Rome, avocados, and post colonial thoughts

Today we went to the ‘ethnic’ market (the place where liberal States frame their acceptance of the ‘other’, and let him sell his goods). Avocados looked nice at one particular stand but I was quickly repulsed by an etiquette saying that they came from Israel. Call it an ‘Arab’ reflex, this little chill down your spine when you something or someone baring the mark of ‘the Israeli’, but hey, can’t help it. How many countries produce avocados around the world? And its Israel who gets to have its avocados on the lucrative EU markets. I don’t think this is what economists call ‘competition’…

So why oh why do the Europeans import their avocados from Israel? Because of something called a ‘preferential trade agreement‘. There seems to be a petition to suspend the EU-Israel agreement (not that I believe in petitions but you could go sign it).

Anyway so I quickly stepped away from this vegetable/fruit place and went to another one whose avocados looked nicer. As I could not find a country of origin displayed, I asked the guy if he knew where these avocados were from. The guy diligently started looking between boxes until he finally claimed triumphantly pointing his finger to one label that they were from South Africa. I couldn’t help but think of the once prevalent Apartheid regime and all that, but then I’m like, the hell with it, it is still better than buying Israeli, and as I am paying the guy, he asks me where I am from, I answer him and return the question to which he answers: Bengladesh. And so being a bit surprised, judging from his light color of skin (forgive my quick stereotype here), I tell him that I thought he was Spanish or something. He immediately screams with a huge smile: Thank you!

Ok so what was this all about? Bengladeshis wanting to be Spaniards or anything else European for that matter. This is what it was all about. The ‘colonized’ wants to be like the once ‘colonial’ and today ‘European’. Antonio Gramsci (being in Rome I should refer to Italians) once explained that Marxist revolution in terms of the appearance of working class consciousness was not going to work just like that because ‘the poor’ wants to become ‘the rich’, to emulate him, to identify to the image he makes of ‘the rich’. This could be extended to any type of social distinguishing group (so instead of class we could thing of any ‘type’ of social group). The colonized/colonizing, first world/third world, us/them basically, given that ‘them’ looks more afluent or powerful, more at ease etc.

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Rome

There I am. My friend lives in an apartment overlooking the Colosseum.

I just have one thing to say about this city: Why do they have this habit of planting crosses everywhere something is erected? Anything with a pointing vertical extremity has been covered with a metal cross. But the real shock came when I came across this Pharaonic obelisk on piazza del popolo that not only was stolen from (what is called today) Egypt but was ridiculously dressed with a cross. Apparently it was brought to Rome by Augustine in 10 BC, and then ‘crossed’ and erected by Pope Sixtus V in 1589. Two epochs with similar motivations, yet surely with some differences i have no capacity to dwell on.

Whether they are copies or authentic pieces coming from the east, all obelisks have that in Rome. Wait, why obelisks in Rome? Imperialist fantasies on unearthed dead ‘civilization’ couple with a phallic obsession that is instantly gentrified. Anyway, one can indulge in so many interpretivist analyses here.

Else than that, tourists roam in a city that was built on violence. Tourists are enchanted by constructions, buildings, architectures that all symbolize war (commemoration of battles), security struggles in the process of State hegemonic apparatuses, and imperialist (or colonial) quests.

The only good thing about Rome is its trees. Please can we have trees in Beirut? And not those controlled by Solidere’s security guards. The modern enterprise is so inefficient when it comes to create future public spaces (say Solidere). What you need is a State of War with immensely rich aristocrats building villas in the capital with huge gardens that then become State property.

العرفان

اذا اتسعت الرؤيا ضاقت العبارة

عبد الجبار النفري (ت354ه/965م)

If sight widens, expression shrinks
Abd el Jabar el nafari (965AC)

Crisis in the group

Well that does it for me. Speak no more. I just had the confirmation for what I always thought: People at ICG (International Crisis Group) could well join the rank of the phony ‘experts’ that make a living out of writing journalistic reports about a political situation but while giving it more credibility by issuing the report with an institutional ‘think-tank’ stamp.

Check the latest report of ICG on Lebanon. That’s the title: The new Lebanese Equation: The Christian’s central role… Just read the “executive summary” to get to what corner of mental derangement the guy can take you. No need to read the rest of the text unless you are interested in curious cases of insane imagination.

Stamp it, fix it, make it an axiom: The only central role (if you want to think with such a stupid concept as ‘centrality of role’ in this case) that one can see not only in Lebanon but in the region at large is the one played by Hizbullah. They are the biggest winner, and on all fronts. Now of course, no single actor/group gained a role, the situation is just very different for everyone, and there is no group called ‘Christians’ in lebanon, there are Christians loosing and Christians winning if you want to call them like this. Likewise Hizbullah gained on levels and is constrained on others.

This ICG article triggers other open-ended questions that could be researched:

1- Journalists/producers of information, foreigners, coming to Lebanon end up
adopting the concepts used by Lebanese themselves to understand a situation (confessional concepts for example), ‘Christians’ is an entity that ‘play’ a ‘central’ role for example.

2- Think tanks and pundits adopt the Hollywood-based train of thinking that you need to find something ‘catchy’ to write an article on the ‘situation’ in a specific country. You can’t just say that the various protagonists ended up resolving Doha in such and such a way after fighting on several fronts peaking with the Beirut demonstration of force. No, you need to find something good. Something Brussels would like, in this case, “Christians” are strengthening because well it is original, it is about the Middle East and it is not about “Islamists”, plus in the backdrop of Christians ‘not-strengthening-at-all’ in Iraq or Syria or etc.

3- The explosive rate at which the general industry of producing information grows is highly alarming. More and more people are making their living out of basically producing crap. They create institutions, start ranking themselves in them, from one type of expertise to the other. Academia is basically the same thing but has much more history and has the sanctity of ‘educating’ giving ‘diplomas’, etc which basically means giving a social position/distinction. I’m sure one day, with the growing ‘democratization’ and ‘globalization’ encountered by the various human creatures of this planet there will be think-tanks, hey, even bloggers, giving diplomas and certificates!