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Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English and economics. He was born and lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has contributed to AXIS OF LOGIC, ENTER TEXT, POSTCOLONIAL TEXT, LEFT CURVE, MOBIUS, ERBACCE, THE JOURNAL, and other publications. He is also a freelance journalist. He and his wife love to tour Bangladesh.
(3 comments) SHARE Tuesday, February 10, 2009 The Body of William Jay
It takes some years to learn the old adage: "You can't win an argument". In one's early days, one is brash and green enough to believe that reason will win through: then one discovers that the opposite is the case. For men and women are motivated, neither by love of truth nor by reverence for logic, but by prejudices that stem from their material interests.
SHARE Saturday, June 14, 2008 Cap'n Blimey
Captain Bligh would have been unbelievable if he had not been real. Bligh epitomizes the New Personality - the individual who advances a career to the detriment, and indeed death, of others.
SHARE Tuesday, January 22, 2008 On Being a Philosopher
One of the deepest hungers is the hunger for knowledge: yet there is no obstacle that society won't place in its pursuit. Yet, at the same time, society pretends to admire the pursuit of wisdom. The philosopher has to contend against such contradictions.
SHARE Sunday, January 25, 2009 The Logos of Bangladesh
Two things conspire to multiply falsehood about Bangladesh: an ersatz nationalism, and a very real domination by western donor governments. The culture of lies that these have created robs even everyday life of its dignity, and sustains a noxious elite that thrives like a parasite on the backs of 'the people'.
SHARE Wednesday, July 11, 2007 The Seven Dimensions
The priests and priestesses of the religion of democracy require the world to have faith, no matter how many murders, rapes and other crimes are committed in its name, and by its advocates.
(3 comments) SHARE Thursday, May 20, 2010 Democracy: The Historical Accident
The forum polity -" democracies and republics -" owes its origin to two major accidents in human history: accidents that were unique to the western world, and which, indeed, created western civilization in contrast to the others, which were all palace polities.
(1 comments) SHARE Monday, May 5, 2008 Sister Carrie and the Leisure Class
The year after Thorstein Veblen's classic Theory of the Leisure Class appeared, Theodore Dreiser's novel Sister Carrie followed. Coincidence? Not really: the two books shared many of the same themes.
(1 comments) SHARE Thursday, December 29, 2011 CRIMES OF FINANCE: The Pyramid of Bangladesh
On the two occasions that the Awami League has come to power, its proteges have engaged in share market fraud with impunity. This shows the patronage system of government masquerading as a democracy.
SHARE Wednesday, March 11, 2009 The Dual Dictatorship
Western donor governments, especially America, have created civil wars in several Muslim countries by imposing democracy: in the next few months, Bangladesh will probably be added to the list.
SHARE Friday, March 23, 2007 The Perils of Cultural Absolutism
Ayyan Hirsi Ali finds everything wrong with "Islamists"; she deplores cultural relativism, which justifies points of view other than secular, western ones. The dangers of cultural absolutism are not obvious to her; and for her "rights" are universal, despite the fact that they are being debated all the time, even in the west.
(3 comments) SHARE Saturday, May 5, 2018 The Age of Fundamentalism
Bangladesh risks becoming a fundamentalist Muslim country if free and fair elections are held.
(2 comments) SHARE Wednesday, July 24, 2019 The Linnet and the Leaf
Ingroup-outgroup hatred is easily generated. In fact, "-social psychologists have generated it again and again in laboratories. Demagogues know how to manipulate our deepest emotions and anxieties to create hostility. They take us back to our pre-civilisational past, when we lived in compact groups, fearful of others outside and clinging to those inside.
(2 comments) SHARE Thursday, April 5, 2007 Of skirts and scarves
Parts of the Muslim world reacted to western domination by focussing on superficial things like skirts and headscarves: other areas made more intelligent decisions.
(1 comments) SHARE Tuesday, December 3, 2019 Demos
Democracy came to Bangladesh in 1990, our annus mirabilis/horribilis, after a hiatus of 15 years (1975 - 1990) when the Cold War required maintenance of the military in power by the West. Democracy has claimed victims of all kinds - bystanders burnt alive, beaten to death, student politicians murdered by each other.... The poems give poetic voice to the carnage, mendacity and manipulation of the miraculous/horrible years.
(1 comments) SHARE Friday, July 19, 2019 Unholy Sonnets
Donne wrote his Holy Sonnets at a time that was infused with God. Perhaps more, or less, wise than before, we live in what appears a God-forsaken world. Hence these Unholy Sonnets.
(2 comments) SHARE Friday, November 29, 2019 The Great Unwatched
Psychological experiments have repeatedly shown that when people are watched, they are less antisocial and more prosocial. These findings are at odds with the facts on the ground in Bangladesh. A plausible explanation is that the psychological subjects are mostly WEIRD: White, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic.
(1 comments) SHARE Thursday, July 4, 2019 Asian Values
Asia and Europe have had divergent historical trajectories, with the slavery-freedom distinction absent"- or prominent"-, respectively. Asian culture stresses collective harmony over individual difference, and is remarkably free of ideology (which, when imported, ha"-s"- had unfortunate consequences).
(5 comments) SHARE Saturday, November 9, 2019 "Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay"
The political development of Western Europe, with its incessant change and internal and external strife, contrasts sharply with the tranquility and continuity of Asia.
These facts have gone unappreciated by historians until today.
(1 comments) SHARE Tuesday, April 29, 2014 The Fallacy of Education
Take a youngster and fill his head with unreal ideas and you can call it education. This has been the fate of economics.
(1 comments) SHARE Sunday, June 28, 2020 History to the Defeated
Was Derek Chauvin a "bad apple" in an otherwise excellent barrel, as claimed by Donald Trump? The bad-barrel theory was first propounded by George Bush in relation to the Abu Ghraib scandal. Social psychologist Philip Zimbardo, author of the Stanford Prison Experiment, emphatically declared the barrel to be bad.
(1 comments) SHARE Thursday, November 14, 2019 Meeting a White Mennonite
For rational reasons (foreign aid, foreign jobs, foreign education) as well as extra-rational reasons (the long colonial experience under the British from 1757 to 1947), the educated elite of Bangladesh financially, psychologically and emotionally prostrate themselves before the West. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the democratic choice by a coterie of self-interested and self-deprecating few.
SHARE Saturday, January 2, 2010 To Dance Upon The Air
Five former army officers will hang within the next few weeks in Bangladesh, raising deep questions about a people's right to protection from a tyrannical executive in the context of John Locke's political philosophy.
(1 comments) SHARE Sunday, August 9, 2020 Porn, and the Born Taxpayer
In this part of the world, we have given government carte blanche: to direct us, and to tax us without a fuss. "Born taxpayers" never see government as a problem, but the solution to every problem. The result is self-inflicted misery.
(1 comments) SHARE Thursday, May 30, 2019 Verses of Violence
Since the democratic transition of 1990, people in Bangladesh have been burnt alive, beaten to death, decapitated and disarticulated -- without a murmur from the populace.
These poems reflect the descent into less than animality in Bangladesh. They all recount true incidents.
(1 comments) SHARE Saturday, February 19, 2011 Ochlocracy
Events in the Middle East and elsewhere are being increasingly shaped by the crowd. Since the French Revolution, the crowd ha emerged as a legitimate force, not always with happy consequences.
(1 comments) SHARE Thursday, May 9, 2019 The Club
"Outgroup favoritism" is the term used by social psychologist Jim Sidanius to refer to the deference shown by members of subordinate groups to those of dominant groups. He gives the example of Uncle Tomming in the segregated South.
But outgroup favoritism was, and is, common in South Asia, where the British ruled for 200 years.
(2 comments) SHARE Friday, December 28, 2012 The External Proletariat
The Roman Empire had its internal as well as external proletariat -- the latter were the Germanic tribes, which finally overran the Western empire. Today, the third world plays the role of the external proletariat -- and the African-Americans and Native Americans that of the internal.
(1 comments) SHARE Friday, January 6, 2012 Permanent News
A great poet described poetry as news that stays news. I hope these 8 poems on political violence in post-democratic Bangladesh - especially the murder of young politicians by themselves - remain permanent memorials.
SHARE Tuesday, April 1, 2008 Elegy's Elegy
The decline of the elegy betokens a certain loss of sensibility in the western world in the twentieth century, a loss described by Mircea Eliade as "desacralization". Where other cultures continue to distinguish between the sacred and the profane, the West has conflated the two.
(3 comments) SHARE Friday, May 11, 2018 My Language
The nation-state experiment has failed in South Asia. Time to look for alternatives.
(2 comments) SHARE Saturday, February 28, 2009 A Bangladeshi Bluestocking
Nationalism in Bangladesh is shot through with contradictions, some ludicrous and some dangerous. A local columnist has championed local culture by sounding off against Arab culture claiming that the hijab is an import from the latter. This would be risible but for the political consequences for that embattled Arab people, the Palestinians.
