25 September 2007

Two peas in a pod.

So this madman has come to New York to talk to the UN, but it's unclear what Bush can exactly do after spending the last four plus years disturbing the world's peace and creating the greatest upsurge in terrorism since the mid-1970's. Bush has actually had the gall to tell the UN to "join in the mission of liberation," which I'm sorry, but to most ears, knowing the track record of this petty man, must sound something like asking the UN to destabilize more regions of the world.

Certainly, Bush is absolutely correct that the military junta in Myanmar is repressive, but I suspect his pointed criticism of that country has a lot more to do with China's cozy relationship with the military dictatorship than with his actual concern for the country or its people. After all, he chose as his vice president a man who voted against a resolution calling for Nelson Mandela's release from prison and worked to continue close relationships with the Apartheid government in South Africa...I mean, freedom and liberation aren't exactly tops on the puppetmaster's agenda.

So I imagine it strikes people as a bit daft when Mr. Let's-start-a-war-on-false-pretenses gets up in front of diplomats and starts talking about freedom.

Meanwhile, in the same city, the Iranian president was yukking it up at Columbia with such zingers as claiming Iran has no homosexuals:
Asked about executions of homosexuals in Iran, Mr Ahmadinejad replied: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country."
Reacting to laughter and jeers from the audience he added: "In Iran we don't have this phenomenon, I don't know who you told this." [BBC]

Of course, it's easy to have fun at Ahmadinejad's expense, because he's as utterly ridiculous making his pronouncements about Iranian freedoms as Bush is making his about liberation. But seriously, no homosexuals? Let's take him at his word for a moment. It's quite possible he's an avid student of Michel Foucault and he realizes, via The History of Sexuality, that homosexuality as an identity is something the culture only begins to recognize as we move into the twentieth century, that prior to that it was a behavior (e.g. sodomy) that was criminalized and hence it was a criminal act, like robbery. Hence poor Oscar Wilde being sent to Reading Gaol for "gross indecency."

However, in Ahmadinejad's case, I really don't think he knows that history. I would argue, though, that the end result is the same: he truly believes that Iran has no homosexuals because he doesn't believe in homosexuality (in the same sense that rabid right-wing Christians don't believe in homosexuality as identity): he understands the physical manifestations of homosexuality (i.e. same-sex sexual activity) as criminal actions outside one's identity, much like stealing a loaf of bread or assaulting someone are criminal acts that don't give the perpetrator any sort of identity claim.

In other words, he's way way way behind the times, but quite earnest in his ignorance, even as Bush is earnest in his.


mysterygirl! said...

I like that you introduce Foucault to this debate, but if Ahmadinejad doesn't believe in homosexuality but as sodomy as a criminal behavior, why does he believe that there are homosexuals in America? Is this where the rules of Islam come in, and the fact that homosexuality isn't enforced as criminal behavior here (although many of our laws are or have been anti-sodomy / ant-same-sex relationship, etc)? Interesting.

cuff said...

You have a good point. He does seem to think that it's either something that happens or doesn't, based on conditions (e.g. "we don't have that phenomenon," he says.), so I suppose he does recognize the identity of a group of people labelled homosexuals, but they just don't exist in his country because, maybe, the conditions aren't ripe. Maybe he does link it to some sort of Islam v. Christian/Western Secular cultural differences. What might be real interesting is to see how he behaves in a Union Station bathroom...

Momentary Academic said...

I don't really have anything to add except that I am amazed (or perhaps not amazed?) that Cheney voted to keep Mr. Mandela in prison.

Reya Mellicker said...

Who knows what Ahmadinejad really thinks? I believe it's tricky to make assumptions about people who come from such completely different cultures than our own. What people think, how they frame their thoughts all depends on an underlying grid of values. Ahmadinejad's values? My guess is that we Americans don't really have a clue as to how that would shape the mind.

Then there's the second part - what people say out loud can be related to what they think, or might not be. Being affiliated with many American Southerners I can tell you that what they think and what they say varies quite dramatically. Same goes for my Puerto Rican roommate who (I learned the hard way over time) says what he thinks you want to hear, whether it's true or not. That's part of his Caribbean culture.

It's absolutely surreal to think of Ahmadinejad standing in front of an American audience who believe (as we Americans always do) that we can get to the bottom of everything.

As for Myanmar, do you think they're going to kill all those monks and nuns? I mean really - that's BAD!!

asia said...

Interesting point you make about homosexuality as identity vs aberrant behavior. My own redneck brother seems to default on this point too, despite the fact that his 15 yo daughter has made it clear she intends to date girls, and girls only. He simply refuses to acknowledge that she is doing anything other then being oedipal, lazy and possibly criminal. In his mind gay isnt, it is only what you do and she just needs to hang out with boys in cars once and a while.

True too about the yawning cultural chasm between Iran and America. I wish I had studied socio-linguistics.

Foilwoman said...

One of the things that is often said about Dubya is that he is certain, as though certainty were a good thing. Ahmadinejad is certain too. I'll take less macho (and more sane) doubt and ability to see nuances anyday. Both Dubya and Ahmadinejad have appalling areas of ignorance and don't know it and are certain they are right. And the scary thing is that on many, many issues, they really are in agreement.