Hauser & El Saadawi

Just in case (!) anyone wants to start something here…. 🙂
I’m still waiting on a volunteer or two to add as “authors” so the class doesn’t have to only respond to my initiative….but only if someone really wants to. It could be fun to transform this into more a group-type blog (that was Raz’ and my original idea, but that was before he abandoned me, sniffle)…..
Hope those of you at the lecture might share too. (sigh…!)

22 thoughts on “Hauser & El Saadawi”

  1. Hello, all:
    Hope this finds you well, enjoying our third grey day due to the latest hurricane down south. A study at Princeton has linked this storm and its series, “definitively” the radio said, to global warming. I suppose this is my plug for armeggedon (sp?) as complete environmental collapse, nicely paralleled by George’s hope for a second coming.
    I’m troubled by a few things in discussion, so if you’re interested in the Nawal El Saadawi lecture, scroll down. I tried to write down every thing she said.
    The first concern is about passionate speech, and Steph’s note from last class about de-coupling identity with political beliefs. In part because I just don’t see this as possible (where is our “proof” of what we are, if not in our actions), I disagree. Passionate speech, progressive or conservative or whatever are the useful labels now, must exist. (This goes against what Stephen said last class about legislating against certain forms of expression.) People are creative, and when oppressed or limited, they will find powerful ways of being heard. Viruses mutate, speech/rhetoric changes form or performance. While more subtle (ie: our “new” forms of racism) they certainly are powerful. Hate speech is illegal; we can use legislation like that in our favor, and/or creatively (and not defensively) fight it.
    But I’m concerned here too – Young advocates for a “feminized” notion of passionate speech, something that instead of de-coupling identity with politics (EVERYTHING IS POLITICAL, FISH!) insists upon the linkage, makes it ok, makes it normal. And what about Howard Dean, you ask? I found myself writing “Dean” in Young’s margins, and with my outburst in the last class (that felt useless and too loud and very un-social science and ‘professional’), I’m a bit stumped here. I don’t believe you can separate culture from economics, meanings of content from form, identity from politics, etc. Powerful arguments, for me, knit them together, and insist upon knowing them as interrelated.
    Ok. The Nawal El Saadawi lecture. I’ll give the “minutes” and my commentary.
    I got there a bit early (ok, ok) and noticed that she was milling around, chatting to students. One young Smithie got her attention and said: “Nawal, the mike is all ready for you.” The response: “Good, thank you, and we’ll ask the people to come down close (with a big wave of her arms).” She chatted with a young man from Ecuador and other book-table lookers and buyers. (A few of her books were on sale, and other novels by women and men in North Africa (she’s Egyptian) and the Middle East.)
    Comp lit hosted her, chaired by Ann Jones (who did the introduction). Nawal (our friend — see how this works?) thanked “Annie”, and said that she’d made her feel “even at home” here. First there was a joke – El Saadawi had been here before, but time passes so quickly when you’re an old woman that she couldn’t remember when. Then, “I begin with a small joke, a little joke…” she spoke about political scientists at Duke not being able to say “oil” during the first Gulf War when discussing its causes. The war, they propsed, was instead to liberate women and Kuwait (a feminized, weaker nation). “As if George Bush — as we called him then – there was no idea we would have another — was a feminist!” She continued to speak about education. They are not stupid or right wing (these political scientists at Duke) but there is a relationship here with bad education. She explained: we become efficient doctors, political scientists, but we must re-educate ourselves.
    Fish would have died. Next, she turned to the glass of water set for her. “This clean water is politics. Peace, Justice, Economy to have this glass of water.” Then, “Everything is politics: even in the bedroom, because who is above, and who is below? (audience laughs) We must understand link between politics and our work. I write novels, but I am a medical doctor. There is no separation between fact and fiction. Religion – nobody saw god” (silence – more later.)
    She spoke then about neo-colonialism. We are not in a post-colonial world, it is still harsh and severe. One of its results is poverty. As a doctor, I treat poor people. They don’t need drugs, they need food. But the minute you speak about class, you are communist. We have to link sexual, mental, economic, political health together. The human being is separated/fragmented. We should link all the time — undo the fragmentation of knowledge. Religion – many feminists are going back to spirituality; women’s sexual poverty can be linked to the divine right of men over women, over a woman’s holy body. Education is fragmented. We must integrate all th etime to understand war and injustice. The government benefits from ignorance. We are exploited because we believe political leaders (a profound distrust in authority, but recognizes need for it). The education system and media: 1. we have to unveil the mind. You cannot see it, you cannot fight it. 2. We have to organize. What happens when we demonstrate and nothing happens? Our power is not enough. But we go to demonstrations and come home. We must act AFTER that, network all the time.
