|The Pulping of Wendy Doniger's Book|
|Wednesday, February 12, 2014|
Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus An Alternative History
(2009), is an almost unbelievably obtuse work of 700+ pages. After a first read-skim in 2009, I summed it up thus: “A work equaled in its confusion, incomprehension and malice perhaps only by John Mills’ History and Katherine Mayo’s Mother India. “
I noted one passage in particular as exemplifying the author's overall attitude and approach; on page 294, explaining the beginnings of the story of the Mahabharata
, she writes:
“Where Rama and his brothers have different mothers and different wives but share both a single human father and a single divine father, the five Pandavas
have one mother (and one wife) and one human father but different divine fathers.
“In this disastrous levirate, two wives give birth to three sons (two of whom have, for great-grandparents, a female fish, two Brahmins, and five kshatriyas, while the third has a Kshatriya, a female fish, two Brahmins and four slaves. Are you still with me?)”
Doniger's writing ensures that the reader has no chance to be “with” her, and most could be forgiven for thinking the Mahabharata
is a freak show. Nowhere in the book does she assay the enormous wisdom of the epic or tell of its central role in shaping India.
Can we imagine any respectable scholarly work dealing with the New Testament
or the Koran
in this manner?
That is not the only reason for complaint.
Doniger is a professor of Sanskrit untrained in history or theology; all her knowledge of Hinduism is a sort of accidental accretion upon a vulgar, highly sexualized sensibility.
That explains why her naive measure of Hinduism never departs from the standard of her own Judeo-Christian heritage.
On page 25 she explains earnestly, “There is no single founder or institution to enforce any single construction of the tradition, to rule on what is or is not a Hindu idea or to draw the line when someone finally goes too far and transgresses the unspoken boundaries of reinterpretation. Ideas about all the major issues – vegetarianism, nonviolence, even caste itself – are subjects of a debate, not a dogma. There is no Hindu canon. The books that Euro-Americans privileged (such as the Bhagavad Gita), were not always so highly regarded by ‘all Hindus,’ certainly not before the Euro-Americans began to praise them.”
She thinks vegetarianism, nonviolence and caste are the "major issues" of Hinduism?! And even more nonsensical is the observation about the Gita
. Similar absurdities litter almost every one of the 692 pages of the main text.
From the Hindu tendency to debate all things about their faith, Doniger deduces that “there is no such thing as Hinduism in the sense of a single unified religion…” The whole book is an extended argument of the well-worked colonial theme that Hinduism does not exist.
She seems oblivious to the fact that it is not a virtue in a religion to be "single" and "unified," for their inevitable corollaries are Inquisitions, fundamentalisms and wars. Hinduism is undefinable because it is focused on that most overweening of all realities, God.(See here
for a series on Hinduism.)
Many other errors and falsifications are picayune. Chapter 21 takes us on a "fast gallop" over the "two centuries during which India was part of the British Empire."
Now which two centuries would that be?
Bengal fell to the British in 1757. Over the next 100 years British rule expanded slowly across the country; Punjab was taken in 1849. Then came the earthshaking events of 1857. After that their rule lasted 90 years. It would be accurate to say that bits and pieces of India were under British rule for a two-century period; overall, some 3/5ths of the country was part of it for half that time.
On page 574 she highlights the "Black Hole of Calcutta" as causing "dozens of deaths," and a few pages later, gives details, drastically lowering the number of British prisoners (146) that imperial propagandists had reported held in a dungeon under inhuman conditions, killing 123.
The story of the Black Hole was originally cooked up six months after the supposed atrocity by the head Calcutta honcho of the East India Company
as he sailed back to Britain. His motive was to justify the aggression that brought Bengal under British rule, and it worked like a charm; no one in London thought of questioning how 146 Englishmen (and one woman) could possibly have fit in a cell 18 feet by 14.
It is a mystery why Doniger reprised the story in 2009 as if were true and falsified figures to make it seem believable.
But it does put the book in context and explain its dedication to British propagandist William Dalrymple, “inspiration and comrade in the good fight.”
I am sorry to see any book destroyed, but cannot join in the general censure of Penguin India
. Its editors should have seen this coming a long way off and imposed a minimum of quality control.
|Has Ambekar "Beaten Gandhi Hollow"?|
|Monday, February 10, 2014|
The dishonesties of newspaper columnists are usually petty and insignificant, but not so with Swaminathan Aiyar's assault on the Mahatma in the Times of India
on 9 February; it is a very large attack on the truth.
Its first sentence claims that: "January 30, the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, drove home the growing irrelevance of the father of the nation."
Why, Trinamool cabinet ministers in Calcutta did not attend the official ceremonies on the occasion, and the Mayor of Mumbai forgot too. Also, a "newspaper poll some years ago," showed "two-thirds of all voters thought that Sonia Gandhi was related to Mahatma Gandhi."
This is very weak tea and Aiyar moves quickly to a new brew: he claims Bhimrao Ambedkar "has posthumously beaten the Mahatma hollow."
He does not explain how that contest was arranged. Perhaps the statement that Ambedkar is "the icon of all dalits" is a gesture in that direction. For some reason, Aiyar seems to disregard the millions of us non-dalits who also consider Babasaheb iconic; not to mention the hundreds of millions who consider both men heroes.
But all this is preliminary throat-clearing; Aiyar's main theme is Ambedkar's opposition to Gandhi's idea that India should be composed of self-ruling villages. He quotes Ambedkar's rejection of panchayat raj in the Bombay Legislative Council
on the grounds that a “population which is hidebound by caste ... infected by ancient prejudices ... flouts equality of status and is dominated by notions of gradations in life" cannot "be expected to have the right notions even to discharge bare justice.”
That view "continues to ring true eight decades later," Aiyar declares. As evidence of village-level infamy he points to the "mass killing of Muslims in Muzaffarnagar; the regressive "khap panchayats" in Haryana and Punjab; the recent West Bengal khap panchayat that ordered gang rape of a woman with a Muslim lover; the 2012 arson in a Tamil Nadu village after a dalit boy eloped with a Vanniyar girl; and, in the same state, the "several cases" of intimidation that kept dalits from occupying reserved panchayat seats.
That is still a very weak case against Panchayat Raj, and to shore it up Aiyar throws in a reference to World Bank "research" confirming
that "the world over, central governments tend to be far more egalitarian and secular in outlook than villages." He adds: "What Ambedkar said of hidebound villages is a global truth."
As a student of the Bank
's research output for over four decades, I find it a bit hard to believe that it produced that definitive hold-all finding. I could be wrong, but it sounds more like something out of an Oxfam
brochure or, at a stretch, a Human Development Report
If Aiyar had looked closer home he would have found that the actual Indian experience with Panchayati Raj has been overwhelmingly positive.
Things got off to a slow start because Ambedkar's fears were widely shared. Parliament took 40 years to enact constitutional provisions into law and enable a system of directly elected bodies with quotas for women and Scheduled Castes/Tribes; and in the early years funding was limited and progress slowed by a corrupt nexus of conservative bureaucrats and caste leaders threatened by democracy.
However, by the beginning of the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012), there were some 250,000 elected village-level bodies, with 3.2 million elected members, over a third of them women.
By then, their functioning had finally won the confidence of the Planning Commission. It increased funding 471 percent to Rs.775 crores (approximately $168 million), noting that although achievements in the past had not been commensurate with expenditures, the Panchayat system had proved to be a laboratory “of multi-level pluralist democracy, facilitating the achievements of consensus on development issues at the lowest level of government."
Experience had shown that at “the local level, groups learn to co-exist, cooperate, negotiate and arrive at acceptable decisions and even marginalized groups can gain confidence and move on from token participation to higher forms of direct social action for the collective good."
