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Globalism's Gray Matters: February 2006 Index


Anti-Youth Bigotry

Certain ideas assume a persistent and mythic status. One is the idea that "youth today" are the most "difficult", "fickle" and "selfish" generation that has existed. It is a complaint that has been recycled through the centuries. How can we understand the regurgitation of this tired old story of "young people today" as individualistic, materialistic, apolitical and socially uncommitted? More...

Reforming Madrassas

During British India when an election revealed how wide the schism between Muslims and the Hindus had become, and when Congress leaders showed an unwillingness to share power with Muslims in areas where there were mixed communities, the days ahead promised to be even more difficult for Muslims. This was mainly because Muslims had refused the British-style education then on offer. More...

When Bush Falls In Love

The charges of cronyism against the current administration have piled up higher than the rotting rubble in New Orleans: "Heck of a job, Brownie," is fast replacing "Way to go, Einstein" as the wiseacre-to-dummy put-down du jour. And what of Harriet Miers, the good friend/lame nominee for the Supreme Court the president defended as "plenty bright." More...

Fair Criticism of US

Criticisms by New Zealand foreign affairs minister, Winston Peters, of the United States' level of understanding of New Zealand's role in Pacific affairs is fully justified and indicates a shift in thinking from that of an opposition MP to ministerial responsibility. Since the New Year recess, Peters has displayed a course of presenting tightly scripted speeches, pushing a steady Ministry of Foreign Affairs line... More...

The Games Leave Me Cold

What is the point of the Winter Olympics? Am I the only one who feels somewhat uninspired by these Games? Is it the lack of an incident with international repercussions? Or is it just that there really are more important things going on in the world right now to worry about other than an elitist get-together in the mountains? More...

West-Bashing's Popularity

A CURIOUS anti-US, anti-West mood has gripped Indian minds with the key visits of Presidents George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac barely a few days away. India, it seems, is flexing its diplomatic/nuclear/economic muscle for the world to take note. The all-important nuclear deal with the United States will, in all probability, be ready in time for Bush’s arrival on March 1. More

Why US Papers Should Publish the Cartoons

NEW YORK - The Great Cartoon Controversy just won't go away. Last week, rioters in Pakistan set fire to a KFC restaurant, two cellular phone companies, and a bus terminal - all to protest a series of Danish cartoons satirizing the prophet Muhammad. And this week in Nigeria, the cartoons provoked a clash between Christians and Muslims that left more than 70 people dead. More

Empire of Debt Meltdown

HONG KONG -- Recent news about U.S. current-account deficits with the rest of the world gives grim pause for thought from Beijing and Tokyo to London, and especially in Washington, for it shows the United States approaching the financial equivalent of a nuclear meltdown. More...

The Devil's Sourdough and the Decline of Nations

The personal is political," said the feminists of the 1960s. They were on to something. Countries go to war because those who inhabit them cannot bear their individual lives. Entire cultures die out because the individuals who comprise them no longer wish to live, not because (as author Jared Diamond claims) they cut down too many trees. Bulgaria and Belarus have plenty of trees, yet we observe in such countries a demographic catastrophe unseen in Europe since the Thirty Years' War. More...

Arabs Play the Market to Stem "Cultural Invasion"

To ask whether all Arabs and Muslims protesting the offending Danish cartoons have actually seen them, or to protest the perceived infringement on the freedom of expression, misses the point. It betrays a misreading of the events and a misleading framing of the issues. More

The Abuse of Awards

So much dishonour in the honours. This is perhaps the best way to capture a burgeoning culture in Nigeria today by which an otherwise noble gesture of recognising good deeds has become a perfidious business venture. The highest bidders, who are often the worst enemies of the society, now get the highest recognition. Awards have therefore, become a thriving trade in which the most unscrupulous elements make the most. More

Muhammad, Monty Python

Every time I watch Life of Brian, the Monty Python classic satirising Jesus Christ, I think about writing something similar about the Prophet Muhammad. The story of early Islam has a hilariously comic side that would be a gift for the Python scriptwriters. Yet I've never tried to write such a version. Obviously, if I did so I would be risking a fatwa. At the same time, I'm also inhibited by a deep-rooted politeness towards religion... More

Kidding Palestinian Suffering

The Hamas team had not laughed so much in a long time. The team, headed by the prime minister's advisor Dov Weissglas and including the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, the director of the Shin Bet and senior generals and officials, convened for a discussion with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on ways to respond to the Hamas election victory. Everyone agreed on the need to impose an economic siege on the Palestinian Authority, and Weissglas, as usual, provided the punch line: "It's like an appointment with a dietician. More

Biggest Losers: Viewers who Vilify Fatties

I T MIGHT sound mean but there is something grotesquely fascinating about the bodies of very fat people. More Picasso than Rubens, the lard ends up in the most peculiar places: men get pendulous breasts, women get curtains of flesh draped over their backs, tummies are like watermelons, bottoms wobble, chins triple. It is all so wrong that the inhabitants of such bodies can seem almost sub-human. This is what makes The Biggest Loser, Channel Ten's new reality show, car-crash television. More

Origin of Spices

Absent a nuclear energy deal, it appears the upcoming Bush visit to India will lack masala, a catch-all Indian term that also describes excitement and verve. But here's some good news on the real masala front: Spices are hot in the US today. Americans, whose food is said to consist of the good, the bland and the ugly, are peppering their cuisine with more spices than ever before. More

Under the Gun in Baghdad

Two days before leaving Baghdad, I canceled my last interviews, abandoned the carefully planned trips around town to say good-bye to Iraqi friends and ditched the farewell party with fellow journalists. More

Tiptoeing Around Taboos

As a magazine editor in 1993, I made a tough judgement call to spike a Zapiro cartoon portraying Mangosuthu Buthelezi with the mouth of a violent volcano. The reason was that our sellers' lives could have been at risk in KwaZulu-Natal had we carried the cartoon. More...



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