Just a bit of a Saturday miscellany really.
I stumbled upon this via Stumble Upon:
on Prince Harry and his vocabulary
Indigo Jo, a British Muslim, is one of the bloggers I trawl from in my Blog Picks: “In which an unemployed graduate has an excuse to use his politics degree. Religious, tech and media issues (and anything I fancy).” I was struck by how much more sensible he was on the Prince Harry story than most people I’d read: Prince Harry and his little friend.
On Sunday, the News of the World (also known as the News of the Screws, a tabloid "scandal sheet" owned by Rupert Murdoch known for printing kiss-and-tell stories) put on its front page a story about Prince Harry, the second son of Prince Charles (and Diana) who is currently an army officer, who shot a private video of his Sandhurst comrades waiting for a plane to Cyprus, and calling a Pakistani fellow cadet "our little Paki friend, Ahmed". They also accused him of somehow insulting the Queen by giving what sounds like a perfectly normal goodbye to his Grandpa, also known as Prince Phillip (by the way: the NOTW’s weekday sister paper, the Sun, is known for supporting a republic, and responded to the Queen’s coronation by telling her she had had her fun and should abdicate the next day). Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation has called him a thug who had been trying to portray himself as being like his caring and respected parents.
When I first heard of this news, I started writing a piece defending Prince Harry, because the event happened three years ago, when he was still a cadet, and someone has decided to betray a trust and leak this video to the press for his own personal reasons – having fallen out with someone or fallen on hard times. Then I actually saw the video, and it turns out that the offending phrase – "there’s our little Paki friend, Ahmed" – was used pretty much behind his back, or at least, in such a way that Ahmed could not hear. Whether we should still consider him what we would consider someone we had just seen say that – a racist jerk – is open to question, but it certainly discounts the argument that this was just banter between colleagues.
In my experience – and several of my best friends are of Pakistani origin, as much of a cliché as that sounds – a lot of youth of Pakistani origin don’t find the word Paki in and of itself offensive, and many of them actually use it amongst themselves. It does not have the same heat that the "N word" carries, probably because the history is different. Pakistan itself is only just over 60 years old, Paki is only short for Pakistani, the word "pak" means pure, and however oppressive the British empire was at times, Asians are not descended from people who were slaves to British masters. However, the fact remains that people do remember its use as a racist term, a way in which it is commonly used, and telling its use as banter and its use as a racial derogatory term is pretty easy: if it’s used in conjunction with other insults, or if it’s used to mean any Asian rather than an actual Pakistani, it is an insult, and if it is used by a non-Pakistani, especially a white person, most people won’t appreciate it. During the discussion of it on the talk shows last night and this morning, the presenters (Dotun Adebayo and Vanessa Feltz) insisted that people did not use the word – I suspect that this is a station policy – and even suggested that the media should not be using the word openly, particularly in headlines.
I think that his comment was clearly inappropriate, but not heinous; he used it as a student on another student, not as an officer on soldier, or even an officer, under his command. That would have brought bullying into it, which has been a serious problem in the Armed Forces. I have heard it said that this sort of behaviour should be expected from Prince Phillip’s grandson, and the history of the Royal family is not full of people like the present Queen and Lady Diana – there have been quite a few controversial figures in its history as well. However, it is disappointing to hear someone who has a possibility of being the figurehead for this country talking that way, but in general, one should not expect exemplary behaviour when looking over the shoulders of a group of male friends, let alone Army mates.
nightmarish: makes one question human ingenuity
This one is far too long to reproduce: Robots at War: The New Battlefield by P W Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution and the author of Children at War (2005) and Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (2003). “This article is adapted from Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, reprinted by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. © 2009 by P. W. Singer.”
From this perspective, war becomes, as one security analyst put it, “a global spectator sport for those not involved in it.” More broadly, while video images engage the public in a whole new way, they can fool many viewers into thinking they now have a true sense of what is happening in the conflict. The ability to watch more but experience less has a paradoxical effect. It widens the gap between our perceptions and war’s realities. To make another sports parallel, it’s the difference between watching an NBA game on television, with the tiny figures on the screen, and knowing what it feels like to have a screaming Kevin Garnett knock you down and dunk over your head. Even worse, the video segments that civilians see don’t show the whole gamut of war, but are merely the bastardized ESPN SportsCenter version. The context, the strategy, the training, the tactics—they all just become slam dunks and smart bombs.
War porn tends to hide other hard realities of battle. Most viewers have an instinctive aversion to watching a clip in which the target might be someone they know or a fellow American; such clips are usually banned from U.S.-hosted websites. But many people are perfectly happy to watch video of a drone ending the life of some anonymous enemy, even if it is just to see if the machines fighting in Iraq are as “sick” as those in the Transformers movie, the motive one student gave me for why he downloaded the clips. To a public with so much less at risk, wars take on what analyst Christopher Coker called “the pleasure of a spectacle with the added thrill that it is real for someone, but not the spectator.”
There’s an account in that essay of “tiny but lethal robots the size of insects, which look like they are straight out of the wildest science fiction”. The mind more than boggles at what the Pentagon is researching.
four more from my blog roll
I was just updating the Google Reader and thought I would promote four entries here as well. There is such good stuff on my reader; I can say that because it’s no boast, though I guess I am congratulating myself for my good taste.
- The pretty boy barber by Alex Au (Yawning Bread) is just so urbane, so intelligent. He’s been blogging since before there was blogging, and I have been a devoted reader since the year 2000!
- Creativity and play by Bob Leckridge (Heroes Not Zombies), the Scottish doctor. Read him to see what wisdom looks like, and the Scottish countryside.
- Symbolic Moment by Jon Taplin, a US writer on mostly economics issues. Today he makes wonderful use of the recent amazing bit of crash-landing in the Hudson River – and what a story that was, eh!
- Surry Couple by James O’Brien (who also lives in Surry Hills). James has a new template! This post is just beautiful – and local.
bonus pic: not everyone loves Clover Moore
I collected this in Prince Alfred Park yesterday. Clover Moore is Sydney’s Lord Mayor.