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Archive for November, 2008

Back from Kerala

marys

I had a splendid trip to Kerala! I attended my best friend’s wedding and am back. As usual I have been charged by blog neglect. Hope to catch up on events in the blogosphere! Have lots of things to share! And will do that as soon as my edition gets underway. Being a monthly magazine, its that time of the month when everyone goes mad and is splitting hairs. Every month as soon as the edition goes, I resolve to get my work done ahead of time. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions and every month I am caught with loads of work that I should have done long ago. Everyone’s telling me to get organised. Maybe I will 🙂

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Hi,

I am a member of BlogCatalog, and since they are conducting a campaign for World AIDS Day, its only fair if I post our campaign objectives:

Blog Catalog says:

bu_aids_badge4This December 1st, 2008, BlogCatalog members are joining with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of HIV/AIDS Policy’s AIDS.gov for Bloggers Unite For World AIDS Day.

We Need Your Help!

Nearly half of all AIDS cases in the U.S. involve people 13 to 24 years of age, placing many of BlogCatalog members or their children in the highest risk age groups. More than 250,000 are estimated to be HIV positive and not know it. And more than 1 million are estimated to have AIDS.

Of course, AIDS is not limited to the U.S. There are an estimated 33 million people with AIDS worldwide. It affects every country, city, and town in the world. And, the most frightening thing about it is that is going largely unchecked. In fact, that is one of the reason that worldaidscampaign.org is continuing its “leadership” theme, which it developed after learning that many leaders who promised to support AIDS were not keeping their promises.

As always, what you choose to write about is up to you. However, you might consider checking the NIDA and AIDS.gov research and prevention resources on the Bloggers Unite resource page. Or, for a more global view, check out http://www.worldaidscampaign.org

Please join us!”

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obama1Obama’s win has been hailed by many political commentators as the end of the “politics of grievance.” Their argument goes like “now that a black man has come to power, blacks can no longer blame the administration for not listening to their grievances.”

Just because a black is in power, doesn’t mean Afro-Americans are going to get a fair deal.

When A P J Abdul Kalam became the President of India, everyone welcomed a person from the scientific community entering the bureaucracy. Till date, he has been the most popular Indian President in power. But just because he was a Muslim, didn’t mean he in anyway represented the interests of the Indian Muslim.

Everyone knows about the atrocities committed against Muslims during the Gujarat riots. Everyone knows that it was state-sponsored genocide. World-wide human rights organisations, the UN and foreign countries condemned the violence against minorities, but what did Abdul Kalam do? He wasn’t going to antagonize the BJP Government, so he didn’t impose President’s rule in Gujarat or even kalam_veer_savarkarcondemn the violence. He toed the official BJP line and parroted the same things Advani & Vajpayee were saying. When Muslim groups approached him, he carefully avoided even sympathizing with his own community.

Kalam also unveiled the potrait of Hindu ‘mahasabha’ leader Veer Savarkar in the Central Hall of Parliament, after the entire Opposition boycotted the function. Veer Savarkar was the brains behind Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and one of the accused in the case.

Hanging the portrait of the assassin (Veer Savarkar) in the same hall as the assassinated (Gandhi) is an insult to secularism. And Kalam ought to be ashamed of the part he played in it.

My point is just because Abdul Kalam was a Muslim, doesn’t mean he did anything for the welfare of Muslims. The same goes for Pratibha Patil; just because she’s the first woman Indian President, doesn’t mean the 5.6 billion women in India have been emancipated.

The same logic applies to Obama, his win doesn’t mean words like – race transcendence, race neutral, post-racial — hold true.

I don’t buy the argument that Obama’s election proves Americans are living in a post-racial America. Racism still exists. And its not just blacks, America discriminates against other races too; it calls them browns (Indians), Chinkies, Hispanics, Latinos, Jews, Poles, etc.

There are also other questions that rise: Will Obama take a pro-active stance for black rights or leave it to NAACP?

Will Obama be held less or more accountable for issues that affect the black community?

Will Obama’s every appointment of a non-white person be debated at length? Will Obama’s every welfare or non-welfare move be criticized in the light of his skin colour?

Will his election, put advocacy for racial equality on the back burner in the mainstream media?

obama2What will happen when riots in black ghettos break out? How will his administration be criticized? (Though no white President was criticized for the Ku Klux Klan, you can be sure violence by or against blacks will be taken as reflection of Obama’s administration).

