Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Frans Hals' non-religious religious art
Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
Frans Hals is often described as a "loose" painter. You can see what that means in one of Hals' great paintings currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The painting is called "The Smoker," from 1625. You wouldn't be surprised, though, if someone told you it was painted 250 years later than that. The face of the young man smoking a pipe at the center of the painting is rendered in almost impressionistic strokes. A dab of red here, a curve of yellow there. The collar of the man's shirt is created with a rough stab of white down the middle of the canvas. The painstaking brushwork of other Dutch masters from the Golden Age is notably absent. That is not to say Hals was sloppy, a crime for which he has sometimes been accused. Hals labored at his chosen craft all life long. It is just that he worked very hard to achieve a looser style. You can see it even in his formal portraits, in works such as "Portrait of a Man" from 1636-8. The face of the man in that painting is rendered with all the precision you might find in a Rubens of roughly the same era. And the expressiveness of the man's face is reminiscent of Rembrandt. But if you look at the man's left arm, the one cocked at his hip, you notice that the style devolves (or evolves?) into that of the loose Hals again. The elbow — and the folds of garment around the elbow — are painted with the same rough gestures and impressionistic swaths of color that are so startling in "The Smoker."
Monty Python - Silliest Interview We've Ever Done
Libya’s Revolution: A Model for the Region?
Maria J. Stephan in Waging Nonviolence:
Recent analyses of the Arab Spring have questioned the efficacy of nonviolent resistance compared to armed struggle in ousting authoritarian regimes. The relatively expeditious victories of the nonviolent uprisings (not “revolutions,” as some suggest) in Tunisia and Egypt stand in stark contrast to Libya, where a disparate amalgam of armed groups, guided politically by the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC) and backed militarily by NATO, are on the verge of removing Moammar Qadhafi from power. As someone who has written extensively about civil resistance, notably in the Middle East, while at the same time working on the Libya portfolio within the State Department, I’ve been grappling with the meaning and significance of the Libyan revolution and its possible impact on the region.
Israel's Image Won't Improve Without Policy Changes
Gary Wexler in Forward:
Even with all the efforts of Camera, the Israel Project, the Jewish Federations and all the other organizations that blast my email inbox daily with defensive statements, Israel is increasingly emerging as the world’s pariah nation.
Yet, as strange as it may sound coming from a marketer with an advertising background, who has represented hundreds of Jewish organizations worldwide, I have arrived at the conclusion that the solution will not be found in branding, marketing, public relations or the writings of political pundits. The problem is that all their concepts, strategies, words and legitimate defenses – no matter how powerful and clever – are not going to elevate Israel’s plummeting image. Hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors and the Israeli government have been poured into this effort, yet the situation only worsens every month. I am as much to blame as anyone for being a supporter of these actions.
It has become clear that the world doesn’t care about Israel’s wines, its Bauhaus architecture, its fashion, its alluring women, its sexy gay men, its beaches, its ballet or its hummus. The world, its media and its university campuses are riveted upon Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians as well as the state of its democracy.
No, the answer to Israel’s image problems does not depend upon the marketing. It depends first upon the policies.
We’re on your case, mate
A t whose expense comes the mild irony when, this fall, the cheaply produced scandal sheet Private Eye will have an exhibition of its cartoons and pictorial covers at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a building consecrated to taste and restraint? Perhaps the show’s modest title furnishes a clue: “ Private Eye: The First 50 Years.” Keep in mind that, a half-century ago, the British establishment was almost as near in time to its Victorian forebears as we are to the half-forgotten names—like Harold Macmillan (who even in his own day was described as an Edwardian)—who were so pitilessly lampooned in Private Eye’ s first issues. I was a mere sheltered schoolboy at the time, but couldn’t fail to notice the exciting fact that the authorities were getting nervous. In spite of a BBC monopoly on the airwaves, the semi-official censorship of cinema and the theater, and the titanic, still-enduring prestige of Winston Churchill and the royal family, you could hear the noise of collapsing scenery as a whole parcel of scandals—sexual ones, property ones, espionage ones—started to unwrap at the same time. Private Eye, which could be bought inexpensively and smuggled under the jacket, was the ideal samizdat bulletin, where you could very often read next week’s real news. They so nearly called it Bladder, which would have gone well with the bathroom humor, the word bubbles, the dirty paper, and the graffiti-like cartoons. But that image would also have evoked the squeaky rubber balls of the old court jesters, meant to rebound in the end from the armor of authority.more from Hitch at Vanity Fair here.
does cursive matter?
In that regard, the past two years have been good to me. Forty-four states¾most recently Hawaii (Aloha) and Indiana (Go Hoosiers!)—have tacitly affirmed what I insisted all those years ago, with their adoption of an education platform called the Common Core State Standards, which replaces decades-old handwriting requirements with a “keyboarding” mandate. “The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers,” reads the program’s website. “With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.” Of course, competing in the global economy isn’t everybody’s sole concern. “How do they expect these children to sign all their papers when their kids are students?” asks Pamela on one online forum. “Sign their checks, mortgage papers, marriage licenses, personal correspondence?” she continues. “Can you imagine what it would be like to find the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence illegible?” wonders Dwain. “What if the computer goes down or the power goes off?” writes Deeply Shaded. Those are the sorts of questions asked by legions of hand-wringers in thousands of comments on hundreds of websites that have reported on cursive’s demise. A recent CNN story tellingly titled “Nation of adults who will write like children?” opens with some unkind words about the penmanship of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber and ends with the strange warning: “If you write slowly, your hand may not be able to keep up with your mind’s attempt to have a thought, form it into a sentence, and remember it long enough to write it down.”more from Graham T. Beck at The Morning News here.
the great robot debate, 2011
The Late, Great Theodora Keogh
From The Paris Review:
From the end of the forties to 1961, the beautiful, talented, temperamental, generous American expatriate dancer and writer Theodora Roosevelt Keogh (1919–2008) wrote nine vivid novels as sensational, in their way, as anything you’ll ever read. She wrote her novels the way people used to write them: on rackety typewriters in walk-up apartments and hotel rooms in Saint-Germain-des-Prés on Paris’s Left Bank, where she’d moved in the late forties with her new husband, the designer and illustrator Tom Keogh. This was after she graduated from Miss Chapin’s School, made a formal debut in New York Society, dipped into Radcliffe, and ran away in wartime to dance in a ballet company in Rio de Janeiro (and high-kick at the Copacabana) with Alexander Iolas, the future New York gallerist. Fifty years later, gossamer webs of gossip still cling to Theodora Keogh’s life. No, her pet margay did not bite off her ear in the Chelsea Hotel. Stimulated by the atmosphere of that once-lively refuge, the margay took a few irritated nips off an earlobe, after which Theodora styled her hair a little differently. And, no, her second husband, Tommy O’Toole, wasn’t a tugboat captain. More like a steward on the Circle Line when Theodora met him, although he and Theodora did live on a tugboat in New York harbor while she was writing a novel in a neighborhood bar.
For a woman who grew up without the money her social advantages implied—she was the namesake of her grandfather, President Theodore Roosevelt, and the favorite niece of his witty daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth—Theodora always took care to select her own society. But she never had to choose between living it up or writing it down. She did both—and at the same time, too. Keogh’s novels are mostly set in places she’d lived in intensely and knew by heart: the Upper East Side of New York, the Left Bank of Paris, the North Shore of Long Island.
Research indicates certain probiotics may influence brain functioning
It was just last year that a certain company selling a special probiotic enhanced yogurt was ordered by a U.S. court to stop suggesting in its advertisements that it's product had health benefits that went beyond the norm. Now, new evidence by Javier Bravo and colleagues at University College Cork, suggests the company may have been on to something. In their paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the team describes how mice given the prbiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus, showed signs of being less anxious and depressed and even had lowered levels of stress hormones. Building on recent research that suggests there may be more of a gut-mind link than scientists have realized (such as depression and anxiety linked to bowel problems) Bravo and his team decided to look into probiotics and their possible impact on mood. In their research, they focused on Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a probiotic bacterium normally found in the gut, and which is also commonly found in various kinds of yogurt and other types of dairy products.
To find out if ingesting L. rhamnosus did indeed have any impact beyond normal nutritional value, the team fed half of a group of mice a broth heavily laden with the bacterium for a period of time; the other half were given the same broth without the probiotic. Afterwards, the mice were tested to see if any discernible behavioral changes resulted. Bravo et al found that the mice that had been given the probiotic demonstrated less anxious type behaviors, such as more of a willingness to traverse narrow walkways or to venture out into wide open spaces, activities that are known to cause stress in mice. They also found that the mice that had eaten the probiotic were less likely give in to the sensation of drowning when put in water, a sign that normally indicates depressive behavior. And finally, they found that the treated mice also had lower levels of stress hormones in their blood.
I don't know what to say to you, neighbor,
as you shovel snow from your part of our street
neat in your Greek black. I've waited for
chance to find words; now, by chance, we meet.
We took our boys to the same kindergarten,
thirteen years ago when our husbands went.
Both boys hated school, dropped out feral, dropped in
to separate troubles. You shift snow fast, back bent,
but your boy killed himself, six days dead.
My boy washed your wall when the police were done.
He says, "We weren't friends?" and shakes his head,
"I told him it was great he had that gun,"
and shakes. I shake, close to you, close to you.
You have a path to clear, and so you do.
by Marie Ponsot
from Springing -New and Selected Poems
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Debating "Guilty Pleasures"
Good taste can be idiosyncratic, in fact, it's expected to be. You're supposed to like what you like for your own well-thought-out reasons, and not just like what everyone else likes. (There are also shared cultural and class standards of "good taste," but those aren't what I'm talking about.)
Someone with taste has a well fleshed-out theory about what makes a work of art good or bad. The cultivated observer is supposed to be able to see something new and rigorously scrutinize it according to their code...
Having coherent reasons for your preferences is integral to the concept of good taste. You're supposed to be able to recognize a band that swings hard, or a rocking baseline, or witty lyrics, or whatever you think is important in music.
You gain status for your good taste if you can reliably pick stuff that other people will like. You can't be capricious. If you recommend songs strictly because they have sentimental value for you, they're unlikely to appeal to other people. You have to appeal to shared musical values.
"Guilty pleasures" are things people like but can't justify liking. The concept of a guilty pleasure only makes sense if you try to live by an aesthetic code in the first place.
False world, good-night!
Washington, Hollywood, Wall Street, the Pentagon: These names have a social meaning apart from geography. Each one indicates a certain world of activity—and the word world, in its primary sense, refers not to a planet but to the realm of human doings. The dictionary tells me that the Old English "weoruld" means something like "human life" or "age of man." Worldly has an ambiguous, shifting place on the scale from negative to positive adjectives. To be unworldly might signify being a dupe, and worldly knowledge is desirable. Too much worldly knowledge, though, may suggest a villain played by Alan Rickman. Those good and bad connotations are epitomized by another place name that, in 16th- and 17th-century England, was a synonym for "the world" in the urbane, social sense: the royal court. In Ben Jonson's time, the court was all of the above. It was Washington and Hollywood, the Pentagon and Wall Street, and more: a single seat of all kinds of power, concentrated in a few buildings in one city, a worldly magnet attracting all the most ambitious, gifted people in the worlds of art, money, politics, religion, sex, learning, and glamour. The court embodied worldliness at its most alluring and at its most treacherous.more from Robert Pinsky at Slate here.
the hazare thing
IN THE past week, the world has been captivated by the bitter confrontation between the Indian government and a short, bespectacled seventy-four-year-old man named Anna Hazare, a self-styled anti-corruption crusader. On August 16, Hazare’s arrest and internment in Tihar Jail, South Asia’s largest complex of high-security prisons, sparked candlelit marches across the country, leading a shaken government to order his release in less than twelve hours. In a stunning turnaround, Hazare refused to leave, insisting that the government remove all conditions on his “fast-unto-death” in protest of the government’s recent anti-corruption legislation, which he feels is not strong enough. Hazare walked out of Tihar a national hero on August 20 and is currently lodged within the expansive public grounds of Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, surrounded by tens of thousands of supporters, national flags, and mammoth portraits of Mohandas Karamchand (“Mahatma”) Gandhi. Today (Wednesday) is the ninth day he has refused to eat. As an admirer of Gandhi’s, I have found the ceaseless comparisons of Hazare with Gandhi—propagated by the media, Hazare’s supporters, and Hazare himself—troubling and inappropriate. I am not alone in my reservations about Hazare, who is not a popular figure within left and progressive circles in India. His movement has been portrayed, so far accurately, as a narrow, middle-class, upper-caste phenomenon that is dangerously tinged with authoritarianism and Hindu nationalism.more from Mitu Sengupta at Dissent here.
LIKE CORRUPTION, crime, and asbestos, “inflation” is a word that many Americans imagine in all-red capital letters, flashing across TV screens amid warnings of crisis. For anyone who remembers the gloomy, scary 1970s, when the inflation rate in the United States reached double digits, the word is shorthand for an economy that has spiraled out of control, the dollar losing value and prices climbing feverishly. “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber, and as deadly as a hit man,” said Ronald Reagan in 1978, as nervous citizens imagined the day when they’d have to push a wheelbarrow full of cash to the grocery store in order to buy a loaf of bread. That particular nightmare never came to pass, thanks to drastic measures taken by the Federal Reserve. For the better part of the past 30 years, the dollar has stayed stable, reassuring American families and the nation’s trading partners, with the central bank standing guard over the economy and doing everything necessary to keep inflation low. You might say that Kenneth Rogoff has been one of the guards. As a research economist at the Federal Reserve during the first half of the 1980s, he helped ensure that the word “inflation” would never again flash across American TV screens.more from Leon Neyfakh at the Boston Globe here.
