Sunday, September 11, 2005
September 11 and the imaginary thresholds
What is bad about all terror is when it is attached to religious and political abstractions and reductive myths that keep veering away from history and sense. This is where the secular consciousness has to try to make itself felt, whether in the US or in the Middle East. No cause, no God, no abstract idea can justify the mass slaughter of innocents, most particularly when only a small group of people are in charge of such actions and feel themselves to represent the cause without having a real mandate to do so.
Besides, much as it has been quarrelled over by Muslims, there isn't a single Islam: there are Islams, just as there are Americas. This diversity is true of all traditions, religions or nations even though some of their adherents have futiley tried to draw boundaries around themselves and pin their creeds down neatly. Yet history is far more complex and contradictory than to be represented by demagogues who are much less representative than either their followers or opponents claim. The trouble with religious or moral fundamentalists is that today their primitive ideas of revolution and resistance, including a willingness to kill and be killed, seem all too easily attached to technological sophistication and what appear to be gratifying acts of horrifying retaliation. The New York and Washington suicide bombers seem to have been middle-class, educated men, not poor refugees. Instead of getting a wise leadership that stresses education, mass mobilisation and patient organisation in the service of a cause, the poor and the desperate are often conned into the magical thinking and quick bloody solutions that such appalling models pro vide, wrapped in lying religious claptrap.
On the other hand, immense military and economic power are no guarantee of wisdom or moral vision. Sceptical and humane voices have been largely unheard in the present crisis, as 'America' girds itself for a long war to be fought somewhere out there, along with allies who have been pressed into service on very uncertain grounds and for imprecise ends. We need to step back from the imaginary thresholds that separate people from each other and re-examine the labels, reconsider the limited resources available, decide to share our fates with each other as cultures mostly have done, despite the bellicose cries and creeds.
'Islam' and 'the West' are simply inadequate as banners to follow blindly. Some will run behind them, but for future generations to condemn themselves to prolonged war and suffering without so much as a critical pause, without looking at interdependent histories of injustice and oppression, without trying for common emancipation and mutual enlightenment seems far more wilful than necessary. Demonisation of the Other is not a sufficient basis for any kind of decent politics, certainly not now when the roots of terror in injustice can be addressed, and the terrorists isolated, deterred or put out of business. It takes patience and education, but is more worth the investment than still greater levels of large-scale violence and suffering.
We miss Edward Said so much.
He is irreplacable.
PS. Keep up this great blog
Don't know about who Bitar is, but obviously a guy selling his linked editorial from a review having to do with the infamous french ENA (of Chirac, Villepin, Jospin and all the fearless "leaders" of France, left to right, if there is a difference).
The French should thank the ENA for the wonderful mess it made of French politics and bureaucracy, as much as Arab intellectuals should thank Edward-the- poseur-Said for the heights of modern arab "scholarship".
I'll leave it to others to debate the merits of Said "scolarship" (for the umpteenth time). I'll only note his ideas helped improve no one's life in the Middle East.
Edward Said was an honest and decent man.
A gunsliger like you has not earned the right to criticize him.
We have all benifited from his legacy.
But stop lecturing me (and others), I know my rights.
PS. Eddie boy may have been a decent guy, but so is the grocer down the street from you. Go read his essays.
His greatness was recognized by academia, the media and his enemies.
It is a discredit to you to belittle him.
I have read almost all of his essays and have met him twice. He puts Charles Malik to shame when it comes to intellect and honesty.
Now if you have something to say in relation to the ideas expressed in this particular post, please do so. Otherwise, I suggest you spit your worthless gob elsewhere.
Pure Mathematics is the mathematics which underlies all applications. Said's genius was that he was able to look at the problems of Palestine and envision a one state solution that would satisfy the aspirations and rights of both peoples.
there isn't a single Islam: there are Islams, just as there are Americas
Yet history is far more complex and contradictory than to be represented by demagogues
On the other hand, immense military and economic power are no guarantee of wisdom or moral vision.
Demonisation of the Other is not a sufficient basis for any kind of decent politics,
I see nothing deep or new or enlightening here, beyond vague generalities bordering on New Age stuff.
In my view Said main PRACTICAL contribution has been a negative one. He gave you guys the "orientalist" epithet to hurl at anyone who disagrees with you/him (and/or is not from the region).
He gave PC cover to the failed ideas of yesteryear which are alive and well as seen on this blog and others. Yes he was at times critical of Arab leaders, but it was too late, too little and in trivial contexts.
Kais tells me:
It is your choice to look up to killers
Where do you get that? Relax Kais it's just a pic and a movie.
Finally you all are in awe of his great contribution. What is it? Issam says one-state solution to the Palestine issue. Come on, Said did not invent that, and even if he did so what?
PS. Being highly regarded in the French, English and Gender studies halls of academe ain't exactly the pinnacle, but must have meant a lot to the Palestinian guy in Ein Helwe awaiting a solution to his refugee status.