Friday, July 28, 2006

open letter

preliminary reading:,,2099-2271185.html

Dear Sirs,

AA Gill on Albania (Sunday times July 23) begins by criticizing an inadequate stereotype and goes on to develop it further. He is to be commended on this. I am sure he has enhanced the ease of application of cheap simplicities and superficialities to immigration policy and to policing, something the country surely needs for purposes of its security quotas. In this respect Gill has made a contribution to literature. He has also helped enhance the condition where it is as easy to fill cells as it is for him to fill his column inches. And with the same amount of thought required.

What our country needs is more myopia, hyperbole and stereotype in regards to foreign places and people. It needs simpler scapegoats. Easier ones. It needs more banal symbols and analysis.

I should have liked Gill to describe more the evolution of the gangster state in the rubbish nation he has envisioned. Did this evolution happen the same way as Glasgow's? Did it come from dragon's teeth? From the devil's breath? From inferior DNA?

There is a poor country in the present somewhere struggling to rebuild from several disasters also called Albania. It is beautiful. Its people are clever and industrious. It can hold all the contrary generalizations to mister Gill's vision and more. It is also poignant, funny and interesting. But it isn't so easy to describe those things, except thoughtfully in several dimensions, no matter how true they are.

Doctors from that country treat your children. Air traffic controllers from there guide your planes. Herbs from there sit on on your roasts. You bought their shirts in a famous shop last week. That is not even to mention Illyrians and Butrint, or an increasing compliance to EU standards, or penetrations of Chinese and Indian markets the UK might be envious of. Be afraid. Be very afraid. They could marry someone's sister in a nice way.

From The Editor, The Sunday Times Magazine

Thank you for your correspondence in reply to AA Gill's article on his visit to Albania, which appeared in The Sunday Times Magazine on 23 July. Yours was not the only response and we will be publishing a representative sample of readers' letters in the newspaper this Sunday. In the meantime let me put the article in context.

The author AA Gill is widely recognised for his brand of provocative journalism and irreverent humour which he applies to a wide range of subjects; as a critic and as a commentator. He writes fearlessly impressionistic articles and although most readers recognise and are entertained by his perspective it can and does cause occasional offence to some who may not be familiar with his tone.

I can assure you that Albanians are not alone. Recently he wrote scathingly about the English: "I don't like the English; the lumpen and louty, coarse, unsubtle, beady-eyed, beefy-bummed herd. I find England and the English embarrassing." We published that too.

It wasn't the worst - he went on to describe the English in much more disparaging terms and you can imagine some people were not amused. But most were. Our readers understand in the British, a trait for critical and self-deprecating humour and enjoy it enormously. It is a part of the British identity that Gill himself summed up as "Most people share a joke, the English aim them. The English constantly use their humour as an indiscriminate bludgeon. The English teeter on the edge of not being able to take anything seriously; the ability to be solemn, appropriate, reflective. I do it myself."

It is in this spirit that Gill visited and wrote about Albania, as he has, in the past written about Wales, Germany, Scotland and other countries. What most of our readers regard as broad-brushstroke British wit some see as offensive - it is not intended as offence or indictment. Our readers are far too sensible to assume one man's view is either the truth or the reality and the reaction of the large majority is to feel encouraged to find out for themselves. It provokes awareness, investigation and appreciation.

Naturally, one cannot visit a country and write about it and not address its image or stereotypes. And since you raised concerns about Gill's references to Albania's image abroad let me put that in context too. Albania's emerging democracy and economy requires tourism. Last year 16,000 British tourists visited Albania. More will do so this year with British Airways launching scheduled flights from London and the hotel infrastructure growing. Albania's government seeks to encourage this growth.

In writing about Albania it is impossible for any writer to ignore the facts - and those facts, sadly, include many negatives of which Albania and its citizens and nationals working abroad, must be too well aware and it is not this newspaper's practise to ignore unpalatable truths. Albania is "Europe's poorest country and faces a daunting range of challenges" says the British Department for International Development which has distributed over �35million in overseas aid to the country.

Those challenges include corruption at all levels, crime, gun and drug smuggling, the trafficking of immigrants, 'sex slaves' and children. None of these are Gill's assumptions but the result of investigation and research by internationally recognised bodies including concerned Albanian citizens.

Unicef says "trafficking, forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation are daily perils.�" Amnesty International reports that 40% of Albanian women are subjected to domestic violence and no specific legislation exists to protect them. The British Foreign Office advises against travel to many areas of Albania because of widespread gun ownership and crime. The US State Dept advises travellers to Albania "organised criminal gangs operate in all regions and corruption is pervasive. In most cases police assistance or protection is limited. It lists carjacking, gun crime, serious assault as serious enough to advise travellers to exercise extreme caution.

A senior Albanian academic who worked in government in Tirana has researched and referenced "the political class in Albania is generally of low quality and often involved in corruption and crime". The Centre For European Migration and Ethnic Studies has reported "the Albanian Mafia is considered the most powerful [criminal] organisation operating in Italy and that Albanians were responsible for all heroin smuggling into Switzerland and for drug trafficking into Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Belgium.

Even Mjaft, an Albanian organisation that seeks to promote and foster international appreciation of the country, listed the following information on its website; 9,000 Albanian children trafficked for prostitution (Save The Children, 2001); 250,000 weapons in circulation (UN 2003).

That Albania is working with the international community to change this climate and the perceptions it enforces does not negate the very serious issues that confront the country and those that would seek to use it as a hub for international crime, money laundering, people smuggling.

In this climate it is understandable that hard-working, educated, God-fearing and responsible Albanians are acutely sensitive to any criticism of their country and fear being stigmatised and stereotyped. I can only apologise if you are one of those who felt that The Sunday Times Magazine was attempting to discredit a nation. It was not.

