Friday, December 31, 2004

One year and two seconds

That is what people in Tehran have been whispering about—one year and two seconds as the exact interval separating the tsunami calamity from the Bam disaster. Is this to be our fate year after year? Are people simply to vanish much like the autumn leaves and perpetually to suffer so wretchedly?

By now, I guess, we all know where to send our individual contributions. What I like to see is maximum pressure brought to bear -- from whatever corner willing-- on the Iranian Regime in order to get a hefty percentage of the oil revenue surplus (around 8 billion) reallocated to help the victims of this disaster.

The promised $700,000 is truly shameful.

And so I start this New Year much like I ended the last one...with wishes for 12 months simply less soaked through with blood and tears. And of course, with immortal words from Homer’s Iliad:

« Ils demeurent la, tout aussi immobiles, avec le char splendide, la tête collée au sol. Des larmes brûlantes coulent de leurs yeux a terre,…. Est-ce donc pur que vous ayez votre part des douleurs avec les malheureux humains ? Rien n’est plu misérable que l’homme, entre tous les êtres qui respirent ce qui marchent sur la terre. »

For what it’s worth : Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

And it pours

Things have been a tad out of control for a while even by our Iranian standards. Death, illness and general angst galore in the family in addition to the annoying hacker activities wreaking virtual havoc and causing paranoia.

Lost are a year’s worth of archives I haven’t been able to retrieve, although, I reconstructed the links quickly. I’ll give the blog a new facelift once I am comfortable with the security arrangements that could ensure full control over my computer. And apologies also for the emails gone unanswered or missed.

Merry Christmas and safe, happy holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Publicity and Caricatures

Every now and then I venture about the blogosphere trying to figure what keeps the trend setter pundits preoccupied. And while I can certainly appreciate differing opinions about various matters, some of their conventionalism always gets on my nerves.

Believe me; you have no idea how one yearns for a multiplicity of views when the spectrum of political persuasions in one’s society is not as diverse as you’d wish for. But there is a limit to my patience.

I am a firm believer in transparency, mind you, in the sense that all of us must do what we can to lift the veils of secrecy which mask social ills and various other foibles of culture. So, any sort of coverage I welcome as an opportunity to grabble with serious problems, learn and to evaluate potential solutions.

But what can we make of the sort of publicity that is generated not so much to help with the problems as to make a case for grander ideologically driven agendas which in point of fact end up presenting a caricature of both the problems and the society which must ultimately resolve them?

Take Andrew Sullivan for starters. Sullivan is doing what needs to be done by magnifying the work of Judith Klinghofer who continues to draw attention to the plight of women in Islamic societies. He then reproduces a translation of hers of some writing describing an Iranian’s heart wrenching suffering:

Her tearless cries would pain anyone. With sweat on her face she says: "My husband is a simple worker. We have seven children. He is an angry and heartless man. We have been married for ten years and he has been beating me all along. But this last time it was pretty severe. He left me with broken ribs and bruised legs." When she lifts up her dress a big fresh scar appears with blood all around it. This is not another boring topic. This is a problem that has rooted in our families and society. This is a painful reality!! Women are the silent victims of physical abuse which is being forced on them by the society, family and even themselves... This abusive behavior also destroys the victims’ soul. Unfortunately, because of our society and culture these women keep silent and the problem does not leave their surrounding walls. At the end it either kills their spirit or it becomes a flame that suck the victim in with all her physical and emotional pain.

And Mr. Sullivan ends with a note of his own:

The battle against Islamism is not simply for our own protection. More broadly, it is an attempt to liberate souls now bludgeoned into a form of spiritual death.

There is no questioning the abusive nature of the society we live in today. No one reasonable will ever dispute the existence of her numerous problems which must be resolved in order to build a saner society. But it is worth asking: does he seriously believe his own silliness when put in the context of the text he has reproduced?

Yes, obviously if we weaken the influence of the more misogynist strands of Islamism within our society, women will reap the rewards in some ways. But the issue he is dealing with here has to do with physical abuse and abusive behavior of men against women.

Does he really believe that in the morrow of any “liberation,” even if we assume away the birth pangs of a new order, i.e., all the lootings, bombed cities, civilized torture, probable civil war, shortage of fuel and other basic stables, unemployment, insecurity and pain, most Iranian men will suddenly wake up and decide to act differently.

Let’s ask a more pointed question here. How has the society which proposes to do the liberating done in dealing with domestic abuse?

The statistics on domestic abuse in the longest stable democracy on the planet aren’t terribly reassuring. Mr. Sullivan must surely be familiar with simple facts, don’t you think?

As one who so tirelessly champions the civil rights for the gay and lesbian community, Mr. Sullivan must at least be familiar with the scope of the existing abuse in same sex relationships in the “freest” country on the planet.

Some problems must not be trivialized or caricatured if they are ever to be tackled effectively.

Like all cultures, ours has its problems and we are trying our best to deal with them. It is always possible to be more efficacious. We can always use ideas, modes of cooperation, novel principles of organization, and more effective methods and approaches.

But to pretend that we are simply deaf and mute and in need of “liberating” intervention by the likes of Sullivan who tends to speak at as opposed to with us is plain old presumptuous and absurd.

At all levels, people are discussing and trying to deal. It is about strategy. Yes, long term objectives might definitely include a change of “fundamentals” as soon as possible as well as general weakening of radical Islamism within our society. Long term objective in tandem with some sustained work and mid and short term goals. And here is where problems get even trickier.

One picture is worth a thousand words. Drug addiction is one of the main contributing factors to the abuse women and children suffer in Iran today. This Iranian blogger I normally read reports on a meeting recently to deal with the problem of drug abuse among women and the subsequent social and domestic violations they suffer. The statistics she quotes are sobering.

Where do most of the drugs come from? The burgeoning opium trade in Afghanistan, of course. And who controls Afghanistan today?

If now we were to highlight the failures of the US and European intervention in curbing this scourge, the same Jeff Jarvis who normally does marvels (via Nadezhda) drawing attention to the plight of Iranian bloggers will surely have some tantrum accusing us of not focusing on the good work that is being done.

In short, there is a ridiculous strategy at work here to either magnify problems when it suits one’s own party line or to dismiss discussions of existing problems as mere “visceral anti-Americanism” in action. Silent victims are what they really care to have. Blank pieces of paper to be written on and discarded soon afterwards.

Just like our dear leaders, our most outspoken “allies” and “saviors” appear simply intent on feeding off our misery for as long as it suits their purposes only to move on shortly afterwards after tagging our (still) unresolved problems as mere details--just another success story the media loves to ignore.

I am not buying it for one minute. Off with the leaches I say.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Tyrants and the (ancient) Chinese Way!

Chuang Tzu’s universe (pdf) is inscrutable, and mercilessly obtuse. You would (rightly) get the impression that the spirit of an alien universe is being expressed in an alien language and the only suitable reactions are astonishment, and silence.

You just have to persist though and not relinquish the initial exploratory excursions. Is it not Proust who reminds us that all fine books have to be written in a foreign language?

The section which I am excerpting in full, to me, is as delicious as Xenophon’s Hiero, and perhaps even more compelling on account of its brevity. I especially find it relevant to our all-too-familiar contemporary context.

There is simplicity in Chuang Tzu and an appealing sanity to his universe. Note that the Taoist’s heaven exhibits no interest in the conduct of the people. Consequently, people spent less time second guessing the intentions of their heaven; this attitude culminates in liberating moments of lucidity.

The absence of any ontological hierarchy also results in a curiously charming transparency of being, thus depriving us of the metaphysical basis that often serves to justify our flirtations with butchers of different hues and colors, as well as our prevarication and deceit.

More importantly, he forces a reevaluation of some of our fundamental assumptions; especially apropos today when even a Fukuyama, for instance, grounds much of his approach (via Kojeve) on Hegel’s master-slave dialectic and the striving for recognition.

Chuang Tzu, I think, offers a fascinating solution. Judge for yourselves if Hegel’s claim about having encountered in China the “dull-half conscious brooding of Spirit,” stands the test of time!

Last, but not least, much of our approach today assumes a clear cut distinction between civil and political society with quite an unsettling outcome.

Once an obsession with the potential subsumption of the civil to the political society comes to form our main pre-occupation, we either emphasis the question of the best regime reductively with the political, as a consequent, having become identified in too narrow a sense with the activities of various murderous military machines which are driven by the vision of the sort of creatures whose odium imbrues less of a stink only in so far as it might be more distant.

Or we manage to reduce our selves, in our obsession with various questions of “identity” to a sum total of the accident of our physical constitution in a particular locality plus all the real or perceive wounds and bruises. An irresolvable clash of the self absorbed victims follows.

Fundamentally, however, we are still at the mercy of various noxious political regimes and habituated into flirting with tyrants and butchers or other unpalatable characters out of concern for achieving the best possible condition for the civil society, and also still fundamentally blind to the pain of others.