Research team turns terabytes of image data into model of neural circuits
Sarah Zhang in The Harvard Gazette:
The brain of a mouse measures only 1 cubic centimeter in volume. But when neuroscientists at Harvard’s Center for Brain Science slice it thinly and take high-resolution micrographs of each slice, that tiny brain turns into an exabyte of image data. That’s 1018 bytes, equivalent to more than a billion CDs.
What can you do with such a gigantic, unwieldy data set? That’s the latest challenge for Hanspeter Pfister, the Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).
Pfister, an expert in high-performance computing and visualization, is part of an interdisciplinary team collaborating on the Connectome Project at the Center for Brain Science. The project aims to create a wiring diagram of all the neurons in the brain. Neuroscientists have developed innovative techniques for automatically imaging slices of mouse brain, yielding terabytes of data so far.
Pfister’s system for displaying and processing these images would be familiar to anyone who has used Google Maps. Because only a subsection of a very large image can be displayed on a screen, only that viewable subsection is loaded. Drag the image around, zoom in or out, and more of the image is displayed on the fly.
This “demand-driven distributed computation” is the central idea behind Pfister’s work, for which he recently won a Google Faculty Research Award.
More here. [Thanks to Sughra Raza.]
Dan Ariely: The field of financial advice is quite strange
Dan Ariely in his blog:
- How much of your current salary will you need in retirement?
- What is your risk attitude on a seven-point scale?
From my perspective, these are remarkably useless questions — but we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s think about the financial advisor’s business model. An advisor will optimize your portfolio based on the answers to these two questions. For this service, the advisor typically will take one percent of assets under management – and he will get this every year!
Not to be offensive, but I think that a simple algorithm can do this, and probably with fewer errors. Moving money around from stocks to bonds or vice versa is just not something for which we should pay one percent of assets under management.
Actually, strike that. It’s not something we should do anyway, because making any decisions based on answers to those two questions don’t yield the right answers in the first place.
To this point, we’ve run a number of experiments. In one study, we asked people the same question that financial advisors ask: How much of your final salary will you need in retirement? The common answer was 75 percent. But when we asked how they came up with this figure, the most common refrain turned out to be that that’s what they thought they should answer. And when we probed further and asked where they got this advice, we found that most people heard this from the financial industry. Sort of like two months salary for an engagement ring and one-third of your income for housing, 75 percent was the rule of thumb that they had heard from financial advisors. You see the circularity and the inanity: Financial advisors are asking a question that their customers rely on them for the answer. So what’s the point of the question?!
Copyright: Forever Less One Day
The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America
Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang , Scott Keyes, and Faiz Shakir at the Center for American Progress:
A small group of foundations and wealthy donors are the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America, providing critical funding to a clutch of right-wing think tanks that peddle hate and fear of Muslims and Islam—in the form of books, reports, websites, blogs, and carefully crafted talking points that anti-Islam grassroots organizations and some right-wing religious groups use as propaganda for their constituency.
Some of these foundations and wealthy donors also provide direct funding to anti-Islam grassroots groups. According to our extensive analysis, here are the top seven contributors to promoting Islamophobia in our country:
- Donors Capital Fund
- Richard Mellon Scaife foundations
- Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
- Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust
- Russell Berrie Foundation
- Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund
- Fairbrook Foundation
Altogether, these seven charitable groups provided $42.6 million to Islamophobia think tanks between 2001 and 2009—funding that supports the scholars and experts that are the subject of our next chapter as well as some of the grassroots groups that are the subject of Chapter 3 of our report.
And what does this money fund?
The Genius in My Basement
In 2008, at a Downing Street reception, Gordon Brown presented a young man, a member of Plane Stupid, with a Transport Campaigner of the Year award. During the ceremony, the young man superglued himself to the premier's sleeve. The prize is sponsored – £10,000 a year – by Simon Phillips Norton, a rich recluse and public-transport obsessive who lives, surrounded by timetables, ticket-stubs, packets of Batchelors Savoury Rice, in a run-down multi-occupancy house in Cambridge. A former child prodigy, he is still believed to be one of the world's great living mathematicians, although he hasn't held down an academic position since 1985, when he was 33. And he used to be Alexander Masters's live-in landlord, which is how he comes to find himself the subject of this book.
I don't like your books, Alex," Simon says in the epigraph to one of Masters's chapters. "Your representation of me as interesting is inaccurate," he says in another. "You must be very careful not to jump to easy answers," says John Horton Conway, a fellow mathematician. "Oh dear, I have a feeling this book is going to be a disaster for me," Simon comments in the epigraph to the book.
The New Generation of Microbe Hunters
Gina Kolata in The New York Times:
The first bacterial genome was sequenced in 1995 — a triumph at the time, requiring 13 months of work. Today researchers can sequence the DNA that constitutes a micro-organism’s genome in a few days or even, with the latest equipment, a day. (Analyzing it takes a bit longer, though.) They can simultaneously get sequences of all the microbes on a tooth or in saliva or in a sample of sewage. And the cost has dropped to about $1,000 per genome, from more than $1 million. In a recent review, Dr. David A. Relman, a professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at Stanford, wrote that researchers had published 1,554 complete bacterial genome sequences and were working on 4,800 more. They have sequences of 2,675 virus species, and within those species they have sequences for tens of thousands of strains — 40,000 strains of flu viruses, more than 300,000 strains of H.I.V., for example. With rapid genome sequencing, “we are able to look at the master blueprint of a microbe,” Dr. Relman said in a telephone interview. It is “like being given the operating manual for your car after you have been trying to trouble-shoot a problem with it for some time.”
Dr. Matthew K. Waldor of Harvard Medical School said the new technology “is changing all aspects of microbiology — it’s just transformative.” One group is starting to develop what it calls disease weather maps. The idea is to get swabs or samples from sewage treatment plants or places like subways or hospitals and quickly sequence the genomes of all the micro-organisms. That will tell them exactly what bacteria and viruses are present and how prevalent they are. With those tools, investigators can create a kind of weather map of disease patterns. And they can take precautions against ones that are starting to emerge — flu or food-borne diseases or SARS, for example, or antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria in a hospital.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Patricia Churchland to Judge 3rd Annual 3QD Philosophy Prize
UPDATE 9/19/11: The winners have been announced here.
UPDATE 9/13/11: The list of finalists can be seen here.
UPDATE 9/12/11: The list of semifinalists can be seen here.
