By Shiraz Paracha
Five years ago, when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in the United States, the rich and affluent people of the city escaped in big cars, leaving behind hundreds and thousands of mostly poor African-Americans to drown and die.
A month later, when a massive earthquake hit Pakistan, hundreds and thousands of rich and affluent, with tons of food and aid, rushed to help the poor in the worst affected areas of Pakistan.
The American society is promoted as a glorifying model of happiness and development, while Pakistanis are perceived as 'twisted terrorists' in some Western countries, courtesy of the Western media.
It would be interesting to examine how nations and countries are evaluated and why a few countries are 'civilised' whereas the majority of nations are just bunch of 'barbarians.'
Nonetheless, if there was an international scale where responses of the Pakistanis and the US societies, to the two natural disasters, could be compared, the Pakistani society would be on the top and the US would be at the bottom of that list.
New Orleans, where 67 percent of the population is African-American, is one of the poorest cities in the US. More than 34 percent of the households in the county of Orleans live below the federal poverty line. Kashmir and the northern areas of Pakistan, devastated by the earthquake, similarly are among the poorest parts of the country. The accessibility to those areas was a serious problem due to mountainous terrain and poor communication infrastructures, but within hours following the tragedy, thousands from across Pakistan travelled to the earthquake-affected areas to provide aid.
Most of the Pakistanis who waited in queues to offer help were fasting as it was the holy month of Ramazan. Victims of hurricane Katrina, on the other hand, were deserted by their fellow citizens and the US government. Help arrived in New Orleans but very late.
The US response to the September 2005 hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and the Pakistani response to the October 2005 earthquake were in stark contrast to each other. The Pakistani society came across as humane and affectionate, while hurricane Katrina exposed the cold and cruel side of the US society. The two natural calamities also revealed that Pakistanis are sincere, warm and friendly, but many White Americans in New Orleans proved that they were cowards, selfish and greedy.
Of course, it will not be fair to make sweeping judgements about societies in such a manner. The American society has many positive traits that the Pakistani society lacks; however, since 1945, rich countries and some powerful organisations have been branding poor countries and their populations as inferior and incompetent.
The 'Cold War' was a propaganda war in which the media, think tanks and pressure groups were used as tools to demonise opponents. The Cold War ended in the 1990s but the propaganda war is still going on. The Western governments have found new enemies to keep the public busy.
The 21st century began with terms like 'axis of evil', 'sponsors of terrorism' and 'most wanted'. The new propaganda dictionary also includes labels such as corrupt, autocratic and undemocratic regimes. Developing countries, their leaders and even the whole societies are guilty of crimes that are usually invented by some 'genius Western minds.'
Now, mostly, NATO or the UN Security Council decides about the fate of a country. The IMF and the World Bank determine if a country is 'good and responsible.'
Organisations such as the Freedom House and Reporters without Borders give verdict if a country is free and democratic, whereas pressure groups such as Amnesty International and Transparency International can brand a country 'repressive' or 'corrupt,' respectively.
A simple analysis of the composition and the track record of the so-called international forums, NGOs and pressure groups will reveal a disturbing pattern and vivid agenda that is heavily biased against the poor. Most of these organisations are Western-based and Western-dominated. Some of them believe in the supremacy of the White West and in the finality of the Western-values and system. Therefore, they consider it their moral duty to set parameters for the non-Western world and judge other people and cultures.
NATO and the UN Security Council have been acting as the world's police. Both undemocratic forums are controlled by bullies of the world and have been used to pursue unfair policies and agendas.
The UN Security Council decides which country or organisation is 'terrorist' or 'sponsor of terrorism'. It punishes a country by imposing sanctions on that state. In the 1990s, millions of Iraqi children died because of the decade-long UN Security Council sanctions against the country.
The UN also has other watchdogs, which actually are pet dogs. The International Atomic Energy Commission is one of them.
NATO goes a step further than the Security Council. It bombs and destroys countries. In the 1990s, it destroyed Yugoslavia and now it is occupying Afghanistan where every day NATO forces murder Afghans in cities and villages across the country.
The World Bank and the IMF were created by the victors of World War II to control and dominate the international financial system. Ever since their creation, both are sucking blood from the poor.
Freedom House is a US organisation promoting freedom and democracy in the world. But actually it aims at introducing the American brand of democracy and freedom. Nearly 70 percent of its funding comes from the US government and the rest from other sympathisers of its causes. Freedom House, which releases the annual 'Freedom of the Press Survey' in which the level of freedom is evaluated in different countries around the world, has been accused of using its annual assessments as tools of political pressure against countries that are less friendly to the United States. Usually, the US and Western Europe receive the highest ranking and the rest of the world is lambasted in Freedom House reports. The organisation also funds projects and programmes that often aim at 'transforming' and 'changing' non-Western societies.
Reporters without Borders is another self-proclaimed defender of press freedoms around the world. Its so-called 'World Press Freedom Index' every year blames mostly developing countries as well as Russia and China for press freedom violations. In the past, Reporters Without Borders has been criticised for its links with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and also of receiving money from different US government sources.
Reports released by the Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders can be misleading and biased.
Amnesty International, another brand name in the Western political agenda, has been in action since 1961. As a human rights watchdog, it should not be taking sides and should defend the rights of all human beings, without fear or favour and should be detached from the perspective of any individual or social group. But some critics say that Amnesty has a mission. It wants political authority rather than moral authority. Amnesty has been accused of defending the British and US interests, as it usually attacks the 'enemies' of Britain and America. Nearly 20 percent of Amnesty International funding comes from the United States.
Amnesty International was also involved in a disinformation propaganda campaign against the Iraqi government during the first Gulf war in 1991, where it made false and fabricated claims about Iraqi soldiers. In the Balkan wars, as well, the organisation was accused of misleading the public when it allegedly used concocted stories of rape and torture.
Amnesty and its sister organisation, Human Rights Watch, mildly criticised Israel but even that was not tolerated by the Western media and commentators. The US media and think tanks attacked Human Rights Watch when the organisation blamed Israel for using excessive air power in the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The United Nations uses its own measures to bring a verdict against certain countries. The Human Development Index (HDI) is one of those scales.
Most tools and measures used for judging different countries and cultures have been developed by the Western countries or individuals working for Western-controlled organisations. Consequently, there is one 'right' perspective. In fact, the majority of the so-called international bodies, NGOs, charities and pressure groups work in a class- and race-based system. Most of these organisations and institutions protect a system that aims to maintain the domination of the White Western civilisation. Can such an unfair and unjust system sustain? One can only hope that in the 21st century change will occur and an alternative and less hypocritical political, economic and value system would emerge in our children and grand children's world.
Shiraz paracha is a journalist and analyst. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org