Apart from the legitimate questions, there are questions from another realm like: Is Obama black? Is Obama black enough? Is Obama American enough? How can Obama talks about black rights, when none of his ancestors were tortured, beaten up by slave owners, the Ku Klux Klan, white policemen or the state militia? What can Obama know of black poverty in America?

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muffin2Prairie Muffins are a little, crazy women’s group in the US that I got introduced to through fellow bloggers. This group believes in patriarchy and Christianity, so they feel their ultimate calling is to be obey their husbands, be good, little housewives and bring up other “little Prairie Muffins.” So I thought I’d have a little Q&A session with material from the Prairie Muffin Manifesto. Have fun!

What is a Prairie Muffin?

Their website says, A Prairie Muffins is a godly woman who keeps the good fight in her important role as “home despot,” aka wife or mother.

What’s a Prairie Muffin’s husband called?

Prarie Muffin answer: In a hotly-contested election, it was decided that the husbands of Prairie Muffins would henceforth be known as “Prairie Dawgs” (Phonetically it’s hilarious. Dawgs/dogs, don’t u get it?) Single women aspiring to be Prairie Muffins will be known as “Muffin Mixes” and young children of Prairie Muffins are “Mini Muffins.”

Other than their husbands, who else do the Prairie Muffins obey?

Prarie Muffin rule 1: Whereas we Prairie Muffins believe that our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, knowing that we are not our own but belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ, we affirm many (if not all) of the statements in this manifesto, declaring our joy in serving Christ in the role He has given us and delighting in our distinctive.

muffin3Why should women restrict themselves to being housewives, diaper-changing nannies, unpaid scullery maids and cooks and never have a career?

Prarie Muffin rule 2: Prairie Muffins are helpmeets to their husbands, seeking creative and practical ways to further their husbands’ callings and aid them in their dominion responsibilities.

Why should a godly Prairie Muffin not use birth-control, abort or use any contraceptive?


Prarie Muffin rule 3: Prairie Muffins are aware that God is in control of their ability to conceive and bear children, and they are content to allow Him to bless them as He chooses in this area.

Why should Prairie Muffins dress up? (You can never dress up to feel good about yourself, you must have more nobler intentions)


muffin6Prarie Muffin rule 6 & 9: Prairie Muffins dress modestly and in a feminine manner (Pants are ruled out. Why are pants or shorts equated with morality or immorality?). Prairie Muffins do not reflect badly on their husbands by neglecting their appearance; they work with the clay God has given, molding it into an attractive package for the pleasure of their husbands.


What are the triumphs for a Prairie Muffin?

Prarie Muffin rule 11: Prairie Muffins own aprons and they know how to use them.

Why should Prairie Muffins be the underdogs and listen to the whims and fancies of domineering husbands and kids?


Prarie Muffin rule 17 & 18: Prairie Muffins place their husbands’ needs and desires above other obligations, arranging their schedules and responsibilities so that they do not neglect the one who provides for and protects them and their children. Prairie Muffins are fiercely submissive to God and to their husbands.

you-aremyvalentineAfter sweeping, swabbing, moping and vacuuming the house, cooking five-course meals, changing the kids’ diapers, homeschooling kids, washing the dishes and making themselves picture perfect for the dear husband, what do Prairie Muffins read for recreation?

Prairie Muffin rule 19: Prairie Muffins appreciate godly role models, such as Anne Bradstreet, Elizabeth Prentiss and Elisabeth Elliot. They do not idolize Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie) or Louisa May Alcott (Little Women); while they may enjoy aspects of home life presented in their books, PMs understand that the latent humanism and feminism in these stories and in the lives of these women is not worthy of emulation.

Why should women be meek and humble?


Prairie Muffin rule 22: Prairie Muffins try to maintain a peaceful environment for their families by keeping their voices quiet and their tones gentle as much as possible.

How do Prairie Muffins help women with domestic trouble?


Prairie Muffin rule 28:
Prairie Muffins mind their own business. They must not encourage other women to run ahead of or resist the authority of their husbands or elders in pursuit of any PM distinctive.

toulmoucheCan a husband yell at his wife or slap? If a woman is corrected this way how does she respond?


Prairie Muffin rule 29: Prairie Muffins are open to correction from proper authorities. They are responsible to submit to their own husbands, to their elders, and ultimately to God. If rebuked by these authorities a PM should receive such correction gracefully and gratefully. If rebuked by others, she should take the concern to her proper authorities.

Can women watch TV?


Prairie Muffin rule 30: Her home is the center of the Prairie Muffin’s activities. Her focus is on making home a haven for her husband and children. Chocolate bon-bons may be a rare indulgence, but Prairie Muffins don’t have the time or inclination to waste their lives on soap operas or other inane and inappropriate entertainment.

What would you call adult women who fondly call themselves girls? Delusional?


Prairie Muffin rule 36: Prairie Muffins are happy to be girls—they rejoice in the distinctive which God sovereignly bestowed on them which make them feminine. They are also happy that their husbands are masculine, and they do not diminish that masculinity by harping on habits which emanate from the fact that boys will be boys, even when they grow up.

Why being a housewife is better than having a career?

Prairie Muffin rule 49: There are many aspects of life at home which are mundane, repetitious, and sometimes unpleasant. The same is true of any job, even those which receive a weekly paycheck. We are blessed to be at home where so much productivity takes place.

rose

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global_warming_1global_warming_2global_warming_3

Much more effective than Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, don’t you think?

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thanksgivingThanksgiving seems to be making its presence felt in India. Because of the great brain drain or the large-scale immigration, I find too many of my friends in the US; all of whom are making elaborate plans to celebrate this festival with their families.

Some of my other friends, working in BPOs in India, have been magnanimously granted a couple of days leave.

I am yet to find out what the fuss about Thanksgiving is all about. I think America, being a land so poor in history, especially in the last four hundred years, has to magnify and glorify every little thing. Reading about how Betty Ross made the American Flag and how little Washington never told a lie…was so boring, when compared to the Indian Rajputs or Moghuls.

Even now I find the statement “Columbus discovered the New World,” highly irritating. So the Red Indians, who were already living there for hundreds of centuries, don’t count? And discoveries count as discoveries only if they are discovered by the white man?

Indian scholars for long have known that the world was round and that the earth revolved round the sun. But still, I had to study textbooks, a legacy of British imperialism, which praised Nicolaus pilgrimsCopernicus for being the first astronomer to propose a heliocentric cosmology. My Tamil textbooks told me a totally different story.

My other problem with Thanksgiving is the usage of the word “settlers.” It was the Europeans who were settlers and not the Native Americans.

In 1526, 500 Spaniards and 100 Afro-American slaves descended on a place that is now called South Carolina. Disease broke out and clashes with the native Indians caused a lot of deaths.

Within a few months, the slaves had rebelled, killed their masters and joined the Indians. The surviving kather2150 Spaniards left for Haiti, while the ex-slaves stayed. So the first non-Indian settlers were Africans not “white men” as they would have us believe.

In 1565, the Spanish continued settling down by massacring French Protestants in Florida. They continued on their expansion drive and were the original “cowboys.” The cowboy tradition and the Westerns are something that I hate. They portray the white man as noble, brave and gallant. The white man always tries to protect his women from barbaric red Indians. This is an out and out lie. The white man was the oppressor. He was conquering and suppressing the red Indians. When the red Indians revolted they were labeled “barbaric and uncivilized,” while their katherd7oppressors – the cowboys, became the “heroes of American civilization.”

The Myth that popularizes Thanksgiving: “After exploring, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Harbour. They had arrived in December and could not face the New England winter. They got help from friendly Indians, who gave them food and showed them how to grow corn. The colonists planted, fished, hunted, and prepared themselves for the next winter. After harvesting their first crop, they and their Indian friends celebrated the first Thanksgiving.”

The Americans never bother to look at facts, especially facts that paint them in a bad light. The pilgrims brought the plague with them to America. Within three years of their arrival, the plague wiped out between 90 percent and 96 percent of the inhabitants of southern New England, according to historians. The Indians were infected by the settlers and died in large kather3numbers. The survivors fled to other Indian tribes, carrying the infection with them. When the pilgrims landed in Massasoit now called Rhode Island, they saw dead bodies and ruin. Hundreds of Indians had died and no one was left to bury them.

In the next decade, small pox and other epidemics repeatedly struck the Europeans, and the Indians, who had developed no resistance to these “imported diseases.”