    Women’s issues are not the war, and yet they are linked. Democracy has become a joke. When George Bush speaks about democracy it is a joke. Under Hussein there was a secular family code; now it is religious. For many it is worse. The US started religious strife between groups. Human rights and democracy are different, allegedly, to “internal issues” (domestic) women’s issues. They deceive us and play this game of democracy. Do you think you can really vote for the person you want to vote for?
    What happens when capitalism and class reduce politics to election? There have been 2,300 attacks against American/allied forces/occupation each month in Iraq. They are not terrorists, they are freedom fighters. A universal human right is resistance. Election in Iraqu in January – it’s a deception. Election is not democracy, nor a so-called multi-party system. Tony Blair apologizes (showing yesterday’s NYTimes story just below the 2,300 figure) and no sanctions. We need a new UN. I remember my peasant grandmother… we can’t say “p” in Arabic we say “b”. When somebody is a liar, he’s making “bolitica” – politics means deception.
    I’m out of time and I’m only at the introduction. I want to end on optomistic, just to be optomistic. Our power will come. The power of people is coming, and it will make a difference.
    Q/R (Response – she didn’t claim to have answers):
    Q: This humane approach to politics is lovely; we have writers in the Third World who write about the power of the people, but HOW? How can we organize, unite when there is a crushing impact of money from few sources? We write, we dream, but power?
    R: We have to think all of us. How me from Egypt, you here, our relationship will not be cut after I leave. A story… (account of a conference in Barcelona that has led to Social Forums all over). We must globalize from below.
    Q: War in Iraq, AIDS in Africa: speak about the linkages.
    R: Emerging Viruses by an American Doctor called Horowitz speaks about capitalism and US pharmaceuticals. One of the vaccines tried out in Africa (a test market) mutated and became AIDS; it has spread like fire. There is a relationship between pharmaceuticals/their interests, the military. Africans cannot afford treatment.
    Q: I’m an engineering student. How do I get the depth of education I need while re-educating myself too?
    R: (suggestions I didn’t catch) and staying active. Start with the people you are living with. There are homeless people here in Northampton. I don’t believe in giving services. We are ready to oranize – poor people and women. We are not going to lose anything. Women become very revolutionary. Men are reluctant because they have power. But I have nothing to lose but my chains. We have dissident writers, and many of them are very poor, and they publish small… it’s a continuous struggle.
    Q: How can phychiatry, while it globalizes medications under neo-colonialism, be useful to us? Is it?
    R: I am very much against traditional psychiatry (as a psychiatrist). The creativity of children and people is killed by giving drugs. Unveiling the mind will help us. I am anti-psychiatry. New conceptions of mental health: what is the relationship between creativity, dissidence and mental health? They are linked.
    Q: Could you speak about resistance as terrorism?
    R: Some people said I am a terrorist. I had to be in prison. When you resist oppression, the authority of your husband, occupation – when women are beaten, they suffer. Authorities like doctors say it’s natural, it’s a natural relationship: duties of wife, sexual desire of male must be satisfied immediately. This needs a lot of work. Terrorism – what George Bush is doing is terrorism. Nobody recognizes state terrorism. If you are an invader, a colonizer, what is your right? And those who resist are called terrorists…
    Q: Regarding banning of religious symbols in France.
    R: Religion is a political ideology. The veil is related to a slave system. It is pre-Islamic, pre-Jewish, pre-Christian. It has nothing to do with morality. The philosophy (in the case of the Islamic veil) is man will not see a beautiful woman with the veil. So we should cover the eyes of men, not the hair of women. (huge applause although two young veiled women sit very close to the stage — one of them is in line for personal questions as I leave.)
    So. Lots here. Integrating a “body” of knowledge and re-educating; democracy linked with capitalism and neo-colonialism; issues of space/women/revolution, religion. The religious stuff really made the crowd silent, and there was some tension here, even for me — and I’m only religious in habit (crossing myself and swearing and showing up at mass only every now and then). Of course I liked her “everything is fact; everything is fiction” approach and yet hardlined integrationist stance regarding the “political”.

  2. Shannon – THANKS! The notes on El Saadawi’s talk are great. 😉
    I had to search the blog to find out what I said about “de-coupling identity from politics”. 🙂
    I think there’s a distinction between “selfhood” and “identity” that might help clarify what I meant, which isn’t (I don’t think) the way you read it (at least, as I understand what you wrote above, smile.)
    I’m not saying there shouldn’t be PASSION. You betcha babe! (As if I, of all people, could exist in the world without it!) But the affective experience of emotion is something separate from a categorical adherence to a certain kind of “identity” – as a feminist, say, or a democrat. The poststructuralist move is, at least as I’m coming to understand it, to follow or enact the passions even if they are at odds with the precepts of any particular identity-configuration – no matter how long that’s been a source of subjective stability.
    For me, the most radical “identity” to let go of would probably be being a dyke, for Donna (let me guess) it would being a “friendly Jewish feminist” (although being a media historian comes in a very close second, smile). For Stephen, let’s see….maybe it would be the trickster. Maybe these are somewhat like archtypes, these most-deeply-held notions that guide our enactment of being ourselves. The dialectical/performance question would be – are our SELVES separable from the identities we embrace (consciously or not so)? Another question might be, are our passions a reliable phenomenological guide or is a reliance upon them just another type of archetype?

  3. I just wanted to thank Nawal El Saadawi for clarifying who are the terrorists. Those who protest the dominant powers, not killing thousands of innocent people, are being called terrorists, even by so-called Leftists! This is an incredibly dangerous, conservative and Rightist (?) word/concept that is used to discipline those without power. For example, arrested Puerto Rican protesters who conducted civil disobedience in protest of the military bombing of their homeland for more than sixty years, pre-911 were tried for civil disobedience and released. However, some of those that were tried after 911, were tried as terrorists for the same civil disobedience and rec’d much harsher sentences.
    What does this have to do with Hauser? Well it has to do with how we conceive of the public sphere. Lisa put forth a very interesting question about whether the public screen is a better concept than the public sphere. My brief answer that I hope to elaborate on more later is that it is b/c besides being more complex, it recognizes different ways of producing social change not just “civil rhetoric.”

  4. Shannon, I’m confused as to how I could have given the impression that I am for legislating against certain forms of expression, especially passionate ones or dissent. That’s not my position on language and law, except for in very rare and specific circumstances, so I’d like to respond but don’t quite understand what led you to hear that. (And incidentally, I wish we could all forego the apologies for speaking unlike professionals and academics

  5. There’s not much I could add to Shannon’s exhaustive commentary on what El Saadawi, whose work I deeply respect, had to say, only perhaps one personal impression. Seeing influential activists speak in public always gives me the combined feeling of refreshment and doubt. On the one hand, it is refreshing to see radicals speak whose personal lives lend them credibility, who are actually doing what they preach. On the other hand, their sweeping generalizations remind me that large-scale activism doesn’t necessarily coincide with a respect for the complexity of issues. My doubt stems from the dilemma: have these people wrought their lives into a cause after the careful consideration of the state of affairs, or prior to it? From the perspective of the work done, this dilemma is completely inconsequential. It is however, greatly consequential for me, a person slowly taking on life.
    The good thing about symbolic people like El Saadawi is that they force you to position yourself and consider the social consequences of your position. She is lecturing 2 more times (unfortunately, both of those events fall on Wednesdays):
    Title: Women, Creativity and Dissidence
    Date: October 6
    Time: 7:30
    Place: Neilson Library Browsing Room, Smith
    Title: Writing and Breaking Down Barriers
    Date: October 20
    Time: 7:30
    Place: Wright Hall Auditorium

  6. Stephen (and all):
    I apologize for mistaking your remarks at the end of the Young discussion. To be honest, I can’t remember the exact context, only that it began “I have no problem with”, and you sat back with your hands wide, saying something about not wanting a certain kind of expression (name calling? formats a-la Crossfire?). At the time (I’ll refer to you here using your republican style) I was connecting this type of exclusion with the way you were speaking about not eating as a way to deal with your health. As I was running the next morning, I drew perhaps too steady a parallel between the health of the public sphere with the health of the individual human body and thought I had a really good idea. Now, of course, I forget it except for what I have above.
    David, I appreciate your comment on being enthused by hearing a radical speaker; I was too. The event actually reminded me of being an undergraduate, when all the fine tuning and deep listening wasn’t so important as building the Feminist Majority and asking fraternity boys to feel a silicone breast with a lump in it for breast cancer prevention actions. I still believe the power of the people, en masse, has to be fought on passionate lines, personal lines. The creative interpretations of it, the resistance, is rarely fought with deep appreciation for the oppressor’s arguments. Material conditions (arrests, deportations, Cat Stevens shuttled back to the UK) are rhetorical performance too. Power can change hands after I get it, but I’m going to fight like hell for its second coming too.
    And yet there’s a base question I feel stumped by again and again: How do we valorize the political? How do we identify its moment, its performance? I think this is part of what El Saadawi was getting at when she spoke about the current equation of democracy with elections. I’d say that we all do want a form of democracy; we want its slipperiness, its potential, its revolutionary possibility. I don’t think she was dissing democracy so much as she was dissing a form of democracy that is so in love with global capitalism it can’t see people, poverty or dissenting politics.
    Steph, thank you for clarifying your point. The language(s) of social science still spin me, but I appreciate your distillations.
    I’m sorry I missed Lisa’s presentation. I could use some “dirt”, I think. I’m finding it’s incredibly frustrating for me to be “listening” (really listening) to some of this (or all of it).
    Looking oh-so-forward to struggling with the work for next week.
    Cheers, all.

  7. Yes, I would like to underline Shannon’s point about how El Saadawi spoke about democracy last night. By saying that democracy is a joke she by no means meant that democracy is not what we should want. I took her to say that one of the worst crimes of the current U.S. establishment against the people is that the elections are instituted as the sole mode of democratic performance. To her mind, this version of democracy is so impoverished that calling it a democracy amounts to a joke. I think she would probably hate the idea of Deliberation Day for the same reasons as you do, Stephen.

  8. Poor, Stephen, the only democrat in the house. I doubt anyone in the class is against democracy (outbursts among friends don’t count). Of course I’m aiming for democracy but I’m also aiming for social justice. One without the other isn’t good enough (and not really even possible is it?) Non-totalitarian leftists (of which I consider myself) are always fighting for inclusion. It’s not that we’re saying the right can’t have opinions and can’t debate. We’re saying that they can’t dominate the public sphere/screen, which they currently do. We are constantly pounding the table, the streets etc. just to get an opportunity to get into the debates. You invoke Gramsci but (going out a little on a limb here) Gramsci believed in hegemony. That’s what the right has right now hegemony over how we think about democracy, life, patriotism, etc. How did Gramsci say we should fight this, did he say we should compromise? Gramsci said that a counter hegemony must be created.
    However, I think in the end it always is a compromise because the right hegemonically controls the discourse and the cards don’t all fall so to speak (I’m speaking now of a U.S. context). Voting for Kerry, for example, is a compromise. Again, I think this warrants a conversation about how social change occurs. Does it occur by compromise or radical resistance or a combination of the two?
    By the way, do you mean we have

  9. Thanks for the quick response everyone. I have no doubt I would side with El Saadawi. Playing professor (just for a second), the current equation of democracy only with elections and as a mask of capitalism is part of the legacy of liberal democracy. It sounds from your descriptions that El Saadawi favors radical democracy. But I would petition all of us not to get too worked up against elections so that in an enthusiasm to make democracy more than

