Wednesday, January 12, 2005

the man does not realize

  • that he is dominated by his tendency to dominate.

  • that he is guilty of inaction, living within elaborate lie, transferring his own guilt from one scale of consciousness to the other, rarely allowing it the repose of adequate judgment.

  • the paradox in power: no force without resistance, and insofar as there is resistance, the desire to feel complete power is never fully satisfied.

  • that power is to be shared (symmetrically): that he partially exists in her capacity to do something affecting him, changing the probable pattern of future events; that he is enabled by her ability to get him to do something he would not otherwise do when she participates in decisions that affect him; that this power is also exercised when she devotes her energies to creating or reinforcing values and practices that limit the scope of verbal exchanges to considerations of only those issues which are comparitively innocuous to her. To the extent that she succeeds in doing this, he is prevented, for all practical purposes from bringing to the fore any issues that might in resolution be seriously detrimental to her set of preferences.

  • that love does not equal power.

  • that what is fundamental is love.

  • Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    speak to the telephone

    A phone call from a friend tonight: he is a little younger, effectively alone in some part of the kingdom. We can't remember the last time we spoke.

    He is unhappy.

    Why are you unhappy? I think it's the environment or the people around me. But I'm not sure. Maybe it's both... maybe it's me, but I'm sick of everything and I do nothing, absolutely nothing.

    As I listen to him, he draws me into his self-diminution/pity... but I am not feeling his pain. For some reason, I am numb.

    He goes: Well you have to ask yourself one question: is the environment going to change enough in my lifetime to allow for my happiness?

    Dear dear depressed one. You're looking at it all wrong...

    Assume that there exists a space or environment H in the world that is optimal for your happiness and that is not identical to the present environment U which makes you so unhappy.

    So to get to H, you have to either: (1) find it, if it is elsewhere, or (2) transform U such that it becomes similar or identical to H.

    If you decide to try (1) then you need to know where to look. Where is this perfect elsewhere that works for you? Where is your H to be found? You probably need to spend some time in U to think about it. Knowing you as I do, you will probably spend your whole life in U looking for H.

    Of course, you may try to (2) but that requires energy and time, both of which are limited resources in this world. You may find that you do not possess enough of either to make such a transformation. You may find that your U is someone else's H and that he will cancel out all your efforts and hours to keep the status quo. Indeed, your strategem to recruit others to help you transform U to H may be countered with similar moves to keep U from H. In fact, it may be impossible in your lifetime to successfully close the distance.

    On the other hand, it may be possible, but if it takes too long then by the time you've gathered enough energy and hours to turn U into H, you may find that since H and U are now identical you're actually back where you began. At this moment, someone next to you will probably argue with you about the need to shift H to H' and asks you to lend him what's left of your energy and hours. But by this time you're too old... you don't have enough left in your life. Soon you will die, and the problem will disappear.


    Monday, January 10, 2005

    ban smoking in saudi

    I think Saudi Arabia should follow Italy and Ireland in banning smoking from enclosed public spaces such as pubs, bars, discos, cafes, cinemas, etc..

    Thursday, January 06, 2005

    fear of the whole

    A recent article suggests that women will be allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia in 2009. It further gives apparent reasons why women were not allowed to vote this time round:

    ...the "Chairman of the General Committee for Municipal Elections explained that the only reason women were not allowed to vote in this round was because municipal elections are a new experience and the short time given to prepare for them made it impossible to allow women’s participation this time."

    I showed this article to one of my girlfriends, and she said: "You see, you can stop complaining now, there is real progress... women will be allowed to vote in 2009."

    My response to her was something along the lines of the following:

    Assuming the chairman did in fact say these things, the positive thing here seems to be that the government is in principle not opposed to women voting (although it is unfortunate that no mention was made of women standing as candidates).

    But apart from the amusing (considering pregnancy) implication that women are less capable of handling new experiences than men, I simply don't buy the point that insufficient time was given to the organizers of the election.

    It is difficult to accept that a policy requirement that women should be part of the vote would have carried less weight than an arbitrary schedule. In other words, it is clear that if the government really wanted women to participate in these elections, arrangements would have been made to make it happen.

    One apparent subtext of the explanation seems consistent with a careful strategy of 'piecemealism' on the part of the government.

    To do things piecemeal is to do them (i) a small amount at a time; in stages or (ii) in pieces; apart. In the context of political reform, 'piecemealism' amounts to a strategy or practice by the government of making small political concessions over time. This is a conservative approach which involves testing the environment and the forces at play within and without the body politic, seeing how they react, and then adapting to their reaction.

    The usual reason why this strategy is justified is that "non-piecemealist strategies are radical and Saudi Arabia is simply not ready for radical reform which can destabilize the country." The typical counter-argument is that "insufficient reform will destabilize the country anyway."

    Frankly, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this strategy. But it should be obvious that some reforms are useless in isolation, only properly functioning as part of a larger system of reforms and depending on other reforms to be effective.

    It should also be clear that the chances of this strategy working are increased if each 'concession' is part of a well thought out and systematic plan or program for political reform, and if each step sufficiently resolves the pressing needs of society at the time.

    I don't suppose an interested citizen would be out of line by asking about: whether such a plan exists, and if it does, how is it constituted, how is it updated, how is it communicated etc..

    She would also want to find out about how a citizen is supposed to know whether a reform is effective or not. What are the metrics to measure success? Are there targets which are set and published? Who is accountable if specific reforms fail to achieve their objectives?

    Furthermore, many reforms are only meaningful if they are conceived and implemented in the spirit of the principles that inspired them. This also leads to another series of questions: just what are these principles that provide a conceptual and/or moral foundation for reform? Can I read about them and freely debate them in public? Who are the initial, intermediate, and final arbiters of what is a legitimate principle? How do they get selected? What are their qualifications? etc..

    That the present elections are so limited (no women, half appointed), and that the initial response has been so lukewarm is perhaps an indication that a bolder approach could have excited the population to take a more active interest in self-governance. One can only speculate that this would have helped a government that has its hands full dealing with pressing security and employment issues.