Pankaj Mishra, Basharat Peer and Arif Lohar
I have been unusually busy at work, so less time to spend on postings (but still more than Brother Zachary who seems really caught up in his presentation). But to make up for it, here are a few random thoughts for Monday:
1. Postcolonial rant of the day. I saw a piece by Basharat Peer …boilerplate “india not shining”, aimed at Westerners and Westernized (left-liberal-westernized, not the other type) Indians and apparently finding its mark, since “Foreign Affairs” leapt to publish it.
And another by Pankaj Mishra (boilerplate “Pakistan not as sick as X imaginary Western reporters think it is”) that made me wonder why these two well educated people are so confused about what they want (never mind what is actually happening, they are confused even about what they want to see happening)? Basharat is unhappy that India has not progressed to Chinese or American levels but is also very unhappy with the idea of capitalist progress in India (thats not exactly what he said, but then again, what exactly DID he say?). Pankaj bhayya goes one step further. He wants to tell his readers that reports that Pakistan is failing to become modern/capitalist are exaggerated..that in fact, things are not as bad as they are said to be and business is booming and much capital is being made, only not in the above-ground economy. Does he mean capitalism is OK when its truly unregulated and undocumented? Who woulda thunk Pankaj Bhaiya was such a hardcore libertarian?
When I mentioned this to a friend who knows a thing or two, he pointed to a fact not frequently remarked upon: that Pakistan (and India?) are facing a double whammy when it comes to 20th century development (more food and clothes and toys, not the grand spiritual elevation of which we easterners are rightly proud); Take Pakistan. 53% of the modestly educated have fallen into the Islamist cul-de-sac (and more on the way, apparently the BS has not yet peaked) and 53% of the highly educated have gone to Gayatri Spivak without passing through basic engineering, science or economics. Compare that to the 1.23% of Chinese and 0.5% of Korean University graduates who fell into either valley and you get an idea of why Koreans make most of the world’s semiconductors and we produce Pankaj Mishra.
I know, semiconductors are not people. And its crass to talk about food and clothes and shelter as if they matter more than social harmony and the Juche ideal, And lest we forget, 55 million people died in world war two and Fracking causes something bad to happen….. but this is a rant and there it is. I have neither the time nor the inclination to try and dissect the articles. Individual bits of information are true. The frame is either missing or “not even wrong”. The aim seems completely confused.
Why do I pick on these well intentioned, well read and above all, harmless people? especially when i have never really read their teachers in any deail? (I somehow cannot avoid reading them..every well meaning Western intellectual forwards their latest article)?
Because I think my friend is on to something. Allama Iqbal may have snagged many modestly educated Pakistanis and thrown them into confusion with his poetic descriptions of the golden age when Muslims were men and ruled the world, but the highly educated need more refined bullcrap and Panjaj Mishra and friends are there to provide it. What if this is not harmless? What if there is an opportunity cost involved? Some of their readers and fans actually make decisions that effect people in Pakistan and India. Direct enough people into this postcolonial swamp and it wont just be the idle rich who get lost. People who could have done something useful may get sucked in too. Pretty soon you have real lost opportunity on your hands.
Contrary opinions welcome.
On a happier note, Arif Lohar, son of Alam Lohar (fr0m our very own district of Gujrat and with a physiognomy to match..completely Punjabi if there is any such thing) performed at the Asia society and all the lucky attendees seem to have loved it.
And finally, When Einstein met Tagore..
Courtesy: Brown Pundits
via – Twitter