--- Tony Shakar <tanios1@...
> I was doing some research on Surrealism for a course
> 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,
> 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
> Laden, which is the mirror image of the discourse
> by Bush/Blair is certainly not new. It has been
> *there* for 2 centuries at least. this discourse,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> by the USA and Germany by Afghanistan (a decade ago
> was Iraq) to get the current colonial discourse.
> 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'
> the table above became 'positive'. they adopted
> confusion and barbarism. here's one of their texts
> 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
> the seeds of confusion and discomfort. We are the
> mind's agitators... Rise, thousand-armed India,
> legendary Brahma. It is your turn Egypt... Rise, O
> 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
> 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
> the British mainland, and the continent of North
> America is made up exclusively of Alaska, Labrador
> But ultimately, the surrealist strategy was to
> the constructed divisons while reversing them. how
> about we, who are now confronted to the same
> of identity building- how about we adopt a different
> strategy? How about we accept hybridization and even
> bastardization as positive values? How about we
> about perpetually defining our selves? After 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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