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Newsletter. Issue 2008-23. November 08, 2008
 
 
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Commentary
 

The statements, opinions, or views in the following articles may not necessarily reflect that of the Goan Voice Canada.

 

Today: Where I Come From
R. Benedito Ferrao
Posted on Goanet Reader
)
November 5, 2008


On a day following my first return to Los Angeles from London where I have lived the last few years, I was asked by a Caucasian man, whom it so happened was English, which bus he would need to take to get to Downtown LA. I advised him. He thanked me and, with the affinity of the traveler for anything familiar in a foreign place, he said sympathetically: "You're a long way from home."

The question of where (or what) home is for me has long been a source of consternation to others. And, often, myself. Today, November 4, 2008, it is a question I ask myself with new meaning, and I come no closer to an answer. Yet, on this day, the first time I have ever voted in a country-wide general election, the reasons for my ambiguity are amplified by the person I voted for and that ambiguity is, in fact, reassuring.

On the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, August 28, 2008, I became an American citizen. It was a strange experience, one I had avoided for the fifteen years I have lived in this country until necessity broke down my resolve. That I could chose to become the citizen of a country is still an alien concept to me.

My parents did not have that choice, being born in the colonies of Goa and Kenya. And for my sister and I, the first members of my family in several generations to be born free people, we were not allowed to be citizens of Kuwait, where our parents had us; instead, we were given the citizenship of India -- a country into which Goa, the land of our origins, though not our birth, had been enfolded.

When we emigrated to the United States it was under an African quota, though we were Indian citizens. I come from everywhere and belong nowhere, muses a mixed race character of part-Goan origin in one of the books I am currently researching. Similarly, I find it hard to have a sense of nationalist belonging as echoed in King's utopic but heartfelt speech.

Always being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was also why until today, I had never been able to vote. So, my decision to become a citizen on the eve of, and to be able to vote in, what will perhaps be the most important election of my lifetime, was not to support a country or a person, but to support an idea.

Obama is not someone whose politics I fully accept. His stance on Islam, Middle Eastern Americans, Palestine, and Zionism is wayward and evasive; particularly troubling given his familial, historical and personal connections.

Yet, I also find it compelling that he embodies and challenges so many of the rifts in this country: Of Color and White; Foreign and Homegrown: ambiguous... Clearly, the sense of affinity I feel is because of the overlap in our identities -- our Kenyan connection, implied Semitic identities, the color of our skin, and our foreignness.

It has even been said that he carries with him a small replica of the Hindu God, Ganesh -- the remover of obstacles. Though a religious icon, it is an image I have clung to as a fond reminder of my own childhood and is mirrored in my own collection of little elephant-headed idols. These are the things that make Obama as not/American as me. These are sentiments I share with my family and so many others in Kenya, India, the US, UK, Kuwait, and elsewhere.

After years of living under the administrations of two countries that have contributed to the desolateness in so many parts of the world, it is a strange feeling to be hopeful again.

The hope I hope for is that this country will embrace the idea of ambiguity, the not knowing where someone comes fromwithout being suspicious, the knowing that people do come from elsewhere, the belief that it is not too late to correct the wrongs that have been committed, the belief that history is change, the belief that the future can change.Today, this is where I come from. -- the nightchild.

 

Seeing Beauty In Financial Meltdown
Author says economy, environment, social inequity can only improve as rabid consumerism checked

This article appeared in the Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/529292
November 03, 2008
Moira Welsh
Environment Reporter


French environmental author Hervé Kempf takes a sip from a watery cup of take-out coffee, grimaces, and places it on the window ledge of his Toronto hotel lobby.

"Very American," he says.

Kempf's distaste for the mass consumerism embraced by parts of the United States plays out in the theme of his book, How the Rich are Destroying the Earth, which argues that the global worship of capitalism ? and unchecked consumption by the wealthy ? is the reason the Earth is in dire trouble today.

Lauded by economists and environmentalists when published last year (the book was a bestseller in Quebec), Kempf describes a scenario in which the very wealthy live lavishly and the middle class goes into debt trying to emulate that lifestyle, buying big cars, big houses and big toys.

The production of those goods, and their use, has contributed significantly to global warming, he says. It has also created a society that pays scant attention to social justice, health care, education and the poor. Kempf, in Toronto last week to speak at Ryerson University on the relationship between the economy and ecology, said the current U.S. financial meltdown will actually be good for the economy because millions will be forced to consume less, moving into smaller houses and driving smaller cars.

They will emerge from a more isolated lifestyle, with homes filled with big-screen televisions and toys, and turn to community-minded interests. That will push social issues higher on the government agenda. Kempf, a journalist with Le Monde in Paris, said the economic distance between the wealthy and the rest became obvious during the 1980s.

"The elite drove the cultural model that is imitated by all of society. You try to imitate the people who are in the class above you, and the people above you try to imitate the class above them. "We are now in a position of over-consumption, by all of the middle class, in France, in the United States, in Canada," he said.

"In the Western world, we consume too much, myself included."

That demand for a bigger, better life helped lead to the global credit crisis. Kempf's book predicted an impending economic collapse: "Like a junkie who can stay standing only by shooting more heroin, the United States, doped up on hyper-consumption, staggers before it droops." That collapse will be good for the environment, he says, by providing an opportunity to change the financial system, reducing tax breaks to the very wealthy and creating better opportunities for education and improved health for all citizens.

"But it will not be enough for the middle class to reduce their consumption," he said. "Change will not be acceptable if there is not a strong reduction in the inequality of our society. It will not be acceptable if the rich still live as if nothing needs to be done."

 

Obama?s mandate for change earned
Excerpt from East African Standard
http://www.eastandard.net/editorial/InsidePage.php?id=1143998644&cid=16&

Change, emphatic and historic, has come to the White House. With it, the promise of a transformed America and a changed world.

The Standard joins the world in congratulating President-elect Barack Obama on achieving the former and challenging him to keep his promises on the latter.

Obama?s victory will bolster the faith of many in democracies the world over who seek to create societies in which everyone has the freedom and opportunity to decide their future. At a time when many, including this paper, will be glad to see the back of an America infatuated with its military might and ready to trample values it espouses, voters in the US have reminded us of the "enduring power of their nation?s ideals ? democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope".

This, as Obama said yesterday, is the true strength of the nation, not the might of its arms or the scale of its wealth. Sharing these ideals with the world and defending them from the forces that would rather less progressive and more fundamentalist ideas prevailed, will not be easy. Fears of an international crisis to "test Obama" are not misplaced: The same, after all, happened to John F Kennedy and George W Bush, among others.

The truer tests, however, the ones to tell the world change has come, will not be in dealing with terrorists or rogue nations, but in undoing the damage caused by President Bush?s "cynical, fearful and doubtful" America.

Cleck here to read more


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