Anarchy in Baghdad

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It is heartening to read reports that people are organising street and area comittees to keep order and fill the vacuum left by the collapse of authority in the city. Further proof, if further proff were needed, that people are capable and are infact programmed to build their own structures in the absence of imposed structures. what a shame that shortly these will be snuffed out by an imposed order.

(OK so its not really an anarchist paradise and a lot of these comittees have been set up by shia religious leaders, but even anarchists need leaders, but its shows how good humans are at ad hoc self government)

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 11:07 (nineteen years ago) link

Neigbourhood Watch!

Matt DC (Matt DC), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 11:18 (nineteen years ago) link

i dont get what you mean ed. this kind of thing, if it ever works, only works in the interim period before structures get formalized. also because expectations and objectives are lower than at other times


people are capable and are infact programmed to build their own structures in the absence of imposed structures

well yes of course, but all structures become formalized, and quite quickly. so, i'm not sure how this ties into 'anarchy', whatever that actually means

gareth (gareth), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 11:18 (nineteen years ago) link

Self organisation has never been permitted to flourish on this scale without being obliterated from the outside by formal structures.

(anarchy is a loaded word, but I like to start my threads with loaded words, it guarantees responses and keeps me entertained. You can't describe the situation without loaded words, ad hoc social democracy, libertarian socialism, syndicalism, sovietism)

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 11:25 (nineteen years ago) link

but would it be obliterated by its own internal structure? whatever it is that you are seeing at the moment will coalesce into something formalized whether there was external imposition or not

gareth (gareth), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 11:47 (nineteen years ago) link

Formalisation doesn't contradict as long as that formalisation is ground up and that that formalisation can be questioned and reformed as needed.

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 11:51 (nineteen years ago) link

Which is, uh, kind of the point...

Stuart (Stuart), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 12:21 (nineteen years ago) link

I'd rather live in a society with proper cops than some clown with a machine gun standing on a street corner keeping an eye out for people who look like looters.

DV (dirtyvicar), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 12:34 (nineteen years ago) link

But formalisation is almost always imposed from above, and the structures are very hard to change once established. The oligarchy in power, even an elected one, is very resistant to change in the structures that support it. Just see how badly botched house of lords reform was in the UK.

What is the real difference between 'proper cops' and 'some clown with a machine gun standing on a street corner keeping an eye out for people who look like looters'? OK so decent cops don't carry guns. But if the clown on the street corner carries the legitamacy of the comunity with him then there isn't much difference. Law is largely defined by what society as an agregate whole deems to be aceptable.

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 12:39 (nineteen years ago) link

But if the clown on the street corner carries the legitamacy of the comunity with him then there isn't much difference.

this is different from vigilanteism how? many in the community would argue that vigilantes carry legitimacy (see attacks on paedophiles etc)

gareth (gareth), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 12:44 (nineteen years ago) link

Law is largely defined by what society as an agregate whole deems to be aceptable.

This is a new concept to Iraq.

Stuart (Stuart), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 12:48 (nineteen years ago) link

i find it difficult to see this lack of formalized structure that you are positing to be somehow utopian ed. in the short term yes, it is refreshing if people band together. but in the mid-long term i fail to see how the lack of structure and organization can protect against the stronger elements of society shaping it in their form (of course you could argue that they would do this any but through a process of govt and legality, but that doesnt explain how such a situation would be prevented in your posited setup)

gareth (gareth), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 12:51 (nineteen years ago) link

this is different from vigilanteism how?

Essentially it isn't. But you have to ask how much legitamacy do vigelanties carry. There's a difference between a group of people getting together and saying, 'lets get him' and a community deputising people to maintain order. The difference is structure even if its an ad hoc one.

I'll agree though that you would need a very specific set of cicumstances to avoid an oligarchy asserting itself. You'd need charismatic leaders from within the population who weren't interested in the levers of power and you could argue that this is a state to which humans can only aspire, not achieve.

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:02 (nineteen years ago) link

vigilantism and mob order are two different things Ed.

James Blount (James Blount), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:07 (nineteen years ago) link

so, in absence of formalized structure you are relying on oligarchy vs charismatic leader?

even if the charismatic leader is all that, thats still a tenuous situation, it only takes their departure and what have you got? nothing. all based around that person. so, hardly conducive to long term stability.

gareth (gareth), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:12 (nineteen years ago) link

hopefully the leader will instill and educate his fellow people with that certain something that enables the system to cotinue to function. (this just gets more and more pie in the sky I know)

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:16 (nineteen years ago) link

It is heartening to read reports that people are organising street and area comittees to keep order and fill the vacuum left by the collapse of authority in the city.

Im sure its really heartening to hear how the schools, the banks, the hospitals, the public transportation, the jails, the sanatation department are doing in the absence of authority.

Mr Noodles (Mr Noodles), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:18 (nineteen years ago) link

If you give people time people will sort these out as well, as proven by history. People tend to sort out public order first, then food, then sanitation, moving up the hierachy of needs.

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:23 (nineteen years ago) link

OK so decent cops don't carry guns.

This is true only in the UK. In the rest of the world, tho...

hstencil, Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:28 (nineteen years ago) link

Bollocks, people just got tired of people nicking their stuff, so they got hold guns, not difficult in wartime.

Jarlr'mai (jarlrmai), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:30 (nineteen years ago) link

If you give people time people will sort these out as well, as proven by history.

But given the list you're making it sound like a certain kind of bourgeois existence is what is proven by history more than anything else. Marx might have approved (as the last step but one) but I think he was too locked into his own particular framework.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:32 (nineteen years ago) link

fuck marx, people will decide what the deem to be necessary for existence quite quickly. The bank probably comes quite far down the line if at all, things like schools tend to come higher up.

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:40 (nineteen years ago) link

now you're being naive

James Blount (James Blount), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:41 (nineteen years ago) link

The 2nd Amendment theory of civic order was on the right track.

Stuart (Stuart), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:43 (nineteen years ago) link

I don't believe I am. Optimistic maybe but not naive.

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:45 (nineteen years ago) link

The situation in Iraq is like the ultimate utopian petri dish for Republicans and libertarians everywhere!! This is what they've been trying to get America to look like for years: no services, no programs, no school, just a huge fecking police force.

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:49 (nineteen years ago) link

The bank probably comes quite far down the line if at all, things like schools tend to come higher up.

well, i'm not sure about this. but perhaps this is kind of irrelevant? because, in the absence of a tangible structure, how do you stop the more powerful interests of society (the oligarchy is you like), taking care of business early on. i think the utopia you're positing wouldnt last long, it seems like total laissez-faire-ism to me, without a proper structure i dont see how you prevent the stronger and more powerful interests shaping society to their end? ie, are the oligarchy interested in schools?

ah, tracer has posted now. yes, this is totally on point tracer. and why i cant understand why ed thinks such a situation could possibly be a utopia, even potentially

gareth (gareth), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 13:53 (nineteen years ago) link

Its only works as a utopian if the population is willing and able to force down any oligarchical tendencies in their own self collective self interest. I'm prepared to agree that this has only suceeded in a few circumatnces, and I am not saying iraq is such a circumstance, but it is possible. I have that much faith in humanity. I have faith that in some circumstances the desire to make the collective life more comfortable overcomes more selfish concerns.

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 14:03 (nineteen years ago) link

argentina could be a good example for irak:

"The practical benefits of LETS are best seen in Argentina. The country's economic crisis has led it to depend on them. Called "Trueque Clubs" ("Exchange Clubs"), they have nearly replaced the national money system. With strict government limits on bank withdrawals in an attempt to prevent the collapse of the financial system, barter became the only way to survive. Turmel reports that LETS systems in Argentina have grown exponentially, and are a good example of how the system works. "In Argentina, the last estimate was eight million members. It's that or starve." While LETS will probably never replace our entire economic system, it could very well become a popular secondary system. If nothing else, it connects people, and makes giving and taking a little more fun." da full txt

concerning higher levels of organization like defense, it would help if not totally solve problems if their neighbours would adopt "pacific chaotic" frontiers with them by adopting similar politics (at least near their common frontiers). I think it is very likely that this is what would naturally happen anyway due to the memes exchanged by a dense population. If only tracks concerning such strategies could rain on irak and this info could be played on their national radio...