  10. Stephen, thank you for trying to pull everything Camille, Shannon and I were saying together into an actual discussion. I agree, there’s a lot to be
    done with the questions posed here. I am looking forward to further discussion, and all the more so because the main reason why I’m taking this class (beside the significant fun-factor) is that I’m trying to see the connection between the work that I am beginning to do (ethnography) and the political more clearly.
    I don’t think I’m ready to deal with Camelle’s question, but let me give Shannon’s a shot (the one about valorizing the political). How do we attach value to political performance? I think Dewey’s got the best answer to the question: we do it on an case-by-case basis. He says in Experience and Nature: “Values are values, things immediately having certain intrinsic qualities. Of them as values there is accordingly nothing to be said; they are what they are. […] …the important consideration is not a theory of values but a theory of criticism; a method of discriminating among goods on the basis of the conditions of their appearance, and of their consequences. (p.396) Criticism, in Dewey’s treatment in E&N, is something people do when they become conscious of something in danger that they think is valuable. Not all criticism is good criticism for Dewey in my reading: people hold on to anything they find valueable (especially their beliefs), and fight for them to the very end. Criticism gets better as it is informed about the consequences of the things that are held valuable. (Hence the importance of education.)
    So, to my mind, there is no way to valorize the political unless we hash out its consequences in society. Is democracy valuable or a mere joke? It is neither. Democracy is a bunch of things we call that way because we were taught to do so. The value of democracy is in what happens when it comes to town (or leaves it). Is power good or bad? I don’t know – give it to Stephen, Camille, or Kerry, and let’s see what happens.
    Stephen, you remarked above that you fear that Shannon had perhaps lost something valuable to education in grad school, i.e. her activism (“But given your statement, it suggests to me that you “lost” it or compromised it in the bad way, presumably thanks to grad school?”). I want to raise a serious doubt about the essential “good” in radical, dissenting activism – not Shannon’s in particular but in general. As I’m sure you know, radical activists from the West have made huge fools of themselves in many corners of the world. In Hungary, they were duped into bringing in funding for NGOs whose leaders spent the money on
    fancy cars and cool cell phones. In Egypt they actually deepened the gap between the Coptic and Muslim population by loudly accusing the latter of unjustly discriminating against the former. Also, radical feminists in the early days of international activism spent very little effort on understanding the deep signinficance of the veil in Middle Eastern countries. (I sometimes wonder if El Saadawi considers that factor when she condemns the veil – but I don’t want to pretend that I, a white Eastern European, am smarter than she is so I’ll shut up.)
    Or consider piety. Stephen, what is the value of piety? Can the concept be operationalized without the negotiation of its consequences? When you talk about your version of democracy (assuming power and then humbly letting it go) I am reminded of the narrative of Jesus Christ, power-ultimate, who triumphed in his most powerless hour, on the cross. Isn’t your version of democracy pious in a sense? Would the greatest trickery of all be, played on the unassuming public, hegemony?
    Forgive me if I sound accusatory. Accusation is not my goal. It’s just that I’m learning too much here to be polished and uncontroversial.

  11. Stephen said something that piqued my interest: “as soon as you ask me to vote and then never question you, it’s time to take you away. This is why I love the idea of amateur politicians rather than professionals running things. While they often do get abusive, they also can get thrown out with incredibly frequency.”
    I just urge caution about labeling types of political officials (hey, can we talk about this for 118?)
    Here’s what makes me cautious: Citizen BT (no, not me) gets elected to a seat on a town’s Parks & Recreation Board. 21 years later he is still serving. At one point in his tenure he claims “I don’t have to answer to anybody.” At another point a town park under his control is clear-cut and softball fields put in. No one knew the trees would be cut down, for the project proposal was about 25 years old, and received no publicity, abutters knew nothing. The clear-cut also violated the old proposal in a few ways (benefitting the son of the tree warden-employed parks and rec director who owns a tree service company).
    He’s up for re-election. No one runs against him, even though he is widely unliked (hated?). When likely candidates are asked, they claim they didn’t want to face his machine or deal with the other members of the board who were like-minded. Had he been an appointed position, his elected superiors could have pulled his position. When the Board was changed to an appointed board, BT resigned and 3 people put their names in to be appointed as his replacement. What do you mean by professionals? What are democratic safeguards for appoiintment procedures? (this last question I am personally invested in, as it relates to a very real project I am working on…feedback requested, please!)
    How do we classify folks like the “elected” leader of Afghanistan? 15 fellow candidates refused to take part in the election b/c of majopr irregularities.

  12. Wow, Becky, we’ve got to have you in class at least once! Your questions, as I see it, are directly related to Shannon’s about valorizing the political. I’ve been doing some thinking about the elections in Afghanistan myself along these lines but I’m not yet ready to have my say.

  13. Well, while Stephen was going all out to defend town meeting, he got over zealous in his belief that elected politicians always won’t be as democratic as town meeting elected representatives. Now, I have to admit in theory or maybe in the majority of cases, I was thinking that he’s probably right but….my attempt to understand the issue in Hadley and the feeling by SOME people in Amherst that Town Meeting is run by a small group of people (despite the actual intended structure) made me question this logic in some way. Though I think part of the problem is U.S. culture/society which doesn’t participate in great numbers in deep democratic forms, of which, in theory, I consider Town Meeting. If I sound like I’m contradicting my comment that people are more interested in politics than we give them credit, (I may be) but I think its the difference between interest vs. time, cultural priorities, etc.
    But I agree with questioning what a “professional politician” means. Poor, Pete got labeled one before he’s even gotten into office (onto committee.) I want to add that the rhetoric against “professional officials” is being used in local elections by the ( moderate?) right. For example, Traester (R) who is running for State Rep here is Western Mass is accusing Story of being a professional politician and using that reason to say we should get rid of her. She is using other reasons as well, but that seems to be the trump card and whatever your politics you may agree its OK or not OK. Since I agree with more of Story’s positions, I will vote for her regardless of the fact that she’s been in office for 12 years (I think) vs. the “unprofessional politician” who is being backed by several prominent Republicans. So I agree with the caution.
    Or even Cheney trying to label Edwards as inexperienced but on what conditions do we call Bush experienced? But that’s a tangent…
    As for Afghanistan, these are the kinds of “voting” experiences that make people on the left make negative comments about voting and democracy. That’s why I was sarcastic to Stephen about nobody loving democracy. Democracy is one of the biggest ideograph’s going (can i say that?!?!)
    I almost died when Cheney (in the VP debate), compared it to El Salvador. I worked for many years with a Solidarity Committee with El Salvador as well as lived in El Salvador and those elections to which Cheney referred were the biggest joke! They lined up Salvadorans so journalists could take pictures of them and most of them never even got to vote (and if they did, it was for the right so that they didn’t come and kill them!), the election was so rigged by the U.S. and the Salvadoran elite (read, about 14 families), it was pathetic but it got labeled “democracy” and I think that’s the feeling about Afghanistan, though I would be gravely misleading people if I said I really knew what was going on. But from what I’ve read and heard (and I’ll confess most of my source is Democracy Now!–so I realize my biases). But surprise, surprise Karzai is going to win.
    The bigger question for me is how democracy gets used as a tool to build U.S. empire. If you read the headlines about Afghanistan, such as “Afghanistan takes (baby) steps toward democracy” you see how it is used by the U.S. in a racialized, infantilized (or religious?) ways to say how the U.S. has to be the saviour and guarantor of “democracy” for the world meanwhile it makes a killing (no pun intended) in $$ for certain people.
    Some people say its better than “nothing,” but I think the price is much steeper than people realize.

