Sunday, July 18, 2010


I just watched Julia Gillard in my hotel room in Paris. It's not just that I think that this population stuff is just wrong, simplistic and politically objectionable but I actually find Julia genuinely dislikeable. Particularly so in my Paris hotel. I keep containing myself not wanting to say anything too intensely negative about Gillard thinking that it is always possible that residual sexism is the source of the intensity of my feelings.
One has to be conscious and reflexive and self-critical about this. Look at so many critics of Obama who supposedly are engaging in very rational criticism of him and you cannot fail but see that their is racism, if not motivating the critique, at least giving it that extra little intensity.
So, I watch Julia and I try to contain myself. but this time I couldn't. No fucking way mate.
I think a woman PM is a good thing. I can appreciate the fact that my daughters look and see that there is a woman who is a PM and it broadens the horizon of the possible for them. In that sense any woman PM is good for women. But there is also a kind of political fetishism at work. Marx called commodity fetishism the process whereby among other things the consumer sees the commodity and thinks that it has hopped on a vitrine witout there being a labour process that has brought it about. As if its value is independent of the process of making it.
Likewise, political fetishism would be to fall into the trap of thinking that the value of a politician merely depends on their relation to other politicians without looking at the labour and the processes that have gone into making them as politicians. If we abandon this fetishistic position, a woman prime minister who has been brought in by a party machine is not the same as a woman prime minister who has been brought in directly by a popular struggle by women, for instance. And I am aware that it can be said that without popular struggle by women the party machine would not have got to the point where it can choose a woman. But I still think that it is not the same. I can't see Gillard and her sickeningly polished performances in abstraction from the very direct ugly, instrumental and inhumane, material process that has made her an electable prime minister.
Perhaps it's not just her and I've had it with professional politicians. The more professional they become the more I hate them and that's what it is: she is just too bloody smooth and good and slippery and shiny. Politicians like this appear before us on the screen and I feel that they are like Harry Potters' dementors. They suck the life out of our culture and society rather than breathe life into it. they are a depressive weight rather than an uplifting force. Maybe I should start a Society for the deprofessionalisation of politics.
and so, with these critical reflections behind me, I am going to allow myself to say, that yes, I saw Julia Gillard on TV in Paris and I said to myself: NO FUCKING WAY mate!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Colonial Necrophilia

I've often written about this pathology that I've called 'colonial necrophilia'.
It involves loving people after you have killed them socially and politically. In Australia the love of Indigenous art, spirituality, etc. is a good example.
For most often than not, colonial necrophilia is a kind of post-genocidal love.
In New Zealand, where the Maoris have not been compeletely 'pacified', it would be interesting to do a market analysis: I am willing to bet that it will show a simple correlation whereby the love of Maori art goes up and down according to how agro the Maoris are projected to be towards the Pakeha at any given moment.
This is why I think that there is a form of colonial ressentiment that emerges when a colonised people or people who are subjected to a process of colonisation simply refuse to 'die'. You feel the colonisers telling them in a frustrated way: why all the hatred, why don't you just die so that I can love you.
This necrophilic desire, can be seen anywhere in the world, but it is particularly rampant in the West these days as those westerners who are still articulared to a colonial imaginary and who look at the world with colonial eyes, feel increasingly insecure about 'their' power of to affect things in the world. They have a brittle 'sense of power'(Nietzsche).
In the Middle East, this necrophilic desire is behind the inability of most Israelis and Westerners to cope with anyone even mildly opposed to their colonial politics there. Please die they tell anyone opposing them. Die so that love and peace can reign supreme.
Even though, I am being a bit crude here, but it is still more likely to be true than not that whenever and wherever you see a 'successful' and 'highly appreciated' Arab leader in the west you can be sure that he is a colonial arse licker. And you have to be pretty 'dead' to be a colonial arse licker!
Conversely, As soon as anyone shows that they are not compliant and are capable of showing traces of 'life' they become the 'devil' or as is more common to call devils these days, they become 'terrorists'. and they work in dark magical ways such as the very mention of their name ought to be avoided. You don't have to be an anthropologist to know about the powers of mentioning names, you only have to have read Harry Potter and remember 'you know who'.

I am thinking about this in relation to the sacking yesterday of Octavia Nasr from CNN in the US, for tweeting the following horror: 'Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Muhammad Hassein Fadlallah... one of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot'.

Fadlallah was the spiritual leader of the Shi'a community in Lebanon. Octavia Nasr is actually wrong to see him as a 'Hezbollah' giant as he was not affiliated with them and has been critical on many occasions of some of the Iranian influence among them.

But that is not the point. The point is that Fadlallah IS a giant as far as clerics go. I mean, I am an atheist, and I don't like the fact that the Shi'as' political culture is so imbued with religious symblism, but I can still recognise that, given that this is how it is, Fadlallah managed to be an important progressive anti-fanatical voice.

But this is not only something that the US government and many Americans dont agree with, which is fair enough, but they feel so strongly about the guy that you are not allowed to mention his name let alone say something positive about him. Why? because apparently he is a 'terrorist'. So admiring him as a reformer is a threat to the security of the United States of American. It is also a biased and an unbalanced point of view which requires your sacking if you hold a media position. If Ariel Sharon dies (has he died or is he still alive?) would a journalist get the sack for tweeting that an Israeli giant has died? of course not. The guy is only a mass-murderer unlike Fadlallah who has done much worse.

