Monday, July 25, 2005

The Wages of Fighting a War on “Evil”

I wanted to go with something more contemplative, because, fuck it, it’s Monday morning, and I’m tired and was sick all day long yesterday. My vitriol is all used up and blown away, at least for this morning, so I thought I’d offer something from Counterpunch. Having studied the British Imperialist era at some length, I’m interested in what this article is saying about the politics of Imperialism and “orientalism” that seem to be making a comeback, that we see ourselves as some sort of cultural crusaders bringing the light of “reason and democracy” to the benighted masses.

It also examines what goes on in the mind of someone who turns into a suicide bomber, how the dichotomy between the culture they were raised in and the culture they live in can rip them apart. It pretty much makes sense.

Here’s a sample of “‘Something Happened Between "I Love You" and the Click of the Phone,’” By Robert Fisk. I highly recommend going to Counterpunch to read the entire article.

That fine French historian of the 1914-18 world conflict, Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, suggested not long ago that the West was the inheritor of a type of warfare of very great violence. "Then, after 1945," he wrote, "... the West externalised it, in Korea, in Algeria, in Vietnam, in Iraq... we stopped thinking about the experience of war and we do not understand its return (to us) in different forms like that of terrorism... We do not want to admit that there is now occurring a different type of confrontation..."

He might have added that politicians - and here I'm referring to Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara - would deliberately refuse to acknowledge this. We are fighting evil. Nothing to do with the occupation of Palestinian land, the occupation of Afghanistan, the occupation of Iraq, the torture at Abu Ghraib and Bagram and Guantanamo. Oh no, indeed. "An evil ideology", a nebulous, unspecified, dark force. That's the problem.

There are two things wrong with this. The first is that once you start talking about "evil", you are talking about religion. Good and evil, God and the Devil. The London suicide bombers were Muslims (or thought they were) so the entire Muslim community in Britain must stand to attention and - as Muslims - condemn them. We "Christians" were not required to do that because we are not Muslims - nor were we required as "Christians" to condemn the Christian Serb slaughter of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica just over 10 years ago. All we had to do was say sorry for doing nothing at the time. But Muslims, because they are Muslims, must ritually condemn something they had nothing to do with.

But that, I suspect, is the point. Deep down, I wonder if we do not think that their religion does have something to do with all this, that Islam is a backward religion, un-renaissanced, potentially violent. It's not true, but our heritage of orientalism suggests otherwise.

It's weird the way we both despise and envy the "other". Many of those early orientalists showed both disgust and fascination with the East. They loathed the punishments and the pashas, but they rather liked the women; they were obsessed with harems. Westerners found the idea of having more than one wife quite appealing. Similarly, I rather think there are aspects of our Western "decadence" which are of interest to Muslims, even if they ritually condemn them.

On a side note, I’m going to do something rare, and plug a CD. I happened to chance by a Best Buy this weekend looking for copies of Hootie and the Blowfish CDs for tonight’s concert at Wolftrap (the wife is getting to meet the band, that’s an entirely different story altogether, however). And no, I am not plugging any Hootie CDs. I’m not even a fan. What I am plugging is Mike Doughty’s Skittish/Rockity Roll, which I happened upon while I was in the shop. I was always a big Soul Coughing fan, and while this sounds much different than his work with Soul Coughing, it’s definitely worthwhile as a standalone CD set. The first disc, which he recorded while he was with Soul Coughing and didn’t fit in with the sound of the band, is a mostly acoustic piece, and sets the stage well for Rockity Roll, which mixes the acoustic sound with electronica. I’m doing a terrible job describing the CD, so just go to Amazon and check out a few tracks, it’ll definitely be worth your time.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:55 AM