Good Reads – perspectives – 27/3/2016

27 Mar

” Being Mohammed in Brussels “- Pallavi Aiyar

I read a incisive piece ” Being Mohammed in Brussels “by Journalist and author Pallvi Aiyar in Times of India. It’s almost  prophetic given Brussels attacks and attempts the complex multicultural mileu and possible alienation and lack of integration of immigrants in modern day Europe. I am not really a fan of this argument and tend to believe ideological underpinnings move across social classses. Though the poor and youth are most vulnerable. It’s still a very persusasive argument.

To quote from the article ”  The creation of the modern nation state, predicated as it was on the idea of a ‘nation’ comprising one ethnicity, one religion and one language, had bleached the diversity out of many European countries long ago. The retreat of overt religiosity to the private sphere, coupled with the spread of homogenized, mass-produced goods for consumption, only added to the relative uniformity that Europeans associated with themselves.

To be Belgian meant being white, culturally Catholic, eating speculoos biscuits with afternoon coffee and going to the seaside in the summer, come drizzle or high water. To be Spanish meant being white (defined generously), worshipping the pig by eating it in every possible form, and smoking Fortuna cigarettes under no smoking signs with insouciance.

Neither being Belgian nor Spanish was easily equated with wearing headscarves, moulding your actions to the Koran’s diktats, or being called Mohammed. Yet, since 2008, Mohammed has in fact become the most popular name for baby boys born in Brussels. ”

Radicalized supporters of global jihad might be a small minority amongst European Muslims, but they are overwhelmingly young men who have been born and brought up in Europe.

The parents of these youngsters had seen themselves as temporary visitors to Europe. Michael Privot (a 38-year-old Belgian convert to Islam and director of the European Network against Racism) recalled how his wife’s parents kept a suitcase packed in readiness for departure back to Dagestan, for close to thirty years. As a result, they had little anxiety about maintaining their homeland identity.

But their children faced a very different set of identity-related dilemmas. Unable to share fully in either their parents’ or host nation’s cultural milieu, many of these youth formed subcultures of their own, based on defiance and victimhood. Their interest in defining their identity increased with the experience of racism and exclusion that they suffered in school.”

Source :

Please read this article. I found it a important perspective,

” Top Indian Journalist Barkha Dutt is unapologetic about her ambition – and you should be too ” – Gayatri Rangachari Shah

I have followed Barkha Dutt’s work since 1996.  I have always liked her work and diligent reporting. I think more people should follow her work. It’s important work.

Barkha Dutt talks about her book ( The Unquiet Land :Stories from India’s faultlines ) ” In this book I sought to chronicle India’s post-liberalization story (India opened up its economy in the 1990s) through my own two decades in TV journalism — because in most ways these two decades coincided. The book is not about me in the sense that it is not a memoir or an autobiography, but I do use the challenges to my own erstwhile certitudes to explore issues on which there is no singular consensus — feminism, secularism, nationalism — we are still furiously debating all of it.

The worry is the death of nuance; I agree with you, television (and social media) has shrunk the space for nuance, for thoughtfulness, for complexity. In many ways our TV news has become Americanized. Centrism is considered boring. Viewers want to foist labels on you and put you in political corners as they do with Fox News and MSNBC in the U.S. As a free thinker, I find this infuriating and frustrating. I think, to borrow from Noam Chomsky but to reverse what he said, TV news has become about “Manufactured Dissent.” It functions on the dialectics of artificial confrontations, reducing journalism to theater. This worries me immensely.”

More ” The one lesson that I have learnt that weaves together these varied strands is that there is no singular truth. Like Akira Kurosawa showed us in Rashomon there are are many shades of reality and many conflicts spring from the contestation of differing truths. Leadership is about managing the contradictions and learning from them.”

I agree there is no nuance in political discourse and there is no single narrative. Barkha says something very important ” Leadership is about managing contradictions and learning from them.”

Please see :

I wonder though why  just stick to women and feminism. Her work should appeal to all. Men and women.

Please read this important perspective . I have not read the book but will get it soon and read.

” The West is under threat, and its end will impact India as well” : Anne Applebaum

I liked this interview of Washington Post Columnist on Foreign affairs and Pulitzer Prize winning author Anne Applebaum by Malini Nair in Times of India.

