These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 2, 2006.
Saturday, 2 December 2006
"Misleading Cases and Brothers in Law" - Emerelda Weatherwax
I offer (and certainly hope you will accept) further suggestions for such a book. For a wide anglophone audience, the author should allude or use only those cases that can be found not just in the English or just in the American casebooks, but in both, and even possibly in the basic texts of other countries whose legal systems descend, at least in part, from that of the English common law: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, even Israel. Since it was the ship with the cotton, not silk, on it (for god's sake, it was headed for the mills of Liverpool), that got us started, I'll stick to contracts. The unforgettable names of the parties and the subject matter suggest immediately two cases: Wood v. Lady Duff-Gordon and Hadley v. Baxendale. Yes, I'd stick to old roast chestnuts, though an occasional marron glace thrown in for the connoisseur would not be out of place. If you desire more, including cases outside of contracts (in Property, Pierson v. Post with its the free-running fox is in both American and British casebooks), I can hand you the list at our next meeting. Meet me under the Biltmore clock, on December 9, 2006, at 6 p.m. As usual, I'll be wearing a trenchcoat and dark glasses and I'll be carrying a copy of Maitland (I'm leaving Pollock at home). I'll try not to disappoint. I'll try, this time, to meet your expectations. I remember that night in Prague.
Posted on 12/02/2006 5:56 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Not a natural history of
"It is the world of the American blogosphere of the ‘left’ and ‘right’; the world not of the lunatic fringe, though it may often seem so, but of vox pop. It is a world of which the ‘MSM’, or ‘mainstream media’, knows too little. Yet blog-site contributors’ opinions, threats and predictions — expressed in large volume on such sites as jihadwatch, littlegreenfootballs or Daily Kos — merit increasing attention for what they reveal of the temper of our times."--David Selbourne
In Selbourne's list "jihadwatch" leads, like Abou Ben Adhem, all the rest. But he apparently cannot distinguish between the principals and the odd (and some are very odd) poster who emotes, or goes on a tear about "liberals" or on the other side "Bush as a tool of the oil companies." There are irrelevancies; there is special pleading; there are hobby-horses to be ridden to Banbury Cross and back. That's par for the St. Andrew's course. There is nothing he says, either about matter or manner, that adequately characterizes what the principals at JW do, and write, and think, and he knows that perfectly well. Nowhere else, among all the websites devoted to the matter of Islam, is there such an un-pigeonholable site. Nowhere else has there been such consistent and deadly (because unanwerable) criticism of the war in Iraq and the man I have called twice in the last day Captain Queeg. Not exactly right-wing loyalists. Nor left-wing either.
But Selbourne feels that he has not been given his due, in all kinds of ways, it is clear from this and other evidence. This annoys him. And so he performs his act of lumping: lumping us in with other sites, lumping the crudest of posters with the principals. I'm not about to take those lumps quietly.
Posted on 12/02/2006 6:12 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Hezbollah rising in Lebanon
WaPo: BEIRUT, Dec. 1 -- Hezbollah and its allies escalated Lebanon's month-long political crisis into a popular confrontation Friday, sending hundreds of thousands of supporters into the streets, parking lots and sidewalks of downtown Beirut, vowing to topple the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and reorient the country.
The city's stylish downtown, to some a symbol of recovery from the 15-year civil war that ended in 1990, was awash in red-white-and-green Lebanese flags, interspersed with banners in the colors of various sectarian and political leaders. The winter sun glinted off coils of wire and barricades encircling the colonnaded government headquarters nearby, where Siniora and other ministers have taken up residence. But the crowd was more festive than angry, more celebratory than militant, as the theater of the moment intersected, perhaps a little dissonantly, with the drama of a struggle as decisive as any in Lebanon's history.
"I wish that our prime minister and his ministers were here among us today, rather than hiding behind army tanks and barbed wire," Michel Aoun, an influential Christian leader allied with Hezbollah, told the crowd. "The one who has support of his people does not need barbed wire." Moments later, he added, "I call on the prime minister and his ministers to resign."
In symbolism, numbers and aims, the protest marked a collision between two countries that have coexisted uneasily inside Lebanon following the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri in February 2005, when dueling protests convened in downtown Beirut over Syria's 29-year military presence here. They share almost no common ground: the culture of resistance to Israel celebrated by Hezbollah or the accommodation promoted by Siniora's government; the influence of Hezbollah's patrons in Iran and Syria or that of the government's French and American allies; a divided social perspective, one more religiously traditional, one more liberal. Also at issue is the extent of power due the long-disenfranchised Shiite Muslim community, the country's single largest, that Hezbollah and its militia largely represent.
"One Lebanon, one voice!" some people shouted Friday. But the question playing out across downtown Beirut, under the statue of one of Lebanon's founders, Riyad es-Solh, was the same question asked at Lebanon's independence in 1943 and so often since: What kind of Lebanon?
Posted on 12/02/2006 6:27 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Back in a nonsense
Among the books Andrew Ferguson names as America's five funniest
is this classic:
4. "Westward Ha!" by S.J. Perelman (Simon & Schuster, 1948).
Seventy years ago "nonsense" was an honored subclass of American humor, heavy on pointless paradox and wordplay for its own sake. The closest thing to nonsense that's worth reading today: the short pieces of S.J. Perelman, onetime scriptwriter for the Marx Brothers. His work can seem bloodless and slight--he created nothing as heartfelt as Jack Keefe or as charming as Thurber's Columbus--but for sheer verbal virtuosity, for his dizzy manipulation of language, Perelman deserves a place at the top of the trade. "Westward Ha!" is an account of a trip to the Far East ("The whole business began with an unfavorable astrological conjunction, Virgo being in the house of Alcohol"). As a travel book it is more closely tethered to reality than most Perelman stuff and thus easier to enjoy. The witty illustrations by his friend Al Hirschfeld are lagniappe
Posted on 12/02/2006 6:32 AM by Robert Bove
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Re: Back in a nonsense
...and wordplay for its own sake.
As opposed to what? Wordplay for the common good? Isn't wordplay always an end in itself? I don't see how it could be pressed into the service of a higher art, although higher arts may certainly be pressed into the service of wordplay.
Posted on 12/02/2006 6:50 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Tit for Tat
RABAT (Reuters) - A Moroccan court jailed a German tourist for six months for attempting to convert Muslims in the southern resort of Agadir, officials said on Wednesday.
The court in Agadir, Morocco's main tourist destination, found the 64-year-old man guilty of trying to "shake the faith of a Muslim," they added.--from this news item
Tit for tat.
Shut down all Muslim missionary efforts, those sinister well-financed cleverly-targetted campaigns of Da'wa, in prisons all over the Western world, and on the streets too, where the economically marginal think that Islam promises "social justice" because they know nothing about the distribution of wealth and power in Islmaic countries, and where the psychically marginal, the spoiled Spiritual Searchers of the Marin-County variety (John Walker Lindh), or the S.D.S.-Trotskyite-been-there-done-that Schwartz variety (googlel "Weiss-Schwartz Syndrome" and have fun), or any other classification or category your own private taxonomy identifies, are also subject to the siren-song of Tablighi Jamaat, and all the other groups and grouplets and groupuscules, peddling their "spiritual" wares -- that is to say, signing up the gullible as recruits for the Army of Islam. And once in, they can never get out.
Posted on 12/02/2006 7:16 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Keeping them down
GHAZNI - The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.
The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely.
But his life was over.
He was partly disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes. The remains were put on display as a warning to others against defying Taleban orders to stop educating girls.-- from this news item
Waiting to hear what Fatima Mernissi, Leila Ahmed, Leila Abu-Lughod, Diana Eck, and Shirin Ebadi, say about this, as they carefully point out that the mistreatment of women, demonstrated in the attempt to deny them education, is merely a "cultural practice" and has nothing to do with Islam. It would be far truer to say that those Muslim peoples and polities most willing to overlook the tenets and attitudes of Islam are those where women have the best chance at something like a semi-decent life, and that it is precisely to the extent that a country observes the Shari'a, or tries to, that determines the level of hideousness of the treatment of local Muslim women.
Forget, everyone, what Mernissi and Ebadi and Ahmed and assorted running dogs of Islam -- Karen Armstrong comes to mind -- say about Islam and "feminism" or "Feminism and Islam." Read Hirsi Ali. Read Azam Kamguian and those who blog at the Homa Darabi website. Forget the purveyors of nonsense (Purveyors of Nonsense To His Majesty King Abdullah, Hassan, Hussein, Muhammad, whatever you want, since round about 1985, when the whole ridiculous "Islam and Feminism" thing got started).
Posted on 12/02/2006 7:27 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Posted on 12/02/2006 7:58 AM by John Derbyshire
Saturday, 2 December 2006
The world we would lose
Charles Moore of The Spectator muses on what we would lose by taking Christianity out of the public culture:
Waiting for an appointment in the central lobby of the House of Commons this week, I started to count the number of Christian references, including crosses, in the mosaics and sculpture above me. I got to 17 in about as many seconds (the depictions of the patron saints of the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom contained most of them) before my host came to collect me. If a British Airways approach — no visible religious symbol permitted — were to be applied to our public culture, the purge would have to be extensive. Out would go St Pancras, King’s Cross, Charing Cross, Marylebone and Fenchurch Street; so would Westminster itself. Our coinage would have to be changed; so would the national flag and the Royal Standard; so would some of our public holidays. Most of the Oxford and Cambridge colleges would have to change their names, as well as their statutes; so would thousands of schools. Virtually no coat of arms of any institution would survive. Police symbols would have to be altered, as would regimental banners (which, obviously, would no longer be allowed to hang in churches). The concept of the Christian name would be suspect, so that it might become a criminal offence to be called, say, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Someone should start a complete inventory of the world we would lose.
Somebody just has.
In the interests of EU harmony, perhaps the UK should be compelled to purge itself of any names that might offend the French. Many street names, including my own, would have to go. No Waterloo, no Trafalgar Square, no Beef Wellington or Wellington boots, no French leave or letters, no frogs and snails and francophobe tales, nothing to laugh at at all.
Posted on 12/02/2006 9:03 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Charles Moore again, this time on BBC anti-Israel bias:
The BBC’s Radio Four on Monday morning: ‘The ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza appears to be holding even after militants fired rockets into Israeli territory.’ So the BBC definition of a ceasefire that holds is one in which Israel does not fire, but Palestinians do.
And on the abuse of the word "Holocaust":
As the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery in this country approaches, Tony Blair expresses ‘deep sorrow’ for British involvement in the trade. Extraordinary that he should feel the need to adopt such a tone when the act commemorated is something to be proud of. But his words are carefully chosen in order to avoid paying ‘reparations’ to descendants of slaves who think they deserve them. It is worth noting one thing about the reparations campaign. The campaign’s spokesman, Esther Cranford, speaks of the ‘so-called slave trade’. The term she uses is ‘the African Holocaust’, and she and her allies speak of the slave trade as ‘genocide’. Presumably, the campaigners prefer these terms because they wish to find a form of white oppression of blacks which is as bad as bad can be. It is a constant source of rage to some militant black groups, to many Arabs and to many Muslims, that the word ‘Holocaust’ belongs in people’s minds uniquely to the suffering of the Jews. The Muslim Council of Britain refuses to take part in Holocaust Memorial Day because it wants the day to commemorate all genocides, and it pretends that what has happened in Palestine over the years qualifies. If the idea of the African Holocaust could be established, campaigners would at last have achieved their hearts’ desire, which is to make Britain and America morally equivalent to the Nazis.
Posted on 12/02/2006 9:23 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Dabashi and Nafisi: a win-win situation
Gideon Lewis-Kraus covers Hamid Dabashi's ridiculous criticism of Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran for Slate:
This past June, Columbia professor Hamid Dabashi, alarmed by Seymour Hersh's New Yorker story about an alleged administration plan to use targeted nuclear strikes against Iran, felt compelled to take action against American imperialist aggression: He sent an irate essay to the Egyptian English-language newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly. But Dabashi, a scholar of Iranian studies and comparative literature, chose a peculiar antagonist: Azar Nafisi, author of the best-selling memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003). A less-than-coherent pastiche of stock anti-war sentiment, strategic misreading, and childish calumny, Dabashi's essay (originally written three years earlier, upon the book's publication) accuses Nafisi—whose memoir tells the story of a clandestine book club she convened for two years in her Tehran home—of being a neoconservative pawn: She sought "to recycle a kaffeeklatsch version of English literature as the ideological foregrounding of American empire."
Dabashi's basic point, draped in shopworn academic prose, is that Nafisi used her readings of some Western classics—Austen, James, Fitzgerald, and Nabokov—to undermine Persian cultural autonomy. Nafisi, on his account, is a "native informer and colonial agent" whose writing has cleared the way for an upcoming exercise of military intervention on Middle Eastern soil—this time in Iran. He labels Nafisi a "comprador intellectual," a comparison to the "treasonous" Chinese employees of mainland British firms, who sold out their country for commercial gain and imperial grace. He deconstructs the book's cover image—which appears to be two veiled teenage women reading Lolita in Tehran—as "Orientalised pedophilia" designed to appeal to "the most deranged Oriental fantasies of a nation already petrified out of its wits by a ferocious war waged against the phantasmagoric Arab/Muslim male potency that has just castrated the two totem poles of U.S. empire in New York." Apparently frustrated by the lack of anything resembling an outraged response, Dabashi intensified his attack in an August interview in Z magazine: "To me there is no difference between Lynndie England"—one of the soldiers convicted of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib—"and Azar Nafisi." Dabashi's determination seems to have paid off, with recent articles about this artificial controversy on the cover of the Chronicle of Higher Education and in the Boston Globe.
.. Rather than reading Nafisi's well-intentioned book, however, as a mostly inoffensive and well-marketed literary trifle—he is, after all, a professor of literature—Dabashi insists on seeing it as political perfidy. He writes that her book "pushes back the clock half a century" in promoting "the cause of 'Western classics' at a time when decades of struggle by postcolonial, black and Third World feminists, scholars and activists has [sic] finally succeeded to introduce a modicum of attention to world literatures." This sort of claim makes clear what ultimately binds Dabashi and Nafisi to each other: their shared overemphasis on the politically salutary effects of reading novels and writing literary criticism. Dabashi's purposes are not served by calling the book bad because it is cliché, which would be right but pointless. He must call it bad because it is dangerous. In the end, Dabashi must conspire with Nafisi to make the book more important that it is: The besieged Nafisi gets to preserve her fantasy that removing her veil to read Austen in her home was not only therapeutically powerful but politically noble, and Dabashi gets to preserve his fantasy that criticizing Nafisi makes him a usefully engaged intellectual. But those whose fingers are on the triggers of those targeted nuclear warheads couldn't possibly care about what either of them has to say.
Posted on 12/02/2006 9:51 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Dabashi and Nafisi: one does, the other doesn't
Past JW post (Oct. 2005) which I now re-post as relevant to the article quoted above, and possibly to that article's author's inspiration:
"While I am pleased to see Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) on the New York Times Bestseller List, I couldn’t help but notice a few notches above it, and in its 91st week on the list, Aziz Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran.
This is illustrative.
It should be obvious that the entire Western world is avoiding the Big Question. The continuing use of the phrase "war on terror" -- a stupid phrase, a maddening phrase, a dangerous phrase – indicates this. In France the hit of last year’s television season was a series about a schoolroom -- all cartable and cahier and tablier -- in France in the 1950s, when there was still a zero-de-conduite atmosphere, and that supreme contribution of France to world civilization, the dictee, was inflicted on submissive students. The nostalgia for that schoolroom and the significance of the schoolroom -- consider the opening of Madame Bovary, or the various famous novels about odd schoolboys, or even the comic Petit Nicolas series – would require a Richard Cobb to limn them properly.
But what the popularity of that series shows is not nostalgia for the tablier but for a world in which it could be assumed that schoolroom discipline would not be a problem, for a certain atmosphere in which learning could take place, that is no longer possible. For now, the indiscipline brought by Muslim students -- who have been known to threaten and beat up both Jewish and, when the spirit moves them, Christian classmates, who do not merely question authority (though never the authority of Islam) but exhibit behavior that forces non-Muslim parents to remove their children from the public and place them in private schools (so much for Jules Ferry), who inhibit or shout down teachers who attempt to discuss such subjects as World War II (and the persecution and murder of Jews), or anything to do with Israel or the United States. Try mentioning the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, or NATO to a roomful of children of Muslim immigrants, whose knowledge of the world comes from the mosque and Al-Jazeera, and the new Hezbollah station allowed to beam its brainwashing into France.
Similarly, the extraordinary success of Reading Lolita in Tehran (was it one of Oprah Winfrey's picks?) is owed not to literary merit, but to the usual message-of-hope it provides. Those who will not take their Islam -- or their anti-Islam -- straight up, find it can be taken in small doses, and only if something oblique is treated. So the Islamic Republic of Iran is caught as a persecutor of women; Islam itself, its teachings and attitudes, is tangential. And the message is one of spiritual uplift: don't worry, girls, you can read great books, or Great Books, and see that what they offer is a Lesson in Freedom.
Well, yes, but the main lesson that "Lolita" offers is a lesson in how to use words. And the same with Jane Austen. Freedom is a sine qua non, but it is, in a way, the moral uplift that Nafisi claims can be derived directly from literature that is so much in a spirit that Nabokov, at least, would decry.
Her book's popularity has to do with an attempt to come to grips with, obliquely and in an unstated fashion, the problem of Islam. No one wants to really face up to the truth, just as few have taken it upon themselves, even among the Iranian exiles, to study the history of the treatment of non-Muslims in Shi'a Iran. It was the Pahlavis, and not Ayatollah Khomeini, who would have agreed with the forced conversions under Shah Abbas in the 1660s of Armenians and Jews (see Bat Ye'or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam).
Khomeini was not a sport. It was the Pahlavis who, with their reasonable treatment of non-Muslims, and their attempt to direct Iranian attention to Iran's pre-Islamic past, were the real sports. As late as the 1950s, in rural Iran, Jews were still being beaten to death for having dared to go out in the rain. The rain, you see, might drip from a Jew onto a Muslim, and infect him with the former's "najis" or "unclean" status. Robert Spencer has noted that Iranian Jews have reported to him on the daily humiliations they suffered in Tehran just as soon as the Khomeini regime came to power. The noted historian of Zoroastrianism, Mary Boyce, who lived in Iran in the 1970s, described the treatment meted out to the remaining Zoroastrians, the fiendish ways in which, for example, Muslim children would torture the dogs (so important to Zoroastrians) as away of tormenting their owners. What she lived through in modern Iran was little different from what she had learned from her historical studies. Infidels naturally want to believe that Khomeini, and the Islamic Republic, can be overcome. They do not want, nor do the best Iranian Muslims, those who are "Muslims-for-identification-purposes-only" Muslims (but not yet that serenely and supremely brave group, the ex-Muslims) want to believe that perhaps it is Islam itself, not a perversion of Islam, not a subset (those "Wahhabis" or "Salafists") of Islam, but orthodox Islam, that inculcates the hatred displayed toward those Zoroastrians, the "uncleanness" attributed to those Jews forbidden to go out in the rain, the enmity toward Christians which caused Abbas II to convert, overnight, and by force, the Armenians of Tabriz in 1660 (see the chronicles of Arakel of Tabriz). Filial piety keeps many Muslims, even the most advanced and sophisticated, from confronting head-on what Islam is all about. So they offer ways to avoid the subject, to pretend that the Islamic Republic of Iran does not represent or embody the real Islam, but simply another totalitarian state, a state that can be overcome, here and there, by establishing private preserves of mental freedom. But how small those preserves, how few people can have access to them, what a poor substitute they are for analyzing the real problem, and possibly working to de-Islamize, as much as possible, first the Iranian elite, and then others who may be willing, by painting Islam as an unwanted imposition on the superior Iranian civilization by primitive Arabs, to use whatever national pride can be fostered to work against Islam.
Reading Lolita in Tehran is a substitute for analysis of Islam: Man, or rather Woman, Will Triumph. Literature, or a certain kind of literature, can be Uplift. Just get 7 students together, read a few books, and keep the home fires burning. No, what the author might have done that would really have gone beyond the Oprah-Book-Club stage of celebration of The Human Spirit or The Triumph of Art would have been to ask herself and her loyal readers: Could any one of these books ever have been produced, much less been made widely available, in any Islamic society, ever? The answer is No. In a country, such as this one, where the teaching of literature has been handed over to professional, too-professional, students of that literature who are not always paying attention to the words, it is pleasing to be reminded about Elizabeth Bennet, and we can recall how her father tells her to stop playing the piano because, he tells her, "you have delighted us long enough." It is pleasing to be reminded of Humbert Humbert, with his aurochs and angels and secret of durable pigments. But there is a message in tow: the message that literature endures, and that offers an entirely specious, though crowd-consoling, message of hope. And that message is exactly the kind of "moral in tow" that Nabokov himself would have deplored, even in a good cause (he was perfectly ready to mock Pasternak for an expresson of poshlost', and did not refrain simply because Pasternak was an enemy, and victim, of the Soviet state).
There is something that "Reading Lolita in Tehran" does not ask or answer. And that is what even "Muslims-for-identification-purposes-only" Muslims, born into Islam and yet not allowing themselves to see right through the whole thing, out of filial piety, civilizational pride, embarrassment, or another motive. And that something is this: : what accounts for a 1000 years of little science and little art (outside of mosques and some calligraphy, and miniatures of Layla and Majnoun and various heroes on horses whose depiction was permitted under the "mythological creature" exception to Islamic strictures on painting), save for the verses of a handful of poets who were writing not with Islam but against it? Firdowsi, Sa'adi, Hafiz, Khayyam -- can these in any sense be claimed for Islam, as poets of Islam, as Islamic in spirit? How would they fare in the Islamic Republic of Iran, or in today's Saudi Arabia? Or anywhere that Islam is taken completely to heart? No, the book's popularity, for American readers, comes from a number of things. It comes from from the all-woman cast. It comes from the initial appearances of the attractive and charming author, a "good Muslim," the best and most soothing kind (good god, she wrote her thesis on Mike Gold -- what else does one want?). It comes from the seductive title that juxtaposes naughty "Lolita" the adorable suntanned girl who with Kenny at Camp Climax, or on Route 66 with her Humber Humbert, her tautonymous father-lover ("I am your father, and I am speaking to you in English, and I love you") with the chadorable girls of the straitlaced Islamic Republic of Iran. But most of all, the reason for the book's popularity is that it American readers think they are getting a book that will help them understand What's Going On, and in a small way, they do. But there is, despite the outward and obvious grimness, a Hollywood ending to this book. The 5 or 6 or 7 girls were saved, rescued by books, and the lesson of human freedom they taught. That leaves only 50 or 60 million other people in Iran, and more than a billion elsewhere in the Muslim lands, to go. The book may not have been written as offering some way out, but there is a pollyannish message in this bottle: we can each of us Find Freedom In Art. But how few people are capable of this at any time or in any place. It won't do as a guide to the Islamic Republic of Iran, or to Islam, or to the Big Problem of which that Islamic Republic is a single hideous instantiation.
Posted on 12/02/2006 11:38 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 December 2006
That Nice Lady Mrs. Nafisi
One more (there are quite a few) comments on Nafisi and her book, uplifted from the JW archives -- the kind of uplift I like:
"In the same way, the remarkable and sustained success of "Reading Lolita in Tehran" (Azaf Nafisi really should share her royalties with Dmitri Nabokov, given the indispensability of the word "Lolita" to the sales of her book; how many copies would have been sold of "Reading Pride and Prejudice in Teheran -- 300?) reflects not so much the book's modest virtues (in its message that novels can help to liberate us, that her handful of students saw them as exercises in freedom, a stay against not confusion but totalitarian Islam, the book would hardly be endorsed by her title's uncompromising co-author) as it does the popularity of the human interest side of things, particularly, one suspects, if the humans involved are women, constrained and persecuted in the Islamic Republic of Iran. There is nothing wrong with this, but one hopes those made aware through this book of the craziness of Khomeini's beliefs will also learn, perhaps elsewhere, that these beliefs are perfectly orthodox reflections of the mainstream of teachings in Shi'a Islam; Khomeini was by no means offering a bizarre interpretation of those teachings. Of course, it is one thing to dryly refer to some of his writings (his call for hating and murdering all Infidels, his insistence that there is no room for humor in Islam), including of course, those strictures, glancingly noted in Nafisi's book, about to whom it is licit (halal) for an observant Muslim to serve the cooked remains of a four-footed animal (a goat, a lamb, a camel) upon whom he has previously, and permissibly, lavished his amorous impulses."
Posted on 12/02/2006 11:45 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 December 2006
And now for a little something (same JW archives) on the incomparable Hamid Dabashi, Hagap Kevorkian Professor at Columbia University (where walked Jacques Barzun, Joseph Schacht, and Lorenzo da Ponte):
"Devotees of the genre know the pleasure to be derived from reading Hamid Dabashi's eulogy to Edward Said, with its echoes, for the connoisseur, of Dzhambul's 1936 "Song About Stalin" -- the first verse of which you can find, if you wish, in Ogonyok, No. 14, 14 March 1990.
The "Song About Stalin" goes thus in rough translation:
'Stalin-Sun! For our happiness, may you live [forever] in the Kremlin, We bring offerings to you -- our songs, our hearts, and our flowers. In the whole wide world, on this earthly sphere of Man, No one is more important for All Humanity [or: the Folk} than You.'
Now, with those lines dew-fresh in your memory, quickly google “Hamid Dabashi" and "Edward Said.” You will certainly detect the influence of the "Song About Stalin" on Dabashi’s “Ode to Edward Said” as surely as you would, in “Hyperion,” that of Milton on Keats (two names that naturally come to mind when Said and Dabashi are mentioned).
Why bring up Dabashi on Said yet again? Only because I never dared hope to find something else that would supply the kind and degree of pleasure you obtain from Dabashi’s immortal work. But I have, and it would be churlish not to share it."
[the rest of that posting is about another comical figure, "Scholar of the House" Khaled Abou el Fadl]
Posted on 12/02/2006 2:09 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Hamid Dabashi: An Ode to Edward Said
And now I post for your edification and entertainment the "Ode to Edward Said" composed by Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor at Columbia University and former Chairman of the Department of Middle East and East Asian Languages and Literatures (an important post, with important responsibilities):
The Moment of Myth
Edward Said (1935-2003)
By HAMID DABASHI
"Close proximity to a majestic mountain is a mixed blessing -- one is at once graced by the magnanimity of its pastures and the bounty of its slopes, and yet one can never see where one is sitting, under the shadow of what greatness, the embracing comfort of what assurance. The splendor of mountains -- Himalayas, Rockies, Alborz -- can only be seen from afar, from the safe distance of only a visual, perceptive, appreciative, awe-inspiring grasp of their whereabouts.
A very happy few -- now desolate and broken -- have had the rare privilege of calling Edward Said a friend, fewer a colleague, even fewer a comrade, only a handful a neighbor -- the closer you came to Edward Said the more his intimate humanity, ordinary simplicity, the sweet, endearing, disarmingly embracing character -- his being a husband, a father, a father-in-law, an uncle, a cousin -- clouded and colored the majesty that he was. Our emails and voicemails are still full of his precious words, his timely consolations, anecdotal humor, trivial questions, priceless advice -- all too dear to delete, too intimate to share. We were all like birds flying around the generosity of his roof, tiny dandelions joyous in the shade of his backyard, minuscule creatures pasturing on the bounteous slopes of the mountain that he was.
The prince of our cause, the mighty warrior, the Salah al-Din of our reasoning with mad adversaries, source of our sanity in despair, solace in our sorrow, hope in our own humanity, is now no more.
In his absence now it is possible to remember the time when you were and he was not part of your critical consciousness, your creative disposition, your presence in the world -- when he did not look over your shoulder watching every single word you wrote.
If remembering the time that you were but he was not integral to you is not to be an exercise in archeological futility, then it has to account for the distance, the discrepancy, between the bashful scholasticism of the learning that my generation of immigrant intellectuals received and the confidence and courage with which we can stand up today in face of outrageous fortune -- hand in hand with our brothers and sisters across races and nations, creeds and chaos -- and say, "NO!"
Today, there is a solidarity of purpose among a band of rebels and mutineers -- gentiles are among us and Jews, Christians and pagans, Hindus and Muslims, atheists we are and agnostics, natives and immigrants -- who speak truth to power with the voice of Edward Said the echo of our chorus. How we came here -- where we are, hearing with his ears, seeing with his eyes, talking with his tongue -- is a question not for making an historical record but for taking moral courage.
Now in the moment of his myth, when Edward Said has left us to our own devices and joined the pantheon of mythic monuments, is precisely the time to have, as he once said, a Gramscian inventory of our whereabouts -- once with, and now without him. Today the world is at once poorer in his absence and yet richer through his memory -- and precisely in that paradox dwell the seeds of our dissent, the promise of our future, the solemnity of our oath at the sacred site of his casket.
I come from a generation of immigrant intellectuals who mark the origin and disposition of their critical intelligence from the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism (1978). The shape of our critical character, the voice of our dissent, the texture of our politics, and the very disposition of our courage, are all rooted in every nook and cranny of that revelatory text. It was in the year of the Iranian Revolution, 1979, less than a season after the publication of Orientalism, that Samuel Klausner, who taught us theory and method, first introduced me to Edward Said's spectacular achievement in an utterly prosaic manner. I was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, finishing a dual degree in Sociology of Culture and Islamic Studies. By the time I read Orientalism (inhaled it rather, in one deep, satisfying swoop -- drank it like a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade on a hot summer day), I had already read Karl Marx, Max Scheller, Max Weber, and George Herbert Mead on the sociology of knowledge. What Said had argued in Orientalism was straight out of a sociology of knowledge angle -- and yet with a globality of vision, a daring, defiant imagination, and with such an assured audacity that I remember I could not believe my eyes -- that I was reading these words in that particular succession of reason and rhetoric.
By the mid-1970s, my generation of sociologists at Penn had already started reading Michel Foucault in a systematic and rather unusual curriculum given that the discipline of sociology was then being rapidly sold out to federally funded policy research and demography -- a downward spiral from which a once groundbreaking discipline never recovered. But at that time at Penn, Phillip Rieff, Digby Baltzell, Samuel Klausner, Harold Bershady, Victor Lidz, and Fred Block were serious theorists with a relatively universal approach to their sociological concerns. I wrote my doctoral dissertation with Phillip Rieff advising me on the sociological aspect of my work and with the late George Makdisi on the Islamic aspect. But the seed that Orientalism had planted in my critical consciousness never left my thoughts after that fateful Fall semester of 1979 when we read it with Samuel Klausner in that dimly lit, tiny room on the fifth floor of McNeal Building off Locust walk on the Penn campus -- smack in the middle of the hostage crisis in Iran, when I could hear a chorus of Penn undergraduates shouting in unison, "Nuke Iran, Maim Iranians!"
Take Orientalism out of that curriculum, Edward Said out of our consciousness, and my generation of immigrant intellectuals would all be a bunch of dispirited souls susceptible to chronic melancholy, or else, horribile dictu, who would pathetically mutate into native informers of one sort or another -- selling their souls to soulless sultans in DC or else to senile patriarchs in Princeton.
I had no clue as to Edward Said's work in literary criticism prior to Orientalism, and for years after my graduation I remained entirely oblivious to it. It was Orientalism that would not let go of the way I thought and wrote about modern or medieval Islamic or Iranian intellectual history. From then on, I began a journey, at once professional and personal, moral and intellectual, that brought me literally to his doorstep on the campus of Columbia University -- where I now teach. To my dying day, I will cherish the precise spot next to Miller Theater on the corner of 116th and Broadway where I met Edward for the first time and went up to him and introduced myself -- the gratitude of a liberated voice in my greetings.
I discovered Edward Said first from Orientalism then his writings on Palestine, from there to his liberating reflections on the Iranian Revolution, and then from there I began an almost Jesuit training in every single book he ever wrote and the majority of his essays and articles, reading and re-reading them like a dutiful student preparing for a doctoral exam, long after I was giving doctoral examinations.
Today, of the myriad of things I have learned from Edward Said, nothing matters to me more than the rhapsodic eloquence of his voice -- the majesty, confidence, courage, audacity, and poise of his diction, without which my generation of immigrant intellectuals would have been at the mercy of mercenary academics and embedded journalists who have now flooded the gutters of the mass media -- uttering their pathologies with thick Arabic, Persian, or South Asian accents and yet speaking with a nauseating "We" that sides with the bankrupt architects of this predatory empire. In Edward Said's voice, in his princely posture and magisterial air of confidence, the fragile tone of our almost silent objections and the frailty of our say in the matter suddenly rose to the occasion.
Through Edward Said we suddenly found comrades we never knew we had, friends and families we never suspected in our own neighborhood -- Asia, Africa, and Latin America suddenly became the extension of our home away from home. Jose Marti I discovered through Edward Said, as I did Kojin Karatani, Chinua Achebe, Eqbal Ahmad, Tariq Ali, Ranajit Guha, Gayatri Spivak, Seamus Deane, Masao Miyoshi, Ngugi wa Thiongo. Everyone else we thought we knew he made new sense of for us -- Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, Mahatma Gandhi, Mahmoud Darwish, Nazim Hikmat, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Faiz Ahmad Faiz.
As the color of our skin began to confuse the color line drawn tyrannically between blacks and whites in the United States -- segregated in the respective corners of their misplaced confidence about their races -- we Asians and Latinos, Arabs, Turks, Africans, Iranians, Armenians, Kurds, Afghans and South Asians were instantly brought together beyond the uncommon denominator of our origin and towards the solidarity of our emerging purpose, the nobility of our handshake with Edward Said.
For years after I had come to Columbia, I could not quite reconcile the public, mythic, iconic Edward Said, and the immediate Edward of my increasing acquaintance and friendship, camaraderie and solidarity. It was as if there was an Edward Said the Magnificent for the rest of the world and then another Edward for a happy few. The two were not exactly irreconcilable; they posited a question, a distance in need of traversing -- how could a mortal so fragile, frail, and accessible cut a global figure so monumental, metaphoric, parabolic?
When two years ago an infamous charlatan slandered me in a New York tabloid and created a scandalous website to malign my public stand against the criminal atrocities he supports, my voicemail was flooded with racist, obscene and threatening messages by the lunatic fringe he had let loose. Smack in the middle of these obscenities, as if miraculously, there was a message from Edward -- a breath of fresh air, refreshing, joyous, re-assuring, life-affirming: "Hamid, my dear, this is Edward . . ." Life was so amazingly beautiful. I kept listening to those obscenities just for the joy of coming to Edward's message. There was something providential in his voice -- it restored hope in humanity. Today at Edward's funeral, the heartbroken few who could look over the shoulder of the pallbearers of Edward's coffin were witness to yet another sublime restoration of hope when Daniel Barenboim played Bach's Prelude in E-Flat from Part I of the Well-Tempered Clavier as a musical tribute to his deceased friend. Those in the vicinity of this miracle saw and heard that the Maestro's loving farewell was no longer just a virtuoso pianist playing a beautiful piece of music-- but that they were privy to Daniel Barenboim speaking with Edward Said for the very last time, in the common language of their choice, privilege and transcendence.
Edward Said was the walking embodiment of hope -- one extraordinary incident that sought and detected an extraordinary sparkle in otherwise very ordinary people who happened on his watch. Years before, when I had open heart surgery and my dear, now departed, friend and colleague, Magda al-Nowaihi was just diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Edward was extraordinary in his support: calling on us regularly, sending us his new books and articles, reading our manuscripts, making fun of what he called our postmodernisms -- he was the sound of our laughter, the color of our joy, the shape of our hope. Magda fought her malignant cancer for years until her young children became teenagers; I defied my congenital fate and lived -- Edward, the model of our endurance, the measures of our truth, the meaning of our daring to walk into a classroom.
The closer I became to Edward the more impossible it seemed to tell what exactly it was that went into the making of his heroic character in such mythic measures -- by now I was too close to the mountain, embraced by its grace, oblivious to its majesty. But even in public, the account of his life that Edward Said published is no different. One reads his Out of Place (1999) in vain looking for a clue, a succession of historical or psychological causes and traits, as to what great or consequential events make for a monumentally moral life. Everything about Edward Said was rather ordinary, and yet an extraordinary adventure was made of the prosaic occurrences of this very life.
Born in Palestine in 1935, named Edward after the Prince of Wales, he lived a life of exile like millions of other Palestinians in the Arab world. Sent to Mount Hermon High School in New England, and subsequently to Princeton and Harvard for his higher education, Edward Said reports of no extraordinary event that one can identify, analyze, theorize as the defining moment of the mythic figure that he cut at the time of his untimely death. Edward was an ordinary man. Edward Said was a giant. The distance was covered by nothing other than the glory of his daring imagination.
Knowing Edward Said personally was a study in how heroes are made from the flesh and blood of the most ordinary and perishable realities. A Palestinian, an exile, an academic intellectual, a teacher, a scholar, a husband, a father, a friend: none of this common and abundant evidence of a disjointed world can account for the sum total of Edward Said as a towering figure measuring the very definition of a moral life.
"Did you know Professor Said," I asked Chaplin Davis here at Columbia when looking for a place for Miriam Said to receive the flood of visitors who wanted to pay their respects last Friday. "I never met him," she said, "but I know he was a warrior," and then she looked at me with a bright set of shining eyes and added ". . . for justice." "It was just like a light going off on campus," another colleague said of Edward's death.
If one is to begin anywhere to place the particulars of Edward Said's moral and intellectual life together it is not in the prosaics of his exilic life that he shares with millions of others, Palestinian or otherwise, but in the poetics of his creative defiance of his fate -- where he was able repeatedly to give birth to himself. At his death, Edward Said was the moral mandate, the volcanic outburst of a life otherwise wasted in and by accidents that accumulate to nothing. Exile was his fate and he triumphantly turned it into the fruit of his life -- the gift he gave to a world now permanently cast into an exilic departure from itself.
We can find few places in Out of Place that reveal the creative concatenation of such moments better than the concluding paragraph of the book. Like his life, Said's autobiography has to be read from its endings and not from its beginnings. "Sleeplessness for me," he says, "is a cherished state to be desired at almost any cost" (295). He stayed awake when the world went to sleep -- the insomniac conscience of the world, conversant with Minerva, observant with his eyes wide awake, like a wise owl, all-seeing, all-hearing, vigilant. "There is nothing for me as invigorating as immediately shedding the shadowy half-consciousness of a night's loss, than the early morning, reacquainting myself with or resuming what I might have lost completely a few hours earlier."
It is here, in the twilight borderline of repeated promises of a dawning light against the assured persistence of darkness, when it appears that the darker moments of our despair must yield to brighter hopes, that we always find Edward Said waiting for the rest of us to awake, to arrive. "With so many dissonances in my life I have learned actually to prefer being not quite right and out of place." Right here, I believe, Edward Said has rested his case and left his indelible mark on the rest of us, trying, as we are, to learn from him how to complement fatefully while remaining humanly incomplete. That, in my judgment, is the principal reason why such a multitude of people ordinarily at political and ideological odds with each other deeply loved Edward without contradicting themselves or him. His was a spontaneous soul -- he generated and sustained good will and moral purpose on the impulses of the premise he was given, not on the projected idealism of some metaphysical certainty.
