nothing too cognitive today, people

In an article on Iranian bloggers in der Spiegel, my friend, the Brooding Persian, got almost a whole paragraph. Congratulations! I told him I’d translate the graf and insert a link

"The tone is of absolute earnestness. A blogger who goes under the melancholic moniker of the Brooding Persion writes, commenting on Iran’s nuclear plans, “a country that can’t even keep its public toilets clean shouldn’t be laying a finger on nuclear technology.” The “brooding persian” is stupifyingly learned. He debates the political philosophy of Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss and writes clear sighted columns about the spiritual kinship of Iranian and American neo-conservatives. His blog, written in elegant English, burgeons with social-critique. Iranian weblogs give us a unique instance of the human soul under religious dictatorship. Young people who pursue the struggle against the bigotry of the rulers on the internet, speaking of a hollowed out life, are beyond anger. They don’t want to be seen as victims. Their regard is directed at the hairline fractures in the system. “A great blessing of the Islamic Republic consists in how it has made us impatient with piety,” writes one blogger, Omila. “The Shah never succeeded in doing what the Ayatollahs have finally achieved. The youth of today, ruled by the representatives of God on Earth, now even put the existence of God into question.”"

LI must say, we have heard Iranians make the latter claim all the way back in 1985. It has become a clichĂ© among intellectual Iranians. Anyway, the B.P. was right, it turns out, and I was wrong. I kept telling him not to keep writing about Schmitt and Strauss. Well, he thereby attracted the attention of Spiegel – another of the endless proofs that you should take my advice with the caution that my instincts are almost always wrong.

Yesterday night I went to see Louis XIV play at Stubbs. Perhaps because I have been contemplating rent seeking lately, I began to think about how the line is an emblem of the market in privilege. One’s place in the line is purely a matter of who preceded you to your place – just as birth order determines monarchy or title. Going to see a concert at a club has other interesting features. Unlike standing in line to get a movie ticket, there is less of a sense that the line is being processed with capitalist rationality. In fact, the line simply stood there for a while. When this happen, the line becomes a different shape, as little “courts’ form – friends break the back to back physiognomy of the thing to face each other, lending an increasing bumpiness to the line -- blurring the distinction, in fact, between a line and a crowd. One observes a certain anxiety as you go back through the line, and suddenly ‘explorers” will appear – people detaching from their place in the line and going up to check out the head of it. And then the linekeepers will appear. Music clubs invariably hire linekeepers who have zip sense of organization. They are always as goofy as the assistants that are sent from the Castle to “aid” K. in Kafka’s novel. So eventually the line keepers get us into two lines. Apparently, there is a secret society of privilege in the line we are all in – those who have already paid for their tickets. Or are on some mysterious list. This, too, represents a reality about privilege. Although order of precedence is the apparent organizing principle, in reality there are the privileged among the privileged. This makes it hard to apply the concept of a unifying class interest to explain every instance in the life of the line – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a general unifying interest in preserving precedent as the line’s principle. Those who criticize the class notions of the Marxists often point to disturbances in the structure of interest to claim that class isn’t the final determining instance in capitalist social formations.

… but then the ticket guys said it was time to sell the tickets for real, and I came out of my little analytic day dream. The concert, by the way, was disappointing. Louis XIV has a nice sound on a few songs, and they have a nice sense of stage, but the ultimate r n r jism wasn’t with the boys last night.


kmort said…
While I realize Master Hitchens appears on your blog here as the resident Arch-Fiend liberal traitor, I have pondered whether his attacks--quite cogent attacks as well--on muslim fanaticism might be causing some resentment and hostility among the "left". Colleges are now saturated with the "Multicultural is Inherently Good" programme and when someone come outs and says--as Hitchens has done--that Islam is not so good, the usual cafe-marxist is instantly riled up, even more so than if some yokel republican had barked the same thoughts.

Islam is not so great. Neither is catholicism or dixie protestantism or judaism for that matter, but it seems that skeptics--maybe fearing repercussion in academia or in person--refrain from pointing out Islamic brutalities and absurdities. Making fun of priests and catholics or hick baptists IS acceptable among leftists, but lampooning homidical muslim zealots is not considered hip. That is wrong. There are shiite and sunni Imams who have made it clear that the infidel--whether Xtian or secular--should be put to the sword. Fatwas are issued denouncing not only western culture but Western science as a whole. Some of the radical Imams go so far as to deny a heliocentric solar system--they've yet to make it to Copernicus. The Jedda FLat Earth society is evergrowing and they got some badass gear.

So I guess if we are going to vent again enemies of civility and western secular values the bloody code of the Koran should be damn near the top of the list.
Bromides said…
A palpable hit!

I, too, have pondered and detected. In truth we must bomb all the religious fanatics even, may the god of your choice preserve us, our own. There is no moral alternative and it is small enough price to pay.
roger said…
To tell you the truth, Kmort, I don't have a lot of knowledge of Islam -- although oddly enough, the little southern baptist suburb of atlanta where I grew up now has more mosques (due to Bosnian refugees) than churches.

