Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Earthquake Disasters Can Be Prevented




Dear Readers,

There are lessons to be learned from the devastating earthquake in Iran. There are steps to be taken by the nations that are situated in seismic active regions. Brian Tucker observes that in the past five years, similar earthquake occurred in Afghanistan, Turkey, India, El Salvador, Algeria and California. And there are huge differences noted from these episodes. “Since 1950, richer countries have reduced the average number of deaths per fatal tremor by 90 percent. Meanwhile, poorer countries have shown no reduction in death rates at all.” Poorer countries have either no or barely effective earthquake preventative measures taken protecting their citizens, and the poor of these poorer nations are the most vulnerable.

In 1990, Iran had earthquake that killed another 40,000 to 50,000 in the city of Gilan. "So why, despite the loss of 40,000 lives in the Gilan earthquake of 1990, had nothing been done? Fariba Hemati told the Guardian what she thought of official efforts, "Our government is only preoccupied with slogans: 'Death to America', 'Death to Israel', 'Death to this and that'. We have had three major earthquakes in the past three decades. Thousands of people have died but nothing has been done. Why?""[The Guardian]

People have rights to know why their government can be so ineffectual in protecting the lives of very people who have elected them in the first place. People have rights to know why their oil revenues and other profits from a moderately rich nation like Iran were not used in proven earthquake risk reduction projects. People have rights to know the reasons behind the empty theocracy infused rhetoric galvanizing the mass against the Western nations while continuously eroding civil liberties in the name of fighting the "Great Satan"; while the "Great Satan" has proven to be more caring and accountable to the people it serves.

Nature is indeed merciless. And men still feel helpless before the inevitable cruelty of nature. But there are ways minimizing the devastations, there are ways to stand up against nature’s unforgiving onslaught, but it needs global cooperation, and foremost it needs the local government's unblemished leadership.

Brian Tucker duly notes: “With proper earthquake risk reduction, we have the power to save lives and defy the merciless cruelties of nature. Risk reduction is the only sustainable, affordable and effective solution to the problem of earthquake disasters. This is accomplished through risk assessment, public education and awareness, building-code enforcement, training of masons and engineers, emergency-preparedness planning, and retrofitting of buildings and infrastructure.“

Now is the time forgetting the senseless war rhetoric, abandoning the imperial design or nuclear weapons manufacturing or other overt or covert agenda, for the sake of the people. And the last few days there were positive developments, there were visible “thawing” between American and Iranian relationship. As Mr. Powell noted, "The world is watching”, yes, indeed the world is watching.

The world is watching for years and ages.

Regards,
Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
December 30, 2003


Quake Disasters Can Be Prevented

By Brian Tucker

Tuesday, December 30, 2003; Page A19

The earthquake devastation in the ancient Iranian city of Bam seems almost incomprehensible to us. Yet, in the past five years, scenes similar to those we are seeing in the news media have occurred on a smaller or similar scale in Afghanistan, Turkey, India, El Salvador and, most recently, Algeria. These earthquakes killed more than 60,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Iran, of course, is no stranger to earthquakes: In 1990 a powerful quake killed 35,000 people in the regions of Gilan and Zanjan, leaving about a half-million homeless.

And yet the truth is that such awful loss of human life and structural devastation need not occur. Consider three major recent California earthquakes: Loma Prieta in 1989, with a 6.9 magnitude; Northridge in 1994, with a 6.7 magnitude, and San Simeon/Paso Robles on Dec. 22 of this year, with a 6.5 magnitude. These relatively strong earthquakes in California resulted in a total of 125 deaths, while this week's Iranian quake, with a somewhat lesser magnitude, may have claimed 40,000 lives. Since 1950, richer countries have reduced the average number of deaths per fatal tremor by 90 percent. Meanwhile, poorer countries have shown no reduction in death rates at all.

What is the lesson? Although we cannot prevent earthquakes, we can prevent earthquake disasters. With proper earthquake risk reduction, we have the power to save lives and defy the merciless cruelties of nature. Risk reduction is the only sustainable, affordable and effective solution to the problem of earthquake disasters. This is accomplished through risk assessment, public education and awareness, building-code enforcement, training of masons and engineers, emergency-preparedness planning, and retrofitting of buildings and infrastructure.

The cost of such risk reduction is relatively low when compared with the monetary and human losses that can occur when an earthquake strikes. In Bam, up to 90 percent of residences can no longer be inhabited, and early reports indicate that almost all public buildings have collapsed. When a community loses its core communal buildings and infrastructure, it loses its ability to repair itself. This loss of ability to rebuild requires massive infusions of external aid. Although the international outpourings of relief assistance and sympathy are welcome as antidotes to the disaster, prevention is the only sustainable solution to a problem inherent in the composition of our planet.

When thoughts turn from rescuing the survivors of the earthquake to rebuilding Bam, some significant fraction of the available resources, both human and fiscal, should be directed to training local masons in how to build earthquake-resistant structures. Too often in the past, well-meaning organizations, in their hurry to provide shelter against severe weather conditions, have built what are essentially rowhouses of concrete boxes. Sometimes these houses are not used by the local people, who sooner or later build again in the traditional, earthquake-vulnerable way. Now that the local population of Bam and the authorities responsible for community safety understand the threat of earthquakes, steps must be taken to reduce the region's earthquake vulnerability. A large number of houses will have to be either built or extensively repaired, and this is the time to train a new generation of masons on how to do things right. This should be a requirement of all reconstruction projects funded by regional banks or national and international aid organizations.

While we mourn the victims of the Bam earthquake and sympathize with the survivors, we cannot ignore the lesson learned from this tragedy. Our energies must be directed to avoiding such disasters in earthquake-prone regions in the future. Concerned citizens, governments, corporations, multilateral development institutions and nonprofit organizations must act together now to help vulnerable communities overcome the barriers to implementing the risk-reduction measures noted above before another deadly earthquake strikes.

The writer is founder and president of GeoHazards International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving global earthquake-safety measures, and a 2002 MacArthur Fellow. He is currently living and working in India.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A40028-2003Dec29?language=printer

Monday, December 29, 2003

The Singing -- a Poem by C. K. Williams

The Singing

By C. K. Williams

I was walking home down a hill near our house on a balmy afternoon
under the blossoms
Of the pear trees that go flamboyantly mad here every spring with
their burgeoning forth

When a young man turned in from a corner singing no it was more of
a cadenced shouting
Most of which I couldn't catch I thought because the young man was
black speaking black

It didn't matter I could tell he was making his song up which pleased
me he was nice-looking
Husky dressed in some style of big pants obviously full of himself
hence his lyrical flowing over

We went along in the same direction then he noticed me there almost
beside him and "Big"
He shouted-sang "Big" and I thought how droll to have my height
incorporated in his song

So I smiled but the face of the young man showed nothing he looked
in fact pointedly away
And his song changed "I'm not a nice person" he chanted "I'm not
I'm not a nice person"

No menace was meant I gathered no particular threat but he did want
to be certain I knew
That if my smile implied I conceived of anything like concord
between us I should forget it

That's all nothing else happened his song became indecipherable to
me again he arrived
Where he was going a house where a girl in braids waited for him on
the porch that was all

No one saw no one heard all the unasked and unanswered questions
were left where they were
It occurred to me to sing back "I'm not a nice person either" but I
couldn't come up with a tune

Besides I wouldn't have meant it nor he have believed it both of us
knew just where we were
In the duet we composed the equation we made the conventions to
which we were condemned

Sometimes it feels even when no one is there that someone something
is watching and listening
Someone to rectify redo remake this time again though no one saw nor
heard no one was there

----
From the Book, The Singing by C. K. Williams, 2003.

Ian McEwan: about Writing, Morality, Science and Love



Dear Readers,

Ian McEwan is one of the most talented writers of our time. His writings have that unforgettable quality of taking a reader right into his make-belief world, but would do so in the subtlety of reality. He is a superb storyteller.

The following is a transcript of an interview that was recorded by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation at the Edinburgh Festival in September 2002. More than a year old but still is a gem.

Regards,
Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
December 29, 2003


One of the finest English writers alive, Ian McEwan speaks to Ramona Koval about writing, morality, science and love.


Ramona Koval:
Ian McEwan’s novels and stories have won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Whitbread Prize and the Booker Prize, and his latest book, Atonement, is widely regarded as his finest work. The early books contained sado-masochism, feral children, murder and incest, while Atonement deals with a writer’s attempts to put right a moral error that she made when on the cusp between childhood and adulthood.
His book 'Atonement', is a story about problems of perception, amongst other things, and attributing meanings to events: the mistakes one makes when trying to work out what other people want or are really saying. I asked him if he is rather bewildered in the world.

Ian McEwan:
Somewhere along the way in 'Atonement', Briony makes what she thinks is a real discovery about fiction, which is that a lot of the problems in life occur through misunderstanding and I think there are two ways to regard language in this respect. You could either see language as a minefield in which all kinds of social and personal calamities can occur precisely because people misunderstand each other; or—and I think these things are not mutually exclusive—you see it as this most extraordinary device whereby you blow air through a little bit of tissue in your throat and you can transfer, telepathically, thoughts from your mind to another person’s.

Now I want to hold faith with that second, miraculous view of language, yet at the same time explore all the comic and tragic possibilities that occur when perfectly well-meaning people can fall foul of each other, simply through misunderstanding. Atonement is really a novel, as you say, about precisely that: problems of perception. Briony witnesses an event which we’ve already been party to—that is Robbie and Cecilia by a fountain—she misunderstands that, her misunderstanding is very much drawn on the literary side from Katherine Moreland of Northanger Abbey. I read Northanger Abbey when I was seventeen and it made a huge impression on me. I was just beginning to ‘get’ literature at that time. And for a long time I thought, there is a way into a novel or a story about someone obsessed by literature, who gets everything wrong.

Ramona Koval:
Briony is thinking about whether other people feel as real to themselves as the she does to herself. She’s playing with that idea that other people really do exist, and that you can actually put yourself in their position. Is writing a novel a way to make people empathetic towards each other?

Ian McEwan:
The novel is supreme in giving us the possibility of inhabiting other minds. I think it does it better than drama, better than cinema. It’s developed these elaborate conventions over three or four hundred years of representing not only mental states, but change, over time. So in that sense, yes, I think that ‘other minds’ is partly what the novel is about. If you saw the novel as I do in terms of being an exploration of human nature—an investigation of the human condition—then the main tool of that investigation has to be to demonstrate, to somehow give you, on the page, the sensual ‘felt’ feeling of what it is to be someone else.

Surely everyone in childhood makes this slow recognition— in little leaps and starts— that other people are as alive to themselves as you are to yourself. It’s quite a startling discovery. I remember, round about the age of ten, having one of those little epiphanies of ‘I’m me,’ and at the same time thinking, well, everyone must feel this. Everyone must think, ‘I’m me.’ It’s a terrifying idea, I think, for a child, and yet that sense that other people exist is the basis of our morality. You cannot be cruel to someone, I think, if you are fully aware of what it’s like to be them. And to come back to the novel as a form, I think that’s where it is supreme in giving us that sense of other minds.

Ramona Koval:
You’ve got inside that little girl’s head really well. I was absolutely marvelling at it. Her writing of the excruciating play, her use of big, clumsy words:

‘This is the tale of spontaneous Arabella, who ran off with an extrinsic fella.’

A taste for the miniature and a passion for secrets, and a need to control small worlds completely. Is that what happens in a grown-up writer’s head too?


You could either see language as a minefield in which all kinds of social and personal calamities can occur precisely because people misunderstand each other; or-and I think these things are not mutually exclusive-you see it as this most extraordinary device whereby you blow air through a little bit of tissue in your throat and you can transfer, telepathically, thoughts from your mind to another person's.


Ian McEwan:
Yes, in a sense. Grown up writers I think don’t abuse the dictionary in quite the same way. But part of the pleasures of writing—which I think are under-emphasised by novelists who in the Romantic tradition want generally to persuade people that they compose in agony—I think that what’s not often said is that many writers, like many artists, are involved in a delicious form of self-pleasuring. When things go well, there’s nothing quite like it, and I think if more people knew how close to ecstasy one comes once you’ve learned how to write this particular novel, then I think everyone would be doing it, and we’d all be suffering a deluge of even more novels than people are suffering from already. And part of that pleasure is that it’s a secret pleasure.

I think all writers experience this strange feeling that never quite wears off that characters you’ve lived with, for two or three or four years and you’ve given names to, exist independently. I have a conversation with you and you’re talking about Briony as if she were a real person. And that transition from privacy to public space for characters, I’ve never quite lost my pleasure in that moment.

Ramona Koval:
Your description of Briony’s reaction when she loses control of her play, of the casting amongst her cousins, of her impulse ‘to run away, to live under hedges, eat berries and speak to no-one and to be found by a bearded woodsman one winter’s dawn curled up at the base of a giant oak, beautiful and dead and barefoot—or perhaps wearing the ballet pumps with the pink ribbons strapped.’ A wonderful evocation of girlhood tantrums. Where did that spring from?

Ian McEwan:
Well boys have tantrums too, and although they don’t—in public—wear ballet pumps with pink straps, it’s not difficult to remember—I find it difficult to forget—the sort of pain/pleasure, sour/sweet feeling of assault. That sort of annihilating, delicious but hellish feeling. It was fun to evoke that.

But it just seemed like another little corner of experience to give a shape to, give a voice to, and certainly my pleasure in reading is not necessarily the witnessing of something new, but of something familiar which I haven’t seen described. I think the novel that does that best of all, still, for me, is Ulysses, full of moments from ordinary life: Bloom buying some kidneys, the coldness of those kidneys through the paper; things you think, yes, yes, I want that given shape to. That’s a real pleasure.

So when people say, how can a male novelist describe a girlie sulk, it seems to me an extraordinary question, because sulking is a human issue, not a girlie issue at all.

By the time I'd written The Comfort of Strangers and The Cement Garden and In Between the Sheets, I think I was writing myself into a corner. There was only so far one could go with that and I was desperate to begin to enlarge.

Ramona Koval:
What sort of a child were you, were you like Briony, did you have an active imagination and ambition to write?

Ian McEwan:
I was very secretive. I was a bit like Briony in that I used to borrow my mother’s typewriter and I loved threading the paper in and then I’d be stuck, because I wanted to be writing, but I didn’t have anything to write, so I kept secret journals, sometimes for days on end and then would forget about them. As a child I was very freckly like Briony’s cousins, pale and very, very shy; very close to my mother, much to my father’s annoyance. He thought I was too much of a mother’s boy. Very mediocre in class, never spoke, hated speaking in public. No-one told me I was clever till I was about sixteen. And then when someone told me I was clever, I started coming on as clever.

Ramona Koval:
Who told you?

Ian McEwan:
I’m one of those writers with a marvellous English teacher who fed me all the books at the right age.

Ramona Koval:
Which books at that age?

Ian McEwan:
First generation Romantic poets were my first big thrill. Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge. The other big excitement was to read The Wasteland. He persuaded us that it was simply a very accessible jazz age poem and that you needn’t bother yourself too much about what any of it meant. So he had us learn great chunks of it off by heart. So I think the trick, as with many good English teachers, is to say this is not about being solemn, this is about pleasure. Don’t be intimidated, you can own it too. You’re allowed in. And that was the thrill.

Ramona Koval:
What about your time in the orbit of the famous novelist, critic and creative writing teacher, Malcolm Bradbury? You were Bradbury’s first student, in fact for a time his only student.

Ian McEwan:
Yes, there was no class. I was twenty-one, I’d just finished a degree in English at Sussex University. I was looking around to go and do an MA somewhere. It was already September and I hadn’t found a university to go to, and I was thumbing through a pile of brochures and saw that you could do an MA in contemporary literature and literary theory—which wasn’t such a prickly subject in 1970 as it is now—and that you could also hand in a bit of fiction. I phoned the university, at East Anglia, and amazingly got through to Malcolm Bradbury almost immediately, and he said, ‘Well, come and see me.’

I had a very lucky break that year. The course had closed down, that’s what Bradbury said over the phone. He said, ‘This is the first year we’ve run it with this component of fiction. No-one’s applied but if you want to come, we’ll try you out.’

Wordsworth said, memorably, that a scientist was someone who would botanise on his mother's grave - a wonderful insult. But perhaps some very interesting flowers would grow on your mother's grave.

So I was there with a dozen other students who were concentrating mostly on comparative literature and modern American literature. And I simply saw it as my year to write fiction, It was the first real choice I’d made in my young adult life. I wrote like crazy. I was full of a very Romantic sense. I wrote into the dawn. I’d meet Malcolm every three or four weeks, usually in a pub, for twenty minutes—he was always very busy. He never gave any real critical comments, he simply said, ‘That’s fine, I think you’re on the right lines, what are you doing next?’ And I would say, ‘Well, I think I’m going to write a story about a thirteen-year-old boy who rapes his sister.’ And he’d say, ‘Well when can I have it?’

In other words, it was morally completely neutral and at the same time he was putting me in the way of writing that really made a huge impression on me. It was in that year I read all the American writers that I still admire and keep faith with: John Updike, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow; who seem to have dominated, in my mind, fiction in English for the last thirty years.

I also read William Burrows and Norman Mailer. I felt rather impatient with the texture of the standard mainstream English novel, which seemed to me rather grey and unambitious compared to these expressive, explosive Americans with their freedom and boldness with language.

Ramona Koval:
Because they didn’t have that English restraint that you had grown up with?

Ian McEwan:
Yes and they also had a democratic, pluralistic sense of what the novel could be. Saul Bellow’s characters were at ease on the street and yet could think, what he calls ‘deep water thoughts.’ And I like that. There was no sense in which you felt about Bellow’s characters that they were upper-middle, lower, in between class. They were simply twentieth century human beings, and he was exploring the condition.

My stories were tiny things by comparison, but I thought that I did want to be bold. I did want bright colours, I did want something a little savage. And I think that was reactive. For years afterwards, when people would say, well you clearly write to shock, I would deny it. But I now realise that in fact it was probably the case. Not as a conscious ambition, but as a reactive—yes, it was reactive writing against that well-mannered, well-modulated, prevailing style of English fiction at the time. Quite fussily attentive to issues of class and social mobility and what the furniture looked like and how to describe the tapestries and the… I was very impatient with that.

Ramona Koval:
You said that you didn’t want to write with that sensibility about class and description; but in a sense Atonement has got a lot of that in it. What happened?

Ian McEwan:
By the time I’d written The Comfort of Strangers and The Cement Garden and In Between the Sheets, I think I was writing myself into a corner. There was only so far one could go with that and I was desperate to begin to enlarge. So instead of writing any more fiction, I did other things. I wrote a television play, The Imitation Game, which was set in the Second World War. I wrote a movie for Richard Eyre to direct, called The Ploughman’s Lunch. I wrote an oratorio with Michael Berkeley which was really a response to the new shift in the arms race in the early eighties. And allowed a lot more light and breadth into my work.

I've thought for a long time that I would like to write a novel in which the hero is super-endowed with a belief in rationality but he turns out to be right. And the reader, and the police, and his wife, are all wrong.

So all those issues, whether one’s talking about class or social concerns, came back into the fiction. I’d always felt, for example, up until that point, that I should never reveal where any of my characters were, or when. I was very much in the tutelage of the existential novel, and I knew that that was like walking on crutches.

So by the time I got back to writing a novel, which was The Child in Time, it was very much located in a place, in a time which was a sort of a future but also very much the present. And from then on, I suppose, history became the major concern to me. So all the things that I’d discarded, stripped down as a twenty-one-year-old writer, I was anxious to reclaim in a different way.

Ramona Koval:
Enduring Love concerns itself with the ideas of rationality and science versus more intuitive ways of thinking. It was a defence of rationality in a way, at least from one protagonist’s point of view. Delusional beliefs like the erotic delusion of Jed Parry in the book were explored, and the question raised about, how do you know if you’re in love or just simply off your head? Do you believe in falling in love.

Ian McEwan:
Yes. If we could choose who we could fall in love with, we’d never get around to it.

Ramona Koval:
Why?

Ian McEwan:
Well, because if it became the slave to our rationality, we’d always think, well is she the wealthiest, more genetically endowed, etcetera … A rational choice would be that there is bound to be someone better. So much the better, in evolutionary terms, if falling in love was out of our hands. Then at least we could get started on providing the next generation. So usefully, I think, there are some things that are not subject to rational choice.

Ramona Koval:
That’s a very rational way of thinking about falling in love, isn’t it?

Ian McEwan:
Yes. But look how rationality then generates a very interesting story. I think rationality gets a terrible press in literature. And I blame Mary Shelley and Keats and Blake. They always thought that rationality was sucking something essential and good out of life. And yet we all know that in our personal lives what annoys us is when people are contradictory or inconsistent or say one thing and do another. We require a degree of rationality, even in our most intimate exchanges with people. You could describe love in evolutionary terms, but still the inside of love, and being in love and what it’s like to be loved, are no less stupendous for one finding a history of antecedents for it.

I’ve thought for a long time that I would like to write a novel in which the hero is super-endowed with a belief in rationality but he turns out to be right. And the reader, and the police, and his wife, are all wrong. It was something of a counter piece for Black Dogs, in which the central figure is someone who is deeply suspicious of the rational. I think we still live in this post-Romantic sense—especially in literature, less so in life. So typically in a novel it’s the character who trusts his or her intuition rather than the cold, abstract rationalist who wins through. But that’s not my experience, actually. I think so many good moments in life are actually produced by clear thinking, by thinking things through. Those things we value, like justice, are surely products of rationality. Frankenstein is the great anti-rational novel. It’s such a marvellous novel. It’s very hard to write a novel as fine as that in praise of rationality, but still I think one has to have a go.

And I still think that comes back to this notion—and there are so many instances, that first generation of Romantics that I said I loved, they had a deep distrust of science. Wordsworth said, memorably, that a scientist was someone who would botanise on his mother’s grave - a wonderful insult. But perhaps some very interesting flowers would grow on your mother’s grave.

...actually it's not necessarily the personality of the scientist that interests me, it's just that science itself seems to me a great tribute to human ingenuity. It's a great mistake to exclude ourselves who are not scientists from it.

Ramona Koval:
You think the achievements of scientists and their intellectual gifts rank with the work of literary genius that we often talk about. Who are your favourite scientists?

Ian McEwan:
Darwin is such an interesting man and Turing, the mathematician and computer scientist from this century. But actually it’s not necessarily the personality of the scientist that interests me, it’s just that science itself seems to me a great tribute to human ingenuity. It’s a great mistake to exclude ourselves who are not scientists from it.

And I think we’re all entitled to embrace science. It’s part of what we’ve achieved. The closest I ever got to any real sense of the difficulty of science was at A-level— all the arts students were encouraged to do one year’s mathematics, even though we were no good at maths. But the good teacher took us, step by step, through the calculus, and I realised I was at the very roof of my intellectual grasp of something. I’ve never, ever, before or since understood something so difficult as something that Newton and Leidenitz invented two hundred and fifty years ago. And the teacher was very good, he said, ‘Is everyone with me so far?’, and half of us would say, ‘No.’ So we’d go back, and finally you’d feel, if I sneeze, the whole thing’s going to go…

And I realised what a lucky life us liberal arts know-nothings have. We never really had to understand anything very difficult. And it was at that point I thought that someone had invented this. Differential equations—the mathematics that would show you the way something changed—to examine something as it changed, seemed to me like a sort of logarithmic quantum leap of the imagination. And I think one has to take it on as part of a celebration of our own ingenuity. I take a humanist view of science. Why the physical world is describable by maths is some delicious mystery to me.

This is an edited transcript of an interview recorded at the Edinburgh Festival in September 2002.

http://www.abc.net.au/arts/books/stories/s777905.htm

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Iran's Earthquake Disaster: "Test of Divine Grace"?




Dear Readers,

Iran’s earthquake disaster and the grim images of tearful mourning and sheer amount of destructions from the ancient city of Bam are appalling. Close to 40,000 Iranians perhaps died. And there are thousands and thousands of more severely injured fighting for their lives in makeshift hospitals since most of Bam’s hospitals are even destroyed from this awful earthquake.

Admirably, other nations and humanitarian organizations have come forward swiftly to help the devastated Iranians on these days of calamity. And the Iranian elected conservative government is doing its best in coordinating the disaster relief efforts. But the questions still remain: why the Iranian government did not take any early precautions, or any early efforts in avoiding this catastrophic disaster?

Would citing the bizarre message, like, “test of divine grace” for the deaths and injuries of so many poor Iranians be justifiable?

In a stark contrast, just a few days before, California had an earthquake with similar magnitude, and due to American built better-quality houses, offices, schools and hospitals, stiff regulation on building construction and overall a much better democratic system in place, that only a few people died and few injured with minimum amount of destruction in central California. Now, compare this with earthquake in Iran. What a difference!

Iranian mullah controlled government invested millions and millions of dollars in their clandestine nuclear weapon projects (still not proved but allegedly was in place), or putting millions more in enforcing their veiling or other freedom curtailing laws, but would not pay any heed to the numerous calls from various Iranian quarters including many editorials and opinions published previously for the “urgent and decisive earthquake prevention measures”.

Shargh, an Iranian newspaper laments: "Despite all the knowledge at our disposal, and after many years of experience, we have not managed to overcome our susceptibility,"

Blaming the “test of divine grace” for the negligence of the mortals is one of the many arsenals of the conservatives of many kinds throughout the world. And mostly poor women, children and men pay the “price” with their lives.

Perhaps, with outpouring condolences from around the world, Iran should seek more outside advanced help along with their own in-place expertise, so that preventative earthquake measures are in place, rather than feeling helpless and lamenting over mangled and buried bodies of thousands after another earthquake hits this seismic active region again.

There should not be any excuses.

Regards,
Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
December 27, 2003


Dangerous buildings, lax rules: why Bam death toll was so high

Tania Branigan and Brian Whitaker
Saturday December 27, 2003
The Guardian

Many of those killed by the earthquake in Bam died only because of poor building methods and a lack of proper regulation, an expert on the devastated city said yesterday.

In Iran, as in many developing countries, tremors that ought to be survivable often bring human tragedy on a vast scale because buildings collapse on top of people.

Two days before Christmas, California was struck by an earthquake similar in magnitude to the one that hit Iran yesterday, but only three people died, thanks largely to safer construction methods.

Bam, in contrast, was a disaster waiting to happen. Efforts to bring industrial development to what was a backward agricultural area caused a population boom and a shortage of housing, which local builders tried to meet with cheap, jerry-built homes, or by adding extra floors to existing houses.

"Many buildings collapse [even] without earthquakes, because of the poor construction," said Professor Mohsen Aboutorabi of the architecture department at the University of Central England, Birmingham, who has worked in Bam.

"There are building regulations, but they haven't been enforced except for highrises. People are desperately in need of housing so the authorities overlook the code of building for earthquakes."

Much of the building work is done by property owners themselves, using untrained local labour.

There has also been little research into low-cost techniques to protect buildings in the area against earthquakes, he added.

Building materials are often inadequate for normal purposes, let alone for use in an earthquake zone. Typical houses are constructed of burnt brick, with mud and lime for the bonding.

"On my last trip to Iran I banged two bricks together and they became like powder. Demand for materials is so high that manufacturers don't stick to any standards," Prof Aboutorabi said. "The cost of cement is very high, so they don't use much."

Ideally, houses in earthquake-prone regions should have lightweight pitched roofs, closely bonded together, he said.

But builders in Bam had largely abandoned the use of corrugated metal - which would be suitable - because of short supplies and a belief that it does not last long.

Instead, they used industrial materials without understanding their properties, he said.

This results in lethally heavy roofs and ceilings.

Many roofs are supported by metal beams between traditional brick arches.

On top of that they put a layer of concrete and waterproofing.

"The ends of the beams sit freely on the walls, so with any shake, if one goes, the whole roof collapses," Prof Aboutorabi said.

Although Bam had few tall buildings, in recent years the high cost of land had encouraged families to abandon the traditional style of single-storey homes, with rooms set around a courtyard, in favour of two or three floors, adding to the danger in the event of an earthquake.

Despite the lack of safety precautions, the Iranian authorities are well-accustomed to dealing with the aftermath of earthquakes.

Their response yesterday was swift, though hampered by the loss of telephone contact with the city.

This may bring relief to the survivors, but the more serious problem is a lack of sustained efforts to prevent future tragedies.

