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Obama is a Cult: Stalking the US Presidential Exit Polls

Posted by fifthdimension on February 14, 2008

If you expect me to say that Obama is going to be the US President, I will hugely disappoint you! But over the past few days, I have some exciting and positive observations, which could be common with many of you.

Whether Obama will win the race for nomination or not is not my area of interest. For me, the most bewildering part is the kind of following that Obama has succeeded to generate!  Young Americans constitute a majority of his followers. His campaigns leave behind a trail of energy and excitement, which is very rare in the history of US elections. His inroads into Mrs Clinton’s fortresses, i.e. Virginia and Maryland, are significant.

I see Obama as a Panzer dancing behind the enemy lines, headed for the target with lightning speed! Obama is emerging as a new cult in the United States. In this case, his mission, among many others,  is to bring an end the mindset that led to the Iraq war.

Will the new president restore faith in the United States? Will the world’s powerhouse get an able leader, who can align the country with the interests of the rest of the world? The new President’s policies will impact a number of broader global issues like climate change, terrorism and poverty.       

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US Honor to Dalai Lama Adds to China’s Woes!

Posted by fifthdimension on October 17, 2007

Finally, the US-China bilateral relationship is headed for a snafu. As the US prepares to honor Tibetan Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal, the situation has turned quite amusing, especially in wake of China’s reaction to the US senate’s decision.

For China, Dalai Lama is a fugitive. But the US decision to honor him with such a Top Civilian award has made things clear that US is not going to buy China’s verdict on the Dalai Lama. Did the US congress ever listen to anyone? I have serious doubts!

Whatever it may be, this is a gross intrusion into China’s internal affairs. Honoring the Dalai Lama is to support the Tibetan struggle for “real autonomy”.  But again, the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader,  as Mr. Bush sees him. Meanwhile, we know that Mr. Bush wears some strange glasses that casts images of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction in the deserts of Iraq.  I wonder if he’s wearing the same!

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Gandhism, Non-violence, Peace and Stuff

Posted by fifthdimension on October 3, 2007

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Churchill may frown upon him as the half naked fakir,  but I’m convinced that what Gandhi showed to the world decades ago can only be achieved by the brave. There have been the likes of Che Guevera and Fidel Castro, whose claim to greatness is unquestionable, but taking on the mighty empire with empty hands, i.e.  the dictum of non-violence, is something which is lacking in the present world order. 

Lasting world peace can only be achieved by following the golden principles of the Mahatma. It was 2nd October yesterday, the birthday anniversary of Gandhi. This post is not just a reverence to this great figure, but a reaffirmation of my faith in non-violence- the only road to a free world. 

“Put all your knowledge, learning and scholarship in one scale and truth and purity in the other and the latter will be far outweighing the other.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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Japan Might Resume Humanitarian Aid to N Korea

Posted by fifthdimension on August 30, 2007

Japan’s foreign minister, Nobutaka Machimura, as quoted by the Tokyo financial newspaper Nikkei, says that the government is debating on whether to lift its three-year embargo on humanitarian aid to North Korea.

In wake of the recent natural disaster and the call for help by UN and other humanitarian organizations, the country is considering options of resuming aid to the “rouge”(!!) country.  

It may be mentioned that recent flooding in North Korea has claimed over hundred lives and displaced some 300,000, in addition to  destroying a huge amount of the country’s crops.

South Korea has already promised $7.5 million in emergency food and medical supplies and another $40 million in construction and fuel aid.

Japan, it may be recalled,  has suspended humanitarian aid to the Communist state in 2004 over the issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s by North Korean intelligence services.

Pyongyang has admitted to abducting at least 13 Japanese nationals, of which five were repatriated, while the remaining eight reportedly died in the interim. In sensational revelations, the released abductees said they had been forced to train North Koreans to spy against Japan.

However, Japan declined to accept North Korean assertions that the matter has been closed, insisting that many more of its citizens remain unaccounted for.

