Last night, Riz Khan, who is Al-Jazeera's counter to CNN's Larry King, interviewed John Perkins, a former economic hit man.
Not sure what an Economic Hit Man (EHM) is? Neither was I until Perkins laid it out for a dummy like me to understand:
"There were two primary objectives of my work. First I was to justify huge international loans that would funnel money to Main and other US companies (such as Bechtel, Halliburton, Stone & Webster and Brown & Root) through massive engineering and construction projects. Second, I would work to bankrupt the countries that received those loans . . . so they would be forever beholden to their creditors, and so they would present easy targets when we [the US] needed favours, including military bases, UN votes or access to oil and other natural resources."
- Excerpt from Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
Here's the bigger picture of how EHM's work to permanently cripple a nation's economy:
1. Economic hit men, working for imperialistic engines of capitalism (otherwise known as the American empire, the G8 nations, and their multinational corporations) identify impoverished nations in need of major development of their infrastructure.
2. Using vehicles such as the IMF, USAID, and the World Bank, they generously make billion dollar loans to Country X to help develop and advance the nation. In addition, they are nice enough to generate complex plans of national development to help guide the locals.
3. However, since the country has no homegrown industries to actually carry out said programs of development, America and its cohorts will contract out the services to their own corporations. Thus the loans go directly from the Western governments back to Western corporations, with some skimming off the top by corrupt local officials in Country X.
4. Once the billions have been squandered, normally on special pet projects that only benefit the select few, Country X is hamstrung for the next century struggling to pay off the loans. This means that domestic funds which normally would have gone to provide basic services to the locals are now rerouted to the coffers of the West.
5. But the altruistic West is not done screwing, er I mean saving, Country X. They kindly propose to bail out Country X by waving some of the loans, but with a few minor strings attached. For example, Country X must cease to provide governmental subsidies to local industries and at the same time open the doors to free trade by doing away with tariffs and other trade barriers, essentially destroying any chance of sustainable livelihood by its citizens. Or another example would be Country Y has to sell natural resources A, B, and C or O, I, and L at below-market cost to the West.
And there you go, five easy steps to eternal financial debt and a grim future of poverty and despair for every developing and under-developed country.
And before you accuse me of propogating conspiracy theories and freemasonry crap, this stuff is pure and simple capitalistic greed.
The same inertia that powered the American auto industry to destroy the public transit system and is currently undermining the hybrid car is behind the EHM phenomenon. And its that same mentality that prevents the billion-dollar pharmaceuticals from allowing cheap generic drugs to enter the markets of the Third World.
These imperialistic engines of capitalism are very real and very ugly.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Last night, Riz Khan, who is Al-Jazeera's counter to CNN's Larry King, interviewed John Perkins, a former economic hit man.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
A scholar was quietly sitting in a gathering with his students.
After a short while, one of the students broke the silence and politely asked his teacher, 'Shaykh, why don't you say a few words from which we can benefit?'
The shaykh softly replied, 'If you are not benefiting from my silence, how will you ever be able to benefit from my speaking?'
The power of the tongue is immense and too often we wield it carelessly. When compared with the damage that can be caused by our own hands, the tongue is so much more dangerous.
While the hand can cause pain to those only close to it, the tongue can inflict harm to those miles away.
While the hand is used to hurt those who are weaker, the tongue can be used to hurt anyone and everyone, regardless of their physical stature.
While the physical wounds caused by the hand eventually heal, the emotional scars caused by the tongue are everlasting.
Thus we are reminded by our beloved Teacher (saw) "The Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand other Muslims are safe." (And let none of us think that the Prophet's mentioning of the tongue before the hand is of no consequence.)
As children, we always repeated 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me' and it sufficed us for that stage. But as we have matured and are now striving to achieve greater heights in the sight of our Lord, we realize that truly words are so much more poisonous than sticks or stones.
Let us heed the beautiful advice of the Beloved of Allah (swt), "Speak a good word or remain silent."
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The '7 weird facts' meme tag is going around and I've been tagged...twice, by Achelois and DesertFlower. Since I couldn't find anywhere in the tag rules that two tags cancel each other out, I'm going to respect the tags and fulfill my obligation.
However, since I recently completed a similar tag just a few months ago, I'm going to conveniently adjust the rules and make up my own meme tag.
Instead of giving you 7 weird facts about me, I'm going to just make fun of seven other people and their weirdness while highlighting my own normalcy. That's easier and a lot more fun!
So here goes:
1. Unlike some people, I think bellybutton lint is utterly disgusting. I'm disgusted by my own, much less even thinking about someone else's. And there must be some official psychological disorder for someone who enjoys picking out their husband's bellybutton lint.
2. Unlike some people, I think Usama bin Laden is NOT handsome. Same goes for Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Bush, Musharraf, and all those other terrorists. On the other hand, Hugo Chavez has a cute pudgeball face – and his name totally rocks!
3. Unlike some people, I like to eat hard-boiled eggs (especially mixed into a bowl of Ful). I think Dave's problem may be that he's trying to eat it with the shell.
4. Unlike some people, I never fought with my cousins over who owned which galaxy. That's plain weird.
5. Unlike some people, I ate pizza as a child. I was not raised in a cave so pizza played a prominent role in my upbringing.
6. Unlike some people, I have never written poetry dedicated to watermelon. But I'll admit I once thought to serenade a mango.
7. Unlike some people, I have never been amazed by a washing machine. I find it rather odd to ponder over the intricacies of a wash cycle. I find myself more a dryer kinda guy – full of hot air.
8. Finally, some people just aren't weird – or they're simply holding back. I vote the latter. I am a good singer? I'm too quiet? I like sunflowers? That stuff ain't weird - what's weird is their concept of weird. These people need to fight over galaxies while eating pizza topped with hard-boiled eggs and watermelon and afterwards daydream about OBL's bellybutton lint in a washing machine...
And for those of you who may read this post and think, 'Gee, this Naeem dude is pretty darn normal. Ain't nothin' weird about him.', I'll give you one quick factoid to shatter that fallacy:
Back during my college years, I once fell asleep while driving. When I woke up, instead of hitting the brakes, I hit the accelerator. It took me about 5 or 6 seconds before I realized what was happening. In the meantime I veered across the highway, into and out of a 5 foot ditch, and finally into a bunch of bushes, before I finally hit the brakes.
And then a year or so later, I was driving home from the local 7-11 with some nacho chips and melted cheese and as I pulled into the local street, the chips fell over. So I leaned over to pick them up and when I looked up, the car was slowly drifting towards a dumpster. So I immediately hit the brakes. But instead I ended up hitting the gas and rammed into the dumpster.
So now I need to tag a bunch of other bloggers...its challenging to find people who haven't already been tagged, so here's my short list (advanced apologies if you've already done this tag):
Danya, Sophister, MrEspy, Amy, and Unique Muslimah
PS. I hope none of the referenced weirdos take my jabs personally. Just having some fun. :-)
Friday, November 23, 2007
The great military dic (is that the proper abbreviation for dictator?) otherwise known as Musharraf came to Riyadh and I was lucky enough to be stuck in a massive traffic jam caused by his entourage. The Saudi traffic police often close major highways for high-level delegates – I didn’t even venture out during the two days of the recent OPEC conference.
So this past Wednesday, Musharraf and I crossed paths. As I was sitting near the front of the traffic blockade, I saw the huge entourage pass by me. No words were spoken. Actually I had a few choice words, but methinks he ignored me.
Anyways, he didn’t come to the kingdom for some casual visit to Abdullah’s palace. Nor did he come to perform Umrah. Both of which are being purported by his administration to being the official reasons of his visit.
Popular theory is that he really came to initiate talks with Nawaz Sharif. Yeah, *that* Nawaz Sharif.
Although both sides are denying the possible meeting, isn’t such an event par for the Pakistani course?
Seriously folks, only Pakistani politics could come up with such a sadistic plot. Not even soap opera writers could come up with such a story (Arif, help me out here - was General Hospital ever this crazy?).
