Other miscellaneous and frequently asked questions
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The following are a number of common questions I receive from time to time, or are questions I wish to preempt.
On this page:
- Why don’t you talk about issue xyz?
- Do you require or seek assistance? How can I help or get involved?
- I would like to submit an article to your site. Can I do that?
- Do you accept donations?
- Do you give grants? I would like to seek financial assistance and aid from your organization.
- Can you perform a human rights abuse investigation?
- Where do you get your sources from?
- Are you biased? Can I consider you reliable?
- Why is there so much concentration on the United States?
- What about other countries?
- Enough about issues, what about solutions?
- Are You Marxist or Communist?
- Are You Anti-U.S. or Anti-West?
- Are You Muslim?
- Are you Anup Shah the economist?
- Are you Anup Shah the award-winning photographer?
Why don’t you talk about issue xyz?
I am often asked why I have not talked about a certain issue, perspective, etc, or why I have not placed a certain issue at the top of the home page as clearly the most important issue facing humanity and the planet.
Usually it is because of time: I work on this site on my own, and spare time. As a result, I am often backlogged with emails, and tasks. (I am some 5 years behind on writing up notes from various books I have read, for example!) I therefore cannot get round to everything immediately, though so many suggested topics are ones I have in mind to write about anyway. Hopefully in due time. Sorry to disappoint.
Do you require or seek assistance? How can I help or get involved?
I often receive offers for help and even from time to time requests for jobs, internships, etc, which is really appreciated and flattering. I generally have two types of answers:
- For those seeking employment here, as I work on this spare time on my own, I do not have resources and ability to employ anyone. If it helps, check out the massive oneworld.net1 jobs section.
- For those offering to volunteer in research or help with the site’s development:
- First, very kind of you, thanks!
- Secondly, given the current way I work (ad hoc, and unpredictably, sometimes moving from one topic to another) it is hard for me to coordinate. However, if you let me know your interest areas2, I can keep a record of that and let you know if I can do with some assistance.
I would like to submit an article to your site. Can I do that?
As mentioned above, I currently do not work with others and maintain this site in spare time only. Due of this practical constraint, I am very hesitant to put up articles submitted by others, as I would prefer at this time to be able to go through everything and check it myself, first to be sure it is good quality. Of course, because this is mostly a technical/practical constraint, it is not a rule set in stone. For example,
- The War on Terrorism3 section has some 100 articles reposted from other sites, because I have not had the time to keep up with all the smaller details, though I feel they offer perspectives that are interesting or important.
- In a couple of places I have been given permission by authors of reasonably popular books to repost a chapter or two, having read the book in question myself. These form another 20 or so pages.
- I have even approached authors requesting if I can repost chapters (though usually the publisher says no!)
- On a couple of occasions, I have posted articles from others, where I have had the time to read it fully and discuss it with them. These days, I do lack spare time often, so that does make this example rare.
The remainder of the site (some 350 or more articles) is typically written by myself at this time.
Technically/logistically, I have not set up my site to easily take in submissions from others, as I never expected the site to grow so quickly. As a result, I am also a bottleneck for getting those articles up there.
Finally, I prefer in many cases to link to the original web location of the submitted article. This would allow my readers to visit the other person’s site and explore what else they have to offer. That is the power of the web, and I don’t wish to unnecessarily keep people stuck on my site. If you do not have a site please do consider setting one up. It might grow into something really amazing in ways you could not have imagined! And, this way, you are not dependent on me to upload changes, etc.
If you still want to, please do let me know4 about something you wish to submit, but please bear the above constraints I have in mind.
Do you accept donations?
I have received this question quite a few times and I am very flattered. Thank you. However, at this time, I am not seeking donations. For now, I am able to fund my site through my own efforts, and I don’t wish this site to be some sort of money maker. If, however, some time in the future my circumstances change, it is possible that I may request donations, etc. Please do stay in touch with the site, accordingly.
Do you give grants? I would like to seek financial assistance and aid from your organization.
No! I work on this spare time, on my own, and out of my own pocket, and do not seek to make money from this. I am flattered you get the impression that there is an organization behind this site, but unfortunately, that is not the case, so I cannot help you in this way.
I would not know where to start on this either. All I can suggest is to perhaps have a look at the many partner organizations from the OneWorld.net6 supersite and see if one of them may be suitable.
Can you perform a human rights abuse investigation?