The realization of the effectiveness of Panchayat Raj has not led to any rethinking of the main thrust of Indian economic development. It has continued in the 12th Five Year Plan (2013 -2018) towards industrialization, with tall talk of "corridors" for manufacturing across the length and breadth of the country.
This points to a basic disconnect at the highest levels of Indian policy-making, and it should make ordinary Indians extremely anxious, for it shows that our leaders still think of "development" purely in terms of GDP growth and not the welfare of the people. Consider the following facts:
- India is tooling itself to fit into a world economy that is in a state of terminal crisis.
- It is making itself part of patterns of global production and exchange that are killing the life-sustaining systems of the planet.
- In the process, it is destroying the basis for Indian productivity, both by unbalancing the complex patterns of social and ecological interdependence in the countryside and by paving over rich farmland for luxury housing and shopping malls.
- The result is an ever more obscene gap between the ultra-rich and everyone else: the net worth of India's billionaires increased 12-fold in 15 years. As IMF chief Christine Lagarde noted recently, that money could have eliminated poverty in the country -- twice over.
- There is massive proof, made concrete in China, that rapid industrialization will cause a whole slew of new problems, including massive despoliation of air, land and water, and a huge new burden of environment-related illnesses, especially cancer.
- The more we industrialize, the sharper we will feel international pressures through manipulated energy prices and rigged currency markets.
Mahatma Gandhi's advice that India should seek to revive its villages as the means of advance was not some idealistic pipedream. He knew Indian ground realities better than any other politician of his generation or since; what he proposed would have brought growth where it mattered most, to the poor.
As things stand, if India is to survive with its traditions intact, we have no alternative but village-based development.
|Is Satya Nadella's Success a Slap at India?|
|Sunday, February 9, 2014|
Amidst the general Indian celebration of Satya Nadella’s ascent to the top of Microsoft
R. Jagganathan, Chief Editor of First Post
, has put out a classic piece of feel-bad journalism.
He thinks it is a “slap in the face” for India because Nadella succeeded not here but in another country.
He thinks if “Satya Nadella had remained in India, he would probably be working as a coder in Infosys
. Earning a high salary no doubt, but an unlikely candidate for CEO.”
Between the headline and that final indictment comes a relentless flow of negative observations about Indians.
No Indian science Nobel laureate since independence is a citizen of the country. We “kill future heroes.” Only one per cent of applicants get into IITS and IIMs because “our system is designed to keep people out, not get them in.” It is because only “superlisters” get into those institutions that they “shine no matter what the quality of faculty or the curriculum.”
That exclusivity “comes from our caste system, where castes try and keep others out.” India “encourages talkers rather than doers.” That makes us "obstructionist rather than problem solvers. Our politics is about name-calling and running others down, not about doing something yourself.”
We do have "rare achievers" like Election Commissioner TN Seshan, CAG head Vinod Rai and Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan, and we celebrate them "so highly” but call them “dictators.” That shows we “prefer autocratic rulers rather than democratic ones.”
“We are risk-avoiders rather than risk takers.” That is why “when our kids want to become artists or cricketers, we tell them to forget it and study for IIT-JEE or CAT, never mind your own passion.”
“We celebrate mediocrity … Our system kills initiative… Our successes are more the result of accident than real effort.”
Two things are obvious from this obtuse, self-hating flow of calumny.
The first is that it comes from a man who obviously has never personally achieved anything real -- he could not dismiss success so lightly if he had.
The second is that Jagannathan is deeply dishonest in ignoring what is undoubtedly the most corrupt, imitative and third-rate area of our national life, the “elite” mass media.
The criticisms he makes are meretricious. As I have pointed out in an earlier response
to feel-bad journalism, India is hardly lacking in homegrown successes.
What we lack is a media establishment capable of seeing and celebrating the great positive elements in Indian society that have allowed us to maintain our independence, democracy and traditions through a period of stress and danger unprecedented in history.
