Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Beyond this, the issue of transgender raises issues of how we are to deal with identity. The idea of transgender suggests an ethic that any individual’s identity should be completely fluid and changeable, and this simply does not account for reality. For example, if I decide that I want to be Mongolian, and demand of everyone that they treat me as if I were Mongolian, that would still not make me Mongolian. The only reason why one would want to change one’s identity from one stratum to another is because there is some kind of inequality between the two, and of course by ossifying each of these strata (through moving from one to the other) then this creates an outburst of positivity towards the inequalities between this strata, and goes against any ethic that supports wiping out inequalities within society.
In essence, the idea of the transgender individual is a bourgeois one. It states the right of the individual to take into his or her (boom boom) hands a complex and contentious issue of gender as identity of the individual and within society as a whole. It allows for outbursts of ethical positivity that simply serve to obfuscate reality, it allows for the ossification in the most conservative terms of identities that feminism in particular has fought so hard to maintain the dynamism of. The notion to the transgender individual of man or woman is one related to Platonic form, rather than being in the realms of Heraclitean flux. It is the position of those who submit to the view that identity defines the individual rather than simply facilitating his or her existence in reality. As such, in the terms by which the transgender individual defines him or herself, he or she doesn’t find truth in his or her new identity, but rather indeterminate falsehood.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Further to this criticism, it is apparent that there are very few people who would actually describe carrot cake as their favourite cake. Whilst they would be happy enough to eat it, and may even enjoy it, the fact that there is always this other thing that they’d prefer should probably lead us to the conclusion that it’s not actually that good, and we can lay the blame at the feet (or should that be roots) of the carrots. Whether it be as a response to government campaigns for “five a day”, or because one’s grandmother used to cook it that way, we must not endorse the insertion of vegetables in the name of second-class pleasures.
We should never be content with archaism and tradition, especially when it impinges so horrifically on the experience of cake. An experience that should be decadent and joyful, without the guilt associated with a healthy diet, or that associated with what our current systems of production do to the environment. The point at which a food becomes so embedded with either of these ethical stand-points it ceases to be of any pleasure whatsoever, even for the masochist who would claim to “like” carrot cake in the first place. So please, if the possibility of making a carrot cake crosses your mind, say “no”, prevent children vomiting everywhere, and make something that everyone will enjoy. Also, maybe you can save your carrots for cooking something that actually suits them.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The introduction of electronic boards, telling you how many minutes away your bus is represents an institutionalisation of this issue. Clearly transport companies are willing to throw money at the bizarre desires. Furthermore, these boards allow for the comparison of advertised times and the times when the buses actually come. After they have been displaying “due” for more than a minute and a half, the passengers become disgruntled and feel hard done by. The gaze solidifies as if looking hard will somehow make the bus appear. Of course, this feeling didn’t really exist before the introduction of the boards, and it is simply through the collective demands of the passengers to know when the bus is coming that they are ultimately dissatisfied.
The pleasure that one gains when the bus finally arrives very rarely matches the feeling of anticipation, or the will to make it arrive before it comes. The prospect of sitting on a bus for half an hour is not much different from sitting at the bus station for ten minutes, but for some reason it is treated as massively preferable. It is interesting that the demand for the bus to come has led to a technological innovation that rather than solving the problems aids people’s dissatisfaction. That being said, if one were to go around London removing all of the electronic boards on bus stops there would be a huge outcry, regardless of the fact that it would not affect people’s journey times. Ultimately this is a symptom of a society in which everyone feels the need to rush. The demand for the bus to come is in fact a demand not to be left waiting. It is still intriguing though, in a world in which people are constantly complaining about being rushed off their feet, that people spend the little bits of time that the transport system gives them feeling thoroughly annoyed.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Every stand was manned by another smartly dressed smiley person. They all had the same rather blank expression, obfuscated in the women’s cases by a general surplus of make-up. As I approached each, they first vied for my attention, and then as I went to speak to them they patronised me. I couldn’t tell whether it was to do with me looking like a tramp, the bottle of booze in my hand, or the little red star pinned to my jumper. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem to help my chances of getting a job. This was made worse by the torrent of public school boys rushing up to stands, introducing themselves confidently, and explaining in a rather old-boyish fashion why they were particularly interested in each company. Having not much idea what I was doing, I quickly picked up some of the lingo: ‘HR’ stands for ‘human resources’. This is something like Marx’s theory of labour value and should probably be renamed IR or AR for in- or anti-human resources; ‘Consultancy’ means doing dirty work; ‘Restructuring’ means ‘laying off workers’; and ‘Chartered Accountancy’ means protectionism. They don’t want people to know this, so they give out gifts. One company even gave out Green and Black’s chocolate. How ironic that those who destroy lives demonstrate themselves to be a ‘nice company’ by buying fair trade chocolate. I’ve never heard of fair trade accountancy.
Having failed to convince a couple of people that keeping workers happy just added to their alienation, rather than adding to their enfranchisement, I decided to go (having consumed 10 bottles of beer). I certainly hadn’t found a career for myself, and have decided that I’ll leave the financial sector to those over-confident public schoolboys. I hope that if they read this, they’ll realise that it’s not some game in which the person who spews the most bullshit wins the biggest prize, but that the money that they are dealing with is not disconnected from not only workers but people. If only we could put the ‘H’ back in ‘HR’.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
The myth floating around all the newspapers is that having expendable cash is the same as being better off. Being taxed is painted as being bad. No-one points out that taxation, or at least progressive taxation such as income tax., is actually good for the poorer people in society. This problematic change in income tax was compounded by other changes that benefited the middle classes while undermining the economic position of poorer working people: the first of these is the minimum income tax doubling from ten pence in the pound, to twenty pence; the second being the increase in minimum value for inheritance tax. Looking more closely at the budget, what we see is a New Labour challenge to the Tories on winning middle class votes papered over by the very middle class notion of giving to those who are worse off.
The Tories were left speechless, not by the shocking radicalism, but by the fact that Brown had appropriated a load of their policy. The most interesting thing about this budget is that whilst it actually damages the economic and social positions of a huge number of people in Britain, the aspirations to become middle class are so strong that even people who are not helped by the changes accept them as if they were part of the middle class who are making gains. This is confirmed by the reports and comment pieces in The Daily Telegraph, who make an issue of pointing out how many people are set to lose from the new budget, even though those losing are not traditional Telegraph readers.