Perhaps it is best to search for some possibility of having a notion of the Political that accentuates moments of reflective doubt, momentary hesitations, and mutual transformations based on a horizon of possibilities as opposed to a static understanding of limitations based on a notion of primeval and unchanging human nature.

Perhaps there is still room for mutual healing.

To me, such possibilities are fecund in Chuang Tzu. But don’t just take my word for it. Give the following a read carefully, and may be even find some other translations and compare.

This Human World

Yen Huei went to take leave of Confucius. "Whither are you bound?" asked the Master.

"I am going to the State of Wei," was the reply.

"And what do you propose to do there?" continued Confucius.

"I hear," answered Yen Huei, "that the Prince of Wei is of mature age but of an unmanageable disposition. He behaves as if the people were of no account and will not see his own faults. He disregards human lives and the people perish; and their corpses lie about like so much undergrowth in a marsh. The people do not know where to turn for help, and I have heard you say that if a state be well governed, it may be passed over; but that if it be badly governed, then we should visit it. At the door of physicians there are many sick people. I would test my knowledge in this sense, that perchance I may do some good at that state."

"Alas!" cried Confucius, "you will be only going to your doom. For Tao must not bustle about. If it does it will have divergent aims. From divergent aims come restlessness; from restlessness comes worry, and from worry one reaches the stage of being beyond hope. The Sages of old first strengthened their own character before they tried to strengthen that of others. Before you have strengthened your own character, what leisure have you to attend to the doings of wicked men?

Besides, do you know into what virtue evaporates by motion and where knowledge ends? Virtue evaporates by motion into desire for fame and knowledge ends in contentions. In the struggle for fame men crush each other, while their wisdom but provokes rivalry. Both are instruments of evil, and are not proper principles of living.

"Besides, if before one's own solid character and integrity become an influence among men and before one's own disregard for fame reaches the hearts of men, one should go and force the preaching of charity and duty and the rules of conduct on wicked men, he would only make these men hate him for his very goodness. Such a person may be called a messenger of evil. A messenger of evil will be the victim of evil from others. That, alas! will be your end.

"On the other hand, if the Prince loves the good and hates evil, what object will you have in inviting him to change his ways? Before you have opened your mouth, the Prince himself will have seized the opportunity to wrest the victory from you. Your eyes will be dazzled, your expression fade, your words will hedge about, your face will show confusion, and your
heart will yield within you. It will be as though you took fire to quell fire, water to quell water, which is known as aggravation.

And if you begin with concessions, there will be no end to them. If you neglect this sound advice and talk too much, you will die at the hands of that violent man . . . .

"Have you not heard that even Sages cannot overcome this love of fame and this desire for material objects (in rulers)? Are you then likely to succeed? But of course you have a plan. Tell it to me."

"Gravity of demeanor and humility; persistence and singleness of purpose — will this do?" replied Yen Huei. "Alas, no," said Confucius, "how can it? The Prince is a haughty person, filled with pride, and his moods are fickle. No one opposes him, and so he has come to take actual pleasure in trampling upon the feelings of others. And if he has thus failed in the
practice of routine virtues, do you expect that he will take readily to higher ones? He will persist in his ways, and though outwardly he may agree with you, inwardly he will not repent. How then will you make him mend his ways?"

"Why, then," (replied Yen Huei) "I can be inwardly straight, and outwardly yielding, and I shall substantiate what I say by appeals to antiquity. He who is inwardly straight is a servant of God. And he who is a servant of God knows that the Son of Heaven and himself are equally the children of God. Shall then such a one trouble whether his words are approved or
disapproved by man? Such a person is commonly regarded as an (innocent) child. This is to be a servant of God. He who is outwardly yielding is a servant of man. He bows, he kneels, he folds his hands — such is the ceremonial of a minister. What all men do, shall I not do also? What all men do, none will blame me for doing. This is to be a servant of man. He who substantiates his words by appeals to antiquity is a servant of the Sages of old. Although I utter the words of warning and take him to task, it is the Sages of old who speak, and not I. Thus I shall not receive the blame for my uprightness. This is to be the servant of the Sages of old. Will this do?"

"No! How can it?" replied Confucius. "Your plans are too many. You are firm, but lacking in prudence. However . . . , you will not get into trouble; but that is all. You will still be far from influencing him because your own opinions are still too rigid."

"Then," said Yen Huei, "I can go no further. I venture to ask for a method."

Confucius said . . . , "Concentrate your will. Hear not with your ears, but with your mind; not with your mind, but with your spirit. Let your hearing stop with the ears, and let your mind stop with its images. Let your spirit, however, be like a blank, passively responsive to externals. In such open receptivity only can Tao abide. And that open receptivity is the fasting of the heart."

"Then," said Yen Huei, "the reason I could not use this method was because of consciousness of a self. If I could apply this method, the assumption of a self would have gone. Is this what you mean by the receptive state?"

"Exactly so," replied the Master. "Let me tell you. Enter this man's service, but without idea of working for fame. Talk when he is in a mood to listen, and stop when he is not. Do without any sort of labels or self-advertisements. Keep to the One and let things take their natural course. Then you may have some chance of success. It is easy to stop walking: the trouble is to walk without touching the ground . . . . You have heard of winged creatures flying. You have never heard of flying without wings. You have heard of men being wise with knowledge. You have never heard of men wise without knowledge. Look at that emptiness. There is brightness in an empty room. Good luck dwells in repose. If there is not (inner) repose, your mind will be galloping about though you are sitting still. Let your ears and eyes communicate within but shut out all knowledge from the mind. Then the spirits will come to dwell therein . . . . This is the method for the transformation . . . of all Creation . . .

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A tale of three young scholars!

There is an old journalist I have lunch with every month. His health has been deteriorating and his movement progressively more impaired.

A while back as I watched his face grimace with pain and unable to find the book he was looking for, I offered to reorganize his library and to sort of “computerize” it so he would know exactly where everyone of his gems might be located at. He was delighted and so I started.

His collection is indeed a treasure house with thousands of volumes. Some very old hard to find manuscripts, as well as numerous collection of journals long since passed out of sight. And, of course, those smells—the old book smells some of you probably know all too well. Absolutely enchanting!

I was working fast to finish with just enough time to make notes of the titles and occasionally also to sift through some of the more curious finds. In retrospect, three items have had been preoccupied for a while.

There was a reasonably well written (at a glance) old book on Amir Kabir, an important figure during times of exceptional weakness. Mirza Taqi Khan is most famous for his contribution to reforming the state, strengthening it and modernizing the country from above.

Amir Kabir also contributed to developing a foreign policy that attempted to safeguard Iran’s independence relying on equilibrium between great powers. The author of the book in question? A younger Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani. Isn’t it an oddity? Yes, Mr. Moneybag himself probably interested in another term also as the president in order to fiddle with (“salvage”) his “legacy.”

Then there were some of Amir Taheri’s old writings. Taheri, you will recall, was an executive editor in chief of an influential daily Kayhan. Mr. Taheri’s Farsi prose is magnificent, I think. His nickname (then) most evoked had been the “Emissary of the Apparatus,” (Namayande-ye Dastgah) How to put it diplomatically? Well, think of him as the brainy chief stooge.

He was one of the favorites of the prime minister, Mr. Hoveyda, (note Bill’s review of Milani) and thus quite a fearsome little chelovak as far as the other journalists were concerned. I am talking here about the sort of journalists who were not quite as inclined to collaborate with the security organ that kept them on a tight leash, and obviously also abused, tortured and terrorized dissenters.

And you want to hear the ironic part about all this?

Another branch of the same apparatus he worked for had him under surveillance suspicious of his much too cozy dealings with the operatives of some of the Shah’s closest foreign allies! Such is life under an authoritarian regime, you see.

And then there was one of the first volumes of the journal, Sokhan. This particular issue from some 60 years ago was practically a who’s who of Iranian literary giants. Some most famous names really with long intimidating titles in tow.

There was a non-descript short piece by a man with no title at all that caught my attention, though. A very young EhsanYarshater writing about the Russian fabulist Krylov, I think.

Each young scholar appears to have made a choice early in life and subsequently has persistently followed a set trajectory throughout his career. Power and intrigue appear more of an animating force in the lives of Rafsanjani and Taheri , whereas a profound sense of intellectual curiosity remains the abiding impulse inYarshater’s.

Which one of these men, do you think, will be remembered the longest?

For the record, my money is on the third fellow. The name Yarshater will be etched in the collective memory for generations to come because of his contributions—both in terms of his initial conception as early as 1972 and his tireless efforts in compiling and producing the Encyclopedia Iranica.

Something well worth ruminating especially for all the young, talented men and women who thirst for quick fame, fortune and money; nonetheless, a bit too hasty in disguising petty ambitions and loathsome choices in life through grandiose sloganeering about god, duty and country.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Warrior Woman

Aren’t we quite the feverish bunch? If only I could have collected some pittance every time we’ve become frenzied over some inanity or other.

So here we have two manifestations of public passions at work again: all the brouhaha over a proposed referendum to amend the constitution and of course the fulminations (yet again) about the actual name of that Gulf bordering the Straight of Hormuz!