- Benazir Bhutto steals billions while in power and is ousted TWICE on charges of corruption.
- Nawaz Sharif is also kicked out of the Prime Minister office TWICE.
- The second time was when Musharraf overthrows Sharif’s government in a coup after Sharif denies his plane a safe landing into Pakistan. Musharraf exiles Sharif.
- After 8 years, Sharif tries to make a great return to Pakistan only to be unceremoniously kicked out again.
- After nearly a decade of exile in Dubai, Bhutto does succeed in making her great return, only to have a bomb blast kill over a hundred at her rally.
- Musharraf and the criminal Bhutto have talks about creating a shared government.
- Musharraf’s hold on power is threatened (due to various reasons) so he does what any military dick would do – declares martial law.
- Bhutto speaks out against Musharraf claiming to have a falling out since his martial law and gets house arrest for one day, while becoming the global face for democracy and order in Pakistan (huh?!).
- Musharraf goes to Sharif who is still exiled in Jeddah, looking for a new partner in crime.
- Finally, Musharraf is pregnant with Bhutto's child while Sharif claims he's the real father.
Tune in for the next episode of 'As The Paki World Turns (upside down)'!
Update (11/23 10pm): Surprise, surprise...Its official, Sharif will be returning to Pakistan to contest in the upcoming elections. The soap opera continues...
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Is it fair that when a husband and wife are arguing, the wife can use sex as a tactic to get her way?
I mean, its never made explicit (except for those odd occasions where a group of wives publicly declare abstinence as a form of protest), but in the case of a typical martial brouhaha, both parties know what's going on – the man ain't sleeping on the couch cuz its warm and fuzzy, knaimsayin?
Its understood that man's physical needs are greater than woman's. So in the course of a dispute, when they are obviously not having conjugal relations, it'll be the man who's under greater pressure to concede.
So isn't there an implicit blackmail taking place?
As I figure, the poor chap has two options: Find a viable alternative or fight fire with fire.
As for the first option, I can envision polygamy playing a positive role in addressing this 'issue'. In the case of multiple wives, sex as a negotiating ploy is removed from the equation and the participants can deal with their problem in a fair and equitable manner.
Not wanting to get into the whole debate on the how's and why's of Quranic polygamy, I'm focusing simply on the dynamics of the specific issue mentioned in the title of this post.
As for the second option, the man can counter by hitting the woman where it hurts most – shopping.
'You no play, I no pay.'
Here in Saudi, the men have serious control over their wives' shopping habits since the women can't drive. So not only can the man not dish out the cash needed for shopping (in the case where the wife is not working), they can also force her to sit at home.
Seems like a nice balance – man's greatest need for woman's greatest need.
In the words of the great 80's philosopher from the A-Team, Hannibal Smith, "I love it when a plan comes together"!
Now that I think about it, maybe that's the real reason why women aren't allowed to drive here...to even the playing field.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Top three headlines in Al-Jazeera English TV the other day were the Pakistan turmoil, the clashes in Mogadishu between Ethiopian troops and Somali insurgents, and the anti-government protests in Malaysia.
I think enough has been said about Pakistan, so I won't rehash it here.
The tensions in Somalia have been simmering for quite some time, ever since the Ethiopian troops occupied the country and forced out the Islamic Courts.
Although the recent tragedy, where over 80 people have been killed, was sparked by the repugnant act of the dragging of slain Ethiopian troops, the root cause of the problem is the anti-Ethiopian sentiments held by most Somalis.
And in Malaysia, the non-violent protests by opposition groups led by Anwar Ibrahim are calling for fair elections and the removal of corrupt officials.
Looking at these three together, one common theme really stands out.
Not the call for democracy or the introduction of Sharia or the end of martial law or bringing back the Khilafa.
The common theme, and its true all across the South, is the call for self-determination. This is not about democracy. This is about self-determination, period.
Democratic elections are not enough. The government must genuinely reflect the best interests of the people, politically as well as economically, not the interest of foreign powers and multinational corporations.
South American countries have learned this lesson (you really need to read Naomi Klien's latest article "Latin America's Shock Resistance"):
"Latin America’s new leaders are also taking bold measures to block any future US-backed coups that could attempt to undermine their democratic victories. Chávez has let it be known that if an extremist right-wing element in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province makes good on its threats against Morales’s government, Venezuelan troops will help defend Bolivia’s democracy. Meanwhile, the governments of Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia have all announced that they will no longer send students to the School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation)–the infamous police and military training center in Fort Benning, Georgia, where so many of the continent’s notorious killers learned the latest in “counterterrorism” techniques, then promptly directed them against farmers in El Salvador and auto workers in Argentina. Ecuador, in addition to closing the US military base, also looks set to cut its ties with the school. It’s hard to overstate the importance of these developments. If the US military loses its bases and training programs, its power to inflict shocks on the continent will be greatly eroded.
The new leaders in Latin America are also becoming better prepared for the kinds of shocks produced by volatile markets. One of the most destabilizing forces of recent decades has been the speed with which capital can pick up and move, or how a sudden drop in commodity prices can devastate an entire agricultural sector. But in much of Latin America these shocks have already happened, leaving behind ghostly industrial suburbs and huge stretches of fallow farmland. The task of the region’s new left, therefore, has become a matter of taking the detritus of globalization and putting it back to work. In Brazil, the phenomenon is best seen in the million and a half farmers of the Landless Peoples Movement (MST), who have formed hundreds of cooperatives to reclaim unused land. In Argentina, it is clearest in the movement of “recovered companies,” 200 bankrupt businesses that have been resuscitated by their workers, who have turned them into democratically run cooperatives. For the cooperatives, there is no fear of facing an economic shock of investors leaving, because the investors have already left.
Chávez has made the cooperatives in Venezuela a top political priority, giving them first refusal on government contracts and offering them economic incentives to trade with one another. By 2006 there were roughly 100,000 cooperatives in the country, employing more than 700,000 workers...
In 2005 Latin America made up 80 percent of the IMF’s total lending portfolio; the continent now represents just 1 percent–a sea change in only two years."
Its time the rest of the South learn the same lesson.
From Somalia to Georgia to Pakistan to Myanmar to Malaysia, the fundamental call of these peoples is the determination of their own fate.
1. Determination by oneself or itself, without outside influence.
2. Freedom to live as one chooses, or to act or decide without consulting another or others.
3. The determining by the people of the form their government shall have, without reference to the wishes of any other nation, esp. by people of a territory or former colony.
Let the people decide their own fate, not only politically, but also economically (referring to IMF, the World Bank, the Washington Consensus, etc.).
Side Note: Speaking of Malaysia, check out their new Muslim car, equipped with a Qibla compass, a special place to store the headscarf (otherwise known as the glove compartment), and space to pray in the trunk (just kidding).
Friday, November 16, 2007
Around six months ago, Humza yells down to me, ‘Abujee, what should I wear?’
That’s a common question heard around our house every morning. Normally it’s addressed to his mother, but on the weekend mornings she sleeps in, giving me the opportunity to give Humza fashion tips from a Real Man (inspired by MrEspy).
‘Put on anything. You’re old enough to dress yourself!’ I reply to the seven year old.
Two minutes later, he comes down looking like this:
Now I’ll admit I’m no fashion aficionado (friends and foe alike will attest to that), but even I could tell there was something wrong with that picture. And you can see that I decided to have a bit of fun with the some added props.
As I mentioned, that was around 6 months ago.
Last night Humza went upstairs to put on his pajamas and he came back looking like this:
As bad as my taste may be in fashion, I can honestly say I’ve never been this...hmmmm...how can I word this...extravagant.
But you know the saddest part of this story? I probably wouldn't have said anything if it were not for the shock and horror of my wife when she saw Humza.
But seriously, I think the guiltiest party in this tragic tale is my wife for having bought him such bright orange clothing. What was she thinking?!
I thought orange was cool for toddlers and infants whose outfits are bought from Gymboree and Pumpkin Patch. Or high-schoolers who shop at Abercrombie and Fitch.
