It’s always wonderful to see what a highly racialised, identity-focussed community I belong to, which allows another Muslim to launch into an expletive-filled tirade against me for no other reason than they have presumed me to be a non-Muslim commenting on a Muslim issue.
Still, it could be worse; in some countries I would have been blown to pieces by now for having a different opinion or being from the wrong tribe. What an abominable state of affairs.
Stuck in the moment of his own despair, he carelessly says to another no longer stuck in their own moment of despair, “You have absolutely no idea what we’re going through”, absolutely oblivious to the fact that they know exactly what they are going through. The one who complains that others judge unfairly judges unfairly and refuses to acknowledge that he is not alone in the world, nor is his situation unique, and that his own words and assumptions hurt just as much as those he complains about. Empathy is a two-way street.
More and more I withdraw from many of the people of knowledge, and seek refuge from the ever present arrogance that seems to pervade their public discourse. Too often it is vulgar and obtuse. Their companions seem to be a clique unto themselves; the rest of us must just look on unamused as they insult us for our stupidity, ignorance and foolish faith. We are mere simpletons to these giants of perception and learning, who must forever be assaulted with cheap one-liners, hilarious only unto themselves. We are the foolish other.
So the tables have turned. As I approach my fifth decade — the hallowed middle age — I find myself in the role of those unwilling advisers I castigated in my youth for their answers to questions of belief and doubt. From my mid-teens to early twenties I would demand guidance from my elders, be it a youth worker, a teacher or priest, insisting that they assuage my doubts and prove to me that God was real and that our faith was true. I would take myself off to church and later an evangelical cult in an effort to be persuaded. I would harangue my parents with questions that I had already decided would never satisfy me. I wanted others to persuade me — on my terms — that I could believe as they did. Continue reading The challenge of our times
I wonder if the public would be so optimistic about these glorious mega-projects if they were mindful of the long-term costs. The Eurasia Tunnel, for example, is being paid for with a $1.3 billion financing package on a build-operate-transfer agreement, that will not see handover until 2043.
The argument is that these infrastructural projects will help grow the economy massively — which may be true. Conversely, they could just saddle the country with massive debts, extortionate interest repayments and burdensome contractual agreements with foreign agencies and corporate interests.
The experience of the Asian Tiger Economies, particularly through the 1997 and 2008 financial crises, ought to provide a salutary lesson for governments intent on building economies on debt.
There is always a balance to be struck between living within your means and investing in infrastructure… and between pursuing rapid economic development and maintaining non-financial assets such as ecology, culture and tradition. I just hope this nation has got the balance right.
Not sure how I feel about charities spending thousands to have adverts on hundreds of busses to encourage us to donate thousands. Spose it is same logic as paying professional fundraisers thousands to get us to donate more. Must make sound financial sense to charities involved. But still: it always grates.
Every nation rejoices in its temporal messiah. Eyes closed, the moment becomes sacred. Dissenters are renegades, despised. There will be a great clamour, chaos and confusion. But soon enough we will all be mere footnotes in history. Yet another dynasty long forgotten in the winds of time. But dust blown hither and thither. Who dares open a history book when called to sanctify the new politics? Who dares plea for pause for thought? We are on the cusp of a new era, a glorious past restored! This latest messiah will carry us to the promised land. Desist oh dissenter! Rejoice in your temporal messiah! Leave the lessons of the Book aside.
If we had our own Norman Finkelstein, who spoke out about our own crimes and held up the mirror of introspection before us, we would also call him a sellout, a turncoat, a hypocrite… and our own community activists would attack him without relent, until he finally capitulated into silent submission to the gatekeepers of political orthodoxy. We do not speak truth even against ourselves. We seek contingent truths which serve ourselves instead.
We all have different talents and different weaknesses. Don’t begrudge those of us who hate the sound of our own voices, who prefer to flee the public sphere in favor of private spaces. Perhaps we have other talents, unbeknownst to the world. Not everyone can be a preacher or guide.