Category Archives: Mid East other / S Asia

Israel Moves To Check Its Artists

By John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening,

A new thought occurred to Rami. It soothed him like a gentle caress. Not all men are born to be heroes. Maybe I wasn’t born to be a hero. But in every man there’s something special, something that isn’t in other men. In my nature, for instance, there’s a certain sensitivity. A capacity to suffer and feel pain. Perhaps I was born to be an artist.
                                 - Amos Oz, Elsewhere, Perhaps, a 1966 novel of kibbutz life

As a writer/photographer and a tax-paying American citizen, a story in the New York Times about Israel’s culture wars made me cringe. It seems the powerful, militarist right in Israel — so committed to expansion and settlements in the West Bank — is now trying to suppress ideas among the nation’s artistic and literary minds.

Human creativity amounts to an individual human mind with its rich, active sub-conscious engaging in a dialogue with the outer realities of life. The mash-up that results is called Art. It’s a process that’s often infused with a subversive sensibility at odds with established power. In his perfect republic, Plato banned poets. Tyrants throughout history have been threatened by artists and writers. Hitler, of course, gave up on an artistic career in order to rule Germany and the world as his own personal work of art; he had men like Joseph Goebbels to assure artists and writers weren’t a threat. Art that didn’t promote Aryan purity and German superiority was “decadent” and banned; careers were destroyed. The impulse to attack artists and to cut off their patronage and funding is as old as tyranny itself.

It’s the perennial struggle between Power and Truth. In the short-term, Power can, and often does, run over Truth like a tank in the streets; while in the long run, Truth has the tendency to eat away at, and undermine, that Power. …

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Filed under John Grant, Mid East other / S Asia, Palestine & Israel

The Decline of the Western Ethnic State – An Analysis (24 September 2015)

by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses

Part I – The “Ideal State” 

If you were transported back to Europe in 1900 and asked educated citizens to describe the ideal political arrangement, what they would outline to you is a homogeneous nation-state: France for the French, Germany for the Germans, Italy for the Italians, and the like. They would note exceptions, but describe them as unstable. For instance, at this time the Austro-Hungarian Empire was, ethnically, a very diverse place, but it was politically restless. Come World War I, ethnic desires for self-rule and independence would help tear this European-centered multinational empire apart. In truth, even those states that fancied themselves ethnically unified were made up of many regional outlooks and dialects, but the friction these caused was usually minor enough to allow the ideal of homogeneity to prevail. The ethnically unified nation-state was almost everyone’s “ideal state.”  

This standard of homogeneity started to break down after World War II. After this war the foreign empires run by many of Europe’s homogeneous states were in retreat and in their wake came a slew of new nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Simultaneously, the impact of the end of empire on the European nations was to have their own homogeneous status eroded. For instance, when Great Britain set up the Commonwealth as a substitute for empire she allowed freer immigration into England for Commonwealth citizens. The result was an influx of people of color from former British colonies in Africa, India-Pakistan and the Caribbean….

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Our Quadrennial Reality TV Show: Sorting Through the Bullshit in America

By John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening, 8/27/15

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. … The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.
         
– Harry Frankfurt, professor emeritus of philosophy, Princeton University, author of On Bullshit

In a recent news story, a New York Times reporter referred to “the siren call” of ISIS propaganda that motivated three teenage Muslim girls to fly from Britain to ISIS-controlled Syria. The girls were clearly frustrated, facing anti-Muslim prejudice and cultural pressures unique to Muslim girls. They clearly found no solace in “the siren call” of western, market-worshipping consumer society. The New York Times reporter did not characterize western culture this way, but it might be so characterized. The so-called Free Market is becoming a sort of religion.

The girls seemed caught in a delusional double bind, driven by hope for more satisfying lives. “[T]he girls spoke of leaving behind an immoral society to search for religious virtue and meaning,” the Times story reports. At least one of the girls is now married to an ISIS member. The question that interests me is how much of the competing pressures working on such vulnerable girls amounts to what Professor Frankfurt calls bullshit….

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Changing Alliances and the National Interest in the Middle East – An Analysis (1 May 2015)

by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses

Part I – The National Interest

At least since 2001, a prime goal of the U.S. national interest has been reducing the influence and power of “terrorist” groups which have shown themselves willing and capable of attacking U.S. territory and nationals. Among these groups are al-Qaeda and its derivatives, al-Nusra, and ISIS (the so-called Islamic State). How to properly achieve this goal is open to debate (for instance, the use of drones to kill their leaders almost certainly makes the U.S. more enemies than it eliminates), but one sure way of not addressing this national interest is adopting policies that benefit the very groups that are your sworn foes, or turning a blind eye to alleged “allies” who aid them. 

This might sound like common sense, however in practice U.S. government’s policies in the region have for decades been counterproductive and plagued by special interest intervention. In other words, U.S. politicians and bureaucrats have pushed policies that have actually aided America’s foes….

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