By lex, on Fri – April 15, 2005
Here we are again.
(But it’s Saturday!)
Feh – he has a social life, you know.
Nobody cared for yesterday’s commute, eh? Did everyone click “read more?” You know that’s where the treasures are hid. There was some good human interest stuff in there – polio, WWII, the Holocaust, etc. Imagery too, if I’m not mistaken. No. Take that back – it’s short on imagery. Anyway.
Don’t tell me – I know what it is: Tell us more sea stories, Lex.
Gotcha. Give the audience what they want. Only, you had a pretty good run of sea stories last week, and there are only so many in a single lifetime.
Don’t get greedy.
Have been on a tear lately at Blockbusters. Ran through the first three seasons of “24” over the course of the last month, driving my family nearly to bouts of hear-pulling exasperation. I get like that, find something I like and overdo. Plus, there are no commercials. And I don’t have TiVo, because I don’t watch much TV.
I have no problem reconciling those statements. Just so you know.
I rather like the way 24 is framed and executed – the idea of the episode unfurling in real time was at first a novelty, then a distraction, and then – well, nothing at all. It’s a part of the rhythm of the show, you accustom yourself. There are some disadvantages of course: Seeing it all together takes a little bit of the edge of the knife when we’re told that ” someone from division is coming down.” Right, OK, yes – things get exciting, and we add new actors.
Speaking of acting ** , I do find it rather surprisingly good – it’s like these folks actually care about their work. I’ve never been a huge Kiefer Sutherland fan, ever since “Lost Boys,” he’s always looked to me like he needs a shave. You get the sense that you’d be surprised to meet him and find out that he doesn’t smell, just a little, too. But he’s doing well here, as Jack Bauer, in spite of the fact he’s in a dynamic role, and lacks a bit of the requisite physical gravitas. Carlos Bernard as Tony Almeida grows marvelously over the course of three seasons. And Penny Johnson Jerald as the Senators wife and eventual first lady in exile, is pitch perfect. You really start to hate her, which is the point I think.
It’d be rather cool if there was a place in the federal government where everyone was hip and edgy, wearing Banana Republic clothes, and working at Mac G4 workstations in front of Apple Cinema displays on open bay desks lit by Ikea desk lamps. But I’ve seen the inside, the belly of the beast, and I suppose it won’t be revealing any state secrets to tell you that it’s much more like the service department at your local GM dealership than it is like the set of CTU Los Angeles.
You know what else you notice, when you see three seasons over three weeks? The actors get fat.
Well, not exactly fat, but comfortably sleek let’s say.
I think that they’ve probably starved themselves to get the job, at least those without a pre-existing rep. And once the show survives the first season, grows some legs, well – they get comfortable. You and I would probably be the same.
Sure. I’ll have another glass of wine.
This * got some mileage ’round the sphere last week. Apparently a 13-year old Islamic girl in Britain finally won her right through the courts to wear the full-body jilbab at her mostly Muslim school. This was a place where a consensus had been reached about school uniforms that was slightly less severe. The sense of the article’s writer is that she was put up to it by her older brother:
“…a supporter of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a Muslim party that seeks to establish a Muslim world state, that believes democracy is blasphemy, and that denies that the Western citizenship of Muslims is real or meaningful, or confers any privileges or imposes any duties.”
The writer, the delightfully yclept Theodore Dalrymple, goes on from the specific to the general with breathtaking speed, cataloguing the list of culture-clash grievances that women of apparently Pakistani background are heir to in Britain:
“…substantial numbers of young Muslim women are virtually enslaved in Britain; they grow up in what can only be called a totalitarian environment… They are not allowed out of the house except under escort, and sometimes not even then; they are allowed no mail or use of the telephone; they are not allowed to contradict a male member of the household, and are automatically subject to his wishes; it is regarded as quite legitimate to beat them if they disobey in the slightest… They are forced to wear modes of dress that they do not wish to wear. Their schooling is quite often deliberately interrupted, so that they are not infected by Western ideas of personal liberty; ambitious for a career, they are kept at home as prisoners and domestic slaves.”
“They are taken by their parents, often at a young age, “back” to Pakistan, where they are told that they are getting married, often to a first cousin. Their fathers regard their British passports with all the respect Hitler accorded to treaties. “
“a young man of Pakistani origin who was afraid of the other young men of Pakistani origin in the prison. Why? Because he had previously given important evidence in court in a case in which a girl who had refused to marry the husband selected for her by her parents was murdered by her father and brothers. The other young men of Pakistani origin thought the man who had testified was a traitor to their religion and culture; for in fact it is a religion and culture very convenient to the young men, whom it supplies with a domestic slave and mother of children while they can entertain themselves elsewhere. The whole evil system would break down if any of the young women were allowed their freedom, which is why the men must stick together. Like any form of totalitarianism, it is strong but brittle.”
And so on, with some local politics thrown in to boot at the end. We don’t seem to have these same kinds of problems over here, perhaps because, never having been an empire, we’re not saddled with the legacies that go with them, perhaps because we’re a much bigger pool of people, nearly all of whom came from somewhere else, and also because these days, you can wear pretty much whatever you want to school, so long as it doesn’t carry “hate speech” code violations.
But there’s something else going on here, something I’m having a hard time capturing in my own head. Mr.Dalrymple, it seems to me, is pretending to be shocked at the smoldering den of dark people in the midst of Merry Olde England, with their Strange Habits and Customs. But one senses that the full picture is somewhat more complex.
