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Re: <nettime> Afghan women
dan s wang on Sun, 7 Oct 2001 07:31:08 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Afghan women


>From: Miles Nordin <carton {AT} Ivy.NET>
> begin  David Goldschmidt quotation.
>> activists . . . continue to criticize the policies of America
>   [...]
>> "do these americans even realize how good they have it?"
>
> I don't believe that people criticizing policies are very often doing
> so because they want to have ``it'' better.  Complaining about how
> American policies cause unpleasantness for people elsewhere in the world
> seems to me totally consistent with an awareness of ``how good we have
> it.''
>
> Your admonishment seems to imply, ``people who have things so good have
> no cause to complain,'' which is exactly the sort of selfishness that
> many complainers find reprehensible.  What you say makes sense at first.
> I often hear people say it.  But this moment-of-thanksgiving you are
> suggesting to us is totally upside-down.  It is not right to turn
> activism into some kind of aristocratic indulgence for which we should
> all feel rich-white-man's-guilt.

Okay, but I still like David Goldschmidt's original point--that a
group of people who have "mainstream" aspirations (they just want to
make a living, have a safe home, good schools for the kids, a little
money with which to enjoy life) would be a little surprised by the
sudden attentions of an apparently unified front of activist groups
who share a basic terminology, and about whom they may never have
heard of before the WTC attacks.

Without taking anything away from the validity of their (our!)
analyses, there is something to be said for acknowledging the
specificity of a North American leftist's 'political' education. Even
a group like Global Exchange--they do great stuff in facilitating
actual contact between people from the US and a range of developing
nations. But I can still imagine a participant from one of those
countries wondering about the group's prospectus and thinking, "why
are they coming to my country and then going to Cuba, and then to
Guatemala? By contextualizing it thus what are they trying to say
about my country?"

I can also imagine the Afghan women not wanting to be put on display
as 'Exhibit #1: the Victims.' So this is not all about guilt-tripping,
but rather about asking the question How are activists to account for
their sub-cultural specificity and be sensitive to how our presence
can affect the appearance of those different from us but with whom we
are building coalitions? Different forms of privilege may constitute a
part of that sub-cultural identity, but other elements (racial/ethnic
constitution is an obvious one, but a shared political vocabulary, and
sometimes even matters of dress and style, too) may be just as
important.

Without acknowledging the specificity of their group's dominant
cultural identity, agendas, and political frameworks, what may very
well be intended as support may actually be perceived, in the worst
case, as opportunism. And maybe in the best case, as has been noted,
as a somewhat surprising (if welcome) gesture of support.

dan w.

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