This was written by my pal Waseem in response to my lil summin summin I wrote on Japan a little while ago (go to the archive if you missed it.) I dont agree with everything he has to say but I respect it when people express what they think. AND I like it even more when what they think makes me wanna think a little more. Especially when their views are put down eloquently. Thanks Walabee. If you have anything to add or ask, please feel free. There is a lil “q” in the turqoise box.
“Firstly, it should be noted that this response is not an attempt at defamation or belittling because as many people know, I find your writing insightful and entertaining and I have expressed many times that you have an amazing talent. In light of this I would like it to be known that I do not wish to get into a battle of words with someone of your obviously well-endowed ability. Notwithstanding, this response is merely a point of clarification regarding your piece on Japan.
The reader should be made aware of the fact that Sindi was part of the Japan delegation in a mock 6 party-talks conference done in our International Relations Honours course called Diplomacy and Negotiation. Sindi was charged with arguing from the standpoint of a Japanese diplomat. She argued vociferously to advance the interests of her delegation and was thus able to completely transform herself from; nerd hailing from Mariasburg (around the corner from Oom Zak) to hard-arse Japanese diplomat. This might explain the passion exuded when discussing anything to do with Japan. Perhaps this passion has caused her to defend her beloved Japan and come to its rescue regardless of whether it is right or not. I do not wish to fall into the trap of committing the fallacy argumentum ad Hominem so therefore I will engage with the issues.
I do not think that Japan deserved this terrible tragedy and I don’t think anyone else deserves such a thing either. However, what was not mentioned in the piece was that the Japanese governor, Shintaro Ishihara said “The identity of the Japanese people is selfishness. The Japanese people must take advantage of this tragedy as a means of washing away selfish greed”. While I do not agree with the parts of the statement that was chosen to be highlighted in the blog piece, I do agree that the people of Japan should try to extract some positivity out of this situation and use it as an opportunity for introspection. The sentiments expressed by the governor is not inconsistent with political rhetoric throughout civilization where politicians have used times of great human suffering to advance their own political agenda whether it is benevolent or not. I am sure that if Nelson Mandela was younger and still involved in high-politics he would have made a statement about Japan and used it to make some political statement or other. The practice of using unrelated platforms for political expression is not uncommon as even in this piece you were able to express your own position regarding Japan very subtly and were able to hide it quite cunningly. You nonetheless did use the platform to express your political position and your theological position as well.
As a point of clarification, Japan does not have offensive capacity in its military make-up however we all know that they really do not need it. Japan is the US’ closest ally in East Asia and they fall under the US nuclear umbrella. This means that if anyone tries to initiate a military engagement with them the culprits will feel the wrath of earth’s military god called the US army.
Also, I am in no way shape or form a student of theology but I do know that the common strand that runs through the major monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) is that they all believe that there is only one God. They all believe that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. The Holy Bible is seen as a revelation of God through the stories written by others relating historical events that expose the wonder of God. If the God of the Old Testament is different to the God of the New Testament then that reflects a mistake in the way you have interpreted the Bible. Perhaps your misunderstanding stems from the fact that there were more stories of God’s wrath in the Old Testament then of God’s compassion. Ultimately, since we know that God is God, always was and will always be, how can you suggest that God has mood-swings? Did God decide to change his personality from one Testament to the other?
Since God is all encompassing, then people can attribute anything that happens in this life as being the work of his hand. I however do not agree with the statement of the governor or the American political commentator. I also think that what has happened to Japan is very sad but they possess the third largest economy in the world and economic forecast suggest that they should recover very soon. I think that we should not forget about Haiti and Pakistan who have had terrible tragedies befall on them. These states have much more difficulty in mitigating their tragedies as their economic capacities are dwarfed in comparison to that of Japan. We should not forget about them because Japan will be the flavor of the month for the international. ”
No internet sucks. I have been dying. Not because I cant get hold of people or because I feel outta the loop, hello, I am part of the Blackberry generation, I do all that ish on my phone, I mean jeez I open my eyes and read the news courtesy of numerous subscriptions to keep me up to date (Okay truth be told, I mostly just skim through most features. With one eye open and my head glued to the pillow.) Anyways, having being cut off made me sad only because I couldn’t post stuff. I felt like everyone around me musta been so irritated because all I did was chatter chatter gush gush, showing pics that I like and just being a general oversharer because my normal newfound medium of expression was unavailable. Sad times.
