Archive for February 28th, 2011

History’s shifting sands

The revolutions sweeping the Arab world indicate a tectonic shift in the global balance of people power

by Mark LeVine
26 Feb 2011

For decades, even centuries, the peoples of the Arab world have been told by Europeans and, later, Americans that their societies were stagnant and backward. According to Lord Cromer, author of the 1908 pseudo-history Modern Egypt, their progress was “arrested” by the very fact of their being Muslim, by virtue of which their minds were as “strange” to that of a modern Western man “as would be the mind of an inhabitant of Saturn”.

The only hope of reshaping their minds towards a more earthly disposition was to accept Western tutelage, supervision, and even rule “until such time as they [we]re able to stand alone,” in the words of the League of Nations’ Mandate. Whether it was Napoleon claiming fraternité with Egyptians in fin-de-18e-siècle Cairo or George W. Bush claiming similar amity with Iraqis two centuries later, the message, and the means of delivering it, have been consistent.

Ever since Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti, the great Egyptian chronicler of the French invasion of Egypt, brilliantly dissected Napoleon’s epistle to Egyptians, the peoples of the Middle East have seen through the Western protestations of benevolence and altruism to the naked self-interest that has always laid at the heart of great power politics. But the hypocrisy behind Western policies never stopped millions of people across the region from admiring and fighting for the ideals of freedom, progress and democracy they promised.

Even with the rise of a swaggeringly belligerent American foreign policy after September 11 on the one hand, and of China as a viable economic alternative to US global dominance on the other, the US’ melting pot democracy and seemingly endless potential for renewal and growth offered a model for the future. Read the rest of this entry »


Dying in two different ways

by Goh Keat Peng

In the news this week, we are numbed by reports of the death of hundreds of human beings not unlike ourselves. Some of these our fellow human beings were going about quietly in their everyday life in a city that is not only beautiful in myriads of ways but also ordinary like many other cities of the world. At 12.51 pm on February 21, 2011 an earthquake struck and to date, 147 have being confirmed dead, with still 200 people missing.

What do we, can we, say? For all these many years, that city like so many others in the human world was functioning normally with few if any extraordinary event ever happening. Then this thing happens and loved ones, colleagues and neighbours are taken from this life in a twinkle of an eye leaving behind heartache, anguish and bewilderment. Even those who are left without loss of loved ones face months if not years of rubble- physical and emotional- to cope with. Normalcy and routine as one resumes one’s life under these circumstances is not possible for a while. Read the rest of this entry »