Friday, July 26, 2013

If This Be Philosophy...

The book of essays, published in 2005, is called The Heart of Things: Applying Philosophy to the 21st Century. On its cover there is a photograph of an ancient tome, suggestive of authentic wisdom and real insight into the ways of the world around us. Its author, British philosopher A.C. Grayling, writes sensibly in the introduction:

"Almost everyone wishes to live a life that is satisfying and fulfilling, in which there is achievement and pleasure, and which has the respect of people whose respect is worth having. Such a life is one that adds value - to the experience of the person living it, and to the world that the person occupies. To add value to things involves making good choices. To make good choices requires being informed and reflective. To be both these things one must read, enquire, debate and consider."

Inside Grayling's book there is an essay called Fences, which is rather odd given that he's really writing about the great walls of history, walls such as the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall, designed to keep unwanted people out. Grayling's ruminations on these exclusionary structures are not merely the products of a book-lined study. Our philosopher is a traveller and has seen the walls of which he writes. Among them is Israel's West Bank wall. And this is what he has to say about this hideous, illegal, land-grabbing, 8m-tall, concrete obscenity:

"From Shuneh one sees the unhappy, tormented, disputed, tragic land where yet another barrier stands newly raised, as if nearly 3,000 years of failed experiments with the idea counted for nothing... The futility of the gesture is a measure of the desperation, and the tragedy, prompting it - a desperation felt, and a tragedy suffered, on both sides of the fence planted in that troubled and bloody ground west of the Dead Sea."

The observation is beautifully phrased and, yes, he's right, we have all history to suggest that, like the Berlin Wall, Israel's apartheid wall will one day come crashing down.

But just look at Grayling's characterisation of the Israeli occupation: an occupied, stolen land is airbrushed into a "disputed, tragic land." In fact, there is no sign anywhere of either occupier or occupied - only equally unhappy, tormented, suffering souls.

This is just plain bullshit, of course. You don't have to visit an occupied land to know that some people, known as the occupiers, are having a ball, while others, known as the occupied, lie bleeding in the dust and the broken glass; or that the occupiers have swimming pools and manicured lawns, while the occupied are left with bullet-perforated rainwater tanks and charred, bulldozed orchards.

Not only is there no evidence here that our best-selling, globe-trotting, celebrity philosopher has the wit to know what the hell is going on in occupied Palestine, or eyes to see for that matter, but there's none to suggest he's even followed his own advice and done some serious reading - any reading, actually - before writing such piffle.

And this from a citizen of the country most responsible for the laying the foundations of Zionism's Iron Wall in Palestine.

No comments: