Eagle and serpent

explorations and philosophy: in the world, of the world

Tag: rhetoric

On ‘pretext’

Going through some word definitions and contexts of their use brought me to ‘pretext‘. Nicely contextualised to the speeches of Cato the Elder, I somehow got reminded of our present media war-drum beating against Iran.

It’s been a while since I watched this, but the past rhetorical build-up against Iraq is very similar to the ongoing one. Now, watching the video, who exactly is a threat to whom?

One thing is for sure, however. War-mongering Americans have read their history well.


On the origin of food

Writing about the origin of food for us contemporary supermarket-bound and slow-food-preferring culinarily-minded individuals has been tickling my mind for over a year now. Maybe it’s a good reason to start blogging again, who knows?

It started last year as I ordered a grilled rock lobster in a fine restaurant in Lisbon. Picked up living, the waiter squeezed his eyes to make him “say goodbye” by waving his only remaining arm (the other one had been taken away for a reason unknown to me, probably for the reasons of economic profit). As it happened, Luis tried to jump off the plate, but the laughing executioner aptly caught him. Within minutes, Luis returned to me, halved, grilled and scenting of saffron. Tasteful.

Although I failed to blog about this funny incident back then, I was reminded by it this year as I was fishing with my brave niece and nephew. Catching the numerous fish, mostly zander and the pike, was of course exhilarating. It was also exiting for everyone to row to the shore and meet the children’s mother and grandmother and tell them about the epic trip, wondering the beasts. But…the question emerged…then what? What was to be the destiny of those pritive, sharp-toothed beings?

Well, this brings us to the crossroads of real life and philosophy; and how the use of language ‘sanitises’ our life-experiences. What I did with the fish was I killed, slaughtered and cut them to pieces. Intriguingly, my choices of words of explaining the then-on-going process were not extremely highly regarded by the gate-keepers of family morality. Why? Should we clean our vocabularies of violence, even if that is exactly what we do to living beings to keep ourselves (well-)fed?

In our contemporary society, death and violence are highly regulated, conceptually and rhetorically. Meat comes from the supermarket and when people grow old they end up dying in hospitals (this gives a whole new meaning to ‘taking care’, doesn’t it?). Violence is abundant in entertainment, but daycare aunties and other professionals of education condemn boyish wrestling as ‘gendered violence’. In this post, I’m only concentrating on the un-knowability of the origin of food and how children should be protected from knowing it? Or should they?

The main reason for this seems to be to save them from the emotional distress of losing their cuddly animal friends. On the other hand, our whole Western lifestyle depends on killing; not only animals, but other human beings as well. What a hypocritical dilemma! In other words, we want to whitewash our life-worlds by the proper use of words. Everyone knows that ‘killing’ doesn’t sound that good.

This might be a thread in the development of ‘cleaning’ media-vocabularies as well: is this not similar to ‘neutralising’ terrorists? In a sense, this combines patronising, neo-colonialism and compassion. ‘Cleaning’ fish and ‘terrorist training facilities’ doesn’t sound that bad after all…

Jesters allowed

A rather disturbing remark closed a fine Žižek documentary. Reacting to someone’s question about the ‘funniness’ side of his popularity, he raised his concern of that in many places he is only published/read/heard when he tells jokes when confronting serious social and political issues. In other words–being funny is the prerequisite of having voice!

The importance lies in that elite-disturbing talk is not welcome at all, with the natural exception of ‘eccentric professors’, ‘artists’ and other marginal groups whose very existence legitimates the canon of ‘liberal democracy’. And when they do raise their voice, they are only allowed to do it when they take the time not to confront the status quo directly.

Hence, every time one feels the urge to voice criticism, one should adopt the helpful attitude of actively planting ‘comediality’ to one’s talk; thus avoiding the direct confrontation of the established language-game!

A thought that also rang my Rorty-bell immediately (Contingency, irony, and solidarity: pp. 48)!

Those who speak the old language and have no wish to change, those who regard it as a hallmark of rationality or morality to speak just that language, will regard as altogether irrational the appeal of the new metaphors – the new language game which the radicals, the youth, or the avant-garde are playing. The popularity of the new ways of speaking will be viewed as a matter of “fashion” or “the need to rebel” or “decadence.” The question of why people speak this way will be treated as beneath the level of conversation – a matter to be turned over to psychologists or, if necessary, the police.

Violent, us?

Once someone criticises this place, the righteous appear to come up with all kinds of explanations and feeble defenses. Quite recently, an Estonia-born author noted Ultima Thule to have a culture that embraces violence at all its levels. With the obvious reactions.

One doesn’t have to refer to the national statistics to note that here people are unfriendly, untactful and unappealing. Added to the visions of war and mythical relationship to the existence of the nation make the obvious contribution. Everything here seems to be just one more instance of the ‘miracle of the winter war’.

Luckily, we’ll once again see how the nation lies (as independence day looms just one away). It’s interesting to see in practice and festive speeches how ‘our’ security is nowadays extended to participate in the coalition of the willing, defending what the Americans call ‘human rights’.

It might also be intriguing to psycho-analyse our militaristic right, as it seems to be suffering of the fact that they cannot openly and with the fullest of their ability participate in the so-called ‘peacekeeping’ operations.

UPDATE: Breaking news–the defense minister visiting Afghanistan over i-day! How metaphorical!

Nah, I don’t think so…

When the old regime handed the power over to the new one (in America), some analysts anticipated European countries losing the ‘W-argument’ of shirking away from the unified Western coalition. That is, the old, trans-Atlantic way of doing things would re-appear and flourish.

Now that the Norwegian groupies have awarded a peace prize for intensifying violence in a futile attempt to influence future foreign (military, of course) policy, some effects can already be identified. Verily, Europe is following the lead, namely the spotless reputation of Mr. Obama. His presence and hype serve as a perfect pretext for avoiding uncomfortable agreements!

More from Klein here.

When the ice cubes melt

Been gathering some steam for a while now… I think now it’s time to vent some of it!

It hardly comes as a surprise that Ultima Thule is perhaps not the most inspiring place to live. An interesting re-phrasing caught my eye this week, however. A British anthropologist (living in Oulu, uuh) depicted Finland being “a diluted Greenland”. What a neat, condensed way of putting it!

This is exactly how it is. Religiousness, alcoholism, traditional values, lack of critical thinking… Let’s just not start, the list is far too long and f*ed up to be completed here. I’d like to focus my attention to something else, namely the mass media.

I might be exaggerating, but I think it’s extremely hard to find information of the world in this place, in the local language. If I didn’t have UK and Middle East sources in my feeds, I would almost completely be at the mercy of mainstream media. And this is full of ‘news’ that are either foolish, irrelevant, or local to ridiculousness. Maybe we should start talking about ‘newslets’?

Then again, whose relevance? It may well be the case that laypeople just.don’t.care about South Waziristan military offensive, but when the extent reaches ignoring militaristic apartheid regimes defying UN reports, I think things are going a bit too far. To prove my point, I went to the 1st source of unbiased and objective journalism. As I’m writing this, the paper has the following topics under ‘news’ -> ‘foreign’ (not always the exact wording):

  1. Additional Finnish occupiers’ return from Afghanistan likely to be delayed
  2. Farmers burned tires in Paris
  3. French bees are distressed by the countryside

What? Is there really nothing more interesting happening in the world than bees and their ‘psychological’ symptoms?

I’m not a fan of imagined conspiracies, so it might just be due to ignorance, anti-intellectualism and lack of market. Which is, kind of, soothing, right?

Proselytise the traveller

There is one thing that I’ve come across in some Muslim countries I’ve visited. It’s the eagerness of some locals to convert me to Islam.

First one took place in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, when the warden gave me a handful of leaflets telling how wonderful the faith was. I had been staring at the beautiful murals, obviously long enough to trigger his mission. In Eastern Turkey, the approach was not that respectful. A bearded man challenged me and my friend of us “Not respecting Mohammad, why?” Answering that kind of question is quite hard: “Umm…we don’t disrespect, he’s just not part of the doctrine…” invoked just another set of questions and suspicions.

In Iran, everyone minded their own business in terms of religion.

In Sahara, however, it happened again. In the shared taxi from Tan Tan to Laayoune, my neighbour (young and multi-lingual guy) suddenly popped out the question: “Why are you not a Muslim?” “Well, I was not brought to be one, and haven’t felt the need to convert” was my initial reply. This was not satisfactory. Interestingly, he used the exactly same argument than the man in Van (East Turkey): “Why hold on to a faith that is obviously wrong? Islam is correct, so you should convert to it.”

Needless to say, a philosophical argument questioning the foundations of his claim didn’t yield much. Raising the issue of having read the Qur’an and still not believing didn’t help either… Oh well.

It’s just interesting. There must be something in the religious mind that makes them spread the ‘good’ word. It happens also in the better families. It’s a gift, not an attempt to proselytise!

Changing plans in Sahara

Sometimes one has to change plans with a few minutes notice. Being in Sahara makes it much more interesting.

Earlier during the day I was replied by the helpful Canaries-based travel agency that “yes we do have flights from Nouadhibou to Las Palmas, no problem”. I had already booked a seat in a 4wd towards the border to take off early in the morning to cover the last stretch across the desert. I was already about to change my fistful of dirhams to euros, when I decided to double-check.

Marta told me with a surprised voice that “we don’t have flights between Mauritania and the Canary Islands”. When inquiring the purpose of the email stating the complete opposite, she simply noted: “oh yes, all flights were cancelled later today, sorry”. Oh yeah, thanks for keeping me updated.

Of course, all parties having an economic interest in me reacted angrily. Moors are not that nice people when you’re cancelling something. Two guys (one I never seen before) started shouting and telling complete lies about the availability of foreign currency, flights and other stuff across the border. When they couldn’t persuade me to stick with my original plan, they tried an even more aggressive approach. Only “what are you going to do about it” ended the conversation.

Having burned the bridges, it was time to find means to get out of town, quickly.

Anglo media and Gaza

Attending a seminar about Israeli apartheid at SOAS last week was truly intriguing. The last session (the only one I had the opportunity to attend) was about Western media and how it reported the most recent Gaza aggression.

As many of us suspected, US corporate media has no journalistic mission. Hence, is it possible to speak of money ‘creeping in’ anymore? As pointed out, commercial media corporations have audiences, agendas and sets of powerful stakeholders. This means that money (among other things), is an issue. In skilful hands, it can be effectively used to manage public opinion, which was done in the case of Gaza, early this year. Among other things, casus belli was fabricated-“it was them again, we have to respond…”

On one hand, one of the two forces at play, media is being unified in the face of the global economic downturn-media houses cannot afford to have reporters, translators and related experts in-house, reports (and reporters) are bought, um, outsourced. On the other hand, independent media is growing rapidly, and sites that observe and publish stories written by independent reporters around the world are becoming sources that collect material without the money-bias (other biases, surely). This is the way up-to-date, non-IDF sourced news were reported and spread during the last conflict.

In the discussion, a couple of interesting points of the film Waltz with Bashir emerged. Beyond the straightforward ‘sympathy for the killers’, animals (dogs and horses) were shown as the creatures suffering from the war, rather than Palestinian civilians. This is how UK and US media work, they present Israeli civilians and soldiers as feeling individuals, whereas Arabs earn the label of a crowd-‘militants’, ‘fanatics’, you name it. This rhetorical strategy is similar to the one used in Viet Nam by the force-feeder of ‘democracy’; the United States of America. This is just another example of attaching otherness to one’s enemies. But this is of course, nothing new.

Assimilation to the occupier’s society and the adoption of Western values fed to the Palestinians as the panacea to peace and prosperity was no news. The same consumerist message is delivered over and over again to the inattentive Western public. But the glorification of collaborators was new. I can understand the ‘will to power’ and using media to achieve this and all kinds of other objectives. But there is nothing more perverse than saying to the subjugated that their continued existence requires self-immolation-the ultimate humiliation!

New messiah

When navigating the last 20 metres to the gym takes about five minutes, things are just not right. Having to wade through an open-mouthed, dead-silent mass of cult followers with your training bag is an annoying experience. And yes, it was Tuesday, about five o’clock GMT – you know what was on that time. The news of the day…

Fine, I don’t have a problem with people eagerly watching every step of the Rolling Stones or saying their prayers to any of the dead gods. But when my dearly paid gym experience is obstructed by “God bless America” a multitude of times, not to speak of the religious, nationalistic and moralistic messages openly and less so embedded in the liturgy, my patience grew thin.

Luckily I arrived towards the end of the worshipping, so in the end of my session I could lift my weights listening to that normal, shitty techno…