Quick update on where my head is at:
I went to a dope dubstep party on Friday at Town Hall on Friday. PHfat something something. I was just excited by music by that requires no thought. Unless blood vessels think. I think mine do. And then they get all excited and make my body move out of sync, parallel to the rhythm since I have no rhythm of my own. AND there were swings in the club. It was so perfect, everytime the blood cells calmed down within their vessels, we’d sit down, swing our feet in the air and people watch. My best. There was a point when the DJ was playing Celine Dion “My heart will go on” (yes, I dont get it either), and we just zoned out watching all these crazy people waving lighters and getting excited. In a club. I’m still a bit confused. Then there was this guy Boris. I just KNOW he was Radovan Krejcir’s minion. But I’m too scared to talk about him. If you dont know, Radovan is like supposed to be the biggest deal in the underworld. Yoh that name alone makes me think of throwbacks from the Soviet Union with like shrapnel still stuck in their limbs. Shiver. Anyways, it was a good night. I like dancing. And swings. and taking photos on swings (Pics will follow soon) Funny story though: there were people eating Briyani, complete with salad, from a car boot outside the club. Not funny bunny hobos, like normal kool kids. We thought they were sellling it and asked to have some. They weren’t selling. Major eyeballs. But I’m still very intrigued by that food outside the club story. I think I’m still mentally digesting the oddness thereof.
I like easter eggs (the marshmallow ones) when its not quite Easter yet. I ate half a box. I especially like them when they’re unexpected and when you can share them with everyone around you.
I also like koeksusters. The warm syrupy almost crispy lumpy ones. I especially like them when I wake up and call my dad to ask him to get some and he irritatedly tells me that they’re warm and waiting for me in the kitchen. By the way, I have the world’s greatest Dad.
I realised happy girls are pretty girls. I’m glad I am happy most of the time so that I can always tell myself this. Like one of those wanky mantras people say to themselves in the mirror every morning. I really do believe this though.
Chess is my new obsession. More on this later.
Theres so much going on in the world that I wanna write about, I feel like I have a mental backlog. Eek. Its an exciting feeling though.
On Thursday, in the face of Gaddafi’s growing success, the UN Security Council finally decided to authorise a range of “necessary measures” against his military. But the real question is whether it’s a day late and a dollar short, leaving Gaddafi the champion of a desert called peace - to paraphrase Tacitus in North Africa some 2,200 years ago. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.
In a 10:0 in-favour (including the US, France, UK and South Africa), with Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India abstaining, the UN Security Council authorised a “no-fly zone” over Libya, plus air strikes against tanks and artillery in an international intervention aimed at preventing a total rout of rebel forces by Gaddafi’s military. The resolution, sponsored by Lebanon and backed by France, Britain and the US, cited the need to protect civilians in Benghazi and an immediate cease-fire, but excluded the establishment of an external occupation force. The resolution also places an asset-freeze on Libyan entities, including the Libyan Central Bank and the Libyan National Oil Corporation.
The UN debate took place even as Libyan troops came within 160km of the rebel-held second largest city of Benghazi, after having pushed the relatively lightly armed, untrained rebels out of nearly all their positions to the west. Benghazi had been the starting point for a rebellion against the Gaddafi regime that had begun in the wake of and had been inspired by earlier citizen uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. After hearing of the UN vote, rebel spokeswoman Iman Bugaighis, told western media in Benghazi, “We are embracing each other. The people are euphoric. Although a bit late, the international society did not let us down.” The jury is definitely still out on that one, despite the brave words.
Putting the best possible face on the UN decision, diplomatic sources were telling reporters the resolution was cast in the kinds of broad strokes that allowed for airborne strikes against air-defence systems as well as missile attacks from ships. Moreover, this kind of military activity might even begin within a matter of hours.
The vote in favour of internationally sanctioned military action had finally been taken after calls for aid to the rebels from many corners of the Arab world as well as with an increasingly anguished debate in Washington. However, the vote did not provide specifics on crucial questions such as who is in charge of any military actions or what America’s role in it may be. More important still there is no way to tell if such military actions can actually prevent the recapture of Benghazi and the crushing of a rebellion that earlier seemed poised to drive Gaddafi from the power he has wielded for more than four decades.
Photo: A supporter of Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi chants slogans during a protest in Tripoli March 18, 2011. The United Nations authorised military action to curb Gaddafi on Thursday, hours after he threatened to storm the rebel bastion of Benghazi overnight, showing “no mercy, no pity”. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra.
