Are Flagan on Sun, 20 Apr 2003 11:35:30 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Mesopotamia's burning

Re: 4/18/03 17:07, "Keith Hart" <>:

> It will be the ruin of us all if not checked. Arundhati
> Roy said recently that the only institution on earth more powerful than the
> American government is American civil society and I think she is right.

I fear both of you are fatally wrong. I thought the same was the case for
the longest time, in the sense that this "other" America that Edward Said
recently sought to advance in the Arab world, in order to improve on its
negotiating strategy, was a force to be reckoned with. We all saw it in the
streets, waving placards, and eloquently read about it online. Impressive
stuff. Monolithic anti-Americanism is now to be replaced by an appeal to
this civil society of multitudes, sporting just reason and dialectical
arguments that will somehow prevail for the good of all come 2004, if not
before. (Saddam was obviously not the right guy to appeal here, as he tried
and failed.)

Now, American civil society, left, right and center, already relishes this
role of superpower and is unlikely to relinquish it, whatever form of
government arrives courtesy of another mock election (and pending another
revolution). The recent rally in support of the troops held in DC partly
explains why. Among the flags and yellow ribbons and Toby Keith country
anthems, there was a video piece merging heroism and duty and nation and
freedom and all the other terms of patriotic endearment that are flung
around these days. Plenty of fluttering old glory's faded in and out between
shots; it was white picket fences and apple pie for everyone, but not much
in the way of oratory. Enter Dr. King. The only segment extolling the
virtues being cheered was the infamous rhetoric that introduced a dream. So
there he was on faded black and white tape, in a sea of white faces singing
along to top-of-the-country-charts hate speech, speaking of freedom to a mob
that would most likely have lynched him in the 1950s or 1960s. It was a
moment to be savored for anyone who ponders the burning of Mesopotamia
across the ocean.

America has arguably never really been much "other" than it is today. Look
back without red, white and blue glasses. Consider it's history from afar.
Every element of "American" "civil" "society" exudes a precondition of
forgetful righteousness, of freedom without history but with militant power
firing off lies to secure it. It continues as before to target ruin across
borderlines. American civil society is founded upon these premises that
actually make it American first and thereby turns it into a civil society,
each affirming enunciation tightening the noose of a gun-toting, capitalist
identity seemingly destined to destroy in order to build. The only thing
that will reverse the course of this action is that this power starts to
dwindle and larger segments of each defining piece, "American," "civil,"
"society," look instead, with or through other eyes, to Argentina, Peru,
Haiti, Panama, Gujarat, Chiapas, Iraq and beyond.

The only truly useful power in American civil society today is the one it
must relinquish to address the effects of its existence.


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