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The Muslim World > Let Me Know If You're Scared (Somalia, 1993)

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message 1: by Nathan "N.R." (last edited Feb 03, 2017 07:34AM) (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 44 comments Let Me Know If You're Scared (Somalia, 1993)

Included in the abridged RURD.


message 2: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Weber | 16 comments At first I felt like not much happened in this case study. But after finishing it, I had the following feelings:
- The soldiers are doing a job, and are strangers in a strange land. There is no good connection between the people for whom they are there protecting, and the people understanding that.
- But, obviously their presence has lead to a reduction in violent murder, as the grave diggers have nothing to do
- But the people may not understand this. They are afraid their weapons will be taken away, and that thieves will come and take their possessions. They feel the need to defend themselves, and don't trust this system.
- I'm not familiar with the two warring factions. At least, I am assuming Somalia was a civil war during this time? Oh, seems to be ongoing: "The Somali Civil War is an ongoing civil war taking place in Somalia. It grew out of resistance to the Siad Barre regime during the 1980s."
- Essentially, Bill witnesses a failed state, and how complicated the U.N. foreign powers were perceived, how successful they were, and how they the US trrops perceived their place in the world (trying to help, but not understanding what they were getting into / the place they were going).


message 3: by Griffin (last edited Feb 06, 2017 02:58PM) (new)

Griffin Alexander | 5 comments I also felt that this was a strange inclusion, especially for the abridged, when there are so many other essays that seem to tread more interesting ground. Perhaps it is due to its general ambiguity as it relates to the "two" (in scarequotes because the construction of two groups is certainly an artificial aspect of the narrative Bill is given) groups and their ideological/political positioning—in essence that to parse out a conflict from the outside is inherently a failed undertaking. The Marines emphasis on entering the "Real Africa" whenever they left their base was also a true point of demonstrating the side of Orientalist positioning (broadly speaking) that plays out in the West's construction of Africa and itself. To quote Achille Mbembe in On the Postcolony:
In this extremity of the Earth, reason is supposedly permanently at bay, and the unknown has supposedly attained its higher point. Africa, a headless figure threatened with madness and quite innocent of any notion of center, hierarchy, or stability, is portrayed as a vast dark cave where every benchmark and distinction come together in total confusion, and the rifts of a tragic and unhappy human history stand revealed: a mixture of the half-created and the incomplete, strange signs, convulsive movements—in short, a bottomless abyss where everything is noise, yawning gap, and primordial chaos.


Especially within this essay, the insular aspect of Bill's journalism was a detriment to his writing. As I remember, the Somalians are never allowed to speak about themselves or their situation—they are forever interpolated through the lens of Vollmann's Marine guides.


message 4: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Weber | 16 comments I think he talks directly to one or two Somalians.


message 5: by Griffin (new)

Griffin Alexander | 5 comments It has been a while since I read it. I remember it being the weakest of the pieces from the abridged.


message 6: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 44 comments Griffin wrote: "It has been a while since I read it. I remember it being the weakest of the pieces from the abridged."

Appropriate enough! The UN mission was a failure. (It struck me as weak too the first time I read it ; but I think it's a piece that has its place.)

There was big hope back in the nineties that the military could somehow be deployed in an 'humanitarian' effort. He points out why it failed (they're military, not police, etc). Whether this use of the military could have been successfully developed, we won't know since it was again repurposed in 2001 back to its typical use.

But he does spend proportional time with his friend Abdi looking at the Real Africa.

Also Bill's comment about the UN telling folks what to do but not taking the position to enforce those commands leaves the UN in a position about as strong as crossing one's fingers. [my words. His (endnote 9) --"The problem with the UN in Somalia, however (and also, as I had seen, in Bosnia), was that it strove to tell people what to do without having the will to force obedience. Better, in my mind, not to tell them anything.")


message 7: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 44 comments Just got to get this off my chest. Endnote 8 is gratuitous :: "I wondered: Do these failures discredit anarchism, or is there in fact a practical as well as a theoretical difference between anarchism and anarchy?" I think it reveals--along with his unfortunate insinuation in Imperial that the Wobblies were racist--his ignorance of the history of the labor movement in the US. Anarchism is not against government and organization, it's against the state ;; it doesn't reject authority, it questions the legitimacy of authority and rejects it if found to be illegitimate (same question and calculus as RURD). Anarchism (in its historical syndicalist incarnation) is a democratic (bottom up) form of social organization. A failed state, in which the vacuum of authority is filled by gangsters and warlords, is in no way to be construed as anarchism.

Rant over.


message 8: by Griffin (new)

Griffin Alexander | 5 comments I wholeheartedly agree, Nathan. Strange given how much of a seemingly anarchist book YBARA is--it seems more in dialogue with the reality of leftist struggle than a lot of his one-off comments the seem to bespeak an almost total lack of cultural context.


message 9: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 44 comments Griffin wrote: "I wholeheartedly agree, Nathan. Strange given how much of a seemingly anarchist book YBARA is--it seems more in dialogue with the reality of leftist struggle than a lot of his one-off comments the ..."

He's a pretty traditional american libertarian. He doesn't have much contact with either US urban or European political struggles where things take on a much deeper social aspect. When you've got the entire open West, you don't experience the constriction of having nowhere else to go like you have in Europe or in old dense urban areas. California is only recently coming around to this kind of situation (still a young state).


message 10: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Weber | 16 comments Nathan "N.R." wrote: "His (endnote 9) --"The problem with the UN in Somalia, however (and also, as I had seen, in Bosnia), was that it strove to tell people what to do without having the will to force obedience. Better, in my mind, not to tell them anything."

Fascinating! I missed this. Thanks for sharing


message 11: by Alexander (last edited Feb 08, 2017 12:38PM) (new)

Alexander Weber | 16 comments Nathan "N.R." wrote: "Just got to get this off my chest. Endnote 8 is gratuitous :: "I wondered: Do these failures discredit anarchism, or is there in fact a practical as well as a theoretical difference between anarchi..."

Yes, just like Soviet Russia and China and... all the Soviet states have given Communism a bad name (as they were in NO WAY a form of communism. This is simply fact, not me trying to romanticize communism. China and Russia and Soviets states were dictatorial/authoritarian "socialism"... if you can call starving millions of your own people socialism), so too do we give Anarchism a bad name as it is associated with 'anarchy' / chaos.
I whole-heartedly agree with your point.


message 12: by Alexander (last edited Feb 08, 2017 12:44PM) (new)

Alexander Weber | 16 comments While I lean heavily in my ideology towards Anarcho-Syndicalism; my pragmatic side supports gentle commerce, fair trade, regulated capitalism, participatory democracy, trade unions, coops, etc. etc.
Just...um, to share, I guess.
Is there a good name for the latter? Socialism?
Perhaps Community Capitalism


message 13: by Griffin (new)

Griffin Alexander | 5 comments All I'm saying is that as much as Bll claims to only read ancient books, we know he is incredibly well versed in the modern. I feel like he must've read Homage To Catalonia, not to mention his own thorough rehashing of Alexander Berkman's attempted assassination and prison stay earlier in RURD.


message 14: by Brian (new)

Brian | 2 comments I'm very far behind on the reading schedule - but have finished this short piece; thanks to all of you for your commentary and discussion on this thread. I'm educated by you all, as usual.


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