August 15, 2005


Over at Cahiers, Josh is hopeful; I look up to him for this. From down here at sugarhigh!, it seems that the Gaza pullout is four parts smoke to three parts mirrors. According to my favorite resource for geopolitics, the numbers in the Strip are:

Population: 1,324,991
note: in addition, there are more than 5,000 Israeli settlers in the Gaza Strip (July 2004 est.)

Compare this to the West Bank:

Population: 2,311,204
note: in addition, there are about 187,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2004 est.)

I fear it's all too easy to suspect that Gaza, which houses only a tiny number of Israeli settlers (minuscule when counted in ratio to the, uh, settled), is being used as a temporizing tactic; the inter-Israeli sturm und drang makes it seem like a big deal, a historic moment without the history. This dumbshow will serve to forestall history, to postpone infinitely the far-more-substantial pullout from the West Bank.

The miracle we'll need is, I would suggest, a fundamental change in the United States' geopolitical investments. There'll be no homeland for the Palestinians, and no withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, as long as the US requires a secular client state in the Middle East. As the managed spectacle of Gaza unfurls, it's probably worth recalling that, of the last fourteen vetos in the UN Security Council (dating back to 1995), eleven were used by the United States. Of these eleven binding, non-overrideable vetos, ten concerned Israel. Some resolutions the United States found intolerable:

on the killing by Israeli forces of several United Nations employees and the destruction of the World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse
on establishing a UN observer force to protect Palestinian civilians
on the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian-controlled territory and condemning acts of terror against civilians

...and on and on, the hypocrisies and absurdities piling one on the next. The last veto listed above, blocking a condemnation of terror against civilians, came 94 days after September 11th.

The difference between Israel's two factions, between Sharon and "the hardliners," is not between the side that wants to do the right thing and the side that doesn't; this is a Manichaean fantasy (one, I would argue, particularly appealing with United States liberals, for obvious reasons). It's between those prepared to act strategically, and those committed to acting absolutely. What we are seeing isn't the beginning of peace, it's the sacrifice of a knight, maybe a bishop.


I take great satisfaction in having roused Steve to eloquence (or, for that matter, having roused Steve to text, as Third Factory posts constitute one of my central 'net pleasures.) And I take his point, or some of his points: the leap from reading to decent written critical response asks of us some labor and time we don't always have available, or would rather devote to other matters. This is especially true in a case like Third Factory, which sets implausibly high standards for thoughtfulness, reference, synthetic thinking, and clear prose...if not for column inches per annum.

But my call for more responsive reading, I must now recognize, must be a call to myself and to others to let blogs be blogs: to read poetics notes (even in the case of the comedically weighty, imperious proclamations of a Silliman) as just that, notes, blips, provisional marginalia. We'd like blogland to be the Wild West of unmanaged discourse; we can't at the same time expect or demand the well-wrought formulations and catchy sentences, compelling stances and defensible claims of, say, The Constant Critic or The New York Times. Ha ha. Here in interspace you really can casual it, throw yr pebbles in the stream rather than building a Roman road, and I'd like to see that sensibility maintained.

A brief response to Steve's most elegant formulation, which I reprint here:
J'adore Bourdieu, but not to the exclusion of Habermas. That is, I think communicative action, not primarily oriented to profit or dominance, happens more often than Bourdieu's exaggerated insistence upon "strategic action" allows. Is it possible that someone arranged the books on their coffee table expressly so that I would extract the "meaning" of their social status from the conveniently provided clues? Totally. Does that mean that every stack of books is so designed? Not in my experience, especially not with poets.

I'm swell with this. But how does "communicative action" work, in this case? If folks are just listing books they've become owners of, or mentioning they've read them, what shapes such information? The only thing a reader can know for certain is that the writer wanted us to know what books s/he received/read. Without further metadata, that will always be the originary fact of the communicative act.

Which leaves ue where, aside from sitting at some distance from "Unpacking My Library"? If there's just a list, how can the length and breadth of the list not be rhetorical figures? Are we all perfect active readers, assembling the tissue of reference into a set of understandings, developing infinitely accessible flat data into a critical context?

I always knew Habermas was behind this whole "postmodernism" thing that all my students are so angry about. Frickin' Habermas...

Posted by jane at August 15, 2005 11:13 AM | TrackBack