On the Invisibility of Arguments, Protests and Critique

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

(I started to write this post few days ago and had to stop due to lack of time. It’s a good thing, though – my perspective (though not opinions) changed, a bit, during these past few days.)

Just as many Israelis, I’m quite excited/mad these days. Though, not only about The Way Things Are, but the way people talk about them. If you’re not Israeli, please check the news about the tent protest in Israel before reading this post.

Let it be first cleared that I’m aware that the problem begins with me, the crying-for-accuracy-control-freak-critical-feminist-bitch-monster-of-death. And hey, maybe one can blame Twitter/Facebook. When you have to shorten your Message to the Masses to 140 characters or less, it’s hard to be accurate. And since I’m hanging out in Twitter quite a lot (hello, procrastination!), I see a lot of things that make my blood boil. Mostly, messages that I should identify with that being bent beyond recognition. Calls to people to stop critic the protest and join it, in a very silencing manner. The way that that call is being articulated is a sign of concern, to me, and a quick door to the rabbit hole of the not-so-blessed forgetfulness.

I think that the problem lays beyond the medium. It is true that this protest is determined and shaped by those who join it. However, this is also a true middle class protest, and that equant affects it (its narrative) as well. Causes that not-so-blessed-forgetfulness. Not to mention blurring in political arguments, just as they might be.

Lets take, as an example, the claim that building all of these luxury homes in the settlements is the reason why there’s inflation of prices in the real-estate market and not enough homes and apartments for rent. As someone who saw both Mitzpe Ramon and Ma’ale Adumin in the past few years, let me tell you that other than the size of the city, the difference between these two cities when it comes to housing is minor. And just as the population is Mitzpe Ramon is typical for a development town, there are a lot of immigrants who “chose” to live in Ma’ale Adumim. Say, because their job is in Jerusalem, and they can’t afford to rent there a habitable place, or that the only work they could find was indeed, beyond the green line. I’m not talking about renting/buying a villa, but a small apartment that’s cheaper than the non-existent alternative they had in a city within the 1967 borders, in the cheaper and more dangerous neighborhood Jerusalem has to offer.

Attacking the people who made this choice into reality (or necessity, really) might be relevant here, if only the argument wouldn’t a) tend to attack those who were forced to make it, sometimes against their own political will (say, my parents) and b) was wrong. Most human beings will prefer higher standard of living giving the choice, yes, but in many cases, there wasn’t a choice for a lot of people who live the in poorer neighborhoods in the large cities of the settlement. They can’t simply afford to live anywhere else, regardless of political agenda. Good luck finding those luxury villas; you’re more likely to find prefabricated apartment buildings and small houses.

In this manner, the call for a welfare state contradicts this middle-class protest. While I support this protest and will attend the demonstration tonight, I don’t think this is a point that should be forgotten. And in a way, the strength of this protest is also its possible weakness: combining middle class protest with working class arguments. Yes, in Israel they’re pretty much the same class, but the concern is obvious: if the “middle class” will “get what it wants”, will it forget the working class? The Palestinians? The Women? Just as the invisibility of feminist issues tackles Certain Lefties Demonstration, invisibility of the latest threatens this struggle.

Flattening the discourse and shaping the struggle is done, sometimes, in an unwisely and dangerously manner. It’s not so different from the hollow claim that pisses so many people off (and justly so) that democracy is merely the rule of the majority. Which is just as true as saying that the problem is with the prices of villas in the settlements: it’s a fragment of “the problem”. That’s populism. And what the middle class that’s hyper-linked to the internet can do, at least, is try and not to forget those voice, and flatten them out of this struggle.

Use the media, but don’t let it use you. This is one discourse you can shape as you wish. There is no reason to flatten it.


About this entry