SHARE Wednesday, March 7, 2007 Lara's Theme
Sir David Lean's epic "Lara's Theme" raised deep questions about the individual and society. The triumph of the former in certain places have wreaked havoc.
SHARE Friday, May 4, 2007 The Wicked Civilisation
After the end of the cold war, the target of western demonization shifted from the defunct "Soviet Union to the anticipated new adversary, the Muslim world. Supposedly universal "concerns -- women and democracy-- were brought to bear with obsessive focus on Islam, "to the exclusion of other civilizations where these were, by the same yardsticks, "legitimate concerns-- including the West. "
(2 comments) SHARE Monday, March 26, 2012 The Ethnocidal Civilisation
Ethnocide -- culture murder -- has been the repeated behaviour pattern of western civilization, as testified by Alexis de Tocqueville. The culture is not content with mere conquest: it must control the very thoughts of those conquered.
(1 comments) SHARE Friday, April 3, 2009 THE QUEENSBERRY RULES OF DISCOURSE
"The worse your logic, the more interesting the consequences...." Most of us would do well to make these words of Bertrand Russell part of our portmanteau of guiding maxims. There are few things more comfortable or seductive than the absence of reason, and among them the most everyday cushion and charm are provided by the informal fallacies catalogued in part here.
(1 comments) SHARE Thursday, March 8, 2012 On Clothes And Modernity
The mantra of modernity, as progress, has to be debunked. The word has no meaning and is responsible for all manner of evil.
(2 comments) SHARE Saturday, June 15, 2019 Mendacity in Bangladesh
Thanks to colonial hangover, western foreign policy and our own avaricious ambition, mendacity has become entrenched in Bangladeshi political and social life. No lie is too prodigious to whitewash the pathologies of democracy on both sides of the Indo-Bangladesh border.
SHARE Tuesday, March 20, 2007 A Reply To Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell equated liberalism, commerce and empiricism, which was unfortunate. Rationalism, he observed, led to totalitarianism, which suppressed commerce, and thereby liberty. However, a brief outline of the history of slavery among the "liberal" and "commercial" nations of the world disabuse the reader of imagining any connection between the two.
SHARE Sunday, July 15, 2007 T.A.N.G.O
Would the UN appoint Cheri Blair or Laura Bush as human rights advocates? Yet, that is exactly what the UN has done by appointing Sigma Huda to that role. And in this she, and many others, have been cosseted and protected by national and international NGOs.
(2 comments) SHARE Tuesday, September 18, 2018 Carthago Delenda Est
John McCain once proposed 'A League of Democracies'. The man has passed away, but ideas seldom die. It is a peculiar feature of Western nations to try and mould the world in their fashion. Even the great John Milton was guilty of the same.
SHARE Saturday, March 10, 2007 The Two Religions of Bangladesh
According to Ninian Smart, nationalism is as much a religion as any of the regular variety. Nationalism has never been able to suplant Islam in Bangladesh, and the two religions coexist in hostility.
(4 comments) SHARE Monday, June 10, 2019 Huxley, and the Meaning of Words
The meaning of a word resides in the rules for its use in a way of life. Meaning amputated from a way of life becomes merely a word. This is the finding of Wittgenstein and the Sapir-Whorf thesis. It implies that one cannot translate between languages, nor transplant a word to another society that must necessarily be incapable of understanding the meaning. Words are portable; not ideas.
Democracy is such a word.
(1 comments) SHARE Sunday, August 12, 2007 Four Years AFTER the Revolution
I have lived to see, first-hand, how an entire society goes mad, and loses all humanity... The personal is the political, and the choices we make in our everyday lives translate into good or evil in the (supposedly distinct) public sphere. Whether misled by ambition, or blinded by ideology, our actions have consequences; they can make or destroy strangers.
SHARE Thursday, December 28, 2006 The Role of Anytus
Anytus, prosecutor of Socrates, represents the idea that civil society is a force for good. Today, in fact, "civil" society threatens the world with World War III.
SHARE Sunday, June 24, 2007 The Rape of the Delta
The donor-backed military takeover has been immensely popular. But there are die-hard ýelements who wish to see the discredited politicians continue with their murderous ýcampaigns. The author feels that the politicians should not be tried for corruption, but for ýcrimes against humanity.
(1 comments) SHARE Tuesday, November 13, 2018 In Memoriam; Yasser Arafat
On the 14th anniversary of the passing away of Yasser Arafat, we look back on the days before and after his death.
