World map, 1570 © Abraham Ortelius | Wikimedia Commons
EssaysPower and CrisisTheory & Practice

For the Last Time: “The West”

Revisiting the myth of the clash of civilizations

As information about the attacks in Paris, which left at least 128 people dead, gradually unfolds, I feel overwhelmed and disturbed. I am overwhelmed by the quantity of affective response to which I add my own grief, but I am also deeply disturbed by the way in which this affective reaction is channeled …

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Iraqi insurgents © Menendj | Wikimedia Commons
DemocracyEssaysThe Left

Religion, Essentialism, and Violence

Cherry picking on the left

There has been a contentious theme circulating around the Left-wing blogosphere for quite a while now, sharpened by the atrocities of ISIS and the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. The theme usually begins with the accusation that Islam as a religion is soft on violence, a consequence of its vehement rejection of Enlightenment values. The argument continues: while Islam may not be unique among monotheisms in its endorsement of violent struggle against heretics, infidels, and Western liberal-democratic hegemony, the idea of jihad reveals that it is uniquely serious about it. …

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Scene from the January 11, 2015 demonstration in Paris © Kelly Kline | Flickr
DemocracyEssaysRace

A Postcard from France: A Canadian in Avignon

To provide some context for what follows: I live in France, in the small southern city of Avignon. My wife, Audrey, is French, but I’m not. I, like so many others here, am “an immigrant.” Recent events have made the last few days emotionally and intellectually complex. I’ve been, at times, angry, exhausted, bewildered, and blasé. 

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Quartz crystal © Macroscopic Solutions | Flickr
CapitalismEssaysThe Left

Seven Steps toward Enlightenment: The Case of the French Killings

When a crystal breaks, it breaks along lines of pre-existing weakness. Thus traumatic assaults, like the one in Paris, can serve as X-rays into the body politic that endures them. Certainly, the US invasion of Iraq, a response to 9/11, serves as a paradigm case of how a terroristic attack can provoke the blind aggressivity otherwise obscured and disguised in the self-professed guarantor of world peace. By examining the range of responses to the massacre at Hebdo, we can learn something more about ourselves, and perhaps correct our mistaken stance. In my view there are seven levels of response to these attacks, each a mixture of ideology and truth, progressing closer and closer to something comprehensive and just, albeit also elegiac and incomplete. …

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A Parisian Muslim looks over the city, 2010 © Francisco Osorio | Flickr
Essays

When the Far Enemy becomes Near

Reflections on the Charlie Hebdo killings

The heinous killing of 12 journalists and staff from Charlie Hebdo needs to be interpreted with at least two different focal lenses. There is a French (or French-European) dimension, but there is also an international dimension of these killings, one that connects the spread of ISIS with the strategy of the two killers.

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