As soon as the vote was taken, American President Barack Obama met advisors to weigh up various options and also spoke with UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. French officials said it was prepared to launch attacks within hours, and British sources indicated it was prepared to act quickly as well. While the first strikes would target air defences, it was not yet clear if plans were also moving ahead to hit tank columns and other government ground forces headed towards Benghazi. US officials said it would probably take several days for any full operation to get underway.
Meanwhile, the “King of Africa” went on a Tripoli radio call-in show just before the UN vote to tell his listeners his troops were about to begin their assault on Benghazi. “We will come house by house, room by room. It’s over. The issue has been decided,” he said as he offered amnesty to opponents who ceased fighting. But to the others he promised, “We will find you in your closets. We will have no mercy and no pity.”
And on Friday morning, the country’s deputy foreign minister, Khalid Kaim, insisted the Gaddafi government was pleased by the resolution’s call for the protection of civilians, but warned that if outsiders tried to arm the rebels, “That means they are inviting Libyans to kill each other”. Kaim said his government was ready for a cease-fire, but “we need to talk to someone to agree on the technicalities of the decision”.
Meanwhile, military experts said stopping Gaddafi’s forces now was much harder than it would have been a week earlier. James Lindsay, director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, a foreign policy think tank, said, “The issue is not going to be settled in the skies above Benghazi, but by taking out tanks, artillery positions and multiple-launch rocket systems on the ground.” Ugh, one of those nasty ground wars secretary of defence Robert Gates has been warning American politicians and the military about for several months.
Pentagon officials are saying the US is still weighing up how the US will be involved. Support may range from AWACs radar planes to coordinate military efforts, to signal jamming aircraft to keep Libyan military units from being able to communicate with each other, to even the possibility of deploying some of the 400 Marines on board two amphibious assault ships already in the region. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has said while a no-fly zone over Libya would require targeting sites inside Libya, the use of drone aircraft and even arming rebel forces, such options would apparently not include ground troops.
The US is presumably already liaising with its counterparts in the UK and France about joint military efforts, but diplomatic sources are laying the groundwork for internationalising any operation by saying the three western nations were insistent Arab League forces must be part of the military actions and, perhaps also crucially, must help pay for the operations. Western nations were eager to paint any efforts as something well beyond a Nato operation to avoid the unpalatable image of the West once more attacking an Islamic nation.
The US, among other nations, had earlier been trying to avoid getting caught up in another conflict in a Muslim nation, but Obama’s administration had eventually been made even more uncomfortable by the growing evidence of Gaddafi’s forces regaining momentum and territory, and the possibility they would eventually crush the populist rebellion.
Precisely how far or how deeply the US will end up committing to enforcing the no-fly zone or more still seems up in the air. At a Senate hearing on Thursday, undersecretary of state William Burns heard significantly different views about how best to deal with Libya that were not lined up along party lines.
For example, Democratic senator John Kerry criticised Obama’s administration, saying it had been too cautious in its response. “Time is running out for the Libyan people,” he said. While Republican senator John McCain and independent senator Joe Lieberman were also encouraging stern action, Republican senator Richard Lugar, for example, joined some Democrats to warn about the risks of American involvement, arguing that the president should seek “congressional debate on a declaration of war against Libya before US forces participate in any action.” Somebody’s been thinking about Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam again.
And so, on Thursday, Clinton, while on a working visit in Tunis, argued, “There is no good choice here. If you don’t get him out and if you don’t support the opposition and he stays in power, there’s no telling what he will do.” But then Clinton added Gaddafi would do “terrible things” to Libya and its neighbours. “It’s just in his nature. There are some creatures that are like that.” All of a sudden, Clinton seems to have channelled Ronald Reagan’s famous characterisation of a generation earlier of Gaddafi as the “mad dog of the Middle East”.
Photo: A rebel fighter fires his anti-aircraft gun as they flee from Ajdabiyah, on the road to Benghazi, March 15, 2011. Muammar Gaddafi’s forces seized the strategic town in eastern Libya on Tuesday, opening the way to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi while world powers failed to agree to push for a no-fly zone. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic.
Crucially, however, this UN vote is something of a litmus test for the ability of the Security Council to enforce collective action to prevent military atrocities against civilians. The ghost of earlier conflicts, and a less-than-distinguished UN role in them, in Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur seems to have haunted the discussion, giving the debate on Thursday an unusual sense of moral urgency.