UPDATE 9/6/11: Voting round now open. Click here to see full list of nominees and vote.
Dear Readers, Writers, Bloggers,
We are very honored and pleased to announce that Professor Patricia Churchland has agreed to be the final judge for our 3rd annual prize for the best blog writing in philosophy. (Details of the inaugural prize, judged by Daniel C. Dennett, can be found here, and more about last year's prize, judged by Akeel Bilgrami can be found here.)
The following biographical sketch is from Professor Churchland's Wikipedia entry:
Patricia Smith Churchland (born July 16, 1943 in Oliver, British Columbia, Canada) is a Canadian-American philosopher noted for her contributions to neurophilosophy and the philosophy of mind. She has been a Professor at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) since 1984. Since 1999 she has been UC President's Professor of Philosophy at UCSD, and has held an adjunct professorship at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies since 1989. Educated at the University of British Columbia, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Oxford (B.Phil.). She taught philosophy at the University of Manitoba from 1969 to 1984 and is the wife of philosopher Paul Churchland.
The central focus of my research has been the exploration and development of the hypothesis that the mind is the brain. My first book, Neurophilosophy (1986), argued in detail for a co-evolution of psychology, philosophy and neuroscience to answer questions about how the mind represents, reasons, decides and perceives. A major unanswered question in Neurophilosophy concerned the theoretical apparatus needed to bridge the gap between lower and higher levels of brain organization. I turned to this task in 1987, and began to collaborate with Terry Sejnowski on the book The Computational Brain (MIT 1992).
Patricia Churchland won a MacArthur ("Genius") Award in 1991. She has also served as president of the American Philosophical Association (Pacific Division) and the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.
As usual, this is the way it will work: the nominating period is now open, and will end at 11:59 pm EDT on Spetember 5, 2011. There will then be a round of voting by our readers which will narrow down the entries to the top twenty semi-finalists. After this, we will take these top twenty voted-for nominees, and the four main editors of 3 Quarks Daily (Abbas Raza, Robin Varghese, Morgan Meis, and Azra Raza) will select six finalists from these, plus they may also add up to three wildcard entries of their own choosing. The three winners will be chosen from these by Professor Churchland.
The first place award, called the "Top Quark," will include a cash prize of one thousand dollars; the second place prize, the "Strange Quark," will include a cash prize of three hundred dollars; and the third place winner will get the honor of winning the "Charm Quark," along with a two hundred dollar prize.
(Welcome to those coming here for the first time. Learn more about who we are and what we do here, and do check out the full site here. Bookmark us and come back regularly, or sign up for the RSS feed.)
August 29, 2011:
- The nominations are opened. Please nominate your favorite philosophy blog entry by placing the URL for the blog post (the permalink) in the comments section of this post. You may also add a brief comment describing the entry and saying why you think it should win. (Do NOT nominate a whole blog, just one individual blog post.)
- Blog posts longer than 4,000 words are strongly discouraged, but we might make an exception if there is something truly extraordinary.
- Each person can only nominate one blog post.
- Entries must be in English.
- The editors of 3QD reserve the right to reject entries that we feel are not appropriate.
- The blog entry may not be more than a year old. In other words, it must have been written after August 28, 2010.
- You may also nominate your own entry from your own or a group blog (and we encourage you to).
- Guest columnists at 3 Quarks Daily are also eligible to be nominated, and may also nominate themselves if they wish.
- Nominations are limited to the first 200 entries.
- Prize money must be claimed within a month of the announcement of winners.
September 5, 2011
- The nominating process will end at 11:59 PM (NYC time) of this date.
- The public voting will be opened soon afterwards.
September 11, 2011
- Public voting ends at 11:59 PM (NYC time).
September 19, 2011
- The winners are announced.
One Final and Important Request
If you have a blog or website, please help us spread the word about our prizes by linking to this post. Otherwise, post a link on your Facebook profile, Tweet it, or just email your friends and tell them about it! I really look forward to reading some very good material, and think this should be a lot of fun for all of us.
Best of luck and thanks for your attention!
Moving Beyond the “Melting Pot”
by Parag Khanna and Aaron Maniam
The tragic shooting rampage and bombing in Norway, and the spontaneous and destructive riots in London, revealed not only the elevated ethnic tensions which beset once homogenous and placid European nations, but also the fundamental new global reality of multi-cultural and multi-national states. Increasingly, governance of socio-cultural norms is in uncharted territory. As national complexions grow more variegated, one-time majorities are becoming minorities. Migration is literally the face of globalization—and as both advance around the world, we will have to re-think citizenship just as our attitudes towards sovereignty are evolving.
So far, the response to these facts has been flailing at best, despondent at worst. It was Holland’s growing right-wing movement led by politician Pim Fortuyn that partially inspired Anders Breivik. Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel caused great consternation in Germany when she declared in October 2010 that multi-culturalism had failed. Even Canada, for many the poster child for successful multi-culturalism, is in a state of doubt about its open immigration policy and tolerant political climate.
While some countries may restrict immigration from developing countries, high immigrant birthrates and slow policy changes mean there is no turning back the clock on the ethnic blending taking place around the world. Close to 15 percent of America’s population now comprises Hispanic immigrants; approximately 15 million Arab-Muslims have settled in the European Union; up to 15 million of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) 60 million residents are of South Asian origin. The total population of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates has surged from just 5 million in 2006 to 8.25 million in 2010—with Emirati nationals now accounting for just 11.5 percent of the population. An estimated one-third of Israel’s population will be made up of Arab Muslims by 2025.
In the face of such a complex reality, strict legal citizenship, as currently understood and practiced, appears too inflexible to accommodate the varieties of attachment that can constitute a broad-based sense of loyalty and belonging in diverse societies. Overwhelming demographic change compels us to find more pragmatic and forward-looking solutions.
Instead of citizenship, such societies must begin to adopt policies that promote two concepts in particular.
The first is stakeholdership. Citizens, non-citizens, guest workers, migrant laborers, expatriates, and other categories of residents that inhabit the same social, economic and political space may all have different status in terms of residency and voting rights, but for the society to succeed, all must feel as if they are stakeholders in its present and future. Are they rewarded for their role in maintaining social order and prosperity? Do they have incentives to contribute to the economy and overall welfare? What expectations do the state and society have of them irrespective of their citizenship status? These are questions associated with stakeholdership—questions to which a growing number of societies must quickly find answers.
Recent surveys suggest that citizens take a stable national identity for granted while contributing little to its development. A 2011 survey by Newsweek found that 40 percent of Americans would fail the national citizenship test questions which immigrants study for to become American. Under the concept of stakeholdership, citizenship would of course not be legally in jeopardy due to ignorance of political facts, but individuals or groups that demonstrate commitment to their desired national identity should be granted it more readily than is presently the case. Citizenship is more about what people are in a limited legal sense; it is conferred rather than earned. Stakeholdership is more about what people do to contribute to the general good.
The second principle focuses on nurturing all stakeholders into reasonable persons of goodwill. In navigating the intricate and often tense relations within diversifying societies, such individuals put reason and pragmatism ahead of primordial identities like race and language. They emphasize shared person-hood over stereotypes, appreciating the reality of multiple identities and associations each individual carries within them. Persons of goodwill make genuine efforts to not construe others’ perceptions of their culture and heritage as insults and offenses. In many ways, reasonable persons of goodwill are the bedrock of stakeholdership, providing the motivation and the means for such meaningful involvement in society to take place.
Political leaders today tend to skirt the increasing importance of setting clear expectations of how reasonable stakeholders in and of their state should act irrespective of what they may feel themselves to be. After the July 7, 2005 terrorist bombings in London, then Prime Minister Tony Blair faced the difficult admission that the attacks were carried out by citizens of his own country, even though they were planned half a world away in Pakistan. But in the immediate aftermath he also spoke of a “British way of life,” a unified code that could not bend to communities that would seek to uphold or impose alternative virtual nations within the British state. Citizens and stakeholders alike must also concede a certain allegiance and commitment to the rule of law—or find other homes to which they would rather belong.
Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew stated in an April 2011 interview that the Sino-Indian-Malay city-state is “one society even if not yet one nation.” Despite Singapore’s stunning achievement of first-world prosperity within one generation, he still worries deeply that his policies aimed to force people to inter-mingle in schools, shopping centers and neighborhoods have yet to penetrate widely and embedthemselves into the population’s psychological DNA. The point is that citizenship alone does not compel individuals to feel integrated as stakeholders in a collective. More positive incentives would help ensure that all residents act as reasonable persons of goodwill and as common stakeholders in their collective national future
Because Singapore is a city-state, it is a microcosm and potential role model for the many major cities where these approaches will be essential tools to maintain loyalty and continuity of residence, as well as attract talent for the long-term. When the financial crisis struck Dubai, thousands of expatriates were put on notice to depart the emirate because their residency was linked to employment rather than property ownership or other demonstrations of stakeholdership such as children enrolled in local schools or commitments to community organizations. Yet so many British, German, and other multinational employees would have chosen—and indeed, had chosen—to make Dubai their de facto permanent home despite not being citizens. This is a case where stakeholdership should have been prized over citizenship; and where emphasizing their reasoned goodwill towards surrounding communities would have helped create both tangible and intangible reasons for them to remain.
The stale framework that places societies on a continuum from “salad bowl” to “melting pot” no longer does justice to the complexities of today’s multi-ethnic societies. Instead, the successful states of the future are those that inspire and incentivize people from all walks of life to act as reasonable stakeholders in a common project. This is not an alternative to citizenship, but its next evolutionary phase in a world of multiple identities.
Parag Khanna is a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation and author of How to Run the World. Aaron Maniam is a diversity practitioner in Singapore, including serving as Chairman of the Singapore Indian Development Association’s Youth Club, former president of a group of young Muslim professionals, and a volunteer facilitator with an interfaith dialogue program.
LEGOS and the Changing Face of American Higher Education
On Thursday I will put a summer of research and writing behind me and return to my professorial duties in the classroom. When I do, I will greet a fresh crop of college students, as I have done every year since 1999.
I often get asked if I notice any difference, if students have gotten “better” or “worse” over the years since I first began teaching. The question itself can often be a bit loaded; the person posing it may be expecting me to confirm their suspicions. The truth, however, is a little more complex, which is why I often answer: “Both.” It seems to me that as time goes by, the students entering my classroom, on the whole, are getting better at some things and worse at others.
My home institution, Towson University in suburban Baltimore, is a good place to observe such trends and vacillations among American college students. Originally founded as the Maryland state normal college for training K-12 teachers, it first opened in 1866 with eleven students in a Red Man’s social club in downtown Baltimore. It has since grown into a full fledged university, its ongoing expansion reflected in its name changes over the years: Maryland State Normal School (1866); Towson State Teacher’s College (1935); Towson State College (1963); Towson State University (1976); Towson University (1997).
While TU still produces more teachers than any other institution in the state, the College of Education is now just one among eight colleges at the university, including the College of Liberal Arts where I am based as a tenured member of the History Department. Currently the second largest school in Maryland with a total student population of about 22,000, only the flagship campus at College Park is larger. I sometimes joke to people from outside the state that Towson University is the biggest school no one’s ever heard of.
TU is not a top tier school chock full of super achievers. Nor is it a private school where demographics are so severely skewed by income that the student body is grossly unrepresentative of the American population at large. But then again, Towson is not a community college where demographics trend more towards poverty. The vast majority of Towson students come from middle class families that range from almost poor to almost rich. A fair number will be the first or one of the first in their family to graduate college. Many of them work at least part time. About a third lof them are commuters. And while the clear majority of students are white suburbanites, there is a rising minority enrollment, and a steady population of both rural and urban students. Since Towson is a state school, most of its students come from Maryland, but competitive out-of-state tuition rates make it regionally attractive, and plenty of students are drawn from Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, as well as a smattering from more distant parts of the country, and there are nearly 1,000 international students.
Anywhere from 200-250 of these students (mostly undergraduates) will filter through my classes in a given academic year. In upper division classes, a majority of them will be History majors. But in the introductory surveys, which I teach 2-3 sections of per year, very few of them are History majors because those courses meet a university general education requirement that all students must fulfill.
In my experience with the thousands of Towson students I’ve taught and advised during my ten years there, I find that they generally spread the full gamut when it comes to issues like talent, preparation, and work habits. I have no graduate Teaching Assistants at my disposal, and so I personally run every discussion in which they partake and grade every piece of material (all of which are written assignments) that they submit. My grades often approximate a bell curve, though not because I grade on one, but because that’s just the way things tend to sort themselves out at a place like Towson.
In other words, Towson University offers a reasonable cross-section of Northeastern American college students. And so when someone asks me about whether students are getting better or worse, I feel reasonably comfortable saying “both.”
One area in which I find students have improved noticeably over the years (some colleagues will no doubt disagree) is in their writing. Their formal grammar is still problematic, their spelling’s no better, and as young adults they’re of course still prone to misue the passive voice and big words they don’t really understand in an effort to sound smart. And lord knows their handwriting is worse than ever, making their essay-filled blue books a nightmare in some respects. However, their ability to cobble together a clear thought and to organize some of those thoughts, I believe, is getting better.
