16 September 2005

Back from a couple of days in England learning technical skills and bemoaning office politics. I got back in time for the talks by Ken MacLeod and Jenni Calder at the Arts Festival. I bought Jenni’s book ‘Not Nebuchadnezzar’, about biography, autobiography, memory and personal identity. I feel on the verge of some writing, not songwriting, about my personal history, but can’t quite get the push to start. Last night may have been it. Afterwards, enjoyable chat in the pub with Ken and his wife Carol.

Ken’s views on New Orleans in his blog are worth reviewing – almost conspiracy theory but still planted in the real world and with some evidence:

What’s happened is a disaster all right, but to say that it’s a failure
presupposes that the plan was to use all available civil and military
forces to deliver relief, and that this plan failed. Evidently there
was no such plan. Nor, contrary to what some on the left have argued,
was the situation left to the market and other forms of voluntary
organization. Time and again, volunteer help from outside and self-help
and mutual aid within have been blocked.

What the US
authorities at every level appear to have settled on by accident or
design is a method with wider application. The priority is to control
the population. In the event of disaster, seal off the city until a
sufficient military force is in place to take it. Exaggerate the degree
of disorder within, relying on racism and rumour. Evacuate the city at
gunpoint and don’t let people back. Disperse the evacuees, humanely it
may be, but firmly, with as much of the burden as possible taken by
charity. Turn over the reconstruction to Haliburton and favoured
real-estate developers. This is the future of Homeland Security. This
is what to expect in the event of another natural disaster or
mass-casualty attack.

Interesting article in the Guardian – ‘What we call Islam is a mirror in which we see ourselves’ which summarises the six most common views of Islam held in the west and challenges you to find the one that you would put a mental tick against. It’ll be interesting to see the correspondence that follows it. I’ve compressed the articile below if you’re interested.

What we call Islam is a mirror in which we see ourselves (Timothy Garton Ash, Guardian 15-09-15)

Six views – which do you most strongly agree with?

1. The problem isn’t Islam, it’s religion itself – irrational superstition. We need not just a secular state but a secular society.

Drawback: requires 3-5 billion people to abandon their beliefs. Secular regimes don’t have a great track record.

2. The problem is Islam, stuck in the middle ages, not allowing separation of religion and politics. It needs its Reformation.

This is a monolithic view of Islam, which actually encompasses a wide range of activities and beliefs. Middle Ages and Reformation are western terms.

3. The problem is Islamism. Fanatics misrepresent the true peaceful Islam.

This is the line taken by Blair and Bush, but they probably believe (2) more while many agnostic leaders would be at (1). However many Muslim intellectuals hold this view.

4. The problem is the history of the Arabs. No home grown democracies, the victims of failed attempts to modernise, and interference from outside.

Turkey and Mali are democracies with Muslim majorities, but there’s not much evidence that Arab countries are much worse than anywhere else. Even anti-Arab Iran doesn’t think it’s just an Arab problem.

5. We in the West are the problem, from the crusades through Israel to Iraq. We have created the reaction against liberal democracy.

Common view across the Muslim world and the western left. Simplistic and, even if it’s true, not much we can do do reverse history. The most we can do is support a free Palestine.

6. The problem arises where the west and Islam meet, in particular where young second-generation Muslims meet the temptation of ‘health, wealth, excitement, sex and power’ but are repelled by its excesses, or unable because of poverty to take part, or feel rejected and marginalised. A minority embrace an extreme, warlike version of Islam.

The evidence supports this. Even if we were to establish a free Palestine tomorrow this phenomenon would remain. It threatens to make Europe a less civilised, comfortable place to live over the next ten years.

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