term had to pay much higher interest rates than firms that wanted to borrow short-term. This spread increased dramatically during the Roosevelt years.

The Great Depression did more than chill the investment climate. In Crisis and Leviathan, Higgs argues that during a crisis a "ratchet effect" produces net increases in government discretion that are not completely reversed after the crisis. Two things happen when government intervenes. First, the bureaucracy naturally tends to expand beyond its stated goals — mission creep. Second, intervention alters incentives; that is, the creation of a bureaucracy to address some problem also spawns a rent-seeking pressure group with interests that will prevent reversion to the status quo ante.

Roosevelt's advisers saw in his program not merely a road to recovery but the opportunity to remake society. In FDR's Folly, Jim Powell, echoing an idea advanced by Milton Friedman, suggests that they "never appear to have considered the possibility that more power would magnify the harm done by human error or corruption."

Their intellectual approach was to contrast "actual capitalism with ideal government," with intervention judged not on the basis of its effects but of its intentions. Further, the intellectual program of the New Deal was inconsistent and often contradictory. Powell argues that pragmatism and political expediency ruled the day:

"It didn't bother [Roosevelt] that New Deal policies contradicted one another. When an adviser gave FDR two different drafts of a speech, one defending high tariffs and the other urging low tariffs, FDR told the adviser: "Weave the two together." The Agricultural Adjustment Act forced food prices above market levels, in an effort to help farmers, but higher food prices hurt everybody who wasn't a farmer. The National Recovery Administration forced up prices of manufactured goods, hurting farmers who had to buy farm tools and equipment. Agricultural allotment policies cut cultivated acreage, while the Bureau of Reclamation increased cultivated acreage. Relief spending helped the unemployed, while corporate income taxes, undistributed profits taxes, Social Security taxes, minimum wage laws, and compulsory unionism led to higher unemployment rates. New Deal spending was supposed to stimulate the economy, but New Deal taxing depressed the economy."



Chartist says the Dollar Will Collapse Within 3-4 Months

(Charts are commonly used in attempts to predict share prices)

The US Dollar's inflationary death spiral continues. We've now taken out the 2010 low leaving only two more lines of support before we're in completely uncharted territory.

At its current rate of collapse, the US Dollar will do this within the next 3-4 months. This means the greenback will break into a new all-time lows by 2H11, which will precipitate the coming inflationary collapse.

Small wonder then that both Gold and Silver recently hit new highs for their current bull markets. With the greenback dropping like a rock, and rumors of QE 3 swirling around the financial community, what sane investor would bet against inflation?

On that note, now is the time to be shifting capital into inflation hedges.

More here


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

Robert said...

Re: "Chartist says the Dollar Will Collapse Within 3-4 Months" and where it says, "With the greenback dropping like a rock, and rumors of QE 3 swirling around the financial community, what sane investor would bet against inflation?"

The answer: one who knows Socionomics and Elliott Wave Theory, describing how markets actually move. As I write this 8/12/11, we have a completed Elliott Wave pattern ending at the 70.70 low of 3/17/08. Then we have a five-wave pattern up from March 2008 through February 2009 (wave 1). That is followed by a three-wave corrective pattern from February 2009 through April 2011, and slightly into May, contained within a channel drawn with parallel lines (wave 2). Now unfolding should be a powerful third wave up in the dollar which should ultimately take the index well into the 90's, if not over 100. Accompanying the move should be a major destruction of credit, sharply contracting the supply of currency + credit.

Linear projection of the past is what fools most people, though they reasonably assume that what appear to be economic fundamentals would seem to support a continuation of the trend that accompanied them. But that's not how markets actually work.