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 14:05 (nineteen years ago) link

Thank you, Sebastien.

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 14:10 (nineteen years ago) link

But if the clown on the street corner carries the legitamacy of the comunity with him then there isn't much difference.

the clown on the street corner with an AK47 carries his legitimacy in his hands.

he is subject to no due process, his decisions are completely unappealable, if he decides to riddle someone with bullets there is no comeback whatsoever.

that's very different from the situation in a country with an unarmed police force.

DV (dirtyvicar), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 14:13 (nineteen years ago) link

Ed, I don't understand how you can say this sort of organization is "natural": surely the evidence would suggest that the usual condition of an area without a top-down structure is some form of tribalism?

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 14:37 (nineteen years ago) link

I never said the word natural, but its is what people do in the absence of other structures. It may well be tribalism, but that can go either way depending on whether the tribes get along, trade etc. of bash each other over the head with sticks.

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 14:42 (nineteen years ago) link

I smell a hippy

chris (chris), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 14:42 (nineteen years ago) link

Where, let's get him, we don't take kinly to hippies around here.

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 14:44 (nineteen years ago) link

The end of Hannah Arendt's 'On Revolution' may be U&K here, where she talks about the possibility of spontaneous organisation and "public happiness" as the "lost treasure" of the revolutionary tradition... lost because the soviets/communes/councils/whatever are subsequently formalised and forgotten in government.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 14:49 (nineteen years ago) link

JtN nothing about it is lost in argentina because it is a way of survival. it is an ongoing thing that is huge and still non formal.

I think humanity is not condemned to fall back into the same patterns over and over again especially when I think about communication technologies that are is getting more powerful and cheaper.
Optimize anarchy now!

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 15:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I think we're all forgetting the real outcome of such a sitch: warlordism, not to mention that I doubt the "community" appointed the guards at the oil fields etc.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 15:20 (nineteen years ago) link

oil fields, like potatoe fields, can be owned by the community

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 15:23 (nineteen years ago) link

Unfortunately there's a wide gulf between "owned" and "administered."

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 15:27 (nineteen years ago) link

the only references on this kind of "administration" I know of are about a publishing house and a cafe-bookstore but with a proper research...

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 15:30 (nineteen years ago) link

I have no idea what that means. My point is that the idea that people can spontaneously organize on such a complex scale completely fails to take into account the fact that labor has, in the end, to be divided: some particular person has to attend to any given task, and no matter how much that power is vested in him or her by a supposed "community" that person -- or group of people -- still wind up with immediate de facto control over whatever common good they're meant to be watching over or administering. The role of hierarchy isn't simply to let someone sit over the top of that and dictate to the people: in a functioning democracy, the role of hierarchy is to set up a system where the people handling each individual task -- policing, administration of oil rights, whatever -- are accountable to something beyond some vague notion of a public. Because if there's anything history has demonstrated time and time again, it's that people entrusted with some sliver of the public wealth will just as often exploit that control for their own ends as they will administer it for the public good, which is way more work with way less of a reward.

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 15:46 (nineteen years ago) link

http://homepages.ihug.com.au/~pajala/neil.gif

Mr Noodles (Mr Noodles), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 16:10 (nineteen years ago) link

My point is that the idea that people can spontaneously organize on such a complex scale completely fails to take into account the fact that labor has, in the end, to be divided: some particular person has to attend to any given task, and no matter how much that power is vested in him or her by a supposed "community" that person -- or group of people -- still wind up with immediate de facto control over whatever common good they're meant to be watching over or administering.

mondragon cafe proves this wrong:
"The Mondragón collective was inspired by the successful examples of participatory workplaces already employed at South End Press and Z Magazine (in the United States), as well as the visionary writings on workplace democracy by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel.


