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Is Social Media making Nations Sates irrelevant ? The rise of Blogistan

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A female American Soldier’s letter from Afghanistan who was in Kandahar when Robert Bales killed 19 innocent civilians.

Written in response to my blog on the killings by Sgt Robert Bales and whether Afghan lives are less important than Western ones. She was in Kandahar at that time and took care of the those wounded by Sgt Robert  Bales.  Please read as there is pain, patriotism, understanding compassion  and questioning in this letter , and written from the heart in the middle of the battlefield, which is why I  am putting it up as a blog :

“The writers ( thats me) point was made very clear- and received.

As a female solider- I have another question for you-

I did take care of the wounded that survived that awful day near Kandahar (my note: when Robert Bales went on a killing spree) – but also just this week I took care of a multiple wounded from an Afghan boy about 12 years old that walked into a military collation formation with a suicide vest on and detonated himself…
What was is name? Does anyone know?  No I do not- but where is the media of that coverage of carnage over here, near Kandahar? Or in the States. I see many Afghan wounded ANA, ANP that we take care of- and no mention of our medical service- we did not shoot them- they were shot by their Afghan brothers. Again where is that in the media?

How did that boy mentioned above get that suicide vest?  If it wasn’t from an adult Afghan male to serve a purpose? Death is never justified.  Definitely not to use the innocent as an explosive device.

Media will always be one sided… but understand- there are plenty of Americans being killed- from trusting their “afghan counterparts” and the children that we try to teach and give supplies to- where is that story? I spent a year up North embedded with the Afghans as well prior to this deployment- I have had to put my trust in them as I worked with them- solider to solider- but even their lives were threatened for wanting us to help them.

No life is better than the other- just different. Many Americans have been beheaded and placed on display on Al Jazeera TV as justified killings- no one side is perfect or with out blame in this war.”

 

The Great ‘Who Me ?’ Dancing Master.

Early every morning all the Jungle would wake up to the distant wail

‘whooooooooo meeeeeeee ? ‘whooooooo meeeee’ ?

It was time for the great dance to begin. The wind would whip up to the call of “Whooooooo Meeeeee” and the trees would begin to sway to the opening rhythms of the  thundering tapping of the animals on the ground, to the chattering of the monkeys, the twittering of the birds and the rustling of the leaves. Then as the sun’s rays would emerge from behind the great mountain, it was time to stop the dance. And yet a great wail would come from somewhere in the mountain

“Whoooooooo Meeeeeeeeeee ? Whoooooooooo Meeeeeeeeeeee ?

It was then time for the creatures to go about their daily business. The earthworms that were out all night would see this call as the time to scurry home and burrow into safety, as this was just the time the birds would wake up hungry, and even the little sparrows would look for a delicious breakfast of a slower than normal baby worm. Animals would go around searching for food, mothers would protect and feed their babies, young baboons would show off and fight over pretty young things showing more of their red parts than they ought to, often admonished by their mother’s saying ‘ stand up straight, you little hussy !’

As the afternoon set in came the ‘happy hour’, where the animals would joyfully go to the great Watering Hole. The centre of gossip where no animals were allowed to kill each other, but just drink the cool water and trade gossip. The monkeys were the greatest gossips of all, followed closely by the twitterati of the Robins and other birds. They would tell stories to each other, but non was more hotly debated than the the story of the Great ‘Who – Me’ Master.

It is said that The Who-Me? Master was once the greatest of all Dancing Masters. It was said that He was the most beautiful of all creatures. A Pelican radiating with the brilliance of every possible color. It is said that when The Great Master would dance, his wings would spread out as if an embrace of nature itself. A dance worthy of worship. After all the Great Dance between the animals, the birds and the trees and the wind was what kept Nature in balance. It’s what kept the Jungle alive.

