Iftekhar Sayeed was born, and lives, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in DANFORTH REVIEW, POSTCOLONIAL TEXT (2004, 2008) and DALHOUSIE REVIEW from Canada; CULTURAL LOGIC, PEARL, WORDS WORDS WORDS, ROGUESCHOLARS.COM, WRITETHIS.COM, PERIGEE, OPEDNEWS.COM, DREAMAGIC.COM, POET'S HAVEN, AXIS OF LOGIC, THE SQUARE TABLE, LITVISION, SOUTHERN CROSS REVIEW, RITRO.COM, PEMMICAN, GOWANUS, UNLIKELY STORIES (2006, 2007, 2008), FREEZERBOX, MOBIUS, CATALYZER, ALTAR MAGAZINE, ONLINE JOURNAL (2005, 2006, 2007, 20112), LEFT CURVE (2004, 2005) and THE WHIRLIGIG in the United States; in Britain: ENTER TEXT, PENNINE INK, CURRENT ACCOUNTS, MOUSEION, ERBACCE, THE JOURNAL, POETRY MONTHLY, ENVOI, ORBIS, ACUMEN and PANURGE; and in ASIAWEEK in Hong Kong; DAMAZINE from Syria; CHANDRABHAGA and the JOURNAL OF INDIAN WRITING IN ENGLISH in India; and HIMAL in Nepal.
He teaches English. He is also a freelance journalist. He and his wife love to tour Bangladesh.
To sample his work, click on the links:
Please report missing links to: if6065 AT yahoo.com (contact e-mail)
http://postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/view/372/812 THE LAST NAWAB General Harun-ur-Rashid, deposed, has to win the next election. His philosopher-advisor, Zafar, devises the strategy of making a movie about the last Nawab of Bengal, and how he was overthrown by the British. He hopes the audience will draw a connection between the two leaders' shared fate. Meanwhile, the beautiful Keshwar is selected to play the role of the Nawab's spy.
http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/202/300/danforth/2007/no21/fiction/03_07/sayeed.htmBlack Petticoat I climbed the companionway up to the first-class deck. I sat on a leatherette chair in the darkness. I remembered the legend above me. P.S.OSTRICH, YEAR OF (sic) BUILT 1929 BY GARDEN REACH WORKSHOP, CALCUTTA, RENOVATED AND DIESELISED
This short story explores the connection between anarchy and our perception of the reality of the external world: under anarchy, prophets and philosophers alike have turned away from this world to a supra-sensible world, somehow more "real" than the world.
http://wwwezine2.blogspot.com/2007/07/one-tiger-to-hill.html One Tiger To A Hill Set in the magnificent mangrove swamp of the Sundarban in Bangladesh, this is the story of Rafik and Tiger Timur - the former a corrupt police officer and the latter a student politician with a reputation for delivering the votes by terrorizing the locals.
http://www.albany.edu/offcourse/summer07/iftekhar_sayeed.html Porcelain Farzana and Asif are newlyweds; into their lives - and their tiny flat - crashes Karen, literally, with her ideas about marriage and child labour and animal rights. Will the couple be able to accommodate this alien force?
http://www.unlikelystories.org/07/sayeed1107.shtml The Conversion of Asoka Bangladesh has devils to exorcise: this is the story of Lalla Rookh, a distraught mother, whose son enters the sinister world of student politics. Not even the well-meaning Zafar Shah can help her, as evil seemingly triumphs over good.
http://southerncrossreview.org/58/sayeed.htm The Interpreter The theme of master and slave runs like a leitmotif through western civilization. This is the story of a Bengali-English interpreter, who has a clear vision of the relationship possible between white and non-white people – a relationship based on nothing more, or less, than work. (Some of the events recounted here, such as the segregation of the living quarters, are drawn from actual events.)
http://southerncrossreview.org/73/sayeed-ngo.html To Whom Can I Speak Today? The democratic transition brings murder to the streets and even homes of Bangladesh. Several NGO directors mysteriously die trying to scrawl a message in blood. Zafar Shah takes it upon himself to decipher the vermilion calligraphy.
http://www.scholarsandrogues.com/2011/03/07/sr-fiction-sahel-by-iftekhar-sayeed/#more-22038 SAHEL This story is set in Kuakata, in the south of Bangladesh, where two men and a woman arrive from the Middle East by sea in a boat on a moon-lit night to join Zafar Shah for a deadly venture.
http://scars.tv/cgi-bin/works_e.pl?/home/users/web/b929/us.scars/perl/text-writings/g3334.txt Coconut Island A young girl dies while attending a school for the uber-wealthy of Bangladesh on St.Martin's Island. Did she kill herself? Zafar Shah travels down there at her mother's request and uncovers the unexpected, to say the least.
http://twinenterprises.com/the_fear_of_monkeys/issue_nine/in_the_beginning_was_the_word.htm In The Beginning Was The Word I have argued elsewhere (see http://arts.brunel.ac.uk/gate/entertext/5_3/ET53SayeedEd.doc ) that 'freedom' is an empty word without meaning in Asia because Asia lacks the experience of large-scale slavery. Zafar Shah tries to teach that words have meaning only in context but doesn't stand a chance against the tide of media indoctrination, historical defeat and the flood of dosh from the west .
The Innocent And The Beautiful Zafar Shah encounters both the CIA and jihadis in this story. The murder of nearly two million children through UN sanctions in Iraq may be ignored by collaborators, but not by the resistance. Even the beautiful has been corrupted, and the innocents killed.
The Flames of Freedom This is a story of how western foreign policy affects the lives of distant people: it begins by the Poshur River at Mongla and ends at Teknaf in Bangladesh. The themes are an insatiable longing for peace and the inevitability of violence.
ORPHIC SONG Beautiful young girls have been disappearing from Bangladesh. Mothers have come to Zafar Shah for help, but he's lost - until one faint lead turns up. A rye commentary on nationalism.
http://twinenterprises.com/the_fear_of_monkeys/issue_eighteen/miasma.htm MIASMA The prime minister is dead and the leader of the opposition has gone insane. Why? Zafar Shah has to use some unusual methods to solve this one.
http://scars.tv/cgi-bin/works_e.pl?/home/users/web/b929/us.scars/perl/text-writings/g5212.txt A RURAL STORY This story is faction - part fiction, part fact. It is based on a gruesome episode. 15-year-old Mahima was raped by boys of the student fronts of the ruling
coalition because her brother and father were supporters of the opposition. They took pictures of the rape and distributed them throughout
the village: she committed suicide.[i] We must not forget how many have been raped and murdered for democracy.
[i] The Bangladesh Observer, 7th March, 2002
http://scholarsandrogues.com/2014/08/01/scholars-and-rogues-fiction-a-vision-of-venus-by-iftekhar-sayeed/ A VISION OF VENUS Zafar and Shanta are a happy couple - until she stumbles on a deadly political secret.
Also at A VISION OF VENUS http://www.southlit.org/southlit-september-2014/southlit-september-2014-content/vision-venus/ and
A VISION OF VENUS http://twinenterprises.com/the_fear_of_monkeys/issue_nineteen/a_vision_of_venus.htm
http://twinenterprises.com/the_fear_of_monkeys/issue_twenty/of_sons_and_sacrifice.htm OF SONS AND SACRIFICE
This story - part fiction, part faction - exposes the evils of student politics and Bangladeshi democracy, both considered evil by Zafar Shah.
http://twinenterprises.com/the_fear_of_monkeys/issue_twentythree/a_school_for_freedom.htm A School For Freedom Zafar Shah encounters both masters and slaves in this episode.
Tiger, Tiger! A young woman in the Sundarban forest shoots tigers and falls foul of NGOs.
FREEDOM AND FREEDOM (essay) Individual freedom has been a recurring theme in western literature and society. The essay argues that the word freedom connotes individual freedom in western culture and literature because of the experience of slavery. Since Asia lacked this experience, freedom in the sense of individual freedom has no meaning here. In Asia the word freedom connotes collective freedom in keeping with its colonial experience. Present day implications for the cultural and political transmissions taking place are profound.
The Passing of General Ershad The passing of General Ershad, our president for eleven peaceful years, affords a time for reflection. His was a non-ideological, non-political, ‘merely’ competent administration. Being uncharismatic, he inspired neither love nor hatred, the emotions that were to follow his resignation, with violence becoming an everyday phenomenon. The chief function of government is not to provide inspiration and uplift (that is the domain of poetry), but Salus Populi, the ‘safety of the people’, to use Hobbes’s expression. Anything beyond that is extra-rational and must be eschewed as dangerous to our safety.
Bangladesh, and the Lucifer Effect - the Allure of Toxicity: A Situationist Explanation of the Evil in Bangladesh The question of evil in contemporary political psychology is explained in terms of dispositions or situations. Dispositionists maintain that people have inherent tendencies to act the way they do, while situationists emphasize that circumstances cause bevaviour to go off-track. The current evil in Bangladesh must be explained using the latter methodology for, prior to 1990, the year of our democratic transition, the country was far from evil. One statistic alone underlines the shift: 80 percent of all hartals - keeping traffic off roads through violence by using an army of thumotic student thugs - innocent bystanders have been burnt alive!) since 1945, have occurred after the annus mirabilis/horribilis.
Democracy makes us civic/situational enemies.
Meeting a White Mennonite For rational reasons (foreign aid, foreign jobs, foreign education) as well as extra-rational reasons (the long colonial experience under the British from 1757 to 1947) the educated elite of Bangladesh financially, psychologically and emotionally prostrate themselves before the West. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the democratic choice by a coterie of self-interested and self-deprecating few.
Despite providing years of peace, stability and freedom from hatred, military rule is a no-no for the hyper-educated of Bangladesh. Thailand, not relying on foreign aid, as well as having never been colonized, shows what a financially and psychologically independent people can achieve.
Mendacity in Bangladesh Tahmima Anam speaks for many among the elite of Bangladesh when she lauds Indian democracy, and bemoans our lack of it until 1990. She is chuffed that we had three consecutive elections after the annus mirabiliis - the last two of which have been shown by Walter Mebane and his team at Cornell to be phony! Ms Anam, a writer herself, and a member of a powerful, well-informed family, surely knew that. And so did the rest of the Illuminati. And about Indian democracy, the less said, the better: from Nehru, who failed to resign after losing the independence of his country to China, to Narendra Modi, forever associated with an anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat for which America denied him a visa, a set of evermore toxic leaders have ruled India.
Nothing laudable there.
Thoughts on al-Baghdadi Social, or group, dominance theory maintains that domination is as essential to social life as breathing to life itself. Al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State thrived on Sunni resentment at their lost status as top dog . Nor is this a pathological exception: America and Americans have repeatedly tried to perpetuate underdog status for black people. Today, the prospect of becoming a minority in their own country has galvanized white supremacists, one of whom is alleged to occupy the White House.
NB: In his book, Not In Our Lifetimes: The Future of Black Politics, Michael C. Dawson argues against the reality of a post-racial America.
'Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay' The political development of Western Europe, with its incessant change and internal and external strife, contrasts sharply with the tranquility and continuity of Asia. These facts have gone unappreciated by historians until today.
The withholding of tax from the government is a leitmotif of western political development. In Asia, no king or emperor was ever brought to his knees for want of revenue. Consequently, foreigners were treated no differently from natives - the former had as much, or as little, sway over government. In Europe, outsiders had no rights whatsoever: they’ve been fair game for Western governments from the indigenes of America to the sanction-killed children of Iraq recently.
The Linnet and the Leaf Ingroup-outgroup hatred is easily generated. In fact, social psychologists have generated it again and again in laboratories. Demagogues know how to manipulate our deepest emotions and anxieties to create hostility. They take us back to our pre-civilisational past, when we lived in compact groups, fearful of others outside and clinging to those inside.
In Bangladesh, we have living memory of demagoguery and outgroup hatred. And yet, that memory has been resuscitated to generate total loyalty in the present. "“He who controls the past, controls the future; and he who controls the present, controls the past.”
The Great Unwatched Psychological experiments have repeatedly shown that when people are watched, they are less antisocial and more prosocial. These findings are at odds with the facts on the ground in Bangladesh and, indeed, in South Asia. Despite visual documentation of antisocial behavior by ruling party thugs, the behavior continues unabated, if not accelerated. A plausible explanation is that the psychological subjects are mostly WEIRD: White, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic.
The implications of the (narrowly established) fact that watched people are nicer than unwatched people are a free press, independent judiciary, effective policing, a vigilant opposition. These preconditions do not exist in most of the world, which prefers religion to secular institutions.
VOTING FOR VIOLENCE (essay) November 11th, 2018 is the centenary of Armistice Day, which ended the First World War. In the words of historian J. M. Roberts, "When it started, the Great War, which was to reveal itself as the most democratic in history in its nature, may well also have been the most popular ever." Politics-as-usual, which divides the world into friends and enemies, is no longer an option. Humanity has the capability of destroying itself several times over. Innovation in government is required. The European Union is a laudable attempt at peace.
THE FREEDOM INDUSTRY AND STUDENT POLITICS IN BANGLADESH (A Definitive Analysis, with an introduction by Les Blough) The ‘freedom industry’ comprises a web of benefits distributed by western donors to developing countries in order to spread democracy. Foreign donors have created a pseudo-civil society of NGOs. The principle function of aid money is to suppress unsavoury analyses and render major issues into non-issues.
THE DEAD STUDENTS OF BANGLADESH AND THE FREEDOM INDUSTRY The role of students in establishing and maintaining democracy in Bangladesh has never received careful scrutiny. As the chart below shows, student politics has been a deadly, internecine affair. Today, student groups are used by political parties as private armies: they are given guns, told to collect taxes and bring down the government through violent hartals. They have become a highly criminalised group.
IN MEMORIAM: YASSER ARAFAT (Nonfiction) Arafat was the man who single-handedly raised the Palestinians from the status of refugees to that of a people deprived of a state. Yet in Bangladesh, his death and the successive anniversaries have been ignored because of the might of America and the fear and greed of our local intelligentsia.
DEMOCRACY, ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY Larry Siedentop identifies democracy with Christianity. In so far as he equates civil society with Christianity, he would appear to be right. The conclusion follows that Islam and democracy are totally antithetical - and they are. (This doesn't mean that Muslim civilization is terrible; au contraire - democracy and violence are closely connected, and there is consensus on the view that civil society tends to violence).
www.unlikelystories.org/06/sayeed0206.shtml THE INFALLIBLE, THE IRRATIONAL AND THE SINISTER (Analysis) Thirty-three years before Auschwitz, writers like Lawrence and Woolf were imagining mass slaughter. Their inspiration must be traced back to the Greeks.
http://www.catalyzerjournal.com/art/indexj.php?page=EEkApyuyupliAfaBnhTHE FOOT SOLDIERS OF FREEDOM Student Politics in Bangladesh (News)
http://www.freezerbox.com/archive/article.php?id=405 MISSIONARIES AND NEO-MISSIONARIES (Analysis)
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Horace-In-The-Hills-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-111129-312.html HORACE IN THE HILLS (Analysis) dulce et decorum est pro patria mori: These words of Horace were drilled into European children so that they would die by the millions on the killing fields of France and Germany. One English poet, who had seen action, called it "the old lie". But the lie is alive and well (if that's the word). As reaction to Bengali nationalism, Chakma nationalism reared its head…. But the Franco-German export never travelled well here.
http://www.gowanusbooks.com/iftekhar_sayeed_spying_falcon.html THE CASE OF THE SPYING FALCON (Personal Essay)
http://www.gowanusbooks.com/iftekhar_sayeed_farsi.html FARSI (Personal Essay)
http://www.intrepidreport.com/archives/6339 THE FREEDOM INDUSTRY (Analysis) T. E. Lawrence would not have been surprised by recent events in Arab countries. He knew Arabs were suckers for ideas. He led Arabs away from the Turks with the idea of nationalism, western cash and western arms.
http://www.opednews.com/Diary/CONFESSIONS-OF-A-STUDENT-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-110131-391.html (please paste the link, do not click CONFESSIONS OF A STUDENT POLITICIAN OF BANGLADESH (Interview) Students have been exploited by the major political parties. They are the private armies of the civilian politicians: if a party rigs an election, the other party lets its goons loose on the streets, burning vehicles and people. The kids (yes, they are recruited that young) are given guns, asked to extort "taxes" and to terrorize the locals. They get away with everything – including rape.
http://www.thesquaretable.com/spring%202006/compulsive.htm TRAVAILS OF THE COMPULSIVE READER (Personal essay)
http://southerncrossreview.org/47/sayeed.htm NGOs AND DEMOCRACY (Analysis) "Desacralization", realized Bertrand Russell, would rob people of all defences against the media and against money: among Bangladeshi intellectuals, that is exactly what has been happening.
http://www.unlikelystories.org/06/sayeed0706.shtml DENYING THE IRRATIONAL: Affirming the Subordinate (Analysis) The west has a license to dominate the 'irrational', thanks to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle: and the 'irrational' is synonymous with 'the weak and defeated". Very convenient.
http://southerncrossreview.org/50/sayeed.htm THE DARK SIDE OF DEMOCRACY (Analysis)
http://www.poetshaven.com/singlepage.php?html=bookcontents.php&footer=1§ion=8&page=2 ASIAN VALUES (Analysis)
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_iftekhar_061219_regime_change_2c_langu.htm REGIME CHANGE, LANGUAGE CHANGE (Analysis)
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_iftekhar_070116_the_price_of_conscie.htm THE PRICE OF CONSCIENCE (Commentary)
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_061227_the_role_of_anytus.htm THE ROLE OF ANYTUS (Analysis)
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_iftekhar_061228_the_first_european.htm THE FIRST EUROPEAN (Analysis)
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_iftekhar_070110_monoculture.htm MONOCULTURE (Commentary)
http://www.opednews.com/articles/life_a_iftekhar_070114_the_incoherence_of_p.htm OR http://www.unlikelystories.org/07/sayeed1207.shtml The Incoherence of Progress (Essay)
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_iftekhar_070119_a_frisson_of_freedom.htm A Frisson of Freedom (Satire)
http://www.spectermagazine.com/fifteen/sayeed/ Individualism and the Dog (Satire) The liberality of the American public in bestowing pecuniary favours on the animals in a Kabul zoo betrays the preference for animals over humans in western civilisation. This satire takes a look at the western obsession with animals.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_070126_the_cringe_factor.htm The Cringe Factor (Commentary)
http://writethis.com/z39.html You and the Atomic Bomb (Essay) What would George Orwell have made of 9/11; or American military power and Iran's desire for a nuclear bomb?
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_070209_moll_flanders.htm Moll Flanders (Essay) Among writing on the subject of unfreedom, Moll Flanders ranks supreme. The novel testifies to how America became the land of the unfree.
http://www.unlikelystories.org/07/sayeed0207.shtml (part 1), http://www.unlikelystories.org/07/sayeed0207b.shtml (part 2), http://www.unlikelystories.org/07/sayeed0207c.shtml (part 3) Reflections on Democracy and Violence (Article) The second section of this article establishes a correlation, witnessed by evidence and the testimony of S. E. Finer and Stanley J. Tambiah, between democracy and violence, a correlation that is strengthened in the third section by John Keane and Robin Blackburn's observation that civil society tends towards violence; but correlation is not causation, and section three is dedicated to establishing a causal link between the Forum-type polity and violence.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_iftekhar_070213_colonial_democracy.htm Colonial Democracy (Analysis) Bangladesh is a colony; colonial democracy dates back to the time of Darius....
http://www.opednews.com/articles/life_a_iftekhar_070302_lara_s_theme.htm Lara's Theme (Commentary) Sir David Lean's epic "Dr. Zhivago" raised deep questions about the individual and society.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_070307_the_two_religions_of.htm The Two Religions of Bangladesh (Analysis) According to Ninian Smart, nationalism is as much a religion as any of the regular variety. Nationalism has never been able to supplant Islam in Bangladesh, and the two religions coexist in hostility.
http://www.greatworks.org.uk/poems/pp.html PRESENT AT PLASSEY (Essay)A language is a way of life, and when the British conquered us in Bengal, we lost the Persian language. Consequently, we forgot that in a Muslim society, the absolute, military ruler was known as "the shadow of Allah on earth" or "zel Allah". We have lost the concept of zel Allah with nothing to take its place - and nothing else can take its place, given our history.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_070313_a_reply_to_bertrand_.htmA REPLY TO BERTRAND RUSSELL Bertrand Russell equated liberalism, commerce and empiricism, which was unfortunate. Rationalism, he observed, led to totalitarianism, which suppressed commerce, and thereby liberty. However, a brief outline of the history of slavery among the "liberal" and "commercial" nations of the world disabuses the reader of imagining any connection between the two.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_iftekhar_070320_the_perils_of_cultur.htm THE PERILS OF CULTURAL ABSOLUTISM Ayyan Hirsi Ali finds everything wrong with “Islamists”; she deplores cultural relativism, which justifies points of view other than secular, western ones. The dangers of cultural absolutism are not obvious to her; and for her “rights” are universal, despite the fact that they are being debated all the time, even in the west.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_iftekhar_070405_of_skirts_and_scarve.htm OF SKIRTS AND SCARVES Parts of the Muslim world reacted to western domination by focussing on superficial things like skirts and headscarves: other areas made more intelligent decisions.
Excerpt: "Disloyalty to Islam and the ummah, the community of Muslims, was a live option only twice in the history of the faith – when the faith was being established and after the colonial encounter. After the encounter, the price of loyalty kept on rising – that is to say, one gave up more in terms of foregone benefits."
http://www.freezerbox.com/archive/article.php?id=491 HARMONY AND HARM IN THE NATURAL WORLD The essay compares the natural world - literally - with the world of man, in this case, democratic Bangladesh just before the suspension of democracy. A pair of woodpeckers and crows and magpies illuminate the beautiful and ugly world of nature.
The Wicked Civilisation
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_070503_the_wicked_civilisat.htm After the end of the cold war, the target of western demonization shifted from the defunct Soviet Union to the anticipated new adversary, the Muslim world. Supposedly universal concerns – women and democracy – were brought to bear with obsessive focus on Islam, to the exclusion of other civilizations where these were, by the same yardsticks, legitimate concerns – including the West.
http://www.unlikelystories.org/sayeed0607.shtml The Epic of Gilgamesh History, politics and culture are inextricably connected, as the epics of Gilgamesh and the Iliad demonstrate. The latter reveals a world before and after the destruction of civilization: destruction leading to the rise of democracy and slavery. The former, which inspired the other, under totally different circumstances – kingship, stability, bureaucracy - reveals both the absence of freedom and of slaves. The attitude towards death in the two epics is conditioned by the political circumstances. Gilgamesh abhors death; Achilles welcomes it. Achilles lives at a time of anarchy, when death appears heroic, grand; Gilgamesh represents the opposite state of affairs, when death appears as the end of all earthly relationships. Achilles hopes to become eternal, through fame, by dying; Gilgamesh has no illusions about the emptiness of fame.
http://samsdotpublishing.com/expressions/juneexpressions.htm His Deepest Roots (Personal Essay) Excerpt: I am not speaking of patriotism. That French love of la patrie, an unfortunate and evil export of Europe, along with worship of the people, is not what I have in mind. The western love of abstractions dehumanises; people in the concrete are sacrificed to people in the abstract; similarly, love of particular places and images of those places yield to love of an abstraction which can find no visual or auditory prop in the soul. It is easy to go to war over Alsace; but it would be impossible to do so over a particular Alsatian copse. As Kat says in All Quiet on the Western Front: “There’s a big difference between a homeland and a state”.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-External-Proletariat-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-121228-189.html The External Proletariat The Roman Empire had its internal as well as external proletariat – the latter were the Germanic tribes, which finally overran the Western empire. Today, the third world plays the role of the external proletariat – and the African-Americans and Native Americans that of the internal.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_iftekhar_070623_the_rape_of_the_delt.htm The Rape of the Delta
The donor-backed military takeover has been immensely popular. But there are die-hard elements who wish to see the discredited politicians continue with their murderous campaigns. The author feels that the politicians should be tried, not for corruption, but for crimes against humanity.
Of Pigs and Believers Ideologies seem to polarize people into pigs and believers: those who are in it for the perks, and those who are really in it, the fanatic. This was true of Russian Communism - as historian Richard Vinen tells us - as it is for democracy in Bangladesh (and elsewhere). Here, the locals are in it for the cash and the (western) kudos.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_070709_the_seven_dimensions.htm The Seven Dimensions
Democracy is a religion, just like nationalism, Marxism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism...they all share the seven dimensions. The priests and priestesses of the religion of democracy require the world to have faith, as they spread violence to convert the world. And unlike the "conventional religions", these secular ones have no redeeming virtues whatsoever.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/opedne_iftekhar_070714_t_a_n_g_o.htm T.A.N.G.O Would the UN appoint Cherie Blair or Laura Bush as human rights advocates? Yet, that is exactly what the UN has done by appointing Sigma Huda to that role. And in this she, and many others, have been cosseted and protected by national and international NGOs.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_070724_democracy_r_i_p.htm Democracy R.I.P. The prospect of democracy as universal religion must remain forever chimerical. In Bangladesh, the two dynasties that practiced an ersatz democracy are being politically ostracized by the military-backed government. The move has been enormously popular. Years of organized mayhem have suddenly come to an end.
http://www.punchnels.com/first-person/truth-and-the-freedom-industry/ Truth, And The Freedom Industry This prophetic article was written in a moment of clairvoyance several years before the military takeover relieved our suffering: yet there was no "inspiration" behind it, but careful reasoning regarding the nature of culture, history, truth and corruption.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/9-11-Recalled-In-Banglades-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-121215-626.html 9/11 Recalled In Bangladesh In Bangladesh, we dream of the Green Card and the blue passport: we never stop to think what miserable lives our Palestinian brothers and sisters live, thanks to the country that holds out the aforementioned card and passport.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_070811_a_family_affair.htm Four Years AFTER The Revolution I have lived to see, first-hand, how an entire society goes mad, and loses all humanity…The personal is the political, and the choices we make in our everyday lives translate into good or evil in the (supposedly distinct) public sphere. Whether misled by ambition, or blinded by ideology, our actions have consequences beyond the family and private life: they can make or destroy the lives of strangers.
http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_2343.shtml Our Freedom From China China invented the technology used by Europe to conquer the world: yet the Chinese could have done the same, but refrained. Here's a pacific society, crucified at the turn of the century by the most aggressive of them all - western civilization.
http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_2404.shtml Eight Annas Bangladeshis with western degrees are the local army of the American empire: they legitimise American imperialism in their own country, in order to safeguard their academic connections with the "mother country": anything that threatens their career "over there", such as a defence of Palestinians, is eschewed skillfully by these intellectuals. They betray their own country and civilisation to advance themselves.
http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_2468.shtml Of Happiness
Nearly eight centuries later, the wisdom of Sheikh Sa'di receives confirmation – if any were needed – from economic data: the more you have, the more happy you are not. Besides, economic theory – as Sa'di would have pointed out – has been proven false by recent research: people earn, not to be happy, but to be richer than others.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/life_a_iftekhar_071009_is_poetry_dead_3f.htm Is Poetry Dead? Who reads poetry today? And who reads the modern and contemporary poets? And yet there is a deluge of poetry – for the producers and consumers of poetry constitute a giant industry, from which the 'average' reader is left out.
http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_2513.shtml Praxis, not doxa Ideas necessarily generate their opposites, making for conflict, and, often, violence. The hatred generated by such adversarial antitheses dehumanises humanity. That is why it is imperative to move away from ideas towards practice.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_071105_the_irrational.htm The Irrational The irrational, despite its ubiquity, has hardly served as an explanatory device. Most people assume that agents are motivated by rational considerations, when, in fact, they are frequently swayed by the irrational.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Democracy-Good-Demos-Bad-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-111205-715.html Democracy Good, Demos Bad (satire) "The people are bad" is the latest explanation for the failure of democracy in Bangladesh: this would have seemed axiomatic to Plato, and the satire explores the absurdity of trying to save democracy by means of such a damning thesis.
http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_2811.shtml Eternal Vigilance (satire) “Eternal vigilance is the price of chastity” conveys far better than Thomas Jefferson’s line (quoted ad nauseam) the anxiety his female slaves must have felt at the constant prospect of being raped by their freedom-loving, concupiscent master.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/genera_iftekhar_080112_from_ceylon_to_sri_l.htm From Ceylon to Sri Lanka The tragic journey from Ceylon to Sri Lanka began in the ‘50s, when the western idea of democracy – and, to use John Keane’s memorable expression, its poisonous fruit, nationalism – destroyed the ethnic balance of the island, a journey stained with blood and tears....
