Tuesday, September 19, 2006


TIMES ONLINE [19.09.06]

"HELICOPTER gunships thudded over the dusty streets of El Fasher in North Darfur this weekend as the Sudanese government stepped up its latest offensive in defiance of a United Nations resolution.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and 2m displaced since African rebels took up arms in 2003 to protest against perceived bias from a government dominated by Arabic-speakers. Sudanese government forces armed and organised Arabic-speaking tribes into the Janjaweed militias, which raped, tortured and murdered countless civilians.

“They (the rebels) are not seeing us as partners in the peace process but as legitimate targets,” he [General Collins Ihekire, the Nigerian head of the African Union’s (AU) 7,000-strong peacekeeping force] said by telephone from Darfur. Two AU soldiers were killed last month in an ambush, and more attacks were expected, he added. Most of the peacekeepers had not been paid since May."


by Arthur Marwick

"While recognising the essential uniqueness of historical events, Professor Marwick argues that these changes can be best explained by developing a 'model' which breaks war down into four meaningful components. Throughout the book [...] there is discussion of wars as DESTRUCTION, of the way in which war TESTS EXISTING INSTITUTIONS, of the manner in which PARTICIPATION in war-time benefits underprivileged groups, and of the PSYCHOLOGICAL REPERCUSSIONS of war."

[adj.] Lacking opportunities or advantages enjoyed by other members of one's community; deprived.

adjective: Economically and socially below standard: backward, depressed, deprived, disadvantaged, impoverished. See rich/poor.

noun: A person living under very unhappy circumstances: loser, miserable, underdog, unfortunate, wretch. See rich/poor.

Origin: 1897: The notion of privileges for favored people - the wealthy, or those in the know, or those connected to the government - has been around as long as civilization. But the democratic notion of privileges for everyone came into its own in America with our adoption of the word underprivileged. To say someone is underprivileged is to imply that there is a standard of privileges to which everyone is entitled, privileges that have been unjustly withheld from the underprivileged.

In the politically correct 1990s, underprivileged sounded too condescending, too accepting of a privileged point of view, and needy is now more likely to be used.


by Linda McQuaig

"In recent years, the word "underprivileged" has fallen out of use.

Too bad; the word was helpful. It captured the fact that what separated the poor from the rest of society was mostly just privilege - the advantage of being born into the right family. In other words, luck had a lot to do with where one ended up in life.

This fundamental realization helped foster an attitude of sympathy and generosity towards the poor. After all, they were seen as being just like everyone else, only less lucky. So it seemed fair that society should provide them with some support, to make up at least partly for the headstart the rest of us got.

This sort of approach has been brusquely pushed aside in the last two decades, replaced by an aggressive new right-wing ideology with a much harsher attitude towards the poor.

According to this new ideology, the rich are rich because they've contributed more to society, and they therefore deserve their big fortunes. (Many rich people find considerable merit in this theory). Similarly, the new ideology holds that the poor are poor due to their own shortcomings, perhaps laziness or some other character defect.

Thus, the role of privilege - while more pronounced than ever in the lives of the rich and more lacking in the lives of the poor - has been airbrushed out of the picture. Our willingness to embrace this new ideology explains why our streets are increasingly filled with homeless people. The poor haven't changed; we've changed. Egged on by this new mean-spirited ideology, we've kicked the supports out from under them."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read a powerful comment piece on Darfur in The Times yesterday, by David Aaronovitch.


He was despairing of the fact that NO-ONE (right from the US neo-cons on one side of the spectrum to the peacenik Stop the War coalition on the other) seems to give a damn that thousands have died in Darfur, and that thousands more might perish in further genocidal killings.

Irrespective of whether Aaronovitich is right in his own view as to the necessary actions that ought to be taken to save lives, it was impossible not to be taken with the idea that many who are outspoken about the suffering and misery in the Middle East simply have nothing to say about the appalling happenings in this part of Africa (but aren't short of opinions in respect of the Middle East).

If I was to be unkind, I might venture to suggest that because this problem can't be traced back to perceived US interests and/or actions, then the urge to mobilise a response is massively neutered... More evidence, perhaps, that a large majority of world events can only be viewed by some through the prism of hostility to America... Either way, the plight of this part of Africa really ought to shame the consciences of more men and women than it seems to...

Take a certain Sam Young, living in Paris, in particular. If Aaronovitch's comment piece was depressing enough, in it's own well intentioned way, the blog response from Sam beggared belief...

"Here we go again, the usual stuff about the Muslims, the UN, and world matters in general. Like millions of others, I work, pay my taxes, relax when I can and, to the best of my knowledge, have never inflicated any damage on any one. I know nothing about the Sudan, have never been there, never will be. I don't even know where it is. I have no hand, act nor part in what goes on in that country. Let them kill each other. None of my business. Now I'm going to cut the lawn."

Here's hoping the mower lopped off his big toe or something...