[Marxism] Dabashi on Ahmadinejad and Bollinger

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Oct 11 17:23:10 MDT 2007

Al-Ahram, October 10-17, 2007
Of banality and burden

Hamid Dabashi comments on a meeting of minds

Let's, then, be clear at the beginning, Mr. President you exhibit all
the signs of a petty and cruel dictator . . . . I am only a
professor, who is also a university president, and today I feel all
the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the
revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better. --
President Lee C. Bollinger of Columbia University addressing his
guest Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic of
Iran (24 September 2007)

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
-- Rudyard Kipling, "White Man's Burden" (1899)

The only reason that the world at large should care about the
cantankerous exchange between an irresponsible and sensationalist
president of a beleaguered and increasingly illegitimate Islamic
Republic and the racist president of an Ivy League university in the
United States is that in the brief encounter between the two dwells
the symptoms of a much more frightful malignancy now afflicting our
globe--the fact and phenomenon of an Empire least equipped to rule
the world and yet flaunting a vulgar audacity to issue pronouncements
about its ills and afflictions--at once creating, promoting, and
supporting undemocratic regimes in its domain of influence (from the
Saudis to the Taliban) and yet unable to deal with their criminal
consequences, while at the same time having the audacity to give
itself the moral authority to be the arbiter of truth in the world,
carrying the white man's burden to set the course of history aright.

The forum to which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic
Republic of Iran, was invited for a talk at Columbia University in
New York, where I teach, is one of the inanest ideas of President Lee
Bollinger--something called "World Leaders Forum," to which he
invites the most notorious warmongers around the globe (among the
most innocuous and irrelevant leaders), so they will have yet another
forum to reiterate their nonsense. The world suffers the terrorizing
predicament that it does precisely because these so-called leaders
have altogether too many forums on which to talk, and some of them
the inordinate power and the necessary wherewithal to put to action
the nonsense they thus speak. They should never be invited to any
university, and if they are they are to be sat down and talked to and
not to listen to--they have scarce anything important, new, or
significant to say.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to come to Columbia University and
address our community on 24 September 2007. Neither I nor any one of
my colleagues in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages
and Cultures (MEALAC), the principle home of Iranian Studies, knew,
was consulted, or approved of this visit. In his opening statement,
President Bollinger said, "This [Ahmadinejad's visit] is just one of
many events on Iran that will run throughout this academic year, all
to help us better understand this critical and complex nation in
today's geopolitics." So far as my colleagues and I in MEALAC know,
we are party to no such "project" in understanding Iran, outside our
regular teaching and scholarly projects reading and writing on
diverse aspects of Iranian history, politics, culture, arts, cinema,
literature, and geopolitics none of which is of any immediate use to
the US military or the neocon chicaneries trying "to understand"
Iran. In fact, ever since Lee Bollinger has become our president, our
department has been systematically sidestepped and undermined
precisely because we do not cater to such self-promoting and
megalomaniac projects.

full: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/866/focus.htm

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