December 31, 2007
The Peace Process Delusion
Like the proverbial emperor and his nonexistent clothes, the 'Process' has no 'Peace'
A serious pandemic of delusion is gripping the world. Ground Zero for the spread of this scourge was in Annapolis, Maryland in late November. Within hours, millions of otherwise intelligent people started exhibiting the symptoms of this horrible affliction: uncontrollable optimism, abrupt failure of reasoning, oblivious disregard of reality, and a deeply religious faith in a fictional 'Peace Process' that will be the New Messiah that will deliver the world from all evil.
It would be fun to watch this mass hysteria unfold as it infects more and more people, but unfortunately, there are real human costs to the continuation of this delusion. It is time for sane people everywhere to rise to confront this delusion and break the news to the millions of devout Peace-Processians springing up around the world: like the proverbial Emperor and his nonexistent clothes, this 'Process' has no 'Peace'. This fictional god you have been worshipping exists only in your brains; just because you insist on seeing it in spite of all evidence does not in any way change the cold hard reality that it is simply not there.
There is utterly no evidence to suggest that any prospects for 'Peace' exist from this charade of a 'Process'. Israel is finishing the construction of its apartheid wall, the world's only religiously-segregated road network, and thousands of watch-towers from which it observes everything going on in the life of all Palestinians. Complete towns are locked up behind gates that open arbitrarily according to the whims of callous soldiers. Israeli illegal colonies are growing more than ever—mere days after the conclusion of the Annapolis conference, Israel announced it would expand a crucial colony outside Jerusalem. More than 400,000 illegal Israeli settlers still litter the West Bank, having benefited from 40 years of expansionist colonialism and generous subsidies from every single Israeli government elected by the Israeli populace. The Gaza Strip remains legally an occupied land, though effectively it is the world's biggest prison. Normal service will by all means continue.
It is quite clear to anyone who would care listen to Israeli leaders themselves that Israel has absolutely no intention of giving away anything meaningful in the West Bank—certainly nothing on which anyone could establish a viable state. It is also painfully clear to anyone who cares to reason that the American government has no intention whatsoever of pressuring the Israelis into any form of concession. Seeing as these issues are the main issues standing between us and a peaceful solution, one can be sure that there will be no way for a peaceful solution to be achieved.
So why do so many people continue to believe in this mythical 'Peace Process'? Like other fictitious beliefs, there are the few who benefit, and then there are the masses who are deluded. There are also, of course, the many that are harmed.
The biggest beneficiary from this delusion is the Israeli government. That is why its leaders have gone around the world trumpeting the importance of achieving peace. Olmert claimed that failure to achieve peace would doom Israel; Haim Ramon, his deputy, even beseeched American Jewish groups to work for a peaceful solution for the sake of Israel. There is a desperate attempt to make sure that Israel appears desperate for peace. But of course, actions speak louder than words. If Israel really meant any of this, they wouldn't have approved an illegal colony on stolen Palestinian land in East Jerusalem hours after Annapolis. It is this hypocrisy that has come to accurately define the past few years, and will be the hallmark of the future: Israeli actions that solidify and perpetuate the occupation, along with Israeli statements desperate for peace. All that Israel has to do is to play pretend and everything will be fine. It just needs to pay some lip-service to the possibility of potentially starting some sort of a 'Process' that might, with a few miracles, result in something or the other, someday, somewhere, and the entire world will applaud in awe. Any Peace-processian fundamentalist who still has faith needs to ask themselves the honest question of how they can maintain this delusion in the face of this hypocrisy and this disparity between actions and rhetoric.
As for those who are harmed, they are the millions of Palestinians living under apartheid, repression and murder in Gaza and the West Bank, with their hopes of ever seeing normalcy in their lives evaporating; and the millions of refugees whose legitimate right to return to their homes the world is happy to forget.
The worst thing about this sorry state of affairs is its indomitable sustainability. Israel will continue expanding settlements, oppressing Palestinians, and murdering an unborn nation with complete impunity. The Palestinians, left to their fate by the world, will continue to suffer completely unable to do anything to alter Israel's position. And the world will cheer on, and assure the Palestinians that all they need is just a little more 'Process'. So long as the 'Process' goes on; no one pressures Israel to do anything, and Israel won't do anything. So long as Israel does nothing; the tragedy of the Palestinians continues. So long as the tragedy of the Palestinians continues, the mirage of 'peace' will become more unattainable.
What the Peace-Processians don't realize is that not only is the status quo here to stay, their cult-like enthusiasm for it is the main reason why it is here to stay. If the hordes of 'Peace Processians' want 'Peace' and not 'Process', they should be condemning Israel's colonies and occupation, not applauding its empty statements. So long as the masses continue to convince themselves the emperor is dressed in splendid clothes, he will continue to parade his hideous crotch all over the world, from Jerusalem to Annapolis and beyond.
perceptions: murderous days
Ismail Gulgee. 1926-2007.
One of Pakistan's most loved painters, found strangled in his home last week.
December 30, 2007
Science This Holiday Season
John Horgan and George Johnson discuss Dawkins, evolution, beauty, physics and language on the latest Science Saturday over at bloggingheads.tv:
What Science Can Teach Us About Morality
Eyja M. Brynjarsdóttir reviews Can Science Help Us Make Wise Moral Judgments? (Paul Kurtz, ed.) in Metapsychology Online Reviews (via Political Theory Daily Review):
What, if anything, does science have to contribute to morality? Is it ever worth the effort to look to science in our search for answers to moral dilemmas? The goal of this anthology is not only to give affirmative answers to these questions, but to explain how and why. This is done from a secular humanist perspective; the editor, Paul Kurtz, is the founder and chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism, and many of the authors write as humanists as well. Several of the papers in the book have previously appeared in Free Inquiry, a bi-monthly publication of the Council for Secular Humanism edited by Kurtz. The book covers a variety of issues, ranging from accounts of biological processes to abstract philosophical arguments. While most of the contributors are philosophers, some of the papers are written by scientists who offer their insights.
The questions raised in the beginning can be understood in different ways and answered accordingly. One way to construe them is to ask whether science can give us useful information on which to base our moral decisions. If informed moral decisions are better than uninformed, and if science does yield information, it seems inevitable that the answer is yes for the relevant cases. The bulk of the first six sections of the book is dedicated to illustrating this.
