Saturday, 30 April 2011

No Mr Laureate, You Will NOT Get My Vote!

The Nobel Prize was founded to award people who have made immense contributions towards the progression of humanity. Whether or not its reputation has recently been tarnished we can’t deny that it’s currently the most prestigious accolade in the world.

Winners of the award have primarily come from the west. This has pretty obvious reasons; economic and technological developments obviously help in the advancement of humanity. The award does however find recipients in undeveloped countries like Bangladesh, Burma, Nigeria and Ghana.

Having said that, most of the awards given to people from Third World countries are for Literature and Peace. Literature, because as we all know any story from an under developed country is considered exotic in the west (which is a phenomenon I am willing to exploit with my to-be book “Sit Shay”, which translates to “Tea Lady”); and Peace because, well I don’t have to explain that one.

Despite their incredible achievements, Nobel Laureates from Third World countries have developed a rather exasperating presumption regarding their own political adeptness. They think they are fit to run their countries. Ok, they don’t think, they’re convinced. If you think, you’d write about it but when you’re convinced you actually run for office.

Kofi Annan, a former secretary general of the UN, and former head of the UN Security Council is one of the aforementioned Nobel Laureates. After his rather pathetic term as the head of the UN Security Council, he assumed the post of secretary general of the UN. During his tenure as secretary general he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for being an African in a high position, or at least that’s what I think, because honestly the Royal Swedish Academy of Science’s reasoning was incomprehensible.

So after Annan’s tenure ended in the UN, he went back home to Ghana for a political career. In 2007 he was considered as a candidate for Ghana’s presidential elections.

Another Nobel Laureate with high political aspirations is Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. In 2010, he established the Democratic Front for a Peoples Federation, which he chaired, but whether he was going to run for office was disputed.

The most recent Nobel Laureate to make such a preposterous move is Egypt’s Mohammed El Baradei. He’s a former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “attempt” at purging the world of nuclear weapons.

El Baradei was heavily involved in the recent Egyptian revolution and was considered a symbol of resistance by many Egyptians. In February 2010 he formed the National Association for Change, a non-party-political movement. He later announced in March of 2011 that he intends to run in the upcoming presidential elections.

The outrageous part in all this buffoonery is not the silly reasons on which the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Annan and El Baradei, but the inconceivable conviction of the Nobel Laureates’ political aptitude.

Being in charge of a major global organisation, and having a high proficiency in telling stories doesn’t give anyone the right to a political career in their country, let alone be president. Politics, despite being a reprehensible field, like all other fields requires experience. And unlike other fields, its climate varies from one country to the next. So it only makes sense that successful politicians always have significant experience in their own country’s political atmosphere before making attempts at high positions.

Suddenly emerging on to a political scene and having the audacity to think that people should vote for you and your policies is not only stupid but quite disrespectful. The only thing people like Annan, Soyinka and El Baradei have to offer the populace is their much coveted accolade. This does nothing for anyone.

Anyone can think that they know how a certain country should be run; almost everyone in this world has political views and ideas; but not all can execute them, this is primarily due to a lack of political adroitness and familiarity with the people.

I think there’s a very important question that should be asked of every presidential candidate anywhere in the world. Referencing will be quite embarrassing but, as Janet Jackson so fruitfully put it, “What have you done for me lately?”

This question is more important than most people think, because you can always tell me what you’re going to do when you get elected, but what have you already done that makes you think that you’re a viable head of state. Written a book? No thank you. Inspected some nuclear plants? No thank you. Chose to intervene in some conflicts while ignoring others for political reasons? I think I’d rather vote for the first two.

So unless these laureates don’t think much of the people they’re campaigning to govern, the thought of running for office shouldn’t even cross their minds.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Why Syria?!

So far, since Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, two dictators were overthrown, another one was forced into the constraints of his presidential compound, another one is accepting proposals for a trial-less resignation, and a rookie to the protest game is just starting to show promise in his ability to massacre his own people.

The rookie is of course Bashar Al Assad; he and his oligarchic nepotistic elitist tyrannical fraudulent thug infested ruling party.

On Wednesday it was announced that more than 50 people were killed since the army moved into Deraa, in southern Syria. This made a significant addition to the current death toll of 453 since the protests began in mid March.

It’s also being reported that 30 tanks are currently surrounding Deraa, and more tanks are being positioned on the outskirts of Damascus.

These figures are very vague and barely accurate, mainly because the government in Syria has banned all press coverage, except the deliberate falsification of news by the state TV channel. Unfortunately for Mr Assad this happens to be the year of citizen journalism.

Due to the emergence of this new type of journalism, we have the privilege of a sneak preview of what is happening on the ground in Syria. Even though the numbers are hard to verify, videos don’t lie.

So whether it’s 453 people dead or 2 people dead we know the means. And I can tell you now, they’re ugly.

The most uninteresting thing about the Arab revolutions is that they are mundanely similar. After what had happened in Tunisia and Egypt, I could’ve told you EXACTLY how the presidents of the rest of the countries were going to react to the dissent. It’s so similar that conspiracy theorists could currently be having a field day on all sorts of theories surrounding the idea of a Middle East controlled by a single power. It’s mind boggling, but let’s leave that for now.

So Assad’s journey to dictatorial stardom started with small protests. Al Jazeera wrote a piece about how it all started with families demanding the release of their children who were arrested for revolution slogans they purportedly drew on walls in a street in Deraa.

From there you can probably guess how things went; calls for release, rejection, more calls for release, rejection, protests, subjugation. This proved to be the spark that the Syrian people have been waiting for. The protests that followed called for freedom from oppression, obviously.

Assad, being a quintessential dictator like his father, decided to follow in the footsteps of his counterparts (some of them no longer there) in the Arab world and crush the protests.

The protests that followed were bloody. As the soon to be called “protests cycle” dictates, death begets more protests. Subjugation and deliberate killing only adds more fuel to the fire, and it did.

The death toll kept rising and rising until by the middle of this past week it reached the 453 figure.

As we’ve seen in the previous revolts in the region, the most anticipated milestone is the moment the western leaders stand up and “condemn” the violence. For Syria however, this particular moment was nowhere to be seen. Not only that, but no one really anticipated it.

All we got were a couple of unceremonious comments from Obama saying how he would like the violence in Syria to stop. Which is what he always says; in a way that convinces you of his utter confidence in his reprimands.

A couple of days after Obama, William Hague, the British foreign minister came out and said more or less the same thing. Lackadaisical comments that call peace and restraint.

Most embarrassing of all is the lack of reaction from the UN. Not only did they completely ignore the issue, they had the nerve to inform the media that they’re not decided on their statement regarding the situation in Syria.

If they’re stuck on which terminology to use, that’s unacceptable; if they’re stuck on who exactly to make the statement to, that’s unacceptable; basically, there is no reason for the UN to be taking this long to address such an issue.

We all know, including Mr Obama, Mr Cameron and Mr UN, that press coverage of the events in Syria is deliberately banned by the government; and we all know that our only credible source of information is the videos updated by those on the ground, and the phone interviews they rarely give. We all know that. Yet not all of us are acting against these monstrosities.

Does this mean that the west doesn’t believe in the power of citizen journalism? Does it mean that they doubt the authenticity of the videos and statistics being delivered through the civilians’ mobile phones? Or is there just too much politics involved?

In order for the west to recognize Assad’s regime as dangerous, considerations have to be made for Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is a precarious situation, or so it seems.

This is a very credible issue to take into account when considering the west’s reaction to the Syrian revolution. But its credibility only goes to prove the theory (yet to come) of the devaluation of the human life. Political strategy is more important than saving lives. Yes, you can always argue that political instability can eventually cause more lives to be lost, but planning for future stability and sacrificing lives now is irresponsible.

Come to think of it, none of the western leaders gave their support for the protesters; none of them, not even Obama, aka Mr Political Rhetoric. No support shown, no help promised, no proper sanctions put into place, no veritable statement of condemnation. Shameful? I think so!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Are we missing the point?

Today some unfortunate news about the death of a foreign journalist, Tim Hetherington, in Misurata was circulating endlessly on all social media sites. People were deeply saddened and were offering their condolences.

It was a bit too much if you ask me. No disrespect to Tim Hetherington or his family and friends, and may he rest in peace, but people die every day in Libya, especially in Misurata where he died.

There is an evident bias in every syllable of western journalism, or maybe even journalism in general. It seems the deaths of those reporting violence and those intervening are so much more significant.

To clarify my point I’ll give you some news headlines from today.

“Foreign journalist, Tim Hetherington, dies in Misurata.”

“MOD names British soldier who died in hospital after Afghanistan blast as Captain Lisa Jade.”

“200 dead and over 50,000 displaced in post-voting violence in Nigeria.”

