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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Reasons to be Cheerful?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Life as a liberal on the newsgroups isn't much fun any more. It is difficult to continue to express doubts about the unstable situation in Iraq without being accused of possessing too many "dollops of mournfulness and a soupcon of shit-did-I-have-to-be-right- schadenfraude"; to continue to condemn Bush for his injudicious actions is equivalent to being a bad loser who believes the vote in the US was rigged; to argue why, objectively, Susan Sontag or Edward Said were not a unintelligent idiots regardless of the "rightness" (or not) of their opinions is to be accused of turning them into "martyrs" of the far left; to suggest that it is wrong for religious groups to be permitted to censor drama in the theatres and television is to be an "arty-farty" who conceals racism behind unthinking protests "in the name of art".

Yet behind the screens of cliche (why are all liberals by definition "arty-farty"; are there no "arty-farty" conservatives?) and accusations of a moral superiority complex, perhaps the sheer level of antagonism does demonstrate something positive. Perhaps, with liberals in the minority in the US, the uncanny ability of crowds to be make the correct judgement of the course of an uncertain future is going to shine through again. There are reasons to be cheerful, and there are genuine reasons liberals may appear out of touch with the times.

For it is surely inconceivable that Bush could take unilateral action against Iran or Syria, on which his sights, following his State of the Union Address, are clearly set. Garnering popular support in the US would be challenging, but not beyond their rhetorical strategies: just ramp up Homeland alert to "red!" But he certainly would not, since Blair and Hoon explicitly denied the possibility of military action against these two states before the Iraq war, find an ally in the UK. And even if America did act without a "coalition of the willing," this would undermine claima that this is a global (for which read, English-speaking) war on terror. Diplomacy must, therefore, be the only feasible way forward. Equally, as the War on Terror extends from a temporary snap reaction, to a campaign and a culture of action, as it is seen to be taking a grip on the international circuits of terrorism, so the courts in the US and the UK can feel increasingly confident of restoring due judicial process, without being accused of undermining national security. Finally, the coincidence of Arafat's death pulls the rug from the grounds of "no deals with terrorists" on which the US and the UK avoided engaging with the Middle East peace process.

So, for the next six months, liberalism's on hold. And if Iraq descends into anti-democratic chaos, well, shit happens, and do say I didn't warn you.

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Posted by Alistair at 2:47 pm


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