How Peaceful are Hunter-Gatherers?
The Economist looks at hunter-gatherers:
In 2006 two Indian fishermen, in a drunken sleep aboard their little boat, drifted over the reef and fetched up on the shore of North Sentinel Island. They were promptly killed by the inhabitants. Their bodies are still there: the helicopter that went to collect them was driven away by a hail of arrows and spears. The Sentinelese do not welcome trespassers. Only very occasionally have they been lured down to the beach of their tiny island home by gifts of coconuts and only once or twice have they taken these gifts without sending a shower of arrows in return.
Several archaeologists and anthropologists now argue that violence was much more pervasive in hunter-gatherer society than in more recent eras. From the
!Kung in the Kalahari to the Inuit in the Arctic and the aborigines in Australia, two-thirds of modern hunter-gatherers are in a state of almost constant tribal warfare, and nearly 90% go to war at least once a year. War is a big word for dawn raids, skirmishes and lots of posturing, but death rates are high—usually around 25-30% of adult males die from homicide. The warfare death rate of 0.5% of the population per year that Lawrence Keeley of the University of Illinois calculates as typical of hunter-gatherer societies would equate to 2 billion people dying during the 20th century.
At first, anthropologists were inclined to think this a modern pathology. But it is increasingly looking as if it is the natural state. Richard Wrangham of Harvard University says that chimpanzees and human beings are the only animals in which males engage in co-operative and systematic homicidal raids. The death rate is similar in the two species. Steven LeBlanc, also of Harvard, says Rousseauian wishful thinking has led academics to overlook evidence of constant violence.
The Year in Robots
Larry Greenemeier in Scientific American:
Last week's announcement of Japan's "Robot of the Year" for 2007—a mechanical arm capable of grabbing 120 items-per-minute from a conveyor belt—marked an anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a good year in the advancement of artificial intelligence.
The three Fanuc Ltd. assembly-line mechanical arms—which beat out competitors such as Fujitsu's 24-inch-tall (61-centimeter) dancing humanoid HOAP and Komatsu Ltd.'s tank-shaped, fire-extinguishing robot—won for their practicality; they are optimized to work efficiently and accurately on food and pharmaceutical manufacturing lines.
Still, 2007 offered plenty of other significant, if less heralded (and immediately useful), developments and pushed robotic technology to new levels, or at least promised to in the near future.
As part of NASA's plans to send peopled missions back to the moon (and then on to Mars), the space agency, in September, performed a series of tests to determine if robotic technology could be used to provide medical care for astronauts during extended spaceflights. On board a military C-9 aircraft flying in parabolic arcs over the Gulf of Mexico, four surgeons and four astronauts performed simulated surgery both by hand and using a robotic device developed by SRI International to determine if the robot's software can compensate for errors in movement caused by turbulence and varying gravitational conditions.
On Condoleezza Rice
Adam Shatz in the LRB:
Condoleezza Rice, like everyone else, is ‘worn down and discouraged by the war’, the New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller writes in her new biography (Random House, $27.95). Early morning work-outs on her ‘elliptical trainer’, shopping at expensive boutiques and American Idol provide some relief. But Rice has found her greatest ‘escape from the anxieties of her day’ – the anxieties she’s done so much to foster – by playing the piano with her chamber ensemble, whose recitals in the capital have ‘attracted a bipartisan audience’. ‘It’s the time I’m most away from myself, and I treasure it,’ Condi explains, and we wish she’d do more of it. She once dreamed of a career in classical music, and although she gave it up to study Soviet politics, you could say that she never stopped being a performer. Here she is in a red Oscar de la Renta gown, sashaying down the stairs of the British ambassador’s ‘palatial residence on Massachusetts Avenue’; there she is appearing before American troops wearing ‘a long, military-style black coat that blew open to reveal a skirt just above the knee and a pair of sexy, high-heeled black boots.’
Condi was, notoriously, one of the ‘Vulcans’ who presided over Bush’s various foreign policy disasters, but she was never a neocon. She wrote ‘leftist’ papers in graduate school and voted for Jimmy Carter before joining the Republican Party. Throughout the 1990s, her views on foreign policy were defined by a cautious realism, bearing the heavy imprint of her mentor, Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser under Bush père. In a Foreign Affairs article widely read at the time as a position paper for the son’s presidency, she chastised the Clinton administration for its ‘Wilsonian’ impulses and said there was no reason to panic about Iraq or North Korea since both governments were ‘living on borrowed time’. But that was before 9/11, when everything changed, including Rice’s belief in a foreign policy tempering ‘strength’ with ‘humility’.
He is interested in how the intelligible confounds us - 'Sometimes the drums would actually let us play/ between beats and that was nice' - and how, in our craving for the authoritative statement, which poetry all too easily panders too, there are always ironies in play that we would rather disregard: 'All this,' he writes, 'because I meant to be polite to someone' ('Has To Be Somewhere'). His wonderful titles, among other things, make us suspicious of entitlement.
Ashbery has taken Robert Frost's dictum 'Look after the sound and the sense will take care of itself' to its logical (and illogical) conclusions. He has found a language for poetry that is evocative without being informative. Because he never claims to speak on the reader's behalf, we can overhear ourselves as we read them. In the words of these late, remarkable poems, reading him is 'like practising a scale: at once different and never the same'. There are no poems like these.
more from The Observer Review here.
clive james considers reconsidering
In recent times I have gone back to Pound's Cantos to find out if I was correct in so thoroughly getting over my initial enthusiasm for them, or it. (Whether the Cantos is, or are, a singular or a plural, is a question that I believe answers itself eventually, but only in the way that a heap of rubble gradually becomes part of the landscape.) Fifty years ago, when the mad old amateur fascist was still alive and fulminating, I fell for the idea of his panscopic grab bag the way that I was then apt to fall for the idea of love. As that sweet-if-weird moment in that sad-if-stilted passage in the Pisan Cantos has it: "What thou lovest well remains,/The rest is dross." I especially liked the sound of that at a time when my knowledge of eternity was nineteen years long.
more from Poetry here.
