Archive for July 2nd, 2007

Hits From The Gong

I missed a lot of the news while abroad. It seems that the author of this:

One of the key concepts of imperialism was that military superiority implied cultural superiority, and this enabled the British to condescend to and repress cultures far older than their own; and it still does. For the citizens of the new, imported Empire, for the colonized Asians and blacks of Britain, the police force represents that colonizing army, those regiments of occupation and control.

is now a KBE.

Incidentally, the WSJ article to which I link -a gruesome pile of shit, as it happens- contains the most ludicrous piece of globe-spanning alliteration I have come across in a long time:

‘(Rushdie’s elevation)…highlights two of the core values of Western civilization conspicuously absent in most of the Muslim world: freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry. It squarely rejects the notion that the fossilized norms of Mecca and Mashhad hold sway over Manchester and Middlesex, and beyond them, over Malmo and Minneapolis.’

Oh, blow it out your ass.

War Poets

Henry Kamen’s pompous The Disinherited: The Exiles Who Created Spanish Culture, which I criticised here in part for its failure to fulfil some of the promise of its subtitle, has a different subtitle in Spanish. Instead, it is ‘España y la huella del exilio’, that is, ‘Spain and the mark of exile’. Whether this would have affected my reading of the book I am not too sure, but I am beginning to think that the book is even worse than I considered when I first put it down.

By contrast, I read Ian Gibson’s superb Cuatro poetas en guerra (Four poets in war) during the holidays. It’s an account of the activities and fate of four of Spain’s most prominent poets- Antonio Machado, Federico García Lorca, Juan Ramón Jiménez and Miguel Hernández- in the Spanish Civil War. All supported the Republic against the fascist uprising led by Franco, and paid the price as a result.

Machado died in exile just across the border in France, having written tirelessly in support of the Republic from Madrid, Valencia and then Barcelona, his movements the result of evacuations. Lorca was assassinated in his native Granada on the orders of fascist terrorist Queipo de Llano. Juan Ramón Jiménez -who fled to the US- made brave but futile attempts to influence the Roosevelt government in its policy towards the Republic, and learned of how his hastily abandoned house in Madrid -containing all his papers- had been ransacked by victorious literary falangists.

Perhaps most remarkably of all, Miguel Hernández had a leading role writing incessantly in support of the Republic whilst simultaneously fighting in the trenches. He was spared Lorca’s fate of execution -and that, post-war, of at least 50,000 others who had fought on the side of the Republic- due, it would seem, to Franco not wanting to see ‘another García Lorca’, but he still died of tuberculosis in vile prison conditions.

Butt Ugly

The Observer (a newspaper I loathe. And the Guardian has gotten a lot worse of late too, by the way), had an article by a certain Hassan Butt.

The Observer bills him as follows:

Hassan Butt, who was once a member of radical group Al-Muhajiroun, raising funds for extremists and calling for attacks on British citizens, explains why he was wrong.

It is tempting to imagine a sticker adorning the door of the Al-Muhajiroun offices saying ‘You don’t have to be a barking mad fanatic here….but it helps!’. Also a member of Al-Muhajiroun is Anjem Choudury, a rebarbative clown who seems to pop up at the most opportune moments with breathlessly reported prophecies of doom for the citizenry at large. These people are buffoons, and if the British security forces were able to infiltrate the PIRA at every level, one can be pretty sure that they have done the same here.

Maybe Hassan Butt is a British agent (he denies it, but don’t they all?), but as a general point it is interesting to see how former zealots are treated with the utmost seriousness once they have demonstrated they have learned the error of their ways. Their powers of judgement -which were presumably poor when they belonged to the militant wing of the nutter collective- have now been somehow sharpened so much that they can now cast forth authoritative analysis for a liberal Sunday readership. Leopards can change their spots.

It is also interesting to note, in this case, the rapidity of change in this particular individual’s political standpoint. If most of us cast our minds back as far as February 2006, we may find that our own political viewpoint has not changed remarkably. Yet as late as February 2006, Hassan Butt was a member of the ‘British Jihadi Network’. Less than a year and a half later, he is writing an opinion piece for the Observer that dovetails pretty nicely with the official line of the British government. To paraphrase: British foreign policy has nothing to do with UK terror attacks; critics of British foreign policy are doing the terrorists’ work for them; the problem is an evil ideology; moderate Muslims must stand up and be counted, and so on.

It is also of interest to watch how articles such as these frame liberal public discourse concerning foreign policy and terrorism. The primary concern established is not the effects of foreign policy on the safety of foreigners, but of its effect on our safety. From this it follows that that provided there is no direct effect on our safety, any other effects -such as the carnage in Iraq- are of lesser importance. That is, it does not matter how many people whose heads I stamp on outside the pub on a Friday night: it is far more important that I address first of all the question of those vandals pelting my house with eggs. To try and establish a link between my actions and those of the vandals is morally wrong. Indeed, the vandals are rubbing their hands with glee at the liberal soft-headedness of your enquiries.

Road to Hell

Don’t you hate it when bloggers say that they’re going to write about something in greater depth in the future, and then never bother their ass making good on their intentions? Coming soon, I plan to produce a series of posts exploring this question in further detail.

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July 2007
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