Wednesday 22nd of September 2021

conspiring to remember the future...

recycling fear

“…a permanent modern scenario: apocalypse looms…and it doesn’t occur.”

Susan Sontag, AIDs and its Metaphors


“I should not misuse this opportunity to give you a lecture about, say, logic. I call this a misuse, for to explain a scientific matter to you it would need a course of lectures and not an hour’s paper. Another alternative would have been to give you what’s called a popular scientific lecture, that is a lecture intended to make you believe that you understand a thing which actually you don’t understand, and to gratify what I believe to be one of the lowest desires of modern people, namely the superficial curiosity about the latest discoveries of science. I rejected these alternatives.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein, A Lecture on Ethics



If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably been called a conspiracy theorist. Also you’ve been derided and shamed for questioning the “science” of the Covid debacle.

The idea of science is now a badly corrupted idea. In a nation, today, (the USA) which in educational terms ranks 25th globally in science skills and reading, and well below that in math; all one hears is a clarion call to science. In reading skills the US placed below Malta, Portugal, and right about the same as Kazakhstan.

But in a nation that no longer reads, and *can* no longer read, it is not surprising that knowledge is absorbed via the new hieroglyphics of gifs (interestingly the creator of gifs wanted it pronounced with a soft g the more to sound like a peanut butter brand) and memes.

So-called ‘response memes’ are the new version of conversation, and most register and communicate (sic) confusion. As beer ad marketers know, the state of your brain after consuming a six pack is pretty much the standard target ideal for advertising. And it relays a message that six pack confusion is actually a good and perhaps even sexy state in which to find oneself. 

Education is for those with money, those who can afford the proper foundational skills to get into Harvard, MIT, Cal Tech and the Stanford. For everyone else science is Star Trek.

But I digress. The point is that most Americans imagine that they revere science, and they ridicule anyone they think of as unscientific. But they think of it in cult terms, really. Its a religion of sorts. The only people who don’t are those ‘real’ religious zealots, Dominionist and Charismatic Christians (like Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Betsy DeVos et al) who hold positions of enormous power in the US government under the least scientific president in history. 

The Christian right doesn’t like any science, ANY science. But for most of that target demographic (the educated mostly white 30%), the cry is to “trust the science”…even the great Greta says to “trust the science”. 

The problem is, science is not neutral, its as politicized as media and news and the pronouncements of celebrities.

In May 2020, The Lancet published an article revisiting the 1957 and 1968 Influenza pandemics.

The 1957 outbreak was not caused by a coronavirus—the first human coronavirus would not be discovered until 1965—but by an influenza virus. However, in 1957, no one could be sure that the virus that had been isolated in Hong Kong was a new pandemic strain or simply a descendant of the previous 1918–19 pandemic influenza virus.

The result was that as the UK’s weekly death count mounted, peaking at about 600 in the week ending Oct 17, 1957, there were few hysterical tabloid newspaper headlines and no calls for social distancing. Instead, the news cycle was dominated by the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik and the aftermath of the fire at the Windscale nuclear reactor in the UK.

By the time this influenza pandemic — known colloquially at the time as “Asian flu” — had concluded the following April, an estimated 20 000 people in the UK and 80 000 citizens in the USA were dead. Worldwide, the pandemic, sparked by a new H2N2 influenza subtype, would result in more than 1 million deaths.

To date, Covid 19 has not reached the million death marker in the US And yet we are seeing the most draconian lockdowns in modern history, the total suspension of democratic process and a level of hysteria (especially in the U.S. and UK) unprecedented. I wrote about some aspects of this on my blog here, mostly touching on the cultural effects

Allow me to quote The Lancet again.

The subsequent 1968 influenza pandemic — or “Hong Kong flu” or “Mao flu” as some western tabloids dubbed it — would have an even more dramatic impact, killing more than 30 000 individuals in the UK and 100 000 people in the USA, with half the deaths among individuals younger than 65 years — the reverse of COVID-19 deaths in the current pandemic. 

Yet, while at the height of the outbreak in December, 1968, The New York Times described the pandemic as “one of the worst in the nation’s history”, there were few school closures and businesses, for the most, continued to operate as normal.

I remember the 68 Hong Kong flu. I was in my last year of high school. The summer after was Woodstock, the ‘summer of love’. Not a lot of social distancing going on. But we are past numbers and statistics having any real meaning. The Covid narrative is now in the realm of allegory.

