The recent popular democratic movements in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa would have delighted the late Edward Said, although he would also be properly appalled by the most recent events in Bahrain and Libya. Long a critic of Western paternalism towards the Mideast, he would have been charmed by the fact that the Egyptian people basically overthrew a dictatorship without outside help, and largely non-violently to boot. Of course it’s not over yet, the army is still in charge, and who knows how this will play out. But it’s a vindication of one of the major preoccupations of Said’s intellectual and cultural career—the relationship between Western imperialism and its cultural legacy of hostility to non-Western cultures. That he was able combine this career as a political and cultural activist, particularly on behalf of Palestinian statehood, along with a distinguished teaching career at Columbia (one of his students was Barack Obama), and along with a distinguished career as a music critic, and the creation of one of the most remarkable symphony orchestras in history, is a testament to a remarkable intellect and a remarkable man. Continue reading
I tend to avoid programs produced by major network news divisions like I would the galloping herpes, but I do occasionally tune into CBS Sunday Morning. In its better moments, Charles Osgood helms a tranquil, reflective magazine foregrounding the people, places and things that define what’s best about American culture. At its worst, of course, it’s just another fair and balanced mainstream media medicine show, with a comment from Ben Stein.
This morning we got a frustrating dose of worst, as the producers decided to have a look at what’s happening in Wisconsin. Continue reading