Monday, 22 August 2011

Pundit narcissism

Watching a people rise up and throw off the yoke of an oppressive, murderous regime despite vast risks to life, limb and loved ones ought to occasion a moment of joyous congratulations. We certainly would be cheering if it were we ourselves who had done it.

All the subtle sniping at the Libyans’ heroic achievement is a mean-spirited outrage. Instead of marveling that a populace not blessed with iPhones and the Christian religion could actually gamble with their lives to escape tyranny, instead of applauding people who go beyond putting ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ on their license plates and wearing funny hats to their garden parties but who actually place their bodies in the way of the assassins’ bullets, the punditocracy has wasted less than a full day to tell us the many ways Libya’s revolution could go astray.

A Guardian sage stroked his beard and immediately warned that ‘there will be little time for euphoria’. Oh no, no celebrating down there in the street. Now, says this Brit expert, is the time to ‘unite factions’, overcome ‘tribalism and Islamists’ and recover from the ‘ruins of four decades of totalitarian control’ where state institutions remain ‘feeble and insecure’. (P.S.-I’m so relieved that we don’t suffer from ‘tribalism’ here in the United States and are carefully safeguarding our adherence to non-totalitarian practices through our non-feeble and secure institutions.)

Surely the most grotesque display of clueless insensitivity was today’s Daily Beast headline: ‘Libya War’s Unsung Heroes’. DB refers not, mind you, to actual Libyans but the ‘small crew of military specialists’ hunched over computer screens as they safely cruise above the Mediterranean and who this article says are ‘as responsible as anyone for Qaddafy’s defeat’. I wonder how the family members of those fighters who fell into the hands of Qaddafy’s torturers would react to the idea that NATO technicians are the true heroes of their revolution.

But even the knowledgeable and sympathetic, such as Patrick Cockburn at The Independent, got right onto wondering, now that Qaddafy has lost, who exactly has won? It seems that those even paying attention spend as much time lambasting each other for being right or wrong as noticing what the Libyan people might have been doing the last few months.

Glenn Greenwald, whom I normally admire greatly, couldn’t shift his sour gaze from the fact (true enough) that Obama wiped his backside with the War Powers Act by refusing to seek congressional endorsement for the intervention.

‘And now, in the wake of the apparent demise of the Gadaffi regime, we see all sorts of efforts, mostly from Democratic partisans, to exploit the emotions from Gadaffi’s fall to shame those who questioned the war’. . .

Greenwald is right, but his relentless trashing of his critics today reveals a barren, windswept heart. He could have taken a day off to celebrate human freedom instead of pounding away at his own virtue. I’m disappointed in him.

Another arena of unseemly display is the comparison of Libya with Iraq as if the people who actually inhabit these two countries are a sidebar to our discussion of outsiders’ roles in their affairs. To draw parallels between the Libyan civil uprising and Bush’s unprovoked attack is morally distasteful, to say the least. The two are not comparable; one is a revolution; the other, an aggressive war of conquest condemned and prohibited under the Nuremburg precedent. Or should revolutionaries refuse outside help? Let’s ask the ghost of George Washington.

I’m not sure what to make of this peculiar reaction to what should be a moment of worldwide inspiration. Is it merely Orientalism again rearing its racialist head? Are the smug western polities, including their most astute newswriters and best-informed observers, permanently incapable of taking Arabs seriously?

All these sourpusses may be right. But just as there’s a time for war and a time for peace, there’s a time for saying, Well done. There’s a time for honoring the sacrifice of people who laid down their lives for their country. I repeat, if it were us, we’d insist on it.

1 comment:

Maureen said...

Brilliant post...I couldn´t agree more. Bravo to the rebels. Shut the f... up to the incessant noise-making pundits who, more often than not, don´t seem to have a clue, much less a heart.