Daily Archives: May 6, 2009

“we create our own reality”

For the “average voter,” free trade “has become definitely associated in his imagination with the annexation of tropical islands, the populations of which have suddenly interested him and the resources of which are new objects of his thought; with the brilliant naval victories in the waters of Manila Bay and Santiago; with the relation of the Philippine Islands with the rest of the Far East, to the destinies of China and to the limitless possibilities of commercial enterprise that attend the awakening of the Orient” (598).      


Franklin Giddings (1898)


Just by way of recapitulation:

Today’s class broached several topics, among them a cluster of political terms related to our study of Mohsin Hamid’s second novel: imperialism, colonialism, colonized/er/ation. As was said, all of these terms have various histories and usages though for our immediate purposes we will be using ‘Empire’ very broadly to describe an economic/cultural/diplomatic/military formation, which is to say both a political entity that can be located in time and space as well as an ideology and process. 


Empire has been widely discussed in recent years, and positions on that concept range from old school Leninist denunciations to a self-identified right wing recuperation of Empire (“Empire’s a good thing”) to some fairly sophisticated theorizing along the lines of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s book Empire. One thing all agree upon is that the concept is rooted in the exercise of power– whether, as Max Boot might argue, for the good of us all or, as someone like Arundhati Roy clearly thinks, as a form of dominating the surplus populations of the world.


The bottom line here is, I think, that such a concept, as contested as it may be, will be useful to us in our quest to understand The Reluctant Fundamentalist. 


Consider all the various polities and agglomerations that constitute social life: from that atom of society, the family, to villages, towns, cities, nations, regions, transnational groupings (EU, NATO, etc.) and finally to global capitalism, a process/logic/system under which almost everyone on the planet falls. 


Part of the point here is to think the world, no mean feat. In other words, to entertain the notion of contemporary culture as a planetary range of phenomena that– while certainly irregular, uneven, and divided– may share some central features. 


 “‘I will never apologize for the United States,’” Bush the elder once stated. “‘I don’t care what the facts are.’” Indeed. And in a more nuanced and mendacious formulation of the same principle a “senior White House aide” thought to be Karl Rove informed Ron Suskind of the New York Times


‘that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”’


Here’s some good stuff: http://www.globalpolicy.org/empire/index.htm 

Also, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=5564