There has always been an attraction of the Middle East for the Western World. Its an odd relationship with an aesthetic all its own.But it is based on an intentional and violent distortion of Arab society that is pervasive throughout the media.There is a widespread reluctance to set aside the stereotype of Orientalism. Hollywood can’t seem to come up with a favorable trope beyond the lower reaches of the pecking order. The Arab cliches hit a blind spot most are willing to accept and be complicit with. Part of this blindness, is an unwillingness to understand people who have a fierce determination to live life stripped down to bedrock and who challenge the rawest forces of nature on their own terms. It is easy to romanticize an idealized view of primitive life but behind this is often a great resistance to change and a far reaching disillusionment with the human race.
There is a fear that the Western technological civilization that has evolved destroys or corrupts every culture which comes into contact with it. Cultures and civilizations that have gone on for thousands of years can disappear under the market forces of homogenization. At issue is the notion that the individual in the urban environment, enslaved to technology is on a suicidal course. Its a bit deplorable that we all appear sold on the virtues and benefits of our own Western civilization and are busy exporting it to the Arab lands, opening the door to mass consumption and weaning people off a natural adaptation to their environment. These societies have evolved their own set of rules , their own culture and the West cannot stop convincing them that its tailor made for them. This forcing into our pattern and codes, this huge export drive is hardly a slam-dunk when it comes to suitability….
It was Edward Said who coined the term “Orientalism”.Theophile Gautier,an influential critic wrote in 1869: “the caravan continues its route. One only hopes that it does not leave too many corpses of camels on its way.” Is there a “right” way to represent the non-European Other, or is the Western gaze irretrievably reductive? What can be said about the gaps, ambiguities, lucid “moments”which may be glimpsed in the work of certain artists of the colonial era beyond the obvious romanticism? They saw something there, but we weren’t listening.
Rick Salutin:France and the U.K. took the lead, the U.S. followed. But those two were once the great imperial gorgons of the Mideast and it hasn’t been forgotten there. After finally departing in the mid-20th century, they colluded (with Israel) to invade independent Egypt in 1956 when it nationalized the Suez Canal. Now they’ve taken a cautious UN resolution about saving civilians and within hours interpreted the hell out of it to justify bombing ground troops and even assassination, as if they couldn’t wait to get back in the imperial saddle and assert their old prerogatives. Echoes of Suez will reverberate, amplified by strong oil interests they each have in Libya today, undermining whatever humanitarian good might have come from the original UN mission.Read More:http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/960375–the-west-s-weakness-for-orientalism-never-dies
What do some in the formerly colonized East see in an output which has been so categorically deconstructed as the aesthetic arm of imperialism? The “Oriental world,” in short, “emerged” out of the “unchallenged centrality” of a “sovereign Western consciousness” . Significantly, these “truths” were developed “according to a detailed logic governed not simply by empirical reality but by a battery of desires, repressions, investments and projections” .Edward Said wondered whether Orientalism should be equated with the “general group of ideas overriding the mass of material . . . shot through with doctrines of European superiority, various kinds of racism, imperialism and the like” or the “much more varied work of almost uncountable individual writers, whom one would take up as individual instances of authors dealing with the Orient” . These are “two alternatives, general and particular, are really two perspectives on the same material” ( Said)
Salutin:What about the “no-fly zone” itself. Do you remember the last? It was in Iraq in the 1990s and got packaged with sanctions that led to death for hundreds of thousands of Iraqi kids, which U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright called a “price” that was “worth it” to squeeze former U.S. favourite Saddam Hussein. Any slips now that harm Libyan civilians will evoke all that. “It will be like Iraq again,” said a consultant there, afraid to state his name, but not his fears.Arabs are not deaf to our tone deafness; they’re acutely attuned to it. This includes Libyan leader Gadhafi, who railed against this new “crusade,” evoking medieval images of European invasion. Gadhafi said the attack would fail, like those of Hitler (in North
ca during World War II), Mussolini (Italian fascism brutalized Libya) and even Napoleon. The guy may be wacky but he’s not historically illiterate, nor is his audience. Read More:http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/960375–the-west-s-weakness-for-orientalism-never-dies
However, what Said is interested in is the Orient as a “regular constellation of ideas” . Acknowledging that “ideas, cultures and histories cannot seriously be understood without . . . their configurations of power being studied” , Said underscores that the discursive construction of the East is possible because the relationship between Occident and Orient is an asymmetrical one, a “relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of a complex hegemony” . The “discourse about the Orient” (for example, how Flaubert “spoke for and represented” his Egyptian courtesan and, in the process, “produced a widely influential model of the Oriental woman” ) was enabled because of a “pattern of relative strength between East and West” Read More:http://www.rlwclarke.net/courses/LITS3304/2010-2011/13Said,Orientalism.pdf
Said’s point is that Orientalism is not merely some “airy European fantasy about the Orient” . It is, rather, a “system of knowledge about the Orient” , a created body of theory and practice in which . . . there has been a considerable material investment. Continued investment made Orientalism . . . an accepted grid for filtering through the Orient into Western consciousness, just as that same investment multiplied . . . the statements proliferating out from Orientalism into the general culture. Said underscores Orientalism’s “close ties to the enabling socio-economic and political institutions” .Read More:http://www.rlwclarke.net/courses/LITS3304/2010-2011/13Said,Orientalism.pdf