What was paramount about Edward Said is that in his utter solitude he was never alone. He always spoke for an otherwise muted possibility of living a moral life against all odds, a graceful David swinging his sling and launching his stones against the Goliath of a world so mercilessly cast in the logic of its own madness -- to be the moral voice of a people, and to turn the tragic fate of that people into the tragedy of a global predicament in which we have all become homeless Palestinians. His virtue was to turn the vices of his time into momentous occasions for a more universal good that went beyond the specificity of one wrong or another. There was a catholicity to his liberating knowledge, a generosity to his moral rectitude, that easily transgressed boundaries and put to shame all territorial claims to authenticity. He was, as he rightly said, always slightly out of place, but that only brought out what was wrong with that place that could not completely accommodate him in the entirety of his character and culture.
In his legacy, Said has made a universal virtue out of the particular predicament that the world handed him at birth. Born in Palestine but denied his ancestral claims on that land, raised in Egypt but schooled with a British colonial education, dispatched to the United States by way of his father's claiming a more permanent part of his American dream but constantly driven to speak the truth of that lie to the powers that hold it, Said turned the inevitability of his fate into the defining moment of his stature as the iconic figure of an entire generation of hope -- against a whole culture of despair.
Edward Said's life has its most immediate bearing as an eloquent testimonial of a people much maligned and brutalized in history. His life and legacy cannot and must not be robbed of that immediacy. It is first and foremost as a Palestinian -- a disenfranchised, dispossessed, disinherited Palestinian -- that Edward Said spoke. The ordinariness of his story -- particularly in those moments when he spoke openly, frankly, innocently of his early youth, adolescence, sibling rivalries, sexual maturity, etc. -- is precisely what restores dignity to a people demonized by a succession of purposeful propaganda, dehumanized to be robbed of their homeland in the broad daylight of history. No assessment of his multifaceted achievements as a teacher, a critic, and a scholar, no laudatory endorsement of his universal humanism, no perfectly deserving appreciation of him as a musician, an essayist, a subaltern theorist, a political activist, etc. -- nothing should ever detract from his paramount significance as a Palestinian deeply wounded by the fate of what he repeatedly and wholeheartedly called "my people."
But Edward Said was not just a Palestinian, though a Palestinian he proudly was. Edward Said also became an icon, a moral paragon in a time when taking desperate measures have cast doubt on the very possibility of a moral voice, and here the ordinariness of his life makes the extraordinary voice that he was even more enduring. Said was not just a Palestinian. But he made every one else look like a Palestinian: made homeless by the mad logic of a brutal game of power that has robbed the whole world of any semblance of permanence.
How to remain an incessantly moral voice in a morally impermanent world, how to transfigure the disfigured mutations of the world into a well-mannered measure of truth, how to dismantle the power that false knowledge projects and yet insist that the just is right and the truth is beautiful -- that is the legacy of Edward Said, right from the mountain top of his majestic peak visible from afar, down to the slopes of his bountiful pastures which few fortunate souls were blessed to call home."
Print it out. Put the print-out on your refrigrerator, to remind yourself of what Hamid Dabashi, and Edward Said, and so much of university life today, is all about. And send it on to friends and relatives, and acquaintances everywhere.
It will cheer them up. It will put a smile on their face and a bounce in their step. It will make their day. It makes mine, everytime I re-read the thing.
Posted on 12/02/2006 2:12 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Intersession begins in two weeks, then Christmastime in a small town Georgia, where nobody thinks twice about saying "Merry Christmas"—and would still extend you Christian charity if you did hesitate. The great thing about intersession is an extended period away from fellow (fellow persons?) faculty who say things like this all the time:
"Historians of sexual difference have argued that 'sex as we know it' was invented some time 'in the eighteenth century,' but the modern conception of sexual difference that Thomas Lacqueur identifies as 'the two-sex model' seems clearly anticipated in Shakespeare's representation of Lady Macbeth." — Phyllis Rankin, professor emir emerita at the University of Pennsylvania and former president of the Shakespeare Association of America
The above citation found in Elizabeth Kantor's delightful Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature
, which just came in the mail this morning. I have nephews still in high school and I intend to give their parents and grandparents copies. While their loved ones still have imaginations.
Posted on 12/02/2006 2:15 PM by Robert Bove
Saturday, 2 December 2006
The Empire State earns itself a new nickname
Herb London has a new nickname for New York: "The Vampire State." He's right. Here's the opening salvo in his argument, "Reviving New York
For three terms or the last 12 years, Governor Pataki's administrations have produced little more than statewide economic stagnation. Some critics might even say these years produced retrogression.
If spending is one criterion of administrative drift, it is notable that the state budget went from $62 billion in 1995 when Mr. Pataki took office to today's $110 billion.
It is instructive that the governor ran as a fiscal conservative vowing to control spending. So much for campaign promises.
The rest is here
Posted on 12/02/2006 2:47 PM by Robert Bove
Saturday, 2 December 2006
Children of Men - In time for Christmas
Children of Men is an English, futuristic dystopian movie that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. But for our English friends, it makes England look marvelously rancid and bleak. In fact, many scenes shot in England look as if they were too easy to find and exploit as places of urban catastrophe.
I’m wondering if some places in the America like the Bronx or Bedford-Sty in NY still look as grim as they did in 70’s movies like Fort Apache. I guess Detroit is still pretty grim.
Anyway, we are fortunate in Children of Men that Julianne Moore is killed off quickly because she’s terrible and so is her character. You’ll all be happy to know that even when the world is ending, Lefties think they can make it a better place through revolution and killing the Man (and anyone else who happens to be standing by).
Posted on 12/02/2006 4:00 PM by Mark Butterworth
Saturday, 2 December 2006
See The Queen instead
Helen Mirren was amazing. Michael Sheen played Tony Blair with great sympathy and Helen McCrory was perfect as the woman we love to hate, Cheri Blair. I thought James Cromwell was miscast as Prince Phillip, but all in all this is a wonderful little film. Beautiful scenes of London and the countryside. Perfectly played tension between the generations. Stephen Frears directed.
Posted on 12/02/2006 5:02 PM by Rebecca Bynum