Perhaps attempting to contextualise and illustrate a country and the challenges it faces while emerging from decades of oppression, by employing a writer renowned for his acerbic wit and his observations, is a useful step in increasing international appreciation of Albania's problems.

Yours sincerely

Robin Morgan
The Sunday Times Magazine

Dear Sir

I am unhappy to see that you wish not only to defend racism but also bad writing. I have sent on the basis of your response to my initial letter a complaint to the press complaints commission and they have undertaken to investigate my complaint.

What Mr. Gill wrote was in effect a hate crime. I was bemused by this your editorial response and defense by attempting an analysis of social conditions in Albania and the style of Mister Gill. I, in fact, delivered a certain amount of the aid programs in Albania beginning in1992 through 2002 as the Director of various country programs. One of the greatest difficulties I had in getting resources to address the problems you outline below was due to the public depiction of Albanian as a sub-species by what are essentially racists like Mr. Gill.

Racism is the contention that some groups of people have inherent characteristics inferior to others. It is not a rational belief. It becomes a hate crime when the racist causes others harm. It is compounded when they wish to benefit themselves. Mister Gill has made a career with it as a travel writer and a low comic. But he only picks on targets he thinks he can attack with impunity.

Your job as editor is to make sure he is not breaking the law.

Bad writing is obvious. So, incidentally, is being patronizing and spinning. My complaint is about your defense, mister editor, not about Mister Gill's infantilism.


Richard Rathwell

Blue Orange

ultraeye redux

invisible guy, I see in red silver blue

In your middle playground in a tower
broadcasting holograms and text
to our compulsory receiver

Stuccoed songbird
In a perfect cage killed by sound
Of fat, fat bomb

A split plastic train
smiling and musical
In a deep stoney hole

All rational from Ultreye
Invisible guy

Thursday, July 13, 2006

101st post

While me, I only believe that language is a field that has entrances from every world. I desire to find in that field ways my mind can go on journies out of the place encased.

I want witness. I want report and it is better about a kind of beauty, an image that is assembled as though for the first time true, even real. And it is in this life, connected.

I want to stay in a group playing in the field.

Don't mind the raw and jagged. The mysterious evil. The burst of blood.

There is the public work to do. The dividing of two into one. The getting out.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

images will not be displayed

I just spoke to my one remaining political friend who suggested solutions to those missiles that theoretically could hit the United States. Theoretical weapons are a great danger to world peace. We have found this out to our cost in the last few years.

My friend pointed out that most of the anxiety in the world is caused by the United States. Such anxiety is provoking the development of theoretical weapons and the horrible consequences that follow. It is provoking hallucinations of freedom and sovereignty. It is provoking paranoia and resistance to being liberated. My friend suggested that the problem is a simple one to solve. It is only the institutions of the USA, its culture and social organisation which seem to be involved in the recent disruption, both in mind and body, in theory and practice, in the consolidation of world peace and in the quality of people’s lives. Easy peasy to solve.

The solution to this problem would be to first temporarily close the US borders to prevent egress. Then one would start a program to dissolve the United States into component parts. Vermont would be a good integrated place to dissolve into. Florida too. California also good in that sense; a self standing, sovereign, self reliant locality and narrative of California would be neat. But each new place would be very popular to its inhabitants especially to consolidate new liberated identities. Woodsman, surfer poet, peach grower, turtle racer.

The narrative of a metaphysical YouEssAy identity could be preserved. Why not? It is part of history, but only as a myth like Christianity and with many sects. There could be churches and community centres. But the troublesome institutions like the Army and NASA would be gone. The local identities could then work out new relations with each other and with the world. They could become beautiful and unique, pleasant, graceful little homelands.

The above solves the institutional problem. Next is the social problem. The main strategy in this regard is to outlaw the private ownership of weapons during the transition period. The government will issue official semi-automatic weapons to every adult before it dissolves to be used in the transition period. The last federal institution, the FBD, the Federal Bureau of Dissolution, would make any use of the official weapon except for self-defence and defence of the environment illegal. Violation is punishable by firing squad. Also illegal is the wearing of flak jackets or protective clothing for adults. All children however will be issued with flak jackets and helmets. During the transition, the constitution and legal code will be suspended. The law will consist only of a secularisation of the Ten Commandments to which “thou shalt not pollute” is added. What is left by natural selection, manifest destiny and the grape press of the Gods will be reality. The end of the bad dream.

Yes, the dream, for the cultural problem of course remains. Here the belief in the superiority of American Cliché and Stereotype and the iron narrative of manifest smugness must, temporarily, be crushed. It is a sad thing but true. The FBD will issue a list of ten most wanted clichés. This will be renewed weekly. Clichés will be taken off when eradicated and new ones added. Anyone caught sincerely using such clichés, either as a phrase or as a narrative structure, especially as a personal identity, will be exported. In the place where they find themselves they will be sold into servitude and have to learn the language, the local myths of origin and the structure of the local epic. No cheating with Gilgamesh or Rolande. We’re talking the Wagadu Chant. The funds raised from the sales of stereotypes into servitude would be used to maintain the FBD and, at the point of final dissolution, provide a souvenir album and flag to the inhabitants of the unconfederate states.

The old borders will then dissolve. Everyone would go home. A new era begins.

At last the theoretical missiles and those omnipresent, other-dimensional weapons of mass destruction, the evil doers, the nay sayers and the foreigners will have nothing to target.
There will only be the Oaks of Oregon, The Sea of Misty mountains, Walden Pond, The Green Bayous. What’s the point in targeting that?