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Lose faith in the elites

People who simp for billionaires and millionaires get my goat.

Ultra elites run the world. For these ultra elites most of us humans-most poor, struggling, desperate, hand-to-mouth, laboring people–are not fully real.

With tools like relentless coverage, capitalism works to personalize the elites & their economic interests, so we are invested in them. We wear their brands and we “love” Kate and William and we are fans of Musk and Zuckerberg. Billionaires like Musk and Zuckerberg (with armies of simps) have “personalities” constructed by PR teams.

Why do people “love” the powerful, when they do not love us back?

Power elites, showbiz celebrities, politicians, royals- they are not like you and me, and they know it. We’re not real to them. These elites do not live our lives, in our buses and trains, in our neighborhoods, on our paychecks. Regular people are not REAL to them. So why would they care about the poor, the hungry, the paycheck to paycheck middle class? People are pictures in a book to them.

They do not rub shoulders with us. They spend their lives in isolation from us, strategizing how to best preserve that distance from regular people.

They aren’t strategizing how to spread the benefits of wealth and power; they are working out how best to preserve their privilege from the hungry masses.

So then what arguments/incentives will persuade the wealthy to pass measures that benefit a population of ghosts? We need to lose faith, en masse in the power and wealth elites. There is no other way.

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Islamic Neo-Traditionalism

I am always in search of analytic content on Islam 1960s-the present. I guess I am looking for people to do historical record-keeping and analysis of the events I have seen, the religious shifts I have witnessed in my life, as I traveled from Pakistan to the West.

This podcast is an excellent conversation. Dr. Walaa Quisay specializes in Muslim Neo-Traditionalism (especially AH Murad, Umar Farooq Abdullah, and Hamza Yusuf).

The conversation touches upon Neo-Traditionalist nostalgia and disenchantment from modernity, which inspires conservatism (especially on gender).

Neo-Traditionalist Muslims bash Leftists for being Utopian – you know, because apparently it’s not ‘religious’ to seek justice for the oppressed in this world, even though the Qur’an tells you to. Yet all Neo-Traditionalist thought relies on the past as the Utopia which we know it never was. They use the past as reference point to the point of total compartmentalization from the present – Dr. Quisay also discusses compartmentalization, in terms of rihlas and retreats where neo-Traditionalists seek to find a refuge from the polluted present. In 2006 I tried to process my observations of this phenomenon in this article.

Dr. Quisay addresses the political aspect of Neo-Traditionalist Muslim religiosity – the avoidance of any power critique. To such Neo-Traditonalists as Hamza Yusuf, engaging in power critiques or indeed any engagement with politics reflects an unseemly interest in worldly affairs. (I am not sure they are Neo-Traditionalists but the Tablighi Jamaat apolitical approach is a good illustration of this). Hamza Yusuf’s support of the Gulf autocracies reflects his approach. Power structures support stability, and in stability can a pacifistic compartmentalized spiritual life be pursued. Moreover, to them, injustice is merely a Divine test to be endured, not to be fought.

I have observed with dismay Neo-Traditionalists seek worse and worse alliances – with “family values” (anti-gay and anti-abortion) Christians, Republicans, and as time passed, now with anti-Black White nationalist misogynists and incels. They seem to seek a nostalgic Western past, and harmony with Western states. In the case of AH Murad, he has criticized South Asian Muslim immigrants for their “non-spiritual” immigration and goals. So Neo-Traditionalists have urged Muslim immigrants to find allies among “traditional” Christians.

The Neo-Traditionalist approach to Islam has been gaining inroads since the 1990s at least. Many of its new adherents have little spiritual interest but are fleshing out an implicit racial, gender, political conservative/right-wing orientation, in the guise of a vaguely Islamicate approach. (Consider the Mad Mamluks and suchlike).

All of this makes Dr. Quisay’s work very timely. The Neo-Traditionalist orientation to me is not benign but actively harmful, so understanding it is extremely important.

PS: Neo-Traditionalist is not “traditional.” I don’t have time to define it, but the above discussion and the podcast will help.

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“And as for the grace of your Sustainer, proclaim it!”

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Calligraphy by Everitte Barbee

After many weeks of anguish, I had a spark of success with my writing and with my health today ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ

“By the morning brightness
and by the night when it grows still,
your Sustainer has not forsaken you nor does He hate you.
And the future will be better for you than the past.
Soon your Sustainer will give you so you shall be well-pleased.
Did He not find you an orphan and shelter you?
Did He not find you wandering and guide you?
Did He not find you in need and make you self-sufficient?
So be not harsh with the orphan
And do not chide the one who asks for help;
And as for the grace of your Sustainer, proclaim it!”

