Saturday, November 06, 2004

Bernard Lewis Revisited - - What if Islam isn't an obstacle to democracy in the Middle East but the secret to achieving it?

For anyone wanting a balenced and useful starting point this essay from Washington Monthly by Michael Hirsh, senior editor at Newsweek, author of At War with Ourselves: Why America is Squandering its Chance to Build a Better World, will do the trick.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
The BBC TV series which has created a ripple of discussion, The Politics of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear, is intriguing. Is it possible to use the web to come a conclusion about it? links to a set of discussions or reviews.

Crookedtimber does it thoroughly with a link to Guardian piece by David Aaronovitch

CSmonitor reviews with links through to Sayeed Qutb who leads to

Sayyid Abu'l-A'la Mawdudi (1903-1979)

Clive Davis at NRO calls calls it :
The Power of Bad Television - -The BBC’s bizarre new documentary on terrorism and neoconservatism.

Al Jazeera replays on 17 October The making of the terror myth by Andy Beckett from 15 October Guardian

Thrown in, for good measure, a link to the School Middle East History Database produced by Ted Thornton, Dept.of History and social Scince , Northfiled Mount Hermon School Wahabism

What can you say? You are meant to be discussing Iraq, The Middle East, religion, the decadence or otherwise of the West, and you end up doing media studies! How can you tell who is telling the truth? Trawl the wider literature for some framework of knowledge to try to make your own answer? Then, Hey wait a minute! You're trying to find an answer before even asking the question. What is the question?

The starter for ten is: Are we being kidded, given the run around, having the wool pulled over our eyes? We feel we are, though we have no evidence except in the media which we distrust. We certainly can't be sure whether the internet is providing us with the facts.

Can we find in our own life histories any sort of evidence that indicates that George Bush, Tony Bliar, Osama Bin Laden, uncle Tom Cobbly 'n All, are making fools of us? Well yes, we know the best and the worst of humans. We know exemplary individuals with, brains, character, high moral standards, a duty to serve their fellow men. We know out and out rogues who are inveterate thieves, liars, deceivers, cheats. We might even know an odd torturer or murderer. We all eventually know enough about humans and human nature from our own everyday experience to know it is inevitable that someone, somewhere, is trying or will soon try to sell us Snake Oil. Often, we are not sure who is and who isn't about to do so. We get confused. Thus we will inevitably be confused by the at-a-distance machinations of our leaders or self-appointed messiahs.

Is there an answer to the problem of the powerful and their misuse of their power? Our societies still allow the powerful to be all powerful, despite democracy. It was brought to my attention by a quite marvellous television programme on the history of Venice that the Doge was all powerful but effectively locked up in his Palace so he didn't have the chance to corrupt himself or enjoy himself to excess. The modern equivalent in the internet age would be total transparency where no one wanting to vounteer himself to power could apply his power without us all knowing about how he made the decisions and exactly what it was he was proposing to do.

This seems as if it might be leading somewhere until you ask an expert in these matters. You are told societies haven't, won't, can't, don't work that way. They would grind to a halt, decisionless. Apportioning responsiblity to a few is inevitable. And anyway we've all got to earn a living. We can't possibly sit there all day checking on our leaders to make sure they are doing the right thing. We leave that to the constitution (if we've got one) and the media. But they are telling us (vid above televison programme) that the media lie, distort, exaggerate. Well, then, that's what opposition parties are for: to keep a watch out for what the government is up to. No they can't be trusted either because they are part of the Political Game, which requires a whole gamut of the more unwholesome aspects of human nature in order to operate.

To be continued.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Iraq: where the truth lies

Too late? Never!.

Julie Tannenbaum is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz

In the Guardian Monday July 14, 2003, she wrote what is written when political discourse pushes itself into a corner and can't back out.

The October Osama Oracle has created a ripple of analysis which does not satisfy. We need a good, old fashioned, condemnatory blast. This by Massoud A. Derhally seems to be as near as we'll get:

What you have here is what people in the intelligence community call a rogue agent - except this one is a multidimensional psychopath with a self-prophesied ideology to instill fear, terror and hatred in the hearts of human beings.

How can an individual, who for years was on the take from the CIA and other intelligence agencies, proclaim that the killing and maiming of innocent Palestinians, Arabs or other Muslims around the world be wrong and then hideously murder - under the guise of religion - innocents in Africa, Saudi Arabia, and the US? Bin Laden is an individual defunct of a moral compass, and a fatwa (edict) branding him a bigot and a heretic by Muslim clerics the world over is long overdue.

It's not enough to express sorrow every time a child dies or when hostages have their heads cut off, or when a non-Muslim has their throat cut. Are we butchers? Are we barbarians?

Wall Street Journal 's CLAUDIA ROSETT amuses and can write..

Gary North at give a thorough analysis which, despite its arguments, doesn't ultimately satisfy. I like the talk of the Assassins.

This small-minded, spoilt son of a rich father is no prophet. Where are his clay tablets? Moses had the decency to bring down his from the mountain. They were not the massive granite tombstones carried by Charleston Heston but simple, probably hand-moulded, clay objects the size of a small matchbox representing Moses' answer to his peoples problems.

Rober Creelely's

"A suspiciously simple sense of life is that is in, in any one person conclusive... people try with an increasing despair to live, and to come to something, some place or person. They want an island in which the world will be at last a place circumscribed by visible horizons."

comes to mind when trying to fathom this man Osama.

memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East

Location: United Kingdom

expatriot in Middle East as child, retired teacher.

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