THOSE CRAZY POOR MIDDLE EASTERNERS

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There is a compulsion that burns inside of me to share everything I read, especially if what I read is exceptionally well-written. Lately this compulsion has been burning very brightly indeed, mainly because I have been reading a plethora of brilliantly well-written articles on all sorts of subject matters. In that note please find below quotes from an assortment of said articles.

We have the comedian Dara Ó Briain on why right wing comics should make more jokes about Muslims, journalist Nesrine Malik on the increasing fabrication of media stories about Muslims, journalist Thomas Friedman on those crazy poor Middle Easterners, journalist Kenan Malik on the three-decades-long legacy of Salman Rushdie and his Satanic verses, and finally we have author David Macaray on why Trump (yes, him again) is exactly and everything we deserve. So good is this last article that it is presented in full.

Yes, I know, this seems like a lot but trust me, each article is worth reading, especially in full. As always links to the original articles are presented below. Enjoy!


Dara Ó Briain On Why Comedians Are Reluctant To Do Mock The Week

Steven McIntosh, 28 Sep 2018, bbc.co.uk

While there’s no shortage of aspiring stand-ups, one thing which is regularly commented on in the industry is how the overwhelming majority of comedians are left-wing. Lee Hurst and Geoff Norcott are among the few notable exceptions in a landscape where most comedians poke fun at Brexit or the Conservative government. “It’s a weird one,” Ó Briain says. “Right-wing comedy tends not to work so well just because there’s an element of what’s punching up and what’s punching down…it’s easier to make jokes when you’re attacking something that’s in power rather than attacking down. Any time somebody [on the right] complains about this, the answer is, go and write some jokes. For a start, you’re the one who believes in a free market, there’s a market there, so go and write some. People go, ‘Oh you don’t make jokes about the Muslims,’ – go for it. Listen, no-one is stopping you from doing all the Muslim jokes you want. You just can’t order me to do the jokes on the topics you want.”


The Thirst For Stories That Vilify Muslims Has Eroded Basic Principles Of Journalism

Nesrine Malik, 11 Sep 2018, newstatesman.com

There are times when the Overton Window shifts right before your very eyes. It is bewildering, with the texture of a particular kind of nightmare, where a horrific thing is happening but banality continues around it. You find yourself pointing to it in horror as it creeps away, and simultaneously falling in shock that everyone else is still going about their business. This is what it has been like to live through how Muslims are talked about in the UK. Over the past decade or so, reporting on Muslims has gone from dog-whistling to fearmongering, to complete fabrication without consequences. To observe it doing so has been to watch a race to the bottom of standards violation.


Crazy Poor Middle Easterners

Thomas L Friedman, 04 Sep 2018, nytimes.com

The Middle East could prosper if it would put its past behind it…

I greatly enjoyed the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” because, beyond the many laugh lines, it reminded me of an important point: Rich Asia has gotten really rich — not because it doesn’t have political, tribal, ethnic and religious differences like other regions, but because in more places on more days it learned to set those differences aside and focus on building the real foundations of sustainable wealth: education, trade, infrastructure, human capital and, in the most successful places, the rule of law. Most of Asia became prosperous not by discovering natural resources but by tapping its human resources — men and women — and giving them the tools to realize their potential.

It got me thinking that if someone were to do a similar movie about the Middle East it could be called “Crazy Poor Middle Easterners.” Because, with a few exceptions, this region has never been a bigger mess, had more people fighting over who owns which olive tree, had more cities turned to rubble by rival sects and missed its potential so vastly. The region of the world that should be naturally rich has made itself poor by repeatedly letting the past bury the future and the region that is naturally poor has made itself rich by letting the future bury the past.


