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12/07/2005

Magazine Roundup

Le Figaro | Foreign Affairs | Plus-Minus | L'Espresso | The Spectator | Revista de Libros | Elet es Irodalom | Al Ahram | Die Weltwoche | New York Times Magazine


Le Figaro, 09.07.2005 (France)

In the context of the attacks on London, the French writer and essayist Pascal Bruckner warns of a widespread European "pacification rhetoric" around the terrorist threat and the denial of it. His first reaction to the most recent attacks: "Is this due to English isolationism? Or is it due to a tradition which has already demonstrated itself with respect to Nazism? At any rate, Great Britain is as unwilling to bow down to the apocalyptic destructive will today as it was yesterday. It opposes in the 'Churchill way'. In contrast to the Spanish after the attacks in Atocha, the English react cold-blooded. They don't demand from their government that their troops on the American side in Iraq be pulled out. (...) On top of that, Blair together with his people, continues a tradition of freedom for which I suspect continental Europe has lost its taste." (More about Bruckner here and here)


Foreign Affairs, 01.07.2005 (USA)


Robert S. Leiken describes the new nightmare of American security authorities: the mujahideen with European passport: "In smoky coffeehouses in Rotterdam and Copenhagen, makeshift prayer halls in Hamburg and Brussels, Islamic bookstalls in Birmingham and 'Londonistan', and the prisons of Madrid, Milan, and Marseilles, immigrants or their descendants are volunteering for jihad against the West. It was a Dutch Muslim of Moroccan descent, born and socialized in Europe, who murdered the filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam last November. A Nixon Center study of 373 mujahideen in western Europe and North America between 1993 and 2004 found more than twice as many Frenchmen as Saudis and more Britons than Sudanese, Yemenites, Emiratis, Lebanese, or Libyans. Fully a quarter of the jihadists it listed were western European nationals - eligible to travel visa-free to the United States."


Plus - Minus, 09.07.2005 (Poland)

The philosopher Agnes Heller attacks "some well-known American and German intellectuals", who seek to explain terrorism either as the rebellion of the poor against the rich, the losers against the winners of capitalist globalisation, or as an almost natural reaction against American imperialism. "The people behind global terror are themselves global capitalists, just like Hitler was supported by German industrialists and financiers. Anti-capitalism merely serves as a slogan to direct massive resentment against the rich and to wage a racist or religious war. Many of them are frustrated intellectuals – young people who want to be remarkable in a very unremarkable world, with big ambitions but little talent, or whose careers were hindered for other reasons." (More about Agnes Heller here and here)


L`Espresso, 14.07.2005 (Italy)

The Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk does not understand why everyone is afraid of the Polish plumber. He wonders a bit about the greater symbolic importance of a professional class, which only was powerful under communism. "He took a down-payment, one made out a time for him to come but he never came then. He came when it suited him. For example after a week. Manky, eating a meal, consumed by the need for a shower, the occupants received him nonetheless like a saviour. They offered him coffee, food and alcohol and worshipped him. The plumber ate, drank, listened to all the flattering remarks and then went about his work with a worthy lethargy. He screwed around somewhere, took something off, caused a disastrous flood in the kitchen or in the bathroom and then suddenly, having lost interest, claimed to be missing a part, left the place an promised to come back the next day, only to return a week later, to take another payment."


The Spectator, 09.07.2005 (UK)

The genocide of the Indians, lynchings of blacks, Pinochet, the Holocaust, and now Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib – the monument at Ground Zero is the expression of an "Ultimate Guilty Complex", writes Mark Steyn, who would have liked to see more Western self-confidence at the site. "I never cared for the Twin Towers, which were never anything more than a couple of oversized slabs of Seventies tat. But once the Islamonutters had taken them down and the various 'internationally acclaimed architects' began submitting designs of ever more limpid tastefulness, I decided Donald Trump had it right: rebuild the ugly muthas but make 'em taller, and stick a giant extended middle finger on the top of each one, or maybe pose that Saddam statue hanging sideways off the roof so he’s being toppled in perpetuity. The latest hastily revised design for the new Freedom Tower eliminates the 'life-affirming vertical gardens' and other milquetoast features proposed by the architect Daniel Libeskind but it’s still a feeble un-American wimp-out."


