Was leafing through my old psychology textbook today. Back in 1960, the WHO had expressed the opinion that the stresses on persons in high positions are often too great for 'normal' people. "It suggested that as a consequence, individuals with a psychopathic personality makeup, who tend to exploit power for selfish purposes and have little concerns for ethical values or social progress, often become leaders." Well we know pyschological constructs are not written in stone and the line between normal and abnormal behaviour is rather thin. But some men and women in positions of power do suffer from megalomania, Indira Gandhi, Mayawathi, Jayalalithaa..and a host of other politicians all over the world. Is it power that corrupts or is it that only slightly insane people strive towards positions of supreme power?
Saturday, May 03, 2003
This picture of the Iraqi National Museum deputy director Mushin Hasan sitting amidst the ruins of the ransacked museum with his head in his hands, is one of the most haunting images of the war.
It's imprinted in my brain and I think of it at various points through the day and it always leaves me with an incredible sense of loss, a horrible feeling at the pit of my stomach. The idea of the ancient civilisation of Mesopotamia was just something I had constructed from history textbooks. It was on my fourth standard history exam paper. Fill in the blanks: The cradle of human civilisation is ----------- I guess we will have to be content with the teeming museums of Europe and America. The Baghdad National Musuem of Antiquities has quietly passed into history.
But all is not lost. The various manuscripts, sculptures, the gold vessels--they'll turn up at auction houses in London, Paris and New York. Or in some Sheikh's palace. Or in some other palatial home as "conversation pieces." And someone will offer to reconstruct the museum.
My mother-in-law once visited Pakistan. She said the markets were chock full of rugs and artefacts from Afghanistan. Pieces of furniture, boxes and carpets that seemed to have been literally stolen from people's homes. Antiques. Nothing but loot, she said.
It's fascinating. The notion that people buy these things and install them in their homes--all this loot. Strip old havelis of their windows and doors and fix it on to a spanking new apartment. "Yes, our door's come all the way from Jodhpur, really"
Monday The war on Iraq and a volunteer in Palestine This is an e-mail from my friend Aysha who works as a volunteer in Palestine. She helped set up International Women's Peace Service in Palestine --"an international team of 16 women from 8 countries, 4 of whom are based at any one time in Hares, a village in the Salfit Governate of Palestine's West Bank. Team members witness and document human rights abuses in the Salfit area, nonviolently intervene to protect human rights."
Aysha's commitment to Palestine is just so rare and I think there are very few people of our generation who have that kind of courage.
More from Palestine. I may not be writing again for a while – we expect things to get very bad (even worse) here shortly. Forgive me if this turns out to be a bit incoherent – my thoughts aren’t too organized at the moment. The last few days have brought a lot of unwelcome news.
We’ve always known that the Israeli government would try to take advantage of a war in Iraq to carry out some kind of military campaign here – the world’s attention will be elsewhere – but it’s becoming more and more clear just how far-reaching the plans are. We have noticed this week that a lot of new roadblocks have been put in place (and if anyone is wondering just what I mean by ‘roadblock’, it’s a huge pile of earth and rocks). The Israeli army seems to be preparing to seal off places, and the expectation has been that they will try to move Palestinians out of certain areas so that they can eventually annex those areas. The most vulnerable places are those near to the Green Line – the ‘border’ between Israel and the West Bank.
As part of that campaign people are also expecting electricity and water to be cut off, so we’ve been stocking up on provisions, buying water containers, we even bought a small generator so we will still be able to run our computers and get reports out.
Day before yesterday, though, we heard some very disturbing information – that it may not be the Israeli army that will carry out this expulsion of the population. A couple of us attended a meeting with Ta’ayush (a Jewish – Palestinian organization); they were delivering a lorryload of flour, in anticipation of the food problems people will face during the war. (We helped shift the sacks of flour, and got covered in the process...a moment of fun in otherwise gloomy times.)
One of the Israeli activists who spoke at the meeting after said that in fact the government is going to use the settlers to go into villages, to perhaps choose one or two villages and conduct massacres, in order to terrify people in the surrounding area to leave (i.e. 1948 tactics). The government doesn’t have to take responsibility, but will achieve its aim of emptying this region of Palestinians. This is really frightening, as settlers are a law unto themselves…It’s difficult for us to have a strategy for dealing with them.
And then yesterday, as a lot of you will have heard, an ISM activist was killed in Rafah (in the south of the Gaza Strip, where I taught a couple of years ago). She was run over by a bulldozer while trying to prevent a home demolition. An American woman, 23 years old. It’s just horrible news. I have attached a statement by her parents which is moving. (You can see pictures of what happened here: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article1248.shtml - be warned, it’s upsetting.)
Right now I am busy trying to coordinate with an Israeli lawyer who has offered to file a complaint to the ICC in The Hague, as well as issue arrest warrants for the IDF officers involved in Rachel’s death. (We – IWPS – help out with a lot of ISM’s legal work.) Let’s see how far it goes.
And then war starts tomorrow.
I keep finding myself not breathing properly – I have to make myself take deep breaths when I notice. It’s like the world is falling apart and no one is willing or able to do anything about it. It’s all so unreal.
I still don’t doubt the importance of being here, though – even if it’s just to bear witness.
Ok hello all, back after a long break from blogging. The most bizarre thing happened to me outside an ATM on Friday. As I was walking out, I sensed rapid movement behind me.. I sort of half ran and then relaxed as i looked back and realised it was the security guard. But he was clutching his stomach and as I moved, he threw up over my feet only just missing the side of my head and my shoulders...i messaged my ma-in-law in Delhi apprising her of the astonishing event and she said, What a strange effect to have on people! ha ha ha. Now everytime I pass by an HDFC ATM, I feel vaguely nauseous myself.
I missed my last music class with the crazy hours at work, so we sang for a long time today. I learnt a new taraana in raag Pilu. Neela composed it for a 6-year-old student of hers. It's playful, lyrical and a little tricky but I was able to master it somewhat, though I'm quite lost when it comes to the taal. I'm so exhausted today but relieved that this is my last day at this newspaper. I had to get my clearance form signed by SO many departments. Most people were friendly save for one secretary who behaved exactly like a hostel warden.
Looked down at me from her sliding spectacles and said, "Why have you come now at the last minute? It's the wrong time."
me: I'm sorry, but HR was only able to give me this form today, so its not the last minute.
she: Oh heh, heh, but the person concerned has left.
me: is there anybody else who?
she (interrupts with ultra bitchy voice): see, only certain people are authorised...
me: never mind, I'll let HR know. Thank you for your time.
she: ok..but still it is the wrooong time.
I don't care. No more mind-numbing stories on fiscal deficit and number crunching. No more night shifts though i'll miss the warm glow of sodium vapour lamps lining the empty flyovers as I drive/fly home on them, knowing my husband is up waiting for me. No more working on S U N D A Y S. Life is good.
Friday, January 24, 2003
I got a letter in the mail box today. A real paper and pen letter from Bangalore. Four pages long, in my sister's neat, familiar handwriting. Its been so long since I got a letter from her. Her writing always touches me and evokes so many lovely memories of home and how close we were growing up. E-mail is a wonderful thing, but there is just something so beautiful about a well-written letter.
Wednesday, January 22, 2003