I have occasionally received this request. Short answer is no, I work on this stuff spare time only so have no capacity to perform such an investigation. It would be best advised to contact a local organization specializing in human rights. Or, you can try to contact your local Amnesty International7 chapter.
Where do you get your sources from?
I have tried my best to mention all my sources on the pages I write.
They are either linked to (there are over 7,000 links to other sites for this purpose) from within the text, or, if they are books I have read8 and other journals not available online, I try my best to cite them in a way that they can be recognized and identified.
It is very possible, especially on older pages on the site, that the way I have linked to other sites, and the text I have used for some links may not have been the best choice for everyone’s preferences. Hopefully over time this will improve, though I am sure it will not always suit everyone’s style and preferences.
Are you biased? Can I consider you reliable?
Often related to the previous question of where I get my sources from is this question about bias and reliability.
I can’t really answer that question as only you, the reader, can decide, just as you should evaluate all your sources and information as best as you can.
All articles that I write on the site I plan to keep updated. It is not easy and there are many articles not updated for a few years. Some of these older articles I also feel have not been written well, and I have tried to improve that whenever I do update articles.
I have tried my best to be objective, though of course that is all a matter of perspective. Some criticize me for being too critical of US and Western foreign policy and the like. Others say I hold back or don’t go far enough, or I have got it all wrong, etc. Others say they enjoy reading the site. I am pleased that the overwhelming emails I get commenting on the site are ones that say they like it. (Of course that is just the overwhelming number of those who choose to actually email me. Many who do not like the site likely can leave straight away, and others who like it probably will never email me, which is fine too.)
I am aware that some of the perspectives on this site will not make everyone happy, especially when I am quite critical of many US foreign policies, and those of other rich, powerful nations. I guess I do have a kind of third world bias in that regards, but I think that is the vast majority of the world’s people. Some (in the richer countries who may not like what I say) will think I am biased. Others will say I am writing what the mainstream media will not.
I try to read from a wide variety of sources, from both the first world, and the developing/third world, from major news articles, to reports, books, and analysis by institutions, organizations, charities, and individuals. I hope that this attempt to read and source widely helps me gain a much broader understanding of the issues, even if it will not please some.
I have argued on this site that major mainstream media outlets have their biases too, and are also often strongly influenced or pressured by other factors, such as from governments, from advertisers, etc. In contrast, I am independent, though of course I am not immune from influences of wider society and culture.
I guess in conclusion, this is not an answer that anyone else can really answer, but you yourself, as it is all a matter of opinion.
Why is there so much concentration on the United States?
I have often mentioned the position, stance, or action of the United States in many of the discussed issues while other nations’ positions may be mentioned less (or not at all). This has been for numerous reasons. For example:
- The U.S. is the most powerful and successful nation, perhaps the most ever in history. As a result, it is important to see what the U.S. says, does, does not say, does not do, and so on.
- The U.S. is involved in so many global issues, due to their size and capabilities, that naturally most discussions of the numerous global issues are going to include the United States, and more so than most other nations.
- Because their actions can affect more people around the world, for good and bad, it is important to look at their policies in more detail.
- We often hear about America’s desire to spread human rights, democracy and freedom to the rest of the world. Yet, so many people and countries are increasingly frustrated that the United States has not done this, and instead has only been pursuing its interests. Therefore, it is important to look behind the rhetoric and try to hold the United States to those standards that we all value. That is not to say then that other nations can be slack if the U.S. are, but that if the U.S. is seen to follow what it says, then other nations will quickly be pressured to follow suit. The U.S. would also have more credibility and respect when pressuring other nations on such things.
Furthermore, where the issues are international and there have been other key countries’ influence/actions etc, I have tried to present those. Admittedly, sometimes it is not in as much detail, although I do provide links for further information where relevant. In addition, a lot of the online material is US-based or US-geared, and hence there is more to report on the critique of the U.S as well. Because most of the audience on this web site is also U.S based (some 60–90%) then it makes sense to show the U.S. position as well.
There is also a differentiation to be made between the U.S. political leaders, decision makers in foreign policy, etc. versus the people of America. I often say something like
the United States decided to do something or some other nation has done something, etc. It should be clarified that this usually means the U.S. government. It is often said this way by journalists as well. Sometimes the American people may not support all the actions of their governments, and sometimes they will, as with most democracies. Hence, the criticisms etc are typically geared towards the U.S. leadership and decision-making/influencing powers.
As with any other peoples of the world, the American citizens are honest and decent people and care much about various issues. Having lived in the U.S. for about 4 years, I can personally say that overall, the American people are very passionate about various issues.
