[Marxism] Perceptive Globe and Mail peace on Ahmadinejad UN trip

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Nov 23 22:31:29 MST 2007


SO, REALLY, WHO'S THE BUFFOON?
By Rick Salutin

I am pretty sure this thoughtful article has not been circulated on these
lists. It certainly deserves to be read.  Short and sweet. Note Salutin's
interesting comments on the beginnings of reversal of the "dominating gaze"
of the imperialists upon the natives.  

Of course, for a minority of leftists, this will appear to be a reactionary
development -- proof that what used to be the Third World is becoming
predominantly or overwhelmingly imperialist. This is the movement of the
eternal "dialectical cycle" (under capitalism) of the oppressed becoming the
oppressor and the oppressor becoming the oppressed (the oppressed-to-be here
is the to-be-colonized-by-the-former-oppressed (with the support of the
ever-growing superpower of Russia and China, which have clearly embarked on
plans of world conquest) US, French, British, Canadian etc. nations).

Presumably this shift is to be reflected in other areas within the
to-be-former imperialist countries.  For instance, clearly the "dialectical"
reversal of yin and yang means that in the United States the Blacks are in
the process of becoming the oppressors, and the whites the oppressed.  And
the illegal Latino immigrants will soon be cracking the whip on the backs of
their now-oppressed and enslaved white victims. For reversal of fortune is,
as any fool can plainly see, the heart of dialectics.

Has any one else noticed that this "theory of imperialism" resembles the
script for the movie Red Dawn, which was discussed on this list (with me as
one of the film's -- cinematic, not political -- defenders.  I admit that
since Paula has begun making her contributions to the Marxism List (and I
wouldn't have her stop for the world -- I have learned a lot from her and
think she is a valuable list member), Red Dawn has come to seem even more
alive politically than it did when we last discussed it.
Fred Feldman



Globe and Mail (Canada)
September 28, 2007
Page A21

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There was something way over the top in Western responses to Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's UN visit this week : There seemed to be a
bull's eye painted on him as soon as he arrived in New York. Everyone was
trying a bit too hard, as if they had something to prove.

Columbia University president Lee Bollinger introduced Iran's leader by
saying his school was showing the "courage to confront the mind of evil,"
a fairly brazen way to welcome a campus guest. David Letterman called him
and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez by schoolyard names, for no particular
reason. Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson, referring to his critique of
invasions of privacy in the U.S., groaned : "Stop, you're killing me."

Criticisms like those made against the Iranian leader can easily be made of
the West, and George Bush, and often are : about Western hypocrisy regarding
gays or women ; or science being subjected to religious standards ; or
human-rights outrages such as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib ; or state
sponsorship of terror - for which the U.S. has been condemned by the World
Court. But criticism of "our" side isn't ever phrased as abusively.
Columbia's Lee Bollinger said, "Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of
a petty and cruel dictator." You can't imagine him saying anything like that
to George Bush, along with, "I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical
mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do,"
though it would easily apply to the U.S. President. There's more than
hypocrisy or imbalance in this choice of language ; it implies a sense of
entitlement, even privilege.

The Columbia president expressed that sense perfectly during his verbal
assault. He said : "I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world
yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for." Why does he get to
bear that weight, traditionally the white man's or Western man's burden ?

It's not a question of which leader is the real buffoon. Both qualify.
It's about who gets to draw the line, make the judgment, bear the burden.
For most of modern history, it is voices in the West who got to do so for
both "sides." We sent out the explorers and anthropologists, "they" didn't
come to evaluate our strange ways ; just as we now send most of the tourists
and they receive us. As part of the package, we get to decide who is evil,
or a buffoon. It's assumed that the standards reside on our side of the
divide.

But the dawning change in the postcolonial world is that you don't just get
ex-colonies that are formally independent - or genuinely independent.
What's starting to happen is that customary Western ways of seeing reality
can no longer be easily imposed. The dominating "gaze," as they say in
cultural studies, is no longer solely that of former colonizers, even when
it's been implanted in the heads of ex-colonials.

There's a new game. The gaze gets reversed. The West doesn't just get to die
laughing at the goofy Eastern despot ; the East can laugh at the inane
Western bully. Think of Hugo Chavez gleefully waving a volume by Noam
Chomsky at the UN last year while sniffing the lingering sulphurous odour of
George Bush. It's this matter of who gets to laugh at whom, who gets to
classify whom as joke or toxin, that may have led to those panicky
overreactions during the Ahmadinejad visit. It's about who defines reality,
a conflict far more important than some fictitious war of civilizations. The
power of the West wasn't based on its higher civilizational values - it was
based on its ability to dominate economically, militarily and culturally,
through its way of seeing the world, which included the notion that it
represented a higher civilization.

That's what Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad challenge when they come to
the UN and strut their stuff. The issue isn't whether they're right or
wrong, it's whether the civilizational playing field is finally being
levelled.

rsalutin at globeandmail.com






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