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Z for Zeitoun

Entry 1618 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash

Fair use, people! It was freezing cold this morning and exactly this week clothing manufacturer H&M decided to adorn the railway stations with some lingerie publicity that made me even shudder harder when I passed the semi-naked fleshy skeletons that pretended to have a good time. In the name of science I had a good look at them and decided that two models glued together would make a normal looking woman with the necessary accessories to put some lingerie around (and then, as I am – but – a man, take it back off).

Although there is an anti-skinny movement going on for a couple of decades now the haute-couture and fashion world doesn't seem to be interested and carries on promoting an anorexic lifestyle. When Photoshop Disasters published a promotional picture of a model whose picture had been so maltreated that her hips actually were smaller than her head Ralph Lauren immediately attacked the blog for copyright infringement and its internet provider removed the post without even asking if Ralph Lauren had made a valid point or not (it wasn’t but the image still hasn’t reappeared nearly 3 months later). The new censorship dictators no longer carry the title prince, king or emperor they are now called CEO and lawyers throwing crap from sad green mountains have become their licensed fools.

Later on Photoshop Disasters published a second Ralph Lauren publicity, but this time the company didn’t respond anymore as their previous reaction had backfired, mainly because other blogs, especially Boing Boing, newspapers and television stations had jumped in to the rescue thus creating a so-called Streisand effect. If you have a couple of hours to spend just do a Google search and enjoy. It is also rather dubious that Ralph Lauren never found it necessary to apologize to Photoshop Disasters, nor Boing Boing, but prefers to send silly press statements to the world about how misunderstood they are.

Thank god, dog or blog we have democracy and freedom of speech. So we think, I was a big believer of the nivellement par le bas theory in my progressive twenties (suddenly the name Habermas flashes through the mist in my brain) but when the first fat rolls started to grow on my body that had a reverse proportional effect on my ideological beliefs as well. Now that I have turned 50 I’m back full of anger and angst and the future looks as gloomy as when I was 18.

I used to ironically quip how (Bush ruled) United States of America slid more and more towards the direction of that big fat, but nevertheless undernourished, ancient enemy of theirs the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It isn’t irony anymore.

Both countries basically had a rigid one party system with an infallible but often slightly demented leader at the top. Both countries used a ‘common enemy’ to enhance nationalistic feelings, anyone opposing or even debating that issue was considered unpatriotic and measures where then taken to remove the unpatriotic elements from society. In the USSR you disappeared in a mental institute or a Gulag archipelago, in the USA – being a capitalistic driven society – it was mostly enough to sack the person from his/her job, although there are enough examples of American citizens that have been imprisoned for ‘unpatriotic’ behavior. I recently came across Dave Eggers’s non-fiction book Zeitoun and it enraged me at a point that I had to take physical distance from the novel from time to time.

The book meticulously describes how Abdulrahman Zeitoun, an American citizen, stays behind after the hurricane Katrina disaster, peddling with his canoe through the inundated streets and helping citizens who didn’t or couldn’t flee the city and who were eagerly waiting for official help organizations that would never arrive, as if the USA was one of those third-world countries who can’t look after their people after a tragedy.

As a devout Muslim Abdulrahman finds it his task to help wherever he can, but one day he gets arrested, in true Mad Max style by self-appointed police officers, and deported to a nearby prison camp.

Zeitoun is put in an iron cage (!) that ASPCA would find unsatisfactory for animal transport and is accused of terrorist activities. How on Earth an Al Qaeda terrorist would plot satanic plans, peddling in a canoe, by helping old ladies from the roofs of their inundated houses, remains a mystery, but from then on the story, although it is not a story - but hallucinatory fact, gets Kafkaesque proportions. Zeitoun literally disappears from Earth, is refused a lawyer, his family is not informed of his imprisonment and they are led to believe he has drowned trying to protect his property. If this had happened in the USSR we’d call it Stalinist and rightly so.

Zeitoun, falsely accused, repeatedly insulted, (verbally) abused, emotionally and physically tortured, was not the only citizen doing Katrina time says Dave Eggers, and all-in-all Abdulrahman was still quite lucky:

There were hundreds of people that did months in jail, and I'm sure there are dozens of cases of prisoners who did over a year in various jails and prisons around Louisiana, where no one even knew where they were. It's unprecedented in American history, (…) I think there was a dark age, right in the middle there, from 2003 to 2006 especially, when anything seemed possible and nothing was surprising. (Taken from: Salon)

Zeitoun’s unnecessary persecution didn’t turn him onto a Muslim terrorist; quite the contrary. He seems to see the whole episode as a weird test and has forgiven his persecutors. He tries to persuade himself and his entourage that the whole process has strengthened him as a religious individual and as an American citizen who, as everybody else, watches Pride and Prejudice with his family. While a droopy dog-eyed George Bush was firing one-liners to television cameras around the world Abdulrahman Zeitoun saved over two-hundred New Orleans citizens trapped by the water. The American government rewarded him by putting him in a dog cage and by refusing him the most elementary human rights, including medicial treatment for his wounds.

I wonder if the chairman of the next Republican Party convention will have the courage to openly repudiate George Bush and his politics. If Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev had the guts why not Michael Stephen Steele?

I urgently need a drink. Now.

(Profits of the Zeitoun book by Dave Eggers go to the Zeitoun Foundation.)

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