Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"The Return of Saladin"?

They say even a drowning man will clutch at a straw. Will the honour and bravery of Saladin bring back our honour? Bring back a hero of the old world, so we can embrace the new one?

Seems a contradiction. History teaches us many things about who and what we are. But it cannot plot our course for the future. Is mass-market reserruction of an age-old hero going to solve our problems? The solutions to our problems today must come from within, not from without. Saladin's perspective and insight came from within. As must a contemporary leader's, should a child borne by one of our Great Family ever bear such qualities.

Farish Noor from the Daily Times in Pakistan calls for a Return of Saladin through the new Iraqi president, Jalal Talabaani. A misleading title to a good argument.

One thing that we must have learned in our time here, it is that there is no return. Be it a gap of a moment or a thousand years, one moment lost is one lost to eternity. Where we were a second ago, we will never be again. There is no such thing as habit. That is the beauty of mortality and time: there is never a return.

But what any wise leader can do (and has done), is internalize the lessons of history and apply them in their modern contexts. As eras and ages and seconds and flashes differ from moment to moment, so does political intrigue. And therein lies the hallmark of a true leader and a scholar of decisions: the insight to look at actions and their ramifications through "the lens of eternity." That is the heirloom of the Righteous Caliphs.

Of course, nothing is ever so simple. The problems facing Iraq are many. We live in interesting times, and we pay for them with the lives of our brothers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Over and Above

Yet another opinion piece on Gulf News on the ineptitude of Arab politics. I am no longer impressed; these articles are just fluff to fill up the pages. Written by armchair politicists in universities, read by armchair politicists at the dinner table.

This persistence on vagueness on what exactly the problem is with the Arab world and its leaders bothers me. Everything is broad and sweeping. A shout into a crowd, drowned by every member of the crowd thinking it was addressed to the person beside them. No responsibility. Convenient vagueness. For to speak in specifics is to enrage the incompetent. And the best fighters know, it is more dangerous to combat an inexperienced adversary than a veteran, since fools are unpredictable.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Neil Gaiman on Creative Writing

A very nice, down-to-earth lowdown on what it takes to be a creative write from author Neil Gaiman.

Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it's always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins. It has no job security of any kind, and depends mostly on whether or not you can, like Scheherazade, tell the stories each night that'll keep you alive until tomorrow. There are undoubtedly hundreds of easier, less stressful, more straightforward jobs in the world.

No glammer, no glitz. Nice, earthly advice.

Another nice piece on the fourteen steps to get your manuscript accepted. Written by an editor of a slush-publisher. An entertaining read, if nothing else!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Brave Editorial in Gulf News

Well, the Editorials in Gulf News are certainly getting brasher.

UNDP’s Arab Human Development Report identifies serious political failings

Rights: denied. Freedoms: denied. Good governance: denied. People's aspirations: denied. The Arab world lives in a "black hole" where "nothing moves and nothing escapes". All matters are static. Nothing changes and nothing advances. This is the stark but accurate state of affairs in the Arab world as reported in the third part of the Arab Human Development Report, released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) [...]

Brave indeed. But yes, (cleverly?) hidden in a sweeping indictment of one and all. Specifics: denied. Why? Because if Specifics: granted, then Residence Visa: Denied.

Reminds me of Moammar Gaddafi's recent lecture to the Arab League (and this very interesting article I dug up from Google).It's one step forward. At least they're cussing each other up now. Now, just another few centuries till they turn their eyes one hundred and eighty degrees, and look at something of comparable filth.

The Reading Factor

Everything we make reflects the essences with which we ourselves are made. The Internet seems such, with both our darkest and most illuminated aspects streaked across it, the complexity of the human condition sprayed over such a vast entity. I recently stumbled upon a very nice online magazine, Recreation Services.

There is a theory in biology called convergent evolution. That is, a mammal and a bird (sufficiently different organisms, taxonomically for there not to be any striking morphological similarities), evolve similar limb systems for the mechanics needed to navigate in aquatic environments.

Common solutions to common problems always confront us. This nice article from the magazine linked above explains quite nicely how reading to your children can help them.

Most magazines of this breed quote so-called experts and such, who more often than not spend their careers contradicting themself with each new set of data, but I still think there's a lot to learn from them. I can't see how reading to children can be harmful, and there's really nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain, even if it doesn't suddenly make them geniuses.

