Hawking Up Hairballs

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Love Shack, Baby

At the U.S.-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, there is a room known as "the love shack". Detainees are taken there after their captors have decided they are not enemy combatants and will soon be released. Inside the love shack, prisoners are allowed to watch Hollywood movies and are plied with American junk food. Asif Iqbal, one of three British detainees known as the "Tipton Three," was permitted several visits there before he and his two friends were finally sent home. "We would get to watch DVDs, eat McDonald's, eat Pizza Hut and basically chill out. We were not shackled in this area ... We had no idea why they were being like that to us. The rest of the week we were back in the cages as usual ... On one occasion Lesley [an FBI official] brought Pringles, ice cream and chocolates; this was the final Sunday before we came back to England." His friend Rhuhel Ahmed speculated that the special treatment "was because they knew they had messed us about and tortured us for two and half years and they hoped we would forget it".

The above is a passage from Naomi Klein's book, "The Shock Doctrine". What strikes me about it is the profound lack of understanding of history that it demonstrates. This is so characteristic of American culture. That is, by no means, an original insight on my part. Many have pointed it out, but sometimes these insights just jump up and slap you in the face. Every day's a clean slate. That seems to be our American point of view. There's a certain advantage to that approach to life. There are cultures that are dragged down by history, cultures that are unable to move beyond the past. We've all read the stories of traditional cultures where families are still feuding because they can't forget an insult that's several generations old. However, that doesn't mean we can afford myopia when it comes to history. Kick your neighbor in the ass, and you can be damned sure he'll remember it in the morning when he's walking with a limp. That's pretty much the case with these released "detainees", and with the people of the Middle East. They remember, and their memories are long. Hell, in some places like Afghanistan, they still remember what Alexander the Great did to them!


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