But a second-grader? Even a fashion imbecile like me can figure that one out...with a bit of assistance.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Very interesting article here about CBS News' report on the incredible number of US military suicides:
"At least 120 Americans who served in the U.S. military killed themselves per week in 2005, CBS News learned in a five-month investigation into veteran suicides. That's 6,256 veteran suicides in one year, in 45 states."
And that's not even counting the tens of thousands affected with psychological disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder leading to depression, domestic violence, and substance abuse.
I immediately thought of Chris Hedges' book "War is a force that gives us meaning", which talks about the psychological toll that war has on its participants.
And then I thought about a point I brought up in a recent post about how Allah (swt) does not love for His slave to embody the mentality of a mujahid - fighting is purely meant to be a temporary necessity, to be discharged as quickly as possible.
War is not only ravaging the innocent families over in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also those families who have foolishly sent their loved ones to fight these unjust invasions.
And if you aren't able to read the Hedges' book, then be sure to read his article in The Nation where he interviewed around 50 soldiers from Iraq, talking about their experiences of war.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Two incidents occurred in the past few days that highlight the unique nature of life in KSA.
First, I walked into one of our favorite bakeries to get some pita bread and biscuits. We've been going there on a regular basis for the past 4 years. My wife has made some large orders to take back to the US with her, so they know us well. But I guess not well enough:
Nice elderly man (as he's preparing my order): "So how many years has it been?"
Me: "Years since what?"
Nice man: "since you've been..."
Me: "Since I came last?? Yaar, I just came last week...I come almost every week!"
Nice man: "No, no...I mean how many years have you been working"
Me: "Huh? I've been here for 4 years working the entire time. What do you mean?"
Nice man: "I mean working for that Amriki lady. You know the lady who comes with you – how many years have you been driving for her?"
Me: "Oh bhai, I'm not her driver…that Amriki lady is my wife."
Nice man (turning as red as a brown-skinner can become): "Doh!"
Ahhh, the sweet benefits of being a Pakistani married to an Arab woman while living in the Gulf.
Then yesterday, we're at the hospital getting an ultrasound done on baby Ayah. Its no easy feat in holding down a crying baby to get the proper ultrasound pictures. My wife and the technician were positioning Ayah, while the ultrasound doctor was taking the images.
In the middle of all this, the doctor's cell phone rings and he proceeds to hold a casual 5 minute conversation with his friend. All the while, Ayah is lying on the examination bed, with her diaper off, crying to be held. And my wife couldn't pick her up because she had that ultrasound gel all over her waist and hips.
Once done with his conversation, the doctor simply turns and finishes the ultrasound, as if nothing had happened.
These types of interruptions are actually very common. I've sat in a doctor's room more than once and witnessed the doctor take phone calls in the middle of our conversation/examination.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Something bad is going to happen in Pakistan.
No, I’m not talking about the current martial law. Pakistanis have ‘been there, done that’ with most of Pakistan’s national existence occurring under military rule.
I’m talking about the Northwestern tribal areas. For years, the US and Afghanistan have complained about those areas being sanctuaries for Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The Pakistani military has had catastrophic failures in their attempts to control the lawless frontier.
I just saw an ABC news piece on the Swat valley having transformed into a Taliban-run region. This specific report showed pictures of a closed down police station and then a sign saying ‘Taliban station’ in Urdu, concluding that the Taliban closed down the former in order to replace it with the latter. They showed a rundown school with broken windows and desks, describing it as a girls school closed down by the Taliban. Scores of stores have closed down with only a single shop (wasn’t even a shop, it was a guy selling CD’s on a table) selling Islamic videos. They showed a caravan of cars and vans explaining that tens of thousands are escaping the Taliban violence.
Finally, with the reporter standing in a garden, she points to the ‘Taliban headquarters’ in the backdrop and concludes her report by describing the garden as having once been a popular social spot for families, but now the Taliban have closed it down.
So besides the obvious demonization of the Taliban, what is so noteworthy of this report?
This sort of propaganda is eerily reminiscent of the invasion of Afghanistan.
Girls schools being closed down. Video stores closed down. Strict Islamic law being implemented. Muslim extremists blowing up Buddha statues.
This sorta stuff is so 2001.
But this time, its happening in Pakistan.
And America’s cavalier attitude with the imposition of martial law is very revealing. Besides their hopes in Musharraf cracking down with an iron fist on the Northern areas, this may be their only chance to carry out cross border attacks from Afghanistan into Pakistan – maybe even carry out serious military incursions into the area.
They used similar justifications to invade an entire country. What’s to prevent them from invading an area sparsely populated by lawless bandits and Islamic extremists?
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Many claim to love the king. It is as easy as uttering a few simple words.
But how many can lay claim to the king loving them? For so many, the king is not even cognizant of their existence, much less expressing any love for them.
Similarly, we all claim to love the King. I love Allah. You love Allah.
But the real question beckons 'Does He love us?'
Who can claim that Allah (swt) loves them?
The answer is found in the Quran.
Those who consistently practice patience (3:146),
Those who exhibit complete trust in Allah (3:159),
Those who embody piety and God-consciousness (3:76, 9:4, 9:7),
Those who are habitually upright, just, and fair in their dealings (5:42, 49:9, 60:8),
Those who fight in His cause (61:4),
Those who turn to Allah constantly seeking forgiveness (2:222),
Those who exemplify purity and cleanliness (9:108, 2:222)),
And those who personify Ihsan (2:195, 3:134, 3:148, 5:13, 5:93).
Note how all these verses, except the one on fighting*, are referring to those individuals who have embodied these particular traits.
These are the ones whom Allah loves.
Many claim to love Allah, but few can claim to be of the beloved of Allah. Let us strive to be of these select few.
In the days of old, a man bought a Muslim slave girl to help around the house. So one night, when everyone was asleep, the old man heard some crying in the other room. He quietly walked to the room and overheard the young slave crying as she was making her tahajjud (night prayer). The man listened until the girl cried out, ‘Ya Allah, I swear by Your love for me that I am in need of Your Mercy’.
When the man heard this, he burst into the room and angrily admonished the girl, ‘How dare you swear by Allah’s love for you? You cannot claim His love for you with such certainty! If anything, you should swear by your love for Allah.’
The girl responded with a respectful yet annoyed confidence, ‘O Master, I am indeed swearing by something I am absolutely certain of. If Allah did not love me, He would not have awakened me from my slumber to converse with Him while leaving you and the others to enjoy the warmth of your beds and the comfort of your sleep.’
*I'm no Jihad apologist, but its very interesting to note the difference in the way Allah (swt) expresses his love for those who fight for His cause. While he expresses love for the Saabir, Mutawakkil, Muttaqi, Muqsit, Tawaab, Muttahhir, and Muhsin, in the case of Qitaal (fighting), He doesn't use the form Qaatil (in the way the other words have been formed), rather He uses the form Alladhi Yuqatilu.
I read in this divine choice of words a distinct message from the Most High – that the state of warfare is not one to be embodied and imbued into our very being (as would be found in a Qaatil); it is temporary and once the obligation of waging war has been removed, the mindset of a warrior is not in and of itself beloved to Allah.
At the same time, it must be noted that this same group of verses highlights the exalted status of fighting for the cause of Allah. While no other act of worship (ie. praying, fasting, giving charity, etc.) has been listed as a means of gaining the love of Allah, fighting for His cause has been singled out.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
So its no surprise that Musharraf declared martial law (can we please stop calling it ‘a state of emergency’?). After all, this was his only option to retain power as the Supreme Court was about to declare his bid for a 3rd presidential term unconstitutional.
So he suspends the constitution, clamps down on the media, arrests almost 1500 people, and replaces the Supreme Court with his handpicked lackeys.
Move along folks, nothing (new) to see here.
I just wanna know, who in their right mind – knowing what they now know – doubts that the government had a hand in the Bhutto assassination attempt? As well as the countless other suicide bombings that have ravaged the country since the Lal Masjid tragedy?
