Ali Eteraz has been featured on this blog site before. His insightful piece Pakistan Is Already An Islamic State about Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s cynical and politically motivated ‘Islamization’ of Pakistan’s constitution and its long term consequences that are today manifesting themselves in the pathologies in Swat and the rest of the country. His new books is called Children of the Dust – a personal memoir of growing up Muslim and American. I have not read the book as yet and will write a short review/impression of it once I do.

But here is Ali speaking about the work and the motivations that went in to it:

Outlook India posted some fascinating videos of Delhi in the 1930s. The narration alone is worth listening too as it captures well the arrogance and ignorance of a colonial voice. But it shows some amazing scenes of the city and particularly its Mughal monuments.

There is more on the BFI National Archives, like this rare footage of life in Hunza Valley, now in Pakistan

You can see more videos on the BFI National Archive Search Page.

I came across a rather hilarious piece by Chris Lehmann at The Awl blog on the suffering’s of Harvard University’s spoilt student body. Inspired by an insipid piece in The New York Times by their reporter Abby Goodnough called Leaner Times At Harvard: No Cookies about the hardships hitting this over-branded, over-rated and pompous institution (we must have our Oxfords & Cambridges you could hear some one say, complete with the inbred idiocy that marks them!) and how its student have to ‘learn to live with less’. But as Lehmann points out:

One shudders to think of how these euphoria-deprived pashas of the nation’s bogus meritocracy will forge onward in their post-Harvard professional lives. Will they bypass leather banquette tables at Le Cirque for furtive shame-filled footlong binges at Subway? Will they shun the siren calls of Marc Jacobs or Barney’s for the fall savings spectaculars at Loehmann’s or—shudder—Filene’s Basement? Will their would-be summer Hamptons rentals molder in favor of low-budget rustic resort accommodations in the Catskills or on the Jersey Shore?

But more seriously, Lehmann points out how the article fails to examine how Harvard University got itself into the financial mess that it does find itself, and that is forcing it to cut back on the caviar with egg breakfasts. I quote him:

But the curious thing about Harvard’s investment plight is that it antedates the onset of international financial sclerosis last fall. Harvard Management Co., the school’s investment arm, had long carved out a profile as a high-flying trader in hedge fund portfolios, derivatives—i.e., second-order market bets on stock performance that rarely involve any underlying assets—and other exotic financial instruments that greased its toboggan skids toward the market trough. On June 30, 2008, Forbes reports, Harvard Co. fund managers “had, thanks to… fancy derivatives, a 105 % long position in risky assets. The effect is akin to putting every last dollar of your portfolio to work and then borrowing another 5% to buy stocks.”

So as ever, the New York Times in-bed-with-power-and-celebrity pieces fail to examine the root causes, fail to ask the hard questions, and fail to reflect a journalistic approach that is not enamored by the wealth, glamor, power and influence of the institutions and individuals they are expected to cover. Yawn!

Finally, the brave, clear minded, provocative and ever insightful Arundhati Roy gave an interview at DNA magazine that once again confronts us to ask ourselves whether we have the courage to see through the lies and deceptions that mark our modernity and are eviscerating out societies. A short quote from this interview:

Today, the idea of progress has come to mean just the western idea of progress and development, and a totally industrialised society. Of course, now with climate change, we have no choice but to imagine a different kind of progress, where perhaps everybody has less but your footprint on the earth is lighter. We have to go back to a totally different way of looking at consumption. Right now, the situation is that, unless you consume, the economy will collapse; but if you consume, the ecology will collapse — if you consume at the current rate. So in a way this is a good time for radical thought, but one doesn’t know if human beings are capable of it as a race, because we have historically seen societies collapse doing things that they know will cause them to collapse.

Speaking of modernity meaning only that which can be associated with the abstraction called ‘the West’, I recommend Dipesh Chakravarty’s wonderful book Provincializing Europe: Post Colonial Thought & Historical Difference that examines what ‘modernity’ has come to mean, how it has enhanced and limited our ability to confront social and cultural realities, the dangers of ‘historicism’ – hey, anyone remember the great Karl Popper!

Richard Silvetstein, author of the wonderful blog site Tikun Olam, wrote an interesting piece about his struggles to encourage a dialogue and exchange between his synagogue and local mosques. Title When Muslim-Jewish Dialogue Fails, and Other Tales of Jewish Alienation.

Anyone know of a similar voice, a critical but humane voice, emerging from the American-Muslim community? If so please let me know. Richard offers a very intelligent and humanist criticism of Israel, America and other imperialist adverturers while remaining true to his heritage, a proud one at that, as a Jew. I continue to seek such informed, engaged, humanist voices from some of the other self-defined ‘defenders of the true faith’.