“20 dead as protests are dispersed by security forces in Syria.”

“12 rebel death in besieged city of Misurata.” (a couple of days ago)

Do you see the difference between the death of a foreign entity and that of the locals? The worst part is that this is not the first time this happens; it has been going on ever since the invasion of Iraq.

American and British troops are always identified; even their ranks are pointed out. However, the millions of Iraqis and Afghans that have died since the break out of both wars are fused into the numbers on the headlines.

To be fair, some of the local people do get named; only, however, when they’re journalists or “activists”. What does that mean? What’s an activist? And why are they more important than all the rest of the people in the street campaigning for freedom? I mean at the end of the day they can all die with one bullet and are vulnerable to arrest and torture.

Libya’s case is by far the worst. NATO is clearly there to help out the rebels. The main people behind this conflict are the rebels fighting for their freedom. However, even their names are left out of news headlines. Then who the hell matters?

It just seems to me that if you’re not a registered activist (you can register at the Royal Activist Association for Activists (RAAA)*) or a journalist or a foreign soldier, you don’t really matter.

*Note: RAAA doesn’t exist.

Let's not forget

It seems that after the ouster of Mubarak attention has been directed towards twitter, facebook and social media more than anything else; arguably even more than pornography.

Yes the internet and social media helped the people’s cause in the MENA region, but this social media mania has eclipsed the things that really matter.

Not only did the uprisings show that there’s always hope of emancipation, they also proved that governments are not that important.

The role of government, ideally, is to regulate. That’s it. Regulate imports or exports, immigration, local markets, anything that would be severely affected by excess or shortage. Security is one government role that needs de-regulation.

As was proven after the fall of Mubarak, the eloping of the interior ministry apparatus (also known as the police) didn’t have as dramatic an effect as would be imagined for a police-less state. Normal citizens organized checkpoints, neighbourhood watch and cleaning fiestas. Yes you get the occasional burglar here and there, but that’s not beyond normal citizen rule.

A while back in Sudan, being a burglar was arguably the riskiest business. If you got caught, by the people in the neighbourhood that is, you’d be praying for Godzilla to come storm the city. You’d be begging to be taken to the police station.

I think this is one main aspect of the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya (Benghazi) that has been severely neglected. After all everyone was getting their hands dirty for their country.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Stop it!!!

I promised Miss Optimist that I would write this. So here goes.

I’ve been a member of the global social networking society ever since its inception. I have witnessed the funny, the obscene and the downright inappropriate. Recently I’ve become ever so reluctant to digest the stupidity that has overwhelmed social media sites.

Twitter is wonderful. It’s actually more than that; it gives you the opportunity to express yourself, but concisely, so that people actually take the time to read your thoughts. I would much rather read a one lined opinion than a paragraphed one like you get on bookface. It lets you follow the people and organisations that you are interested in. It’s a fan’s fantasy, any fan, even if you’re obsessed with pubic hair.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with twitter it’s basically a social network were you get to write anything within the conformity of 140 characters, which is called a tweet. If you stumble upon a tweet that you like you can then re-tweet it so that everyone that follows you sees it. The great thing about it is that you can tag anyone in your tweet, and it will automatically show up on their profile, hence you can talk to anyone – literally anyone, even Obama – who has a twitter account.

So let’s say CNN covers a story that you like, you can then write “Thank you @CNN (or whatever their twitter name is) for the wonderful coverage.”

This is great. Unfortunately, because this is an idiot infested world, you get the random “@Ali RT (retweet) @Moez: @Ali you are a funny person”, which basically means Moez said that Ali was funny, and Ali retweeted it.

That’s fine, if you’re over weight and haven’t had an interaction with the opposite sex since your mother kissed you goodnight when you were three. So it’s not fine, it will never be fine. Why would anyone want to tell everyone else that someone else said they were funny (or any other compliment).

This regrettably paints a picture, a bad one. This shows that you like to tell people that other people like you. Imagine sitting at a restaurant with ten friends, you’re talking with the one next to you and he/she says “Dude, that’s a nice shirt”. You then stand up, stop people’s conversations and say “Guys, this guy/girl said I have a nice shirt”, then you sit down, like an idiot. This is exactly what it’s like. EXACTLY!

Everyone needs a compliment from time to time, but to be honest, I don’t want to know how good someone else thinks your mother’s hair looked last night, I really don’t.

Celebrities are the biggest abusers of this retweeting business. Specially (hardly a celebrity, but he’s famous) Nicholas Kristof - who’s a columnist for the New York Times and has over a million followers. This guy retweets everything. It’s like he’s constantly standing on top of a table saying “Hey, psst, hey, hey Moez. Look. Look, this guy said I had a nice column”. Well Mr Kristof, if you didn’t have a nice column I wouldn’t be following you would I? WOULD I? Actually, I think I’ll stop following you and your pathetic little self.

Why the hell would you still be trying to win grace when you are already famous? Why? Do you want to start a new religion? Do you? Well, If you do, I suggest you call it Look-at-meism.

Also, I really, truly, deeply don't care what Kanye West or Katy Perry think about the earthquake in Japan, and nor do I care what any other celebrity thinks about the misgivings of this world. So please, don't retweet that nonsense on my time line.

Booface on the other hand is absolutely dismal.

You always get the “Hey guys look at me and my other Indian friends who all look alike at the club last night drinking expensive drinks because if we were still back in India we would probably be working in a sweat shop” type photo albums. If you go somewhere exotic, take pictures, other than that just keep your camera at home.

The disappointing thing about bookface is that it was like twitter when it started; a profile, a status, event planner and groups. Now however, you can find out how large your neighbour’s dog’s penis is from your initials. You get told your fate by a digital psychic and the amount of money you’re going to make in your lifetime by two testicles on a yellow couch. It’s a mess. It has never been so bad.

The worst thing about it is that some people actually take it seriously. You get the occasional “OMG guys look, the online prostitute said I’m going to get laid tonight”, no you’re not you sad son of a b****.

The thing that really gets to me is the abuse of compliments. People complement each other for no reason. Thank God there’s no retweet option in bookface.

The worst type are the girls huddled in a group photo, accompanied, of course, by compliments like “OMG you’re so hot!!! Sexy!!!”, and the reply is usually “Aww thank you, you’re so kind”. Of course she’s kind, you look like Casper with Forest Whitaker’s facial features. She’s not only kind now; she’s been kind ever since she signed up to bookface. These self-complimenting groups of girls should doubt their friendships, because if I had someone who incessantly lied to me about my looks I’d turn the page.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble but Anita “The Psychic”, Kandy “The Whore” and Dave “The Accountant” are fictitious, they don’t exist and neither do their predictions. And most importantly, just because she’s your friend doesn’t make her hot. So please, save me some blog space and grow the **** up.

*Note: If you can’t figure out the exceptions to the above observations, then get in touch with the people who aren't aware of Mubarak’s regime’s shortcomings from my previous post and compliment each other.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Politics Begets Reputations

Politics covers many aspects of life, from armed rebellion to outcomes of football games (mainly in Italy, where politics and women’s breasts are synonymous). Basically everything and anything these days has political stench.

Virtually all universities in the world offer at least one course that is related to politics; whether it’s political science or political economics. According to Google – I’m conniving with Google because I’ve never enrolled in a politics course – courses include international relations, elections and voting, delegated governance, you know, nonsense.

I think the underlying issue with politics is that it’s more subjective than objective, contrary to the way it’s being taught. Essentially, you can’t touch it, it’s not there – and I’m guessing if it did have a physical form it might look like Rihanna’s forehead, in which case you wouldn’t want to touch it. I think politics courses at university level deal with politics as an entity.

This might be the reason why all politicians are, how do I say this, sh**. A politics course should essentially include law, history, geography, psychology, philosophy (only for students who have developed a fondness for marijuana or similar substances), and some economics too. All these topics have major parts to play in real life politics.

I know it seems like I’m here to start a revolution – I use this word way too often these days – against the elites of political academia, but no, again, like always, I have an issue to discuss. Only this time I’m not here to complain, just to point something out that I think has been profoundly overlooked.

It seems the only thing more global than inhaling oxygen is gaining a reputation. It’s not something you choose to do, it’s inadvertent. Reputation has become a national insignia; it might as well be included in travel documents along with the name and date of birth.

Now, we – people with common sense – are all aware of the fact that everything has a root cause. Reputations are not begotten by chance; they are a direct consequence of sequenced events that precede them. We all know the Japanese are stoical, the Americans are expedient, the Italians have formality issues, the British are dull (unless inebriated), the Nigerians are loud, the Chinese are a lot and the Indians smell wonderfully not wonderful. These are reputations.