Of course, whatever the budget would have said there would have been criticisms, but the fact that the country’s finances have been used as a propaganda tool at the expense of living conditions of millions of people, the fact that the rhetoric behind the changes is so disingenuous, means that we can only be too wary of where Brown wishes to take the labour party once he becomes leader, and how much elections have become about buying voters, or at least giving them the impression that they’re being bought even if that’s not reflected in the material reality.
Friday, February 09, 2007
It was here that I felt the need to introduce the anthropological concepts of the etic and emic (that is concepts that one imposes to explain an Other, and concepts one takes from an Other to explain that Other, respectively). It is all too often that we seem to fail to identify an era that is historically removes as an Other. Instead, the fact that it becomes part of a lineage that leads directly to our standpoint we regard it as either an thing-in-itself or as something that has so much in common with our own society that there is no need to define it as an Other. When we do define it as an Other then it tends to be so that we can attempt some kind of internal (emic) analysis (for example explaining Bach’s composition with reference to Kant and Burke). This is problematic, not least in the case of artworks because it aims to historicise them, and treat them anaesthetically, but also in the case of all other cultural objects in that it denies us the right of any interpretation, almost as if they are closed and complete.
This really is something worth getting angry about if anything is. Whilst I’m hardly in awe of either the philosophy or the art from this era, this approach does provide a good example of something to fight against. If in studying it one aims to find a real nexus, rather than in hindsight drawing together a number of cultural strands hoping that this leads to some magnificent overarching (and somehow useful) understanding of the generality of an era. Such a methodology is only really useful in a history of the creation of cultural objects and the impetus behind this creation. Rather than dealing with them as objects they become processes or ephemera. If this is truly the case then we’d probably be stuck with Wittgenstein’s old dictum of “what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence”. I reject any such condemnation to silence if the alternative is anachronistic analogy, which I firmly believe when dealing with history we must embrace.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
The buttons on the fake guitar don’t correspond to actual pitches, but rather to the shape of the melody. Playing against two cellists was rather interesting, as one said to the other “Do you change position to get the fifth button or do you do it by extension?” It is obvious that this game equips the player with a number of skills that are associated with playing an instrument, and yet in another way it is very limiting. When practicing a piece of music up to concert-standard, one first plays it slowly, focussing on detail and finally learns to play at full speed, with all the detail remaining. In the course of this game there is no option to play slowly, one must play the entire piece at full speed and is penalised at the end for any errors. There is no chance to practice details carefully, and to try again one has to return to the beginning of the piece. This is of course an entirely inefficient means of becoming proficient at completing the task successfully, but it is this difficulty that is apparently relished almost equally to the satisfaction of completing each song.
Whilst there are many problems with this game, and I firmly believe that most young people would be better off with learning to play a real instrument, it does expose something fundamentally wrong with the branch of musicology concerned with performance. By playing the game, the player becomes the performer, and is as such engaged with creating music. It becomes entirely irrelevant that 99% of the time these people have no analytic understanding of the notes (what they are, or why they’re there), as not even the interface of the model of the guitar gives any sort of clue. The game shows that there is no ‘understanding’ inherent in performance, and to an extent we are probably incorrect to refer to it so often as ‘interpretation’. There is no interpretation involved and yet the player is integrally engaged in the production of the end product.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Throughout history there have been huge numbers of artistic practitioners with less than desirable political viewpoints. If we were to boycott their work then we would lose some of the greatest elements of our culture. Would Unite Against Fascism go into HMV and put stickers on every CD with Herbert Von Karajan conducting on it? Will they campaign against the performances of Strauss’ music dramas? Should we ban Karl Bohm’s recording of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde? Of course such actions would be totally ridiculous, and would not prove any point. The demands of this new campaign are rather too close to absolute censorship on the basis of political opinion, something that the left should be very wary of given the reality of McCarthyism only fifty years ago.
There was a demand by one member of the demonstration that she should be sacked because she was being paid with public money. We need to be very clear on the problems with such an assertion. Clarke’s membership of the BNP has no relevance on her performance in Giselle, and people should not be penalised simply because their salary comes through the state rather than through private enterprise. One does not gain the power of free-speech by avoiding the public sector. UAF’s action is opportunist in the worst sense in that it undermines her simply because she is a public figure, no doubt they’d refuse not refuse treatment from a doctor in an NHS hospital on the basis of his or her political beliefs.
There is little defence for being involved with the BNP. It is one of the most poisonous and dangerous elements in our society, but if our argument against them is going to be strong then we must challenge them where we believe their beliefs and actions to be wrong and dangerous. Denial of free speech will not win the debate. I’m sure that Simone Clarke is a thoroughly unpleasant individual, but we should challenge her as a fascist and not as a person. We have no right to criticise her simply because her product is art or because she is employed by the government, instead, our right is a result of us co-existing in a society with her.
Friday, November 10, 2006
The other problematic element of students at the budget meeting was the sporty boys. There are a set of guys in college who are members of lots of sports societies, and co-operate to get their requests through, to the detriment of all other societies. Its not quite as simple as this though. The sports scene seems to go along with a rather sexist attitude. The fact that people appeared to feel that they were emasculating themselves by letting certain societies take money in the budget; that voting in favour of the art, music, and theatre societies was in some way a challenge to their manhood. I thought I’d left this dichotomy of art and sport at school. It strikes me as extremely interesting that dominant groups express what are essentially lowest common denominator interests so explicitly in a meeting like this. That intellectualism (through the arts) is challenged by the same male dominance against expression that has curtailed the art world since its inception.
It is possibly most scary that such demands are prevalent in places of learning. The constant association of art with the dominated in Western socialisation must be addressed. It is of course pertinent that it takes the demands of money within a formal structure of a budget meeting to bring forth these more general feelings that more usually lurk as a societal undercurrent. It is an economic imperative drummed into children, and now, apparently university students. It is a demand against expression, against dissent, and against protest, setting them in opposition banality, idiocy, and dutiful submission of hegemonic domination. We must oppose any such policies, and fight to emancipate masculinity, in the name of humanity.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Democratically elected governments should not be characterised as ‘the powers that be’. They are accountable to the population that elects them, but of course as Marx so eloquently put it, ‘every five years, one votes for those who will misrepresent you’. The British Government has never been without the power-hungry, those who value business, investment, imperial power, etc. over the rights and needs of the population. This on the other hand, is no good reason to argue against the need for ID cards. The government do have information about people, and it is important for effective governance. Yes, we must be wary given the history of governments using such information to use their electorate, but the issue is not really one of civil liberties. It is a far smaller issue than what it is made out to be. The government could just as easily demand that we all carried passports with us, and I doubt that there would be such a fuss kicked up. The ‘No to ID’ campaign seems to be populated with Luddites across the board, who for some reason equate civil rights in general with the right to be anonymous; no doubt that they would be the first to complain were criminals allowed to remain anonymous too.
