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Archive for March 5th, 2005

Illiberal Interventionism

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For all the banterers on the topic of liberal interventionism recently, here’s exactly what some of us were worried about… The fact that the cart led the horse, that the interventionism by far outpaced the liberalism… From Newsweek this week:

Prewar Iraq was a brutal dictatorship, but it had a good record on women’s rights, at least by the standards of the region. Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party professed equality and, on many social issues, practiced it. Women could divorce their husbands, inherit property, even keep their children after a breakup. Women commonly held professional jobs, even high-ranking ones. They had equal educational opportunities, and rarely wore head coverings in the cities, except in heavily Shia areas. But the Baath Party was largely a Sunni Arab institution, and the progressive status of women wasn’t shared in Shia areas to nearly the same degree. The Shia, though numerically greater, were largely disenfranchised under Saddam; now they’ll dominate the government. "The Baath regime, despite their thuggery and terror, they did well by women," says Iraqi-American Amal Rassam of Freedom House, an advocacy group based in the United States.

Already activists have seen changes for the worse that they hadn’t
imagined possible. Attendance by female students at schools and
universities is in decline, according to a upcoming report by Freedom
House, which will be released in May. "Women I’ve met in Baghdad tell
me they now have to wear the higab [Islamic headscarf] when
they go out, for fear of harassment," says Rassam, who wrote the Iraqi
section of the report. Dalia, a married 28-year-old, describes how she
was walking home about six months ago in Baghdad when three men pulled
up beside her and berated her for wearing jeans and a T shirt. "I am
Christian and not Muslim," she told them. One of the men jumped out and
tried to rip her T shirt off, shouting, "Saddam’s time has changed.
Everyone must respect Islam." Fortunately, bystanders intervened. "In
Iraq we’ve lived a modern life for more than half a century," says
Yannar Mohammed, head of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.
"This is not a conservative Islamic society like the West portrays us.
We’re surprised by the rise of political Islam."

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March 5, 2005 at 12:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

James on Wells on the Lower Middle Class

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Found all this interesting stuff in a excerpt from David Lodge’s intro to a new edition of H.G. Wells’s Kipps in today’s Guardian.

From a letter to Henry James upon publication of the novel:

You have for the very
first time treated the English "lower middle class", etc. without the
picturesque, the grotesque, the fantastic and romantic interference, of
which Dickens, eg, is so misleadingly, of which even George Eliot is so
deviatingly, full. You have handled its vulgarity in so scientific and
historic a spirit, and seen the whole thing all in its own strong light.

Lodge thinks that James must not have read the novel all that carefully. But maybe he did. Lodge cites the following passage from the novel…

‘The stupid little tragedies of these clipped and limited lives!

I think of them lying unhappily there in the darkness, my vision
pierces the night … Above them, brooding over them … there is a
monster, a lumpish monster … It is matter and darkness, it is the
anti-soul, it is the ruling power of this land, Stupidity. My Kippses
live in its shadow … I have laughed, and I laugh at these two people;
I have sought to make you laugh … But I see through the darkness the
souls of my Kippses as they are … as things like the bodies of
little, ill-nourished, ailing, ignorant children – children who feel
pain, who are naughty and muddled and suffer, and do not understand
why. And the claw of this Beast rests upon them!’

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March 5, 2005 at 12:25 am

Posted in literature