April 10, 2003

Why Does Edward Said Continually

Why Does Edward Said Continually Chap My Ass?

Well, aside from the fact that I had to actually read and make use of his theories to get through grad school? Because he's created an image of a people and a region based upon the false nostalgia of youth, and instead of recognizing that reality differs from theory, continues to insist on his worldview to almost the point of madness.

Here's what set me off this time. I recently came across an old article by Said, a defense of the autobiography he wrote in 1999. The idea that leapt out at me was his nostalgic view of life in Palestine (I believe he was 15 when he lived there/left), and his subsequent construction of self-identity as brave rebel, struggling against his parents' expectations as well as those of his adopted country. This isn't unusual, but I was left with the impression that Said's need to fulfill some leftover adolescent fantasy of rebellion fueled his theories. At the very least, it painted an unflattering picture of Said as an egomaniac, and this was in an article WRITTEN by Said to DEFEND HIMSELF against attacks on his AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Irony stopped by as I read the article, and we shared a special moment of laughter, as well as a beer.

I was going to just file that under Well, No Wonder and move on with my life, until this morning when I came upon this special quote (Via Sullivan):

The idea that Iraq's population would have welcomed American forces entering the country after a terrifying aerial bombardment was always utterly implausible ... One can only wince at the way weak-minded policy hacks in the Pentagon and White House have spun out the 'ideas' of Lewis and Ajami into the scenario for a quick romp in a friendly Iraq.

I hope that yesterday's reality created some cognitive dissonance for Said. I find it amusing that he uses sneer quotes around the "ideas" of others, when his own are ripe for the same treatment. And I finally wonder how long it will be before he authors a screed bemoaning the post-traumatic stress disorder of the Iraqi citizens, claiming that their euphoria was caused only by the cessation of bombardment and that it was actually just pragmatic self-preservation for these victims of white hegemony.

I used to think that adolescence was something we experienced and got over. I now find this theory increasingly disproven, especially among those whose only sense of self-worth comes from being seen as a "rebel." I'd be angrier if it weren't so pathetic.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at April 10, 2003 06:47 AM