Archive for the 'current affairs' Category
It feels – crushingly – like it was inevitable. Before, Copenhagen felt like it was somehow exempt from this kind of barbarism. That was an illusion, of course, but this is still a rude awakening.
That’s an image of the presumed target of the attack, Lars Vilk’s masterwork Nimis, the flotsam city on the edge of Kullen, in southern Sweden.
I dagens udgave af Information kan man læse min anmeldelse af ugens med spænding ventede nummer af Charlie Hebdo med den bemærkelsesværdige forside ovenfor. Jeg skrev teksten til en meget stram deadline, så bær over med den lidt stakåndede præsentation, den manglende reflektion og en lidt brutal redigering. Jeg håber at skrive noget mere dybdegående snart.
Today witnessed a mockery of the values of human dignity and community, fundamental concepts in all the major religions, not least Islam. It has already been repeated much today, but this really does feel like an attack on us all, and not just in the West, but much more broadly.
My thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims, while my hopes are with our societies to handle this outrage in the right way. There must be a robust response to the perpetrators and, more broadly, the mindset that motivated them, but ultimately the solution is more democracy and more freedom of expression for everyone, not less. Insha’Allah.
The week in review
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and it will probably be a while yet before I do another one. Much happening in terms of relocating more permanently to London, so… but I just felt the itch to post something here wishing you all (those of you still reading this rather stagnant page) a happy new year. Over the holiday I rekindled my interest in the civil rights movement and black liberation in the US by reading Manning Marable’s fantastic, and controversial, biography of Malcolm X, A Life of Reinvention. Presenting by far the most nuanced view of this complex figure so far, it does more to make him human, real, in the reader’s eye than just about anything else I’ve read. My one quibble is that by being so scrupulous about presenting the details of his life, warts and all, it tends to lose sight of what made him, this leader who achieved very little in terms of concrete political results, such a crucial figure in modern American history. It lacks sufficient exegesis on his words and thoughts, despite an excellent closing chapter that aims to provide perspective. But don’t let that deter if you have any interest in American history or the civil rights movement. It’s a great book.
With that, I figured I’d post the above video of Malcolm X speaking in Oxford (close to home for me now, that’s why, I guess!) in 1964, five or six months after having broken with the Nation of Islam. It’s a remarkable encapsulation of the fluctuating state of his thought at that moment, starting with a forceful statement of principle — the nature of American racism, the use of violence — entirely consistent with his earlier, more confrontational rhetoric, passes through a Barry Goldwater quote as well — poignantly — as one from Hamlet, to an approchement to the civil rights movement and embrace of the vote as a potential game changer for black Americans. And he ends on a universalist, revolutionary call for action. There are greater moments to be found in his many speeches and interviews (the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University is a good place to start learning more), but I love the eclecticism and coherence of this clip.
“When history looks back on this moment, will it view those who opposed intervening as champions of peace? Or, when the textbooks count the dead children, and the international norms broken with impunity, will our descendants puzzle that we took pride in retreating into passivity during this slaughter?”
The week in review
The absurd theater on whether a coalition of Western countries led by the US will intervene in the Syrian civil war or not, the contorted logic behind the whole chemical weapons rationale, and the sudden, provocative fit of Russian diplomacy have obviously dominated the week’s news. It’s been a fascinating study in the vagaries of international politics around a hot potato issue. But it’s also been depressing. There is no question that the prospect of engaging in another war, no matter how limited said intervention is claimed to be, is daunting and demanding of the utmost caution on the part of decision makers. But we’re talking a genocide here, like the one that’s been happening in Darfur or the one in Rwanda in the nineties — both of which we left to run their course. The argument for select attacks or even better, imposing a no-fly zone, in Syria seems to me a basic, human one.
I find particularly depressing the arguments that we should let the notoriously lame duck UN Security Council or US Congress decide. Or that we can solve the conflict with humanitarian aid or non-violent diplomacy alone. It’s been tried for two years now and hasn’t worked. And in the meantime a hundred thousand people have been killed and millions have had to flee their homes.
I really hope the current decision to pursue a handover by the Assad regime of all chemical weapons bears fruit, but also that it is followed up by aggressive diplomacy to resolve the situation and bring peace to the region. If necessary by the use of force. Witty as Vladimir Putin’s op-ed piece in the New York Times was, fun as it was to see him expose the hypocrisy of American foreign policy, the reality of the war in Syria is so horrible that his high ground-arguments for civilised conflict solution ring hollow if they don’t bring an end to the killings soon.