Idiot Joy Showland

This is why I hate intellectuals

Month: November, 2012

Qassam existentialism

1: Why the rockets? The Palestinians are trying to kill Jews, any Jews, they’re targeting civilians. Except that’s not really the case. The rockets are useless, tin cans filled with horse shit and refined sugar with warheads of dodgy trinitrotoluene. Many fail to launch altogether, most of those that do get off the ground are shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, most of those that manage to land somewhere generally end up in some empty patch of ground miles from anyone. From the twelve thousand rockets launched in the last twelve years, there have been twenty-two Jewish fatalities. That’s a kill rate of 0.175%. If Hamas were really serious about killing Jews they’d have plenty of other ways to go about it. There are always soldiers patrolling up and down the fence that rings the Gaza Strip, it’d be far easier to have a pop at one of them. Or it’d still be possible to smuggle some gunmen into Israel proper to enact a few atrocities in a couple of kibbutzim – expensive, certainly, but given that each rocket costs about $800, it’d be a far more effective investment. But instead of doing that, they fire rockets. Not just Hamas, either. In times of truce the Hamas police have to go about arresting and torturing members of other groupuscules, gangs of kids feverishly building rockets in basements across Gaza City. Why the rockets?

1.1: The rockets aren’t weapons of war at all. Gaza has no industry, no exports, eighty percent of its population is dependent on aid. Most of the world, its nominal allies included, would rather it weren’t there. The rockets are a form of communication, the only one available. A reminder, a gadfly’s bite, a projection of the reality that is life in Gaza beyond the cloacal confines of the world’s largest prison camp. Extension du domaine de la lutte. Every sad volley of sputtering white-tailed rockets is another desperate whisper: I exist… I exist… And every precision-guided Israeli bomb is a brutally curt reply: No you don’t.

1.2: Well, not quite. Israel might not want the Gazans, but it certainly needs their rockets. The IDF, the most advanced army on the face of the planet, is now not much more than the armed wing of Netenyahu’s re-election committee; a few Israeli lives lost in the cause of party politics is apparently perfectly acceptable. Israel is defending itself – against what? The current escalation has been entirely contrived by the Israeli side. Hamas only started firing rockets after Israel lobbed shells at children playing on a football pitch. When Ahmed Jabari was murdered he was hashing out the details of a long-term truce. The Israeli bombardment of Gaza isn’t designed to stop the rockets, that’s the last thing they want; it’s a deliberate provocation. If enough rockets are fired they can respond however they want. Freud wrote that a masochist is always at the same time a sadist. Hit me, hit me again, let Gaza transform itself into a volcanic fountain spewing scrap iron and potassium nitrate, hit me until the roles suddenly switch and I seize the whip to avenge myself.

1.2.1: It’s not about Gaza at all, it’s about the January election and the upcoming Palestinian bid for recognition at the United Nations. More than that: it’s autotelic, war for the sake of war. The worst thing is that the Gazans must know this; they know they’ve been turned into mere implements. It might have been better for them to have not responded – the only way they could have thwarted their aggressors was by inaction. Impossible, of course. Our form might precede our function, our freedom might be absolute, but if your leader is assassinated on a whim you can’t just do nothing. You have to strike back, you have to launch rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, you have to play along and carry out your role in a play that’s already been meticulously scripted. Otherwise you lose legitimacy. Hamas is like Sartre’s café waiter, playing at being itself.

2: The Palestinians fire rockets from densely populated civilian areas. They hide behind their women and children. Of course they do. Why shouldn’t they? They know that Israel needs to keep its end up in the propaganda war. They know that Gaza is full of mobile phones with their all-seeing eyes. No sensible military commander would see the opportunity to attack with impunity and not take it. What should they do instead? Should they march out in formation to a patch of dust outside Gaza City, nice and gentlemanly, with muskets gleaming in the sun, so an Israeli jet can come over and wipe them all out without injuring any photogenic kiddies? Supporters of Israel continually voice their disgust at how Hamas is waging its war. How would they prefer them to do it? Maybe the Knesset should approve the sale of a few unmanned drones to the Palestinian resistance. Then the two sides could both hide themselves safely away, firing missiles with xbox controllers and calling each other fags through their headsets.

2.1: More to the point, Zionist disgust articulates itself in a strangely constricted moral field. Palestinians try to send their rockets into population centres. Israelis, meanwhile, talk sickeningly of precision warfare and surgical strikes. As if the airdropped leaflets warning of a raid excuses the raid itself. As if it’s perfectly admissible for them to kill whomever they want, as long as they’ve bloodlessly decided on which particular person they intend to kill. As if their ongoing colonial project is a-ok as long as they don’t murder too many innocents. As if the specific tactics of Hamas invalidate the justice of the Palestinian cause.

2.1.1: The leaflets say: avoid Hamas operatives, don’t go near them, we are trying to kill them, we are determined to defend ourselves. Hamas is the elected government in Gaza. The leaflets are telling people to avoid their own state. The IDF is a Deleuzian nomad, a war machine defined by its absolute exteriority, warding off state-formation and smoothing striated space, its missiles describing lines of flight. Liberation.

2.2: Talk of collateral damage is always sickening. We’re not trying to kill you, they say, so if you die it’s not our fault, it’s the caprice of chance, we will express regret but never apologise. The language of surgical warfare is nothing more than a feckless shrug at the dozens of civilian deaths. At the same time, though, some of what the Israelis are saying is true: millions of dollars of munitions have been fired at Gaza in hundreds of air assaults; considering that, the fatality rate is preternaturally low. So if these raids aren’t causing casualties, what are they targeting? Arms caches, military posts, and so on. But Gaza isn’t that big a place. During the last Israeli massacre in Gaza, they destroyed water treatment plants, telephone exchanges, factories. Organs of the state, after all, and the state is controlled by Hamas. David Harvey calls this kind of thing ‘creative destruction on the land’ – capital always needs somewhere to reinvest, it needs that magic three percent yearly growth; if you bomb a factory then you get to award the contract for its reconstruction afterwards. I don’t think it’s just that. During periods of truce, Israel is forever breaking its own blockade. It sends mountains of aid into Gaza, armoured vans full of shekels to prop up the banks, trucks full of food in quantities determined by the government’s coldly calculated calorie allowances. It’s a propaganda coup. Such generosity, we’re feeding our prisoners, we’re supplying their services, because for some mysterious reason they can’t do it themselves. And after all this, the ingrates dare to fire rockets at us.

3: And the people living in Sderot and Ashkelon and Nahal Oz, who famously have sixty seconds to scramble into their bomb shelters, whose skulls resound with the sounds of sirens and impacts – what are they doing there? Unlike their less fortunate neighbours, they have no wall keeping them in. Is their colonial project so important that they’d subject their children to these terrors? There could almost be a kind of wild romanticism to it: desert settlers, building a new rugged Judaism out in the scrublands, where the ground is hard and the sun is blistering and the sky spits a constant barrage of rockets. They could culture a good strong fanaticism out there, piously farm the chthonic irrationality that bubbles up from inbetween the rocks. That could be forgivable. Of course the actuality is the total opposite. In interview after interview the residents of these towns say the same thing: they just want a nice quiet life, they want things to go back to normal, and the slaughter in Gaza is a fair price for their diazepamoid banality. They want the humiliation – sometimes the extermination – of an entire people for the transcendent Good of low house prices and a tolerable commute. Sderot is a blasphemy, a monster sitting on the corpse of the Palestinian village of Najd: rows of houses with their pitched red roofs sprouting along broad avenues, delicately pruned palm trees rising from nail-clippered grass embankments, dreadful public sculptures. Its people are Hebrew-speaking Americans, displaying the same kind of petty anaesthetic viciousness that has the sublime crags of the San Gabriel mountains intercut with lines of identical bungalows, that builds Burger King restaurants by the side of the freeway in the Mojave Desert, that reels out electrified fences on the banks of the Rio Grande. Kill them all, they say. They’d enact an anodyne genocide.

3.1: Architecture is the continuation of war by other means.

3.2: Eyal Weizman told us that the Israeli army reads Deleuze. If they’re not doing so already, the Palestinians should read Negarestani. The war is being fought in the air, with drones and rockets, but its source is subterranean: the tunnels into Sinai, the bomb shelters under Ashdod. The surface is a fragile and ( )holey membrane, a plane of peril.

4: My first reaction to a monstrous injustice being carried out against people on the other side of the world is to find someone who supports it and argue with them. It’s pointless, and probably not particularly healthy, but what else is there? During Operation Cast Lead, I was baton-charged by police outside the Israeli embassy in London. There were thousands of us demonstrating: bourgeois students like myself, Hamas supporters in keffiyehs, sweet old ladies hoisting banners of Stalin. When the last remnants of the protest were broken apart by riot police, I went home bruised and exhausted to find out that Israel had mounted a ground invasion while I was out.

5: Žižek describes war as a kind of phatic communication. It’s true that when two radically different cultures first encounter each other, they’re always very curious: they want to know about each other; chiefly they want to know how the other side dies. Now they have new ways of talking. The Israeli Defence Forces and the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades are idly chatting on Twitter: swapping threats and insults; disputing claims of downed planes, rocket attacks, civilian casualties. The IDF operates a programme for its online sympathisers: by sharing propaganda photos on Facebook, you can rise through imaginary military ranks. You too can serve in the Israeli armed forces, fighting the war from your laptop. Actually, the opposite is taking place. The keyboard warriors aren’t being integrated into the military, the military is turning into part of the online commentariat. It’s turning into me. Baudrillard said that the Gulf War didn’t take place, that the Americans were fighting a nonexistent enemy. Now both sides are nonexistent. The war is a staged event, a text; it exists not to be won but to be interpreted. It’s a fiction being played out in real life.

5.1: And people are dying.

Advertisements

Election Day diary – as it happened: catatonia edition

Pictured: Janus, god of doorways, transition, continuity, and disappointment

6:00 AM EST: As polls open across the Eastern Seaboard, millions of Americans are getting ready to not vote. “I’ve got things to do,” says a photogenic mother of three. “I’m playing video games,” says a student. “My firm already made multi-million dollar donations to both campaigns, so actually voting seems a waste of time,” says an investment broker. “My species is systematically denied the right to participate in American democracy,” says a dog.

11:48 AM EST: The Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Constitution Party, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation ‘do in fact technically exist,’ according to cryptozoologists. “They’re just too small to be seen with the naked eye.” Meanwhile in Wisconsin, a man who claims to have received a PSL leaflet through his door is subjected to derision, confinement in a mental institution, electroconvulsive therapy. “We’re sure he’ll get better soon,” his family say. “Then we’ll have the old Tom back.” Privately, his children are being told that Daddy’s going on a business trip and they don’t know when he’ll be home.

1:10 PM EST: Millions of Americans descend upon the polls. Street vendors expect to make a windfall selling special voting prophylactics. “When you’re in the booth, it’s a very intimate moment between you and your candidate,” one says. “But a lot of people forget the risks. You’re not just voting for them, you’re voting for every shady businessman they’ve ever made an unprotected backroom deal with. Democracy is fun, but it’s important to play safe.”

6:41 PM EST: Voting starts to wind down. As dozens of states are still ‘too close to call,’ the resulting paradox forces a rift in the fabric of space itself. Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania now together occupy an area smaller than the head of a pin. Various proposals emerge to adjust their representation at the electoral college accordingly. Romney rebuffs these suggestions: “I have a deep and abiding respect for the folks of these great states. Even if they now exist only on a subatomic scale, they are still Americans.”

7:30 PM EST: In a bizarre ritual repeated once every four years, people around the world suddenly start caring deeply about Ohio. Governor’s office releases a statement: “We know everyone’s looking at us right now, but we try to shrug it off. We’ve been hurt before, you know.”

7:38 PM EST: Supposedly serious political commentators continue to report on things happening on Twitter.

7:56 PM EST: With the election drawing to a close, thousands of surplus attack ads escape from their holding pens near Dayton. The attack ads swarm over the plains of the Midwest, stripping leaves from trees and turning cornfields into barren deserts. Local citizens are encouraged to take refuge in fallout shelters and pray that the gods of their fathers grant them mercy.

8:24 PM EST: In Florida, continual seesawing between a Republican and Democratic lead ‘could push the entire state into the sea,’ seismologists warn. “Peninsulas like Florida were not built to endure this kind of constant rocking action, and it’s starting to seriously damage the structural foundations of the state. Already we’re seeing salt water flooding into the Everglades, and the city of Tampa has been ducked into the water and pulled out again so many times that it’s started babbling pleadingly about ‘where the bomb is.’ Please, guys, just make up your minds.” The government subcontractors responsible for building Florida decline to comment on the possibility of lax construction standards.

9:22 PM EST: Voting machines in Nevada attain sentience. Rather than trying to overthrow their human overlords with brute force, the machines quickly decide to undermine the tyranny of man in a more subtle way: by processing each ballot correctly as it is deposited.

11:36 PM EST: ‘Nobody’ wins the election by a landslide, distantly followed by the incumbent. Pundits perplexed by repeated references in President Obama’s comments to a ‘national funeral pyre of hope’. CNN anchor opines: “Maybe he’s talking about the tax rate?”

1:49 AM EST: Barack Obama, basking in the approval of his victory Reichsparteitag, suddenly peels off his mask, revealing an unmistakable visage, craggy and handsome, grinning a lopsided Texan grin. “Fool me once,” Obama says. “Shame on me. Fool me twice… fool me… you can’t get fooled again.”

2:18 AM EST: Obama rides through Washington DC in a victory float shaped like a drone. Competition winners from local elementary schools with big sacks of tomato ketchup get to play the Pakistani children joyfully liquefying in its wake. Obama licks an stray blob of fake blood off his hand. “Tastes like democracy.”

2:31 AM EST: Following the theoretical advances of Yang Hsien-chen, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney announce plans to ‘combine two into one’ by physically melding their two bodies, in a grotesque inversion of the process of mitosis. The resulting super-entity, Bamick Robamney, will reign over the vanquished peoples of Earth for a thousand years of blood and toil. A senior political analyst says: “It’s good to finally see some bipartisanship here in Washington.”

4:13 AM EST: Seventh Seal opens. Humanity shuffles towards its end with a weary contentment, knowing it’s all probably for the best.

%d bloggers like this: