Saturday, October 30, 2010

Angelina Jolie, "UN Ambassador"

Following the devastating floods in Pakistan, and the world's indifferent response to the colossal damage to the country, not to mention the sufferings of some 20 million people, the UN eventually managed to pack off the comely - or, unappealing, depending on your point of view - actress to Pakistan. Her stay in Pakistan proved quite eventful.          
Jolie surprised and delighted many people by her willingness to visit the flood victims in remote areas. Dressed in simple clothes, similar to those worn by the homeless victims, she sat close to them, held their hands and consoled them. She also made generous contributions to the relief funds set up for the victims, which showed up the pitifully small contributions to the relief effort made by Pakistan's billionaire and mult-millionaire politicians. Above all, it was the warmth and humanity she showed towards the flood victims, destitute and homeless, which contrasted so oddly with the aloof behaviour of Pakistan's politicians who remained rooted to their power bases, looking down upon the victims from afar.

She was entertained lavishly  by the Prime Minister - whose looks seem to have impressed Jolie sufficiently to give him advice about a possible career in Hollywood! - and others. On her return to the US, Jolie produced a damning report about the glittering lifestyle and sheer wastefulness of Pakistani officials as the country creaked from recent calamities. Pakistanis who relegate their own language and culture to an inferior position in their own country waxed eloquent, praising her sky high.

Pakistan's dynamic Urdu press, however, saw things differently. One well known journalist, who writes in both Urdu and English, contrasted Jolie's behaviour with that of Pakistan's "elite" and concluded that even a person with Jolie's background was morally superior to the people who exercise power in Pakistan. His article in Urdu has unleashed a storm in Pakistan. Those who ostentatiously flaunt English, and its inevitable corollary, an alien culture which looks out of place in local conditions, cannot forgive this journalist for revealing the sordid details of Jolie's background to the millions who read Urdu newspapers. It is OK for westernised Pakistanis to know all about Jolie's personal life but readers of Urdu press? Hell, no! Pakistan's westernised bloggers are out in force to vilify the hapless journalist and to perpetuate a system of apartheid in Pakistan where certain things are left unsaid in the Urdu press.

My contributions to this debate have been in the form of comments at a couple of blogs:


 "I seem to have ended up here more by accident than design. I am saddened to read this piteous piece of writing by a Pakistani blogger whose mind has been conditioned through long exposure to an alien  culture and its language. The curse of celebrity worship is destroying western societies through a general process of dumbing down, and trivialisation of values which are essential for maintaining stable societies.

Talat Hussain has simply held up a mirror to the brainwashed Pakistanis - a veritable army of yes-men and women to whatever becomes fashionable in the West - in which they have seen their hideously distorted features and have recoiled in horror.  Talat is quite right: so many members of our westernised elite today rank , in moral terms, lower than the Hollywood actress who visited Pakistan recently.

Thank God for Talat Hussain who has found a way to live successfully in the weird  Pakistani society without  sacrificing his language and his culture."


Do you realise what you are saying? Just goes to show the extent to which Pakistanis have been brainwashed by the country’s bastardised educational system – which replaces independent thinking by a servile acceptance of high sounding, meaningless drivel uttered by arrogant Americans and other English speakers. The Americans and the British tend to hold the average English-spouting Pakistani in contempt because this sorry specimen of humanity is expected always to fall in line with the western view of things. What makes such obsequious Pakistanis so useful to the West is their utter failure to feel any sense of national pride or to comprehend what is good for their country as a whole.
You tell me that a country ravaged by floods – some 20 million people affected – needs to have its “awareness raised” by a visiting “UN ambassador”! The UN is a hypocritical organisation, a convenient tool in the hands of world powers to influence other countries. I suggest you do a little research and read the damning articles about the UN published outside the narrow, suffocating world inhabited by westernised Pakistanis.
The “UN ambassador” was invited to Pakistan by the fawning Pakistani government, not by Talat Hussain. As an independent journalist he is not bound by government policies and he is free to write about any subject he chooses to write on. You should know that when China’s leaders, or the Pope, tour abroad as official guests, large scale demonstrations take place to protest against their policies or their past misdeeds. Do Pakistanis inhabit a different planet?
The spirit of independence that Talat Hussain has shown needs to be applauded. It is such a shame that Pakistan’s brainwashed English-speakers, who derive their values from the trashy ideas circulating in the West at the moment, have leapt on him as a pack of hounds.


Waqar Akram said...

Interesting article. Her work is pretty impressing, especially considering the lifestyles of her Hollywood peers. The point about Pakistani authorities and their wasteful culture, I could not agree more.

Only point I would contest is the world's indifferent response to the Flood Relief effort. As the link shows, many nations have contributed, the same nations that were there for Pakistan after the Earthquakes. We must remember that Pakistan since its creation has been a net beneficiary of world aid. It may be a little ungrateful to bite the hands that continue to feed us.

Anonymous said...

Has there been an indifferent response to Pakistan's flood? A collection of thoughts:

* First of all, why should one expect anything but an indifferent response. The world is carved into a collection of countries. Taxes are collected by country, votes are cast by country, passports are issued by country. Pakistan is its own nation and its people will be the beneficiary of its success. I believe any donation >0 should be appreciated. After all, it would be interesting to see how much Pakistan donated to Haiti, Tsunami & Katrina.

* I have worked with charities and have proposed donations to Pakistan. The issues faced were two fold - 1. fear of corruption 2. donor fatigue - tsunami, earthquake, flood. These issues have hindered the maximum possible donations, but I wouldn't label this as indifference.

* Western and Islamic nations have been quick to donate as can be seen from Waqar Akram's link, but not all is driven by compassion. Pakistan has strategic value as a conduit to Afghanistan and a holder of nuclear weapons and hence the western donations to avoid power falling into the hands of the extremists. Islamic nations out of common identity have also been donors.

To summarise my view. I think the response has not been indifferent, but at times politically motivated and with strings attached. Pakistan is not an easy nation to donate to. In the UK there was a visible DEC campaign, Angeline Jolie visited Pakistan as an ambassador and 50% of the relief funds requested (by Ban Ki Moon) had been received within a month of the floods.

I am by no means an expert and would appreciate any feedback or comments. (well... polite ones!)

Sakib Ahmad said...

Thanks, Waqar and Anonymous, for your comments. I tend to see the aftermath of floods as purely a human tragedy which ought not to be influenced by political considerations. Humanitarian disasters and politics just do not mix, or ought not to. It is unfortunate that some countries - the USA foremost among them - have chosen to play politics with human misery.

Perhaps "indifferent" was the wrong word to use. The fact remains that in the face of the colossal damage running into tens of billions of pounds, dollars, whatever, the response so far, actual and promised, has been inadequate. Let me just reproduce stuff published in The Independent, a British newspaper.

“Leading charities have attacked the international response to the worst natural disaster in Pakistan's history, saying delays in funding the relief effort had affected aid operations.

Analysis of previous emergency aid appeals has shown that contributions from governments and international donors are well down compared to other major disasters”.

“The world Bank has offered a $900m (£577m) loan to Pakistan to help with the country's flood recovery programme.

As aid donations to the beleaguered nation fall short of what is needed, the body said that funds would be diverted from ongoing and planned projects in the country."

"With widespread destruction of roads, bridges and other vital infrastructure, experts say that rebuilding could take many years and cost billions to complete. There are concerns that millions of people will need food aid, emergency shelter and medicine for weeks, if not months, to come. While the lives of an estimated 20 million people have been disrupted by the floods, agencies say that food and clean water have only so far been provided to 500,000. Anywhere between 3.5 million to 6 million children are said to be at risk from water-borne diseases”.

"Dealing with the spread of disease, especially among children, is also a pressing issue for aid groups. ‘We have a country which has endemic watery diarrhoea, endemic cholera, endemic upper respiratory infections and we have the conditions for much, much expanded problems,' Daniel Toole, a senior official with the UN children's charity, UNICEF, told reporters in Islamabad. 'We cannot spend pledges. We cannot buy purification tablets, we cannot support Pakistan with pledges. I urge the international community to urgently change pledges into cheques.’"

“The decision to borrow $900m from the World Bank is an indignity that Pakistan is being forced to swallow. Foreign donors have been slow in marshalling aid to the country where weeks of unprecedented flood devastation have wrought billions of dollars worth of damage.

Yet, the impoverished Pakistani state, already close to ruin, can ill afford expensive borrowing that will add to its debt of $55.5bn. That figure is set to swell over the next couple of years as billions rescheduled after 9/11 are set to be recalled."

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