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Americans and Israel

I’m fascinated by the uniquely American investment in an ignorance of Israeli realities. It’s a decades-old sophisticated mind-fu**, composed of these ideas:

1. A notion that Israel is benevolent, innocent, victimized, modern, and “like us”
2. A notion that Israel’s “opponents” (not targets!) Palestinians are not benevolent, innocent, victimized, modern.
3. An idea that a nuanced view of the “crisis” is to say “it’s nobody’s and everybody’s fault” therefore, let’s put a pin in it.
4. A mistaken impression that we (Americans) know so much about Israel via our cable news mind-fu** that there is nothing new to know. Also, we’re so sick of it that we don’t want to hear another word about it, especially not from the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine whom OUR TAX DOLLARS have helped dispossess, and continually do so, which is why this ethnic cleansing continues on and on and on. And Americans roll their eyes, as if Palestinians have purposefully created their own ethnic cleansing to inconvenience us.

Another important piece of the mind-fu** is liberalism. Let’s just get along! Everyone is the same everywhere! People are nice! People just want to get along! If individuals can get along, nothing else matters! Stop talking about genocide, it just makes everything so serious! Calm down, relax, let’s have a burger together. Or a committee meeting!

From otherwise intelligent Americans I hear, in the same breath, both “well, it’s not my place to speak” as well as “it’s not ethnic cleansing, it’s just a little miscommunication, and ancient hatred.”

It is IMPOSSIBLE to deal with this level of intransigence, while Americans roll their eyes, as if Palestinians have purposefully created their own ethnic cleansing JUST to inconvenience us.

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grief in a vacuum

Abdul Sattar Edhi's soyem held in Karachi - Pakistan - Dunya News
Abdul Sattar Edhi’s soyem, via Dunya

When I lived in Pakistan, – or shall I say, when I was a Pakistani? – I had mixed feelings about family.

As a young person, family – and I mean, extended family, as in, kin networks – were all about duty. Birth, death, marriage, summer vacation – you visited family. You brought mitthai, or you brought mangoes, or fruit, or clothes. You gave up your room or your bed, so relatives could be comfortable. I thought, as a kid, family were fun but they could cramp your style.

When I left Pakistan, I realized what I had lost.

Yesterday, my dear cousin-brother died of liver cancer in Lahore.

He was a dignified, private man, and did not share his diagnosis widely. It was therefore a shock to me, but I respect his wishes.

Suddenly, he was gone. Suddenly, all my plans – I’ll make time to whatsapp with him and his family – fell through.

I grieve him from afar, talk to his daughter on whatsapp, talk to my mother on the phone. We sigh over our submission to the will of God. We are all returning to God, today or tomorrow.

I have no janazah to attend. No one to weep with. No one to tell stories about how funny, or how strong, or how devout he was, what a humanitarian he was.

My mind loops, flashing to me at 13, at his wedding; or me as a kid when he had a big accident; or how he would visit our home whenever we had any trouble, and support our family.

I’ve lost a brother.

I am not grounded. If I had people who were doing this, grieving, just being sad, together, it would be real.

I feel like I’m on the moon. I’m in a vacuum.

I miss rituals of mourning. The women step in, white bedsheets are spread on the floor. Each grabs a bunch of date-seeds, and starts to recite la ilaha illallah or ayat-kareema over them, using them to keep count. Or they pick up a sipara, and start to recite. We look up to acknowledge each other. We know, silently, that we are all gathered for a beloved that has departed but whose love is shared by us all.

A quiet whisper of recitation continues.

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20 years ago

Twenty years ago, spouse and I were having the usual adjustment difficulties of newlyweds. Squabbling, sniping, maneuvering for power, trying to find agreement – I’m sure you’ve all seen it and had it too.

One day, I saw him do something–and it told me to have faith, that despite his many flaws haha, he has a true heart of gold.

So one evening, he returned from work. And it was a long commute (you know the Beltway and DC), and I was always dissatisfied with how late he’d return home.

This time, he returned home — with an elderly Dominican woman in his car 🤨

Turns out, he’d seen this old woman standing outside a Starbucks, confused, in the dark and cold, with her baggage. She’d just flown in from the Dominican Republic that evening. Her daughter lived in the area, but was maybe late picking her up at the airport.

“I got tired of waiting,” she said. The elderly woman took a cab and set off. She did not have her daughter’s address. She was more than a little senile.

The cab driver had given up on her, and dropped her at the cafe.

I was stressed and irritated about the situation. You just picked this woman up? What are we supposed to do for her? She can’t even give information about her family, her address, anything.

We tried to extract info from her. We were unsuccessful. She had nothing helpful. Maybe she lived in a small town, where just to know the neighborhood’s name was sufficient.

I’m ashamed to say that I was a bit impatient with her.

Spouse was not.

He was gentle, kind, patient. Spoke to her respectfully. Worried for her. “I couldn’t just leave her there.” If she’d been left there that day, she could’ve ended up one of the many unhoused, or dead.

Eventually I said, “Let’s go back to the airport. Perhaps her daughter is still waiting there. Slim chance. Let’s see.”

So we went back to National Airport. I asked the nice people at the Information Desk, and they got the woman to make an announcement using the mic and speaker.

Thank God, HER DAUGHTER WALKED UP TO HER.

They were reunited. We returned home.

I thought to myself many times afterward: he picked up that random, strange, senile woman, and treated her like a lost treasure. I really don’t know that I would’ve done the same.

And I thought: when I am a random, weird, senile, weak woman, he will treasure me TOO!! So hold on to this one!

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Massacre politics

After every mass shooting, Americans get ready for the shooter’s identity. White guy? Muslim guy? Muslim Black guy? Latinx migrant? Mixed-race? How mixed? Who gets to lord it over the others?

Guess what all of them have in common though … guns.

As Nina Paley shows in ‘This Land is Mine,’ various warriors fight each other for land and power. But at the end only death lords it over us all.

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Don’t tell us to “raise strong girls.” Raise boys who won’t kill them.

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25 Parenting Books About Raising Mighty Girls | A Mighty Girl

They exhort us to raise strong girls, —but not so much to raise gentle, emotionally healthy, non-harmful- boys. What, after all, are we raising girls strong for? -incel violence and toxic masculinity?!

Quit burdening girls with everything. I’m so tired of this irresponsible over-emphasis.

What is the point of raising girls to break barriers, to pursue their dreams, to get educated, to re-make the world – when boys think a father’s job is just to “babysit” their children? When they can’t find their way around the kitchen? And men and boys are so “bad at” domestic things you have to do it for them?

Listen, you get your Phd, your MD, your dream project — and you discover that if you want love, personal happiness, family stability, all those things in heteropartriarchy, you have to let success fall through your shaking fingers — Oh, and you had better not complain about it either, or you’ll be lonely and bitter.

If people keep raising boys the way they do, I understand why some people — not I — teaching girls how to disguise their strength as soft weakness.

Are girls supposed to fix broken boys? violent, filled with toxic masculinity and resentment? That’s part of the the theory behind co-education, right? that girls will help boys become “gentlemen?” Well, my daughter is not your son’s jungle gym. Fix him on your own time.

The raising of strong daughters is out of touch with cultures. You don’t make something that won’t work in its environment. Develop the environment. At least make a serious effort. I don’t see this happening almost at all.

Every celebrity has to do a whole “girls are amazing,” “girls can do anything,” “raise strong girls” campaign. Where are the campaigns to raise humane boys, emotionally intelligent boys? programs to develop boys’ psychological health?

There’s no market for those campaigns is there? There’s a desperate need, but nobody is running them because they don’t win any popularity contests that way.

So stop telling me and my sisters and our daughters to be strong. We were always strong. Fix your boys. Fix your men. End patriarchy.

The damage of this world has the signature of masculinity all over it.

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Stop Anti Asian Hate Crimes

Anti-Asian Hate Crimes include state-sanctioned, decades-long domestic & international violence against Asians, militarization, that destroys societies, life expectancy, life quality, opportunities for generations AND drives Asians abroad where they struggle to survive in low-income work.

Includes resource stripping, deforestation, climate devastation that results in climate extremes -> widespread death economic exploitation of low-income countries by corporations & their sweatshops arms sales to authoritarian governments-> human rights violations & death.

The creation of poverty, refugees, immigrants, and inequality.

Remember Asia is a big place, with a huge colonizer footprint. Consider all those footprints — Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Georgia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, N Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi, Singapore, S Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen –

Count all the hate crimes, not just individual shooters.

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Pepperidge Farm cake

Oh, about 20+ years ago, I was at a party with a wealthy Pakistani American family. They served a lot of food, and I was a hungry graduate student. A hungry graduate student short of money, and with poor cooking skills.

There was cake.

I sampled it. It was glorious. Amazing. Delicious. I hadn’t eaten much in a bit.

“That cake is outstanding!” I gushed.

“Huh?” The hostess auntie said quizzically. “What cake is she talking about?”

The wealthy auntie’s wealthy daughter shrugged impatiently and made a wry face. “Er – just Pepperidge Farm.” Her face assessed me, clearly evaluated me and my delight over a grocery store cake.