It's a strange and not pleasant coincidence. I don't blog about India all that much, and just a few days after I did, all hell broke loose in Mumbai. And what's really strange is that a friend of mine was over there (possibly, I hope, just leaving as the attacks began) on his second trip to the country. I will be worried until I hear from him. I can't remember exactly the dates of his trip and whether or not Mumbai was on the whirlwind itinerary (I think he was there to interview prospective students at the University where he lectures.)
The latest news - the breaking of the siege at the Jewish Centre. A lot of the UK media are unashamed about concentrating first and foremost on the question of how many victims are British, and only delving into the main story as an afterthought. (But the BBC coverage is good, both depth and focus.) US media are worse, and don't seem to pay it all that much mind. The international (US-owned) company I work for has hundreds of employees and contractors and clients there, but not a peep on the intranet, although they meticulously tracked the hurricanes in Texas and Florida and took up collections for the victims.
28 November 2008
23 November 2008
No, it's not a story about call centres, far from it. This New York Times article is about the astonishing reverse-migration of US-born men and women of Indian extraction migrating "back" to India in search of their fortunes, or just a more comfortable or exciting way to make a living. There are some fascinating insights and great quotes in this short article:
Prior to living in India:
My parents married in India and then embarked to America on a lonely, thrilling adventure. They learned together to drive, shop in malls, paint a house. They decided who and how to be. ... It was extraordinary, and ordinary: This is what America did to people, what it always has done.
My parents brought us to India every few years as children. I relished time with relatives; but India always felt alien, impenetrable, frozen. ... Perhaps it was the bureaucracy, the need to know someone to do anything. Or the culture shock of servitude: a child’s horror at reading “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in an American middle school, then seeing servants slapped and degraded in India. My firsthand impression of India seemed to confirm the rearview immigrant myth of it: a land of impossibilities. But history bends and swerves, and sometimes swivels fully around.
Living in India today:
At first we felt confused by India’s formalities and hierarchies, by British phraseology even the British had jettisoned, by the ubiquity of acronyms. Working in offices, some of us were perplexed to be invited to “S&M conferences,” only to discover that this denoted sales and marketing. Several found to their chagrin that it is acceptable for another man to touch your inner thigh when you crack a joke in a meeting. We learned new expressions: “He is on tour” (Means: He is traveling. Doesn’t mean: He has joined U2.); “What is your native place?” (Means: Where did your ancestors live? Doesn’t mean: What hospital delivered you?); “Two minutes” (Means: An hour. Doesn’t mean: Two minutes.).
Countries like India once fretted about a “brain drain.” We are learning now that “brain circulation,” as some call it, may be more apt. India did not export brains; it invested them. It sent millions away. In the freedom of new soil, they flowered. They seeded a new generation that, having blossomed, did what humans have always done: chase the frontier of the future.
Posted by Debra Keefer Ramage at 21:20
This article from the Economist analyses the prospects for renewing the Transatlantic Alliance - before it's too late.
Yet in the longer run the chances of better transatlantic co-operation may be greater than they seem at first sight. The reason is simple. For both Europe and America the long-term outlook is quite bleak. Global acceptance of American leadership has diminished both because of the Iraq war (and Guantánamo) and because of the rise of emerging powers with different ideas about how to order the world, some of which carry a whiff of 19th century great-power rivalries. Today’s Europe has little military clout, and is in demographic and (relative) economic decline.
A lot of articles on the economy and on the new administration coming to the US in January 2009 all take as a given that the power of the US, and indeed of "the west," is definitely on the wane. Some put the high-water mark back as far as 1948, although I would disagree with that. I think 1989 has at least as strong a claim. But there is no argument at all that the eight years of the Bush administration hastened the end for America, and a surprising number of pundits agree with me in pointing to Hurricane Katrina as the smoking gun that proved it to be so.
Posted by Debra Keefer Ramage at 20:49
12 November 2008
Heather Wood Rudulph of the Huffington Post says thou shalt love Michelle Obama. I already did, so I'm cool. Yeah, she does gush a little. But you know what? she's right.
In the same HP, an old interview with the president-elect from 2004 is unearthed, which contains some very revealing statements about faith and values. Thanks again to Ashley for sending me the link.
Posted by Debra Keefer Ramage at 20:12
10 November 2008
Miriam Makeba, the pan-African activist and musician known as "Mama Africa" and the "Empress of Africa", died of an apparent heart attack following a concert Friday in Italy. A friend of Nelson Mandela, and one-time wife of Stokely Carmichael, a protege of Harry Belafonte and a mentor to many younger performers, she was connected to everyone in African politics, civil rights and music. Many younger Americans were first introduced to her as part of Paul Simon's Graceland tour in 1987, at a time when she was still officially in exile from her native South Africa and from the US for her controversial political actions.
