Monday, June 22, 2009

The Great Abortion Debate

Dr. George Tiller was shot in the head on May 31st in his Church, while serving as an usher. Why was this model citizen targeted? Apparently, his killer objected to his profession. He was a performer of late - term abortions. His was among the hanful of clinics in the U.S that was willing to perform this service.
The man is being canonized and demonized in equal measure. He believed that contrary to the views held by many of his sex, women are rational beings who are perfectly capable of making a choice of this magnitude. And for this, Tiller was persecuted all his life and finally murdered. Stuff like this makes me almost as mad as gun - toting killers who run around killing people for daring to do what they believe in. Tiller performed abortions on consenting females, but judging by the furor he caused one would think he forcibly ripped out the foetuses from all and sundry.
Why is it that "... in matters of life and death, the argument itself can become a matter of life and death" ?(Nancy Gibbs, Time) I have been thinking about it all week and have formed some conclusions. I, myself am pro - abortion although conversely I'll never have the nerve to go through it myself. But I fully understand if someone wishes to abort. Has anyone read Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth" ? Set in the middle ages, the female protagonist is raped by two men.Later at the height of her despair, she wonders if she is pregnant. And she decides that if pregnant, she will deliver the child and then leave it in the woods for the wolves. At that point I could sympathize with her. Shocking huh?
Now in this day and age we don't have to feed wolves with unwanted babies. We can opt for an abortion or adoption. But there is an even better option. Get obssessive about contraception. The market is flooded with products that are designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Make full use of these devices and spare yourselves the agony. I know of married men in India who feel embarassed to run down to the nearest store and buy condoms. ANd then the inevitable happens and they rush their wives to an abortion clinic to terminate the pregnancy. Now these chaps deserve to be shot don't they?
But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men... People have the right to choose. Let them. Let the others do as Voltaire suggested,"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Velupillai Prabhakaran: The Life of a Rebel

Rebels fascinate me. I guess its because I am something of a conformist myself and also something of a closet rebel. Velupillai Prabhakaran was the quintessential rebel. To his followers, he was a hero and a great freedom fighter, to others he was a visionary, but there are many more who think of him as a raving megalomaniac and an evil villain. So I have been reading up on the man, and here is some of the stuff I have unearthed.

Velupillai Prabhakaran was the founder and leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The objective of this group is to create a separate homeland for the Tamils or a Tamil Eezham. And in order to attain their aims they have been waging war against the government for nearly three decades. The war is over now and all that remains of the LTTe is the ideas they stood for.

Even the LTTE's worst detractors would admit that their grievances were justified. The predominantly Sinhalese government did make life difficult for the Tamils. For instance, as early as 1956, the "Sinhala Only Act" was passed in parliament. This law ruled that Sinhala, the language of the majority which amounted to about 70% of the populace was to be the sole official language of Sri Lanka. Ostensibly, the law was formulated in the wake of Sri Lankan independence with the idea of removing all traces of their colonial masters but Tamils were indignant and saw it as a conduit for the majority to impose their will on them. And then in 1973, the government announced a new policy for university admissions called standardisation which required Tamil students to score higher than the Sinhalese to enter the university. This virtually destroyed the ambitions of Tamils who aspired to become doctors or engineers. In this manner, the differences between the two ethnic groups led to a schism that simply could not be bridged and not surprisingly, erupted in violence.

There is little doubt that Prabhakaran sought to redress the wrongs of the Tamils. He was a man who believed passionately in his cause and would stop at nothing to fulfill his dream of a liberated Tamil Eezham. However, the tactics he adopted were far less admirable. He was an inflexible man who did not take kindly to opposition in any form. Therefore, in addition to killing key Sinhalese government officials, and an Indian Prime minister, he is also responsible for claiming the lives of Sri Sabarathinam, leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation and Appapillai Amirthalingam, the Tamil United Liberation Liberation Front leader. The Tamil Tiger also liked to use suicide bombers and it has been said that he used civilians as human shields to keep the inexorable Lankan army at bay. This callous disregard for human life may not seem a big deal for an overzealous nationalist but it does make the gorge rise for the rest of us.

Prabhakaran did not have the patience or the wisdom for peaceful negotiations. He preferred to rely on his guns and this trigger - happy attitude led to the LTTE being declared a terrorist group in 37 nations. The violence he had so much faith in ultimately proved to be counter - productive and with global opinion shifting in favor of the Sri Lankan government, it was only a matter of time before the LTTE were wiped out.

Despite the destruction of the LTTE, and the death of their leader, the situation remains dicey on the war - torn island. None of the original problems have been solved. The Sri Lankan goverment has refused to allow the international media, NGOs and other witnesses inside the war zone. So one shudders to think of the fate of those trapped within. And given the fact that the government has been bombing its own citizens for over a year, one can expect a bloodbath. It was precisely this sort of heavy - handedness that spawned the Eezham war in the first place and created extremist leaders in the form of Prabhakaran. And unless the government makes a sincere attempt to do the right thing by the Tamils, (I don't mean just including Muttiah Muralidharan in the national team) the cycle of violence and bloodshed will continue unabated.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stop the Fed Express!

The unthinkable has happened! Raphael Nadal the undisputed king on clay has crashed out of the French open. Yeah, I know it is stale news but I was in mourning and could barely bring myself to think about it, let alone write about it. But following the classic stages of anger and denial, acceptance has finally set in. I am not a Nadal fan. For me, Pete Sampras will always be the greatest tennis player to lift a racket. And I hate the fact that his achievements and records are under siege thanks to the Swiss mauler. Rafa has been the lone warrior fighting on Pistol Pete's side (albeit inadvertently) and now he is gone.

Looks like the road has been completely cleared for Federer in his quest for greater Grand Slam glory. Rafa is the only player who has been successful in repeatedly derailing the Fed Express. Judging from their performance in past tournaments, it appears that all the other players are so in awe of Federer's legacy that their entire attention is concentrated on how best to avoid wetting their pants when the great man is across the net and they allow the Swiss champ to sleepwalk his way to the trophy. Its like watching a terrible movie over and over again. Can nobody stop him now?

Federer is going to play Gael Monfils for a place in the semifinals. I don't anything about the man on whom my hopes are centered save his nationality - French. And I hope the history books are wrong about the French and their failure to win any great battles. Or perhaps Soderling may pull off yet another improbable upset and send Fed packing. Who am I kidding? The organizers may as well hand over the trophy to the Swiss juggernaut. And I may as well prepare to mourn again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Of Racism and Racists

A series of ugly, racially motivated (the Australian government prefers to call it opportunistic) attacks directed against Indians in Australia has generated widespread anger and outrage all over the world. The stabbing of a student, Sravan Kumar Theerthala has focused attention on the racism rampant in Australia. Thousands of students have raised their voices in strident protest in the hope that the government will take a stand against the wave of hate crimes that are rocking the nation.
Humanity has been confronted with the spectre of racism yet again and as in the past there seems to be very little anyone can do. This monster like the mythical Hydra is impossible to destroy and every time a head is chopped off, it is replaced by an uglier one. And unfortunately, there is a serious dearth of Hercules – type heroes in the world we occupy.
I am outraged by what happened to Sravan but the media frenzy in India over this affair has provided some food for thought. Journos have been so busy crucifying the Aussies they have all but forgotten the high priests of hatred and intolerance who infest our country like a virus. Suddenly, Indians have adopted a sickening holier – than – thou attitude conveniently forgetting the fact that Indians are abused in India as well. Today’s paper reported how three Dalits were hacked to death in Tirunelveli District. There are thousand incidents like this which are reported on a daily basis in India. How can we whine about Racism when we are racists ourselves? For shame!
In all fairness Indians are not alone in their collective hypocrisy. Sure, the Blacks have been persecuted over the ages on account of their skin color, but I doubt they are nicer in their attitude and treatment of the the Jews or Chinese. Similarly, the descendants of the Holocaust victims do terrific Nazi impersonations when it comes to their own ‘interactions’ with Palestinians. Don’t even get me started on the racist activities of the Russians, Chinese, Americans, French, British, etc. etc. etc.
Isn’t it a dismal state of affairs? Like a particularly insidious canker, racism has spread all over the world. The rot has set in and there is not much we can do short of giving ourselves a complete mental transplant. Until then, all we can do is wait for Hercules. And if the hope of the world rests with that muscle – bound moron, then God save us all.