Monday, August 8, 2005
Gilad Atzmon - -The Tyranny of Pronouns on the Road to Fascism
I immigrated to Britain eleven years ago. Originally I came here with the intention of finishing my post-graduate studies in Philosophy. I didn’t nurture any plans of staying, but I fell in love: first with London and later with Britain. When I came here just over a decade ago, I met a society that was trying to reconcile itself with the twilight of its long, disastrous history as a colonial power with the morally orientated liberal view it adopted in the aftermath of the Second World War. When I decided to settle here I had the impression that the days of the empire were really over. This was obviously a few years before Blair took over. At the time Britain was searching for different ways to transform its expansionist heritage into one that could survive just as well as a tolerant, peace seeking nation. Small, but without the shackles of needing to dominate and impose its will upon others. British society presented itself as a multi-ethnic society with a multi-cultural horizon. Any visitor to London would admit that this image of openness is more than apparent in almost every aspect of the life of the capital; the very many languages, the extreme wide range of foreign cuisines and restaurants, the music, the people and their varied dressing code, etc. London is no doubt an amazingly colourful international cultural hybrid. It is the most welcoming city on this planet, it doesn’t matter who you are and where you come from, you can always turn it into your home.
Saying that, I have never been convinced by the general idea of multi-culturalism. I would ideally prefer to live in a society that tolerantly celebrates its differences rather than a society that identifies itself with an ideology, be it the most open and tolerant ideology. I would prefer to think of a society in which collective tolerance is an authentic and genuine tendency rather than a legally imposed political agenda. The idea of authoritarian multi-cultural ideology always appeared to me as a shaky cover up. It is there to hide clear latent chauvinist and even racist tendencies. But I learned to live with it. I learned to accept the fact that in Britain, art centres are receiving public funding only when they present a ‘multi-cultural program’ with a discernible number of marginal artists, be it Indians, Blacks, Pakistani, Jews, Women, etc. Although I could never support such an instrumental approach, I learned to respect it. I thought to myself; if this is what it takes for so many people to live together in peace, who am I to raise any criticism?
Seemingly, Mr Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, exposed the essential deceptive character entangled with the idea of multi-culturalism. “The rules are changing” Blair says these days. From now on ‘we’, the British, will decide what really fits into our ‘way of life’. ‘They’, on the other hand, will be deported or even stripped of their citizenship. I tend to believe that Blair knows very well who the ‘we’ and who are the ‘they’ must be. Blair surely believes that he knows what the British ‘way of life’ is all about as well.
Without really knowing whether I fall into Blair’s ‘we’ category or rather into the ‘they’ one, I would confess that my personal interpretation of the British ‘way of life’ is very different from Blair’s. This is not very unusual considering the fact that I am a ‘Johnny foreigner’. But then, surprisingly enough, I realised lately that my personal account on the subject isn’t that remote from Ken Livingstone’s vision of the British capital. In a press conference following the 7/7 bombing, the Mayor said it all: “London is the town of the people who want to be themselves”. Ken had tears in his eyes that cloudy afternoon, and I found myself sobbing with him. It was Ken Livingstone who managed to explain to me in a one single sentence why I fell in love with London and why I settled in Britain a decade ago. Ken’s philosophy is simple: Let yourself and others be.
I feel at home in Britain and especially in London because it was here where I could initiate a search for myself. It was here where I managed to stop identifying myself as a Jew, it was here in London where I ceased being an Israeli. It was here where I started to write. It is here in Britain where I stopped being an Americanised bebop clone and became Gilad Atzmon (what ever that means). I love London and Britain because I am allowed to be myself or even just to be. But it goes further, it is here in London where I could spend an evening in a Lebanese restaurant, it is here in London where I meet, talk and make friends with Palestinians without having them become intimidated by my ‘Israeliness’. It is here in London where I realised that I am a Hebrew speaking Palestinian. I owe a lot to this town and to people who made this town into what it is, be they British or not.
I might be completely wrong here, but I tend to believe that as far as the subject of ‘British way of life’ is concerned, we better listen to Ken rather than to Tony. Unlike Blair who was re-elected indirectly in spite of himself, Livingstone was directly elected by Londoners, by people who believe in their Mayor and his universal humanist outlook.
Indeed, Livingstone and Blair represent two different and opposing worldviews. While Ken describes a liberal society comprised of many different people searching for their own authentic voice, Tony is articulating some radical nationalist thoughts. For Blair, the whole is far greater than its parts. For Blair, society is by far more vital than its members. The state is more important than its citizens. Blair articulates his worldview by cluttering it up with pronouns and assigning them intrinsic value. For Blair, the ‘we’ is obviously far more valuable than the ‘they’.
One may raise an eyebrow and state that there is nothing innovative about the worldview Blair has adopted. In polite company, it is called nationalism, at times even patriotism, but on the face of it, it is nothing less than fascism. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, we may as well take this opportunity to admit that our PM is introducing us to fascist ideology and practices. We may as well acknowledge the horrifying possibility that our society is heading towards fascism through the byways of nationalism and patriotism. But then, even fascism is a matter of degree. Some fascists are better than others. Fascists do believe that the state is greater than its citizens. And yet, exclusion isn’t essential to fascism. Apparently, it is essential to Blair who is politically engaged in mobilising the darkest xenophobic forces within British society.
For those who still fail to see it, based on his recent declarations and intentions, Blair’s political tendencies, mirroring some of the principles of fascism, are of the Zionist type. The man truly believes in the Zionist notion of cultural clash in which ‘we’ stands for Judeo-Christian goodness and ‘they’ stands for Muslim fundamentalist evil.
One may correctly argue, that the most racist form of fascism should be better described as a form of Nazism rather than Zionism. Admittedly, I could see the logic behind such a claim and yet, I insist upon not equating Blair’s policies with Nazism for two important reasons:
1. Zionism predates Nazism. If this is not enough, while Nazism has been defeated over sixty years ago, Zionism is still an active successful political practice that inflicts pain on millions of people, and shows little sign of being in decline. Moreover, Blair’s illegal war in Iraq is in practice a Zionist war against the Arab pockets of resistance. The ‘War Against Terror’ is just another example of a major Zionist battleground. As sad and mad as it may sound, Britain and America are operating currently as a Zionist mission force.
2. Nazism is traditionally associated with the industrialised murder of innocent civilians. Thank God, Blair isn’t there yet. Anyhow, we better remind ourselves that it took the Nazis a while before they even considered the possibility of industrialised murderous solutions.
But then, not only does Blair flirt with fascism in his stance as an all-knowing, all-powerful leader of his nation, even as a watered down tyrant, he appears to be a complete failure. To start with, he is far from being popular amongst his people which is something that disqualifies him from becoming the British Fuhrer. Take my advice Tony, you can’t become a Fuhrer in a society that lacks the notion of a balcony.
Fascists are occasionally good at making wars, but Blair is anything but a military genius. So far he has managed to fail in every possible front. Blair was very quick to surrender to terror. His endorsement of the ‘we’ and ‘they’ philosophy, is exactly where his enemies want him to go. The Muslim fundamentalists want to challenge our so-called ‘Western liberal ideology’. Evidently, Bush and Blair were very quick to lacerate the notion of liberty and civil rights. Furthermore, militant Islamic fundamentalists may aim to prevent Muslims from assimilating within their host Western nations. The terrorists want British Muslims to feel rejected, humiliated and segregated. Blair provides the fundamentalists with the goods. His newly proposed legal measures alienate the British Muslim communities. I better say it loudly, with Tony Blair in No 10 Downing Street, the British people do not need an enemy from beyond.
Unlike recent British PMs at war, unlike Churchill who led the nation through the gloomy days of Dunkirk and the horrendous nights of the Blitz, unlike the Iron Lady who at least showed some backbone by standing firmly in spite of repetitive IRA raids, Blair has managed to raise a white flag just after a single successful terror attack on the capital.
On the face of it, only divine intervention can save Britain right now. In my despair I went back and checked the lyrics of the British national anthem. I vaguely remembered that there was some kind of an appeal to God right in the very front. Of course there is: it says ‘God save our gracious Queen”. Ok, I think to myself, our Queen may be saved but what about the rest of us?