It was a relief to finally read something that reminds us that comedy is not dissent. This piece by Sugarman echoes a critique I wrote some months ago – and for which I was summarily mocked, about John Oliver and his treatment of the issue of state surveillance of American citizens, and later, on his rather bizarre and right-wing interview of Snowden.
In the first piece I had argued that:
“Comedy denudes issues of urgency and the human will to act. It finds a way to make us laugh at torture, social deprivation, racism, war and murder. It makes acceptable what ought to be intolerable and seduced us into a place where we come to believe that describing and articulating something as a joke is an act. and it lets us feel that having laughed, we have somehow done and acted. for after all, we laughed st the fools and that sets us apart from them.
Comedy has become the anesthesia our capitalist societies are given so that we can accept the unacceptable. So that we can indulge in inaction while thinking we are acting. Comedy is the posture we adopt when critical thinking and critical engagement are lost.”
France political and security responses are a good case study of how popular Islamophobia spreads in a nation. If the State acts in such a targeted, and sweeping fashion, and its spokes persons define so clearly and explicitly the ‘enemy’ they are going after, the citizenry can’t really be expected to remain immune from its constructions and framing of how to evaluate and judge a situation, and whom to blame for it. So when the state so publicly demonstrates its resolve, so to speak, and the ordinary, over-worked and under-engaged citizen watches all this, it isn’t all too surprising that the pathology spreads.
“Backed by the new powers, authorities have carried out about 3,400 raids on mosques, homes, and businesses with more than 300 people placed under house arrest.”
Of course, add to this the near daily media discourse and framing of wars in various countries where the construction of the ‘enemy’ is almost always on religious or cultural grounds, with all political and historical facts and legacies distorted and modified to create further evidence of ‘the enemies’ deviant and inhuman thought process and strategies.
Keep this paragraph in mind the next time you see a ‘great’ story about Honduras in National Geographic, or Time or The New York Times, because it will not be included in it:
“Instead of condemning the figures behind the uprising, suspending support to the illegitimate government of Zelaya’s successor, Roberto Micheletti, and demanding a restoration of the democratically elected Zelaya, Secretary Clinton decided to move on. In her memoir “Hard Choices,” Clinton wrote that after the coup, she went about hatching a plan with other leaders in the region “to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.” The United States pushed for elections, and in November 2009, despite a boycott by opposition leaders and international observers, elections were orchestrated by the same figures behind Zelaya’s ouster.
Since the coup, violence and assassinations, as well as persecutions of journalists and social justice advocates, have skyrocketed in Honduras. Last week’s high-profile murder of the Goldman prize-winning indigenous leader and environmental activist Berta Caceres is yet another tragic example of the abhorrent human rights record in Honduras under the government that came to power via the 2009 coup. Between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmental activists have been killed in Honduras, according to Global Witness. Clinton’s camp has said that allegations about her role in the 2009 coup are “nonsense.”
How do you respond to an article that carries the seeds of its own negation? Blakemore is excited, but it seems the excitement comes from spending too much time with people with technology tools and a story to sell.
This entire article read like a promotional brochure because:
– the GPS mapping companies with a vested interest in promoting their projects and products are repeatedly mentioned in the article.
– the owners / employees of those companies are the only voices we get to hear.
– the technology is placed at center stage, manufacturing that most perfect of TED-elusions i.e that technology overcomes politics, policies, interests, governance, history and the agency of people itself.
This latter point is critical: what the article veils is the ordinary and lets-get-our-hands-dirty work that people who need to confront the local government, demand action and change, and improve their lives, still have to do. the GIS products mentioned here actually only enable them to do this better, but they do not create their ability to do it at all. In fact, that the local communities are in fact engaged in demanding rights and services from the city, state and federal governments is nothing new, and in fact, had the writer bothered to look carefully, one of the most obvious things that she would have seen in such deprived and marginalised areas. there are dozens of groups and community activists fighting to improve conditions, and to push back an exploitative and indifferent city government. this is true across slums around the globe. Details »
Estrin writes an entire piece about ‘domestic violence’ i.e. violence of men against women, without ever once touching, suggesting, implying or overtly labeling this predominantly Christian, and vehemently Christian nation, for having a barbaric, backward, misogynist and anti-modern religion! Here, suddenly, it is ‘patriarchy’ that is to fault, as if ‘patriarchy’ isn’t indicted in faith and its hierarchies of power, interpretation and sanction!
