by Claire Chambers
In her 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt argues that there is nothing in evil that is radical or lucid. Instead, she claims, even the most extreme evil is senseless and banal. Amos Elon summarized Arendt's argument in terms that cannot but resonate with the current political circumstances in the United States: 'Evil […] need not be committed only by demonic monsters, but—with disastrous effect—by morons and imbeciles as well'. As Arendt writes about Adolf Eichmann, one of the Holocaust's prime orchestrators: '[he] was not Iago and not Macbeth […]. Except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement, he had no motives at all'.
The world's new Orange Overlord, 45th President of the United States Donald J. Trump has gifted us too many irrational, muddled, and downright idiotic statements and actions over the last year for enumeration in this short blog post. To take just one example, on the first day of Black History Month, Trump seemed to believe that Frederick Douglass, the nineteenth-century author of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave, was still alive. According to Trump, Douglass was 'an example of somebody who is doing an amazing job, who is being recognized more and more, I notice'.
Arendt was right to observe that the slide from thoughtlessness to evil is easy and smooth. A week before his Douglass gaffe, on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2017 Trump issued his executive order banning refugees from the United States for 120 days and from Syria permanently. Additionally, citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia) were blocked from entering for 90 days. What a way to commemorate the premeditated and industrial killing of six million Jews and 200,000 Roma by singling out refugees and a religious group for exclusion. Thankfully, Trump soon found himself struggling with implacable opposition from the US legal system and at the time of writing has been unable to execute his order.
Moreover, there was no mention of the Jews or anti-Semitism on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Trump's inept Press Secretary Sean Spicer later clarified that this omission was not regretted because the White House's intention was to 'acknowledg[e] all of the people' who died. Prince Charles responded by saying the lessons of the Holocaust are being forgotten. Yet these lessons are in fact being wilfully erased by Trump and his team.
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by Omar Ali
Pakistan’s existing political and administrative system is based almost entirely on Western models. but the official national ideology is ambivalent or even hostile to Western civilization and its innovations. In the past this was less of a problem since “national ideology” was not very well developed (Jinnah himself was famously confused about what he wanted and while the Muslim League used Islamist slogans freely during the Pakistan movement, a number of its leaders and ideologues were happy to go along with vaguely left wing justifications for the state once they were comfortably in power after partition), but ever since the time of General Zia, there has been a steady push to establish a particular Islamist version of Pakistani nationalism as the default setting. The process has not gone entirely smoothly and significant sections of the super-elite intelligentsia remain wedded to Western left-liberal(and more rarely, frankly capitalist/”neo-liberal”)) ideologies while the deeper thinking Islamists tend towards Salafism, but it has gone further in the emerging middle class and within the armed forces. There, a superficially Islamist, hypernationalist vision has taken root and can be seen in its purest form on various “Paknationalist” websites.
This “paknationalism” is an extremely shallow and rather unstable construct. It is not classically Islamist but it regards Islam as the main unifying principle and ideological foundation of the state. In practice, it is more about hating India (and our own Indian-ness) that it is about any recognizable orthodox form of Islam. It is also very close to 1930s fascism in its worship of uniforms, authority and cleansing violence. People outside Pakistan rarely take it too seriously and prefer to get their versions of Pakistani nationalism from more liberal interpreters, but the “Paknationalists” are serious and one of these days, they are going to have a go at Pakistan if present suicidal trends persist in the civilian elite. Their interlude may not last very long, but it is likely to be exceptionally violent and may end in catastrophe.
Some idea of the ambitions and self-image of the Paknationalists can be gauged from a few recent examples; Pakistan's former ambassador to the United Nations, senior diplomat Munir Akram, penned a piece in “DAWN” on 27th May in which he repeated the usual “Paknationalist” themes but went a little further than usual by explicitly suggesting that if the US picks a fight with Pakistan, it may face an “asymmetrical nuclear war”. This, unfortunately, is not an isolated example of an Ambassador Sahib wandering off the reservation. Former director general of the ISI, Lieut. Gen. Assad Durrani, wrote a bellicose piece a few days earlier in which he suggested (among other things) that we could exchange Dr Afridi for Aafia Siddiqui and then give Aafia Siddiqui the Nishan e Haider (I am not kidding, check it out for yourself). Certified Paknationalist Ahmed Quraishi suggested that the CIA has been at war with Pakistan since 2002, though interestingly he also said that the CIA is doing this to “poison Pakistani-American ties”, (perhaps in a rogue operation not supported by the “good” or soft-touch faction of the US regime?).
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