A central organizing principle of the collective is the notion of a job complex. A job complex is simply a grouping of jobs and job types that strikes a balance between creative and empowering types of work on the one hand, and more rote and menial tasks on the other. Unlike a traditional business, there is no hierarchical division of labour, based on ownership or management rights. Each worker-member shares in the decision-making process, as well as the different job tasks that the business requires - from book-keeping, ordering, and desktop publishing, to cooking, waiting on tables, and cleaning. One of the goals behind this is to raise each member's knowledge and skills, and prohibit conferring
power and privileges on the basis of one's specialized knowledge or training. How we operate at Mondragón, based on the parecon model, is laid out in our policy handbook*.


We feel that a participatory, democratic workplace such as ours is a revolutionary alternative to both traditional business practices, and traditional leftist workplaces (which often replicate the structural inequalities inherent to capitalist enterprise). It's a simple concept really, one that assumes ordinary people are capable of making the hard decisions that affect their lives (as producers, consumers, and citizens of the world). More than this, it assumes that we are capable of making these decisions in ways that foster cooperation and solidarity among all people, rather than requiring an economy based on competition, greed, exploitation, and massive inequalities of both opportunity and condition. Just the fact that we exist, and operate in a fairly organized manner, demonstrates that these ideals are not utopian fantasies, but very real (and desirable) possibilities"

Too bad I can't locate their Adobe PDF policy handbook.
a network of such projects could replace the state.

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 16:40 (nineteen years ago) link

Everyone should read Voline - The Unknown revolution

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 16:45 (nineteen years ago) link

how could this idea make it's way there?
contacting irakian bloggers?
contacting open-minded people working for humanitarian aid?
suggestions/help would be appreciated

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 17:20 (nineteen years ago) link

Sorry, Sebastien, but I fail to see how a PR statement from an individual company -- and one that's a complete anomaly in the business world -- is a very good model for politics. Could you maybe expand on the part where you so neatly extrapolate from a single for-profit workplace to a "network" of such entities that can govern an entire nation? One thing to discuss in that explanation might be the differences between the challenges and objectives of a business versus that of a nation.

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 17:45 (nineteen years ago) link

Another thing to discuss might be the exact point you completely eluded with all of that quoting. I, for instance, have absolutely no participatory stake in Z Magazine, nor are they accountable to my or anyone else's desires in any way. The ridiculous governmental "network" you're proposing sounds to me like a collection of rogue ministries. Which is neither a brilliant nor workable idea: substitute participatory tribes, clans, or warlord factions for "such projects" (and there's no substantive difference between the two) and voila, it's modern-day Afghanistan all over again.

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 17:49 (nineteen years ago) link

It didn't strike you that this business proposal might be more than just an anomaly? For all I know it's the best example of anarchy in action in daily living! The business cease to be just a business as it's managerial issues, challenges and objectives merges with the life of everybody working at it. I know I covered a lot of ground by simply saying that if this business model would be applied in every economical niches, and possibly modified to fit in their reality where they would trade both with national money and (say, mostly) barter, it could replace the collective fiction known as "state". But people are clearly heard there and if these "businesses" would rhizome at the entirety of society, the voices of the people would be more alive and continue to be heard but on a larger scale. It could be feasable using communication technologies to educate and cheaply hold referendums on a frequent basis on issues of common interest (i think this why the revolutionary tradition failed: participants simply didnt had a good communicational infrastructure).

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 18:16 (nineteen years ago) link

"collective fiction known as 'state'" = http://homepages.ihug.com.au/~pajala/neil.gif

Mr Noodles (Mr Noodles), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 18:22 (nineteen years ago) link

yes. of course, except i took this quote from a staunch libertarian friend/foe of mine. same diff etc

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 18:28 (nineteen years ago) link

What's Saddam airport going to be called? What about all the streets, they'll need new names, too. It's a thrilling time, when things get named.

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 18:30 (nineteen years ago) link

giving things names

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 18:33 (nineteen years ago) link

It didn't strike you that this business proposal might be more than just an anomaly?

No, it didn't, because this sort of business model is an anomaly. This is a statistical fact. If it weren't an anomaly their press material wouldn't keep saying it's "unlike a traditional business" and "revolutionary" and "visionary" and harping on "just the fact that we exist."

