Archive for Arabs

To Be or Not To Be

Posted in International Affairs with tags , , , , , on September 1, 2009 by Umer

Italian American Identity: To Be or Not To Be

By Michael Parenti

In the 1950s and early 1960s, it was the accepted view among many social scientists that, as ethnic assimilation advanced, ethnic group identities would fade away. But in fact, ethnicity continued to impact significantly upon political life. Why was that?

Acculturation and Assimilation

In 1967, I published an article in the American Political Science Review arguing that assimilation would not wipe out ethnic politics and ethnic identities in the foreseeable future because assimilation was not happening.

I suggested that we needed to distinguish between culture and social systems. A culture is a system of beliefs, values, images, lifestyles, and customary practices including language, law, arts, and the like. A social system consists of the structured relations and associations among individuals and groups both formal and informal: family, church, school, workplace, and other networks of roles and status. The culture is mediated through the social system or social structure, as it is sometimes called.

To become well practiced to a prevailing culture is to acculturate. To become absorbed into the dominant social structure is to assimilate. Since the beginning of the American nation the Anglo Protestant nativist population has wanted minority ethnic groups to acculturate but not necessarily assimilate. The “late-migration” Southern and Eastern Europeans were expected to discard their alien customs and appearances offensive to American sensibilities. A new verb was invented: they had to “Americanize.”

To make matters worse, these immigrants of the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries settled mostly in the large urban centers of the Northeast and Midwest (where the jobs were), places that small town Protestant America already loathed as squalid and decadent hellholes.

The public schools became special agencies of acculturation to be imposed on the immigrant children. As a child in a classroom full of Italian-American grade-schoolers in New York City, I was treated to patriotic tales about George Washington, Nathan Hale, Paul Revere, and other of our “heroic founders.” We recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” And I recall at least one of my teachers telling us in an annoyed tone: “Tell your parents to speak English at home.”

By the second-generation (children of the immigrants), the ethnics already had undergone a substantial degree of acculturation in language, dress, recreation, entertainment tastes and other lifestyle practices and customs, while interest in old world culture became minimal if not nonexistent.

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Gulf excess and Pakistani slaves

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2009 by Umer

by Rafia Zakaria

“We need slaves to build monuments,” says an Iraqi engineer living in Abu Dhabi to a reporter from the Guardian. In the published report he goes to add that he would never use the metro if it wasn’t segregated since “we would never sit next to Pakistanis and Indians because of their smell”.

The dismal condition of Pakistani labourers in the Gulf States is well known and the above statements are merely reflections of the deep-seeded and overtly racist attitudes of Arabs in the Gulf and otherwise towards Pakistanis.

The same Guardian report also details how Pakistani slave labourers work up to eighteen hours a day and often live twenty to a room without any ventilation and with only a single bathroom for several hundred people. Several do not see their families for four to ten year periods, unable to afford the airfare home and many die on the job.

Without any insurance scheme families are often not notified of deaths for months and the only compensation available to them is through an underground system through which other workers donate thirty dirham each which is then collected and donated. The strictly segregated society means that the rich Arabs never come across the lowly Pakistani workers who build their roads, clean their floors and drive their cars.

But in recent years, the oil-rich barons of the Gulf have found a new use for slave labour that goes beyond cleaning bathrooms and picking trash off the streets of Dubai. A recent statement issued by Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke in Brussels revealed that the Taliban are being funded by individuals from the Gulf States. Secretary Holbrooke said: “The Taliban receive more funding from the Gulf States than they do from the narcotics trade”.

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