The Weekly Grapevine: First Week of October 2012



Can you believe it is October? I spent the week learning about killing wells and trying to get decent phone reception… but enough about me, this is what I found on the net!

How politicians get away with dodging the question: The Pivot:  "Politicians," he says, "are exploiting our cognitive limitation without punishment."

This ought to go down well with my fellow uni students: why lectures are ineffective

 Top myths about the Iranian Nuclear Program

It is alleged that Iran has threatened to annihilate Israel. It has done no such thing. Iran has a ‘no first strike’ policy, repeatedly enunciated by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has expressed the hope that the ‘Zionist regime over Jerusalem” would ‘vanish from the page of time.’ But he didn’t threaten to roll tanks or missiles against Israel, and compared his hopes for the collapse of Zionism to the collapse of Communism in Russia. Iran has not launched a conventional war of aggression against another state in all of modern history. Israel aggressively invaded Egypt in 1956 and 1967 and Lebanon in 1982 and 2006. The list of aggressive wars fought by the US, including the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, is too long to detail. So why is Iran being configured as the aggressor?

I know we have heard so much about the video and the backlash, but here is an interesting take by an American Muslim on the analysis…

…that’s not to say the film is an “excuse.” The film rather is a “last straw.” The attack on the embassy in Cairo following the one in Libya was not an attack on America but an attack on American intervention of Egyptian affairs. This is why it is so crucial for Egypt to establish its own democracy without Western influence. It restores a fundamental inseparable right of a people to determine their own government, and the morality of this principle on which America was founded means less war and less hostility. And it means more opportunity for us to focus on our own defense and build it in the event of an attack against a single nation (rather than five total wastes of military occupation).

They don’t hate our freedom; they hate that we think it’s ours.

10 favourite TED talks by a fellow blogger; these are great!

An interesting article: The Trouble with South Africa that highlights the issue of representation in the media of figures and groups not as “human beings with stories”, but more a collective that thinks and acts as a single monolithic non-relatable entity.

I’ve been puzzled and not a little disturbed by the lack of empathy on South African social media with the horrific events at Marikana, where 34 protesting miners were killed by police on August 16th.

So what’s going on? Partly, it’s to do with people’s tendency to believe and react to images over text….

But it also has to do with the way most media have covered and continue to cover the strike. This was pointed out by academic Julie Reid, also in the Daily Maverick. Her piece also argues that the day-to-day event-based coverage has also helped obscure a very worrying much larger trend of police violence against citizens. Beyond a lack of investigation and intelligent mining of the data, I have not come across any article that has attempted to get into the lives of the miners, show them to us as individuals, and help us genuinely understand their daily struggles. Much (if not everything) of what has been written lately glosses over miners’ past, dreams, desires, frustrations, etc. Short: their lives. The failure to give attention to those details made it impossible to imagine what it would mean to live a miner’s life, which has allowed the debate to be sucked into a very ordinary South African debate — a spiral of numbers, acronyms, figures, maps and politicking that works as a cover to say: we haven’t got a clue.

This is sad: An interesting recent piece of research on farmer suicide.

The study revealed numerous male suicide clusters of high risk from across Australia, but generally not (state/federal) capital city regions. Only the capitals of Adelaide and Darwin were found to have male clusters, although these are the fifth and eighth largest of Australia’s eight capital cities, respectively. The Adelaide cluster has also been found to have a higher incidence of mental and behavioural disorders. Suicide rates tended to be highest in areas that were both of lower socioeconomic status and with a higher concentration of Indigenous inhabitants. Only one female cluster was identified and over 40% of statistical local areas (SLAs) had no female suicides at all during the study period.

Win an Adventure to Africa  -- Sounds exciting, but a it does frustrate me sometimes that going to Africa is seen as one single destination: Africa is a continent made up of over 50 wildly diverse countries…

This does sound amazing though: UNREASONABLE AT SEA

Aussie Racing Legend, Jack Brabham and a chat with SPEED

The Muslim Dilemma?

The West and the rest of the world will not know peace until critical thinkers in the Arab and Muslim worlds start speaking out and getting an audience from the global media. There is no alternative to native dissent to the suffocating culture of the sacred. Muslims are as intellectually capable as anyone else in the world, but their minds are almost hopelessly shackled by taboos, big and small, social and political. Instead of producing a culture of critical thinkers, Muslim societies are teeming with thin-skinned moralists.

Meanwhile, Muslim-majority nations, those whose flags display stars, crescents, and swords, can’t compete with a nation like South Korea in contributing to global scientific research, or invent anything to save their lives.

Muslims are struck in an impossible bind: They are totally dependent on the West for all the good things in life but are fanatically attached to religion as a marker of their separate identity. By being unable to be fully Western, they have forced themselves into an orthodox corner. Fanaticism is the result.

Westerners and Western-educated folk who apologize for Muslims by invoking the depredations of the West are not helping make things better. Muslims don’t need to indulge in a victim mentality; they need to develop their societies, build stronger economies, cultivate the arts and and encourage innovation and critical thinking in all fields. Neither self-pity nor piety will get them there.

A tune to finish off your reading: Skyfall from Adele, for the new James Bond film…