Monday, February 22, 2010

From around the interwebs...

Various things I've been reading about this week that you should be too...

The thriving illegal trade in exotic animal flesh
From tiger's penis and turtle soup in China, to chimpanzee and other bushmeat being shipped from Africa to the US, the illegal trade in animal flesh is big business indeed. In Western countries it seems to be primarily ethnic minorities behind this trade, driven by the meat's supposed health benefits or the sense of nostalgia it brings as a reminder of traditions from the old country.
It's an interesting article which raises some interesting questions. While I may find the whole idea abhorrent, do we in the West really have the moral authority to tell Africans or Asians that what they want to eat is wrong? How do we say that killing a whale or tiger for food is wrong, but the killing of billions of domestic animals is perfectly fine? And do Westerners really care more about the welfare of African animals than African people, as many Africans seem to believe?

The power of semantics and Don't Ask, Don't Tell
A US survey about people's attitudes to gays serving in the military showed a marked difference in the results depending on whether they were described as "homosexuals" or "gays and lesbians". Seems "homosexual" is more threatening, I guess because it puts the focus on the sexual aspect, whereas perhaps "gays and lesbians" makes you think of them more as people, and not simply as the sum of what they do with their naughty bits.

But to extrapolate these results, to me it shows how in a variety of contexts, word choice is everything. When refugees arrived in Australian waters on boats, fleeing war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan, the Howard Government took a hardline stance against them and probably won an election on that issue alone. One of the keys to that was the replacement in political discourse of the technically correct term "asylum seekers" with "illegal immigrants". The whole country bought it, to the point where after a few years of this some people thought the term "asylum seekers" was leftist propaganda.

What if Sarah Palin was black?
It may seem like a silly question to be pondering, but this article (originally at the We Are Respectable Negroes blog, but cross posted all over the place) is a thought-provoking look at white privilege. It's interesting not only to consider how someone like Palin gets free passes in some ways (such as her seeming lack of worldly knowledge being somehow seen as a virtue), but how Barack Obama has his allegiances constantly questioned in a way that no white President would ever be.

Standoff between Shah Rukh Khan and Hindu fascists
While it just now seems to have calmed down, there has been an ongoing row over the last few months between Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan and powerful Hindu nationalist organisation Shiv Sena. It began when Khan, who owns the Kolkata Knight Riders cricket team in the IPL, mentioned in passing that he believed Pakistani players should also have opportunities to compete in the IPL (which also includes Australians, South Africans and others). This led to outcry from Shiv Sena, and a campaign to obstruct the release of Khan's new release My Name is Khan.
The Mumbai-based Shiv Sena in the past has been implicated in attacks on businesses owned by migrants from other parts of India, regular anti-Muslim violence, and vandalism of the offices of media agencies who voiced criticisms of Shiv Sena. Lovely folks.

No comments:

Post a Comment