The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Brian, I completely disagree, for once.

I thought about commenting, but with a fervor abound I thought I should make this a post.

I think that what clouds most assessments of the 3rd world is the exact moniker that is given to it: 3rd world, other, non-primary. It is built into our criticisms of a lot of people because for the most part they have been the great other. Islam has had it pretty bad. Mostly because most all muslims live in the great monolith which is the 3rd World: understanding the religion in terms of Western progress is difficult because the region (politically and socially) has been stunted by the inattention or intervention of the Dominant States.

As an aside, we must first look over a hundred years ago and review the changes that were undertaken in the muslim world under the auspices of the Ottomon Empire and the rising Selafi Movement of clerics that espoused relatively modernist notions of rationality and reinterpretating scripture to fit modern institutions: finding a space for religion in a modern secular world. Change was not bad. It was highly awaited by many.

The fact that the Muslim world has become provacative must be seen in the light of more recent history. This is not the cause of Islam or, and I am utterly shocked you would evoke Huntington (even in mild jest), any clash of civilizations. Lest we forget the history of this past century of intervention, oil exploitation and the rise of a revolutionaries.

Anger in the Middle East is mirrored by those in Latin America (if you were to listen to unofficial rhetoric) and I would suggest that it is also strong in parts of Africa. People condemn American imperialism, and at the same time celebrate acts of defiance against America: in Panama they celebrate the day of the Martyrs when Panamanians were killed by American soldiers for putting up their flag; in Mexico they celebrate the Day of the Boy Heroes when young soldiers were slaughtered by American Marines. It has become ingrained into the history and the mythic personality of so many cultures. Being defined as being 'non-western' has taken its toll psychologically...if you read literature from the area of this world, it basis itself on loss, emasculation and fear.

Provocative clerics and outspoken critics are not unique, but they are the products of our common history; or at least the forces that have made cultures subordinate to other cultures. A historian of the Middle East, James Gelvin, makes an interesting conclusion. There is, in reality, very little difference between rising Anarcho-syndicalists (that saw themselves forgotten by the rising bourgeoisie) in the early 19th century, and the current radicals. They are participating in our global marketplace: and see their chance for opportunity, change and progress dependent on others, and react violently, but in reality they are full of fear.

The news upsets you today. But what would you do if your existence, your every motion, feels as if it is externally dependent. A loss of identity. So by cynically looking at groups and saying: oh wow they are reinforcing the criticisms against them. We have, in part, refused to understand or develop a full understanding of the products of hegemony and subordination that have developed in these areas. For everyone that quotes Gramsci or Foucault, and even Orientalism of Said, it seems these are 'words' without any weight. Hegemony is not seen as a theoretical or some sort of pretentious snaring: it is a very real concept that is experienced daily. As far as I know from studying and researching Latin America: the greatest support is given to those willing to claim the pulpit and stand in opposition to the USA. To claim sovereignity. And in the spirit of Woodrow Wilson to actually offer up self-determination.

People are very angry. And as such there is a slew of irrational actions. How do we approach these events with the right degree of understanding and condemnation is our task at hand. Letting cultures feel as if they have the ability to, like we do in the US, mobilize in the global social ladder, is certainly one possibility. A task that will never be aided by your calls of impossibility.

What does this mean for us? It is, by all means, an attack on the USA. They are threats to our continued dominance and primacy. By all means their destruction and our cynical hackling should continue, if we want to Keep America First! International Politics would dictate that like any other game you should make sure your enemies are weak. But, to stand outside of society and to de-associate ourselves from the conflict...there are deeper things brewing that require more attention.


  • At 1:54 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    Keith- you make some very interesting, and well thought out points, which obviously required you to think a littler harder than I did in making the original post. But I have to disagree with you, because, as much as I understand that issues of dominance structure relationships, I still, fair or unfair, have certain standards that I apply in making my opinions. Among those is a condemnation of anyone--Pat Robertson or a Muslim cleric--who attempts to snatch the ability to use force from the state in making personal calls for violence. I believe that, ultimately, we will always make judgment values based on OUR values, even if someone else doesn't share them. In the end, I don't care about what we've done in the past as it relates to this incident. As it stands, I believe that Muslim clerics who advocate violence of this sort are the greatest danger we face at a non-military level. Because of the power they wield (much like Christian officials in some churches held in previous centuries), they whip up public anger and violence where, without their intervention, such anger might be less explosively expressed. Men like this cleric took a months-old incident and used it to intentionally incite anger. I expect Christians in the US to tolerate jokes about Jesus and God. And I expect, fair or unfair, Muslim leaders to not call for assassinations when a few comic strips make the same point that Western writers have already made in print. Tolerance for religion is important, but so is adaptation on the part OF religion.

  • At 6:03 PM, Blogger Keith said…


    I do not believe that gets at the crux of the problem. I think you have a lot of assumptions that do not fit into the real world.

    Particularly, you assume that these calls for death are necessarily religious and not sentiments widely held because of deeper cultural feelings. That if not for these clerics there would not be outrage. This however gives too much power for one man to raise hell: and in fact assumes that many people do not have the free will to be angry themselves. I think you look too tightly to religion and see this as the main concern. Blaming islam, however, ignores the real issues! There are tons of crazy people abound who use religion for their personal causes: but the erason people follow these clerics is because they themselves feel a sense of loss, a sense of disillusionment and a desire to be a part of something (even something anarchic).

    These underlining factors must be taken into consideration when understanding world dynamics and how, yes, historical actions have a great significance on society and our present state of disarray.

    But, I agree with you. Clerics spouting off this rhetoric serves no purpose or use.

    I would, however, go further than you. Condemnation for someone who calls for death ought to be universal. Under no grounds is war truly just. In this paradigm we must, angrily, rebuke all our efforts at war, particularly an offensive one. Because the difference between defending/saving lives and killing lives is great! WE can do one and not the other.

    But we continue to divide the world into good and bad, to call the clerics evil and incapable of compromise, and thus immediately respond with war and more killing: spiraling everything further down. If we, perchance, delved deeper to the core of the problem, it certainly seems like a more appropriate logic than maintaining ignorance and committing injustices (i.e. war) as we currently are doing.

  • At 6:30 PM, Blogger Sean said…

    Jimmy carter tried that. It doesn't work. You can't always respond to violence by turning the other cheek.
    If your aim is to alter the status remove a dictator from power for have to use force. If you want to secure a region, to eliminate violent actors, you must use force. When and where this force is appropriate is the most pertinent question. Afghanistan, for example, was a good place to use force. Iraq, perhaps not. But we do not yet live in a world where consistent peaceful action will always necessarily get us where we need to be. War is bad. But some things are worse than war.


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