The League of Gentlemen

 

A 1992 documentary by the brilliant Adam Curtis about the rise of Monetarism during Britain’s economis crisis in the 1970s. As countries accross Europe bow to the seemingly inexorable logic of austerity and the European Union attempts to lock in a neoliberal model of economic governance, it has lost none of its relevance.

In his most recent blog post, Curtis unearths yet more wonderful archival gems and documentery evidence of what Stuart Hall calls the ‘long march of the neoliberal revolution’.

Benghazi: The Uprising

Some very silly ‘information sheets’ have been doing the rounds on Facebook  and elsewhere. They purport to show how wonderful Libya was under dictatorship, how generous Qaddafi was in building a limited welfare state. The people who produce such propaganda are infantile leftists (that wonderfully apt phrase was first used by Lenin) – that’s why they don’t produce similar propaganda on behalf of the royal dictators in the Gulf, although the Gulf dictatorships have also built welfare states, much better ones, in fact, than Qaddafi’s. Libya is a vast lake of high quality oil. Libyans should be as rich as Emiratis or Kuwaitis. The reality is that much of Libya is poor, and that if a Libyan needed a major operation he had to travel to Tunisia, a much poorer country. And the oil wealth is a gift of God or nature, not of Qaddafi. The only thing Qaddafi gifted to the Libyan people was death.

It’s wise to be suspicious of Britain, France and Qatar and to resist the ‘humanitarian intervention’ propaganda. Every state acts according to perceived interests, not according to moral principles. But there’s nothing wise or intelligent in opposing a revolution and insulting a revolutionary people because they choose to accept help from outside rather than die. The more repulsive armchair revolutionaries (almost all of them Western) are calling the heroic Libyan people ‘quislings’ and ‘traitors’ and imagining an alternative reality in which the revolution was begun by Western agents provocateurs. The film below is a timely reminder of how the revolution started in Benghazi – with the blood of martyrs. (I wish the Iran regime-controlled Press TV was also capable of broadcasting sensible documentaries on Syria).

Some Syria Resources

I am going through a period of (relatively) silent reflection on Syria. Of course, in Syria history continues to move at a rapid pace. At least 44 people were murdered by the regime yesterday. Today there is news of 17 soldiers killed by army deserters in Homs, a city which now appears to be in the early stages of a civil war. Syria’s criminal regime has brought this catastrophe on the country.

I’m remaining quiet for a while, but here are some highly recommended sites and articles. First, Walls is rapidly becoming the successor blog to Syria Comment, a space for intelligent discussion of the situation. Syria Comment was perceived by many (including me) to have lost its bearings. It always had a pro-regime and somewhat anti-Sunni slant; as the regime proved its stupidity and it became clear that the country would come closer to disintegration so long as the regime retained power, SC only reinforced its loyalty. Its reporting of events in Syria was highly selective, it gave a false view of the protestors, their motivations and leaders, it sometimes repeated absurd regime propaganda verbatim, and it even stooped to repeating false regime slanders of opposition figures. Now that Joshua Landis has taken a back seat the site is in less academic, even more blatantly partial hands. So it’s really good to see the Walls blog attracting SC’s best commentors and building such a big audience.

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Jadaliyya interview with Belén Fernández

Jadaliyya recently interviewed PULSE co-editor Belén Fernández about her book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, to be released by Verso Nov. 7. The interview appears in Jadaliyya’s New Texts Out Now (NEWTON) section and includes an excerpt from the book. The following is the start of the interview:

Jadaliyya: Why did you write this book?

Belén Fernández: I asked myself this question several thousand times, particularly during my third rereading of every Friedman column published since 1995.

The idea for the book came about in a far less climactic fashion than Friedman’s ideas tend to occur—i.e. it did not involve “Quarter-Pounder[ing] my way around the world,” being struck by a “bolt out of the blue that must have hit somewhere between the McDonald’s in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the McDonald’s in Tahrir Square in Cairo and the McDonald’s off Zion Square in Jerusalem,” and unfurling the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention, according to which American fast food is the key to world peace.

Rather, in May of 2009, following a four-month hitchhiking trip through Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, I returned to Buenos Aires, where my parents were living at the time. Though up to that point I had been blessedly sheltered from the phenomenon that is Thomas Friedman and had only read a smattering of his dispatches over the years, he happened to publish a spate of articles that summer which caught my attention.

Topics ranged from how Iraqis should appreciate the US military legacy of “a million acts of kindness and a profound example of how much people of different backgrounds can accomplish when they work together” in their country, to how Barack Obama had defeated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Lebanese elections, which somehow indicated a triumph of Lebanese sovereignty. Also reported by Friedman that summer was the encouraging fact that the more than 50,000 Facebook fans of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi far exceeded the capacity of a mosque, thus reiterating the positive role technology can play in the hands of proper Muslims, as opposed to those concerned with conducting “J.O.L.” (Jihad Online).

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British Muslim Fictions

By Claire Chambers

What does it mean to be a writer of Muslim heritage in the UK today? Is there such a thing as ‘Muslim fiction’? If so, is it cultural background or belief that makes writing (or identity) Muslim?

My book, British Muslim Fictions: Interviews with Contemporary Writers (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), is the first in a two-part book project, which seeks answers to these complex questions. It is a collection of conversations with writers who live or work in Britain and have an intimate relationship with Islam, whether they are religious, cultural, or even – paradoxically – atheist Muslims, and whether South Asian, Arab, African, or European.

Over thirteen interviews, I talked to Anglophone writers including Aamer Hussein, Fadia Faqir, Hanif Kureishi, Leila Aboulela, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and PULSE’s own Robin Yassin-Kassab. This is a group of writers who are highly diverse but, like a loosely connected and often discordant family, they have much in common, through their connections both to Islam and the United Kingdom. As well as discussing their literary techniques and the impact that their Muslim heritage has had on them, I became increasingly persuaded that this body of writing shares certain preoccupations (relating to gender, class, the war on terror, al-Andalus, the Rushdie Affair, and a cosmopolitan outlook), and is some of the most important and politically engaged fiction of recent years.

As you can tell from my name, I am not from a Muslim background myself, although I was fortunate enough to grow up in Leeds in West Yorkshire, surrounded by many South Asian Muslim friends. As clichéd as it may sound, my worldview has also been crucially shaped by my gap year, 1993-94, which I spent teaching English in Peshawar, Pakistan, at the age of eighteen. I went on to specialize in South Asian literature in English as a postgraduate student, and continue to fuel my interest by return visits to the Indian subcontinent and by working with diasporic communities.

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