Bloggingheads Community

Bloggingheads Community (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/index.php)
-   Diavlog comments (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=9)
-   -   Free Will: Strange Fruit (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=2367)

Bloggingheads 11-17-2008 12:09 PM

Free Will: Strange Fruit
 

jimM47 11-17-2008 02:35 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Hey, Bob, is bh.tv's technology able to advance to the level of getting Kerry a phone she doesn't have to hold to her ear?

nikkibong 11-17-2008 03:19 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
even in the rural primitive landscape of iowa? be thankful she's not holding up a cup and some string!

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee 11-17-2008 03:26 PM

What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
I don't understand Mr. Malik's point when he claims that what happened with Jewel of Medina indicates that Islamic fundamentalists who protested the Rushdie book 'won the war.' Yes, Random House decided not to involve itself in a headache over a controversial book, but the book is still available -- for anyone interested it's just one click away right here on the side of this diavlog. No doubt it will reach a much larger audience than one would expect for a 'breezy historical romance' (Mr. Malik's description).

It is undoubtedly correct that the western left in general has a double standard in the way their multiculturalism interacts with their Enlightenment values. Mr. Malik apparently would like to see the left striving hard to defend the right to be provocative and the right to offend, even when done against minorities which see themselves as beleaguered. This notion makes some on the left a little nervous and they're willing to say, look, do we really have to insult people just for the sake of it? If something really, really bothers people and offends something they hold dear and no substantive good is advanced by engaging it, is it just implementing and defending the 'right to offend' worthwhile? Is it praiseworthy?

In any event, as I said, the book has come out and has not been censored. In fact, as I go though above, I can see why Mr. Malik would be upset at the way "liberals" reacted to these controversies, in fact I think the vast majority (though not all) Muslims would feel that the Muslims reaction to these type of incidents, starting with the Rushdie affair, as actually been counterproductive, popularizing a view of Muslims as intolerant and unable to handle open discussion. While many Muslims may feel it is somewhat positive that they have "stood up for" what is sacred to them and let it be known that they, unlike many Westerners, are not okay with having the things they hold most dear insulted, they can also realize that an actual market has been created for deliberately provocative material that otherwise would not be produced or else would not have found the audience that it does in the current environment.

bjkeefe 11-17-2008 03:30 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Interesting ideas. I liked Kenan's attitude in general; e.g., pooh-poohing the notion of "preserving" culture, but I wish Kerry had asked him some follow-up questions when it came to immigration. Specifically, how would Kenan view an immigrant culture that carries with it much stricter and/or different religious laws, that demands to be able to run their neighborhoods under these laws, even to the extent of privileging them above the national law? Given that he's British, I would have liked to hear his thoughts on Sharia law being applied in the UK.

Second point: when the conversation turned to The Satanic Verses and the Danish cartoon controversy, I thought of a great segment on the most recent On The Media titled "Hot Off the Press." This was an interview of Barney Rosset, who took over Grove Press in 1951 and had the courage to publish a number of books that were originally banned for being "obscene." Seems to me that Random House and any number of major newspapers could learn a few lessons from Rosset. I strongly recommend everyone listen to this segment (or at least read the transcript).

[Added] I see from Abu Noor's post that perhaps the Rosset spirit is in place at Beaufort Books.

bjkeefe 11-17-2008 03:33 PM

Re: What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
Good points, Abu Noor, especially the part about the fundamentalists perhaps making a strategic error by raising a fuss, which ultimately makes the books that they protested that much more attractive to others.

Ray 11-17-2008 03:48 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
*cough*
*cough*

It's always fun to revisit Kenan's points, but all that dust!

Sickle cell anemia not a black disease, eh? Well...right!

*cough*
*cough*

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee 11-17-2008 03:58 PM

Re: What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
Brendan, That's why it might have been interesting to see Mr. Malik flesh out a little more why he thinks that the "Fundamentalists" "won the war"? I think this notion for him goes to the fact that the "liberals" he wished would think like him, many of them don't, but I'm not sure if that was the goal of the fundamentalists.

For those who are still reacting with fury against such provocations, it is not really about achieving any kind of pragmatic result. To them, whether their actions end up being counterproductive or not, they see themselves as validating a fundamental principle of defending the honor of the Prophet (saw). For those secularist liberal products of the enlightenment who might be totally bewildered by such a notion, it is like someone on the playground claiming the right to insult your mother. For some people, their mother is truly beloved to them and the hurt of hearing someone denigrate her is too much to simply stand by and do nothing. For others, there is a code that no matter what I might think of my mother, allowing you to insult my mother would be a loss of face, it would indicate that I am too weak to respond to you, that I am helpless, and I can't let that impression be given off otherwise it will be detrimental to my psyche or perhaps my actual safety if it appears that I am a "punk" who can't stand up for himself. And there may be people with other agendas or people who are just bored who use all these dynamics to instigate conflict and controversy for their own purposes. All of these dynamics are at play as Brave Westerners fight for their right to insult the Muslims.

You will find in most of the famous incidents (Rushdie, cartoons, teddy bear) the primary factor involved was people with other agendas who were using the emotional dynamics of the current world situation and those mentioned above for their own purposes. Where such actors (and in all these incidents those actors whose agendas have driven the response have been governmental rather than independent fundamentalist actors) feel no need to manipulate the situation, one finds the actual responses to be fairly easy to deal with.

Wonderment 11-17-2008 04:21 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
As a strong multiculturalist I disagree with much of what Kenan had to say about culture.

