23 February 2007

they're not wearing wooden shoes.

Over the weekend, we were in a local restaurant where some shebab were watching what I have now (not so) affectionately termed the "I hate America" channel. Forgetting for a moment that they were not at all made uncomfortable by our presence, they were actively engaged in watching a "news" segment about an American spy drone that had been shot down (we missed by whom). Fine, that's all well and good, I realize we spy on other nations. But then they showed the "wreckage." The American "flag" had fifteen some odd stripes and no stars. I can deal with biased news (there isn't really another way, but more on that later), but outright falsification is more than I can swallow.

I realize this isn't the mainstream news and most people don't use it as their sole or even primary source, but there's something appalling about the fact that this is being watched, even as entertainment. I'm a big critic of those who generalize about Arab culture, but I'm beginning to lose sympathy and realizing there's a grain of truth in every stereotype. I suppose Borat is in the same category, only in reverse, but I watched it knowing it was an absurd farce and I think most other Americans did too. Maybe I have too much faith in the American public and the Jordanians realize the implications of what they're watching, but I have a sinking feeling that's not always the case.

In Arabic for the last week, we've been talking about Edward Said's Orientalism. Admittedly, I haven't read the book yet, but since our teacher felt we were qualified to discuss the work after a two paragraph Arabic summary, I feel I'm entitled to express an opinion in the meantime. If this isn't the point Said was making, then I'm wrong, but it was the point our professor was making, so I'm going to have myself a little rant regardless.

Essentially, as I understand it, it boiled down to Said's assertion that human knowledge is inherently non neutral; we are all biased by our own cultural, religious, and social backgrounds (agreed). Then, we started on the West's oppression of the East, its generalizations about Eastern culture, and the "exotic" perception of the East as the "other." I'll grant parts of that premise, especially considering European excursions into the region in the 17th and 18th century, but I think the nature of the problem has changed. It's a problem with the relations and perceptions BETWEEN East and West, it's not all the fault of the West (and definitely not just the United States, as some suggested). So why is it acceptable for Said to generalize about the West's oppressive generalizations about the East? Isn't he doing precisely what he's criticizing the West for? It's a two way street - no one is innocent in this, and petty finger pointing won't help.

Khlas (finished) - that's the end of my rant. I'm going to go read Orientalism now and see what Said really meant, since I'm guessing a couple of Arabic sentences probably didn't convey the whole meaning.

Unrelated note, the UN is awesome. Slavery's not so bad after all. And I may have found a paying gig as an English tutor, so life is grand.

Quote of the week from Islam class: "Because God said so." (in response to several questions about the significance of certain Islamic symbols, beliefs, etc).

1 comment:

maestro said...

hi! I am in Dubai and I knew you would be proud of me.