Cutting hair is considered a “blasphemy” in India among the Sikh community of 20 million people. More and more young male and female Sikhs now cut their hair for convenience and for modern fashion, or deep down, as a rebellious act against their parents and community leaders. Young Sikh men have stopped to cover their head with a turban. Of course, I can understand why parents and religious leaders are upset by this because they want to safeguard the symbol which separates the Sikh community from others. But I think differently, the more we abolish symbols and signs which separate community from one another, it is better for World peace. Personally, I am glad this haircut has become an issue in India for many reasons. I think long hair is a hazard to individual health/ hygiene and to the well-being of others in the community. In hot and humid climate, it is hard to keep long hair clean, it smells when sweat, especially when wearing head covering such as a turban or a veil. Hair falls when washing, clogging the drainage system. When dry, hair land on the floor/carpet and jam the vacuum cleaner. Most important for me is the right to be in control and manage one’s body, which is a part of human rights. I, therefore, want to congratulate young Sikhs for taking the matter into their own hands to cut the hair and to exercise this right. Religious leaders have no business telling people what to do about cutting/not cutting the hair, or covering/not covering the head. Funny, but in a way sad, that in this day and age, such rituals still exist, and that many people still follow religious authority blindly, not using their brain to think for themselves that when someone tells you what to do in a simple thing like a “haircut”, there might be some ulterior motives like mental manipulation and behavior control of people in the back of his/her mind.
Logics and reasons are not needed following news about electoral politics these days. Instead we need to have “a sense of humor to keep our sanity”. The selection of Sarah Palin, a religious conservative rural woman and a caribou-hunter from Alaska as vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party for the up-coming election in the United States, is a sick joke. The Obama’s remark (though sexist) , seems palatable to me and quite appropriate in this case. “You cannot put lipsticks on a pig, a pig is still a pig”. This becomes funny when it trickered a response from Palin herself that Obama should have been talking about a pit bull instead of a “pig” referring to herself. But boasting caribou-killing as her favorit sport, in the campaign trail, is for me, hard to take. It is not funny to abuse animals and the natural habitat and the environment just for fun. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times comically compared Sarah to the innocent Eliza Doolittle of “My Fair Lady” story, for me, is too cute and mild. Sarah Palin is outright dangerous. Imagine if she, for what ever reasons, becomes the future president of the United States. What damage she could do to the rights of women to make decision about health and reproductive choices, not only for women in the United States, but also in the rest of the world. Funny things also happened in politics in other part of the world last week. In Thailand, after so much street protest by thousands and thousands of people, the taking over of the Prime Minister’s Office by the People Alliance for Democracy, asking the former Prime Minister to resign, Samak Sundaravej, the Thailand’s 25th Prime Minister was kicked out of office last week, not by the demonstrators, but by a TV Cooking Show which the Constitution Court’s ruled illegal, not qualify to be a Prime Minister in breaking conflict of interest law — because of his getting paid by a commercial firm, while being Prime Minister — to cook and adverstise food products on television. And just today, I can’t help but to join in a laugh with Tulsathit Tapptim, of the Nation Newspaper, when he suggested that we should celebrate the great divide and grand paradox in Thai politics, for the House of Representatives has just elected Somchai Wongsawat, the brother-in-law of the most controversial former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who ran away from recent court hearing to live in exile in London. Thaksin’s sister, Yawapha, the wife of this newly elected Prime Minister, happened also to be one of the 111 former leaders of the defunct Thai Rak Thai Party being forced out of politics for five years by a court decision last year of election fraud, vote buying and corruptions. With sister and brother-in-law in charge of the Thai government, Thaksin and his wife Potjaman now have no excuse to ask for political asylum in England. They now could return to Thailand to face the courts and defend various corruption cases. Today also, the Supreme Courst has postponed its verdict on the Ratchada land purchase case until October 21 because so that the couple should be present to hear the verdict. No change. People Alliance for Democracy will continue their protest and demonstration on the street, and the civil disobidience at the Prime Minister’s Office for a long time to come. Thailand’s politics is really moving in circles. Funniest of all is that the new Prime Minister will not be able to move into his office which is still under occupation by the People Alliance for Democracy. The new Prime Minister will work from a new office being set up for him at the old Don Muang Airport Terminal Building.
