FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Travel Diary from a Post-9/11 World

 

Since 9/11/01 I’ve travelled to every continent. I now know which airports have showers, which airlines have more leg room in cattle class and on which airlines the food served is not compatible with life in the medium-term (one or two), which US airports do random checks, where you can find the best coffee and which hotels are to be avoided. In fact I could write an airport and airline guide which would not be popular with most airports or airlines.

In Boston earlier this year I lost all my belongings (including my old friend, a Tag Heur swimming watch I had for many years and which had been dipped in every ocean, many lakes and swimming pools) because the Radisson checked me out so that on my return from Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington (try and find that on your map of the USA), I was without a room and my belongings. When I tried to enter my room the man inside screamed and became abusive. Perhaps he thought I was a rapist-terrorist-Muslim all in one. The hotel was apologetic, gave me another room but had no explanation for my lost Tag Heur or my shaving brush. I was on a book tour for ‘Clash of Fundamentalisms‘ and had to move on, but those sons-of-bitches never compensated me. The New York offices of Verso (my publishers) wrote many letters, but no response. And I’ve never been able to find a watch like the old one. So now in swimming pools I have to rely on the clock on the wall and in the sea on the clock in my head. Its not satisfactory and I dream of evil things happening to the Radisson in Boston, Massachusetts. The curse of Ali is on them. And if I can persuade my old friend Alexander Cockburn and his colleague Jeffrey St.Clair who produce the excellent magazine ‘Counterpunch,’ to add their curses to mine, then Radisson will suffer, at least in Boston. I want my watch back.

* * *

Now to food. A quarter of a century ago the food in the Anglo-Saxon world was not very good. In fact let me be more precise. It was like eating shit. But all that has changed. When I visited Australia for the Sydney Literature Festival this year after an absence of 20 years the city had really changed. Cosmopolitan in appearance and cuisine. An excellent Arab restaurant overlooked Sydney Harbour. I had to eat there twice because two different factions of Arab friend insisted on meeting there. The waiter smiled when I returned for dinner after having had lunch, but must have seen the pleading look in my eyes and didn’t betray me to the hosts of that evening. And Britain, too, has changed. When I first arrived in October 1963 to study at Oxford, the intellectual atmosphere was stimulating, but the food was disgusting. There was only one Indian restaurant, imaginatively called ‘The Taj Mahal’. I ordered a meal. Inedible. Being young and arrogant I sent for the Manager and asked him in Urdu: ‘Why do you serve this shit?’ He was livid. Took me to his office and said: ‘Look The English love it. I’m making money and I don’t want you to come here again.’ Then he relented. ‘Have you just arrived here?’ I nodded. He gave me the name of a Punjabi woman in North Oxford who cooked for South Asian students every Sunday and we could select the menu. I rang her. And she was good, but it was an unsatisfactory arrangement I had to teach myself to cook. Now the culinary landscape of Britain has been transformed completely. China and South Asia compete for restaurant space, but English chefs have learnt to cook as they once did in the 16th century.

***

Last weekend I was at the Evangelische Akademie in Bad Segersburg, an hour’s drive from Hamburg. The occasion was a conference on ‘The War against Terror’ and Israel-Palestine. In itself it was unremarkable except that the opposition I encountered came from the official Greens, who have become fervent interventionists. I have a feeling that the Green Foreign Minister Joscha Fischer, who is trying to smooth the ruffled feathers of Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld (what an ugly image) will probably agree to the war on Iraq. In other words the Greens will put right-wing pressure on Schroeder to retreat from the strong antiwar position that won him the election. 70percent of Germans remain opposed to the war and most of them will not be convinced but the green warmongers will try. Of that I’m sure. In my opening remarks I had referred to the ideology Zionist -Protestant fundamentalist alliance that dominated the ruling clique in Washington. I referred to the early settlers as Protestant fundamentalists fleeing repression in Europe, but inflicting it on the ‘heathens’ in North America. Late an ‘evangelischer freund’ came up to me: ‘Martin Luther, too, was opposed to Protestant fundamentalism.’ Given the old boy’s notorious anti-semitism, I gently challenged this assessment. ‘Oh no, you misunderstand. It was Luther who fought against the Anabaptists who fled to the New World.’ Now all is clear.

***

Often at meetings or in radio and TV interviews when I point out that the only power in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons is Israel, a Zionist apologist shouts; ‘But they’re a democracy.’ Leaving aside the ethnic character of Israeli democracy, I reply that the only country to have used nuclear weapons is also a democracy. This usually ends the argument. Now we have Colonel Putin in Moscow using chemical weapons to end a hostage siege. He, too, is a great democrat. Meanwhile plans to invade Iraq proceed apace.

TARIQ ALI is an editor of New Left Review and a frequent contributor to CounterPunch. This article is extracted from his new book The Clash Of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads And Modernity, published by Verso.

 

More articles by:

Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail