PoliticsPosted by Karl Sharro Sun, May 31, 2009 21:57:44
على عكس ما يشاع، لن يستيقظ لبنان جمهورية إسلامية في الثامن من حزيران إذا فازت المعارضة بالانتخابات، كما انه لن يعيد إنتاج حلف بغداد في حال فوز الأكثرية. أجواء التهويل التي خلقها طرفا السياسة المتنافسان في لبنان لا علاقة لها بواقع الحياة السياسية في لبنان بل هي نتاج انهيار السياسة بمعناها العريض. قد يكون القاسم المشترك الوحيد بين المعارضة و الموالاة هو الإفلاس السياسي و محاولات التعويض عن ذاك برفع النبرة الخطابية من قبل الطرفين واللجوء إلى سياسات الخوف و السيناريوهات المهيلة كمثل التلويح باسلمة النظام أو ارتماء قوى 14 آذار بأحضان إسرائيل.
مما لا شك فيه إن تحالف 14 آذار قد ضعف كثيرا و خسر الكثير من مكتسباته السياسية منذ الانتخابات الأخيرة، وعاد معظم قيادته إلى أدوارهم كزعماء طوائف، في ما خلا المعتزلين كنسيب لحود و رجل الدولة شبه الوحيد فؤاد السنيورة. برغم ذلك يحوز فريق ١٤ آذار على مشروع سلطة و حكم، يفتقده تحالف حزب الله و ميشال عون على رغم ادعائه امتلاك مشروع إصلاحي، فهو يمثل نظرة وتطلعات البورجوازية اللبنانية بامتياز. حيازة هذا المشروع تمثل قاسما مشتركا بين جمهور و قيادات ١٤ آذار يؤمن لهما قدرا من الالتحام و صحة التمثيل يفتقده التحالف الأخر الذي لا يكاد يملك إلا ادعائه تمثيل طوائفه والمدافعة عن مصالحها بوجه الطوائف الأخرى.
مشروع فريق ١٤ آذار هو مشروع تحديثي يبقى موجودا و فاعلا رغم تبدل القوى و الشخصيات الفاعلة في قيادته على ما رأينا في السنوات الأربعة الأخيرة. وعلى رغم سذاجة البعض في صفوف اليسار اللبناني فان الخيار البورجوازي هو أكثر تقدمية من الخيار الإقطاعي التي تمثله زعامات الطوائف. وأكثر من ذلك فان أوهام القفز بلبنان من مجتمع يصارع ليجاري الحداثة إلى مجتمع اشتراكي تسود فيه العدالة الاجتماعية من غير اكتمال بورجوازيته هي أفكار مضللة و مخطئة. لا يعني ذلك إن اليسار في لبنان مدعو إلى الالتحاق بصفوف القيادات البورجوازية على العكس عليه إن يمضي في رسم خط فريد يميزه عن زعماء الطوائف.
إذا فريق ١٤ آذار لديه مشروع حكم و سياسة لكنه مشروع يرتبط تقدمه بالتحالفات المتبدلة التي تنتجها متغيرات السياسة اللبنانية. في المقابل يفتقد فريق ٨ آذار، وحزب الله تحديدا، إلى إي مشروع سلطة أو حكم. ما يخيف حزب الله اليوم هو احتمال تشكيله الحكومة المقبلة في لبنان مع حلفائه ومن دون الفريق الأخر، وهو احتمال لم يتحضر له الحزب ولا يمتلك أدوات وأساليب التعاطي معه. يخاف حزب الله مصير حماس في السلطة، حين استفاقت لتجد نفسها في موقع لم تنشده ولم تعرف التعاطي معه. فحزب الله كما حماس نشئا على أنقاض أحزاب حداثية و حركات تحرر وطنية كانت المقاومة العسكرية في نظرها وسيلة لا غاية و جزءا من سعيها إلى تقرير مصير شعوبها بنفسها وتحديث أحوال المجتمعات التي تمثلها.
