Oh, The Pride!

Bong, bong, bong, bong, bong!

Yes, today is a wonderful today for bong pride, because Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, a founder of modern microcredit banking, has won half of the Nobel Peace Prize (hat tip to Naeem of shobak). The other half goes to the Grameen Bank, so note that all the women who participated in the institution are, appropriately, being recognized here.

Here's how the Grameen Bank got started according to wikipedia:

[Yunus's] first loan consisted of $27 from his own pocket, which he lent to women in the village of Jobra — near Chittagong University — who made bamboo furniture. They sold these items back to moneylenders to repay usurious loans that they had take out to buy the bamboo. With a net profit of 5 Bangladeshi taka (.02 USD), the women were unable to support themselves or their families. However, traditional banks were not interested in making tiny loans to poor people, who were considered poor repayment risks.

Microcredit has taken a varied path over the years and as it has been embraced by powerful economists like Jeffrey Sachs, it has lost some of its luster for me. Seems weird to take a situationally appropriate solution and cross apply it everywhere; more pertinently, seems suspicious that the entire elite has embraced this solution that seems to reinforce the idea that a little bit of money is all everybody needs.

Not that, um, being turned down for a job by a microcredit institution in Harlem affected my feelings toward microcredit or anything :) In any case, minor quibbling aside--and it is minor--the original work of the Grameen Bank still seems pretty amazing to me--my focus here is not on finance microcapital but on bong, bong, bong, bong, bong! As Naeem notes:

Ironically, I was up at this ungodly hour because I had been writing a polemic to a Dhaka paper about the need for positive role models for Bangladesh.

One portion of that text read:

"I am wary of excessive nationalism because it can lead to chauvinism and exclusion. But at the current crisis crossroads, we could do with an injection of optimism and inspiration from unconventional locations. Media profiles do not have to focus only on middle class professionals, or the sons and daughters of "established" people (the latter would re-inscribe hierarchies and local elites). There are many other stories to track down. We can also attempt, emotionally and politically, to embrace a pan-Bangali identity and take the success stories of West Bengalis as part of our mosaic...

Hear, hear. As a descendent of West Bengalis, I would say that the converse of the last statement is true as well--that West Bengalis should be embracing a pan-Bangali identity as part of our heritage. Unfortunately, at least here in New York, it really doesn't happen. The old-school West Bengalis have taken to the suburbs and professional jobs, while the much more numerous Bangladeshis have taken to Dunkin Donuts; begin class conflict.

And, of course, the national borders that were created are only one way in which people are different from each other. There are standing regional, religious, and national divisions among bongs that are there to be exacerbated, exploited, etc., by the powers that be (more on this later). Many of these differences within the bong community get frequently obscured; just ask a Syllheti person about the latter. Or, for that matter, since this is a more general problem, an intelligent Sri Lankan or desi queer about pan-South Asian identity in the U.S. :)

But I digress. Perhaps there is note for optimism about intrabong relations here; if there's one thing a good upper class U.S. West Bengali loves, it's a success story to claim. There will be consequences, particularly for those of you who are oh-so-pitiable upper middle class U.S. bong children--and indeed, desi children--like I was. You will be subjected to yet more model minority expectations through comparison to Yunus (but, notably, mostly likely not to the women who made the Grameen bank possible and effective and who also partake in this prize).

Beyond that, though, I ask you whether or not this added torture is not worth it. On the one hand, it will undoubtedly be painful for it to be subtly or more likely not so subtly suggested that you're not good enough because you're not about to win a Nobel Prize. On the other hand, if it wasn't Yunus, it would have been your aunty's older son or your uncle Pintu :) Is it not grand, in recompense for your miseries, that a member of your imagined community and the countless Bangladesi women who made the Grameen Bank work have been internationally recognized in the highest of all possible ways? Think of it as your small contribution to social justice ;)

On a final note, we must tell the doubters of the centuries where to get off:

18th Century Clive:

Those who participated in the Grameen bank were not languid, and their favorite pursuit was not sedentary. They did not shrink from bodily exertion, and they engaged in an enterprise far more worthy than personal conflict and soldiering. Perhaps this will teach you--and your intellectual descendents--that no people are thoroughly fitted by nature and by habit for a foreign yoke.

19th Century Macaulay:

When we pass from works of warfare and imperialism to works in which facts are recorded and acted upon, and general principles investigated and particularlities addressed, perhaps the superiority of the Europeans was not only measurable, but significantly exaggerated. Maybe some of the knowledge accumulated from the Grameen Bank can make their way into some of the textbooks of the English preparatory schools ;)

20th Century Kissinger and his State Department

Your country has taken nearly complete world support and turned it into a debacle involving several hundred thousands deaths and the destablization of the area from which you get your most precious economic resource.

Who, exactly, is the basket case now?

But enough haterade for now--this is a joyous day for bongs so let us not sully it with too much "I told you so." For the love of all that is holy --whether Ma Durga or Allah or Marx--rejoice!

Shubho bongodin! Bongodin mubarak! Bongs of the world, you have nothing to lose but your chains!

Bong, bong, bong bong bong!

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Comments

Saurav, My name is Dan Croak

Saurav,

My name is Dan Croak and I'm the publisher of an online newspaper that is slated to launch on October 31. I'm looking for a talented writer to submit a detailed article on microloans, Muhammad Yunus, and Grameen Bank for the first issue. Would you be willing to polish this blog post for submission to National Gazette?

You can register for an account and submit this article (or others!) at the beta site:

http://dev.nationalgazette.org/

Shot Saurav! :) Microlending

Shot Saurav!

:)

Microlending is sexy. Go the Bong pride :)

Saurav, Wonderful post,

Saurav,

Wonderful post, jaanam! Nationalism, money, class, and a bit of regionalism, and bongo– I mean, BINGO :) ! You’ve got the essential ingredients for an insightful and great analysis :)

The other half goes to the Grameen Bank, so note that all the women who participated in the institution are, appropriately, being recognized here.

Hear hear!

I am wary of excessive nationalism because it can lead to chauvinism and exclusion. But at the current crisis crossroads, we could do with an injection of optimism and inspiration from unconventional locations. Media profiles do not have to focus only on middle class professionals, or the sons and daughters of “established” people (the latter would re-inscribe hierarchies and local elites). There are many other stories to track down. We can also attempt, emotionally and politically, to embrace a pan-Bangali identity and take the success stories of West Bengalis as part of our mosaic

Two things in this passage that I really like. First, I have the same sentiments towards nationalism: on the one hand, I cringe from it. On the other hand, it can be a positive and powerful vehicle. Secondly, this pan-Bangali identity is lovely. I’d take it a step further and push for a pan subcontinental identity. I know, I know, some say that it is a fabrication of the diaspora; or other posit that in the Desh(es), it is either not genuine or feasible:

Or, for that matter, since this is a more general problem, an intelligent Sri Lankan or desi queer about pan-South Asian identity in the U.S.

But it can be done, and it can be a positive thing. Just like a pan Bangali identity, we can extend that to pan Indian identities. Take it a step higher, and we’ve got a pan South Asia identity.

There are standing regional, religious, and national divisions among bongs that are there to be exacerbated, exploited, etc., by the powers that be (more on this later). Many of these differences within the bong community get frequently obscured;

And this can be applied to all the various Desi groups both internally and externally :)

Just like a pan Bangali

Just like a pan Bangali identity, we can extend that to pan Indian identities. Take it a step higher, and we’ve got a pan South Asia identity.

Lest someone misinterprets this comment as being Indo-centric whereby the focal point is India (ie, why go from regional to Indian specifically, to then South Asian?), I said India because the object of discussion in this post is West Bengali and Bangladeshi solidarity, and in reference to West Bengalis, I mentioned India.

Interview with Yunus

Thanks, DI!

Thanks, DI!

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