  14. “What kind of Burkeans are you?”, I say with a polite wink. I meant “professionals” in attitude, not in the sense of being paid or appointed by superiors. I mean “amateurs” in the sense of people who come in (usually through elections), do a job, and then get out of office–which, I guess, is a very old school conservative reaction to professionalism. ANYONE who’s been around for 21 years is a professional politician, and is likely irrelevant–and yes, I mean John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and even Robert Byrd. I respect all three of them, I vote actively for two of them, but I do look forward to the day when they step down and let someone else represent this state. Thomas Jefferson reminded us that we need to rewrite the laws and rethink the Constitution every 19 years, as a new generation comes into its own. I appreciate that wisdom far more than those who establish political legacies.
    I know how the structure of power works, so I’m not about to suggest Kerry or Kennedy take one for the proverbial team and step down now, but I do remain suspicious of anyone who thinks they can maintain the best interests of the demos over an extended period of changing times.
    With respect to the professionals like “BT”–and, I hate to say it, Camille–possibly with Vickery, my concern is that we may witness an attitude and performance of careerism that ultimately benefits the politician more than the people. I’m not a religious man, but I pray daily that I have a leader who is a Cincinnatus and not a Constantine.
    So I agree, Camille, that we rhetoricians need to pay desperate attention to the ideographs of democracy used in the service of empire, but so too do I think we need to critique the attitude of empire, even as it unfolds in well-meaning people who stay around in power for too long.

  15. I don’t know how Burkean I am but my point was that your language was a rhetorical strategy that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny since ‘attitude” is always relative to one’s politics.
    I also don’t understand what attitude or performance from Vickery that you are talking about that makes him “professional” vs. “amateur”.
    However, I too am in favor of long-term politicians leaving though they rarely do. How about long-term families in power?
    One of my favorite issues is election reform, particularly clean elections, which I strongly support. I think these changes would go a long way in helping more amateurs run. Many Democrats have been against these reforms (not to even mention Republicans) which makes them “professionals” in my eyes.

  16. Hear hear to election reform, Camille, and I sadly agree that both major parties will never advance it. And I’m not accusing Vickery of demonstrating professionalism yet–just saying that that’s a risk anyone who enters into politics runs, and it should be a question hanging over their supporters, even if they are friends with the candidate. Peter hasn’t won yet, so we can’t accuse him of staying around for too long or doing it merely to climb the ladder to benefit himself. If he’s still on Governor’s Council in 19 years, I’m going to protest or at least question why, especially if he does things to keep other people from running. (Once again, always exempt for strategy: I wouldn’t want Peter to step down merely to hand it over to a right-winger simply to be idealistic about democracy; I mean that I want to see him get out as soon as the job he wants to do is done, and then encourage others to take over and inject new blood in the system. Strategy first, then ideals.)
    When I went to the debate between Rosenberg and Miller, what struck me was how quickly Miller isolated his audience, lectured us through very typical right-wing platitudes, and asserted that he had little chance of winning. At first I wanted to contact him to see just why he entered the race, since his performance was just plainly awful. I wonder: Is he doing it for the sake of democracy, just to give voice to the other side? I won’t vote for him, but I could respect that. Or was he doing this for his own name, to gain a nod from someone like Romney, in order to go with Romney when he runs for President someday? I know the two may be closely related, but given Miller’s style of performance, I ended up having no interest in finding out his motives; he isolated me as an audience member with his rhetoric, and so I’ve written him off as a careerist.
    And yes, I don’t think it’s never a good idea for families to have power…that’s why I barely talk to mine (smile, or whatever emoticon one uses to suggest a joke.) In all seriousness, I appreciate the Kennedys profoundly, but any form of long-term concentrated power might not pass the “global test” of being democratic.
    I am intrigued by your statement, Camille: “your language was a rhetorical strategy that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny since ‘attitude” is always relative to one’s politics.” I think there’s something for us to explore in this “attitude relative to one’s politics.” Could you run with it a little more?

  17. Ah, edit man, before you post! I screwed up the joke:
    I don’t think it’s EVER a good idea for families to have power…
    Damn language!

  18. Attitudes are incipient acts, no? ok so then the attitude w/ which one serves matters.
    ‘Careerist’ is different(ly used) than ‘Professional.’ And even then, ‘careerist’ can describe some political families that do more for their dynasty than for the common good. I’d rather have a long-serving public servant (in the sense that the person is doing well for others, and in office for a while) than a some kind of a get-rich-quick-make-all-kinds-of-money-and… type.
    The Kennedy Family. Ok. Look at Joe Kennedy, fighting for people to have heat in the winter. Liklihood of him doing similar things so Stephen can vote for him when Teddy retires? High. Compare to Jeb Bush, fighting for……hm. Not sure. someone can surely fill me in.
    BT is not a “professional” in the sense that our town used it. We used ‘credentials’ as a defining characteristic. There’s another sense of professional too: disciplined in the face of dissent. When he spat at me, he was not professional in that sense.

  19. Let me go back to El Saadawi for a minute. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about her comment on how US democracy reduces democratic participation to the election of national leaders. I am beginning to sense an oversimplification in her rhetoric. First of all, there is much more voting going on in the US beside the presidential elections. OK, many people don’t participate in them. I think I can understand that – I probably wouldn’t go out voting for every last town official. Why? Because I’m not too keen on thinking about local politics (local = non-federal). That’s my problem (or a problem with me?). But I do worry about issues of national and international scope. So what would I be able to do if I were an American? I’d have to wait for the 4 years to pass.
    Now, as a Hungarian, a citizen of a vast country of 10 million, I can participate in nationwide referendums more than one time a year! It’s easy to pull together a nationwide vote in my country – all you need is 200,000 signatures on a petition, and away the country votes. I want to ask El Saadawi how she thinks the US could accomplish the same thing. My guess is: only by spending vast amounts of money, and curtailing the autonomy of the individual states. The US just does not work like a country the size of Hungary (or Egypt, for that matter).
    Of course that doesnt’t absolve the US (or Western democrarcies) from the charge of foregrounding elections as the primary means of democratic participation. But I think one must tread carefully while criticizing entire political systems shaping the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

  20. Well I think that El Saadawi is referring to the fact that the U.S. says and thinks that it is the most authentic democracy in the world but in actuality we have very little participation and we have rampant abuses to the democratic system on a daily basis and it seems now that even safe voting is pretty endangered.
    And that’s exactly her point, you can have all the votes you want but that doesn’t ensure democracy.
    I’m not sure why you think we should tread lightly when we criticize the U.S. which is exporting its model of democracy which is highly flawed, whether people want it or not , across the globe, and especially because it impacts millions of people in the world, not only those in the U.S, we must critique it.
    In terms of local politics, I think if people aren’t involved at the local level, that’s when democracy starts to unravel….just an opinion, of course

  21. I should have said isn’t that exactly her point…?
    Also I found an interesting critique of the book from a different perspective but I’m not sure if people are interested. let me know if you are, it’s by Tracey Sedinger, English Professor.

  22. Sure, Camille, I did get El Saadawi’s point about “you can have all the votes you want but that doesn’t ensure democracy,” and I think she is perfectly right. The issue I was trying to take up with her was that I heard her dissing US democracy without mentioning some of its many merits. I mean, pulling 293 million people together is, to my mind, a HUGE achievement, even though the result leaves a lot of room for improvement. (Look at contemporary Russia and the incredible mess they are in with a population of 143 million. Putin has just created an authoritarian system there that leaves the Patriot Act looking like Mickey Mouse. And let’s not even talk about Middle Eastern dictatorships.)
    I have already quoted a guy called Jude Wanniski on this blog who wrote the following for Al Jazeera: “To answer the question: “What’s going on in the USA?”; we can put it simply: The people of the United States are trying to figure out how to use its power through the same kind of trial and error process that brought it to the top of the global pyramid. It is now being forced to concede that it made a serious mistake in the way it dealt with Iraq.”
    I disagree with the way the US is going these days. I don’t think its version of democracy is the best possible version and that it need not be critiqued. But I do realize that it has the greatest potential to do good things for a unified world. (A potential greater than that of the EU which hasn’t quite figured itself out yet.) It is not realizing that potential through, for example, invading Iraq the way it did. But that doesn’t mean that the potential is not there. To parapharse Stephen: we all call the democracy we have names until it’s gone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *