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Re: [Gnu-arch-users] [OT] facism gaining ground in US

From: Frank T. Pohlmann
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] [OT] facism gaining ground in US
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 2004 03:16:25 +0100 (BST)

> listen to either of them before I'd listen to some
> "Middle Eastern Studies" professor.
>   In long, or why I think that:
>    There is a whole subculture of academia in the US
> of various
> "Studies". These are always somewhat nebulously
> defined, and they
> are always relatively "new" disciplines. So we have
> things like
> "Women's Studies", and "Middle Eastern Studies".

In and of itself, that is not a bad thing. But I am
following your argument for the see below.

>   So my first question would be, why is this called
> "Studies"?
> Why do they tell you you have to study something.
> Shouldn't that
> be obvious? If you need to call it something, why
> not "Middle Eastern History"? It seems to be a
> characteristic of
> anything with "Studies" in the name that you don't
> actually
> know what it is you're studying. 

Hmm. Not entirely. It is my understanding that those
lecturers/professors are often "used" to teach
portions of economics/politics/history lectures. It is
rarely their choice to do all or even part of the
above. So, if the college/university has a, say,
Korean history professor teaching at a history
department, it often happens that she gets drafted in
to teach modern Korean politics, although she has
hardly done more than reading a Korean newspaper
during her, e.g., 2 years she spent in Korea doing

Universities and Colleges often came up with some kind
of "studies" degree for want of specialist historians,
linguists, economists etc. to provide a good
foundation in a discipline as well as regional courses
applying the methods studied in the regional modules.
The year abroad was rigorously enforced and examined
in the UK, thereby avoiding the holiday syndrome.

I was lucky to study at a school that did nothing else
but provide such regional specializations. 

(Health warning: this refers to a state of affairs in
the 1980s/90s. Things have changed at quite a few
colleges in the US and the UK)

> with Studies in the name has been one of these
> idiots who never
> does anything, they just talk about doing things.
> They're all
> theory, no practice.

Pass. I cant speak for the people you have met. I know
what you are referring to, but please understand that
if their course included intensive language study, it
is likely that they might not exactly be very
knowledgeable in their minor. Just imagine someone
trying to study Arabic (I am assuming that colloqial
Egyptian  Arabic would be included and competence
achieved). It is not exactly easy and does not leave
that much time for anything else. A smattering of
electives to permit students to have some fun is all
the fun they might have during the course.

So, even if they learnt the language well, they might
end up being extremely boring to talk to:) 

>   So while I don't have a lot of respect for the
> Edward Said brand
> of "Middle Eastern Studies" professor because as
> near as I can tell,
> they are held to no standards of accuracy at all. 

I hold Edward Said in very high regard. While he is
outdated now, he was definitely a good scholar and
great popularizer of English and American literary
criticism. I am not really sure why you are connecting
him with Middle Eastern Studies. He was active in
politics and one of the great Anglophiles coming from
the Levant. 

I did my graduate work in medieval Iranian history and
while his work was completely irrelevant to me, I set
it as a text for 1st year undergraduates to knock it
down or get them to think.

> I
> have quite a bit
> of respect for a professor of "Middle Eastern
> History", because they
> are held to strict standards.

> way. While you from
> outside the US see us as not taking advice from the
> experts, from inside
> the US I see us taking advice from the _wrong_
> experts. 

I am not so sure. I know quite a few experts with
first class backgrounds who have never been asked by
any elected government, while their secret services
were not quite as shy about talking, e.g., to our
local Kurdish experts. They all held PhDs, taught at a
number of British universities and they were not
necessarily Kurdish either. 

So the US
> government will get advice from a mixture of people
> like Chalabi , and
> "Middle Eastern Studies" professors who have
> probably never been to 
> Iraq.

That may be so, but there are plenty of experts in the
US who are perfectly qualified in your sense of the
word. It might be good riddance not to ask the people
you rightfully despise, but there are more than enough
who spent a number of years in various capacities in
the ME and they would be more than happy to comply.

Whatever my political inclinations, I was struck in
how different the US government responded to the
challenges of China's opening to the West in the 1970s
and 80s. They couldnt educate enough academics
(including historians:) ) and encouraged MBA students
and many others to learn Chinese and allied languages.
Today, the study of Middle Eastern languages is
discouraged. My life has changed since 1991, but back
then I wanted to study Farsi far more intensively. I
was advised not to bother, since I would be branded
for life as a sympathasizer of radical Islam.

Just reporting facts:) 

> Not true. Non USians seem to have this chip on their
> shoulder
> that if I say the US is democratic, I'm somehow
> implying
> their country isn't. 

Ah, no, thats not what I meant. I am just saying that
many countries have rather interesting ways to conduct
democratic business and that the United States
government for reasons that are a bit difficult to
comprehend seems to want to convert the rest of the
world to something they call democracy. So, we old
Europeans get a bit jumpy because we wonder whether
democracy out of the barrel of a gun isnt a bit of a
contradiction in terms. And it kind of taints the

The state of US democracy is something many of us are
worried about as well. But, it is 3 a.m. and I can
barely see the screen. 

So, Pierce, I am sorry if I seemed less than measured
in what I said.

> moved to
> Arizona from California. 

As a California-loving person, can I ask you why? My
knowledge of Arizona is minimal.

> world now. That's pretty cool. On the other hand, it
> would really suck
> to live in Iran right now.

Ouch. Iran is not quite what you think. There is much
that is being reported about the country that is
plainly wrong. Yes, there is oppression, both
political and religious. 

And yet it is a far more interesting and culturally
forward looking country than many other places in the
immediate neighbourhood. Please don't confuse the
policies of hardliners whose political posturing is
fairly annoying and rather deadly to many normal
Iranians, with the rest of Iran. The government is
split in so many intriguing ways that you could find
stark-raving techno-liberals sitting right next to
extremely strict legalistic political and religious
dinosaurs. (Health warning: I have been to
neighbouring countries, not to Iran itself). 

It is the kind of place that sports Beowolf clusters
and IP denial on a country-wide scale. 

I tell you, we are all getting Iran completely


>   Pierce
> _______________________________________________
> Gnu-arch-users mailing list
> address@hidden
> GNU arch home page:

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