Thursday, April 30, 2009

Plugging South Asia

So what happens when the education system fails us, and we are left to stew in our ignorance bubble? As Jon Stewart brilliantly pointed out: Wars, and global crises, God's way of plugging geography. So here is a little Geography 101 for our attention deficient brains.

First up, South Asia. Now, now, the only reason South Asia is getting preferential treatment here is because it won't be around for too long.

Country: Afghanistan
Why we care: "The Kite Runner", and "A Thousand Splendid Suns". Thankfully, Khaled Hosseini's bestsellers have provided us with an easy access to the "worldliness" badge.
Plug: When Steve Curry's famous 'Afghan Girl' refugee photograph didn't really do it for us, the Taliban came into the picture, to prove that we may have transcended race, but ignorance is the highly esteemed western value we cannot renounce.

Country: Pakistan
Meaning: The land of pure; and people say Muslims don't have a sense of humour.
Why We Care: America loves Pakistan for two reasons. Firstly, Bin Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere in the Northern region of Pakistan. But, it is not just the search of their estranged ally that has put Pakistan on the map. You see, back in 1998 when Bill Clinton was busy "not lying" to the American people; Pakistan, the most unstable country, somehow went under the radar, and became a nuclear power. So this lovin' maybe out of guilt, but who cares, at least now we know that Pakistan is an actual country, and not all brown people come from India.
Plug: Since, Africa has dibs on malnourishment, and illiteracy, so Pakistan needed to elect an idiot of a President to get our attention.

Country: India
Why We Care: Slumdog Millionaire. But, if you are really looking for some humanitarian street cred, in addition of talking about the slum kids, you could discuss child hunger in India.
Plug: India's negligence to provide education in Bihar, and spurring of sectarian violence in Gujarat; may give it an edge over China to have our undivided attention for a day or two, in a couple of years. We don't care unless the problem comes with casualties. And, let's just face it, something like human trafficking would never become a part of our collective social conscious. After all, slavery is so 19th century.

Country: Nepal
Why We Care: Well, we care because now that the Maoist have turned Nepal into a republic, it is safe for us to go trekking in the Himalayas.
Plug: Since this country has been a bit MIA lately, here is hoping human trafficking would make Nepal a media regular.

Country: Bangladesh
Why We Care: Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel laureate who pioneered microfinancing. A concept our governments are still struggling with.
Plug: In the midst of the swine flu outbreak, it's hard to draw attention to the diarrhea epidemic that has affected thousands of poor Bangladeshis. So, sorry Bangladesh, looks like we would have to rely on the floods, again.

Country: Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Why We Care: Last year, cyclone Nargis killed 150,000, and devastated the lives of 2.4 million other Burmese; making the junta's brutalities finally newsworthy. But, then, we got distracted by the earthquake, and the Olympics, in China. So in this case, China is at fault for stealing Myanmar's thunder. For the sake of our attention deficient brains, one global crisis at a time, please!
Plug: Myanmar shows how important politics is. HIV-AIDS patients are dying because the clinics do not have the facilities to treat them. Here is hoping they would find oil in Myanmar, so our governments would be willing to establish "diplomatic relations" with the junta, and we would be able to help the locals. The 49-year-old man in this photograph died two weeks after the picture was taken.

Country: Sri Lanka
Why We Care: Frankly, my dear, we don't care. Since late January, more than 6,400 civilians have been killed, and 13,000 wounded.
Plug: These deaths have not made it to the front page, because we are more concerned about how Obama has "faired" during his first 100 days. Also, we have already gone through a similar atrocity, albeit in a different region, Middle East, earlier this year. That is more than enough geography for us.


Maria Sondule said...

I read a book about Burma by Amy Tan. It was sort of disturbing.

Will said...

Wow, very interesting. Good job!

Zany said...


We can impose sanctions on these poor countries, but it is the innoncent people who pay the price.


Thanks for reading :).

changetheworld360 said...

Jon Stewart should have also mentioned pop culture. But then again, he is pop culture.
Anyway, my greatest hope is that us ignorant Americans (let's face it: it's true) can try our best to become more globally aware. Sometimes I feel as if the US is isolated from the rest of the world because of our lack of understanding.

Zany said...


I read this book called "Netherland" by Joseph O'Neill, in which O'Neill mentioned that maybe if we played the same sports as the rest of the world, such as cricket, we wouldn't be so isolated, and so self-centered.