Posted by Debra Keefer Ramage at 23:08
09 November 2008
It's Remembrance Sunday here in Great Britain. A day for looking at the past, and yet all the poppy-bedecked talking heads on Andrew Marr's show were pointing more toward the future, even when they were referring to the theme of Remembrance Sunday; that's how it is when you perch on a cusp of history, on the Great Divide as it were, where the rivers change directions.
Last night, I received another group email from my old DSA comrade Dan F. in St. Paul. I read every word, and it made my blood run a little cold, providing a bracing counterpoint to the overwhelming waves of optimism of the past week. (I must confess, I still leak a few tears of joy and disbelief every time someone says "President-elect Obama" on the TV or radio.) The e-mail had the entire text of this Monthly Review article by Immanuel Wallerstein, "The Depression : A Long-term View". It made me a bit dizzy as well, an effect I last remember for certain that came from reading a dystopian novel by Samuel R Delaney.
Remembrance Sunday is about honouring all the dead of the Great War (World War I to modernists), the dead and wounded of all the other wars in between, the survivors and currently serving Forces men and women, in more or less that order. DH and I observed the occasion by watching last night an excellent film of a Pat Barker novel of the Great War, Regeneration. (Every year, I also give a few pounds the Poppy Appeal and then promptly lose my poppy. It's those stupid straight pins. I have a great suggestion for bringing the past into the present a little better and instead of flogging paper poppies with a straight pin, feature optional sticky-back glossy poppies that you can press onto your coat or shirt without making a hole. Just a thought.)
Posted by Debra Keefer Ramage at 10:53
05 November 2008
This was last night, outside Ebenezer Baptist Church. From right to left, my son, his girlfriend and a mutual friend. I don't know if the AJC covered this spontaneous street party, but the title link is about the more official Atlanta Dems celebrations.
And here's the story behind this picture, from my son's message to me on Facebook.
You could even post a pic on your blog of me putting the Obama sign on Martin Luther King's grave and talk about how some woman told me it was wrong of me to do it but then thanked me and took a picture. I was confused, but I didn't care. It's what I felt like doing. Because Martin deserved to share in the celebration.
Posted by Debra Keefer Ramage at 20:29
Here is an awe-inspiring photo-stream of pictures from last night. Amongst the show of 31 photos, it shows a vigil at Martin Luther King's grave in Atlanta, a site visited by my son and his girlfriend last night as part of their victory march through their (and my old) hometown.
Here is a full text of Obama's victory speech.
For the geeks like me, an election map from the BBC. The UK news media is if anything even more wonky about the US election than the US media. It's touching. The BBC and MSNBC maps are all Adobe Flash so I can't paste them into my blog.
And let's not forget all the other races! Minnesota is on my mind today. According to Live Blog of the election at the Minnesota Daily (U of M student newspaper) the Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman is still too close to call.
Posted by Debra Keefer Ramage at 11:08
I got up at 1:30 am which was 8:30 pm EST to watch the election. Obama was pretty far ahead even then, and the red states in the south, less Virginia and Florida, came in and he was still ahead. Soon after I started watching, Pennsylvania was called blue, and then Michigan. I finally went back to bed about 4:30, still a couple of hours or more to go before Obama would arrive at Grant Park for his big moment. But before I flagged, I saw the electoral college vote cross the line when California and then Washington came in. Virgina, Florida and New Mexico were all but in the bag. The carousing, the ecstasy, the weeping and hugging, had begun in Times Square, in Grant Park, in Obama's father's village in Kenya, in ex-pat parties in the UK, in the student union at Morehouse College and many other places round the globe. I saw John McCain's very gracious, noble and dignified concession speech and that's when it hit me that change really was sweeping not just the US but the planet. Maybe it was my imagination, or maybe it was a sort of self-selected crowd, but the tearful faces of the Republican faithful seemed to be saying "maybe it won't be that bad, maybe we can stop all the frenzied red-blue crap and get on with it, like he says".
Posted by Debra Keefer Ramage at 10:27
02 November 2008
Studs Terkel, another of my all-time great heroes, author of the ground-breaking oral history book Working and Hard Times, passed away on October 31 at the age of 96. If you didn't know the great man, you could do worse than to read "Why Studs Terkey Mattered" from his hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune. Or, here's a little sample, from a radio interview:
With Enron and corporate scandals in the news, Studs recalled the 1930s depression: “Things don’t repeat themselves exactly. But we’ve learned nothing from it. Unregulated, free, untrammeled, what’s it called, ‘free market,’ fell on its ass again, as it did then. We’ve learned nothing.”
Posted by Debra Keefer Ramage at 10:47