Phil Graham on 26 Oct 2000 04:32:45 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] RE: <nettime> Palestinians as Myth

What a strange and confusing time. The concept of globalised humanity - 
once nothing but a Marxist utopia - is now being pushed most hard by 
institutions such as the WTO, UN, IMF, World Bank, etc, etc, as well as by 
the most right-wing commercial institutions (by which I mean weapons- and 
money-mongering monoliths) on whose behalf the former (legislative) group 
appears to work most successfully.

On the one hand, there is the celebration of nationhood by self-professed 
leftists who would formerly have been committed to internationalisation; on 
the other, we see the disparagement of nation-states as a dangerous - if 
not evil - fiction by other self-professed leftists. Meanwhile, humanity 
has never seemed (at least to me) so destructive, nasty, or farcical in its 
endeavours, each apparent win signifying a defeat of another qualitative kind.

Humanity in the abstract has only ever been of limited usefulness. This is 
true at any level: "the individual", "the family", "the organisation", "the 
nation", "the culture", "the ethnic group", "the religion" --- all hopeless 
abstractions after a certain, very simplistic level of conceptual 
application. Perhaps this is all we are capable of in the end.

Pales was a god who took the form of a donkey. Palestine is the name of a 
geographically (i.e. geometrically) defined space, the nature of which, as 
we know, is as movable as collective (mis)understandings and 
(dis)agreements, which are almost always mediated by violence at some point 
in history. As far as Judaism goes, I understand it as a religion, and thus 
as a relation without geographical, ethnic, or cultural borders, like Islam 
or Catholicism or Buddhism or whatever.

I am not sure that juxtaposing the achievements of, say, Kosovars in 
surviving their own "rescue" by remote control carpet bombing on the part 
of the "forces for good" (I note Al Gore's statement in the third "debate" 
that 'not a single human life was lost in the Kosovo war ......... A single 
American life') to the South African apartheid regime under the aegis of 
'national self-determination' is useful or even vaguely commensurable. Put 
differently, "national self-determination" is an incomprehensible term in 
the first place. There is no such thing. Hasn't been for decades if there 
ever was (I very much doubt it). So I wonder what "national 
self-determination" might mean. I also wonder on what basis a group would 
claim nationhood in the first place, if not on cultural, ethnic, 
linguistic, colonial, geographical, militaristic, or religious bases. Which 
of these - or which collection of these - would be more legitmate bases for 
claiming nationhood?

It seems to me that we keep extrapolating clearly flawed and failed 
political models out to larger units of organisation, where now we can 
think of the earth as if we existed outside it (and some people do for 
periods of time), as if "it" (viz the whole of human activity) could be 
controlled from a few centres. Richard's comment about taking what many of 
us have for granted is quite clear and legitimate to my mind (but what is 
it that most of us have that those less fortunate do not?), especially in 
the context of the groups he listed.

I'm not sure how you relate that comment to a regime based on the 
assumption that certain "types" of human beings are not really human at 
all. People claim all sorts of abstract rationales for killing off or 
dehumanising other people: democracy, freedom, racial hygeine, evolutionary 
or technological inferiority, economic efficiency, etc. Thus, according to 
dominant definitions, some people can be bombed, deprived of resources, 
tortured, murdered, exploited, disparaged as less-than-human, uncared for, 
and so on.

Like I said, weird times. I doubt if we have the language or conceptual 
ability to explain and comprehend what is going on.


At 06:25 PM 23/10/00 +0100, Wessel van Rensburg wrote:
>The imperative of National self-determination, was the main justification
>given by the Nationalist government in South Africa, when it instituted the
>policy of Apartheid - 'separateness'.
>Seems we have not shaken (or there is a return) to the link between
>ethnicity, culture, and nation states.
>Richard Barbrook said:
>In recent years, Palestinians, Kosovars, Bosniaks, Kurds, East Timorese and
>many other peoples have been struggling to achieve the national
>self-determination which most of
>us on nettime take for granted.
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