This week has been busy with some writings on The Idea of India photo project, but I did manage to come across some fascinating stuff:

Ikea Is As Bad A Wal-Mart; A piece in Salon magazine that reviews Ellen Ruppel Shell’s book Cheap.

Yes, it is our consumer habits that are driving these climate changes – the degradation of the soil, the cutting of forests, the polluting of the oceans, the exploitation of human labor in china and mexico, to name just two places, is all for the sake of our cheap consumer goods.  We may prefer to avoid this fact by trying to simply shop ‘green’, but shopping, and repeateded, frequent cycles of shopping are in fact why the problems are emerging.

Shell’s argument is simple; buy cheap and you have to buy often and hence continue to fuel the hunger of the machinery that in the end churns away at human lives (cheap labor) and the earth (trees, oil, water, cultivatable land, fresh water etc.). So avoid IKEA!

Dr. R.K.Pachauri has a blog! I did not realize this. Dr. Pachauri is the Director General of The Energy & Resource Institute (TERI) and Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and winner of a Nobel Prize for his team’s work on the environment.  Some interesting quotes:

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) brought out a report in 2006 which estimates emissions of GHGs from agriculture as a whole, of which 80 percent are accounted for by livestock production. These constitute 18 percent of all GHG emissions from human activities. An interesting comparison between a vegetarian meal and a beef steak, for instance, was provided by The New York Times in its issue of 27 January 2008 which is revealing. A meal consisting of 1 cup of broccoli, 1 cup of eggplant, 4 ounces cauliflower and 8 ounces of rice results in 0.4 pounds of emissions of CO2 equivalent. On the other hand a 6 ounce beef steak results in 10 pounds of CO2 equivalent emissions, which amount to 25 times that of the vegetarian meal with which the comparison was made.

Apparently the retarded Mayor of London was miffed and said that he would now eat twice the beef he normally did! I guess he has friends in the beef industry!

Arundhati Roy seems to have lost her faith in the direction of modern ‘democracy’ particularly because, as she argues in her piece Democracy’s Failing Light, it has become a brand usurped by the most venal and calculated of opportunists, and used to veil injustices and terrible violence. Interestingly Pankaj Mishra had expressed similar dismay in an earlier piece called The Banality of Democracy where he argued that ‘democracy’ has become a theater that hides extremes of violence, and where the language of ‘elections’, ‘votes’, ‘citizen rights’, ‘liberty’ etc. is used to silence genuine freedom and justice.

Today’s While You Wait Lobotomy Special! come from  this interview with director Claude Lanzmann, speaking about his new film called Tsahal.

I was laughing so hard that in fact I could not even post a link to this frankly retarded conversation when I first read it a week ago.  What adds spice to it is the subtlety of the interview who is clearly repulsed by Lanzmann’s racist and, lets be honest, stupid answers.

When asked a question (and it is clear that Lanzmann’s intellectual myopia does not allow him to recognize that the interviewer is setting him up), about why Israeli life is worth more than that of others, he says:

The answer goes back to the Shoah, the murder of the Jews in the Second World War. There are very few families in Israel who did not lose one or several members in the Shoah. The number of Jewish victims killed in wars and attacks must at all costs – and I mean that absolutely literally– be kept as low as possible. That is the maxim.

And the inanities continue, when further into the interview, and now clearly loosing hold on his sanity, Lanzmann reveals a toy soldier’s love of weapons of slaughter:

Weapons play a central role in my film. But I don’t know whether I would say they “fascinate” me. That’s not a fair word. Because the film is never about fascination. And yet I can certainly say that tanks are the most extraordinary machines. And the most extraordinary tank of all is the Israeli Merkava, because it was built in absolutely impossible conditions. The tank commanders love their Merkavas. The tank units spend at least three years of their lives in them. The Merkava was developed by the Israeli General Tal. He features prominently in my film. He says that Israel is an ideal country in which to develop tanks further and wage wars with them.

All this would just be interesting amusement, like reading the diary of a ‘slow’ friend at school, if it were not for the fact that the interview is packed solid with false histories carried over from the 1950s! Mythological references to the ‘Jews sense of defensiveness’ are trotted out to argue and defend Israel’s current aggressions and love of violence. As if there isn’t a people, nation, class or ethnicity who couldn’t construct a narrative of past sufferings and argue for their need to perpetuate new ones! The Israeli canard of the ‘uniqueness’ of the Jew’s suffering is bandied about with abandon, and I guess leaving many an Armenian, Bangladeshi, Mapuche and yes Palestinian salivating at their ‘right’ to then perpetuate their own mass slaughters in the future!