Regarding the pseudo-science and politicization of race categories I think he is correct. It's worthwhile to point out that Nixon invented "Hispanics" and that "Asian", as the term is used in the US and GB, is an absurd category. This also surely applies to "people of color" in the USA.

However, stretching these valid observations into a theory that favors cultural assimilation vs. preservation is unjustified and insensitive to the values of minorities who choose not to conform and be absorbed.

The trivialization of loss of languages was especially chilling.

There are conflicting pressures on immigrants' freedom. One is the pressure to assimilate, conform and switch loyalties to the dominant culture. The other is the internal pressure also to conform and maintain loyalty to the minority culture. These are serious, lifelong, transgenerational challenges. Kenan reduces them to components of an ideology and treats them as if their resolution were easy and obvious.

I also thought both Kerry and Kenan missed the point of adoptive parents exposing their children to their biological heritage. They viewed this as absurd. What could a child who came to England at the age of 9 days have to do with a village in Tibet or Uganda? But there is a powerful connection. In the most obvious sense, the child may have REAL ties to the biological family. And even if she does not, people have a natural curiosity about biological origins. Once adoption is understood by a child, s/he is aware of the dynamic of biological descent and adoptive relations. Pretending this has no meaning is silly. Again, Kenan has offered ideological answers that defy the most obvious truths of human experience and psychology.

bjkeefe 11-17-2008 04:26 PM

Re: What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
Abu Noor:

I take your point about people defending honor, or more generally, acting on principle. However, I don't accept the fundamentalists' reaction to the books being published -- no one is compelled to read a book, and their existence doesn't thrust the possibly offensive parts into one's face the way, say, buying space on a billboard would. I don't accept that allowing "pffensive" books to be published harms people in any way, and I think those who made a stink about it are trying to compel others to live according to their own laws, which I am firmly against.

I feel the same way about, say, The Turner Diaries -- the content (as I understand it) is grievously offensive to me, and I don't like to think that someone would want to publish such stuff, but I am against banning this book, and if anything, I think I would be more inclined, not less, to support a store that sold it.

I am a little more sympathetic to the complaints about the cartoons. Here, there is a more of a sense of something distasteful being thrust in one's face, in a cheap medium that is easily spread, and I'm not sure that there was anything of redeeming value to them -- they weren't so much pushing boundaries as pushing buttons.

Ultimately, I don't have much patience for people who are so uptight that they can't take a little kidding around, nor do I have patience for primitive notions about not creating representations of holy figures, but I can accept that others fundamentally disagree about this. However, once there were threats of violence, my attitude was, fine -- in that case, publish them everywhere. Your notion of not standing up for something lest you be seen as a punk cuts both ways.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee 11-17-2008 04:28 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 97690)
Interesting ideas. I liked Kenan's attitude in general; e.g., pooh-poohing the notion of "preserving" culture, but I wish Kerry had asked him some follow-up questions when it came to immigration. Specifically, how would Kenan view an immigrant culture that carries with it much stricter and/or different religious laws, that demands to be able to run their neighborhoods under these laws, even to the extent of privileging them above the national law? Given that he's British, I would have liked to hear his thoughts on Sharia law being applied in the UK.

Hmmm, as a self described "radical" "secularist", "assimilationist", and admirer of the "French republican tradition" it's pretty safe to say that he's as much against the presence of Shari'ah in UK as any right wing yahoo. And I'm sure in the context of UK he would argue against the notion that the Muslim immigrant culture is monolithic or consists primarily of people who necessarily have shared notion of how "they" want "their" neighborhoods to be run.

I know he has written about his opposition to the fact that under multiculturalism, Muslims become a "community" and the British government then deals with the "leaders" of that "community" rather than individually engaging with Muslims in the UK as individuals and as British citizens like any other.

But I don't disagree with you that it would have been nice for him to discuss this issue. I wasn't listening with 100 percent attention the whole time so I may have a skewed perception but it seemed to me that Ms. Howley kept trying to bring the issue to immigration, but I don't think it was actually engaged effectively.

Also, perhaps it was my lack of attention or just that this was my first exposure to Mr. Malik or just the problematic nature of the pairing but I was a little put off by what seemed to be a Marxist and a radical libertarian simply bemoaning the fact that people care about things (identity, race, religion, nationalism) that they shouldn't or that they wish people didn't care about. Other non-materialist things are very important to people, yes, oftentimes they may be being manipulated in ways that should be bemoaned, but I would argue not all the time.

I just think that the full substance of both Ms. Howley and Mr. Malik's thought, as well as whether or not either has much real world relevance, would be brought out more if they had different diavlog partners to push back harder on them or propose a more substantially different way of looking at the world.

bjkeefe 11-17-2008 04:39 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Wonderment:

Just to be clear -- by my saying "I liked Kenan's attitude in general; e.g., pooh-poohing the notion of 'preserving' culture," I didn't mean that I think it should be immediately swept away, or that differences shouldn't be cherished. I do think, however, that multiculturalism for multiculturalism's sake can get to be a fetish, and I also think there are cases where one culture's outlook on a specific aspect of life can legitimately be considered inferior or otherwise not compatible with the majority view.

As to language preservation -- I think it's great that people are interested enough to work to keep a dying language alive, but I think this should be done as a hobby, so to speak, and is not the kind of thing I have much sympathy for spending lots of public funds on.

I haven't thought about the adoption issue that deeply. I used to be completely impatient with the idea of an infant of group A being raised by parents of group B feeling as though she had to get in touch with other A-people, but I have lately become aware that, like it or not, these pressures exist. I'm now agnostic by virtue of dawning awareness of ignorance on this one. But, as the story that Kenan told about the Catholic person who worried about not raising the adopted Indian kid as a Hindu, I'm still inclined to think at least some of this "connection" stuff is a little precious.

Wonderment 11-17-2008 04:39 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Quote:

I was a little put off by what seemed to be a Marxist and a radical libertarian simply bemoaning the fact that people care about things (identity, race, religion, nationalism) that they shouldn't or that they wish people didn't care about.
I actually thought that Kenan's views on language were analogous to the Taliban's views (let's blow them up!) on the Buddhas of Bamyan.

DoctorMoney 11-17-2008 04:45 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 97696)
The trivialization of loss of languages was especially chilling.

I always think it's helpful to remember that American English, as spoken in 2008, is ultimately pretty fleeting. The spoken US English of 1978 is fading day by day, and the English of 1948 is all but gone.

Written is obviously a different issue. But even then, it is like reading a translation: the average reader will understand the syntax of a 1948 text, but there are thousands of little ways that the true meaning of a sentence is always going to be lost.

Which is all my long way of saying: losing a diversity of languages *is* pretty trivial compared to the upside of an Earth that can speak to itself effectively. Languages are hardy enough to not really need 'protection' in my opinion, and there's nothing too chilling about their natural ebb and flow considering that we all ebb towards functionality in the long run.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee 11-17-2008 04:46 PM

Re: What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
Brendan,

One would have to specify what the "reaction" to the books was in order to defend it or not. Most Muslim fundamentalists, including myself, have done nothing about the books being published, although if you asked us we might say we find them offensive and would rather they weren't published. Is that okay? Or should we say, I find it offensive and I'm really happy it's published? I know some people will react that way but surely we don't have to. Some people in response to the cartoons demonstrated or proposed boycotts. Some wrote letters to the editor...Certainly you can't object to a simple return exercise of speech...first, to the extent violence occurred at protests at embassies relating to, for example, the cartoon affair, these were protests ginned up and/or cracked down upon by governments which were much more about other geo-political realities than about the incidents of offensive speech themselves.

So, what I think we can all be against are specific threats of violence or acts of violence carried out on people involved with publishing a book or translating a book or writing a book or something like that. I have no problem with you being vocal about such things but be clear that you are literally dealing with the actions or words of a small handful of over one billion Muslims.

Wonderment 11-17-2008 04:49 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Quote:

As to language preservation -- I think it's great that people are interested enough to work to keep a dying language alive, but I think this should be done as a hobby, so to speak, and is not the kind of thing I have much sympathy for spending lots of public funds on.
Where are public funds being used to keep dying languages alive? Do you mean Latin as taught in US high schools? That language is not dying; it's already dead.

Are you opposed to American Indians using federal education dollars for Cheyenne or Apache children to learn their ancestral languages? Or do you think it should be English Only on the rez?

bjkeefe 11-17-2008 05:00 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Abu Noor Al-Irlandee (Post 97698)
Hmmm, as a self described "radical" "secularist", "assimilationist", and admirer of the "French republican tradition" it's pretty safe to say that he's as much against the presence of Shari'ah in UK as any right wing yahoo. And I'm sure in the context of UK he would argue against the notion that the Muslim immigrant culture is monolithic or consists primarily of people who necessarily have shared notion of how "they" want "their" neighborhoods to be run.

That's probably the bet I'd place, too, but there was something about the way he was talking about no culture having the right to insist on its own preservation that made me think there was some chance he was laughing at the resident Brits who worry about the influx of Muslims. In other words, as a matter of consistency, he might say that if a highly secular society experiences the influx of a large group of much more religious people, they don't have any more right to insist that their secular society stay unchanged.

Quote:

I know he has written about his opposition to the fact that under multiculturalism, Muslims become a "community" and the British government then deals with the "leaders" of that "community" rather than individually engaging with Muslims in the UK as individuals and as British citizens like any other.
That seems like a worthy complaint, although as a practical matter, there are often leaders of minority groups, particularly oppressed ones, who command a lot of respect, and this can be seen as one way of trying to relate, especially on a smaller scale. You might, for example, be able to accomplish something useful if the mayor or police chief or county health commissioner talks to the head imam(s) in that area, concerning some specific issue(s), don't you think? But yes, it can quickly get ridiculous and even become counterproductive.

Quote:

But I don't disagree with you that it would have been nice for him to discuss this issue. I wasn't listening with 100 percent attention the whole time so I may have a skewed perception but it seemed to me that Ms. Howley kept trying to bring the issue to immigration, but I don't think it was actually engaged effectively.
Kerry is getting to be the anti-Mickey on immigration -- she's so obsessed with open borders that I get the sense that she forces the conversation there at times, and it's just as boring as when Mickey does it for the opposite reason.

Quote:

Also, perhaps it was my lack of attention or just that this was my first exposure to Mr. Malik or just the problematic nature of the pairing but I was a little put off by what seemed to be a Marxist and a radical libertarian simply bemoaning the fact that people care about things (identity, race, religion, nationalism) that they shouldn't or that they wish people didn't care about. Other non-materialist things are very important to people, yes, oftentimes they may be being manipulated in ways that should be bemoaned, but I would argue not all the time.
A Marxist? I didn't pick up on that. If you're speaking from knowing Kenan from outside of this diavlog, I'll bow to that -- I recognized the name of his first book, but that's about the extent of my familiarity.