Of course, these vaunted no-fly zones don’t always do the trick by themselves, as the Srebrenica massacre back in the 1990s Bosnian conflict can attest to. And, in fact, enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya may not even tamp down Gaddafi’s broad influence throughout Africa, based on decades of using Libya’s oil wealth to aggressively pursue his pan-Africanist vision. Libya pays nearly 15% of all contributions from the 53 AU member states and Libya also pays the dues of a clutch of the poorer member nations.
Even as the UN was asking for African support for the no-fly zone, the continental body seemed to look past current circumstances. As veteran AU watcher Delphine Lecoutre of the French Centre for African Studies, based at Addis Ababa University, says, even leaders who find Gaddafi’s behaviour repugnant can argue, “Libya is a very special state. This is one of the fears. If Libya is sanctioned for what’s going in the country currently, it could lead the country to withdraw from the AU. And, of course, in that case it could have implications because Libya is one of the big five contributors to the organisation.” Gosh, those awkward moral conundrums are everywhere.
In the next week, therefore, it seems we’re going to find out if the UN has the stomach to enforce real action against Gaddafi’s military, whether the Libyan rebels are prepared to commit everything to a fight against Gaddafi and whether the US can successfully juggle its ambivalence about another military action in a Muslim state along with an embrace of the uncertainties of a new social order in the Maghreb and Middle East - in place of all those old certainties about autocratic rule. Moreover, how the US copes with Libya may also shine some light on American intentions towards the sclerotic regimes along the Persian Gulf as well.
And finally, the outcome in Libya may help clarify whether moral outrage will trump cold cash in the hearts of other African leaders in supporting a genuine civic uprising by another oppressed population in yet another African nation. DM
Source: The Daily Maverick
(By the way, this guy used to be my Foreign Policy lecturer at Wits. Nifty huh?)
So yesterday the Commission for Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities opened up a can of worms by talking about ukuthwala. So basically, this is a wonderful custom practiced in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal and elsewhere, where girls are kidnapped, usually when in their early teens, then raped and set up in families for lobola. In case you were wondering, this practice is NOT one protected by the Commission.
I had an interesting talk with my boss this morning (okay he was talking, I was just listening, enraptured) about the dynamics between culture and human rights (since this is obviously where I’m at for the next year until my internship is over, maybe longer who knows) and I got really interested in said dynamics. Practicing your cultural rights and heritage is obviously very important, especially in a country as dynamic and multicultural as ours, but at the expense of innocent children? Because it really is just statutory rape, and that’s not even considering the illegality of kidnapping. Personally, the violation of those kind of rights in the name of cultural diversity and longevity makes me sick. I’d rather have no culture at all.
3rd Degree did a feature on it a while ago and the saddest thing is that all of these like 13 year old girls who had experienced it or were living in fear of it becoming a reality for them, just wanna go to school. All they want are careers, futures, lives. The kinds of things we take for granted every day. Unfortunately, more often than not, their parents are glad to rid themselves of the burden of an extra mouth to feed. Apparently, the crux and root cause of this custom being perpetuated is apparently poverty. If a child tries to run away and go back home, more often than not the children’s parents will be furious and send them back to their husbands, making statements like “Do you want me to return the cows? Do you want me to lose these cows?” Wow. Firstly, thank you Mom and Dad for loving me more than a cow. Secondly, why is this okay??
I kinda disagree with the poverty excuse though. I stand to be corrected but I think ukuthwala is originally a practice where a man who cannot speak for himself with the opposite sex consults with the family of the girl he would like to marry and then voila they get married. But it has evolved into a perversion.
If you have anything to add/questions/whatever, there’s a little icon on the turquoise box.
What I wanna know is, if this has been going on for so long, as words like “culture” and “heritage” imply, why is it only being addressed recently? Perhaps because the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities were dragging their feet. Why? Because of the recent shuffling of President Zuma’s strategic Cabinet. So is ensuring our president’s stay in office more important than protecting kids? Punishing pervs? Upholding the values of our constitution? Wow. I mean, at least its being addressed. But the delayed manner in which this is happening makes me question the state of our country’s heart. I read somewhere that the nature of a country is judged by how it treats its vulnerable children. And we’re failing them. Big time.