I attribute that to their having grown up with the internet. They simply write a lot more than prior generations of students. And certainly all of them, just like all of us, have had that unpleasant experience of sending an email or text that was meant to be ironic or sarcastic but is taken the wrong way, or for some other reason there is a fundamental miscommunication with you and the reader and difficulties ensue. It can be a painful lesson in the need to write clearly and the importance of knowing your audience, and a lot of them have already learned it by the time they get to my class.
Another way in which they’re better is that they are, for lack of a better word, far more post-modern than earlier generations of students. They did not grow up in Cold War America, with its emphasis on rigid categories or its harsh and sometimes moralistic critiques (or dogmatic defenses) of the fringe. And in addition to a post-Cold War America, they also grew up in a post-Civil Rights America, a place where bigotry, while it still certainly exists, is no longer openly acceptable in the popular culture, while diversity is a nearly universally lauded world view.
In short, they don’t remember the 1980s. Actually, most of them weren’t even born yet. Thursday’s new freshman will have entered this world in 1993. So they don’t even really remember the 1990s. They’ll claim to remember 9-11. They almost have to since it is the seminal event in defining post-Cold War America. But the truth is, all they’ll really have is the foggy memories of an 8-year old.
The result is that today’s students are far more comfortable simply accepting an idea, person, or thing for what it is. They have less of a need to pigeon hole and presume. When confronted with a round peg and a square hole, they are less likely to try and jam the peg in, or to blame it, judge it, and then cast it out. And I think that is to their credit.
Simply put, they’re much more open minded than my generation was at their age. Disco or Rock n Roll? Many of them instinctively recognize that kind of nonsense for the false dichotomy that it really is. Why on earth should one feel compelled to choose? The notion that either genre represents some murky value system that demands our loyalty is ridiculous, and they would have no compunction about liking The Village People and Led Zeppelin.
Personally, I’ll take “Macho Man” over “Stairway to Heaven” any day.
But recent students also have their weaknesses and blind spots. And one of the they ways in which they can frustrate faculty and undermine their own performance and development has to do with LEGOS.
Yes, LEGOS, that classic toy of colorful, plastic, interlocking blocks invented by a Danish carpenter.
The carpenter in question, one Ole Kirk Christiansen (1891-1958), named his invention for the Danish phrase leg godt, meaning “play well.” And indeed, I and millions of other children of the Baby Boom and Generation X eras played well with them, along with their earlier American counterparts: Lincoln Logs (invented by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son) and Tinker Toys (from the same company that brought you the Erector Set).
Legos, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys and the like were all early 20th century versions of classically minimalist children’s toys. Featuring new colors, shapes, and materials made possible by the industrial revolution, they were not complex. They were just a just slightly more sophisticated version of simplicity.
After all, what is a box of LEGOS? Well, really it’s whatever you want it to be, or perhaps more accurately, whatever you can make of it. It’s just a bunch of blocks, waiting for you to create something. Anything. Or nothing at all. It’s up to you.
But not anymore. Now LEGOS come with specific plans and goals. LEGOS have transformed into pre-determined set pieces. Some of them are crass cross-promotional tie-ins with other child-oriented, entertainment business brands such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and Sponge Bob Square Pants. Others are more generic in their design. But make no mistake. The family-owned LEGO Group of Billund, Denmark is no longer offering the world a simple, inexpensive toy with which children might challenge themselves by finding creative ways to “play well.” Instead it is pushing pricier set-pieces in which children are given clear directions.
Here are your instructions. Do it this way. Here is your goal. Achieve what has been carefully laid out for you. Your success or failure will be defined by these very clear and rigid parameters.
And this prescribed version of LEGOS, metaphorically speaking, has been very detrimental to the newer generation of college students. Growing up in a highly structured world of play-dates, organized activities, and adult-monitored “fun,” on the whole they thrive in an environment that presents them with detailed directions and clearly stated, narrowly defined goals.
What they tend to lack is creativity and initiative.
In college this often translates into a generation of students who want the answers but are less interested in asking questions. But it’s not just about grades. Of course most students have always wanted to do well, the system has often emphasized correct answers, and so many students have always placed a premium on them. Rather, the issue is that many students do not trust the educational process unless it is clearly delineated and points directly to the A+ at the end of the rainbow.
If the process is more open, then they are often confused and worried. If they are challenged to forge their own path, to find their own answers, or god forbid to ask questions that have no clear answers, then they are apt to panic or stare at you blankly. That kind of process either scares or confuses them.
In the end, it seems to me, the reason they do not trust an abstract process of education is because they do not trust themselves. They have not been given ample opportunity to find things on their own. They haven’t spent enough time discovering, wondering, and inventing. Instead, too often they have been given detailed blueprints about what their LEGO world should look like.
As a Historian, this is very troubling. History is a field that straddles the Social Sciences and the Humanities. Abstraction is a big part of what we do. And in a discipline with ever-expanding borders, and source material (or “data”) that is at once horribly inadequate yet far too voluminous to use comprehensively, initiative and self-direction are at a premium.
If you’re going to write a 25 page research paper, it really would be for the best if you picked your own topic, found and selected your own sources, constructed your own narrative, and drew your own conclusions. Yes, of course the professor is here to help, and rightly so. But the professor’s job in that situation is not to pick a topic and sources for you, but rather to guide you in a more subtle way.
We can talk about why you have more short blocks than long ones, what the blue blocks might mean as opposed to the red ones, and interesting places where you might find some other blocks that may prove helpful. But in the end, I can’t tell you what to build. Hell, I can’t even give you detailed directions on how to build it, only general ones. You have to do that for yourself.
Self-Determination is an odd little concept, and whatever it is, certainly some people have more of it than others. But that’s one of the reasons why parents send their kids to college. Lest we forget, two-thirds of Americans do not have a college degree. Higher education is still a sign of privilege and opportunity to some degree, pun intended. It’s the chance to take the blocks of your life and build something that approximates your dreams, without the daunting challenges and fantastic odds of a Horatio Alger story or a Lotto ticket.
Come Thursday, I will begin the 15 week-long process, conducted twice yearly, in which I try to drive that home to my students. Along the way I will show them some things that other people have built. And then I will pour a bunch of strange new blocks onto the floor, in the form of lectures and assigned readings, and ask them to build something relevant through discussions, exams, and papers.
The opportunity is theirs to pursue as they see fit.
Sovereign Bonds (And A Million Pound Question)
by Gautam Pemmaraju
Two weeks ago, India and Pakistan commemorated their 64th year of independence, and two weeks from now, 13th September will mark Operation Polo - the 1948 military action against independent Hyderabad by Indian armed forces deposing the defiant princely ruler, The Nizam, who had refused to accede to the newly formed Union of India.