The media perspective is utterly predictable. Liberal outlets that have the inside track to government are seen to be reinforcing the mainstream story (VOX, Slate, Huff Post, The Guardian and Washington Post). In a recent VOX article the message was only a sociopath would NOT wear a mask and that the ‘science’ was unanimous.

Of course its no such thing. But the message of sites like VOX, or Daily Beast, or Wa Po or the truly reprehensible Guardian, are always going to be to hammer away ‘on message’. The same is true for what passes for moderate news organs like the NY Times, ABC News, The Hill, and BBC. There has been virtually no dissenting opinions expressed in these rags. 

All these news outlets are given clear messages by the spin doctors in government, by the White House, and by contacts within the State Department and Pentagon. And by the advertising firms employed by the state (such as Ruder Finn).

“Ad agencies are not in the business of doing science.”
Dr. Arnold S. Relman (Madison Ave. Has Growing Role In the Business of Drug Research, NY Times 2002)

The WHO, the CDC, and most every other NGO or government agency of any size hires advertising firms. The WHO, which is tied to the United Nations, is a reasonably sinister organization, actually. 

Just picking up a random publication from the WHO, on what they call ‘the tobacco epidemic’ and you find on page 33 the following chapter heading “Objective: Effective surveillance, monitoring and evaluation systems in place to monitor tobacco use.”

Reading further and all this is really saying is that the populace of any country is best put under surveillance. It’s for their own good, you see.

But back to the science. Here is a small trip down memory lane

Institutions of medicine, global and national possess no more integrity than your average NGO (Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam et al). And that means not very much.

To understand the nature of institutional corruption one must understand Imperialism. The institutions of Imperialist nations are going to further Imperialist ideology. (see Antonio Gramsci, ideological hegemony). The US is not in the business of helping Americans.

Modern monopoly forms better reflect that scientific knowledge, and its advanced application to production, are concentrated, ultimately, not in physical objects but in human beings and human interaction with those objects. It is monopoly of the labour power of the most highly educated workers, by both imperialist states and Multi National Corporations, that forms the ultimate and most stable base of imperialist reproduction.

– Sam King (Lenin’s theory of imperialism: a defence of its relevance in the 21st century, MLR)


The idea of super-exploitation needs to be conceptually generalised at the necessary level of abstraction and incorporated in the theory of imperialism. Super-exploitation is a specific condition within the capitalist mode of production […] the hidden common essence defining imperialism. 

he working class of the oppressed nations/Third World/Global South is systematically paid below the value of labour power of the working class of the oppressor nations/First World/Global North. This is not because the Southern working class produces less value, but because it is more oppressed and more exploited.

– Andy Higginbottom (Structure and Essence in Capital 1, quoted by John Smith Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century)


The US jobless rate just hit 2.1 million. Officially. Making the total something over forty million. Its much higher in reality. Nobody has work. There is no work and we are at the start of a period of massive evictions, foreclosures, and delinquencies — and the homeless population will soon reach Biblical proportions (in some cities, such as Los Angeles, its already Biblical). Will be simply of a magnitude never before seen. 

Hence the authoritarian policing of lockdowns in, for example, New Zealand, suggests something like a practice run. The ruling class in western nations knows full well this is coming. And one wonders if it’s not, in fact, a part of the plan (oh here is where someone says conspiracy theory…probably Louis Proyect).

Yes it’s a fucking conspiracy theory. It is a theory based on evidence, however. 

Why are the US and UK and a host of other countries deliberately ensuring a massive depression? Because they care about your health? They are worried we all might catch the flu? Has the US ever demonstrated a concern with your health and well being before? 

Remember how many discretionary tax dollars go to health care and how much to defense. Conspiracies do occur. The denial of that fact seems to be a hallmark of the pseudo or false left. Does the suspension of democratic process not cause this soft left any problems at all? Look at Sweden, at Belarus…no lockdown and no problem.

It should be noted that there are a great many terrific doctors in the US. Dedicated and brilliant, often. But they are not the system. The system is run for profit.


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america to turn to socialism?...

Hiroyuki Hamada grew up in Japan until the age of eighteen, then moved with his family to Wheeling, West Virginia where his father held a temporary post in the steel industry; the culture shock Hamada experienced was underscored by the linguistic gap, and it was through the study of drawing while in college that Hamada found an outlet to bridge the gap. He changed his major from psychology to studio art, then went on to earn a Masters in Fine Art from the University of Maryland. 

Hamada has been awarded residencies at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person's Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the MacDowell Colony, Studios Midwest in Illinois, and the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts. In 1998, Hamada was the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2009 he was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. The artist lives and works in East Hampton, New York.


Hiroyuki Hamada tells us:

It’s capitalism after all. Those political parties for the rich and powerful know how to sell exploitation and subjugation by their good cop/bad cop marketing. If you don’t buy this, you get Trump. But if you buy what they sell, you get Biden, an imperialist with the crime bill, Patriot Act, and the rest of the schemes for the rich and powerful.

W.E.B DuBois talked about this in 1956 saying: 


I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say.”


I don’t think there was real democracy founded by slave owners, but you get the idea. Since then, people have kept voting for over a half-century. Now three people own the bottom half of the wealth of the US. The feudal hierarchy is backed by 800 military bases across the globe with piles of weapons of mass destruction. 

In the US, people have no healthcare, education is gutted, no legal rights, 1 out of 5 children are starving and so on. The system works tremendously well to keep the feudal hierarchy.

Just like any moneyed social institution, the political institution is structured to serve the rich and powerful. This is just like how colonialism works. The colonizers come to steal land and resources, and they dominate every aspect of your life. If you follow the rules shaping the hierarchy, you get to live in reservations as second class citizens. If you complain, they manage to declare “love it or leave it”. If you complain more you could end up in prison or even be killed. 

Why is Leonard Peltier still in prison when George Zimmerman walks free? The essence of exploitation and subjugation is rooted in the origin of the whole enterprise, and it keeps going. Fear of murder, rape, theft and torture lurk beneath the flimsy label of “democracy”.

Those who benefit from this, as well as those who are afraid of exclusion and unsavory name-calling, desperately scream “you must vote”, “a vote for third parties is a vote for Trump”, “don’t be stupid”, “don’t be selfish” and so on. 

Those words come out of people who screamed “black lives matter” yesterday, asking you to vote for the father of the crime bill. Last year his running mate Kamala Harris managed to say that the Colin Kaepernick phenomenon was orchestrated by Russians. I guess if they have to bomb countries full of brown people, it’s not very good to get rid of racism. She knows her role in the empire very well.

By the way, they also claim that their political opponent, Trump, was placed in his position by Russians. People should remember that the Democratic Party supported Trump as a pied piper candidate — meaning that he was so ridiculous that people would rather vote for their candidate Hilary Clinton. But the manipulation went a little too far, enough so that Trump actually became the president. 

I mean, Donald Trump, the loud-mouthed reality TV star with gilded gaudiness and shadiness actually became the President. 

This has triggered the privileged class status quo tremendously. They want their ways of colonizing, militarizing and corporatizing with class and righteousness, the way President Obama delivered it. They want an agonized Black man doing his best, yet resulting in seven wars, big bank bailouts, deportation, surveillance state, loss of legal rights, militarized police, drone killing and so on, instead of the embodiment of a loony Uncle Sam with lies, racism and violence asserting what the US government has always pursued. 

Trump is the exact caricature of what the people of the world see: the US as the biggest bully with no taste. He is like fourth of July fireworks insisting on what the empire is entitled to. “That’s not my president” people scream. Of course he is not. That would trigger a huge cognitive dissonance. Their identity as freedom loving Americans of democracy falls apart. It’s this psychological projection mobilizing the sentiment of “resistance”. 

Therefore, Trump turned out to be a godsend for the Democratic Party. He justifies the corrupt corporate political party of war, big bank bailout and neoliberal restructuring. I mean, as it’s already stated, the Party is an integral part of the American political institution which serves the rich and powerful along with their counterpart the Republican Party. The Democratic Party doesn’t have legs to stand on without evil Trump. 

That makes Joe Biden a pied piper candidate. Why him? I don’t endorse any imperial politics party candidate, but Sanders, for instance, proved himself to be able to beat Trump in 2016. Why not him? After all, the Democratic Party clearly stated that it is a private entity and it can pick anyone regardless of Primary or whatever.

Biden is a hardened imperialist with a solid record of colonizing, militarizing and corporatizing. And he is more widely known as a creepy old man who can’t keep his hands off of females, any female, especially very young ones. He has also shown some symptoms of going senile as well. Why him? He is a pied piper candidate to keep the Democratic Party playing the role of savior against evil Trump. 

You get two pied piper candidates. This is what happens when capitalists continue to narrow political options in order to give the illusion of choice. The lies are so inflated that there is practically nothing left that can be reasonable. And it doesn’t matter how the dice roles as long as everything stays within the imperial framework.

In fact, the more ridiculous, the more infuriating, and the more sensational, the better. It can create the illusion of a “democracy” more vibrant and lively. But there are tremendous sacrifices.

Now people would ask “so what is your solution?” I know that the question is rhetorical. How can people who have willfully ignored everything being said about the insanity of supporting the imperial trajectory listen? For those who turned into soldiers to keep their positions within the system, logic and reason become enemies in winning against anything that threatens their positions. 

This is, and has been, a war against people. This is how the system of “democracy” deprives humanity from people and herds them into what they despise: fascism. 

And my answer unfortunately is: I don’t know. 

I do respect and admire revolutionaries who have stood against the establishment. When Fred Hampton was murdered by the US government, he was only 21. His Black Panther Party with socialist principles inspired people across the country. Patrice Lumumba stood for his people and showed the world beauty and strength of humanity. 

We should all learn from experiences of revolutionaries and history of resistance against capitalist domination, and see ourselves and our communities in such contexts. And I do empathize with those who struggle with tremendous predicaments imposed by the oppressors. But after all, I am merely an artist getting stuck in my studio, covered with paint and dust. But I know one thing. Years of working as an artist has taught me that a seemingly impossible problem can only be solved by a struggle, with honesty and patience.

What hurts me the most about participating in corporate politics is that it kills our ability to reason and trust, therefore it deprives us of our ability to relate to others in truly meaningful ways. It stands to reason that the dehumanizing symptom of capitalism — deprivation of our association to ourselves, communities, nature, and our future and our history — is most prominent in ways we determine our path as a collective. 

It deprives our ability to dream together based on reality and our needs—dream about our future, dream about our children and dream about all the wonderful things in life. And it brings tears to my eyes with sadness. But I am certain that I am not alone. 

I am speaking to you who are like me. We are many. And there will be more of us.


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maskless in oregon...


July 10 2020...

Now that Oregon Governor Kate Brown has cruelly mandated that healthy people wear masks when visiting indoor public spaces, and has engaged in an ugly hate and shaming campaign, the difficulty for people not wearing a mask has been amplified.

Oregonians are not alone in this. Across the world the maskless have endured increasing abuse, assaults, fines, and hatred, piling yet more pain on top of the distress we’re all under. Already at the breaking point, some folks just can’t take another lash of cruelty, leading to public incidents.

So far, my personal sense of outrage has been eclipsed by my ability to keep my temper but the armor weakens some days. We all have every justification to be screaming mad right now, maskless or otherwise. This entire situation, to be blunt, is bullshit.

Yet in public I hold my tongue and smile. I prefer peace and so I keep it. I treat people exactly how I wish to be treated: friendly, benign, nonjudgmental, and helpful if possible. I exhibit or model the behavior I expect from others around me. Yes, I know that makes me an asshole. No, I don’t care.

Before the indoors mask edict in Oregon went into effect July 1, I hadn’t gone anywhere in a while, and my stores were getting low. A week later I finally had no choice but to attempt to go shopping. There just wasn’t any other option.

So I loaded up and headed out, hoping it wouldn’t be a horror show. Would I even get in? If not, what would I do? Would I be the next viral video of a public mask shaming? These worries weighed on me as I nervously drove to my destiny with a department store.

It was an incredibly humbling experience.

When I found myself leaning on a shopping cart aiming toward the store’s entry door, I was sweating with anxiety. I knew the medical exemption for indoor mask wearing was meant for people like me. And I had already contacted the store ahead of time to make sure there wouldn’t be an issue; out of courtesy I didn’t want to blindside them any more than I wanted to be blindsided with being denied entry.

Yet the meanness and simmering hatred Governor Brown openly exhibits when talking about those not wearing a mask echoed firmly in my head. How many of the people I was about to encounter consumed and believed her propaganda? How many would follow her example and abuse or harass me?

I went right in unimpeded and no one bothered me. An employee crossed paths with me as I turned into an aisle, and simply apologized for walking in my way. No hassling. A few other customers were unmasked and everyone went about their shopping.

I made it probably 1/3 of the store perimeter before breath issues slowed me, and not long after I was panting and dizzy. I endured, knowing I ought to make it as long as I took it slow.

I stopped to look at coffee (first coffee in two weeks) and the masked employee stocking the shelf offered some ideas as to which of the brands on sale I should try. She was friendly, and smelled some different roasts with me. She said not one word about my bare face, which is right– if I was in the store, I’d already been cleared for entry maskless.

Even just talking coffee I was out of breath and I was leaning against the shelf for support. Immediately concerned, the clerk offered me a chair.

I protested but before I could stagger away leaning on my cart she produced a camping chair from a display and sat it right in the aisle for me. I gratefully fell into it and we lightly chatted about the suffocation of masks while I recovered.

Once I’d caught my breath, she actually took the time to walk with me and help track down the rest of my items in case I needed to sit down again. With a fair amount of effort and a helpful companion, I managed to not end up on the floor and made it to the checkout.

I thanked her profusely, made sure to note her name, and offered a “symbolic” hug since I know real ones are not allowed for employees. From the moment we met and until we parted, she was kind, helpful, nice, and openly caring.

Such unconditional good treatment towards a stranger, who is, by the estimation of so many politicians and commentators a “loaded gun” or a “drunk driver” or an outright “murderer,” was one of the most humbling things that has happened to me since this whole coronavirus debacle started.

No stranger has been so nice to me, not once, not in months.

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the west fiddles with belarus...



The Russian President Vladimir Putin disclosed in a TV interview on August 27 that the Americans, amongst others, had fuelled the unrest in Belarus. He explained that the controversial presence of 33 Russian nationals (with military background) in Minsk in the run-up to the presidential election in Belarus on August 8, which briefly created misunderstanding between Minsk and with Moscow, was itself was a joint operation by Ukrainian and US intelligence agencies. 

The Russian nationals were apparently given job offers and were “simply lured there (Minsk), dragged across the border … de facto they were brought in on fake documents.” Evidently, Russia is in possession of hard intelligence. 

Putin spoke up even as US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun wrapped up talks with top Russian officials in Moscow Wednesday. According to a VOA report, Biegun’s consultations “marked an intensifying U.S. effort to find a peaceful solution in Belarus.” The report took note that en route to Moscow, Biegun had “signalled that Washington was not eager to accept efforts by [Belarus President Alexander] Lukashenko to cast the election standoff as an East versus West showdown that might trigger direct Russian involvement.” 

Simply put, Biegun was on a “damage control” mission. This can be taken as admission of defeat in the US-backed regime change project in Belarus. Conceivably, Russian officials shared with Biegun their intelligence regarding the CIA involvement. Later, crisply anodyne identical readouts were released by the Russian and American sides without divulging any details. 

The CIA would roll back its Belarus operation — for the time being, at least. A commentary titled What’s Next for the Peaceful Uprising in Belarus? by the United States Institute of Peace sees “potential to bring change” in Belarus, but concludes saying, “While there are no guarantees of success, there is cause for hope. At a minimum, Belarusians have gained a new-found sense of dignity and belief in the power of nonviolent collective action.” 

This appears to have been a well-planned operation. Under the garb of journalists, western intelligence deployed dozens of special agents in Belarus. Lukashenko has ordered their expulsion. Associated Press, Radio Liberty and BBC “reporters” have had their accreditation cancelled. A Swedish “photo journalist”, presumably an intelligence operative, was detained and was released at the personal intervention of the Swedish ambassador to Belarus and flown out of Minsk.

From the pro forma reaction by the European Union so far, Brussels has a fair idea of what really happened — that there has been a US operation with active participation of Poland and Lithuania (both EU countries) and Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, NATO statements have been rather combative. The NATO also began air exercises in Poland and Lithuania coinciding with the unrest in Belarus. 

However, major European powers — Germany, France, Italy — didn’t want to get entangled. Their top leaders telephoned Putin to ease the tensions. The EU initially proposed OSCE as mediator, but Moscow sensed that it might lead to backdoor entry by the US intelligence. The OSCE is manned by NATO powers and is under American thumb.  

The clincher has been the stern warning by the Kremlin that if the western operation continued, Russia will be left with no option but to intervene. The warning came at Putin’s level, making it very clear that Russia will not countenance a regime change in Minsk to hijack Belarus into the American camp. Moscow has asserted its special interests in Belarus under international law. In his TV interview on Thursday, Putin emphatically stated: 

“Indeed, the Union Treaty… and the Collective Security Treaty (CSTO) include articles saying that all member states of these organisations, including the Union State, which consists of two states only – Russia and Belarus, are obliged to help each other protect their sovereignty, external borders and stability… In this connection, we have certain obligations towards Belarus, and this is how Mr Lukashenko has formulated his question. He said that he would like us to provide assistance to him if this should become necessary. I replied that Russia would honour all its obligations.

“Mr Lukashenko has asked me to create a reserve group of law enforcement personnel, and I have done this. But we have also agreed that this group would not be used unless the situation becomes uncontrollable… we came to the conclusion that now it is not necessary, and I hope that it will never be necessary to use this reserve, which is why we are not using it.” Putin made it abundantly clear that Moscow stands by Lukashenko.”

The events in Belarus constitute a watershed moment. Russia will not allow another Ukraine-type colour revolution in the “near abroad”, aimed at encircling it with hostile governments. But Moscow’s intervention, if at all, will conform to international law and stem out of invitation by the country concerned. 

That is to say, Russia regards it to be the prerogative of the CSTO countries to handle their internal affairs without outside unlawful interference. Having said that, Moscow has invoked the CSTO’s collective security doctrine. This sets a precedent. The CSTO comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. A CIA-sponsored regime change project in any of these countries can run into the CSTO’s crosshairs. Considering that the CSTO is de facto led from Moscow, any more regime change project in Central Asia or Caucasus will trigger Russian countermeasures. 

Most important, Moscow will not be prescriptive. Putin has supported Lukashenka’s proposal to draft a new constitution and hold fresh presidential and parliamentary elections, but transition should be lawful and orderly. This Russian approach has been already evident in Kyrgyzstan (2005) Turkmenistan (2006), and Uzbekistan (2016). Even in the case of Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004 and 2014), Russia didn’t oppose  transitions but the West turned them into geopolitical contestations to instal anti-Russian regimes. 

However, a caveat must be added. Putin also underscored that Belarus is a very special case. He said, in a clear reference to the US, “some forces would like to see something different happening there (Belarus). They would like to influence these processes and to bring about the solutions that would suit their political interests.” Russia cannot afford to see such nefarious designs succeed in Belarus.

In Putin’s words, “This nation is very close to us (Russian Federation) and perhaps is the closest, both in terms of ethnic proximity, the language, the culture, the spiritual as well as other aspects. We have dozens or probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of direct family ties with Belarus.” Not only that, Russia sources from Belarus almost 90 percent of its imports of agricultural products.


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M. K. BHADRAKUMAR is a career diplomat by profession.

For someone growing up in the 1960s in a remote town at the southern tip of India, diplomacy was an improbable profession. My passion was for the world of literature, writing and politics – roughly in that order. While doing doctoral research on the works of Tennessee Williams, however, friends encouraged me to have a fling at the Civil Services Examination. As it turned out, before I could figure out the momentous import of what was unfolding, fate had pitchforked me into the top ranks of the merit list and ushered me into the Indian Foreign Service.

Roughly half of the 3 decades of my diplomatic career was devoted to assignments on the territories of the former Soviet Union and to Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Other overseas postings included South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, and Turkey. I write mainly on Indian foreign policy and the affairs of the Middle East, Eurasia, Central Asia, South Asia and the Asia-Pacific.

Writing must come in a spontaneous rush of thoughts. The exhilarating sense of freedom of an eclectic mind makes all the difference. None of the Indian Punchline blogs has been a pre-meditated act of writing. But then, I will be gravely remiss if I do not acknowledge the two profound influences on my formative years – my late mother who was a deeply religious person of extraordinary spirituality who moulded my inner world and my late father who was a prolific writer, author, and Marxist intellectual and thinker who introduced me at a young age to dialectics as a matchless intellectual tool to analyse the material world and decode politics.

The Indian Punchline may intentionally provoke at times, but there are no mala fide intentions here, no hidden agenda and no attempt to preach. Simply put, the Indian Punchline reflects a humanist’s markings against the backdrop of the ‘Asian Century’. I am underscoring this because we live in difficult times, especially in India, with such acute polarization in discourses – ‘You are either with us or against us’.