Anne Applebaum says in response to a question on   why the idea of West coming to an end is  bad news ” When I say West, I mean the ideas that underpin it — European borders, for instance. For 60 years, since the end of the last World War, Europe has stuck to its agreement to not wage wars or change borders by force. Then the NATO military alliance is important for international stability, for your part of the world as well. The international trade agreement in 1930 ensures there is no protectionism. These lowered barriers to trade are very important for all including India. If they go up again both India and China will be affected.

I mostly write about Europe, but the same arguments apply to Asia. If the US withdraws and becomes more isolationist, then there will be no block on Chinese domination of southeast Asia. ”

On a possible Trump triumph ” It is possible that the US Republican Party leadership started promoting ideas that voters aren’t really excited about. Tax cuts for the rich, for instance. Or the Republican stance on Obamacare. Also, the party rallied around Jeb Bush too early and the idea that it was promoting oligarchy and ‘family’ offended the people. No one took Trump seriously enough — he was vulgar, violent, a fool. It is hard to see what he stands for because he doesn’t stand for anything. He stands for protest against everything; a lot of it is angry rhetoric that just amounts to insults. Some of his ideas are of course near impossible — a wall to mark the boundary between the US and Mexico for instance. But maybe a part of the country is not interested in policies, just protests. Also remember he didn’t win a majority in the primaries. He just won 30% of Republican Party votes.”

More on right wing politics across large parts of Europe and in India ” There could be different reasons for this. One factor is the nature of media, especially social media. It is now easier for people with extreme points of views to dominate communication. It is also a delayed reaction to globalization. People get the sense that factories in China are affecting their jobs in Bengaluru. Or that they are losing ‘control’ over their lives. For instance, you are seeing anti-migration views and movements even in countries that are not facing mass immigration and the problems related to it, like Slovakia and Poland. I don’t claim to be an expert on India, but I do know that there has been a decline in leftwing ideals and the larger movement it was a part of, and of mainstream left-leaning parties like the Congress. In their absence, people look for other parties that promote other kinds of big, different economic ideas.”

Please see:

I liked this interview and perspective. Please read this article.

” A Hard – Driving Executive’s Year of Learning to Let go”  – Karan Bajaj

My last one year of learning at work was deep acceptance. My tools were mindfulness meditation,yoga and walking. I like the simple life. I like the subtext of the article and am comfortable with the domain. I am always trying to let go. Karan Bajaj writes about his sabbatical from work to explore a world of meditation, Yoga and writing. I like all three.

Karan Bajaj writes “My wife and I had also been contemplating taking time off from our jobs to write novels. We’d been balancing writing with corporate jobs for a decade and felt we were falling short of excellence in both. As a result, starting in late 2012 we decided to take a full year off from our jobs and go on a spiritual and creative sabbatical.

At the time, I was leading the Capri Sun and Kool-Aid brands as a director for Kraft Foods in New York, and my manager responded to my initial request for an unpaid sabbatical with a bewildered silence. Eventually, I convinced her — I think because I had the same specificity in my sabbatical goals as I had in my work goals. Rather than a general pitch of needing one year to “find myself,” I explained that I wanted to do a structured yoga teacher’s training for six weeks, spend one month in silent meditation, write for three months and so forth, all of which were emotionally urgent for me and would help me return more centered and effective.

Paradoxically, though, we began our sabbatical by consciously letting go of our goals. Trained as an engineer, I’ve always liked numbers, and over the years I’ve used left-brained, analytical models to make most decisions at work. Even in writing fiction, I tend to be heavily outline-driven, planning out character and story trajectories in microscopic detail over months before I write the first word. I wanted to experience a glimpse of transcendence in my writing by becoming more intuitive.”

More ” Much to Kraft’s surprise, I did return to my job one year after I left. I thought I’d be calmer after spending much of the year practicing yoga and meditation, but I constantly fell short of my expectations in dealing with the usual stressful work situations.

Still, since my return, I’ve become much less rigid than before. Perhaps as a result of losing control for much of the year, I find myself more comfortable with trying out ideas on bursts of inspiration and spontaneity, mine or others’, versus linear, return-on-investment-driven models. “

This is familiar territory. Many of us aspire to seek that elusive balance between performance and peace. May be the answer might be not being rigid and trying out new ideas and behaviour..

Please see :

Please read this article.

I wished to share these articles and perspectives for you dear friends. The themes of multiculturalism, freedom of ideas, various perspectives to natonalism and perennial quest for letting go ….

This for today. Have a happy sunday dear friends!

Love, Suresh


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