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Re: <nettime> Iraq: The Way Forward
Brian Holmes on Sat, 6 Jan 2007 18:56:50 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Iraq: The Way Forward


The notion of a teachable moment is fundamental. I take it to mean, a 
moment when every thoughtful and responsible American, in whatever 
medium, arena, theater, conversation or public or private function they 
occupy or can open up, should seize the occasion of widespread 
uncertainty, failed policy and political transition and use it to state 
facts, raise questions and outline alternatives that can help shift the 
way people think about the role of the US in the world. One can see from 
the way that Michael Goldhaber has written his text that it is  meant to 
be clear, within practically anyone's reading capacities, unambiguous, 
useful, memorable. I like that. As the Iraqi quagmire swallows up the 
last bit of Bush's credibility along with many mistaken American 
certainties, there is a chance to step into the gap, to change the US 
world view.

Benjamin Geer's response adds another dimension. From an American 
perspective, it is what you might call global media radicalism. Al 
Jazeera has for years been painted as America's enemy, a dark, ignorant, 
gesticulating fountain of lies. Ben portrays it as a kind of open door 
to the disjunctive realities of the 21st century. Qatar has colonized 
Britain. This, as most people on nettime realize, is possible because 
world financial flows, concentrating around sources of petrol, have 
utterly transformed the Arabian peninsula in a period of only 35 years 
(since 1973). But the dangerous gap between this aristocratic and 
capitalistic node of the world network in Arabia, and the regional 
audience it addresses, mired in economic stagnation and more-or-less 
dictatorial regimes, is also one of those complex realities that the 
citizens of the planet are trying to deal with. This is what having Al 
Jazeera in your living room could make apparent. There is an irony in 
the fact that despite the basic stuff of which deserts are made, it is 
the temperate USA which seems to have its head in the sand. Beyond the 
clearly stated and wholly essential verities of the teachable moment, 
there is a whole universe of contradictions, cultural divides and 
recalcitrant difficulties of coexistence that forms the very medium of 
thought and exchange between intelligent human beings in the present. 
Yet precisely this is absent from public life in the USA.

One will answer, yes, but in what national arena or media system is it 
present? Outside specific diplomatic and business circles, European 
cosmopolitanism and multilingualism is largely limited to the awareness 
of one's neighbors on a stretch of land no larger than the continental 
US. But Europe is not the hegemonic power that has supplied the 
language, culture, toolkits, economic drive and military punch that 
together constitute what we call globalization. American cosmopolitanism 
would need to far exceed Europe's, and take in the very scope of an 
"empire" which it cannot hold together in any case, but whose breakup 
will only be more violent if levels of ignorance in the US remain what 
they are today. Stretching for a decade or a generation beyond the 
teachable moment there is the vast, multitudinous project of trying to 
open up the eyes and ears and heads of our intelligent and capable but 
strangely reserved and sometimes willfully obtuse friends (or even 
countrymen) in the endless golf course, donut stop and strip mall that 
extends between the frontiers of Mexico and Canada.

best, Brian


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