http://www.opednews.com/articles/life_a_iftekhar_080115_in_quest_of_happines.htm In Quest of Happiness “When is enough, enough?” Civilisation is a constant overreach for material possessions. Enough has never been enough, and some people, like the Cynics and the hippies, have reacted against the tyranny of matter.
http://poeticdiversity.org/main/prose.php?recordID=1176&date=2007-12-01 The Club In George Orwell’s classic, Burmese Days, we see an Englishman’s account of imperialism at work. The novel portrays the loss of dignity of both rulers and ruled, and the triumph of evil. It is a dark novel, one of the most poignant depictions of the dehumanizing effect of being ruled and of ruling. This essay is about The Club – exclusive to the English so far, the possibility of native membership raises primitive emotions all round.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_080222_in_the_prison_of_his.htm In the Prison of His Days In Bangladesh, we never identify with the African-American. Indeed, in South Asia, the middle class aspiration is to be like the white middle class: affluent. We forget that until recently, we were despised by our colonial masters, whose rule has proven so effective that we have become mental slaves – the only kind that endures "emancipation".
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_080210_the_perry_legacy.htm The Perry Legacy Over a hundred and fifty years ago, Commodore Perry turned a peaceful nation into a terrible force: there are lessons to be learned from the transformation of Japan. There are certain aspects of the west that should not be emulated.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_080125_on_plato_s_gorgias.htm On Plato's "Gorgias" Plato’s Gorgias is essential reading for those who wish to understand one of the major pathologies of democracy: demagogy. In a democracy, persuasion is power. Therefore, in such a type of government, the art of persuasion would be highly cultivated. Indeed, this was the case in Athens, and Socrates distinguished between two kinds of rhetoric, one that leads to power for the speaker, and another that leads to goodness for the hearer. In a democracy, rhetoric is of the first kind.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/life_a_iftekhar_080121_on_being_a_philosoph.htmOn Being a Philosopher One of the deepest hungers is the hunger for knowledge: yet there is no obstacle that society won’t place in its pursuit. Yet, at the same time, society pretends to admire the pursuit of wisdom. The philosopher has to contend against such contradictions.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/life_a_iftekhar_080312_to_quine.htm The Passing of Willard Van Orman Quine
Anglo-American philosophy has been a barren wasteland for writers of fiction and poetry: analytical philosophy simply refuses to lend itself to works of imagination. The death of Willard Van Orman Quine eight years ago hardly echoed through the literary world.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/life_a_iftekhar_080331_elegy_s_elegy.htm Elegy's Elegy The decline of the elegy betokens a certain loss of sensibility in the western world in the twentieth century, a loss described by Mircea Eliade as "desacralization". Where other cultures continue to distinguish between the sacred and the profane, the West has conflated the two.
http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_3046.shtml Huxley, and the Meaning of Words This essay is a tribute to the victims of democracy: the long-suffering Palestinians, the traumatized Iraqis, ...black Americans, Native Americans. We're trained since childhood to ignore victims of democracy and to associate democracy – the word – with feelings of well-being and bonhomie. Aldous Huxley was well aware of the conditioning behind the emotive aspects of the word, as long ago as the 1920s: he knew it was sheer falsehood.
http://www.unlikelystories.org/sayeed0508.shtml Lessons from the River Kwai For me, the film "Bridge on the River Kwai" urges dignity despite the fact of being a prisoner. Merely because we are in hock to western countries doesn't mean we are slaves – we can live like dignified human beings. This is the central message of the film: the distinction between master and slave endures, not because the master has you in his power, but because you sink into passivity and lassitude.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_iftekhar_080427_cherie_blair_in_bang.htm Cherie Blair in Bangladesh When Cherie Blair visits Bangladesh and lectures the natives on "the rule of law" and "human rights", she goes beyond decency and humanity, and makes a mockery of the deaths of over a million people in Iraq.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/life_a_iftekhar_080504_sister_carrie_and_th.htm Sister Carrie and the Leisure Class The year after Thorstein Veblen's classic Theory of the Leisure Class appeared, Theodore Dreiser's novel Sister Carrie followed. Coincidence? Not really: the two books shared many of the same themes.
A Defence of Religion Certain western thinkers use rationality as a ground for the superiority of western civilisation, a ground that gives them the moral authority to look down upon, and manipulate, the "irrational". It may come as a shock to them to learn that we are all irrational, equally human.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Cap-n-Blimey-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-080613-322.html Cap'n Blimey Captain Bligh would have been unbelievable if he had not been real. Bligh epitomizes the New Personality – the individual who advances a career to the detriment, and indeed death, of others.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Vercingetorix-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-120409-350.html Vercingetorix (essay) Vercingetorix was the leader of the Gauls who dared to rebel against the mighty Roman Republic. Irrational? Sure, but also dignified. The pursuit of dignity often entails the irrational. But we in Bangladesh are no "doofuses" like the great Vercingetorix – we are rational, and without an atom of self-respect or dignity.
Carthago Delenda Est "Carthago Delenda Est" – these were the words uttered by Cato repeatedly to persuade his peers to destroy Carthage. The Third Punic War gives the lie to the thesis, touted by McCain and Tony Blair, that "democracies never go to war against each other". The League of Democracies is just an idea for the democracies to remove all checks on their powers.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Logos-of-Bangladesh-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-090123-803.html The Logos of Bangladesh Two things conspire to multiply falsehood about Bangladesh: an ersatz nationalism, and a very real domination by western donor governments. The culture of lies that these have created robs even everyday life of its dignity, and sustains a noxious elite that thrives like a parasite on the backs of 'the people'.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/THE-QUEENSBERRY-RULES-OF-D-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-090331-343.html AND http://www.unlikelystories.org/09/sayeed0609.shtml The Queensberry Rules of Discourse "The worse your logic, the more interesting the consequences...." Most of us would do well to make these words of Bertrand Russell part of our portmanteau of guiding maxims. There are few things more comfortable or seductive than the absence of reason, and among them the most everyday cushion and charm are provided by the informal fallacies catalogued in part here.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Dual-Dictatorship-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-090309-281.html The Dual Dictatorship Western donor governments, especially America, have created civil wars in several Muslim countries by imposing democracy: in the next few months, Bangladesh will probably be added to the list.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/A-Bangladeshi-Bluestocking-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-090223-9.html A Bangladeshi Bluestocking Nationalism in Bangladesh is shot through with contradictions, some ludicrous and some dangerous. A local columnist has championed local culture by sounding off against Arab culture – claiming that the hijab is an import from the latter. This would be risible but for the political consequences for that embattled Arab people, the Palestinians.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Food-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-090301-632.html Food (personal essay) The preoccupation with food shows how civilisation, despite 10,000 years of agriculture, has still failed to relegate the subject to the background of human needs. Poverty and plenty jostle obscenely; the affluent converse endlessly about food, as though well aware of the emergency of the subject.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Body-of-William-Jay-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-090209-374.html The Body of William Jay It takes some years to learn the old adage: "You can't win an argument". In one's early days, one is brash and green enough to believe that reason will win through: then one discovers that the opposite is the case. For men and women are motivated, neither by love of truth nor by reverence for logic, but by prejudices that stem from their material interests.
http://www.opednews.com/populum/diarypage.php?did=13422 Getting Away (essay) If modern civilization has been such a great idea, why are we constantly trying to get away? I'm not speaking only of tourists, but of observers like Lawrence and Gauguin, who found in the less civilized parts of mankind something higher and better.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/CRIMES-OF-FINANCE-The-Pyr-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-111223-400.html Crimes of Finance:The Pyramid of Bangladesh I remember how, on the saree-tails of Sheikh Hasina, the Beximco Group allegedly rigged thestockmarket in 1996, soon after the petticoat came to power; today, again, on the same garmented ladder of the same woman, and again as soon as she came to power, the Beximco Group appear to be treating other people's money as their own.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/On-Clothes-And-Modernity-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-120306-865.html Clothes and 'modernity' "For example, I prefer to wear jeans and T-shirt too. Because I need easily to use my legs and arms." My 'modern' Turkish friend pleads efficiency for her attire; oddly, though, efficient farm girls in Turkey wear the shalwar, as they do in Bangladesh, along with the saree. 'Modernity' comes in many covers, and this one conceals less of its sinister side than most.
http://southerncrossreview.org/66/sayeed-argument.htm On Argument Sheikh Sa’di advises us not to argue: it is a futile endeavour, and levels the fool and the wise person. For the latter, it is best to agree with the former, or remain silent.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/To-Dance-Upon-The-Air-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-091231-260.html To Dance Upon The Air
Five former army officers will hang within the next few weeks in Bangladesh , raising deep questions about a people's right to protection from a democratically elected tyrannical executive in the context of John Locke's political philosophy.
http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_5767.shtmlThe Ethnocidal Civilisation ALSO AT http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Ethnocidal-Civilisatio-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-120322-315.html Western civilisation commits ethnocide and menticide, as seen in India and recently in the Middle East. Ethnocide – culture murder – has been the repeated behaviour pattern of western civilization, as testified by Alexis de Tocqueville. The culture is not content with mere conquest: it must control the very thoughts of those conquered. A recently published book on a Christian mission in Bangladesh retells an old story against the background of both the Muslim and British invasions of India, centering the Garos and the loss of their ancestral religion.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Democracy-The-Historical-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-100514-358.html Democracy: The Historical Accident The forum polity – democracies and republics – owes its origin to two major accidents in human history: accidents that were unique to the western world, and which, indeed, created western civilisation in contrast to the others, which were all palace polities.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Ochlocracy-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-110218-876.html Ochlocracy Events in the Middle East and elsewhere are being increasingly shaped by the crowd. Since the French Revolution, the crowd has emerged as a legitimate force, not always with happy consequences.
An Elegy For The News The murder of 1.7 million Iraqi children through sanctions between 1991 and 2001 has been quietly overlooked by the media. This shows in the glorifying of its author, Bill Clinton. Other examples of media silence are also given. Excerpt: As far as I know, only one man has pointed out the holocaust – for that is what it surely is – and he is Norman Finkelstein. "As in the Nazi holocaust, a million children have likely perished," he observes in his book 'The Holocaust Industry, (London : Verso, 2000, p 148): "…the United States and Britain forced murderous UN sanction on that hapless country [Iraq] in an attempt to depose him [Saddam Hussein]. As in the Holocaust, a million children have likely perished. [more than a million, as The Economist tells us]." Madeleine Albright, Clinton's lackey, went on television to say that the 'price is worth it'. And his partner in murder, Al Gore, has been rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize, a rapidly devaluing currency. Mass killers are anointed and beatified.
http://www.greatworks.org.uk/poems/es.html Engendered Space (satire) Anthropologists are supposed to use their sense organs – at least, the pair of eyes. But, thanks to the agenda they have to have to swell their CVs, they use other parts of their anatomy – like the head, for instance.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Fallacy-of-Education-by-Iftekhar-Sayeed-Bangladesh_Capitalism_Communism_Economics-140429-181.html The Fallacy Of Education Universities take a young mind and fill his head with things that don't exist, and call it education, as in economics.
The Capital Of Suffering: Reflections On The Exploitation Of Misery Bengali nationalists, just like Zionists, exploit the suffering of the people to promote nationalism. Bengali nationalists conjure up mythical numbers for 1971 and downplay - and deny - the suffering of 1974. Zionists completely ignore the killing of Gypsies and the mentally ill during the War.
under the mango tree my elders always
not to climb
trees at twilight
when the cows
they say that
in the branches... (click title above for rest of poem)
PERMANENT NEWS A great poet described poetry as news that stays news. I hope these 8 poems on political violence in post-democratic Bangladesh - especially the murder of young politicians by themselves - remain permanent memorials.
http://gallery.poetshaven.com/singlepage.php?html=bookcontents.php&footer=1§ion=17&page=327 THE SUN RISES IN THE WEST
http://gallery.poetshaven.com/singlepage.php?html=bookcontents.php&footer=1§ion=17&page=328 THE FIELDS OF KNOWLEDGE
http://gallery.poetshaven.com/singlepage.php?html=bookcontents.php&footer=1§ion=17&page=329 THE TERNS
http://gallery.poetshaven.com/singlepage.php?html=bookcontents.php&footer=1§ion=17&page=330 ERROR IN THE TRENCHES
http://roguescholars.com/roguegallery/poems/331sayeed.html a game of cricket, Venus from the Chengi, Boosehash, Among the Paddy, Tryst
http://www.perigee-art.com/7389/popups/0107/poetry11.pdf The True Light
http://www.poemhunter.com/iftekhar-sayeed/ These poems cover political subjects, from the sad end of Mahima in Bangladesh to the demise of Vieira de Mello, “the UN’s top man in Iraq”. All ten poems were published in the superb offline magazine, Left Curve (#28, #29, 2004, 2005).
A MARKET FOR FREEDOM http://www.dreamagic.com/cgi-bin/PoetryGen.cgi?author=Iftekhar_Sayeed&html=sayeed&title=A_Market_for_Freedom&number=0003
THE VIEW FROM THE TRISHAW
http://www.subtletea.com/sayeed2007.htm verstehen, shadow
The first poem deals with professional integrity (or lack of it). Thousands of people become anthropologists or sociologists, instructed at school to practice "verstehen": that is, to try to understand every society on its own terms and not to apply preconceived theories or notions - these young men and women then join donor agencies and universities where, they find, they won't get the money by practicing "verstehen", but by writing and saying what donor agencies want. A sad, but common, fate.
The second poem compares the Roman Republic with democracy in Bangladesh - both ended in military takeovers, and both takeovers were immensely popular, thanks to the violence that preceded them. However, while Augustus was raised to the level of a god [“deus simper mihi”], a Muslim military ruler was regarded as “zel Allah”: the shadow of Allah on earth. The first takeover has been immortalised in the poetry of Virgil, the second is yet to find an immortal voice - I add my own, pro tempore.
http://journals.sfu.ca/pocol/index.php/pct/article/view/839/541 PLUTONIUM (four poems)
PLUTONIUM: Inspired by the obituary of Glenn Seaborg, this poem looks at the choices facing the Japanese before they entered the war, and the choices facing the Americans as they created the atomic bomb: Seaborg was among the scientists who wanted the Japanese to be given a demonstration of the destruction they could expect, but their demand was turned down.
UNTO OTHERS: we ask of the west, "What can it do for me", and do not realise what the west has done to collectives and may do to us in the future.
THE THIRD: What prevents us from getting at each other's throat? The state. And when that breaks down, the Third is some kind of Deity.
THE WISDOM OF CHILDREN: Wordsworth (and the Romantics) thought children were wiser than adults, and glorified the irrational, which culminated in the crazed nationalism of the French Revolution; these ideas came to us in 1952....
http://www.decompmagazine.com/ the early mangoes a poem inspired by the sound of mangoes falling on tin roof
http://www.damazine.com/archives/2008_summer/cuckoo_and_the_author_iftekhar_sayeed.htm the cuckoo and the author It is a Muslim belief (found, for instance, in Sheikh Sa'di) that birds do not merely utter calls, but actually read the rosary (tasbih).
VOICES my schizoid uncle hears voices – god and the demon – and so do we – voices from the west
hartal : not all words can be translated, and this is one of them
arafat day : we don't recall the passing away of yasser arafat, but recall the death of noor hossain, because western donors would disapprove of the former and approve of the latter
compassion: sometimes, kindness is cruel
little by little: we are the little people, but the little can go a long way...
fiat justitia : in his essay "You and the Atomic Bomb", Orwell was terrified of the prospect of the atomic bomb, not killing humanity, but empowering big states against small ones...he need not have despaired
http://csonnet.org/cs4.pdf SOMEWHERE A sonnet written some time ago, on a subject still too contemporary.
http://isayeed.blogspot.com/2009/06/tale-of-intellectual-harlot.html Tale of the Intellectual Harlot (satire) See how the harlot becomes an intellectual in Bangladesh.
http://www.theshinejournal.com/sayeediftekhar.htm Three Poems
Badminton is very popular in this country - it can only be played in winter because at other times it is too windy. So, it's a winter sport. Winter is a metaphor for life's end, but here it becomes the opposite: a metaphor of vitality, strength and youth. sunset at khagrachari was written in the south-eastern hills...it is a place of breathtaking beauty, and the details were there right before my eyes: however, the day was ending and the rising smoke seemed to embody the death of the day...Time was clearly motivated by love ... and the end of love in death. But the focus is not on death, but on the present.
http://www.bellaonline.com/review/issues/summer2012/p009.html DESERTER Love among the impoverished is love, yet leads to desertion when demands of family life outstrip the slender resources of the couple.
http://issuu.com/aberrationlabyrinth/docs/al_005/1?e=5540656/1643255 Nightjar At Bandarban Inspired by a nightjar in the evening
https://wildquarterly.squarespace.com/new-blog/2014/7/2/iftekhar-sayeed-1 Guns Buried in Flowers 3 poems on culture, both political
http://www.jellyfishwhispers.com/2014_04_01_archive.html Ferryboat On The Chengi A view of the River Chengi in Khagrachari
The Paddle Steamer and Other Poems These poems relate to South Asia, either culturally or topographically.