Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blood Meridian

Last weekend I watched a couple of DVDs about the Iraq War. The films were ‘Blood of my Brother’ and ‘Weapons of Mass Deception.’ Earlier in the week I read a few chapters of the book ‘Churchill’s Folly’ - about the creation of Iraq and much of the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. The common themes of these works are:  frequent upheavals in the Middle East mainly due to oil resources and attempts of Western Powers like US and England to control the political destinies of these countries. Corollary to the theme is the revolt of Arab peoples against foreign manipulation and the guerilla wars waged against the invaders. Of course, there are multiple perspectives:  an attempt to liberate the oppressed natives from a local tyrant or a naked attempt to grab control of oil resources from the viewpoint of Arabs.

Last week the revolt in Egypt filled the news whereas a few weeks before it was the revolution in Tunisia which overthrew the current president. These events seem to confirm the thesis of the Bush Neo Cons that the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions would herald an era of political reform and democracy in the Middle East. One would venture that change is indeed coming to the Middle East.  During the weekend, I managed to speed read a book called ‘Layover in Dubai’ – a cheesy story about murder, human trafficking of young women from Russia and Eastern Europe and turned into prostitutes to service the expatriate community living in the super city of Dubai. It’s also about the Arabs adjusting to the new global culture sweeping their land and the society’s underbelly of foreign workers from India or Pakistan building the modern skyscrapers littering the desert.

The upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt were facilitated by Twitter, Face book and other modern tools like text messaging and smart phones. Some reports even said these tools were effectively used by the authorities to stop revolts. Last week Internet access in Egypt was essentially shut down and wireless service slowed to a crawl. This is the new force driving change as well – driven by technology and social networks. I also skimmed through a technical book called ‘Google Hacks’ as I plan to increase my skills and knowledge especially on Google tools and social networking. I have been blogging for nearly five years with no monetary success. My motivation was to prepare for new employment but I guess it’s time to rise up. I have bought the Google vision and believe Google is ushering the next wave not only of technology but media and the way our lives will be lived in the future. It’s a more profound change than the Apple toys.

The weekend was again hectic – attending Toastmaster leadership training on Saturday and a lecture or dialogue between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison on Sunday which was fun, entertaining and educational. My youngest son came with me as I brought him to a practice soccer game after the event while I walked around the park for about 30 minutes. As I walked through the woods thinking about the bloody upheavals in the Middle East, I regretted not bringing the audio book I was listening to for the past weeks – Cormac Macarthy’s ‘Blood Meridian’. It’s a gore filled tale of scalp hunters, massacres of Mexicans and Indians in the South West during the 1800s’s, led by an insane judge who seems other worldly due to his infinite talents and skills – like a vast organization urging on senseless death and destruction. He seemed like Colonel Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’. I can’t help but think of the bloody trail the armed forces has led from the jungles of the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan using the latest technology to subdue their opponents. The well regarded scholar Harold Bloom has called ‘Blood Meridian’ an American masterpiece; in the same league as the classic ‘Moby Dick.’

Listening to the bloody scenes from the book I wondered what the author’s point was or his metaphor until I saw the recent upheavals in the Middle East shown in documentary like ‘Blood of my Brother.’ Perhaps it’s a story of an America gone wild – moving away from the ideals of Jefferson and Madison.

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