Revista de Libros, 08.07.2005 (Chile)

Peruvian author Alfredo Bryce Echenique meditates on the past and future of the Latin American city: "While in North America, the original core of the city, the symbol of colonisation, was represented by the 'fort' as we know it from Wild West movies, behind whose walls settlers barricaded themselves and were in no way dependent on local labour, the founders of South American cities – the representatives of the Counter-Reformation and the Inquisiion, Catholicism and aristocracy – gathered the masses of natives – their future servants – on a large square in the centre, and let them feel the might of their new masters on their own bodies." The fast growing South American cities of the present, "which defy state control and all attempts at urban rationality," the main role model is Miami – now the de facto capital city of Latin America."


Elet es Irodalom, 08.07.2005 (Hungary)

Hungarian writer György Konrad makes a plea for new ideas on European (and the EU): "The substance of Europe is curiosity (perhaps the most venal sin and the most charming virtue), the hunger to learn and research, the desire to understand, the hedonism of the brain. What's special about Europe is the lively dialogue between tradition and innovation, the removal of the books from the monasteries during the Gutenberg revolution, the emergence of independent islands of intellectuals... Through works of art, we are able to understand other peoples. Reading novels is a well known method of practising empathy. If you want a Union, then you should put yourselves in the shoes of other Europeans, for example by reading their literature. Let us recognise our own complexity, so that we can enjoy and amuse ourselves!"


Al Ahram Weekly, 07.07.2005 (Egypt)

That hiphop has transformed itself from a local Afro-American subculture to global youth culture and a economic powerhouse is now a commonplace. What's new is Hesham Samy Abdel-Alim's approach. Politically he's more outspoken than subtle, but nonetheless refreshing. In an lengthy article he discusses the worldwide march of hiphop and the post-traditional Islamic identity: "What we are witnessing is a massive movement of Muslim artists who are networked around the world through the power of hip hop culture." Calling the resulting community as a "transglobal hiphop umma", he describes its representatives – from the New York underground icon Mos Def to Palestinian rappers – as the "avant-garde of modern Islam". He finishes by asking: "Will this new knowledge transform our view about the impact of popular culture, particularly hip hop culture, in constructing an Islam appropriate to the needs of contemporary society?"


Die Weltwoche, 07.07.2005 (Switzerland)

Writing under a pseudonym, Katharina Wille-Gut describes in good-humoured detail the arduous life of the noble housewives in Zurich's "Gold Coast". "Concerning partnership, we still-youngish Gold Coast Women are pretty passionate. The result is fewer separations and divorces than in Oberglatt or Emmenbrücke. At worst, when marital crises get completely out of hand, we have a look at the job market, and flirt with financial independence. With crushing results. For a single Thierry-Mugler suit – I worked this out years ago – I would have to work for two entire weeks. My marriage isn't that bad, I said to myself over a glass of champagne at the Savoy, quit the job and devoted myself from then on to successfully performing my wifely tasks" (here the book).


The New York Times Magazine, 10.07.2005 (USA)


James Bennet writes a long portrait on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, wondering whether he really stands behind a policy of openness and democracy, or if he's just a traditional Arab dictator whose Western mask is slowly crumbling. "Although he is viewed in Washington as possibly a mere figurehead, he says he is just at the point of consolidating control by removing the so-called old guard of his father's government and installing change-minded technocrats. While his Syrian critics see him as trapped in the system created by his father, or complicit in it, or simply uncertain what to do, Assad insists he has a plan but is implementing it at a rate that Syria can manage, given its turbulent past and social divides. In any event, he is acting like a man with plenty of time."
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