Monday, October 26, 2009

The Heist: Programmed criminals

I recently watched an amazing and alarming TV show where Derren Brown, a UK illusionist and mentalist who is very adept at deep psychological influencing methods, programmed several respectable people to individually commit armed robbery, holding up a security guard at gunpoint and stealing 100,000 pounds. Normally, even hypnotism will not persuade a person to do something that is against their values, but through a veritable battery of subtle suggestion and triggering, Brown got three out of four to commit the crime. Setting up The four people were selected as the most suggestible out of a group of about twenty middle managers who had booked onto a 'motivational seminar' that was 'being filmed for television'. From the moment that they walked in the door, the programming started. A security guard was unnecessarily unpleasant to them, setting up a dislike and depersonalizing of security guards more generally. Not by coincidence, he was wearing a green outfit that was the same color as the security van that was eventually to be robbed. He even wore a badge with the same logo as on the van. The color green continued to be used as a trigger into an aggressive state where the theme of an empowered 'just do it' state of mind was extended. Covert criminal language was used. 'What are you going to take?', 'It's yours now!', 'You have to steel [='steal'] yourself'. States of inflated ego power were constantly being built and anchored to special triggers. Even 'normal' framed pictures on the wall were designed to add subtle influence. Getting criminal After an exhausting and exhaustive day, as a symbol of their new and totally empowered state, they were given a lifelike toy gun, which they were told to keep as a reminder that they can do literally anything they want. Before going out for an evening meal together, they were challenged to steal from a local convenience store as proof of their newly-empowered state -- and most did. The store owner knew, but the assistants did not. It became almost comical as they realized that a whole stream of people in suits were coming in and pinching chocolate bars and the like. Obedience and breaking values After this stage, a selected subset were asked to help with an additional experiment, which turned out to be a duplication of the class Milgram study. In this, the person is asked to help with a study of learning in which they are cast as 'educator' and another person as 'learner'. They then ask questions and administer increasing electric shocks when the learner gets it wrong. As in the original experiment, around half went all the way up to 450 volts, despite screams of pain from the learner. Critically, they are supervised by a man in a white coat who replies to all questions and requests to stop with a quiet command that they must continue. Of course, all other people are actors and nobody is really being electrocuted. This allowed selection of the final four who proved most suggestible and able to break social taboos. After further training of these four, still ostensibly about empowerment, they were deemed ready for the real event. The final event: the heist for real The scenario was repeated four times, one for each person, as follows. Each person is individually asked to a meeting, and to bring the toy gun. They walk down a street, where there is a large advertising billboard containing the empowerment slogan that had been drummed into them, 'just do it'. A van drives past, loudly playing the trigger music. The effect on the person is visible as they become more animated. There is a security van and a guard, about to put in two containers of real money. Three of the four final people, without any verbal instructions beforehand, pulled out their gun, ordered the guard to the floor, grabbed the money and fled. Only one resisted the temptation. Later, they were fully deprogrammed and spoke of the whole episode with awe, about how much they had learned and how easy and exciting the robbery was. Comment There are perhaps some questionable ethics in the covert encouragement of criminality, but the larger lesson is more shocking. People can be deliberately programmed such that they individually choose and commit acts well outside their normal values. Perhaps this is not so surprising in this age of global terrorism, where ordinary people are turned in a short period from loved school teachers into suicide bombers. Whilst we cannot change the world, this program offered a salutary lesson: that others may seek to destructively change us or those around us. For this, we can be now be vigilant. SOURCE : http://changingminds.org/analysis/the_heist.htm

