I wish you all a best of 2010. Posting will be sparse for a little while but I hope to pick it up in the new year with tons of exciting insight into celebrity lives.
My friend Atiya Khan has a piece in The Platypus Review, The poverty of Pakistan’s politics (PPP), in which she takes me and Faisal Devji (finally, together!) to task for making “concessions to the Right” by not understanding, or not conceptualizing, or not realizing the “crypto-fascism” of the Taliban. This, accordingly, corresponds to the death of the Left in Pakistan since 1970.
Since her piece is in print, I will respond in print as well – either by sending in a letter or printing up flyers for Hyde Park. In the meanwhile, every one should go read her critique and reach their own conclusions (and discuss, of course).
“Yet the Army leadership is refusing to strike at the heart of the Taliban command in Baluchistan Province.” declares another editorial from NYT today. If only these Pakistanis would realize – why won’t they just realize – that this is their wars, not ours.
Think back to March 2009. Then, the Taliban were on a march to Islamabad – mere 60 miles away – and the editorial chided the Pakistani army and civilian elite of not understanding their mortal threat. Invade Swat, became a mantra of pundits and editorials alike. After hemming and hawing – and filling up its coffers – the Pakistani Army did. It went in with guns blazing from every hill-top. It watched the million walk out of the valley with their houses gone and their livelihoods vanished. Never did the NYT or the Administration pause to even consider what were the local histories, the local demands, the causes which would have allowed the Taliban any foothold at all in Swat. Not once was Swat’s precarious constitutional structure discussed or attention paid to the Swati demands for expedient justice, equal opportunities and resource sharing. Not once. The drums of war drown out any other voice. All the Empire seeks is immediate action. In the here and in the now.
Then, in August 2009 came the second wave. The real battle is in Waziristan, not Swat where the Taliban’s real base exists. Why won’t the Pakistani army move in there already? Why are the wasting time in Swat? The timing was also good for a Pakistani “invasion” since Baitullah Mehsud had just been killed. Once again, the Army dithered until just long enough before finally launching an operation into N. Waziristan. Once again, the local population fled – but this time there were no IDP camps and no relief efforts. Apparently “most had relatives in the region“. Go figure that one out.
And because frontiers are “always empty”, the Taliban are now going to Baluchistan. So, let us send the Pakistani Army after them. It is fun, no? This chasing. Like a global game of tag. Get serious, Pakistan Army! Get into Baluchistan and crush those Taliban. Once again, who cares if the reality matches any of our discourse. Who cares that Baluchistan is not empty, and that it already has a war.
Step 1: NYT (representing the Administration, of course) decries Pakistani Army needs to get serious on Taliban.
Step 2: Pakistani Army provides a suitable window of dithering, during which time a number of prominent pundits add their voice to the enfolding crisis.
Step 3: Pakistani Army gets more $ and then moves in to the “central area” in order to combat the Talibothra.
Step 4-40: Ignore any local issues; ignore the blowback of drones; ignore the constant bomb blasts in Peshawer, Lahore, Multan; ignore any political realities. Enjoy!
Sundays in Berlin are quiet affairs. The usual shops are all closed – groceries, pharmacies, booksellers, fruit vendors, bike shops, bakeries, discount stores. You get the picture. In some U-bahn stations, in some busy corners, there would be a lone bakery, a hold-out grocer. New Berliners, such as myself, collect these informational nugget, knowing that we will never have purchased enough milk or shampoo or toilet paper or sandwich bags on Saturday.
At first, I was bemused by this state. Sundays are a day of rest, my native informants told me. Yes, they are. I like to read my week’s worth of NewYorkers, RSS feeds, and watch the Bears/Flash Gordon on cable. That used to be my usual Sunday as well. Not necessarily “rest” but mindful inactivity. But, this closed businesses rankled me, a bit. I wasn’t living in some religious state, right? This was the heart of secular, capitalist EU where I oughta be able to buy some snacks and/or wine on Sunday. Then I learned that during the Advent calendar (four Sundays before Xmas), Berlin shops are all open. Yes! See, I told my native informants – here is consumerist world I recognize and love (and avoid): sidewalks crawling with overstuffed shopping bags and attached arms and legs, the best medley Mandy Moore ever sang with Paul Anka and five times the amount of perfume than is ever necessary wafting on every breath.
The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany decided on Dec 1st, 2009 that the Berlin ordinance allowing for the shops to be opened during the Advent calendar was unconstitutional. The suit was brought by the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg and the Archdioceses of Berlin and the Court accepted their argument that the abrogation of Sunday’s “restfulness” meant that the members of these churches could no longer have freedom of religious expression (ie. closed shops). Presumably, no other religion is laying a claim to a Sunday full of commercial activity. I really don’t understand the prezel logic.
The up-shot is that in another secular state, we the non-Christians, live under the tyranny (I know, too strong, but you catch my drift) of the theists.
Funnily enough, this is the same prezel logic that will have to define the implementation of the Swiss ban on minarets. After all, the might of the majority defining what constitutes proper architecture and what constitutes proper Sunday behavior are going to have to find similarly “secular” footholds in the Constitutions.
In a recent piece, Ian Buruma argues that the Swiss ban is less a sign of concern about Muslim religiosity and more a reflection on Europe’s own drift to socialist, atheist utopia:
Much has changed, thanks to global capitalism, European integration, the stigmatisation of national feeling by two catastrophic world wars, and, perhaps most importantly, the widespread loss of religious faith. Most of us live in a secular, liberal, disenchanted world. The lives of most Europeans are freer now than ever before. We are no longer told what to do or think by priests or our social superiors. When they try, we tend not to take any notice.
Hard to see where he gets that idea, isn’t it? Sure, the perception holds – and maybe those northies are indeed so free and disenchanted – but not here in Berlin, and certainly not in Switzerland.