Category Archives: Religion

Sri Lanka vs Darfur: How We Read Conflict

*(reader note: since lots of my recent traffic seems to have an infants sense of irony, I’m marking anything I said ironic  with asterisks. ****)

I was asked in an interview recently why the Sri Lankan conflict (which has about 1/2 the deaths + 1/3 of the refugees of the Darfur crisis – 95% of the international attention) doesn’t get more press. Upon realizing that I knew the answer and could articulate it, I felt at once elated, depressed and fucking nerdy. I also felt a deep and abiding need to share.

1) Sri Lanka has precisely  * zero * strategic interest for anyone, ever (except India).
The island, though rich in culture, history, and foliage, lacks the natural resources of a place like, say Burma. As an island it borders nothing, and so threatens little. The only people Sri Lanka ever menaces are Indians, though they do that to great effect, since at least the time of the Ramayan, when the demon Ravaana came up out of its jungles to wreck Bible-style havoc. The Tamil refugee crisis has sparked civil unrest in India’s southernmost state, where the entire parlament resigned late last year to protest Delhi’s not doing of things. Then again, Tamil Tigers killed Rajiv Gandhi, so maybe it was, like, a thing. On the third hand, India’s protracted elections will probably reflect, at least in part, Tamil Nadu’s increasing distress at Delhi’s cold shoulder.

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Filed under 3rd World Imagineering, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, India, it's a small world, Religion, Sri Lanka, United Nations

Terrorist, moi? Why the Maya Arulpragasam LTTE-drama is NYT Tiger-shit

Getty Images

Getty Images

By Sonja Sharp

BROOKLYN–If you read us regularly or if you’ve ever glanced at the header, you probably know how 3rdWorldImagineer feels about the enormously pregnant Ms. Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A., the South London Tamili grime star.  As I wrote back in December, M.I.A. is the real thing when it comes to imagineery sampling and all-world street cred (she hopped from Sri Lanka to Tamil Nad to South London to  Bed-Stuy, for crying outloud).  So you can imagine how stoked we all are to see her performing at the Grammys and nominated alongside A.R. Rahman for the Oscar. And how completely disappointed when the Times freshly minted Colombo correspondent uses this moment–the deepening of a humanitarian crisis so severe that the world can no longer turn a blind eye to it, and the ascent of an exceptionally talented artist to whom, until the awards season, the Times had been equally deaf–to pen a hackish,  one-dimensional piece on her radical personal politics,  as though it were revelatory.
(I’m linking the piece here, just so we have a frame of reference going forward)
Are you just now picking up Arular, Mr.  Fuller? (M.I.A.’s debut album is named for her father, Arular Arulpragasam, who joined  the Tamili separatist movement in northern Sri Lanka in the  1980s).  Do you miss Guragoan? No air-locked malls in Colombo, innit?

There’s lots to say about M.I.A’s politics and her amusing incoherence in expressing them, but the fact that the Times JUST dumped somebody in Colombo last week is so apparent, its ugly.

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Filed under 3rd World Imagineering, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, Coney Island, Immigration, Los Angeles, MUMBAI, Palestine, Religion, Sri Lanka, The Liberal Media, United Nations

A very moving letter from Rabbi Avi Rabin of Chabad

Dear Friends,
Our hearts are shattered at the news from Mumbai where Rabbi Gabi and Rivka Holtzberg, were among those murdered in the terrorist attack on the Chabad House there. And tonight their little son Moshe’le will mark his second birthday…

We have no words, we have no answers. We don’t begin to understand Hashem’s ways, nor are we expected to. Only Hashem Himself can restore the light of Moshe’le’s life, and comfort him and the rest of this aching world.

We only know that until He does that, we must continue their life’s work. They deserve no less.

We will continue to try and emulate Gabi and Rivka, to seek out our brothers and sisters in every corner of the globe with love and commitment, to give every one of them the opportunity to ignite the flame of their souls until that day when, in a world filled with THAT reflected light and warmth, G-d Himself will wipe the tears from every face.

It’s almost Shabbos. Candle lighting time tonight is 4:27pm. In a world that has become so much darker, can we try to bring in some light? If you do not regularly light Shabbat candles,light them this week. If you do light Shabbat candles encourage a friend to also light this week. For the men put on Tefillin today. We should all give charity in their honor.

Families gather when they’re hurting – perhaps we can comfort one another. We’ll have Shabbos services tonight at 5:30 P.M. and at 10:00 A.M. tomorrow, Shabbat morning, at  Chabad of West Hills 23747 Roscoe Blvd. West Hills Ca 91304.
The community is invited to join us.
May we merit the ultimate time of salvation and happiness with the coming of Moshiach NOW!!!!!
Rabbi Avi Rabin

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Let it fucking snow…

Today, I experienced my first New York City snow. If it hadn’t been so flipping weird (hello, it’s not even November) it might have been almost magical. The look on Laura’s face certainly was. The smile  when we stepped outside the building—priceless. So was the next moment, when she whipped out her calling card and phoned home in Jamaica to tell her mom about her first snow.

For me, the first moments outside held no such magic. First, it was freezing, second it was wet, and third, seriously, it’s OCTOBER. October has to be the tip of the iceberg, right? Since I’m operating on about 10 hours of sleep this week, the snow pelting me in tiny, freezing spurs seemed like the coming of the apocolypse. And since I’ve been carrying Schneerson in my pocket for the past couple of weeks, the apocolypse feels kinda real, or at least plausible.

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The Associated Press: G-d is G-d

“It’s the same G-d” —TJK, AP

 I have learned more about the formation of the English language in AP lecture than I have in probably my entire career and all my studies of English and foreign language. Last night, for example, I learned that, according to the Associate Press, G-d is G-d, G-d is one. Clearly, this self-evident fact isn’t more or less true because TJK of the Associated Press repeated it in his lecture Thursday night. But there is something profoundly meaningful in this enshrining of fact in AP Style. I haven’t yet quite been able to express why this is so cool, but I’ll attempt to do it here:

In the giant, tumbling bureaucracy that is AP Style, where some of my favorite semantic fight—like Gypsy vs. Roma and Bombay vs. Mumbai—have gone down in recent years, there is little, if anything that is left to chance. The Press regulates down to the upside-down apostrophe when it comes to how English addresses the rest of the world. They also dictate where political correctness begins and ends in the press—of course, you can always write your own style, and most people do, but for the vast majority of press organizations big and tiny, the AP is the gold standard—if you don’t know, go AP Style.

Of course, you’ll probably be pissed off by at least some of the time. The Hispanic vs. Latino is one that really chafes me; others dislike black vs. African American, or Myanmar vs. Burma. I wrote an entire paper on Bombay vs. Mumbai just in 2007 when the change was adopted, a little over the decade after the name change took place. But I believe as recently as the 2008 or 2009 edition, something really magical and Small Worldy and Imagineery has happened. Something deeply humanist that I feel in the darkest corner of my heart to be right has happened in the secret annals of AP Style. 

Basically, it goes down like this. Until very recently, the Associated Press translated quotes from speakers in the Muslim world speaking about the  Lord as saying “Allah”—as in, “if it is the will of Allah,” etc.  Now, the rule says G-d is G-d, and should be translated as such. The translation of the  preceding sentence  would now be “if it is the will of G-d.” 

The repercussions of this decision are profound. It is, in essence, a statement by one of largest volume producers of the written English language, which is in the top five most widely spoken languages in the world, that we all worship the same G-d. That we are all, in essence, the same. How fucking beautiful is that?  

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Filed under 3rd World Imagineering, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, it's a small world, Religion