Those qualities are not abstract. They are the daily realities of hundreds of millions of individual Indian lives, endurance, ceaseless effort, equanimity in the face of high risk, love of family and a clarifying sense of the sacred rooted in ancient history but perennially renewed.
When combined with professional skill and high intelligence, it makes for a Satya Nadella.
To see the lack of similar success for many with shared qualities in India as a slap in the face of an anonymous "system" is typical of our deracinated "elite" media. It is based on the stupid and dangerous presumption that our society can and should be an imitation of the United States.
I have split my life in almost equal halves between the two countries and know they are fundamentally different.
The United States is the most modern of social experiments, founded in a written constitution just past its 225th anniversary (2012). It has been a work in progress, evolving towards the ideals of human freedom and democratic governance until the Ismay-Churchill
coup of 1946 empowered an unconstitutional "military-industrial" establishment. With Edward Snowden
the fight to regain constitutional America has been joined, and it will unquestionably be won.
India is a society that has evolved
for many thousands of years, its castes rooted in tribes that unified under the philosophical recognition of a common sacred reality. It has seen many ups and downs over the millenniums, and is now in a period of renaissance that Guru Nanak
set in motion over five centuries ago. That upsurge won Indian political independence but has not yet returned our society to its ancient capacity for original thought and social adaptation.
Although the Indian Constitution borrowed heavily from the American, the challenges we face are far more complex than in the United States. While seeking the same democratic life we must move the whole complex apparatus of our ancient society without permanent injury to the many groups unable at present to defend their own interests.
That is what makes India "inefficient" in Western eyes; it is what offends the murky interests behind Narendra Modi; it is the reality that the bought and sold analysts of our "elite" media do not see.
Unless we have inspired political leadership, the current situation will lead to violence, for there is a great deal of unscrupulous greed closing in on India. An example is the Essar Group
(the Ruia brothers, whose initials, S and R make up their corporate name); its "BPO unit" in the United States is staffed predominantly with American servicemen
who could at some point generate a Blackwater
type private army. Some years ago, an Essar employee was caught with money for Naxalites, and before that, the corporation helped insert Vodafone
into the Indian market using black money and avoiding taxes. Clearly, the brothers let very little stand in the way of making money.
If the so-called radicals and corporate mercenaries engage in an escalating conflict India could easily end up like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a variety of militias fighting endlessly for turf as corporations steal our resources and ruin our society.
Jagannathan and his tribe will probably see that as a necessary step to "development."
The relevance of his ideas to a world in crisis
|A century after Mahatma Gandhi wrote his seminal work Hind Swaraj, we make the case that his ideas and concepts offer the only means of escaping the disasters that are shaping up as industrial civilization careens towards its terminal crises. The following is the first chapter in a book exploring how to revive Gandhi's political legacy.
On 13 November 1909, a few weeks after his 40th birthday Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi boarded the S.S. Kildonan Castle to return to South Africa from Britain. He had been in London for more than four months, lobbying parliament entirely without success to protect the rights of Indians as it authorized a blatantly White supremacist constitution for the new Union of South Africa... Read More
Britain and the Opposition to Gandhi's Legacy
Mahatma Gandhi was one of a hundred Heroes and Icons TIME magazine celebrated in a special issue marking the end of the 20th century. An article by India-born British novelist Salman Rushdie explained his place in history. Rushdie began his piece with a riff on the Apple Corporation’s “Think Different” advertising campaign. “A thin Indian man with not much hair sits alone on a bare floor, wearing nothing but a loincloth and a pair of cheap spectacles, studying the clutch of handwritten notes in his hand. The black-and-white photograph takes up a full page in the newspaper. In the top left-hand corner of the page, in full colour, is a small rainbow-striped apple. Below this, there's a slangily American injunction to Think Different. Once, a half-century ago, this bony man shaped a nation's struggle for freedom. But that, as they say, is history. Now Gandhi is modeling for Apple.” Gandhi today is “up for grabs” Rushdie declared. “He has become abstract, ahistorical, postmodern, no longer a man in and of his time but a freeloading concept, a part of the available stock of cultural symbols, an image that can be borrowed, used, distorted, reinvented to fit many different purposes, and to the devil with historicity or truth.“ As if to validate that last phrase he then served up the following reprise of colonial era British propaganda: Read More
|Sidelight to History: Mother Theresa
Mother Theresa's Letter
click to enlarge
As a young reporter in Calcutta I was assigned to write about Mother Theresa and spent several days following her around the city, from early morning prayers at the Mother House on Lower Circular Road, to Nirmal Hriday, the house for the dying destitute she ran in one corner of Kalighat Temple, to the home for unwed mothers and abandoned children, to the rural refuge for lepers. It was the first time I really looked at the plight of the poor of Calcutta, and it left me shaken – and vastly impressed with the work she was doing. (There was already talk about her performing miracles but when I asked about them she waved the question away and directed my attention elsewhere.)
|A few years later I was working for the United Nations, and had the bright idea of inviting Mother to speak at the UN at the first observance of International Women’s Day (7 March). She declined the invitation, saying in a handwritten note torn from a notebook that she would be a “misfit” at the UN. Without thinking, I showed the note to a colleague from the secretariat, a priest who had been seconded by the Vatican to help with the first World Population conference (Bucharest 1972); it was only when he asked if he could make a copy that I began to consider the consequences.
In the years that followed Mother attended a number of events at the UN, and each time I saw her it was with regret; she had been entirely right in wanting to avoid the place. Her simplicity did not fit. It made people uncomfortable. No one seemed to know what to say to her. She herself was strained, and each time hurried away as soon after speaking as she was able to do without giving offense. Needless to say, she was a huge irritant to those espousing birth control as essential to development.
|Inside the United Nations
Some items below are from previous years but they continue to be relevant to current realities.
China Human Rights: An expert UN human rights panel has called on the government of China to release Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo from prison immediately. One of the authors of Charter 08, a manifesto calling for fundamental rights for the people of China, Liu was convicted of “subversion” at a two hour trial in 2009 during which he got to speak for 14 minutes; he was given a 11-year prison sentence. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also called for the release of Liu’s wife from house arrest; she was confined for speaking to Western reporters about the condition of her husband in prison. The panel said in a written opinion sent to the authorities in Beijing that Liu’s criminal trial and imprisonment violated norms set by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 5-member body also called for reparations for the 55-year old Liu who earlier spent two years in prison for his role in the June 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. The award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu infuriated the Chinese government, which blanked out news of the honour from its mass media and suspended trade talks with Norway, where the presentation was made. Liu was unable to attend the presentation ceremony, during which an unoccupied chair on stage stood mute witness of his repression. In a rebuke to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN panel asked him to support the call for Mr. Liu’s release. Fearing to offend China, Mr. Ban has maintained a total silence on the issue (see below).
The Drug Scene 2012: With an estimated 154,000 hectares growing poppy in 2012, Afghanistan remained by far the largest source of opiates worldwide. Despite the 18 per cent increase over the 2011 poppy acreage, opium production fell 36 per cent to 3,700 tons because of a crop disease and adverse weather conditions. Meanwhile, South-East Asia, mainly Laos and Myanmar, had over 58,000 hectares growing poppy.
Bolivia, Colombia and Peru had about 155,600 hectares growing coca in 2011 and cocaine production is uncertainly estimated at between 776 and 1,051 tons.
Cannabis, the world’s most widely used illicit substance, is not widely trafficked internationally because local production meets most demand. However, production of cannabis resin is concentrated in Morocco and Afghanistan, and it is widely trafficked.
The figures relating to “illict drugs” are all extremely slippery estimates by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), based on a wide variety of “lies, damn lies and statistics.” The latest version can be found in the freely downloadable UN document A/68/126
At present some 16.5 million people use opiates worldwide; about 13 million are heroin addicts, putting away 375 tons of it every year. Europe accounts for 150 tons of heroin consumption.
Security Council: The main UN organ responsible for maintaining international peace and security continues its ineffective course in 2013, so I leave unaltered below a 2011 comment which is as valid in 2013 as when it was written.
The SC has admitted its own craven ineffectiveness by deciding to expand the "name and shame" list of groups using child soldiers. Since receiving the first formal report on this situation in 1999, the Council has done little more than hyperventilate periodically on the matter. Its primary "action" has been the "name and shame" list. Those who abduct, abuse and brutalize children in order to use them as killers and sex slaves are supposed to be "shamed" by having their groups named in a UN document. While the Council has been thus occupied, an estimated 2 million children have been killed in armed conflicts and 6 million left disabled. Around 300,000 children now serve as soldiers. Little girls fare the worst. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, told the Council last month that "sexual violence is becoming systemic and across the world, classrooms and the kids sitting in them are increasingly seen as legitimate targets."
UN Reform: Efforts to improve the performance of the United Nations were briefly energized after the Obama administration signalled its intention to seriously engage in multilateral diplomacy, but they are now back to normal. That is to say they are like a Noh drama. The action is glue-like, the plot incomprehensible, and the whole thing of interest only to afficianados. There is need for a radical change of focus and approach, but UN member States are so reluctant to give up the devil they know that it is impossible to entertain the slightest hope of real change. (For what is necessary to bring about real UN reform see our Discussion Paper; this is a topic on which we need to get a global conversation going.)
Signs of a New Era: Developing countries in 2012 accounted for nearly half of world gross domestic product (GDP); by 2020, just three of them, Brazil, China and India, are projected to have more of the world output than Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United States of America combined.
By 2025, the South is likely to have 600 million people with household incomes over $20,000 and an overall annual consumption of $30 trillion. All regions of the South are growing and they have done so during the most severe recession in the North since the Great Depression.
High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development: At the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable development in June 2012 member States agreed to replace the ineffective Commission on Sustainable Development with a 30-member High Level Forum. Consultations since then have led to the Forum being thrown open to participation by all States, including the Holy See and Palestine. Its first meeting was on 24 September 2013. Unesco will convene an expert scientific body to support the work of the Forum, which will meet at the summit level every four years under the aegis of the General Assembly and at the ministerial level annually at the level of ECOSOC. (This straddling of deliberative and policy review functions could have got things moving with a well-chosen and focused membership; with all "stakeholders" dipping their oars into the process, it is unlikely to result in anything meaningful.) Delegates at the Rio+20 Conference thought they were creating a purposeful high-level body that would straddle the deliberative and policy review functions of the General Assembly and ECOSOC; the way things are going, the HLPF seems to be going the way of the body it replaced, towards endless ineffective talk.
Sustainable Development Board: Note one more step in the continuing saga of the UN’s ineffectual efforts to deal with global environmental problems: the President of the General Assembly has just communicated to member States the membership of the governing Board of the projected “10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns.” Each Regional Group in the Assembly nominated two members to serve for two years; where they have named two States to a single slot, each will have a one-year term. The following States will serve on
the Board: Tanzania; South Africa; Japan/Republic of Korea; Bangladesh/Indonesia; Romania; Russian Federation; Chile; Mexico; Finland/Germany; Switzerland.
It is anyone’s guess how a membership so unrepresentative of the world’s economic realities can be effective in helping to reorder global consumption and production patterns.
|Books, Reports & Stuff
The following information is taken from reports before the 2013 session of the United Nations General Assembly
6.6 Million Child Deaths a Year: Unicef reports that an estimated 6.6 million children under the age of 5 died last year. Nigeria, Congo, India, Pakistan and China account for more than half those deaths. The top killers are malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, all preventable and treatable. Malnutrition is a factor in half of under-5 deaths. The only bit of good news in the report is that the rate of childhood deaths has been halved since 1990; West and Central Africa are the only regions that have not done so.
Post-2015 Development Goals: In one of the most dishonest reports I have seen in four decades of covering the United Nations, UNDP sets out what it says are the results of "consultations" with over a million people globally on what international development goals should be after 2015. (The Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000 are set for renewal in 2015.) According to UNDP, the world’s people want the following (in order of priority): “A good education. Better healthcare. An honest and responsive government. Better job opportunities. Access to clean water and sanitation. Affordable and nutritious food. Protection against crime and violence... It goes on for 159 colorful pages. There is not a mention of real world problems that developing countries have repeatedly declared to be high priorities. For instance, African countries called specifically in 2012 for an end to what the UN diplomatically calls “reverse transfer of resources.” That refers to the thievery that moves money from poor countries to rich ones. Over the last decade, 33 sub-Saharan countries had over $1 trillion stolen from their economies and transferred to offshore banks, which channel them to the wealthy of the world.
Women in Politics: While the status of women in politics has improved somewhat over the past three decades, they remain marginalized in political decision-making in every region of the world. Few Member States achieved the target agreed upon by member States in 1990 to have 30 per cent women in decision-making positions by 1995. Only 35 national parliaments have 30 per cent or more women as at June 2013. Details here.
World Food Situation: A joint report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome and the Brussels-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warns of a 30 per cent increase in food prices -- by 2021. The causes? Slower growth in major food crops and continued growth of world population, expected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050. (Note the use of different time horizons.) The report wants action against speculators, and "strict rules" to govern factors that "distort" world food trade. The next meeting of the G-20 is expected to take those matters in hand and bring "regulation" to the world food market. No mention of the fact that the existing "global market" for food is a highly energy-intensive and wasteful system driven by corporate profits. Corporate farming of mega tracts is environmentally destructive and always less productive than family run farms. The treatment of animals subjected to "factory farming" is cruel beyond belief and also environmentally disastrous because so much consumption and waste are concentrated in such small areas. The report ignores the obvious: that if we cut out the big corporations the "world food economy" would quickly resolve into much more productive and "green" local, national and regional food economies. They would employ millions more workers and could easily feed the projected world population and more. Especially if we reduce the wastage that now accounts for one-third of the world's agricultural production. Decreasing that percentage should take care of inflation.
Illiteracy: The World Literacy Decade the General Assembly declared in 2003 ended on 31 December 2012. In a period that saw a 40 per cent increase in world population, the number of illiterate young people declined from 168 million in 1990 to 123 million in 2011. The number of those who remained illiterate above the age of 15 fell from 881 million in 1990 to 774 million in 2011.
UN Secretary General
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (the last name is Ban), was given a second 5-year term on 21 June 2011. It began on 1 January 2012.There were no other contestants for the post.
Ban's reappointment is not seen anywhere as a reward for good performance. He has been a general embarassment in the post, dragging the Organization into near total irrelevance with his hamhanded diplomatic incompetence. For a sampling of his feats check out our blog at undiplomatictimes.blogspot.com. Ban's first term is also described under the SG section (link below)
The uncontested reappointment was widely seen as recognition that the currenly rancorous relations among the five permanent members of the Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia, United States), will preclude agreement on anyone new. Ban is the special favourite of China because he has said not a word about the 2010 Nobel laureate languishing in a Chinese prison.
In New York, the media gave the reappointment minimal coverage. The New York Times gave it three lines; The Wall Street Journal noted it at the bottom of its column of snippets on page one. Ban himself celebrated the event with a 7 minute UN video set to rock music. It shows him talking, walking, shaking hands with celebrities, hugging a baby ... .
Former Secretary Generals