"They may create a policy after a disaster, but it's never implemented," Prof Aboutorabi said. "Six months after a disaster they forget it - it just happens again."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1112938,00.html

Monday, December 22, 2003

Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections: a Book Review



By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
December 22, 2003


It reads like a family epic. The inner struggle, constant fighting against one’s loved ones for the elation of pure ego or life’s other mysterious force is presented in this marvelous American novel. The correction by Jonathan Franzen emits and bustles the everyday life of a family, tormented by nature’s gradual encroachment and the overwhelming feelings of helplessness from not being able to share and receive love with the beloveds.

Life has ups and down. Some are very successful in material life, some just cannot shed their life long dream, however impractical that seems to be for the rest of the world; and some finds the tragedy of this gone awry world is written on a farce. Perhaps, “life” is a “divine comedy”.

This is a story of a family: Alfred, the patriarch and Enid, the matriarch and their three emotionally wrecked grown up children, Gary, Chip and Denise.

Alfred is an executive engineer for a railroad company. He is so disciplined and methodical in his life long pursuance of railroad executive career, so much absorbed in his work but neglecting his wife and children. He represses his loving feelings to his family. He shocks them by taking an early retirement just a few weeks before he could have a full pension. His depression takes him over; he slumps in his favorite chair, in the underground basement enclave; everyday he slides into the delirium of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Enid, Alfred Lambert’s wife, likes to live in a bubble, over-conscious for uptight and wealthy neighbors’ and friends’ approval or disapproval of her family and children’s material successes. Her motherly love blinds her purposefully from seeing the failures in her youngest son, Chip, whom she parades to her friends as working in a prestigious law farm in New York or her emphasis that Chip is associated with the Wall Street Journal not the actual Warren Street Journal where Chip was actually contributing un-paid articles from time to time.

Chip is a bright man in love with literature and his non-ending strive toward finding his true love is written with comedy; he gets trapped from the seduction of his strikingly beautiful and clever freshman student. In his moment of vulnerability he breaks the sanctity of a teacher-student relationship and helps Melissa, quite improperly, in a major writing project. He gets nailed for the collapse of his ethical behavior and his all safe and sound permanent tenure as professor in literature department in college evaporate and his life crashes. Chip’s part-time work and his constant re-writing of a screenplay do not take him much up the ladder of material success. The soaring debts from his little sister Denise and his "maxed" out credit cards compel him to accept a job offer from a Lithuanian (desired to be) warlord Gitanas who offers Chip a job in building a Lithuanian website to defraud the American investors. Gitanas’ project seems quite preposterous on the outset, but perhaps Jonathan Franzen wanted to pinch in capitalism’s invincibility.

A few conversations among Chip, Gitanas and Chip’s publisher Eden:

“Yeah. We’re selling a country,” Gitanas said.

“We need a satisfied U.S. customer on site. Also, much much safer to work on the web over there.”

Chip laughed, “You actually expect American investors to send you money? On the basis of what. Of sand shortages in Latvia?”

“They are already sending me money,” Gitanas said, “on the basis of little joke I played. Not even sand and gravel just a mean little joke I played. Tens of thousands of dollars already. But I want them to send me millions.”

“Gitanas,” Eden said. “Dear man. This is completely a point incentive moment. There could not be a more perfect situation for an escalation cause. Every time Chip doubles your receipts, you give him another point of the action. Hm? Hm?”

“If I see a hundred times increase in receipts, trust me, Chip will be a wealthy man.”

“But I’m saying let’s have this in writing.”

Gitanas caught Chip’s eye and silently conveyed to him his opinion of their host. “Eden, this document,” he said, “what is Chip’s job designation? International Wire Fraud Consultant? First Deputy Co-Conspirator?”

“Vice President for Willful Tortuous Misrepresentation”, Chip offered.

Eden gave a scream of pleasure, “I love it!”

“Our agreement is strictly oral,” Gitanas said.

“Of course, there’s nothing actually illegal about what you are doing,” Eden said.

Gitanas answered her question by staring out the window for a longish while. In his red ribbed jacket he looked like a motocross rider.

“Of course not,” he said.

“So it isn’t wire fraud,” Eden said.

“No, no. Wire fraud? No.”

“Because not to be a scaredy-cat here, but wire fraud is what this almost sounds like.”

“This collective fungible assets of my country disappeared in yours without a ripple,” Gitanas said. “A rich powerful country made the rules we Lithuanians are dying by. Why should we respect these rules?”

“This is an essential Foucaultian question,” Chip said.

“It’s also a Robin Hood question,” Eden said. “Which doesn’t exactly reassure me on the legal front.”

And Chip is partly sold on this Robin Hood or Foucaultian question and is partly leaded by his economic desperation. He accepts Gitanas’ lucrative job offer and flies with him to Vilnius, a city of Lithuania, where he sets up a website, a sleek one, and writes numerous eyewitness accounts (made up) of Lithuanian emerging economy. Chip and Gitanas offer many perks to the investors for having a stake on Lithuania’s political and economic future. These perks include the name of an investor to be the name of a road; a village or a city; a lordship title with the flogging rights to the persons who do not acknowledge their lordship, etc. of various quite farcical innovation of for profit political party and a for profit nation. Jonathan Franzen was sometimes using metaphor in his critique of solely profit-based economy.

Denise is quite a complex character. She yearns for love but finds herself in a divorce from her Jewish husband both of them worked in restaurant as chef. Denise is confused because of her confounding feelings, her bewildering sexual orientation. In the end, her confusion remains but she is gravitated to the life of hurting her lovers; her self-denial from this truth is masterfully described.

This is also a story of Gary, the elder son, who is a staunch materialist, a successful banker and investor. Also, Gary finds himself in the midst of conflicting emotions with his unsuccessful bid to make his wife and children to love his extended family, his parents and siblings. Gary’s wife, Caroline, is like a belligerent war enthusiast, likes to keep Gary “under her thumb”, who despises her mother-in-law and cleverly manipulates her children to dislike them as well. Jonathan Franzen’s portrayal of Gary’s struggle to take his family to his parent’s home for one last Christmas re-union with his parents and siblings is reasonably emotive. Gary feels angry in his failure to win ally from his own children and soul mate and in his constant torment from his wife’s mendacious political maneuver in winning the family battle, in her utter determination of not letting any of her children to participate in Gary’s family reunion is shocking but was written with acute observation of a real family life. His anger makes him lashing out toward everyone: his wife, his frenzied mother, mulish father, and emotionally ravaged siblings.

Death is the ultimate destination. And Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections descends toward its logical end. With the writer’s magisterial ability to involve the readers in a plot that has the up and down swing of sentiments, the painful delineation of a family’s continuous erosion, the joy and excruciating anticipation of one hopeful mother who yearns for a last family reunion for one last Christmas in the failing but nostalgic place she and her husband had raised her three children, a father’s journey through dementia and realizing at last that the end is near, and they all reunite in the end, in the middle of bitter arguments but still in a cherished family gathering, is absorbing.

When things get agonizing for Alfred, when he couldn’t bear to live in a life filled with memory lapses and hallucinations, he asked his son, “’For God’s sake, Chip,’ he said loudly, because he sensed that this might be his last chance to liberate himself before he lost all contact with that clarity and power and it was therefore crucial that Chip understand exactly what he wanted. ‘I am asking for your help! You’ve got to get me out of this! You have to put an end to it!’ Even red-eyed, even tear-streaked, Chip’s face was full of power and clarity. Here was a son whom he could trust to understand him as he understood himself; and so Chip’s answer, when it came, was absolute. Chip’s answer told him that this was where they story ended. It ended with Chip shaking his head, it ended him saying: ‘I can’t, Dad. I can’t.’”

Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections is a highly readable and a moving novel.




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Other Reviews By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)

1. Monica Ali's Brick Lane: a Book Review.

2. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: a Book Review.

3. Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake: a Future of Hope or Despair?

4. Anil's Ghost: a Book Review.

5. War's Wraths and Devastations: Excerpt from Ian McEwan's The Atonement.

6. Spielberg's Minority Report: a Movie Review.

7. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver - a Review.

8. To Say Nothing of the Dog: a Book Review.

9. Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible - a Book Review.

10. A Review of Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and its Discontents.

11. A Review of Clash of Fundamentalisms by Tariq Ali.

Part 1: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MuktoChinta/message/3022

Part 2: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MuktoChinta/message/3183

Part 3: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MuktoChinta/message/3389

Part 4: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MuktoChinta/message/3448

Part 5: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MuktoChinta/message/3644


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. His email address is: sohelkarim@yahoo.com.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Stephen King's Speech at the National Book Awards




Stephen King
Winner of the 2003
DISTINGUISHED CONTRIBUTION TO AMERICAN LETTERS AWARD


Thank you very much. Thank you all. Thank you for the applause and thank you
for coming. I'm delighted to be here but, as I've said before in the last
five years, I'm delighted to be anywhere.

This isn't in my speech so don't take it out of my allotted time. There are
some people who have spoken out passionately about giving me this medal.
There are some people who think it's an extraordinarily bad idea. There have
been some people who have spoken out who think it's an extraordinarily good
idea. You know who you are and where you stand and most of you who are here
tonight are on my side. I'm glad for that. But I want to say it doesn't
matter in a sense which side you were on. The people who speak out, speak
out because they are passionate about the book, about the word, about the
page and, in that sense, we're all brothers and sisters. Give yourself a
hand.

Now as for my remarks. The only person who understands how much this award
means to me is my wife, Tabitha. I was a writer when I met her in 1967 but
my only venue was the campus newspaper where I published a rude weekly
column. It turned me into a bit of a celebrity but I was a poor one,
scraping through college thanks to a jury-rigged package of loans and
scholarships.

A friend of Tabitha Spruce pointed me out to her one winter day as I crossed
the mall in my jeans and cut-down green rubber boots. I had a bushy black
beard. I hadn't had my hair cut in two years and I looked like Charlie
Manson. My wife-to-be clasped her hands between her breasts and said, "I
think I'm in love" in a tone dripping with sarcasm.

Tabby Spruce had no more money than I did but with sarcasm she was loaded.
When we married in 1971, we already had one child. By the middle of 1972, we
had a pair. I taught school and worked in a laundry during the summer. Tabby
worked for Dunkin' Donuts. When she was working, I took care of the kids.
When I was working, it was vice versa. And writing was always an undisputed
part of that work. Tabby finished the first book of our marriage, a slim but
wonderful book of poetry called Grimoire.

This is a very atypical audience, one passionately dedicated to books and to
the word. Most of the world, however, sees writing as a fairly useless
occupation. I've even heard it called mental masturbation, once or twice by
people in my family. I never heard that from my wife. She'd read my stuff
and felt certain I'd some day support us by writing full time, instead of
standing in front of a blackboard and spouting on about Jack London and
Ogden Nash. She never made a big deal of this. It was just a fact of our
lives. We lived in a trailer and she made a writing space for me in the tiny
laundry room with a desk and her Olivetti portable between the washer and
dryer. She still tells people I married her for that typewriter but that's
only partly true. I married her because I loved her and because we got on as
well out of bed as in it. The typewriter was a factor, though.

When I gave up on Carrie, it was Tabby who rescued the first few pages of
single spaced manuscript from the wastebasket, told me it was good, said I
ought to go on. When I told her I didn't know how to go on, she helped me
out with the girls' locker room stuff. There were no inspiring speeches.
Tabby does sarcasm, Tabby doesn't do inspiration, never has. It was just
"this is pretty good, you ought to keep it going." That was all I needed and
she knew it.

There were some hard, dark years before Carrie. We had two kids and no
money. We rotated the bills, paying on different ones each month. I kept our
car, an old Buick, going with duct tape and bailing wire. It was a time when
my wife might have been expected to say, "Why don't you quit spending three
hours a night in the laundry room, Steve, smoking cigarettes and drinking
beer we can't afford? Why don't you get an actual job?"

Okay, this is the real stuff. If she'd asked, I almost certainly would have
done it. And then am I standing up here tonight, making a speech, accepting
the award, wearing a radar dish around my neck? Maybe. More likely not. In
fact, the subject of moonlighting did come up once. The head of the English
department where I taught told me that the debate club was going to need a
new faculty advisor and he put me up for the job if I wanted. It would pay
$300 per school year which doesn't sound like much but my yearly take in
1973 was only $6,600 and $300 equaled ten weeks worth of groceries.

The English department head told me he'd need my decision by the end of the
week. When I told Tabby about the opening, she asked if I'd still have time
to write. I told her not as much. Her response to that was unequivocal,
"Well then, you can't take it."

One of the few times during the early years of our marriage I saw my wife
cry really hard was when I told her that a paperback publisher, New American
Library, had paid a ton of money for the book she'd rescued from the trash.
I could quit teaching, she could quit pushing crullers at Dunkin' Donuts.
She looked almost unbelieving for five seconds and then she put her hands
over her face and she wept. When she finally stopped, we went into the
living room and sat on our old couch, which Tabby had rescued from a yard
sale, and talked into the early hours of the morning about what we were
going to do with the money. I've never had a more pleasant conversation. I
have never had one that felt more surreal.

My point is that Tabby always knew what I was supposed to be doing and she
believed that I would succeed at it. There is a time in the lives of most
writers when they are vulnerable, when the vivid dreams and ambitions of
childhood seem to pale in the harsh sunlight of what we call the real world.
In short, there's a time when things can go either way.
That vulnerable time for me came during 1971 to 1973. If my wife had
suggested to me even with love and kindness and gentleness rather than her
more common wit and good natured sarcasm that the time had come to put my
dreams away and support my family, I would have done that with no complaint.
I believe that on some level of thought I was expecting to have that
conversation. If she had suggested that you can't buy a loaf of bread or a
tube of toothpaste with rejection slips, I would have gone out and found a
part time job.

Tabby has told me since that it never crossed her mind to have such a
conversation. You had a second job, she said, in the laundry room with my
typewriter. I hope you know, Tabby, that they are clapping for you and not
for me. Stand up so they can see you, please. Thank you. Thank you. I did
not let her see this speech, and I will hear about this later.

Now, there are lots of people who will tell you that anyone who writes genre
fiction or any kind of fiction that tells a story is in it for the money and
nothing else. It's a lie. The idea that all storytellers are in it for the
money is untrue but it is still hurtful, it's infuriating and it's
demeaning. I never in my life wrote a single word for money. As badly as we
needed money, I never wrote for money. From those early days to this gala
black tie night, I never once sat down at my desk thinking today I'm going
to make a hundred grand. Or this story will make a great movie. If I had
tried to write with those things in mind, I believe I would have sold my
birthright for a plot of message, as the old pun has it. Either way, Tabby
and I would still be living in a trailer or an equivalent, a boat. My wife
knows the importance of this award isn't the recognition of being a great
writer or even a good writer but the recognition of being an honest writer.

Frank Norris, the author of McTeague, said something like this: "What should
I care if they, i.e., the critics, single me out for sneers and laughter? I
never truckled, I never lied. I told the truth." And that's always been the
bottom line for me. The story and the people in it may be make believe but I
need to ask myself over and over if I've told the truth about the way real
people would behave in a similar situation.

Of course, I only have my own senses, experiences and reading to draw on but
that usually - not always but usually - usually it's enough. It gets the job
done. For instance, if an elevator full of people, one of the ones in this
very building - I want you to think about this later, I want you to think
about it - if it starts to vibrate and you hear those clanks - this probably
won't happen but we all know it has happened, it could happen. It could
happen to me or it could happen to you. Someone always wins the lottery.
Just put it away for now until you go up to your rooms later. Anyway, if an
elevator full of people starts free-falling from the 35th floor of the
skyscraper all the way to the bottom, one of those view elevators, perhaps,
where you can watch it happening, in my opinion, no one is going to say,
"Goodbye, Neil, I will see you in heaven." In my book or my short story,
they're far more apt to bellow, "Oh shit" at the top of their lungs because
what I've read and heard tends to confirm the "Oh shit" choice. If that
makes me a cynic, so be it.

I remember a story on the nightly news about an airliner that crashed
killing all aboard. The so-called black box was recovered and we have the
pilot's immortal last four words: "Son of a bitch". Of course, there was
another plane that crashed and the black box recorder said, "Goodbye,
Mother," which is a nicer way to go out, I think.

Folks are far more apt to go out with a surprised ejaculation, however, then
an expiring abjuration like, "Marry her, Jake. Bible says it ain't good for
a man to be alone." If I happen to be the writer of such a death bed scene,
I'd choose "Son of a bitch" over "Marry her, Jake" every time. We understand
that fiction is a lie to begin with. To ignore the truth inside the lie is
to sin against the craft, in general, and one's own work in particular.

I'm sure I've made the wrong choices from time to time. Doesn't the Bible
say something like, "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of
Chaucer?" But every time I did it, I was sorry. Sorry is cheap, though. I
have revised the lie out if I could and that's far more important. When
readers are deeply entranced by a story, they forget the storyteller
completely. The tale is all they care about.

But the storyteller cannot afford to forget and must always be ready to hold
himself or herself to account. He or she needs to remember that the truth
lends verisimilitude to the lies that surround it. If you tell your reader,
"Sometimes chickens will pick out the weakest one in the flock and peck it
to death," the truth, the reader is much more likely to go along with you
than if you then add something like, "Such chickens often meld into the
earth after their deaths."

How stringently the writer holds to the truth inside the lie is one of the
ways that he can judge how seriously he takes his craft. My wife, who
doesn't seem to know how to a lie even in a social context where people
routinely say things like, "You look wonderful, have you lost weight?" has
always understood these things without needing to have them spelled out.
She's what the Bible calls a pearl beyond price. She also understands why I
was in those early days so often bitterly angry at writers who were
considered "literary." I knew I didn't have quite enough talent or polish to
be one of them so there was an element of jealousy, but I was also
infuriated by how these writers always seemed to have the inside track in my
view at that time.

Even a note in the acknowledgments page of a novel thanking the this or that
foundation for its generous assistance was enough to set me off. I knew what
it meant, I told my wife. It was the Old Boy Network at work. It was this,
it was that, on and on and blah, blah, blah. It is only in retrospect that I
realize how much I sounded like my least favorite uncle who believed there
really was an international Jewish cabal running everything from the Ford
Motor Company to the Federal Reserve.

Tabitha listened to a fair amount of this pissing and moaning and finally
told me to stop with the breast beating. She said to save my self-pity and
turn my energy to the typewriter. She paused and then added, my typewriter.
I did because she was right and my anger played much better when channeled
into about a dozen stories which I wrote in 1973 and early 1974. Not all of
them were good but most of them were honest and I realized an amazing thing:
Readers of the men's magazines where I was published were remembering my
name and starting to look for it. I could hardly believe it but it appeared
that people wanted to read what I was writing. There's never been a thrill
in my life to equal that one. With Tabby's help, I was able to put aside my
useless jealousy and get writing again. I sold more of my short stories. I
sold Carrie and the rest, as they say, is history.

