Friday, June 25, 2010

Please. Tell me it wasn't the unknown treasures

Well, shit.
DHAHIR, Iraq — The looting of Iraq’s ancient ruins is thriving again. This time it is not a result of the “stuff happens” chaos that followed the American invasion in 2003, but rather the bureaucratic indifference of Iraq’s newly sovereign government. Thousands of archaeological sites — containing some of the oldest treasures of civilization — have been left unprotected, allowing what officials of Iraq’s antiquities board say is a resumption of brazenly illegal excavations, especially here in southern Iraq.
The extent and lasting impact of the looting in sites like Dubrum may never be known, since they have never been properly excavated to begin with. Mr. Zubaidi, the inspector in Dhi Qar, compared the current crisis to the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad, a convulsive ransacking that shocked the world into action. The museum’s fate continues to attract far more attention from the government and international donors.
“Most of the pieces that were stolen from the National Museum will come back,” Mr. Zubaidi said. “Each piece was marked and recorded.” Nearly half the 15,000 pieces looted from the museum have been returned. “The pieces that were stolen here will never be returned,” he said. “They are lost forever.”

So, what was stolen? You don't know? Man, we don't even know what they made off with! Fuck! I'll bet it was some really good shit. Probably had like a Stargate time portal, maybe some early blueprints of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, some Jesus-shit or something.

While I am enticed to write something well-thought-out and funny — maybe regurgitate the prettiest points from Mr. Nietzsche's essay On the uses & disadvantages of history for life and finish with a clever quip about the Sumerians inability to make a plate that can properly support a typical American meal — I don't have enough go-get-em' in my step at the moment, so I'll give you the half-assed version instead (I probably couldn't have done the "good" version):

The idea of "priceless artifacts" is total nonsense. There are things that aren't for sale, of course. But I can't come up with anything that is literally without determinable value —if there is a buyer, we'll find a price.

So these unidentified Bedouin hoodlums are presumably selling some old stuff they found buried underground. What, exactly, am I supposed to be upset about? It seems about time some enterprising individuals trust-busted the big-wigs from Big Museum anyway.

Perhaps (and yes, this is designed crazy-talk) we should be applauding the Iraqi government's "bureaucratic indifference" on this one —and hopefully many more to come. Sure, that 5,000 man strong Antiquities Police Force sounded pretty fucking awesome, and if any police force in post jammed-up-by-America Iraq was going to be fully staffed first, those guys should have been it. But, that withstanding, maybe it's okay if those crazy Iraqis put this one on the ole' back burner for a little while, you know, focus on non-antiquity — for now.

I would also say, I find the idea of black markets dealing in "stolen" historical "treasures" to be  altogether alluring. I enjoy imagining shadowy transactions —mistrust, satchels full of money, exotic cigarettes, ungainly bodyguards —far more than looking at a piece of stupid jewelry that some doofus Babylonian bought for his daughter on her sweet sixteen a million years ago, or whatever. It would be one thing if we all got to share the national treasures, pass it around like the Stanley Cup, but all that shit is behind glass, I'd rather watch tee vee.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Here's what you should do

Confuse me once, shame on you. Confuse me twice, shame on… wait, fuck that, I don’t enjoy shame's malodorous ways.

Shame Prevention Tactic: Construct an all-knowing, unchallengeable way of going about things — cogency not required — that produces instant-responses for all social needs. Huuurrayyy, I’m good! Uncertainty, begone! Autopilot will take me home. In this world, questions have correct answers — not possibilities. This is where should lives.

The word should — in the way that one morally or ethically must — performs as a bully smearing feeble faces into undesirable places. Yet, despite its face-in-crap nature, “what should I do?” continues to be cried, screamed and whispered. As one of my disembodied teachers is fond of saying, it's time to question the question.

Now, I have heard of some things, and I suppose should questions come from a desire to defer to authority and expertise — which isn't inherently a bad way to go. What baffles me is deferring away inherently personal decisions. A sketch: you're having lunch with someone who sighs, "I've never been here, what should I order?" Ostensibly, this question is asking, "what dish will I like?" which suggests that somebody, anybody, has the answer. Why impose these limits, these safety rails? What are we trying to save ourselves from?

Why not could? Could is seductive, alluring. What could we/I/you do? A dialogue has been opened; you’re no longer insisting on measures and means, you’re inviting possibility, now we’re playing — this could be fun.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I liked the crazy you

School teachers and soldiers are the same. One, they both get their stuff from the government cashbox. Two, prevailing political "reality" consider both to be indispensable. Three, the performers of these jobs are both lauded and pitied. When the God-loved folks of America exhibit or feign gratitude towards them, there is a tendency -- anecdotal, of course -- for the praiser to posit: "I sure am glad somebody does it, somebody other than me." And this makes sense. Brandishing similar strategies -- and only moderately different styles -- teachers and soldiers use force and coercion to pacify or placate unruly groups, our enemies. Who are our enemies? The insane.

If you're like me, you spend your days tasked with delivering a consignment of teenagers from insanity to normalcy: get a job, any job; follow all of those spinach-like laws; marry someone the law approves of; have a kid; send it to us; get back to work, your lunch break was over 10 minutes ago -- we'll call you if anything comes up.

If you're like a soldier, you spend your days tasked with things like getting millions of Pashtuns to do, uh, some stuff you've been hoping they'd start doing so they too can stop being insane and start being perfectly normal. (Admittedly, I'm not exactly sure what these things are, but ostensibly, whatever we're working towards is getting lost in translation, or something. Give it time).

So, why convert the insane? Surely, they are only relatively insane -- could there be another kind? Stop forcing kids to Race To The Top, why bother encouraging them to race anywhere at all? Certainly not to the top. Stop with the nation building or whatever the hell the soldiers do in faraway places. Nations are divisive, nations are insane, stop trying to make them normal, they couldn't possibly understand.

Normalcy is not accurately labeled