It's also, as I mentioned, a business, which is the main reason why I don't see its relevance here in the least -- unless you're the rare anarcho-syndicalist who, like a pre-election George W. Bush, believes in the "government is like a business" trope!

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 19:32 (nineteen years ago) link

Everyone should read Voline - The Unknown revolution

yes!! Seconded!!

Pashmina (Pashmina), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 19:36 (nineteen years ago) link

so you are saying it's not worth an investigation because it is a matter of fact the formula is not perfect yet or else it would already have broke into the mainstream. Ok, I don't have nothing much to say on the subject for now.

you repeat that this is an ordinary business but it's not!
Go at it starting from the citizen then: the citizen inscribes viself into a network of communications and a large part of vis time is spent working. that's all I'm saying. I could have also talked about the importance to hold this anarchist model to the family structure: where everybody is equal and the tasks and decisions are shared equally.

Radical decentralization can maintain the equivalent of sociaist "nationalized ressources". Inspiration left me for now

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 20:04 (nineteen years ago) link

Sebastien I think you're getting bits of what I've said backwards: nevermind, it's not important. (I may be getting bits of what you're saying backwards, too, because I have never in my life encountered a family "where everybody is equal and the tasks and decisions are shared equally," especially not outside of the first world.)

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 20:09 (nineteen years ago) link

Haha "The Family" = you kiss the godfather's pinky ring.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 20:14 (nineteen years ago) link

about the family structure and anarchy, it is also a model that have yet to be well theorized (to my knowledge) and mass mediatized to inspire people. I'll write an article to gather my thoughts on the subject and, why not, go the extra mile and try to see how it could be practical in real life by interviewing school social workers, getting them to ask x amount of families who's kids got bad grades to adopt this model and see how things would turn out compared to the families sticking to the traditional model. If done with rationality, I think kids should be treated as citizens with responsibilities so they'll get a social conscience early on.

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 20:49 (nineteen years ago) link

sidenote - the Argentina example is a bit misleading. the exchange system worked for a little while until counterfeiting of the coupons used in the trade system began, 'inflation' hit and ppl got screwed all over again. that article doesn't even mention any of those issues and nobody i've seen interviewed considered the system 'fun' in any way.

H (Heruy), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 20:52 (nineteen years ago) link

Thank you for the details on the argentina example, I'll have to look into this more closely. There might be a lesson to learn there... on top of my head I'm thinking "heavily encrypted digital signatures". and so it goes.

the 'fun' bit was a gauche way to relate to the readers coming from a culture of leisure.

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 21:02 (nineteen years ago) link

Meanwhile, back in Baghdad, they're burning books and manuscripts in the library, and ripping apart the museum.

Anarchy is stupid.

Marcel Post (Marcel Post), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 21:08 (nineteen years ago) link

marcel have you ever read an anarchy faq?
is anarchy the same thing as "chaos" to you?

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 21:14 (nineteen years ago) link

the coupons thinks just goes to further demonstrate that money is just a short hand. It means nothing in itself, its just a more convenient way of exchanging work for stuff. People are very resourceful, they find away, of course some people will always try and subvert this.

Ed (dali), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 21:19 (nineteen years ago) link

I've seen use the word anarchy used in the medias to mean looting etc before what Ed said in his first post started to happen.
thank you for this thread btw :-)

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Tuesday, 15 April 2003 21:20 (nineteen years ago) link

... i got slightly carried away writing my last post.
let me correct it:
"I've seen the word anarchy used in the medias to mean looting etc before what Ed described in his first post started to happen"

Sébastien Chikara (Sébastien Chikara), Wednesday, 16 April 2003 17:35 (nineteen years ago) link

you didn't correct your use of the word 'medias' though
/grammar Nazi

oops (Oops), Wednesday, 16 April 2003 17:38 (nineteen years ago) link

Ed, the whole point is that you started this thread off speaking about how good humans can be at self-government, Sebastian pulled out Argentina as an example of ppl finding ways of working together. i brought up the problems that came up as an example of however ingenius ppl may be in finding ways around problems others will still fuck' em up.

you seem much more utopian/rose-glasses wearing about how ppl will behave in a situation than i am. guess, approach to world

H (Heruy), Wednesday, 16 April 2003 22:37 (nineteen years ago) link

I am an eternal optimist about humanity, I do appreciate that the world is full of selfish people who try and pervert the will of the majority. People just have o find ways of working round them aswell.

Ed (dali), Thursday, 17 April 2003 09:38 (nineteen years ago) link

Why do you get really good "service" in some restaurants, and others you'll spend 2 hours and no one refills your water? It starts at the top. If whoever is in charge of the waitstaff doesn't instill a level of attentiveness people are going to get away with whatever they can get away with. It's not that some place with terrible service has more tasks for your waiter to do and that's why he's not there: it's the culture and values they get from their managers. The OTHER factor is that if a table of 4 people pays $500 for a meal and maybe leaves a $100 tip you're going to fucking make sure you please that table.

FWIW.

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Thursday, 17 April 2003 12:26 (nineteen years ago) link

I always give big tips to bad waiters.

Kerry (dymaxia), Thursday, 17 April 2003 13:15 (nineteen years ago) link

People just have o find ways of working round them aswell.

Well, yeah, but looking over the history of the twentieth century, this has been all the harder to do when dictators are involved, to put it mildly.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Thursday, 17 April 2003 13:31 (nineteen years ago) link

...Especially cuz of the technology gap between the weapons of a (dictatorial) govt. and the weapons of its citizens (no, I am not in a militia)

oops (Oops), Thursday, 17 April 2003 13:43 (nineteen years ago) link

maybe we should have a kitchen-based economy rather than a 'front-of-house' economy?

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Thursday, 17 April 2003 15:48 (nineteen years ago) link

If everybody is armed, its hard to herd them in directions they don't - as a society - want to go*.

* - this is not automatically a good thing.

Stuart (Stuart), Thursday, 17 April 2003 16:40 (nineteen years ago) link

If everybody is armed, it's easier for them to spiral effortlessly in directions they don't -- as a society -- want to go: e.g. lawlessness, warlordism, perpetual fear, repression, and the absence of any agreed-upon semblance of "justice."

nabisco (nabisco), Thursday, 17 April 2003 17:26 (nineteen years ago) link

I always give big tips to bad waiters.

Getting way off-topic, but... don't do that. Your tip is your vote. Don't throw it away. I mean, don't be a dick, but if you feel you've gotten truly substandard service, don't tip well. By doing that, you're sending your message either to the waiter ("maybe you should consider temping") or to the restaurant owner ("you know that guy who's always complaining about how he doesn't make any money? guess why.").

Kenan Hebert (kenan), Thursday, 17 April 2003 17:32 (nineteen years ago) link

Maybe he meant that it's harder to forcibly get them to do things that they aren't inclined to do. But, you're right, it'd be easier to effortlessly go in these directions.

oops (Oops), Thursday, 17 April 2003 17:34 (nineteen years ago) link

I always worry that the bad tip will just make them more burned-out and hostile. On my cheesier days I even imagine a bad server will see a good tip and get all teary-eyed and think "My customers are such lovely people, I really must try harder to serve them well." Apparently I've borrowed my tipping approach from Jesus.

nabisco (nabisco), Thursday, 17 April 2003 17:36 (nineteen years ago) link

(One of my friends once left no tip for a really bad server. But he didn't want her to think we'd just forgotten the tip, so he also left a note explaining why there was no tip. We were getting into a car outside when she burst out through the front doors screaming obscenities at us.)