Now really! Do we need any more excuses to utter the vilest sorts of xenophobic, bigoted anti-Arab balderdash?

Truth to tell, I have had a gentleman’s agreement with my Arab friends and acquaintances which has worked quite well over the years. In order to avoid all the shallow nationalist blabber, I just call it the Gulf when the subject comes up and my friends reciprocate. Horror of horrors!

I know it is not for everyone; nor a universally applicable prescription. Yet my bubble has been a great deal more civil consequently and that’s all that counts. I think I’ll have to stick with what works.

In the meanwhile, the referendum stuff I will also have to ignore until either the fever subsides or vanishes entirely—and vanish it will along with the rest of the contemptible creatures ruling us poorly; the ones who inevitably end up bolstered each and every time on account of false hopes. Oddly, even Mr. Blair appears poised to get in on the action this time around!

One thing, though, that I simply can’t ignore is the news of the DNA tests confirming the 2,000-year-old bones of a sword-wielding Iranian warrior buried in a tomb along with 108 others indeed as that of a woman. This is the second indisputable proof , in a short span of time, of the existence of such woman in ancient Persia.

Women’s lives in ancient times can be a fascinating subject. Recent scholarship-- in particular this work by Maria Brosius-- has done much to deepen our understanding of some of the features. And the past generally helps put present in perspective. I mean, who can really be surprised by the existence of warrior women knowing what woman in Iran have done and continue to do every day. It must be in the genes!

As I have said before, this present experience of imbecility notwithstanding, Iranian women are poised to take the helm of this nation in a dazzling sort of way. They are the one consistently belligerent group incessantly challenging boundaries and refusing to be cowered.

Even when it appears as if they have retreated, the battle continues in more subtle forms. Only if you could see my Mom and Sister in action!

Naturally, a reevaluation of the past has become an ongoing project reflecting the state of the existing movements. I can’t wait, for instance, to get my hands on this book of Afsaneh Najmabadi, a meticulous scholar, even though certain political implications of her paradigmatic approach I find suffocating.

Some other interesting readings for your gratification: Homa Hoodfar’s nuanced treatment of women’s movement in Iran; Parvin Ghorayshi’s fascinating discussion of the transforming/transformational experience of some rural woman. (in French. It takes me for ever but I try); and a UN Research Institute project, Parvin Paidar’s Gender of Democracy. (all pdf)

And one last short piece--quite poignant I think—of the “mundane”. A personal narrative of the harrowing experience of one of the many silly cultural obsessions wreaking havoc on life and only skin deep: Farideh Dayanim Goldin’s Feathers and Hair.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

(Most) everyone’s favorite foe

Another Francophile! Posted by Hello

The authorities have been at it again. Arresting more bloggers and fiddling with ways of cutting communication at the arteries. Some IS providers have now begun filtering Netstat. Go figure. Is Blogspot next?

Can’t help but to anxiously anticipate the prospect of being enveloped by that darkness looming in the horizon. Such is life I suppose. Just have to hurry up and write whatever I have been meaning to write as quickly as possible before the curtains fall.

This present equilibrium of power can’t last much longer, I am thinking. There is a growing realization that the uncertainty about the future direction of our society is wreaking much needless havoc on our lives and must be settled one way or another soon. No escaping the conclusion.

Look, there is no reliable polling here. But even assuming 70% opposition to the noxious ones, for a country of 70 million, we are still left with roughly 21 million in the other camp. With money, connection and guns, and frankly the sort of people with far more to lose immediately than what the rest of us can gain as a result of any change.

And even those folk aren’t all that happy with how things stand. I was chatting with a retired Revolutionary Guard commander recently and as far as he was concerned, the Almighty has withdrawn His blessings (barakat) from this country. A sentiment increasingly expressed point blank by the more pious supporters of this regime.

Something has got to give. But what? And in which direction will it all go?

But hey, at least Marjane Satrapi is being productive in France. An interesting older interview here. You can listen to a BBC woman’s hour discussion here (last year). Much as I loath sycophants, I would transform into an unabashed one much quicker than you would bat an eye if she were to be our Queen. Sadly, I’ll have to settle for being a groupie from afar. You’ve got to love the country that has offered this audacious soul a nurturing milieu.

Which gets me thinking: why is everyone bludgeoning the French? For a while, even certain circles in Iran were at it about the decision to ban hejab in the French schools. Naturally, of course, there is all that French bashing as well originating from Mount Olympus.

From where I am sitting, it can all get sort of discombobulating. The French, after all, can be very interesting in all sorts of different ways, I think. Compare for instance, the flimsy bilge one of the best and the brightest American conservatives has to offer with anything even a petulant De Benoist has to say.

I have been thinking about the French a lot lately. I have been brooding, as you might have noticed, a great deal over the alarm bells-- purportedly the harbingers of the culture wars and the invisible enemy within due to the presence of Arabs; not to mention, of course, all the accusations of financial improprieties and the corrupt profiteering, and the insidious insider deals and all.

So I have tired to remember why it all sounds so familiar.

Then I remembered a rant I had once encountered quoted in the work of the “orgasm guru,” Wilhelm Reich's the Mass Psychology of Fascism eons ago. I tried digging for it, but couldn’t find the book and so I asked my friend Mr. Limitedinc to help locate it.

Luckily he obliged with chapter and verse. I am leaving the original German untouched for those who can read the language. Tweak with it slightly as you read to get a slightly more contemporary feel!

Reich quotes from a passage, I suppose in Mein Kampf, about the Rhineland, Die Massenpsychologie des Faschismus, Frankfurt 1974, S. 102-107

Das ist das Hakenkreuz erst sehr spät geworden. Und im ührigen besteht die Frage nach dem irrationalen Gehalt des Antisemitismus. Der irrationale Gehalt der Rassetheorie erklärt sich aus der Mißdeutung der natürlichen Sexualität, des 'Schmutzig- Sexuell-Sinnlichen'. Hier stehen der Jude und der Neger auf einer Stufe in der Vorstellung des Faschisten, des deutschen ebenso wie des amerikanischen. Der Rassekampf in Amerika gegen den Neger spielt sich überwiegend auf dem Boden der sexuellen Abwehr ab: Der Neger ist als das sinnliche Schwein aufgefaßt, das weiße Frauen vergewaltigt. Hitler schrieb über die farbige Besatzung des Rheinlandes:
"Nur in Frankreich besteht heute mehr denn je eine innige Übereinstimmung zwischen den Absichten der Börse, den sie tragenden Juden und den Wünschen einer chauvinistisch eingestellten nationalen Staatskunst. Allein gerade in dieser Tatsache liegt eine immense Gefahr für Deutschland. Gerade aus diesem Grunde ist und bleibt Frankreich der weitaus furchtbarste Feind. Dieses an sich immer mehr der Vernegerung anheimfallende Volk bedeutet in seiner Bindung an die Ziele der jüdischen Weltbeherrschung eine lauernde Gefahr für den Bestand der weißen Rasse Europa. Denn die Ver- [S. 105]pestung durch Negerblut am Rhein im Herzen Europas entspricht ebenso sehr der sadistisch-perversen Rachsucht dieses chauvinistischen Erbfeindes unseres Volkes, wie der eisigkalten Überlegung des Juden, auf diesem Wege die Bastardierung des europäischen Kontinents im Mittelpunkt zu beginnen und der weißen Rasse durch Identifizierung mit niederem Menschentum die Grundlagen zu einer selbstherrlichen Existenz zu entziehen." (l. c. S. 704-705).

The relevant part is, I guess: There exists in France alone, today, the inner correspondence between the intentions of the stock market, the Jews that own it and the wishes of a chauvinistically arranged art of the state. …Just for this reason, France is and remains the most fearful of our foes. This people, who are prey to an always increasing level of negrification (Vernegerung) signify, in their adherence to the goal of Jewish world domination a lurking danger for the status of the white race in Europe…”

From Mein Kampf:

And even France must be counted among these states. Not only that she complements her army to an ever-increasing degree from her enormous empire's reservoir of colored humanity, but racially as well, she is making such great progress in negrification that we can actually speak of an African state arising on European soil.

Ein Beispiel rassischen Niedergangs ist für Hitler das ihm auch sonst unsympathische Frankreich. Dieses macht nach Hitler "in seiner Vernegerung so rapide Fortschritte, daß man tatsächlich von einer Entstehung eines afrikanischen Staates auf europäischem Boden reden kann" (S. 730).

Which leaves these bright charmers in an odd sort of ( de-facto) alliance , don’t you think?

Monday, November 29, 2004


Headlines Posted by Hello

We have been ruled more by deceit than by force, and we have been degraded more by vice than by superstition. Slavery is the daughter of darkness: an ignorant people is a blind instrument of its own destruction. Ambition and intrigue abuses the credulity and experience of men lacking all political, economic, and civic knowledge; they adopt pure illusion as reality; they take license for liberty, treachery for patriotism, and vengeance for justice. If a people, perverted by their training, succeed in achieving their liberty, they will soon lose it, for it would be of no avail to endeavor to explain to them that happiness consists in the practice of virtue; that the rule of law is more powerful than the rule of tyrants, because, as the laws are more inflexible, every one should submit to their beneficent austerity; that proper morals, and not force, are the bases of law; and that to practice justice is to practice liberty.”