The issue is to gain prominence onec again, when the two countries meet on September 5-6 in the Ulan Bator, as part of the six-party negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament.

If Japan resumes aid, it will come as a tremendous breather for Pyongyang, who’s reeling under natural disater and continued US pressure for nuclear disarmament. The progress on the nuclear issue will be worth observing. 

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Bushlore- A Poem Composed of Actual Quotes by George W. Bush

Posted by fifthdimension on August 17, 2007

I bumped into this poem composed by summing up some quotes by George W. Bush.  While I’m still looking for the real author/compiler, you can read and have fun!

Make the Pie Higher

I think we all agree, the past is over.

This  is still a dangerous world.

It’s a world of mad man and uncertainty and

potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked.

Is our children learning?

Will the higways of the internet become more few?

How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.

I’m a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.

I know that the human being and the fish can co-exist.

Families is where our nation fiinds hope, where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family.

Knock down the tollboth.

Vulcanize society.

Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

  

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Overriding Article 51 of the UN Charter: Pre-Emptive Self-Defence

Posted by fifthdimension on June 20, 2007

Any bumping into Article 51 of the UN Charter for the first time will be positive about the UN’s commitment to world peace. However, looking back at the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive self defence, one is convinced that peace is at stake and there is no law at all.

Article 51 clearly states: “nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security”, which means that the right of self-defence comes to the fore and is legitimate only on event of an external aggression, i.e. an attack occuring before the use of force in self-defence. However, this is not simple as it might seem.

Analysts have interpreted this in several ways. Since the interpretation of Article 51 has been left up to the principal bodies of the UN, especially the Security Council, this has led to a certain amount of flexibilty. The UN itself have granted some leeway in form of the reading “where there is very clear evidence that an armed attack, having not yet occurred, is nevertheless imminent and would be overwhelming, and would make the awaiting of the armed attack disastrous for the attacked country…”.

True, there must be some flexibility, for the international scenario is very delicate and developments couldn’t be foreseen in 1945.

Everyone will agree on a rational interpretation of Article 51. One must not forget that the primary intention of the article is to protect the sovereignty and independence of the state. So, on any event if a state felt its sovereignty and independence is under threat due to the actions of another country, it might be allowed to use force against that country, even if the country’s hostile actions had not yet risen to the level of an actual armed attack.Experts point out that the language of Article 51 have granted an “inherent right” of self-defence to nations, which has been held by many to imply that the right to self-defence, which existed in traditional international law prior to 1945 might still apply.  

Taking into account the “Caroline criteria”, traditional law did recognize a “limited” right of pre-emptive self-defence. This dates back to an incident in 1837, during a rebellion against British rule in Canada, when British troops attacked the ship, Caroline, which was used by private US citizens to transport supplies to the rebels. It was agreed upon that “a necessity of self-defence, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation” and the action taken must not be “unreasonable or excessive”.But going by the incidents that led to the invasion of Iraq, it’s clear that the US had no reason to take pre-emptive action.

In absence of concrete evidence, how could one bomb and destroy a nation, or push it’s own sons and daughters to a quagmire? The topic might be a hackneyed one, but given the kind excesses going on in Iraq and the clouds of war looming large over Iran and Syria, it’s important to review charters and articles, which might prevent further bloodshed. Is there a law at all?     

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Polarization of Classes: Marx and Weber

Posted by fifthdimension on May 14, 2007

The two main classical approaches to the sociological concepts of class and society are those of Marx and Weber. These two masters have influenced almost all subsequent debates and researches on sociology.

Marx’s concept of class generally assumes a fundamental division between the bourgeoisie and the working class, the two primary groups of people similarly related to the means of production. It is indispensable for any analysis of modern societies, which focuses on production and exploitation.

