December 31, 2007
New Year Open Thread
I'm writing from a business center in Bombay at the moment, so not much time to reflect eloquently on the past year. However, per tradition (and slightly early if you live in a North American timezone), I present you with our monthly open discussion thread. New readers may introduce themselves and regulars may whine and complain about random things as usual.
Since this is also a New Year thread, thoughts on where we should be going as a site are also welcome. I noticed some interest in subcontinental affairs in the Bhutto post, so perhaps I should be reading beyond the Mughal era and/or hunting down some Desi bloggers in the near future.
Anyway, I'm off to Udaipur. Happy New Year, whankers.
Posted by eerie at December 31, 2007 11:59 PM
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I think everyone should join my campaign to have all the world's cities reduce their populations below 1 million by 2100. I'm sure lots of people can think of answers AGAINST this, but can you think of any arguments in favour of it?
Posted by: Julaybib at January 1, 2008 04:37 AM
I'll be dead (I hope and expect) by 2100, so that's one more hit towards your reduction target ;)
Or I could move to a village or something.
Posted by: secretdubai at January 1, 2008 06:20 AM
Happy new year! Whereabouts in Bombay are you? How do you like it?
Udaipur is gorgeous, and the palace has lots of little foreign quirks, like the sun with cherubs copied from Louis XV and the Chinese blue tiled room. Would be curious what you think of the Rajasthani version of veiling too. Do visit the jauhar monuments if you get a chance, and read the legends about valiant resistance to marauding Muslim hordes. And download the film "Dor" when you have a chance, a beautiful (and subtitled) commentary on women, both Hindu and Muslim, in the area.
Posted by: SP at January 1, 2008 07:50 AM
Julaybib: implementation is all. As long as you don't want to get it done the way the Khmer Rouge did...
Posted by: pantom at January 1, 2008 08:56 PM
Why the fuck would this be a goal?
Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 2, 2008 09:45 AM
Well, for individuals, life outside cities can be pleasant.
Suburbs are a compromise, in that they give you the taste of country life, while allowing you access to the cultural and intellectual life of the city.
Of course, the suburban dilettante is a persistent theme of either city or country folk: see Desperately Seeking Susan, with the hubby from Fort Lee, NJ, who made his money on Jacuzzis, I think.
It's been a while. That movie spawned my favorite song of my twenty-something years, Into the Groove, back when I lived in a neighborhood where you got the Sunday NY Times on Saturday night, after the movies and on the way to post-movie midnight dessert, which of course was on the way to the bedroom and the post-dessert dessert. By far my most vivid memory from that time is picking up the paper after the movie and reading, some time prior to Gorbachev, I suppose, that the Polish gov under Walesa was thinking of breaking with the Warsaw Pact. I remember looking at my companion for that night and saying, "Well, they're done for."
This is the part where I get to say "But I digress."
There's no substitute for the city life. I've lived more or less equal parts of my life, by now, in cities and suburbs, and cities have suburbs beat by a wide margin.
But if you marry a woman who can barely stand shoes, you don't generally wind up in the middle of town.
Posted by: pantom at January 2, 2008 09:17 PM
I only just caught the ban-cities comment and discussion - why on earth would anyone want to reduce cities to under a million? Is a city a city if it's smaller than that? Must everything be provincialized and suburbanized and turned into exurban America? Ugh.
Posted by: SP at January 3, 2008 03:42 AM
Well, suburbs are not fundamentally terribly efficient. They are (speaking to American style suburbs) fundamentally luxuries. Of course megacities may be as well, but that is another question.
That still gets to the question, why would this even be a fucking goal? 1 million? I don't see any logic.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 3, 2008 06:11 AM
Suburbs, even American ones, don't have to be terribly inefficient - I grew up in one that was connected 24/7 by all mass transport lines to the city, had just about everything useful for daily life within walking or biking distance, etc. It's the sprawl that's a killer, especially with crappy (or no) public transport, but that's just bad urban planning.
Posted by: Eva Luna at January 3, 2008 10:12 AM
Gossip reports that Madonna is in Rajasthan for a Top Secret New Year, too. Any run-ins, Eerie?
Posted by: SP at January 3, 2008 11:04 AM
Here's a thought from a long time reader and infrequent commenter: it's been two weeks since the last post. C'mon already!
Posted by: m. at January 4, 2008 09:12 PM
For whoever wants it: NYT Book Review this past Sunday did its entire ish on Islam, and one of the books was reviewed by that Hirsan Ali person.
