Thursday, September 09, 2010

This Insane World

It is the Three-Ring-Circus, on most days, and people are far from rational. Ever since my return from vacation I have struggled with the meaning of this blog, whether it serves any useful purpose at all, whether I live too much in my head and too little in those other parts (gonads?) which appear to rule much of our public discourse and even international political events, whether I am wrong in picking the topics I pick, whether I'm just fighting the windmills while the sand in my hour-class keeps falling through.

None of that is exactly new, as those of you know who have followed my whining and griping over the years. But the long time off writing did give me a bit of a culture shock. I see more clearly what the hooks in popular stories are, what people want to discuss and which solutions do not work because they require some type of wider rationality, rationality over and above one's own little concerns, one's own fears of being ignored, one's own ambitions and needs.

Let me give you an example, other than the obvious Koran burning one: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's trip to Europe, to see his old pal, Italy's Prime Silvio Berlusconi. The two have a lot in common. For instance, in a sane world neither of them would be running a country. And in a sane world they wouldn't be allowed closer than two miles from any young woman.

But we do not live in a sane world. Hence this:

Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who holds increasing sway in the Italian economy, upset some Italians by urging conversion to Islam during a three-day visit to the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

Col. Gadhafi held a series of private meetings on Sunday and Monday with some 800 Italian women and a small group of young men organized by a hostess agency and paid for by the Some women who took part in a meeting Sunday told reporters the Libyan leader lectured them on Islam, and then presided over a ceremony in which, they said, a handful of women converted to Islam. The attendees, who were paid to attend the meeting, left carrying bound copies of the Quran that they said were gifts from Col. Gadhafi.

The meetings have become a ritual accompanying Col. Gadhafi's frequent visits to Rome since the signing of a "friendship" accord in 2008. Rome then pledged €5 billion ($6.37 billion) to Tripoli as reparations for Italy's decadeslong occupation of Libya that ended in the 1930s.

It is unclear exactly what purpose the meetings with young women serve. The women are recruited by Rome-based casting agency Hostessweb, and are paid for by the Libyan government, said Alessandro Londero, the agency's president. Mr. Londero, who also attended the lectures, said the Libyan leader addressed the women "a bit like a prophet," urging them to convert to Islam.

Set aside the religion business which has been criticized elsewhere. Notice, instead, the way women are treated here. These are young women, based on the pictures I saw, and they were hired from a casting agency. Not just any woman could walk in! They had to be eye-candy! Such contempt for women is so familiar to us that our focus stays on Gadhafi's capers.

But Berlusconi treats women as his personal vagina collection, too. Is this something worth pointing out? And if I do point it out how does it make a difference? After all, Berlusconi and Gadhafi run countries!!! Yet they both confuse women with ice-cream cones or chocolate boxes and we gently slap their fingers for that while letting the underlying allowing continue.

Is it helpful to point that out, to dig under the surface in that way? Or am I the only person not pleased with just staying on the surface, discussing the Question Of The Day, the one that fires people up?

It's not that my approach is somehow better or that the Questions Of The Day weren't important. But what I have tried to do is not common, even among feminist writers, and now I wonder if it's me that is the insane one.