nabisco (nabisco), Thursday, 17 April 2003 17:40 (nineteen years ago) link

Totally. I had a really weird experience last night at Sea, a new-ish restaurant on N. 6th in Williamsburg. This place is basically trying to out-Planet-Thailand Planet Thailand, insane over-the-top d&233;cor (shallow reflecting pool in middle of dining room, custom maplewood DJ booth with plasma TV screen set into the front, bathrooms reminiscent of escape pods, spherical 70s lounge furniture, what I can only describe as "new-age house music" playing over the not-so-loud speakers), cheaper food, more terrible service. The runners were wearing surgical gloves. Yeeecch. Anyway we're told that our table is gonna be ready in 10 minutes. So we sit at the bar. We don't order anything. After 15 minutes we decide we need some lubrication BUT when the lady behind the bar asks me where my ID is I realize I've forgotten it at home. I sort of smile sheepishly but she's already fixing someone else's. I get her attention again and I'm like "I'm sorry, I've forgotten it, I'm 28 though," and she blows me off very unpleasantly. I stewed about it for like 10 minutes like an idiot but of course the waiter didn't give a shit so we got loaded on Pinot Grigio at our table. As we're leaving the restaurant the bartender cheerfully calls out "bye, baby-face mister!" ?? What fucking grammar is that?? I swear I could have decked her. Were I not ultimately frightened by violence. ha ha nabisco I contemplated leaving a napkin saying "here's your tip: be nice!" so I guess she's got ESP or something

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Thursday, 17 April 2003 17:45 (nineteen years ago) link

Ed, is this your idea of anarchy?



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Raiders of the Lost Art
Why didn't we protect the National Museum and Library in Baghdad?
By Meghan O'Rourke
Posted Thursday, April 17, 2003, at 4:28 PM PT

The Bush administration and the military have made it sound as though the extensive looting of three major Iraqi cultural institutions in Baghdad this past weekend was not foreseeable. At a Centcom briefing April 15, U.S. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said, "I don't think anyone anticipated that the riches of Iraq would be looted by the people of Iraq." But in fact the administration had reason to suspect that this looting would happen. During uprisings within Iraq after the first Gulf War, nine of 13 regional museums, in Dohuk and elsewhere, were systematically looted. Many of these artifacts appeared on the international black market. It shouldn't have been a surprise that widespread theft would take place again during an interregnum in Baghdad. What's more, the Pentagon had long ago been informed by archaeologists of the value and importance of these institutions and in fact had drawn up a "No Strike List" of sites to avoid during its shock and awe campaign—a list that included the National Museum. On April 17, the chairman of the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property submitted his resignation to President Bush citing "the wanton and preventable destruction" of Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities.

If, like me, you know little about Mesopotamian art, the reports that emerged over the weekend might have found you unable to judge just how significant the loss was. By now it's clear that it's horrifically extensive: Archaeologists in the United States consider the National Museum of Antiquities, thoroughly sacked, to be among the 10 most important museums in the world. It was to Mesopotamian art what the Louvre is to Western painting. It maintained a collection of international antiquities dating back some 5,000 years. Needless to say, many Arab countries and civilians are taking its destruction personally. And yet this destruction was largely unnecessary.

Among the important pieces of art missing is a 4,300-year-old bronze mask of an Akkadian king that is featured in most books of ancient art history. It was on the cover of one of my high school textbooks; I remember wanting to touch its nubbly beard. Also gone is a small limestone statuette of a prince, circa 3300 B.C.; jewelry from the royal tombs of Ur dating to 2500 B.C.; a solid gold harp from the Sumerian era; a series of small ivories dating to the eighth century B.C.; second-century B.C. Parthian sculptures from Hatra; and a collection of around 80,000 cuneiform tablets that contain examples of the some of the world's earliest writing.

The museum's comprehensive collection was unprecedented. Saddam's secularism and his long-term interest in Iraq's archaeological legacy—in part self-serving; he inscribed his name next to Nebuchadnezzar's in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon—had enriched the National Museum's collection. (According to a Financial Times piece from 2000, Saddam reportedly made extensive suggestions in the margins of all reports filed by Iraq's archaeological director, Donny George. He also made antiquities smuggling punishable by death.)

But it's hard to know exactly what's been lost. Because of the U.S. embargo, few American archaeologists had even been in Baghdad since 1991. Several I spoke with noted that we can't rule out the possibility that Saddam Hussein and Baath Party officials may have been selling off items over the years. (In 2000, when the National Museum reopened after renovations for damage done during the first Gulf War, a BBC correspondent wrote that many exhibits and treasures previously at the museum were missing.) One suggested that the initial estimate of 170,000 stolen objects would turn out to be high.

The destruction wrought in the National Library and the Ministry for Religious Affairs, on the other hand, is irreparable: The buildings were burned nearly to the ground. As Michael Sells, a professor of comparative religions at Haverford College and a co-editor of The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, explained, we'll never have a chance to buy back, on the black market, all the books and manuscripts that were burned—nor will we discover them someday in a criminal's closet. Among them were extensive antique manuscripts that are not available in print, and thousands of illuminated and handwritten Qurans, now in ashes.

How could this happen? The looting of the museum occurred in two waves, according to witnesses and to international art and antiquities experts. The first appears to have been executed by insiders equipped with glass cutters and other tools. Apparently, they knew what they were looking for. The thieves opened glass display cases without smashing them and penetrated the locked vaults in the museum. The second wave of looting was what's known as opportunistic—the kind that Donald Rumsfeld described as the natural exuberance of a country working off the nervous energy occasioned by regime change.

The Pentagon has defended its non-action by saying that it agreed to protect the sites during battle, as distinct from any looting that came afterward. Splitting hairs, anyone? The United States could easily have done more to stop the ransacking. The looting of the museum began on Friday; it extended, according to a BBC radio report, for three days, at which point there still were no guards posted outside the building. Numerous newspapers quote Iraqi citizens who saw American patrols impassively watch as looters carted away vases, jewelry, pots, and other goods. The Guardian reported on Monday that U.S. Army commanders had just rejected a new plea from desperate officials of the Iraq Museum for aid. And the fires at the National Library and the Ministry of Religious Affairs took place two whole days after the looting of the museum began. Americans ought to have protected the museums, just as we posted Army patrols outside the National Ministry of Oil.

The military's inaction doesn't seem to have been a question of choosing between protecting civilians and guarding gold jewelry. The Chicago Tribune reported that the U.S. military successfully assigned men to chip away a disrespectful mural of former President George Bush on the floor of the Al Rashid Hotel, even though it failed to protect the museum and library from being plundered.

Why didn't anyone act? How hard would it have been for someone to call Tommy Franks and say, "This is getting out of hand"? Put bluntly, it seems like the administration just didn't care enough to stop it—an indifference that's part and parcel with its general attitude toward anything other than its military objectives. Rumsfeld appeared genuinely annoyed even to have to answer questions about the ransacking of the museum and library: "We didn't allow it to happen. It happened," he said. This ham-fisted diplomacy immediately gave rise to anti-American conspiracy-mongering: Nine British archaeologists suggested that, in turning a blind eye to the looting, the Bush administration was succumbing to pressure from private collectors to allow treasures to be traded on the open market. Others have suggested the administration wanted the world to feel the symbolic weight of the destruction of Saddam's regime.

What's to be done now? If they haven't already, the military might start by posting guards at the museum—even as a token symbol of respect. Today, UNESCO is holding an emergency meeting in Paris to refine strategies for dealing with the catastrophe. According to antiquities experts, the best chance for recovering the stolen art is seizing it at the borders of Iraq (which U.S. troops are patrolling in the hopes of keeping Baath officials from escaping). A group of archaeologists, including John Malcolm Russell, a specialist in Mesopotamian archaeology at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, have drawn up guidelines of what the military should look for, and are urging the U.S. government to offer amnesty and a small reward for all those who have "found" Iraqi art. But for the military to take on this responsibility, the administration itself needs to convey the urgency of the matter—which it has only just begun to do: On Thursday, the FBI announced that it would help in the search to recover antiquities. Although Colin Powell has promised that the United States would help rebuild the city's National Museum, no U.S. official has yet apologized—and there've been few or no words from Bush on the issue.

Only two of the thousands of pieces of art that were stolen after the first Gulf War were recovered, McGuire Gibson, who teaches Mesopotamian archaeology at the University of Chicago, has said. Even if a sculpture of a bronze Akkadian king isn't important to the Bush administration, you'd think its own self-interest would be: In the eyes of the world, the war's success will be measured as much by what happens now and over the coming months as by the shock and awe campaign. And the United States now has a black mark that it could have avoided.

Amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 18 April 2003 14:42 (nineteen years ago) link


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