I was kind of hoping someone would review the reviews, as it were...
Posted by: pantom at January 9, 2008 12:23 AM
Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 10, 2008 09:05 AM
Posted by: Eva Luna at January 10, 2008 10:20 AM
Let's see, Ali treats an argument that the West is in danger of being "destroyed" by radical Islam as an argument to be seriously discussed. People who enjoy batting arguments of that caliber around are welcome to do so.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at January 10, 2008 02:43 PM
Y'all need to hang out where the fat, rich, beer-swilling, golf-playing white boys do. Hirsan Ali is a freakin' a) moderate, and b) cultured intellectual next to these guys. A veritable breath of fresh air.
I decided to wallow in those pits after finally deciding, after about the ten millionth encounter in real life, that hanging around with intellectuals with open minds was making me have an entirely unrealistic view of just what really is going on out there. It's pretty discouraging, but it keeps you from being surprised at the pasty male hecklers who show up at Hillary rallies shouting at her to iron their shirts.
No, that doesn't make me any more inclined to vote for her.
Posted by: pantom at January 10, 2008 10:06 PM
I specifically tailored my return to the US to avoid the fat white golf-playing whatevers. If L wants to go find them and shout insults at them, that's his business.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at January 10, 2008 10:30 PM
Acropolis Review Saudi Arabia
Posted by: J at January 11, 2008 02:10 AM
I'm curious. Is there any coverage of the American presidential primaries in MENA? If so, what do the make of it?
As circus-like as it is, things like Iowa and New Hampshire really showcase american democracy at its best. The idea of having the most powerful people in the country descend on coffee shops in the middle of nowhere and beg ordinary people to support them is pretty startling, even in a liberal democracy.
Posted by: Anonymous at January 11, 2008 09:52 PM
I found it interesting that coverage of the US primaries in India was completely overshadowed by some Australian cricketer tossing a few racist insults at an Indian cricketer. Breaking news, this was, round the clock. I even saw footage of people smacking a poster of Aussie cricketers with their sandals, and then burning it.
Thankfully I had BBC World. I think Al-Jaz discussed the primaries too, but I only got that in one hotel.
Posted by: eerie at January 14, 2008 12:34 AM
on a different note, a wonderful conference is currently underway in Madras(chennai)INDIA with speakers like Yasir Qadhi, Bilal Philips,Abdur Rahim Green and others participating in it.You can follow the live streaming on
Great talks on Aqida, Dawah and contemporary issues facing the ummah.
Believe me, the conference is very well organised and a pleasure to attend.
Posted by: ajsuhail at January 14, 2008 01:59 AM
People and news channels in India (as elsewhere) rarely give a rodent's derriere about US domestic politics. TV channels have been getting progressively more localised and sensationalist in their coverage, and people rely on BBC world or CNN or CNBC for international news. It's getting rather like America that way - imitation the sincerest form of flattery?
Posted by: SP at January 14, 2008 02:33 AM
I thought it was an Indian cricketer who made the insult?
Posted by: Ali K at January 15, 2008 02:30 PM
Anyone woul like to comment on this :
Posted by: history_lover at January 16, 2008 06:15 AM
Ali K: Yes it was an Indian (Harbhajan Singh) who stands accused of calling an Australian player (Andrew Symonds, who is of Aboriginal descent) a monkey.
Eerie: News outlets cater to their viewers' interests. I can't stand most networks' daily news coverage in the United States because the latter is dominated by reports about crime, sports, and the weather, whereas I want to hear about things happening in other countries. This is why I get my news online!
Posted by: dubaiwalla at January 16, 2008 07:44 AM
history_lover: so, Norman Podhoretz doesn't know what a Kurd is? makes me think of all those foreign policy (National Security, FBI, Homeland Security) wonks who said Hezbollah was Shi'a and al-Qa'ida was Sunni, and even farther back to the wogs described in David Fromkin's book, who divided up the Middle East according to the maps in the backs of their Bibles.... oh dear God...
Posted by: dawud at January 17, 2008 12:04 AM
I just want to say you guys need to chill-out and stop shouting at each other. Be friends for god sake!!! can't the arabs get along for once!
Posted by: Samer at January 18, 2008 02:29 AM
sorry, Samer, who's arguing against Arab unity or whatnot? You should know that some posters here pride themselves on being abrasive and rude.