Read more of “George Washington of South America” or “El Liberator,” General Simon Bolivar. We now have his statue adorning our city. Hugo Chaves has been in Tehran meeting and discussing expanded bilateral ties and greater cooperation, particularly in the agricultural sectors.

I tell you, if our quality of life were measured solely on the basis of the unfamiliar taste buds revealing themselves and singing hallelujah, the outcome of this contest of the self-absorbed, aka the clash of civilizations, would certainly be settled in our favor in a blink. Persimmons and pomegranates must simply be some of the sexiest fruits ever!

And an interesting leftist exposé of the Mujahedeen Organization (National Council of Resistance) in Dissident Voice. (via Payvand)

Friday, November 26, 2004

The problem with Ledeen

I am thinking two more posts on Ledeen before I drop the subject. I know Mr. Ledeen doesn’t much care for those who “dither and debate.” But I am going to try to grabble with something he wrote a while back because one gets the impression that just as surely as he dislikes anyone’s excessive babble, so too is he aversive to “ skullduggery!” So we try to test his claims.

I normally follow what he writes easily as he is a clear thinker. But there is a passage of his that is not intuitively clear to me much in the same way as Euclid’s fifth postulate has never been quite as immediately transparent to me as the first four. So try to imagine my dismay and the precise number of the back flips I had to do in fury when I first encountered the following paragraph which I noticed again recently buried in my notes from a couple of years ago. (Feb. 18 of 2003 or 2002?! Feeling lazy tonight):

“The current paralysis is eerily similar to the one that gripped Jimmy Carter's administration in 1979, as the fall of the shah became ever more likely. Then, too, it seemed imperative for us to act. Then, as today, the actions required were political, not military: We should have encouraged the shah to fight for his throne. Instead, we wrapped ourselves in the mantle of political correctness, warned him about the use of violence, insisted that his troops use rubber bullets, demanded that he permit freedom of assembly, and mumbled reassuring words about the Ayatollah Khomeini. Andrew Young remarked that he was, after all, "a religious man." Then, as today, we told ourselves that it was their country, not ours, that the shah was fully capable of acting, and that he undoubtedly would. Why should we take the political risks involved in vigorously supporting him? […] Why should he get his hands dirty by fighting the mobs in the streets?” (emphasis added)

I have omitted two crucial sentences that he ends this section with. In fairness, I will add it on before I am through. But I want all of us to carefully consider what he is saying here. He has made, after all, a great deal of political capital by relentlessly defending the “suffering people” of Iran.

So, let us grant Mr. Ledeen the country he so intensely feels entitled to. If he wants it that badly, he can have it-- the dirt, pollution, false piety and all. And so we give him the golden key and proceed to make him an honorary citizen--albeit a most delightful kind, a self-hating one:

In Iran, where treachery has long been the national sport and superstition the bedrock of political analysis, the people are casting runes and reading entrails, searching for certainty about the American strategy. Once they know it, they will act accordingly.

I should emphasis here that I see no personal malice in what he says. That’s simply who he is; a very good natured Iranian at heart and also very consistent,

He [George W. Bush] seems to have extraordinarily good instincts and the kind
of faith-based courage that makes for good leadership under terrible circumstances.

But like most good Iranians, he is revealing a fear of confrontation with the past. And the fear of the past is also a sign of an inability to deal with the challenges of the present.

There are two fundamentally conventional modes of critiquing the present, remember. One can always criticize the present by appealing to the golden past. Or one can denounce the present in the name of some non-existent future. That’s what the Stalinists meant, I suppose, by the oxymoron “inevitability of history.” And that’s the sort of language we hear from all the interventionists these days.

To change the present, however, one has to understand the past that has given birth to it. The refusal to deal with the past, however, in its own terms might be, what I fear, the source of the spiritual emptiness that he seems to be detecting everywhere.

In essence, what we see here is Ledeen trying to account for our present paralysis—a paralysis that I think fundamentally rooted in cynicism, by rewriting the past. And so his answer becomes thaumaturgy. What makes him different is his desire to send the signals rather than read them. What he shares with most of the rest of us here-- his fellow citizens-- is the penchant for indulging illusions and false hopes.

For you see, a part of him is fully aware of what’s going on here:

Sometimes I think there's a kind of racism at work when we discuss Arabs, or, more broadly, Muslims, as if they were lacking a "democracy" or "freedom" chromosome or something. It's not genetic, it's something that has developed over time. And since nobody (myself in the forefront) knows what produces the collapse of civilizations and/or empires, we can't foretell what will happen if we liberate them from their current tyrants.

But that’s exactly what happened more than twenty five years ago here. There was an omniscient little Father then who had come to power through a coup, and had proceeded to monopolize power, deprived people of their freedoms—speech, assembly and association, among others.

Our good Father had initiated a not so very thoughtful land reform which displaced millions of peasants without the structure in place to absorb the new comers who flooded the cities en masse. There were shantytowns everywhere. I clearly remember , on my way to school as a boy shortly before the revolution, images of men, woman and children lining up with buckets to get drinking water from the street pumps no more than five hundred meters from our villas that had everything we wanted, because their houses had no running water. And this was in Tehran’s more affluent northern parts!

The rapid inflow of oil money had exacerbated the class distinctions with displays of obscene avarice next to the scenes of heart wrenching poverty. Our gentle Father and his cronies stole from the coffers of this nation, tortured and maimed and at some point “the suffering people of Iran,” decided they’d had enough.

They collectively organized and chose to take matters into their own hands. Then, as now, no one knew how the future was going to turn out. It was no where nearly as obvious that the Islamists were going the get the upper hand. The year immediately after the revolution saw the publication of hundreds of journals and mushrooming of political and other forms of organizations. People were in the streets excitedly trying to carve out time and space for self expressions.

In essence, what we witnessed was how millions of people stopped “casting runes, and reading entrails,” and taking the matter into their own hands. They cooperated, organized and tried to, as Machiavelli would say, “subdue fortune.” But they failed. We all failed. Was it clear then, as it is now, how things would turn out?

The citizens who chose to participate in the historic “experiment,” of that revolution are simply “mobs” to Ledeen who still thinks they should have all been shot with real bullets. Many were, but apparently not in as large a number as Ledeen had hoped.

But nowadays, all of the sudden, we’ve become the “suffering people” to him needing liberation from the tyrants.

It is all a game to him and none of us are real. Does he really think we are that dumb?

That’s Ledeen’s fundamental problem, you see. Our dear leaders have the exact same attitude. What we are to them is the extra’s in a passion play. But most of us have finally figured out that game. What Ledeen pitches is a no brainer here! It is a (not so deceptively) disguised instrumentalization of the silliest kind:

[…]our most devastating weapon is the suffering people, who hate the regime. Our most lethal weapon is political, not military. I am talking revolution, not invasion.

What Ledeen seems to have missed is the liberating education of the past twenty five years! Learning the hard way has a way of disabusing people of their innocence. We have had enough of the kind of “faith based courage,” which caused young boys to be horded into trucks, given an imported “key to heaven,” and made to walk on land mines.

Once some of your neighbors and relatives have been used as a mine sweeper, you have no idea how quickly folk naturally develop an aversion for becoming any other kind of living weapon. Notice, for instance, that none of us have become suicidal bombs either.

We (some) have grown wary of being lectured by leaders in direct communication with the Almighty. Some of us have had enough of of a sort of leap of faith that our saviors demand from us and all the normal sacrifices they expect in return for empty promises.

Some of us are tired of being expected to follow marching orders and the delusional directives of our quite numerous self appointed guardians, leaders and leader wannabes. We insist on answers to our why questions before we move. Some of us remain skeptical of Ledeen’s many claims-- like this old one for instance:

There is a very good Iraqi Government in Exile, the Iraqi National Congress et. al., with a very good leader, Ahmad Chalabi. He has held this leaky ship together for more than a decade, despite repeated betrayals by the United States--Bush the Elder, Clinton, and the State Department always. I believe he'll be, at a minimum, an excellent leader of the transition period (just as I expect Reza Pahlavi will be an excellent leader of the Iranian transition period).


What has Mr. Pahlavi Jr. ever done to warrant this trust? Has he done a single honest day’s work since he left Iran? Where does he get his money from? What has he ever accomplished? Would anyone hire him to manage a McDonalds, let alone to lead of a country of 70 million in transition?

I’ll cut this short. Time to add those two sentences I told you I’d omitted:

He [the Shah] was overthrown, we suffered a monumental setback, radical jihadism
took root, and the Iranian people began 24 years of misery.

True enough. But that’s the risk we all take in violently fiddling with the present. That’s the risk he wants everyone to take in the Middle East these days, doesn’t he? But then, as now, there was no way of knowing how things would turne out. And that’s why I am gradually more perturbed by what’ happening all around me. I constantly re-play the various “what if” scenarios in my head.

What if more people had spoken up insisting on the need for the due process when the father of those young playmates of ours in the neighborhood was summarily executed? What if more people had spoken up when the Kurds were attacked? What if the moment the American hostages were seized and life militarized, people had insisted upon setting them free, thereby preventing the centralization of power which ensued shortly afterward, which only empowered the pressure groups and assorted goons which came to constitute the backbone of this regime.

What if Saddam hadn’t attacked utterly disrupting the organic flow of life in the aftermath of the popular revolution of 79? What if there was no Mujahedeen instigated campaign of terrorism, which gave the regime the excuse it needed to clamp down and butcher tens of thousands?

And countless other what ifs?

And so the future could have been different, yes, but this miserable present is all we’ve got now. And that’s the grand mystery of all presents, don’t you think? We can never know for sure what will turn up twenty five years down the road.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The trio’s draft resolution

Via Payvand from Vienna, full text of the big three’s draft resolution on the nuclear activities in Iran:

"Iran: Elements for a November IAEA board resolution

The Board of Governors:

a) recalling the resolutions adopted by the Board on September 18, 2004, June 18, 2004, March 13, 2004, November 26, 2003 and on September 12, 2003 and the statement by the Board of June 19, 2003,

b) noting with appreciation the Director General's latest report (GOV/2004/83) on the implementation of Iran's Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement,

c) noting specifically the Director General's assessment that Iranian practices up to October 2003 resulted in many breaches of Iran's obligations to comply with its Safeguard Agreement, as listed in paragraph 86, of the report, but that good progress has been made since that time in Iran's correction of those breaches, as described in paragraph 87 of the report, and in the Agency's ability to confirm certain aspects of Iran's current declarations,

d) also noting specifically the Director General's assessment that all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and that such material is not diverted to prohibited activities, but that the Agency is not yet in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran,

e) recalling the Board's previous requests to Iran to suspend all enrichment related and reprocessing activities,

f) noting with concern that Iran has continued conversion activities, including the production of UF6, in spite of the request made by the Board in September,

g) noting with interest the agreement between Iran, France, Germany and the UK with the support of the High Representative of the EU, made public on November 15, in which Iran states its decision to continue and extend its suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities; and noting with satisfaction that, pursuant to this agreement, notification of this decision was sent by Iran to the Director General on November 14;

h) Commending the Director General and Secretariat for the work they have done to date to resolve all questions relevant to safeguards implementation in Iran,

1. Welcomes Iran's decision on suspension, as a confidence-building measure, to be verified and monitored by the Agency,

2. Calls on Iran to sustain this suspension and underlines that the Board considers the full and sustained implementation of this confidence building measure essential to resolving all outstanding issues within the framework of the Agency

3. Notes the Director General's statement of .... that Iran's decision on suspension has been put into effect and requests the Director General to monitor the implementation of this decision and to report immediately to the Board should the Agency encounter evidence that the suspension is not fully implemented, or be prevented from monitoring all elements of the suspension, for as long as the suspension is in force.

4. Welcomes Iran's continuing commitment to act in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol as a confidence building measure that facilitates the resolution of the questions that have arisen and calls on Iran once again to ratify its Protocol without delay.

5. Reaffirms its strong concern that Iran's policy of concealment has resulted in many breaches of Iran's obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement

6. Acknowledges that, as reported by the Director General, progress has been made in resolving these questions

7. Welcomes the Director General's intention to pursue his investigations into the outstanding issues, with a view to providing credible assurances regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.

8. Underlines the continuing importance of Iran extending full and prompt cooperation to the Director General in the pursuit of these investigations, and requests Iran, as a confidence building measure, to allow unrestricted access to all sites as deemed necessary by the Agency.

9. Requests the Director General to report to the Board on his findings, as appropriate.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Hadley & Nuclear Weapons

"Even critics must acknowledge that the security arrangements developed after World War II, largely dependent upon nuclear weapons, were successful in giving us a Europe that has been free for fifty years from the major warfare that twice afflicted the continent in the first half of this century. Under the protection of nuclear deterrence, Europe has pursued a policy of economic and political integration that has put to rest age-old antagonisms and centuries of conflict between countries such as France and Germany. Nuclear deterrence also helped to hold off a Communist Soviet Union until the internal contradictions of that regime brought it down. In summary, "morality" must be judged in part by its effects, and if judged by these results, nuclear deterrence was a highly moral and responsible national security policy."

More Stephen J. Hadley, his own very self. (Thanks Mr. R)

Monday, November 22, 2004


Posted by Hello

I was almost forgetting the always startled daze aftereffect of encounters with Chuang-Tzu. (pdf) More of him :

Great wisdom is generous; petty wisdom is contentious. Great speech is impassioned, small speech cantankerous.

For whether the soul is locked in sleep or whether in waking hours the body moves, we are striving and struggling with the immediate circumstances. Some are easy-going and leisurely, some are deep and cunning, and some are secretive. Now we are frightened over petty fears, now disheartened and dismayed over some great terror. Now the mind flies forth like
an arrow from a cross-bow, to be the arbiter of right and wrong. Now it stays behind as if sworn to an oath, to hold on to what it has secured.

Then, as under autumn and winter's blight, comes gradual decay, and submerged in its own occupations, it keeps on running its course, never to return. Finally, worn out and imprisoned, it is choked up like an old drain, and the failing mind shall not see light again.

And this famous one

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou (personal name of Chuang Tzu), dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

What’s in the name “creative destruction?”

touching clouds Posted by Hello

So I interrupted the last installment noting a “need” for going away. That’s the thing about the needs we humans seek to satisfy by forming collectives, you see. Needs, desires, wants, impulses, ambitions, aspirations, goals, objectives and acts are interesting in so far as they are irksome and occasionally difficult to acknowledge, or even comprehend.

But no escaping them.

How we choose to frame them will have a lot to do with how we respond to them. And how we come to name them too plays a crucial role in determining the nature of our reactions.

So in approaching the notion of “creative destruction,” the politics of it aside for the moment, we are basically left exactly where Juliet was when she made her most poignant lament--on that balcony: “what is Montague, it's not a hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man...tis his name that is Juliet's enemy."

Names are important, and there is more to them than initially meets the eyes. Or else we wouldn’t be struggling to refer to the crushed bones, and the torn, incinerated mussles and tissues of a mere child as “collateral damage.”

Let’s run an experiment with names and see where that lands us. What we are after here is determining how the “mundane,” really makes all the difference in the way we live our lives and how the “myths” we use to talk about the mundane, can ultimately wreak havoc on the structure of the reality we cherish most.

Think yourself an “identical” businessperson opening a gas station in two different cultures simultaneously --two distinct and interrelated universes.

In one your modus operandi is “normalizing the exceptions,” and in the other “exception-less-ing the exceptions.” That’s our new name for our “reality.”

I know it can’t make much sense initially. But I am at a loss for words. (“Exceptionless exceptions,” is a term coined, I believe, by an Israeli Jurist, Mr. Oren Gross) Be good sports and play along. Assume as well that the people you interact with in each universe share your outlook. And please note that I believe the virtues and the vices we’ll encounter exists in both universes. I am simply going to deal with archetypes because it is easier this way to make my point.

You have a very demanding, entitled family with many wants and needs, and boisterous to boot. On any given day you burn a lot of cash on various expenditures and so now you hope to make things easy on yourself and the family by making a killing in your new gas station.

You are hoping to satisfy a single need initially. Cars run on fuel and at some point they run out. You are counting on this simple “lack” and the anxiety it generates to cause people to stop by at your station.

Imagine what happens in the first universe—the one that normalizes exceptions.

Everyone stops by for gas, but then you notice that of all the people who stop by, a certain percentage also requires oil. Not everyone mind you, but a fair number. So, instead of waiting for them to ask, you get some oil and put it out there on a display for everyone to see.

Then as normally happens, some cars have one driver and others come with passengers. A certain percentage of those will want to use the restroom, others are hungry, some are bored, some pregnant, some have babies who need diapers changed and so on and so forth.

So now, you’ve decided to acknowledge them-- whether you’ve really cared to or not—as real and consequently, instead of yakking to everyone individually, you try finding ways for each to satisfy their wants and needs without coming to you first.

You open up a restroom, and perhaps enlargen it for the occasional pregnant woman with the child in need of a diaper change and since you understand that in the middle of the road some might get scared and you add a whole bunch of lights. And then you get some food going, initially sandwiches, then depending on the response, perhaps other stuff.

You get tired of doing all the work, and you hire help. There is a musician who lives close by and doesn’t want to work all the time but doesn’t mind some extra cash either. So you get him to come in and occasionally clean the restrooms because a certain percentage of those who’ve stopped by are normally sloppy and always make a mess.

He gets his girl friend, an insolvent painter, to stop by and prepare some hot food every now and then and it occurs to you to get some music going on the busier days. There is music subsequently. And after some of the bored customers have had a chance to get some hot food in the bellies and listen to some melodies, the three of you notice that they have become more talkative than usual and slightly chummier. So the woman painter tells you that perhaps she should bring in some of her work to see how people react to them.

Then, sure enough, people want to talk about them. Some thing odd begins to happen. The musician and the painter who would have lived an isolated life in the middle of the boonies now have one day a week when they can shine. So the fellow practices more, and tries to come up with more interesting tunes to get more excited reactions from a captive audience and the painter works more diligently at painting since she has now noticed how people have made her otherwise ordinary life in to something amazing and her of course, personally into a star.

They feel good about themselves, their work and each other. The extra cash doesn’t hurt either.

So on that one day, there is excitement. No one wants to appear boring. So they try finding better and more sophisticated ways of talking about their experiences, and all the things they’ve encountered during the week and each other.

So the three of you begin visiting a writer who lives a rather isolated life near you and begin to discuss more interesting stuff over coffee—only occasionally. Your wife (or husband) and the kids too come in and notice how some can (and do) paint while being poor, and some can (and do) talk about drawings as visual feasts without having the prettiest of outfits, and how certain others can (and do) play music while also cleaning restrooms for a living and so they also begin to try to talk about various things that might have never occurred to them before.

So they actually end up being less obnoxious as well sensing how there is normally more than initially meets the eyes about everyone they encounter. A bit of broadened horizons never hurts anyone. Not everyone will react that way, of course, but only a fair number who try.

So the three of you and the writer come up with a plan to have him write some articles for a newspaper to let others know what is happening at the gas station and all the music and the warmth and the paintings and the mingling.

The extra cash and the exposure reawaken the dream of the writer for finishing and publishing that novel he has been working on ever since S/he had been a teen.

There is a developing sense of a community—enthralling and welcoming—once a week when the otherwise isolated individuals come to feel appreciated and begin to respond to each other in more receptive ways.

So in responding to each other’s needs, wants and desires, and by exploring all the various ways numerous cravings are being catered to, explored and discussed, they try to constantly come up with different, and new things and modes of cooperation and novel manners of talking about them.

By being more interesting, more entertaining, and always keeping an eye out for ways of taking the next step—the very logical next step—small, humdrum and not really all that dazzling whenever the opportunity presents itself, people alter the routine in ways that are possible to achieve only when people come to rely on each other and to cooperate inevitably discovering methods that is there to see when one is attentive to the inner dynamics of his or her activities.

Then by pure luck the fellow who owns the factory that sold you all the lights used to brighten your station sees the story the writer has done about what’s happening in your life and decides to show up to see what the hoopla is all about.

The two of you hit it off and you begin to talk about the various chores and so you just sort of blurt out how everything is going nicely but it is nevertheless a hassle having to get a lather to go change a number of those light bulbs that burn out quite often since as a general rule a certain percentage of the bulbs always burn out prematurely after a given period of time.

Not all of them, mind you, but a fair number.

And while you are at it, you also tell him how a certain number of the light bulbs you’ve purchased are broken to begin with once you take them out of their packages.

The factory owner has no idea what you’re taking about. So he asks you to keep some stats and give him a call with more exact information. He goes back to the factory and begins to sniffs around and sure enough, problems become more visible to him. He comes to institutes a quality control mechanism. Then he gives the truck company that has been delivering bulbs for years a call.

And there at the truck company, they too begin to look into the potential problems that cause light bulbs to break during delivery. And so the supply chain begins to reevaluate their ways of doing things as well. There will be changes in the packaging too as a result of all these.

What we are seeing is the emergence of new ways of looking at things. New ways of doing things and brilliant ways of talking about things, and the sort of cooperation that gives rise to an enchanting mode of being in the world.

There is constant, perpetual hustle and bustle. People tinker and putter and experiment and sure enough, a certain percentage of their activities always create wondrous products.

Not all of them, mind you, just a fair number.

There is nothing really extraordinary about their activities. Millions are doing what they normally do everyday, but always with an eye on the exceptions and the various ways it might be possible to absorb the exceptions into the normal routine.

All based on the attitude that assumes it given that a certain percentage of everything that everyone ever does or wants to do always falls outside of the expected norms and it ultimately pays to normalize them.

The resultant vector emerging out of the millions of very small, ordinary exertions and the incremental changes in the really mundane, prosaic, humdrum routine of the every day life is what manifests as an awesome and fantastic achievement over time.

Now let’s go to the second universe and see what happens there. Remember, you are the same person, which means you are basically capable of noticing the same things as those you noticed in our first universe.

The one crucial difference is a disposition that presupposes “exception-less-ing the exceptions.” And remember both our universes are archetypes for the sake of simplicity.

So you notice that some of those needing fuel also require oil. But since a certain percentage of the people you encounter always will want some brand other than what you have to offer, why bother, right?

How much money can they add to your earning anyways? Don’t you spend, on any given day, more on shoes and toys for your kids than all what you can earn from some nagging old man in search of the exact brand of oil he has been using ever since he purchase the-by-now old and ugly looking donkey which used to pass as an automobile eons ago?

And then there is that woman with a small child who needs his diaper changed. You see her, the child and the needs. You raised a child of your own remember. And you still remember how hard it was on those trips you took. But what the hell?

You were not the one who got her pregnant to begin with, right? So why do you have to bother putting up with the shit? Especially since a certain percentage of women who change diapers are too distracted to clean after themselves. How much money can she spend in your gas station any ways to justify all the extra effort? No value adds, really! On any given day, you spend more money on your wife’s make up. So, you lock your bathroom and claim you have none.

You see the musician pass by your station everyday. You are tired of being all alone, so it occurs to you to ask him to come work for you. Then you think if he were any good, he would have been famous by now. A lazy ass really, you choose to think. And since a certain percentage of the musicians who are not really good at what they do and are poor and in need of money will always rob and steal, you decide against hiring him.

You are not going to hire him. But that gets you thinking about the possibilities of being robbed.

A certain percentage of people on the road are thieves. What can you do? Add a bunch of lights around the gas station? But no! A certain percentage of all the thieves who end up robbing a place have normally first kept it under surveillance first. So adding light is certainly out of the question.

Besides, isn’t it true that a certain percentage of the criminals who have ever robbed and killed their victims have also used a sharp object? And out of those a certain number have used broken light bulbs to cut the veins of a gas station attendant? At least two or three cases are fresh in your memory.

So it’s settled then. No lights. You need a muscle now. But can you trust just any one? Isn’t it true that a certain percentage of the people who are strangers and get hired to do a job have ended up being crooks? What guarantee is there that he won’t rob you?

None really, when you think about it! There are no such guarantees in life.

Luckily, there is that brother in law you couldn’t stand though. He is your logical choice for the job. Better safe than sorry.

So now your family nags you about money when you are at home. You end up spending hours and hours having to put up with the brother in law you loath to see at work. So the musician’s girl friend that stops by every now and then in one of her foul moods begins to look even better to you every day. And she is having a rough time of it at home.

She paints, but no one pays any attention to her. The musician isn’t playing anymore because he is unhappy and self absorbed. Besides, he is screwing around on her with the occasional needy woman he meets at that occasional wedding he plays the always identical melodies in.

Besides, the music was what attracted her to him in the first place. When he played and practiced music, he was more attentive to her, and appreciated her paintings and was full of complements and praises and found her sexy and appealing. He now plays the same tunes over and over again. He does drugs, abuses her and insults everyone and everything-- his luck, animals and even the soda cans that cross his path.

And he ceaselessly dreams of becoming that famous musician everyone applauds all the time, but he never actually bothers taking the very small steps it takes to improve his skills and gain exposures. So they have become quite the dreamers. Idle dreams, really, that never amount to much.

They ignore each other and their life together is going no where. She is feeling lonely and though young, talented and beautiful, she has come to feels ugly, old and useless. So now you and her—the two unhappy creatures that are in a rot-- begin to find solace in each other’s company in that gas station bathroom no one else uses for a few minutes every now and again and come to feel miserable afterwards.

Your relationship, as “wrong,” as it is, could have been different when she first showed you a painting of hers she was excited about. And even though you liked it, you couldn’t bring yourself to say anything nice and encouraging and so you ended up uttering mean, callous things because somehow you had come to believe that since a certain percentage of all the artists who created memorable art have had noble souls, noble souls alone are really responsible for potentially great art, and so this young slut who fucks you in a gas station bathroom can’t possibly be any good at creating anything.

So she deserves whatever nastiness you hurl at her.

So now you have become adamant about viewing all women as potential whores! Isn’t it true that she has a boy friend and here she is screwing you in the bathroom! You reason that a certain percentage of all the people in relationships always “cheat” for various reasons. So what is there to keep your own wife from cheating? Especially since you are doing exactly what frightens you most about what she might do.

So now, you have become suspicious, distrustful, and always wanting to keep her under control. And while you wanted to hire the writer to work with your kid, you can’t trust him either with your wife, because, sure enough, a certain percentage of the men you meet always lust after some one else’s wife or worst yet, are child molesters. And a certain percentage of the women you encounter will do exactly what their husbands or lovers do in their absence.