There's been a certain amount of grumbling about the decision to give the
award to me and since so much of this speech has been about my wife, I
wanted to give you her opinion on the subject. She's read everything I've
written, making her something of an expert, and her view of my work is
loving but unsentimental. Tabby says I deserve the medal not just because
some good movies were made from my stories or because I've provided high
motivational reading material for slow learners, she says I deserve the
medal because I am a, quote, "Damn good writer".

I've tried to improve myself with every book and find the truth inside the
lie. Sometimes I have succeeded. I salute the National Book Foundation
Board, who took a huge risk in giving this award to a man many people see as
a rich hack. For far too long the so-called popular writers of this country
and the so-called literary writers have stared at each other with animosity
and a willful lack of understanding. This is the way it has always been.
Witness my childish resentment of anyone who ever got a Guggenheim.

But giving an award like this to a guy like me suggests that in the future
things don't have to be the way they've always been. Bridges can be built
between the so-called popular fiction and the so-called literary fiction.
The first gainers in such a widening of interest would be the readers, of
course, which is us because writers are almost always readers and listeners
first. You have been very good and patient listeners and I'm going to let
you go soon but I'd like to say one more thing before I do.

Tokenism is not allowed. You can't sit back, give a self satisfied sigh and
say, "Ah, that takes care of the troublesome pop lit question. In another
twenty years or perhaps thirty, we'll give this award to another writer who
sells enough books to make the best seller lists." It's not good enough. Nor
do I have any patience with or use for those who make a point of pride in
saying they've never read anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins
Clark or any other popular writer.

What do you think? You get social or academic brownie points for
deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture? Never in life, as
Capt. Lucky Jack Aubrey would say. And if your only point of reference for
Jack Aubrey is the Australian actor, Russell Crowe, shame on you.
There's a writer here tonight, my old friend and some time collaborator,
Peter Straub. He's just published what may be the best book of his career.
Lost Boy Lost Girl surely deserves your consideration for the NBA short list
next year, if not the award itself. Have you read it? Have any of the judges
read it?

There's another writer here tonight who writes under the name of Jack
Ketchum and he has also written what may be the best book of his career, a
long novella called The Crossings. Have you read it? Have any of the judges
read it? And yet Jack Ketchum's first novel, Off Season published in 1980,
set off a furor in my supposed field, that of horror, that was unequaled
until the advent of Clive Barker. It is not too much to say that these two
gentlemen remade the face of American popular fiction and yet very few
people here will have an idea of who I'm talking about or have read the
work.

This is not criticism, it's just me pointing out a blind spot in the
winnowing process and in the very act of reading the fiction of one's own
culture. Honoring me is a step in a different direction, a fruitful one, I
think. I'm asking you, almost begging you, not to go back to the old way of
doing things. There's a great deal of good stuff out there and not all of it
is being done by writers whose work is regularly reviewed in the Sunday New
York Times Book Review. I believe the time comes when you must be inclusive
rather than exclusive.
That said, I accept this award on behalf of such disparate writers as Elmore
Leonard, Peter Straub, Nora Lofts, Jack Ketchum, whose real name is Dallas
Mayr, Jodi Picoult, Greg Iles, John Grisham, Dennis Lehane, Michael
Connolly, Pete Hamill and a dozen more. I hope that the National Book Award
judges, past, present and future, will read these writers and that the books
will open their eyes to a whole new realm of American literature. You don't
have to vote for them, just read them.

Okay, thanks for bearing with me. This is the last page? This is it. Parting
is such sweet sorrow. My message is simple enough. We can build bridges
between the popular and the literary if we keep our minds and hearts open.
With my wife's help, I have tried to do that. Now I'm going to turn the
actual medal over to her because she will make sure in all the excitement
that it doesn't get lost.

In closing, I want to say that I hope you all find something good to read
tonight or tomorrow. I want to salute all the nominees in the four
categories that are up for consideration and I do, I hope you'll find
something to read that will fill you up as this evening as filled me up.
Thank you.

Thank you very much. Thank you all. Thank you for the applause and thank you
for coming. I'm delighted to be here but, as I've said before in the last
five years, I'm delighted to be anywhere.

This isn't in my speech so don't take it out of my allotted time. There are
some people who have spoken out passionately about giving me this medal.
There are some people who think it's an extraordinarily bad idea. There have
been some people who have spoken out who think it's an extraordinarily good
idea. You know who you are and where you stand and most of you who are here
tonight are on my side. I'm glad for that. But I want to say it doesn't
matter in a sense which side you were on. The people who speak out, speak
out because they are passionate about the book, about the word, about the
page and, in that sense, we're all brothers and sisters. Give yourself a
hand.

Now as for my remarks. The only person who understands how much this award
means to me is my wife, Tabitha. I was a writer when I met her in 1967 but
my only venue was the campus newspaper where I published a rude weekly
column. It turned me into a bit of a celebrity but I was a poor one,
scraping through college thanks to a jury-rigged package of loans and
scholarships.

A friend of Tabitha Spruce pointed me out to her one winter day as I crossed
the mall in my jeans and cut-down green rubber boots. I had a bushy black
beard. I hadn't had my hair cut in two years and I looked like Charlie
Manson. My wife-to-be clasped her hands between her breasts and said, "I
think I'm in love" in a tone dripping with sarcasm.

Tabby Spruce had no more money than I did but with sarcasm she was loaded.
When we married in 1971, we already had one child. By the middle of 1972, we
had a pair. I taught school and worked in a laundry during the summer. Tabby
worked for Dunkin' Donuts. When she was working, I took care of the kids.
When I was working, it was vice versa. And writing was always an undisputed
part of that work. Tabby finished the first book of our marriage, a slim but
wonderful book of poetry called Grimoire.

This is a very atypical audience, one passionately dedicated to books and to
the word. Most of the world, however, sees writing as a fairly useless
occupation. I've even heard it called mental masturbation, once or twice by
people in my family. I never heard that from my wife. She'd read my stuff
and felt certain I'd some day support us by writing full time, instead of
standing in front of a blackboard and spouting on about Jack London and
Ogden Nash. She never made a big deal of this. It was just a fact of our
lives. We lived in a trailer and she made a writing space for me in the tiny
laundry room with a desk and her Olivetti portable between the washer and
dryer. She still tells people I married her for that typewriter but that's
only partly true. I married her because I loved her and because we got on as
well out of bed as in it. The typewriter was a factor, though.

When I gave up on Carrie, it was Tabby who rescued the first few pages of
single spaced manuscript from the wastebasket, told me it was good, said I
ought to go on. When I told her I didn't know how to go on, she helped me
out with the girls' locker room stuff. There were no inspiring speeches.
Tabby does sarcasm, Tabby doesn't do inspiration, never has. It was just
"this is pretty good, you ought to keep it going." That was all I needed and
she knew it.

There were some hard, dark years before Carrie. We had two kids and no
money. We rotated the bills, paying on different ones each month. I kept our
car, an old Buick, going with duct tape and bailing wire. It was a time when
my wife might have been expected to say, "Why don't you quit spending three
hours a night in the laundry room, Steve, smoking cigarettes and drinking
beer we can't afford? Why don't you get an actual job?"

Okay, this is the real stuff. If she'd asked, I almost certainly would have
done it. And then am I standing up here tonight, making a speech, accepting
the award, wearing a radar dish around my neck? Maybe. More likely not. In
fact, the subject of moonlighting did come up once. The head of the English
department where I taught told me that the debate club was going to need a
new faculty advisor and he put me up for the job if I wanted. It would pay
$300 per school year which doesn't sound like much but my yearly take in
1973 was only $6,600 and $300 equaled ten weeks worth of groceries.

The English department head told me he'd need my decision by the end of the
week. When I told Tabby about the opening, she asked if I'd still have time
to write. I told her not as much. Her response to that was unequivocal,
"Well then, you can't take it."

One of the few times during the early years of our marriage I saw my wife
cry really hard was when I told her that a paperback publisher, New American
Library, had paid a ton of money for the book she'd rescued from the trash.
I could quit teaching, she could quit pushing crullers at Dunkin' Donuts.
She looked almost unbelieving for five seconds and then she put her hands
over her face and she wept. When she finally stopped, we went into the
living room and sat on our old couch, which Tabby had rescued from a yard
sale, and talked into the early hours of the morning about what we were
going to do with the money. I've never had a more pleasant conversation. I
have never had one that felt more surreal.

My point is that Tabby always knew what I was supposed to be doing and she
believed that I would succeed at it. There is a time in the lives of most
writers when they are vulnerable, when the vivid dreams and ambitions of
childhood seem to pale in the harsh sunlight of what we call the real world.
In short, there's a time when things can go either way.
That vulnerable time for me came during 1971 to 1973. If my wife had
suggested to me even with love and kindness and gentleness rather than her
more common wit and good natured sarcasm that the time had come to put my
dreams away and support my family, I would have done that with no complaint.
I believe that on some level of thought I was expecting to have that
conversation. If she had suggested that you can't buy a loaf of bread or a
tube of toothpaste with rejection slips, I would have gone out and found a
part time job.

Tabby has told me since that it never crossed her mind to have such a
conversation. You had a second job, she said, in the laundry room with my
typewriter. I hope you know, Tabby, that they are clapping for you and not
for me. Stand up so they can see you, please. Thank you. Thank you. I did
not let her see this speech, and I will hear about this later.

Now, there are lots of people who will tell you that anyone who writes genre
fiction or any kind of fiction that tells a story is in it for the money and
nothing else. It's a lie. The idea that all storytellers are in it for the
money is untrue but it is still hurtful, it's infuriating and it's
demeaning. I never in my life wrote a single word for money. As badly as we
needed money, I never wrote for money. From those early days to this gala
black tie night, I never once sat down at my desk thinking today I'm going
to make a hundred grand. Or this story will make a great movie. If I had
tried to write with those things in mind, I believe I would have sold my
birthright for a plot of message, as the old pun has it. Either way, Tabby
and I would still be living in a trailer or an equivalent, a boat. My wife
knows the importance of this award isn't the recognition of being a great
writer or even a good writer but the recognition of being an honest writer.

Frank Norris, the author of McTeague, said something like this: "What should
I care if they, i.e., the critics, single me out for sneers and laughter? I
never truckled, I never lied. I told the truth." And that's always been the
bottom line for me. The story and the people in it may be make believe but I
need to ask myself over and over if I've told the truth about the way real
people would behave in a similar situation.

Of course, I only have my own senses, experiences and reading to draw on but
that usually - not always but usually - usually it's enough. It gets the job
done. For instance, if an elevator full of people, one of the ones in this
very building - I want you to think about this later, I want you to think
about it - if it starts to vibrate and you hear those clanks - this probably
won't happen but we all know it has happened, it could happen. It could
happen to me or it could happen to you. Someone always wins the lottery.
Just put it away for now until you go up to your rooms later. Anyway, if an
elevator full of people starts free-falling from the 35th floor of the
skyscraper all the way to the bottom, one of those view elevators, perhaps,
where you can watch it happening, in my opinion, no one is going to say,
"Goodbye, Neil, I will see you in heaven." In my book or my short story,
they're far more apt to bellow, "Oh shit" at the top of their lungs because
what I've read and heard tends to confirm the "Oh shit" choice. If that
makes me a cynic, so be it.

I remember a story on the nightly news about an airliner that crashed
killing all aboard. The so-called black box was recovered and we have the
pilot's immortal last four words: "Son of a bitch". Of course, there was
another plane that crashed and the black box recorder said, "Goodbye,
Mother," which is a nicer way to go out, I think.

Folks are far more apt to go out with a surprised ejaculation, however, then
an expiring abjuration like, "Marry her, Jake. Bible says it ain't good for
a man to be alone." If I happen to be the writer of such a death bed scene,
I'd choose "Son of a bitch" over "Marry her, Jake" every time. We understand
that fiction is a lie to begin with. To ignore the truth inside the lie is
to sin against the craft, in general, and one's own work in particular.

I'm sure I've made the wrong choices from time to time. Doesn't the Bible
say something like, "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of
Chaucer?" But every time I did it, I was sorry. Sorry is cheap, though. I
have revised the lie out if I could and that's far more important. When
readers are deeply entranced by a story, they forget the storyteller
completely. The tale is all they care about.

But the storyteller cannot afford to forget and must always be ready to hold
himself or herself to account. He or she needs to remember that the truth
lends verisimilitude to the lies that surround it. If you tell your reader,
"Sometimes chickens will pick out the weakest one in the flock and peck it
to death," the truth, the reader is much more likely to go along with you
than if you then add something like, "Such chickens often meld into the
earth after their deaths."

How stringently the writer holds to the truth inside the lie is one of the
ways that he can judge how seriously he takes his craft. My wife, who
doesn't seem to know how to a lie even in a social context where people
routinely say things like, "You look wonderful, have you lost weight?" has
always understood these things without needing to have them spelled out.
She's what the Bible calls a pearl beyond price. She also understands why I
was in those early days so often bitterly angry at writers who were
considered "literary." I knew I didn't have quite enough talent or polish to
be one of them so there was an element of jealousy, but I was also
infuriated by how these writers always seemed to have the inside track in my
view at that time.

Even a note in the acknowledgments page of a novel thanking the this or that
foundation for its generous assistance was enough to set me off. I knew what
it meant, I told my wife. It was the Old Boy Network at work. It was this,
it was that, on and on and blah, blah, blah. It is only in retrospect that I
realize how much I sounded like my least favorite uncle who believed there
really was an international Jewish cabal running everything from the Ford
Motor Company to the Federal Reserve.

Tabitha listened to a fair amount of this pissing and moaning and finally
told me to stop with the breast beating. She said to save my self-pity and
turn my energy to the typewriter. She paused and then added, my typewriter.
I did because she was right and my anger played much better when channeled
into about a dozen stories which I wrote in 1973 and early 1974. Not all of
them were good but most of them were honest and I realized an amazing thing:
Readers of the men's magazines where I was published were remembering my
name and starting to look for it. I could hardly believe it but it appeared
that people wanted to read what I was writing. There's never been a thrill
in my life to equal that one. With Tabby's help, I was able to put aside my
useless jealousy and get writing again. I sold more of my short stories. I
sold Carrie and the rest, as they say, is history.

There's been a certain amount of grumbling about the decision to give the
award to me and since so much of this speech has been about my wife, I
wanted to give you her opinion on the subject. She's read everything I've
written, making her something of an expert, and her view of my work is
loving but unsentimental. Tabby says I deserve the medal not just because
some good movies were made from my stories or because I've provided high
motivational reading material for slow learners, she says I deserve the
medal because I am a, quote, "Damn good writer".

I've tried to improve myself with every book and find the truth inside the
lie. Sometimes I have succeeded. I salute the National Book Foundation
Board, who took a huge risk in giving this award to a man many people see as
a rich hack. For far too long the so-called popular writers of this country
and the so-called literary writers have stared at each other with animosity
and a willful lack of understanding. This is the way it has always been.
Witness my childish resentment of anyone who ever got a Guggenheim.

But giving an award like this to a guy like me suggests that in the future
things don't have to be the way they've always been. Bridges can be built
between the so-called popular fiction and the so-called literary fiction.
The first gainers in such a widening of interest would be the readers, of
course, which is us because writers are almost always readers and listeners
first. You have been very good and patient listeners and I'm going to let
you go soon but I'd like to say one more thing before I do.

Tokenism is not allowed. You can't sit back, give a self satisfied sigh and
say, "Ah, that takes care of the troublesome pop lit question. In another
twenty years or perhaps thirty, we'll give this award to another writer who
sells enough books to make the best seller lists." It's not good enough. Nor
do I have any patience with or use for those who make a point of pride in
saying they've never read anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins
Clark or any other popular writer.

What do you think? You get social or academic brownie points for
deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture? Never in life, as
Capt. Lucky Jack Aubrey would say. And if your only point of reference for
Jack Aubrey is the Australian actor, Russell Crowe, shame on you.
There's a writer here tonight, my old friend and some time collaborator,
Peter Straub. He's just published what may be the best book of his career.
Lost Boy Lost Girl surely deserves your consideration for the NBA short list
next year, if not the award itself. Have you read it? Have any of the judges
read it?

There's another writer here tonight who writes under the name of Jack
Ketchum and he has also written what may be the best book of his career, a
long novella called The Crossings. Have you read it? Have any of the judges
read it? And yet Jack Ketchum's first novel, Off Season published in 1980,
set off a furor in my supposed field, that of horror, that was unequaled
until the advent of Clive Barker. It is not too much to say that these two
gentlemen remade the face of American popular fiction and yet very few
people here will have an idea of who I'm talking about or have read the
work.

This is not criticism, it's just me pointing out a blind spot in the
winnowing process and in the very act of reading the fiction of one's own
culture. Honoring me is a step in a different direction, a fruitful one, I
think. I'm asking you, almost begging you, not to go back to the old way of
doing things. There's a great deal of good stuff out there and not all of it
is being done by writers whose work is regularly reviewed in the Sunday New
York Times Book Review. I believe the time comes when you must be inclusive
rather than exclusive.
That said, I accept this award on behalf of such disparate writers as Elmore
Leonard, Peter Straub, Nora Lofts, Jack Ketchum, whose real name is Dallas
Mayr, Jodi Picoult, Greg Iles, John Grisham, Dennis Lehane, Michael
Connolly, Pete Hamill and a dozen more. I hope that the National Book Award
judges, past, present and future, will read these writers and that the books
will open their eyes to a whole new realm of American literature. You don't
have to vote for them, just read them.

Okay, thanks for bearing with me. This is the last page? This is it. Parting
is such sweet sorrow. My message is simple enough. We can build bridges
between the popular and the literary if we keep our minds and hearts open.
With my wife's help, I have tried to do that. Now I'm going to turn the
actual medal over to her because she will make sure in all the excitement
that it doesn't get lost.

In closing, I want to say that I hope you all find something good to read
tonight or tomorrow. I want to salute all the nominees in the four
categories that are up for consideration and I do, I hope you'll find
something to read that will fill you up as this evening as filled me up.
Thank you.

Source: http://www.nationalbook.org/nbaacceptspeech_sking.html

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Bearded Tyrant in a Taliban Hole



By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
December 17, 2003


The news of dictator in a hole and his disheveled face were shown in every news outlets. Saddam was found in a “rat hole”, chuckled the commenter in a posh media.

Saddam, the rugged dictator, scraggy beard exactly like Taliban, perhaps lice and vermin filled muddled hair and disoriented eyes, with burning spot on the side of his left brow.

Wow!

Saddam looked like a Taliban!

Albeit not the adoring Santa Clause!

He was given a tongue, teeth and overall a deep oral examination, with images of seemingly drowsy captured tyrant, the once powerful and feared man in the Arab world.

These images were potent. These images were purported to deflate the invincible symbol of pre-war mighty Saddam holding by many.

Perhaps many may think, quite naturally, that the victors are gloating, and parading the defeated enemy in the most humiliating way it can, even trespassing the sacred Geneva Convention that is supposedly be the sacrosanct guidelines to protect an enemy combatant or leadership.

The Vatican representative Cardinal Martino said so with all the courage he could master before the foreign admonishing pressure could build up for his “expected” silence. Saddam was paraded and inspected, like a cow of Eid-ul-Adha before the splendid slaughter. That was the premise of Cardinal’s pity filled protest.

He said, "I felt pity to see this man destroyed, being treated like a cow as they checked his teeth. We should have been spared these images. Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him.”

Feeling compassions for the fellow human beings and creations is what defines us as human. Saddam is alleged to have committed atrocious brutality, murders and torture on countless Iraqis, Iranians and Kuwaitis. He must be accountable for his crime. And it is the fair and impartial justice system, either in occupation-free democratic Iraq or other court with international participation that can impose the unbiased justice he deserves.

The allegations against Saddam are gravely serious. “According to Galbraith, who has helped document the deposed dictator's brutality against his own people, estimates are that Saddam's regime slaughtered as many as 180,000 Kurds in the late 1980s, that it killed another 300,000 Shi'ites in the aftermath of their 1991 uprising, that as many as 50,000 marsh Arabs perished, and that another 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqis have been executed under Saddam.” [1]

And his invasion of Iran, widely supported by U.S., U.K. and other Western nations, killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians and hundreds of thousands of more Iraqis in a bloody protracted war.

Donald Rumsfeld even flew to Iraq to meet the “statesman” and “friendly” Saddam in December of 1983, to provide American continuing support for Saddam’s murderous war against the Iranians, and to discuss a lucrative oil pipeline. Rumsfeld was also carrying an important letter from then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in which Israel’s offer of arms sell to the tyrant was proposed in the cozy palace of Saddam.

History is brutal and to the point. Bush’s neo-pundits always try to remind the rest of the world that without the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. But this is also true that without the CIA intervention in the decade of 1960s, this two-bit tyrant would have never become the monster he had become.

There are clear problems in holding Saddam’s trial in occupied Iraq due to the lack of trained forensic and judicial experts from Iraqi populace with necessary experiences. Also, it would be another idiotic blunder by the Bush Administration if Saddam’s trial becomes tainted with any farcical judicial process serving the interests of his cronies only.

Saddam is widely perceived as a murderous criminal, but like every other human beings, he deserves a fair trial as the Ex-Yugoslavia’s premier the notorious Milosevic is receiving in Hague.

The U.S. Congressman McDermott raised question on curious timing of Saddam’s capture. He said, “There's too much by happenstance for it to be just a coincidental thing."

His overpowering chuckles, when asked whether Saddam’s capture was timed to help Bush’s reelection campaign, were sounded, “Yeah. Oh, yeah."

McDermott deduces that the Bush Administration knew Saddam’s whereabouts all along. And “It's funny, when [the Bush administration is] having all this trouble, suddenly they have to roll out something."

There is indeed too much “happenstances” quite nerve wrecking.

The news of profiteering by the mighty U.S. corporations were taking the central stage, and there were clear discontents among the various U.S. allies for shutting out Iraq reconstruction contracts (spoils of war?) and distributing them among the war participants only.

The popular anti-war Presidential candidate Howard Dean was making inroad in his campaign, had received the all valuable endorsement from Al Gore who was arguably defeated in a questionable election 2000, and announced that Dean would be giving a major Foreign Policy speech.

American installed the new Iraqi Governing council has set up a special court only last week.

All these happened just past few days before Saddam’s celebrated arrest.

Saddam’s “timely” capture and subsequent portrayal of his Taliban like bearded face, with messy hair caved in a “rat-hole”, sent a designed signal to the gullible citizenry that Saddam was indeed a dirty dictator. It tried to boost the unfounded Bush message that Saddam’s regime was connected with the September 11 terrorist attack against the U.S.

Madeleine Albright, the Clinton era’s Secretary of State was musing, just like McDermott did, “'Do you suppose that the Bush administration has Usama bin Laden hidden away somewhere and will bring him out before the election?”

Perhaps it is a bit far-fetched comment that is not expected from the stature of Ms. Albright. But is it really? Wouldn’t it be nice and dandy for the Bush Administration to present the scraggy and bearded Laden in another hole filled with rats just before the election?

Good-bye Dr. Dean. The other Bush like pro-war Democrats were all over the anti-war candidate with “the television advert, aired in the crucial primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, mingles sinister music, a close-up of Osama bin Laden's eyes, and a series of slogans flashed up on the screen: Dangerous World, Destroy Us, Dangers Ahead, No Experience.” [2]

The conservative columnist Matt Drudge has begun the Dean smearing campaign in his recent articles by alleging MoveOn.org and other similar websites those are campaigning for Dean and other Democrats to have foreign contributions and memberships. He is furious that organizations in other nations are setting up websites for the sole purpose of defeating Bush in the next American Presidential election in 2004.

Even George Soros, the billionaire businessman who has pledged millions of dollar in defeating Bush, has come under sharp attacks from the conservative groups who are screaming and describing him as morally bankrupt due to his atheistic and liberal leaning.

Hmm! The conservatives are so morally upright!

While Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Rush Limbaugh are fuming their bigotry filled venoms against minority and especially are engaged in their “divine crusades” against Muslims, could “moral uprightness” be learned from these chauvinism filled men?

And what’s so wrong in setting up websites in foreign lands for campaigning against Bush? While the fanciful preemptive wars and punishments by trade and other monetary means are cheerfully conducted by the current Bush Administration to punish the “enemy”, and causing unfathomable sufferings and deaths for the millions and millions of world citizens who are not Americans, then why the “non-Americans” cannot campaign against Bush and neo-pundits?

In the elation of apprehending and parading “Saddam the monster”, pushed aside are the facts that the Iraq war was not conducted with the sole premise of capturing the beast. It was forced down the citizenry’s throat as the war that was vital to counter immediate threat posed by Saddam’s all too frightening weapons of mass destruction.

The Niger Uranium preposterous connection was shoved; murmurs of the villainous Atta’s supposed meeting with Iraqi agents or the notorious Hezbollah leader Abu Nidal in Baghdad or in other European cities, etc. were widely publicized through the in-bedded media.

All these fanciful claims have been proven utterly falsified, and in some cases, questions have been raised on manufacturing evidences and stealing from University student’s term or research paper.

After the Iraq war, this world has not become a safer place as Bush and his neo-conservative pumped theologians try to say in every occasion they have in all pervasive media.

In Afghanistan, Bush’s first battle ground against “terrorism”, the “defeated” Talibans and war lords are reported to have re-grown their previously shaved beard and resurfaced and controlling most of the country while the puppet Karzai cannot even trust his fellow Afghanis as his bodyguards.

The seething anger that Bush’s unprovoked preemptive war created among the world Muslim citizenry along with other disadvantaged populace of various backgrounds is unprecedented in American history. And murderous Osama Bin Laden and his notorious Al Qaeda and supporting terrorist groups have utilized Bush’s blunder after blunder in overflowing recruiting and financing for their world wide terrorist network.

In Iraq, the resistance to US occupation has evolved beyond the old Baathist regime’s hold. The Baathist would surely be frustrated from Saddam’s demoralizing capture, but there would possibly be more recruitment in anti-coalition insurgents now that the widely disliked Saddam is caged so the war could be raised without seeing sympathetic to the tyrant.

George W. Bush said, “The world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam Hussein. I find it very interesting that when the heat got on, you dug yourself a hole and you crawled in it.”

This type of arrogant message is not quite unexpected from Bush. He had done similar blunders before. One can certainly reminisce his infamous invoking of crusade just aftermath of September 11, 2003. While the entire world was watching, Bush’s arrogant filled word, like a high-strung school kid, without trying to bridge the severed rift, would surely enrage many.

Americans are seemed to be puzzled by: Why do they hate us? Do the terrorists hate America because of its overwhelming wealth and freedom? Do the terrorists use the image of neat and trim, the picturesque American landscape in their recruitment campaigns?

No. It is the overpowering domination backed by stupefied arrogance while subjugating the billions in utter humiliation that is the winning scoring point for Laden Incorporated.

Michael Sky writes: “"Why do they hate us?" the most dominant nation in history has been asking since 9/11. Not because of our freedom, despite the fatuous repetitions of Misleader. Nor because of their poverty—as evidenced by the many terrorists who come from well-to-do families, and from the millions of impoverished people worldwide who never resort to terrorism. They hate us because of generations of constant humiliation. They hate us because, as children, they watched their parents forced to their knees, taken away in handcuffs, gunned down in their houses, because, as children, they've stood on the wrong side of barbed-wire fences, barred from the easy streets on the other side. They hate us because their daily lives can feel so miserably small compared to the Hollywood world on their television screens. They hate us because they've spent too many long nights, shivering in the awful dark, our bombs raining down from the heavens. They dislike us because we beat them every time it matters, our armies always stronger, our wallets always fatter, but they hate us because, when the battle's over, we insist on humiliation. They hate us because, at the moment of their defeat, the most powerful man in the world acts like a six-year-old bully.” [3]

A six-year-old bully shall not defeat terrorism.

It would take maturity and clear vision that the current American leadership is clearly lacking of. It would take genuine outreaching effort in lifting the overwhelming feelings of humiliation from the heavy hearts of billions before peace returns on earth.

Perhaps, it would take the entire world mimicking in central Texan accent: “Good riddance of tyrants and bullies”.


References

1. Scot Lehigh, “Prosecution of Saddam Must Be Beyond Reproach”, The Boston Globe, December 17, 2003.

2. Andrew Gumbel, “Attempts to Smear Howard Dean Grow Uglier”, The New Zealand Herald, December 17, 2003.

3. Michael Sky, “Domination by Humiliation”, Common Dreams, December 17, 2003.



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Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. His email address is: sohelkarim@yahoo.com.


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