However, as I mentioned elsewhere on this site, I have been surprised at the poor quality of the mainstream media9. While it has generally been recognized in many other nations that the U.S. media is often not as good as it could be, especially on international issues and perspectives, I saw that as being a concern as to how Americans end up viewing others around the world and how the policies of their leaders may affect American citizens. Sometimes the U.S. policies do represent the aspirations of the American people, but often, especially in foreign policies, it can diverge, as this web site shows. Hence, looking at the policies and practices of the United States, and how it affects others around the world is important.
While you can also read more about the media in this web site’s mainstream media10 section, the following quote highlights some important points that summarizes well some of my concerns:
The above highlights that a functioning democracy needs good information, and without that, unaccountable policies can result and go unquestioned. Former U.S. President, James Madison (1751-1836), who played a leading role in forming the U.S. Constitution, also recognized this in his famous quote:
A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.
Yet, Toensing, in the above point makes one other great point, worth highlighting here; that the American people have a fundamental sense of fairness. The point is that in providing criticism of policies of American leaders, it may be taken as criticism of ordinary American citizens as reflecting the policies of their leaders. Yet, as I mention above, I found that Americans are very passionate about issues of justice, fairness, etc.
But, as Toensing hints above, the politicians and others who make and carry out various policies don’t often reflect the desires of their people. This seems especially the case in international policies, economic policies, etc which are often (in many countries, not just the U.S.) not discussed in that much detail in the mainstream and public arena.
As discussed in detail on this web site, international economic policies have contributed much to global poverty12. Therefore, the lack of wide discussion on such things in the general media is concerning. If American citizens knew some of the issues behind some of the policies that their government often support, the strong democratic processes in the U.S.A would encourage stronger demands for accountability and readdressing of these issues. If things such as international economic policies are discussed, they are usually discussed in business-related news. Furthermore, when mentioned, it is usually in relation to how it benefits America, not necessarily if it really benefits recipients of such policies. Poverty half the way around the world is equally of concern to us, not only because other people suffer, but because of resentment that can cause.
As discussed in the mainstream media section on this web site, there is often intense debate and discourse within a certain range of topics and assumptions and so it appears that great debate is going on. Yet, what is not questioned or looked at is if that range of discourse is wide or narrow. And a poor quality mainstream media with a narrow range of information can lead to supporting policies that would otherwise be questioned more thoroughly.
Of course, these aren’t just problems in the U.S. only—probably all nations have similar problems. With the U.S. being so influential around the world, and often promoting policies that many developing nations criticize for deepening poverty, it is more pressing to highlight U.S. media deficiencies in this area. Of course, I try to provide links, or passages relating to coverage in other nations on various issues where possible, but because I work on all this in spare time, it makes sense I try and prioritize on the U.S.
What about other countries?
Because I work on this spare time, and given the explanation above, I have at times concentrated on the US. I do try to discuss other countries and regions where they play a significant role, though the US is perhaps most influential in all areas so there is natural concentration there. Over time, hopefully other nation’s policies etc will be added in as much depth as those of the United States! However, do have a look at the sitemap13 for the various articles where other nations are discussed.
Enough about issues, what about solutions?
Because I work on this in spare time only, of course I can’t cover as much as I would like. In addition, while I do not necessarily prescribe ways to solve many problems, I do attempt to highlight various possible problems and their causes—this is a start and, I feel, very important. There are so many inter-related issues and causes, that they are complex and need to be understood well first. Issues around the world today do not necessarily have a clear-cut solution and one successful solution in one place does not then mean it is automatically the way to resolve a situation somewhere else. However, I hope that as more and more people learn about these issues and see other viewpoints, then a variety of ideas can emerge as to how to possibly do something.
From time to time, I will gladly adapt my ideas in the light of appropriate new information. I am open to accept other viewpoints and even criticisms of the way I have portrayed an issue, as I myself have changed many views over the years that I have worked on this web site. I have also added entire sections on the site according to user feedback. So, if you have some comments, suggestions or criticism, let me know14!
While I haven’t started a section on possible solutions (although hopefully I will when I can get round to it!) I will add here the following: Democratic principles provide many tools for social justice and peace movements. These principles need to be continuously maintained and strengthened (and supported where lacking) and democratically elected leaders, business leaders and other major players that can shape our lives, need to be held accountable, constantly. But it would be naive to assume any of this is easy! Even in the United States with perhaps the best institutions to allow this, we have seen the struggles there. Furthermore, I would say that I disagree with those who suggest that solutions to our problems have to be violent. Martin Luther King, Jr. says it well:
Are You Marxist or Communist?
