Mahmoud Darwish: Palestine’s Prophet of Humanism

Darwish_3 It is impossible for me to express what I feel about the passing of Mahmoud Darwish. Like many Palestinians, I had grown up reading his poetry in order to express how I feel about whatever significant events happen to Palestinians. I turned to his writings to understand the periods of Palestine’s history that happened before I was born. If ever anyone in history deserved the title of a Poet Laureate, it was indeed Darwish, who spoke the mind of his people in a way I doubt anyone has ever been able to do for any other people. Today, I wake up missing my voice. The real travesty of Darwish’s death is that it revealed to me that he is no longer there to eloquently express to me how I feel about such travesties.

An often underemphasized aspect of Darwish’s life is how he truly lived every single episode of modern Palestinian history, and lived in all the significant locations and periods of Palestinian life. He was born in 1942 in Al-Birweh, Galilee, before the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine that made him a refugee in Lebanon in 1948. His father decided to return his family to Palestine in 1949, risking murder by Zionist militias that had murdered countless Palestinians who attempted to “escape home”. Somehow, Darwish succeeded in returning, and thus lived the years of his youth as a second-class Israeli citizen. He would then leave to study in the Soviet Union in the early 1970’s, joining the growing Palestinian Diaspora in Europe. His political activism lead to Israel stripping him of his second-class citizenship, and thus returned him to the ranks of Palestinian refugees and the Diaspora. He would then live in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, getting to savor the experience of the homeless Palestinians wandering across the Arab World.

Darwish witnessed the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon—one of the pivotal points of his life, his poetry and of Palestinian history—and left with the Palestinian resistance on the boats headed to Tunisia. From then on, he lived the quintessential Palestinian nomadic life; the whole world was home for this stateless nomad. In 1995, he finally returned to Palestine with the PLO’s signing of the Oslo Accords, and attempted to build his life there. He again witnessed another brutal Israeli siege of Palestinians, this time in Ramallah in 2002, which inspired his powerful poetry collection, ‘Haalat ‘Hisaar (A State of Siege). Since the 1980’s Darwish had serious heart problems, and had a very close encounter with death in 1998 after heart surgery, an experience that inspired his monumental work, Jidaariyyah (Mural).

Throughout all these episodes of Palestinian history, Darwish was there, the voice of the voiceless Palestinians to the world. His peerless poetry and striking emotion were enormously successful in drawing world attention to the plight of Palestinians, galvanizing Palestinian to their cause, and rallying millions of Arabs around the cause. All the countless millions spent on PR campaigns by the Israeli Foreign Ministry were never a match to any of Darwish’s powerful poems.

For me, the most striking and admirable thing about Darwish’s poetry is how it remained so resolutely humanist and universalist in its message. Never did Darwish succumb to cheap nationalism and chauvinism; never did he resort to vilification of his oppressors or the usual jingoism so common in political art and literature. Never did he forget that his oppressor too is human, just like him. The magnanimity, forgiveness and humanism he exhibited in his work remain the ultimate credit to this great author.

Throughout ethnic cleansing, living as a second-class citizen, being placed under house arrest, having his second-class citizenship revoked, being chased and hounded from one exile to another, being bombed in almost each of these exiles and living under countless sieges, Darwish’s humanism never succumbed. One of his most popular poems, Rita, spoke of his love for a Jewish Israeli woman by that name; and about the absurdity of wars coming between lovers. This poem was made into a popular song by Lebanese musician Marcel Khalife.

In his powerful 2002 poem, A State of Siege, written during the Israeli siege of Ramallah, after talking of the sixth sense that allows him to skillfully escape shells, Darwish takes time to address the very Israeli soldiers shelling his neighborhood:

You, standing at the doorsteps, come in
And drink with us our Arabic coffee
For you may feel that you are human like us;

To the killer: If you had left the fetus thirty days,
Things would’ve been different:
The occupation may end, and the toddler may not remember the time of the siege,
and he would grow up a healthy boy,
and study the Ancient history of Asia,
in the same college as one of your daughters.
And they may fall in love.
And they may have a daughter (who would be Jewish by birth).
What have you done now?
Your daughter is now a widow,
and your granddaughter is now orphaned?
What have you done to your scattered family,
And how could you have slain three pigeons with the one bullet?

Darwish’s last poem, published a few weeks before his death, tells the fascinating tale of falling into one hole with one’s enemy. Darwish explores the dynamic of enemies facing a common plight; how the past is remembered and yet forgotten when they cooperate to murder a snake; how instinct triumphs over ideology and how a common plight makes the concept of enmity absurd. In a pretty accurate description of the current plight of Palestinians and Israelis, and in a very ominous phrase indicating that Darwish felt his impending death, he concludes:

He said: Would you negotiate with me now?
I said: For what would you negotiate me now,
in this grave-hole?
He said: On my share and your share of this common grave
I said: What use is it?
Time has passed us,
Our fate is an exception to the rule
Here lie a murderer and the murdered, sleeping in one hole
And it remains for another poet to take this scenario to its end!

But for me, the most memorable of Darwish’s work will always remain his seminal poem, Madeeh Al-Thill Al-‘Aaly (In Priase of the High Shadow). The poem was written on the deck of one of the ships carrying Darwish, along with thousands of Palestinian fighters, from Beirut to Tunisia after Israel’s barbaric destruction of Lebanon in 1982. Darwish recounts the daily realities of living under shelling and under siege in Beirut, the deafening silence of the rest of the world towards the plight of the Palestinians and Lebanese, and the harrowing details of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Acerbic, witty, and powerful, Darwish skewers everyone from the Israeli government murdering civilians while pretending to be the victim (“You stole our tears, wolf”), to the American government (“The Plague”) giving every child a cluster bomb toy as a gift, to the Arab governments (“the bastard nations”) who refrain from doing anything to help their Palestinian brethren, and instead resort to pathetic anti-Semitic rhetoric to deflect attention away from their ineptitude.

Yet through it all, and as dark as the plight becomes, Darwish never loses sight of the humanism at the heart of his cause and at the heart of the Palestinian struggle. He continuously disparages nationalism and mocks its silliness. The ending of the poem, in particular, serves as a sort of Palestinian anti-Zionist humanist manifesto. In it, Darwish addresses the Palestinian fighter with powerful rhetorical questions, asking him about the true nature of his cause, and what he is really after. Mocking the trappings of nationalism and statehood, Darwish—in no uncertain terms—asserts that the cause has always been about humans, about freedom from oppression, about the revolution against persecution, about the lofty ideals of liberty, and most definitely not about petty nationalism and the toys of statehood:

It is for you to be, or not to be,
It is for you to create, or not to create.
All existential questions, behind your shadow, are a farce,
And the universe is your small notebook, and you are its creator.
So write in it the paradise of genesis,
Or do not write it,
You, you are the question.
What do you want?
As you march from a legend, to a legend?
A flag?
What good have flags ever done?
Have they ever protected a city from the shrapnel of a bomb?
What do you want?
A newspaper?
Would the papers ever hatch a bird, or weave a grain?
What do you want?
Do the police know where the small earth will get impregnated from the coming winds?
What do you want?
Sovereignty over ashes?
While you are the master of our soul; the master of our ever-changing existence?
So leave,
For the place is not yours, nor are the garbage thrones.
You are the freedom of creation,
You are the creator of the roads,
And you are the anti-thesis of this era.
And leave,
Poor, like a prayer,
Barefoot, like a river in the path of rocks,
And delayed, like a clove.

You, you are the question.
So leave to yourself,
For you are larger than people’s countries,
Larger than the space of the guillotine.
So leave to yourself,
Resigned to the wisdom of your heart,
Shrugging off the big cities, and the drawn sky,
And building an earth under your hand’s palm–a tent, an idea, or a grain.
So head to Golgotha,
And climb with me,
To return to the homeless soul its beginning.
What do you want?
For you are the master of our soul,
The master of our ever-changing existence.
You are the master of the ember,
The master of the flame.
How large the revolution,
How narrow the journey,
How grand the idea,
How small the state!


Darwish’s legacy will live on as eternally as his ultimate triumph against his oppressors: he never let them succeed in making him dehumanize them. In spite of living through the full gamut of Zionist oppression and the Palestinian plight, in spite of all the murders, the sieges, the shelling, the racism and the oppression, Zionism never succeeded in turning Darwish into a racist, and never succeeded in making Darwish hate his fellow human. His humanism shone through as his ultimate triumph, and the ultimate insult to the chauvinist, parochial, racist, and criminal Zionist project to which he was the quintessential antithesis.


The following video is Darwish reciting a part of Madeeh Al-Thill Al-‘Aly (In Priase of the High Shadow):

The following is Darwish reciting part of Jidaariyyah (Mural), talking about his brush with death in 1998:

“Altruism” and “Selfishness” in The Selfish Gene

His issue may be just a quibble, but in Three Penny Review, P. N. Furbank considers the language of The Selfish Gene:

Dawkins is a sparkling and sometimes an eye-opening writer, but what cannot help striking one is the extreme abuse of language that he (and not only he) commits in this talk of “the biology of selfishness and altruism.” For, according to any proper use of language, what he speaks of as animal “altruism” is not altruism at all, any more than what he speaks of as “selfishness” can rightly be called by that name. He speaks respectfully of the concept of “reciprocal altruism,” introduced by R. L. Trivers in 1971, though, implying as it does a bargain, it is plainly a contradiction in terms; and what he himself refers to as “altruism” might almost, in some cases, be said to be its opposite.

I think this is rather more than a mere quibble. The concept of altruism, rightly understood, is, after all, one of the great achievements of civilized culture, and the choice of acting altruistically in a given situation will be one of the most deeply thought-through decisions a person may ever make (even if, as could happen, he or she might have only a minute or two to make it in). But what is relevant here is that it seems to go directly against the expectations of “kin-selection.” This is the point made by the parable of the Good Samaritan. The injured traveler fallen among thieves receives no help whatever from his fellow Jews, who take care to pass by on the other side. It is left to a Samaritan, a man with no kin-relation whatever to the victim and even, by tradition, his enemy, to come to his aid.

Godard: One big act

Reutersvincentkessler_godard460 The answer to the question at the end of the article is”yes”.  Chris Petit in the Guardian:

Godard wrote his own epitaph early, in Alphaville (1965): “You will suffer a fate worse than death. You will become a legend.” There is no bigger personality cult in terms of film director as artist, and Godard has always been an assiduous curator, understanding the need, as Warhol did, of making a spectacle of himself. But while professing openness he remains opaque and, in a sense, the film-maker known as Jean-Luc Godard may not exist, any more than the musician known as Bob Dylan does, except as several simulacra. For this reason, the scattered asides in Richard Brody’s exhaustive new biography, Everything is Cinema, perform the book’s most useful task, catching the less canny, unguarded Godard.

He suffers from vertigo (how appropriate). He admits to having no imagination and taking everything from life. When he was given a camera to use by film-maker Don Pennebaker, Pennebaker was touched by his incompetence, which included the beginner’s mistake of zooming in and out too much. He was introduced to the fleshpots of Paris in the 1950s by an early mentor, film director Jean-Pierre Melville. Financial transactions with prostitutes were treated as potential mises en scène (Vivre sa vie, Sauve qui peut); cinema as whore. His handwriting features in many of his films; ditto his voice. He plays tennis, or did (he’s nearly 80 now). When he passed on production money from a film to Italian revolutionaries, they used it to open a transvestite bar. He smoked a fat version of Gitanes called Boyards. In his Marxist days, he still travelled first class. He tried to avoid writing scripts whenever possible. His once great friend François Truffaut called him “the Ursula Andress” of the revolutionary movement. He is Protestant in temperament and an unforgiving moralist. He drops names. He lay in a coma for a week after a motorcycle accident. He can be nasty. He has been known to suffer hopeless crushes. In late adolescence he was committed by his father into psychiatric care. His on-set tantrums are legendary. He is the Saint Simeon Stylites of cinema, atop his pillar, or, as Truffaut described him, nothing but a piece of shit on a pedestal. For all his utopian ideals, conflict and rejection are the dominant impulses of his life and work.

Honey, I Plumped the Kids

Photo Olivia Judson in the NYT:

Suppose you have two groups of pregnant female rats. Rats in the first group can either eat as much regular lab-rat chow as they like, or they can eat their fill of human junk food — cookies, doughnuts, marshmallows, potato chips, muffins, chocolate. Rats in the second group only get chow, but again, can eat as much as they like. After the rats have given birth, continue the different regimens while the pups are suckling. Then give both groups of pups access to the chow and the junk food.

Experiments like this have found that pregnant females with access to junk food ate, on a daily basis, roughly 40 percent more food (by weight) and 56 percent more calories than rats that just had chow. Moreover — and this is the interesting bit — pups whose mothers ate junk food while pregnant and lactating had a greater taste for food high in fat and sugar than those whose mothers did not. The junk-food pups ate more calories and were more prone to gaining weight.

What goes for rats does not necessarily go for humans. Nonetheless, such results are thought-provoking. As everyone knows, humans are getting fatter and fatter. According to the World Health Organization, 400 million adults around the world weighed in as obese in 2005. In the United States, more than a third of women between 20 and 39 are obese, some of them extremely so. For the first time in history, large numbers of obese women are having children.

Mahmoud Darwish (in memoriam)


With the mist so dense on the bridge, he said to me,
“Is anything known to the contrary?”
I said, “At dawn, things will be clear.”

He said, “There is no time more obscure than dawn.
Let your imagination succumb
to the river.
In the blue dawn,
in the prison yard or near the pine yard,
a young man is executed, along with his hopes for victory.

In the blue dawn, the smell of bread
forms a map of a life where summer is more like a spring.
In the blue dawn, dreamers wake gently
and merrily walk in the waters of their dream.”

more from With the Mist So Dense on the Bridge at VQR here.



Back to your question: What is the underworld in my book? In the beginning, I had a straightforward definition: it was a mine, or a pit dug into the earth, or a subway, or a tunnel. As I was writing, however, I realized that one of the most interesting aspects of the world that humans have constructed on the surface of the earth is the creation of mock or artificial underworlds in the sense of places that are meant to exclude organic life, where everything is meant to be a creation of human artifice rather than given from the larger universe. A shopping mall, for example, can serve as a model of a technological environment (a term Mumford didn’t use, but that I find useful) even if it isn’t literally underground.

But most of all I try to expand the concept of the underground from the earth to the sky. I end the book by comparing environmental consciousness with subterranean consciousness, pointing out that the real surface of the planet is the upper edge of the atmosphere. Our earthly home is everything below the frigid and uninhabitable realm of outer space, and so in a sense we have always lived below the surface of the planet, in a closed, finite environment.

more from Cabinet here.

Sunday Poem

The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock
T.S. Eliot

    Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats

Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question…

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”

Let us go and make our visit.

   In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.

   The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes

The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening

Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,

And seeing that it was a soft October night

Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

   And indeed there will be time

For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,

Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;

There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions

And for a hundred visions and revisions

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

   In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.……….

Read more »

A question of character

Richard Reeves in Prospect Magazine:

Essay_reeves The three key ingredients of a good character are: a sense of personal agency or self-direction; an acceptance of personal responsibility; and effective regulation of one’s own emotions, in particular the ability to resist temptation or at least defer gratification. Progressives are realising that, thus defined, character is intimately linked to many of their social goals—and also that it is unevenly distributed. Indeed, inequality of character may now be as important as inequality of economic resources.

The specific concerns of progressives can be divided into three connected themes: the link between character attributes and life chances; the life chances “penalty” being paid by the children who do not develop a good character; and the growing demand for good character in the labour market.

Recent claims about social mobility in Britain grinding to a halt are exaggerated. But it does seem that the likelihood of a person being upwardly mobile is increasingly influenced by personal qualities such as confidence and self-control. Julia Margo, associate director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, has assembled an impressive body of evidence linking character to life chances. Her work, which draws on that by Leon Feinstein at the Institute of Education, shows that measured levels of “application”—defined as dedication and a capacity for concentration—at the age of ten have a bigger impact on earnings by the age of 30 than ability in maths. Similarly, what psychologists call an “internal locus of control”—a sense of personal agency—at the age of ten has a bigger impact than reading ability on earnings.