James W Loewen relates: “Even, George Washington suffered from the epidemic in his childhood. His face has often been described as “heavily pockmarked. The smallpox was as effective as guns in chiefspiritdestroying the local Indians. John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, called the plague “miraculous.” To a friend in England in 1.634, he wrote: But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by the Smallpox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not fifty, have put themselves under our protection…”

The Thanksgiving was a necessity. The pilgrims needed the help of the Indians. They would later repay the Indians for their kindness by killing them, raping their women, and putting their children and old people in reservations.

James W Loewen says, “In 1492, more than 3,000,000 Indians lived on the island of Haiti. Forty years kather611later, fewer than 300 remained. King James of England gave thanks to “Almighty God in his great goodness and bounty towards us,” for sending “this wonderful plague among the savages.”

So, I think Americans should actually be ashamed of their history. Just like Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said “sorry for all the atrocities carried out against the native population,” the American Presidents should apologize for their behavior towards red Indians, Afro-Americans, Hispanics, the Irish, the Poles and every other immigrant minority population that they subdued and oppressed.

Not that the apology will atone for the atrocities committed, but it will be the first step towards restitution. Instead of baking turkey and puddings for Thanksgiving, they should remember the kather813atrocities committed and the atrocities still being committed (Iraq & Afghanistan) by America at large.

Chief Seattle said, “when the white man began to push our forefathers ever westward. But let us hope that the hostilities between us may never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Revenge by young men is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers who have sons to lose, know better.”

(Pictures courtesy http://www.waupaca.info/katherinegayton.htm)


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scarlett2Gone with the Wind, both the novel and the book have won wide-spread appreciation and acclaim. But the danger lies, because of its popularity. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean its right. Birth of a Nation was popular. Does that mean it was morally right?

Margaret Mitchell might be the best story-teller ever and Scarlett O’ Hara the most adorable heroine of all times, but that doesn’t in any way justify the book’s racist and sexist attitudes.

Malcolm X once said, “The white Southerner, you can say one thing – he is honest. He bares his teeth to the black man; he tells the black man, to his face, that Southern whites never will accept phony ‘integration.’ The Southern white goes further, to tell the black man that he means to fight him every inch of the way – against even the so-called ‘tokenism.’ The advantage of this is the Southern gonewiththewindblack man never has been under any illusions about the opposition he is dealing with.

Gone with the Wind is racist, but since its language is more subtle, we tend to gloss over it. We love pretty women in luxuriant ball gowns, huge mansions, the fight for a so-called “noble cause,” dancing and music. Its unrealistic portrayal of the South and its many historical inaccuracies has not affected its popularity; or maybe it’s popular because it has successfully glamorized the slave era.

Everyone is familiar with the great success of the movie and the film. What was surprising is that most reviewers praised Gone with the Wind and lamented the passing away of the “glorious South.” A South, which never existed except in the white man’s mind.

Black Loyalty:

Why should Afro-Americans be loyal to the whites who have enslaved them? Beats all logic! But this is the premise on which Gone with the Wind and Uncle Tom’s Cabin operate. In both salenovels, you have Afro-Americans – Uncle Tom and Mammy – being extremely loyal to the whites, who repay them for their loyalty by selling their kids and spouses, branding them as property, and chaining them to unremitting labour.

Uncle Tom and Mammy are also the “happy slaves.” What are they trying to do? Condone slavery? Were they trying to establish that the Afro-American was happy under the white man’s rule?

Malcolm X is dead against these “Uncle Tom characters or integration black fools.” I can so empathize with his views.

None of the white people in the book, including Rhett and Ahsley (the only two men who don’t follow the common herd), give Afro-Americans any credit for intelligence.

Scarlett own words are: “How stupid negroes were! They never thought of anything unless they were told.” “How dared they laugh, the black apes! She’d like to have them all whipped until the blood ran down. What devils the Yankees were to set them free!”

The author herself, in a narrative portion says, “The blacks were like monkeys. Destroying everything they black-slaves-1500could lay their hands on….A menace to white women.” What a horrible insinuation! That the Afro-American cannot appreciate his freedom? “Blacks are like monkeys?”

Mitchell even compares their mentality to that of little children, “who must be fed, clothed and protected.” So many characters in the book, say what Mitchell feels, that Afro-Americans don’t and can’t do anything unless they are ordered to do so.

Characters like Pork and Uncle Peter embody the silent loyalty and faithfulness expected of the white man, after denying the Afro-American his freedom, his dignity and life.