No. I am simply trying to highlight injustices where the mainstream doesn’t often look and often dismisses it for various other reasons. With over 50 years of Cold War mentality etc, there is a lot of black and white thinking; that is, you are either this or that; there are no myriad of options, just
our way or
In that respect, with my criticism of U.S. policy (political and economic etc), and of the current forms of capitalism and globalization, some have assumed somehow that I must therefore be anti-capitalist. Indeed, the mainstream media themselves characterize (often unintentionally perhaps) many in those protest movements, peace and social justice organizations, alternative economists, etc. as being anti-capitalist. For sure, numerous groups who do protest might be. Democracy allows participation of numerous beliefs. However, to label all as anti-capitalist conjures up those old Cold War paradigms of animosity and hatred. Not all anti-capitalists are likely to be communist even if some criticisms are common. In addition, not all of these activists etc are necessarily anti-capitalist per se, but may instead be criticizing the current form of capitalism, social injustice, lack of human rights, etc. Some of the policies themselves, and their effects are often being criticized by a wide range of people regardless of ideology. No doubt, there are many aspects of modern capitalism that are being questioned as well, and so they must, as with any ideology. Else, we risk complacency and stagnation. We also risk allowing the unaccountability of power holders to continue. In the poverty, trade-related and globalization section on this site, I even suggest that the current form of capitalism that we are seeing at a global level is not free market capitalism even though it is claimed to be. Instead it seems to be the older and more destructive monopoly capitalism or mercantilism.
If anything, I do indirectly point to what can often be boiled down to as excessive rights of some at the direct expense of others. The framework for that perhaps comes from Henry George15. This is because you may have noticed in recent years there has been increasing reference to the works of J.W. Smith16. His work, I have found, has been incredible in its depth and breadth and hence been naturally influential for me. Smith’s work builds upon that of Henry George. This philosophy is actually based on capitalism. It shows that capitalism and markets, when structured for the benefit of people, can work and that private property and incentive mechanisms can be important. However, it is when things like property rights become excessive and unaccountable, that inappropriate use of capital and world’s resources can result. (See for example, the behind consumption17 section on this site, where I attempt to address this further.)
Another way to sum all this might be to quote Dom Hélder Câmara:
Are You Anti-U.S. or Anti-West?
No. This, I find is another aspect of that black and white simplification of complex issues. That is, because of criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, it is suggested that one must somehow be anti-U.S. In fact, I do believe that the American Constitution is decent. It is a good foundation for democracy. Of course, like with all things it is not perfect. There are some just criticisms of parts of it, which even various U.S. historians and others have pointed out. However, the point is that such criticism should be accepted as part of on-going debates and discussions. Above all, this is part of democracy. To let ideas be heard—especially criticisms—so that complacency, unaccountability, etc. are avoided. It is the abuse of power—the disproportionate, excessive, and unjust influence of a few over the majority—that is ultimately criticized.
There are more freedoms in the Western nations than most other regions. Yet, as I mentioned above, the way in which the mainstream media presents issues, and how this affects people’s views is an important issue itself. Looking at the institutional and other problems around the mainstream media is also important, therefore. Economics and politics are not separate in their own worlds. Nations are political economies. Power and influence affect decisions and it is this that I am trying to present.
Furthermore, because of the freedoms and wealth in the West, it is assumed that everything that is done by the West must therefore somehow be good and that poverty cannot be because of the west, etc. Even colonial and imperial history sometimes seem glorified, despite the immense destruction it brought upon the world’s majority of people. In fact that period was so profound, the impacts are still being felt today, as I mention throughout the site. (Ironically I did not use to know or care much about these things. Only since reading more about global issues have I begun to realize the enormous global change that European colonialism brought about on the people of the developing world.)
I therefore look more at the policies of the West, and the U.S. in particular, given their claims of spreading human rights, of helping others in the struggle for freedom and so on. Various Western nations and international bodies have said they have tried to help the poor, and yet there is so much poverty and injustice around the world. Of course, it is not only the fault of the West, but to say that this is no fault of the West is also unfair. Yet, this latter aspect is often not discussed openly in mainstream politics.