JENNA BUSH'S BOOK-TOUR DIARY of hope
10/4 Larry King asks about Iraq. Naturally. There is a scurry in the dim back corridors of his studio. (His producers are proud of him.) Television is the box in which we hope to capture our religious needs. Here is shame! Here is redemption! Don't you understand, Mr. King? I am Iraq. This flesh, this pearlescent lipstick, the bundling of my bosom under secret snaps and fabrics. Every war is fought for virgins, for delusions of the innocent made corruptible. I am the daughter of the president of the United States of America, the sweet nexus of all imperial pornography. If you dream of defiling me, sir (as you do), war must be made on the barbarians.
Snowfall on another tarmac. The buildings look like ornate cakes. Only Bottoms remains. In the limo, I ask him about despair: is it fate or a kind of sickness? But Bottoms never speaks. His face is a pale blade. For a moment, I want to pound his chest, rip his heart free, lick the blood clean. Instead, I sleep away the day. Later, the lights come on. An audience assembles before me. I open the book of my life. Is there no one so happy as I am?
more from McSweeney's here.
Benazir Bhutto's son Bilawal to lead party
From The Telegraph:
Bilawal Bhutto, who is reading history at Oxford, will chair the Pakistan People's Party with his father, Asif Ali Zardar, as co-chairman. Party officials made the announcement after the reading of Miss Bhutto's will following her assassination last week. It has also been announced that Pakistan's parliamentary elections are likely to be delayed by up to four months in the wake of the assassination, according to the country's ruling party.
Tariq Azim, a spokesman for the party backing President Pervez Musharraf, said conditions had made it too difficult to go ahead with the Jan 8 polls in the wake of the death of the opposition leader and former prime minister.
How a ‘Wisp of a Girl’ Conquered Pakistan
WITH half her adult life spent either in exile or in prison, Benazir Bhutto might have lived like a medieval princess, but she died like an ordinary, modern Pakistani. When the assassin struck, Ms. Bhutto, the former prime minister, was doing what so many Pakistanis most love to do: electioneering. Two months earlier, when she had arrived in Karachi after eight years in exile, there were legitimate questions about her democratic credentials. Even her die-hard supporters were embarrassed by her blatant deal with Pakistan’s military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, the very man who had publicly vowed that she would never return to the country.
Yet when she arrived at the Karachi airport, her reception was spectacular — the biggest street party the city had seen in decades. My friend Moeen Qureshi, a lapsed Bhutto supporter, took his children to the rally “just out of curiosity, to relive my youth.” Fortunately, he left before two suicide bombers struck her convoy, killing more than 130. “This woman,” Mr. Qureshi told his children as they later watched Ms. Bhutto on TV being sped away from the devastation, “is bulletproof Bhutto.”
December 29, 2007
“(Physicist) Stephen Hawking, … admitted that he had given up his quest for a “grand unified theory of everything” on the grounds that we are part of it. Any explanation which tries to include the observer doing the explaining must necessarily be incomplete.” –John Habgood
“At its most profound, faith is not an answer to life’s questions but a willingness to inhabit the darkness of knowing there are some things we cannot know.” –Tina Beattie
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for...” --Saul of Tarsus
When in a mirror I see
what I take to be me
looking back, I realize
this is a feedback of light
looping off yellow kitchen walls
and the startled animal
that stands and stares
like the famous head-lit deer
Any thought of what it sees,
does not reflect as well.
No spark of intellect is seen
doubling up in the silvered glass,
nothing not known made known,
no recycled revelations appear,
only the seeable bouncing back and forth
echoing and echoing.
Beyond this is no other evidence
Daughter of Courage
Ruchira Paul in Accidental Blogger:
In my reading of numerous articles about Benazir Bhutto in the last 24 hours, I came across a common thread running through several columns by journalists who knew or had met her in person. All mention Bhutto's remarkable and unusual physical courage. It is interesting that Indian journalists have noted this fact prominently, perhaps because they are well acquainted with the bloody nature of politics in that part of the world. Compared to most security conscious politicians, Bhutto's disregard for her own physical safety struck the journalists as singularly brave and now in hindsight, also a bit reckless. It is possible that women leaders in male dominated societies must prove not just their political acumen but also the lack of physical fear in order to be taken seriously by their supporters as well as detractors. Elected women leaders in the west like Angela Merkel, Margaret Thatcher and any future female US president must bear heavy political burdens and exhibit unwavering resolve in times of crises. But women like Corazon Aquino of the Philippines and Bhutto in Pakistan have to additionally walk into physically perilous situations to earn their leadership spurs.
In the event of violent and untimely death and in the spirit of de mortuis nil nisi bonum, post mortem tributes can sometimes tend toward hagiography. Benazir Bhutto was far from perfect. But the repeated references to Benazir Bhutto's steely nerve and lack of physical cowardice is entirely credible.
A Bhutto Successor?
A senior official of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) told TIME late Saturday that the slain former prime minister's 19-year-old son, Bilawal, will likely be named as her political heir and the new party leader on Sunday. PPP members are due to meet to discuss the party's future and to give Bilawal, a student at Oxford, a chance to read his mother's last will and testament.
Other possible runners include Benazir's sister Sanam, though she seems incredibly reluctant to join the family firm, or Fatima Bhutto, the daughter of Zulfikar Ali's eldest son Murtaza. Fatima, however, had split with her aunt Benazir, whom she once described as "the most dangerous woman in Pakistan." The decision to go with Bilawal appears to have come after his father turned down the job in deference to the slain Benazir's expressed wishes. The senior PPP official, who requested anonymity to allow him to speak more openly, told TIME that Bilawal will head the party, and that the party's deputy leader and longtime Benazir loyalist, Mukhdoom Amin Fahim, is likely to become the prime minister, assuming the party wins a majority in parliament. Bilawal would take over as the parliamentary leader once he finishes his studies and once he has more experience, the official said. Earlier in the day PPP Senator Awan told TIME that Bilawal was a natural future leader. "Yes, of course," he said. "he has to be groomed and trained but that will happen."
Thomas Mann was an archmodernist, and this was his favorite story: One day, Gustave Flaubert was out walking with his sister. Ferociously antibourgeois, Flaubert lived alone, unconsoled and unencumbered by marriage or family. His novels mocked and maligned the French middle class, ironizing it into oblivion. He was a great frequenter of brothels and had fornicated his way through Paris and Cairo. And yet here he was out for a stroll, suddenly stopping in his tracks before a small house surrounded by a white picket fence.