Consequently the writer can’t earn enough money and feels useless and curses the day he ever purchased that first book which made him want to be a writer to begin with. So the novel that he began in his teens ends up still sitting in some box collecting dust.

The result: here you are in your cold station, with no oil and no clean restrooms any one can use. There is no hot food, no sounds of music, and no paintings, and no community. There are no lights. No quality control system in place in the bulb factory. No one comes to ever work on repackaging the light bulbs. No ongoing reevaluation of the supply chain. . No interesting ways of talking about things.

There are only obscene expectations so everyone is perpetually disappointed and such high standards that no mere mortal could possibly live up to. So then emerges a universe of unhappy creatures making fun of each other all the time and being mean spirited and inactive, and merely managing to share in each other’s misery.

No real sense of a community either. Only rigidity, big dreams, false hopes, mistrust, exhaustion, despondency, mediocrity and endless, nauseating banter among the same family members about money, appliances and furniture.

And, of course, those perpetual excuses!

Enter Michael Ledeen. He looks at the first universe and tries to make sense of it. But he “chooses to “see” and “comprehend” through the prism of a mind’s eyes (de)formed by his past experiences and readings. Perhaps in the shadows of those light artifacts he genuinely deciphers the ghosts of the Athenians in action. Or, may be he is just interested in cheaper oil and gas. May be it is his personal ambitions or the fact that he simply adores the sound Packman made gobbling those dots. Or a lingering spiritual emptiness, perhaps!

Who knows what accounts for any of us saying or doing what we say or do, really?

Mr. Ledeen would call the perpetual motion and the hustle and the bustle of the first universe “creative destruction.” And yes, in a certain sense, he is right. Old ways are constantly giving way to the new. The old structures are being dismantled one brick at the time and are being replaced--gradually, methodically and with simple, logical moves--with something novel.

What he sees though is destruction, and to him destruction is destruction is destruction, albeit a “creative” one. So why bother with the extra effort, right? Bomb a new structure into existence. “Creative destruction,” is his “middle name,” remember? And “Leos have a track record” so we should trust him.

But even assuming the noblest of intentions, no one can bomb away with cruise missiles the structures that have taken years to build because of particular dispositions. There is no “mother of all bombs” big enough for decimating attitudes about the everyday life.

It takes a lot more than that but is not quite that much of an impossible undertaking some others make it sound like. Perhaps all that might initially take is a persistent dismantling of things one step at the time, one day at a time-- with a little bit of outside help.

But I fear all Mr. Ledeen and Co will successfully manage to do, besides all the needless torment and death they actually cause, is a successful decimation of the magic that had made possible the “stuffness” of what he calls “creative destruction”

Human collectivities are fragile entities after all. We are all mere mortals. Mortals that have come to miraculously settle on some convention that is really quite arbitrary when you think about it. Conventions can go all sort of different ways. Normally it is always easier to destroy what’s decent than build what’s good.

By the time they have successfully replaced the “soul” of a society—those attitudes and dispositions which facilitate normalizing exceptions-- with a new one that generates exceptionless-ing exceptions, the structures in place that have enabled self actualization--no matter how problematic and imperfect-- of always (potentially) creative human beings will have vanished.

And that, my friends, would successfully give “collateral damage” a whole new meaning.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A cook’s counsel!

face in cave Posted by Hello

Words of wisdom from one of my favorite Chinese thinkers:

The Preservation of Life

Human life is limited, but knowledge is limitless. To drive the limited in pursuit of the limitless is fatal; and to presume that one really knows is fatal indeed!

In doing good, avoid fame. In doing bad, avoid disgrace. Pursue a middle course as your principle. Thus you will guard your body from harm, preserve your life, fulfill your duties by your parents, and live your allotted span of life.

Prince Huei's cook was cutting up a bullock. Every blow of his hand, every heave of his shoulders, every tread of his foot, every thrust of his knee, every whshh of rent flesh, every chhk of the chopper, was in perfect rhythm, --like the dance of the Mulberry Grove, like the harmonious chords of Ching Shou.

"Well done!" cried the Prince. "Yours is skill indeed!"

"Sire," replied the cook laying down his chopper, "I have always devoted myself to Tao, which is higher than mere skill. When I first began to cut up bullocks, I saw before me whole bullocks. After three years' practice, I saw no more whole animals. And now I work with my mind and not with my eye. My mind works along without the control of the senses. Falling back upon eternal principles, I glide through such great joints or cavities as there may be, according to the natural constitution of the animal. I do not even touch the convolutions of muscle and tendon, still less attempt to cut through large bones.

"A good cook changes his chopper once a year, -- because he cuts. An ordinary cook, one a month, -- because he hacks. But I have had this chopper nineteen years, and although I have cut up many thousand bullocks, its edge is as if fresh from the whetstone. For at the joints there are always interstices, and the edge of a chopper being without thickness, it remains only to insert that which is without thickness into such an interstice. Indeed there is plenty of room for the blade to move about. It is thus that I have kept my chopper for nineteen years as though fresh from the whetstone.

"Nevertheless, when I come upon a knotty part which is difficult to tackle, I am all caution. Fixing my eye on it, I stay my hand, and gently apply my blade, until with a hwah the part yields like earth crumbling to the ground. Then I take out my chopper and stand up, and look around, and pause with an air of triumph. Then wiping my chopper, I put it carefully away."

"Bravo!" cried the Prince. "From the words of this cook I have learned how to take care of my life."

Friday, November 19, 2004

Revisiting “creative destruction”—untidily but quick!

A page of history. Posted by Hello

I was planning to continue exploring the limits of sovereignty with Montesquieu and Rousseau, moving on with Al-Farabi, Ibn Khaldun and ultimately some theories of Jihad before getting back to discussing Ledeen’s debts to Mr. Schmitt in less playfully ad hominem way. But then there was another interesting discussion Cheznadezhda. So a change of plans. That’s us, Iranians for you. Obsessive, and the attention span of a five year old to wit.

Two quick notes first.

Apologies to Oscar! No one should infer dispositions on the basis of another’s fleeting moment of reflection. I stand corrected. The “nettlesome flirtation with the ancient Mongols” accusation is now directed solely at Oscar’s “Jacksonian neighbors.” For the record, what gets under my skin is flattening cities and dogs eating bodies of the dead.

Second, I am pleased to see Prakrite settling Cheznadezhda. It was a chore keeping up with him in all the multiple weblogs he left comments on. Impressive reading practices as well. I don’t have access to Pollack’s book at the moment. I am sure it will be translated soon and available in the bookstores. Can you believe: over three million titles published alone last year here-- a lot in translations. Any thing from the classics and post moderns, to the biography of Hillary Clinton and the immortal lyrics of Britney Spears!

As an aside, the paragraph alluded to in the blog entry seems sensible enough to me. The problem he addresses remains still a fundamental difficulty today. The key to the puzzle is the dominant business mentality in Iran that privileges trade, speculation and hoarding at the expense of production. And the disposition manifest in the incestuous patronage due to insecurity.

Start with two neighbors with the same net worth--one breeds chickens, the other is a merchant. The merchant will buy a bunch of chickens on the (insider) scoop of the possible rise in the prices of the imported feed due to a new contract signed by some corrupt official with another country in return for kickbacks. The merchant keeps quiet and hoards the chickens he has purchased already and advances more money to the neighbor securing a promise of future sales at a bargain price. And sure enough, the price of chickens goes up because of the rise in the price of the feed and the perceived possible shortage of chickens. The other neighbor gets caught off balance and now as his margin continues to fall, either feels destitute or comes to abandon his enterprise entirely, while our merchant gets richer beyond his wildest dreams.

The merchant is still irritated with the government though, since he can’t possibly keep up with all the arbitrary arrangements that can make or break him without any warnings. This happens constantly in all the various sectors of the economy here.

Frankly here is a dirty secret for you at no cost: the Iranian business class has as much interest in democracy as their counterparts had in Chile under Pinochet while the threat of communism loomed in the horizon. They are rolling in money, and reaping the benefits in obscene personal ways (more opium and mistresses than they know what to do with; no enforceable regulations that can’t be bribed away and no labor laws or trade unions to hassle with) What is irritating most is the constant insecurity and the perception of being left out of the loop and the nuisance of a cumbersome bureaucracy.

That said, what I wanted to tackle was Ledeen’s “creative destruction” spiel, if our kindly friend Nadezhda could forgive the untidiness of it all for now. Once I have collected some more of the readers’ (usually angry) feedbacks, I’ll revisit the subject subsequently with appropriate links. This quick profile today I am putting together based on notes accumulated over the years about Ledeen.

The often derided Ledeen thesis, as best I can figure, is succinctly articulated in the now (in)famous 2001 article:

We dealt with the original kamikazes by improving our defenses so as to kill them before they hit us, and by destroying the country that launched them. We have to do that again.

It is what we do best. It comes naturally to us, for we are the one truly revolutionary country in the world, as we have been for more than 200 years. Creative destruction is our middle name. We do it automatically, and that is precisely why the tyrants hate us, and are driven to attack us.

To those who say it cannot be done, we need only point to the 1980s, when we led a global democratic revolution that toppled tyrants from Moscow to Johannesburg.

As always, it is best to listen to Mr. Ledeen when he recommends an actionable. So let’s go back with him to the March of 1985 (when he was busy saving those unfortunate souls residing south of the American borders) to get a better sense for the initial formulation of his thesis as well as indications of his (somewhat) failing memory. Here are a couple of tidbits from an article he published in the Commentary magazine then:

Vitality of democracy, its appeal to human creativity, and the unlimited range it gives to human development, strike fear into the hearts of those whose power depends upon shackling free people and insisting upon a single “truth.”

True enough. But here is where the Ledeen of old was slightly different from the new version:

“How can we continue to maintain close friendships with foreign leaders when we are simultaneously intruding into their internal affairs, trying to get them to dilute their authority and significantly change their political system?”

Whom do you think he is talking about here? Yes you might have guessed it. South Africa is one of the examples he gives. Let me emphasis here that I think Apartheid was probably repulsive to him. But since when have the considerations of right and wrong swayed an ideologue on a binge?

To his credit though, he did chastise fellow conservatives for mistaking alliances of convenience with shared principles.

Among some of the other odious allies then, we can now count Usama and Mr. Saddam “the Hitler” Hussein. Whether Mr. Ledeen might have played a role (or not) is not all that clear to me. But I am absolutely certain about the identity of the ones who received a cake and some weapons here in Iran with his help, if you know what I mean.

Nonetheless, what I find really amusing is that he now takes credit for the revolution in Johannesburg as well; when in point of fact, the Americans who were partially responsible for the downfall of Apartheid were the ones Ledeen and Co have always accused of naïveté, and being dupes. The ones taking credit for the down fall of the Apartheid regime nowadays were the ones fighting on the wrong side tooth and nail.

And parenthetically, someday soon, once I’ve gained access to the original documents, I’ll tell you where the categories “sexual apartheid,” and “Islamo-fascism,” so in vogue nowadays originate from.

Things change though. We’ve all changed. That’s life. So now Mr. Ledeen fiddles with the initial 2001 version of his “creative destruction,” thesis in a furious, scornful rebuttal of the Libertarian Congressman Paul in 2003, giving it a more precise formulation:

The heart of Paul's attack on me is this paragraph:

In Ledeen's most recent publication, The War Against the Terror Masters, he reiterates his beliefs outlined in this 1999 Machaivelli book. He specifically praises: "Creative destruction…both within our own society and abroad…(foreigners) seeing America undo traditional societies may fear us, for they do not wish to be undone." Amazingly, Ledeen concludes: "They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission."

If those words don't scare you, nothing will?

He conveniently leaves out the context, which is a discussion of the basic conflict between us and the terror masters: a conflict between freedom and tyranny. I argue, as I argued during the Cold War with regard to Communism, and as I argued in my books on fascism earlier, that the conflict between America and tyrants is inevitable. It stems from the very nature of America, from our unique freedom and creativity, which has often been described as "creative destruction." Every serious writer about America has noticed the amazing speed with which we scrap old ideas, technologies, art forms and even the use of the English language. And it's obvious that more rigid societies, particularly those governed by tyrants, are frightened by the effects and the appeal of freedom on their own subjects. Our existence threatens them, undermines their legitimacy, and subverts their power. Therefore "they must attack us in order to survive," and, sooner or later, we must confront them and, I hope and trust, defeat them in order to advance our mission of spreading freedom.

The heart of this pronouncement, which I have highlighted, is what I think essentially on target. But as always, I’d have to swallow it with extra cautionary qualifications and a doze of a much needed demystification. Let’s crudely break things up for the sake of simplicity.

First, there is a reality that needs explaining (the American experience). Second, the categories which are used to comprehend and explain this “reality” need to be examined. Third, the history of the categories employed should be considered and put in context. And last, but not least, the dispositions of the man who proposes to do the explaining employing these particular categories should be understood.

Let’s start with the man first. Mr. Ledeen, as he says of himself, “is an American enthusiast,” and “an optimist,” who thinks Americans “can do amazing things…and [are] too great to settle for small things.” Ledeen, “a Leo,” boastfully reminds everyone “to keep in mind that a handful of Leos were central in the Reagan years (I hope that's not classified), so we've got a bit of a track record...” And a hell of a track record they most certainly do have.

Mr. Ledeen also fancies himself a “romantic.”

We all know how most “romantics” adore “myths.” Romantics have an intuitive appreciation for the significant role “myths” play in defining identity. So, if you were a romantic in search of a “myth” to justify circumnavigating the globe on the back of a cruise missile, where would you find one?

In Thucydides, of course. So, let’s look at the similarities between some of the central features of Ledeen’s revised formulation and the Corinthian speech at the Congress of the Peloponnesian Confederacy at Sparta, narrated by my favorite historian, on the differences between the Spartan and Athenian national characters:

3.8 "You, Spartans, of all the Hellenes are alone inactive, and defend yourselves not by doing anything but by looking as if you would do something; you alone wait till the power of an enemy is becoming twice its original size, instead of crushing it in its infancy. And yet the world used to say that you were to be depended upon; but in your case, we fear, it said more than the truth. The Persian, we ourselves know, had time to come from the ends of the earth to Peloponnese, without any force of yours worthy of the name advancing to meet him. But this was a distant enemy. Well, Athens at all events is a near neighbour, and yet Athens you utterly disregard; against Athens you prefer to act on the defensive instead of on the offensive, and to make it an affair of chances by deferring the struggle till she has grown far stronger than at first. And yet you know that on the whole the rock on which the barbarian [the Persian King Xerxes] was wrecked was himself, and that if our present enemy Athens has not again and again annihilated us, we owe it more to her blunders than to your protection; Indeed, expectations from you have before now been the ruin of some, whose faith induced them to omit preparation.

3.9 "We hope that none of you will consider these words of remonstrance to be rather words of hostility; men remonstrate with friends who are in error, accusations they reserve for enemies who have wronged them. Besides, we consider that we have as good a right as any one to point out a neighbour's faults, particularly when we contemplate the great contrast between the two national characters; a contrast of which, as far as we can see, you have little perception, having never yet considered what sort of antagonists you will encounter in the Athenians, how widely, how absolutely different from yourselves. The Athenians are addicted to innovation, and their designs are characterized by swiftness alike in conception and execution; you have a genius for keeping what you have got, accompanied by a total want of invention, and when forced to act you never go far enough. Again, they are adventurous beyond their power, and daring beyond their judgment, and in danger they are sanguine; your wont is to attempt less than is justified by your power, to mistrust even what is sanctioned by your judgment, and to fancy that from danger there is no release.

3.10 "Further, there is promptitude on their side against procrastination on yours; they are never at home, you are never from it: for they hope by their absence to extend their acquisitions, you fear by your advance to endanger what you have left behind. They are swift to follow up a success, and slow to recoil from a reverse. Their bodies they spend ungrudgingly in their country's cause; their intellect they jealously husband to be employed in her service. A scheme unexecuted is with them a positive loss, a successful enterprise a comparative failure. The deficiency created by the miscarriage of an undertaking is soon filled up by fresh hopes; for they alone are enabled to call a thing hoped for a thing got, by the speed with which they act upon their resolutions.

3.11 "Thus they toil on in trouble and danger all the days of their life, with little opportunity for enjoying, being ever engaged in getting: their only idea of a holiday is to do what the occasion demands, and to them laborious occupation is less of a misfortune than the peace of a quiet life. To describe their character in a word, one might truly say that they were born into the world to take no rest themselves and to give none to others.

3.12 "Such is Athens, your antagonist. And yet, Spartans, you still delay, and fail to see that peace stays longest with those, who are not more careful to use their power justly than to show their determination not to submit to injustice. On the contrary, your ideal of fair dealing is based on the principle that, if you do not injure others, you need not risk your own fortunes in preventing others from injuring you. Now you could scarcely have succeeded in such a policy even with a neighbour like yourselves; but in the present instance, as we have just shown, your habits are old-fashioned as compared with theirs. It is the law as in art, so in politics, that improvements ever prevail; and though fixed usages may be best for undisturbed communities, constant necessities of action must be accompanied by the constant improvement of methods. Thus it happens that the vast experience of Athens has carried her further than you on the path of innovation.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

I am tired now and need to go away. I’ll put the rest of this together soon-- if nothing distracting comes up.

Incidentally, the odious fascists photographed above are some of the anti-Mossadeqh goons of the fifties in Iran. Guess whose side they were on when the coup came?

It’s been fashionable lately to repeat after Schmitt, “tell me who your enemy is and I’ll tell you who you are.”

I’d rather think the opposite. In this era of fragmentation and strife, enemies are dime a dozen. My take is: tell me who your friends were and I’ll know who you really are and what kind of (mis)adventures you’ll embark upon next and with whose help!