Reductive ideas of about Arabs and Palestinians are displayed to create another old canard; Israel is perpetuatlly under threat and so it must kill – they make us kill them! Viva Meir!

Its is amusing and funny, and I wish the interviewer was even more acerbic and explicit in his disdain which he clearly has but holds in check.

And finally, the great toy soldier moment does arrive, this strange boy’s love for the butcher’s tools. The interviewer subtly tricks Lanzmann into revealing an infantile worship of weapons, like a boy who buys a sports car to compensate for his cowardice and overwhelming sense of inadequecy. I qoute Lanzmann’s hilarious reply:

Of course I rode in a tank during the filming of “Tsahal”. I have also shotgrenades from a Merkava. It was really easy to hit a stationary target, but I found it extremely difficult to hit a moving one. I have also flown on reconnaissance missions. During the work on my film I also saw the first prototypes for unmanned flights, drones, which were invented and developed in Israel. They are very unusual machines, but they do not feature in my film.

Oh dear. He rode a tank – Yeeeee Haaaaa! Lets get me one of them A-rabs!!

Over at Dissent the writer/intellectual Ali Iteraz in a piece called Pakistan Is Already An Islamic State reminds us, particularly those from Pakistan, that the country’s slide towards becoming a religiously drunk state is  nothing new and does not begin just because of America’s recent wars in Afghanistan. He takes us back to the years of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto – the man who is now a myth so sacrosanct that we forget that he began his career kissing up to Pakistan’s earliest dictators, precipitated 2 wars, and was directly responsible for the break-away of Bangladesh, not to say anything about the genocide that he helped encourage there. Some quotes:

Most people in the world, including some Pakistanis, live under the illusion that the country is secular and just happens to have been overrun by extremists. This is false. Pakistan became an Islamic state in 1973 when the new constitution made Islam the state religion. Under the earlier 1956 constitution Islam had been merely the “official” religion. Nineteen-seventy-three, in other words, represents Pakistan’s “Iran moment“—when the government made itself beholden to religious law. Most western observers missed the radical change because the leader of Pakistan at the time was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a whiskey-drinking, pseudo-socialist from a Westernized family. Those that did notice the transformation ignored it because the country was reeling from a massive military defeat in 1971, which led to half the nation becoming Bangladesh.

And as the government and its working increasingly articulated their objectives and plans through a language religious, the people too learned that couching their demands in religious terms was perhaps the only way to find action from the government. As Iteraz says:

Over the 1970s and 1980s, Pakistan’s marginalized people also learned how to put Islam to political use.

In 1994, the poor locals of the quasi-autonomous Swat region, languishing in a broken colonial-era legal scheme, agitated for a more efficient system called “Sharia Nizam e Adl.” This system, being local and cultural in origin and mostly the construction of a man named Sufi Mohammad, had very little in common with the sharia that exists in the classical books of Islamic Law. But the Swatis figured that appealing to Islam would work, because, after all, everyone else did the same when they wanted their material concerns addressed. They turned out to be right. Benazir Bhutto’s government quickly consented.

His conclusion is, and it relates to the situation in Swat and other regions, that people are arguing through the prism of Islam because for decades that has been the only means to reach decision makers, and to effect any sort of legislative and political action on matters of justice, rights, and needs. I quote Iteraz again:

What is happening with the widespread religious militancy in Pakistan today is that the political and feudal elite like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who initially were beneficiaries of manipulating the Islamic character of Pakistan, have lost control of “Islam” to a much broader class of people. These out-of-power groups, after decades of alienation, want to have control in the political system and are attempting to acquire it by defining Islam, which is an amorphous idea, in a way they deem most suitable. Every day the abstract cry of sharia becomes a means of political agitation. Every day people organize into new movements around the declaration.

I recommend the entire piece, particularly to those who insist on solving abstractions with yet another delusional one that goes something like ‘If we implement true Islam we will solve all this’ or ‘Islam does not advocate violence’ and other such inanities. These are political and social issues – of man, for man and by man. Man uses whatever references, languages and forms he needs to argue for his food, his shelter and his security. It can be ‘democracy’, it can be ‘Islam’, it can be any number of abstract slogans, but underneath they are fueled by fundamental needs.