Tuesday, June 22, 2004

rhetorical wall

Via Explananda one of those articles: the invasion I supported has gone all pear-shaped, but nonetheless, in supporting it I still demonstrate my moral superiority. Well alright, if you must. But then it’s slap bang into a rhetorical wall of outstanding silliness.

To understand Saddam Hussein and the history of modern Iraq, you have to feel anger--or else you have understood nothing.

OK, let’s say that you can read Arabic, are fully versed in the history of the place and maybe even live there. But unless you’re emotionally correct, then you don’t know a thing. I would have thought the fundamental problem with people like Paul Berman is that they were so angry with Saddam Hussein that they understood nothing about Iraq. Nor did nearly all of the rest of us, but this is what tends to make sensible people wary, rather than enthusiastic.

Let’s apply the same principle to other countries. Say you have a fairly unsavoury regime – dictatorial, corrupt, brutal – but not in Saddam’s category and therefore not meriting anger.

To understand Aleksandr Lukashenko and the history of modern Belarus, you have to feel mild but constant irritation--or else you have understood nothing.

Now let’s say we’re talking about a certainly venal, probably fairly corrupt president, but one who has a firm mandate from the people of a country who, by and large, like the state they live in pretty well.

To understand Jacques Chirac and the history of modern France, you have to feel occasionally exasperated--or else you have understood nothing.

I wonder what emotions it is necessary to feel for me to understand, I don’t know, Norway for instance. Or Tonga. Or…

To understand Tony Blair and the history of modern Britain, you have to feel like sitting with your head in your hands and moaning gently but continuously --or else you have understood nothing.

Well, maybe not so wrong after all.