Articles

Selected Reviews and articles: Julian Samuel (October 2013):

Recent Articles and reviews 2011 – 2013:

Abstract Safari  – interview with Carlos Ferrand
http://montrealserai.com/2013/08/27/abstract-safari/

Mira Nair, Pakistan and the Big Satan
http://montrealserai.com/2013/06/02/mira-nair-pakistan-and-the-big-satan/

Is Canadian cinema evolving? Welcome to Canada (1989) and Monsieur Lazhar (2011)
http://montrealserai.com/2012/06/18/is-canadian-cinema-evolving/

Life in America
http://montrealserai.com/2011/12/29/life-in-america/

and:

“The Case Against Israel,” by Michael Neumann and “Munich,” by Steven Spielberg

“The New Rulers Of The World,” by John Pilger

“Bowling for Columbine”, USA, 2002, 125 minutes; Directed by Michael Moore

“In the Name of the Father, an essay on Quebec Nationalism,” by Daniel Poliquin, Published by Douglas and McIntyre; Translated by Don Winkler, 2001, $22.95, 222 pages. Initially published as “Le Roman colonial,” Les Editions Boreal, 2000

“The Constant Gardener,” by John Le Carré

“White Teeth,” by Zadie Smith

“ROOM AT THE TOP: Cultural bodies in Quebec lack any meaningful minority representation.”

“L’absence des minorités visibles dans les institutions culturelles québécoises.”

“The Fact of Blackness: Frantz Fanon and Visual Representation,”

Edited by Alan Read.

“Fanon for Beginners’,” Written and illustrated by Deborah Wyrick

“Fanon for beginners,” écrit et illustré par Deborah Wyrick

“Imagining The Middle East” by Thierry Hentsch translated by Fred Reed

“Cultural Imperialism,” by Edward Said

“Gandhi Prisoner of Hope,” by Judith Brown

“Salman Rushdie in the Age of Reason”

Book and Film Review “The Case Against Israel” and “Munich” by Julian  Samuel

http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Apr06/Samuel04.htm

April 4, 2006

“The Case Against Israel”  and “Munich”

a book and film review by

Julian Samuel

The Case Against Israel by Michael Neumann, Counterpunch and AK Press, 2005, 220 pages,

$17.40

Munich, directed by Steven Spielberg

Rated R for strong graphic violence, some sexual content, nudity and language. Runtime: 164 min, 2005

Spielberg’s film “Munich” is about Israeli agents who cloak-and-dagger around Europe murdering dark, hooked-nosed Palestinians thought to have conducted the 1972 Munch attack on Israeli Olympic athletes. Is Munich a morally complex film which shows us how and why Israel has to use terrorism to stop terrorism? If one’s source of history and international understanding and compassion is, somehow, taken from news media such as CNN, the BBC then the film offers a deep experience on morality and politics. However, if one looks at Munich through Michael Neumann’s book, “The Case Against Israel,” the film becomes a transparent work in the tradition of American film-maker D. W. Griffith.

Spielberg is trying to feed us a view of Arabs, and the Islamic world which stokes Western governments into legislating repressive laws. This is happening not only in the home of the Magna Carta but also on this side of the Atlantic. For example, the Patriot Acts enable agents of the FBI to inspect lists of books that American borrowers, with names like Ibn Sînâ, Abu’l-Walid Ibn Rushd, or Andrew Said, may have taken out.

The key Mossad Jihadist is played by an actor who Spielberg dramaturgically develops fully by showing him to have an evolving relationship with his wife who gives birth to a child; we are introduced to his mother, and he remains, until the end, a loveable Jewish assassin in blue jeans with a crotch bulge equal to Benito Del Torres’. Golda Meir is made to look like an angel of mercy shedding a Sufi effulgence on her secret agents while offering them tea with milk and honey. She is a bed of roses: not chief director of land expropriations.

The Palestinians are never developed. We get the impression that their resistance is irrational and unfounded; they’ve never faced the same psychic misery that Israeli Jews have. How might a boy-soldier from Brooklyn treat a pregnant Palestinian woman at a checkpoint? The Arabs are only given enough screen time to say a few black and white lines. Moreover, to trick the naive into judging Israeli Jews as morally superior and morally balanced, Spielberg has inserted a cardboard Palestinian poet who is a supposed terrorist. This insertion shows that Spielberg, like Israelis, is morally balanced. This poet is killed before he can explain why it might have been necessary for him to use terror. Spielberg is trying to tell us that terrorism resides in the Arab genetic code and not in the fact that the Arabs were subjected to the venture of Zionism?

Palestinians were important enough to have caused the events of Munch, 1972 but not important enough to be integrated in his film at the same level as Jews. The very fact that he allows a few gutturally voiced lines to fall from their  mouths shows that he knows about their ordeal but, mysteriously, does not consider it worthy of screen time. How one-sided can an American film-maker get?

Spielberg’s Munich is embedded in the belief that Palestinians are naturally terrorists. Generally speaking, for Americans, the film’s lethal propaganda use-value will become apparent when they are given an alternative to Zionist history. Otherwise, they will be embedded. “The Case Against Israel,” a succinct book on Israel and Zionism written by Michael Neumann, an American Jew whose “German Jewish stepfather suffered greatly under the Nazis” gives us a solid alternative to Zionism. Zionism is the engine that drives Spielberg’s Munich. And, it is by understanding what Zionism is that we can appreciate the sheer violence that this film encourages. Instead of giving her secret agents tea, imagine Golda Meir ruefully looking into Spielberg’s camera saying the following:

“Zionism has never been a movement for the defense of the Jewish religion; on the contrary many of the most religious Jews abhor it.  It was never even a movement in defense of some cultural entity: when the Zionist movement began, Jews had no common language and their traditions were in many cases wildly dissimilar or simply abandoned altogether. Zionism was a movement which advocated, not so much the defense of an ethnic group, as the formation of such a group in Palestine, where those thought to fit a certain semi-racial category were to find refuge.   It was a lovely dream where all Jews would live happily together and, with typical Wilsonian obliviousness, no one seemed to notice that those who did not pass ethnic muster had no place in this fantasy.   If they were to be tolerated, welcomed, even loved, it was to be at the good pleasure of ‘the Jews’.

p. 18

If Spielberg could see the critical validity of the follow statement on Israel he would have made the complex film that many tactically pretend he made:

“Israel is the illegitimate child of ethnic nationalism.  The inhabitants of Palestine had every reason to oppose its establishment by any means necessary…Given the life-and-death powers of the proposed state and the intention of its proponents to maintain ethnic supremacy within its borders, the Palestinians were justified in taking the project as a mortal threat, and therefore to resist it by any means necessary.” p. 187-188

Spielberg is fluent in using historical documents to make films such as Amistad, a shallow yet multifaceted film about the slave trade. Africans emerge as people with past and present lives. For Arabs, Spielberg’s Munich resembles the American film-maker D. W Griffith, who in 1915 made a racist classic “The Birth of a Nation”. For Spielberg, the Palestinians have become what blacks were for Griffith: Dark, threatening creatures to be eliminated with extreme prejudice.

What was the average age of the Palestinians who conducted the Munich attack? What happened twenty-four years before Munich 1972? What happened on April 9, 1948 at Dier Yassin? And on 29 October 1956 at Kafar Qasem? Anything? Something? Nothing? Spielberg knows about Dier Yassin and Kafar Qasem. Does Zionism take us to the murders at Munich 1972?

The issues that Spielberg hides are the ones that Neumann lights in a scholastically stark and unique manner. Thankfully, his views don’t resemble the rampant anti-Americanism that one sees everywhere; nor is he anti-Jewish as his detractors will inform us; nor is his historical analysis anti-Israeli.

Here are some examples of potentially cinematically charged scenes that Spielberg could have dramatized but didn’t:

“Finally, no one should be deterred from vigorous anti-Israeli action by the horrors of the Jewish past.   On the contrary:  Israel’s current policies are themselves an insult and a threat to Jews and to Israelis everywhere.” p 190-191

Spielberg wants a one-sided victory in which Israeli Jews rest morally high above the Arabs. What is preventing Spielberg from traveling on the same carpet as Neumann?

“Let no one throw up the Nazi era as some excuse for Israel, or wax sentimental about the Zionist dream.  This has not been some exercise in moral reasoning whose object is simply to find fault. The situation is urgent, and dangerous to all involved.  The lies, obfuscations and self-deceiving nonsense that sustain Israel’s occupation – something it could end tomorrow – cost Jewish as well as Palestinian blood.” p.190-191

Neumann has looked at what causes terrorism. Spielberg hasn’t: he thinks that the world will automatically sympathize with the American War on Terrorism.  Consider the 1972 athletes:

“ ‘Terrorism’, on this account, can be defined as random violence against non-combatants. “Non-combatants” need not be civilians, but must designate those not involved in hostilities against the attackers: workers in defense industries are one of many borderline cases. “Random” means only that the victims are selected, not because of their importance as individuals, but because they are representative of some larger population. p. 158

Ben Gurion, unlike Golda Meir, did look in the mirror:

“If I were an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs…  There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only know but one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why would they accept that?” p.151-152.

Which influential Americans know the same history as Neumann? In light of the full-blown apartheid in Palestine would these Americans initiate a full boycott against Israel? Would Noam Chomsky?  (Neumann calls Chomsky a Zionist on page  23). Would Woody Allen? Neumann has tried to start a boycott, but didn’t get support.

Munich is a hideous fib about Israel. In God-fearing America such fibs can only be checked, not corrected. Neumann’s “The Case Against Israel,” renders Spielberg’s “Munich” irrational hate propaganda.

Julian Samuel, is a Montreal film-maker and writer

juliansamuel@videotron.ca

( Michael Neumann has written extensively on the Middle East:

http://www.counterpunch.org/neumann09232004.html

http://members.tripod.com/~mneumann/mnisrael.htm )

*

“The New Rulers Of The World,” by John Pilger

(online: Counterpunch)

http://www.counterpunch.org/samuel06162003.html

16 June, 2003, Counterpunch

“The New Rulers Of The World,” by John Pilger

Verso (London), 2002, 254pp, $CD21, ISBN 1 85984-412-X

reviewed by Julian Samuel

John Pilger’s “The New Rulers of the World” shows us how the rich-and-getting-exponentially richer are responsible for producing land dispossession, poverty, blindness, and death. We learn about the effects of recent imperialism such as the holocaust of communists and others in Indonesia (1965-66); this particular slaughter was backed by many Western leaders including Prime Minister Harold Macmillian and John F. Kennedy who agreed to ‘liquidate President Sukarno, depending on the situation and available opportunities.’ pp. 30. (Our smiling Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, in 1997, in front of TV cameras put his arms around Indonesia’s killer of millions – Suharto). Many politicians and corporations – Tony Blair is one of Pilger’s central targets – are presented as killers who are really no different from Hitler. Blair approved “eleven arms deals with Indonesia under cover of the Official Secrets Acts and Cook’s declaration of an ‘ethical’ dimension to foreign policy.” p. 23

This ethical dimension or understanding between western greed – embodied in corporations – and third world dictators is developed in four fast chapters: “The Modern Pupil”; “Paying the Price” “The Great Game.” The final chapter, “The Chosen Ones” shows Australia’s genocide against the Aborigines. Pilger’s Australia is incurably racist. The Aussie Olympic Co-ordination Authority used stellar sellouts to stay the charge of racism in the eyes of the world; the political elites continually use illegal land rights traps that have reduced many Aborigines to suicide. Many become blind: “…up to 80 per cent of Aboriginal children have potentially blinding trachoma because of untreated cataracts.” pp. 169 Does one want to boycott Australia and Australian products after reading Pilger’s book? Their prime minister, John Howard, has made the colour of one’s skin a life and death issue.

As a Canadian, I am aware that we do not have a single journalist who is as courageous or as well-informed as Pilger. Canadian journalists exactly know how and why the Jewish State is killing Palestinians and snatching their land in the West Bank and Gaza but are either censored  by editors (especially at The Montreal Gazette) or self-censored. Pilger, however, is unequivocal: “We need an awareness of lethal double standards…while more than 400 UN resolutions calling for justice in Palestine are not worth the paper they are written on.” pp. 11-12.

Michael Ignatieff, a Canadian who works in the human rights industry at Harvard, is “an enthusiastic backer of the West’s invasions and bombing (as a way to ‘feed the starving and enforce peace in the case of civil strive’), prefers ‘liberal intervention’.” pp. 161 Ignatieff is given full access to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Pilger’s inexorably attacks academics. I quote him at length on these high priests of silence: “Those with unprecedented resources to understand this, including many who teach and research in the great universities, suppress their knowledge publicly; perhaps never before has there been such a silence.” (pp. 3) and, “By keeping silent, they have allowed government to diminish a wealth of knowledge of how the world works, declaring it ‘irrelevant’ and withholding funding. This is not surprising when the humanities departments – the engine rooms of ideas and criticism – are close to moribund. When academics suppress the voice of their knowledge, who can the public turn to? … By never recognizing western state terrorism, their complicity is assured. To state this simple truth is deemed unscholarly; better say nothing (my emphasis). ” pp. 163

Despite the useful lessons on western state terrorism and imperialism (Pilger uses ‘imperialism’ not ‘globalization’) a few questions persist. Is it fair of him to *not* point out how imperialism should be counter-attacked? He knows its weaknesses deeply. Why is he silent on how to actually *do* something to turn back the ravage of Africa, the Arab world Asia et al? Would a tax revolt be a relevant or useless strategy? It is clear that street protests accomplish nothing. What would he answer?

In Iraq, America’s current-day Nazis as well as others are directly responsible for the current holocaust of about 6000 children a month (pp. 9). Let’s put that figure in another context: A goateed cultural studies academic takes 20 minutes to read a paper on Inuit Hip Hop at an Queer Theory conference in Melbourne; by the time he finishes his presentation 2.6 Iraqi kids will have been killed. It takes approximately eight hours or 62.4 deaths to read “The New Rulers of the World”.

Julian Samuel

*

Bowling for Columbine”, USA, 2002, 125 minutes; Directed by Michael Moore (online: Counterpunch)

http://www.counterpunch.org/samuel1126.html

“Bowling for Columbine”, USA, 2002, 125 minutes.

Directed by Michael Moore

film review by Julian Samuel

The United States National Security Entry Exit Registration System (NSEERS) will photograph and fingerprint Canadian citizens when they try to enter the United States. This rule applies if the Canadian in question was born in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Yemen. Is America re-emerging as an apartheid state in which there is one rule for whites, another rule non-whites? Given this current political climate in America, “Bowling for Columbine” is an important, progressive film. I highly recommend it. Moore, who recently authored a book called “Stupid White Men,” should get an Oscar. However, a few problems persist.

“Bowling for Columbine” shows that Americans, even critical ones like Moore, are profoundly obsessed with their own national problems and only minimally expose their government’s dictator-loving foreign policy. Americans come first, even in Moore’s world. Because of free access to guns, about 11000 Americans kill each other every year. The subject of guns in America should really include an extended discussion of how America exports weapons of death and misery. The film dwells on the guns-in-America side of this subject without documenting what America does outside America. Moore ought to broaden his horizons. It is possible. (I make a few suggestions on how he might do this).

Diplomatically, and for internationalist balance, Moore inserts very short sequences of how American elites have killed people the world over. However, he does not once mention America’s support for the eight-hundred pound free-range gorilla, Ariel Sharon. Is the Israeli genocide of Palestinians less important than guns-are-us homicide in America? Oh, but his film is about guns at home, why should Moore talk about Palestine? This loosely organized film takes many thematic excursions; racism in American; interviews with the makers of South Park; welfare; educational and hilarious cartoon sections on American history et cetera — so why not a quick trip to Uzi Heaven to interview right-of-return Zionist settlers from Brooklyn and Toronto? Why does Moore *include* a ten second historical clip on the American installation of the Shah of Iran while *excluding* anything whatsoever on America’s current support of Israel? A sense of balance might have been charitable.

The dozy sociologist in Moore awakens: “fear” is media-fed to Americans leading them into a gun culture nested in unbridled greed for running shoes, soft drinks and meat between fibreless white buns. With ugly wall-to-wall muzak behind interviews coupled with very easy-to-get anti-Bush, anti-military laughs, he shows: that Americans have tons of guns; that America is violent; that American elites bomb Aspirin factories in the Third World, whenever they feel like. These are a limited series of conclusions after 125 minutes don’t you think? But he’s addressing the masses. He has to keep it simple, that way it’ll get on TV and everyone will vote for Ralph Nader; then we’ll have wind power. And one by one, the fingernail removing dictators will fall, as the self-repairing ozone saves us, bringing green fields and sunshine in every pot. Moore has to sugarcoat the message. Smug, inactive, intellectuals use such arguments to defend Moore’s lack of depth and courage as a documentary film-maker.

Moore uses Canada as a model country. Moore knows Canada like George W. Bush knows the Lake District. He should cultivate a critical view of us, and not hide behind his “I’m-the-sincere-film-maker-next-door” image. Our state run CBC persistently interviews apologists for Israelis: Janice Stein and Norman Spector froth views that are indistinguishable from Golda Meir’s. Canada has racist parties: The Canadian Alliance and the Parti Quebecois. Both parties have repeatedly attacked minorities. He should read French-Canadian Lionel Groulx on Jews. Moore wants to give the impression that our politicians are social democrats. Was the 2002 demolition of Tent City in Toronto social democratic politics at its best?

I couldn’t help thinking that Moore, microphone in hand, should go to Ankara, Islamabad (capitals of Turkey and Pakistan, Mr Moore), Kabul and Riyadh to ask the regional lovers of human rights about possible American connections. Would these societies become more or less democratic with or without America’s help? Moore’s elegant and revelatory questioning methods could be aptly applied to General Prevez Musharraf as well as the America-friendly desert princes who authorize looping off hand and heads with a wink and a nod. He could videotape a Saudi Arabian public beheading and get Condoleesa Rice to make educated comments on it. Ask away, Mr Moore, you’re an American. The world’s your oyster.

Julian Samuel

*

“In the Name of the Father, an essay on Quebec Nationalism,” by Daniel Poliquin, Published by Douglas and McIntyre; Translated by Don Winkler, 2001, $22.95, 222 pages. Initially published as “Le Roman colonial,” Les Editions Boreal, 2000

Published in Books in Canada, July 2001 (volume 30, No. 1)

“Quebec’s Heart of Darkness”

by Julian Samuel

It is with unpretentious erudition and unbridled courage that Franco-Ontarian Daniel Poliquin looks at this object called Quebec “nationalism” – and picks it apart. For a fuller understanding of Poliquin’s courage this “nationalism” ought be contextualized.

Radio-Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the editors-in-chief of our provincial media, ex cathedra, reject in-depth criticism of Quebec “nationalism”. Quebec’s old-stock anglophones and the French-Canadian intellectual classes are wholly responsible for practicing cultural apartheid: there is not a single “visible minority” in a key position within any of Quebec cultural institutions. In Quebec, there is wall-to-wall white, pre-rational modernity. This aggressive/defensive class of technical media intellectuals (both old-stock anglos and white francophones) will not publish any historical, political or cultural criticism. Occasionally, to placate the muses of Liberal Democracy a few critical articles or programmes will make it past these gate-keepers. Fully co-operative “visible minorities” do get jobs.

Jean Bernier, chief-editor of Les Editions Boreal says that since its inception in 1963, they have published the work of one black writer. Currently there is not a single black writer on its editorial board. One black in 38 years. Most Quebec journalists would not voluntarily expose so blatant an abuse of public funding. One of the goals of the PQ is to make craven those who might openly criticize things as they are: The fatherland is infallible.

Quebec society is more censorial than the rest of Canada. Le Devoir, Quebec’s “right-thinking” “nationalist” (read ethnic nationalist) newspaper does not have a single minority in an editorial position, and it rarely publishes articles that are antithetical to its raison d’etre: the partition of Canada. The Montreal Gazette, backward on the question of Palestine et cetera, frequently published the uglily written separatist tirades of Josée Legault (whom Poliquin ridicules ad infinitum).

In 1995, after loosing his referendum, Jacques Parizeau indirectly encouraged physical violence against “ethnic voters”. That night, at the microphone, I remember watching him frothing at the mouth: They lost the referendum because of money (read Jews) and the ethnic vote. Yves Michaud recently scoffed off the holocaust, while Premier Bernard Laundry intimidates and throttles the anglophone minorities.

It is in this suffocating, censorial atmosphere that Daniel Poliquin has the courage to criticize Quebec’s “nationalists”. He was trashed in the local press. So was Esther Delisle, author of “The Traitor and the Jew: Anti-Semitism and the delirium of extremist right-wing nationalism in French Canada from 1929-39,” (1993) – it is now impossible for her to get a teaching job in Quebec.

Why has it taken so long for Canada to secrete a social critic of Poliquin’s stature? Why all the centuries of silence in our “few acres of snow”?

Through insightful anecdotes Poliquin expresses himself without masturbatory post-modernist flatulence — rather an accomplishment given the susceptibility of French-Canadian intellectuals to be pulled into the vortex of Parisian jargon-ridden incoherence — Baudrillard et al., ad nauseam. His honest prose turns Quebec’s official history on its head in a tragico-comedic way. In my estimation, since 1759, Poliquin is the second or third (if one counts Pierre Vallières) French-Canadian intellectual to so do.

He exposes provincial “nationalists” as “self-colonized” hypocrites. Poliquin connects Jean-Marie Le Pen, the elegant French racist, with the PQ who are not nearly as elegant in the French language but comparable in other ways. By corollary, Parizeau can be seen as George Wallace, the dead white ex-governor of Alabama, segregationist par excellence. The continental French left, he writes,

“…prefers Canada, a space more congenial to its European point of view. It has reason to be wary, especially when it sees Le Pen making common cause with the PQ…Ever since, there has been no doubt: an independent Quebec is for the French left a reactionary aspiration, just as were the origins of New France. Some things never change.” p 154

My first quibble with Poliquin is that there is no such thing as Quebec “nationalism.” The term ‘nationalist’ cannot be used to describe Quebecois separatists. In political nomenclature, parties such as the Partie Québécois, Bloc Québécois are not at all nationalists: they are, properly speaking, revolutionary Provincialists (read ethinc nationalists). The term “nationalist” is far too connected with political victories to be firmly applicable to the people Poliquin inexorably ridicules: Jacques Parizeau, Pierre Bourgault, Monique Simard, Guy Bouthillier, Lucien Bouchard, Philippe Paré, Bernard Landry et cetera. If the Vietnamese General, Vo Nguyen Giap — who devastated French imperialism at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 — is a Nationalist then are Lucien Bouchard and Monique Simard nationalists as well? No. Are they in anyway like the brave Algerian Nationalists who achieved liberation in 1962? Only a true revolutionary Provincialist would put Jawaharlal Nehru, or the eloquent Black Nationalist Malcolm X in the same league as Guy Bouthillier, head of the “right thinking” Societé St-Jean Baptiste de Montréal and the “right-thinking” Lise Bissonnette, ex-editor-in-chief of Le Devoir. In Poliquin’s book these intellectuals are portrayed as “right-thinking”. Why not “right-wingers”? Fear of law suits?

A melliferous chapter entitled, “Already Yesterday,” with grace, humour, and intelligence removes one layer of lies after another. It is because of this chapter that Poliquin was attacked by the technical intellectuals who fear historical truths. Reactionaries from France re-emerge in New France:

“For the most part those who thought and wrote in New France were closer to the Restoration than the Revolution.” (p. 140)

And,

“But the French Revolution, decried by our clergy, shipped us for the most part emigrants like Abbé Calonne, who forgot nothing and learned nothing. Our intellectual elite, though titillated at times by the advanced ideas of the age, was for the most part four-square for the reactionaries, just as it has earlier stood for the apostolic Counter-Revolution.” (p. 140)

The theoretical sections “In The Name of the Father” are “cartoonesque” political science. They are comical and more or less consequential to Poliquin’s central thesis. Of course, Poliquin is no Louis Althusser. Another culture made Althusser. Poliquin shows how “nationalist” French-Canadians still cling to the tactical model offered in Albert Memmi’s “The Colonizer and the Colonized”. Here is a bit on their tragic mal-adaptation:

“With Mimmi’s thesis as a guide, Quebec history was reinterpreted, and the new historical school of the 1950’s that has already, under Groulx’s influence, dropped Providence as a historic force, now transformed Quebec into an occupied territory and the Québécois into a colonized people in need of liberation… …Quebec got modernity and entered the Third World at the same time.” (p. 118)

And,

“The problem is, there was a problem. May be even two. The first is that Quebec was not Memmi’s Tunisa. Miron, the Aquin brothers, and the FLQ all made the mistake of applying a foreign model to the Quebec situation. The second is that their decolonization was accompanied by a recolonization by the same forces that were supposed to be avenues to freedom. And so the same Quebec of these thinkers was a unique arena in which decolonization and recolonization, in parallel, generated a confusion that was fertile, dramatic, and farcical. In that order.” (p. 120)

The following lines must have stung ethnic nationalists such as Pierre Bourgault:

“The Quebecois were neither Arabs nor the Blacks of Frantz Fanon, they were closer to being Pied Noir themselves. Colonizers more than colonized.” (p. 121)

On the successful 1995 referendum Bourgault said, I remind readers: “That the No vote among Jews, Greeks, Italians and other non-francophones was a ‘straight racist’ vote.” “Jews” “Greeks” “Italians”– are they not Canadian citizens first?

On language Poliquin is relentless:

“For instance, Monsieur Bouchard likes to say that he’s s’est peinturé dans le coin – has painted himself into a corner. There are plenty of days when you have to know English very well in order to understand the protector of Quebec French.”(p 75) There is no real or great difference between the French spoken by Lucien Bouchard and that of prime minister Jean Chretien who gets picked on simply because he is not a revolutionary Provincialist.

TV interviews with Quebec film-maker Pierre Falardeau are so cluttered with “tsé (tu sais); low, low; (la la) tu vu tu (tu vu) ” that his “French” becomes a kind of avant-garde music. For continental French TV and for French cinema audiences Quebec films (Falardeau’s in particular) require French subtitles to render them somewhat comprehensible.

Poliquin is aptly critical of Falardeau, projecting him as hick-supreme whose narrow-minded films expose the wooden cogs working in his mind. “Right-thinking” Quebec intellectuals would put Falardeau in the same league of film-makers such as Gillo Pontecorvo, whose 1966 film, “The Battle of Algiers” confronted both French imperialism AND the pitfalls of Algerian nationalism itself. Since birth, Falardeau has known only one side. Poliquin’s targets don’t require much in the way of analytical paraphernalia to demolish: Falardeau, Jacques Godbout, Lucien Bouchard, Lise Bissonnette, Josée Legault — thunderous challengers?

Despite the intense veracity of his arguments, Poliquin has blind spots. There are only a few. He is a supporter of Bill 101. This makes him a soft Quebec “nationalist”. This wretched legal instrument is continually used by the Quebec government to keep most cultural institutions and Quebec culture at large free of blacks, “immigrants” (Canadian Citizens) and Jews. Bill 101 is White Affirmative Action Gone Wild.

“Visible minorities”: the current provincial government has hired fewer than 3 per cent. “Les autres” constitute 18.5 per cent of the provincial population and a significant part of the tax base. Poliquin has not exposed the fact that the tax contributions of “les autres” are snatched and funneled into the white French-Canadian cultural machinery. Shouldn’t Poliquin’s analysis touch on economic fundamentals? This would be only fair.

He does not go far enough in his critique of Quebec’s ethnic nationalists. Social critics of quality do not fear immolating sacred cows. That’s what the cows are there for. His blatant exclusion of a full discussion on the repercussions of a continually hybridizing Quebec is based on an obsession with French-Canadian history, culture and politics. He is blind to “les autres” in Quebec. French-Canadians – at their critical best – ignore them. Of course, many of these ‘others’ don’t care if they are ignored. They just want a fair crack at key positions and money. Poliquin is pusillanimous on this issue. The unassailable parameters boldly state: Even Soft ethnic nationalists Must Not Attack Bill 101.

Europe and America are continually confronting the idea of evolving, multiracial societies, with mixed success. BBC, Channel Four contain minorities in important positions, not just well-paid fools. If Poliquin is not willing to open up these issues for the French-Canadian mind then who will? They won’t listen to the ‘outsiders’. He, like those who came before him, talk incessantly of their own culture as something detached from a multiracial Canada which is expanding, not narrowing its definition of citizenship. “Visible minorities” are still considered “immigrants” by the PQ and BQ. Surely, there is a fear that The Outsider within will outdo The French-Canadian in some way? Or is it simply a question of keeping the jobs and money in white old-stock anglo and French-Canadian hands? We are invisible for a tactical reason. A subsequent book might breach those unassailable parameters that have limited Poliquin’s current work on Quebec’s ethnic nationalists.

*

The Constant Gardener by John Le Carré

Reviewed by Julian Samuel

Published: Montreal Serai; http://www.montrealserai.com/index.htm

The Constant Gardener by John Le Carré

Published by Viking, 2000

$37.99, 509 pages

John Le Carré’s “The Constant Gardener” details, in minutiae, how British diplomats while away the hours in Africa. We meet the pharmaceutical giants and their kissing cousins: the Foreign Office, British Intelligence; scientists-with-objective-scientific-opinions-for-sale; Third World dictators; UN-look-the-other-way-types; arms merchants wearing lacquered shoes, champagne flutes in hand; British Parliament; snowy Canadian Universities; whore journalists salivating for a story-with-photographs of a British blonde with a slashed throat.

Drugs made by white men in white coats in labs are being tested on Africans. Drugs you wouldn’t test on your sick dog. The tests on black people, “who are going to die anyway”, help to perfect drugs for the Western markets.

The dramas rehearsed in “The Constant Gardener” are nothing new. For eons, the left-wing press has been humming with reports on pharma tests in the Third World. With the publication of this book, Le Carré becomes, very surprisingly, an anti-imperialist par excellence. It is open-minded of him to look at his own backyard, finally. Dr Noam Chomsky, Critic Supreme of The Western Press, move over.

Why do our national news (sic) papers — The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Saturday Night, The Montreal Gazette et al., and our state-run CBC remain so silent on this pillage? Why can’t they be as uncompromising as Robert Fisk is on the Middle East? Why doesn’t our ideology-free literary hero Mordecai Richler write anything of this magnitude? Why don’t Quebec film-makers like Pierre Falardeau (tsé-mon-pays) or culturalists like Robert Lepage ever create works which deal with these matters? Why don’t journalists name names more often? Are they on Sleepomicine or are they simply scared?

Lawyers are the ultimate silencers. They silence the critics because silence means more profit for British diplomats, the Foreign Office, British Intelligence, dubious or sincere scientists, African dictators bursting with high cholesterol, well-dressed UN brats, august British Parliamentarians addicted to the truth or something near the truth, and the wretched arms merchants to whom the world truly belongs.

“The Constant Gardener,” with its deft ability to mock accents and voices and to reproduce mingled, angular personalities with quantum precision, is too little, too late. Who is going to stop the pharma circus now? Will Mr Le Carré stop them? Yes, of course.

White Teeth, by Zadie Smith

Hamish Hamilton, Published by the Penguin Group, Toronto, 2000

$24.99, 462 pages

reviewed by Julian Samuel

Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’ punctures the pus-filled world of the politically correct and the religious. She gives all the major religions and their thinner derivations a jolly good hiding, especially: The Church of Animal Rights Activists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Islam  — which understandably, she is petrified to mock comprehensively. Happily, however, she takes oblique pot-shots throughout.

Smith’s publishers have pressed Salman Rushdie’s seal of approval right smack in the middle of the cover: ‘An astonishingly assured début, funny and serious .. it has bite.’ The words ‘Salman Rushdie,’ in red ink, are set on a light cream-coloured box. Smith must have cringed at this parentalism. Father Rushdie helps to sell the book. Smith has composed beautifully-argued pages on the Bradford Moslems who shower the rose petals of tolerance on copies of ‘The Satanic Verses.’

‘White Teeth’ sails through generations in a now multi-racial Britain as they arrive, leave, come back, clash, merge and intercourse with working class whites, spatially disoriented hippies, scooter nerds, white middle-class English school kids with their well-syntaxed parental parents, and a luminary scientist who copyrights the genetic structure of a mouse. There is a hilarious, well-orchestrated section on why young black women get their curly black hair straightened; politically advanced lesbians laughing in the background.

Smith does not sustain entangled narratives well. Rather, her strength lies in replicating the English spoken in London. With formal expertise she places diverse vernaculars right beside the Queen’s — well, err… moreorless somfing like the Queen’s. Early Jamaican-English rhymes beside clunky white working-class English; Modern Jamaican-English breathes against historical Jamaican-English with metallic urbanity. Two British Jamaican men prattle in old time Jamaican-English while sitting in O’Connell’s pub; the pub owner prattling in an tragicomic
working-class Queen’s which is more of a knife blade than a ductile tongue.

Sadly, this novel-of-lesser-ideas moves with little consequential cultural or political depth. (Iain Pears’, ‘An Instance of the Finger Post,’ is a more challenging novel of historical, political, and scientific ideas, with substantial characters set in calculated, sinuous plots. But then Pears may not have Smith’s comic ability to use Modern ‘black’ English with similar dexterity.)

Smith’s sprawling narratives about fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, brothers and the throbbing adolescent tensions are not set in challenging frameworks. She doesn’t ‘flash it’, as Jamaican-English might have it. One wishes that she had threshed out a more jarring story path. Why? Because Smith is recording cultural life on this European island as it traverses its most radical cultural transformation to date, Roman conquest of 55 BC notwithstanding. The UK of ‘White Teeth’ was not visible a mere twenty or thirty years ago. Imagine a Fatwa at the time of ‘Strawberry Fields’; imagine Gerry and the Pace Makers singing in Urdu (now a national language); much easier to imagine someone copyrighting a mouse’s genes at the time of ‘Steptoe and Son’, though it was still out of the reach of science back then.

The subject matter of her book somehow warrants, or tends to ask, for a hitherto unseen narrative structure. But Smith — perhaps sensibly, for so much of experimentalism is deathly stupid and uglily formal — sticks to conventional narrative form, loving nods to Joyce, the lapsed Catholic. One smooth, formally conservative chapter flows beautifully into another. London emerges out of the Roman fog anew, turgid with postcolonial hybridity and rampant with religious superstitions and corollary violence.

Many writers in Europe’s most prestigious island (and on the continental mainland itself) have, with tremendous creativity, already confronted the question of complexly-coded multi-racial societies. Amin Maalouf’s masterpiece, ‘Leon L’African’ (1986) comes to mind as well as, Mehdi Charef’s ‘Le thé au harem d`Archimède’ (1985).

‘White Teeth’ refines the tradition of unearthing what would have without doubt been passed over by the British publishing industry and its indulgent nombrilist narratives. There is nothing new or shocking about ‘White Teeth,’ but what a pleasure it is to experience Zadie Smith’s mastery of European tongues flapping in front of the Queen Mom copyright mouse squeaking and all. Dying to see the film.

*

ROOM AT THE TOP: Cultural bodies in Quebec lack any meaningful minority representation.

The Gazette, Montreal, Saturday, 17 June 2000

JULIAN SAMUEL SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE

Why are there no visible minorities in key positions at Quebec cultural institutions? Why is Quebec decades behind the rest of Canada on this? Does the mostly all-white local media actively block a public discussion on this issue?

Many Quebecers will contest the charge of racism by mentioning the following famous minorities: Michaelle Jean, Nathalie Chung, Norman Brathwhaite, Gregory Charles, and Dany Laferriere. Racism within Quebec’s cultural institutions? Unadulterated codswallop. However, Michaelle Jean and Nathalie Chung, both RDI newsreaders, are not in key positions; they have little or no influence on the content of the broadcasts. They are stunningly overpaid newsreaders, inoffensive electrons decaying in front of your eyes. Occasionally, Michaelle Jean does programs on Cuba that Jesse Helms would like. Norman Brathwhaite and Gregory Charles are comics who illustrate a hollow pluralism.

International comparison are relevant. Visible-minority journalists on the United Kingdom’s BBC and Channel Four do programs that criticize the British government on issues such as England’s racism. Journalist Darcus Howe, and film-makers John Akomfrah and Tariq Ali are among several who have provided the public with critical and entertaining television. The British South Asian comedy serial, Goodness Gracious Me is vicious anti-racist satire. Nothing like it here, not for a lack of talent, either.

What is the advantage of having minorities in decision-making positions? Isn’t there a risk that things will remain the same? The Canadian track record is not very exciting. However, along with the risk of visible minorities turning out to be dull, there is a slight chance that aspects of a newer more varied political culture could move into the public arena. Europe is ahead of us. The risks out weigh the continued dull, cultural conservatism of our white elites (who protect their jobs tooth and claw).

Montreal is a multiracial, multilingual society, yet the following cultural institutions in Montreal remain lily white up at the top. 17 per cent of the tax base is multiracial — not white anglo nor francophone.

Cultural institutions:

– CBC English radio. Patricia Pleszczynska, head of English Programming for Quebec, says there is one visible minority in a total of seven key positions. All the key positions in local CBC radio programs such the morning program Day Break and the afternoon show Home Run are white.

– Radio Canada; director of public relations Marie Gendron (French services) said that out of 512 directors and managers 14 are visible minorities (2.73 per cent)

– Cinémathèque Québécoise,  an institution which programmes films, videos, hosts conferences is all white. The programming is done by six white men: Robert Daudelin, Marco de Blois, Dominique Dugas, Alain Gauthier, Pierre Jutras and Pierre Véronneau. This institution has one black technician.

– Montreal cultural weeklies Hour, Voir, ICI, and Montreal Mirror on average have about 4-6 key editorial positions of which none are visible minorities.

– Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, a PQ principal arts funder, has five key positions and 50 employees: not a single visible minority in any category.

– Ex-Centris, a private arts institution devoted to film, video and new media, has six key positions; one is held by a visible minor, says Sylvie De Lorimier, director of public relations.

– The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (the largest museum in Quebec); Stéphane Aquin, a curator at this museum, says that all key positions, including the museums acquisitions committee,
are held by whites.

– Musée d’Art Contemporain. Marcel Brisebois, chief curator, says there are six curators and 13 trustees. He refuses to say whether there are any visible minorities at the institution. I know from (regular) personal contact with this institution that there are no visible minorities in curatorial positions.

– The National Film Board of Canada. Suzanne Cote, Training and Equity Advisor, says that there are 12 visible minorities employees in key positions: 9.4% of the total number of 127 employees.

– Societe de Developpement des Entreprises Culturelles (SODEC). This major provincial film funder does not have any visible minorities in seven key positions, such as directors of sections. And, out of a total of 102 employees there are three visible minorities in technical positions says Nancy Belanger, head of public relations.

– Telefilm Canada. This organization is a major federal funder for films. Jeanine Basile, Communications et Public Affairs Attaché, says out of seven directors of departments there are no visible minorities. And there are 4 members of visible minority groups on staff which consists of 135 people.

Why has this absence of visible minorities not been discussed in the media? In Quebec, decision-makers in most media outlets are white. Blacks appear on the covers of the alternative weeklies if they can rap or do house, but there is little substantive coverage of the issue of racism in Quebec cultural institutions.

On 8 December, 1998, Radio Canada’s Le Point had Stéphane Bureau interview tame playwright René-Daniel Dubois who spouted childishly about Quebec being fascist. Radio-Canada has not yet let visible minority intellectuals have the same extended interview time – 18 minutes and 30 seconds – Dubois had to discuss Quebec’s reluctance to include les autres in key cultural positions. Are only white intellectuals allowed to criticize Quebec culture?

The inexorable exclusion of minorities from key positions within cultural institutions is due to the tribal desire to pass on the best jobs to incumbent white elites, friends and family members. By the inclusion of critical and talented (not token) minorities, Quebec could produce a challenging and refined internationalized culture. Of course, the status quo point-of-view in films, novels and the plastic arts et cetera would drastically change. This change is exactly what the elites are worried about. If things are played out fairly, they will have to relinquish the easy access they have to funding and jobs. In other countries, critical and talented minorities have produced landmark films such as My Beautiful Launderette  (UK; Stephan Fears and Hanif Kureishi, 1986) and Mama, There’s a Man in Your Bed (France; Directed by: Coline Serreau, 1989); and novels like Caryl Philips’s The Nature of Blood (UK, 1997), and Salman Rushdie’s 1988 Satanic Verses. Are our traditional white cultural elites going to produce challenging and innovative works on this level?

Quebec culture would be irreversibly altered if creative visible minorities were allowed have a say in the direction of cultural production. By maintaining the status quo, only white Quebec will benefit; the exclusion of minorities will make for bitterness and stagnation.

Film-maker and writer Julian Samuel, has made a four- hour documentary on Orientalism and has published a novel, De Lahore à Montréal. You may contact him at juliansamuel@videotron.ca

*

French translation: L’absence des minorités visibles dans les institutions culturelles québécoises

Le Devoir, 19 march, 2001

Julian Samuel
Écrivain et cinéaste

Pourquoi n’y a-t-il pas davantage de représentants des minorités visibles dans les postes-clés des institutions culturelles québécoises? Il n’y a guère de débats à ce sujet dans les médias locaux, dominés par une élite essentiellement de race blanche. Plusieurs Québécois vont protester contre les accusations de racisme en mentionnant les noms de Michaelle Jean, Nathalie Chung, Norman Brathwhaite,
Gregory Charles et Dany Laferrière. Du racisme dans les institutions culturelles québécoises? Foutaises, diront certains. Cependant, Michaelle Jean et Nathalie Chung, deux animatrices du RDI, n’occupent pas des postes-clés au sein du réseau et leur influence est limitée sur le contenu de la chaîne. Elles sont d’innoffensifs électrons qui se désintègrent sous vos yeux. Norman Brathwhaite et Gregory Charles sont des amuseurs qui illustrent un pluralisme creux.

Les comparaisons internationales sont pertinentes. Des journalistes appartenant à des minorités visibles animent des émissions sur les chaînes britanniques dans lesquelles le gouvernement sur des sujets comme le racisme en Angleterre. Le journaliste Darcus Howe, et les cinéastes John Akomfrah et Tariq Ali font partie de ce groupe. La comédie satirique Goodness Gracious Me est une critique acerbe du racisme. Rien de tel ici, et ce n’est pas faute de talent. Quel est l’avantage d’avoir des représentants des minorités dans des postes de décision? N’y a-t-il pas un risque que rien ne change? Le bilan canadien n’est guère réjouissant. Mais s’il y a un risque que les représentants des minorités visibles se conforment aux habitudes de la maison, il y a tout de même une chance que surgisse dans l’espace public des éléments d’une culture politique plus diverse. L’Europe est avance sur nous à cet égard. Le risque vaut mieux que le conservatisme culturel dans lequel se complaisent les élites blanches (qui protègent leurs emplois bec
et ongles). Montréal est une société multiraciale et polyglotte (17% de la population n’est ni anglophone de race blanche ni francophone de race blanche), mais les institutions culturelles suivantes restent blanches au niveau de la direction.

– CBC-radio de langue anglaise : une seule personne appartenant aux minorités visibles sur sept postes-clés au Québec.

– Radio-Canada : sur 512 directeurs et gérants, 14 appartiennent à des
minorités visibles (2,73%)

– Cinémathèque québécoise : la programmation est décidée par six hommes blancs. L’institution ne compte qu’un seul technicien de race noire.

– Les hebdomadaires culturels Hour, Voir, ICI et Montreal Mirror comptent chacun entre quatre et six postes clés dont aucun n’est occupé par des minorités visibles.

– Le Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec ne compte aucun membre des minorités visibles dans son personnel et à la direction.

– Ex-Centris : un poste-clé sur six est occupé par une personne issue des minorités visibles.

– Le Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal : tous les postes importants sont occupés par des blancs.

– L’Office national du film du Canada : 12 des 127 employés appartiennent à des minorités visibles (9,4%)

– La Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC) : Cet important bailleur de fonds ne compte aucun représentant des minorités visibles aux sept postes les plus importants. L’organisme compte trois employés provenant de minorités visibles parmi ses 102 employés.

– Téléfilm Canada : Aucun des sept directeurs de services n’appartiennent à des minorités visibles et seulement quatre des 135 employés de l’organisme en sont.

Pourquoi cette absence de représentants des minorités visibles n’est-elle jamais discutée au sein des médias? Au Québec, les décideurs dans la plupart des médias sont blancs. Des Noirs apparaissent sur les pages couvertures des médias alternatifs hebdomadaires s’ils sont rappeurs, mais  on retrouve dans nos médias très peu de reportages sur le racisme dans les institutions culturelles. L’exclusion des minorités des postes-clés dans les institutions culturelles s’explique par le désir tribal de réserver les meilleurs emplois aux membres de l’élite blanche, aux amis et aux membres de la famille.

En incluant des représentants talentueux et critiques des minorités visibles (pas des «token»), le Québec pourrait produire une culture plurinationale stimulante et raffinée. Bien sûr, les points de vue présentés actuellement dans les films, les romans, les artes plastiques pourrait changer radicalement. Ce changement
est justement ce que les élites ne veulent pas. Si les choses devaient se dérouler avec plus d’équité, ces élites verraient leur accès actuel à des fonds et à des emplois être considérablement restreint. Dans d’autres pays, des membres des minorités visibles ont produit des oeuvres cinématographiques et romanesques exemplaires.

La culture québécoise serait irréversiblement transformée si les créateurs des minorités visibles avaient accès à des postes de commande dans les institutions culturelles. Avec le statu quo, seul le Québec blanc profite de la situation; l’exclusion des minorités va produire de l’amertume et de
la stagnation.

*

The Fact of Blackness: Frantz Fanon and Visual Representation, Edited by Alan Read. Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Bay Press, Seattle, 1996

Published: Fuse Magazine, vol.20 No. 3, 1997 (Toronto, Canada); also published in Race and Class, vol 34, October-December, 1992, #2 (1997)

(Contributors to the book: Homi K Bhabha, bell hooks, Stuart Hall, Lola Young, Kobena Mercer, Françoise Vergès, Renée Green, Isaac Julien, Raoul Peck, Marc Latamie, Lyle Ashton Harris, Ntozake Shange, Mark Nash, Martine Attille, and Steve McQueen.)

Book Review by Julian J. Samuel

IGNORING THE ROLE OF VIOLENCE IN FANON: PLAYING WITH THE BONES OF AN EXHUMED HERO

Frantz Fanon was born in Martinique in 1925, studied psychiatry in France, went to Algeria to head a hospital at  Blida where he joined the struggle for Algerian liberation.  He wrote about colonialism and the struggle against it from  a point of view that tried to understand violence and its  role in de-colonialization. Fanon died in 1961 at the age of 36.  Many Third World political and intellectual leaders have  studied ‘The Wretched of the Earth,’ which has been translated into many languages including Urdu, (now a  native language of England); and, into Farsi, by Dr. Ali  Shari’ati, a major influence on the Iranian revolution of  1979.

“To wreck the colonial world is henceforth a mental picture

of action which is very clear, very easy to understand and

which may be assumed by each one of the individuals which

constitute the colonized people.”

The Wretched of  the Earth, (Grove Press Edition, 1963) pp.

40-41

“…colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body

endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its

natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with

greater violence.”

The Wretched of  the Earth, pp. 61

Algeria’s resistance to external and internal imperialism  persists decade after decade. When did it all start? Did it  start with the surrender of  Abd-el-Kadar in 1847? Or with  French orchestrated massacre at Setif in 1945, when according to President Bourguiba of Tunisia, upwards of  45,000 people were killed? Or does it start with the war of  liberation itself (1954-62), in which one million Algerians were killed, and an additional 3000 politically related deaths ensued in metropolitan France?

Fanon’s acts are inseparable from the Algerian war against the French. So, does a possible ’90s interpretation of Fanon’s thinking start with Alan Read’s book? No. Why? Because most of its contributors put profound emphasis on dull ’80s style sexual politics seen through Fanon’s thrilling and naïve ‘Black Skin White Masks,’ (1952).

The professors and artists in this book are benightedly disconnected from the many guerrilla movements transpiring throughout the world. Read’s contributors do not discuss the tactical violence that the Front de Libération Nationale (F.L.N.) offered French civility. Alan Read keeps the issue

of armed struggle out of a study of Fanon. It is impossible to discuss Fanon without discussing the many violence-laden Algerias today, and to read Fanon in terms of the mere sexual-political trend is futile.

‘The Fact of Blackness’ records a dialogue that took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London via an exhibition: ‘Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire,’  — preceded by a conference: “Working with Fanon:

Contemporary Politics and Cultural Reflection’ (1995). The conference was sponsored by Toshiba.

Read’s effort consists of the work of university professors, some visual artists and filmmakers who have made career improvements by injecting their work with the glorious auras of political activism via a “re-thinking” of  the earlier Fanon. When reading the book I wonder whether these anti-

colonialists are doing nothing but maintaining the status quo. Do they offer anything on the many imperialist machines ravaging the Third World? No. Do they show any interest in front-line struggles within the West (IRA), or, for example, in Latin America (MRTA)? No, not at all. Instead, I hear them whispering: I am stuck in a dreamy utopian class-struggle oriented Marxism without the requisite gay and lesbian ‘activism’. They just offer uglily written “Theory.”

A short note on the current state of cultural studies is appropriate. The emptying of the activist politics from Fanon’s works means, of course, that there will be plenty of  “committed” yet sloppy thinking. Much of cultural studies is complacent, and careless, these days. Read’s work reminds me of the recent Sokal affair.  A physics professor at NYU submitted a bogus cultural studies style essay to Social Text, a leading journal in that field. Sokal was trying to prove that cultural studies professors haven’t any rigour.

Andrew Ross and the editors of the journal rushed to publish the essay: they were now going to have a physicist “doing” cultural studies in their pages. This would make them look cutting-edge. As soon as his paper was published, Professor Sokal publicly exposed the whole set-up. [For an exhilarating discussion of the inherent and utter falsity of  cultural studies postmodernists, please see Paul Boghossian’s comment in the 13 December, 1996 issue of the Times Literary Supplement].

Read’s collection is a clear example of  hazy and complacent “Theory” that so resembles the Sokal set-up. Stuart Hall, the king of cultural studies in the United Kingdom, who does not make the same Rolls-Royce-level salary as his anti-colonialist counter parts in America, writes so “Theoretically” that the word, incomprehension, does not describe  the experience of  “Reading” him. With clockwork regularity he gives nods of approval to the beacons of Eurocivility: Hegel, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, and the requisite others are noted, and foot-noted, incessantly. I presume, he thinks that these European intellectuals are crucial to political action. Hall’s introductory essay gives the impression of someone who is willing to use philosophical references to impress the naive. Action is what counts. Otherwise, why study Fanon? Why not just study Baudrillard and fall fast asleep? With unbridled erudition Hall informs us:

“Let us put it simplistically …For, if this text is ‘where Lacan makes his interruption into colonial discourse theory’, as Gates asserts, it is also where Fanon ‘reads’ Lacan in the light of his own preoccupations. In the long footnote on the ‘mirror phase’, it is Fanon’s appropriation of Lacan which strikes us most vividly. First, the ‘Other’ in this transaction in raced: (‘…the real Other for the white man is and will continue to be the black man. And conversely’). It is difficult not to agree that he writes here as if ‘the real Other’ is indeed ‘a fixed phenomenological point’.” pp. 26

Fortunately, this swishy stylistic complexity is far outdone by Homi Bhabha, who sometimes does do good work, I think. However, in Read’s book, Bhabha constructs sentences that are so magnificent that one has to appreciate them as ink marks on the page, as a kind of finger painting in minutiae. Listen to this unadulterated Gayatri-Chakravorty-Spivakese:

“Fanonian ‘continuance’ is the temporality of the practice of action: its performativity or agency is constituted by its emphasis on the singularity of the ‘local’: an iterative structuring of the historical event and political pedagogy and an ethical sense constructed from truths that are partial, limited, unstable. Fanon’s dialectic of the everyday is, most significantly, the emergency of a new historical and theoretical temporality generated by the process of revolutionary transience and transformation.”

pp. 190

Bhabha implies that complex-sounding prose is needed to interpret and understand Fanon. Clarity, brevity, and historical analysis are not needed.

This book is born of  a massive pre-Oedipal-post-Foucaultian-pre-Hegelian-Electra-inferiority-complex in the contributor’s attempts to out do the colonial masters at the game of words, and not at the game of gaining political ground. Western “radicals,” argues Michael Neumann in ‘What’s Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche,’ (1988) are addicted to “Theory” and not to political success. To actually engage in projects that make political gains is a fate worse than death.

Read’s contributors offer attacks on Fanon’s correctable homophobia, misogyny, and sexism. Moreover, these charges are made without fair reference to historical context, and are amplified to drown out Fanon’s understanding of  violence. Violence is the only thing the masters listen to.

Nothing else. But political violence may not be a good companion to cultural and sexual politics; indeed, it may be bad to support it when trying to become a tenured high priest of cultural studies.

Here is the thinking of the completely delirious American bell hooks — another super-salaried anti-colonialist: “In love. I was thinking a lot about the place of  empathy in any kind of ethic of care and the notion that part of how one embraces that larger you – that you that Fanon uses – is through the capacity to embrace the other in some way. What does it mean if Fanon is unable to embrace the black female — what part of himself remains unembraced? How does the possibility of love or an ethic of care chart the path to this humanism that he poses as redemptive?”

pp. 106

Are these consequential and serious psychological insights? Is there anything at all to be gained from “thinking”  about bell hook’s words? No. (This passage reminds me of the smell of  an epoch when people used to smear on patchouli oil). Need one really embrace questions of academic freedom of speech and tenure? These passages offer sufficient proof  that activists who have anything contestory to say are not

permitted anywhere near the university or art institutions. Tenure protects complacent luminaries.

Read’s book is a quintessential dead end. There is no human liberation here. It begins where Fanon began, not where Fanon left off. It is boring to see sloppy professors and artists toying with Fanon’s bones in the old-fashioned world of sexual politics, and in the wordy flatulence of “Theory” devoted to more “Theory” and to more “Theory”.

*

“Fanon for Beginners’,” Written and illustrated by Deborah Wyrick,

Writer and Readers Publishing, Inc. New York, 1998, 188 pages, $15.95

published: The Montreal Gazette, 13 June, 1998

In the current age of  “Cultural Studies,” “Postcolonial Studies,” and “Postmodernism,” when preference is given to incoherent writing and thinking,  Dr Wyrick’s ‘Fanon for Beginner’s’ is a lighthouse in a sea of self-promoting nonsense. She clearly introduces Frantz Fanon’s rich understanding of the psychosis of colonized people and colonizers to anyone no matter what their educational background happens to be; readers with just high school diplomas to the loftiest of  logicians will learn something from this book. And her illustrations are cheekier than the Gazette’s Aislin. They are twisted, hilarious, vaguely recalling the images of James Ensor and the wry wit of cartoonist Ralph Steadman.

Has Fanon’s influence waned since his death thirty-seven years ago? No. His books are used throughout not only the Third World, but by many institutions of higher learning in America and Europe. Third World leaders of liberation movements, and most Québec’s separatists (some of whom ought to re-read Fanon’s views on racism) are familiar with his ideas.

Fanon was born in Martinique in 1925, studied  psychiatry in France, went to Algeria to head a hospital at  Blida where he joined the struggle for Algerian liberation (1954-62). In ‘The Wretched of the Earth,’ he exposes the violence of the colonialist and sides with the counter-violence of its victims. This work has been  translated into 25 languages including Urdu, (now a  native language of England); and, into Farsi, by Dr. Ali  Shari’ati, a major influence on the Iranian revolution of  1979. Fanon died in 1961.

Wyrick’s book leads to a deeper understanding of popular culture, geopolitics, the psychological basis of racism, colonialism and is free of sleazy political correctitude. Fanon’s thinking on homosexuality et cetera is dated, those easily wounded should read ‘Foucault for Beginners’ instead. However,   Fanon does explain the radical participation of Algerian women in their war against France with rigour and elegance.

Wyrick traces Fanon’s development through his books. ‘Black Skin, White Masks,’ (1952), details sex and politics: “When my restless hands caress those white breasts, they grasp white civilization and dignity and make them mine.” (black skin white masks, 63) And fear: “The Negro is an animal, the Negro is bad, the Negro is mean, the Negro is ugly…The Nigger is shivering with cold, that cold goes through your bones, the handsome little boy is trembling because he thinks that the Nigger is quivering with rage, the little white boy throws himself into this mother’s arms. Mama, the nigger is going to eat me up.” (bs 113-14)

In ‘A Dying Colonialism’ (1970) Fanon devotes many pages to the veil and its political importance: “For the tourist and the foreigner, the veil demarcates both Algerian society and its feminine counterpart.” (a dying colonialism,  35-36 {l’an cinq de la rev algerienne)

Here Wyrick offers us the complexity of the role of the veil in the Algerian revolution: “…European bosses tried to reacculturate their male Algerian employees, demanding that they bring their wives to company functions. Algerian men were caught in a double bind: if they agreed, they violated cultural prohibitions against women being on display; if they refused, they risked losing their jobs.”

She shows how Fanon looks at this question from many points of view; he says: “The rape of the Algerian woman in the dream of a European…is always preceded by a rending of the veil.”  (dc 45)

Wyrick does not show whether Fanon saw the few so-called modernizing effects of  colonialism: what for example was the position of the average colonialist regime on clitoridectomy?

When discussing ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ (1963), Wyrick deals with Fanon’s  controversial views of  anti-colonial violence by showing the very concrete link between the devouring colonizer and the terror he imposes. Conservative commentators on Fanon have intentionally deformed his reading of counter-violence. The Globe and Mail’s Robert Fulford recently wrote this about Fanon: “God knows how many deaths his madness helped justify.” (22 April, 1998). Fulford, in his youth, may have fallen under the influence of Time Magazine: “Fanon … an apostle of violence…a prisoner of  hate…” (April, 1965).

Fanon’s words are: “The practice of violence binds [colonized people] together as a whole, since each individual forms a violent link in great chain, a part of the great organism of violence which has surged upward in reaction to the settler’s violence in the beginning…” (the wretched of the earth, 93 )

Richard Nixon, George Bush, Saddam Hussein and Benazir Bhutto are not scented replicas of Florence Nightingale. Would it not be naive to expect Third World populations to lie down and hand over raw materials, oil, postcolonial sex tourism, and cheaply made running shoes free of charge?

“Fanon for Beginners” could be terrifically useful: think of all the dinner parties you’ve gone to where you have felt inadequately informed on the colonised world. Reading this book will get you solidly grounded in these matters, and you will be able–if you feel like it–to use verbal violence against people whose arguments you’ve found inadequate, smug or mildly schizophrenic.

*

French translation:

Fanon for beginners, écrit et illustré par Deborah Wyrick, Writer and Readers Publishing, Inc., New York, 1998, 188 pages

Par Julian Samuel, auteur de Passage to Lahore (De Lahore à Montréal)

À notre époque qui fait la part belle aux études « culturelles », « postcoloniales » ou « postmodernes » et où l’on accorde tant de crédit à des idées et des écrits incohérents, le livre de Wyrick, Fanon for Beginners est un phare au milieu d’un océan de verbiage narcissique. Peu importe le niveau d’études du lecteur, elle lui propose une analyse limpide de la psychose des peuples colonisés et des colonisateurs. Tous, du détenteur d’un simple secondaire V au plus pointu des logiciens, apprendront quelque chose dans ce livre. Et les illustrations de l’auteur sont plus délicieusement hardies que les caricatures d’Aislin. Elles sont marrantes, impertinentes et rappellent vaguement les dessins de James Ensor ou l’humour décapant de Ralph Steadman.

L’influence de Fanon a-t-elle décliné depuis sa mort survenue il y a trente-sept ans ? Pas du tout.

Ces écrits sont encore utilisés non seulement dans le Tiers-monde mais par beaucoup d’établissements d’enseignement supérieur en Amérique et en Europe. Les leaders de mouvement de libération dans le Tiers-monde et bien des séparatistes québécois (qui pour la plupart devraient  se familiariser avec les vues de Fanon sur le racisme) connaissent bien sa pensée.

Fanon est né en Martinique en 1925. Il a étudié la psychiatrie en France pour ensuite se rendre en Algérie où il a dirigé un hôpital à Blida. Il s’est engagé auprès des Algériens dans le mouvement de libération nationale (1954-1962). Dans son livre Les Damnés de la terre, il traite de la violence du colonisateur qu’il compare à la violence exprimée en retour par les victimes de celui-ci. Cet ouvrage a été traduit en 25 langues y compris en urdu (désormais une langue couramment parlée en Angleterre) et en farsi par Ali Shari’ati, cet homme qui a grandement influencé la révolution iranienne de 1979.          Fanon est mort en 1961.

Le livre de Wyricks nous permet de mieux comprendre la culture populaire, la dimension géopolitique et les bases psychologiques du racisme, du colonialisme et de sa sordide rectitude politique. Les opinions de Fanon sur l’homosexualité etc. sont surannées de sorte que les coeurs sensibles préféreront lire Foucault pour les débutants. En revanche, Fanon aborde la question de la participation radicale des femmes algériennes à leur guerre de libération avec rigueur et élégance.

Wyrick suit l’évolution de Fanon dans ses écrits. Peau noire, masque blanc (1952) aborde en détails le rapport entre politique et sexualité. Dans ces seins blancs que mes mains ubiquitaires caressent, c’est la civilisation et la dignité blanches que je fais miennes… Et la peur : Le nègre est bête, le nègre est mauvais,  le nègre est méchant, le nègre est laid ; (…) le nègre tremble de froid, ce froid qui vous tord les os, le beau petit garçon tremble parce qu’il croit que le nègre tremble de rage, le petit garçon blanc se jette dans les bras de sa mère : maman, le nègre va me manger.

Dans L’An V de la révolution algérienne (1970) Fanon consacre plusieurs pages au foulard islamique et à son importance politique : quand les Européens rêvent au viol d’une Algérienne, le foulard islamique est toujours mis en pièces avant l’agression. Wyrick aborde le rôle complexe du voile dans la société algérienne : les patrons européens tâchaient de remodeler la culture de leurs employés mâles en demandant à ceux-ci d’être accompagnés de leurs femmes aux soirées organisées par la compagnie. Ces Algériens se trouvaient donc dans une impasse : en acceptant, ils violaient le code social interdisant aux femmes ce genre d’activités ; en refusant, ils risquaient de perdre leur emploi. Wyrick montre comment Fanon a pu aborder cette question sous différents angles, par exemple, pour le touriste et l’étranger, le foulard islamique institue une frontière tant avec la société algérienne dans son ensemble qu’avec sa portion féminine. Wyrick ne s’intéresse pas à la question de savoir si Fanon a constaté ou non les effets soi-disant

modernisateurs du colonialisme : quel était, par exemple, le point de vue du colonisateur moyen sur la question de l’excision?

Wyrick examine dans Les damnés de la terre (1963)  le point de vue controversé de Fanon sur la violence dirigée contre le colonisateur, point de vue qui établit le lien très concret existant entre le colonisateur avide de pouvoir et la terreur qu’il impose.

Certains critiques schizophrènes sur les bords ont délibérément déformé la vision de Fanon portant sur une contre-violence. Robert Fulford du Globe & Mail a écrit à son sujet : « Dieu seul sait combien de morts sa folie aura permis de justifier. » (22 avril 1998). Fulford a peut-être subi

dans la jeunesse l’influence du magazine Time : « Fanon… apôtre de la violence… prisonnier de la haine… » (avril 1965).

Selon les termes mêmes de Fanon, cette praxis violente est totalisante, puisque chacun se fait maillon violent de la grande chaîne, du grand organisme violent surgi comme réaction à la violence première du colonialiste. (Les Damnés de la terre)

Richard Nixon, George Bush, Saddam Hussein et Benazir Bhutto ne sont pas les émules parfumés de Florence Nightingale. Ne serait-il pas naïf de s’attendre à ce que les peuples du Tiers-monde se prosternent devant l’Occident et lui fournissent sans rien demander en échange des matières premières, du pétrole, du sexe postcolonial pour touristes et des baskets fabriqués pour des prunes ?

Fanon for beginners peut s’avérer très utile : songez à tous ces dîners où vous avez eu le sentiment d’être mal informés sur le monde colonisé… Vous trouverez dans ce livre de solides rudiments d’analyse en la matière et vous pourrez si cela vous chante faire usage de violence verbale contre tous ceux dont les opinions vous sembleront erronées, confuses ou le moindrement  disjonctées.

*

The Birth Of A Nation?

Author and film-maker Julian Samuel, an ethnic Canadian citizen, looks at

post-referendum Quebec

Published in Borderlines, (Toronto) 1998

“How can I talk about the kind of French which will be taught to immigrants, or the passage from the idiomatic, spoken language of the past to a more open kind of code, how can I begin to question these norms when French is not yet a stable an recognized reality? And even more, how can we  approach the normal intellectual questioning of self in relation to others, of racism and intercultural relations; how can we engage in a reasonable discussion of multiculturalism? These questions must wait until we are out of

the mire of the old questions….”

Jacques Godbout in: Other Solitudes: Canadian Multiculturalism Fictions,

Editors; Linda Hutcheon and Marion Richmond, (Toronto: Oxford, 1990), p.

359

NATIONALISTS AND REVOLUTIONARY PROVINCIALISTS

I pray to the Fathers of Canadian Confederation and to Lionel Groulx, the effulgent father of Quebec’s nationalists that my fellow Quebecers will forgive me for using the word Provincialist when referring to Parti Quebecois and the Bloq Quebecois.

I worry about the continual uncritical use of the term ‘nationalist’ when describing Quebecois separatists. In political nomenclature, parties such as the PQ, BQ and the extremists are not at all nationalists: they are, properly speaking, revolutionary Provincialists. The term nationalist is far too connected with political victories to be firmly applicable to Jacques Parizeau, Pierre Bourgault, Monique Simard, Guy Bouthillier, Lucien Bouchard, Philippe Paré, Bernard Landry, et al. ad nauseam. From my point of view, it would be insulting to the memory of the brave Algerian

Nationalists who achieved liberation in 1962. They cannot be put in the same group as Jacques Parizeau and political scientist Josée Legault. If  the

Vietnamese General, Vo Nguyen Giap — who devastated French imperialism at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 —  is a Nationalist then are Lucien Bouchard and Monique Simard nationalists as well? No. Only a true revolutionary Provincialist would put Jawaharlal Nehru, or the eloquent Black Nationalist Malcolm X in the same league as Guy Bouthillier, head of the Societé St-Jean Baptiste de Montréal and Lise Bissonnette, the editor-in-chief of  Le Devoir.

The word Nationalist is much too grandiose to be attached to a

domesticated movement within a legitimate pre-existing nation-state which is as solidly on the map as, say, France (give or take the Corsican problem),

Pakistan (with its occasional  border skirmishes on the Kashmir question),

China (give or take the troubles in Tibet), the United Kingdom (give

or take Northern Ireland) and Egypt, solid geopolitical entity that it is. One

could not easily compare the Quit Indian nationalist movement against the

Raj with the PQ- BQ route to independence could one? I do not admire

Canadian federalism or Canadian nationalism. In fact, I am cynical about all

nationalisms, especially those which are in reality provincialisms.

Here is the thinking of some of Quebec’s political  intellectuals:

1) Pierre Bourgault says it will become dangerous for people who vote

against “us” and that a no vote by Jews, Greeks et al. is a racist vote.

Many within the PQ are actively governed by this kind of us/them psychosis.

2) Richard Le Hir said that the Natives have made no contribution to Western society.

3) Monique Simard threatened that there could be “trouble” if the

Francophones do not win.

4) Lucien Bouchard, Quebec’s Hidden Imam, parades as an unracist but he

says the white race in Quebec is not having enough babies. Bouchard did not strongly condemn Parizeau’s Fatwa against the minorities.

5) Philippe Paré said non-Francophones should not have the right to vote in a referendum.

6) Bernard Landry, second in command in the PQ verbally assaulted a

Mexican-Canadian hotel clerk the evening of the PQ defeat in the 1995

referendum. He said it was people like her that cost Quebec its statehood that night.

Most supporters of the PQ and BQ do not think that there is anything

racist about this kind of thinking. “The context is different,” is what I

frequently hear. In order to better appreciate the tactical thinking of  Quebec’s political intellectuals, let us contrast them with the august hectoring of England’s Enoch Powell. On immigrants he said: “As I look  ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see the River  Tiber foaming with much blood,” (Speech to the Annual Meeting of the West  Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre, Birmingham, 20, April 1968). And Mrs. Thatcher’s remarks about England being “swamped by an alien  culture” (late 70s). Mrs. Thatcher and Enoch Powell are considered to be the  marvels of the age on race and identity politics. They have set the  universal  standards of correctitude.

It is easy to see why minorities living in Québec will vote no in

referendum 3. And although the Liberals are profoundly mistrusted, many will vote for them in the provincial election because they are ever-so-slightly less provincialist than the PQ-BQ compact.

The statements made by our revolutionary Provincialists make them

the North American near-equivalent of  France’s Le Front National. I suspect that some members of the PQ and the BQ are nearer to FN thinking that many would like to imagine. However, I do not see any exact copies of  Jean-Marie Le Pen in these few acres of  snow. In perhaps another historical context could one have seen the great Parizeau burning crosses and riding a white horse? Imagine, if you will, that Parizeau were an outgoing mayor of a city in France — say Marseilles — and he blamed his electoral defeat on money and the ethnic vote. He would be considered by almost all Europeans as friend of Jean-Marie Le Pen. Perhaps some Canadians would say that he is not a friend of this flaming racist: “le contexte est différent”.

Now, is there a difference between the remarks our domestic

revolutionaries make and those made by the British identity trend setters i.e. Powell and Thatcher? No. Is Quebecois revolutionary Provincialism emergent Ethnic European Nationalism in North America? Yes — it is ethnic-identity Provincialism without the real surge for independence.

The captains of  identity politics in the United Kingdom tend to use the English language allegorically, poetically, elegantly. However, French and English-speaking Canadian politicians without exception have only a wooden command of  language and hence are not terribly attractive as racists. All Canadian politicians have a Neanderthal command of these European languages. Consequently, Enoch Powell must be one of the most lovable and elegant racists.

The term “Quebecois”, often used to signify “l’identité collective”, is

not a problem-free term. Exactly who does this term include? Do the cultural and geopolitical parameters “Québec” and “Quebecois” include the visible minorities who are not sympathetic to the warp and woof of PQ-BQ

Provincialists? Does the term  include new arrivals? Do new arrivals want to be considered “Quebecois?” I came to Toronto on 2 March 1966, Air Canada flight 857. Although I have lived in Quebec since 1979 I am not Quebecois. I refuse the Provincialist project. I left that thinking in Mohen-jo Daro, or Lahore or wherever I came from. Possibly, the unwashed horde of new-comers to Québec feel the same way. I am, like many Canadians, linked to my British colonial masters via dual nationality which I will not surrender for Quebecois nationality. White Francophones who think themselves emergent nationalists are obligated to come to terms with this kind of thinking because it is ubiquitous within the “immigrant” horde. Even though I have lived in Canada for 31 years most white Quebecers still consider me an immigrant.

THE POSSIBLE REMOVAL OF CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP IN THE

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF QUEBEC

The PQ-BQ compact want to remove my Canadian citizenship via their attempt to partition Canada. What and how will the PQ replace my Canadian citizenship? What guarantees are there currently in place that

troublesome visible Canadian citizens would be treated fairly after liberation? Would it not be in the interest of the PQ to suppress all critics of their project? Many newly emerged nations have been brutally repressive towards criticism and minorities. There is nothing to suggest that Quebec would be different?

Is there any discussion anywhere of a Quebec Nationality Act within

the PQ-BQ and will the model be the British Nationality Act of  1948?

Perhaps a  nice little Nationality Act from France? Or will it be a  PQ

invention? The PQ is obligated to concretely answer these questions.

I fear that people who have spoken out against the PQ and BQ will be denied their Canadian nationality. And who is to say the Provincialist will not try to expel some of us after liberation? I base this mistrust on the current level of intolerance within the PQ. The revolutionaries might try to force me back to Ontario or worse they might deport me back to Pakistan, the universal home of  intolerance. These are not deviously invented fears; but are concrete fears for the dark horde that live amongst the white and pure Quebecois.

Should I give up my Canadian nationality because a few Provincialists within Canada want a separate nation-state? Why ought I to be generous and vote yes in referendum 3 when I have been  subjected to 18 years of  Powellian-style racism by white Francophones? I will not soothe the question of  Quebecois  identity by voting Yes in  referendum 3. I do not care about identity politics in the same way as Jean-Marie Le Pen, Powell, Thatcher, Bouchard and Parizeau.

The Natives do not figure importantly within Québec’s tactical class.

Why, for example, are the Cree and the Mohawk nations not part of the

Provincialists’ process? Why does a ephemeral 400 years of the Anglophone and Francophone presence in The New World produce the idea of possession? Why does a mere 400 years of the Eurotribal presence produce PQ-BQ chauvinism? To anyone from an older, more nationalist culture, 400 years is like last Monday. Terribly, terribly recent history. I predict that the PQ will try to bash natives if they ever get their little nation-state and will try to suppress local dissension.

Le Devoir is Quebec’s newspaper for the influential tactical class. This paper does not have any black writers on its writing staff; indeed none of Montréal’s black intellectuals are considered qualified for a permanent job at the paper. Lise Bissonnette, its director, rarely publishes impressive opposing views and I only very occasionally see articles written by non-pure residents of Quebec. Its cultural and intellectual spectrum is mostly for the people whose descendants have been here for approximately 400 years.

Le Devoir has offered suspect coverage of refugees (27, 28, 29 May,

1996). A coalition of refugee-support groups has condemned these articles as xenophobic and is taking the Le Devoir to the Quebec Press Council for

correctitude lessons. André Boisclair, Québec’s minister for immigration, and apparent lover of minorities is going to reform various programmes for

refugees (Hour, 27 June, 1996). He wants to cut funding for programmes that help people who flee fascist regimes.

Lionel Groulx, less influential among the provincialists than he once

was, may have been happy with Le Devoir tactics. [For an assessment of

Lionel Groulx and racism, see: ‘The Traitor and the Jew, Anti-Semitism and

the delirium of extremist right-wing nationalism in French Canada from 1929-39,’ by Ester Delisle, (1995)]. Groulx was not a lover of Jews; he published many strange and backward articles in Le Devoir.

Still, not a single PQ or BQ member has suggested a name change to

the Lionel Groulx metro station. But in the epoch of political correctitude I

would oppose such a name change; it is useful to keep this name as reminder of  darker times. Every time I step on or off the train on to the brown-tiled platform of the station, I feel the suffocating ghosts of real European Nationalism slithering underfoot. This gives me a sense of Canadian history.

Many of us came to Canada from countries where Nationalism in one

form or another deeply wounded us. Families were torn to shreds because of a line on a map. British India, for example, was subjected to a religico-ethnic vivisection: Partition, 23:59 hrs, 14 August, 1947. So it makes some of  us leery of  a Quebecois orchestrated nationalist-partition. The tactically moronic Parizeau is right: it is a waste of time for the Provincialists to try to convince “us” of their revolutionary virtues. We’d never see the point.

What will a Francophone nationalist regime be? Will it be more

forward-looking, socially progressive than what we already have? No. Is the

point of the Provincialist project to make white Francophone Quebeckers feel happy about themselves? No. Bouchard’s cuts to social programmes does not make many happy. Will a nationalist nation-state give white Francophones an identity? No. 40 percent of white Francophones voted to stay in Canada. Why should I risk becoming even more poorer than I already am just because someone wants an identity? Is there a possibility that a nationalist-partitioned Canada will be poorer than it is now? Yes.

Many of the dark hordists will not run away from the Provincialist

threat this time: we left Pakistan; we left East Timor; we left England — we

will not be forced to leave Quebec.

It is an inescapable fact that the horde (in Le Devoirian sense) of white Francophone Quebecers did not even understand the muddy referendum question. Had it been Thatcherite exactitude such as:

Do you want to separate from Canada and establish a Quebecois nation?

Yes or No there would be as much chance of winning on such a question as a sperm cell’s chance of survival in a wine-filled chalice at high mass. Quebecers do not want to separate: They have said so in two referenda.  Only a handful of technocratic Provincialists want to commit themselves to a identity-based partition of Canada.

I do not believe many Quebecers were annoyed with Parizeau’s famous last whimper – the one about money and the ethnic vote. Rather, many white Francophones were impressed by his robust chauvinism. Tell it like it is boss. A few perfunctory critiques were published in the press. Informed “political”

“scientist” Josée Legault could see little injury in his remarks.

THE IRRELEVANT THREAT OF CANADIAN CIVIL WAR, CIRCA,

1999

In many instances when Third World Revolutionaries set an agenda to snatch freedom from colonial domination they have achieved it: Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba to mention a few. In the initial stages the Revolutionaries try to force the colonial regime out by using civil protests but the colonials remain and continue the pillage. Then the phase of emergent nationalism transpires.

This is usually a point of no return; no room for compromise. The settler state and its representatives become the central targets of retaliatory violence. The movement toward liberation takes on a momentum of its own and it becomes difficult to predict its inventive tactics. By this stage it has mastered that final instrument that will win its independence: counter-violence. This is how two post-World War II states, Algeria and Vietnam, emerged.

Of course, it goes without saying that “independence day”  itself masks the cynical phenomenon of neo-colonialism. Now, the new regime enters international maturity, warts and all. The question is: How does one ever escape the colonial master? And who indeed is or becomes the colonial

master? Is he the stainless anti-colonialist who has worked out a prior deal

with thinkers in Paris, London, Delhi or Washington before that glorious day when the clock ticks past mid-night into freedom?

Provincialists will not be able to win a 50 plus 1 vote in a referendum

and they are far too materially and mentally comfortable in Canada to initiate any kind of  civil war whatsoever. Even the threat of Anglophone counter-partition will not inspire civil war because there is no political need to overthrow a colonial regime. The identity of white Quebecers is not

suppressed. In fact, the colonialist regime is right here inside Quebec staring

everyone in the face: it is the PQ masquerading as the force of freedom and

makers  of  identity. Lucien Bouchard, the identity-maker, is the colonial

administrator for the people of  Quebec. In a strange way, he is like Yasser

Arafat who sold out years of Palestinian struggle to please his Zionist

masters.

One needs two culturally distinct and extremely polarized armies for a war, even a friendly little civil war. Civil wars, or disorganized mass internal conflict, transpires in places where violence is the only means to solve (identity) problems. Quebec is not pre-partition British India; Quebec and Canada are not North and South Vietnam; Quebec is not Algeria; Quebec is not ex-Yugoslavia. Alas, Quebec is a province within Canada and white Francophone Quebecers are just another ethnic group within a federal democracy. The myth of the two founding nations is archaic hogwash.

Who is going to fight this supposed civil war? When would Quebecers in the Canadian Armed Forces defect to Quebec command? It takes a massive moral shift to change allegiance overnight. I think Quebecois military elites and the rank and file would stay loyal to Canada. Is there a Quebecois general who has given the faintest desire to change sides? Not a squeak. Who, except the fifty or so extremists, are ready for a bows-and-arrows solution to a relatively insignificant Provincial problem? Absurdly speaking, a Quebecois army would last no more than a few days. In the northern sectors, a Quebecois army would last no more than 48 hours if that. The Americans would automatically side with Ottawa. A few surgical strikes and the PQ army would be in purgatory praying beside Lionel Groulx, shining the shoes of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

Perhaps a few committed anti-colonial politicians will spark off the

civil war by setting fire to themselves in the middle of Ste-Catherine Street.

AN IMAGINARY SIEGE OF MONTREAL BY A QUEBECOIS

ARMY

Political “scientists” ought to remember the general rules of siege:

you can only win if the ratio of attackers to the besieged is 3:1. Exceptionally, this was proven incorrect in Afghanistan (the Taliban, of course, was backed by the Pentagon), but was proven most  gorgeously at Dien Bien Phu. General Vo Nguyen Giap in the most clearly planned battle of post-World War 2 defeated the French army of  16,000 with 60, 000 Vietminh guerrillas on 7 May, 1954. French imperialism  came tumbling down. (Eqbal Ahmad: The Nation, 9 October, 1989).  It is widely acknowledged, (possibly even by French military  historians), that General Giap was excellent at anti-imperialist guerrilla warfare. I think, that, as a minimum, Quebec would need someone of his caliber to outdo Ottawa. And who is his Quebecois equivalent? Captain Bernard Landry? Field Marshal Monique  Simard? Northern Flank Commander Josée Legault? General Bouchard? Sergeant Beaudoin?

Most of Montreal voted no in the last  referendum and most of the city would side with the federal army. Perhaps, if we are lucky we will see  an Irish-style civil unrest or a gooey televisual blood-bath if there is a slim

victory for the revolutionaries in referendum 3. But a civil war? Not in your

wildest dreams. Can we expect Provincial exploding-mailboxes-derailed-

trains terrorism? Yes this will happen. Will it become Ireland in a matter of

weeks or months? That particular conflict came to fruition after 700 years of English exploitation. The Quebec conflict will have to smolder just a little longer to achieve that glorious stature.

Julian J. Samuel has recently published:  Passage to Lahore, 1995;

[De Lahore à Montréal (Les Editions Balzac, 1996)].

*

(Traduit par une amie) Publié dans Conjonctures, # 25, 1997 (Montréal)

LETTRE OUVERTE D’UN PAKISTANO-BRITANNICO-CANADIEN

À UN AMI NATIONALISTE-EUROPÉO-QUÉBÉCOIS.

par Julian J. Samuel    email    juliansamuel@videotron.ca

Le texte qui suit répond à un article de Thierry Hentsch intitulé “Ad référendum” paru dans Conjonctures, numéro 24. Nous le publions non seulement parce que nous estimons que la discussion doit avoir lieu et que les revues sont faites pour cela, mais aussi parce que nous pensons que, sur la question nationale, les deux camps vivent en vase clos, sur deux positions tranchées et retranchées. Deux solitudes, disait-on? Non, au moins trois ou quatre. Quelques-uns des propos de Julian Samuel surprendront quelques-uns de nos lecteurs, ils reflètent pourtant l’état d’esprit de certains et il nous paraît important de les entendre.

Très cher Dr Hentsch,

J’implore les pères de la confédération, Lionel Groulx et les héros de

1837 pour que mon passe-temps qui consiste à piquer la susceptibilité des

« nationalistes » québécois ne nuise pas à notre amitié.  Vous le savez déjà,

c’est une manie qui comporte certains risques. Mais que puis-je faire d’autre,

Dr Hentsch, pour me préserver du mortel ennui qui me guette, autrement, dans ces quelques arpents de neige?

Je ne considère pas le PQ-BQ comme un mouvement « nationaliste » :

les gens qui s’en réclament sont, à mon avis, des provincialistes.  Je crois que

le terme « nationaliste » est trop lourd de sens pour être accolé à un

mouvement essentiellement provincial au sein d’un État-nation préexistant,

ancré aussi solidement dans la géographie que, disons, la France, le Pakistan

(à quelques incidents frontaliers près, dans le Cachemire), la Chine (si l’on

excepte la question du Tibet),  le Royaume-Uni (si l’on oublie le problème

irlandais) et l’Égypte.  Voici donc une entité géopolitique bien en place.  On

pourrait difficilement comparer le mouvement nationaliste « Quit India » qui a

vu le jour en opposition au Raj avec la danse folklorique mise en scène par le

PQ-BQ en vue de l’indépendance, pas vrai?

Pouvez-vous dès maintenant mesurer la tension herméneutique qui

s’installe?  Splendide, qu’en dites-vous?

De nombreuses amitiés ont sombré à cause des paradoxes qui se font

jour lors de semblables discussions.  Mais la nôtre survivra.

Je ne suis pas un fédéraliste grand teint, ni même réellement un

fédéraliste, pas plus que vous n’êtes un nationaliste québécois pur et dur.

J’éprouve un profond cynisme à l’endroit de tous les nationalismes, y compris

le nationalisme canadien.  Vous-même et vos collègues me classerez sans

doute dans la catégorie des fédéralistes « par défaut ».  C’est un honneur

d’être ainsi faussement étiqueté par certaines gens.

Je me propose donc de réagir aux opinions que vous avez exprimées

sur la période postréférendaire en 1) énumérant certains griefs de la

population anglophone que vous avez passés sous silence, 2) rétorquant

globalement aux propos de votre article.

LE POINT DE VUE DE LA MINORITÉ ANGLOPHONE

Je suis estomaqué par les inexorables « péchés par omission » de votre

article.  À tout moment, le nationalisme québécois y est blanchi.  Pourquoi

donc une approche si rêveusement partisane?  Du haut de son nuage, l’abbé

Groulx doit afficher un sourire béat.  Était-il à ce point farfelu, voire

impensable de citer dans votre article les propos corrosifs tenus par certains

membres des partis que vous semblez appuyer sans hésitation?

Ce qui suit constitue une liste incomplète d’énoncés attribuables à nos

provincialistes.  Je présume, peut-être à tort, que les lecteurs de Conjonctures

puisent leur sources en partie dans Le Devoir, un quotidien qui n’apprécie

guère la dynamique sous-tendue par un débat « pluraliste », sauf en de rares

occasions (par exemple l’article de Marc Angenot, Démocratie à la

québécoise, paru le 13 juin 1996 et une réplique, datée du 26 juin).

Évidemment, vous prétendrez que c’est pire encore dans The Gazette.

Peut-être bien.  Quoi qu’il en soit, en apparence, l’éventail des points de vue

présenté dans The Gazette est plus large que celui qu’offre Le Devoir.  L’un

comme l’autre échoueraient à un impitoyable examen d’objectivité mené par

un Noam Chomsky.  Ces publications n’ont pas l’ouverture d’esprit du

Guardian ou d’autres journaux nationaux de gauche européens.  Mais inutile

de s’inquiéter : il n’y a pas de Noam Chomsky québécois.  Les journalistes

canadiens sont des adeptes de la modération.

DE LA CONFITURE AUX PORCS

1 Les propos écumants d’un Pierre Bourgault : les gens qui voteront

contre nous seront en danger.  Un « non » des communautés juive, grecque,

etc. est un vote raciste.  Je sais qu’il a été éjecté pour avoir exprimé ses

sentiments angéliques mais nombreux sont les adeptes du PQ qui sont

activement guidés par cette psychose.

2 Richard LeHir a prétendu que la contribution des autochtones à la

société occidentale était inexistante.  C’est l’hôpital qui se fout de la charité.

3 Monique Simard a pour sa part affirmé bêtement qu’il pourrait y

avoir une révolte si les francophones perdaient la partie.  À mon humble avis,

cette femme n’est qu’une « hillbilly » du calibre de « Délivrance ».

4 Notre Imam occulte, Lucien Bouchard, n’a pas fermement condamné

Parizeau pour son incitation à la violence contre les minorités.  L’horreur.

Seul quelqu’un de fraîchement émoulu à la chose politique pourrait interpréter

les aboiements de Parizeau comme une tentative d’analyse et non pas comme

une flagrante manifestation de racisme.  Il a proféré des menaces physiques

contre les minorités qui vivent ici.  Je vous prie de ne pas l’oublier.  Bouchard

se prétend antiraciste mais en réalité, il est profondément raciste.  Il a lancé

que les gens de race blanche ne faisaient pas suffisamment d’enfants.  Et il a

cherché à duper les anglophones avec son discours prononcé au Centaur.

6 Philippe Paré a dit que les non francophones ne devraient pas exercer leur droit de vote et devrait laisser aux francophones de race blanche le soin de régler la question.

7 Et Bernard Landry?  Bien sûr, vous connaissez le raffinement du

personnage, aussi, je vous épargnerai les détails.  Demandez  plutôt à

n’importe quelle employée d’hôtel « mexicaine » d’éclairer votre lanterne.

Ainsi donc, je voterai « non » avec un plaisir rancunier lors du

troisième référendum.  Et je voterai pour les libéraux provinciaux non parce

que je les admire mais parce qu’ils sont un tantinet moins racistes, un tantinet

moins provincialistes que l’agrégat PQ-BQ.

COMPARAISONS AVEC L’EUROPE

Est-ce que les propos qui précèdent, émis par nos provincialistes,

diffèrent à ce point des bavures angéliques d’Enoch Powell?  Ce dernier a dit

des immigrants : « Si je regarde droit devant moi, un pressentiment néfaste

m’envahit.  Comme les Romains, je crois apercevoir le Tibre écumant de

sang » (Discours prononcé à la rencontre annuelle du West Midlands Area

Conservatire Political Centre, à Birmingham, le 20 avril 1968).  Et le

commentaire de Mme Thatcher décrivant une Angleterre « embourbée dans

les cultures étrangères » (fin des années 1970).  Mme Thatcher et Enoch

Powell sont perçus comme les phares de notre époque sur les questions de

race et d’identité.  Ils ont établi les critères universels de référence en matière

de rectitude politique.  Vous connaissez déjà suffisamment bien les opinions

de Jean Marie Le Pen sur les questions d’identité de sorte que je ne m’y

attarderai pas.  Il y a cependant un « point de détail » que j’aimerais

mentionner.

Puisque nous faisons dans la « science politique », ou dans « l’analyse

politique », j’aimerais poser une question qui sied à ces mécaniques : quelle

est la différence entre les commentaires de nos provincialistes et ceux de ces

Anglais modèles?  Disons, il est vrai, que les Anglais sont davantage portés

sur l’allégorie et qu’ils sont sensiblement plus doués pour la poésie, mais

somme toute assez peu dans le cas qui nous occupe.

Les énoncés de nos provincialistes font d’eux des quasi-émules des

membres du Front National de Jean Marie Le Pen.  Pourquoi donc adopter

une pareille attitude de tolérance envers le PQ-BQ?  Et pourquoi embrasser

leur rêve bidon?

Dr Hentsch, vous parlez dans votre article de rêves et de cauchemars.

J’avais le sentiment d’être allongé sur le divan du psy en lisant votre article.

Est-ce que toute cette activité onirique a un lien quelconque avec vos racines

européennes?  Dites-moi, je vous prie, est-ce que le Cercle de Vienne peut

aider nos provincialistes?  Peut-il m’aider, moi? Le provincialisme québécois

correspond de fait au nationalisme ethnique européen qui émerge en

Amérique du Nord. (1)

Voilà pour ce qui est de vos omissions.  Quant au contenu de votre

article, je pense que la passion qui vous animait jadis pour la casus belli

« provincialiste » s’est essouflée.  Difficile de s’engager très longtemps

auprès de perdants?  Vous nous offrez une analyse qui a les allures d’un

navire fantôme envoyant des SOS que ne capte aucun écran radar.  Trois

points, trois traits, trois points, trois traits…

Les autochtones n’ont donc aucune place dans votre vision des choses?

J’aimerais bien savoir pourquoi?  Pourquoi sont-ils nulle part dans votre “Ad

référendum”?

Et bien sûr, il me faut poser la question : pourquoi quelques quatre

cents ans de présence anglophone et francophone dans le Nouveau Monde

débouche-t-elle sur cette idée de possession?  Pourquoi ces quatre cents ans

ont-ils produit le chauvinisme BQ-PQ?  Quiconque est issu d’une culture plus

ancienne, plus « nationaliste », sait que quatre cents ans, c’est « lundi

dernier » : c’est de l’histoire terriblement récente.  Le Mohen-Jo Daro a au

moins 3 500 ans.

Vous utilisez le terme « québécois » (l’expression « identité

collective ») dans votre article comme si ces mots ne soulevaient aucun

problème.  Ces mots soulèvent des tas de problèmes.  De qui parlez-vous

exactement?  Des « pure laine »?  Dans ce cas, qui sont-ils, au fait?  Est-ce

que les paramètres culturels « québécois » englobent les minorités visibles qui ne sont pas sympathiques aux élucubrations des provincialistes du BQ-PQ? Est-ce que ces termes englobent les nouveaux arrivants?

Je suis arrivé à Toronto le 2 mars 1966 par le vol Air Canada 857.  Je vis au Québec depuis 1979 mais je ne suis pas Québécois.  Je ne le serai

jamais.  Je refuse le provincialisme.  J’ai abandonné cette façon de penser au

Mohen-jo Daro, ou à Lahore, ou là d’où je viens, peu importe où cela se

trouve.  Beaucoup de gens éprouvent la même chose que moi.  Que cela vous

plaise ou non, je suis un Canadien avec une nationalité double qui me lie à

mes maîtres colonialistes britanniques.   Les nouveaux « nationalistes » de

race blanche doivent composer avec ce type de sentiments qui sont partout.

Je n’ai pas envie de détenir encore un autre passeport, merci beaucoup.

Beaucoup de francophones blancs ne désirent pas non plus être dépouillés de

leur nationalité.

NATIONALITÉ

Le BQ-PQ désire m’enlever ma citoyenneté canadienne.  Vous

trouverez la question qui suit profondément stupide mais je dois la poser

parce que cette question hante plusieurs personnes des « minorités visibles »

au Québec : quelles garanties offre-t-on aux représentants de ces minorités

visibles trouble-fête qu’ils seront traités comme « d’authentiques » ex-

Canadiens après la libération?  Est-il quelque part question d’une loi sur la

nationalité dans les tiroirs du PQ-BQ?  Et si tel est le cas, quel en est le

modèle?  Le British Nationality Act de 1948?  Ou encore une jolie loi

française sur la nationalité?  Ou aurons-nous droit à une législation maison

façon PQ?  Le PQ et le BP sont tenus de répondre à ces questions de façon

concrète.

Je crains que les personnes qui, comme moi, ont ouvertement critiqué

le PQ et le BQ pendant la montée du mouvement de libération, et qui ont

l’intention de récidiver à l’occasion du troisième référendum ne se voient

privées de leur nationalité « canadienne ».  Qui peut dire que le PQ-BQ ne

tentera pas d’expulser certains d’entre nous après la libération?  Je m’appuie

pour affirmer ce qui précède sur le constat d’intolérance qui atteint un niveau

faramineux au sein de la superstructure PQ-BQ.  Thierry, dites-moi que

j’exagère, que ce n’est pas vrai, dites-moi que c’est une fabrication de ma

part, parce que je suis fédéraliste…

… Mais, Thierry, vos paroles ne parviendront pas à me rassurer.  Les provincialistes pourraient chercher à me renvoyer de force en Ontario ou pire, ils pourraient envisager ma déportation au Pakistan nationaliste.  Ces craintes n’ont rien de farfelu.  Ces craintes sont bien réelles pour la horde

d’immigrants à la peau foncée qui vivent parmi les « Québécois » de race blanche et pure.  Tout ceci peut sembler alarmiste mais il n’en est rien.

L’Édit de 1492 est pratiquement déjà en place.  Comment pourrais-je penser autrement, dites-moi?  Pourquoi ferme-t-on des hôpitaux et des écoles qui desservent la population anglophone?  Tout cela ne serait que délire paranoïaque du journal The Gazette peut-être?  Pourquoi me dites-vous que je devrais retourner vivre en Ontario?  Je serai toujours votre « voisin de palier », toujours.  Je resterai jusqu’à ce que la maison s’écroule. J’ai déjà la nationalité canadienne et la nationalité britannique.

Devrais-je renoncer à ma nationalité canadienne à cause d’une bande de séparatistes, d’un «peuple» au sein du Canada qui veut un État-nation séparé, avec ses lignes aériennes Bongo et quelques ambassades utilisant des télécopieurs et le courrier électronique.  Pour quelle raison devrais-je faire

preuve de générosité alors que je suis soumis depuis dix-sept ans au racisme à l’anglaise de la part de francophones de race blanche?  Je n’ai pas l’intention de témoigner la moindre indulgence à l’égard de l’identité québécoise en votant « oui » lors du troisième référendum.  Je me moque éperdument de la question identitaire tout comme Powell, Thatcher et Bouchard. Qu’est-ce donc qui vous empêche de voir l’amalgame PQ-BQ en tant que force impérialiste émergente?  Ces gens-là écraseront les autochtones s’ils obtiennent leur petit État-nation grotesque et ils censureront toute

dissension locale.  (Le Québec deviendra le Chili du nord).  Il suffit de constater le niveau de censure dans « leur » journal.  C’est avec beaucoup de réticence que Le Devoir publie des opinions contraires à ses vues et je n’y vois que très rarement certains articles écrits par des représentants de

minorités.  Pour ceux d’entre vous qui croyez que Le Devoir soutient des

idéaux grandioses, je vous renvoie à la série d’articles sur les réfugiés parus

les 27, 28 et 29 mai 1996.  Une coalition formée de groupes de soutien au

réfugiés a condamné ces articles pour leur xénophobie et a porté plainte

contre Le Devoir devant le Conseil québécois de la presse afin de donner au

quotidien une leçon de rectitude politique.  André Boisclair, ex-ministre de

l’Immigration du Québec et grand ami des minorités désirait « réformer »

différents programmes pour les réfugiés.  (Hour, le 27 juin 1996, page 8).

Son intention était d’éliminer le financement destiné aux programmes pour

venir en aide aux personnes ayant fui des régimes fascistes.  Le Devoir de

Lionel Groulx n’a pas changé, après toutes ces années.  Reconnaissez cet

abominable fait.  Cessez-donc de jouer les autruches.  Nommez-moi un seul

membre du PQ-BQ qui a le courage de proposer que le nom de la station de

métro Lionel-Groulx soit changé?

Comme vous le savez, beaucoup d’entre nous sommes arrivés au

Canada en provenance de pays où nous avons beaucoup souffert à cause du

nationalisme exprimé sous une forme ou sous une autre.  Certaines familles

ont été écartelées par un tracé sur une carte.   Par exemple, les Indes

britanniques ont été l’objet d’une vivisection de nature ethnico-religieuse : la partition a eu lieu de 14 août 1947, à 23h59.  Il est donc parfaitement inutile de vouloir nous persuader que le programme mis de l’avant par la horde de « nationalistes » technocrates et sans éducation possède quelque vertu.

Donnez-moi un seul exemple de nationaliste PQ-BQ qui soit aussi savant et aussi brillamment ambigu que l’Iranien Ali Shari’ati ou qui a le talent poétique de l’Indien Mohammed Iqbal?  Gérald Godin, Camille Laurin, René Lévesque?  Le rêve n’en finit pas de durer.

Quelle allure prendrait donc un régime francophone « nationaliste »

mitigé? Serait-il plus progressiste que celui que nous avons en ce moment?

Non.  Le but du projet provincialiste est-il de rassurer les Québécois

francophones sur leur propre compte?  Non.  Est-ce qu’un État-nation

nationaliste donnera aux francophones de race blanche une identité? Non.

Alors, à quoi sert tout cela?

Je ne tenterai pas, ni des centaines d’autres comme moi, d’échapper cette fois à la menace nationaliste.  Nous avons quitté le Pakistan.  Nous avons quitté le Timor oriental.  Nous avons quitté l’Angleterre.  La souffrance et l’humiliation qu’ont enduré de nombreux réfugiés, de nombreux

« immigrants » sous la tutelle de régimes nationalistes classiques et britanniques n’ont rien en commun avec votre expérience personnelle de sorte que je ne m’attends pas du tout à ce que vous partagiez mon point de vue.  Je comprendrai si vous-même et vos amis ont envie d’entrer dans la danse provincialiste une dernière fois.  Je ne me sens pas concerné par cette

« identité collective ».  Et, de grâce, ne banalisez pas le calvaire que m’ont

fait enduré les Québécois francophones.  Je ne tendrai pas l’autre joue.  On

ne peut pas ignorer que la horde (c’est bien de cette façon que Le Devoir

considère l’ensemble des réfugiés) des Québécois francophones ne

comprenaient même pas le sens nébuleux de la question référendaire.  Si la

question avait été celle-ci :

“Désirez-vous que le Québec se sépare du Canada pour établir la

nation québécoise, oui ou non? Si la population vote oui en majorité le premier novembre, nous déclarerons l’indépendance du Québec.”

Les chances de voir surgir La naissance d’une nation n’auraient pas

égalé les chances de survie d’un spermatozoïde dans un calice rempli de vin.

« Le peuple » ne désire pas la séparation : il a déjà dit « non » à deux

occasions.  Il n’y a qu’une poignée de « provincialistes » foncièrement

réfractaires au socialisme qui désirent la séparation.  Le cinquante pour cent

plus un n’existe tout simplement pas.

Je ne crois pas un seul instant que le commentaire fielleux de Parizeau

ait exaspéré de nombreux Québécois.  À la télé, vous les avez vus applaudir.

Admettez-le.  Ne jouez pas les autruches.  De nombreux Québécois

francophones ont grandement apprécié le chauvinisme à la Groulx. Josée

Legault, la « politologue » a même soutenu l’attitude de Parizeau.

Et sur la question du fédéralisme renouvelé : je ne suis pas persuadé

que les provinces sont plus progressistes que le fédéral.  Oui, le

gouvernement fédéral a du chemin à faire mais est-il aussi rétrograde que les

provinces?  Ralph Klein ne vaut pas mieux qu’Ottawa.  Mike Harris ne vaut

pas mieux qu’Ottawa.  Lucien Bouchard non plus.

LA GUERRE CIVILE, DE THIERRY HENTSCH, CIRCA, 1999

La guerre civile que vous apercevez dans votre boule de cristal n’a

aucun sens, à mon avis.  Il faut deux armées culturellement distinctes et

extrêmement polarisées pour qu’il y ait une guerre, même une petite guerre

civile plutôt inoffensive comme celle que vous prévoyez.  Qui donc se battra

dans cette guerre?  Je serais étonné de voir les Québécois membres de

l’armée canadienne faire défection pour joindre les rangs des combattants

québécois.  Qui donc, mis à part un Gilles Rhéaume assoiffé de sang, est

disposé à se battre avec des arcs et des flèches?  Selon ce que je sais de la

tactique militaire, une armée québécoise ne tiendrait pas le coup plus de

quarante-huit heures ou même moins.  Et bien entendu, en parlant

d’absurdités, les Yankees se rangeraient automatiquement du côté des

Canadiens.  Ne l’oubliez pas.  Quelques frappes chirurgicales et le PQ-BQ se

retrouverait au purgatoire.

LE SIÈGE IMAGINAIRE DE MONTRÉAL PAR UNE ARMÉE QUÉBÉCOISE

Les « politologues » ne doivent pas oublier les lois générales d’un état

de siège mené rondement : les chances de parvenir à imposer un état de siège

n’existent que si le rapport entre le nombre des assiégés et celui des

assiégeants est de trois pour un en faveur de ces derniers.  La preuve en a été

faite à Jelalabad, Afghanistan (1989) et de façon encore plus éclatante à  Dien Bien Phu.  Le 7 mai 1954, lors de l’une des batailles les mieux planifiées de l’histoire, le général Vo Nguyen Giap et ses 60 000 combattants ont défait l’armée française qui comptait 16 000 hommes, entraînant la chute de l’impérialisme français.  (Soit dit en passant, si le général Giap vivait au

Québec, on dirait de lui qu’il est un « ethnique »).  Tout le monde, y compris

les intellectuels et les historiens français, reconnaissent sans problème

(demandez à Paul Virilio?) que le général Giap excellait dans la guérilla contre l’impérialisme.   Pouvez-vous me dire qui, au Québec, pourrait lui être

comparé?  Sergent Paul Rose?  Capitaine Bernard Landry? feld-maréchal

Monique Simard?  Le commandant du front nord Josée Legault?  Il vous

faudra un jeune stratège drôlement visionnaire pour mettre l’armée

canadienne en déroute.  Montréal a voté « non » dans son ensemble lors du

dernier référendum et se rangerait en majorité du côté de l’armée canadienne.

La frontière nord du Québec tomberait en quelques secondes : quelques raids

aériens, quelques dommages collatéraux et voilà le travail.  Peut-être bien

verrons-nous, avec un peu de chance, une rébellion à l’irlandaise ou un bain

de sang de betteraves télévisuel si le « oui » l’emporte par une faible marge

au troisième référendum.  Mais une guerre civile?  Non mais vraiment,

Thierry, vous plaisantez?  Et qu’en est-il du rapport de force (3 pour 1) dont

j’ai parlé plus tôt?

I HAVE HAD A DREAM

Comme certains lecteurs de Conjonctures le savent peut-être déjà, j’ai

interviewé Thierry à deux occasions pendant le tournage d’un documentaire

en trois parties, portant sur l’Orient tel que perçu par l’Occident.  Je remercie

Thierry d’avoir été présent tout au long du Raft of the Medusa : Five voices

on colonies, nations and histories (1993).  Sa vision de l’Orient est à mon

avis l’une des plus pénétrantes qui soient.  [Je vous renvoie à ma critique de

son ouvrage L’Orient imaginaire (Black Rose Books) parue dans The

Gazette le 16 janvier 1993].

Pour la deuxième partie de mon documentaire, Into the European

Mirror (1994), Thierry et moi-même sommes allés à l’Alhambra, la dernière

forteresse érigée par la civilisation islamique à Grenade.  Ce fut un très grand plaisir de l’interviewer; il parlait d’abondance et avec passion.  Nous avons examiné la question de l’expulsion des Musulmans et des Juifs d’Espagne en 1492 et le niveau de résistance déployé; la nature politique et culturelle de la reconquête; et la possibilité d’établir une comparaison entre l’expulsion des Musulmans et des Juifs à l’époque, avec celle, de nos jours des Palestiniens.

Vous avez exprimé dans un brillant exposé qui témoignait d’une

maîtrise certaine de l’histoire ce que signifiait pour vous le rapport entre

architecture et politique, les stigmates dans le pierre; vous m’avez montré

comment les catholiques ont tout mis en oeuvre pour extirper de l’Espagne

l’héritage islamique et le remplacer par leur intolérance.  Vous avez fait le

lien entre le tourisme et l’histoire.

Je vois le brouillard sur la mer sombre et grosse de mauvais présages.

Nous sommes en 1492, tôt le matin, vous et moi, en Espagne.  J’utilise encore le magnétoscope Sony pour enregistrer les événements.  Nous sommes amis.  Vous m’avez accompagné sur la côte dans le sud de l’Espagne.  Pourquoi suis-je songeur?  Journée torride.  Ciel indigo.  Les mouettes criaillent des au revoir aux Juifs et aux Arabes.  Quelqu’un dans la foule me demande à quoi sert un magnétoscope.  « C’est un objet qui peut dire la vérité si on le pointe dans la bonne direction, » dis-je.

Je vais bientôt partir pour l’Afrique du Nord.  Mon coeur bat

mélodramatiquement.  Un bateau jaune clair avec un oeil en amande de

couleur violette peint sur son flanc hoquette sur les vagues du petit port.  Le

bateau est plein à craquer.  Mais il ne coulera pas.  Je demande : « Êtes-vous

venus me dire au revoir ou me demander de rester? »  Mais vous vous taisez.

Vous vous tournez, la mine lugubre, vers le nord, en direction du pays de

Ferdinand II et Isabelle I.

Affectueusement,

Julian

Julian J. Samuel a vécu en Ontario depuis 1966,  puis au Québec à partir de

1979.  D’après lui le PQ-BQ le considère toujours comme un « immigrant ». La version française de son roman “Passage to Lahore” vient de paraître aux éditions Balzac sous le titre “De Lahore à Montréal”.

(1)          Laissez-moi résumer la question en m’aidant d’une formule simple.  De

cette façon, moins de gens pourront prétendre n’avoir rien compris.

BQ = les tendances nationalistes (représentées par les lettres NT); par

conséquent : PQ = NT.  Mais aussi : BQ = PQ, si et seulement si BQ = NT et

PQ = NT

En réalité, Enoch Powell (EP) = NT

Également, Margaret Thatcher, (MT) = NT, donc, il en découle le corollaire

suivant :

BQ = MT; PQ = EP; et MT = PQ; et EP = BQ

Parce que BQ, PQ, EP MT égalent tous NT

et BQ x PQ x EP x MT égale NT 4

C.Q.F.D. : le PQ et le BQ sont d’incurables racistes. J’espère que ce qui

précède clarifie l’extraordinaire confusion qui découle d’ordinaire de

semblables discussions.

*

Book review

“Imagining The Middle East” by Thierry Hentsch; translated by Fred Reed

Montréal, Black Rose Rose Books, 1992

218 pages

originally published as “L’orient imaginaire,” Les Editions du minuit, Paris, 1988.

published: The Gazette, 16 January 1993

Reviewed by Julian Samuel

Thierry Hentsch’s “Imagining the Middle East” is monumental in its desire to deal with Europe’s contemplation of The Orient. In many ways it is like Martin Bernal’s “Black Athena” whose intention is

“to lessen European arrogance” by situating the origins of Greek civilization in Africa. Understandably, Bernal’s claim has been dismissed by many historians. However, many African-American intellectuals and others consider his work valuable in offering an alternative view. With similar scholastic intensity, Hentsch presents an  understanding of Europe and of the European self.

“…no civilization was ever so systematically curious about other cultures as Western civilization. But its vast storehouse of anthropological knowledge should have given it a sense of relativity, should have sharpened its self-lucidity.” p. 214

The book begins with an account of how the Orient was and is perceived in Western thought. The list of intellectuals raked over the coals by Hentsch is long and thorough.

Cultural Orientalists such as Racine, Leibniz, Voltaire are considered in Hentsch’s critical scheme. In one way or another these intellectuals used Islam and the Arab world not simply as raw material for their own creations but, however inadvertently, as a means to project a vision of the European entity back onto itself. The Orient, Hentsch theorizes, is the Empire’s reversed looking glass, always ready to reflect whatever response Europe wanted: Europe has democracy; the Orient has oligarchy and despotism; the Occident is feminist, women in the Orient practice “circumcision” of girls, etcetra.

The “contours” of Hentsch’s darkly eloquent critique bring us towards a philosophy of cultural and identity politics. The work is not history, but an analysis of history-making as it transpires within the moment-to-moment preoccupations of Empire. Hentsch explains how, before electronic mass media, “The Orient” was made palatable for popular culture.

Like Aldous Huxley in “The Devils of Loudun”, Hentsch penetrates the rationality of the most influential of western thinkers: Here are Hentsch’s words on Hegel, European par excellence:

“The European character of the Hegelian idea was seen as the objective fruit of the march of history…

a Eurocentrist beatification of Western world domination. Beatification is by no means too strong a word: history merely revealed the eternal immanence of Reason in the universe…Europe regulated the world, and in the mouth of Hegel, revealed the meaning of history…” p.141

Hentsch frames his Europeans as “eurocentric” and then generates a hall of mirrors view of history around them, exposing racist Europe. He is justly and soundly abrasive with Bernard Lewis and less impolite with Karl Marx. In his methods Hentsch is superior to the man who made the anti-Orientalist machine hum in the Occidental mind; Edward Saïd, who is respectfully made to look like a somewhat mechanical critic of Orientalism listing off incorrect things Europe said or did.

For readers fixated by the desire to come to understand the world of plural identities and the tactics of “appropriation” this is a very rich and necessary book. It is also useful for those who study “The Other” and “race” (growth industries these days) and who don’t want to bother with the inane prattle of careerist post-modernist “texts” which toy with the same issues.

“Imagining the Middle East” takes us from Antiquity (the initial few chapters need more than school-boy’s/girl’s knowledge of the Byzantine, Greek, and Roman Empires) to the utter destruction of Iraq which is forced to convalesce strike after surgical strike – “treatment consisting of a strangle-hold.” (p. 212)

The final chapter, “The Deadly Frontier” is about more than the Gulf war. Again and again Hentsch probes sinuously into the Western mind, though by now the European mirror has become so drenched in Arab blood that it becomes almost impossible to see a reflection.

At times, I found Hentsch’s erudition difficult; ideas get cluttered in historical referencing obscuring his analytical system from view (in spite of his clear prose): the “problematic” is before you in a way that you can recognize it.

“Imagining the Middle East” is an ugly translation of “L’Orient imaginiare”. The book’s cover projects Arabs as farmers and people walking outside Mosques and so on. Also, it is not easy to read the author’s name on the dotty red on yellow on blue cover. Something more in line with the book’s trajectories ought to have been visualized.

*

Cultural Imperialism by  Edward Said

Alfred A. Knopf, 380 pages; (1993)

Reviewed by Julian Samuel

HOUR, 23 June, 1993

Cultural theory makes one think of words post-modernistically strung together making little or no sense. Unfortunately, Montreal is a world center for this sort of material. So, to read Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism is a welcome relief from the post-modernists who are umbilically connected to their Parisian masters.

Culture and imperialism confronts critics and ideological systems for not connecting literature with the woof and warp of British and French colonial expansion. Said shows how novels by Joseph Conrad, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, Albert Camus, André Gide, James Joyce, etc. are inextricably linked to the expansion of empire; for the empire inadvertently needed the                 novel  and  its  cultural  practice,  in  part, to  make  the  periphery  understandable to London and  Paris: “For the   enterprise of empire depends upon the idea of having an empire….”

When a novel narrates overseas expansion, it helps to consolidate empire, even if the novel itself is anti-colonial in feeling. On this complex theme, Said has lots to say about E.M.  Forster’s Passage to India and about Camus, who is usually taught without an explanation of Algeria’s war for independence (1954-62). Camus’ work, we were told, was about the “human condition.” But now we know that that wasn’t all: Camus indirectly and directly played a cultural role in the strengthening of the French presence in Algeria. Said’s treatment of La Peste is generous to Camus on many levels, but his reading changes the old appreciation once and for all.

Even if it transpires against imperial cultural culture, the process of novel-writing is somehow complicitous with it. Conrad’s lived experience denied him access to the subjects of the Great British venture. He could write only about what he knew firsthand, although one can feel his deep resentment about what he knew and how he knew it. Too, Camus’ Arab characters transpire behind the Europeans, decreasing their narrative value and making his practice much less forgivable than Conrad’s for, in away, Camus was much closer to the fire of liberation than Conrad.

According to Said, Conrad would have been more of an anti-imperialist, but for the lack of alternatives to “The Great Game” Conrad was limited to a reluctant acceptance of London and its mission civilisatrice. Creative nationalist anti-colonial thinking of course came afterwards, during decolonization. Said extends the embryonic work of Frantz Fanon (Les damnes de la terre, 1961): the concept of nationalism is elegantly shredded. Some of Quebec’s intellectuals should read Said’s reflections on this current-day disease.

The nice thing about Said is that he is not dismissive of Austen, Kipling, Verdi, et al.: it would be mindlessly easy to dismiss these writers from the perspectives of today. He looks at culture not just as an isolated artifact but as something which was/is contrapuntal to the Great Plunder.

“The reason we can see that so clearly is that since Kim was written, India has become independent, just as since the publication of Gide’s The Immoralist and Camus’ The Stranger

Algeria has become independent of France. “To read these major works of the imperial period retrospectively arid heterophonically with other histories and traditions counterpointed against them, to read them in the light of decolonization, is neither to slight their great aesthetic force, nor to treat them reductively as imperialist propaganda.”

This kind of analysis is a development over Said’s Orientalism (1978) – a work which made the anti-Orientalist machine hum in the Occidental mind.

On Austen’s Mansfield Park, Said writes: “…[she] belonged to a slave-owning society, but do we therefore jettison her novels as so many trivial exercises in aesthetic frumpery? Not at all, I would argue, if we take seriously our intellectual interpretative vocation to make connections…above all, to see complementarity and interdependence instead of isolated, venerated, or formalized experience that elucidates and forbids the hybridizing intrusions of human history.”

Culture and Imperialism has an extremely erudite passage on Verdi’s Aida as it was performed in Cairo during the last century. A literary critic and an expert on music and its political history? The spectrum of this book is impressive.

The concluding sections extend the literature of decolonization and addresses pitfalls of thinkers like Michel Foucault. There is a lovely sustained attack on the airiness of postmodernists. Said shows how, in the post-imperial age, cultural identities have many layers and cannot be nailed down into any super-determined single frame. “Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are not more than starting points….” And what started this multidimensional process off? Was it not the imperial venture?

*

Book review by Julian Samuel

Gandhi Prisoner of Hope by Judith Brown

Yale University Press; New Haven and London, 1989; 430 Pages.

Montreal Gazette, 17 February, 1990

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 in Porbander, India. He was educated as a lawyer in London. After a failed career in Bombay, he left for South Africa to work for a trading company where he organized Indians in their struggle against the Union Government of Jan Christiaan Smutts.

During the 20’s he returned to his native India where, as the leader of Indian

National Congress, he participated in and at times lead the drive for Swaraj

(Home Rule.) He was famous for his sermons on religious truth, justice,

Hindu-Muslim unity and vegetarianism. His feelings were tragically hurt

when British India underwent vivisection on midnight August 14, 1947.

During his experimental life he was jailed in 1922, 1930, 1933, and 1942. He

was deleted from the Indian scene on 30 January 1948 by an assassin’s bullet.

Judith Brown’s labour of love meticulously outlines the life of one of the

fathers of Indian democracy: the task has not been an easy one. Brown had to

wade through tons of newspaper articles, thousands of letters, and several

biographies. Also, the interpretative problems of looking at the life of so

enigmatic a figure must have proven overwhelming; historical complexities

have been very difficult for her. The book is not exactly a scholarly success.

(It is littered with typos and some footnotes numbers don’t even have details

attached to them. But this is a small point.)

The emergence of a savior is phenomenon many countries have had to face.

In our very immediate past such religio-political leaders have passed their

message on to people in the throes of liberation struggles. Dr. Ali Shari’ati

with his tyrannicidal reinterpretations of the Koran was to lay down an

insurrectionary procedure for the people of Iran. However, the cotton

spinning Gandhi, was a very different Messiah.

For many in North America, Gandhi entered the contemporary public mind

through Sir Richard Attenborough’s malignantly flawed film “Gandhi.” Also,

many people may have come to Gandhi through his popularity among the less

passionately driven leaders of the American Civil Rights movement. His

repute spins out from the borders of the Indian sub-continent to every country

that has been touched by the virtues of colonialism.

England’s triumphal march of progress had systematically ravaged the pink

areas on older world maps; hence Gandhiji was and is everywhere. He was

that important an anti-imperialist: though, for one reason or another many

have questioned and dismissed outright the strategic credibility of his “non-

violence” against the Raj. Was he a catalyst or a vegetarian hindrance?

Brown is laudatory. Those of us who need to analytically look through the

20s, 30s, 40s, right up to the 15 of August 1947, when the transfer of power

from Churchill’s chilly England to Jawaharlal Nehru’s developing “socialist”

India took place, will have to look elsewhere. Brown is not very prone to

useful deconstruction. One can however, see the bright side of her

hagiographical skills.

This is not a work of vast theoretical judgments. Nor is it sufficiently critical

of Gandhi’s role in the slow move for Home Rule. There is a not a satisfactory

debate on the surrounding circumstances such as the development of the

concept and genesis of Pakistan. True, she does discuss Mohammad Ali’s

Jinnah’s role in the Muslim League, but it is done in a way that does not

challenge conventional explanations of Partition of 1947.

Nor does Brown introduce the options that might have been available for the

Quit India movement. (For example the violent potential of Subhas Chandra

Bose’s tin pot Indian National Army). Instead, we are introduced to Gandhi’s

personal hang-ups; his suicidal attachment to revolutionary avant-garde

diet(s); his obsessions with brahmacharya (celibacy), his sometimes theatrical

self-punitory fasts, his days of silence and his 24 hour a day desire for inner

peace.

Brown is not devoted to dismantling the myths orbiting Gandhi. Brown’s

reinforces and perpetuates lofty notions about his immaculate greatness.

Gushy admiration  makes for old fashioned writing and dull reading.  Other

thinkers on this period such as Tariq Ali (An Indian Dynasty, 1985) have

projected Gandhi as strategist who could not be ignored.

But because of Brown’s inexorable bleating about the man’s selfless devotion

to landless peasants and his selfless work with the Harijans, (untouchables)

his quest for inner peace, and the lot, we get an imbalanced view of the man.

Brown makes him a total bore which he was not. Some think him a brilliant

tactician which at times he was.

He made peasants aware of the concept of land reform but in critical moments

countered with; “I shall throw the whole weight of my influence in preventing

a class war. I shall be no party to dispossessing propertied classes of their

property without just cause. Capitalists are fathers and workers their

children.” (David Selbourne: An Eye to India: Unmasking a Tyranny, 1977).

Gandhi did indeed have an effect on the politicization of peasants, just as did

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto. But Brown does not

elaborate on Gandji’s tactical duplicity, of which there are so many examples

that the mind boggles. At times, he appears like a stubborn old anti-industrial-

pro-agrarian man in India and at others, a self absorbed saint.

Brown’s work is as flawed as Sir Richard Attenborough’s. The book has

aggrandizements enough to last until the second coming — stinking to high

heaven.

In South Africa we are introduced to a shy man who found it hard to confront

the most powerful expansionist machine on the face of the earth. Back then,

England was very powerful, very convincing. Then, the many nations living

under its august fluttering flags, roaring stony lions and dashing Viceroys

wanted out, wanted independence.

In South Africa he organized Indians. There is a claim that he was deeply

involved with the forging of links between Hindus and Muslims. However,

when his son Manilal fell in love with a Muslim woman, “Gandhi argued that

such a match was contrary to dharma (duty). He said, “Your marriage will

have a powerful impact on the Hindu-Muslim question. Inter-communal

marriages are no solution to this problem”. He “rearranged” his son’s marriage

to a “suitable” Hindu girl (pp.201). Such was the initial formation of his early

anti-racism and commitment to intercommunal peace.

It is cogent to note that in the scores of pages on his South African phase, not

one word is spent on Gandhi’s lack of connection with the Black struggle for

freedom. If Brown can point out this characteristic attempt of Gandhi’s

Hindu-Muslim unity venture then why did she refrain from critically reflecting

on his distance from the black drive for freedom?

As she puts it, “During the Boer War and Zulu Rebellion he volunteered his

services as a non-combatant”. To demonstrate Brown’s skills of silence it is

necessary to quote further: “Although his personal sympathies lay with the

Boer’s and the Zulus in each case he felt that if he demanded rights as a

citizen of the empire so it was his duty to participate in its defense”. Gandhi

sided with empire.

At 38 years of age in 1907, was Gandhi not mature enough to take an

articulate position on race and empire? His non-violent devotion to the latter

is amply evident. Brown ought to have been clear on this question. Was the

Mahatma (saint) disposed to side with Black Africans or not? If not, then

what sort of predicative knowledge can we develop on Brown’s kind of

history?

There is frequent softness; she refers to the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre of

1919 as the Jallianwalla Bagh “firing”. It is well known by now that this was

General Dyer’s very own cold blooded Massacre.

Despite Brown’s extremely impressive fluency with the facts, she practices a delicate vice-regal shyness in indexing Gandhi’s role in Quit India. In one

chapter, “Non-Violence On Trial”, where Brown is more critical than usual.

But it falls short of other definitive works on Partition. Hamza Alavi’s essays for example.

She spends little time on Gandhi’s battles with Nehru, and she does

not discuss Chandra Bose’s attempt to free India from the British with his

Indian National Army. Could Bose’s bows-and-arrows approach have

accelerated the fall of the Raj? His liberation army could have struck Delhi in

1939 when the empire was weakened by yet another European tribal war.

What did Gandhi think of this? Brown does not really detail how was he

going to handle a Japanese invasion.

The list of analytical underdevelopment goes on.

*

Salman Rushdie in the Age of Reason

Julian Samuel

(This commentary was part of a debate on Rushdie at Ramjas College, University of Delhi, in January 1989, and at Giessen University, Germany, in June of the same year. It was subsequently published in “US/THEM, Transition, Transcription and Identity in Post-Colonial Literary Cultures,” Edited by Gordon Collier, Amsterdam – Atlanta, GA 1992)

ONE CAN ALWAYS  overlook the political context of a book’s emergence into the world, but for a meaningful look at the richness of Salman Rushdie’s work it would be unwise.

There is a hidden agenda at work; there always is. With The Satanic Verses in particular, we must look at the surrounding constructions of British pluralism-who it includes and who it rejects.

There are other writers (mentioned below) in the post-colonial world who have not come under the same light-not because they are any less good than Rushdie, but because their politics and mode of addressing issues have set them apart, perhaps excluded them, from the kind movements of stylistic beauty that Rushdie has skillfully exploited in his rise into the Fabian soft folds of British literary society. Historical empires which claim to operate within democratic tenets must prove their sense of pluralism, their healthy tolerance of the Other’s sense of political imperatives (the balances and imbalances needed ostensibly to compensate for British rule in India?).

The case of Rushdie is one of inclusion; the process starts with a certain collusion of classes. I am suspicious of class-bias arguments against Rushdie; however, with Rushdie’s recent work (I shall except Haroon and the Sea of Stories, whose wonderful flight into fancy is a compensatory withdrawal into the classless imagination) the following argument holds water. He is from middle-class India, and his joining the educated ranks of the West at Cambridge is more a bringing together of taste and class than the development of a contestatory literature. I realize that any attempt to connect his Satanic Verses with his class background (i.e. as an expression of its failure) can be read as a feeble gesture; but it is more often true than not that writers from his class have, as their central focus, their own career in view. At times, this careerist motivation is clothed in the garb of activism, just as it is expressed in pluralism. Yet their literature is not about the larger sphere of activism. There are, of course, exceptions to this essentially weak rule — but Rushdie is not one of them.

What we have in The Satanic Verses is an author who intimates the barest critique of liberalism, staying as near to conservatism as possible without straying too far into the realm of advocating theoretical or actual neo-Fabian violence. It is a kind of refined and erudite compromise constructed for the soft folds of a safe and international literary aristocracy which sees at least one of its aims as the production of a literature heavy, dank and resonant with slickly

manipulated surrealism, but with a great deal of it anchored in perfunctory, riskless experimentation. Tragic.

So, here we have the context of the publishing industry’s attempt to publicize a particular book. Publishers and authors will use many means to get a book into the public mind. The issue of censorship is not a new method for conferring undeserved credibility upon an otherwise uncontestatory series of decorative ideas. In the West, any degree of censorship helps to establish writers, both unimportant and important; and, of course, this sells books.

If one suspends comment on the dazzling structural and Islamic formalities of The Satanic Verses, observing instead the mechanisms of another process outside the immediate functioning of the novel itself, one may come to see how Rushdie has arrived where he is.

Censorship and Islam. The issue of a simple-minded parody of Islam, with its narratively wearying associational links, is hardly worth the effort of Indian (for that matter, any) censorship-unless, of course, one was prepared for the large amount of publicity which the issue was about to generate in the first place; though it is hard to judge whether Rushdie did anticipate the literarily deconstructive tones sounding from Teheran. It has been established that drafts of the “injurious” chapter were sent to Indian magazines to foster a coordinated Islamic response.

The book is boring because the attempt to create diegetic density is fey and, often worse, unexperimental. Its echoes of-well, anything from Joyce to Faulkner and (I am told Rushdie does not like the comparison) to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism are expropriative rather than transmutative, right down to Garcia Marquez’s own serious embedding of thorns in the flanks of governments. The Indian government suppressed this “revolutionary” text because it censors most opposition anyway. Rushdie’s book does not represent any moral high ground. And it was made accessible in India through pirating channels. So much for the prestige of a novel that so strongly questions religion that it needs to be hushed by state censorship. It ought to be no surprise that Rushdie’s mild, ineffectual and paradoxical reinterpretation of Mohammed’s life at Mecca and Medina has fast become a source of irritation to a country which Rushdie left when he was a child. One doesn’t have to be a heavyweight to reap censorship from unprogressive Muslims. They, like their Christian counterparts in the West and the Middle East (Lebanon, for example), will try to control any opposition, however slight, however progressive, however questioning of religion.

Here is what Mr S. Shahabuddin, President of the All-India Muslim Majlis Mushvarat, told me about the book (I am told he has made these remarks often):

The book is blasphemous, injurious and makes indecent remarks about the Prophet’s wife that violate the Indian penal code, which prohibits any writing which may hurt the religious sentiments of the people, and that are in bad taste. If the importers of the book want to contest the ban, they have the democratic right to do so. [interview, New Delhi, 18 January, 1989]

Mahmood Ahmed Mirpuri, secretary of the Islamic Sharia Council in Britain, said that the book was “a blatant insult to Islam” (New Statesman, 15 October, 1988). Obviously, the Muslim reaction to the book is an orthodox, reactionary one. Rushdie’s manipulative brilliance did not motivate much else. The fundamentalist government of Iran used the book to deflect criticism from itself; with the end of the Iraq-Iran war, the potential for internal dissent and a second revolution must have been an awful strain on this grey clerical regime. Hence the more than incidental political value to the ayatollahs of their renewal of the universal death-sentence on Rushdie.

The remarks that the international media have projected (and I am thinking especially  of  the  state-run  CBC  in  Canada)  are  stereotypically  and informationally  dead-ended;  few  Third  World  intellectuals  have  been interviewed. The Muslim world is deeply sensitive to the plot of international racism mounted against it (in the case of Palestine, Iran, etc.), and to anything that attacks it, from American and Israeli F-1 8s to the various other Arab regimes themselves. The kind of attack sustained by a trendy, cultured Indian-British writer will be taken as an attack not only on the hermeneutic intricacies of Islam, but also on the code of living which has historically always been manipulated by the West for the latter’s benefit. Edward Said, in Covering Islam, has exposed this structuration of Western bias against Islam as it is shaped in our print and electronic media.

Rushdie could have gone on and on about how the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is in fact an historical reaction to imperialism — how, in fact, the hundreds of years of occidental colonialism and imperialism have smashed the social fabric of Muslim life to the extent that the social critique of religion as an instrument of social control is beyond the pale in most Islamic societies and the institutions of higher learning within it. Hence the current reaction.

It is a moral good to parody religion in all its evil forms; but to choose such an already wounded target for the delectation of Western civilization at large is certainly too easy and too aesthetically simple-minded a way to attempt irony. The irony, of course, is that The Satanic Verses is a pretty ordinary book by an occasionally stimulating writer who has become better known through his homing in on soft targets. (It is obvious that Rushdie’s predictive sense could have helped him fabricate a more effective way of injecting the Muslim world with questions on this religion’s current transformations.) His use of Islam is surely not so devastating a literary deed when one recalls that, just a few years ago, jets zoomed into Tripoli and Benghazi under the guise of demolishing Arab (Islamic) terrorists; not so devastating a deed in the light of Israel’s assistance to Lebanese forces (who are seen as Islamic, therefore Arabs, therefore terrorists) in perpetrating the massacre of Palestinians at Chatila and Sabra. The task of making the world laugh at religion is a good one; but when it is performed with facileness rather than facility-with so much of the general irony depending on the media-code of prefabricated Western opinion-then the whole project founders in its own shallows.

This is not the place to survey the book’s progress in India or elsewhere; enough to say that, in India, the book has generally had a very tongue-in-cheek reception. Intellectuals of both Islamic and non-Islamic persuasion have come out to condemn and laugh at Rushdie’s Islamic pre-calculation. Saeed Naqvi has said: “The most annoying thing about the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses is that it makes Indian Muslims out to be a bunch of humourless touch-me-nots, intolerant of elegant verse or an irreverent idea”; and: “describe the Battle of Boyne as a piece of fiction. The Orange Order will take your pants off and give you three hundred not lashes, but John Lobbs on your bare bottoms. Try producing The Merchant of Venice in Jerusalem or even on Broadway and the publishers of The Satanic Verses will break the contract” (Illustrated Weekly of India, 6 November, 1988).

In several of his short stories, the late Pakistani novelist Saadat Hassan Manto shatters reactionary aspects of Islamic thought and application. And, I might add, at far greater personal risk than Rushdie; Manto wrote his fiery exposés during the holocaustic Partition-period when British India was bifurcated into the Western and Eastern wings. Rushdie is writing within fortress London. Aldous Huxley, for one, made a greater and more imaginative indictment of the Church and its paraphernalia in The Devils of Loudun, where his irony, directed at the whole epoch of Cardinal Richelieu, is finer and more contestatory. The list of better and more combative writers on religion could be extended indefinitely.

The Islam bit is just an attempt to get the trivial narrative mess on the world map: to maintain Rushdie’s reputation, in the wake of Midnight’s Children, as a writer of substantive importance. The tactic does not work; the approach is diaphanous, moribund. However, Rushdie is momentarily triumphing on the arc of imperial culture. British society (and American, and German . . .) has to demonstrate its admirable pluralism, and Indian society must show its petty intolerance by protecting its Muslims from the cruel barbs of The Satanic Verses. For the Empire, the task of accepting and containing the polite pinpricks of Rushdie is no problem (Booker Prize to boot), especially when it is embedded in so erudite and inconsequential an attack on imperial discourse. Besides, what has the book produced to date in terms of bringing about any creative debate on Islam or post-colonial fiction? All one hears of is angry Muslims burning the book without having read it. And this is Rushdie’s fault. We ought not to forget that he is a trained orientalist (Cambridge). With his expertise, perhaps a more lasting, more heretical debate could have been projected on the Muslim world. He might well have known what the reaction would have been. Increased sales?

Rushdie’s novel seems to be innovative. It is not. The Satanic Verses is perfunctorily a complex work from which the hard world of experimentation and the testing of ethical, ideological or philosophical narratives is absent. There is the urge to impress the reader with swirly, protracted arabesques, but to little end. Even on its own terms, the book is lame, inconsequential; dramaturgically, it produces nothing memorable. The discursive ruptures in the narrative flow are too often there for their own sake; it is for the softness of his attack on structures in general that Rushdie is so readily accepted. Rushdie gives British pluralism what it wants-what other reason for placing him on the Nelson’s Column of post-colonial literature? This is the world of cheque-book fiction. More effective non-dreamers like Tariq Mehmood (Hand on the Sun) and, in France, Mehedi Cahref (Le Thé au harem d’Archi Ahmed) produce characters who loom large in the mind after the pages have stopped turning. There are consequences from knowing them.

In The Satanic Verses, one has to rest content with characters who are dropped in and plucked back out again without any challengingly blasphemous integration or disintegration. One cannot take as a serious challenge an orthodox Muslim community’s reaction to the book on any level except that of a media event. It would take another kind of adaptation of the Koran to tease out a response in terms of intrinsic questions of consequence-questions that might make Islamic Ulema look hard at itself. For example, the WAF (Women’s Action Forum) continually used the Koran to mirror back and fight off General Zia ul-Haq’s very special understanding of religion.

In January of 1987 Rushdie attacked London’s Black Audio Film Collective for their experimental film on the Handsworth riots. As expressed in the Guardian, Rushdie’s objection was basically that Handsworth Songs presented the problem in and around the riots; that it was not really up to par aesthetically and experimentally; and that the film was not innovative on a number of levels. According to Rushdie, it failed to commingle histories of oppressed Blacks in the UK with other stories. More importantly, he also claimed that the film was okayed by the critics because it was a “Black” production, and thought that British journalists had gone soft in the head when it came to Black concerns. It would be truer to say that Handsworth Songs succeeds in bringing together theories of representation, archival mediation, and the power of counter-history; and does so without any self-flagellation. It would be a more apposite exercise to transfer Rushdie’s criticisms of Handsworth Songs to his own Satanic Verses.

On the subject of Black people and their struggle for justice in Britain, Rushdie, it would be fair to say, has a Naipaulesque attitude-all the more dishonest because it is masked in a finer style than Naipaul’s, whose observations more readily betray his unnecessarily brahminical attitude of superiority. What, then, does Rushdie think of popular Black political movements and their quest for change in racist Britain? The facts speak for themselves: he continually mocks and derides disadvantaged Black resistance movements in the UK (not everyone can be as prosperous as Rushdie-from Bombay to Cambridge, Booker Prize winner, but this, like the Indian government’s prestige-generating ban on the book, must not be held against him; I make this observation merely to indicate class collusion and the self-

interest of the publishing world). Blacks are subjected to Rushdie’s scorn and, possibly, his condescension. Notice the Naipaul in Rushdie:

Now-mi-feel-indignation-when-dem-talk-immigration-when-make-insinuation-how-we-no-part-a-nation-an-make-proclamation-a-de-true-situation-how-we-make-contribution-since-de-Rome-0ccupation. [p. 292]

Or: “The symbol of the Goatman, his fist raised in might, began to crop up on banners at demonstrations, Save the Six, Free the Four, Eat the Heinz fifty-seven” (286). There is here the cheapness of observation that perhaps only a rich immigrant might make who has been accepted into the role of major world writer. Rushdie tries to enter the thick of Black oppositional debate, but from far too lofty a perspective. His class origins save him; but his rigid adherence to the way his class has always talked about the poor and their struggle is not very different from the cold detachment of a Punjabi landlord in Sind. The condescension could have been more entertaining, more powerful, had it actually pushed ideas in the form of a confrontational expose’ of grass-roots politics and activism. But all we get is the ability of a narrative structure to mimic experimentation, a dull exercise in montage posing as an aesthetic of newness.

This above-the-other-immigrants attitude towards the orthodox and Black-British Left applies only so much reason and tactical ingenuity as one could expect from an immigrant who has absorbed the mannerisms of Cantabridgian superciliousness and added them to his upper-caste world-view. Rushdie’s is indeed the highest fiction in the land. The risks have not paid off, though; what one gets is a histrionic, often super-associational narrative (complete with Marquezian butterflies-cf. p. 492), for whose characters we are not encouraged to care much. We are asked to put up with it all in the name of a thought-provoking post-colonial literature, and with the pre-orchestrated extra incentive of a reputation ennobled through censorship. Joyce’s Ulysses may have had greater difficulty getting published, but the writing is worth it; with Joyce, there’s also a lasting suspicion of religion that is persuasively mediated. Rushdie exposes racism and its systemic violence politely. He pokes fun entertainingly at the fawning attitude of some Muslims to authority. But no more than that. When one has exposed racism and the reactionary aspects of Islam (of Judaism and Christianity, for that matter), it is not worth doing it again in book after book. One must tell other stories-as Rushdie himself says of the Black Audio group. However, if the project includes the dull tales of an innovative novelist, then I would prefer that risks had been taken that involved rearticulating the dream of a world in which literature can do its bit to effect change.

There are moments of beauty in the book-the beauty of its internal collusions; desultory, early postmodernist contortions and subversions. Yet the polished magnificence of Rushdie’s mirroring, associative innovations is dashed into inconsequence by having nothing inside, behind or around it. The transitional sections are merely little bits of literary biology suspended in the thin, smoggy air of British pluralism. The book is empty. The precalculated anti-Islamic propaganda is a sales-pitch, nothing more. To further get credit for having produced a book that an oligarchic democracy like Mother India has banned is clear evidence that reconstitutions of the Koran in a Muslim world terrorized by the West will not find it difficult to come under censorship. The Iranian use of the book is obvious; the Indian use of the book is obvious. And Rushdie’s use of the Koran is obvious. The towering complexity of The Satanic Verses and the pseudo-erudition of the novel’s ten hip literary allusions per page are a sure sign that, this time round, Rushdie is trying too, too hard to overcome his Empire-inflicted Naipaulism.

end