The Satanic Verses Sowed The Seeds Of Rifts That Have Grown Ever Wider

Kenan Malik, 29 Sep 2018, theguardian.com

Three decades after Salman Rushdie’s novel ignited Muslim fury and shook the world, we’ve yet to learn the right lessons…Thirty years ago last week, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses was published. Rushdie was then perhaps the most celebrated British novelist of his generation. His new novel, five years in the making, had been expected to set the world alight, though not quite in the way that it did…The controversy over The Satanic Verses brought into focus issues that have since become defining problems of the age – the nature of Islam, the meaning of multiculturalism, the boundaries of tolerance in a liberal society and the limits of free speech in a plural world. That, 30 years on, we still blindly wrestle with these issues reveals how little we have learned from the Rushdie affair. And how the lessons we have learned have often been the wrong ones.


Donald Trump Is Everything We Deserve

David Macaray, 28 Sep 2018, counterpunch.org

Besides the grinding, debilitating repetition, the reason I can’t bear to watch professional comedians do their Donald Trump shtick is that the material is so obviously based on the premise that this guy is somehow unworthy of being our president. That his being elected was a monumental goof, a mistake, that we don’t deserve him.

In addition to being insufferably smug and self-congratulatory, that assumption is demonstrably false. If we step back and take an unsentimental, warts-and-all look at ourselves, we realize that Trump is not only worthy of being president, he seems the obvious choice for it, the loathsome destination of an inevitable journey.

Consider: The U.S. is, first and foremost, a nation of consumers. Manufacturers know it, advertisers know it, the Ukrainians know it, and Trump knows it. Indeed, there’s nothing we Americans won’t buy if it’s properly advertised and promoted. And say what you will about Trump, but the man is, first and foremost, a fanatical salesman and promoter.

Consider: We Americans are practical people, which is why we don’t form queues at poetry readings. There’s no shame in that. We simply aren’t a nation of poetry lovers. But we do form queues (often unbelievably long, serpentine queues), beginning at midnight, waiting for the store to open so we can purchase the newest technology. That’s because we’re a nation addicted to buying stuff. And Trump knows how to sell stuff.

Consider: We gush over rich people. We idolize them. But because that realization seems vaguely “un-Christian,” we pretend we don’t. We tell our children that “money isn’t everything,” but we don’t even believe that ourselves. We are in awe of Wall Street because Wall Street is Taj Mahal rich. And Trump is rich.

Consider: We love celebrities, and Trump was a TV celebrity. We love glamour, and the Trumps are glamorous. Wife Melania and daughter Ivanka are exotic creatures. Granted, that is more a testament to cosmetic surgery than the generosity of Mother Nature, but exotic creatures nonetheless. And as much as we pretend to respect “authenticity,” we don’t. Plastic is good.

Consider: Unlike much of the world, we Americans have always despised intellectuals. We pretend we don’t, but we do. We resent cultural snobs, know-it-alls, smarty-pants media types, and “deep thinkers,” and we admire salt-of-the-earth businessmen, self-made moguls, and (counter-intuitively) military officers.

That’s partly because of our native egalitarianism, and partly because we don’t wish to be reminded of our ignorance. We prefer brevity and plain talk to complexity. We embrace slogans (“Make America Great Again”), and avoid nuance, ambiguity, and self-doubt. Arguably, if we don’t count Ronald Reagan, Trump is the most anti-intellectual president since Andrew Jackson.

Consider: We admire conspicuous muscle and power. Accordingly, as long as the combat doesn’t occur on our own soil, we prefer war to peace. We pretend we don’t, but we do. If that weren’t the case, our defense budget wouldn’t be so absurdly bloated, and we wouldn’t have been engaged in all the military adventurism that has defined us since the end of World War II.

Consider: We Americans are a narcissistic people. We pretend we aren’t, but we are. We don’t have to be tied down and water-boarded to confess that we think we’re the greatest country in the world. Not only the greatest country in the world, but very likely the greatest country in the history of the world. If that ain’t narcissism, what is it?

And yet, for all this, we still pretend we don’t deserve Trump? We still pretend to be surprised that we elected a shallow, dishonest, narcissistic bully as our president? As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be. So we must be very careful about what we pretend.”

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