Much is said in the media about say, economics, or local politics, but little is said about the use and abuse of power at an institutional level and at a global level by one’s own nation or region. (In a way that is understandable—after all who would want to stand up and say,
You know, our policies may have contributed quite a bit to immense poverty, misery, even mass death from hunger and poverty, around the world?) Much has been said and appropriately highlighted of the stereotyping, bias, propaganda and so on in other parts of the world. Yet, all parts of the world, including the West, partake in this. Given the West’s influence around the world is far greater than most other regions, then it stands to reason that there needs to be more examination of both the mainstream portrayal and the actual claims and actions from politicians, media, industry and so forth.
Indeed, during the World Wars, Britain and Germany for example, had enormous propaganda machines. During the Cold War there was also a lot of propaganda from the West as well as from the Soviet Union. But the mainstream, when it comes to policies of state, seem to shy away from looking at these uses and influences of power, and as a result look less at our own side and what our elected leaders are doing, while we thoroughly look at others. Not reporting or covering such aspects can also affect the way opinions are shaped and can unintentionally lead to similar effects that propaganda has (sometimes those effects can be less, sometimes more). A lot more about media, propaganda, influences etc is presented in this web site’s mainstream media18 section.
In addition, because the West provides more rights and standards than perhaps any other region in the world, it is therefore important to keep up the public pressure to ensure those rights and principles are not taken away or compromised.
As a result, while some of the foundations of the West are to be definitely respected and appreciated, such as democracy, various rights, free speech and so on, it is important to see the relationships between the various regions around the world. The West interacts and engages with many other regions around the world, and the effects of this have to be continually looked at and understood. While indeed the West is far better than most (if not all) other regions on these things, they have contributed to both positive and negative aspects (which include lack of democracy and rights) of the conditions of other regions and peoples to varying degrees in other parts of the world. While most will agree to this as being definitely the case during the roughly 500 years or so of imperialism and colonialism, history continues on as a development of prior events. The history of this world has involved power play and politics, resulting in wars, poverty, misery, and so on. Some in the West don’t like to accept criticism of their nation or region as being partly responsible for problems elsewhere. Some go as far as being apologetic or revisionist about the politics or history etc, to the effect of diverting attention to other aspects. For sure, this is not an attribute or characteristic of some people only in the West. Indeed, in every country there will be numbers of people that will play down or deny their nation’s impact on others if criticized in some negative way. Yet, the influence of the West is arguably more global than any other region. Hence while the West has been very good at showing faults of other regions, it stands to reason that aspects of the West should also be understood more so from the effects on others.
The twentieth century has been described by some as the century of war. Indeed, we have seen two of the worst wars in history. As the world becomes increasingly global, so to speak, political influences and power play affects more and more people. While in the past many wars were causing a lot of suffering (which had economics and resources at their roots), today, misery and suffering is resulting through economic policies and other international politics. This has to be addressed as people are dying from decisions made or not made by politicians, economists, scientists, etc. That the poor countries are speaking up in criticism of some of the policies of international institutions, such as the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization, etc, as well as of nations such as the United States, needs to be understood and discussed in the mainstream more. It is not just criticism for the sake of blaming someone else for problems, but the impacts of external factors on a poor nation can be very significant. As the more powerful nations are more able to represent their interests in the international arena, it can positively or negatively affect others, hence criticism of the powerful is important.
As I have mentioned to friends of mine, if tomorrow there is some other region that is the most powerful, influential and wealthy in the world, then they should then be the focus of appropriate criticism.
Are You Muslim?
No. Because my last name is Shah, a few people have asked or assumed this. It is a last name given to my community from an Indian King many years ago for some good deed that one of our ancestors supposedly performed! It has been used as a form of identity for our community since. With others having a similar name, including some Muslim Shah’s, and also notably the Shah of Iran, and with my section on the Middle East, people have asked if I am Muslim, and if that makes me bias towards the heavy criticism of the U.S. and others. I am not really religious as such (my parent’s religion is Jainism, an offshoot of Hinduism, so to speak. Its emphasis is in non-violence, peace etc.) However, I do respect the many faiths and beliefs, and recognize the power they offer to people. One of my concerns with religion has been its
misuse and politicization. It has been used to justify mass murders, ironically in the name of God!
Are you Anup Shah the economist?
No. Apparently there is an Anup Shah from the University of Newcastle (at least at one time), and a professor of economics, or something like that. I am not he, and unfortunately I do not have his contact information or web site details that I could link to for you.
Are you Anup Shah the award-winning photographer?
No. Another person who shares his name with me, is apparently an award-winning photographer from Kenya, I think. I do not know of his contact details, either.
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