Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is language a source of power?

Language is a part of one’s identity. Language is still a source of power. Acquiring a language can open different opportunities. But it is the practicality of a language that makes it dominant. There are very powerful economic countries whose languages aren’t as widespread as English. In China, due to its economic boom and openness on the outside world, there are more than 300 million English learners. The Chinese can export their products, but they can’t export their language at a scale as large as that of English. The same applies to Japan and Germany. French is retreating. This is embarrassing for France which is spending more and more money to keep French “afloat” at least in its former colonies through its cultural centres.

However there are many languages that are marginalised even by their own speakers in favour of a dominant language. Many countries have tens if not hundreds languages like Nigeria and India. Deciding a national language is always linked to political considerations and influence.

In the case of Morocco, although classical Arabic is the national language, there is Moroccan Arabic (which is in most cases understood just by the Moroccans and to some extents by the Algerians.) as there is Amazigh which is made of three main different dialects.

However, in Morocco, foreign languages mainly French, English and Spanish are also important, especially in the world of business. Many jobs, especially in business and tourism require at least one foreign language. Administrative papers are in most cases both in Arabic and French.

At the personal level, speaking more than one language is an opportunity to be open on different cultures. Personally I can speak three languages, Arabic French and English. Still I have the wish to learn Spanish. I more than once made myself the promise to learn it but I failed. Still I enjoy its rhythm without understanding a single word.

In general, a language is a source of power if it is linked to an economic and cultural activity. Just speaking multiple languages doesn’t make one multimillionaire.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Should Politicians do God?

Leaders in countries where religion is still the rule of conduct are considered as representatives of God and should act according to his teachings.

Conceding that politicians should do God, it remains which God teachings they should follow, especially in multi-faith societies.

Politicians aren’t perfect people. They are prone to mistakes and weaknesses and thus they can’t do God. This conflicts with democratic values as politicians should do what people , not what God, ask them to do.

Turning politicians into God-figures means they can be above reproach and anyone opposing them will be punished.

There are enough God-figures around the world in dictatorial regimes as in North Korea. Currently the world needs much less of them, not more.

Religion if incorporated into politics can be used as a tool to repress different views. There are theocratic regimes which stifle all sorts of freedoms in the name of religion whose teachings they interpret according to their scheme to hold to power.

The excess of incorporating religion in politics will turn Christian countries to the Puritan era as it can turn Muslim countries to Taliban rule.

Religion should remain an individual matter; especially, in multi-faith societies. Imposing a unique brand of religion is likely to cause a clash among sections of society with different religious views and beliefs.

Any country should have a constitution that guarantees democratic values. Empowering religious institutions over the democratically elected ones will turn societies into theocratic where religious dissent can lead to persecution. As such, multi-faith societies should be governed by secular laws and religion should remain a personal matter.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why are there are so few openly gay sport stars?

John Amaechi played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, LA Lakers and Utah Jazz , but it was only after he stopped playing that he revealed that he is gay. The question is why there are so few openly gay sports stars?

As long as the majority of fans are heterosexual, they ‘re unlikely to consider a gay player as their role model. It’s one thing to accept gays within society, but it is another to take them as models. Gay player had better hide their sexual orientation.
As a compromise, as there are gay clubs, there should be gay teams watched by gay spectators. At least there will be no embarrassment on either side.

In the world of art, people like Elton John didn’t reveal they were gays at the start of their careers. It took them time to do so as it took time for their fans to accept them. Maybe for gay sport stars, they have to wait for their fans to accept them for what they are and to make a distinction between a player on the field and in private life.

And let’s not forget the commercial side. There are sponsors, advertisers as well clubs who refuse gay sportsmen because they may just deter fans from whom they can generate revenues.

The attitude towards gay sportsmen still has to do with ethics, popularity and business.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Rambling thoughts on the world economy following G20 summit in London

The way out of the current recession is to regulate the banks and the markets without fettering free trade movement. Printing more money without regulating the markets will simply result in two digit inflation which will cause further economic problems and deficits. Consumption can be enhanced when people feel financially secure. Without financial security, consumers will continue to tighten their belts.

G20 must find tangible mechanisms to put the world economy on the right track for both producers and consumers to feel confident and to keep the economic wheel rolling at reasonable speed. The current crisis has primarily been caused by unrefrained investment and consumption based on speculation which has made the economic wheel come to a relative halt after the unexpected crush.

Rich countries still have the means to redress the current economic downturn, not without sacrificing millions of jobs as it is unlikely that all can be fixed with the strike of a magic wand.
In this dire economic crisis, despite the outward concern for the global economy, each country will have the motto of “charity begins at home.”Poor countries are likely to suffer most as their economies are mainly based on exporting raw materials and international aid.

It’s hopeful that the world leaders at G20 can come up with a new Marshal Plan that can save all the countries, poor and rich.

G20 will have no meaning if it is going to be remembered just as a moment of outspoken rallies by those disenchanted with the failures of capitalism and reassurances by politicians without tangible results that can put the world economy on the right track.

Third world countries as a whole have failed to create economic functional blocs, with few exceptions like ASEAN. Third world countries are just dreaming of becoming economic blocs as they have just names. One example is the Arab Maghreb Union whose purpose since its creation in 1989 was to create economic integration between North African countries ( Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya). So far there is little economic exchange between these countries compared to their potentials and complementaries and geographic proximity.Not to mention the dream of the United States of Africa.

In short poor countries should work out the means to integrate their economies and to consider their economic exchanges with rich countries as one of their priorities and THE priority.

The current economic mess was fundamentally created by Western financial institutions and the apparent total disengagement of Western governments until it was too late. It seems the rest of the world has to pay with them, especially oil producing countries, like Iran and Venezuela, which now have to reshuffle their domestic economic plans.

But the fundamental question is, ” What can G20 do to help when corrupt leaders in third world countries simply squander the wealth assets of their countries to enrich themselves by impoverishing their already impoverished peoples?”

Maybe rich countries can make things better in the long run. But countries suffering from corrupt leadership still need to clean their houses for general prosperity.