I still remember many of my English teachers spending classes reading to us. I can still remember Mr. Keith, a wonderful, tall, black-haired English gentleman reading Roald Dahl's BFG to us. Did it make me a genius? Considering my recent exploits in carving a career for myself in science, I don't think so. But I still thoroughly enjoyed it; enough so to remember it more than 10 years later.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Holy Doomsday Weapon

This detailed article from ABC News relates the epic struggle facing the latest efforts by Israel and Palestine to begin approaching a resolution to this age-old conflict.

At the center of the drama is the most sensitive and hotly disputed holy site in the Holy Land a hilltop known as the Temple Mount to Jews and Noble Sanctuary to Muslims. It is where the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, including the shrine marking the spot where Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven, is built over the ruins of the biblical Jewish Temples.

Clashes at the site could ignite violence across the region, explaining the presence of 3,000 riot-ready Israeli police around the walled Old City, preparing to confront a handful of demonstrators.

Extremist Jews who make up a new group called "Revava," a biblical word that means 10,000, stated openly that their goal is to storm the sensitive site in July, when thousands of Israeli police and soldiers are in Gaza to evacuate 9,000 settlers forcing Israel's leaders to pull the forces from Gaza, send them to Jerusalem and, in that way, stop the pullout. The Sunday protest, they said, was just a test.

Although 10,000 protesters were promised by Revava, only a few dozen showed up, but if nothing, they demonstrated how easy it would be to disrupt the functioning of the Gaza pullout by diverting troop attention to their agitation.

Outside the Old City walls, hundreds of young Palestinians scuffled with baton-wielding police, who kept them away from the shrine. Two Palestinians were hurt, with one suffering a head injury after being hit by a club. Eventually, the Palestinians knelt in orderly lines on the road ringing to Old City to perform Muslim prayers.

In the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians took to the streets. In Nablus, some 3,000 Palestinians, including dozens of armed men who fired in the air, marched through the streets. In Hebron, about 1,000 Palestinians marched and chanted slogans about protecting the mosque.

Israel has stepped up security in Jerusalem recent days. Security officials say they fear hard-liners will attack the hilltop shrine.

Carmi Gilon, former head of the Shin Bet security service, said that if there is such an attack, Israel would find itself at war with the entire Muslim world.

"Of all the means … of stopping disengagement, no doubt the Temple Mount is the doomsday weapon," he told Israel Radio.

Sad, but true.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

"Arab-League is Long Past its Use-By Date"

Hatred, scorn and disdain for Arab leaders run deep in the communities of the Middle East and North Africa. The first President of the Middle East, Jalal Talabani, of Iraq just got elected in a deeply troubled country, and any political maturity seems a far cry right now. Other Gulf-Arab states stand on the edge of a blade, trying their best to keep the US pleased and pacified, and simultaneously trying to keep their publics subdued despite their outright incompetence.

Every Arab League summit screams out at the top of its lungs at how much of a farce the Pan Arab political situation is. It's as embarrassing as it can ever get, and it seems people are starting to grow weary, with political demonstrations in most parts of the region, and even Saudi Arabia jumping on the bandwagon and holding token municipal elections (registration required to read the article).

Moammar Gaddafi's eccentric exhibitionism doesn't help the Arab League's credibility. In fact, in the most recent summit on the 22nd of March, Gaddafi declared himself a philosopher and proceeded to lecture all the other Arab leaders on wrong social systems. (Gulf News Article)

The sieve tells the needle, "you have a hole in your butt." It must be extremely embarrassing to attend these summits, so perhaps we should congratulate Arab leaders on a remarkable lack of shame.

Meanwhile, their societies are held in the Dark Ages, their armies impotent, and terrorism and extremism consume them like a flesh-eating disease.

The World's Poor and Sustainable Development; Gulf News Article

There's a saying I once read on a pulp internet website. "If you don't have the solutions to the world's problems when you're 20, you don't have a heart. If you have them when you're 30, you don't have a brain."

Experiencing it as I am now, I see that it is very true. Reality breaks a man. A child is separated from the world in its virginity. The union of man and world kills off idealism, ambition and in many cases can leave people disillusioned and confused. Luckily, some people in the world scene have worked their whole lives in some of these common pursuits that we dream about as youngesters.

Mike Moore's article in Gulf News was an interesting read on his take on what could help the world's poor, a subject that touches very close to home for me. In essence, his argument is that governments are key players in ensuring that the poor get empowered, and that the poor are eager, resourceful, intelligent people with great potential as productive citizens and as a business market.

The book he cites is "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits," by C.K. Prahalad. It deals with the issues of sustainable development, a very big issue today, since, apparently, we're using up the world's resources faster than we can replenish them.

Another book on my reading list!


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I write essays in my spare time on things that are important to me. The ones that I feel are any good, or make any sense, I put them up here. :)