(1 comments) SHARE Saturday, December 15, 2012 9/11 Recalled In Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, we dream of the Green Card and the blue passport: we never stop to think what miserable lives our Palestinian brothers and sisters live, thanks to the country that holds out the aforementioned card and passport.
SHARE Sunday, February 11, 2007 Moll Flanders
Among writing on the subject of unfreedom, Moll Flanders ranks supreme. The novel testifies to how America became the land of the unfree.
(2 comments) SHARE Tuesday, September 12, 2017 Burmese Days
The flight of Muslim refugees into Bangladesh from Burma has seriously dented Aung San Suu Kyi's image. She has refused to voice any sympathy for these people.
SHARE Sunday, February 24, 2008 In The Prison of His days
In Bangladesh, we never identify with the African-American. Indeed, in South Asia, the middle class aspiration is to be like the white middle class: affluent. We forget that until recently, we were despised by our colonial masters, whose rule has proven so effective that we have become mental slaves the only kind that endures "emancipation".
SHARE Monday, February 19, 2007 Colonial Democracy
Colonial democracy, is not new. The Persians and the Greeks were the first to practice it. Today, it is the turn of Bangladesh, Iraq and Palestine, on the one hand, and America and Europe on the other.
(2 comments) SHARE Tuesday, October 9, 2007 Is Poetry Dead?
Who reads poetry today? And who reads the modern and contemporary poets? And yet there is a deluge of poetry for the producers and consumers of poetry constitute a giant industry, from which the 'average' reader is left out.
(7 comments) SHARE Saturday, December 3, 2011 Horace In The Hills
Spurious, but deadly, nationalism in Both Bangladesh and among its hill people in the south-ease has claimed lives - and continues to do so after a bogus peace treaty.
SHARE Wednesday, July 25, 2007 Democracy R.I.P
The prospect of democracy as universal religion must remain forever chimerical. In Bangladesh, the two dynasties that practiced an ersatz democracy are being politically ostracized by the military-backed government. The move has been enormously popular. Years of organized mayhem have suddenly come to an end.
SHARE Monday, January 14, 2008 From Ceylon to Sri Lanka
The twin ideas of democracy and nationalism were the undoing of the island whose people moved, violently, from Ceylon to Sri Lanka.
(1 comments) SHARE Thursday, April 12, 2012 Vercingetorix and Doofus Dignity
Vercingetorix was the leader of the Gauls who dared to rebel against the mighty Roman Republic. Irrational? Sure, but also dignified. The pursuit of dignity often entails the irrational. But we in Bangladesh are no "doofuses" like the great Vercingetorix -- we are rational, and without an atom of self-respect or dignity.
(1 comments) SHARE Saturday, December 12, 2020 The Art of Demonization: West vs. China
Demonizing and valorizing are dark arts of illogic, best performed by those intimate with fallacies as well as reason. Suborning the intellect comes easiest to those able to err consciously. The Chinese are strangers to rhetoric and deduction alike. They cannot match the West spin for spin, sham for sham.
(1 comments) SHARE Saturday, April 3, 2021 Our Fascist Circus
Totalitarianism on both sides of the Indo-Bangladesh border claimed yet more victims. Protest and dissent signal betrayal of the group, and are brutally punished. Particularistic thoughts constitute crimes, thinking in unison carries rewards.
(1 comments) SHARE Friday, December 7, 2018 Of Pigs And Believers
Ideologies seem to polarize people into pigs and believers: those who are in it for the "-perks, and those who are really in it, the fanatic. This was true of Russian Communism - "-as historian Richard Vinen tells us - as it is for democracy in Bangladesh (and elsewhere). "-Here, the locals are in it for the cash and the (western) kudos."-
(2 comments) SHARE Wednesday, January 16, 2008 In Quest of Happiness
"When is enough, enough?" Civilisation is a constant overreach for material possessions. Enough has never been enough, and some people, like the Cynics and the hippies, have reacted against the tyranny of matter.
(4 comments) SHARE Wednesday, April 30, 2008 Cherie Blair in Bangladesh
When Cherie Blair visits Bangladesh and lectures the natives on "the rule of law" and "human rights", she goes beyond decency and humanity, and makes a mockery of the deaths of over a million people in Iraq.
(3 comments) SHARE Monday, February 11, 2008 The Perry Legacy
Over a hundred and fifty years ago, Commodore Perry turned a peaceful nation into a terrible force: there are lessons to be learned from the transformation of Japan. There are certain aspects of the west that should not be emulated.
(1 comments) SHARE Thursday, December 8, 2011 Democracy Good, Demos Bad
This is a satire on democracy, especially as it is practiced and perceived in third world countries like Bangladesh, where it is a sick joke.
(1 comments) SHARE Friday, April 23, 2021 Masculinity, and Indian Fascism
The self-contempt of the Indians has been exploited by the politicians in time-honoured fashion. They have generated "libidinous feelings" (Freud's term) and the opposite against "outsiders". Their femininity, alleged by the British and believed by themselves, have created fantasies of glory and hatred.
(1 comments) SHARE Wednesday, December 20, 2006 REGIME CHANGE, LANGUAGE CHANGE
Those who wish to democratise other cultures need to consider the solid obstacle provided by language. For the meaning of terms like "democracy", "vote", "election", etc. are governed, like any other words, by the rules of society. One cannot therefore export concepts that do not fit the norms and mores and history of a society - the language will not allow it.
(1 comments) SHARE Sunday, November 22, 2020 Meddlesome Monk
Fr. Timm recently passed away, besmirching in later life the memory of when he and the priests at Notre Dame College fed 1,000 people every day during the great famine of 1974 in Bangladesh.
Knowing fully well that the famine had been caused by the democratically elected government of the Awami League, he persisted in his faith that democracy would deliver.
(2 comments) SHARE Monday, December 24, 2007 The Ad Hominem
Humanity is characterized by an abhorrence of logic: there's no expedient that it won't adopt to avoid thinking. And the most pernicious of these maneuvers is the informal fallacy that goes by the name of argumentum ad hominem.
SHARE Tuesday, March 3, 2009 Food
The preoccupation with food shows how civilisation, despite 10,000 years of agriculture, has still failed to relegate the subject to the background of human needs. Poverty and plenty jostle obscenely; the affluent converse endlessly about food, as though well aware of the emergency of the subject.
SHARE Sunday, January 14, 2007 The Incoherence of Progress
"Progress" has been touted as the excuse for all manner of evils. Yet while politicians and economists believe in progress, and act accordingly, writers and directors busily depict cacotopias and dystopias, capturing the incoherence at the heart of the idea.
SHARE Monday, January 29, 2007 The Cringe Factor
South Asia suffers from "cultural cringe" syndrome envy of, and desire to imitate, the former mother country. Two hundred years of British rule has had a debilitating effect on the local psyche.
SHARE Friday, January 5, 2007 The First European
To escape Europe's cycle of wars, the European elite created the European Union. But how democratic is the EU?
SHARE Saturday, January 20, 2007 A Frisson of Freedom
Since western governments exported democracy to Bangladesh in 1990, society has turned violent, with the major political parties employing thugs to win elections. This is a satirical take on the subject of "freedom", though it is not easy to satirise rape and lynching.
SHARE Thursday, January 11, 2007 Monoculture
Anti-globalizers are worried that the world is headed towards a dull uniformity in culture. Yet there is another kind of ýmonoculture that threatens: western political ideas -- fatal to local culture and, all too often, people themselves. ý
(3 comments) SHARE Monday, November 5, 2007 The Irrational
The irrational, despite its ubiquity, has hardly served as an explanatory device. Most people assume that agents are motivated by rational considerations, when, in fact, they are frequently swayed by the irrational.
SHARE Wednesday, January 30, 2008 Suharto, and Before
Suharto passes away, and with him an era. He will long be remembered as the father of Indonesia's growth and development, despite criticism of his rule. Even before his death, many ordinary Indonesians, if not most, mourned the passing of his regime.
SHARE Tuesday, January 16, 2007 The Price of Conscience
With the major political parties employing thugs, our democratic transition of 1990 has become a nightmare. The worst part is the fact that foreign donors and local intellectuals alike ask us to accept the violence in the name of freedom.
(2 comments) SHARE Thursday, April 24, 2008 Bulk Thinking
The scientific spirit is the spirit of generalization. The opposite, the unscientific, is the spirit of humanity. It is tempting to think in "bulk" because it is cheap, like bulk purchase. It is also dehumanizing and dangerous.
(1 comments) SHARE Saturday, October 6, 2007 Of Happiness
Nearly eight centuries later, the wisdom of Sheikh Sa'di receives confirmation if any were needed from economic data: the more you have, the more happy you are not. Besides, economic theory as Sa'di would have pointed out has been proven false by recent research: people earn, not to be happy, but to be richer than others.
SHARE Tuesday, December 13, 2011 An Elegy For The News
The murder of 1.7 million Iraqi children through sanctions between 1991 and 2001 has been quietly overlooked by the media. This shows in the glorifying of its main author, Bill Clinton. Other examples of media silence are also given.