by Gilles d'Aymery
"As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand."
—Josh Billings, Affurisms, 1865
(Swans - February 14, 2005) IRAQI ELECTIONS: The initial reports from the US media showed huge voter participation. Seventy-two percent of the voting population had voted, we were told. There were great TV pictures of long lines and women attending the voting booths. Mr. Bush and the punditry claimed the results were a great victory for freedom and democracy... Then the media moved on to the next news cycle and one had to turn to the Internet and foreign media to learn that the turnout was closer to 30 percent, which will be deemed a victory nonetheless when The New York Times deigns to address the issue. But since our presence -- to be continued indefinitely in spite of Teddy Kennedy's lonely calls for withdrawal -- has nothing to do with freedom and democracy (at least not Iraqi freedom and democracy) but is entirely predicated on the strategic control of the Middle East and its black gold, 30 percent will do just fine.
MEANWHILE, the rejoicing Iraqi women were thrilled by their new freedoms. One was strikingly on display in the newscasts. They all, without exception, were dressed with either hijabs and abayas -- not the trendy and colorful types offered by Jelbab.com, mind you, but the rather austere black shawls... Since this kind of apparel epitomizes the modesty of Muslim women, according to the Muslim patriarchate, one can expect the Lynne Cheneys of this world to soon praise this latest victory for freedom!
OPEN LETTERS and tutti quanti: I'm glad to report that I've finally figured out what was the purpose of the Open Letter to Hugo Chávez on the Detention of Rodrigo Granda, which I mentioned in my Blips #10. It took me a while to grasp the intricacies of the Tenured Left. The good-hearted and always courteous (that's a figure of speech) Noam Chomsky gave me so much to think about in circularities that I was left hanging in the wind, unable to recognize north from south and east from west, but the originator (so I was told by our great linguist), Professor James Petras, was right to the point.
DEAR PROFESSOR, I asked, "What was the concrete purpose of this open letter? What did you expect or hope to see realized? Who are you trying to reach out to? What's the political objective of such actions? Finally: if the object of the open letter was, as Noam affirms, to politely suggest to President Chávez to launch an investigation, why did it have to be an open letter, and not a quiet, personal correspondence?"
PROF. PETRAS answered quickly and forthrightly (unedited): "the purpose of the letter was to make it clear that sectors of the venezuelan state collaborated in the violation of venezuela's sovereignty, and in an illegal kidnapping and deportation the letter was public because it was directed toward progressives to pressure Chávez to act against the policies of some of his ministers namely of defense and interior who were covering up the affair our letter was very effective in every sense --Chávez acted,progressives moved, policy changed,and we feel vindicated jp" (jp for James Petras.)
DON'T YOU BREATHE BETTER? "Chávez acted, progressives moved, policy changed, and we feel vindicated." That's quite a statement! Oyez, oyez, oyez, from one's chair, emeritus-chair, in the U.S. of A., at a moment's notice, through the legions of First World progressives moving head long toward a brave new world, the man acted and policy changed. Yes, that's how powerful we are, and how vindicated we should feel. So here is a...
QUOTE FOR THE AGES: "Action is consolatory. It is the enemy of thought and the friend of flattering illusions."
--Joseph Conrad, Nostromo, 1904.
BUT AS I SUBMITTED to the good professor (this time Noam Chomsky): "I am sure that you can find many more serious matters perpetrated by the US administration that would deserve your petitions and requests. It would be beneficial to all to see you write or sign open letters to George W. Bush instead of Hugo Chávez Frias."
NOT AT ALL, answers Noam: "I can't think of many greater wastes of time than writing letters to George Bush, or to the US government altogether. Instead of doing that, I spend my time giving talks, interviews, writing articles, etc., bitterly condemning their policies."
SO, IN BETWEEN talks, interviews, articles, books and book signings, conferences, and bitter condemnations of US policies, there is time for the good professor to sign open letters to heads of state in the South and various statements directed to no one in particular but the myriad "activists" who follow their idolized master from one chit-chat to the other. No time for Mr. Bush but plenty to pressure, say, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, et al.
BUT WHY are those letters written in English? As I suggested to Chomsky, "it seems to me that when one wants to address a foreign head of state, one should use the idiom of that head of state and not the English language -- a form of cultural imperialism -- to show respect toward that head of state and his culture." Nope, says Monsieur le Professeur, "All such petitions are in the language of the user. Even though I know Hebrew, it would never occur to me for a moment to write the many petitions I send to the Israeli government in Hebrew. Or in any other case. When I signed petitions to Castro, they were in English, not Spanish -- and, I'm glad to say, led to interviews on Havana radio and national Cuban TV, where the matters were seriously discussed."
OF COURSE, there is no hint of cultural condescension here. We write letters in our language; it's up to them to make a translation... That's the way it is...though one wonders how is it that in most instances, as it was in this particular open letter, some of the signers come from non-English speaking countries... But, hey, if it leads to interviews and serious discussions, and the "progressive" community is led to put pressure on so-and-so -- as long as the so-and-so does not reside in the White House, all is well... Next book signing, anyone? (Just in passing, that letter was signed by 14 "pelés et un tondu" -- hey, I can use my language too...that's the extent of the progressive mobilization!)
CORRECTION, it turns out that there was a Spanish version of Petras's letter, after all, according to Bill Blum who signed that version -- though not fluent in Spanish -- on the advice of a Colombian friend; but once he had the opportunity to review the English version at a later date, Blum considered that he would not have signed that letter... Isn't it a bit confusing? I'd love to see the Spanish version...
THINKING OF Ward Churchill, and the people who love signing neither-nor statements and useless petitions, here's a short draft of a statement with which the Campaign for Peace and Democracy could run another of their gems:
Please join [insert names of usual culprits] in signing this statement prepared by Joanne Landy:
We, progressives, members of the democratic left and of the loyal opposition, oppose articles and speeches, which could be construed as insensitive and objectionable by the American people, written or made by obscure and radical professors.
While we are strong defenders of free speech we all recognize that in these dangerous times people should refrain from expressing views that are not in sync with the majority of Americans.
We also oppose those members of the US administration who continue to give pro war speeches and interviews, though we obviously recognize their right to speak freely.
etc., etc., etc.
Signed: [insert names of usual crowd]
Posted on both the CPD Web site and ZNet.
SUPER BOWL: I did not watch it but heard that no breast went uncovered this time around though there were apparently complaints about at least one indecent exposure -- that of Papa Bush and slick Willie (Clinton) embracing each other (did they really?) as they promoted the freedom variety of American demahhhhhcracy, the usual tributes to the armed forces, and the unending generosity of the American people in regard to the victims of the Asian tsunami (I've read that the U.S. and France were competing for the honor of being the country which, among all industrialized nations, has been giving the least per capita to the recovery efforts...) Papa Bush and slick Willie...we're all Republicans now!
BOONVILLE NEWS: In the bad news-good news chapter of our bucolic valley (bucolic as long as your are a KZYX listener, a wine grower, or a San Francisco Bay Area transplant, as I am -- well through France, Argentina, Brazil, Bermuda, and counting (forgetting a few places in between, like New York City, a country on its own) -- and not an undocumented immigrant laborer or an independent logger, the buzz, in the past few days, has all been about, "Did ya' know, The Oregonian did not make it"...meaning the AVA Oregon! of Bruce Anderson love-hate fame has gone on the chopping block -- for lack of $12,000.
"Enemies" rejoiced -- he deserved what he got...and that's good news; but darn, he's going to contribute to, and help edit his former paper, the Anderson Valley Advertiser...and that's bad news! "Friends," on the other hand were saddened by the report (bad news) but thrilled to hear that Bruce was going to be more involved in the AVA again (good news). See how complicated life is around here!!!
Meanwhile, David Severn, the actual editor, has not peeped a word, good diplomat as he is. It's going to be fun to watch the interaction between them... And horror of all horrors, will the businesses that have slowly increased their advertising in the paper leave again as Mr. Tantrum re-enters the fray with his unending diatribes? Stay tuned.
Thinking about this bucolic valley, which has been praised by Forbes and The New York Times Magazine, among other worldly publications (good news for Mike Shapiro and other real estate agents, as well as land speculators) there's a side of this little heaven that's not much covered and pretty much kept under the lid (bad news) -- that of the undocumented workers and their living conditions. I wish the AVA could have a weekly column on these issues. What's the cost of crossing the border illegally (from $1,800 to $2,800, to $3,300 just to reach Boonville according to a vecino -- and that does not include *all* the costs to reach one's destination...)? What about the shortage of housing for those hard-working fellows (I hear that one bed in a small room can be rented for $250 or $300 a month and shared by three or four single men who take their turn to sleep)? How much are they paid by the wine growers who are altogether dependent on this work force from March to November? Who bears the social costs (health, education) of these good people (the wine growers or the entire community)? What are the consequences of having them drive without license and insurance? How do they manage to navigate the judicial system with its maze of rules and regulations...and punishing sentences? Plenty of issues here. Perhaps David could give Bruce a new assignment...
By the way, thinking of Bruce and the now-defunct AVA Oregon!, why didn't Robert Mailer Anderson send/advance $12,000, an insignificant amount to him and his wife (daughter of the co-founder of Oracle)? This is another mystery of life, I suppose; but, at the least, it will make it harder for Mike Sweeney and co. to bloviate about Bruce's family's money...
Bumper sticker seen at the Redwood Drive-In: "Environmentalism is a disease."
And so it goes...