Wednesday, August 4, 2010
In 1953 Iranian democracy was interrupted in the most obscene crass manner possible.The US sponsored a coup , installing their man The Shah.As Alan Bennett has stated in his prized "Untold Stories" ( he was awarded a double first in History) revolutions are carried out by the middle class against an elite blocking its path , hence why the British elite has not suffered post-industrial revolutions as it an excellent sense when to give ground and yield enough crumb by piecemeal to sustain its place at the top.The only entity in Iran that could mount a successful revolution and shrug off US external interference was the Mullahs.The primary reason for this was , Dabashi himself misses the point , that the Ulema ( religious scholars and quasi-politicians) from tradition receive funding from the civil population ( in some cases 20% of a patrons disposable income) thus maintaining an independent resource from the grassroots and traditional business and craftsmen which meant that even in the time of the reign of the Shah being at its strongest point the Mullahs and their grassroots backers had complete financial independence from the state.
Dabashis Book , as can be seen from the comments , has a mixed and flawed analysis , as can be judged when the results of the Iranian elections are so incorrectly predicted from the emigres ( some of whom done quite well under the Shah) living in the US giving "expert" sounding on Iranian domestic aspirations and political trends.
The nature of the mixed analysis comes from the false weighting given to merely monitoring social websites and mostly english speaking net , the net is available to the richer students of established neighbourhoods of Tehran.The majority of these participants are 2nd of 3rd generation of Families who would still be doing well for themselves if the Shah was still in place.A good analogy would be if we were getting only the testimony from the established higher class minority in Caracas ( or Florida) and failing to receive the grassroots opinion of the barrios before making up our minds on the nature of the Bolivarian revolution.The other vast void in the emigres now being hopelessly out of touch of Iranian society from the hinterlands who were , under the Shah , completely out of the loop in terms of poverty alleviation and access to further education , more than half born after the revolution and a good portion after the end of the Iran-Iraq war.
As to the flaw , Dabashi himself tries to put a figure on how many Communists are in Iran , he comes up with , a plausible , one third of one percent ( 0.33%) and all of them living in prosperous North Tehran ( you have to come from a rich established Family to afford the luxury of being a Communist) and , he points out , deeply racist towards their fellow rural Iranians ( we are talking a minimum 60% if including rural urban towns), a race they hold in contempt for not being willing bulletfeed for their coffee shop leftist dreams , dreams ( if they turn into a nightmare, they can always enjoy from Times square or the Seine).
The bottom line is the Communist parties in Iran have only had three periods of flowering.Firstly when they were aided by the Russians , the Russians bombed the Iranian parliament in July 1908 killing many MPs , the second when the British promoted the communists in a classic divide and rule procedure and thirdly when Saddam Hussein gave shelter to the communists during the Iran-Iraq War , the communist party sided with the Baathist regime , interrogating/torturing Iranian prisoners.As one can see there is a common denominator of Communism and external components.
The problem , and it is a massive problem with Dabashis book , is , having identified the flaw he continues in a jaunty foxtrot merry march as if nothing is amiss.Hence we get the double entendre of irony , the more he articulates his theses , the more absurd and self-revealing his premise becomes.
Dabashi has become increasingly perplexed , and lesseningly reliable , as Ahmedinijad has won two successive democratic elections.Having declared the current Iran leadership as "fascistic" it is hard to accept that within Iran their candidate can defeat one who enjoys the support of the very powers that have a sordid track-record of blatant unhealthy interference in Iranian domestic destiny and affairs.
The bottom line is Ahmedinijad won the election because he has brought more Iranians than ever from neglect and poverty into mainstream higher education and a functioning middle class.Dabashi ( and his band of 0.33%) socialists emigres will have to accept that for the foreseeable future or they may end up being the vanguard which plays the tune of the next imperial Interruption of a People.
