Wednesday, March 16, 2011

'When the Whole World is Watching'

New Article at Chris's suggestion.  Make sure to email me suggestions for future readings, and feel free to post on the past article.

When The Whole World is Watching


  1. First, I want to point out that the recent revolution in Egypt (and the many uprisings across the Middle East and Africa) are not comparable to the Holocaust. This is not to say that one is qualitatively more important than any other, just that they are different situations situated in separate cultural contexts (and triggered by unique historical events). Certainly, comparison to the Holocaust is meant to lend emotional and moral import and legitimacy to Egypt’s revolution. But Egyptians’ attempt to reclaim and refashion their government is legitimate on its own terms, not on the Holocaust’s terms, which was a largely European phenomenon.

    I don’t buy Pell’s suggestion that there is a moral imperative for us (that is, Americans) to intercede in Egyptian affairs without first being asked to by the Egyptian people. I don’t think he proves the case that the revolution there is the same as the genocide of the Holocaust, which, in my opinion, does demand action on all our parts. He says,

    Instead it [his commentary] is a knee-jerk reaction to a moral dilemma (sic). Whether we adhere to some religious values or view morality as a human construct, we are all reacting to a situation on the ground where we see the good guys (the young protestors who want freedom) and the bad guys (the old dictators who have repressed the masses for their own gain).

    Is it that simple, though? Do we know without any doubt who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are? Is a person who supports Mubarak necessary a “bad” person? Pell implies that he or she is, but that is glib. How can we, as he asserts, help the Egyptian people (whatever that amounts to) without taking the time to know them? He admits that his is a “knee-jerk reaction,” and yet, he thinks that superficiality is an adequate basis for an ethical clarion call?

    I agree with him that in this our Age of the Internet, it’s increasingly difficult for any person with access to the Web to feign complete ignorance of world events. In that sense, yes, we are catapulted out of our living rooms (or bedrooms or offices or computer labs) and into the fray. There will be times when knowing about others’ suffering will require, morally speaking, us to act on their behalf. But Pell doesn’t make that connection to Egypt. Knowing about what’s happening in Egypt does not, in and of itself, elicit a moral response. And I cannot justify the United States government’s meddling in Egyptian affairs.

  2. Chris' comments are pretty much the ones I thought of after reading this article, & I agree with his interpretation. The author was vague enough that it took me a few readings to decide what his point really was, & now that I think I understand what he's trying to say, it seems incredibly simplistic & based on unjustifiable associations.

    Also, when the author states that "We don't just know about it in the back of our minds. We're watching it.", equating living next door to a concentration camp with hearing about one constantly on the news, I think he's really ignoring the fact that mediated information is always selective. We know that stuff is happening in the middle east, we've seen video of protests, but I don't think that's the equivalent of living next to an Egyptian prison, & really understanding what's happening there.

    I haven't been home very much lately & I'm behind on my news, but there are US troops in Libya now, right? Is that the alternative that this guy is proposing to passively watching?

  3. I agree with Chris and Trevor. Honestly I don't really have anything to add.

  4. Cheap! I know there's more you could say. Dig a little deeper.

  5. I am shockingly disconnected with what's going on in the world, so I don't have a lot of input on the situation in Egypt. What I got out of the article (besides echoing Chris and Trevor): I thought his drawing similarities about living next to a death factory and watching the Egyptian revolution on our computers was weak. Like Chris said, it's not our place to meddle without direction from the Egyptians, who were (from what I can understand, and I might be way off here, let me know) totally directing their revolution. It was all we can do but watch and cheer (if that's your thing), and petition our government to stay out, right? I would have seen the Holocaust analogy better used in a situation where people have been stripped of avenues to defend themselves, and we are "watching" the situation unfold (I'm fumbling with words here, but can yall pick up my Chilean dolls?), I'm thinking of East Timor (does that make sense?). I guess one of the questions would be at what point do we intervene (or petition our govt to)? How do we recognize when we should step in (however that looks) and when do we step aside?

    I don't know if any of this made any sense, I'm trying here!

  6. "I guess one of the questions would be at what point do we intervene (or petition our govt to)?"

    What can folks here realistically do? which also brings up the question of how has petitioning the US government for or against intervention in foreign affairs affected intervention, or the lack of?

  7. Angelo has this to say (his original comment was deleted):

    1. The article is weak and vague and bizarre, the comparison makes little sense.
    2. US intervention is complicated and contradictory and the author is naive to assume that it has been ever, or is now, or could be in this case: uniform and morally correct. This is true, from the little that I know, even in the case of the allied war on the axis powers
    3. Again, the article is so weak that its hard to even take it seriously. But, i opt for the glass being half filled (with faygo) rather than half empty in that the author has the best of intentions (at the very least he connects his own family's oppression with what he perceives to be the oppression of others...he is vaguely anti-fascist), but he needs to take some writing courses and indeed some history and poly sci courses wouldn't help his cause either.

    that and he could, you know, go to Egypt or talk to Egyptians. Or, indeed, talk to the people in those houses he saw

  8. My question for angelo is: Orange Faygo?

  9. Well, sure. Maybe if the article was a little bit better, i'd say root beer. and if it was excellent, def. rock and rye.