More here.


From The Washington Post:

Book Little Sadia Shepard and her younger brother, Cassim, grew up first in Denver, then Chestnut Hill, Mass., in what she considered to be a wonderful and normal life with three terrific adults: her American dad, a tall, rangy, white Protestant; her beautiful Muslim mother, who was born and raised in an affluent home in Karachi, the first capital of Pakistan; and her sweet maternal grandmother, who raised the kids and kept the house while the adult couple ran an architectural firm. This grandma has a set of slightly dissonant memories: “A very long time ago,” she tells young Sadia, “your ancestors left Israel in a ship . . . and they were shipwrecked, in India. They were Jews, but they settled in India. In the shipwreck they lost their Torahs, and they forgot their religion.” Sadia’s nana had spent her early adult years as a Muslim wife in a beautiful beach house in Bombay. But she was neither Hindu nor Muslim. Her prayers, years later, are Muslim, but in her childhood she was a Jew.

These tales told by Sadia’s grandmother change over the years and seem highly edited for the children. Yes, she was a member of a group called Bene Israel. As a young adult she worked as a nurse in a Bombay hospital, while being secretly married — or perhaps not — to a handsome Muslim. But then, in 1947, when partition came, she was forced to move with her wealthy husband to Karachi. She was in for a rude shock. “When Nana left Bombay for Karachi after the Partition of India,” the author tells us, “she left behind her birthplace and community for a new life; she became the third wife in a joint Muslim household, all three families under one roof.”

But to Sadia, the details of her nana’s Jewish youth remained tantalizingly obscure. What had really become of that legendarily small group of Jews who had set out from Israel 2,000 years earlier, who still evidently believed that they were one of the lost tribes of Israel, and who had settled so long before on the Konkan coast of Western India?

More here.

Mahmoud Darwish, 1941-2008

Gg In Ha’aretz:

Mahmoud Darwish, the world’s most recognized Palestinian poet, whose prose gave voice to the Palestinian experience of exile, occupation and infighting, died on Saturday in Houston, Texas. He was 67.

The predominant Palestinian poet, whose work has been translated into more than 20 languages and won numerous international awards, died following open heart surgery at a Houston hospital, said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Born to a large Muslim family in historical Palestine – now modern-day Israel – he emerged as a Palestinian cultural icon who eloquently described his people’s struggle for independence, and as a vocal critic of both Israel and the Palestinians. He gave voice to the Palestinian dreams of statehood, crafted their declaration of independence and helped forge a Palestinian national identity. He felt the pulse of Palestinians in beautiful poetry. He was a mirror of the Palestinian society, said Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist and lecturer in cultural studies at Al Quds University in Jerusalem.

Darwish first gained prominence in the 1960s with the publication of his first poetry collection, Bird without Wings. It included a poem (“Identity Card) that defiantly spoke in the first person of an Arab man giving his identity number – a common practice among Palestinians when dealing with Israeli authorities and Arab governments – and vowing to return to his land.


Frailty in Sarajevo

028_p502 Salil Tripathi reviews Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project and Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo, in the New Statesman:

Monuments describe a city, and Sarajevo has many: tall buildings pockmarked with shells, including the old office of Oslobo djenje, the city’s newspaper. There are bridges dividing the city, such as the one where a sniper shot down two young women, a Serb and a Bosnian, plunging the city into war, and the Latin Bridge, where Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand. You can see the ski slope where Radovan Karadzic held court, pointing out the sites that he wanted destroyed. And there is the bakery where 22 people who had queued up to buy bread were mown down one morning.

In his earlier fiction, the Bosnian writer Aleksandar Hemon has written movingly about the city’s siege, which lasted over four years and killed more than 10,000 people, even though he could see it only on television, as he was in America when the madness descended. Hemon wanted to hold on to Sarajevo’s integrity, to the seamless city where you would not notice as you moved from the Austro-Hungarian to the Muslim part of town. The city’s lives were in termingled, not compartmentalised, as Karad zic sought.

