April 28, 2006
The Goatee of Enlightenment
When Michael Totten writes his next book, I hope someone blurbs him as "the rightful heir of Thomas Friedman". It would be true on so many levels.
This week, the Goatee of Enlightenment followed the Moustache of Understanding from Beirut to, well, Tel Aviv at least. While there, he demonstrates all he's learned at the Master's feet, passing along commonplaces as though they were wisdom. But then he rockets off into a stupidity that's all his own, as he finds a new source of hope for Israeli-Arab relations in their relationship with the Bedouins:
Bedouin also serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. The skills they learn as desert wanderers make them the perfect trackers.
Because, you know, they get +10 to their "spot" and "sneak" rolls, and can train Tracking to level 37. But I digress. Let's see the true moment of happy cultural exchange:
Lisa told me the Bedouin in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula speak Hebrew.
“Why?” I said. “Did they learn it during the occupation?”
“No,” she said. “They wanted to learn Hebrew so they can talk to us when we go down and visit.”
“When you go down there and visit?” I did not know what she was talking about.
“Last year 200,000 Israelis visited the Bedouin during Passover," she said.
“Two hundred thousand,” I said. “On just one day?”
“You didn’t know about this?” she said.
“No,” I said.
“The Bedouin roll our joints for us,” she said. “They sell us hashish. Israeli women like to go topless.”
“You go topless in front of the Bedouin?” I said. “Isn’t that offensive?” Bedouin are arguably the most conservative people in the entire Middle East.
“It doesn’t bother them,” she said. “They understand that our cultures are different. They don’t impose their values on us. And I never once saw a Bedouin man with wandering eyes.”
Ah, the lovable Bedu of the Sinai. They've only bombed two places this week, although that might have been some other Bedu. Or maybe "outside agitators".
I'm very happy that they can scrape up some foreign currency, considering how utterly marginalized they are by the Great Pharoah Mubarak's vampire state, by hosting parties for slightly-adventurous Israeli stoners. But how could anyone seriously think this is any better for Israeli-Arab relations than "Girls Gone Wild in Cancun" is for US-Mexican relations?
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this is so idiotic on so many levels ... oh, where to begin?
m.t. having already roved around the mideast - i'd've thought he KNOWS about israeli tourists in sinai. i mean, everybody else does. doesn't he read ha'aretz online?
as for the "i never saw once a bedouin with roving eyes" -- HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! so "lisa" is blind. that's ok.
one of my favorite memories of dahab is of a few badu salesmen chatting with an israeli who wanted to show off his arabic & didn't get that they kept addressing him in the female form. we had a great laugh afterwards.
gakh ... i knew he was stupid, but this really goes beyond expectations.
you should meet up with him next time he's in beirut - it'd be fun to spend an evening making fun of him.
Posted by: raf* at April 28, 2006 08:07 AM
Could have been alot worse, I'll give him a back-handed "pass".
Posted by: matthew hogan at April 28, 2006 09:48 AM
Because, you know, they get +10 to their "spot" and "sneak" rolls, and can train Tracking to level 37.
Damn, I'm a nerd.
Posted by: eerie at April 28, 2006 10:19 AM
I don't get that (well it's some kind of game), but regardless, Tom, hereafter when you have a free moment, that piece we discussed has to be a priority.
But the Goatee of Enlightenment, that's nice.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at April 28, 2006 10:42 AM
Matthew: My main issue with this piece is that you don't need to be an Arabic speaker, or have a degree in Middle East studies, or be deeply-rooted in the region, or even be particularly wise in the ways of the world, to work out that:
(1) poor people who live nearby and sell you stuff will learn your language OUT OF ECONOMIC NECESSITY, not some kind of intimate soul-to-soul connection.
(2) that people in poor communities that put on a nice, happy face for the visiting tourists don't usually actually LIKE THEM very much.
Just a pure failure of common sense.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at April 28, 2006 11:14 AM
"(1) poor people who live nearby and sell you stuff will learn your language OUT OF ECONOMIC NECESSITY, not some kind of intimate soul-to-soul connection.
(2) that people in poor communities that put on a nice, happy face for the visiting tourists don't usually actually LIKE THEM very much."
Couldn't agree more. Totten's style is always to judge people by their creature comforts and assume the more comfortable are the more englightened and the less so are merely a) waiting gratefully, or b) resisting stubbornly, their engligthenment. Here he applies choice a.
Type very likely to become awestruck by the beiruti bourgeoisie for me.
OTOH, he undermines some stereotypes elswhere for his likely not-very-informed audience, so he gets on the positive side of pass-fail.
Half-full principle. Other half: just full of it.
Posted by: matthew hogan at April 28, 2006 11:43 AM
"When Michael Totten writes his next book, I hope someone blurbs him as "the rightful heir of Thomas Friedman". It would be true on so many levels."
Amusing. Rare these days to see a finely crafted slam.
Posted by: mark safranski at April 28, 2006 02:53 PM
OK Tom it is pretty bland stuff but why must we be affeared that this dull blogger I had never heard of until now is on the verge of Friedmanesque global influence?
Posted by: almasdar at May 1, 2006 07:07 AM
He gets a fair amount of linkage from the right - Instapundit loves him - and just basically reminds me a lot of especially the later Friedman in his sort of faux (or maybe not-so-faux)-naive "plain old American guy trying to make sense of these crazy foreigners" narrative voice. Plus, Lounsbury finds him irritating.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at May 1, 2006 07:14 AM
Posted by: alle at May 19, 2006 12:48 AM
Actually, the first time Friedman made his six-month prediction, I believe he was right
"The next six months in Iraq—which will determine the prospects for democracy-building there—are the most important six months in U.S. foreign policy in a long, long time."
(New York Times, 11/30/03)
Unfortunately, the next six months saw our all-too-predictable (though I foolishly believed the US had thought things through) utter cock-up of leaving Iraq with some sort of vaguely liberal society. All the other 'six-month' deadlines have just been our ever more desperate attempts to stave off disaster.
Btw, I read Totten's blog now and again and it isn't that bad. Interesting stuff about Kurdistan. Of course, once you read his 'extra chromosome conservative' commenters (hat tip: Nancy Reagan), he comes off looking like John Stuart Mill by comparison.
Posted by: Antiquated Tory at July 31, 2006 11:22 AM