Take this thread I stumbled across, written on a Pakistani forum, and read it all through if you have the time. It starts with an article about the “Burgers of Karrachi” and their lifestyle. Burgers are apparently the westernized wealthy elite over there, and anyone who’s seen OC on TV here will not be entirely surprised to learn that
“A large number of new generation Pakistanis have similar tales to tell…Almost 90 per cent of the boys I speak to, as young as 10 years old, admit to having experimented with drugs and drink, if not sex, at some point in their lives. Approximately four in 10 indulge themselves regularly, either alone at home, with a group of their friends, or at parties. And depending on who one speaks to, it is estimated that approximately 30-50 per cent of the girls attending the city’s top private schools, have experienced a drug-induced high – most commonly, on dope.”
Yes, I know – dreadful But still, there’s something strangely anachronistic in reading a writer so obviously trying to preserve her detachment go on to write so breathlessly about the rich kids “getting high, on dope.” We have so had that conversation. No one seems anymore to be very much surprised to find the children of privilege *acting shamelessly, over here. We see it, shake our heads and hope we do better. But to read further in the thread is to open a strange window into our own 1970’s, it seems to me. The writer “skhan” seems to me to be the forum’s self-appointed guardian of cultural values and norms, he accuses the Musharraf government is sponsoring sex education in schools (shudder! *). He gets in a bit of a spat with one “PyariCgudia,” who sees things differently:
“Abhay, even now, the government is just trying to stabalize the damn economy. Regulating social behavior at the grass roots level tho bohat duur ki baat hai. Have you seen any laws or propaganda passed that demand that women no longer wear burqas? Do you wear one yourself? And as for late night activity, that has always been going on in KHI. You were just too young to understand what it was. It’s just that now, what has always gone on behind closed doors, is not coming out. Why? Because people are concerned and fully questioning what is going on socially in the country. People are recognizing there is a problem, and thus are trying to raise awareness to fix it. So you’re going to see plenty much more coming out. Have I told you about the wife swapping trends, and late night orgies? Yes, I read of a case where a professor had an orgy with his students. Plenty of more interesting stories that are total shockers. And you have absolutely NO PROOF that Musharraf is deliberately leading the country into this trend. Is he for MODERATION? Yes. Is he for MODERNIZATION? Yes, but in terms of like decreasing crime rate. You’re in karachi. I’m sure you’ve noticed that times are more peaceful after he came in compared to the blood bath that khi was at one time when MQM gundays were running amok on the streets and shooting into random houses as they drove by. He’s not trying to build a society that is OPEN TO INFLUENCES. He’s trying to build a society where your basic rights are protected. He’s working on the economy and law and order. And he’s left a lot of freedom in the hands of people. Bottom line is – the trends you are seeing are not from the government – they are being generated from the people.”
Anyway, I thought it a fascinating look inside, even given that these folks are 1) writing (mostly) in English, 2) have access to computers and the internet and so may not reflect the full spectrum of Pakistani society. In just the same way that you and I may not, over here. But my larger point (I think I have one) is that this whole conversation, the drugs, booze, sex, country-is-going-to-hell zeitgeist could have just as easily been had in San Francisco and New York in the 1970’s, or anywhere in the heartland to this day. Maybe eventually they’ll come to the same compromises we have done: Don’t want your kid to see sex ed in class? Opt out.
Parenthetically, it made me smile a bit that Skhan, the cultural guardian, closes his posts with “our batting and bowling rule.” He’s talking about cricket, and he’s right by the way. The Pakistanis are among the best in the world. But like the immigration to England, this too is a legacy of empire.
So, just like us, nu?
I mean, I’d like to believe that, but then these young men * keep strapping suicide vests *to themselves and blowing themselves up amongst their own citizens, as well as the occupier. The Dutch *didn’t much go for that during the mid-40’s, when they were occupied by a foreign power. Neither did the vast swaths of Russia and Ukraine * , who were far more different culturally from their occupiers than were the Germans and Dutch. And who, because of that no doubt, were treated really hideously by the occupation forces. Armed resistance there was, to be sure, and the murder of collaborators. But none of your mass killing, friend and foe alike, all undifferentiated. This is relatively novel.
And I know that there are freaks * at the margins * of every spectrum, but it’s a little harder to argue against the observation that the margins over there are wider than those over here, that the bell curve is a little flatter.
How and why this came to be is a complex and freighted issue, dealing I think with cultural prime movers. Don’t know if I’m ready to go there today, but I will ask you to remember that noted Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis (excerpted here) in “What Went Wrong ?” ultimately concludes that the Arabic/Islamic isolation of half of its pool of human talent under the burqa is most likely to blame.
Which, in one of those strange twists, takes us back to Dalrymple again, doesn’t it?
What am I obsessing over this month, from Blockbusters?
S’good. Some rough language, and a fair amount of bouncing bodies in various phases of deshabillé. Which I don’t mind all that much, at all, really, so long as it’s something I’ve got the choice to watch, or not. Wouldn’t want to see it on the street corner, or have it thrust at me at Super Bowl half-time show, when I’m not expecting it. Just for example.
Public square vs private space. A useful distinction to preserve, I think.
Today? We golf!
* 07-07-18 Original Link Gone – no replacement found – Ed.
** 07-07-18 Original Link Gone – replacement found – Ed.