Friday, August 19, 2005

Azmi and Me, a Pseudo-Fisking 

Azmi Bishara has an article in Al-Ahram Weekly and I'm too tired to write anything serious, so I figured I would just pseudo-Fisk this. I say pseudo-Fisk because I don't actually plan to bother understanding what he's trying to say before making fun of it. Hey, that's got to be easier than trying to construct a valid Yahoo image link to ridicule at this hour. So without further ado, my absurd twisting of the many, many, many words of Azmi Bishara:

For the democratic left socialism never stood solely for state ownership of the means of production. It involved setting into motion a sophisticated, fluid and morally-inspired drive to organise society on more just, equitable and democratic foundations.
This is great news. We can stop worrying about socialism. There's really no such thing. It's just democracy, only nicer.

blah blah blah...social justice was sometimes reduced to a vehement condemnation of private property as the root of all corruption...more blah blah blah...the European left was generally at the forefront of the fight to expand democratic liberties, suffrage and freedom of the press. It also believed that social justice entailed freeing mankind not only politically, but also from the fetters of economic exploitation. Only a humanitarian political-economic establishment could liberate people from their function as interchangeable cogs in the capitalist machine of production, or as consumers whose behaviour is shaped by the laws of the capitalist consumer market, and give them the fullest scope for self-fulfilment as free, independent, active and dynamic individuals.
I look forward to that liberation. It warms my soul to think of a state that wants me to be free, so long as I don't want to consume anything. Sounds like North Korea.

Okay, deep breath and we dive back in:

Successive industrial revolutions, from the mechanical to the high-tech, IT and bio-tech, have radically altered modes of production and ownership.
Not to mention modes of caffeine intake, explosives delivery and pizza distribution.

It is now impossible to speak of a society split into two distinct classes, capitalists and workers.
Well, actually, it's not completely impossible. There are some societies with this thing called freedom of speech, so in those places it's perfectly possible. But if you're the kind of guy who would stump for the return of Saddam to replace the U.S. in Iraq then I would see your point. In that case, it would be impossible to speak of much of anything except the luxuriant superiority of the Presidential Mustache.

...middle classes...blah...service and leisure sectors...blah blah...increased generation of profits...blah...enormous boom...blah...blah...high levels of education and a broad array of technical and administrative expertise.
Wow, you know Azmi, as long as I quote you in completely out of context, you make a lot of sense. Some really good stuff there. Practice your delivery and you might even be able to run for office someday.

...blah blah blahgitty blah blah blah...
You know, I really don't have a clue what your point is, or why you're trying to make it. I feel like I'm reading the output from a clever new web service, the Socialist Jargon Speech Generator. My readers sure are lucky that I'm shielding them by standing between your words and their brains. Ok, back to you:

...blah blah, yeah more blah...The right to a humane and dignified life is one such principle; it should be safeguarded by financial measures aimed at redistributing wealth and protecting the poor in the face of market forces that would otherwise exclude them.
Like having to get a job, or pay full price for Viagra. I'm right there with you Robin Hood.

The left champions the equal right to healthcare and the sanctity of childhood and old age.
Well, except of course for the kids and codgers of the Zionist occupation forces.

...blah...It also struggles to subject government agencies to public scrutiny, including those that try to place themselves above such principles through recourse to the demagoguery of national unity or national security.
National security, I spit on you. Now if you wanted to trample those principles in the name of martyrdom operations against Western Imperialism and the Various Satans, that's a different matter.

The left has an instinctive disposition to side with the people.
Except in the cases of Fried Chicken restaurants, fur coats, trees, spotted owls, and the polio virus. Other than that, yeah, they love the people.

However, the left as I understand it does not take the attitude of the masses or the public mood as its sole standard for what is progressive. As difficult as it may be, the left must draw a line between popular and popularist.
With what "ink" exactly is this line to be drawn? Just asking.

It must strive to raise public awareness and help the people perceive where their interests lie...
Because Azmi knows better. And Azmi is pretty sure he is not himself in need of someone to tell him where his interests lie because he is one of the annointed who is allowed to know for himself.

...and how best to defend them, as opposed to the popularist right which pals (sic) on gut feelings to manipulate the mass mood.
What happened to that "democracy but nicer" vision you were working on earlier. You're starting to sound just a touch totalitarian around the edges here Azmi.

The right might sometimes express the popular pulse and successfully recruit mass feeling, but the true test of the difference between the left and right resides in which better represents the interests of the people.
I love it: the true test of the difference between the left and right resides in which better represents the interests of the people as dictated to them by the left. It's great playing a game where you get to write your own rules. The only trick is finding suckers to play with you.

...blah...more blah...If the left opposes globalisation, for example, it does so because rather than freeing people from need it inhibits the fulfilment of need by generating and reproducing conditions of enslavement through the hegemony of transnational corporations, the inequitable distribution of wealth and the perpetuation of the donor nation-debtor nation relationship.
If the left favors confiscation of your property, it does so because entanglement with possessions and material fixation limit the true freedom that only belongs to those who have nothing.

...blah...Democracy to the left is not just political plurality, which in some countries risks being distorted into ethnic or sectarian plurality that reproduces the traditional order.
Sorry, had to stop there for a second to hit the reset button on my "hinting at Israel" radar detector. But I get the point. All that voting crap is well and good unless it leads to Jews being allowed to elect themselves to govern over Arabs. Not that it's any problem in all the neighboring Arab states, or even in the offered and rejected parallel Arab state.

There have to be institutionalised guarantees agreed upon by all legitimate political forces...
...like Hamas and Hezbullah and Saddam's Baath Party...

...safeguarding individual civil, social and economic rights, the rule of law, the autonomy of the judiciary, the public's right to hold their political officials accountable for their actions, the individual's right to choose his religious belief or to choose whether or not to observe the rites of his faith...
...the right of individuals and groups to bear rocket propelled grenades launchers...

Wow, are you still with me? Azmi writes an awful lot, and if you're still paying attention, I'm impressed. I lost interest quite a few paragraphs ago. Too bad you can't finish this for me. Well, enough chit chat, back to work:

...a little blah blah blah that made a teeny bit of sense but that I couldn't think of anything funny to say about it...a little more blah blah blah that didn't make sense and I didn't care about...Faced with these developments members of the beleaguered left, finding themselves increasingly bereft of any social or political party support, have taken refuge in two forms of mysticism.
All right, now we're talkin' Azmi! I love Madonna and Tom Cruise commentary. Plus it can't hurt my chances for a little Google traffic! Lay it on me big boy, let's have a little of that old time Kaballah:

In the Third World a significant portion of them have embraced anti-progressive and anti-modernist tenets and slogans. The quest of these erstwhile leftists for common ground with the fundamentalists on the basis of a shared hostility to the West and globalisation disguises the fact that fundamentalist Islamist hostility emanates from entirely different premises. In its pursuit of common ground this segment of the left has not only contributed to sidelining questions of democratisation, social justice and the rationalisation and secularisation of political and social relations, it has so fallen prey to a fundamentalist culture that it has recast much of its political discourse in religious rhetorical mould, with special emphasis on the rejection of everything emanating from the West, including democracy.
Whoa. I don't think that was approved by Ashton Kutcher or his press agents. But actually, it kind of made sense. I think. "The Left and Islam, sittin' in a tree, K-I-...

...oh blah blah...Rather than explore the concrete processes of party politics, coalition building and grassroots organisation, a motley collection of non-democratic elitist associations seclude themselves from society to theorise and pontificate, as is their habit, on matters that have no immediate bearing on the political and social realities of the majority. Such ivory tower speculations are inimical to the process of democratic transformation. All they produce is some fantasy of democracy in the abstract, with no regard for the actual social and political forces involved in the battle for democracy.
Well, unless you were condemning the U.N. there, which I doubt, you've gone back to boring the hell out of me Azmi. I can't shake the feeling, with all these words with odd numbers of syllables, that I should be taking the first letters of all your sentences and reading them backwards to figure out which bus station locker the detonator is in. No, wait, that doesn't work either, I may have to go back to taking you literally:

The left, whether of the fundamentalist or the form-without- substance brand, has been unable to produce a single concept capable of identifying challenges, let alone ways to overcome them and promote happiness and freedom in our countries. Nor will it be able to do so until it makes the connection between its core values -- equality, social justice, freedom, social enlightenment, progress and the rationalisation and humanisation of social and political relations -- and democracy as a system of government and a national cause.
Whew! Congratulations, we made it all the way through. Yeah, yeah, I know I probably massacred what he really meant, missing some really deep and significant point of Socialist Leftist wisdom. Oh well, I'll wait for the Cindy Sheehan condensed version later this week. And anyway, I didn't want to really tear this thing apart, afer all, Azmi is an Israeli. Oh sorry, Azmi, I meant a Palestinian Arab living in the Zionist entity. Still, you're one of ours, you big lug! Now get over here and give me a great big socially-just hug!

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: