Monday, November 21, 2016

Peter Dutton and the Lebanese Sunnis

Take a sociological fact: one the most socio-economically deprived parts of Lebanon's population live in the north-western suburbs of Tripoli, Lebanon's second biggest city after Beirut. They live in deplorable conditions: the highest number of people per square meter in Lebanon, the lowest level of education in the whole country. And yes, fertile ground for the growth of Islamic fundamentalist of all kind of looney tunes variety, no doubt. but i understand that the number of young males who joined the police force, and even the number of males who became hairdressers from this milieu exceeds the number of males who became Islamic fundamentalist. So it's definitely not a sociological fact to just choose to emphasise the Islamic fundamentalist credentials of this group. 
Polemic: When Australia, under Fraser's government offered to have an intake of Lebanese amid the civil war. It made sense to take the most economically deprived part of the population. it's called humanitarian help. Now I know that today's rampant neo-liberal instrumentalism makes it inconceivable that one takes people like this. I know that today you are supposed to take the least needy people. people who represent a net asset gain. but. still, humanitarian help used to happen. some of us still remember it.
So yes, along came the most deprived of the deprived and yes, they came with the possibility of Islamicos among them. But do we have any statistical evidence of how this cohort developed as a totality. That is, *beside* not as opposed to the believable fact that there might have been a few home-grown Islamic fundamentalists that popped up from among them?
how many coiffeurs for instance? I'd be very interested. I've got this theory about Lebanese coiffeurs. Have you noticed how many of them there are in the world? Lebanon has unleashed way more coiffeurs on the word than Islamic fundamentalists and yet no one wants to talk about this. The destruction of western civilisation they have been responsible for far exceeds... (I'd better stop since my cousin in Lebanon is one so I'l wait to have more empirical evidence before pronouncing myself on this matter)
Take a second sociological fact: Peter Dutton was born in the working-class Brisbane suburb of Boondall. almost the equivalent (relatively speaking, of course) to Tripoli's working class suburbs. 
Take a third sociological fact: Beside coiffure, the Tripoli people from those suburbs who manage to get out of poverty commonly do so by getting some military education and joining the police force. Now, what do you know: Peter Dutton also rose from his working class background by getting a military education and becoming a police officer. 
Concluding Polemic: Now perhaps Peter Dutton has a lot more in common with the people he is attacking than meets the eye. Perhaps *he knows* he has a lot in common: working class, military education, low cultural capital, zero cosmopolitanism, tendency towards cultural fundamentalism.
Are we to blame the whole suburb of Boondall for the fact that the Liberal Party has unleashed someone like Peter Dutton on us. indeed on the whole world. of course not. Likewise, let's leave this poor Sunnis of Tripoli alone. They have enough problems surviving as it is. I mean they have to deal all the time with all the filthy Lebanese politicians for god's sake. It is just not fair to add some of the filthiest of all Australian politicians to this.
By the way, the brilliant Lebanese novelist Jabbour Douaiheh has written a novel called 'The American Neighbourhood' (available in English) on that part of Tripoli the is being talked about here. It is about an Islamic fundamentalist from the neighbourhood who returns after failing to go through a suicide-bombing mission in Iraq. go and read it if you are interested in intelligent fiction about this socio-economic milieu. Intelligent fiction is nicer and way more informative than Dutton's non-intelligent pseudo-sociology.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Trumpontologies 1

There are various intellectual trends that are increasingly seeing the world as a plurality of worlds, realities or ontologies, such as 'the ontological turn' in anthropology. I think that those who see this trend as a mere 'intellectual choice' or 'fashion' with no basis in reality are really mistaken. The popularity of the ontological has to be itself explained ontologically, not epistemologically. Or at least to put it in a Marxist language it has to be explained materially not idealistically. 

This is not unlike the way Marx regarded the upside down nature of the reality of the commodity as an ontological issue not an epistemological one. It was a situation where, as Godelier put it, 'It is not the subjects deceiving themselves it is reality that is deceiving them'. Likewise, we can say it is not the analytical subject increasingly opting for ontological difference it is reality that is increasingly presenting itself as ontologically differentiated.

To continue flirting with Marxist analogies, perhaps it is only in the era of dynamic capitalist accumulation that 'All that is solid melts into air'. when this dynamic stalls, all that is melting into air slowly becomes solid.

Like a volcano emitting it's lava capitalism has been burning every thing that is in its way. Now that its 'driving heat' is slowing down the lava is becoming solid turning to rock. Cultures that were being transformed are solidifying mid-way through their transformation. To a certain extent western multiculturalism reflects the cultural beginning of this stalling of the transformative/assimilationist drive that was western/capitalist modernity. It marks the rebirth of culturally essentialist 'resistance' in the face of a stalling processes of capitalist globalisation. The french essentialism of Le Pen and the Islamic essentialism of ISIS are both 'Lava rock formations': evidence of the cooling down of the melting (pot?) processes that fuelled and drove capitalist modernity.

This also links up with the work I have done on stuckedness (see Alter-Politics): for example, the processes of people identifying themselves as 'middle class' in the US relied on the existence of some minimal upward class mobility which kept the belief in the possibility of such a mobility alive. Once this social mobility despite its minimal nature actually stops, the belief in its possibility dies, people experience themselves stuck and their social cultural world becomes frozen. What was a process of social transformation and change comes to a halt and people feel imprisoned in their social locations. Is that not one defining characteristic (needless to say, among many) of the ontological reality that is the Trumpist life-world?