Monday, July 21, 2008

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ayaan Hirsi Ali vs. Avi Lewis

Jumped the Shark?

You tell me.

A bold call to ourselves to organize and discipline the mute, mindless slum-dwellers.

A lament for the dark "irrational" hatred people in Britain feel for the reasonable Tony Blair and the spread of a continental plague of irrational nationalism, conspiracy theory and poll-going to Ireland.

The Irish No is a repetition of the 2005 French and Dutch No to the European Constitution project. Many interpretations have been offered on the Irish vote, some of these even contradictory: it was an explosion of narrow nationalism and of fear of globalization, incarnated in the United States; The United States is behind the No because it fears the competition of a united Europe and it prefers to deal bilaterally with weak partners…However, these ad hoc interpretations do not take into account something more important: this new rejection means that we are not faced with an accident, a simple slip, but with a dissatisfaction at the back, which has been around for years.

Now, three weeks later, we can see where the real problem is: a lot more worrying than the No itself is the reaction of the European political elite. It has learned nothing from the 2005 No, it has discovered nothing. In a meeting of EU leaders held 19th June in Brussels, after mentioning, to keep up appearances, the obligation to ‘respect’ the decisions of the voters, they quickly proceeded to show their true face and talk of the Irish government as though it were a poor primary school teacher who was unable neither to control nor to educate his backward students. They said they would give it another chance: four more months so that it would correct its error and bring the voters back into line.

The Irish voters had not been presented with a symmetrical choice, because the very terms of the referendum gave preference to a Yes. The authorities proposed to the people an option which, in practice, was nothing of the sort, since it consisted of ratifying the inevitable, which was the result of enlightened experience. The media and the political elite portrayed the referendum as a choice between knowledge and ignorance, between experience and ideology, between post-political administration and old political passions. However, the very fact that there was no alternative and coherent political vision that could serve as a basis for the No vote constitutes the greatest possible damnation for the political and media elite: proof of their inability to express, to translate into a political vision, the yearnings and dissatisfactions of the population.

In other words, this referendum had something rather peculiar: its result was simultaneously the expected one and a surprise, as though one knows what’s going to happen but, somehow, can’t believe that it’s happening. This discrepancy reflects far more dangerous division among the voters: the majority (of the minority who bothered going out to vote) went against the treaty despite the fact that all the parliamentary parties (with the exception of Sinn Fein) were decidedly in favour.

The same is happening in other countries, like in the neighbouring UK, where, just before winning the last election, Tony Blair was chosen by a large majority as the most hated man in the country. This divergence between the explicit political choice that the voter makes and his intimate dissatisfaction ought to sound the alarm bells: it means that party democracy is unable to capture the mood of the people, the fact that a vague resentment is building up which, without due democratic expression, can only flow out in dark “irrational” bursts. When referendums transmit a message that directly contradict the message of the elections, we are dealing with a divided voter, who, for example knows very well (so he thinks) that Tony Blair’s policies are the only reasonable ones but, even so...(he can’t abide him).

Like Baurdillard, the Zizz scolds the "political class and media" for blowing the referendum by presenting Yes as obviously the only rational choice and the process a mere formality when in his view it is obviously the only rational choice and the process a mere formality, thus the refusal of the voters can only be diagnosed. Again we are reminded the French riots of 2005 were spontaneous bursts of mindless phatic attention-seeking without cause or demands. The Zizz goes a little further than usual in insinuation, constructing us and our enemy, the danger to us, with broad strokes:

In the seventies, Zizz explains, the "left" turned to: a) "extreme forms of sexual enjoyment" b) "Oriental mysticism" and c) "terrorism".

And so it remains. But moreso.

Extreme sexuality. Oriental mysticism. Terrorism.

We face an enemy that is: Extremist, Sexually deviant, Oriental, Terrorist.

The protagonists of this "brutal push-toward-the-Real" today are to be found in the suburbs of Paris, the "ghettos of Chicago", the favelas of the South: "Whoever lives in the favelas — or shanty towns — of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, or in Shanghai, China, is not essentially different from someone who lives in the banlieues — or outskirts — of Paris or the ghettos of Chicago."

Those people, prone to "explosions of (self) destructive violence", are, however, a minority, a problem for the comfortable and decent majority to confront as best suits us. We. The majority. Civil Society. "But today, the majority is Fukuyamaist. Liberal-democratic capitalism is accepted as the finally found formula for the best of all possible worlds, all that is left to do is render it more just, tolerant, etc." For Zizz evidently, that's not quite enough, as we the majority, we bourgeois Europeans and Americans Fukuyamists who love capitalism who are the majority of the planet's population, remain threatened by those stragglers, outliers in outskirts, the minority, Excluded, "whoever lives in the favelas, shanty towns...banlieues...or ghettos." If it were not for them, this world would be heaven: "without the antagonism between the Included and the Excluded, we may well find ourselves in a world in which Bill Gates is the greatest humanitarian fighting poverty and diseases, and NewCorp’s Rupert Murdoch the greatest environmentalist mobilizing hundreds of millions through his media empire." A thing that "seems impossible" for "liberal tolerance" must be undertaken. These slum-dwellers must be "politicized - organized and disciplined." We the majority of the 21st century have been ordained by history to undertake that seemingly impossible, bold, necessary task of disciplining.

We, the majority, who live in the historic centres of the capital cities, not the suburbs, we the majority, Bill Gates, Francis Fukuyama, Rupert, Ben, Jerry, Zizz and You.

let no one call them incompetent

The Bush expansion may have featured sluggish wage growth, sluggish GDP growth, sluggish investment growth, and sluggish employment growth, but it also featured a terrific, tax-cut driven surge in corporate profit growth!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tortured Like Me

The John Howard Griffin law of journalism: it hasn't happened until it happens to a white man.

"Wow. I owe Graydon lunch."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008