Whilst I agree that the new ID cards will probably be very costly to the country, and probably not be worth the same as what the government pay for them, I feel that a political objection is somewhat out of place. One cannot vote in elections, leave or enter the country, or have healthcare without identifying oneself. In general such laws seem rather logical, or at least I find very few arguments that can convince me that one should have the right not to be identified in such circumstances. We must fight against our government becoming totalitarian, but this campaign is simply a means to subvert the issue. It refuses to hold the government to account, instead describing itself in an uncompromising diametrical opposition, which is of no use to anyone who wants to affect real political change.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Fireworks are have always intrigued me. For some reason I really enjoy standing in the freezing cold watching lumps of burning metal flying through the sky. What I don’t really understand is why I, or anyone else for that matter, like them so much. They are extremely expensive, and literally just go up in smoke. They don’t last for a very long time, and every time you see them, they’re pretty similar. Further to this, they don’t seem to have any real meaning, or at least there is no intention of creating meaning in the displays. They are just an ornament, and yet they have been so captivating to people over the course of history that it is near impossible to label them as a fetish. People still put down their work and travel out in the early evening to watch some lights and listen to loud popping and banging noises.
I suspect that the element that people enjoy is more the ritual of it, the getting on warm clothes, a sense of community (albeit a pretty weird one), and of watching something out of the ordinary. I certainly wouldn’t sit around for half an hour watching fireworks on TV. I rarely think that fireworks are boring – probably to do with the almost-awkwardness of them; the fact that there are all of these shapes and lights in our reality that shouldn’t really be there. Phantasmagoria in the nineteenth century was making a point of the fact that humans were able to create these illusions, but there seems something more to fireworks. They do strangely become part of our reality, the celebration and gathering almost primitive, and possibly evoking a pre-modern tendency. Maybe this evocation of something that presents itself so much outside of our system, and yet also inexplicably within it allows us an intersubjective understanding of our own position.
There is also a sense of release in being able to stand and watch without the need for comprehension, and without the need of interpretation for some time, but still have one’s senses stimulated. I suspect that in this way fireworks are actually a bit like watching snooker. Colours fly around the place, and occasionally something surprising happens. The same boring people who watch snooker on TV would probably watch fireworks on it too. There, is of course some level of signification associated with November 5th. We celebrate the fact that we still have a monarchy, and that our government still feels that it is appropriate to oppress people on the basis of their beliefs, most recently in the anti-terrorism legislation, but previously in the oppression of Catholics in the early Seventeenth Century. We celebrate the fact that our government will carry on oppressing minorities, and that legislation originating in people on the streets must still be passed through a conservative unelected house. Maybe we shouldn’t want our release from society, or maybe it can allow us to reflect effectively on the problems that we must challenge. Either way, there is something both fake (its ephemerality) and authentic (its reality) about the community spirit of a firework display.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
In terms of economic analysis, many Marxists have failed to keep up with the changes of the last twenty years. Whilst being critical of the role of globalisation, many refuse to accept that Marx’s revolutionary class have essentially be exported. Even the bottom-rung workers in Britain are hard to fit into Marx’s models. Take for example call centre workers. Many call centres are now based in India, but those that remain are filled with people whose existence is subsidised by a welfare state that can only exist in the form that it does as a result of exploitation on an international scale. The same can be said of thousands of farmers, who live on subsidies. To analyse these people as being the class to agitate amongst is to make a mistake. They almost without question accept sweeteners from the government in return for not making trouble. The Third World proletariat receive nothing. They are Marx’s revolutionary class on a global scale.
Of course we cannot simply stop agitating in Britain. We must carry on building a movement, both of activists and intellectuals (and hopefully these will be unified). We cannot be under any illusions that those at the bottom of the ladder in Britain are anything like the exploited in the poorest countries in the world; those who produce enough to eat, but who are forced to sell it and starve. They are the class in constant crisis, finding themselves as always antithetical to global economics. They are the ones we must educate, and they are the hope for revolution (although the demands for revolution in Africa and South America have been traditionally overthrown by the American military). To agitate in Britain is only as useful as bringing small reforms, and educating. We can support workers but they will never be a revolutionary class under present conditions. The government will always pay off those in the struggle, and revolution will only happen initially in countries in which this cannot happen.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Any child can learn how to ask ‘why’ or ‘what does that mean’ relatively early on, so the use of difficult terms and concepts really shouldn’t be a problem. If they are problematic for a child, then that is almost certainly a good thing. One must accept that nearly everything in our world is difficult, and if a child displays evidence of this difficulty, then it is clear that it is engaging with the object. And yet the problem is not confined to language. The entire institution of primary school is thoroughly patronising. Children are convinced by the powers that be that being forced to stand outside with running around aimlessly being the only form of entertainment is ‘fun’. They are treated in almost a sub-human way, having little control over their activities, or the content of the work that they do. Most explanations given to children at primary school are direct equivalents to ‘gaa gaa goo goo’. It is with this means that children in today’s society are totally disenfranchised.
I do understand that there’s a problem with suggesting that the entirety of primary education in cynical and divisive, yet I’m quite convinced that it is one of the major forces that leaves younger members of society feel as if they have no power. One can only really have a say if one has the capability to speak out. One can only effect change if one is allowed to speak on the same terms as those who have power. Whilst I am not suggesting that children should have lots of power, it is clear that they are forcibly held at this stage between being ignored and having all of their actions enforced upon them, If only people spoke to them like adults, and didn’t make them waste their days with colouring in, and other meaningless tasks, they wouldn’t be treated like idiots, and as a result they might not act like idiots. Children are indubitably the future, but we run the risk of forgetting that they are an element of the present too, and that a little eloquence in members of our society is much desired.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
The session had a particular pertinence for me. While most contemporary anthropology has undermined the idea of the existence of insiders/outsiders, it has remained in the parlance of ethnomusicologists. If there is any insider to the Western Klezmer revival, it is me. I was brought up surrounded by the music and the politics, and I am assured by my brain that I don’t have any special access to mysterious cognitive content. There is no formal difference between the insider based in the political background of the Klezmer revival, than the socio-cultural insider of the Old World Klezmorim. My understanding of the music is a Western understanding, but my understanding of the consequences of its existence are rather more nuanced as a result of my personal experience as a Western Jew.
