Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"I will fight for this naked breast"- Ghassan Hage

I have already read a lot of facebook commentary about the French PM saying that the naked breast represents France better than the headscarf. While I find it as ridiculous as any of my facebook friends, it actually brought home to me how scholastic so many intellectual reactions to Islamophobia and other things produced by politicians, including those like Pauline Hanson in Australia, Trump in the US, etc... are. Indeed I think that scholasticism is increasing, especially among intellectuals, today. It is a way of escaping a reality that is hard to fathom, a reality where we come to terms with how desperately politically inefficient at convincing and mobilising those who disagree with us we intellectuals have become. Scholasticism, in Bourdieu's term, means that we discuss what politicians say as if it is a statement of logic or an analytical statement. we discuss it, analyse it, agree with it or laugh at it and ridicule it as if the world is one big facebook discussion page and, most importantly, as if the sole purpose of an enunciation is to exist as an object of facebook, or tutorial room, discussion in terms of its coherence and its logic. To use Bourdieu again, we project into the object our particular relation to the object. We take the way a statement presents itself to us as intellectuals (ie, as an object of intellectual inquiry) as the way it presents itself to everyone in the world. But politicians are not analysts and they don't make statements aimed at being sophisticated, they make statements aimed at being politically efficient. So, while its fine to make fun of what the French PM says, or what Trump says, etc... some of us increasingly forget to ask: how good are they at doing what they are doing? What are the conditions of political efficiency of statements like this?
I happen to think that the French PM statement is an exceptionally powerful and skilful political statements. it is simple, metonymic, and manages to condense all the differences that French Politicians in their embrace of Islamophobic culture are competing to mobilise politically today.
I have written before how so many western values today are being re-deployed in a phallic manner. Instead of caring about how democratic the West is, more and more Westerners care more about 'flashing their democracy' to the other and say: 'look at my democracy it's better than yours'. Instead of enjoying their jokes they enjoy showing off that their sense of humour and capacity to be irreverent towards religious symbols is so superior to that of the other. And now, in this latest installment, some French people want to show off the naked breast of their women in a phallic manner. It is a masculine appropriation of the feminine for warring purposes and it is very efficient. It actually reminds me of Yassin Al Haj Saleh's analysis of a photo showing ISIS combatants in a region under their control pinning a poster which shows a fully covered woman with the caption; 'Your veil is my blood'. The French PM is now introducing a similar warring appropriation of the feminine: 'your naked breast is my blood', that is, I will fight (in a masculine way) to protect it.
We can ridicule what we have come to here, and maybe we should do so between us to comfort each other, but we need to always remember that we intellectuals, or intellectually savvy people, ridiculing something has not political efficiency whatsoever, Indeed, it even works at making what we are ridiculing more efficient.
Especially we intellectuals, should not shy away from confronting the fact that we have no political authority whatsoever today among those who are mobilised in such a phallic way. indeed we are the opposite of an authority: people go out of their way to embrace everything we laugh at and everything we criticise. Enough to drive anyone into the comforting refuge of scholasticism.

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