Thursday, May 10, 2007

On ugliness and faintly pathetic pseudo-rhetoric

Comments on a recent article by a Mr. Jawed Naqvi in a Pakistani newspaper (URL: titled "The ugly American is passé; welcome the ugly Indian".

> IT is legitimate to doubt the credibility of the Pew opinion poll that once showed
> Indians as supportive of the US, when the rest of the world, including its
> European allies, seemed to have deserted America over the Iraq fiasco.

This is not even specious reasoning. The opinion of the rest of the world is distinct from that of the Indians, and hence is no reason to doubt the credibility of any poll. (It is entirely legitimate to do so, of course, given the nature of opinion polls.) Also, one finds it hard to believe that the rest of the world is indeed unanimous in its criticism of the "Iraq fiasco".

> It can be conceded that in a country of a billion people, it’s not impossible to
> find a million something holding the view, which Pew mistook for endorsement
> from an entire nation.

This is downright silly, and I so did wish to avoid that word. Opinion polls do extrapolate. If one wishes to poll the Indians, done fairly regularly in that country (they call them elections), one does not solicit every single one of the billion people there.

> A majority of Indians would instinctively agree with Michael Moore rather than
> with Donald Rumsfeld about the causes that led to 9/11.

It is, of course, fairly interesting, and not a little pathetic, how Mr. Naqvi claims be able to characterise the views of a majority of Indians. Also, one wonders why the Indians would "instinctively" agree with Mr. Moore - because he wears jeans? He's younger?

> Similarly, more Indians would identify with the views of, say, Noam Chomsky rather
> than George W. Bush and his spin doctors about ways to bring peace to this planet.

Like the previous one, this too is an unsubstantiated claim. It reveals the author's preference for Chomsky over Bush, and also his inability to construct a cogent chain of reasoning, but little else.

> Pew representatives, if they mean serious business, should try out this experiment.
> Give Chomsky or Moore one tenth the space that Bush and Rumsfeld have been
> getting on Indian TV channels and then take an opinion poll about which side we’re
> really on.

Here's another interesting experiment. Show pictures of physically attractive men and women, and then we'll really know what the Indians wish to see.

A person P, at time T, has a certain opinion O on a given matter. If you give him books by Chomsky, Hitler, Gandhi, Mandela, Marx and Camus (or TV programmes on), he might well change his opinion. However, the study is about what his opinion is, not what it might be if he's influenced in a certain direction.

> Indian expatriates, more popularly known as NRIs, are known to hold diverse
> opinions not too different from the way the cookie crumbles back home.

What does this dubiously constructed sentence wish to express? - that NRIs hold a) diverse opinions and b) these opinions are not different from the situation at home? But then they cannot hold diverse opinions, can they?

> And sharply differing opinions have always existed in India

And in Colombia, Madagascar, China and Germany. Members of human societies tend to hold varying opinions.

> (so let’s not confuse this with virtues of recent democracy).

This is the most innocuous looking sentence of all! Recent democracy? India has been a democracy from the moment of its birth, which was not too long ago, of course. But I don't see the point here - is democracy being reviled? Or is a tendency of Indians to hold different opinions being stressed?

The rest of the article goes on in a rather disconnected tone about how the Indians are ugly, except for the extremely poor - which opinion Mr. Naqvi is, of course, entitled to.

My opinion is that Indians should also be entitled to believe in the vision of Bush et al, should they choose to, without being called ugly. Free society, common civility, the rules of debate and all that sort of thing.

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