For Marx, production has many inherent possibilities including the possibility for freedom and the possibility for domination and exploitation of one or more classes by the class wielding power. According to Marx, class has more to it than just describing the economic position of different groups. He saw classes as real harbingers of change in society. He also opined that due to wanton exploitation, workers would develop class consciousness, thus developing the identity of their class interests and organize politically for action in order to promote class struggle and revolution.

     Classes are constituted by the relationship of groupings of individuals to the ownership of private property in the means of production. This yields a model of class relations, which is basically dichotomous [since some own and others do not, some work and others live off the fruits of those who labour]: all class societies are built around a primary line of division between two antagonistic classes, one dominant and the other subordinate. (Giddens, 1971, p. 37).

     He believed that the state is merely an instrument of class rule. The state in such a society is a bourgeois state–it is nothing but “a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie” (1848, 223). Hence, the standards of justice, democracy and right are all bourgeois standards. Indeed, in a capitalist society there are forms of parties represent different class interests, including the working class.

However, democratic political institutions function within the limits of the capitalist system. If these are radically challenged then democracy will be suspended. For Marx, society is not merely a collection of separate, competing individuals, although that is the appearance that capitalist society presents.

Throughout history, societies have divided into competing classes, defined structurally and economically in terms of their relationship to the means of production. “In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels comment that the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” (Bottomore, 1983, p. 75). Thus, he viewed the bourgeoisie as the owners, and the proletariat as the non-owners, of the means of production. Marx believed that capitalist society was increasingly becoming polarized into “two great opposed camps” of bourgeois and proletarians, which is destined to lead to conflict among these classes. Through its own instruments of development, it is bound to give rise ultimately to its own dissolution–to a revolution that will result in the overthrow of capitalism and to the creation of a socialist order.

The conquest of political power by the working class will lead, firstly, to the creation of a socialist state–a state in which the working class is the ruling class and which functions in the interests of the working class. Thus, the “dictatorship of the proletariat” will replace the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”. By the term “dictatorial”, Marx does not indicate that such states have a dictatorial political form, but rather that they rule in the interests of a particular class.

However, the “dictatorship of the proletariat” is only the “first phase” of post-capitalist era. Its ultimate aim is to abolish the private ownership of the means of production, and hence the social and economic basis of class divisions. In addition, Marx believed that the rise of socialist relations of production would set free the productive forces and lead to a great economic development and prosperity. As the material basis of class divisions is dissolved, class differences will gradually dwindle, and with them the need for the state as an instrument of class rule and as a distinct coercive force.

In the stage when communism is to be in full bloom, the state is destined ultimately to “wither away”, as Engels puts it, and “the government of people will be replaced by the administration of things” (1884).  

In a nutshell, Marx sees classes in connection with production and exploitation. However, the actual historical development of capitalism has not borne this out, at least in the advanced industrial societies; though arguably such a polarization has occurred on an international scale.

 

The character of the social classes of industrial society has changed considerably since Marx wrote in the middle of the nineteenth century, and there has been much debate about whether they can still be understood in Marxist terms.

 

Max Weber emphasizes the market, consumption and distribution, and regards classes as one

 

of three phenomena within a society, the others being status, group and party. Weber distinguishes, in addition, four classes and points out that class conflict is common and  

most likely to occur between workers and managers rather than workers and capitalists.  

It is seen that while Marx’s assumption was primarily based on economic exploitation, Weber’s analysis was based mainly on differentiated power. Max Weber’s model embraces three components of stratification—economic, status, and political power.

Status and political power add new dimensions to Weber’s model. Weber believed that people with a certain status had a certain lifestyle that set them apart from others. This dimension of political rank refers to one’s standing in a collectivity or organization whose action is oriented toward the acquisition of social power. Thus, status groups form the social order, classes the economic order, and parties make up the legal/political order. Each order is affected by one another.

Status groups, unlike classes, are generally communities. While classes were purely economically determined, ‘status situations’, in contrast, are those in which the life chances or fate of the members are determined by a specific social estimation of honor, either positive or negative. This can be, though not necessarily, linked to class situation.

The same status group may comprise of both people with and without property. While property can form an important basis for status, property alone is not the key to status, and status “normally stands in sharp opposition to the pretensions of sheer property” (Weber, quoted by Adams and Sydie, p. 187). 

Status honor normally emerges from a specific lifestyle that is expected of all who are members of the group. This means restrictions on social relationships (marrying the right people and being seen with the appropriate people).

Weber notes that political membership or class situation has always been a common source of status groups. In the present day, class situation is certainly the most important factor, for lifestyle one can expect is basically conditioned by one’s economic situation.

Status stratification is based on the monopolization of material and ideal goods and opportunities. This monopolization can be perceived as positive considering that only status group members are entitled to own or use these goods or opportunities. Or it can be negative in that the status group is prohibited from owning or using certain things. There are usually some typical principles of status conventions such as the performance of physical labor as a status disqualification in privileged status groups.

Weber notes that all groups with an interest in the status order react strongly against the idea that status is based purely on economic acquisition. Weber indicates the general effect of the status order: “the hindrance of the free development of the market occurs first for those goods which status groups directly withheld from free exchange by monopolization” (pg. 120).

So direct participation in the economic world is considered as a taboo for some status group usually the most influential ones.Weber doesn’t discard the possibility of classes forming groups, but considers this to be unlikely. The common class situation does not usually lead to social action on the basis of the common class situation.  In order for the proliferation of such social actions, there must prevail proper cultural and intellectual conditions, and the nature of the contradictory market situation would have to be relatively transparent to all.  These struggles are likely to be most clearly expressed when other aspects, such as status differences, are removed. 

Weber notes that there is class conscious organization where (a) there are no groups between the real adversaries,  (b) large numbers of persons are in the same class situation, (c) it is technically easy to organize those in the common class situation, and (d) where the goals of the class are well understood, and this understanding is led by those outside the class (intelligentsia). (Giddens and Held, p. 72)

 

It is seen that classes are stratified according to relations of production and acquisition of goods. In contrast, status groups are stratified according to principles of their consumption of goods represented by specific lifestyles. Weber points out that Marx’s ‘Proletariat’ is, in fact, an umbrella concept, which covers a wide range of occupational groups whose skills are priced very differently in the market. According to Weber, ‘class situation’ is ultimately ‘market situation’. In his concept of status group, Weber stresses that people evaluate each other, and accord status to certain members of society without being forced to do so. For instance, the
Westminster official occupies naturally higher
status than a postman—certainly, the official has a higher income than the postman. In this example, and in most examples, there is a coincidence of status and class.

 

However, the village vicar might be accorded a higher status, although he has low wealth. Weber cities the classic oriental example of the Japanese samurai warrior, who is often poor, but accorded high status in Japanese feudal society. Weber’s model is one stratified by class and status, with power a further stratification divided by which parties or groups have power in common. For example, a trade union official may enjoy a high degree of power and status within his peers, but little wealth or prestige; particularly amongst the owner(s) of the factory he and his fellow union members work in.

It is a generally accepted fact that by the first quarter of the twentieth century the increase in commercial administration and technical labor cut across Marx’s bipolar class structure. By this time, the orthodox Marxist concept of a tendency towards radical polarization of class relations within developed capitalist societies proved obsolete.

In wake of this, Weber’s model gave a fresh look and new dimensions to sociological research. 

References:Bottomore, Tom, ed., A Dictionary of Marxist Thought,
Cambridge,

Harvard
University Press, 1983.

Giddens, Anthony, Capitalism and Modern Social Theory: An Analysis of the Writings of Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1971.


Adams, Bert N. and R. A. Sydie, Sociological Theory,
Thousand Oaks, Pine Forge, 2001
Giddens, Anthony and David Held, Classes, Power, and Conflict:  Classical and                    Contemporary Debates,
Berkeley,

University of
California Press, 1982).

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