Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Intertextuality: Camus, and Hamid

The relationship between Camus and Hamid is immediately apparent when comparing The Fall and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Hamid models the structure of his text on that of Camus, a conversation between two men taking place mainly in a bar. But Camus's themes are what resonate in the contemporary text. Complicity, lack of innocence, and a paramount event that changes the central character are at the forefront of both texts. But the question I have is, what do they have to do with terrorism?


MacCollum said...

Complicity, lack of innocence, and the paramount event...
Well, I don't think that Changez felt complicitous or guilty until after the paramount event of the NYC attacks. After all, he was only 22, and he had left Pakistan because the most promising opportunities for him lay in the US. He didn't have much of a future, or at least not a better one, not one with such upward mobility, in his homeland. So he left. After the attacks though, and after the US military invaded his country's neighbor and apparently disrupted the temporarily stable status quo between P and India, his perspective changed. Suddenly America's actions were unjustified.

[Although it's interesting that he did not immediately associate American economic imperialism with its military actions: he had (practically) no trouble with evaluating the small business in New Jersey after the attacks, but when he had to do the same job on the Chilean company, it suddenly became personal to him. This reveals a hypocrisy in his decision-making, and I think should have, if it didn't, contributed to his realization of his lack of innocence, and his complicity with American "Big Business" against the "little man".]

When his family began to suffer, he realized that the "fundamentals" he should have been focusing on were home and family, not supply and demand, or cost/benefit. It became Us (Pakistan) vs. Them (America). So what does all this have to do with terrorism? I think it shows how quickly world affairs can shift different people's perspectives, especially how a vaguely aggressive distant superpower can suddenly be seen as an immediate threat. A land of freedom and opportunity can become a gluttonous, amoral aggressor.

Perhaps the author's point is that given specific circumstances, we are all capable of terrorism (inasmuch as Changez was: if we believe his story, all he was doing was spreading anti-American ideas and supporting a patriotic movement through his teaching and mentorship...I don't call this terrorism, but I don't feel like Hamid draws much of a line between Al Quaeda and Changez's personal sentiments).

John Collins said...

I think when discussing complicity, lack of innocence, and paramount events in regards to terrorism it all depends on perception. If you look at it from someone living in the Middle East who views America as being this huge imperialistic superpower, constantly intervening in the affairs of other countries and killing innocent civilians, they might view the people in the World Trade Center to be complicit with it's country's foreign policy.

When I think of the themes in Camus' book, I immediately think of the University of Colorado ethics professor, Ward Churchill, who wrote a highly controversial essay stating that the people who died on September 11 were not victims or innocent at all. Churchill stated that the World Trade Center employees "formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire, the "mighty engine of profit" to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved and they did so both willingly and knowingly."

Churchill goes on to compare the victims as "little Eichmanns". (Adolf Eichmann was a seemingly ordinary German who was actually one of the masterminds of the Holocaust) Basically, Churchill is stating that although the victims may seem innocent, they are still playing a role in America's "evil empire".

Obviously I don't agree with Churchill's views, but isn't the way he is insensitively portraying the victims of 9/11 being complicit in America's foreign policies the same way we insensitively view Middle Easterners when they die in one of our attacks on them?

lilyofthefield09 said...

I have to agree with John. I think that complicity and innocence is all in the eye of the beholder. (Also, the Churchill reference is GREAT) I think that the September 11th victims were victims only in the sene that they had no prior knowledge of the attack that was coming and on an individual basis. I think as a group, they were complicit. The corporations that were housed in those buildings were some of the same corporations that are taking jobs from American workers so that they can make cheaper products in 3rd world countries. I think that these corporations were prideful and thought themselves above such things as terrorist attacks, and so made themselves the perfect target for terrorists.

The book does an excellent job of creating this scenario on an individual basis. Changez creates himself in the image of corporate America, and then faces a crisis that causes him to rethink his complicity and his innocence. Unlike corporate America though, Changez resolves to change himself and no longer live the American dream. The American corporations that suffered that day conntinue to use and abuse people for their own gain.

Dillon said...

Complicity and lack of innocence mean everything in terrorism. If anything they are the catalyst to the paramount event. The paramount event to the bystander seems to be pure evil and inexplicable. However, there is always a reason for anything that happens whether it be "evil" or "benevolent".

Changez adopts American values naively and his actions are countering his internal beliefs that he is becoming evil by being a financial machine funding American imperialism (Complicity).

The end result is reluctance. If anyone ever goes to Germany, reluctance is everywhere. Germans fear any extreme form of patriotism or (complicity) because of their history with the Nazis.

So I think this books answer to terrorism is reluctance of any fundamentalism because it closes are perspective of what is an evil act and what is benevolent.