"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Making something clear/making something ambiguous

When do we listen to someone besides Tom Friedman, and figure this out?

Number two is the problem of this perspective of Sunni, Shiite and Kurd. It’s been repeated ad nauseum so that now it seems real. The fact is, these categories are not functioning categories, as well. And these are the product of the United States’ imperialist look upon Iraq. Sadly, since the invasion and because of the political system that Bremer put in place, he turned these ethno-religious identities into political identities, because they put the quota system in the governing council. But ten or fifteen years ago, people did not define themselves primarily as Sunni or Shiite and Kurds, you know. There were other kinds of identifications.

But the destruction of the social fabric of Iraq under the sanctions and the political void that was created by overthrowing a regime and then the political system that Bremer put in place -- and the media also were parroting this thing about Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites with, you know, no consideration for class differences, urban and rural differences -- let’s take, for example, the Shiites. It’s not that all Shiites want the same thing, you know. You know, middle class Shiites in Najaf want something different from the downtrodden in Sadr City.
As for the withdrawal now being championed by the New York Times, among others, let me just say, along with Mr. Antoon: the devil is in the details.

But I just want to say also that we’ve been embroiled in this debate about withdrawal. You know what? Even if there is withdrawal, it’s going to be withdrawal Israeli style, from urban centers to the military bases. Most people, Democrats and Republicans, are saying we are staying there for ten or fifty or sixty years. So all this talk about withdrawal is just to fool the American people. It’s withdrawal from the urban centers to the military bases that have been built there with millions and millions of dollars, and to let the natives kill each other. This is old colonial style: when it’s too costly, you let the natives kill each other, let the natives police each other.
Richard Lugar never said: Get out now. Harry Reid has yet to say: get out now. We are entitled to ask, if Mr. Reid does hold votes to "get out" of Iraq: How far is "out"? The answer is in the description of the word I’jaam:

It’s a word that has two double meanings, antithetical meanings, that have to do with the Arabic script, because initially the Arabic script was without dots, although many of the letters had one or two or three dots. Initially, the dots were not actually written and could be understood from the context and the structure. And later, to avoid ambiguity in interpretation in reading, some suggested that the dots should be written, and because the dots were borrowed from a foreign language, which was Aramaic at the time, so dotting came to have two double meanings. One of them is elucidating and making something clear, but also because it was borrowed from a foreign language, it came to mean making something ambiguous.
An interesting insight into language, and how we use it; and into human thought. Something imported from a foreign language brings part of it's "foreignness" with it. So that when we say we cannot say, we say "je ne sais quois." When we want to meet someone, we rendezvous. When we expect a reply to an invitation, it is an "RSVP." Do we speak more clearly when we do this, or do we admit we cannot clarify, and so introduce the ambiguities of a foreign tongue to our conversation? Just as when we do not know who the parties are we are fighting, or why they are fighting us, or even what, exactly or even imprecisely, is going on, we label them "Shi'ites" and "Sunnis," with no more understanding of what those terms mean than if we labeled them Cavaliers and Roundheads, and applying the terms as if they were ethnic designations, we suddenly understand what we think is the ancient history of Europe, a history we think America is inoculated against, and even as we introduce the terms to our language for clarity, we introduce into our discourse even greater ambiguity.

And so we may withdraw: but how far is far enough, and how far is too far? We cannot be hasty and we cannot be precipitous and we cannot act to create even greater danger than our soldiers face now, and we cannot declare their deaths in vain, and we cannot take responsibility, so....?

Just how much clarity can we take? Just how much ambiguity do we desire? Funny how close to "a jam" I'jaam is in pronunciation, huh? I wonder if that clarifies it, or makes it more ambiguous?


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