Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Yeah, yeah, I know I never post anymore

This thought just occurred to me as I returned to the office I am temporarily sharing a desk in:

Do you think that people in 1900 imagined that 100 years in the future it would be possible to unlock a door by smacking your ass against the wall beside it?

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Battle of Algiers

If anyone is looking for a movie to rent, I highly recommend "The Battle of Algiers." Made in 1965, it's a reconstruction of crucial events in the revolt of the Algerian people against the French colonial administration. This war, which lasted from 1954-1962, eventually led to the French departure from Algeria and the establishment of an independent nation there.

While watching this film, it's impossible not to think of the current situation in Iraq. In fact, the movie was screened at the Pentagon prior to the start of the current conflict there. That's not to say that the French occupation of Algeria and the American occupation of Iraq are the same thing, just that it's hard to watch the movie without thinking of today's situation.

Thoughts inspired by the movie:
  1. If they are merely able to successfully carry out an attack, terrorists have already won at least something. The reason for this is that terrorism is impossible to ignore, as it's human nature to have a reaction when a bus full of babies gets blown up. It's impossible not to moan and wail in the face of ruthless carnage against innocents, and it is irresponsible not to take actions that you think will help prevent future terrorism. But just like mothers telling their sons not to react if the class bully teases them--as the reaction of the bullied itself is the bully's reward--our natural reactions to terrorism are victories for the terrorist. The only way to render an act of terrorism mere ineffective violence would be to not change one's ways at all in response to it, and to do so would be ridiculous. Should we really not reevaluate our national security policy in response to an attack, just to prove a point to the terrorists? Terrorism forces the terrorized to sit up and pay attention to something they would have continued ignoring otherwise, as it would be insane to not do so, and contrary to the rhetoric of the terrorized, who always state "this will get them nowhere," this mere acknowledgement of the existence of the terrorists' cause counts as a victory for them, for in moving from obscurity to infamy, even if they have attracted a new set of outraged, powerful enemies in the process, they at least stand a chance of accomplishing their goals.
    1. For instance, I was thinking about this when Arafat's death led me to contemplate the history and status of the Palestinian situation. Maybe this was a trivial realization on my part, but at the time it scared me to consider how all the high-profile killings of Israelis have been a series of victories for the Palestinians. The killing of innocents has represented the gaining of ground for the Palestinians in the sense that when faced with this violence, the world couldn't help but to ask, "Who are these Palestinians and why are they doing this?" Maybe my sense of history is off here, but isn't it true that the events like Munich 1972 perversely "worked," in the sense that they helped force the world to treat Palestinians as an issue rather than a non-entity? Because of their terrorism, the world started to pay attention to them, and I think it's only honest to call that by itself a victory. In sum, then, it seems to me that for terrorism to work, it merely needs to happen. For those of us who would like to ride buses without dying, this is scary.
  2. My second thought while watching the movie was that even though terrorism works, one can only use it to accomplish so much. Being ignorant of the details of the French-Algerian war, I was getting down midway through the movie because I thought that the terrorism of the FLN (the Algerian nationalist group guiding the rebellion) would alone be enough to drive the French back across the Mediterranean. I thought that the movie would end and my roommate and I would be left with the bleak message that terrorism alone is enough to expel an occupying power, which would mean that we would only see more of our present world situation--that buses would keep blowing up--as more and more angry groups become aware that terrorism really does get you something. The movie (and presumably the history) seemed to contradict this premonition, however, as the terror by itself did not cause the French to give up their colony. Rather, it was the more peaceful revolution of the masses that finally caused the French to leave. The way to really drive out a foreign power is not to just keep planting bombs in caf├ęs, but to get everyone mobilized and out on the streets. If the entire population gets up at once and rebels, that is what actually causes mighty military powers to fall. It is an entire nation, acting at once, that cannot be stopped by an occupying army. And this reminded of another movie about revolt, which showed that this rebellion of the masses need not even be violent to be effective.
So I'm sure all my thoughts here are incredibly sophomoric, and my historical knowledge is lacking, and possibly I even have written things that would be offensive to someone who has suffered as a result of the horrors of recent years, but I figure that Hirsute Sea Bass won't count as a blog until I post at least one sophomoric analysis of terrorism.

Finally, when I heard this quote (or rather, read its English translation off the screen), I had to think, "It's too bad TSA doesn't think about security as rationally as this French security officer":
MATHIEU
Here is some film taken by the police. The cameras were hidden at the Casbah exits. They thought these films might be useful, and in fact they are useful in demonstrating the usefulness of certain methods. Or, at least, their inadequacy.

Hassiba is now seen and the soldiers who are wooing her, while she laughs, jokes, flirts in a provocative manner, and passes the blockade.

MATHIEU
I chose these films because they were shot in the hours preceding some recent terroristic assaults. And so, among all these Arabs, men and women, there are the ones responsible. But which ones are they? How can we recognize them? Controlling documents is ridiculous: one who has everything in order is most likely to be the terrorist.
(Emphasis mine)

That is, we might spend less of our nation's precious resources checking IDs at airports, and spend more of them on security measures that might actually make us safer (I wish I knew what those measures might be).

Sunday, January 09, 2005

More on Spain

Knight Rider = Coche Fantastico

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Addendum

I was delighted to find out last night that the dictionary that the predictive text feature on my cell phone uses contains the word "betwixt."

Clean the woods of the east

The previews before the movie last night reminded me of an anecdote: In the summer following my junior year of high school, I went to Esparraguera, Spain to live with a family for a month. I returned two years later to spend two more weeks with the same family. One day on that second trip, AJ (my "host brother") and I were walking around the neighborhood visiting his friends. We came upon the house of J, and he came out to engage in some idle chit-chat. At some point, the conversation drifted to Clint Eastwood. J asked me, "Why anyone would name their child "limpiar el bosque del este"? AJ laughed--apparently this was a familiar joke to him. I was confused and struggled for a minute to understand why they were all of a sudden talking about cleaning the woods of the east.

Then it hit me. It was obvious they were turning "Eastwood" into "el bosque del este," but they also apparently had been mispronouncing "Clint" as "kleen" (in Spanish, "i" is pronounced like the "ee" in "green," and since "nt" is not a standard word ending, "nt" would likely be pronounced "n"; thus "Clint" became "kleen"). Thus, I figured, their knowledge of the meaning of the English word "clean" and their pronounciation of it as "kleen" must have led them to think that "Clint" and "clean" were homophones. So they thought "Clint Eastwood" was said the same to them as "Clean Eastwood." Since "clean" is English for "limpiar," it would then be an obvious cross-linguistic play-on-words to refer to the American actor as "limpiar el bosque del este," or "clean the woods of the east."

I wonder if Clint Eastwood knows that a bunch of Spaniards hear his name as an admonition to treat the eastern woodlands in a more environmentally sound manner. Really, "limpiar el bosque del este" sounds like something the leader of a Spanish Boy Scout troop would have on his to-do list.