As Indian troops advanced on Hyderabad, the beleaguered independent militia of the Razakars put up a futile and foolhardy resistance while the Hyderabad State Force under the command of Major General Syed Ahmed El Edroos fell back. At the very same time, a delegation of the embattled state’s representatives, including the then finance and foreign minister Moin Nawaz Jung, were in Paris, desperately petitioning the UN Security Council in the hope of a cease-fire resolution. It was during this period, as the House of Asaf Jah, the dynasty that had ruled for seven generations, was about to fall, that Mir Nawaz Jung, the Agent General of Hyderabad stationed in London met Habib Ibramim Rahimtoola in the presence of Pakistan’s foreign minister Sir Mohammed Zafarullah Khan, at the latter’s house in Hampstead. The Hyderabad representative requested the Pakistani High Commissioner to accept a bank transfer of over a million pounds from an account in National Westminster Bank in his name.
As Mir Laik Ali, the last Dewan or Prime Minister of independent Hyderabad, writes in his account The Tragedy of Hyderabad (Karachi, 1962), the Security Council was to meet formally on the 20th of September 1948, but Sir Alexander Cadogan had agreed on “an urgent meeting” given the “rapidly deteriorating situation in Hyderabad”. In an archival film clip, Cadogan is seen opening the meeting by speaking of the two items on the agenda before the council: “one, the adoption of the agenda and two, communications from the government of Hyderabad to the security council”.
What the representatives, Mir Laik Ali, and Mir Osman Ali Khan Asaf Jah VII, the Nizam of Hyderabad, collectively desired, was a timely intervention in their hope to assert and maintain the claim of sovereignty and independence. Unfortunately for them, it was already too late. Hyderabad had fallen to Indian forces. Commander-in-Chief El-Edroos had ceremonially surrendered his army to General JN Chaudhari, stoically understating to camera that “the men under my command were called upon to perform a superhuman task”, while Mir Laik Ali and the Nizam, had both separately addressed the state on its radio station - Deccan Radio. The princely ruler’s broadcast on 17th September 1948, drafted by KM Munshi, India’s Agent General in Hyderabad, announced the state’s capitulation, welcomed the ‘police action’ and informed the people of the withdrawal of Hyderabad’s representation before the security council. Laik Ali also mentions that Munshi broadcast his own message as well: “Both the broadcasts purported to the effect that all wrongs had been committed by the previous Governments and particularly the last Government…”
Former civil servant and independent scholar VK Bawa, in his book The Last Nizam (Hyderabad, 2010, 2nd ed), also mentions Laik Ali’s broadcast where he made an appeal for communal harmony and adds: “But the Indian version ascribes to him a sentiment that he did not mention. It said he pinned his support on the United Nations, and hoped to keep the flag of Hyderabad flying”.
On 20th September in Paris, the UN Security council met in a “confused manner” and as Laik Ali writes, “the cease-fire resolution or the merits of the case slipped into the background and attention was focused on the issue whether the request of the Nizam for the withdrawal of the application of Hyderabad from the United Nations was genuine or made under duress”.
It was on this very day, 20th September, that Mir Nawaz Jung, the Agent General of Hyderabad in London, as the late Omar Khalidi wrote, “presented a letter from his boss – Moin Nawaz Jung (d.1993), Hyderabad Finance and Foreign Minister – to the National Westminster Bank seeking transfer of funds. The bank accepted and notified the parties concerned. The amount was of British £ 1,007,940 and 9 shillings.”
On 11th April 2008, press reports here in India mentioned that the Union Cabinet had approved an out-of-court settlement with Pakistan and the heirs of the Nizam with regard to the 60 year-old dispute. The reports also mentioned that the cabinet had also approved the ‘negotiating strategy’. This dispute had for long been on the agenda of outstanding issues, amongst, need one say, countless and more egregious others.
Immediately after the fall of the state and his broadcast to that effect, the Nizam of Hyderabad had issued a firman (order) asking all the members of this government, his officials, to return immediately to Hyderabad. He also wrote to the London bank requesting no withdrawals from the account. Mir Osman Ali Khan contended that the money transfer had been done without his consent, while Moin Nawaz Jung’s motive, still in Paris then, as Khalidi writes, “was to deny funds to India, who he believed were usurping his master’s kingdom”.
What was this money? Why was it sitting in a London Bank? And why was it transferred to the Pakistani High Commissioner?
Did the account in the bank belong to the Nizam personally or to the Hyderabad State? Before the absorption of princely states, the two were not always clear. Deeming it state funds, India, as the successor state, claimed the funds and asked its transfer in 1950, while Rahimtoola, now made his country’s ambassador to France, asked the money to be transferred to his London successor M.A.H. Ispahani.
The bank refused both Rahimtoola’s and the Indian government’s claim; the Indian government filed a suit to recover this money in 1956 and Judge Gerald Upjohn ruled that the Nizam held legal title over the money while Pakistan “had no equitable title”. This dispute got further complicated on appeal since Pakistan had to involve itself in a matter that involved its High Commissioner. It then became entangled with doctrinal issues of sovereign immunity as the matter went before the House of Lords in 1957 and famously became Rahimtoola vs Nizam of Hyderabad 1958, AC 379.
Viscount Simonds, disagreeing with the appeals court in refusing to stay proceedings brought against Rahimtoola by the Nizam, offered the initial arguments before the House by examining in what capacity the appellant accepted the transfer of said funds. Referring to ‘the three possible views’ here, he says:
The first is that he was acting as a private individual. This view is so clearly untenable that I will not say more about it. The other alternatives were stated thus by Romer L.J.1: (1) that he was acting as “agent” for Pakistan, and (2) that he was acting as the “organ” or “alter ego” of Pakistan, and that the learned Lord Justice came to the clear conclusion that he accepted the transfer in his official capacity as servant or agent of Pakistan.
The legal point in question became then one of ‘impleading a foreign sovereign’ - the courts of a country (in this case Great Britain) do not make him a party to legal proceedings ‘against his will’, whether the proceedings are ‘against his person’ or ‘seeking to recover from him specific damages or property’.
It is suffice to say here that the opinion of the House, by extending the idea of immunity to commercial transactions in this case, eventually entailed wider implications (in international & human rights law as well – read here, and here), particularly with regard to the doctrine of sovereignty, state immunity, comity, and the extra-legal idea of ‘dignity of a sovereign’. The famous Lord Denning, ‘a judicial gang of one’, ‘a maverick in legal garb’ (see book review by Hutchinson here) is often quoted with regard to the limitations of judicial immunity:
Sovereign immunity should not depend on whether a foreign government is impleaded, directly or indirectly, but rather on the nature of the dispute…Is it properly cognizable by our courts or not? If the dispute brings into question, for instance, the legislative or international transactions of a foreign government, or the policy of its executive, the court should grant immunity if asked to do so, because it does offend the dignity of a foreign sovereign…but if the dispute concerns, for instance, the commercial transactions of a foreign government…there is no grounds for granting immunity.