Reputations lead to people using words like, naturally or congenitally, when describing another people. This is false of course, because you are never born with a certain non-physical characteristic, you are born into it; you unconsciously embrace it and eventually become it.

While historical, cultural and geographical issues have a major say in the reputations that people eventually develop for themselves, I personally think politics plays a bigger part. A quondam generous people can become exorbitantly frugal depending on political trends in the country, and vice versa.

I’m going to be casing my point on Egypt.

Unfortunately, Egyptians’ reputation precedes them more than any other nationality in the region. They are known to be extremely obsequious, fawning and unprincipled; they are labelled as crooks, sweet-talkers and are not to be trusted. (There are exceptions of course. If you are Egyptian and you’re reading this, you might think you’re the exception, you are, just don’t report me).

For the simple minded these characteristics are central to everyday interactions with Egyptian people. This is wrong. It is actually bordering on the immoral. Egyptians don’t like being not trust worthy, and they don’t choose to be deceitful. They are, put simply, desperate. They are 80 million with over 40% living with under $2 a day. Most of them barely make ends meet. The lucky ones escape, but abroad they are eventually treated with contempt based solely on reputation.

The reason most Egyptians are in the dire conditions they’re in is because the Mubarak regime, which ruled for 30 years (you can raise an oak tree during this time), was corrupt beyond measure. I don’t think I need to outline the short comings of Mubarak’s regime, if you don’t know them by now you ought to stop introducing yourself as human.

The effects of such profoundly flawed distribution of wealth in a country have developed an ever increasing cohort of desperate individuals. This financial divide conjures up blemished aspirations, where the poor want to be like the rich, and since their daily jobs will never make that happen they resort to unorthodox means like deceit.

Other reasons of course, which are more troubling, are the inability of the average Egyptian to provide for his/her family; the inability to provide a decent education, health care and food – which are basic human rights. This feeling of impotence leads to a life of “by any means necessary”; where earning a living is relieved from the burden of having principles.

I, personally, respect that. When people are dependent on you, you leave yourself behind, you become selfless. After all, having principles is a luxury (this is my quote, I made it up, and if I knew how to make that c in the circle Copyright sign I would’ve, so don’t use it unless you ask my permission, otherwise I might cry and tell on you; and as far as I know, the WIPO responds swiftly to crying cases).

Eventually, this strife for wealth or survival becomes a foundation of society. The more people are born into this society, the more people inherit this unfortunate habit.

So the next time you meet someone who tries to trick you for a couple of extra pennies or works a job where he/she is excessively sycophantic, just remember that they most probably need the money.

*Note: Egypt’s troubled southern neighbour is following the same trend. I have noticed this personally. It’s ominous to see “a quondam generous people become exorbitantly frugal”.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

It's actually very Simple

A quick summary: an invasion in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan, a playground fight (just ended) in Ivory Coast, _______ (<- enter your own perception of what is actually happening) in Libya, a “let’s kill our own people” vogue in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, absolute catastrophic failure of something not even remotely related to governance in the land jostling with Egypt, Libya, Chad, CAR, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Red Sea, mass graves in Mexico, no government in Belgium, a financial crisis in Portugal, and last but not least, a North Korean with an American passport just got detained in DPR Korea.

It’s obvious that there’s a lot wrong with the world these days. The summary doesn’t include details but to give you an idea of how bad the aforementioned issues are, you can bet your left leg that several books will be written about them in the coming years, and you’ll probably buy them, unless you can’t read, in which case you think these are symbols.

I’m no Gandhi but I can tell you how all these issues could be solved. And since I’m not Gandhi I won’t be doing it wearing a towel and a bald wig, a bald hair, a wigless hair, a hairless wig, whatever.

The main point to bring into perspective is this epidemic of venality and corruption that has engulfed our psyche. This is by no means a new concept to us, but it is a new concept to global governance. Corruption was confined to mafia circles and small governmental issues like mayoral elections. But such large scale corruption is definitely novel.

There was a time when you could clearly point out shady apparatchiks from a crowd, now you point at the crowd. Even university professors are taking bribes. If corruption was a social networking site it would dwarf Facebook.

So, corruption aside, all these problems are like everyday crime. What’s happening in Iraq is like a man taking over your household, forcing your dad out and pretending to give a sh**; then it eventually becomes grand larceny. Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya are murder cases. The recession that caused the financial meltdowns in Europe is daylight robbery.

All these crimes have corresponding punishments in civilian courts. However, it seems on an international level people are treated as countries instead of people. If people like Gaddafi and Ali Abdullah Saleh are treated like the recidivists they actually are, we won’t be in this predicament.