In the yard, a solid middle-class father played with his typical middle-class children while wife and mother looked lovingly on. The enemy! Yet instead of holding his nose, Flaubert gestured toward the house and exclaimed, without irony: “Ils sont dans le vrai!” (“They are in the truth!”) For Mann, the delightful incident illustrated the tension between the outrage at conventional life and the yearning to be part of it that tore at modernist psyches. There is more to aesthetic rebellion than offends the eye.
Surprisingly, the anecdote doesn’t appear in Peter Gay’s “Modernism: The Lure of Heresy,” a massive history of the movement in all its artistic forms — painting, sculpture, fiction, poetry, music, architecture, design, film (though, bafflingly, not photography, one of the chief catalysts of the modernist revolution).
more from the NY Times Book Review here.
the second avenue deli
When I first heard about the rebirth of the Second Avenue Deli, I had a feeling the place was stalking me. For years when I lived downtown, this pastrami palace—one of New York City's last iconic, non-tourist-attraction temples of schmaltz (not the metaphoric kind but the liquid chicken fat that infuses so many of its dishes)—was a siren song. For this nonobservant Jew it was perhaps the most tangible aspect of my Jewish identity, a Proustian connection to the vision of shtetl life one finds in Isaac Bashevis Singer's work.
Not just the food but the whole aura of the place, the locale in the heart of the former Yiddish theater district where you could find gold stars with the names of the one-time luminaries of that once thriving, now virtually vanished world, embedded—in imitation of the Hollywood Walk of Fame—in the gritty sidewalk of lower Second Avenue in front of the deli.
more from Slate here.
the living cosmos
Impey has written a wonderfully readable book about the chances of life existing elsewhere in the universe (pretty high, in spite of the universe's appalling violence). But "The Living Cosmos" is not about just that. It is an overview of everything you need to know about the fundamentals, including how we got here and where we're probably going. More important, the science -- a word that often causes eyes to glaze over -- is laid out with uncommon clarity and panache.
The field of astrobiology (only about 50 years old and ill-named; it used to be called exobiology, which makes a lot more sense) has been criticized as "a subject with no subject matter." But there's plenty to speculate on. Impey begins with 40 pages' worth of basic cosmology, in which he manages to make the big bang almost visualizable, noting that the brief inflationary period immediately following the bang increased the size of the universe "from a proton to a grapefruit." It also homogenized everything, so that everywhere we look, the universe (now, 14 billion years later, a great deal larger than a grapefruit and getting larger and larger, faster and faster) looks pretty much the same.
more from the LA Times here.
The Purple Nurple Optical Illusion
From The Omni Brain:
Optical Illusion by Walter Anthony
A Year of Books Worth Curling Up With
From The New York Times:
The 10-favorite lists that follow are not 10-best lists. They’re not based strictly on merit. They don’t cite books we admired in the abstract but didn’t particularly like. Nor are they based on comprehensiveness; with so many books afoot, none of us can hope to have a complete overview. Each of us has stayed within the confines of our own reviews published in 2007 and picked the 10 books we covered most avidly — though there is one exception. Because Times critics do not review the work of their Times colleagues, Michiko Kakutani did not review Tim Weiner’s “Legacy of Ashes.” She recommends it nonetheless.
Think of these as lists that leave off the broccoli, figuratively speaking — though we have nothing against broccoli at all. (Michael Pollan's new pro-vegetable manifesto, “In Defense of Food,” might be on my list were it not for a technicality: Its publication date is Jan. 1, 2008.)
HOUSE OF MEETINGS by Martin Amis. This harrowing, deeply affecting novel recounts the story of two brothers interned at one of Stalin’s slave labor camps, taking the reader on a frightening journey deep into the heart of darkness that was the Soviet gulag.
THE SECOND CIVIL WAR: HOW EXTREME PARTISANSHIP HAS PARALYZED WASHINGTON AND POLARIZED AMERICA by Ronald Brownstein. A veteran political reporter provides a shrewd election-year assessment of the growing partisanship in American politics, looking at the roots of this polarization and its alarming consequences for the country at large.
December 28, 2007
Perhaps a Chance to Restore Pakistan
Tariq Ali in The Guardian:
I first met Benazir at her father's house in Karachi when she was a fun-loving teenager, and later at Oxford. She was not a natural politician and had always wanted to be a diplomat, but history and personal tragedy pushed in the other direction. Her father's death transformed her. She had become a new person, determined to take on the military dictator of that time. She had moved to a tiny flat in London, where we would endlessly discuss the future of the country. She would agree that land reforms, mass education programmes, a health service and an independent foreign policy were positive constructive aims and crucial if the country was to be saved from the vultures in and out of uniform. Her constituency was the poor, and she was proud of the fact.
She changed again after becoming prime minister. In the early days, we would argue and in response to my numerous complaints - all she would say was that the world had changed. She couldn't be on the "wrong side" of history. And so, like many others, she made her peace with Washington. It was this that finally led to the deal with Musharraf and her return home after more than a decade in exile. On a number of occasions she told me that she did not fear death. It was one of the dangers of playing politics in Pakistan.
It is difficult to imagine any good coming out of this tragedy, but there is one possibility. Pakistan desperately needs a political party that can speak for the social needs of a bulk of the people. The People's party founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was built by the activists of the only popular mass movement the country has known: students, peasants and workers who fought for three months in 1968-69 to topple the country's first military dictator. They saw it as their party, and that feeling persists in some parts of the country to this day, despite everything.
For all the sleaze, vindictiveness, arrogance and corruption that marked her in government; for all her gush and fawning of the foreign media, her incompetence as a leader of government and her very strong dictatorial tendencies, she was nonetheless a powerful symbol of unbending strength against tyranny. The choice was clear, military rule or democracy. She stood for democracy and she hated military rule, although at her death she was prepared to compromise.
From 1978 through the 10 oppressive years of General Zia ul-Haq's military/Islamic rule and persecution, she stood alone. Whether isolated and under house arrest, or in exile and abroad, she lived for her country. No one else had the courage to stand up to usurpers and the politicians they plucked from obscurity to help them.
And it is for this reason, despite her clear failure in office, that she was a great woman at a time of darkness in Pakistan. For this, she should be remembered.
more from The Independent here.
BHUTTO'S FATEFUL MOMENT
I told her I was still curious about one thing. “You titled your autobiography in its British edition ‘Daughter of the East,’ and in its American edition ‘Daughter of Destiny.’ Which are you?”
