Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pakistan beats us at the democracy game

What? No, not now, silly people. Before.

That is, they "beat" us in a very specific category of democracy, though particularly in this case, it was admittedly a somewhat symbolic blow for democracy. The specific, powerful but seemingly more symbolic than substantial event was the 1988 election of Benazir Bhutto.

This is not a recent event, true, but Ms. Bhutto has been on NPR frequently in recent days, speaking of Pakistani politics and Our Favorite US-Backed Military Dictator, Pervez Musharraf. (Ok, I'm lying, he's not our favorite dictator -- we have so many favorites, who can choose?)

The pertinence of this to the J Continuum is its commentary on our ongoing series, countries that already have had elected female heads of state. Sure, the usual suspects have already done it -- Ireland, the UK, Canada with their knees-bent-running-about-enlightenment, but so have, too, some less usual suspects -- for example, Jamaica, Liberia, and Chile. (I'm no doubt missing bunches, so feel free to enlighten me.) It also plays into the J Continuum's semi-ongoing series, Reasons Portraying Islam as a Backwards Religion and Culture is Annoying Bullshit (so called for the first time here). One entry linked to Muslims condemning the violence of their co-religionists*, as is so often asked of them, then ignored, though I think the responsibility of Muslims to deal with their most radical elements worldwide is often somewhat rather overplayed. (In large part because it seems far from clear that the shared belief in Islam is the most important factor in understanding Islamic extremists. Brief argument: Any variable where 99% of the sample -- all other of the billion or so Muslims in the world -- is an exception is a stupid explanatory variable. That is, since 99%+ Muslims are not violent radicals, Islam is a poor variable to explain extremism, which is what is done when people allege Islam is inherently backwards or violent. That's not to say it's irrelevant -- it's just waaaaay overplayed imho.)

BE THAT AS IT MAY (boy did I go on a rip there), here we have a Muslim country, Pakistan, that elected a female head of state, in 1988. There are some caveats -- it was parliamentary elections, so she wasn't elected directly (though it doesn't seem like the country came to a stop with protests against her or anything); her record as PM implies (at least from Wikipedia it does) that she didn't do much to advance women's causes, she may have run a corrupt government, and that she aided the rising Taliban in Afghanistan, despite the fact that they did believe she should, as a woman, most certainly NOT be head of state. So this is somewhat like what Brazilians seem to have found to be my astounding ambivalence about prominent African-American officials like Condi Rice, Clarence Thomas, and Colin Powell. Yay that there's enough equality achieved that they're there (in high appointed offices in those last cases), but it's not as if those three represented the political interests or ideas of the vast majority of other African-Americans. And in any event, for now, the US still has never had a female head of state, and that's just goddamned shameful.

Anyway, I digress, and we may have either our first black or first woman president along here shortly, which would be a breath of fresh air -- though I still have my doubts on Obama, and Hillary... yeah, my vote is not so much. A story for another day, though.

*Sadly, both the links in this post are broken... =[

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