So there you have it, treat the world like an oversized country. This fits into the definition of globalization more than any preceding it.

Also, here’s a pocket sized solution to poverty. Take all that futile wealth doing nothing but gaining interest in western banks and scatter it around, give it to people that need it. Again, this is similar to dealing with a city council budget, or a country’s budget. It’s really not that difficult. At the end of the day we all have two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth.

*Note: The above “solutions” assume lack of corruption.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A couple of Mil and I'm out

Michael Moore recently posted a study regarding the distribution of wealth in the US. The study showed that the top 400 richest (actually wealthiest, rich would be an understatement) people in the US are worth as much as the bottom 50% of the population (153 million people). Put in simpler terms, the top 400 have a lot of money, a lot.

The important point here is the not the reprehensible outcomes of the capitalist system implemented in the US, but the rhetoric used when talking about such issues. Like I said earlier, the top 400 have “a lot” of money, and this is exactly the term used – or others that are remarkably similar – by others, including the professionals, when discussing these profligate few.

No one ever uses the terms “too much money”, “more than necessary”, or “money that will not run out even if they lead 50 extravagant lives simultaneously, in each baring 34 children and 98 grand children.” No one ever says that. Why? Is it shameful to admit that these people have more money than several countries combined? Yes it is actually, it is shameful. That’s why no one points it out.

Now, the top 400, according to the study, are worth $1.2 trillion. That’s an average, an average – emphasis is necessary – of $3 billion. Now, I personally know that the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are worth around $50 billion each. This is half the current GDP of the oil-producing region controlled by some fat dude with an incessant frown (including the South; and no I won’t mention the era before the oil because it’s embarrassing).

This, by anyone’s standards, is more money than necessary. I don’t blame them though, because honestly, people like Bill Gates can’t help the success of their business. So technically, even if he doesn’t want any more money, he’ll still receive it. But I will point out that their self-proclaimed altruism is infuriating. If you’re generous, you’d never be this rich. That’s a fact.

My problem is with leaders, dictators to be precise. Let’s say you’re a dictator, you’ve been president for decades, and you run the show. This automatically translates into an unfathomable accumulation of wealth.

So the wealth accumulated is from government funds, which, for a dictator, is his/her funds. But through our eyes it’s more like taking the people’s money, without their consent. Which is fine. Everyone does it.

So you feed off the country’s income, tax payer’s money, foreign aid, the whole shebang. Then, obviously, you adopt the trending nepotistic approach and get your whole family in the loot. By now your whole family, extended family and remote relatives are well off and on a feeding frenzy. Then you keep looting, or taking what’s yours, depending on how you look at it. But why?

Why would you still be abusing the country’s income if you’re probably by now the wealthiest man in it? Why? Let’s say you steal $2 billion – which is a meager amount compared to what current dictators are actually stealing – but you’re still president. This is more enough money for retirement.

Which begs the question, why would you still be in power? There’s no clear explanation to this phenomena, and yes it is a phenomena. I discredit all assumptions that power corrupts and the infamous saying by Abraham Lincoln that “Any man can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character give him power”.

I refuse to accept a psychological explanation for this matter, mainly because I think it’s an easy way out. There has to be another, more nuanced elucidation for this ineradicable hunger for power.

In all honesty, if I were a dictator, as soon as my Swiss bank balance reaches $100 million I’d abscond like my life depended on it.

Do consider this. What if, by accumulating power and wealth, dictators reach a level of unprecedented chauvinism? What if they are downrightly convinced that they are the chosen ones, the only ones capable of running their country, without a shadow of a doubt? It’s not that farfetched. Someone should look into it.

Journalists, what do you want?

I just realized that I have a lot of complaining to do when it comes to news. It’s not that I have anything against news agencies, but recently they’ve got me pulling my hair out.

It seems the instructions given to anchors these days are excessively didactic. This is primarily because I assume that anyone working for such high profile news agencies, like the BBC and Al Jazeera, would be above average in terms of common sense. Needless to say, average itself is sufficient for characterizing appropriate questions to ask.

Experience is critical in all fields, and more so even in journalism. Experienced journalists know how a story should be reported, the type of audience that their story is aimed at, and most importantly they ask the right questions.

What I noticed recently is that journalists have picked up an indelible habit of asking silly questions. At first I thought it was due to the blatant prejudice of the news agency they represent, but now I think it’s just plain stupidity.

