‘People who say they have suffered because of race or religion, but who haven’t, and who then weaponise it and turn it into some kind of acquired victimhood, while obsessing over what’s on their phones. In short, she’s about as western as you can get: a monster we created. But monsters deserve justice too — our prisons are full of them. So why isn’t she our problem?’. With these worlds, The Times’ Camilla Long condemned the govertnment’s decision to deny entry to Isis terrorist, Shamima Begum.
The problem here does not seem to be the stupid girl who decided that Isis was a plausible career path. Of course, I am using the word stupid in its etymological sense derived from the latin verb for immobility: stupere. Stupefied. When her children died, she publicly denied her own feelings about them. A modern Medea floating in the cornices of states althoug the analogy might not be that accurate if we bear in mind that Medea was driven by the fate the gods bestowed on her. But the way Shamima Begum wants to be remembered is closer to a Nazi like Adolph Eichmann about whom philosopher Hannah Arendt said was the embodiment of banality.
Arendt made those remarks when reporting for The New Yorker in 1961 on Eichmann’s war crimes trial. He was the responsible for organising the transportation of millions of Jews to the concentration camps. Arendt who saw him during trial, found him ordinary, rather bland, a bureaucrat. In her words, he was ‘neither perverted nor sadistic’, but ‘terrifyingly normal’. She claimed that he acted without any motive other than to diligently advance his career in the Nazi bureaucracy. Eichmann was not an amoral monster, she concluded in her study of the case, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). So if Eichmann and Begum are to blame, apart from the obvious cost in human lives of their actions, they are mainly guilty for having chosen to stop thinking.
Arendt’s report was written at the end of the 1960s when there still a respected separation between bureaucracy and private lives. Reports of different levels of porosity came, however, from the East and the brutal dictatorships of the South. Those were also the times, the West could still afford to see itself as a reparative alternative to such dangers while brushing under the carpet its own responsibility in creating the conditions for them to happen. Today we know the part that, for example, the CIA had in General Augusto Pinochet’s coup against Chilean democratically elected president Salvador Allende and in the installment of many other Latin American dictatorships like the Argentine that was delusional enough to believe that the US would lean on their side. Of course, the Cuban Revolution was the excuse but the actual motive was the usual extractivism needed by neoliberal economies.
Blonde Brit Exceptionalism
Of course, media, public relations and the entertainment business have been the main vehicle for the subtle propagandistic Trojan Horse that conveyed the hyperbolic elements that added to the exceptionalist belief that the British could qualify as ethical arbiters of anything. Their exceptionalist humor that we still hear in the way embarrassment is transubstantiated as eccentricity, at this point, add up to embarrassment for the lack of finesse when the horrors of what have been perpetrated overseas becomes public. Paradox is paramount in this land. While Netflix’s The Crown proves that the Royal Family in the person of the late Elizabeth II made the executive decision to destroy the last remnants of hope they had when exchanging TV presence for metamorphic mystery. What can we say about the episode where the Queen is pimped by the President of the United States and manages to take the leader of Ghana from the arms of the Soviet Union with a single foxtrot. Such melodramatic reduction of the problems of the sacramental right to steal the Virgin Marys place of intermediation with the divine , comes at a price. Banality.
Post Virginia Woolf Classist Feminisms as Albion’s Ventriloquism
The problem is that when banality mixes with fear it brings catastrophe and the shape it takes these days is that manichean division fo the world into two groups very much derived from religion: good and evil, the heroic and the villain. To summarise, the martyr and the demon. The problem is when those groups present themselves or occupy the space of those who they claim to defend. Those that are expected to bring a progressive view, a reparative one but they weaponise it for revenge or to destroy. A type of politics that is not negative but reactionary in the most literal sense. adopt the opposite and become reactionary. A case in point are liberal feminists that use the actual jargon of fascism to refer to their privilege. What is even more shocking is that many of them are female writers and well known ones. Each of their public interventions are so charged with classism and privilege that makes us think about the place of art in Great Britain. It seems that after the Second World War there has been a detachment of the world of entertainment from that of high art in the opposite direction that I was expected. Art is a privilege of the upper classes who can afford the materials, the technology, the time and the fees to go to the School of Florence to study drawing from nature. Why going to Florence for that? I don’t get it. Besides, only English and their imitators, the Russian, go there which turns the whole exercise into a nostalgic revival of the Grand Tour of the XVIII century but with less money and more meaningless sex. On the other hand, the commercial art has to be low cost and the cutural journalism uses the criteria applied for one to the other. The situation is even more serious because they act on the public sphere in the name of progressive ideas such as feminism but each one of those interventions reaffirm values that belong to the patriarchy in its most reactionary sense. So what to make of it.
The actual question is about the relationship between the arts and makes us thing of the status of the arts and its relation with politics in the UK becuase if the wolf comes dresses as Cinderella, there are not categories in the current public sphere to articulate a contra strategy and the one to blame is again the bad use of feminism in one of their greatest contributions, the deconstruction of patriarchal language. They do with feminism something analogous to what Arendt says Eichman does to murder. He reminds us of the protagonist in Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger (1942), who randomly and casually kills a man, but then afterwards feels no remorse. There was no particular intention or obvious evil motive: the deed just ‘happened’. Mary McCarthy, a novelist and good friend of Arendt, voiced sheer incomprehension: ‘[I]t seems to me that what you are saying is that Eichmann lacks an inherent human quality: the capacity for thought, consciousness – conscience. But then isn’t he a monster simply?’
The controversy continues to the present day.
This takes us to what lies underneath the liberal feminists hatred of the non challenge female terrorist to the point that they want ot see her burn in front of their very eyes because they refuse to give her human status. Arendt is the other extreme of the spectrum of tolerance. Her excessive psychologising seems to justify the unjustifiable. The result is that both the Anti terrorist feminists and Arendt have one thing in common: they avoid the issue of evil as evil probably because it demands a commitment that they are not ready to take. So, this is my conclusion. I think that until very recently when damage and the materiality of the consequences of oppression of a minority appeared as an object of study, poststructuralism was used by feminism to detach themselves from their own traumas. The more they announced that they had gained ownership of their own bodies, the less believable they became. It is easy to say I love you but love without sex, as Pedro Lemebel said in his visit to Harvard University, is not love. He was referring, of course, to the fact that he was paid to give that chat. In other words, a woman that criticizes transexuals tout court and considers them as a block of degenerate perverts cannot be considered a woman nor be called one, because it requires the empathic feeling of suffering.
The problem with The Times’s Manicheian approach lies on what it does not say and demands common sense questions that might bring some answers. It is easy to see British history as a photography of a specific moment projected in the future in a reparative way. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair wanted us to see it like that. But the works of denial are like those of mourning, difficult to control and retentive and not progressive. That is the spirit of Brexit: retentive, controlling and not progressive.So if, as Long says, a monster (Shamina) we created deserves justice what about us, the creators. What did we do to create her. Did we just spoil her or for example, created the conditions for her mother and her grandmother to be raped and abused over and over not only by men but also but an abstract system that today we have naturalised to the point that even liberal feminists cannot see their part in the perpetuation of that violence. History is diachronic and cannot be chopped and assessed so irresponsibly. We need that Mrs Camilla Long’s mind goes beyond the agonic of pleasing her male bosses. That is not feminism but its opposite.
Programa del Curso de Impresionismo e Inicios del Galerismo y de la Teoría Fotográfica