At the Outset

Last Sunday the laundry machine emptied across the entire apartment, soaking every little thing sitting on the floor from my used tissues to my notebook to the shoes on my feet. Ulric, Rikke and I were seeking refuge from the parading rainstorm outside, when we opened the front door to some sort of Salvador Dali painting. We saw the floor rippling against misplaced floating and sinking objects and stood in water reaching for our ankles. The apartment was full of water and my mouth was full of obscenities.  We found buckets and poured water into the tub, over the balcony, down the drains.  It took a few hours to clear, but once the sun had set, we lit some candles and gathered over a chicken and chocolate supper. Our spirits and valuables all in tact, we got rid of the water before it could really damage anything. We feasted.

Since the flood, I’ve been a bit tired and weird. Last night I dreamt that Iran bordered Lebanon.  In my dream a bunch of faceless friends and I hopped on a car and over a fence into some town in Iran.  It was at night and apparently during the middle ages (I might be able to harness my North American biases while awake, but what to do about my subconscious?!) We ended up in a little lingerie shop, circa 2010, staring at a rack of underwear for sale.

What is this?  A DREAM BLOG?!  Hell no… on to serious matters.

Orientalism and Terrorism:

We had to read an article Thomas Friedman wrote for the NYT in 2006. Before I share the class response, here are some highlights:

“Mideast Rules to Live By”

Rule 8 → “Civil wars in the Arab world are rarely about ideas- like liberalism vs. communism.  They are about which tribe gets to rule. So, yes, Iraq is having a civil war as we once did.  But there is no Abe Lincoln in this war.  It’s South vs. South.”

Rule 9 → “In Middle East tribal politics there is rarely a happy medium. When one side is weak, it will tell you, “I’m weak, how can I compromise?”  And when it’s strong, it will tell you, “I’m strong, why should I compromise?”

Rule 11 → “Our first priority is democracy, but the Arabs’ first priority is ‘justice.”

Pfff, justice.

My professor’s reason for sharing the article –> Friedman is delegating so-called truths about Arabs to their nature instead of the circumstances that surround them. This article is part of a larger discourse on the “East,” one that Edward Said critiques in Orientalism (which we are reading). It’s a discourse that is repeated about many marginalized groups (i.e. women → sexism and patriarchy). The professor wants to know –> Why does this discourse get produced and then reproduced? One answer- it works in favor of the dominant group to use tools of oppression, there is a purpose to actively disempowering groups of people, it’s profitable.

Most of the students felt the article was offensive, some thought it was malicious and a select few thought it was, at least partly, true. My professor made the point that there might be a few grains of “truth,” but that one should not make such claims about an entire population. This is also one of Edward Said’s points. The article isn’t universally true or untrue… THERE IS NO DAMN TRUTH! What? That’s what he said…

Thomas Friedman on Middle East = Christopher Hitchens on Women–> irresponsible. TAKE THAT, THOMAS! You and I need to have a meeting…

Speaking of Christopher Hitchens, I was at a bar last night. Over the past two weeks, this has often been the case.  I’ve been meeting a whole bunch of people and having great conversations, mixed with spirited dancing fits. I really like to dance. Especially at this place called Behind the Green Door.  A few nights ago they served up some fantastic music straight out of 1987.  My friends and I are smart dancers, you know. And yes, I have made friends!  You can look at some of them (I posted pictures, look to the right).

And hey!  On Monday there’s the International Women’s Day March in Beirut!  Nasawiya has been getting ready for the past month. In preparation for Women’s Day a bunch of us put together a video.  Last Friday we were editing until 3am.  The video didn’t turn out like we thought it would, but we had fun even so.  After finishing we drove an hour out of the city to drop off one of the members, driving along the Mediterranean, past billboards and checkpoints.  On the way back to Beirut we picked up food (twice).  We listened to Tracy Chapman the entire way and she reminded me of home. Which brings me to this –>

I’ve been thinking a lot about what the hell I’m studying.  I’ve got to start making a film here, and I’ve also got to start planning my division III (senior thesis).  Miscellaneous thoughts have been filling up my notepads and book margins. One of the points that has stuck with me over the past few days comes from Orientalism. Said quotes Antonio Gramsci, “The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical process to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory… therefore it is imperative at the outset to compile such an inventory” (25). Hey, that’s what I’m doing! I’m collecting an inventory, relearning a history, rethinking the discourse I’ve been raised within and considering the relationship between myself and the environment I’ve adopted for the time being.

So, this is what I’m doing in Beirut –> collecting traces.

  1. Mom said:

    great stuff! Scary a bit but, great stuff. Wow! I can’t wait for more.
    BTW – I like your “thinking” KEEP IT UP.

  2. Marcella said:

    The inventory! That’s an amazing way of looking at it. I’m reading another Said book for a class…we should discuss.

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