Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dem youts, dat cheddar and mad violence

"Poor and underemployed young men don't seem to a source of social instability", Blattman says as he takes a piss over the numerous peacebuilding NGOs around the world. Whilst my bitter nature would encourage me to argue his point, I do fully support the idea that 'just because your young and poor doesn't mean your going to go out and kill people'. That notion is essentially no different to Britain's fear of the 'hoodies'.

But I also have to defend those poor naive little NGOs as the reasoning behind the massive number of youth engagement projects are not necessarily to help improve their economic status, rather, it is to engage the youths and keep them busy......I tried to find some evidence for this but it seems that NGOs and the UN don't like to explicitly provide justifications for their projects.

So I can only really speak based on my own experiences working in South Sudan, but it seems that here, the belief is that the main drive of conflict between communities is not economics, but rather, idleness. Many people from the community, government and even the youths themselves always seem to give the same solution to conflict: "We have to keep the youths busy, when they are idle, they will more likely go out and fight or conduct criminal activities".

Anyways, I think my point is that outside of the economics world, peacebuilders and other NGO types don't think that the point of vocational training projects is to reduce poverty, thus reducing conflict, but rather as a method to change behaviour. I think its in line with all those silly sports for peace projects. Its a means of making these youths a contributing member of society and all the mentality that comes with it (if need be, I can try and draw out the sociopsychological mechanisms of this). Nonetheless, I am very much looking forward the findings of Blattman's study on the issue (though I'm very intrigued to see his design for this).
Kids will be kids, and youths will still stab you in the alley behind MacDonalds for not giving him a cigarette.

P.S. Don't get raped by the burden of proof, don't forget the lessons of epistemology and evidence is like's great, but sometimes you can live without it (sometimes).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

War porn or just stupid?

I received a document today of IKV Pax Christi's latest publication on Sudan entitled:
CPA Alert: The State of Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement - Alert No. 2!!!! (you have to say it with a dramatic-action-movie-trailer voice).
I didn't manage to get past the cover without being shocked and disgusted by the recklessness of this publication. Have a look:

Notice anything wrong? No? Well allow me to explain......
Viewing an image of plumes of smoke rising up from
tukuls (huts) in a post-conflict country tends to invoke thoughts of violence and conflict as though marauding evil-doers are running around setting fire to entire communities, probably raping and pillaging in the process. This is especially true when the word ALERT is written (massively) twice just above the image. It acts to instill the idea that this carnage will happen if the issues surrounding the CPA (and what ever Pax Christi says about it) are not, RIGHT NOW!
However, this photo is actually just of a demolition project that took place in Juba a year or so ago. Talk about terrorism.... it is truly a sad day to see a peacebuilding NGO try to persuade their readers by adopting scare tactics and only using pathos as their mode of argument. I say ONLY using pathos because the paper is....well, pretty shit. Mind you, I have only skimmed it, but it seems like a repetition of many other papers that talk about the same thing and speculate only of horror scenarios (good breakdown of the referendum law though). The writing just feels lazy, and the recommendations are just unimaginative and consistently just state the obvious.
But, Im probably just being extra dick-ish about it because of their (ab)use of that photo and am therefore trapped in a cognitive bias.
Nonetheless, John Ashworth.......I thought you were cool man...

Photo credit: Petterik Wiggers (wanker.....well, only if you were the one that decided to be a whore)

NB: I am pretty damn convinced and have confirmed with colleagues that this photo is in fact a Juba demolition project and not actually a conflict. Otherwise, well, I'll shamefully delete this post and go into hiding.

Edit: I got caught up in the moment and may have been excessively critical yesterday. That photo and all this constant fear mongering by so many of these publications is starting to get to me. Have some faith you miserable bastards

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The malaise of criminals in Malaysia

"A burglar in Malaysia who broke into a house to steal watches and jewellery was caught after falling asleep with the loot on a sofa, local media report."
Sorry, but this was just too hilarious too pass. He must have eaten too much of that porridge......and I must be getting old enough to start making this type of bad/dad jokes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cracking the meaning of Khawaja

Khawaja is the term Sudanese use to refer to foreigners, especially white people (I've seen some people look at Japanese aid workers with a very puzzled look). It is the 'Arabic' equivalent of Swahili's Mzungu. Throughout my time spent here I have tried to figure out the origins or even the root meaning of the term but have always ended up with conflicting, nonsensical or just obviously made up answers. That is until recently when I spoke to my favourite Islamic History Scholar and writer of the forthcoming paper, "The Rise of Early Sufism: A Survey of Recent Scholarship on the Social Dimensions of The Formative Period of Sufism", Harith Ramli:

The title khawaja (also spelt as khwaja, khoja etc.) is originally Persian, meaning 'lord' or 'master'. In Egypt and Sudan, usage of the term probably appeared under the Ottomans (maybe earlier under the Mamluks, but i dont think any earlier), whose officials often used Persian or Turkish (during this period a lot of Persian and Turkish words enter Arabic). Such an official might have been referred to as a 'khawaja' by a local. Then the word gets used to refer to any
high-ranking respectable person, like a rich merchant maybe. I'm not sure at which point it get used to refer to Europeans specifically, but maybe this happened in the 19th century, when a lot
of Europeans were hired as advisors and military officers in the Egyptian army of Muhammad Ali and his descendents. Since Sudan was ruled by Egypt at the time, its quite clear that the
word was transferred during this period, although in Sudan itseems to have more of the specific meaning of 'white person'. I remember some fair looking Sudanese being teased by their friends with the nickname 'khwaja' in Khartoum.

Mystery solved....
Now just 2 questions:
1) Would Sudanese continue to use this term if they were aware of the meaning?
If so,
2) How would awareness of the meaning affect the behaviour of Sudanese towards the international community working there? Would there be some sort of priming effect at play?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happy Anniversary Terrorism!!!

Today marks the 9th anniversary of the new dawn for Islamomatic-terrorism. Nine years on from one of the most successful/devastating terrorist attacks on western soil, extremist Muslims the world over kick back and reap the benefits of their struggle as the world succumbs to their demands. As a result of their diabolical plan, the once mighty United States of America, it's President and military leaders now break out in hysterical fear over any action that may upset the Muslim community and subsequently, the terrorist overlords. Yes, I am of course referring to the Quran burning controversy, where the bold Pastor Jones has been pressured to abandon his plans to piss off over a billion people in the world. So why have these great leaders spoken out against the pastor's plans? Its not because the act would be illegal. Nor is it because such an act would be unAmerican. Rather, it is because the provoking fear of terrorism has scared them into submission (aye? submission, Islam means submission? clever wordplay? no? ok....).

Robert Gates pleaded, "going forward with this Koran burning would put the lives of our forces at risk, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan".
Petraeus warned, "It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan".

The terrorists declared, "You see, what has happened is that the US has foolishly played into our hand by deploying soldiers in these Islamic states. What they may have thought was a move for greater control of these states turned out to actually be part of our diabolical global terrorist plot to hold American citizens ransom without actually having to go out and kidnap American citizens. And all it took was one attack on their own turf."

This may explain Obama's decision to pull out the combat forces out of Iraq. But the threat does not end there. Recognising the devious nature of the terrorists, Obama went on to warn his people of a greater threat, "We've got millions of Muslim-Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They're going to school with our kids. They're our neighbors. They're our friends. They're our co-workers."

Now, with US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq being held hostage, and American citizens within the US itself unknowingly under the threat of millions of Muslim-American sleeper cell agents, the US government has to think very carefully before doing something to upset the Mulsim population. In a show of good faith, Obama has shown support for the construction of a Muslim palace on the 9/11 hallowed ground, and has even converted to the religion of his new rulers.

With that, I wish Terrorism a very happy anniversary. Congratulations and may you achieve all that you seek out to accomplish......What was that again?