“What a difficult question,” she said. “I don’t know.”
She became reflective, tilting her face as she rested her chin on her hand. Then she went on, “I’m partly a child of destiny. Fate put me where I am now, against my own inner wishes, but I chose to stay on, when I could always have opted out. Of course, I did have a sense of duty to my father and the causes he espoused, and now I have a duty to those people who believe in me and to myself. A daughter of the East or a daughter of destiny?” She repeated the titles. “Did I have a choice?” She paused, as if she were considering her next words carefully, and then she said, very deliberately, “I am a daughter of the East. I was born into it; conditioned by it; thrust into a political system which is Eastern—a political system in which I have to win or lose. And, more than that, as a daughter of the East I want other women, born into this tradition, this environment, where they’re forced to submit to those societal pressures and those fates which have been written for them, to see how I fight—as a politician, as a woman, as a mother—and how I survive. I want to show them that they can rise above these pressures too, and that they can demand to make their own choices, and not have others—fathers, husbands, or brothers—make their choices for them.”
more a The New Yorker profile in 1993 here.
risen and fallen
A generation can always be described as “rising” but may it, even in a presumably intentional echo of Waugh, be described as having “fallen”? Easier, perhaps, to say that it was “lost”: the preferred locution of every cultural critic since Gertrude Stein. Taylor reasonably objects to this, borrowing from an aperçu of Evelyn’s elder brother Alec, who actually served on the Western Front, that it’s flippant and insulting to conflate the notionally “lost” (ie, the self-indulgent and the aimless) with the actual and awful “losses” suffered by their immediate elders. And he finds a near-perfect coda in Terence Rattigan’s play After the Dance, which rang down the curtain on the bright and the young and the foolish when it opened in June 1939. “You see”, says Helen to David:
When you were eighteen, you didn’t have anybody of twenty-two or twenty-five or thirty or thirty-five to help you, because they'd been wiped out. And anyone over forty you wouldn’t listen to anyway. The spotlight was on you, and you weren’t even young men; you were children.
And, what, David inquires idly, had they done with this spotlight? “You danced in it”, replies Helen, in a withering summary that, in its time and context, puts out more flags.
more from the TLS here.
Benazir Bhutto RIP
Benazir Bhutto Mourned
From the New York Times:
The Rippling Effect of Bhutto’s Death
Syed Tasnim Raza in The New York Times:
It is a sad day for Pakistan. With the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, it is clear that the government of President Pervez Musharraf is incompetent and also irrelevant to the needs of the people of Pakistan.
If a government cannot even provide security to its prominent citizens, then it has no right to govern.
I hope and pray that President Musharraf will hand over power to a civilian government, whose first priority should be to form a unity government with the express objective of fighting the terrorists and restoring law and order.
Ms. Bhutto gave her life for the cause of building a modern state and ridding the country of extreme elements. It will be a fitting tribute to achieve these objectives.
Benazir Bhutto excelled at asserting her right to rule. In a male-dominated, Islamic society, she rose to become her slain father's political successor, twice getting elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan. She would also be exiled twice. In the end, Bhutto was better at rallying people to the idea of her power than at keeping them inspired by her use of it.
The Departure of Benazir Bhutto
From Himal Southasian:
The 'daughter of the East' is dead. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi is a tragedy that puts Pakistani politics in a tailspin, forestalling a return to democracy and heralding ever more violence in the public arena. The killing sends a tremor across the political landscape of Southasia. The former prime minister was one of the best-known faces among the region's politicians, a modern and urbane woman who dared to join the hurly burly of grimy politics. Nearly continuous military rule over the decades has left the Pakistani polity fragile and brittle. With the elections slated for 8 January 2008, the hope was that Pakistan would, once again, attempt the transition to sustained democracy. There were critics who questioned Benazir's willingness to end her days in exile to join an imperfect electoral terrain as defined by President Pervez Musharraf. But there was no question that even flawed polls would nudge Pakistan away from military rule and towards democratic functioning. If the people of Pakistan would prosper in peace under a democracy, Benazir held out the hope for its ushering.
December 27, 2007
Moderniser, moderate, martyr
The death of Benazir Bhutto is not just a tragedy for her family but threatens to plunge Pakistan deeper into political turmoil, at a time when it was desperately seeking to regain some semblance of stability.
Already her supporters are describing Bhutto, her life cut short at 54, as a martyr, and leaders of her Pakistan People's party (PPP) will have to struggle to keep feelings of revenge in check.
For the west, Bhutto's death is just about the worst outcome, as the US and Britain had been banking on her pro-western and moderate leanings to keep Pakistan onside and help stem the rising tide of militancy in the country.
It is easy to see why the west liked Bhutto and why it put pressure on the president, Pervez Musharraf, to ally himself to the former prime minister to make the country more stable in the fight against Islamist militants.
more from The Guardian here.
in the eye of the pakistan storm
A woman of grand ambitions with a taste for complex political maneuvering, Ms. Bhutto was first elected prime minister in 1988 at the age of 35. The daughter of one of Pakistan’s most flamboyant and democratically inclined prime ministers, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, she inherited from him the mantle of the populist People’s Party, which she came to personify.
Even from exile, her leadership was virtually unchallenged. She staged a high-profile return to her home city of Karachi, drawing hundreds of thousands of supporters to an 11-hour rally and leading a series of political demonstrations in opposition to the country’s military leader, President Pervez Musharraf.
But in a foreshadowing of the attack that killed her, the triumphal return parade was bombed, killing at least 134 of her supporters and wounded more than 400. Ms. Bhutto herself narrowly escaped harm.
more from the NY Times here.
IF EVER THERE was a tree that has inspired devotion, it's the American chestnut, once one of the most common trees in East Coast forests. Thoreau considered it among the "noblest" trees he encountered in his walks through the Lincoln woods, while settlers in the southern Appalachians found the nuts and timber such valuable allies in their struggle to survive that the tree became a regional icon. When an imported plague, the chestnut blight, all but eradicated the tree in the early 20th century, people mourned from Georgia to Maine.
Since that time, ardent fans have struggled to pull the chestnut back from the brink. Most of their efforts have relied on old-fashioned breeding techniques - investing the tree with blight-resistance genes from other species of chestnut through the laborious and lengthy process of hand-fertilizing flowers, planting the resulting seeds, cultivating trees, and culling inferior specimens. And then doing it all over again. But a pair of forestry scientists at the State University of New York in Syracuse are now exploring a different idea: that genes from other plants, and even from animals, might provide the chestnut with completely new weapons to thrive again in the Eastern forests.
more from Boston Globe Ideas here.