People’s perception is very important for candidates running for political office in a national election. Bad media images can result in loosing an election or nomination to political offices. Thus, the national and international press have a huge influence in creating positive or negative images of candidates. Political cartoonists and caricaturists have a lot of power in Internet and digital age. I have looked through some of the political cartoons on Hilary Clinton, campaigning for the Democrat Party nomination for the next President of the United States. Most of the cartoons on and about her did not give a positive image of her to the public. Just to give an example from the collection in Daryl Cagle”s International Cartoon Index. One cartoon shows Hilary planting seeds for questions. The other cartoons show her being under fire
and in passing memories.
Other negative catoons, showing her holding a dog on-leach to bite Barak Obama.
The worse is the one of Bill Clinton having his hand under her skirt.
In contrast, I don’t see many cartoons of Barak Obama doing something funny with his wife Michelle. Both men and women have to struggle when they run for political office. Barak Obama has negative cartoons about being a “Black “ candidate, although I don’t think of him as representing “Black Americans” because he is half-white. He is a multi-racial/cultural person. In the same way, I don’t think Hilary represents American women. She does not even have any experience similar to majority of American women. Her experience is that of an elite graduate from a prestigious Wellesley University. She has a successful lawyer career, and a wife of President Bill Clinton. Last year in my Blog on Political Wives and Daughters, I said that if Hililary wins the election she is following the traditional woman’ s route – gaining political power through the prestige and network connections of the husband, or the father. Some people says that she has broken a glass-ceiling for other American women in politics. A role model. I don’t think she is a role model to other American women who struggle for achievement based on her own political connections and network. She is a role model only to other ambitious wives of male politicians. I have to admit that many people don’t want to see “women in national and international leadership positions”, but I don’t think Hilary gets negative press because of being a woman running for election. She has image problem because of peculiarity of her behavior, her marital connection to President Bill Clinton, and what she did when she was the “First Lady”.
Singapore is the only country in the World that I know of that has a government policy to promote romance in a big way. Commercial airline joins in the action by advertising “Singapore girls “ as sexy and alluring, the best way to fly”. “Not enough romance” is identified as the country’s problem – causing the falling down of the country’s birth rate, which already is, the lowest in the World. For more than two decades, the Government has made efforts to achieve its’ plan for population growth. When I was working with the United Nations Population Fund, a Singaporean friend said, “Don’t come to Singapore if you are for birth control, for you will not be welcome there”. I was surprised, then, that there could be a government program to promote romance. But she explained to me that her government, worried about decline in birth rate, has a pro-natalist national policy – to find ways to get educated young girls to produce more children. For years, the government have been making a lot of efforts backed up by budgetary resources to organize campaign to encourage marriage. Incentives are given to couples that have more than two children. Places have been set-up where young girls and boys can meet and mingle, and also has organized social occasion such as tea – dances or parties for them. Seth Mydans, journalist of the International Herald Tribune, recently wrote that Singapore government appears to succeed at managing everything – except dating. After all the years of trying, Singapore girls continue to be “too” career-minded, wanting to stay single. They would rather have achievements in work and job than a successful family life. Achievement-oriented girls do not want to be burdened by having a double-workload, especially when most Asian men do not pitch-in to do domestic work and child- rearing. Now polytechnic and higher education institutes have joined in to help the government by setting up training courses to teach young boys and girls on the subjects of romance, love and sex – the modern mating ritual – to be fruitful and multiply. This kind of intervention by government in affairs of the hearts and in the citizen’s sex-life is interesting! Rather funny, when one comes to think of it. I can’t help but wonder, who would be considered “qualify” to teach such a course on love and romance? The old fashion Confucian, autocratic male bureaucrats, or their counter-part, single career-minded women, who themselves do not know how to fall in love, marry or have children? I wish the students good luck in this endeavor, performing their citizen’s duty of making babies for the future of the country.
It is nice to know that I can tell my brain to turn on a television, change channels and then switch on my computer notebook just lying in my bed. This new Hitachi technology called optical topography, can send a small amount of infrared light through my brain surface to map out changes in my blood flow. Fun to know that one has a power to move things around just by thinking about it. The trouble is this brain-machine interface device is too big and cumbersome to put on your head. But Hitachi technologist promises us that the new lighter model, a kind of headband, will soon come out for general marketing. Life is going to be fun for the kids when they can move toys around by simply thinking. The headband is much better than the the idea of implanting of a chip under the skull, which requires a brain operation.