As for myself, I make regular errors, such as putting Shi'a and Sunni in the wrong order above, just as some people can't distinguish the two, I can't type properly - stream-of-thought excuse - and meant to put that clause in the opposite order.
Posted by: dawud at January 19, 2008 01:53 AM
What shouting? This is a calm and well mannered exchange as far as I can tell (ex perhaps the direct question on that loony bollocks about 1 million pop). And no, Arabs can't get along any better than any other humans, so of course they can't unless there are real incentives and interests.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 20, 2008 12:15 PM
This quote from Mother Jones' Iraq feature:
"Iraqis associate refugee camps with Palestinians. There is a very strong cultural negative reaction to the idea of living in a camp. I've asked Iraqis who've been turned away at the Jordanian border, 'Why didn't you just set up camps at the border?' and they said, 'I would never do that.' They're more likely to live in very dangerous conditions in an urban environment than to live in a remote desert location in a tent. If they can't cross the border, and if they're not going to be congregating in tents, where are they going to be?" —Bill Frelick, Human Rights Watch
...got me thinking of the Egypt/Gaza prison break. So, for you expoits here, is there anything to add to this, beyond that Arabs generally treat Palestinian Arabs like dirt?
Posted by: Klaus at January 26, 2008 02:38 AM
why would people who've been raised intellectuals and literate (literacy in Iraq is above 90 percent, and conditions in Iraq in the late 70s, before the disastrous war with Iran were comparable to Greece in medicine and technology, and in Arab intellectuals, Baghdad was in competition with Cairo and Damascus as a center of learning) want to live in camps?
Palestinians are often seen by many Arabs (I think of some in Saudi and others whom I've heard castigating Palestinians) as being craven, commercial, and grasping - or unlike the idiot self-serving nationalist myths of many Arab nations, unwilling to fight for themselves to overthrow their oppressors, fleeing from the Nakba and then being unwilling to take effective means to fight off their oppressors, preferring to scrape by... however unfair, that enough of them stay in camps and accept the corruption of their officials and open conniving of rentier idiots - despite the open intelligence amongst many Palestinians that I've met - amongst business people, engineers, doctors, and programmers/IT professionals - a general unwillingness to face the malaise of Arab victimization and valorization of victimhood...
ya'ani, I want to avoid generalizations beyond the words I've written above, which are less my opinion than what I've heard from educated Iraqis and other Arabs - I do think that Hamas certainly did a smart thing tho with that wall-smashing - see the attached article (someone may want to edit/correct my poor html tag)
Hamas has gained from border breach, analysts say
A senior Fatah official who declined to be named said Hamas had taken "a clever step" by breaching the border, adding the question was what would they do next.
But Ali Jarbawi, another Palestinian political analyst, said: "There are two practical options, but neither are likely to happen: The crossing will remain open the way it is now, in chaos, or Egypt coordinates arrangements at the Rafah crossing with Hamas."
Jarbawi added: "It is true that the siege had resulted in this explosion but why is there a siege in the first place?
"Many believe that the reason is because Hamas is firing rockets and at the same time expects everything to be normal. But you have to be realistic, Israel and the international community will not accept such a scenario."
Posted by: dawud at January 27, 2008 01:09 AM
Perhaps this should be put in perspective. The HRW guy says that among Iraqis, "there is a very strong cultural negative reaction to the idea of living in a (refugee) camp."
Now would that be as opposed to among, say, Canadians? Or Egyptians? Aqoul readers? Of course no one wants to be a refugee, and even less a refugee in a refugee camp, as long as that is associated with being five families crammed into a filthy military tent, eating emergency rations and carrying water from UN trucks in plastic buckets.
I know of very few places where refugee camp life has been turned into something acceptable or even a point of national pride -- Palestinians and Sahrawis come to mind, both for very political reasons (nation-building through collective exile), but eg. refugee Lebanese, Golanis, Kosovars and Kongolese haven't picked up on the idea, as far as I know.
Also: Iraqi refugees have been overwhelmingly urban, and a reasonably big percentage has been affluent and/or educated middle-class people who of course hope to find a job in exile. And for virtually all fleeing Iraqis there has so far been a place to go and settle in "normal" urban refugee conditions, without the need for tent camps -- namely Amman and Damascus. Now that that is changing, perhaps a change in attitude will follow, but that's because it will be necessary, and hardly because of Iraqi psychology.
Posted by: alle at January 27, 2008 08:37 AM