For once, I have no words...
Obituary: Benazir Bhutto
Like the Nehru-Gandhi family in India, the Bhuttos of Pakistan are one of the world's most famous political dynasties. Benazir's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was prime minister of Pakistan in the early 1970s. His government was one of the few in the 30 years following independence that was not run by the army. Born in 1953 in the province of Sindh and educated at Harvard and Oxford, Ms Bhutto gained credibility from her father's high profile, even though she was a reluctant convert to politics. She was twice prime minister of Pakistan, from 1988 to 1990, and from 1993 to 1996.
Benazir Bhutto assassinated
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in the wake of a suicide bombing that killed at least 14 of her supporters, doctors, a spokesman for her party and other officials said. Bhutto suffered bullet wounds in the aftermath of the bomb attack, TV networks were reporting.
Police warned citizens to stay home as they expected rioting to break out in city streets as a shocked Pakistan absorbed the news of Bhutto's assassination. Video of the scene just moments before the explosion showed Bhutto stepping into a heavily-guarded vehicle to leave the rally. Bhutto was rushed to Rawalpindi General Hospital -- less than two miles from the bombing scene -- where doctors pronounced her dead.
December 26, 2007
The New Wars of Religion: Believers Write Back
John Habgood in the TLS:
Hans Küng, the eminent Roman Catholic theologian, has written what he describes as “a short book on the meaning of the universe”, and much of what he writes echoes the views just described, albeit from a somewhat different perspective. He also draws an interesting parallel between cosmology and Gödel’s famous incompleteness theorem. The latter is a mathematical proof that no system of axioms can prove itself as being free from contradiction. Nor, says Küng, can a theory of the universe. The point was originally made by Stephen Hawking, who admitted that he had given up his quest for a “grand unified theory of everything” on the grounds that we are part of it. Any explanation which tries to include the observer doing the explaining must necessarily be incomplete. Add to this Popper’s dictum about the tentativeness of all scientific statements as being falsifiable but not ultimately provable, and the limitations of our knowledge become all too apparent. Both scientists and theologians, in other words, and even popes, need to accept their fallibility.
Apart from a passing reference, this is a Richard Dawkins-free book. It also provides a useful reminder that there was a scientifically and theologically based tradition of atheism in European culture long before Darwin. Küng comments, “Beyond question, the critique of religion offered by these ‘new materialists’ has not remotely reached the depth of their classical predecessors”. Feuerbach, Marx, Freud and Nietzsche, where are you now?
“Science”, Küng continues, “does not have to ‘prove’ the existence or superfluity of God. Rather, it has to advance the explicability of our universe by physics as far as possible and at the same time leave room for what in principle cannot be explained by physics.”
I am not sure this is a wise way of putting things, being all too redolent of the “God of the gaps”. Nevertheless, like all of Küng’s work, this is a learned book, full of interesting insights, drawing heavily on European philosophy and theology, and frequently critical of his own Church.
The Putnam-Rorty Debate and the Revival of American Pragmatism
2007 saw the passing of Richard Rorty. In memorium a video on the debate that helped revive American pragmatism.
The Impending Land Grab on the Ocean Floor
Maywa Montenegro over at Seed:
On August 2, 2007, Russia dropped a titanium capsule bearing its flag onto the Arctic floor, highlighting its bid for a chunk of seabed property thought to contain billions of dollars in untapped energy. The move snagged media headlines as other nations—including the US, Canada, Denmark, and Norway—sped north to make competing claims. Weeks later, hearings began in the US Senate, in which presidents from America's largest oil, shipping, and telecommunications companies, representatives from the armed forces, and senior Bush administration officials urged the Foreign Relations Committee to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). "In the year ahead we could see a historic dividing up of many millions of square kilometers of offshore territory with management rights to all its living and non-living resources on or under the seabed," said Paul Kelly, president of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation. "An adviser to developing states preparing their own submissions said recently, 'This will probably be the last big shift in ownership of territory in the history of the Earth. Many countries don't realize how serious it is.'"
Never before has the world's attention been so fixed on the deep ocean. Inflated oil, mineral, and gas prices, coupled with collapsing global fisheries, are pushing industries into remote seas once too expensive to tap. Pressing concerns about global warming are bringing scientists to explore uncharted depths—both to understand how they influence climate and to take the pulse of abyssal life before human impact irrevocably transforms it. At a time when still so little is known about the ocean's very nature, it has suddenly become a place of extraordinary geopolitical, economic, and scientific value.
The Best and Worst of Intellectual Blogs 2007
Joseph Kugelmass over at The Valve:
[E]very year a new crop of bloggers arrives, and they invariably have a lot of energy to devote to the uncertain work of posting entries and writing comments. They’ll take on any subject, inhabit any metaphor, consider any claim on its own merits and immanent grounds. In part because of wonderful conversations taking place via N. Pepperell’s Rough Theory, 2007 was the year of Now-Times, Perverse Egalitarianism, and Wildly Parenthetical. At least one of these blogs began earlier, I seem to recall, but nonetheless this was their debut, as far as we here at the Grammy Awards are concerned.
The power of the image. This was the year when intellectual bloggers (with the exception of me) figured out that HTML is a medium that loves graphics and graphic design. N. Pepperell, having already given Rough Theory a terrific makeover, punctuated a return to considering Hegel with marvelous and evocative stills from The Wizard of Oz. Who can ever forget Antigram’s grainy, witty picture of the dominatrix, which he posted right above an attack on Zizek (and Zizek’s supporters) entitled “We Want Discipline”? (Both sides in the debate over Slavoj Zizek came up with astonishing pictures of the man: in the course of a single day, he can look like an inspired prophet and a debauched vampire.) Over at Acephalous, Scott Kaufman made a group of political blogger malcontents continue to discuss Swift Boat under the imposing aegis of Hello Kitty. Of course, speaking of Full Frontal Feminism, petitpoussin gave one side of the debate its rallying flag by taking a single trenchant and satiric photo.
