Friday, October 14, 2011

definition of rhetoric

The powerful short film, "I Am Not Moving," juxtaposes Occupy scenes with footage of the Arab Spring alongside a righteous-sounding Hillary Clinton and Obama on the people's rights of expression and assembly.

I had no idea of the violence being used against the people demanding economic change in the US. I should, of course, have expected it as a Canadian whose own neo-conservative government brought out security forces en masse to stop, harrass, bully and beat Canadians from protesting the G 20 meetings in Toronto.

It seems the people angry at the profits of the economic warlords share concerns about the destructive paths of economic globalization as it touches down in our countries, our cities, our neighbourhoods, our lives. 

It also seems that governments, elites, and corporations wherever they are in the world share a 'superstatehood' existence, one that exists above the laws of democracy, human rights, and justice, one of security whose primary goal is protection of the powerful economic winners through the violent suppression of any peoples, anywhere, who are voicing their demands for economic change. 

The video above (7 m) shows some of the 'security' tactics taken up by US police forces to stop citizens from expressing their anger over economic injustices. Just who are they protecting these security forces? Corporations? The clip makes clear the hypocrisy of US politicians, the way that they use rhetoric, rhetoric that sounds like change but rhetoric that actually has more in common with clubs, teargas, water jets, and force than with language that  actually actualizes political and policy change.
One thing that is missing from the above video, however, is a bit of humour. Now, I know that humour is in the streets, too, as it is a survival strategy of people everywhere to get through anything. Below is a clip that I think should be added to the above: students at a university in Turkey throwing eggs at an IMF speaker who had come to give them a keynote, I mean, more empty rhetoric: 

Friday, October 7, 2011

History Lesson poem on Palestine

Today, I went out with a poetry crew to put poetry into the streets and other places where people gather in the city. Once a year, in early October, joining other cities in Canada, poets roam the streets, cafes, parks, schools, libraries and other places, dropping lines randomly on unsuspecting people. It's called Random Acts of Poetry.

On Sunday, while I was walking Tassu a few lines popped into my head; I thought, hmm. This is my poem. This is where I start.

Yesterday I sat down at my laptop at 9 a.m. and stayed there til 9 p.m. and wrote my poem. "Don't bother me," I told my family, when they called me to come eat, "I'm writing a poem about Palestine." I pedalled off for an hour to teach a yoga class, then pedalled back and continued writing my history lesson on Palestine in poetic form. My language is straightforward and my rhyme simple, sometimes full rhyme, but also slant or half rhyme, too. Although other years I read a different poem at each stop, this year I decided to bring only this one poem with me to the four stops on the route I was scheduled to participate in. I decided I will encode Palestine's history onto the streets of my town, voice its history to the listening ears of folks in my town, most who know only the Israeli version of the so-called "Palestine/Israel conflict."

Our first stop was Calico's Coffee Shop. What a coincidence that a Zionist-defending female Jewish rabbi from Israel, from Jerusalem, just happened be in the coffee shop when we walked in. Below is my poem that made her so angry. One thing I forgot to tell her as she berated me loudly, that here in Canada, unlike Israel, we are allowed to speak our mind about Palestine in public places. She should not bring her Israeli style silencing to Canada. It won't work here. We can defend Palestine and be pro-Palestinian; it's a constitutional basic human right in Canada. Hopefully, Israel one day will see that this right extends to all people, not just a "chosen few," but all people--especially Palestinians.

63 lines for 63 long years; or, “Don’t Stand in the Doorway, Come in.”

Israel is the state, Palestine is the land
If you don’t know the history, let me lend you a hand.

In the beginning, here’s my word:
Don’t confuse Israelites or Hebrews with the Israeli Jewish population
The first two are Biblical, but the last, a result of Zionist nationalization.

Jews are Semites, but Palestinians are too
So if you accuse me of being anti-Semitic, exactly against who?

European Zionists created Israel in 1948
But they had been preparing for years for a settler state.

A nationalist movement, it is unjust that Zionism sought to install
a Jewish-only state where Palestinians were the majority above all.

Zionist plans for the Palestinian people as written by Herzl and Jabotinsky:
violent colonization, dispossession, dispersal and death if they don’t flee.

Were others involved in this heinous plan for expulsion and dislocation?
Yes, feudal landowners who were Arabs, PM Smuts of South Africa, Lord Palmerston, the British, the Balfour Declaration—there’s a long list of damnation.

Economic relations, racism against Jews, and the tragedy of the Holocaust, too,
helped Zionists replace the Palestinian population with a settler community that was new.

Were there Jewish people in Palestine before ‘48?
Yes, Mizrahi, Arab Jews and Palestinians of Jewish faith.

Understanding the Israel/Palestine conflict is not complicated
It’s the story of colonization through Palestinian oppression, simply stated.

In finding the truth religious fundamentalism is surely a concern here
Especially the homegrown type: right wing Evangelical Christian Zionist fervour.

Let me state: a two state solution is not the solution
It will continue persecution, extrajudicial execution, racism, and more bandustans,
What is needed is just resolution: retribution, right of return, and redistribution of land.

A two state solution will retain all the problems, this means prisons,
illegal settlements, Jewish only highways, sniper towers and militarism.

And let’s not forget water; while an Israeli family takes a dip in their swimming pool,
A Palestinian farmer has no water for trees and crops; don’t you think it’s a bit cruel?

Speaking of trees, olive trees are uprooted daily by Canadian made machines
On an ethical level, I ask you to question what this means.

And did you know, Diefenbaker Parkway and Canada Park are built on occupied land,
funded by Canadian tax dollars? Tell me, shouldn’t this be banned?

Canada, the US and Britain say they speak out for international law and democracy,
But their one-sided ideological & economic support of Israel reveals severe hypocrisy.

1.6 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, which is the same size as our Giant,
Surely you would agree that a density per km of 4073 would make anyone defiant.

Palestinians in the West Bank number 2.3 million, inside Israel another 1.4 million
many millions more in the diaspora, and refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

A total of 11 million Palestinians are seeking a homeland, a state,
Where they’ll have their freedom instead of Israel dictate.

Arrest without trial, demolition of homes, other human rights negation,
expulsion, land appropriation, depopulation, checkpoint humiliation—
these are only part of Palestinian subjugation.

From refugee crisis creation to Jerusalem confiscation,
The Palestinians have survived, resisting devastation.

All the Israeli state methods of separation and occupation
won’t stop the Palestinians from seeking their liberation.

Their struggles, the Intifada, the uprising, has been 63 years long
But they pass their resistance to the children through stories and song

and Darwish:
You who stand in the doorway, come in,
Drink Arabic coffee with us
And you will sense that you are like us
You who stand in the doorways of houses
Come out of our morningtimes,
We shall feel reassured to be
like you!
The Berlin Wall came down and apartheid in South Africa did decline
But, my friend, where is your voice against the Apartheid Wall in Palestine?

Don’t forget also to join the BDS campaign
that is, boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel’s capital gain.

And, a history lesson without the stories of people is only a part
so I suggest the novel Mornings in Jenin as a good place to start.

Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, and If Americans Knew
can tell you some more—just skip mainstream news, hit the net, the truth will come through.

Say it loud, speak it proud, speak it loud, say it proud
Long live Palestine. Free Palestine

Thursday, October 6, 2011

dance for roadkill

In our city, run over grey squirrels are a regular sight. You better not get too attached to those critters that visit (and sometimes live) in your yard--or house. In my neighbourhood, grey squirrels are always crossing the street, back and forth, up and down, foraging for food, taking risks. Sometimes they cross by squirrelling on the overhead hydro wires that cross the street, but usually they prefer to run across asphalt. Our city is car culture supreme. Cars and trucks are a continuous presence. This squirrel was scampering across Van Norman but, poor thing, it found itself under the tires of a vehicle. Crow notices these sorts of acts of carnage instantly. Crow often comes quick to the spot. Here Crow is doing a dance for roadkill, celebrating supper. However, I warned Crow: watch out, you may be next. Crow kept on dancing, and jabbing in for a peck.

Crow is not he only one who finds roadkill tasty, people dine on it too:
Roadkill enthusiasts in Canada recommend roasting beaver, which should first be soaked in salted water overnight after removing all fat. Squirrel is said to be excellent when broiled on a stick over a camp fire.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

re-reading Dalila

Deception or Samson and Delilah. George Grie, 2008

The story of Sampson and Delilah continues to invite interpretation. Above is a neo-surrealist, gothic, digital visual interpretation of the oft-told tale, that mashes together a digital age, Grecian, Salvadore Dali'an, wilderness landscape, and model-on-the-runway panorama.
Here's a 1949 depiction of the same story, different context, different media, same characters. This is the Samson and Dalila (Sampson and Delilah in English) movie poster for the 1949 film.

It's an interesting film / story to decode for Orientalism, particularly in light of the Palestine/Israel conflict where Palestinians (the victims of oppression and occupation) have been made into violent terrorists--sneaky by nature--through contemporary media representations and discourses.

Along with the way that the characters in the film can be used to support ideas of current Israeli people’s threat from treacherous Palestinians, who are “out to get them” no matter how much the Israelis offer them a chance at peace negotiations, the film has a Biblical mythology encoded, too. The film can be read through these two lenses by drawing on gender, racialization, and power relations.

