Α Helleban in New York

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By MANOLIS VASILAKIS*

helleban-en-15.1.15

«City of Letters» by Thamer Khafaji

There is an electronic magazine titled «Chronos«, whose news bulletins I used to receive by e-mail from time to time but I changed my settings to have these go straight into my spam folder so as not to waste time with – as a general rule – the chatter of bad pseudo-scientific journalism. However an eminent scholar sent me a link and insisted that I read what can only be described as hate speech against the West, by Neni Panourgia. Ms Panourgia currently holds the position of visiting associate professor of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research and program director at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at New York’s Columbia University. The terrorism-friendly article is titled «Should stupidity be murdered?» and is the most moronic text I’ve read since September 11; it is a text exemplary of inhumanity, shamelessness and barbarism.

The author begins by attacking the West for its crimes, past and present. Here are some excerpts:

«But I think we, as ‘West’, are faced with a reality which our Western, rational, colonial, hegemonic culture has not actually predicted – we are at a point where the damned of the earth have now learnt to reproduce the violence that we have taught them by example. Let us recall briefly the response of the British Empire to the 1857 uprising in India: a massacre that spared neither women nor children, neither the innocent nor the guilty. It was violence used as terrorism to show the insurgents not only what the colonial power can do, but much more cynically, that it was capable of doing it and would be willing to do it again without any hesitation [...]

What happened in Paris is a show of force, perhaps (mutatis mutandis) similar to that of the English in 1857.»

She continues with a moral indictment of the weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo:

«What does this freedom of expression mean? What has the right to be expressed freely? [...] What is the democratic right to wear the scarf as well as to the most moronic, sexist, hyper-white, ultra-male ridiculous cartoons of Charlie Hebdo? Here comes the question of public space – what can be said, what can be worn, what can be done publicly and what is the citizen’s responsibility towards the preservation of this space so that it is accessible and safe to all and for all. [...]

Charlie Hebdo, obviously, reduced itself in the first instance, to the critique of the Other (whether this other was bourgeois propriety – to which the magazine thought it did not belong, or the different religions or the various minority groups) as if it had discovered the Archimedean point from which it could exercise this critique. [...] Lots of blood for some distasteful, ridiculous and poorly drawn cartoons. … «.

This declaration of hatred and inhumanity was penned before the 17 corpses of those murdered by the terrorists were buried and while Europe and the rest of the world was still reeling from the shock. The very moment when all of Europe was mourning the dead.

Professor Neni Panourgia has every right to hate the West but she must prove that she does indeed mean what she writes. Because she believes all this and in order not to be oppressed while she remains employed by the West, in the metropolis of imperialism, New York. Ηere’s a solution. Besides, she could be of more use to the world in which she apparently feels to be a part: she can teach «human rights», in the way she perceives them in the Islamic Caliphate. The Athens Review of Books will gladly offer her the gift of a one-way ticket to any city of the Islamic State of her choice.

POSTSCRIPT. There are of course many other Hellebans talking about a “fanatical pro-Western” Charlie Hebdo, a “West that pays for its sins”, “the West pays the price for the arrogance of the Renaissance and the culture of Enlightenment”, a “Western rationalism [Enlightenment] that is spiritually empty” that can only be fulfilled by “Eastern spirituality”, but they at least earn their bread by serving defiant Greek academia or working for the defiant Greek media. We have so many people whom we regard as scientists and who could staff all the «universities» and the theological faculties of the Islamic State – including that of Boko Haram.

 

[*] Manolis Vasilakis is the editor of The Athens Review of Books and author of the book It serves them right!”: Greek public opinion after 9/11 (2002).