No investigation of the passages of the Bible? No excavation of obscure and ancient quotes of Priests to justify? No bizarre and ahistorical constructions of social history that find an act from the 1st century AD Christian community and draw a straight line from there, to today? No suggestion that Christians and Christianity is incompatible with he tenets of modernity? No calls for a Reformation among the Armenians? No outrage at the ‘horror that women suffer’ under the tutelage of the Bible?
Here are all the fashionable categories that the West loves to apply to the exotic ‘other’ – “honor killings”, “dowry death”, and what not, could be found, but of course are never suggested. Here, the faith becomes invisible, and suddenly ‘cultural’ structures are being sought, and of course, Christian realities entirely erased. The double standards are amusing to see. Inderpal Grewal’s fabulous essay ‘Outsourcing Patriarchy: Feminist Encounters: Transnational Mediations and the Crime of ‘Honor Killings’ could have been written in response to this piece alone. Or, you can also read a post I wrote earlier about this habit of manufacturing a ‘unique’ ‘Muslim/Islamic’ criminality here.
The language, and sentence structure, are critical to observe, in this piece. Towards the middle of this small news item, we find these sentences. Though they may be unthinkingly cut and pasted from earlier pieces or some standard al-Jazeera copy, it is nevertheless interesting to see how they were written:
“Baloch rebel fighters have waged war against the central Pakistan government for more than a decade seeking autonomy.”
This is a definitive statement, offered as ‘fact’. There are no qualifiers so that the reader knows for sure that these attacks are happening. But watch what happens in the next sentence.
” Locals accuse the government of exploiting their resources without providing adequate compensation.”
Suddenly, ‘locals accuse’ is dropped in when the position of the state as seen by those living under its burden are concerned. And this pattern repeats itself. In the very next paragraph, we read another definitive statement, followed by a qualified statement that yet against absolves the state of ‘factual’ crimes, and suggests that people saying such things are ‘alleging’ or ‘claiming’.
“Attacks on security personnel by separatist fighters are common – as are retaliatory operations by Pakistani forces, who rights group allege have abducted and extra-judicially killed hundreds of Baloch political activists.”
This was a strong piece about ‘domestic violence’ that appeared in The New York Times, but as I read it I could not help but connect it to the recently celebrated question of ‘honor crimes’ in Pakistan, against which our feminist government and our liberal class, are determined to wage an all out war against. It is the construction of this category – “honor crimes”, and the way it has become a means to suggest something unique, specific, and original to Islam / Muslims, that I want to question. and this article is just the way to do it. More importantly, it is the way in which Western liberal feminists and ‘native’ feminist/activists (of a certain upper or middle class mind you – class is a critical factor in these campaigns) find reason to create ‘activism’, or ’emergency campaigns’ around these unique category of crimes, while remaining silent about the crimes against women within their own ‘civilized’ society where no such campaigns are organised, and no ‘human rights’ discourse is applied. In the West, the brutality of its patriarchy, the misogyny of its society, are almost always swept under the carpet of ‘individual trauma’ or complex ‘individual’ histories, thereby exonerating society, culture, politics, genetics, religion. That is, the very explanatory factors almost always offered to explain or analyze crimes against women in the Muslim / Islamic spaces. Details »
I am not sure how ‘gender equality’, ‘human rights’ and ‘civil liberties’ became associated with being ‘secular’. If we keep in mind the construction of ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ – both entirely European constructions, we see how in the concept of secular has a long history of European gender inequality, racial segregation and slavery, colonial repression and genocide, all of which remained happy travelers with the Enlightened. That is, despite post-Enlightenment Europe’s real history of racism, colonialism, genocidal violence, slavery and more, the idea that ‘secularism’ or the separation of ‘state’ and ‘church’ is a necessary precondition for peace and tolerance, justice and liberty, is frankly, quite bizarre. In fact, so much so, given the scale of violence inflicted by European nations on the rest of the world, and the gifts of racial violence, the Holocaust, and other general intolerance towards ‘minorities’ and the blacker people, it seems entire one of the greatest propaganda feats in human history. So much has been written about ‘secularisms’ dark legacy, that I do still find it strange when these easy dichotomies are created. But then again, American media has been a bastion of the anachronistic, out-dated and classically colonial mindset for many decades now. And this is the same media that can cheer lead towards multiple wars, the deaths of millions, the displacement of millions more, and continue to speak as if its ‘secular’ credentials and these ‘secular’ nations are where peace and liberty are found, and that it is religion in fact, that is the cause of violence and fundamentalism. This myopia if of course what allows hacks like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or Alan Dershovitz, or so many of their fellow travelers to get away with the theoretical and rhetorical murder that they do. Yet, it is with amusement and bemusement to read articles such as this where a simple dichotomy is created.