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polymathic pontification, bleeding heart economic rationalism and liberal secularist contrarianism

email: jasonsoon AT mail.com

 
 
 

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    Saturday, July 13, 2002
     
    Who is Asian?
    We've heard a lot of rhetoric in Australian policy debate about 'being Asianised', 'joining Asia', and so forth. Steve Sailer makes the perfectly obvious point that the word 'Asian' as used in government statistics is a mostly meaningless and nonsensical category whether you look at it from a cultural or genetic point of view, especially in the way it lumps together South Asians and East Asians:

    Dinesh D'Souza, an immigrant from India who is author of the current bestseller "What's So Great About America," told United Press International, "Middle Eastern culture has some similarities (religion, cuisine, taste in music and movies) with Asian Indian culture, but very few with Oriental (Far Eastern) culture." ...

    In the landmark 1994 book "The History and Geography of Human Genes," Stanford's L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, the dean of population geneticists, reported that the "genetic distance" between Asian Indians and Thais is 3.3 times greater than the distance between Indians and Italians. Indeed, Indians are 2.9 times genetically farther from the South Chinese than they are from the English.


    Of course if you really wanted to picky about things there are also vast differences between the 'overseas Chinese' in South East Asian countries and those native to South East Asian countries. Witness the history of anti-Chinese pogroms and the labelling of overseas Chinese as the 'Jews of Southeast Asia'. (Ironically in some South East Asian countries anti-Chinese attitudes coincided with anti-capitalist rhetoric - mirroring the Jewish experience.That's why a lot of the Vietnamese boatpeople who fled Communism were people of Chinese descent accused of 'exploiting' the native Vietnamese.) Sorry to all you Kumbaya folk wanting us to rise against Western imperialism - we're not all the same.
     
    All the way with the USA?
    Should everything that the Bush Administration does or says be treated as holy writ? No. The overthrow of the Taliban was a good idea and they were asking for it for a long time. It could have been done a lot earlier. It's also helped solve Australia's refugee problem. However I'm more than happy for Australia to be 'wobbly' on the question of attacking Iraq though it seems that Downer has already made up his mind.

    If there is proof that Saddam is in cahoots with Al Qaeda I'd think there were good grounds to take him out. However this still seems an unsettled issue, reliant on the testimony of one Czech diplomat who may well have mistook one loony for another. If Saddam goes what happens? Won't the foaming at the mouth clerics in Iran get the upper hand? Saddam may be a bloodthirsty, savage and self-interested hypocritical scoundrel but at least he's a hypocritical scoundrel, like Gaddafi, not a sincere fanatic. I don't know about you but in the interests of realpolitik I prefer enemies to whom rational self-interest for earthly goods still holds considerable appeal. Look at what Gaddafi has been saying recently:

    "We are not in need of bin Laden, we don't need his money and we don't need his protection and we don't want to use him or be used by him. These terrorist groups which we term heretics are non-Muslims.

    "They are terrorist people, crazy and mad...," he added.


    Of course people like Gaddafi and Saddam who are in the dictatorship business for earthly pleasures are shitting in their pants because they know perfectly well that Al Qaeda regard them as the true heretics. Icing Saddam doesn't seem like smart realpolitik to me. The alternative may be much worse.
     
    Whacking day
    New Aussie blogger Chris Textor makes his debut with a site called Whacking Day. The allusion is of course to this memorable old children's favourite from the Simpsons:

    Oh whacking day, oh whacking day,

    our hallowed snakes skull-cracking day,

    we'll break their backs, gouge out their eyes,

    their evil hearts, we'll pulverize,

    oh whacking day, oh whacking day,

    may God bestow his grace on thee


    A portent of things to come?

    Thursday, July 11, 2002
     
    Two cheers for privatisation
    My boss Henry Ergas pronounces his verdict on privatisation - two cheers. In the process he tackles the arguments of one of privatisation's most acute critics John Quiggin.

    Wednesday, July 10, 2002
     
    Will the real Zionists stand up?
    There are Arabs in Israel who chose to stay and peacefully co-exist with the Jews. Most want to be loyal citizens, most want to assimilate as best they can and adopt the mores of their fellow countrymen and women - they include people like registered nurse Abdel Ka'adan who want a better life for their children:

    The environment in Baka al-Gharbiya is depressing, and our children can't grow and develop. We want them to have interesting after-school activities, a green park to play in, a community center and a sports field - like they do in Katzir and in other Jewish communities. I have to drive my daughter for nearly an hour to take her to ballet lessons."

    Although he says he had experienced rejection and racism before, Adel claims he was surprised when he and Iman were told they should not even bother to apply for the land in Katzir.