Slaves can only have minor roles and must be happy with their lot. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind is in many gonemammy1ways worse than the book. Prissy, who is shown as a lazy girl in the book, is turned into a really stupid person in the film.

Gone with the Wind also sends out the message: “Nice blacks stay with their masters. Nice blacks don’t want freedom. Nice blacks hate Abraham Lincoln. Wicked blacks run riot, desert their masters and desire white women.”

Even in Uncle Tom’s cabin, the nice Afro-Americans are the ones who chose loyalty to their masters over freedom.

Strong Female White characters

One of the positive aspects is the strong female white characters it portrays. Scarlett is in a way legendary. vivien-leigh-postersHer survival instincts are high. Where men have failed, she not only succeeds but triumphs. She cares a naught for social approval, whether it comes to marrying three men in a row or sharp, cut-throat business dealings.

Though the book tries to portray Ellen and Melanie as noble women with the “right” values, I don’t find them half as appealing as Scarlett. Scarlett thinks for herself. Her desires are independent of her husband’s desires. She doesn’t act like a goody, goody. If Ellen and Melanie were really all that good, they would have opposed slavery, not turned a blind eye to the sufferings of black people (I know I’m beginning to sound like a Methodist preacher, but I can’t help the vehemence).

In one of the lines, Scarlett says that Uncle Tom’s cabin is nonsense. She claims Southerners always treated their “darkies well.” She denies the existence of bloodhounds or arms to keep slaves from escaping. Lines like these are absolute rubbish! What person, in his right mind, would prefer slavery to freedom? And vivien-leigh-and-clark-gable1Margaret Mitchell is also asking us to believe that the whites did not use force to keep the blacks from revolting. Too much, I say! So lynchings never happened?

Even Rhett Butler, who has not inherited many of the prejudices of the white Southern (ironically) “gentleman,” feels justified in killing a black man, all because he has the termity to get “uppity with a white woman.”

Gerald O Hara, who is generally portrayed as a kind-hearted shrewd Irish Southerner, also feels “blacks are inferiors.” Scarlett’s mom exhorts her to treat “inferiors kindly, but firmly.”

Problems with the film

The film, glosses over war, death, disease, racist slurs, brothels, adultery and miscarriages. The film also rhettgreatly alters the original script. Scarlett O Hara obviously cannot be portrayed a virgin waiting to be ravished by Rhett Butler, so they do the next best thing. She doesn’t have any children till Rhett comes along. Since a mother of two on her third attempt at marriage might not sound glamorous, the film tried to make her first two marriages almost non-existent in the minds of the viewer and highlight only the glorious romance with Rhett.

But even here, the night of the showdown, when Rhett forcibly takes her to his bed…there is something too distasteful and insidious, because Scarlett is shown to have enjoyed the semi-rape; dangerous conclusions can be drawn. And both in the movie and book, there is the autant en emporte le ventconstant refrain that Scarlett needs someone to boss over her or she would bully them.

There is also the suggestion that a marriage can be happy only if the wife submits to her husband or at least pretends to submit to him.

Hattie McDaniel became the first Afro-American to win an Academy Award for her role in Gone with the Wind. But then again, this cannot be taken as a real step forward. The very same Hattie Mc Daniel was unable to attend the Georgia premier of the movie, because Georgia was a segregated state. Clark Gable, to his credit, protested, but in the end McDaniel solved the problem for the racists by not appearing for the show.

The Ku Klux Klan

It is a shame that racist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan are still allowed to function in the US. Both theku_klux_klan film and the book justify the actions of this despicable organization. According to Mitchell, respectable white men join this organization to protect the honour of their white women. The Ku Klux Klan has used violence to suppress Afro-Americans, Jews, Roman Catholics and labour unions.

There is also strong evidence to suggest that Margaret Mitchell was influenced by D W Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. Birth of a Nation, is the archetypical white supremacy film, which justifies lynchings of black men. I can only end by quoting Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird: “you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption, the evil assumption, that all negroes lie; all negroes are basically immoral beings; all negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption that one associates with minds of their caliber, and which is in itself, gentlemen, a lie.”

(Justification for this long diatribe: I read Gone with the Wind when I was 10 and loved it. The references to Afro-Americans made me uncomfortable. But it was only after I became 14 did I come to fully realise the depth of racism in the book. I have for long wanted to write this, and I still haven’t written everything I want to say…but that will have to wait)

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