The other judges differed with this opinion and the outcome was that Pakistan had ‘legal title’ over the funds, but the ‘beneficial interest’ or ‘equitable title’ was that of the Nizam of Hyderabad. This again, underscored the complexity of the dispute and presented, what was in effect, an impasse. The money remained frozen in account and it was only in April 2008, following what seemed to be a diplomatic settlement, that some progress was made. The way out, as the courts and the House foresaw and sagely ruled, was ‘intergovernmental’.
The decision to seek an out-of-court settlement was not without its litigious detractors. A former legal adviser to the current title-holder and grandson of the last ruling Nizam, Mir Barkat Ali Khan Mukarram Jah Bahadur, argued that the money was the personal wealth of the family and that no other party had any claim over it. The money, now over 30 millions pounds, Begum Scheherazade Javeri was reported to have said, should be apportioned amongst the legal heirs - 8 main claimants who are direct descendants of the Nizam, and 300 others. Mukarram Jah (see John Zubrzycki’s excellent book The Last Nizam), the son of the late Princess of Berar Durrushevar, daughter of Sultan Abdul Mejid II, the exiled last Ottoman Caliph and Prince Azam Jah, the older son of the last Nizam, lives modestly in the Turkish town of Antalya.
So what was a million pounds of the Nizam’s money doing sitting in National Westminster Bank in 1948?
It was widely believed and reported that the Nizam of Hyderabad, at that point, was the wealthiest man in the world. So a million pounds in a foreign bank sounds like one of very many small stashes. This bank account though, maintained and operated by the Agent General of Hyderabad in London, was a special contingency fund.
El-Edroos, in his intriguing account Hyderabad of the Seven Loaves, writes that during the tenure of the Nawab of Chattari, the Prime Minister of Hyderabad who had preceded the hapless Mir Laik Ali, he was instructed to proceed ‘abroad’ to explore procuring ‘arms and equipment’ for the Hyderabad armed forces. A third of the states’ forces had served in the 2nd World War and had relinquished their weapons and ordnance on return to India, Edroos informs us. The government of India was to rearm the depleted force at its cost, but failed to do so due to a combination of several intervening circumstances, as I have written before here. This was critically, of course, also linked to the deteriorating relations between Hyderabad and India. El Edroos writes that the then finance minister Nawab Liaquat Jung transferred 35 million rupees to ‘a leading bank’ in England during the war period. Travelling incognito in early August 1947, El Edroos’ first stop is Karachi, where he checks in to the Palace Hotel and thereafter meets Colonel Iskander Mirza, Defense Secretary of the Pakistan government. He meets also Ghulam Mohammad the Finance Minister, who had held the same portfolio in Hyderabad, and who was to later become the Governor General of Pakistan after Jinnah’s death. Upon arrival in London El Edroos was received by Mir Nawaz Jung, the Agent General, who had arranged his stay at the Dorchester. Fascinatingly, El Edroos writes:
I was in the first instance introduced to a man called Dennis Conan Doyle, the son of the famous author Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle was in the Intelligence Department of the Government of France and was married to Princess Midwani who was a white Russian.
El Edroos returned to Hyderabad unsuccessful. He could find no way to import weapons legally since it was not recognized as an independent nation.
It was only later that the government of Hyderabad, through Mir Nawaz Jung, engaged the services of the Australian ‘adventurer’ Sidney Cotton, who via his fleet of planes ferried essential commodities, arms and ammunition, and people surreptitiously.
Hyderabad and the Union of India had signed a ‘Standstill Agreement’ in November 1947, after the Nizam had refused to accede to India a few months earlier. The negotiations of the draft were difficult and beset with many problems. One of the contentious issues during the period of drafting of the final agreement was a loan of securities worth 200 million rupees by the Nizam’s government to Pakistan.
A recent monograph, A State In Periodic Crises (2010) published by CESS, Hyderabad, authored by former civil servant BPR Vithal reveals the minutes of meetings in early 1948 between members of the Hyderabad government and those of India, based on documents left behind by LN Gupta who was Secretary, Finance Department, in the Nizam’s government. Mountbatten was also in attendance as he played a key role in convincing Indian princely rulers to accede to the newly formed union.
On 30th of January 1948, the same day MK Gandhi was assassinated by the right wing Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse, a meeting of officials of Hyderabad, led by Moin Nawaz Jung (mentioned earlier), met VP Menon and other representatives of the Government of India in Delhi. During the course of discussions, Menon asserted the fact that India had always openly pressed for accession and viewed the Standstill Agreement as part of the process. Hyderabad, of course, did not see things in the same way. Vithal cites the aforementioned documents, pointing to Moin Nawaz Jung describing the deterioration of relations between Hyderabad and India as being linked to three primary issues: the currency ordnance (Hyderabad had its own currency), the restrictions on export of metals, and the 200 million rupee loan to Pakistan, aside from the ‘minor matter’ of the appointment of a publicity officer to Karachi. As Lucien Benichou also points out in his book From Autocracy to Integration (Hyderabad, 2000), this loan was considered by India as a breach of the Standstill Agreement. Hyderabad, however, contended that it had occurred before the signing and its arduous drafting, and besides, it was purely an economic matter – ‘an investment devoid of political significance’. In Vithal’s monograph:
Mr. Menon said that, "The Government of India is a popular Government and must represent the popular will. Popular opinion was that the Hyderabad loan was given deliberately to Pakistan. It must be remembered that the Kashmir issue had become serious and naturally the man in the street thought that Hyderabad had helped Pakistan to attack India. .. It was true that the arrangement was entered into some time ago; there could be no good reason for withholding the information from the Government when in November the Standstill Agreement was entered into.
I will conclude this curious, tangled account here with two thoughts. Firstly, the complexity and criticality of Hyderabad’s position, its claim of sovereignty, the events leading up to the military action, the rise of the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen, the role of its leaders from Bahadur Yar Jang to Qasim Razvi, the political identity of regional Muslims, the Telangana peasant uprising and the Communist movement, the roles of the Andhra Mahasabha, the Arya Samaj, the Hyderabad State Congress, the various intrigues and politics leading to Hyderabad’s fall, its subsequent integration, and the many other associated events and ideas that critically contribute to the idea of the post-colonial nation-state, are under articulated and generally overwhelmed by nationalist viewpoints and dogma. Secondly, the nuanced role of El Edroos, a man of intriguing character and pragmatism to my mind, who claimed to have issued secret instructions to all his sector commanders to fall back and not offer resistance to the invading Indian army, is similarly lost in the larger politics of the nation and the popular narrative of the defiance/betrayal of Hyderabad. The 4-day war, its subsequent aftermath, and the effects on the people at large are still evident. On all sides.
As for the small matter of the disputed 1 million pounds (30 million now)…what indeed does that mean in today’s world?