The attempt to explain away Klezmer’s musical inadequacy by showing it as ‘functional’ or an element of society is problematic. What was interesting is that my criticisms of the music came not from the political identity of my socialisation (that which defends Klezmer), but from the fact that I have studied music. When Abi suggested that the harmony of a Doina wasn’t functional, I pointed out that one could easily analyse it with traditional tools such as Schenker (a means by which a piece of music is reduced to a skeleton). She accepted my point but didn’t wish to debate. If the description of an insider only points to their inability to criticise an element of society, then we must understand that it says far more about the individual/collective, than it does about the object they criticise. My acquired knowledge and experience of the Klezmer revival has luckily remained only as an element of my outlook, and if we are to defend critique, then we must undermine the mythology of both ‘insiders’ and the acts associated with them.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
I expect that an element of my criticism is the result of my upbringing. Jewish communists don’t tend to go in for the Sunday lunch spiel, yet I often hear a random northerner or four talking about ‘getting Nan over and having a roast’. This whole lethargic attitude seems a little bit silly. I can’t understand why one would want to spend one’s time of rest with a load of people who wish to fill themselves with what appears to be overcooked food and then reminisce about ‘the old days’. This is not culture; it is regression from culture. It is a rejection of the current system and certainly not one that our government should sanction. Whilst I generally accept that a level of government intervention is a good thing, I don’t think that we should have this dominant peasant-like practice imposed on us.
And yet it is not only our shops that have these crazy rules applied to them. Here in Cambridge almost all of the libraries (except for the often ill-stocked college ones) are closed on Sundays. If you feel the need to do some extra research for an essay, or to try and find a journal then you have to wait. I expect I will be criticised as a member of a generation who have everything at their fingertips. I am convinced, unlike many members of the older generation, that this is not a bad thing. We shouldn’t criticise technology that facilitates work, and we shouldn’t preserve these practices in the name of tradition, especially when they are actually getting in the way of work and people’s lives. I value libraries and teabags over bad food and old Northern people. Maybe you think I’m wrong, but should the government really be disagreeing with me?
A few years ago, there began a trend for a game named Su Doku, in The Times. At the time I didn't think much of it; it was simply a little number puzzle. Within a matter of weeks, all of the daily newspapers were printing similar puzzles. It seemed that people were buying papers simply so they could do the Su Doku in there. In more recent years there have been whole books of puzzles published, and even a TV show in which contestants play in real time. There has even been a course made by Carol Vordaman (of Countdown fame). And yet, with all its popularity, I really can't understand the attraction of these little number-filled grids. It is completely obvious that a computer could complete the puzzles in the blink of an eye, and yet many people see to get some kind of pleasure out of the fact that they find what is a pretty simple task quite difficult.
If as I walked into the common room, I saw a few people sitting around trying to solve a Rubik’s cube, I’d be forced to ask “do you all think you’re about eight years old?” For some reason unbeknownst to me, partaking in Su Doku is a socially acceptable form of popular idiocy (as opposed to socially unacceptable forms like reading The Sun). It used to be the case that people would do the crossword, and yet they lie in the common room blank. Last year people were so keen that we saw a number of people getting to the common room early in the morning just to rip out the Su Doku to take to lectures with them. It is hard to imagine anyone doing this with a part of the paper that is actually engaging and interesting. This begs the question of why intelligent people feel the need to regress to a predictable boring game with their free time? Mainly it is the result of the idea that doing boring tasks is in some way relaxing.
Even more concerning is the fact that the game is actually the same every day. Ok, the numbers move around a bit, but in playing it one goes through exactly the same methodical and intellectual processes as when doing it the day before. To put a number six in the corner square doesn’t have any meaning external to the game, and you don’t leave the game remembering where various numbers are, and which ones were significant during the course of completing it. I don’t think that many people look at complete grids for their beauty, or any other sort of appeal for that matter. People really need to realise that once you’ve done one Su Doku, you’ve done them all, and you’ve already wasted enough time doing it. If you are bored on your lunch-break then read the newspaper, do a crossword, or write a poem. Don’t pretend to be an inadequate machine.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
There are not many things I like about capitalism, but when it forces through changes that really should have been made a few hundred years ago I can’t really complain. Of course there would be none of this outrage if the hospital had laid off witch-doctors or homeopaths (or any other types of quack for that matter), but when Christianity is involved there is an uproar from these mad old Tories, who are convinced that belief got them through there cancer, and is far more effective than a load of radio- and chemo-therapy. Why such people are allowed to speak on Radio Four, I am not sure, but for some reason someone in the media still believes that their lunatic voices should be heard. All I know is that I’d far rather be treated by a nurse than a vicar (although this may just be my taste in kinky outfits). I’d rather have medicine than false hope, and I think that tax-payers money is better spent on making people better than condoning and prolonging their idiocy.
The market is a brilliant means of exposing what is expendable, and as such reflects the underlying hegemonic values of society, so couched in economics that they often aren’t visible. That being said, we must fight to preserve certain elements that the market sees as expendable, such as high-quality broad education, good social-services, and responsive health-care. It is a shame that the free market cannot respond adequately to these ethical demands, and that the removal of ridiculous positions such as chaplains is tied to the loss in health-care quality. The solution, of course is to challenge the system. There is no point trying to sustain Keynesian policy, when the government wants a free-market too.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
In my mind, it is wrong to act within a democratic system simply as a matter of self-interest. I am aware that I will probably come under the criticism “wait until you have to pay taxes”, but I would like to remind readers of the effects that self-interested approaches to democracy have had in the past. It is with an absolute disregard to others, and for the promotion of personal economic gain that various systems of slavery have been allowed to subsist globally, It is with self-interest at heart that we now have an economic system that allows the oppression of the majority of society, whilst letting them believe that they are ultimately enfranchised. What kind of a democracy is that?