For example, in a recent segment of The World Today on the BBC World Service, the presenter of the program got in touch with one of the victims of the tsunami in Japan. The presenter, as I eventually found out, has been working for the BBC for no less than 8 years. Her first question was “How is the atmosphere in Japan regarding what happened?”

I have no idea what she was expecting the reply to be, but I can tell you that I, sitting on my desk at work, could have answered that question. I’m not saying I know much about journalism, but that’s definitely a question for a correspondent. What was she expecting? Jubilation? Ebullience? WHAT???

Another question, that’s equally execrable, was asked by an Al Jazeera presenter to one of the pro-democracy protesters in Libya. The poor man probably risked his existence to get in touch with Al Jazeera, and yet he’s asked “How bad do the rebels want Gaddafi to go?” Not that bad actually, they’re just dying for fun, you know, because they like putting their lives on the line and carrying weapons they’ve never used before; seriously, it’s a trend nowadays.

What I advise is that these idiots on TV and radio, claiming to be journalists, should just let the people call and tell their story like they see fit. Don’t ask stupid questions because it’s a waste of time for all of us.

There’s a saying that goes “Ask a stupid question, and you’ll get a stupid answer”; I think if those civilians on the ground were in the right state of mind, far away from all the tempests, they’d probably embrace this adage. God bless them.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Condemnation: A New Vogue

I hate having to read news headlines these days, because, in all honesty, they make me doubt myself. They are outright condescending, with a hint of chauvinism.

Recently, in the Arab world, things have gone awry, especially for the Arab leaders. They’ve all faced dissent, and not the “give me a raise” type, but the “Mr President, we’re fed up” type. As expected, the leaders did what they’ve been trained for by their western counterparts, and subjugated the protests in the most reprehensible manner.

I could easily go on to criticize the fact that all the Arab leaders’ reactions to protests were the same despite previous admonitions from those abdicated before them, but I won’t, because it’s obvious.

The worst part of this wave of dissent is the western world’s reaction; not going too deep into politics, I will highlight why news headlines incense me.

The most recent headlines have been related to violence in Afghanistan. Here’s one from the BBC: “UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon condemns “an outrageous and cowardly attack” against the UN in Afghanistan.”

Another one from the BBC: “President Obama condemns “in the strongest possible terms” the attack on the UN mission in Afghanistan.”

These headlines are not unique. I don’t have enough references but I can remember reading at least another 10 to 15 saying how Obama, Cameron or Ban Ki-Moon condemn acts of violence by Arab leaders on their citizens.

Condemn, in The Free Dictionary, means “to express strong disapproval of.” This is exactly what the western leaders have been implying when they use the word “condemn.” They strongly disapprove of the actions of the Arab leaders towards their people.

The same scenario pops into my head every time I read these headlines about the western leaders condemning acts of violence, and this is how it goes.

Picture an Arab leader sitting at a round table with his cabinet, advisors, ministers, and anyone who matters. The topic at hand is a way to suppress the protests in order to keep a grip on power. Suddenly, the president’s aide rushes into the room in panic urging the president turn on the TV. Everyone’s attention turns to the news channel where the headline reads “Obama condemns acts of violence by ‘Arab Leader’.” Everyone in the room becomes mute, exchanging worried looks; small whispers of concern fill the room. The president’s senior advisor and confidant turns to him and says ‘Sir, Obama condemns our actions, we must stop, now’. The president nods in approval, and issues a presidential decree that stops the violence against the protestors; two days later he steps down.

This is exactly the opposite of what actually happens. This will never happen, ever. I’m sorry to burst your bubble Mr Obama but this is not a Hollywood film. Condemning enemies and giving operations stupid names will not win you anything.

It is actually absurd that these western leaders think that by condemning someone’s actions something might change. It’s ludicrous.

Primarily, if you have to go on a live broadcast to declare your disapproval of killings and violence, there’s something wrong with your morality. The default sentiment towards violence is disapproval, if you’re human. But as I mentioned in my previous post, politicians are not humans.

Now that condemning acts of violence is in vogue, western leaders will have to condemn everything, just to keep their backs covered. Fortunately, it has already started. It’s not condemning, but it’s equally farcical. A couple of days after Japan’s earthquake, the BBC reported that: “PM Cameron is shocked and saddened at earthquake in Japan”. Well, sorry Mr Cameron, I think the earthquake owes you an apology, how dare he not tell you he was coming for Japan.

So it seems Obama and the rest of the gang have been condemning many things lately, and in the same tone too. However, condemning has been notched up a level.

The BBC headlines I mentioned in the beginning were of comments made by Obama and Ban Ki-Moon regarding the Afghans’ storming of the UN building in protest of the Quran burning that took place in the US.

Here, Obama played his cards right. He let Ban Ki-Moon have the first statement. Obviously enraged with the attack on his organization, Ban Ki-Moon made some tweaks to his customary condemning statement to make it more potent; he said he condemns “an outrageous and cowardly act” against the UN. This had been the strongest condemnation statement made by any leader of any organization or country thus far.

By that time Obama – probably sitting in his oval office in deep thought – was preparing for his statement regarding the Afghan violence. He hadn’t expected what had preceded him. So he too makes some tweaks, and finally says that he condemns “in the strongest possible terms” the attacks on the UN mission in Afghanistan.

After reading these headlines – Ban Ki-Moon’s first of course – you get the impression that when Obama was done with his statement he phoned Ban Ki-Moon and said, very briefly, “In your face”, and hung up.

So now that politicians are obsessed with condemnation, not only do they condemn someone’s actions, they have to specify the extent to which they condemn it. Ridiculous!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Human to Politician: De-evolution?

It’s been a long while since the last time a politician stood on a podium not giving excuses on the incongruity between the promises and actions of his/her respective government. Basically, they lie; incessantly. But you do have to remember that they’re not like you and I.

We, humans, have moral responsibilities to answer to. Politicians don’t. Their obligations are to their sponsors (who at times, queerly, are themselves).

Politicians are not like all other species; you can’t point your finger and identify a politician at birth – like you do, for instance, a cria (baby llama), or a baby platypus. They’re born human, and eventually mutate into politicians.

Several reasons dictate humans’ deformation into politicians. Some inherit it; others are so adroit at deceit they inadvertently find themselves talking on a podium, telling lies.

In politics, politicians are palatable, and not because it’s their forte but because they find other people who lie as good as or better than themselves. So it’s a big lying orgy.

Lying may appear to be a routine task, but it has pretty intrinsic prerequisites. First of all there’s a meeting where all the best liars in the country congregate. The topic discussed would be the lie which the lie-conveyer – sometime referred to as ‘spokesman’ – will let loose onto the world.

Secondly, the lie is presented to a lying consultancy board. Here, they check whether the lie is predicated on factual grounds; if it is, then it’s scrapped, unless it’s really compelling and subsequently congruent factual grounds are begotten.

Finally, when everything is finalized, the lie-conveyer steps into the blinding wave of flashing cameras to deliver his flagrant lie in a typically somnolent manner.

They say the thing that separates us humans from animal species is our impeccable ability to learn. Not when it comes to politics though. The same politicians tell the same lies perpetually and we insist on analyzing them and their respective outcomes.

Recently, political analysts in the US have been keeping busy with Obama’s address regarding the NATO invasion of Libya. The same thing happened when Obama first assumed office. A wave of “historical” speeches followed, and to no one’s surprise, these speeches were broken down and analyzed.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if any politician in any part of the world, at any given time, actually owned up to his promises, there wouldn’t be a need for post-speech/statement analysis. But no, they don’t, hence we have to break the “Da Politician Code” in order to know what to expect.

Politicians seem to have a very bad foreboding ability. Whatever seems to be projected usually ends up being justified for numerous short comings. The world’s inundated with such flawed projections and yet we are incapable of denouncing them.

Recent censuses have shown that the world literacy rate has risen and people are more aware now than they have ever been which implies that the politicians’ attempts to assuage the populace should be predominantly subdued. However, we are still deluged with optimism and expectations every time we listen to our leaders’ empty promises.

These insidious promises are consistent with the leaders’ bids to stay in power or get elected into power. The same lies get told even before the president or prime minister assumes office. This fact alone underscores our inability to see through political gabble.

I’m not attempting to provide a solution for this quandary; I’m just telling it how I see it. It’s extremely exasperating to see the plaudit that heads of states receive despite their habitual deception.

Political promises are a catalyst for nation-wide confusion. Whether quixotic or prudent, policies should be conveyed to the masses on a need to know basis, because otherwise they’re not called policies, they’re called lies.

I am unreservedly convinced that politicians are a grade below normal humans in the evolution spectrum, primarily because they are ascetically devoid.