Saturday, November 24, 2012

Muftah » Freedom of Expression Under Threat – an Open Letter from Ganzeer

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Muftah » The Conflict in the Gaza Strip: the Rhetoric of Hypocrisy & Illogic

Muftah » The Conflict in the Gaza Strip: the Rhetoric of Hypocrisy & Illogic

My thoughts on Evangelical Zionists, "pro-Palestine" racists, hypocrisy on civilian life, legitimate violence and the impotence of the Arab League. And other fun things.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

As if censorship -- & vaginas -- were anything new.

Walks in the Park, Shutting up, or : Buy me a Ball-Gag.

Flashbacks to some old "art"-ish things. In light of Yusef's request for (the memory) of my actual art stuff from back-in-the-day, and articles too "inflammatory" to publish, I'll just call it a day and give you some other fun memories of censorship.


<--------2001 show, before I gave up the tattooing, gave up the painting and started focusing on writing. Bugs are fine.

<--------- 2001 show. This was in the box in the middle (you know, the one with "painting removed" in the sign above). It was not fine. Vaginas. Freaking you out since, well, forever.


This one wasn't so popular either. From a 2002 show. "Photojournalistic Ethics (?)" - it got ripped down from the exhibition (only) four times.  I still don't understand why it's so offensive to look at this iteration. Isn't the reality far more upsetting?


Seth Depiesse reconfiguring (in chalk) the original photograph by the both of us. This is from his show (I think around 2007?). The original photograph was in an exhibition of mine from 2004, but was destroyed by a happy-go-lucky-audience member. ----------------------------------------------->

Reviving a long-dead (mostly deleted) "blog" on the request of one Mr. Yusef Ben-Masaud

^^^   I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack   ^^^

 I received this message last night, which -- damn, if it didn't get me thinking :) 

"BTW where is your blog? ... You are roaming around my blood’s back yard all the time and all I get from you are short statements on politics and current events. I know your busy but come on when do I get to read an article, a poem, see a doodle from you? I don't care if it is once a month, I want to experience the nuisanced emotion your pulling out from over there....I'm stuck is boringville Colorado for the time being, and I can still find nonacademic things that occasionally need pause and reflection. Just saying. Do it.I'm not asking for a collection of political articles. I'm asking for personal stories of interaction with sights, smells, and sounds. I'm holding you to it. I'm even going to give you an deadline if you want to take it, New Years."

New Year's? Seriously ya Akhi? 

Hijacking Libya : a Tale of two ideologues


This was submitted to a Middle East / North Africa journal (that shall remain nameless) a few months back, and was subsequently deemed too "inflammatory" for publication. So I'll just put it here instead.


Libya’s revolution has, indeed, been hijacked –not by Taliban-styled Salafi radicals, or by the tentacles of insidious Western imperialism, but by ideologues eager to project pre-packaged hypotheses (be it democratization towards the utopia of secular modernity or entrenchment in global neo-liberalism with conservative fascism proves the rule of the day).  The July 7th elections have broken the wave of Islamists surging to power in the wake of the Arab Spring. With the announcement that the liberal Alliance Coalition has taken a strong lead, rather than the much-discussed and terribly feared “Eastern Al-Qaeda hordes,” it seems many commentators will (or should) be forced to eat their words. The misguided assumptions and faulty predictions concerning Libya result from a conjunction two primary factors: Gaddafi’s purposeful isolation of Libya and subsequently, the black hole of information concerning the nation’s history and internal political dynamics. 

For example, the “tribal thesis,” as Johnny West terms it, is often invoked to explain Libyan politics, and makes “great hunting ground for the opportunist expert. Lean the names of a few tribes and where Gaddafi is from and you’re good for a three-minute talking head slot on most of the major news channels” (2011: 289).  West’s sardonic comment here proves applicable to Libyan history on a general level. Of the controversies surrounding the 2011 Libyan revolution, perhaps the most tragic is the hijacking of Libya – not by Qatar, in a shady alliance with Mossad, neo-liberals, the United States (insert Russia Today’s favorite villain du jour, or the White House’s eagerness to claim credit for any positive developments in North Africa and the Middle East), but rather, by ideologues with little to no background on the country. Gaddafi’s intentional isolation of the nation for such an extended period of time has, in the aftermath of the revolution, created, in many ways, an intellectual black hole: any conspiracy theorist or regional theorist seems entitled to project onto the country a host of preconceived notions neatly tailored to his or her ideological outlook. It is not a question of Libya, but a question about Libya: these are two very different things.  Consequently, this is not a book review about the books, but a discussion about the broader trend they represent.

An academic colleague recently asked me to compile a bibliography on the Libyan revolution.  He sought, however, theoretical assessments of the conflict that have yet to be produced—owing, again, to the pre-revolution difficulty of obtaining in-depth knowledge of Libyan history and internal politics.  Extant texts on the Libyan revolution run the spectrum from the accounts of parachute journalists, relying heavily on sensationalist , or the rare, well-researched and straightforward accounts of journalists with in-depth experience of the country on the ground.  I discuss here two publications typical of the divergent and predominant “thought” on the Libyan revolution—selected specifically for the ways in which respective authors assume ideologically-opposed frames of reference, yet mirror one another in emblematic ways of assumptions on Libya.  Vijay Prashad’s Arab Spring, Libyan Winter and Bernard Henri-Levy’s La Guerre Sans l’Aimer are useful texts- not for anything they teach us about the Libyan conflict itself – but rather, as a symbol of the role which the Libyan Revolution has come to play in public political discourse.  In neither case does the reader achieve an understanding of realities on the ground, local opinions, the emotions of a people in struggle-- it is never a question of Libya but about Libya—a key and critical difference.

Vijay Prashad has amassed a wealth of support among leftist intellectuals, due in no small part to copious publications on subaltern studies, the failures of capitalism and global imperialism. Although Prashad is a respected voice on South Asia, his publications on the Arab Spring –and Libya, more specifically—begin to appear in Counterpunch, a website that defines itself as “muckraking with a radical attitude.”  Counterpunch’s other Libya “experts” have included Franklin Lamb, whose curriculum vitae cannot seem to be found – anywhere.  A stroll through Prashad’s credentials is instructive, and perfectly in keeping with Arab Spring, Libyan Winter.  The text opens with an assessment of the Arab Uprisings, in which Prashad lauds the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions against a background of dire predictions for the future of post-Gaddafi Libya.  Leaving aside the fact that the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes lost figureheads, but managed to retain the structural underpinnings of their former autocracies, Prashad’s declarations seem a bit hasty, to say the least.  Yet it is with his revelations on the plans of the “Atlantic Powers” and the “Arab NATO” that the true thesis of the text emerges. 

The initial section of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter is heavily weighted towards a discussion of Egyptian history, and a cursory gloss of other, regional uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain, and the winds of discontent in Syria.  In Prashad’s view, the supposed authenticity of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions derives from the popular nature of mass uprisings, a claim which belies his fundamental ignorance of North African nations’ political dynamics.  As the dust from Ben Ali and Mubarak departures has settled, Tunisia and Egypt much more closely resemble military coups than “revolution,” properly-speaking.  Libya, however, according to Prashad, started out with the best of intentions, yet was taken over by expatriate neo-liberal Libyans colluding with the shadowy forces of imperialism. I’ve written elsewhere about the high cost paid by expatriate Libyans, and won’t belabor the point here; nonetheless, Prashad’s dismissive comments on the nature of the opposition to Gaddafi constitute a recurrent theme throughout the text, and reveal a stunning ignorance to the level of neo-imperialist machinations behind the scenes in Gaddafi’s Libya, under the heir-apparent Saif al-Islam.