The jungle needed a Dancing Master. The great teacher. For  how else would the animals teach their young that the The Great Dance was what kept the Jungle going and growing?  Without the great dance the winter would not turn into summer. The great migratory birds would not arrive with their fresh gossip from other lands. The young female baboons would not feel the urge to love and elope with the young strutty male. The summer would not turn into spring. The joy of a new leaf replacing one that fell in autumn would turn to grief rather than a celebration.

And yet since the “The Great Who Me Master’ went, the whole jungle was no longer dancing in unison. There was disharmony creeping in as the young un’s would not find an inspiration, someone to follow to dance. And without the great dance, the jungle would wither away.

The Master was once merely called just ” The Dancing Master”. But one day the Master forgot how to dance. No one knew why. Least of all The Great Dancing Master himself. Tried as he might, he did not, could not , get one step in harmony with another. He lost his smile , his radiance, and looked around and said

” If I cannot dance, then Who Me ?”

The black twaterring Monkeys with their spidery claws and quick staccato speech caught in an alphabet of 140 letters revelled in it. For they were the only creatures that did not dance. They did not nurture the forest. They were the scavengers. They stole the eggs of the young mothers and would watch with glee at her agony. They plucked the little saplings that even hungry baby birds knew to leave alone. For without nurturing birth the cycle of life and nature would cease. The Great Dance would come to an end. They were bad. And they did worse. They got the the Great Master addicted to their wicked brew. What they themselves survived on.

And so, gradually the Great Master lost everything. Filled with the poison brew. Flopping around in his once beautiful Pelican Body, he forgot who he was, what his purpose on Earth was. So all he would do is moan all day and night ‘ Who Me’ ?

Finally one day, The Great Master just disappeared. and no one ever saw him again. Yet every morning and every night before the jungle went to sleep, there was this great moan that spread from the mountain, across the red sky , through the shivering fearful leaves ..

Whooooooooooooo Meeeeeeeee ?

Are Afghan lives less important than Sgt Robert Bales ?

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales faces murder charges in the US, defended by a famous US attorney who promises to humanize Bale’s crimes. I am assuming that means ‘Diminished Responsibility’ due to combat stress as he had been to combat zones 4 times.  I guess there will never be any questions of the responsibility of the US Military in sending a proven alcoholic and and prone to excessive violence,  armed  with deadly weapons to go shoot at innocent Afgani’s in their own land.

President Karzai and the people of Afghanistan are right. Bales should have been tried in Afghanistan as the crime was committed against innocent non military Afghani citizens on Afghan soil. He is not protected by the Geneva Convention as the US has not declared war against Afghanistan. Instead Bales was immediately whisked away to the US before anyone could raise the issue.  Here’s what happened.

In the early hours of the morning darkness, a fully armed Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 38, walked out of his protected US barracks alone and into two villages near Kandahar in Afghanistan.  He tried to open the doors of houses there, and then found two or more houses unlocked.  He had not met any of the families sleeping quitely in their homes.  He did not know them except as ‘the Afghan enemy’.  Then he did something unfathomable. He pulled out his rifle and started shooting directly at the sleeping families. Indiscriminately would be the wrong word.  For he aimed directly at them.  Men women and children.

When he had expended himself (or perhaps his bullets),  he poured inflammable liquid over the dead bodies riffled with bullets and left only charred unrecognizable corpses behind. He then quitely walked away and back into the US barracks.  An act in retaliation for some kind of bizzare inexplicable revenge that called back memories of the US soldiers that decimated the population of a whole village in My Lai in Vietnam.

Robert Bales had snuffed out 16 lives. Amongst them 9 children. And we don’t even know how many more are still fighting for their lives, or seriously injured.  They are Afghan after all, and therefore lives less valuable than Americans or other Nato troops. We will never know whether some of the victims woke up.  Never know whether some mothers were ruthlessly shot while trying to protect their little children, or whether the children were screaming or still dreaming.

We will never known because they were Afghan. Lives less important.

What went through Robert Bale’s mind as he walked back ?  Remorse ?  Does not seem like it.  Apparently he was completely calm. What did he think of the Afghan people. The enemy ? Sleeping children were the enemy ? What was he taught about a culture that President Obama repeats again and again. That his troops are there to protect. This one act lends a lie to those empty words.

The name of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales resounds in every media report, every paper all over the world.  Can anyone name one Afghan child that died ? Lives less important ?

Flown back to the US to reprisals from the Afghan people to be given a ‘fair’ trail, with a famous lawyer defending his case. He is not being treated as terrorist.  He is not being put in a ‘torture prison’ as an Aghan would have been had he committed the same act against the US forces in Afghanistan.

I completely accept that Bales snapped.  He was under combat stress.  Most troops are, its the nature of war.  This was his second tour of duty.  He had been drinking. He probably had a few bad conversations with his wife (don’t we all ?).  He saw his friend’s leg blow up earlier sometime. But what do you do to relieve that stress.  Kill sleeping innocent children ? No you don’t.

Not unless you have a genuine contempt for the very people you are there to protect. For they are lives less less important.

Lets consider a 38 year old Afghan man. Born in the same year as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales

He was born when the Mujahedeen, supported  by Pakistan, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US intensified their fighting against the Soviets , led by Babrak Karmal. He grew up in a country torn by war and strife, and probably saw more death and carnage as a child than we see on TV all our lives. Born in country engulfed by  a proxy war being fought on behalf of  foreign powers.

By the time he was seven years, half of the Afghan population had been internally displaced or become refugees in Iran or Pakistan. He probably lost more of his family and community to the war than we can care to remember in our life times. By the time he was 10, when most of us were struggling with Maths in school, he probably had to pick up a gun and fight for one side or the other if he wanted to eat.

By the time he was in his 20’s the US and Britain had launched a reprisals often amounting to war against the people of Afghanistan in the supposed search for Osama Bin Laden. I call it a war against the people of Afghanistan because the number of civilian casualties just rises everyday. Each day till today has been uncertain for him. And for his family if he has any left.  Each day there would have been just be one prayer.  God, please let my family be alive tomorrow.  Please let us have some food to eat tomorrow. Everyday, for 38 years of his life.

I call that extreme combat stress.

Yet if this unnamed Afghan man was to pick up a gun and do to the US troops what Staff Sergeant Robert Bates did to the Afghans, there would be no excuse. No trial. No understanding of the complexities of mental imbalance. No high powered lawyer to fight his case. He would have been riddled with bullets or thrown into the worst prison under extreme torture.

And he would not have a name.  For his would be a life less important.

President Obama has rightly taken a personal stand over the killing of 17 year old African American teenager Trayvon Martin shot dead by a white vigilante. Media all over the world knows Trayvon’s name. Can President Obama take personal responsibility for the 9 Afghan kids shot dead while sleeping in their mothers arms and then charred to death? Can any media in the planet even mention the name of one of them ?

Of course not. They are not Western. They are expendable Afghan’s. Nameless statistics.

Life less important

 

 

 

 

Why would you want to be merely you?

A looked at my teacher, the tree,  outside my window and it said to me :

You have travelled and listened to the wise ones. Have worshipped with them. Loved them.  Been their best friends. Have seen compassion, yes. But also Ego.

Ego is fear. Fear of loss of individuality. Who am I in this world that surrounds me ? The answer is is there if you look carefully at the world that surrounds you, Without prejudice. Without memory.  Just look and observe and you will see you are nothing but an inherent part of all creation. Perhaps an incredibly essential part of creation but no more essential than a leaf that fell from my branch. You are Nature itself. Just because you have mobility and imagination does not make you individual.  The wind that passes by me has greater mobility and imagination that you could imagine through your imagined prejudices.
Your imagination is a gift to revel in the true meaning of existence. But you use it to define and so confine yourself.
You are both God and the servant of God. You are everything that was ever created and everything that was destroyed. You are also everything that will be created and destroyed.
Here and now you are everything. Then why would would you want to be merely you ?
Sit still like me and you will observe. Feel my 1000 leaves rustle in the wind and you will know.
Did Strindberg denounce Miss Julie’s actions himself ? How is Miss Julie relavant to India today ?

Has the west finally achieved the egalitarian society it boasts about? Does the class and gender war only exist in Asia and Africa? In that context, is a 19th century Swedish play, relevant to 21st century India?

 Social preoccupations and prejudices find a place in August Strindberg’s most popular play, Miss Julie. The daughter of a count, living in a morally upright society,  has an affair with one of her servants. I wonder how many of us Indian women would be able to stomach a one night stand with the khansama and then face the family squarely, the following morning? Bizarre….certainly. Possible? Eminently. And we are not talking khap panchayats here. It goes way beyond. Which is why it becomes all the more important to stage plays like Miss Julie, which force us to introspect and come face to face with our own insecurities and hypocrisy.

 

–Sohaila Kapur, theatre director.

 

95 yr old artist defines passion creativity life and defies age

My encounter with Robert Amft, the 95 year old American artist : by Horst Vollman.

As I rang the doorbell to Robert Amft’s home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on a sunny January afternoon in 2012, I knew that I was about to meet an American icon, an artist whose versatility is unmatched in the art world. Amft, at the age of 95, still produces art to please  himself, first and foremost.

I was cautioned that Robert Amft was wheelchair-bound, with little energy to spare, not to ask too many questions and to keep my exuberance in check. Thus, I entered the room with the hesitation of one who expected to find an ailing man in whose presence words had to be spoken tentatively. His firm, even strong handshake quickly dispelled any such notion. His eyes seemed to belong to a man half his age, his voice had a firmness that belied his 95 years. When, after a while I worked up the courage to ask him personal questions I wanted to know whether his continued painting at this age was a yearning to express unfulfilled dreams. He looked at me the way an errant child is to be taken to task. “Painting is my life” he explained softly,

“sometimes in my dreams I paint and when I wake up I actually want to walk to my easel, forgetting that I need a wheel chair.” There was a pensive smile on his face when he said it. “Honestly, the fact that I still paint has nothing to do with regrets or unfulfilled dreams. Quite the contrary, most of my dreams have come true. Look at this easel. When I sit there I feel happy, no thoughts intrude. Something inside me happens that is hard to explain but let me try it anyway.” Haltingly first, then increasingly firm, he began to open up. “My life is about colors, light and compositions, about brush strokes, charcoal sketches, about a canvas I want to cover with something that only at that very moment develops. I never know in advance what it is going to be but I am always surprised again about the outcome. I don’t analyze, never did. When I paint, everything flows, I forget who I am, age and time lose all meaning. I become part of the process. I would almost push it further and say, I am the process.”

He paused and his look became nearly wistful as though my question had touched a special chord. “I once read that the painter uses the canvas as a battlefield for unresolved emotions where every brushstroke is a Freudian slip. My goodness, the art world reads too much into us. At the end of the day artists are just ordinary people with a talent to paint. When I look at a canvas I don’t see the outside world. At these moments I feel happy, yes, just simply happy. The outcome is not what matters. When I am in that state it is of no consequence to me if my work is liked or rejected.”

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And God said Let there be light .. fibre optic light

And then God said there be light ..

….fibre optic light

The world now changes at the Speed of Chaos . The changes are non-linear. The year before is not a portend of the trends in the current year. Yet we are caught in an addiction to linear analysis. Why ? Because once the trends were controlled by the very people in a position of linear power to control them. The linear structure of  control over information and ideas was also the way the world was kept linear.

It seemed till just yesterday that  power of the ‘Gatekeepers’ was supreme, whether in Government, Politics, Entertainment etc.  The Power of Linearity.

Suddenly the power has shifted to circularity where information is democratic and opinion polls are no longer the ‘gatekept’ preserve of ‘information or news controllers’. People talk and communicate amongst themselves. At unimaginable speeds. At unimaginable distances. In unimaginable quantities. Where ideas are born and die even before you can catch them. Where only ideas that truly catch the imagination of the people, the heart of the people, the fundamental needs and desires of the people come forth and turn from a slight wave in the ocean to a tsunami,

And before you are aware of it, before you can catch it, the tsunami is a revolution.

Like the Arab Spring.

We have a word for it in Hindu Mythology. Manthan. The Great Churning. Even though it referred to (some say) to the formations and continuing play of the Universe, The Milky Way, the facilitation of of sharing of massive amounts of information and ‘thought processes’ expressed on massive platforms, give rise to new galaxies of events that are completely non linear, chaotic and ….

…express the true and ultimate meaning of democracy…. a continuing democracy, fluid and completely transparent in its expression,

Scary ? Of course. Chaos to our linear minds is scary. Change and the unknown is scary.  But do we have a choice?

The battle will now be between linearity and chaos. The gatekeepers and most of us will fight for a semblance of linearity for that is how we understand the world.  While those that have nothing lose in the constructed oppression of linearity , will revel in hitting back at any linear system through the  chaos of circularity.

What will happen in the future ?

Facebook too, addicted as it is now to linearity, through old world paradigm like transactions with its 100b $ ivaluation, has shifted from circularity and chaos to linearity and gatekeeping.  So the battle is also happening within the internet world too.  But Facebook understands the only option it has is to keep expanding, or the great Manthan will swallow  its individuality and regurgitate it and throw it out in forms yet unknown to itself.  Or It will, like our Sun, expand to a point where its collapses under its own gravity,  gobbled by by another expanding Star – another tsunami idea.

The Universe is the best analogy to the Internet. If we understand that passage of time is a mere perception . History is chaotic, sudden, unpredictable and ever changing. Yet at the points of history in the old world we perceived a linearity which became our reality and even an addiction. Now Internet has made that change observable, constant, touchable and perceptible. Almost instant.  Like observing the seed turn into a flower in speeded up motion.  And the death of the same flower in seconds.

Lets forgive ourselves for sitting back for a few moments and go ‘Phew !’  But then move forward with a new sense of democratic adventure, a step in the unknown, trusting that in the chaos of the Manthan, in the colliding of galaxy’s there is purpose..

And my quest, along with others, is that in this great Manthan, the ultimate events that occur are for the good of society. That ultimately in the balance between the good and the bad, the hate and the compassion, the Asuras and the Devas, the good and compassionate will emerge.

Quite honestly ? Everything points to that. It seems that we will do better without the gatekeepers controlling our lives for their own benefit,

Who is this S & P that can plunge nations into darkness by changing ratings ?

Its a wonder to me that a privately owned financial organization called S & P could alter the way the world looks at economics,  and pressurize governments of ( say the Eurozone) to take steps that could destroy their social systems and radically alter the lives, security and future of millions of people.  Why would a downgrade by S & P radically alter currency values (especially the Euro).  What do they know that others do not ?  What do they know that the governments of the nations do not ?

After all in 2008 it was radically clear that no one knew. Almost everyone that understood capitalism in one way got it completely wrong. Capitalism turned tables on all known financial systems and showed that there is a time when the rules suddenly change, where the bubble suddenly burst and the flaws come bursting out.

There was a time when the World Bank policies were pushing developing nations to make decisions that in theory and paper looked great, but which from a huge social cost perspective were a disaster.  Especially large infrastructure projects that not only caused huge human displacement, social injustice and trauma, police atrocities, and environmental damage. And in a cost/benefit analysis 10 years down the line, the only benefit turned out to be was to the corporations, politicians and middle men.  Not the people.

Thankfully the World Bank does not wield that power (at least in India) or Indian financial systems would have been far more hit by the sub-prime crisis than it was in 2008. Not a deliberate path of ‘overlordship’ by the World Bank I think, but the Western Economic System was the only one that was considered valid then. It was the economic mantra taht failed. Post 2008 has been a lesson – the one which we are in danger loosing sight of again. A lesson that cultures often come into conflict with economic development models understood in , and imposed by other cultures .