I didn't get the sense that the two of them were as dismissive as you did, but then, I'm probably a lot closer to them than you are as far as being impatient with people placing too much emphasis on some of these things. (I don't like to think of myself as only being concerned with materialist things, though, unless I'm misinterpreting what you mean by that term.)

Quote:

I just think that the full substance of both Ms. Howley and Mr. Malik's thought, as well as whether or not either has much real world relevance, would be brought out more if they had different diavlog partners to push back harder on them or propose a more substantially different way of looking at the world.
I don't know about "pushing back." Seemed to me that Kerry was doing more of an interview than a debate. But I go along with wishing for further exploration of some of the ideas raised.

bjkeefe 11-17-2008 05:16 PM

Re: What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Abu Noor Al-Irlandee (Post 97702)
Brendan,

One would have to specify what the "reaction" to the books was in order to defend it or not. Most Muslim fundamentalists, including myself, have done nothing about the books being published, although if you asked us we might say we find them offensive and would rather they weren't published. Is that okay?

Sure.

Quote:

Or should we say, I find it offensive and I'm really happy it's published?
Ideally, you would say, "We find this book offensive, we wish it hadn't been written, and we are not at all happy that it's being published, but we're glad we live in a society where people can choose for themselves what they want to read. That's a further guarantee that our own boundary-pushing books will not be banned."

(Substitute "I" for "we" above, if you like.)

Quote:

Some people in response to the cartoons demonstrated or proposed boycotts. Some wrote letters to the editor...Certainly you can't object to a simple return exercise of speech...
Not at all. Perfectly appropriate, and I encourage it. Nothing to admire about suffering in silence.

Quote:

first, to the extent violence occurred at protests at embassies relating to, for example, the cartoon affair, these were protests ginned up and/or cracked down upon by governments which were much more about other geo-political realities than about the incidents of offensive speech themselves.
"The police are not here to cause disorder; they are here to preserve disorder," right? ;^)

Point taken. I don't know/remember enough about the specifics to say, but sure, I'm willing to concede that some reports were overblown, authorities overreacted, troublemakers used this as an excuse, etc. But let's not whitewash it completely, even if the instances of actual violence were small and scattered.

Quote:

So, what I think we can all be against are specific threats of violence or acts of violence carried out on people involved with publishing a book or translating a book or writing a book or something like that. I have no problem with you being vocal about such things but be clear that you are literally dealing with the actions or words of a small handful of over one billion Muslims.
Yup. Sorry for not saying so. It gets a little fatiguing having to issue that disclaimer every time. I would hope you know me well enough by now to know that I don't at all equate the actions of a few people who get themselves on TV with the views of the other 999,999,000 or so Muslims.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee 11-17-2008 05:47 PM

Re: What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
Thanks for your comments Brendan. I'm sorry if my post came out as I was criticizing you or calling for you to make disclaimers -- that's not what I was getting at (I actually had a longer reply to you but I decided against really getting into the nitty gritty of this issue, my chopping of my post may have left my own point unclear).

My point was not asking you to issue a disclaimer but just hoping that we keep in mind what the issue is. If we agree that we're talking about a small minority even of the fundamentalists who react with violence that frames the "problem" in a much different light than if the "problem" is people like me who aren't going to do anything at all but still can't laugh at ridicule of what I hold sacred.

I think Mr. Malik is deliberately moving us into that gray area because he's complaining even about self-censorship of private business entities that does not prevent the book from getting published. So we're not talking about violence anymore, I just wanted to figure out what exactly we were talking about.



Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 97707)
Yup. Sorry for not saying so. It gets a little fatiguing having to issue that disclaimer every time. I would hope you know me well enough by now to know that I don't at all equate the actions of a few people who get themselves on TV with the views of the other 999,999,000 or so Muslims.


fedorovingtonboop 11-17-2008 06:00 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
ooh, this one seems juicily controversial. I've only gotten to the small part about romanticizing the preservation of language but i'd definitely have to agree with kenan. obviously, since there's thousands of them, language is pretty much an arbitrary manifestation. I saw "The Linguists" at a film festival (which showed two nerds traveling to remote parts of the world to record languages before the last people that spoke them died) and all I could think was "Why the hell are you nerds doing this?" eventually humans will be extinct which means there's more important things to be doing. obviously, some discoveries like the Pariah tribe, or whatever they were called, who only whistled rather than speaking and didn't have numbers, are significant but people like "The Linguists" seem to be fetishizing language rather than using it to find out cool stuff like S. Pinker tries to do. also, it's fun to try to prove Noam Chompsky wrong, too....

anyway, great, great talk. thanks to kenan for coming on and thanks to bob and kerry for making it happen. i love "taboo" speakers like this. where's the firestorm of comments?

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee 11-17-2008 06:12 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
[QUOTE=bjkeefe;97705]
Quote:

That's probably the bet I'd place, too, but there was something about the way he was talking about no culture having the right to insist on its own preservation that made me think there was some chance he was laughing at the resident Brits who worry about the influx of Muslims. In other words, as a matter of consistency, he might say that if a highly secular society experiences the influx of a large group of much more religious people, they don't have any more right to insist that their secular society stay unchanged.
Yeah, that'd be interesting but I think he's a secularist on principle.

