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.

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