Prashad focuses on Libya after ninety pages of “Arab Spring” background. Although his thesis that the United States and the Gulf Powers colluded to crush the Bahrain uprising is certainly valid, his discussion of Libya is riddled with inaccuracies—from his initial mention of the country.  The author paints Saudi Arabia as desperate to suppress Bahraini opposition, and nearly joyful about the distractions provided by Libya and Syria (89).  He then begins to describe the uprising in Libya, which, according to Prashad, broke out in March (90). Be it a faulty fact-checker or a real lack of knowledge, the inaccurate chronology is a serious breach in the thesis’ credibility.  Libya rose up on February 15, two days in advance of the planned Day of Rage on February 17.  Syria, however, was slower to erupt: not until did the arrest of a group of young boys for spraying anti-Assad graffiti prompt demonstrations to spread and regime crackdowns—in mid-March, a mere few days before the United Nations resolution on the Libyan intervention.  Moreover, Prashad appears to lack an understanding of the basic structures and dynamics of Gaddafi’s Libya–quite understandable, given the regime’s self-conscious isolation.  The author portrays not only “tribal Libya,” but what he calls the ultimate weak-point of Gaddafi and company’s strategy: underestimating the “ultimate tribe of the regime, the army (112).”  This provides another fundamental inaccuracy in Prashad’s account: Gaddafi’s Libya lacked a traditional military structure; hence, the difficulty with integrating various militias we’ve seen in the past several months. Rather, the paranoid “Brother Leader” created a splintered military structure with various, unconnected brigades—in order to prevent an army coup from toppling him.

In short, Prashad’s assessment of Libya is riddled with inaccuracies that betray not only a lack of in-depth knowledge concerning the country under Gaddafi (and before) but also betray ideological convictions all too easily projected onto the intellectual void, the blank space of an unknown nation. On the opposite side of the political spectrum, we find Bernard Henri-Levy, the supposedly expired-type known as a “public intellectual.”  Levy’s La Guerre sans l’aimer : Journal d’un écrivain au cœur du printemps libyen (2011) constitutes a steadfast argument in favor of the international intervention –which, if we are to fully credit the author, he nearly entirely orchestrated. For all his self-congratulation, the French philosopher’s book is a journal recounting his “feelings” on the country—about which he admittedly knew nothing in advance. It is a text which makes no claims to predict Libya’s future, or to present an analytical assessment of the conflict.  It is, rather, the ramblings of a self-important writer, evidenced in the documentary format as well: Levy has even produced and starred in a documentary – not about Libya, of course, but about his role in the uprising. La Guerre sans l’aimer spans the course of the entire revolution, yet remains self-consciously recounted through the eyes of the author. Levy recounts and ruminates on his condescension towards the Libyan people, depicting the Transitional National Council as meek and seemingly awestruck in his presence.  The reader is carried along as Levy marches down the Benghazi Corniche, directing rebels to remove anti-Semitic graffiti and giving speeches on women’s rights to gathered crowds. Insufferable and paternalist, decidedly. However, at least he’s honest.

From one side, it’s Levy’s insufferable harangues about the compatibility of religion and democracy and the fear of political Islam, and from the other, Prashad’s deconstruction of insidious “Atlantic Powers” and “Arab NATO” plots moving in the darkness, pulling strings from behind the scenes. Because Libya was ignored by the outside for so long –much of this originating in Gaddafi’s own isolationist policies—it is a convenient and simple slate on which to project imperialist fantasies : by thinkers on both the left and right. The sad truth about Libya under Gaddafi : one had to care. Those who did not had plenty of company—not many on the international scene and in the academy did. Did Libyans live through a stunningly brutal historical legacy—from Italian fascist occupation, corruption under the Idrissid monarchy, the false-promises of Gaddafi’s 1969 coup and his slide into full-throttle despotism, and so much more—only to see a courageous uprising hijacked? The leftist discourse of Prashad is no less paternalistic than the condescending democratization rhetoric it supposedly seeks to combat. You see, Libyans, it doesn’t matter that the vast majority take pride in the February 17th Revolution, and are thrilled with the electoral process and its outcome.  Nor does it matter that your population, in an unprecedented move, begged for the imposition of a No-Fly Zone: for intellectuals of all stripes, it seems “We in the West (still) know best.”   