My argument is not simply that my generation has failed to be politically active, but rather that it has in general become so indifferent to the system whereby it lives, that it no longer needs to find fault, or to strive for progress from where society currently stands. The movement on Facebook is not a political or democratic one. It is merely a plea by each reified individual to remain recognised as that individual, that is, to further reify the system that they are fully assimilated into. I would go as far as to say that I struggle to define it as a movement in its means, rather it only became a movement at the point at which it effected the change that it demanded. If only we could convince my generation to care about society as a whole (to consider society in a truly political way, and to act ‘democratically’ on that basis) a fraction of the amount that they cared about the protection of their own rights, the world may be heading to a future in which discourse begins to have meaning again, and people as collectives could begin to effect real change, rather than the false goals such as “protection of privacy”.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
My point is simply this: that much religious imagery, that is so respected by so many is absolutely arbitrary and inconsequential to the basis of the religious belief. Maybe if the Romans had been a little more creative with their methods of execution it would be easier to see religion as the sham that it is. We must make sure, as a society, if someone is projected forth as a Messiah, or a saviour, that in their death we can find a moment of comedy so that ridiculous beliefs can be more easily undermined in years to come. We could run him (or her) over with a “holy” steamroller, or suffocate him/her with an octopus. Anything but crucifixion. Unfortunately Pontius Pilate was not the creative type, and as a result he gave an unfortunate credence to his victim.
The possibilities of comedic deaths are endless, and it seems that in today’s world the most likely root for a Messiah would be to get themselves bumped off by the American State (especially if he/she pops up in Israel declaring him/herself to be some kind of leader). I am reliably informed that the Israeli “Defence” Force are continuing the work of Herod in killing plenty of Palestinian children. You’d probably have quite a lot of trouble getting your donkey over the security wall on your way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, I wonder if there would be a holy uzi, or a cluster bomb that the people could pray to. Of course the best possibility, if there were a second coming, would be to hang him. That way Christians would be forced for eternity to wear nooses round their necks, making our jobs so much easier when the revolution comes.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
It is clear that many of the people who value chivalry are women, and yet it is ultimately clear that these women are denying the nature of chivalrous action. There is a two layered effect involved in chivalry. Whilst the experience of ‘respect’ may feel good for whatever reason, it is underpinned by a politic that is, rather than respectful, damaging to women. This is a politic that says that women should be disenfranchised through a process of reducing to them to the fact that they are female. Modern day chivalry, whilst not necessarily practiced by conservatives, implies the return to the ideas that feminism has been attempting to wipe out throughout the twentieth century. It is within the context of this underlying unstated demand that one should be very wary of chivalry.
This is not to say that there should be a concerted effort to wipe out politeness. Whilst I feel that much of what we term as politeness is over the top, this is not what I have a major problem with. I simply feel that if you have thee urge to be polite or kind, then this should be expressed universally, rather than becoming an element of a cultural system that undermines the power of half of the people it effects. Take, for example, the idea of not swearing in front of women. This first came about as a way not to ‘corrupt’ them, and yet it occurs to me that swearing is necessary to many situations, that I do not see a good reason to exclude women from. Women, in general, have no trouble opening doors, and thus if you feel the need to open doors for others, then do it because you believe it to be a kind thing to do. In terms of changing how things are, we must not only be explicit about the implications of chivalric actions, but we must undermine the idea that such a system is attractive. It is in the realms of relationships the women have traditionally been most disenfranchised, and yet it seems that it is also in this sphere that such disenfranchisement has become most difficult to challenge.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Whilst there are all of these problems that aren’t easily challenged, there are various initiatives to attempt to solve some of these problems. The two most significant initiatives are the university’s ‘Special Access Scheme’, and the work that CUSU does on access. I am not entirely sure as to why the access work is done almost completely by the student union and not the university. Whilst I understand the importance of having students involved in access, it does seem slightly strange that the university authorities are clearly not concerned about these issues to make provision for dealing with them. The fact that there is no authoritative position has in fact left a strange vacuum of knowledge, which has become filled with a mixture of useful information, rumours, myths, and half-truths.
Of all the resources that have been produced to the matter of Oxbridge Admissions, the worst by far is a book by Elfi Pallis. The book is packed to bursting point with falsehoods, and yet this is not my main problem with the book. The book presents the idea that it is perfectly possible for one to learn how to present oneself to get into Oxbridge, as if there are a set of criteria abstract of academic potential. Whilst it is the case that such a set of criteria may exist, it is certainly on the periphery, and this book refuses to challenge the issues that such a set of prejudicial criteria may presents. Yes, it would be a good thing if Oxbridge could have a more comprehensive intake, but this book is not the way to achieve this. In order to solve the problems of access one must re-assess the criteria that the admissions process tests. This must be a long term aim for the university, not to be relegated to student union work, and not to be fought against by a certain author who considers herself to be left-wing.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
There were laws throughout Europe until the early nineteenth century governing the jobs the Jews could partake in, and of course when these laws were repealed the feeling amongst the Jews was one of emancipation. They were finally allowed to enter into society on their own terms, but the result was actually rather contradictory to this. Rather than to enter into society as Jews, the idea of assimilation is one of dissolving oneself into a pre-existing society. To an extent the emancipation was an emancipation from real social and economic limitations, but just as great an effect is seen in the emancipation from the identity of what it meant to be Jewish. Whilst what it meant to be Jewish changed at the point at which the laws were repealed, there remained a dialectic between bourgeois society and Jew that meant that if Jews were not to take on an attitude of assimilation, they would be left in an irrational position. They felt the need to escape the past into a society that negatively painted the past they wished to escape from.
Assimilation, for all intents and purposes, became an epithet not for a rigidly cultural change, but rather for an economic change that in turn demanded a change of ideology or opinion. If one was economically assimilated then it would follow that one would escape one’s own previous identity. Such a change is problematic though. Labels remain in the purely social sphere, and assimilation in this sense is not compatible with what is considered to be any kind of community. Jews remained a paradox of the nineteenth century, both as the most progressive within the system of capitalism, and the most undermined by the systems it produced (later leading to fascism).