Quote:

That seems like a worthy complaint, although as a practical matter, there are often leaders of minority groups, particularly oppressed ones, who command a lot of respect, and this can be seen as one way of trying to relate, especially on a smaller scale. You might, for example, be able to accomplish something useful if the mayor or police chief or county health commissioner talks to the head imam(s) in that area, concerning some specific issue(s), don't you think? But yes, it can quickly get ridiculous and even become counterproductive.
I think I'm with you. I, as much as anyone has leaders I don't like or I don't feel represent me so I can see the downside...but I also see the advantage. I think in addition to unrepresentative leaders, Mr. Malik rejects the fact that such practices tend to reinforce community identity and give power to these leaders to define the identity of that community. So, as a secular "Muslim" for example, he would resent having imams or people with traditional religious values being put forth by the government as his 'leader' just because he's of that ethnic/religious group. I can see why he'd say that and why its consistent with one view of small r republicanism but I guess I'm just a brainwashed multiculturalist in some ways.

Quote:

A Marxist? I didn't pick up on that. If you're speaking from knowing Kenan from outside of this diavlog, I'll bow to that -- I recognized the name of his first book, but that's about the extent of my familiarity.
I just did a little googling while I listened to the beginning of the diavlog and his wikipedia entry makes it clear that he's (or was) at least some kind of Marxist. I didn't hear anything to contradict that into the diavlog but maybe I listened to the diavlog through that lens and that may have filtered the way I heard things.

Quote:

I didn't get the sense that the two of them were as dismissive as you did, but then, I'm probably a lot closer to them than you are as far as being impatient with people placing too much emphasis on some of these things. (I don't like to think of myself as only being concerned with materialist things, though, unless I'm misinterpreting what you mean by that term.)
Maybe you can correct me on the word I should use...Of course as a leftist believer who has my own issues with leftist disbelievers I very much enjoy accusing them of being "materialist" because I know that in everyday usage to most people on the left this is a derogatory term that implies selfish or involved with consumerist materialism. But, in fact a Marxist is, of course, a materialist...although I'll admit at this point that upon reading in wikipedia that
"However, Marx's materialist position is not to be confused with simple materialism: in fact, he criticized classic materialism as another idealist philosophy" I'm completely lost. I do know that Marx's materialism has something to do with what we are talking about here, and which I think Mr. Malik shares, as reflected for example in his statement about languages that languages are just a means of communication and that if a better means of communication is found then there is nothing lost in the dying of a language. I agree wholeheartedly with Wonderment's visceral negative reaction to such a perspective.

dankingbooks 11-17-2008 10:19 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Great Diavlog. Thank you.

I agree with Kenan that cultures are not sacrosanct, and should not be preserved as in a museum. I also am sympathetic to immigrants enriching American life. Having said that, there is a political and economic tradition in the USA that very much needs to be preserved. Hence I think assimilation, narrowly understood as the inculcation of political and economic values (life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness) is an urgent necessity.

I also agree that, re Rushdie, liberals have lost the war. The insistence on polite non-offensiveness is ultimately corrosive of a healthy society. So while it was never really my intention, in retrospect I am happy that I have written a thoroughly offensive, politically incorrect book - it insults everybody: Haitians, politicians, women, Christians, and even white males. I suppose Jews are exempt - but only because they're not mentioned at all.

http://www.dankingbooks.com

Ocean 11-18-2008 12:11 AM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Wonderment,

I share your reaction to Kenan's ideas.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 97696)
However, stretching these valid observations into a theory that favors cultural assimilation vs. preservation is unjustified and insensitive to the values of minorities who choose not to conform and be absorbed.

The trivialization of loss of languages was especially chilling.

There are conflicting pressures on immigrants' freedom. One is the pressure to assimilate, conform and switch loyalties to the dominant culture. The other is the internal pressure also to conform and maintain loyalty to the minority culture. These are serious, lifelong, transgenerational challenges. Kenan reduces them to components of an ideology and treats them as if their resolution were easy and obvious.

I want to add that Kenan applies again the either/or concept. There are so many aspects to politics of affiliation that this seems to be an oversimplification. "Identity" includes culture, past, history. It also involves the active process of integration of all these. But identity has relatively fixed components and dynamic, changeable components. This change can be intentional, by an active process of assimilation to a new culture, or unintentional (the 'passive' aspects of assimilation). I was surprised that there was no mention of the term 'acculturation' which is the most common term when talking about cultural integration. Of course, there is always the chance that the explicit and implicit topics are different.

I agree with Wonderment that acculturation isn't necessarily about ideology. An active desire(ideology) to assimilate or not is one part of the process. It is the intellectual decision of what is so central to identity that it can't be changed and what should/ could change. But there's a certain amount of acculturation that occurs separate, and sometimes in spite of, the individual's intention.

Quote:

I also thought both Kerry and Kenan missed the point of adoptive parents exposing their children to their biological heritage. They viewed this as absurd. What could a child who came to England at the age of 9 days have to do with a village in Tibet or Uganda? But there is a powerful connection. In the most obvious sense, the child may have REAL ties to the biological family. And even if she does not, people have a natural curiosity about biological origins. Once adoption is understood by a child, s/he is aware of the dynamic of biological descent and adoptive relations. Pretending this has no meaning is silly. Again, Kenan has offered ideological answers that defy the most obvious truths of human experience and psychology.
Isn't this just obvious? Isn't the desire to know where you come from shared by all humanity? When people live within their culture of origin the need is less powerful. There are so many cultural similarities between individuals that the process of identity validation and affirmation is naturally in place. But when the person isn't living within the culture of origin, the process of identity affirmation is different. For those aspects that have been assimilated, the process is similar to what the natives of the new culture go through. But for those aspects that are fixed (not acculturated), the person needs to seek affirmation by going to the culture of origin. I guess one important point is that identity is dynamic and needs external points of reference for stability. I could speculate that there is great variability as to how much reference is needed to maintain that stability.

Very interesting diavlog.

Baltimoron 11-18-2008 06:06 AM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
I thought concentrating on culture made the entire discussion straw-ish. It's easy to criticize an argument from one department, sociology, with an argument from another department. But, here Malik and Howley never criticized from another department. It was the libertarian mantra.

Without more context and hard data, it's hard to know where to come down.

1. Both DPRK and ROK endorse ethnicity to support their respective political claims.

2. There are speakers of an Elizabethan-era dialect of English living on an isolated island. The Federal government wants to build a naval base, but the retired folk object. The few younger guys support the decision, because they are unemployed and tired of seeing GFs with tourists.

This entire discussion lacked any economic, political, or historical context. In the 80s, the Asian tigers' economic surge prompted hand-wringing about the role of Asian culture and growth. And now, with the financial crisis and China's rise, that debate is being dusted off. I wouldn't argue what Malik did drunk in a room full of South Koreans, no matter how contrarian I might feel. It would just lead to angry posturing, hurt feelings, and a quick end to the evening.

I'm glad Malik endorses change, but claiming change leads to progress is a highly controversial argument. I'm surprised with his insight into the radical enlightenment, he doesn't realize Rousseau argued that change doesn't follow in a linear line through ascending stages of palpable progress.

It was as if I were listening to an atheist debunking Catholicism. It's trite after awhile.

bjkeefe 11-18-2008 01:55 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
I think we've about wrapped this thread up. Just one thing at the end of your last:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Abu Noor Al-Irlandee (Post 97710)
Maybe you can correct me on the word I should use...Of course as a leftist believer who has my own issues with leftist disbelievers I very much enjoy accusing them of being "materialist" because I know that in everyday usage to most people on the left this is a derogatory term that implies selfish or involved with consumerist materialism. [...]

That's the sense I was objecting to. One doesn't have to believe in God to value and work for, say, honesty, kindness, justice, friendship, or any number of other non-material things, including preferring these things over acquisition of consumer products.

As to "materialist" as a philosophical term ... I'll punt. I just can't get interested in discussing these kinds of definitions. Sorry -- just not to my taste.

bjkeefe 11-18-2008 02:12 PM

Re: What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Abu Noor Al-Irlandee (Post 97708)
Thanks for your comments Brendan. I'm sorry if my post came out as I was criticizing you or calling for you to make disclaimers -- that's not what I was getting at (I actually had a longer reply to you but I decided against really getting into the nitty gritty of this issue, my chopping of my post may have left my own point unclear).

My point was not asking you to issue a disclaimer but just hoping that we keep in mind what the issue is. If we agree that we're talking about a small minority even of the fundamentalists who react with violence that frames the "problem" in a much different light than if the "problem" is people like me who aren't going to do anything at all but still can't laugh at ridicule of what I hold sacred.

Well, we're really talking about both, aren't we? To be sure, the small group of people who use violence in reaction to these sorts of things is entirely different from those who use other means of protesting. I think it's also true that you and I pretty much agree on both -- violence unacceptable, most other ways of protesting, like boycotts, marching in the streets, firing off letters to editors, politicians, the businesses involved: fine.

Obviously, we disagree on the claim that something can be held so sacred that jokes about it are always objectionable.

Quote:

I think Mr. Malik is deliberately moving us into that gray area because he's complaining even about self-censorship of private business entities that does not prevent the book from getting published. So we're not talking about violence anymore, I just wanted to figure out what exactly we were talking about.
Since Random House's punting on this specific book didn't prevent it from being published, it all worked out, perhaps. But bully for the smaller publisher who showed more courage, I say.

I'd also say that, in general, I worry more about corporate instincts to self-censor in this day and age because of the conglomeration problem. Random House being unwilling to publish a book because they fear controversy is like living in a one-newspaper town, where the publisher doesn't want a story run. Sure, there are options, and I'm not saying that everyone who writes a book (or newspaper article) has an inherent right to be published, but big companies tend to play things too safe, in my view.

I don't remember Kenan's views on this issue exactly, so I'll have to leave it there.

bjkeefe 11-18-2008 02:25 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 97703)
Where are public funds being used to keep dying languages alive? Do you mean Latin as taught in US high schools? That language is not dying; it's already dead.

Are you opposed to American Indians using federal education dollars for Cheyenne or Apache children to learn their ancestral languages? Or do you think it should be English Only on the rez?

Good rebuttal.

I don't really have a coherent point of view on this, nor can I recall specific cases that would be good examples of what I had in mind. I'll concede up front that money spent to keep a language from dying is not a budget-buster, the thought of which keeps me up nights like John McCain and overhead projectors.

I don't think either of your examples exactly apply to the sort of issue I had in mind, though. Latin may be a dead language in the sense that people don't use it colloquially or for more formal exchanges of ideas, but it still is useful to study because of the way it underpins so many languages that we do use.

I also don't have a problem with school children being taught ancestral Indian languages in Federally-funded schools if that's what the (still living) elders want and there are still a fair number of them around.