Monday, January 03, 2011

everything everything

Sunday, December 12, 2010

architectures of trauma

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bless the City that burnt me into Being

There are so many facets of the short visit here that I don’t know where to begin. First off, it is—obviously—emotionally wrenching to return. I don’t want to dwell on that right now, because as much as I was praying that the gates of Fes would put to rest memory, I guess I really will have to live with this ghost the rest of my life.

A friend that accompanied me on the train.  Poor guy, I don't cry often, and I thought I could keep it together—but the moment I saw those red taxis and the green tiles at the train station, I started to break down—silently, but yes, completely. All I could do was yank my scarf over my face and keep walking. The second day, I finally went back to the neighborhood. Everyone I passed on the streets was yelling, “ I have not seen your face since August of 2006.” Exact dates. The rest of the encounters,  inevitably “Why why why?” Ad nauseum. And out of loyalty, concern for his safety, respect for his being -- I still owe it to his memory remain the secret-keeper, so all I could do was smile.

Down the Talaa to the old Ddarb. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find it again—how ridiculous. The name has changed, though, and the old Ibn Khaldun sign had changed to “Ddar Iman.” Another fitting change.. Everyone still lives where they used to—no one has managed (or wanted) to bounce off to Rabat, Casa or even the Ville Nouvelle. I went back to the henna suq and the maskun hospital to visit Shazia’s friends...Fes, I know you like the back of my hand and the lines around my eyes. Your scars are written across my body still.Mohammed the Tailor has passed away, Allah yer7amu, after a long battle with illness, and I found his shop closed when I went by. Simo still runs the pottery shop.

Saw Fatima, a phenomenal mentor, a mother figure--this time, she really took it over the top. We met for coffee and it was tears and laughter and talking over one another. She wanted (of course) to ask about my love life, and when I told her I don’t have one, haven’t for quite some time, and don't anticipate ever having one, she started laughing and said, “Daughter of my own heart, I pity your husband already. Remember—if you ever marry, make sure he is stronger than you; smarter if you can find one—this will be a challenge for you!” Wallah, she made me start bawling like a damn child. We were discussing personal things I don’t feel comfortable repeating about both of our lives, but she told me—I may have only sons, but I also have you.

May God bless this city that I love and hate equally--this city that burnt me into being.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Good Place to Forget

It's a good place to forget, but that is impossible without rewriting a narrative that simply doesn’t work anymore. And I don’t know what to do about that. All I know is, May he finally be at peace.  I don’t know what to do with the questions. “A3zizti, I pray for you to find someone—you deserve the best, inshaAllah.” And I smile at those sentiments hand to heart with gratitude, Llay baraak fiki, and save your meltdown for the house. But the worst—and no one since, not even one?  It’s a knee-jerk reaction—the modest girl's recitation, “Wallahi, of course not.” And it’s mostly honest. I tried another, three times as hard without a shred of the depth or a shard of the light. Lessons learned, save that compassion and empathy for one that's deserving--most of all your own heart. 

He hated ultimatums like he loved sandalwood and Triple 5. Sometimes we still speak when I'm asleep.  Woke up other morning to sparrows in the courtyard and his ghost outside the door. My homegirl tells me, “you’re still alive. You’re young, you have a thousand lifetimes. You still feel—it’s a precious thing so thank God for it; you’re still human and wallah it didn’t break you.” I wonder if she’s right, right now. But I've long ago fallen in love with solitude. I've fallen in love with generic desire reserved for my body soul alone.  If that door ever were to open again, it would take a truly incredible spirit. I learned how to see humanity, I learned to give up reactionary disrespect for the entire masculine half a world over what was once done to me. That's a necessary lesson, dropping the man-killer impulse, but it sure as hell isn't a fun one. 

And the real bitch about recognition of another's humanity--and borne of it, unconditional love, robbing you of the cleansing rage that burns you clean again, starts you from scratch.