So while rescue worker in Japan pull survivors outta the earth, families hoard/queue for days for food, and nuclear experts freak out over the possibility of a Chernobyl-like nuclear meltdown (an unlikely possibility by the way. I’m no expert but I know enough about nuclear science to know that nuclear disasters like the one Japan is experiencing can sorta be compared to heart attacks. All are bad but not all will kill you. If this is sounding like a word made up by Cher, please google “Chernobyl” like asap to get an idea of what the end of the world will be like) and yet, people are already speculating about Japan deserving the triple disaster of earthquake/ tsunami/ nuclear meltdown.
It started with American political commentator Glenn Beck hypothesizing that the disaster had a divine message by stating “I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes but I’m not not saying that either.” Uh really?! He continued to say, “Whether you call it Gaia, or whether you call it Jesus, there’s a message being sent and that is, ‘Hey, you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well.’ Maybe we should stop doing some of it.” He then proceeded to reference the Ten Commandments as the antidote to global chaos. Now I am by no means a great Christian, but I was raised in the religion and I try to let it guide my thinking when my faith falters from time to time but even I was like “Nigga please, seriously?!” Firstly, the Ten Commandments are contextual, and the God of the Old Testament is definitely not the same God of today who is driven by compassion not fire and brimstone. Secondly, I think some perspective is needed when observing a tragedy of this magnitude. What is meant to happen will happen. Attributing religious significance detracts from the realities on the ground and is in fact against Christian principles of loving your freakin neighbor. Jeez.
That said, these sentiments of Japan deserving the disasters aren’t just being pushed by righteous Yanks. Tokyo’s very own governor, Shintaro Ishihara, told reporters on Monday that he too saw God’s wrath in the tragedy: “Japanese politics is tainted with egoism and populism. We need to use tsunami to wipe out egoism, which has rusted onto the mentality of Japanese over a long period of time. I think (the disaster) is tembatsu (divine punishment), although I feel sorry for disaster victims.” Egoism means self-centeredness or insensitivity. That fool should be feeling God’s wrath for being egoistic himself. Failing that, cos God is obviously busy right now welcoming little Japanese kids into heaven so can’t really slap him with some tembatsu, someone needs to backhand him. He later rescinded his remarks and apologized. But still. Using tragedy to push your own opinions, EVEN if you think them divinely sanctioned should earn you some special kind of torture in hell, if not on earth. In the form of a lifetime of toe-stubbings, paper-cuts and fever-blisters cos we don’t wanna be too hateful about these kinda people, next thing God sends us thunderbolts of torture too.) The point I’m getting at is you’d think that in the face of such terrible tragedy people would overcome their selfish pursuit of self-propagation, where they circulate their own views at the expense of positive mental energy which should rather be used productively to try help out the poor Japs.
Another nuts view is the racist, historically-based analysis favoured by American idiots using karma for Pearl Harbor as justification. Pearl Harbor happened in 1941, over 70 years ago AND you bombed them!! With nuclear bombs! Get over it! They sure did. Random foreign policy fact: Japan is constitutionally forbidden from military action, they have like the tiniest military in the world despite being one of the richest countries, because they never want the atrocities of World War II to happen again. So yes, they did get over it. So when assholes tweet stuff like “If you wanna feel better about this earthquake in Japan, google Pearl Harbor death toll”, it actually makes my blood boil. That particular tweet was by Adam Sulkin, a TV writer with over 160 000 followers. It was retweeted by over 100 people within hours. A day later he apologized and deleted the tweet then tweeted “Yesterday death toll = 200. Today = 10 thousand. I am sorry for my insensitive tweet. It’s gone.” Like nobody reweeted that one. For the record, the death toll at Pearl Harbor was approximately 2,400. Already the death toll in Japan has exceeded that a coupla times over. But regardless of numbers, is it really okay to compare the reasoning behind an act of war to that of an act of nature?
The most ridiculous justification I’ve heard yet is that by anti-whaling groups and ignoramuses saying that Japan kills whales and eat sharks and that’s why they deserve the disasters. Uh, so are we really blaming an earthquake, a tsunami AND a nuclear disaster on the wrath of Neptune, God of the Sea? Like really? South Africa has almost no rhinos left, we’ve practically exterminated them. I shudder to think what is in store for us if this is the way we’re explaining the way the world works. Basically, my eternal optimism and faith in human beings has taken a bit of knock. I would have liked to think that people can overcome their issues in the face of such heartbreaking devastation and death and, you know, become decent, compassionate human beings.