Am I a conspiracy theorist for thinking this?
And more importantly, thinking bigger picture here, its these types of events that lead me to the conclusion that any form of political activism is basically fruitless. I’m starting to see the wisdom of the Sufi and Tablighi Jamaat ways. These groups have long advocated staying out of politics and instead have focused on reforming the self.
Seriously folks, isn’t all this talk of democracy or political reform or khilafa or whichever political ideology with which you may align yourself truly futile when tyrants and despots can so easily overturn years and decades of work?
Look at Turkey and its history of military intervention in domestic politics. Pakistan’s been suffering this nonsense since its inception. Even Malaysia had its fiasco with the authoritarian Mahathir jailing the Islamically-oriented Anwar Ibrahim.
So screw all forms of political activism and let’s just work on the small circle of influence in which we live – ourselves, our families, and our local communities.
Anything more is sheer folly.
Friday, November 2, 2007
I finally got around to watching the Colbert interview on Meet the Press (Part1, Part2) and at one point, Tim Russert asked him about this quote from his new satirical book:
"America used to live by the motto ‘Father knows best’, now we’re lucky if ‘Father knows he has children’…There’s more to being a father than taking kids to Chuck E Cheese and supplying the occasional Y-chromosome. A father has to be a provider, a teacher, a role mode, but most importantly, a distant authority figure who can never be pleased." (emphasis added)
First of all, realize that Colbert is a walking, taking tongue-in-the-cheek attack on conservative Republicans. That’s his shtick. His humor comes from taking swipes at common conservative stereotypes – that’s why his fanbase is largely lefty liberals.
And so his book (which I haven’t read) is obviously an extension of his act. I realize all this.
At the same time, political humor is a very effective tool in promoting one’s own ideology while mocking the opponents’. That’s why I found that last highlighted part of the quote to be very telling about the concept of fatherhood being touted by the liberals.
As I understand it, they’re targeting the traditional father figure who was always aloof from his children, busy with work, while restricting his role with the kids to strict disciplinarian.
What the alternative that is being offered I can only guess. Everything opposite. Which isn’t all bad.
In the perfect balance, the father would be intimately involved with raising the children, providing the support to achieve realistic, realizable goals. The father wouldn't be some cold, stoic provider, but an emotional leader in raising the family.
I get that.
My concern is that the western model isn’t trying to balance it out. As with so many other progressive ideas, such as feminism, homosexuality, role of religion in public life, they’ve taken one extreme and countered it with their own extreme.
And in the case of fatherhood, I believe that progressive liberals are (maybe unknowingly) calling for the emasculation of the patriarch.
The new age American father is not an authority in the house – he’s a partner. The father disciplines by joking around with the child – becomes a best friend. The father is leary of setting aggressive standards for the child – mustn’t let the child’s self-esteem take a hit, ever. And never, ever, ever raise your hand to the child.
I was raised in a very traditional Pakistani home. My parents had the good cop-bad cop routine down to a science. My father would discipline. My mother would wipe away the tears.
Being a doctor, he was always working crazy hours (that’s the only way we could sneak in ‘Friday Night Videos’ – precursor to MTV – yes folks, there was a time when MTV didn’t exist).
When it came to personal achievements, he wasn’t one to gush over us, but we could sense his pride, subtle as it was. Instead of worrying about our self-worth or hurting our feelings, his main concern was imbuing us with core principles of honesty, respect, piety, and honor.
When it came to our father, we had a clear understanding of our roles. We were the children. He was the father. Full stop. He wasn’t our mother and he surely wasn’t our buddy.
We loved our father, but we also feared him. Not sure which emotion was greater.
But now, the fear is gone and has been replaced with respect. The love remains.
From my understanding, this is the standard operating procedure when it comes to fathers. Sure, certain aspects can be improved upon and tweaked, but it seems the new age model of fatherhood is unwisely attempting to turn this paradigm on its head and rebrand the image of the father into a very unhealthy hybrid between father, mother, and friend.
And do check out Tariq’s post on the decline of fatherhood.