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Fwd: [Lebanese Issues] the loss of Identity as Victory

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  • Tony Shakar
    ... the ... __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Find a job, post your resume. http://careers.yahoo.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 11, 2001
      --- Tony Shakar <tanios1@...> wrote:

      > I was doing some research on Surrealism for a course
      > I
      > give in the university (I give a course called "A
      > Social History of Representation" in the Academie
      > Libanaise des Beaux-Arts), and i came across some
      > interresting texts written in the 1920's. Amazingly,
      the
      > texts have a lot to do with the current
      > political/ideological situation and discourse. but
      > judge for yourselves.
      > I'll start with something written by Henri Massis, a
      > right wing philosopher:
      > "Under the cover of a Romanticism that proclaims the
      > ruin of material culture, repudiates the worship of
      > organization, and exalts the inward contemplation of
      > the orient, it is her intellectual revenge on the
      > classic west... that GERMANY [caps by me- T.S.] is
      > seeking to prepare".
      > As i said before, the discourse employed by Oussama
      > Bn
      > Laden, which is the mirror image of the discourse
      > used
      > by Bush/Blair is certainly not new. It has been
      > *there* for 2 centuries at least. this discourse,
      > and
      > it's double, are shifting indeed; and shifting with
      > them are the boundaries of what is considered the
      > "civilized world" (according to Massis from 80 years
      > ago, germany was in the barbaric world). sometimes
      > it
      > is smart and delightful, such as Montesquieu's "Les
      > Lettres Persannes", but most of the times it isn't.
      > from Massis to Bush to Bn Laden- the history of the
      > stupidity of the Human Race is written in binary
      > terms: 'us' and 'them', 'good' and 'evil', the
      > 'christian' 'west' and the 'muslim' 'east'.
      >
      > More from Massis, commenting on Oswald Spengler's
      > "Decline of the West", which, according to him,
      > "flattered the german in his taste for the confused,
      > the unfinished, the thing that is not, the novelty
      > that has no name, the chaos from which anything can
      > emerge, where the imagination may dream without end,
      > where nothing possessed form or limit".
      > Sounds familiar? it does- what has changed is the
      > geographical center of that "chaos from which
      > anything
      > can emerge". and if we wanted to lay these
      > characterizations down in a table, where the first
      > column is 'positive' while the second is 'negative',
      > this is what we get:
      >
      > CLASSICAL ROMANTIC
      > France Germany
      > Occident Orient
      > order chaos
      > reconstruction revolution
      > civilization barbarism
      > culture (wild) nature
      > reason emotion
      > discipline caprice
      > clarity confusion
      >
      > and so forth. all one has to do now is replace
      > France
      > by the USA and Germany by Afghanistan (a decade ago
      > it
      > was Iraq) to get the current colonial discourse.
      > what
      > is even more dangerous is the complete acceptance of
      > that discourse by the Islamic Fundementalists, and
      > behind them large sections of 'arab' and 'muslim'
      > populations. How many times have we heard- have we
      > said- that us arabs are 'emotional'? how many women
      > have lost their lives because they conducted
      > themselves not according to our 'oriental' customs'
      > ('oh i love the way these black people dance! they
      > seem to have rythm in their blood!')?
      > Decades ago, the surrealists were a lot smarter than
      > any of the people envolved now in the current
      > control-identity-politics game. They made a simple,
      > yet brilliant, inversion. In short, the 'negative'
      > in
      > the table above became 'positive'. they adopted
      > chaos,
      > confusion and barbarism. here's one of their texts
      > on
      > this issue:
      > "Western world, you are condemned to death. We are
      > Europe's defeatists... Let the Orient, your terror,
      > answer your voice at last! We shall awaken
      > everywhere
      > the seeds of confusion and discomfort. We are the
      > mind's agitators... Rise, thousand-armed India,
      > great
      > legendary Brahma. It is your turn Egypt... Rise, O
      > world!".
      > Prophetic, and almost uncanny. Another document is a
      > map of the world drawn by the surrealists ("Le monde
      > aux temps des Surrealites"), and in it Western
      > Europe
      > is made up of only 3 countries, Ireland, Germany and
      > Austria-Hungary, and 2 cities, Paris (situated in
      > Germany) and Constantinople. The rest of Europe is
      > designated Russia (the then newly born USSR), with
      > China, Tibet and Afghanistan given prominent status.
      > Traces of anti-colonialism can be read in the
      > reorganizations of the sizes of various countries:
      > Ireland overwhelms a dot to its right that
      > represents
      > the British mainland, and the continent of North
      > America is made up exclusively of Alaska, Labrador
      > and
      > Mexico.
      > But ultimately, the surrealist strategy was to
      > accept
      > the constructed divisons while reversing them. how
      > about we, who are now confronted to the same
      > discourse
      > of identity building- how about we adopt a different
      > strategy? How about we accept hybridization and even
      > bastardization as positive values? How about we
      > forget
      > about perpetually defining our selves? After all,
      > all
      > we have got to lose are our 'identities'- the ones
      > forged by colonialism for 200 years. And in the
      > current state of affairs, who needs THAT?
      >
      > Tony Shakar


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