    "For more than 27 years, I have worked in the Jewish sector, in the hospitals. I am a dedicated nurse. My patients love me, and I treat them with love and respect. Am I good enough to treat Jews when they are sick in the Hillel Yaffe Hospital, but not good enough to be their neighbor in Katzir? That is racism, pure and simple."


    People like Ka'adan should be supported as they are doing something quite unprecedented and without support in their own insular communities:

    THE ARAB community's reaction has been tepid. According to Hassan Jabareen, executive director of Adallah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, the Ka'adans may have advanced their personal status, but they have done little for the cause of Israeli Arabs.

    "The Ka'adans are seeking to integrate into Israeli society," says Jabareen, "but most Arabs in Israel do not want to integrate. We want to remain a cultural and national minority. We also want to remain separate - but we demand to be equal. The Katzir case does nothing to advance the Arab collective."


    People like Ka'adan are productive citizens, pay their taxes and should be entitled to their share of the infrastructure.

    The recent Jews only bill proposed by the mad rabbi from the 'National Religious Party' is contemptible. There is a struggle within the soul of Israel - a struggle between its Western Zionist founders who were inspired by Enlightenment ideals but wanted a 'safe haven' for their co-religionists after their centuries-long persecution which drove them into the arms of a pragmatic nationalism; and a more recent, insular group who seem to exhibit the 'blood and soil' beliefs no different from the beliefs which led to the persecution of their co-religionists. This struggle has broader implications for it is the latter group with their Messianic aspirations which have chosen to inflame an already fiery situation by expanding settlements in the West Bank and other disputed territories, resulting in the conscription of secular and moderate Jews to risk their lives defending these settlements while these same religious zealots are exempt from military service.

    It is time for the Jews who identify with the original founding principles of Zionism to speak up and take back their country from their religious right.

    Tuesday, July 09, 2002
     
    Real Media Watch
    The Review of the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council has yet another highly documented analysis of the Australian media's bias on the Jenin 'massacre':

    This report examines the Australian media’s coverage of Jenin from April 10 to May 10. It focuses solely on reporting about Jenin, not any other aspect of Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield. It studies all the major print media sources, ABC Radio’s major current affairs programs, and some television coverage. ABC presented the most biased reporting on Jenin while newspapers, with some exceptions, were generally far more balanced. Television media was not studied in enough detail to generalise broadly.


    Over to you, David Marr.
     
    Don't come back ..
    His wife said the family had been happy in the United States, had good relations with their American neighbors and planned to settle there permanently. But she said the atmosphere had been tense since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which were carried by 19 Arabs.

    ``We became very cautious, and sometimes scared. Every Muslim became a suspect,'' El-Awadly said.


    Guess who's speaking? The wife of LA gunman Hesham Hadayet. Well, your husband was a suspect, lady, what else is there to say? A lot apparently ...

    El-Awadly said she did not believe her husband was responsible for the July 4 shooting. She offered no explanation for how he could be innocent when so many people saw him open fire, but said he was being blamed because he was Arab and Muslim.

    ``He is a victim of injustice,'' she said three times. ``In America, they hate Islam and Arabs after Sept. 11.''


    Hadayet's family is currently in Cairo, being 'interrogated' by the police, the poor dears.
     
    The knives are out ...
    and that silly and talentless Tory hack Angela Shanahan makes the first stab attacking Cheryl Kernot for her taste in music:

    YOU can tell a lot about a person from their taste in music. Cheryl Kernot's is execrable. On the day her affair with Gareth Evans was revealed, she was interviewed by Margaret Throsby. That familiar, breathlessly enunciated rising inflection, marking the cadences of her delusionary apologia, was punctuated by sheer musical schlock. The woman lives her life against a background of ABC Swoon muzak, the sort of thing they play in yoga classes

    This from a woman who has written half a dozen columns talking about how discriminated against she feels for having a large family but oh how wonderful it is to break the trend of the Feminazis! Methinks thou doth protesth too much, m'lady and unacknowledged fertility goddess.

    And of course she had to bring up that other affair:

    When her affair with a 19-year-old ex-pupil was revealed, it was obvious that the woman's character was pretty flawed. But no! According to Labor Party staff and her supporters in Canberra, the truth of the incident was unimportant ...

    At that time, not a few people brought up the question of how that affair would be viewed if she had been a man.


    Ex pupil Ms Shanahan, sorry Mrs Shanahan (we don't want to offend your traditionalist sensibilities). Ex pupil and three years above the age of consent. Being an ex-19 year old -male enamoured- with- various-teachers myself methinks that in that sort of situation it is still the male and not the female that does all the chasing and that consent is more than willing. How would that affair be viewed if it was a man? Well, I believe Jerry Seinfeld first went out with his current wife when she was younger than 19. Quite normally, I would think. If anything more odium is directed at women in such cases than men and for no good reason. Of course having no good reasons is something that Mrs Shanahan is quite good at exhibiting.


    Sunday, July 07, 2002
     
    Islam vs Islam
    Australia's leading apologist for Islamic fundamentalism, Amir Butler takes great offence at Paul Wright's post against Islamo-fascism. He calls Wright 'Islamo-phobic' and accuses Wright of branding all Muslims as the enemy. How people interpret other people's writings is always very revealing. I realise Paul's writing on this was in polemical form rather than a footnoted scholarly treatise but does he actually refer anywhere to 'all Muslims' being the enemy?:

    A group of religious crackpots has stolen your right to conveniently board an aircraft, or enter a sporting event. They have added more layers of fear and distrust to the world. You are less able to travel freely than you were before. This is not your fault, nor mine, nor the US. If you need bars on your windows, do you blame the guy who installs them? Or the thieving swine that made them necessary? ...

    They are driven by their interpretation of the Koran that gives them the right to stamp out our secular democracy, and replace it with an Islamic theocracy ...

    They are right-wing religious fundamentalist. There is no appreciable difference between al Qaeda and abortion clinic bombers They have common cause with fascists around the world and across time.


    It seems pretty clear to me that Paul is referring to Al Qaeda and its fellow travellers. Paul also alludes to 'abortion clinic bombers' and it is a well known fact that almost all of these are Christian fundamentalists. Does that make Paul a 'Christian-phobic'?

    Why does Amir Butler take such great offence? Why does he assume that when Islamic fundamentalists are being criticised that this means all Muslims are being criticised? Is it because he thinks the one true Islam is the one that rejects any compromise with Western values and rejects the separation of religion and state? Here for instance is one article that Amir Butler has written rejecting the secularisation of Muslim countries. Obviously he would see the government of Malaysia, my place of birth, as insufficiently Islamic.

    Let me make myself clear - I'm not accusing Amir Butler of being an Al Qaeda sympathiser - however I am pointing out that his great sensitivity on this issue obviously relates to the fact that the 'fanatic problem' is one that tends to afflict followers of his more purist interpretation of Islam more than, say, the quietist and tolerant 'Sufi heresy' that his brand of Islam condemns.

    Let me put in my two cents about Islamo phobia since the obvious implication from the fact that I agree with Paul is that I am Islamo-phobic too.

    Firstly I am suspicious of all monotheistic proselytising religions from the Middle East, that is, all branches of Christianity and Islam (at least Jews aren't interested in converting people). I tend to agree with HL Mencken that:

    ... religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.


    Secondly, far as theory and political implications go I do have more of a problem with Islam than Christianity insofar as the separation of religion and state is not something that doctrinal Muslims are terribly enthusiastic about. Nonetheless I know that in practice most people aren't consistent and the same goes with Muslims - in practice the majority are no more inclined to be theocrats than Christians.

    Thirdly I am more suspicious of fundamentalist Islam than fundamentalist Christianity - the former seems to be more like the real thing whereas for the latter you have to go to really wacko cults like Reconstructionism to find anything equivalent in virulence to widely accepted (by Muslim fundamentalists) Muslim fundamentalisms of the sort practiced in Iran and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and in some provinces of Pakistan.

    I don't believe any of this makes me an Islamo-phobe. I can differentiate between the various Islams. Though it is becoming more virulent of late because of Wahhabi funding, I suspect, I realise that South East Asian Islam which has always had a strong Sufi influence (for instance Abdurrahman Wahid's Islamic movement in Indonesia) does not fit the picture of Islam described by Paul - but then as I've pointed out, Paul was not claiming to depict Islam in general but Islam of the Al Qaeda and Wahhabi fellow traveller mentality.

    I was born in Malaysia where the majority of the population are Malay Muslims. One of my uncles by marriage is a Malay Muslim. For the first two years of my primary schooling, I attended a Malay language school. Many of my father's colleagues when he was a journalist at the New Straits Times were Malay Muslims. My family very readily mixed and interacted with Malay Muslims when we were in Malaysia. I have never once thought ill of someone because of their being Muslim and I cannot imagine any of the Muslims I personally knew when I was in Malaysia committing the sort of barbaric atrocity that was September 11. However it is undeniable that there are some strains of Islam, especially those coming from and funded by particular Arab countries, that seem to be almost incapable of coexistence with liberal democracies.

     

     
       
       

     

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