Friday, October 16, 2009

Boy said to have floated off in balloon found safe

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – A 6-year-old boy was found hiding in a cardboard box in his family's garage attic Thursday after being feared aboard a homemade helium balloon that hurtled 50 miles through the sky on live television. ------- The discovery marked a bizarre end to a saga that started when the giant silvery balloon floated away from the family's yard Thursday morning, sparking a frantic rescue operation that involved military helicopters and briefly shut down Denver International Airport. ------- But Sheriff Jim Alderden turned to reporters during a news conference and gave a thumbs up and said 6-year-old Falcon Heene is "at the house." "Apparently he's been there the whole time," he said. ------- The boy's father, Richard Heene, said the family was tinkering with the balloon Thursday and that he scolded Falcon for getting inside a compartment on the craft. He said Falcon's brother had seen him inside the compartment before it took off and that's why they thought he was in there when it launched. ------- But the boy fled to the attic at some point after the scolding and was never in the balloon during its two-hour, 50-mile journey through two counties. "I yelled at him. I'm really sorry I yelled at him," Heene said as he hugged his son during a news conference. ------- "I was in the attic and he scared me because he yelled at me," Falcon said. "That's why I went in the attic." ------- Richard Heene adamantly denied the notion that the whole thing was a big publicity stunt. "That's horrible after the crap we just went through. No." ------- The flying saucer-like craft tipped precariously at times before gliding to the ground in a field. With the child nowhere in sight, investigators searched the balloon's path. Several people reported seeing something fall from the craft while it was in the air, and yellow crime-scene tape was placed around the home. ------- But in the end, the boy apparently was in the garage the whole time, even as investigators scoured the house and neighborhood for any sign of him. ------- Neighbor Bob Licko, 65, said he was leaving home when he heard commotion in the backyard of the family. He said he saw two boys on the roof with a camera, commenting about their brother. ------- "One of the boys yelled to me that his brother was way up in the air," Licko said. ------- Licko said the boy's mother seemed distraught and that the boy's father was running around the house. The Poudre School District in Fort Collins, where the boys attend, did not have classes for elementary schools Thursday because of a teacher work day. ------- The boys parents are storm chasers who appeared twice in the ABC reality show "Wife Swap," most recently in March. ------- "When the Heene family aren't chasing storms, they devote their time to scientific experiments that include looking for extraterrestrials and building a research-gathering flying saucer to send into the eye of the storm," according to the show. ------- In a 2007 interview with The Denver Post, Richard Heene described becoming a storm chaser after a tornado ripped off a roof where he was working as a contractor and said he once flew a plane around Hurricane Wilma's perimeter in 2005. ------- Pursuing bad weather was a family activity with the children coming along as the father sought evidence to prove his theory that rotating storms create their own magnetic fields. ------- Although Richard said he has no specialized training, they had a computer tracking system in their car and a special motorcycle. ------- While the balloon was airborne, Colorado Army National Guard sent a UH-58 Kiowa helicopter and was preparing to send a Black Hawk UH-60 to try to rescue the boy, possibly by lowering someone to the balloon. They also were working with pilots of ultralight aircraft on the possibility of putting weights on the homemade craft to weigh it down. ------- It wasn't immediately clear how much the search operation cost. Capt. Troy Brown said the Black Hawk helicopter was in the air for nearly three hours, and the Kiowa helicopter was airborne for about one hour. The Black Hawk costs about $4,600 an hour to fly, and the Kiowa is $700 an hour, Brown said. ------- Col. Chris Petty, one of the pilots aboard the Black Hawk, said he was thrilled the boy was OK. ------- Asked what he would say to the 6-year-old if he saw him, Petty said: "I'm really glad you're alive, I'm very thankful, but I'd sure like to know the rest of the story." ------- The episode led to a brief shutdown of northbound departures from one of the nation's busiest airports, said a controller at the Federal Aviation Administration's radar center in Longmont, Colo. FAA canceled all northbound takeoffs between 1 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. MDT, said Lyle Burrington, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative at the center. The balloon was about 15 miles northwest of the airport at that time. ------- Before the departure shutdown, controllers had been vectoring planes taking off in that direction away from the balloon, Burrington said. ------- Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency tracked the balloon through reports from pilots. ------- Neighbor Lisa Eklund described seeing the balloon pass. ------- "We were sitting eating, out looking where they normally shoot off hot air balloons. My husband said he saw something. It went over our rooftop. Then we saw the big round balloonish thing, it was spinning," she said. ------- "By the time I saw it, it traveled pretty fast," she said. ------- The balloon landed on its own in a dirt field. Sheriff's deputies secured it to keep it in place, even tossing shovelfuls of dirt on one edge. ------- Jason Humbert saw the balloon land. He said he had gotten a call from his mother in Texas who told him about the balloon. He said he was in a field checking on an oil well when he found himself surrounded by police who had been chasing the balloon, which came to a rest 12 miles northeast of Denver International Airport. ------- "It looked like an alien spaceship you see in those old, old movies. You know, those black-and-white ones. It came down softly. I asked a police officer if the boy was OK and he said there was no one in it," Humbert said. ------- Associated Press writers Judith Kohler, Dan Elliott, Sandy Shore and Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report. ------- SOURCE : http://news.yahoo.com