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The real problem with how languages are treated by the education system is the fact that they are treated as academic subjects, simply existing to fulfil the requirements of a qualification. Nowhere in the British education system is language learning treated as a ‘life-skill’ or even as vaguely useful. It is insisted upon that a foreign language is useful only in itself, and it is with this in mind that it becomes rather unsurprising that young people are not interested in taking the study of it further than is deemed necessary. There is an underlying assumption that students will simply understand the use of the content of their education. And yet it is this very assumption of use that is ultimately undermined by the practice of examination and the associated definition of some kind of end-point within the process of learning.
The change in the curriculum relating to language learning is deplorable in itself but I feel that it is representative of a far more cynical move in education towards a system that disenfranchises the learner from every bit of knowledge imparted to them. That is not to say that education is and should be an education for social use (there is plenty of value in education that is not necessarily socially useful), but rather that I feel that it is politically necessary for education in all of its forms to in some way emancipate the learner. Whilst it is in no way straight-forward to link the change in curriculum to a refusal of social and mental emancipation and enfranchisement, it is perfectly obvious that the removal of languages from the curriculum does limit these aspects of life. Whether this is as sinister as I feel it is must be left open for discussion, but I feel it is important that we not let these changes go by unnoticed and uncriticised.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Whilst Manutius actually created the italic typeface so that books could be produced in a smaller ‘pocket-sized’ format, one cannot doubt the influence that such an invention has had on literature since that time. That being said, I actually find the invention of the semi-colon far more exciting. Many anthropologists have worked on language – on the fact that it appears to have existed wherever humans have existed, and the fact that it has evolved at the point at which new meanings are needed. There is an oft-cited example of the number of words in the Inuit language for different types of snow. But the invention of the semi-colon is something very different. Rather than evolving on the basis of meaning or content, it is actually an evolution of form. The semi-colon does not have any expressible content; rather it allows the content of our language to be expressed in a new way. The ability to consider the necessity for such a tool as the semi-colon is absolutely mind-blowing.
Ok, so I might be a bit of a geek with my fetishisation of a dead Italian bloke, but one cannot deny the importance of his inventions to the world. It is true that people in general do not know how to use semi-colons these days; I find that a real shame (for those of you who don’t know how to use them, this is a good example of how). They are a precise and succinct way of putting across an argument. It seems that these days the form of one’s rhetoric is often relegated in its importance relative to the perceived pre-eminence of the concepts represented by words. Manutius provides us with a great example of how our language has and should evolve opportunistically, and it is with an urge for simplicity and comprehensibility that I wish to paint him as a hero. It is difficult to conceptualise the direction that our language will go in. Maybe we will be condemned to the current vogue for buzzwords, but this imagination is only one for content. I expect it will be a very long time before someone with the foresight of Manutius comes along, and picks us all up on the problematic formal structures that still plague us.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
I personally had a real problem with the building. Rather than addressing the issues of Judaism (and particularly the violence of the holocaust) in the way that it purports to, it actually just demonstrates a feeling of abstract violence. A violence that is brutal in its randomness, and I found this very difficult to reconcile with the aims of the exhibition. Often the building was extremely distracting from the cognitive content of what we were seeing.
A whole floor of the museum is dedicated to the holocaust, and yet this is the element of the museum that seems most incomplete. On exiting the exhibition I realised that Fascism had not even been mentioned, and in fact nor had any politics surrounding the genocide. It was just treated as something abstract that had happened, strangely divorced from the continuity that we term as society. There was also a lack of discussion of an intellectual response (whether Jewish or not) to the holocaust. There was the cursory mention of Adorno and the Frankfurt School, but no discussion of the fact that the Nazis had aimed there genocide not only on an ethnic but on a political basis. There was also no mention of the other ethnic and social groups that were targeted by the Nazis.
Alongside the exhibition was a sculpture of towers representing what it is like to be a Diasporan Jew. An attempt to represent a lack of comfort, and of isolation, but I believe that the sculpture entirely missed the point of Diaspora. It refutes any conception of identity with its insistence of the feeling of isolation, and in turn refuted community. It seemed to miss the point not only of what being Jewish means to people, but also why being Jewish has always been necessarily problematic due to a conflict of identity and assimilation (which may even be related to the dialectic of individual and collective). This sculpture was anti-dialectical in the most un-Jewish way. It seems to me that to have such a prominent museum is a great opportunity, and yet the opportunity is missed by the insistence on low-level historical formation and the depoliticisation of any idea that is represented, both inside and outside the building.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
The odds are indubitably terrible, and one can simply not expect to make one’s money back by investing in lottery tickets. But that is a result of what we term “explicit odds”. If one is to apply the concept of ‘implied odds’ to the lottery, then the result is rather different. The best way to describe implicit odds is with a game of poker. Imagine a hand in which you hold the 4 and 6 of clubs, and there is the ace of clubs, the king of diamonds and the ten of clubs, and the seven of spades on the table. Your opponent bets at you, and chances are you’re completely beat. It is extremely likely that he has you beat. He probably has a pair of kings or aces, and the chance of you winning from this position are only about twenty-five percent, but there is a very compelling argument that you should call a smallish bet in this position. Whilst if you bet like this all the time, you will lose overall, the point is that if you do hit your flush, your winnings will be so great that the risk doesn’t matter. It is ultimately not important whether you make your odds-worth of money back (you’d need to make four times your outlay for this), rather your winnings can be judged n some kind of utility value using this system.
If such a system is applied to the lottery then we can see that the implied odds of a one pound bet are indeed very good. This does not mean that you should sink all your money into the lottery, but rather that a certain level of investment in it would be the correct approach. Deciding this level is not actually a completely mathematical decision, rather it is one that must be based on assessments of losses and possible gains relative to one’s life. A jackpot win would transform almost anyone’s life, as would an investment of two hundred pounds a week. I suspect that the correct figure of investment for most people is pretty low, but that doesn’t mean that it’s negligible. I’m sure some student economist will read this and find a problem with this argument, but it’s at least something interesting to consider, and a possible way to show that a good bet is not always one that will show a consistent profit (of course this is a rather extreme example).