Describing that lively Sarajevo, Vladimir Brik, the protagonist of The Lazarus Project, says that in his city “everyone could be whatever they claimed they were – each life, however imaginary, could be validated by its rightful, sovereign owner, from the inside”.

On the Georgia-Russia War

Aleqm5hobkjd6zhazwwvobplkfvytfjpaa Over at The Duck of Minerva, Dan Nexon on this new war:

The Georgians, perhaps starting to recognize the degree of their miscalculation, are calling for a cease fire. Meanwhile, Bush and Putin have met in Beijing to discuss the conflict; and countries from all over the world (including Iran) are calling on both parties to cease fighting.

Georgia now wants to bring all of its forces back from Iraq and, as Fester predicted, has asked the US to help with the effort. The US has agreed to do so.

Ingo Mannteufel of Deutsche Welle does a good job of describing the intense propaganda war surrounding the conflict. For an example, the Armenian News Agency reports:

Gaining the maps of Georgian military, Russian peacekeepers got evidence that military operation in South Ossetia was not abrupt. The attack was planned scrupulously.

This afternoon, units of the 58th army freed Tskhinvali. Battles are going on along the responsibility zone of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, land forces commander Vladimir Boldyrev said.

Wounded are being evacuated. Special forces are sent to Tskhinvali. Landing and assault battalions of the 76 Pskov division entered the South Ossetian capital, Vesti reports.

Recall that Armenia is a Russian client state.

Doug Merrill reports that the situation in Tbilisi remains mostly normal; Wu Wei is trying to get out, and not succeeding.

A few points of analysis.

I don’t think there can be any doubt at this point that the Russians were well-prepared for a Georgian offensive. What remains obscure is whether their quick and overwhelming response demonstrates that the Kremlin was trying to provoke Georgia into providing them with a pretext to attack, or because they operated on the reasonable assumption that they needed to be ready in the event of a Georgian offensive against one of the breakaway regions.

A Conversation With Richard B. Freeman

Freeman discusses “globalization and its complex consequences for inequality in national and global contexts. He analyzes the implications of the feminization of the labor market, the effect of immigration on national job markets, the shift of policy innovation in the U.S. from the federal government to the states, and the benefits of international labor standards.”

Orientalism Inverted: The Rise of ‘Hindu Nation’

Neil Gray in Mute (via Political Theory Daily Review):

The grandiose assertions of the German romanticists struck a receptive chord in parts of the Indian intelligentsia. Herder’s romanticist nationalist philosophy of a nation beyond politics residing in the permanent ‘life force’ of the people and enunciating popular truth in the face of domination appeared ‘eminently meaningful’ to large parts of the Indian colonial middle-class. No mere ‘German Ideology’, the idea of nation as popular, cultural and latent, spread rapidly throughout India with cultural nationalism quickly developing as the inverted offspring of German orientalism. For Herder, the national soul was ‘… the mother of all cultures upon earth’, representing an inexpressible spirit in the world, which resided in its ‘purest form’ within the common national Volk. Herder’s romanticist discourse of cultural difference and authenticity provided a conceptual grammar for a domesticated cultural nationalism, and became a powerful impulse for an incipient national ideology based on received orientalist categories in India.

J.G. Fichte, further contributed to an essentialised and organicist conception of nation by arguing that cultures were constituted through the nature-given essence of nationality and could only survive and develop through deep emotional attachment to a state: ‘… that gave body to the nation.’ By virtue of this profound emotional attachment, a nation could become practically invincible according to Fichte – even in the face of inferiority in terms of material, military and productive power. Cultural nationalism would ultimately depend on ‘will’ and the ‘idea’ of nation. The will to sacrifice and loyalty could ‘elevate’ patriotic men above the petty concerns of politics and historical contingency to provide the very life-force of the nation – an idea all too amenable to Indians pinioned by the brute force of colonial domination. The cultural nationalism of Herder and Fichte, and their romanticist emphasis on discourses of ‘… fullness, spirituality, depth, sensitivity and authenticity’, helped ensure that later attempts to construct and consolidate a ‘Hindu community’ by leading Hindu nationalists would remain captive to the orientalist imagination.