Monthly Archives: February 2015

Clothes, Codes & the Colonial “Other”

Sartorial 4At the risk of clouding the more serious question of water-politics in Palestine-Israel dealt with earlier on this blog [see below], I want to mention a dimension of the conflict which is ‘hiding in plain view’: sartorial differences between West and East. Middle-Eastern Arabs, especially women, and Islamic societies generally (though less in the FAr East) frequently if not invariably wear traditional clothes more or less embedded in the Sharia code – or the popular perception of same – which have the effect of casting them as “natives” on the world stage in the pejorative colonial sense of that term.

The communicative import of such clothing on our televisions screens is complex but the general message it transmits above all is to tell us that they are not part of the ‘fashion’ world we all inhabit and hence, in a very real sense, a different lot of people from us. This much seems certain – we can’t sell dresses, skirts, or tank-tops to them – though the irony is worth savouring that the keffiyeh worn by so many men, including Yassir Arafat, is very predominantly manufactured in Birmingham where, in fact, it was designed. Continue reading

The Koch Bros: Liberationist or Liberal?

The Koch Brothers are capitalists – no surprise. Their source of wealth is the energy industry, chiefly petroleum and related enterprises including down-stream chemicals, agriculture, electronics, and even tax and accountancy. All this is available on their corporate website and career pages – just crying out for your job application like any regular employer. You can reach those pages through Google [Koch Industries and Koch Careers]. There you will find that their website banners represent them as the very different from the enemies of democracy so familiar from the hate-placards seen on Internet and Facebook where hysterical voices vie with more credible commentators such as Huffington Post‘s Bill Bigelow to chart their grip on US law-making and education in the Right-Wing’s campaign against “big government”. 

Koch Bros.

Koch Bros.

The Kochs call themselves ‘liberationist’ as distinct from ‘liberal’ or ‘neo-liberal’ in current American parlance. ‘Liberationist’ is virtually synonymous with the Tea-Party Movement which equates the American Dream with the maximum of freedom for capital and the minimum concern for those who have failed to accumulate it in profitable amounts. Continue reading

Kevin Kiely & the Irish Times Gang

Kevin Kiely on "The IT Gang"

Kevin Kiely on “The IT Gang” [online]

At the risk of rising danders, it’s tempting to add some words to Kevin Kiely’s invective on the IT Gang. Unfortunately the ‘cabal’ he speaks of has the right of it, at least in some important regards. Item: it has a nigh-monopoly of the best minds and the best writers in Ireland at the moment. Item: Colm Toibin is the most remarkable man of letters we have seen since Sean O’Faolain and a much more talented prose-writer than the other. Nor is he like O’Faolain, a semi-humanised creation of Harvard, bearing in mind that O’Faolain took a Commonwealth scholarship to that Ivy League college and had a very tough time under the stern eye of the Chaucer scholar T. N. Robinson, who thought him raw material at best.

O’Faolain nevertheless internalised the Hawthorne literary ethos that prevailed in American Eng. Lit. at that moment and turned it to good effect when he returned to Ireland – though there always remained a sense of promulgating some form of higher culture (mercifully not English) from the standpoint of a somewhat tenuous conception of moral superiority which he derived from the unique mix of puritan-liberalism in the best New England tradition. (That’s why SOF annoys the hell out of me most of the time.) Continue reading

Gay Byrne and the Godless Englishman

Stephen Fry ...

Stephen Fry …

In late January of this year, Gay Byrne hosted Stephen Fry on his “Meaning of Life” programme – normally a televised packet of consolations for Irish oldies with their feet firmly bedded down in the world of Catholic beliefs. Things did not go as smoothly as planned. Apparently Gay expected that his trump card in any contest with atheist interlocutors – “You walk up to the pearly gates and you are confronted by God, what will you say?” – would win the day, only to be met with the opinion that the God who created cancer in children is an “evil, capricious, monstrous maniac” whose long-term hospitality in the suppositious after-life is the charming Englishman would certainly refuse. Continue reading