What really bugs me: Starvation

It maybe be less dramatic than war. It maybe scattered over several countries you've never heard of. It may not get much media coverage. It maybe a long term, amorphous, complicated problem. But what really gets to me and makes me depressed and literally tear up, everyday, is that about 25,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related issues, most of whom are children.

Imagine kids going for weeks without a decent meal, that they feel weak, confused and tired like you've never ever been, that they can't get proper sleep and hallucinate when awake, that they constantly feel cold and shaky, that their immune system is so shot that any minor disease or illness is a major threat, that their organs start to shutdown and bring about agony like you've never ever felt until they finally die. That's what starvation entails.

What do I think is the biggest injustice? That the world as a whole produces enough food that starvation should be history. But greed and lack of political will, among others, mean that starvation sustains and remains an ever present threat in many places across the Earth.

Where's the outrage?

Fucked up world we live in.

Help the hungry :(

There are over a billion people across the world that are in perpetual hunger, starving to death. Being hungry for these people is not the same as what we experience when we've missed a meal or two or had very little food. For these people, they are forced to bear with the hunger day in day out, without a clue to when they could have some food - ANY food. Their body burns through the fat reserves, if any, they might have till there is no more and fails to function: death. The World Food Programme estimates that 10 children die from starvation every minute. 1/6th of the world already live in constant hunger and that's something we the more fortunate should be sad about - really really sad about.

What is equally sad is that hunger exists not because there is not enough food in the world. Food production has outpaced the growth in population and there is a surplus of food across the world. While there are many reasons why there is hunger, the problem can largely be attributed to unequal distribution and poverty. Unequal distribution results from political and economic obstacles that control the flow of food from food producers to those in need. Poverty, especially extreme poverty, means that people who really need it cannot afford to buy food or grow food. Natural disasters, political instability and wars push the financially challenged to poverty and starvation. People are dying of hunger essentially because they are too poor to stay alive.

Maldives, where there is so little food production, where almost every single food item we consume is imported, is an especially fragile society. Were there to be a war (and not necessarily within the country) or any other event that breaks down the import mechanisms, we'd all join the billion starving just as Maldivians have in such past events.

Help put pressure on governments to end hunger. Donate towards feeding the starving. Do what you can to help end poverty. If you are looking to get inspired, read up on Norman Borlaug who is credited with saving a billion people from starvation thanks to the high-yield, disease resistant variety of wheat that he engineered.

Hope none of you has to ever face chronic hunger.

Back from pause

It's been quite a while since I last made a post here on my blog - more than a month to be more precise - but the lack of posts wasn't all due to forgetful negligence or busy schedules. Rather, it was mostly due to deliberate inaction while I contemplated some things regarding blogging.

Simply said, I came to the decision to halt blogging because I was quite intimidated by the effects that my blog was having on my personal life lately. Never had I thought, when I started blogging over two years ago, that the things I publish in the virtual world would lead to alarming consequences for myself in the real world.

One important such consequence is one that is (and should be) reasonably expected: exposure. This is especially relevant for bloggers like me who are upfront about who they are and choose not to hide behind pseudonyms and veils of secrecy. What I say on the blog then becomes directly attributable to me as a person and I am held accountable for what I say rather than all of it being chalked up to some anonymous pseudonym. Further, blog posts - explicitly or implicitly - reveal a lot more about the intellectual dispositions of the author including ideological stances and beliefs. It is important to note that these tend have direct detrimental effects on the blogger's individual privacy and anonymity. I find it startling when random people whom I've never met or heard of strike conversation with a seeming air of supposed familiarity with myself or when people talk of me with a sort of conviction that I'm this or that - all based on my blog posts. Exposure is good for aspiring politicians and performance artists neither of which I have the slightest inclination towards becoming. The balance between anonymity and exposure is a tricky one, especially for someone who wants to stay pretty much under the radar.

Another important consequence of blogging relates to the response it evokes in readers. Personal blogs like mine often contain the ideas, thoughts and ramblings of the author - all of which have the potential of being controversial and disagreeable to some. Sadly, this sometimes goes to the extent that some choose to take extreme offence and retaliate with the vilest of language and threats. The comment system on my blog has been very open and mostly goes unmoderated, yet I had to switch to active comment moderation in the latter part of last year due to growing use of vile language, mindless insults and threats to myself and family. While I appreciate all types of comments and welcome disagreement and discussion, I don't think death threats and chants wishing ill things to me are really warranted. Freedom of expression is a great thing but not all people seem to appreciate it with civility and restraint...

These aren't things that would normally bother me and it hadn't until I met a couple of eager fanatics whose unreserved and unashamed drive to show their disagreement through violence - something that I had the (dis)pleasure of experiencing in the months I was in Male' last year - gave me cause for serious concern. Anyway, I hope to resume blogging regularly again - in spite of the above mentioned consequences...

Maldives: Hell for expatriate workers?

I've watched for the past several years while the expatriate worker population in the Male' grew steadily as the "rich" Maldivians increasingly give up various jobs (going lazy?) and replaced it with imported labour from nearby countries. We have 100-US$-per-month foreign workers to dig up and pave roads, to clean up and maintain the sewerage system, to construct and maintain our buildings, to clean up the mess at home and office, to work as waiters and cooks at food outlets etc. The list goes on and it's not restricted to any particular sort of work or speciality. Heck, even the President's Office employs expats to clean up and water the plants that surround the building. No wonder we now have over 35,000 expatriate workers living amongst the 100,000 Maldivian heads in the 2 square kilometre island of Male'!

Sadly, the presence of such large numbers of expat works in our small communities has lead to a worrying situation on ground. One needs to look no further than the latest news headlines:
- Attacks against expatriates almost a daily occurrence
- Chained Bangladeshi man found inside Male house (see photo)
- Another shackled Bangladeshi expatriate found inside Male’ house
- Ten Maldivians arrested in Adhaaran resort after fight breaks out between locals, Bangladeshi man
- Bangladeshi murdered and mutilated 2 3
- Expatriate security guard in Villi-Male’ ATM booth attacked
- Teacher caught red-handed molesting 8-year-old
- Expatriate worker beat up after being suspected of raping island girl (in Dhivehi)

We (supposedly) once were a tolerant country, welcoming all sorts of people and treated them with due respect. But things have changed and for the worse. Notions of equality and humanity has been devalued to such an extent that xenophobia seems almost universal in the country and racism is building up like never before. As such, mistreatment of and disrespect for expats is a truth many are well aware of. People often treat the many unskilled/semi-skilled workers as "subhuman". I might be tempted to go as far as summarising the prevalent attitude as being a combination of viewing workers as non-tiring machines, incapable and devoid of emotion and feelings and their lives worth no more than a pet cat! They are given accommodation in tiny enclosures made of tin roofing and little ventilation with more workers packed into such places than sardines in a box. They are harassed on the streets and harassed at work. Too many a time do you see workers beg and cry themselves wet over salaries unpaid. Sometimes months would go by without the employer paying the workers their full wage (if at all!) - which the workers often send to their starving families back in their home country. Few regulations keep employers in check - facilitating them to overwork their employers through day and night and give little consideration to the health and safety of the employees. What more, when their "official" work ends, the workers are often made run personal errands and chores for their employer - they really are slaves to the whims and desires of their "master". I was shocked to find the word "owner" used in the popular local newspaper Haveeru, in reference to the employer of the recently murdered Bangladesh worker in Kulhudhuffushi! (Owner? Isn't that slave mentality??)

Such attitudes towards expat workers are often "justified" on the excuse that they come from societies that treat them even worse. They are deemed as too stupid and too gullible to understand the "modern life" Maldivians enjoy. This attitude is further strengthened thanks to miscommunication arising from expat workers not being able to speak neither Dhivehi nor English. But none, absolutely none, of these warrant sanctioning any of the ill-conditions and abuses expat workers are subjected to. I agree that expat workers do ill and do commit crimes. No one would or should deny that. But even that is not an excuse to not extend them some decency and treat them as humans with equal rights!?

Accomodation for expat workers made from tin roofing and about 5 feet high floors

Maldives says it's OK to rape 12 yr old girls post-puberty?!!

I skim through Maldivian news now and then and try sink in the madness going about these days but none, absolutely none, has left me as unsettled and enraged as the news regarding the recent ruling on the case of a 12 year old girl being sexually assaulted by a group of 4 axe-wielding men.

I just cannot imagine how a sane, responsible individual tasked with enforcing law, protecting the weak and upholding moral values in the capacity of a judge arrives at the conclusion: (that) a TWELVE YEAR OLD girl had CONSENSUAL sex with FOUR MEN who BROKE into her room by BREAKING a window with an AXE and proceeding to help themselves to the orifices on a helpless girl most probably scared shitless towards being deaf, mute and dumb and thus conclude that the men were INNOCENT of rape. What is perhaps even more frustrating is that the reasons cited for the ruling are pure nonsense that’d drive any rational, sensible person to the edges of sanity. One of the more disturbing reasons stated by the judge is that the girl had reached puberty - a statement that carries implicit consequences that she is to be considered adult and thus responsible for what happens. This argument, which supposedly is drawn from Islamic Sharia, declares a girl as adult when she reaches puberty irrespective of her age. The other reasons stated by the judge are no less fallacious – all of them more or less state that the girl did not object at any time during or after the event. Fortunately though, rape and abuse have been pretty well studied (elsewhere in the more educated, civilised world) and there are well documented typical reactions as shock, denial and shame that explain and may well be the real reason behind the girl’s actions.

What more, I found the english version of the (original) dhivehi news at Haveeru what seems to be an intentional deception in that it carefully avoided mentioning the details of the event - is this a purely a conspiracy conjecture or is this a just accusation? This is particularly worrying after all Haveeru claims honest reporting these days. The report at Minivan News fared better I guess...

Anyway, this ruling marks another sad day in our history... and life goes on.

Jamming for fun

Two new large ice sheets have formed in Antarctica and a magic rug has covered over the growing hole in the southern hemisphere yesterday after a global attempt to save the earth.

Not having gone on the official Live Earth concert roster, the show held in Maldives became one of the over 7000 shows worldwide held under the title "Friends of Live Earth". Most phenomenal and surprising was that the show managed to really ante up the public's awareness on global climatic and environmental problems. Even Asseyk Al-Vistas President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom was jealous of this serious incursion into his turf, after all, as all we Maldivians know he had patented the global warming concept back when he delivered his atom-splitting speech at the UN.

Err, that is me trying to be sarcastic and possibly humorous at the same time... at which I failed happily.

Anyway, Live Earth sounds fantastic but I'm very skeptical of this whole affair and more so when it comes to it being done in the Maldives. While I do admire and support some of the efforts around the world towards investigating man-made disturbances to the climate, finding solutions and taking proactive action towards damage reduction, I just can't help but observe that most of the so-called environment related programmes conducted in Maldives seem a bit superficial. Such programmes seem to be a bit too much of doing something for the fame and name. I'm probably being an arse and maybe laying a bit of insult to the hard work done by the people who organised the Live Earth show in Male' but I really doubt there was any honest intention to participate in the event to root for its cause and goals. I wonder whether there was any intention of increasing public awareness and/or to contribute in any substantial manner with regard to "saving the earth". If you did attend this show or watched it on TVM, do YOU know WHY the show was held and what its goals were? As seems customary in the Maldives, the Live Earth show may have been yet-another-excuse for a having bit of fun and a blessing to excise some easy money to fund it all.

Anyway, the 07/07/07 Live Earth concerts were supposed to mark the beginning of the Live Earth campaign with more to come in the future. I hope there is interest in doing something more than just shows...

Testosterone overload

The male dominance in Male' was at no time more apparent to me than the first few hours I walked around the streets of Male' after returning from UK this time. Everywhere I looked, the field of vision was guaranteed to be 95% dominated by mammals with XY chromosomes. More interestingly, everywhere I looked, male non-Maldivians occupied about 30% of those in an eyeful.

Be it the early morning, the evening or late night, the streets are littered mostly with testosterones on motorcycles or behind the wheels of a Maldive-pimped up second/third hand cars. And be it the early morning, the evening or late night, anyone sitting down on a wall, a public bench or using legs for locomotion is likely to be some expatriate male worker sporting a tough moustache and lovingly holding hands with a fellow male colleague. Well, that maybe a bit of an exaggeration but you get my drift..

I'm not sure about the latest statistics but if I recall correctly, the numbers would give a ovaries-to-testicles ratio of 2/3!