Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Ter'rists Syndrome

If you haven't read Jonathon Raban's The Truth About Terrorism in the New York Review of Books, it's time to waltz right over and do so now. Is Al-Qaeda a brilliantly organized international network of jihadists, or a SPECTRE or COBRA invented by neo-cons to further their post-cold war needs? Is terror the number one threat to American livelihood, to life and liberty, or simply to democracy itself? Nope, nope, nope, of course nothing's that easy - sigh. But Raban's article is one of the few things you'll read that will leave you thinking that maybe - just maybe - there's actually something we can DO, if our leaders would listen to the right people, other than just panic.

After all, in Michael Shapiro's A Sense of Place book, a series of interviews with (for my immediate want of a better term) travel writers, Raban's take on American Middle East policymaking is the most sensible yet:

... the Arabian Peninsula is probably the most memorious place in the world.
It's where ancient events still rankle ... I get into a cab anywhere on the
Arabian peninsula and the cab driver trying to suss up my position will say
"What do you think of Sykes-Picot?" Or, "What do you think of the Balfour
Declaration?" These events are recent. It's as if history all takes place in one
awful moment as far as most Arabs are concerned.

Raban points out in that interview that the borders American policymakers ignore are those of language, and psycho-history, waging war and occupation on these people as thought they were hyper-rational Washingtonian suburbanites rather than the current inheritors of a millenia-old culture... yikes.

Don't Panic, is all I can say. The Shaun of the Dead DVD is out, and on the excellent commentary by the writers and director, they reference the new Hitchhikers movie repeatedly, since so many of their peoples are involved in it. Fan-freakin-tastic, as far as I can see. Check out the cast: Martin Freeman (Tim on The Office) as Arthur Dent, Mos Def as Ford, Sam Rockwell will be the PERFECT Zaphod, Bill Nighy IS Slartibartfast ... I know, this is incredibly geeky, but hell - it's exciting to see someone get their casting right instead of, say, plopping Keanu in. Plus, a fewof old-timers from the TV and BBC Radio series (Simon Jones, who played Arthur Dent, for example) are rockin that shtuff. Lovin' it.


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