Why is Fadlallah considered a terrorist in the US? because he is seen to be behind the bombing of the American soldiers who landed in Lebanon in the middle of the civil war twenty five years ago or so, to help 'pacify' the place. I don't know if Fadlallah was behind this but the idea that you become a terrorist, and someone who should not be spoken about in positive terms no matter what, if you attack American soldiers who come and land in your country and try to tilt the balance of power against you is nothing but a necrophilic joke.
The Americans and the Israelis are such bad losers they just can't cope with the idea that someone succeeds in giving their military, a military drubbing, in what is a military confrontation. They become seriously full of necrophilic venom and resentment for anyone who is imagined to be successful in this way. This is what is behind this stupid sacking of Octavia Nasr, a christian Lebanese who dared say that the terrorist Fadlallah is a 'giant'.
This also raises an issue which is really important to think about. How can the US, Australia or any other western countries expect to reconcile the fact that they consider a devil someone who is considered a saint by thousands of Shi'a immigrants and even non-immigrants living within their borders. Almost all those Shi'a will feel that Fadlallah is a highly ethical man. How can you expect people to 'blend' and integrate in countries that treat your heroes as devils. This is a genuinely important question that cannot be easily answered? unless you are one of those seriously mentally distrubed people who think that this makes all Shi'a in the west enemies and mass deportation is the only answer. Paradoxically, events such as this sacking, makes this mad option look like a common sense option.

Monday, July 5, 2010

final version of that poem

There was and there was not

I don’t write poems
but, in any case,
poems are not poems.

Long ago, I was made to understand that Palestine was not Palestine.
I was also informed that Palestinians were not Palestinians.
They also explained to me that ethnic cleansing was not ethnic cleansing,
and that land theft was not land theft.

When naive old me saw freedom fighters, they patiently showed me
that they were not freedom fighters,
and that resistance was not resistance.

And when, stupidly, I noticed arrogance, oppression and humiliation
they benevolently enlightened me so I could see that arrogance
was not arrogance,
oppression was not oppression,
and humiliation was not humiliation.

I saw misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp.
But they told me that they were experts in misery, racism, inhumanity
and concentration camps and that I have to take their word for it:
this was not misery,
not racism,
not inhumanity, and,
not a concentration camp.

Over the years they’ve taught me so many things:
invasion was not invasion,
occupation was not occupation,
colonialism was not colonialism, and,
apartheid was not apartheid.

They opened my simple mind to even more complex truths
that my poor brain could not on its own compute:
Having nuclear weapons was not having nuclear weapons;
Not having weapons of mass destruction was having weapons of mass destruction.
And, a democratic election (in the Gaza Strip) was not a democratic election.
Having second-class citizens (in Israel) was democratic.

So you’ll excuse me if I am not surprised to learn today that there are
more things that I thought were evident that are not.
Peace activists are not peace activists,
piracy is not piracy,
and the massacre of unarmed people is not the massacre of unarmed people.

I have such a limited brain and my ignorance is unlimited.
And they’re so fucking intelligent. Really.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Has just come out of ’12 Angry Lebanese’. An unbelievably powerful film documenting the way a Lebanese female comedian and drama therapist succeeded in getting together a group of hardened male prisoners made out of murderers, rapists and drug dealers, and successfully worked with them for more than a year on staging the play ’12 Angry Men’.
Feminism is about many things. It is about undermining patriarchal relations of power and empowering women of course. But it can also be about getting men to critically reflect and transform their masculinity, not necessarily to become non-masculine, though that is an option, but at least to reach a masculinity that is not enmeshed in patriarchal relations of domination. In that last sense, '12 Angry Lebanese' is an incredible feminist achievement.
Even when marginalised and devalorised as criminals, many male prisoners, and in most societies, are often perceived and idealised as the embodiment of an untamed masculinity. In this idealisation crime is perceived as letting one’s masculinity do the talking whether in the form of physical or social or sexual male self-assertion. The film’s prisoners are representative of a common working-class form of Lebanese hyper-masculinity. In the interviews that run throughout the film, the prisoners in fact describe to us some of the key features of this masculinity and particularly, its virulent narcissism, in very vivid terms.
But as they become involved in the play, the hyper masculinity of the prisoners starts unravelling and they begin confronting it as part of what has led them to crime. The result is tragic all the more so as it is happening in front us on camera. By tragic I don’t mean sad as much as what Pierre Vidal-Naquet defines as proper to tragedy as a form. I don’t remember where or exactly what he says. But he defines tragic action as an action that manages to hybridise rational reflection on oneself and one's aims while at the same time knowingly risking oneself by entering the unknown that constantly escapes us. Through their active participation in the play the prisoners were definitely making certain choices involving a rational comfrontation with their own hyper masculinity. But at the same time the confrontation was also very clearly taking them into uncharted territories in which we can see them coming face to face with the unknown: something that is shown to be both frightening and exhilirating at the same time.
I think the film was also feminist in a powerfully non-universalist sense: it not only captures the cultural specificities of this masculinity but it was also attuned to a culturally specific way of speaking to it critically without making the prisoners experience their de-masculinisation as dis-empowerment and de-phallicisation. Indeed the opposite is true. We can see them experience their de-masculinisation as liberation: A truly remarkable achievement.
I hope that the film is given a commercial run. I hope that at least it will circulate within the Lebanese and Arab community here. Especially that some of the Lebanese, here in Australia more so than anywhere in the world, seem to have inherited some of this working class/under-class Lebanese hyper-masculinity.
In the meantime, the Arab Film festival will move from Sydney to a capital city near you. Check it out and go and see this film, and perhaps you can also see through it the sterility and cheer dumbness, when its not the outright racism, of those westerners who use sexism and patriarchy as instruments of a cultural war against Arabs and Muslims.