I'm talking more about the sort of case where there's like one 90-year-old guy left who speaks a particular tongue, everyone else close to him doesn't (and doesn't care), and more to the point, that outside parties take this up as an issue.

I'm caricaturing here a little, to be sure, based on stories not well remembered, and as I said, this isn't the sort of problem that I actually think is breaking the bank.

Wonderment 11-18-2008 03:28 PM

Re: What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
Couple of interesting things here:

Quote:

I think it's also true that you and I pretty much agree on both -- violence unacceptable, most other ways of protesting, like boycotts, marching in the streets, firing off letters to editors, politicians, the businesses involved: fine.
I'm not so sure you and Abu Noor agree on when violence is acceptable. I don't think either of you agree with me (never), but I'd like to hear both your views.

Quote:

Since Random House's punting on this specific book didn't prevent it from being published, it all worked out, perhaps. But bully for the smaller publisher who showed more courage, I say.
I'm not so sure. I'd like to hear Random House's side of the story. There may be more to the academic objections than the caricature of a political correction freak at a college in Texas. The story just didn't ring entirely true for me, although I may have been unduly biased by Kenan's (show-off?) display of the $100,000 price tag.

bjkeefe 11-18-2008 03:45 PM

Re: What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 97792)
I'm not so sure you and Abu Noor agree on when violence is acceptable. I don't think either of you agree with me (never), but I'd like to hear both your views.

I believe Abu Noor and I agree that violence is not acceptable in this context; e.g., setting fire to the offices or attacking employees of the newspaper or book publisher for printing something "offensive."

I can't give a comprehensive statement on when I do think violence is acceptable, though you're right to say that I do think it is under some circumstances.

Quote:

I'm not so sure. I'd like to hear Random House's side of the story. There may be more to the academic objections than the caricature of a political correction freak at a college in Texas. The story just didn't ring entirely true for me, although I may have been unduly biased by Kenan's (show-off?) display of the $100,000 price tag.
I'm not that familiar with this case. I remember reading about it when it happened, and Kenan's account sounded more or less the same -- Random House asked various people if the book could be considered offensive, some who were asked said yes, those who did were sort of PC (as opposed to, say, explaining something completely new that was hugely offensive and an obvious deal-breaker), and Random House punted. I'm willing to grant that it might not have been that simple, but I haven't heard anything to suggest otherwise.

[Added] My sense of the level of offensiveness was that it more or less compared to The Da Vinci Code, which some Catholics found offensive for the way Opus Dei was portrayed, and for the sort of Dionysian secret rituals that were the "true" Christian way.

I'll grant that Catholics in the US are hardly under as much pressure as a put-upon minority as Muslims are, these days, and so I can see being a little more sensitive to the latter's concerns. But not to the extent of not publishing a book merely because a relatively few people would find it offensive.

Wonderment 11-18-2008 03:52 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Quote:

Latin may be a dead language in the sense that people don't use it colloquially or for more formal exchanges of ideas, but it still is useful to study because of the way it underpins so many languages that we do use.
It's dead in the sense that it has no native speakers. As for usefulness because it underpins other languages.... it doesn't really "underpin." It shares some grammatical and lexical features with related languages like Italian, French, Catalán, Spanish, Rumanian and a few others. You might as well study Italian. That way you have all the advantages of underpinning and you speak a living language.

Anyway, my point was not to dissuade students from learning Latin. Best reasons for doing so: there's tons of great literature; you get to hang out with other Latin geeks; you can crack esoteric and risque jokes with Jesuits; you can read inscriptions on churches.

bjkeefe 11-18-2008 03:59 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 97794)
It's dead in the sense that it has no native speakers. As for usefulness because it underpins other languages.... it doesn't really "underpin." It shares some grammatical and lexical features with related languages like Italian, French, Catalán, Spanish, Rumanian and a few others. You might as well study Italian. That way you have all the advantages of underpinning and you speak a living language.

Anyway, my point was not to dissuade students from learning Latin. Best reasons for doing so: there's tons of great literature; you get to hang out with other Latin geeks; you can crack esoteric and risque jokes with Jesuits; you can read inscriptions on churches.

Sounds undead to me.

And there's at least one more reason for learning Latin: so much literature that still exists that is written in Latin.

I didn't take it when I had the chance, thinking as you did when you suggested Italian instead. (I took French because my mother wouldn't let me take Spanish, but that's another story.) But I do wish I had, at least for a year or two.

Wonderment 11-18-2008 05:31 PM

Re: Cultural preservation, cultural change, etc.
 
Speaking of culture clash/multiculturalism, Michael, a personal friend of mine recently made diplomatic history in Iran (with NO preconditions):

Quote:

In September, during the opening of the current session of the United Nations, The Fellowship of Reconciliation had the unique opportunity on behalf of the peace and justice movement to convene a special meeting with the President of Iran. More than 150 individuals from nearly 50 organizations participated....By providing this forum, we exposed Iranian President Ahmadinejad to comments and questions he might otherwise not hear. ....we are inspired by the courageous witness of Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb. As co-leader of FOR's seventh delegation to Iran, she made history as the first female American Rabbi to set foot publicly in Iran. Her courage was evident once again in her participation at a dinner with the Iranian President.

Wonderment 11-18-2008 05:41 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Quote:

Sounds undead to me.
Perhaps only in articulo mortis; id est, in extremis.

mojomojo 11-18-2008 08:19 PM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
kenanmalik.com
Worst. Website. Ever.


Did I hear her correctly? I believe that she said that the reproduction of culture was primarily the responsibility of women. If that is not an antiquated view of both gender and culture, then I don't know what is.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee 11-18-2008 10:23 PM

Re: What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
Brendan, you are right that we agree that the type of violent actions you describe are not acceptable...however would you say that violence in response to words is never justified? I'm not sure I could make it as a general statement, it goes back to my example of someone insulting one's mother -- do I think slugging a guy who does that is wrong? It depends on the context. There are contexts in which words constitute at the least a threat and in some cases basically constitute a type of violence. Think of the n-word or other racial epithets in the context of persecution of a certain group?

Wonderment, I certainly admire the type of pacifism (the type that resists injustice and government violence, not the type that passively lends indirect support to status quo) you advocate on these forums and in practice basically try to lead my life in a similar way although I am not a pacifist in principle.

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 97793)
I believe Abu Noor and I agree that violence is not acceptable in this context; e.g., setting fire to the offices or attacking employees of the newspaper or book publisher for printing something "offensive."

I can't give a comprehensive statement on when I do think violence is acceptable, though you're right to say that I do think it is under some circumstances.

[Added] My sense of the level of offensiveness was that it more or less compared to The Da Vinci Code, which some Catholics found offensive for the way Opus Dei was portrayed, and for the sort of Dionysian secret rituals that were the "true" Christian way.

I'll grant that Catholics in the US are hardly under as much pressure as a put-upon minority as Muslims are, these days, and so I can see being a little more sensitive to the latter's concerns. But not to the extent of not publishing a book merely because a relatively few people would find it offensive.

With regard to the book, I haven't read it. (and don't plan to) I think it's a strange thing, because as far as I can tell the author seems to maintain that she had intentions that were entirely sympathetic to Muslims and that she approached the project trying to do something she thought would benefit Muslims. However, the idea that she came up with, an historical romantic fiction about the intimate relationship between the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his wife, 'Aisha --- well it's hard/impossible to imagine a concept more inherently likely to offend Muslims. Now, would anything actually happen if Random House published the book...I think we're in a weird area because I think without the media driven controversies surrounding this type of thing it's hard to imagine many Muslims noticing such a book and the ones who would would certainly not react with violence. The actual publication in the U.S. has been completely uneventful as far as I know although it has provoked some discussion and I believe there have been incidents in other countries.

Da Vinci Code, I have not read, I did try to sit through the dvd but couldn't make it. (normally a Ron Howard/Tom Hanks fan, but not a big action movie guy). Unless I totally misunderstand the premise I think there's some larger underlying offensive aspects of the concept than the whole Opus Dei thing, but in any event I would compare it more to Last Temptation of Christ (also unseen by me) than to Da Vinci Code in the level of offense. (again at the level of concept, the author repeats unceasingly that she did not desire to offend in execution.) Muslims who have reviewed the book (mainly pretty liberal Muslims who have defended its publication have criticized the book for not being very historically accurate to the cultural realities of the time and basically being a mix of orientalist fantasies of harems with romantic fiction cliches.

My biggest underlying puzzlement is why Random House originally agreed to advance 100,000 for this book (which seems a lot to me for genre fiction from a non-famous author) if it wasn't actually seeking controversy. But if they were seeking controversy why did they back out, I do know the academic critics (labelled as pc by Brendan) who were initially highly critical emphasized the historical problems and objected to the book being described on the jacket as being deeply researched. It seems unlikely that this would really be a big problem for a publisher of historical fiction,though, I'm sure much of what is published would be considered not historically accurate by actual academic historians, but hey I know absolutely nothing about publishing and am not a big reader of fiction at all myself although I like the idea of historical fiction a great deal.

Wonderment 11-19-2008 03:05 AM

Re: Cultural preservation, cultural change, etc.
 
Quote:

I'd love to see a transcript of the exchanges with Ahmadinejad.

Here it is.

Wonderment 11-19-2008 03:26 AM

Re: Cultural preservation, cultural change, etc.
 
And the link to an article on Rabbi Lynn's remarks to Ahmadinejad

bjkeefe 11-19-2008 03:36 AM

Re: What is the point re: Jewel of Medina?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Abu Noor Al-Irlandee (Post 97822)
Brendan, you are right that we agree that the type of violent actions you describe are not acceptable...however would you say that violence in response to words is never justified? I'm not sure I could make it as a general statement, it goes back to my example of someone insulting one's mother -- do I think slugging a guy who does that is wrong? It depends on the context. There are contexts in which words constitute at the least a threat and in some cases basically constitute a type of violence. Think of the n-word or other racial epithets in the context of persecution of a certain group?

I don't know if I'd say that violence in reaction to words is never ever justified, but in your two examples, I'd say the reaction would be more understandable than justified. I suppose if the scenarios you sketch were part of an ongoing pattern, and a quick smack in the mouth put an end to it, I'd call that justified.

Wonderment 11-19-2008 06:01 AM

Re: Cultural preservation, cultural change, etc.
 
בסדר

אכר כד תגיד לי מה אתה חושב


בינתיים I will keep your Jewish Peace Fellowship application open :)

bjkeefe 11-19-2008 06:13 AM

Re: Free Will: Strange Fruit
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 97804)
Perhaps only in articulo mortis; id est, in extremis.

Maybe it's better to think of it as a zombie -- not only is it not dead, but it appears to be resisting all efforts to kill it.


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 04:22 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.