A Remarkable Poem by the first Ming Emperor of China, Zhu Yuanzhang (born 1328

Here is a remarkable poem written by the first Ming Emperor of China, Zhu Yuanzhang (born 1328), celebrating the life and mission of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).


Of the Prophet s.a.w and the Emperor 


Since Creation of Universe 
Heaven has already appointed, 
Faith Preaching Giant Saint, 
From West He’s Born,  
To receive Holy Scripture,  
With thirty part Book, 
To guide all creations, 
King of all Kings, 
Leader of Holy Ones,  
With Support from Divine,  
To Protect His Nation,  
ith five daily prayers,  
Silently hope for peace, 
With heart toward Allah, 
Empower the poor ones, 
Save them from calamity, 
See through the Unseen,  
Pulling souls and spirits, 
Away from all wrongdoings,  
Mercy to the World,  
Walking ancient Crowned Path, 
Evil vanquished to One, 
Religion Pure and True, 
Muhammad, 
The Noble High One. 


Source : Shared by Nash Dftd on Facebook

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pakistan: On The Edge of The Precipice

Posted By Shahid R. Siddiqi On October 6, 2009 - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - This article was first published at Axis of Logic - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Driven by paranoia with resurgent Islam as a threat to the established social order in the West and their obsession to control this very important oil rich region, American strategists have toyed with the idea of redrawing political boundaries of Islamic states along ethnic lines. The American attack on Afghanistan and Iraq on false pretexts of ‘war on terror’ was the initiation of this strategy. Now they seek to legitimize their actions by labeling them as efforts to dispense justice for ‘oppressed Muslim minorities’. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - They believe that smaller entities would be easier to micromanage through puppet regimes, enabling them to contain militancy and squeeze into extinction Jehadi outfits by choking their funding. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - This ‘remapping’ involves splintering the Muslim world and creating sovereign states of Balochistan, Kurdistan and Arab Shia State by carving out and unifying Pakistani and Iranian Baluchistan territories to create Free Balochistan; unifying Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurdistan to create Greater Kurdistan and slicing off Eastern Saudi Arabia to unite it with Southern Iraq to create Shia Arab State. It is no coincidence that these territories hold bulk of the world oil and host anti-imperialist movements. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Brilliant thinking! This promises them a picture-perfect Muslim world, tailored to their needs. The difficulty, however, is that the undertaking is too ambitious, out of sync with reality and unachievable. And this mindset is bound to pitch Christianity and Judaism versus Islam, a horrifying scenario that could send shock waves deep into the Western world. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - American global interests have routinely propelled it into adversarial engagement with the Muslims, losing their hearts and minds. More often than not, Israeli interests have defined American foreign policy direction, particularly where their interests are congruent. For instance, both the US and Israel have eyes on the oil reserves of Caspian Sea and Central Asia, they need energy pipeline project transiting through Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Balochistan and desperately want a wider security shield for Israel, which involves denuclearizing Pakistan. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Israel’s interest to de-fang Pakistan’s nuclear ability dates back to mid-eighties when it attempted to bomb Kahuta facility in collusion with the Indians – a mission that was aborted when an alert Pakistan Air Force took to the skies. Now in Afghanistan they have a perfect opportunity to collude with America and India to take out Pakistan’s nuclear assets through subversion. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Pakistan’s denuclearization is important to India too. Pakistan has to be trimmed in size to enable India to achieve undisputed regional leadership. This is in American interest too, as a dominant regional power – India, could counter China that grows stronger by the day and will eventually challenge American expansionism into Asia. Together with Russia, China has already forged an alliance, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to squeeze the American military bases out of Central Asia. For America, an independent friendly Balochistan will also be very useful to keep Iran under close watch and serve as energy corridor to Central Asia. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Pakistan is, therefore, up for reconfiguration in this chess game of geo-strategic interests. It is no more of interest to America as a unified entity. President Obama’s insistence to stay on in Afghanistan followed by a massive military buildup is not apparently without sinister motives. Afghanistan not only provides safe haven and logistical support for espionage and subversion against Pakistan, it has also joined the bandwagon by creating its own Research & Analysis Milli Afghanistan (RAMA) with Indian help, a new intelligence outfit tasked to destabilize Pakistan. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Pakistan’s Balkanization strategy was presented in a 2006 article in the US Armed Forces Journal ‘Blood Borders’ that advocated the incorporation of NWFP into Afghanistan and creation of a sovereign ‘Free Balochistan’, carved out of Baloch areas of Pakistan and Iran. Grounds: ethnic affinity. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Pakistani Balochistan is estimated to hold 25.1 trillion cft. of gas and 6 trillion barrels of oil, in addition to gold, copper and coal deposits, it borders Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and China and has a strategically located port that can connect Central Asian countries and China to Arabian Sea. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - In his article “Drawn and Quartered” (New York Times) Selig Harrison of the Center of International Policy, Washington, forecasts Pakistan’s break up into three sovereign entities along ethnic lines: Pashtunistan (comprising Pashtuns of NWFP and Afghanistan), Free Baluchistan (a federation comprising Sindh and Baluchistan) and Pakistan (comprising the “nuclear armed Punjabi rump state”). He attributes Pakistan’s balkanization to rising nationalist sentiment in the Pashtun belt and growing disillusionment of the Pashtuns, Balochis and Sindhis with Punjab and Pakistan. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Both articles essentially sing the same tune and present a doctrine that seems to broadly reflect America’s long term objectives. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - In this backdrop, the assessment of Michel Chossudovsky, Director of Montreal based Center for Research on Globalization (author of America’s “War on Terrorism”) [2] is significant. In his article ‘The Destabilization of Pakistan’ he wrns: “Washington’s foreign policy course is to actively promote the political fragmentation and balkanization of Pakistan as a nation”. He states: “The U.S. course consists in fomenting social, ethnic and factional divisions and political fragmentation, including the territorial breakup of Pakistan. This course of action is also dictated by U.S. war plans in relation to both Iran and Afghanistan.” - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - This cannot be dismissed as conspiracy theory. There are pointers that corroborate Chossudovsky’s thesis. The Indo-US Strategic Partnership Deal “aims at containing and curbing the rising military and economic power of China and the increasing threat of Islamic extremism in the region”. Reports say a joint espionage network of CIA, Mossad, MI-6 and RAW operates in Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan and other regional countries. Dissidents from Pakistan are being trained at Sarobi and Kandahar for missions inside NWFP, whereas bases at Lashkargah and Nawah are being used to train dissidents from Balochistan for missions in support of Balochistan Liberation Army. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Now view other developments: Benazir returns after a deal with the US and is eliminated. Musharraf is shown the door. Zardari, a man of most dubious credentials, is catapulted into the presidency as Benazir’s replacement and assumes all powers. Economic downturn bankrupts the country and creates social chaos. The federal and provincial governments are completely immobilized. Corruption hits the sky. And the people begin to lose faith in the federation. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Then as a sequel to Bombay fiasco, the army is made to run from pole to post, insurgencies erupt in the FATA, North and South Waziristan and Malakand Division by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan – a rogue outfit aided and supported from Afghanistan and which is a known protégé of the occupiers of Afghanistan, the NWFP gets destabilized, the Army gets bogged down in quelling insurgencies and maintaining internal security, Baloch separatists get energized and the people of Pakistan are massacred and terrorized. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - American interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs has reached such an ominous level that the country seems to be run by an American under secretary of state or envoy Holbrook rather than its elected representatives. The parliament has ceased to be of any consequence. Pakistan suddenly finds itself in turmoil, the like of which it has not experienced before. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Even the man on the street fears that the US-Israeli-Indian nexus is out to deprive Pakistan of its nuclear assets and dismember it. The mood is very grim. The people are alarmed at the reports of an unprecedented expansion of the US embassy in Islamabad and the presence of armed white goons (believed to be Blackwater agents) on the streets of the capital. The media is screaming that the NWFP and Balochistan are targets of subversion. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - There is a great concern about Kerry-Lugar Bill which is seen as a noose around Pakistan’s neck. Discussants on the media openly accuse the Zardari government of bartering away Pakistan’s sovereignty for 1.5 billion dollars – rather cheap for a strategic nuclear state. The general consensus is that the American show of support and financial assistance is hogwash and that the PPP government is a pawn in their game. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - There is a pervasive fear that Pakistan has reached the edge of the precipice. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Unfortunately Pakistan’s political elite does not seem to be concerned. It has historically lacked foresight and comprehension of the bigger picture. It ceaselessly pursues self aggrandizement and remains preoccupied with the game of personal power politics – oblivious to the disaster in waiting. Its camp followers keep singing its praises and preach: ‘every thing will be alright once we come to power’. For the Pakistanis to expect such political pygmies turning the tide would amount to committing political suicide. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - Can Pakistan be pulled back from the edge of the precipice? The answer is yes. But to deal with these extraordinary circumstances Pakistan needs leadership with extraordinary ability. Such leadership is just not there. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - The failure of political leadership to meet such challenges has prompted military interventions in the past. After Musharraf’s recent unceremonious departure, the military is in no mood to repeat that experience. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - The alternate is for all political parties to immediately come together, shun differences and find a way of jointly and sincerely managing the country – call it a national government if you please. Its first priority should be to avert collapse that is otherwise imminent. It must end foreign interference and pursue national agenda instead of petty personal agendas. Economic and social issues are critical and many and must be identified and resolved with the collective wisdom of the politicians, armed forces, technocrats and the intelligentsia. Fundamental constitutional, political, economic and social reforms are inevitable to give the country a fresh start and must immediately be carried out. After a pre-specified time frame of say five years, a political government could return through fair elections. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - A tall order, but this seems to be the solution of last resort. If this opportunity is lost, those at the helm and those who watch silently will all be considered ex-post-facto accomplices in the second dismemberment of Pakistan. - - - - - - o o o - - - - - - SOURCE : http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The love life of LUMS students

The campus of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) is famous for being a bubble environment where risqué fashion trends are explored and high-school soap operas come to life in the midst of hijab-clad women and the bearded folk from LUMS Religious Society. To an outsider visiting LUMS, or possibly visiting Pakistan for the first time, this campus might seem at first encounter like the ideal multicultural environment akin to an ancient city-state where all live in harmony with tolerance. - - - - - - - - - -

However, as anyone with a deeper relationship with the campus or its student body can tell you, things aren’t so rosy at LUMS. In fact, the campus often seems divided between conservative, retro-revisionists and ultra-modern, party-hopping, next-generation liberals. Recently, what was previously a silent divide, became verbose on the LUMS campus mail system following a mass message sent out by a conservative student fed up with all the on-campus indecency she’s had to deal with. - - - - - - - - - -

Sent on the notable date of September 11 to the ‘General Discussion Group,’ this mail with the subject line ‘To love or not to love’ was a real ’social suicide bomb.’ The mail hit the inboxes of LUMS students and exploded into a fiery debate on public displays of affection (PDA) and sleek clothing versus religious values and cultural traditions. Since its inception, the thread has branched out into several sub-discussions, and subsequent replies from charged respondents range from traditionalists and Islamic ideologists, to ‘Class A’ revisionist hippies and devout atheists – guys, girls, freshmen, seniors, class-clowns, serious academicians alike have freely expressed themselves. So much so that it has caused many LUMS students to complain about the clogged inbox resulting from the same thread. - - - - - - - - - -

So what exactly is in this mail that’s so inspiring and polarising? Well, the mail starts with a confessional disclaimer where the claimant says that the goings on of the last month (possibly Ramadan?) have left her no choice but to state her disgust in an open email. She denies any religious connotations of her views and claims to just be dishing out societal critique based on cultural norms. Then the mail leads into the explosive sub-heading: Public Display of Affection. - - - - - - - - - -

The complainant starts by pointing at freshmen and ‘some seniors’ who have to ‘seek physical consolation from the members of opposite sex many times in a day’ on campus premises and in public sight. Then she proceeds – like one would in any good paper assignment – to back her claims with examples as evidence: - - - - - - - - - -

Quoting few instances: (Readers’ Discretion is advised) - - - - - - - - - -

1) Standing at the main entrance, a girl stands on tip of her toes and kisses a boy good bye. - - - - - - - - - -

2) Lying in the lawn in front of the library, a boy rolls over the girl lying down beside him and remains in this posture. - - - - - - - - - -

3) Sitting in the academic block, a boy constantly rubs a girl’s leg, which are already half bare, with his hand inside her capris. - - - - - - - - - -

After doubly bolstering her claim with photographic evidence, she turns to the conflict this kind of social interaction has with her parent’s generation, and the awkwardness some LUMS students have to face when their parents witness this debacle. She also notes the ‘credibility’ of LUMS students and the institution has been put on the line by ‘aunties who spread rumors that doubt the chastity of girls studying in LUMS.’ Citing a personal example, she says even her parents were hesitant in sending her to a place with such a questionable environment. - - - - - - - - - -

She goes on to refute the ‘fake hypocritical’ tolerance and liberalism put forth by ‘irreligious and uncultured people’ and fiercely argues for the rights of ‘religious, cultured, and social people.’ Interestingly, she even takes the ‘us versus them’ stance at a point signifying the extent of this expansive cultural rift within this posh college campus. - - - - - - - - - -

Ending her diatribe against cultural degradation, she advises policy measures to be taken up by the LUMS administration and draws out rules that outline an inter-gender code of conduct on campus, outlawing on-campus PDA and idealising an innocent return to the ‘LUMS culture’ of the olden day when the lewd and the salacious used to be hidden behind closed doors and bushes. - - - - - - - - - -

This e-rant has generated quite the response, opening the floodgates to a debate across campus touching on topics such as freedom, liberation, censorship, social values, multiculturalism, and the clash of civilisations, all laced with witty remarks, outlandish statements, and hyper-polar opinions. Evidently, a lot of concerned LUMS students had opinions on the matter bottled up for as long as they’ve been witnessing this campus spectacle. - - - - - - - - - -

Like any hotly debated topic among a group of LUMS students, the debate also takes a very theoretical twist based on the current readings assigned to a given LUMS student trying to come up with an analytical response. While people have cited Plato, Max Weber, Karl Marx, Rumi, and Muhammad Iqbal, others have pointed to the flaws inherent in western schools of thought and how their adoption represents the deterioration of eastern societies. - - - - - - - - - -

In one of the many replies morphing content and subject, a student addresses the newly admitted, still innocent freshmen who might be unsuspecting prey to dangerous theories and philosophies: - - - - - - - - - -

At LUMS, you will be bombarded with all sorts of atheistic and secular philosophies and ‘isms’. If you do not have the proper knowledge and conviction about Islam, you may fall prey to the untiring efforts of certain faculty members as well as your fellow students to misguide you. - - - - - - - - - -

Then the respondent conveniently takes the opportunity to steer this debate into an evangelical venture by diverting traffic to his Islamic website claimed to be providing a wealth of knowledge on religion. - - - - - - - - - -

‘I have sinned’ says a student in reply to the guiding light of the mail illuminated above, following with an open declaration of his disbelief: - - - - - - - - - -

I shave twice a week and my ‘painchas’ hang obstinately below my heels. I have a penchant for ties that resemble the Christian cross and my satanic dress code is causing me to stray far far away from the straight path. During the holy month, instead of attending Koranic recitals in the mosque, I was listening to the demonic sounds of Pink Floyd. - - - - - - - - - -

He follows by saying that he wasn’t like this until he ‘studied under the mischievous and deviant professors’ whose deviant theories made his moral-compass go all awry. - - - - - - - - - -

In an interesting turn of events, the Program Coordinator also issued a reply to the thread saying that they had been waiting for the issue to arise in public discourse so that they could take note of this and forward recommendations to the administration, prompting a possible laying down of rules that would prohibit such practices which are apparently not representative of the ‘LUMS culture.’ - - - - - - - - - -

According to LUMS students, the administration hardly ever replies to the general comments thread. Students have apparently been complaining about malfunctioning campus utilities and the lack of certain essential facilities. A student in reply to the administration email expresses shock at the fact that this is one of the top priorities on the agenda of the LUMS administration. - - - - - - - - - -

With the LUMS administration now apparently bent on enforcing moral values, one wonders if an air-tight shariah-imposed zone is going to be the next ‘in-thing’ in LUMS. Perhaps the government will have to step in if public lashings are suddenly going to be enforceable on LUMS girls found with non-mehrams. And with people getting so high-headed and passionate about ‘LUMS culture,’ one is left wondering what exactly this culture is, and how you define a culture. LUMS students on the social-morality mailing thread are not far from the game, however, one LUMS student professes: - - - - - - - - - -

As Max Weber said, all social policy- tolerance or intolerance… from more ‘tolerant’ strands of ‘multi-culturalism’ to banning of PDAs to the banning of the Hijab (France: Liberté, égalité, fraternité)- always involves a preference of some values and rejection or relegation of others- even if pretensions are held otherwise. - - - - - - - - - -

So what are the guidelines that are supposed to define the parameters of this inter-campus cultural construct? Isn’t LUMS somewhat of a sample population of the country’s educated upper- and middle-class youth subsections? What is the morality of these vast spanning cultural-geographic subgroups influenced by a myriad of mass-media content ranging from cultural franchise to strict traditionalism? And, more importantly, whose job is it to determine that such and such should be the social-cultural ideals that should be respected by everyone? - - - - - - - - - -

LUMS must decide whether it is in fact a ‘liberal’ institution. Here, liberal does not mean the promotion of some strange brand of Bollywoodised consumer-culture. Rather, LUMS should ask whether it abides to a stance of universal cultural relativism, where all cultural behavior represents a social expression, promoting a tolerance and an intermingling of discourses to promote understanding through interaction. Or is the university in fact a ‘conservative’ institution, conservative not in the sense that it promotes the fashion of beards, rubber sandals, and high-cuffed trousers, but conservative in the sense that it wants to ‘conserve’ a certain cultural aesthetic, where it wants to shelter it from outside extravagances? - - - - - - - - - -

If there is actually an ‘us versus them’ situation brewing in LUMS, then this is probably true for outside of LUMS also. Perhaps instead of enforcing some crudely designed dictum to the word, the administration should take this as an opportunity to encourage debate and discussion on the topic, gather opinions of those involved or affected, and let the strength of ideas stand on their own weight like any academically responsible institution should. Perhaps a democratic path to this issue could help shed some light on the broader national, cultural and political dilemma as well. - - - - - - - - - -

Lahore-based Asif Akhtar is interested in critical social discourse as well as the expressive facets of reactive art. He is one of the schizophrenic narrators of a graphic novel and blogs at e_scape from nowher_e. - - - - - - - - - -

Source : http://blog.dawn.com - - - - - - - - - -

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Life is Beautiful

Life is beautiful; it’s a really wonderful topic to speak about. In this speech I will discuss two things: my life’s experience and my approach to this topic.Ladies and gentlemen, in 2007, I arrived home from a shop with my mum and my sister, very excited to be going back to Pakistan. I was excited about the packing, the gifts, but most of all because I was going to visit my grandmother after almost three years since I had come to Australia. As I entered the main door of our house and sat down with my mum to talk about our home country, the phone rang. My mum picked up the phone and my uncle’s stressed voice spoke through it; he only wanted to talk to my dad. - o - o - o - o - o -
Everything suddenly turned stressful for me; I wanted to know what was going on. Since my dad wasn’t home my mum persuaded my uncle to tell her what was wrong. After a few moments, tears started running through my mum’s eyes and she hung up... My grandmother had passed away. Just 15 days before I was going to visit her. It was a terrible loss for me and my family; because she was one of the people we loved the most. I was sad, angry and depressed...I didn’t want to talk to my friends. I didn’t even want friends. - o - o - o - o - o - I started to think ‘what is there to call beautiful about life now?’A few days later I was in a plane headed towards a place I used to look forward to but which I now was nervous about. I didn’t want to go there but now I had no choice. We were at the airport and my cousin and my other uncle were there to pick us up and take us home. My cousin was trying to cheer me up and all I could do was smile but I still wasn’t happy. The ride home was very awkward and when we got there everyone was happy to see us and I was happy to see them. The place was completely different without my grandmother and so was everyone in it. The atmosphere was tense and uncomfortable. You could say that she was the life of that house and now that house was dead. - o - o - o - o - o - Then I saw something I hadn’t seen in that house for ages. A baby. It was my cousin’s son; a very cute little boy. He walked up to me and I picked him up. That is when I realised that that’s the thing about life; it takes one thing and offers something else just as precious. I realised life is giving. I realised that even in death, life is beautiful.An average person says that art is beautiful while a person that understands beauty, like an artist says that life is art; a much more powerful art than one that can be shown on a piece of canvas or in a piece of composed music. - o - o - o- o - o - Life is living art; you can see it, hear it, smell it, touch it and taste it all at the same time. It has relations and kinships, tradition and culture, cold and warm, day and night, rough and smooth, soft and hard. It has colours that are beyond human skill to paint, it has textures that no manmade art can portray. Emotions that can be felt rather than just seen. You can say it’s a mysterious, living, 3D canvas, music with an excited, living spirit. Life shows us why people become artists or musicians. Artists want to feel life through what they create; they don’t want to create life, they would rather leave that up to God, but they want to feel life's beauty in a way that not many people can. Music is said to be food for the heart and soul ; emotions can be expressed through it. - o - o - o - o - o - That’s why people love music or become musicians.Still people say that they hate their lives while they’re living a much better life than half of the world. They should understand that there is more to life than cars, houses and money. You value something when you don’t have it. They have a good life but they don’t value it because they have it and they care more about an artificially beautiful life. I mean, whatever happened to the physical beauty of nature. I am not a tree hugging person but I do understand the true beauty of life. People on the other side of the world which are less fortunate than us will have a smile on their face just because they have clean drinking water and we should learn from that. They are thankful for every little thing that life has given them because they see the glass half full. That’s why beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder.Some people complain that life is too short. - o - o - o - o - o - Well it's meant to be that way. That’s what makes it so beautiful. Beautiful things don’t last for very long and that’s why they are beautiful. If you woke up every day with a rainbow outside your window, the rainbow would have no value. If there were dew drops on leaves every second of the day, you wouldn’t stop to look at their delicate twinkling shine and instead walk right past them.If life is short, live it to the full by experiencing its beauty.Yes life is difficult but there is a difference between making it easy and making it beautiful.So if you enjoyed my speech that is proof that life is beautiful. ZEERAK UMER SHAIKH - o - o - o - o - o - Source : My Facebook Friend Zahid Ahmed - o - o - o - o - o - “The speech that my son ZEERAK wrote and presented in a public speaking competition between three NSW high schools and came first.” ....... (http://www.facebook.com/zahid.ahmed1)