Africa Says No
Ignacio Ramonet in Le Monde Diplomatique:
The unimaginable has happened, to the displeasure of arrogant Europe. Africa, thought to be so poor that it would agree to anything, has said no in rebellious pride. No to the straitjacket of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), no to the complete liberalisation of trade, no to the latest manifestations of the colonial pact.
It happened in December at the second EU-Africa summit in Lisbon, where the main objective was to force the African countries to sign new trade agreements by 31 December 2007 in accordance with the Cotonou Convention of 2000 winding up the 1975 Lomé accords. Under these, goods from former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific are imported into the European Union more or less duty-free, except for products such as sugar, meat and bananas that are a problem for European producers. The World Trade Organisation has insisted that these preferential arrangements be dismantled or replaced by trade agreements based on reciprocity, claiming that this is the only way African countries can continue to enjoy different treatment. The EU opted for completely free trade in the guise of EPAs. So the 27 were asking African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to allow EU goods and services to enter their markets duty-free.
Remembering Molly Ivins
Anthony Romero in The Nation:
Molly Ivins was more than one of the stars of the progressive media in her lifetime. She was the one of these stars who reached so many people with her down-home explanations and serial horse-laughs that in exchange for the money she earned for the mainstream media, they permitted her to penetrate the soul of the nation with reverberating effects.
After her education at Smith and Columbia and in Paris, her three years' work on the Minneapolis daily marked her as one of the best reporters in the country. But she chose then to join The Texas Observer and regale its discriminating readers with the absurdities of her home state's legislature. Hired back to the responsible big time by the New York Times, she did herself in with her boss there with her story describing a local chicken-plucking contest as a "gang pluck." With her high intelligence, she had perceived that the way to the people's sense of justice detours through their sense of humor. Brave, sagacious and dedicated, she then simply set forth on her own and became the only always-funny and the most widely read liberal, progressive and populist columnist in the country. Her syndication in 350 to 400 newspapers was without a parallel for a leftist columnist in the nation's newspapers. 60 Minutes even gave her a tumble.
On the Implications of Venter's Synthetic DNA
Rob Carlson over at Synthesis (via Carl Zimmer):
The philosophical implications of constructing an artificial genome are overblown, in my humble opinion. It is interesting to see that it works, to be sure. But the notion that this demonstrates a blow against vitalism, or against other religious conceptions of life is, for me, just overexcitement. Venter and crew have managed to chemically synthesize a long polymer, a polymer biologically indistinguishable from naturally occurring DNA; so what? If that polymer runs a cell the same way natural DNA does, as we already knew that it would, so what? Over the last several millennia religious doctrine has shown itself to be an extremely flexible meme, accommodating dramatic changes in human understanding of natural phenomena. The earth is flat! Oh, wait, no problem. The earth is at the center of the universe! No? Okay, we can deal with that. Evolution is just another Theory! Bacteria evolve to escape antibiotics? Okay, God's will. No problem. I can't imagine it will be any different this time around.
Persian Girls: A Memoir
Review of Nahid Rachlin's book from Powell's Books:
Praised by V. S. Naipaul, Anne Tyler, and other writers, Nahid Rachlin has spent her career writing novels about hidden Iran-the combustible political passions underlying everyday life and the family dramas of ordinary Iranians. With her long-awaited memoir, Persian Girls, she turns her sharp novelist's eye on her own remarkable life.
When Rachlin was an infant, her mother gave her to Maryam, Rachlin's barren and widowed aunt. For the next nine years, the little girl lived a blissful Iranian childhood. Then one day, Rachlin's father kidnapped his daughter from her schoolyard, and from the only mother she'd ever known, and returned her to her birth family-strangers to the young girl.
In a story of ambition, oppression, hope, heartache, and sisterhood, Persian Girls traces Rachlin's coming of age in Iran under the late Shah — and her domineering father — her tangled family life, and her relationship with her older sister, and unexpected soul mate, Pari. Both girls refused to accept traditional roles prescribed for them under Muslim cultural laws. They devoured forbidden books. They had secret romances.
But then things quickly changed. Pari was forced by her parents to marry a wealthy suitor, a cruel man who kept her a prisoner in her own home. After narrowly avoiding an unhappy match herself with a man her parents chose for her, Nahid came to America, where she found literary success. Back in Iran, however, Pari's dreams fell to pieces.
When news came to Nahid that her sister had died, she traveled back to the country where she had grown up, now under the Islamic regime the West has been keeping a wary eye on for the last few years, to say good-bye to her only friend. It is there she confronts her past, and the women of her family. A story of promises kept and promises broken, of dreams and secrets, and, most important, of sisters, Persian Girls is a gripping saga that will change the way anyone looks at Iran and the women who populate it.
More here. Bonus video:
Also see Rachlin's website here for much more information, including speaking dates and locations, complete short stories, etc.
A Heart-Rending Remembrance, Delivered Posthumously
David L. Ulin in The Los Angeles Times:
Jan de Hartog's A View of the Ocean is very much in keeping with a sub-tradition in modern European literature: the small, spare memoir of a parent's death. "During the thirty years of their married life, she had been a silent, accommodating, self-effacing woman," De Hartog writes, who suddenly revealed "a core of drop-forged steel." Caught in the Dutch East Indies when World War II broke out, she spent three years in a Japanese prison camp, where, it is said, she functioned as a "mischievous saint." She gave "Bible classes to Chinese children, [ran] a hospital for the aged, taught classes in philosophy, medieval mysticism, astrology, and the history of English gardens to women on the brink of breakdown." More important, she subtly influenced the camp commandant, arranging for a convoy of sick prisoners to be taken to a Red Cross post. After the war, she gave comfort to an "unending stream of women, girls, men, young students, children, grandchildren" who visited her in Amsterdam; De Hartog admits having been astonished by just how many lives she had touched.
Knowing all this about De Hartog's mother only makes it harder to watch her decline. Diagnosed with stomach cancer, she grows diminished, until her humanity is nearly stripped away. Here, De Hartog is at his finest as a writer -- sharply detailed, tender but not sentimental, even clinical at times. In the end, De Hartog stares down his "childish grief and horror...not by thinking of other things...but by focusing on and identifying with her....I could help her only as long as I completely forgot about myself." Here we have the key to this profoundly moving memoir -- the author's unflinching directness in the face of his mother's dying, his refusal to look away from the thing itself.
