Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Something that needs a name

Beckett, Dante...Bruno, Vico...Joyce:

The danger is in the neatness of identifications. The conception of Philosophy and Philology as a pair of nigger minstrels out of the Teatro dei Piccoli is soothing, like the contemplation of a carefully folded ham-sandwich. Giambattista Vico himself could not resist the attractiveness of such coincidence of gesture. He insisted on complete identification between the philosophical abstraction and the empirical illustration, thereby annulling the absolutism of each conception – hoisting the real unjustifiably clear of its dimensional limits, temporalizing that which is extratemporal. And now here am I, with my handful of abstractions, among which notably: a mountain, a coincidence of contraries, the inevitability of cyclic evolution, a system of Poetics, and the prospect of self-extension in the world of Mr. Joyce’s Work in Progress.

Badiou, The Century:

What is a century? I have in mind Jean Genet’s preface to his place The Blacks. In it, he asks ironically: ‘What is a black man?’ Adding at once; ‘And first of all, what colour is he?’ Likewise, I want to ask: A century, how many years is that? A Hundred? This time, it’s Bosseut’s question that commands put attenion: ‘What are a hundred years, a thousand years, when a single instant effaces them?’

Johann Hari, Blair's foreign policy legacy lies in the Baghdad morgue

As the crowd clapped along to the old back-to-the-nineties tune of 'Things Can Only Get Better' in Trimdon Labour Club, awaiting Tony Blair's swansong, there was a bleaker postscript to the Blair years piling up half a world away.

In Baghdad morgue, these days they separate out the hundreds of Shia bodies and Sunni bodies that are dumped on them every day. It's easy to do: the Shia have been beheaded, while the Sunnis have been tortured to death with power-drills.

I phoned an Iraqi friend in Baghdad whose family was murdered by Saddam. Like me, she supported the war because she thought anything - even an Anglo-American invasion headed by Bush - would be better than Saddam and his sons slaughtering onto the far horizon.

"Oh, is Blair going?" she said acidly. "You know, I'm more worried about the three bodies at the bottom of my street that have been there for a week now. I'm more worried about how I'm going to get through the next day without being killed. I'm really not thinking about Tony Blair. Not ever again."

How did Blair's story end here, with 650,000 dead Iraqis, according to a medical report described by Blair's own scientific advisors as "close to best practice"?

Christopher Hitchens, A War to be Proud Of

LET ME BEGIN WITH A simple sentence that, even as I write it, appears less than Swiftian in the modesty of its proposal: "Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad."

I could undertake to defend that statement against any member of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, and I know in advance that none of them could challenge it, let alone negate it. Before March 2003, Abu Ghraib was an abattoir, a torture chamber, and a concentration camp. Now, and not without reason, it is an international byword for Yankee imperialism and sadism. Yet the improvement is still, unarguably, the difference between night and day. How is it possible that the advocates of a post-Saddam Iraq have been placed on the defensive in this manner?


  1. Hitchens sure knows how to write some kneeslappers. Why hasn't he ever done standup? Is there something in his spoken delivery that leaves an absence that breaks the deal?

  2. Hitchens has done stand-up.