FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Edward Said’s Well-Reasoned Voice

by MICKEY Z.

I just learned that Edward W. Said has died. Before reading how the corporate media will frame his obituary, I’ll say this: The world is far more empty place today.

Almost a decade ago, I reviewed “The Pen and the Sword,” a collection of Said interviews with David Barsamian, published by Common Courage Press. While some of the references are dated, the message remains as I would state it today. Below is that review…a meager attempt at saying thank you for the work and spirit of Edward W. Said, a true inspiration:

Thanks to popular culture, most Americans are taught to perceive Arabs as fanatical, yet inept, terrorists. Palestinians, so the conventional thinking goes, may not be the most fanatical but are certainly the most inept of the Arabs. Another equally voiceless group in this country is that of political dissidents. In a society where H. Ross Perot is accepted as an renegade outsider, true dissent is rarely discussed.

So, what can be said of Edward W. Said, a genuine political dissident who happens to have been born in Jerusalem when it was still in Palestine? An intellectual who suffered the pain of being uprooted from his home and forced to leave his homeland. Where is his voice heard? Upon first glance, Said’s status as University Professor in the Humanities at Columbia and his authorship of such books as Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism may disguise the depth of his marginalization. It is only after reading this collection of interviews by Alternative Radio founder, David Barsamian that one realizes how much of Said’s vision has been obscured. His contributions to a greater debate on culture’s role in advancing imperialism have been documented (albeit, not widely enough). Sure, Culture and Imperialism does point the accusing finger of blame at long-ignored targets like Albert Camus and Jane Austen, but it is when Said aims his considerable intellect at issues like Israel’s role in the chaos of the Middle East and the tacit complicity of the American press-and taxpayer-in that role that he provokes the most thought and emotion. Hence, what David Barsamian brings out through his insightful questioning in The Pen and The Sword is a glimpse of the heart behind the mind. With almost daily praise heaped upon Israel (and even Arafat) for “ending” the violence, it is practically cathartic to have Barsamian ask the difficult questions and hear Edward Said speak to the facts. Despite death threats from both sides of the battle, despite recently being diagnosed with leukemia, despite confronting a media that offers less criticism of Israel than the Israel’s own newspapers, Said speaks the unspeakable with impunity. When discussing the well-hyped treaty-signing ceremony, Said sees it in these terms:

“The actual ceremony itself, if one watched it, and I did, I had been invited but refused to attend because for me it wasn’t an occasion of celebration but an occasion for mourning, it was, I thought, quite tawdry. In the first place, there was Clinton, like a Roman emperor bringing two vassal kings to his imperial court and making them shake hands in front of him. Then there was the fashion show parade of star personalities brought in. Then, and most distressing of all, were the speeches, in which Israeli Prime Minister Rabin gave the Palestinian speech, full of the anguish, Hamlet’s anxiety and uncertainty, the loss, the sacrifice and so on. In the end I felt sorry for Israel. Arafat’s speech was in fact written by businessmen and was a businessman’s speech, with all the flair of a rental agreement. It was really quite awful. And since he didn’t even mention anything about the sacrifices of the Palestinian people, didn’t even mention the Palestinian people in any serious way, I thought therefore that the occasion was an extremely sad one. And it seemed to me therefore that his speech, the occasion, the ceremony, and so on, seemed to be completely in keeping with the contents of the agreement, which themselves also make the Palestinians subordinate dependents of the Israelis, who will in fact continue to control the West Bank and Gaza for the foreseeable future.”

For me, it is equally sad to contemplate a society without the well-reasoned voice of Edward W. Said. Barsamian asks him of his future and Said’s response resonates of controlled emotion:

“I try not to think about the future too much. One has to keep going. But in general, I feel much better about myself and my situation and my health. They’re synonymous with each other. I think the big battle is to try not to make it the center of your every waking moment; put it aside and press on with the tasks at hand. I’ve got a lot to say and write, I feel, and I just want to get on doing that.”

Anyone interested in fostering a more equitable social structure owes it to Edward W. Said-and themselves-to not allow his courageous efforts to be in vain. Even those who may disagree with his dissertations can benefit from The Pen and The Sword. It is a book of rare quality and importance.

MICKEY Z. can be reached at mzx2@earthlink.net.

 

 

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here. This piece first appeared at World Trust News.  

Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
Pete Dolack
Fanaticism and Fantasy Drive Purported TPP ‘Benefits’
Murray Dobbin
Canada and the TPP
Steve Horn
Army of Lobbyists Push LNG Exports, Methane Hydrates, Coal in Senate Energy Bill
Colin Todhunter
“Lies, Lies and More Lies” – GMOs, Poisoned Agriculture and Toxic Rants
Franklin Lamb
ISIS Erasing Our Cultural Heritage in Syria
David Mihalyfy
#realacademicbios Deserve Real Reform
Graham Peebles
Unjust and Dysfunctional: Asylum in the UK
Yves Engler
On Unions and Class Struggle
Alfredo Lopez
The ‘Bern’ and the Internet
Missy Comley Beattie
Super Propaganda
Ed Rampell
Great Caesar’s Ghost!: A Specter Haunts Hollywood in the Coen’s Anti-Anti-Commie Goofball Comedy
Cesar Chelala
The Public Health Impact of Domestic Violence
Ron Jacobs
Cold Weather Comforts of a Certain Sort
Charles Komanoff
On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane
Charles R. Larson
Can One Survive the Holocaust?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail