Friday, 25 February 2011


"Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi meanwhile blamed the uprising on al-Qaeda.

Speaking on state television, he repeated claims that hallucinogenic drugs had been given to young people to incite them to revolt." BBC News

Well at least you're going out with your dignity intact, eh Gaddafi?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Egypt's MUSLIM Brotherhood

I'm loving the news coverage of the situation in Egypt that recently ended with Mubarak's departure after thirty years in power. It seems as though the news services don't know which of two ways to play it.

On the one hand democratic power is alive and well. Army backed dictator is kicked out by pure, unadulterated people power. Wahey democracy!

But then what is this? One of the largest parties fighting for democracy is openly Islamic? Fuck! Doesn't that mean sharia law and planes flying into buildings? Better include a concluding paragraph hoping that those nutty zealots don't get into power.

Now one might think that the news services might be dissuaded from taking this stance by the fact that nobody has actually provided any evidence that the Islamists (whatever that coinage means nowadays) are threatening to seize power or impose anything that the Egyptian people don't want.

Irrelevant. The readership need to know about this deadly threat to stability in the Middle East. We'll settle for pro-democracy sentiments just as long as the Egyptians pick a government we approve of.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Conversations about the End of Time

Finished reading this book on the Millenium and the thoughts of Stephen Gould, Umberto Eco, Jean Delumeau and Jan-Claude Carriere on time and modernity today. (You can probably guess which two of these intellectuals I'd heard of before reading the book.)

Entertaining stuff with some imagery and thoughts that will stick with me. I especially liked Delumeau's apocalypse and millenarianism scholarship as I've never been sure what millenarianism actually meant yet it seems to come up a lot in Medieval and Chinese history. Also entertaining to detect the faint sense of unease about the Millenium bug, one of the biggest mass worry bloopers of, well, this millenium or the last one depending how you want to look at it.

However, the sense of despondence about modernity irritated me as usual. Is it mandatory to feel that the Internet is the beginning of the end for society if one is over 30 years old? Umberto Eco spent a long time talking about how it removes the ability of society to selectively forget, something he sees as key to collective memory. To paraphrase, having 14 million webpages is the same as having none since there is no filter through which this mass of information can be measured. However, modern society provides this filter just as previous societies did when one chose whether to read Jane Austen or Proust. Our education, parents, friendship groups and even traditions can direct us towards certain google searches and url entries. Nobody seriously sits down at the computer and tries to decide which of the 14 million websites they want to go on today.

Another crack in my rose-tinted view of Umberto Eco can hopefully be attributed to poor translation. In the same sentence he praises the 20th centuries increased sensitivity and tolerance of different races and uses 'Bongo-Bongoland' as a fictitious example of a third world UN country. Ugh, talk about missing the point. That wasn't socially acceptable in 1999 was it?