What does Mickey Rooney and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have in common? Answer: they both did public kissing of a woman’s hand and got themselves into trouble. Mickey, a Hollywood movie star, was criticized by diplomatic circles for not knowing protocol, when he kissed the gloved-hand of Queen Elizabeth II in Washing ton D.C. two days ago and Mahmoud, present Iranian President, was criticized by Muslim clerics for indecency when he kissed the gloved-hand of his female school teacher in public in Teheran last week. Last month, the Hindu right-wing conservatives burnt Richard Gere’s effigy when he kissed Shilpa Shettty, an Indian movie star, publicly on the neck at the HIV/AIDS education campaign in Mumbai. So, in the age of globalization, a kiss is not just a kiss. When done in public, people react to it in political and other different ways according to their perceptions and viewpoints. An innocent kiss of respect and love of a person can take you to a funny place where you really don’t want to go – a confrontation with a bunch of religious/cultural conservatives who view a kiss as immoral — an insult to their culture and religion. Funny thing is, some behavioral scientists also get carried away and take this kind of crazy reaction too seriously. They went into researching the history of kissing . The result that they found out was that monkeys do not kiss, but Apes and humans do and that humans’kissing first appeared in Vedic Sanskrit texts in India from around 1500 B.C., Disappointing for the religious conservatives in Hindu and Muslim cultures who want to believe that social or sexual kissing are decadent inventions of Western Hollywood culture. In Russian and Arab cultures, men do social kissing with other men in public. Why those religious conservatives do not view such behavior as indecency? Why women have to be guardian of “morality” and not the men?
“Sex and Politics” goes together like “horse and carriage” as the old song says about romantic love and traditional marriage. Reading the recent article in the New York Times by Stephen Clarke,“No Sex, Please, We’re French” on the next French Presidential election having a problem with two sexally attractive candidates reminds me of reading similar news headlines from Asia a decade ago “No Sex, Please, We are Chinese”, on opposition to the bringing of sex education and HIV/AIDS education into China a decade ago. In China then, it was sexual politics. “Sex and Religion” also goes together like “horse and carriage” when I read quite often in the news from many parts of the world about preachers, priest, and monks sexually abusing young boys and girls. Forbidden fruit seems to tase better than unforbidden one. Ordinarily people tend to make separate decisions about love, sex, and marriage now-a-days, so the old song has to be changed to “Sex and Politic” or “Sex and Religion” instead.
It is incredible that the Thailand’s Justice Ministry drafted law that legalizes rape by both spouses. For gender equality, the Justice Department said that wife is also allowed to rape the husband. The National Legislative Assembly criticized this draft law last week and set up a committee to revise the proposed amendments. For me, no one should be allowed to rape another person, married or not. An endorsed marital rape by any country is totally not acceptable. A man or a woman has an equal right to be in control of their body. This is part of showing respect of the International Bill of Rights. Thailand being member of the United Nations should make sure that the new draft law on rape complies with the Human Rights Convention.
Wedding is funny– an event where people come together to celebrate a successful sexual arrangement by dancing, singing, yelling, making silly jokes and speeches about the bride/bridegroom and their parents and about their “utopian” romantic love. In Bangladesh, weddings are series business conducted on the telephone or videoconference over the Internet between the parents/ families of the bride and the groom. In an arranged marriage, the Web camera or video are used to allow the bride and groom to see one another before the Wedding Day. Marriage can be arranged between Muslim families when the bride or the groom is living overseas by using the phones. The religious “imam” are arranged to be present at both ends of the call along with a civil official who certifies the vows. Paper works can be exchanged by fax or by mail. In Thailand, weddings are also organized using cell phone to prepare a packaged, combining scuba diving under-water or on-the-back-of an elephant ceremonies with parties and media coverage. In Canada, where I recently attended a wedding party of my niece, I saw one guest was dancing with a glass of wine in one hand and a cell phone in the other, communicating with someone far away, and not with a person with whom she was dancing. It is a funny world we live in.
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