The Orange of Discord

Boats ferrying boxes of oranges to freighter waiting beyong the rocks at Jaffa. circa 1930. Author unknown. [Public domain or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A while back, I mentioned how much I enjoy BBC World (especially this part) and I lauded the worldly perspective of the British. But there’s a dark side to imperialism, and England most certainly had a hand in fanning the flames of one the Middle East’s enduring dramas.

The Al Jazeera English website is presenting Eyal Sivan’s Jaffa – The Orange’s Clockwork in its entirety (0:46:54) until November 14. If you can ignore the rather poor choice of title, it’s actually quite good.

This documentary treats the Arab-Jewish conflict from the perspective of citrus growers, both Arab and Jewish, in the town whose name is synonymous in the West with not only oranges, but with Israel, and the struggle of European diaspora Jews to build a new nation in their ancestral homeland — or if you prefer, the war of European Zionist Jews against the rightful inhabitants of Palestine, take your pick.

The film consists of interviews with the growers themselves (some old enough to remember 1948) interspersed with some interesting (albeit superficial, but hey it’s a 45-minute movie) analyses of ye olde propaganda newsreels. I liked that the director didn’t feel a need to resort to melodrama or sensationalism or polemics, and it’s a subject that easily elicits all those things. At the same time, it felt quite human. And what we see is, okay, there was a time when Arab and Jew lived and worked together. Maybe it was not a lovefest, but it was functional. And in most parts of the world, most of the time, that’s the best you can hope for.

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WTF, WordPress!

I’m quite irritated with my blog’s tag cloud. Some tags I used multiple times aren’t showing at all, while a couple I only used once are. I guess I could download the code and try to see how it’s supposed to work.
I’ve done some WordPress customization in the distant past, and though I have my own domain and could have easily set up my own WordPress instance on it, I chose to use WordPress.com because I use my domain for professional purposes.

Some people have no issue mixing their business with pleasure. Indeed, some people appear to make no distinction. But I may want to talk about a transgender I met recently that I found attractive and am fantasizing about on occasion. I may also want to talk about how I think blue collar workers’ unions in North America are an anachronism. I may also want to say religious fundamentalists are poor, unfortunate sheep, similar to those victims of the great Capitalist Ponzi Scheme, the US middle-class Republicans. And I may also want to speculate what Reshmin Chowdhury smells/tastes like.

Sometimes I may want to express opinions that are important to me and I want everyone to know. Other times I may want to turn off the filter and speak frankly, but not everyone necessarily needs to hear it (occasionally I don’t know what I’m talking about). And still other times, I may just feel like talking shit.

There are people in this world who cannot or will not make the distinction between these. I don’t write for them. I write for me. A typically arrogant and selfish North American attitude that is, and I know it. I am thankful I live where I do, with all the things I hate and love about it. Still, while I may enjoy this freedom, my freedom ends where yours begins. And I realize not everyone agrees with or wants to be subjected to my personal opinions. In my professional relationships, I want to be judged first and foremost by my work and my professional conduct. So what would happen if, on first contact with me, my professional contacts were dropped into my personal life and my opinions? Invariably, it would color their opinions. I wouldn’t want to be subjected to that, so I won’t subject others to that either.

So is discretion just another word for duplicity? Yes, to some degree. But if someone wants to challenge me face to face on anything I’ve said here, I think I’m comfortable enough with it to be able to explain and discuss it with them, assuming they are reasonable people. But there are many people in the world who are not, so I see no reason to advertise personal opinions that would put my business, my livelihood at risk.

But anyway, back, back to the tag cloud, the real purpose of this post. There’s nothing else to read here. I’m testing tags.

Anti-Western Protests in the Middle East: What Does It Mean?

Of all the news programming on TV, I like BBC World the best. They have without a doubt the most attractive selection of news presenters in the world (here, here, here, here, I can go all day). It may be one of the reasons why I think, for all the criticism of imperialism (and we must decry the tyranny of imperialism in all its forms), the English, as a group, in our age, have one of the broadest world perspectives and therefore the most entitled to comment on it. For all the socio-political-economic challenges brought by the resulting migration of peoples, I’m ever so thankful for the ethnic diversity. 

Anyway, my enjoyment of the newscasters has been marred by coverage of current events in the Middle East. And like any good American, my knee-jerk reaction was KILL THEM ALL.

I felt immediate disgust at myself. Not because my reaction was a contradiction of my liberal values. Rather, I felt I’d been manipulated. And I really hate that. The question is, by who? The media? Mmm–nah, that’s a (typically liberal) cop-out. Generally, I view all sources of information with mistrust, including my own empirical evidence (my world is a scary place, indeed). Was it that little shithead, lizard brain, reacting to some perceived threat to my survival? Yes, quite possibly, but being somewhat comfortable middle-class, somewhat educated, living in a Western society, I like to think we’re far enough removed from physical dangers that I’m able to shut down that crap quickly enough. I’m still working through this. To be continued…

But moving past that, and ignoring the motivations and actions of the master manipulators and bit players with agendas (and they are there too), I’ve wanted to try to understand the motivations of the “common people” who are now in the streets across the Middle East, protesting for… something. I feel like this is an even bigger minefield, fraught with so many potential bias judgements. It’s so easy to start talking shit. I do that quite well. But there is more at play than a First World mind can readily understand, even one who witnesses this first-hand on the ground. And maybe this is because we have cleverly learned to shut off that lizard brain.

Issues of poverty, fear, powerlessness, frustration, all coming in to play that are truly beyond our realm of experience, and consequently, I think, beyond our true comprehension.

We have never lived under threat of death by bombing, no matter how many bloody corpses and wailing mothers we see on television (though we got a taste of that on September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center in New York was reduced to rubble). We cannot truly conceive what it feels like to be dying because we cannot put something in our mouths to nourish us, no matter how many earnest actors we see holding fly-covered children in their arms. We’re spectators of great dramas, the fourth wall. But for millions of other people in the world, these dramas are their realities.

I need to write about this. It’s important. Not because I can solve it. Not the world problem. Not even my own feelings. I cannot solve any of that. There is no solving here. It’s painful. I just need to feel it right now.