A more realistic analysis not weighed down by dogma ; ideology and wishful thinking is from Flynt Leverett , a realist US high ranking figure who deals with the issue on a rounded basis:
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Even Azzam Tamimi was taken by the scale and unprecedented landslide electoral Mandate of the Hamas Movements election victory in 2006.This included victories in seats in which Hamas candidates were arrested by Israeli authorities in collusion with the PLO and all the Hamas activists locked up during the election campaign.It was , and still is , the Ultimate Victory of the Intifada , the Palestinian People have spoken , and nothing can now Silence them.
The quality and value of this Book is that it is written from an associate of the mass movement from the point of view of this revolutionary popular phenomenon.Like the ANC in South Africa and Sinn Fein in the North of Ireland , Hamas will , though to the Palestinians it already is , be the Official recognised Government to a sovereign Palestine , the sooner the International Community and the concerned individual on the street understand and accept this the quicker and less deadly this inevitable process will be for all that value genuine Universal Human Values and Freedoms.
This review from a Malaysian sub-editor of The Palestine Internationalist acts as an excellent prologue as well as background reference to this vital Book.
In the democratic elections in January 2006 overseen and declared fair and proper by ex-President Jimmy Carter Hamas recorded a spectacular landslide victory including majority showing in areas of high Christian concentration.The Palestinian People exercised their right and have been paying a bloody and deadly price from the unelected policemen of democracy ever since.
Had Robert Fisk drawn the natural logical conclusions to the testimony he heard on the streets of occupied Palestine when news of the Oslo Accords seeped out in the mid 90s he would have heard a dual message of the process being rejected by the opinion of the street on account of not delivering a just settlement nor addressing the right of return as a non-negotiable aspiration of the Palestinian Diaspora.It ought to have been no surprise when the electorate voted the way they did , even though they knew the "International order" would "declare" peace on them by sanctioning a siege of Leningrad scenario interspersed with aerial bombing and military intervention.
Tamimis Book had to be delayed several times as the situation changed in the region at such a rate any Book either has the option to be out of date as soon as the ink is dry or having to contain appendices longer than the main body of the Book itself.Tariq Alis recent Book on Pakistan suffered from this very instance when Benazir Bhutto was killed in a bombing during the electoral campaign.
Tamimis Book manages to escape the major traps because it traces the History of the movement which became the premier mandated mass Palestinian force on the streets and communities creating a powerbase and infrastructure which won the ultimately the successful electoral campaign.Their strength was to deliver and defend their communities needs.
Though common recognised History dates the creation of Hamas to around 1994 , with considerable Israeli "encouragement" , a calamitous foreign policy disaster originally coined to cause a permanent split in Palestinian unity which totally back-fired in that Hamas used the hiatus to unite Palestinians from the grassroots up leaving the out of touch ; exiled ; corrupt and foreign aid dependent PLO mis-ruling from the top-down.
Azzam Tamimi in his "Hamas the early chapters" sees PLO as a breakaway segment from the Islamic movements , so the History goes back further than 1967.
If you take this into account the Hamas electoral victory was a "return" to basics and roots from the PLO "diversion" which failed to deliver a 2-state solution.
One aspect of Dr. Hamdi al-Taji al-Faruqi is that his plan is "favoured" by zionist historians because he wanted to have a state within the West bank ( technically part of Jordan) and Gaza ( part of Egypt) and therefore fits into the zionist argument that lands occupied in 1967 are not Palestinian but part of Egypt and Jordan , thus by default making Palestine conquered in 1948 belonging to Israel , hence , voila , the logic there is no such thing as Palestine as expressed by Golda Meir.
As Azmi Bashara said in that meeting way back in 2004 , Arafat strength was that he turned to the US for support , therefore taking the main body of the PLO with him , but the question was did he really win the hearts and minds of all Palestinians or was their support always there for the original Islamic mass movement from which Fatah broke away from.
Despite all the forces ranged against them , Hamas , simply by surviving the Gaza offensive in early 2009 have giving Isreal something the PLO can never do , giving the Israeli Army the appelation of "failed in their military objectives" as an heirloom far removed from the legendary attributes of beating five Arab armies until Hezbollah and Hamas came on the scene with grassroots shear will power backing them rather than lame and unrepresentative ; disprited picot-sykes sham shambolic regimes.
Below is a video of Azzam Tamimi displaying the passionate indefatigable spirit of the Palestinian Resistance and belief in the Longterm victory of the oppressed over the colonisers.
Friday, July 23, 2010
When you read a particularly incisive ;well -researched , hard-hitting article in some of todays quality periodicals ,like the great Seymour Hersh exposes of Abu Ghraib , in magazines like New Yorker , Rolling Stone and even some of Britains Sunday supplements the style of writing and the skilled essayist delivery were not invented overnight but was a genre developed over the period of the early 50s by such greats as Truman Capote , E.L.Doctorow and Norman Mailer.
This style of writing , as well as getting stories out which are against the mainstream grain , though valuable enough to touch the public concern in great appreciable numbers requires a certain pugnacious pusillanimous ego.
This trait did not win Norman great respect in the higher established literary circles , nor the approval of the mass media.But he did permeate a stand-offish respect with the public which , despite many a calamitous review , brought his work in solid numbers through many decades.
This Book is an extended highlights spanning of some 50 years of his work.Containing clips of a vast and powerhouse archive which astonishes.As you see in the review titles the word "Imperfect" is one that comes out loud and clear , but genius is never far behind.Whatever you think of Norman Mailer , without doubt he captured post-war US thought;politics and culture in a light which is only now becoming clear.
Below is a Mailer sharing his crystal clear views on the "appeal" of fascism:
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Though we take it for granted today as a perennial classic for all ages this Book took seven years to write off and on , the title also went through many changes prior to becoming one of the most famous catchphrases of the English Speaking World.
Surprisingly , more than one Person i know has said they have tried to read the Book on many occasions but have struggled to get past the first hundred pages.This is understandable for todays reader as the early part of the Book , breaking new ground at the time , does regurgitate the same joke over and over in ever increasing circles , the effect is a little like watching Monty-Python today seems stilted and laboured even though every comedy satire programme and social stand-up comic we enjoy today would not be here if the major-ground it broke had not cleared the way for them to express themselves comfortable to a mainstream audience.Here are examples this "joke" poping in and out in various guises:
p78 " everyone agreed Clevinger would go far in the academic world.In short , Clevinger was one of those People with lots of intelligence and no brains."
" he was a very serious, very earnest and very conscientious dope."
p95 " always impressed by how unimpressive he was."
If you do struggle with "same joke fatigue" i suggest you skip to Chapter24 titled "Milo".This is the beginning of a serious narrative and the rewarding critique of society and bureaucracy , the Book is no lesser for one having skipped to this chapter, then you can get full value of this classic and appreciate why it consistently nears the top of favourite lists for many readers.
The reward for getting through the Book is also to have the special experience of an uplifting ending which , due to spoiler effects , is so little talked about.Below is an interview with Heller on the 40th anniversary of the ultimate publishing of the work.
Joseph Heller did not rest on the laurels of his debut novel becoming his most popular one over time , here is an interview in which he shares perceptive views on the failings of the usually lauded Athenian Democracy and how we seem to be jumping head first to repeat their catastrophic errors:
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
This is a story about the conditions of the Soul , when the Intellect fails us and the Spiritual fails us , what do we do , what can we do.
In a time of nouveau plotlines from young turk authors , Haven has written an old fashioned book.
The standout of this story is the plot takes place in small town america , not in the coastal metropolises.This gives the angst a real-time feel about a very real america where life is lived in towns and communities of a few thousand to several hundred , a total which represents a much misunderstood and casually maligned significant population of the United States which is becoming an increasing and progressive force countering the neo-establishment "liberal" seaboards which , according to Chris Hedges intimations in the previous video , are rapidly taking on a role of the "progressive" monoliths whereas small town america is taking on a radical role of changing America back to the ways of the old role of strengthening from within without projection of blatant Empire.
Throughout American History a role reversal has been a significant factor , small town america is now where progress is to be found , and as the Book portrays , one of the reasons is that the question of americas soul has already been asked and resolved to some extents , in the same way as , according to Colin Powell the US military had faced and countered the race question in the 50s whilst the rest of US civil society had to wait nearly two decades before they followed suit , whereas the Power belt are in denial , fumbling from one crisis to another as they try to answer the questions of life with military hardware before it inevitably dawns on them to ask and answer the same questions.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
In the oscar winning film "The Hurt Locker" the first words , rather like the quotations of Herodotus in "The English Patient" are from Chris Hedges 2002 Book.Herein lies a paradox in the interpretation and therefore conclusions of the work which even the Author has straddled from inception to the changing scenery of War from a highly visual 3-dimensional video game making war into a armchair playstation type game into todays litany and picking over of various "failed" military objectives.
At first sight the Book can be seen as giving solace to a pessimistic view that War is always with us because it is part and parcel of the Human make-up.The average man will demand it sooner or later and his thirst must be quenched.The notion which Hedges unwittingly allows into the process is that the pressure for war is bottom led in society and , sooner or later , those at the top will have to oblige to release the pressure valve so as to control the process and give the baser orders what they crave whilst strengthening the elites position as to conduct and fall-out.
It will be seen this paradoxical view of looking at war as a base necessity for a base desire is not one that Chris Hedges ascribes to at all , but it does have to be pointed out that this Book does give comfort for those who follow this cynical view of Human need.
One question which rightly nags away is in the areas where Chris describes the raging Battles and the requisite inferred "addiction" in the post WW2 zones such as Gaza ; the Balkans ; Iraq is whether , using the addiction to conflict argument the wars in these regions are because the local populace are nourishing a satiation from them or , as a political geographer would likely conclude it is unhealthy outside , external contingency which fuels conflicts which could be readily resolved if left to the devices of the local Peoples without external power block mischief.
"War is a pornography of violence" states the author , describing the essential difference on page 166 we are told Gray wrote " between comradeship and friendship consists , it seems to me, of the heightened awareness of the SELF in friendship and the suppression of self-awareness in comradeship."
The earlier part of the Book deals with the "addiction" of journalists to war-situations rather than the desire of the population in war zones to prolong the process for fear of transfer to a stable non-War existence , the lack of clear differentiation between the two within the Book is where a paradox interpretation is allowed to develop.
As the Book progresses , as also the "case" for war on Iraq was being fought out in the media and political platforms laying partizan siege on the beleaguered civilians Hedges clear anti Iraq War credentials come to the fore in unambiguous terms.At last he realises that modern wars are foisted by the elite entrenched groups on a population that is unwilling to go to Conflict for reasons less than absolute national necessity , so much so , that millions of dollars of private and public finances had to be pumped into the most heavily resourced propaganda campaign in Human History to record even a slight , short-lived , public majority for a war which only a minority of the elite wanted.
Hedges quotes Milan Kundera " the struggle of one man against power.Is the struggle of the memory against forgetting".
Below Chris Hedges set the record unequivocally straight between understanding the "addiction" for war by society and knowing when an unrepresentative elite is trying to take society into the disastrous war for highly suspect and spurious reasons:
Check out especially at the 5 min 5 sec mark his desription of how liberals have lost touch with the working man and like the characters in Dostoevsky Notes from the Underground they aspire to speak the language of the working man whilst falling full square behind the agenda of the corporate elite , all in the name of progress.
Turning attention to how to address ending Conflicts Chris on page 130 sees much value in the type of conflict-resolution processes as the South African Truth and reconciliation Process , deeming it necessary.The reason for this is set on page 133 " the lack of closure tortures and deforms those who wait for an answer....it must be rectified if healing is to take place.".This commission processes are essential because they allow macro and individual victims of War to come to terms with what has happened and to begin the collective endeavour to heal the pain and cure the wounds in order to rectify the past in order to be able to plot a better future.
Admonishing those bitter-enders that still clamour to bring about a war using false propaganda and scaremongering tactics we see on page 146 " It is hard , neigh impossible, to fight a war if the cause is viewed as Bankrupt".The result of the increasing desperate propagation's for continuation of unpopular wars is " the notion that one fact is as good as the next" becomes " one of the most disturbing consequences of War".We can be laid by degrees and extremes of wanting War in order to "aid" the eradication of cultural practices , so we now have some advocating Nato troops being in Afghanistan because it may do the Womanfolk their good , without explaining how fully armed Nato soldiers are to be considered a positive role model for the betterment of female liberation any more so than soldiers of the Armies of Alexander the Great can be considered a worthy intervention for womanhood in the cities they sacked in the same areas 3 millennium ago, rather than the prevention of genocide , which is one of the few cases of war Hedges is prepared to countenance.
The last , and not least , concern is the damage done to the foreign soldier on the ground in a zone in which the hearts and minds of the local population have not been remotely won.On page 162 we get the observation we see in increasing veracity at home " War...probably worse is the psychiatric and spiritual toll" , that is of those poor combatants who return from a tour of duty without any physical wounds." In the 1973 war a third of all Israeli casualties were due to psychiatric causes"
Thursday, February 4, 2010
This is a beautifully written and highly evocative tale from the time of the Stalin purges , which Solzhenitsyn mockingly cited as being considered eventworthy because they targeted party cadres who were quite partial to overlook the earlier ones which were suffered by the populace at large , of the early 30s to the great siege of Leningrad during WW2.
This is a Human story told from the point of view of the innocent sufferers of the excesses of all the ideologies clashing at the time.A rich story putting flesh and bones to the astonishingly unfathomable numbers of victims of organised systematic horror.
The narrator on page 98-99 develops a nice handy motto " Lesson number one: expect nothing and nothing will surprise you : But here i am and here i am surprised" and "Lesson number two: regret is a waste of breadth and time." , survival was all.
Here Gillian gives a synopsis of what her tale is all about:
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Antonia Fraser was the partner of the late genius playwright Harold Pinter ,as well as the highly talented daughter of Lord Pakenham , more commonly known as Lord Longford.
This biography is of an excellent order , relying on well researched facts allied to a knowledge of the inner workings of elite society and social movements alike.
A very startling observation , shared by many non-dogmatic historians today , is that the French Revolution was a middle to upper class revolt against the pace of distribution of wealth and privileges from the Centre to the neo-estate.
A more accurate reading of the continuum of historical events from the end of the reign of the Sun King until the aftermath of the rise of Napoleon is that France was not in a position to wage expansive military campaigns against their neighbours in order to increase wealth for the ever burgeoning middle class.Between the paying of debts to the creditors ( 41% of GDP) and the expense of the Royal Estate ( 7% of GDP) nearly half of the French economy at the time disappeared into the black hole of repayments , the cost of the Royal Estate is not particularly excessive when you compare that the Mogul Court a century earlier would spend the extent of about 28% of Indias GDP on itself , but the crucial difference was the Mogul court has surplus funds whilst France , the loser in the development of Empire was in debt to an extent which would match many African third world nations today.France was in a constrained zone between being too weak to forcefully acquire the wealth of neighbours and being just about strong enough to defend itself from encroachment from neighbouring empires.The net result was an internal implosion leading to civil revolt and collapse of the Royals which took about an year to be stabilised by the middle classes from the hiatus of the romantic revolutionaries.
The most concerning aspect of the period is that France did manage to effect a change over to becoming an expansionist power and reverted back to military domination of the region to cure domestic economic shortcomings.The poor were always out of the equation of this process and hardly featured in any central aspect of the period.Even the famous march of the poor to Versailles which has been romanticised into some great movement of the working class to bring down the elite was actually a march to plead with the King to open up the bakeries which had ceased to function in the confusion of the situation in Paris so that they could have something to eat.As soon as the King gave the order for the granaries to be opened they dispersed out of the scene.
One major shortcoming in the otherwise excellent high standards of factual discretion Antonia employs is when she completely abandons her exemplary thresholds in the matter of Antoinette highly unlikely affair with Fersen.As has been correctly pointed out by historians there were so many courtiers in attendance at any time word of an affair would have been known to several individuals if it had ever occurred.Other evidence to counter the claim is that not even the enemies of Antoinette or foreign intervention conspiracy theorists at the time made use of a charge which would have served their interests very well.But the best evidence to counter is provided by Fraser herself , she states that the physical health of the extremely ill and drained Antoinette at the time was such that a non platonic relationship would almost have certainly led to her death.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
This brilliant set of short stories gives a perfect display of the taut , incisive , precise style developed and championed by Conrad.Like Conan Doyle and Jack London he manages to get away from the flowery language of earlier writers into the mechanical industrious language of the times they lived in whilst still retaining a pumping Human Core at the centre of what they say.
This video gives an introduction of the early life of Conrad:
Monday, February 1, 2010
An unofficial biography is always going to have a degree of uncomplimentary or barely comfortable facts and exposures about the subject in hand , especially as one which is hard to pin down and controversial as Germaine Greer in non-cooperative , if not hostile mood.
But that should never be an excuse to not give credit where it is due to the subject in question , sometimes for other than entirely sincere reasons.It is what is not said about Germaine by the author which makes this work a disappointment almost to the point of pathologically personally vindictive degree.Insincerity does not make for impartiality and balance.
One especially , amongst many others , example of insincerity is an attempt to pass off Germaine as a secondary level scholar in academic circles when she was one of only about half a dozen intellectuals to secure a Pee-Aitch-Dee for work on Shakespeare between the end of the 2nd World War and the beginning of the 70's.This was because it was thought so much has been studies of the Great Bard that was very little scope for any fresh thinking to be brought to bear in this highly saturated subject.Allied with the instance of declaring she was weak in French , only yo mention in passing that she had a very high accomplished academic level of French later on , without any intervening qualifications for the earlier statement.
Despite this , any biography on Greer is worthwhile as one is bound to unearth facts which will give the reader an understanding of the thoughts and feeling of the times in which she participated.
On page 11 we get the motto which makes Germaine tick and provided the motivation that got her from Australia to having the Phd from Cambridge at the time around her 30th birthday , "Facta Non Verba" , Deeds not Words.
Also worth noting is she tried to commit suicide in the second year of her University and had her first abortion , allegedly being dropped "cold" by Two Men.According to page 42 she was also raped.
By page 52 we are already into an early realisation by Greer that "standardisation of commodities to the standardisation of Persons" society that was developing as she came of age , a theme she was to take up for "The Female Eunuch".
One very important consideration is that Greer was involved in Sexual Liberation and not ideological Feminism per se.This is where a lot of misunderstanding came about when she was seen to be at a point of divergence with the hardcore feminist movement in her later works.
On page 280 we discover the "First wave of feminism established a beachhead , the second emphasised legal empowerment , the 3rd wave is about exercising those rights." and on page 284 we come to bit of advice that Christine herself would well to take up " avoid trashing other Woman , be inclusive , advance (consistently on multiple fronts ; and write and remember your history."
Germaine messed up her insides so badly she could not have children , and her appearances on TV shows which conflate exposure for substance and triviality for credibility have somewhat cheapened the force of any more broad statements she still has to make as feminism tries to find if it has genuinely liberated Woman or just made them into surrogate Men in an ostensibly mans World.
But , to her credit , she is a strong advocate for the rights of the Aboriginies and also a Patron for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK at a time when some highly questionable strands of the feminist movement are showing support for the Western Military Occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan on the bizarre rationale that gun-totting males allied with cluster bombing male dominated Air Forces are somehow going to do the local Womanfolk some much needed good.