As for Hitchens, well, he definitely has a pretty weird way of freeing the Middle East from theocracy -- the invasion he supported and the guy he supported most, Chalabi, are now hand in glove with a government that is in power due to an imam and is run by former or not so former members of the Badr brigade, which fought for that arch theocracy, Iran. If Iraq doesn't adopt laws increasingly in line with shari'a in the next five years, I'll eat my hat -- or at least my gimme cap. To examine the theocratic import of the Hitchens touted invasion, one can take up an issue dear to his heart -- vice laws. Hitchens, of course, is all against the vice laws in New York. Smoking and drinking have become part of his public shtick. But turn to Basra, that nicely liberated city, and try to get a good drink. Good luck -- pre-invasion, the city was well stocked with usually christian run liquor stores -- post invasion, those stores have gone poof, due to our friendly freedom lovin' allies and their friendly freedom lovin' explosives.

So the criticism here is that it is gross hypocrisy to join forces with the forces that helped create the deathly sarcophagus of theocracy in Afghanistan -- aka, the Republican drive to drive out the commies and install the worst kind of Islamicists, detailed ad nauseum in Ghost Wars, the definitive account of our sleazy endeavor -- and then claim one is on the side of all things secular. Character, or at least character masks, as us Marxy types say, counts.
Brian Miller said…
I, like kmort, prefer Gore Vidal's rejection of all the "Abrahamic" sky god cults. Or, at least I look at them from moe of a gnoostic standpoint-is the Jehovah of the Bible really worthy of worship? Why did 1/3 of the angels revolt?

One doesn't have to love political Islam to reject the war or the imperial project. Especially when said project is based on Dominionist thocracracy.

I think roger nails it again: We are setting up the enxt generation of vicious enemies. Will our "realpolitic" leaders ever learn?
roger said…
Hey, one other thing -- and this is a topic I plan to write on soon: being a lefty doesn't mean I've signed up for some hymnal. It means being aware of analyses, even conservative analyses, that seem pertinent to particular social situations. The outcome I hope for will be general colored left, but the path to that outcome might be left, right, or pink or blue. In the case of Hitchens, et al., and Iraq, I was clear from the outset that I found the pro-invasion case laughable on very Hayekian terms:

From Tuesday, February 25, 2003

One of the oddities of the upcoming war (may Popeye avert it!) is that those opposing it are accused of having no "solution" to the situation in Iraq. Usually this accusation is made by supporters of the war, like Salman Rushdie , who support an entirely different war than the one justified by Bush and Blair. LI thinks it is fair to assume that Bush and Blair will not invite Rushdie, or Hitchens, or any of the rest of them, into their counsels of war when the invasion begins. So arguing about the Rushdie/Hitchens war is a pointless exercise: that war is neither contemplated nor likely to be fought.

However, the idea that we, who speak no Arabic, or Kurnamji, who have no stake in Iraq, and who have no sense of the fabric of the culture, come up with "solutions" to how Iraq should be governed is... curious. It is one of those problems that remind me of why, in spite of my overall disagreement with Hayek, I am sympathetic to some of his grander themes. Hayek's objection to centrally planned economies was that planning diverges from reality at just that key point where reality is lived -- because that is the point of accident, of emergence, of unexpected outcomes, of intangible knowledge, of everything that falls in the domain of acquaintance, as William James puts it, rather than propositional knowledge."

As well as this:
Tuesday, April 01, 2003

"We received an email from an old friend, C. a couple of days ago. Among other remarks, C. said that he wasn�t as far to the left, of course, as LI. Moi, was our startled response. So we asked our friend S. When she said that of course, we were as left as they come, we explained that at least our anti-war impulse comes from a very Tory side of our character. The War violates American tradition; the War's shapers seek the installation of a new order from above, by state dictate, in Iraq; and the War's effects will be to initiate an enterprise founded, essentially, on a doctrine of might is right. Isn't this the blank white face that Burke discerned behind the theorists and the idealists of the French Revolution as well as behind the krewe of British looters in Bengal? We are not Tory enough to accept Burke uncritically about the French Revolution, but we understand, in our middle age, a bit more about the damage done by the frolics of the intellectual in power. This war, in particular, has been designed, argued for, and implemented through the agency of a small, distinct cabal of such intellectuals. We know who they are because they are quite proud of who they are. We know how they spread their particular brand of fever. We know how they took advantage of an attack on this country, and we know that they did this with intent. And we know that their ideas are bad - and we will know this ever more intimately as those ideas are brought to the bloody test of reality in Iraq, where they will fail to meet even the most basic challenges of common sense. We know that their manners are appalling. We know that manners express, here, something deep about their desires. It isn't just that the Bush administration fumbled the diplomatic niceties in the build-up to war: the message conveyed by all that Rumsfeldian bullying was that diplomatic niceties were so much sugarcoating, so much falsity, to be carelessly thrown over the new world order. Burke would have been the first to spot the rooted viciousness here. When your diplomats talk like thugs, generally you can bet they will act like thugs. Words dispose towards acts. Power lust is the enemy of all mankind, whenever it appears. It's the booted devil in the horde, the militia, the brigade, the onslaught. It's the killer in our midst. And it is impossible not to observe this lust at work in every facet of the appalling rush towards War: a rush that has now been quietly retired from the journalist's lexicon in favor of the rush, as it were, towards Baghdad."

Pretty clear, I think.
Brian Miller said…
"we understand, in our middle age, a bit more about the damage done by the frolics of the intellectual in power. This war, in particular, has been designed, argued for, and implemented through the agency of a small, distinct cabal of such intellectuals. We know who they are because they are quite proud of who they are. We know how they spread their particular brand of fever. We know how they took advantage of an attack on this country, and we know that they did this with intent."

The only thing worse, maybe, than corporate thieves in power are so-self-righteous intellectuals in power?