In short, the film is based on an old testament story; the Old Testament is a Hebrew text that Christianity took up and made part of the Bible. In the biblical story Sampson is an Israelite and Dalila is a Philistine. Neither of these two groups of people exist today. However, many people confuse ancient Israelites with Israelis today and people confuse the Philistines with Palestinians. Both these ancient groups were tribes and while there are some connection to people today, there are many other tribes and ethnic groups that mingled together to evolve into contemporary Jewish people and Palestinians (who by the way also have intermingled). Whatever their complex ethnic origins, the truth is they are both Semites. Family.

Now, it is important to keep in mind that the word “philistine” is a derogatory term that means someone who is uncouth, ignorant and uncivilized. A barbarian. As this word relates to tribes who are one of the ancestors of Palestinians, the connotation of ignorant louts transfers to them.

How can you reason or negotiate with someone who is base?


a. Having or showing a contemptible, mean-spirited, or selfish lack of human decency.
b. Devoid of high values or ethics: a base, degrading way of life.
c. Inferior in value or quality.

On a gendered level, Delilah is viewed as the seductive woman — the femme fatale — who uses her beauty and feminine wiles to seduce the man, Sampson. She is the dangerous sexual woman who is the downfall of all men. She uses sex to get her man. This is her business. She is a prostitute, an unattached woman. She is an icon that has been repeated over and over again in literature and media. She loves her man, but she’s evil and can’t be trusted. He loves his woman, but she’s evil and can’t be trusted. Lots of movies today repeat this old story in various forms.

And let's not forget Tom Jones belting out "Why, why, why Dee-li-lah?" in 1968 and for many reincarnations afterwards.

In this biblical story that is repeated in a version in the film, because Sampson is powerful, others who want power seek to bring him down. Delilah is sent in--greedily pocketing money-- to find out the source of his power (which is his hair). She cuts it off. There are lots of paintings that show his emasculation at the hands of woman. So, a woman is seen as having the power to wilfully destroy masculine power–make him impotent, powerless. This is a gendered reading.

However, Dalilah (her name is pronounced more like Dalilah in Arabic) is also a “Philistine”– the enemy of the Israelites. Now, the context of viewing and reading shapes what meanings we make; the film was made in 1949, the year after the state of Israel was created by European Zionist Jews who had to make the Palestinians their enemy so they could expel them from the land, wipe out their villages, and ethnic cleanse the cities of Palestinians. It's the story of war: you have to dehumanize the Other "side" so that you can kill them with impunity and go to bed at night with clear conscience.

During these times (and earlier and still to this day) the Zionists were constructing a story about the danger of Palestinians who will seek to “drive them off the land” (I am aware that Zionism is not a monolith and that some Zionists saw themselves as good socialists making a utopia in a new land...except maybe they somehow forgot that the land was being lived on by almost a million people called Palestinians??). But back to the film: the film was based on a book by a Zionist who had written it much earlier (and who did the screenplay), who had been a member of the Irgun, a proto-Israeli terrorist group that went into Palestine to kill Palestinians. These Zionists knew that people had to be removed, by terror, by death.

Sampson pulling down the temple. Looks like his six-pack needs a bit of 21st c personal-trainer-to-the-stars buffing up

In the end, Dalilah not only represents the seductive, treacherous, dangerous woman, but the destructive, treacherous, dangerous Palestinian who by stealth will bring down the power of Israel and all Israeli Jews. After the seductive woman has done her work, the Philistines, in the movie and the biblical myth, cruelly torture Sampson, blinding him. Being a “Man”, however, he is not so easily wiped out (think of the film Rocky here) so he undertakes a feat to show off his power once and for all, show off his superhuman masculine potency, but causes an entire monumental building to fall on him, Delilah, and all the Philistine people, killing them all.

So he gets to be the martyr hero who loses his life but saves his people by killing “the enemy.”

In sum, through the ways the film re-narrates the biblical story at the time of Israel’s establishment (the film was based on a novel by a Zionist, Jabotinsky, who had worked to establish the state; indeed, many institutions and streets are named after him in Israel as he is seen as a “founding father”), Dalilah represents the threat of the Palestinians to bring down the house of Israel. Which is a narrative repeated over and over again in the news media of the West today. The Palestinians are dangerous. The enemy.

Orientalism: Hedy Lamar as Delilah in the 1949 film, Sampson and Delilah.

And in the end, the film and the biblical story can be interpreted to read that only when all the Palestinians are dead is there a chance for Israel to survive.

Maybe the leaders of Canada, the US and Israel, who want to stop the Palestinians' call at the UN to be recognized as a state, have been either

a) watching old Hollywood movies that create simple stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly (with 'the bad and the ugly' being assigned to Arabs), or

b) reading the Old Testament.