Back to Europe, then.  I wanted to know who owns S &P. Is it men in pin stripe suits in darkened board room ? Like the proverbial Gnomes of Zurich ? Here’s what I discovered :

http://tinyurl.com/7jyxznw

S &P is owned by a series of banks and financial institutions that stand to profit by hugely by the movement of currencies, bond markets and financial markets if they has prior knowledge of downgrades from the very company they own.  And for those that wonder if it such large multi nation manipulations can at all take place should remember the Asian currency crisis of 1978 where “market overreaction and herding caused the plunge of exchange rates, asset prices, and economic activity to be more severe than warranted by the initial weak economic conditions”.  The crisis destroyed millions of livelihoods all across Asia, and some economies have still not recovered.  From market speculation.

Is S & P completely above board ?

The good thing though is that the latest downgrade of European nation did not cause the market chaos that was expected. Speculators must have lost a lot of money. Thank God. And perhaps S & P has now ‘cried wolf’ too often and no body really cares

Or maybe, like everyone else, they just don’t know.

Life is simple says Eshla, till people complicate it

from Eshla

Why do we still see in color?

When color came to film, it was a thrilling moment.   When color came to television, it was a groundbreaking moment.   We celebrated the richness of the colors and they’ve only sharpened over the years.  Today our images are even more alive, our colors more vibrant.

Yet, while we celebrate color in the digital world, why don’t we do the same in the real world?  Why do we still stop there?  Why do we build so many differences – race, ethnicity, religion, class?  Why?

As one who’s traveled widely, criss-crossed continents several times, and even bumped up and down on the socio-economic ladder, it’s become quite apparent that people are people, no matter what color – pink, purple, green even!  It’s become apparent that our frustrations, worries, concerns, fears are so universal.  That is why great art, literature, and music sees no divide.  Because its message is of human emotion.

That is why health is so critical to all.  Disease has no patience for such differences.  It is, in that sense, most fair.

Why is it that we live in such rich, complex societies with stories that stem from different corners of the globe and yet we still hesitate to truly embrace one another?  Why?

When the rawness of humanity is so universal, why do we dwell on the superficial?

A friend sent me an article this morning that delineated our inability to truly live in our lifetimes because we are too eager to please.  We are creatures who oddly think of others before ourselves many times.  We are inclined to bend to the wishes of family and dear friends, even if they are against our deepest desires.  We gravitate towards what we are told us “right.”  But what is “right?”  Is it my “right”?  Is it your “right”?  Who came up with “right”?

And in the mad cacophony of voices in our head, we forget our own.  What if we do not see the differences?  What if we do not see color, race, ethnicity, religion, or class?  Should we because the world does as well?  Should we because our families do as well?  Should we because it is easier that way – to drive in the lane that you’re currently taking?

The questions seem endless.  And yet, the answer repeatedly seems to be the same — no.

In a conversation with another friend this evening, he shared his admiration for those who take the sayings like “follow your heart,”  “do what you love” and really do it.  He says to me, there are so few in the this world who actually do it.  Many of us hear it, admire it, delude ourselves to believe that we’re doing that, but how many of us go naked with our fears and take the challenge?  Very few, he whispered.  That’s why it’s admirable.

But, it’s also very hard.  It’s very hard to explain to others; rather it’s very tiring.  And sometimes, the daily strain of that exercise just tears us down emotionally.  And so we return to the “right” path.

For so many of us, the lives that we live are the lives that have been crafted for us.  They are not our raw desires.   They are not our original vision.  They are not our first love.

We do so to please others.  To fit into the sweeping definitions we are defined by.  Even if they sweep our lives by.

But, we live only for a few moments, only a few years on this planet, only a short lapse in the grander scheme.  Why not please ourselves?  Why not be guided by unfiltered passion?  Why not go blind, using only what we feel?  Why not be absolutely true to our deepest wishes?

Because it is difficult?

But nothing is difficult.  As I’m told repeatedly, life is simple.  People complicate it.