لحظة نشؤ حماس و حزب الله تزامنت مع انهيار تلك الحركات و فشل مشاريعها لأسباب متعددة لا مجال لتعدادها هنا. وتميزت ظروف نشأة الحركتين الإسلاميتين بتراجع القيم الحداثية مع ازدهار أفكار الخصوصيات الثقافية حتى في الدول الغربية. لا يمثل نشؤ حزب الله و حماس صحوة إسلامية بل وسيلة للتعامل مع زمن تسارعت خلاله وتيرة التبادلات على وقع انهيار أفكار الحداثة بأوجهها المختلفة. مثلت العودة إلى الإسلام استقرارا يوازي بترسخ جذوره التاريخية النمط السريع للمتغيرات الإقليمية و العالمية. لكن حزب الله رغم نجاحاته العسكرية اللي لا مجال للشك بها، أو ربما بسببها إلى حد ما، لم ينجح ببناء مشروع سياسي يتيح له إلقاء السلاح بعد التحرير لكي يصبح حزبا سياسيا يطمح إلى السلطة على نمط حركات التحرر التي سبقته.
طور حزب الله نظرته إلى نفسه و أعضائه على انه حركة عسكرية بامتياز، وحين اصطدمت هذه النظرة بتطلعات اللبنانيين الذين ساموا الحروب و ابتغوا السلام و الازدهار، كان الحزب يصر على مجتمع الحرب كي يرسم مجتمعا على صورته لا العكس. هذا العجز الهيكلي لدى حزب الله عن إعادة إنتاج نفسه كحزب سياسي أدى إلى فشله باقتناص فرصتين تاريخيتين لتحويل مساره هما الانسحابين الإسرائيلي والسوري. لكن تردد حزب الله عن الاستيلاء على السلطة بان على أشده بعد ٧ أيار الماضي حين اجتاح الحزب بيروت ثم استنشد اتفاقا مع الغالبية يؤمن له ثلثا معطلا لا مسؤولية القرار السياسي المطلقة.
لا يزال الحزب ينادي بتلك الصيغة الغريبة للحكم حتى بحال فوزه و حلفائه بالانتخابات التشريعية. يردد ممثلو الحزب اليوم خوفهم من الوصول إلى سدة الحكم عبر إلقاء اللوم على الغالبية التي أنتجت الفساد والديون المرتفعة محاولا تبرير عدم قدرته على الحكم حتى قبل فوزه. يمثل هذا التردد جبنا سياسيا وتخاذل عن المسؤوليات التي يفترض بأي حزب سياسي إن يتحضر لها. غير إن حزب الله الذي اختفت وثيقته التأسيسية عن الأنظار منذ اندماجه بالمنظومة السورية في لبنان قبل عقدين، لا يعرف اليوم سبيلا إلى السياسة و أفكار الحكم بعد عقود من التمرس بالحرب و امتهان البراغماتية عوضا عن العقيدة السياسية. أصبح حزب الله اليوم طرفا من مديري أحوال الطوائف يعرف أساليب كبت النقمة الشعبية لدى جمهوره، كما يعرف متى يذكيها لكسب صغير في بازار السياسة اللبنانية، لكنه عاجز كليا عن استلام مقاليد الحكم و السلطة.
يتخيل البعض في حزب الله اليوم إن تحالفهم مع ميشال عون قد يسهل مهمة ومسؤولية الحكم و الحكومة في حال الفوز بالانتخابات باعتبار إن عون يؤمن غطاء مسيحي ويوفر بعض لابسي البدلات الذين يجيدون استلام مقاليد الوزارات و الإدارة. هذا وهم لا سبيل لتحققه. فجنرال المارونية السياسية المخضرم رغم ما يبدو عليه من تعطش للسلطة ليس لديه هو الأخر أية أفكار في السياسة و الاقتصاد و الإدارة إلا شعارات شعبوية لا معنى لها. الجنرال ارتاح في دور قيادة و تمثيل المسيحيين في لبنان والتفاوض باسمهم لتحصيل أفضل شروط العيش المشترك مع الأخر الذي لا مفر منه. استوجب هذا الدور المستحدث تحييد القيادات الشبابية التي نشطت طوال فترة عزلته و استبدالها بوجوه مسيحية تقليدية تمكنه من مخاطبة مخاوف المسيحيين و عائلاتهم الكبرى بطريقة أفضل. عون في أحسن الأحوال سيكون شافيز أخر يستعيض عن السياسة بشعبوية خطابية لا قدرة لها على التحديث.
برغم كل ذلك في حال فوز حزب الله و شركائه في الانتخابات يجب على قوى ١٤ آذار إن تترك لهم مسؤولية الحكم و تشكيل الحكومة المقبلة و تعزف عن ملئ الثلث الذي سيعرض عليها بدون شك. إن أفضل وسيلة لفك التحام جمهوري حزب الله و عون بمديري و ممثلي طوائفهما هي فشلهما في الحكم الذي سيفضح ضالة الأفكار و إفلاسها السياسي. في المقابل يجب على فريق ١٤ آذار إن يعيد بناء تحالفاته و أفكاره السياسية على أسس ارسخ و إلا سينفرط عقده سريعا إذا استمر النهج الطائفي على حاله.
PoliticsPosted by Karl Sharro Sat, May 30, 2009 19:48:29
يواجه الكثيرون صعوبة في فهم السياسة في لبنان التي قد تبدو معقدة للمراقب الخارجي. لكن في الحقيقة تتبع السياسة اللبنانية قواعد بسيطة جدا. القاعدة الاولى و الاهم صممت لكي تمنع احتكار الافكار الجيدة من طرف واحد وهي تقضي بانه لا يجوز لاي حزب او طائفة او عشيرة او عر ان يعتنق خط سياسي معين لاكثر من خمسة اعوام متواصلة. عند انتهاء هذه المهلة يقوم الفريق السياسي بتسليم افكاره الى احد خصومه و يقوم بنفضة عقائدية و ياخذ افكار طرف اخر. يعني مثل لعبة كراسي موسيقية ينط كل فريق فشخة في كل جولة. على سبيل المثال, اصبح شعار ميشال عون, بعد ٢٠ سنة," امن المجتمع المسيحي فوق كل اعتبار" و اصبح سمير جعجع المدافع عن دولة المؤسسات. الموعد القادم للتبادل, يعني ideological recycling, حدد في ٨ حزيران ومبروك سلفا للجميع
PoliticsPosted by Karl Sharro Tue, May 26, 2009 12:46:53
Cameron's response to the MP expenses 'scandal' illustrates perfectly what is wrong with this man, the blend of authoritarianism and lack of conviction and spine that characterises so many politicians today. This is an explosive combination, and I would say even more dangerous than authoritarianism mixed with a sense of purpose. At least in the latter case, say Margaret Thatcher, you know where you stand. Cameron stands for nothing, represents nothing, but does not hesitate to be authoritarian in the process.
Cameron's eagerness to please was evident in the aftermath of the non-scandal that was the MP expenses saga. A fake fury whipped by a newspaper on its last knees, and smacking of the nasty type of desperation that characterises the hopeless. Cameron in typical spineless style rushed to apologise before the extent of the problem even became clear. Unwittingly, he undermined politics further with his antics, discrediting himself and his colleagues, and the entire political establishment, with his buffoonery.
Cameron's hasty apology speaks volumes about his lack of conviction. Instead of 'shoot first, ask questions later' this man will 'apologise first, ask questions later', because deep at heart he knows that he stands for nothing, represents nothing, and his eagerness to please is quite honestly repulsive. I would have respected the man more if he had stood up for MPs, instead he was willing to bring down the whole house and not have the courage to fight for the establishment that he represents.
Politics is about leadership, and Cameron has shown none. This is perhaps pardonable in the Lib Dems, and their 'leader' Nick Clegg, a party that has no aspiration to be in power and is content to be on the sidelines constantly, but is completely unforgivable and in a party that has serious hopes of forming the next government. Of course, singling David Cameron is a bit unfair, after all Gordon Brown had a similar reaction, but Brown is already discredited and has shown his lack of leadership. Cameron has illustrated his incompetence even before attaining power, an achievement even by the standards of modern-day politics.
This rush to apologise, the automatic assumption of guilt, perfectly illustrates Cameron's authoritarian disdain for democracy and the mechanisms of justice, it is only a small example of the further erosion of liberties and politics that we can expect at his hands once he is in power. Cameron has come across, in his eagerness to please, as the pathetic teenager with no friends who will degrade himself in hope of making some friends and becoming popular. For this old Leftie, give me an authoritarian with a sense of Thatcher any day instead of this spineless spin-man.
BlogsPosted by Karl Sharro Mon, May 25, 2009 14:15:18
Writing in the times today, Kate Muir announced that eco-art 'will be huge this summer'
, arguing with typically lame eco-speak that 'Preserving sharks in formaldehyde is over; the days of preserving sharks in the ocean are here." The Barbican is leading the eco-conformist assault with its upcoming exhibition Radical Nature — Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet,
followed by Tate Britain's Heaven and Earth
, featuring the works of Richard Long. Long in any other age would have been considered an eccentric gardener, today he is considered an accomplished artist by tapping into the sense of insecurity about our 'fragile planet'.
Muir, as ever, knows a lot of big words, but doesn't have a clue how to make meaningful sentences out of them. Like many of her contemporaries, she absorbed a lot of concepts and phrases in college, without really understanding what they signify, but still has the audacity to use such concepts in print. She epitomises that breed of journalists who seem to think that the universe started in 1997, everything prior to that being a giant blob of events and concepts that are too hard to disentangle. This utter unawareness of history comes across in sentences like 'of course, Land Art has been around for ever'. Like, Kate couldn't be bothered to find out, like, when and why.
Muir's complete ignorance is manifested even more painfully in her naive proclamations: '..the new eco-art movement is not merely about the medium, but the message too'. Read: 'on message'. It is not important how banal and mediocre your 'art' is, as long as it is on message, as long as you feel the suffering of Mother Earth in the depths of your soul, and use whatever medium at your disposal to express that pain: sand, snow, rock, and ultimately, and appropriately, manure. Muir is happily preaching us that art will no longer be a selfish endeavour, it shall be put to the service of the great collective eco-whinge, the mighty bout of never-ending eco self-flagellation. Hurrah!
What Muir, and every mediocre curator that has been promoted to a position of responsibility because they are 'on message', doesn't realize is that this vulgar reduction of art to a tool of propaganda is antithetical to the spirit of art. Art has to be free from any such intrusions and demands to be meaningful, art has to revolt and kick back against the prevailing assumptions, and art should never be restrained by the parameters of 'social responsibility'. Art has been used historically as a medium for political protest, but how is that relevant today when everyone has embraced environmentalism? How radical could eco-art be when it is merely repeating what politicians and journalists are constantly babbling about?
Muir's attempt at making eco-art sound heroic are simply pathetic. She tries to portray two artists from Brighton as modern-day revolutionaries, claiming that their 'work exemplifies the combative mood around the country'. And I thought that people are actually worried about losing their jobs and paying their mortgage, silly me. Of course to Muir and her fellow 'organic-wine and fair-trade coffee' 'mentalists, such real-life concerns are not as important as the latest fad in eco-whinging. And this is why she thinks the antics of Hanks and McCurdy, the two eco-artists from Brighton, are examples of radical eco-art.
The pair dabble in the sort of art that bored teenagers and pensioners on holiday usually do, except that they don't think of it normally as art: writing on snow and bio-degradable graffiti. Their cause? Brighton beach is dirty and polluted, plastic is to blame. In a heroic feat, they visit parliament to lobby on behalf the Marine Conservation Society, then they flip their T-shirts, selflessly showing their bras in the process, to reveal messages about the dirty beach. Muir is nearly in tears at this moment, 'as MPs fiddled their expenses in the background and the planet burnt'. Drama straight out of Hollywood.
Of course the real message is: we are two smug, self-centred attention seekers who will do anything to get a bit of attention. That anyone could imagine that this has anything to do with art, or even politics, is a sign of how low public discourse these days is. And how degraded both art and politics have become, allowing such trivial concerns to grab media attention. Yet there is a danger in this trend to tame art and turn it into a medium for channeling social responsibility.
Firstly, there's the unbearable prospect of art being judged not on its intrinsic merits, but in terms of how much it serves a bigger cause. For the record, this is what Fascism historically did, it appropriated art for its own needs. Simply because we imagine eco concerns to be a more noble cause does not justify such an appropriation. Secondly, there's the even more serious prospect of a rigidly conformist society where dissent is not tolerated. Art should strive to liberate itself from the demands of conformity, when it starts seeking to be conformist, we know we are in trouble.
Kate Muir relishes the prospect of eco-art taking center-stage, but this is based on a completely wrong understanding of the nature of art and the parameters within which it operates. The logic of environmentalism has been internalised by the political classes and the media, and there are hardly any dissenting voices these days. Co-opting art into this un-questioning arrangement will not help matters at all, but will lead to more of the banal art that justifies its mediocrity through its important 'message'. In a civilised society we should not tolerate mediocrity, art should strive for excellence not conformity.
PoliticsPosted by Karl Sharro Wed, May 13, 2009 23:34:08
Tired of life in the materialist and consumerist West? Why not spend a few months in Palestine, away from it all, training the local population to keep their ambitions low and stay at the mercy of an agrarian mode of life? This is the vision that Green Intifada is promoting. A group of volunteers, mostly from the UK, "work in the community to implement initiatives for sustainable living and food production." For sustainable read pre-modern and backwards. These include "rainwater harvesting, vegetable gardens, tree planting, greywater reuse, composting systems and compost toilet building."
The days of solidarity with the Palestinian people based on a healthy notion of human solidarity and active human agency are long gone. Today, the Palestinians have been turned into our poor cousins that cannot fend for themselves and solidarity has been replaced with pity. Hannah Arendt pointed out that pity dehumanises its receivers, and this outlook towards the Palestinians is as dehumanising as Israeli aggression. The Green Intifada is an example of this patronising expression of the contemporary Western outlook towards the Palestinians. Rather than seeing the Palestinians as a people fighting for self-determination and national liberation, they are reduced to helpless peasants that need to be taught even the basics of a primitive agrarian way of life.
Time to start exposing these initiatives for what they really are: they are not motivated by concern for the Palestinian people but are an expression of western discontent with modernity. This is a form of escape from the demands of life in the west, a way of burying one's head in the sands of Palestine. In the process, the Palestinians are recast as pure, unspoiled peasants, the alternative to the modern corrupted western individual, the image of what could have been if modernity and industrialisation had not occurred.
In itself, the Green Intifada is not a sinister or dangerous operation, the Holy Land has always attracted all manner of lunatics to go and pursue their own brand of millinerianism. However, what it says about the state of politics and the outlook towards the Palestinians is quite revealing. The Palestinian struggle has been emptied of any meaning and completely de-contextualised. Instead of a cry for freedom and an aspiration for universal change, it is now treated as a parable for the wickedness of humanity. It is easy then to take sides not based on a genuine understanding of the political dynamics, but on the basis of cartoonish over-simplifications that are entirely wrong.
The Israelis are cast as the villains because they dared to spoil the virgin land with their western technology and intensive agriculture, while the Palestinians are the good guys because they retain the connection to the land. Aside from the fact that the relationship with the land is a Fascist invention that has its roots in Nazi ideology, it is also an extremely inaccurate depiction of Palestinian society. The Palestinian struggle for self-determination is the beginning of the process of by which the Palestinians can control their own destiny and build a modern nation. A modern nation, with modern infrastructure, not 'sustainable' compost toilets, there are plenty of those in the camps.
"People are being driven from the land, denied access to essential resources, closed into urban ghettoes and severed from their natural heritage". A process known otherwise as urbanization which every modern society goes through. The Green Intifada eco-imperialists are not resisting Israeli occupation, they are trying to resist the process of modernisation, a sentiment expressed clearly on their website. If their vision prevails, and I have to admit their is no real danger of this because the Palestinian people have not struggled for decades to end up in the 19th century, but if their vision prevails it would be entirely consistent with what Israel wants: a docile Palestinian population that is happy to live off the land with no aspiration.
Ain't gonna happen. Go look for your agrarian paradise somewhere else.
BlogsPosted by Karl Sharro Thu, May 07, 2009 18:40:18
Surveillance society is once again a hot subject, in light of the DNA database debate. A reminder of my essay on the subject:
"It’s been said before, I am aware, but Orwell was immensely prescient. 1984 has come and gone, leaving behind an entrenched legacy of surveillance made even more powerful by the advancements in monitoring technology in recent years. Query the phrase ‘eye in the sky’ in your search engine of choice, and instead of a biblical reference or even the Alan Parsons Project 1982 hit single, you are referred first to surveillance camera manufacturers. Meanwhile, the unblinking eyes of CCTV cameras keep a constant watch on every street in London, and it seems that the rest of the nation is catching up fast." Read on: http://karlsharro.co.uk/surveillance.html
BlogsPosted by Karl Sharro Mon, April 06, 2009 18:22:02
Forget about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, that’s way too dignified for the petty bourgeois grievances that manifested themselves in the Big Tantrum of 09 on the streets of the City of London this past week. The Three Stooges of the Apocalypse is a more apt moniker to describe those lost souls gathered outside the halls of the G20 proceedings, as opposed to their equally confused counterparts who had the pleasure of experiencing the event from within. The Three Stooges of the Apocalypse beautifully sums up the equal measures of banality and doom-mongering that fuelled this middle class tantrum, and as luck would have it, Newsnight assembled three guests
on the evening of that most insignificant of demonstrations, each representing one wing of the White Middle Class Anger and Doom-Mongering apparatus. For the duration of their chat with Jeremy Paxman, they faithfully re-enacted the antics of the original Three Stooges, although too much less humorous results. Like a bird with three wings, this is a freak of nature that didn’t fly far.
Our Three Stooges of the Apocalypse for the night were Barbara Stocking, the Director of Oxfam, or White Woman Knows What is Best for Africa, Mark King, from the Camp for Climate Action , or White Man Knows What is Best for the Planet, and the comedian Mark Thomas, or White Man Knows What is Best. (In some circles he is known as the least funny comedian in the universe, perhaps he should be investigated by the Trading Standards Agency).
Paxo was atypically restrained, focusing most of his characteristic ire on the International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, the boy-wonder of New Labour, and gently sheltering his fellow members in The White Middle Class Liberal Club. Paxo gently prodded The Three Stooges, what’s their wish list for G20 decisions? Barbara Stocking: Financial Stimulus for poorer nations, presumably to be distributed through Oxfam and like-minded Neo-colonialists so that they can prepare poor African farmers for the challenges of goat-herding in the 21st century and shelter them from the nasty syndromes of development that the west is suffering from, such as clean drinking water and functioning public transport systems. Mark Thomas: Get rid of tax havens! For a self-described radical, Thomas is certainly tame, managing to agree with Angela Merkel and Nicola Sarkozy, perhaps the most conservative politicians in Europe today, and the two who have absolutely no clue about what to do except to appear to be challenging the US and the UK without actually doing so. Thomas thought that tax havens, where most hedge funds are based, are what caused the crisis. Forget about the de-industrialisation of the West and the lack of productivity in paper economies that produce very little but consume more than anyone else, and let’s demonise the faceless hedge funds. Mark King (ponytail? Seriously, dude?): Climate Change! (Surprise, Surprise!) He even came prepared with a sound byte, the climate doesn’t do bailouts! The greens are definitely getting better script writers these days, but you have to agree with Obama, put lipstick on a pig… (or even a ponytail).
Mark King doesn’t like the dinosaur that is high-carbon industry. But he and his fellow greens don’t like low-carbon industry either. They hate industry full stop. Why are they focusing on aviation, which is one of the smallest producers of carbon emissions? The Greens have consistently opposed any technological solutions for Climate Change preferring to reduce consumption and smother demand, and solve the problem at is root. Kill aspiration and progress, but save the planet. How do they square the circle between their demands for caps on CO2 emissions which would lead to more economic problems by reducing productivity, God only knows. Or Gaia.
Yet, it was entertaining to see The Three Stooges do their act and expose how little they know, and how little they understand the world we live in, and the real reasons for the economic slump. (I think the sound of the recession happening sounds somewhat like slummmmp.) The solution is more industry, in the West and the Rest, more productivity, more investment in real infra-structure as opposed to meaningless subsidies for inefficient energy technologies such as solar panels on flats in London. And while we’re at it, let’s not politicise the energy question, and release from the confines of the climate change discussion. The real energy question is how we can get more energy, way more energy, cheaper, cleaner and more available, everywhere. So that we can fly more, produce more, and have more. So that one, every family in Africa can have a large house, two cars, and take a holiday in Europe every year. (They can go somewhere else if they want, it’s merely a suggestion).
To The Stooges of The Apocalypse, the world is passing you by, you are holding centre-stage now, but you are irrelevant. The media’s obsession with your every little action or utterance does not mean anything in the real world, and your mates from Cambridge or Oxford will not dictate the course of events in the long run. One day, the workers in this country will wake up, and then your antics will be over. Think of your next show.
BlogsPosted by Karl Sharro Mon, March 30, 2009 13:41:39
I watched The Satanic Verses Affair
late last night on the BBC, and thought it was really good. Salman Rushdie isn't the perfect hero of free speech, but who is? It's a great reminder that people's real character emerge through their conflict with the world, and their ideas are shaped by this encounters, life is not a Hollywood film. Rushdie made a lot of concessions, re-converted to Islam, issued apologies, and then announced that his experiment with Islam was over and admitted that he hadn't converted out of conviction.
Hanif Kureishi came across as a more heroic figure, dismissing Rushdie's enemies as the 'bearded ones', but he didn't have to go through what Rushdie experienced. The real hero to me was Frances D'Souza entirely committed to the cause of defending Rushdie's right to free speech without compromise, she was very convincing in her defense of the principled stance that drove her and her colleagues to form the International Committee for the defence of Rushdie.
The other notable contributor to the program was Inayat Bunglawala, one of the Islamic activists who were shaped by the Rushdie affair and took their first steps in politics through the campaigns to ban the book. At the end of the program, Bunglawala admitted that they were wrong in calling for the book to be banned and for supporting the Fatwa against Rushdie. Instead, he said, they should have fought it on 'the plain of ideas'. It's an amazing admission, and shows that at least some people did learn from the whole episode.
If Islamic 'fundamentalists' manage to learn the value of free speech, perhaps the environmental 'movement' should take notice that its tactics of intimidation and accusing people of denial do not serve its cause. Who's more reactionary today, an Islamist whose willing to discuss his most sacred ideas publicly or an environmentalist who goes out of his or her way to silence opponents?