Nine questions about Britain you were too embarrassed to ask. (Before we begin surgical strikes on Oxford, Bath, and Hull.)
1. Monday night, the Nigerian-born, Brooklyn-based writer Teju Cole took to Twitter with a satire of a Washington Post article that attempted to explain Syria and its conflicts with the United States in the form of a list.
2. Cole tweeted a similar list, this time treating Britain the same way that the Post’s Max Fisher’s list did Syria.
12. There’s some dispute concerning Cole’s claim that the United Kingdom has allowed an exporter to sell chemicals to Syria.
13. Max Fischer, the author of the original Washington Post article, did a Q&A with Teju Cole about his parody. When asked why he wrote it, Cole responded:
I’m always thinking about alternative ways to think about the news, particularly where “the Other” is concerned. My first tweet–“US considers surgical strike on UK over sale of chemical weapons to Syria, but won’t seek regime change in London”–was just a straight reaction to the hypocrisy around weapons and punitive strikes (the question of who has a right to use which weapons was the chief pretext for the Iraq war). It seems to me that, without quite thinking it through, we’ve divided the world into two: countries we can imagine bombing and countries we can’t imagine bombing…
14. He also elaborated on his thoughts on the difficulty in responding to Syria:
I don’t like to make false equivalences. There’s a serious question here about the use of chemical weapons which is related to, but distinct from, their proliferation. I understand the difference between someone gassing a town and bombing it. To the dead and mourning, the difference is relative, not absolute, but there does seem to be an ontological shift in the violence there: chemical weapons are a new level of “indiscriminate.” Still, every weapon means different things is different from every other in terms of accuracy, morality, effectiveness, etc. Nuclear bombs, missiles, mines, drones, machine guns, etc, are, at heart, simply different technologies for one single awful goal: the killing of human beings, the increase of human suffering…
15. Cole admits there is no clear-cut answer to how to best deal with Syria:
I don’t know man. I’m almost certain I’m against any US bombing there. Yet another Middle Eastern country as target practice? Just what is it with the U.S. and bombing brown people in this past decade? The people on the ground there are real human beings.
But it is also precisely the fact that the people on the ground are real human beings that one wonders if an intervention (as happened mostly positively in Mali; and failed to happen with tragic consequences in Rwanda) is what’s needed. It’s all too complicated for me to figure out. It’s certainly painful to watch things unfold over there, hence my objection to any reading that makes it just more grist for the commentary mill.