Gould plays Mozart
2007: The year in biology and medicine
From The New Scientist:
It was a big year for obesity research. Being heavily overweight was linked to everything from cancer to gum disease. Researchers also suggested a number of new causes of obesity. Could a common cold virus be making us flabby? Was it mostly down to our genes? Or can we blame mum – for having gone through puberty too early? There were new targets for obesity treatments too. For instance, researchers studied how a hormone, PYY, affected the brain circuitry responsible for hunger. Another study looked at ways our bodies decide to burn off energy rather than just storing it as fat. Yet another found that the increasingly popular treatment of stomach stapling really does save lives. Best of all, although being obese puts you at greater risk of heart failure, once you're suffering from it, the fatter you are, the greater your chances of surviving it. On the other hand, fat people were blamed for being a major contributor to global warning.
There was bad news for parents who rely on the TV to keep their kids entertained. It turns out that TV is bad for children of all ages. New evidence suggested that the Baby Einstein videos and their ilk not only don't make your infant smarter, they may actually impede learning. The researchers found that for every hour an infant watches this stuff, he knows six to eight fewer words. And the damage done by too much TV in childhood may be hard to overcome. A large study of five- to 11-year-olds found that kids who watched more than two hours of television a day were much more likely to have attention problems in adolescence, regardless of whether they continued to be heavy TV watchers.
December 25, 2007
Shot In Bombay
Those in London may want to catch "Shot in Bombay", Liz Mermin's latest documentary on Bollywood and the Bombay underworld. From the press release over at EthnicNow:
SHOT IN BOMBAY is directed by acclaimed American documentary film maker Liz Mermin. Filmed over six months in Mumbai, Shot in Bombay is a unique look at a Bollywood film from production to release and captures all the chaos and behind the scenes drama of Bollywood film, Shootout at Lokhandwala. Starring screen legend Sanjay Dutt, the documentary contains a frank interview with the star – his last before being handed a six-year prison sentence earlier this year.
An exclusive screening will take place at the prestigious Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), Pall Mall on Wednesday 19th December at 6.15pm followed by a Q and A with Director Liz Mermin and Producer Nahrein Mirza conducted by BBC Asian Network Presenter Jas Rao.
This will be followed by a two week theatrical run at the ICA from the 18th January 2008 and then a regional tour of the UK.
During the filming an intense drama unfolded around Sanjay Dutt, whilst being followed by the filmmakers, the case against him for illegal arms possession from 14 years earlier finally came to court for sentencing.
An Interview with the Directors of Persepolis
Set in Teheran in 1978, "Persepolis" is a cinematic memoir, a coming-of-ager about a clever, fearless girl growing up during the period leading to the Shah's downfall, and then the repressive Islamic regime. For a time Marjane outsmarts the "social guardians," discovering punk and Iron Maiden, but her boldness causes her parents to fear for her safety. At age 14, she's sent to school in Vienna, where she finds herself tarred with the fundamentalism she fled her country to escape. Marjane returns home to her close-knit family ---and the tyranny of Iran -- but leaves after a few years to settle in France.
How to explain to date the success of this black-and-white toon? Its characters grab you, for one, starting with Marjane herself (Mastroianni), an elfin, irreverent figure who converses with God and Marx, and struggles to make sense of a repressive regime; then later in Vienna, wrestles with adolescent angst compounded by her exile status. Add to the cast her uncle Anoush, her mentor and a political prisoner; and her outrageous grandma (voiced by Danielle Darrieux), offering unconventional views on life and love (a character, Satrapi told me, she had to tone down from the reality). And like a good novel, the film is packed with concrete details that render the texture of a life. Satrapi has devised a pungent mix of the personal and the political, engaging viewer sympathy for her protagonist, while opening a window on a complex culture.
indieWIRE caught up with Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud during a recent press junket in New York. You're immediately struck by how Satrapi in person resembles the Marjane of the graphic novel and film: same dark flashing eyes, mole on the nose, mischievous curl to her lip. Paronnaud speaks little English -- but Satrapi, though suffering from a killer cold, talked with gusto about the genesis and creation of "Persepolis," vehemently insisting on its "non-political" stance, until her voice literally gave out.
Is a Global Civic Religion Possible?
Robert Bellah asks over at The Immanent Frame:
In my essay “Civil Religion in America,” first published in Daedalus in 1967, exactly forty years ago—which, unfortunately, quite a few people think is the only thing I ever wrote—I discussed toward the end the possibility of what I called a “world civil religion.” Naïve though it may sound today, the idea of a world civil religion as expressing “the attainment of some kind of viable and coherent world order” was the imagined resolution of what I then called America’s third time of trial, an idea later developed in my book The Broken Covenant.
The first time of trial was concerned with the question of independence and the second with the issue of slavery, but the third, as I then put it, was concerned with America’s place in the world, and indeed what kind of world it would have a place in. That “viable and coherent world order” for which I hoped, would, I believed, require “a major new set of symbolic forms.” So far, I argued, “the flickering flame of the United Nations burns too low to be the focus of a cult, but the emergence of a genuine transnational sovereignty would certainly change this.” A genuinely transnational sovereignty? This utopian idea is something we will have to think about later. But I did hold that, though the idea of a world civil religion would be in one sense the fulfillment of “the eschatological hope of American civil religion,” nonetheless “it obviously would draw on religious traditions beyond the sphere of biblical religion alone.”
But Do We Use Only 10% of Our Hearts? A Look at 7 Other Medical Myths
Alok Jha in the Guardian:
The seven myths, published today in the British Medical Journal, were based on ideas and conversations the authors had heard endorsed on several occasions - and which many physicians thought were true.
"Whenever we talk about this work, doctors at first express disbelief that these things are not true. But after we carefully lay out medical evidence, they are very willing to accept that these beliefs are actually false," said Vreeman.
Everyone must drink at least eight glasses of water a day
This advice is thought to have originated in 1945 from the Nutrition Council in the US, which suggested people needed to consume 2.5 litres of water a day. But Vreeman said the water contained in food, particularly fruit and vegetables, as well as in milk, juice, coffee and soft drinks, also counts towards the total.
We only use 10% of our brains
"The myth arose as early as 1907, propagated by multiple sources advocating the power of self-improvement and tapping into each person's unrealised latent abilities," say Vreeman and Carroll. "The many functions of the brain are highly localised, with different tasks allocated to different anatomical regions. Detailed probing of the brain has failed to identify the 'non-functioning' 90%."