Feb 25, 2011

#BDS: McEwan's lousy acceptance speech, and reasons to be be cautiously optimistic

"Ian McEwan went to Jerusalem, shook the hands of apartheid officers, hobnobbed with war criminals, and gave a lousyacceptance speech, though I must admit not as lousy as the petulant and self-indulgent comic relief delivered last year by Margaret Atwood and Amitav Gosh after they collected their tainted million dollar. As you'll remember, Atwood and Gosh dedicated their acceptance speech to criticizing those who dared interfere with their sacred right to be given money, and compared their predicament to that of writers tortured and imprisoned for their writings. McEwan, while clearly unhappy about being so inconvenienced, calibrated his speech to appease the criticism and at least tried to prove he was not, as he was in fact, mollycoddling apartheid.

McEwan is an imperial liberal who believes passionately in the supremacy of European culture. Of course, perish the thought that he would define it that way. He would rather call it "secularism", or "rationalism", or whatever. But it is what it is. He is not therefore the first person one would turn to for supporting an anti-colonial struggle. Just listen to how he describes, in Jerusalem, the uprising in Egypt:
When Egyptians decide en masse to reform their society and think constructively, and take responsibility for their nation into their own hands, they will be less inclined to blame outsiders for all their misfortunes.
Because of course, Egyptian misfortunes have nothing to do with outsiders. Nobody poured billions of dollars into Egypt each year for forty years to maintain a brutal and tyrannical regime. Nobody feted and embraced Mubarak for the way he starved his people for the benefit of global neoliberal accumulation. It was all the fault of Egyptians who failed the test of maturity administered by the white man. They did not "take responsibility" for their fate. They were not "constructive." Maybe, of course that is exactly what McEwan implies in this formulation, they deserved tyranny."

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