Castles in the air - they are so easy to take refuge in. And so easy to build, too.

आम्हां घरी धन शब्दांचीच रत्नें | शब्दांचीच शस्त्रें यत्न करुं ||
शब्द चि आमुच्या जीवांचे जीवन | शब्दें वांटूं धन जनलोकां ||
तुका म्हणे पाहा शब्द चि हा देव | शब्द चि गौरव पूजा करुं ||
- abhang of Tukaram Wolhoba Ambile of Dehu

There's No Freedom Like That of a Child's Imagination

கடலுக்கு உண்டு கற்பனைக்கு இல்லை கட்டுப்பாடு

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Kim and Orhan

The past few days have seen the world in quite a bit of turmoil, with the North Korean sanctions and the year's Nobel prizes being dished out. I see a thread that links a two, though somewhat tenuous and invisible.

Kim Jong-Il told the world North Korea had the bomb. As expected, it sent off the diplomatic shockwaves, culminating in the imposition of sanctions today. A tin-pot dictator who doesn't mind starving his country to fulfil a fancy of his, isn't he? A dangerous rogue itching to smash his N-tipped Taepodongs into the Pentagon.

Well, he has absolute power, does what his whim is. But ever since the end of the Korean war, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea hasn't invaded anybody, or threatened to do so. One of the original axis of Evil, the harm it has done to the world remains to be seen. So why does Kim have no moral right to have a bomb? If China can (with no record of aggression and democracy), and the US and UK can (with excellent records of democracy and aggression), why not Kim?

Is it because the US and UK can no longer threaten him? He can retaliate with his N-tipped Taepodongs if he is attacked now. The opportunity to lob cluster bombs and spread a little more freedom and democracy has passed. All the West can do is cry out in moral outrage. Send him a strong message: lay siege to him ('sanctions' in modern language), and starve a country that has forgotten what stomachs are.

I'm not justifying his right to have the bomb, but I see no justification against it either. The only one who needs to mess with North Korea is South Korea, so why not let them do it? What interest does the West have, apart from flexing muscles?

That brings me to Orhan Pamuk's Nobel. Now I am no one to criticise his choice, not having read anything by him. By all means he may deserve the prize. Going by his fame in Turkey, perhaps he deserved it long ago. Years before his infamous trial. But then the West wouldn't have noticed him were it not for Turkey trying to try him for 'insulting Turkishness'. A man who stands up for the Armenians and Kurds, who suffers from a repressive regime...the sort of hero the West likes.

I don't know whether the Turks see it, but I see a subtle message in the announcement of the Nobel to Turkey. And that is a message from Europe to Turkey: you're not good enough for us. You're not democratic enough, not free press enough, not minority-appeasing enough. You're not good enough to be European unless you follow our values, our systems. Turkish pride is nothing. We'll keep your conscience for you, we'll tell you what's history, what's not. You don't have to do any soul-searching or any inner struggle. The West has in a sense taken Orhan Pamuk to itself, seeing in him a hero when he made the noises they wanted to hear.

That the Turks have bent over backwards to swallow their pride and institute reforms to suit the EU does not seem to register on the EU. They've rehabilitated the Kurds, repealed some of their laws. They want to be Europeans, and only they want to. The Europeans (as the French quite explicitly state) don't. And I see just one implicit reason - Turkey's Islamic past. It doesn't have a Christian background like Europe, even though today the average Turk is about as religious as the average European. But it has enough of a past for it not to be welcome.

My hypothesis is testable - let's see Europe's reaction to geographically European but religiously Islamic countries - Albania and Bosnia - when they apply to join. If they are welcome, but not Turkey, then the fault lies with Turkey. If Albania and Bosnia have trouble, then the fault lies with Islam.

So here's the thread: A message from the West that there is only one way of life - and that is its. Elect senators backed by big corporations to a senate that will make legislation opening up the world for big money. No juche, no Turkish pride. Else face the music, subtle or otherwise.

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