Saturday, August 12, 2006
The bad boy culture is something I’ve always found it particularly difficult to comprehend. I cannot even imagine myself committing violence towards another person, rather if I have an issue that I feel needs resolving, I will either argue it out or simply become grumpy for a while. I am grumpy for rather a lot of the time, and I feel it is key to my analysis that ‘bad boys’ do not take on this grumpiness. How often do you see a guy in the street frowning as he beats another person up. On the contrary, such an action is generally accompanied by some kind of arrogant glare. Whilst I may be generalising a little, I do believe that my grumpiness, and another person’s violent outbursts originate from the same type of cause.
It is actually a scar on our culture that dealing with one’s problems in a violent matter is rewarded in a sense, whilst grumpiness is looked down on. It is not as simple to say that these girls do not make a decision about who they find attractive. It is very clear that the decision, rather than being a personal one, is entirely cultural. Such a culture becomes troublesome for the girls who get into relationships with violent men, for the men who it encourages to be violent, and for everyone else who has to peacefully coexist with them. The only means by which we can alter the status quo is by demanding a change in consciousness, a demand that people be grumpy, or that they argue about issues rather than about the people from whom the issues emanate. As a young man it is all to easy to slip into ‘ad hominem’ gestures which then for some unknown reason gain respect. Maybe the grumpy deserve a little more respect. Maybe grumpiness will one day be viewed as a virtue, and those who argue on the streets with logic rather than fists will be those whose culture really deserves exploration.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Listening to the news at one o’clock on radio four, the reports on the current situation at Heathrow and High Wycombe seemed unending. It was only at 1:25 that the newscaster announced “there has been a suicide bomb in Iraq and thirty-five people are dead”. This I can believe. This is not the sort of convenient alert that the media in Britain like to portray, rather this is part of a conflict that looks as though it will rapidly escalate into a full scale civil war. Oh how the government would like to convince us that we are at war, that there is an enemy we can unite against.
No doubt that the men who were arrested today will be tried in their time. Many expect that they will be imprisoned for as long as possible before they are even brought to trial. That’s of course what the new legislation on terrorism is for. Whilst terrorism does exist, and is something that the government must deal with, we must firstly be extremely wary of the opportunism that Blairites display in the media, and secondly be wary of the fact that our government has had no qualms about lying to us in the past. yes, overting a tragedy should probably be in the public domain, but when it not only challenges human rights, but is used to cover up further atrocities throughout the globe it simply cannot be tolerated.
We must be clear that the current war on terror is not an indiscriminate war on terrorism, rather the terrorism it targets is the terrorism it is convenient to target. The war on terror is far more a media entity than it is a reality, something for us to latch on to when government sponsored terrorism gets a little too out of hand. Let me ask you this: When was the last time you heard anything about Gaza?
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The plan was for NUS to produce two types of card, a members pay subscriptions through their unions and they couldn’t be left without cards if they didn’t want to pay the extra ten pounds. We were told that a trial of the new system had been succesful in the North-West. We weren’t told that some university unions (such as Lancaster) refused to distribute the free cards and told students that they would have to pay for any sort of NUS ID. Of course NUS proclaimed the trial as a great success, regardless of these problems.
What we must realise is that this is a challenge to the diversity of our union. It will be the unions of the poorest institutions that try and sell the Extra cards the hardest (and are less likely to tell students about the alternative ‘democracy cards’). It will also be the students in these institutions who will be unlikely to get value out of an extra card. I was told at regional conference that the discounts will be about 10% so you must spend £100 to even get your money back. That’s a lot of money for most students.
It came up last week that this new NUS policy may stop us having CUSU cards and I have been arguing since that we must not be complicit with NUS action simply because they passed at NUS conference. We shouldn’t take blood-money for those at the top of NUS exploiting its membership. We should be clear that an opposition of this policy is to stand in solidarity with other students around the country. Money for students unions should come through the government, and if that is not enough, then that is another issue for us to fight, but we shouldn’t concede and become more like a business and less like a union.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
People often seem to have trouble dealing with the consequences of their actions, but it is ridiculous when the legal system aids them in doing so. Of course, it is not common within our society for someone to be paid for incurring risks, but it does happen. Take, for example, a tight-rope walker, who in the course of a show falls off the high-wire and breaks his back. He was probably reasonably well paid for his act, but injury is a possible consequence of his work and he has little right to complain. If there wasn’t a chance of injury then the whole tight-rope thing wouldn’t be nearly as exciting, and people probably wouldn’t watch. In the same vain, the point of drug trials is to find out which drugs cannot be used on humans. If we could work this out without drug trials then there would be little need for them, but the fact that this isn’t possible makes them a necessity. The fact we can’t know also means that in the course of drug trials we will inevitably find drugs that will not work for humans. Yes, this is an extreme case, but it is again merely an element of the jobs that these men were undertaking.
I do sympathise, that these people may be devastated by the fact that their lives are unlikely to be very long, but I don’t see this as a reason to pander to their demands. If they had died immediately as a result of the trial, then none of this would have happened. The drugs company probably would have made an apology to the families, but that would be the end of it. We must simply accept that life has become a commodity in our society whether we like it or not, and it seems to me that the compensation for these men has already been paid in their fee for taking these tests.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
He had sent it to a list of about twenty people, and given the nature of the cartoon I felt the need to respond to the entire list, regardless of the fact that I didn’t know any of them. My email read:
I feel somewhat uncomfortable writing this email, knowing none of you, but I feel that some serious analytic response is needed to this disgusting propaganda that my uncle feels the urge to send around. The argument that the current conflicts are the result of some kind of ploy by a media savvy Palestinian military are false. Do you really believe that all those civilians have been killed in Gaza because the Palestinian military think that it will gain them representation in the Western Press. The cartoon adds to the false impression that the Israeli military is merely a 'defence force'. It is not. It is an imperialist, aggressive invading force. Maybe a more pertinent analysis of the cartoon would be the that the Israeli soldier in that situation has no qualms about shooting. They have done it before (48, 67, 82 etc) and no doubt they will do it again. They are probably shooting (or bombing as it were) civilians as I am writing this email. Let us be in no doubt, the Israeli tactics for the current conflict are to paralyse the civilian populations of Lebanon and Gaza so they lose faith in their leaders (Hezbollah and Hamas respectively). These are NOT attacks on the leadership. I am not in any way defending Hezbollah and Hamas as political forces, apart from the fact that they were democratically elected, but rather, I am trying to show that the reason why there are so many civilian casualties on the sides of Lebanon and Gaza is because THAT IS WHO ISRAEL ARE AIMING THEIR BOMBS AND SHELLS AT. Maybe this is too difficult a concept for the likes of my uncle to understand, but I would like to make my opinion clear. The below picture is not 'true' and does not 'explain it all'.
I am sorry to have had to have sent this to a list of people with whom I am not acquainted, but I hope you can understand that I feel it was necessary.
Robinson College, Cambridge
I feel that such a response is adequate, but this morning awoke to two emails. One was rather receptive of my opinions. The author was clearly a Zionist, but he was also completely ashamed of Israel’s recent actions. The other response was less pleasant. A few quotes shall suffice to sum up its position “I see from your email that you are at Cambridge University which suggests you have half a brain. The drivel you wrote suggests that the missing other half is entrenched firmly with radical Islam which wants to annihilate the Jewish people”, “You are part of that limp-wristed tradition of lefties who wanted to appease Hitler”, “don't criticise your uncle Barry, he's much more of a mensch than you will ever be.”
It scares me that this sort of propaganda is around, and furthermore that it is distributed in such a fashion. We must do our best to challenge it wherever possible, regardless of the abuse that is thrown at us for saying what we believe is right.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
I remember when I was at secondary school, and a boy in my year along with his family was threatened with deportation. They had fled the People’s Republic of Congo (where politics have in general been disgusting since Patrice Lumumba was deposed in 1961). His father was a carpenter and had been threatened and abused because he used his skills to create huge socialist bill-boards. The family had been in Britain for over six years. The Home Office sent them letters just before Christmas. In fact, the Home Office has a habit of sending letters at times like this, when people can’t get support from schools etc. Thankfully, after a long hard-fought campaign, the boy and his family were allowed to stay in Britain. But for every person who wins their battle, many lose. Britain seems to have a very loose definition of what is a safe country for people to return to. All that seems to matter is that the state saves a little bit of cash.
This being said, anti-deportation campaigns are amongst the more successful of radical campaigns these days. Every now and again an email goes round asking people to fax the home office, and it seems that often these have a relatively positive effect. Of course it is completely unfair that people are put through this just so they can get on with their life. British people, it seems, are all too willing to wield their privilege as a weapon against those they define as Other. Short term help is possible (and necessary), but we must really provide a serious political alternative to the hard-line opinions that the major political parties are currently proposing.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Israel does not want to UN to be watching their atrocities in Lebanon. Israel does not want the world to know what is happening in Gaza. This act of aggression has effects on both of these. Whilst it may be argued that this murder will encourage the UN to focus more on these events, but it also shows a very clear message that Israel are not afraid of going beyond what the UN would like to limit them to, in terms of military violence. Of course, in the wider scheme of things these deaths are inconsequential. They don’t compare to the number of people who have already died in the conflict, or the number who will eventually die as a result of the violence.
Israel has a habit and a history of wiping people off the map, and maybe the good that could come out of this would be a public exposé of the brutal order of the Israeli army. Unfortunately, for the moment, the attack hasn’t undermined their public image. America are still planning on sending them weapons over the coming week, and the headlines on the BBC still discuss the relatively minimal number of Israeli fatalities within Lebanon whilst they are trying to overrun cities. We must be clear in our analysis that there is not real strategy behind these incursions. There are no plans of what to do with the ruined cities of Southern Lebanon, and of course it is only with the UN out of the way that Israel is able to commit further atrocities in the name of defence. One must ask if the murder of the UN observers was an act of defence too, and whether it could ever be justified as such.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Of course such an application doesn’t come easily. There is, in my mind, no purpose or objective to life. One does not live in order to capture the king (although this would be rather amusing), rather, one just lives. That being said, it is clear that one may have a number of objectives at anyone time. It is also the case that anyone with a serious materialist understanding (or critique as it may be) of the world, or reality, must observe our existence as a set of choices. But what if we are presented with a situation in which, whilst our objective is still attainable, we must choose between acts that are at least in the short term detrimental to our objective. Do we have a means to choose? In chess the answer to this question is easy. One must play the least worst move, but reality is different. The foresight one is given at a chess board is guarded. Over and over we are thrown into an unknown. We are forced away from strategy and into tactics.
What is actually interesting here is that I believe we are able to successfully analyse a huge proportion of human action in terms of strategy, but relatively little in terms of tactics. It strikes me that this is the inverse of most animals, and is the result of civilisation, but unfortunately it has consequences for those of us that are plunged into a society that is pervaded by what we understand to be wrong. There is no human tactic for critique. We should, just like in the chess game, keep our eye on the target. The most interesting aspect of Zugzwang is the fact that the object is the exact opposite from what we are forced to do. I believe that it is ultimately possible to act within a system whilst understanding a way to destroy it. Of course this is just as hard as turning from Zugzwang to winning a game.
Monday, July 24, 2006
There were of course good elements of the demonstration. I was marching with the Jewish Socialists’ group, and various groups around the European Jews for Justice for Palestinians, both of whom have great critiques of the situation. The real problems came with the speeches. They were almost all (with the exceptions of the aforementioned groups) completely uncritical of Hamas and Hezbollah. Very few made the links between the nationalism and the religious fundamentalism that link the politics of Israel and of these groups. George Galloway spoke to rapturous applause but the content of his speech was diabolical. He proclaimed the greatness of Hezbollah and their leader. He reproached the Israeli people rather than the Israeli state and the military (regardless of the fact that there was a demonstration in Tel-Aviv that matched the size of the one in London). Azam Tamimi went on to proclaim that ‘All Israelis are thieves.’
We must be clear that we oppose the military action in Gaza and Lebanon, that we understand the politics behind it to be reactionary and opportunist, but it is important that we direct the campaigns against such actions so as the resistance doesn’t become comparable to what we criticise. It is impossible to criticise the terroristic approach that the Israeli government and military state take towards international affairs if we are willing to stand and proclaim our support for other terrorists and nationalists. What we have to understand is that the impulse for this support of Hamas and Hezbollah is ultimately incompatible with a leftist aim. It is, on the contrary, the result of either an Islamist or an Arabist consciousness. It is not rational, and its political ends are not one of freedom, but rather, either religious despotism or the most reactionary type of national liberation. Yes, it is important to offer our support, and to be present at demonstrations such as the one that happened on Saturday, but it is just as important, if not more so, to be critical and to feel that discomfort with the political ends of those marching alongside us.