Is UK aid to India justified?

India’s economy is about 50% bigger than Britain’s, but India’s population (1.1 billion) is 18 times more than UK’s (60.7 million). UK’s GNI per capita is US $37,600. India’s GNI per capita: US $720, which means it is at least 50 times less than that of UK.

India on the surface of it looks richer than UK. And logically, it’s India that should send help to UK. But India has more social troubles than UK; some are almost inexistent in UK like illiteracy.

In India, there are still regions and population that still live in primitive conditions compared to the 21st development.

On many occasions, even very rich nations needed international help in times of disaster. The USA received outside help after Katrina Hurricane. Germany did the same when faced with flood some years ago. China wouldn’t have coped well after the recent earthquake without the massive international aid.

The Indian government still lacks full resources to help its entire people. UK still has an obligation to help its helpless population on humanitarian grounds. International help is a means of strengthening diplomatic and economic ties.

Indians living and working in UK are also helping UK economy through their high skills and economic enterprises. So the help given to India shouldn’t be seen as a waste of money but as a means to strengthen the relations between the countries. UK aid to India totalled £1billion. But surely UK gets more than that in its economic exchange with India.

So let’s say, every pound donated to India as aid will be returned by 10 pounds through commercial exchanges.


Monarchy, kings and queens

Monarchy in many countries is the symbol of national unity and identity. But as an institution, it should move with time. What makes some monarchies unpopular is when the monarch has disregard for popular attitudes, trying to keep privileges or authorities dating from centuries and which have little to do with the political aspirations of the new generations. But there are absolute monarchs under disguise in some republics like North Korea or Syria where the leaders continue to rule until their death, only to be succeeded by their sons without a popular vote for the presidency.

One negative aspect of absolute monarchy is when the king considers himself as the rightful guardian of society disregarding calls for change. It can be OK for a king to perpetuate a style of rule, subjugating his people by enshrining himself with sacredness. But in today’s world, there is no place for despotism. Monarchy in Nepal was abolished because the king was out of touch with the reality of his country. Perhaps he was counting on the spiritual sacred side of monarchy to survive.

In Japan and Thailand, monarchy is popular and a stabilizing factor because it is constitutional, leaving the choice to people to decide through elected governments in whose policy the monarch doesn’t intervene. As Thailand and Japan succeeded in progressing without relinquishing their traditions, monarchy is sure to continue in these countries.

In Morocco, the King has given the monarchy a new image through constant contact with the population in every region of the country. It is seen as the most liberal and democratic country in the Arab world after Lebanon. Although there are calls from many political parties for constitutional change to allow the prime minister and the government more powers, there is still the public belief that the king should remain the arbitrator in political matters. The majority of people have lost faith in the political parties. The king remains for them a unifying figure. Morocco still has many economic and social problems. There is still corruption and a great need to reform the education and justice system. However the king remains popular, even among the poor, who believe that his initiatives can improve their living standards. And there is also the general belief that the king alone can’t solve all Morocco’s problem. It depends on the determination of everyone to do their best for the good of the country. In other words, only hard work and honesty at all levels that can solve Morocco’s problem.

After all, what people need is a leader, be it king or president, who can ensure the stability and the welfare of the country. Even in republics, there are people who have the lifestyle of kings and princes. Naming a country a republic or a monarchy can be deceiving. France, for example, still refers to its past strong monarchs like Napoleon with reverence and royal heritage is still kept as a national treasure. Russia is reconciling itself with the past negative attitudes towards the Tsar Era. Monarchy even if it doesn’t exist in many countries, now becoming republics, still has its mystic appeal.

Although monarchy is abolished in many countries, successful and popular stars are described as princes, princesses, kings and queens. Prestigious places have titles starting with royal like Royal Hotels. So many countries considered as republics still have a yearning for royal splendour.

A large number of people like to have a role model. Many role models are almost worshipped by their fans. Stars in sport and art are like idols for their fans. Very rich football stars are loved by their fans however poor they are. They know how much they earn, but they support them. They don’t boo them at the pitch because of their extravagant lifestyle and earning, but only when they don’t play well.

On Larry King show, there was a debate about British monarchy. An American speaker criticised the British monarchy for its lavish style, to which a defendant of the monarchy asked him, “What about your imperial presidency?”

Monarchy is a matter of the past in many countries, but still they seek to have a distinguished person to rule their heats and mind. Monarchy, as a form of leadership, is an innate inclination to have one person turned to by the masses as personification of the glory the want to have in their lives.

Islamic schools in a modern world

In the past, Islamic schools in Morocco were the only place to get educated. At that time, just learning the Quran and having basic notions of religion entitled a person to be considered as educated and entitled to be an imam or a religious cleric. Until recently, many families sent their children to coranic schools where they learnt verses of the Quran and the Arabic alphabet before they joined public schools. Now such schools are facing extinctions. They can be found in very few areas. Families today want their children to have modern education. They send their children at the age of three to nurseries where they are introduced to modern education.

Following the terrorist attacks in Casablanca on May 16th, 2003, there has been a crackdown on many unauthorised mosques and building where religious sermons were given.

So while there are attempts in Western countries to build (more) Islamic schools, in Morocco the trend is that such schools are on the verge of extinction, as people here seek a modern education from which they can make a living.

But this doesn’t mean that educated people can’t further their studies about Islam. In Moroccan universities there are branches about Islamic studies. Also in Rabat, Morocco’s capital, there is an Islamic School called “Dar Al Hadith Al Hassania”. One of the conditions to get a diploma from this school is to be fluent in a foreign language, mainly English and French. And whose aim is to have a modern approach to daily affairs.

One difference is that current Islamic institutions and schools are directly directed by the state, unlike countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia where Islamic schools are a political force. These countries still have difficulties controlling them or imposing on them guidelines to foster openness rather than extreme views of what doesn’t seem to them Islamic.

Religious schools in general become a danger when they teach archaic views leading to extremism. Inculcating students just with religious notions without preparing them to be open on the reality of their societies and adapt to it can lead to an isolated section of the population that will use whatever means to impose its views or to seclude itself from society totally.

On Human Rights Issues

The issue of human rights is still problematic as it is still open to interpretations by the countries who have signed the Human Rights Treaty. Ironically, the governments who abuse human rights most are those who defend their records on respecting them. They accuse those seeking their rights as trouble makers or as a threat to national security.

Many countries are ruled by despotic regimes, with leaders seeking all means to stay in power by silencing their opponents through death, torture and imprisonment.

There are two countries in the news today which are an example of the violation of human rights: Zimbabwe and Burma. In Zimbabwe, there were many reported incidents of people victims of cruel physical assaults following the general elections. The government seemed to be doing nothing about it, by for example, opening an inquiry. In Burma, people hit by the cyclone are left exposed to hunger and disease for more than three weeks because of the military regime, despite the enthusiasm of the international community to help them.

These two cases show the impotence of the international community to intervene to put things right. There are sometimes political calculations. The West and other big countries like China and India turn a blind eye to the abuses of the human rights by regimes as long as they serve their interests.

What pressure can be put on governments abusing human rights to respect them? Are economic sanctions effective to make abusive regimes change their policies?

There are many illegal immigrants crossing to Europe mainly from Africa. What rights do these immigrants have to seek a better life?

My third question is about the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state:

On the Algerian territory, there are displaced people from Western Sahara who live in camps. They have been there since 1975. Many want to return to their homeland, but they are prevented by the Polisario Front fighting Morocco over this territory. Anyone caught trying to escape is subject to torture and imprisonment. Shouldn’t there be international pressure on this front to allow these people the freedom to live where they want to regardless of the differences it has with Morocco?

Children’s safety and adults’ responsibility

The situation of children has changed because of a change in the notions of families and neighbourhood and how they relate to each other. In the past, the role of parents was that the mother took care of the children while the father was out at work. Neighbours were like an extended family whose children could mix easily. Children were relatively safer.

Today, family structure has changed. The extended family is becoming a matter of the past. There are increasingly single parents with a single child. The child is left alone at home or in the care of schools. The itinerary from school to home can be dangerous for weak children as they have to move in a space where there can be a pack of children ready to attack as there can be malicious adults ready to sexually exploit the child.

It has always been normal that weak children are bullied by strong ones. What is worrying today is that some children are getting more violent, committing even murder. But there is no need to be alarmist despite all this as child safety is still guaranteed as long as child tutors know how to guide their children and to teach them how to be both safe and sociable. It is the lack of social skills on the part of children that makes them either aloof, frightened or aggressive.

Children should be given the opportunity to live their childhood fully. Neglecting them or overprotecting them can have adverse effect on their personality. They need guidance as well as the skill to make choices. They should not be dangerously exposed to scenes fit for the adults who can discern their right and wrong aspects. This has to do, for example, with the violence they’re exposed to on TV and video games.

The dangers facing children have different aspects according to regions. They are prey to the dangers according to the environment in which they live. In other words, this has to do with the practices of the adults in general.

There are children who are the victims of AIDS from the wombs of their mothers. There are children who are smuggled from one country to another for labour.

There is also the danger of exposing children to drugs. There are drug dealer who sell their goods to (school) children. There are those who start drinking alcohol at a very young age.

Helping children to live in a safe world has to do with preparing a clean environment for them. As long as the laws are barely enforced and some adults themselves need care and supervision, the victimized children will be left to face their situations helpless because of the failure society to have adequate means to help all children have a normal life.

The world can be safe for children as long as the adults, who should be concerned about their future, make it safe for them. If adults become totally disengaged from the education and the welfare of the children, each according to their responsibility, this can result in having children adrift, at the mercy of dangers that should be avoided.

Does a child need a father?

Single women and lesbian couples won landmark parental rights last night as MPs voted to remove the requirement that fertility clinics consider a child’s need for a father.

A fatherless child can apparently have a normal childhood if surrounded by the needed care. Currently there are cases of fatherless children because of the death of their fathers, divorce or the fathers simply have disappeared without leaving any trace.

What may matter for a child is to have a father-figure imbuing him with fatherly qualities. But for many, there is nothing like a real father, especially in societies where the mother and the father are the centre of the family. In many (Muslim) societies, it is an insult to describe someone as being illegitimate or the child of unknown father.

It seems only animals don’t need a father when born and they can altogether do without their mother when grownups. Needless to say, there are also types of birds as well as wolves that make everlasting couples, which jointly care for their offspring.

It remains to see if some people copulate without looking back at their actions or they take such action with responsibility as it can result in the birth of a human being entitled to have a family life.

Men who donate their sperms and women who donate their eggs must be crazy as they encourage lesbians and gays to act against prevailing social norms by having children that can know just one parent they’re from and without ever having the chance to know the other parent.

There are still people who are curious or proud of their family trees. With the new law, children can trace their families just from the side of their mothers.

But normally a child should know who his father is, at least later in life. When adults, these children are likely to feel something missing in their lives if they have never experienced fatherly attention.

Many adopted children feel they aren’t the natural children of adoptive parents. Relations can be good with them, but an essential part from which they were born is still missing.

Allowing mothers to have children, without necessarily revealing their fathers, is just a response to their egoistic desires to be mothers and have a family. But there is the denial of the right of the child to know his father, especially if that is possible.

As incest is still prohibited, it is likely that a daughter and her father can have sex or even get married without knowing the biological relationships between them.

Maybe UK society has gone a step much further. It is normal to have single mothers. There were 1.9 million single parents as of 2005, with 3.1 million children, 81% of single parents in the UK are mothers.

Now with the fact that fertility clinics no longer need to consider a child’s need for a father, it seems there will be a surge in the birth of children from gays and lesbians. It remains to see how these children can cope in society. Or will there be a community of gays and lesbians, transmitting these practices to their children? Contrary to straight people for whom it is a must the couple should be heterosexual, gays and lesbians may convince their children that the right way to live is to be homosexual.

There is also the position of the church. Will it baptise these children? Or in the end, will there be a church for this category of people?

When does diplomacy become appeasement?

Diplomacy is the best way to conduct relations between countries to avoid direct confrontations, military or economic. It’s diplomatic relations that help countries channel their views and coordinate them for a collective or bilateral actions.

Appeasement shouldn’t be just face-saving for the weak party. It should be based on solid grounds to last. Saddam gave in to Iran when he was weak. But once the new Iranian regime was militarily weak, he launched military actions that lasted till his invasion of Kuwait in 1991.

After the Second World War the USA and its allies made peace agreement with their enemies Italy, Germany, and Japan based on turning a new page and helping them to become powerful again without threatening world peace.

Currently, appeasement should be based on helping the weak side to have the possibility to stay in power on condition of honouring the agreements to keep a balance of power. Seeking to annihilate an enemy outright can prove impossible, if that enemy has the means to rise from its ashes. In Iraq, there are reports of arrests and death of terrorist resistance key figures, but violence isn’t over there. Afghanistan still has no-go areas even for the heavily armed international forces operating there.

Countries with uneasy relations have different means to talk. Either directly at different levels from the level of ambassadors to that of head of states. There is the means of intermediation as it happened in Qatar between the Lebanese. The most failed intermediations are between Hamas and Fatah despite efforts by many Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen. For these, they can agree just to talk at best without honouring their agreements, especially those signed in Mecca. This is the result of the interference of outside forces like Iran.

The other level of talk can be carried by international organisations like the UN. There have been some successes about this, at least for appeasement. Morocco and the Polisario Front were at open war from 1976 to 1991, the year in which they agreed to a ceasefire, holding up to now. They started direct negotiations last year. The problem isn’t resolved. But at least diplomatic initiatives have put a brake to their military confrontations. There were no causalities from either side since 1991.

The success of diplomacy depends on the will of the parties to have normal relationship. They can discard military actions to solve their problems if that proves to be costly for both sides. But there are other means to perpetuate the conflict by having no bilateral cooperation or economic exchange. The US has used economic embargo against Cuba as a means to fight its communist regime. Talking to any Cuban politician is still considered a crime.

Diplomacy becomes appeasement only when the parties find military confrontation is of no good to either side, despite the possession of the weapons and the soldiers to do so. Diplomacy in many cases becomes a stick and carrot to solve a problem. The case of Iran shows this when the West has used economic incentives to dissuade it from pursuing its nuclear programme, while at the same time it is imposing gradual sanctions on it, when the US politicians are blowing hot and cold about a possible military strike.

As long as countries that are the centre of major international diplomatic crises are piling weapons and sophisticating them, there is no guarantee that there will be no temptations to use them as a gamble to solve a situation that diplomacy has failed to do.

Appeasement can be possible when all parties see eye to eye. But as there are deep divergence between the parties that can’t live side by side, skirmishes, bomb attacks and wars will remain an inevitable outcome in a world that historically has innumerable record of wars.

No one has a magic wand to put an end to armed actions as long as there are military and diplomatic options. Each option is valued according to the results it can yield. Appeasement and confrontations will remain the reality governing the thinking of politicians, either for their survival or the survival of their countries.

Diplomacy, if it can’t solve problems and make things better, should keep “safely” bad situations the way they are before they become dangerously worse.

When a reporter should be detached

Researching the day’s topic, Mark Sandell came across this blog on CNN. A senior, experienced and respected correspondent, John Vause, writes frankly about being in China in a car with an empty seat as hundreds of people ask him to take them out of the quake zone. If you read it, you’ll see he still isn’t sleeping after the answer he gave.

This raises the question, “When should reporters stop and help, and when should they simply report ?

Good reporters are supposed to be detached, so as the give credibility to their stories and to reach an audience of different persuasions. A report embedded with personal opinions and attitudes is likely to attract a specific section only.

There are of course reporters who work for news agencies known for their bias and ideological leanings. So the reporter has to reflect that. But for an independent reporter working for an independent and neutral news agency the reporting should be done professionally as the job for reporting is to make people know about facts and not to try to make them take a certain position.

There are cases in which reporters find themselves reporting in difficult situations or in areas in abject poverty or plunged in disaster. During their reporting they have all the facilities like food and shelter to report on people without a home or food. They become just witnesses of situations they can do nothing about, but which is a stuff for reporting a story.

Some journalists become so involved with the events they report about. There is the example of Kevin Carter whose work drew praise and condemnation in almost equal measures until finally, haunted by the horrors of the scenes he had witnessed, and beset by financial problems, he committed suicide at the age of 33.

The picture for which Carter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography on May 23, 1994 at Columbia University‘s Low Memorial Library is an example of the  horrors of the scenes he had witnessed before committing suicide.

For journalists, “doomed” to report just about such disasters are unlikely to remain indifferent. If they can do nothing, they’re at least beset by the memories of what they have witnessed.

Journalism remains a hard job, especially for those who are activists, and because of this they can’t remain detached. They try to help by whatever means through connections and by using their reports to raise awareness about issues close to their hearts.

The best help reporters can do professionally is to report the truth and nothing but the truth, especially about political scandals or abuses to make people aware of what’s around them. Getting personally implicated can have an effect with dealing with a situation that should be reported with total objectivity. A reporter who says, for example, in his/her report “ I was sad to see so many dead and injured people in an earthquake.” isn’t the same as the one who says, “ There were many dead and injured people in an earthquake.”

Children and natural disaster

The death toll from last week’s earthquake in south-west China has risen to 40,075, officials have said.

In a catastrophe, resulting from natural disasters or wars, children are the most vulnerable; especially, when they are orphaned and left without relatives to take care of them.

Concerning the situation in Burma and China, each should be considered differently. In Burma, the government is to a large extent responsible for the misery of children there. It refused all sorts of help from “unfriendly” donors, especially the West, which it regards with suspicion. The military junta there preferred to see people of all ages suffer rather than open its seclusive country to foreign aid workers. Perhaps their human actions will be contrasted with the brutal treatment of the military regime by the affected people.

China has the responsibility to take care of orphaned children because of its birth control policy that has reduced the members of each family. Each family has the right to only one child, which means orphaned children can’t have a grown-up brother or sister to turn to. This catastrophe is a test for the Popular Republic of China to show that it can really care for all its population, especially in hard times like these.

On the whole, children, orphaned or having witnessed horror, need support to overcome the trauma experienced in their tender years. They shouldn’t be left alone, the victims of an experience that can accompany them for the rest of their lives.

Children of this kind having become familless should be adopted by the whole society that should cater for them by sheltering them in decent homes, and providing them with special education to face life when adults. They can also be adopted by other families. For them, unlike adults, they don’t need just material aid to survive, but also psychological support to feel they have a new life for better after having experienced the worst.

It is also the responsibility of the international and local aid agencies to closely follow their needs. The natural disaster may be over. The land it destroyed can be rebuilt easily. But to rebuild a shattered life needs to be done piece by piece without neglecting any essential side.

Who has the final say on a child’s medical treatment?

An 11-year old in Hamilton has leukaemia and does not want to continue with chemotherapy. It’s a decision the child’s parents support. They want to look at alternative therapies, but the doctors treating the child say chemo is by far the best option. So who should decide?

The health of any person is the responsibility of society as long as there are services to cater for that. Medical treatment shouldn’t be stopped if this becomes life-threatening.

In the case of children, they’re too young to take decisions on such matters. They should get all the support to bear with the treatment however painful it can be if it can save their lives.

Yielding to a child’s refusal to get medical treatment is a tacit form of euthanasia, as his /her death becomes a permanent cure.

Doctors and psychiatrists should work out ways to convince the child that it is in his/her interest to be courageous enough to get the best cure to enjoy a healthy life through which they can fulfil their ambitions.

It must be a painful experience for the parents to have a critically ill child refusing crucial treatment. But their support and care will be the cure needed for the child to voluntarily accept medical treatments. Sometimes the psychological support plays wonder when the physical side is run down. It’s the mental preparations for a morale lifting that can defeat the physical pain.

After all, doctors know better. If they are sure of their treatment, they should have the final say. Parents can be just the moral support of their child to go through a life saving experience. For parents, it’s better to feel that they have done all they can than to feel that they have let their child down by being soft out of compassion instead of being firm about a matter of life and death.

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