Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Politics, Community, and The Cyclist


The Cyclist portrays a cycle of violence that moves forward indiscriminately through attacks that seem to be without political motivation. But the text does not withdraw from politics, it places its message in the body of those involved mainly through food. The central position of food and its use as metaphor for violence as well as its actual role as sustenance, not to mention that food is the narrator's reason for living, means that politics needs to be thought through food.
Food contains communal properties as representative, conduit for bringing people together, etc. Its position in the center of the text means all political messages must move through some idea of what food means. I want to suggest that Viken Berberian is more concerned about the communities being destroyed in Mid-East violence, envisioned through food, than the actual politics of the Nations involved. In what ways does the author develop this idea through more than just food?

13 comments:

CAH said...

Very insightful thread--It has been said the way to a man's heart is through his stomach--I would not have applied in the case of terrorism--I have thought of a change in atmosphere of those areas--as in introducing "novelty." I've thought of what music could do when there is a hostage situation (Beslan) because music sets atmosphere and pulls the emotional heartstrings. I think the book is a good choice for this study. CAH

JE said...

Well, the food is a common, equal ground for many. The food simbolizes indivualism, but it is something that we all need. Who cares if it is a choice of food that we dont prefer, but its a substance that we all craves. He allowed us to see life as an equal playing field for us all. He simply made us brothers and sisters of the same mother and father. THe food expressions was to allow us so see the simplicity of life and his message. We all can smell, invision, and hear your family at the dinner table during the holidays, and even taste the food. THere is more to this, but I will carry it out.

John Collins said...

I think Berberian referring to the bomb that the Cyclist carries as "the baby" is showing how the community of family is being destroyed by the violence in the Middle East. Rather than focusing their attention on their families, all of the members of the Academy are bestowing all of their parental qualities onto something that creates destruction, chaos, and death. In the case of the Cyclist, had he gone through with the attack he would be using "the baby" to kill people, rather than taking care of the baby that Ghaemi is carrying.

lilyofthefield09 said...

I like the line in the prompt that says "The central position of food is and it's use as a metaphor for violence as well as its actual role as sustenance..." I think that the meaning of the metaphor is right there in that statement. Food can be good for us and bad for us. It can makes us healthy and sick. Let me put this thought out there: Maybe terrorism is the same way for Middle Eastern nations. Maybe it is not sufficient to bring about change, but it is also necessary in their eyes. We say that we can not live without food, but couldn't we? If there were another way to get the vitamins and nutrients we need, would we still choose food? Terrorism, maybe, is not just something terrorists use because it gets them media response, but maybe it's a necessary part of what they think must be done on a much more fundamental level. Has anyone ever thought that maybe terrorists enjoy terrorism? We enjoy food that is bad for us for the very reason that we know we "shouldn't" be eating it. Is terrorism the same way?

KLamm said...

When I think of food, I think of social gatherings and fellowship. My church used to joke that everytime we had an event there always had to be food present - it's a way of congregating and uniting in a common way that everyone can partake in. Think about Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays, Funerals.. all times when food usually plays a big role, and all times when people gather together to spend time with people they love and our close to.

I'm not exactly sure how this can relate back to terrorism in a way that makes sense. I guess to me, terrorism is also a way to unite people. It unites the terrorists and the people behind their cause as they work toward their goal. But it also unites the victims and their families. After 9/11 the entire United States united to support each other, the victims, and their families. There was a comaraderie and unity in America that I really had never seen in my lifetime.

Food serves as a common ground for all people. All people need it, and all people can enjoy it. In the same way, terrorism serves to unite people whether backing the terrorist group or lifting up its victims. In my eyes, both food and terrorism serve as unifiers of people.

More and more, we see that terrorism is becoming so commonplace in our world. Will it ever get to the point where it is as common as food? Lily brings a good point. Will terrorism get to the point that people feel it is an absolute necessity? As much as food? I sure hope not.

John Collins said...

Klamm, both you and Lily raise good points about food, terrorism, and our necessity for both. I don't necessarily believe that terrorism has, or is going to become, a necessity for people; however, I think following the attacks on September 11th people think of terrorism in the same way they view food. Terrorism has become just another mundane and every-day occurrence just like eating. So in that sense I don't think of terrorism as a necessity that people need to function, but rather as just another regular thing that people deal with every day in an almost desensitized manner.

Jiggloz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vijay said...

I want to change the meaning of the topic. I think food is a way of indentifying one's culture. When you go to another country what is one of the first thing you want to do; try the cuisine. We can see differences in people's culture by the foods they eat, and how they eat. I want to compare the war as a giant food fight, but that analogy sounds too euphemistic. When a country attacks another country's way of life, they are imposing their ideas on them which results in that loss of uniqueness. We lose that identity of our culture when we try to make everyone the same. I could be completely off but that was just something I thought about.

DTower said...

One way berberian uses to relay his political intentions is how he places couplets throughout the his novel. In the history of literature, couplets were used as a part of poetry and satrized the state of the society. I believe that Berberian uses these couplets (an art form) as way to shed light on the situation in the middle east.

DTower said...

One way berberian uses to relay his political intentions is how he places couplets throughout the his novel. In the history of literature, couplets were used as a part of poetry and satrized the state of the society. I believe that Berberian uses these couplets (an art form) as way to shed light on the situation in the middle east.

DTower said...

Also, it could be argued that the preparation of food is an art form (culinary arts) Going back on our discussion on the humanity that comes out of art Berberian could be using the intense food references to suggest an increase in the intrest f the arts.

Anonymous said...

In a telling passage, viken berberian juxtaposes western and Middle Eastern cuisine in these terms: "While in most Western cultures dinner is an immutable progression of courses, the concept of mezze is a spontaneous free for all, an antithesis, even a threat to structured order. The dishes are all served and consumed at the same time in no specific rank. This communal approach is reinforced with the crossing of hands, and the exchange of sometimes more than 20 different dishes. (page 149)." The formal and thematic wisdom of the book is evident in such a passage. Here and elsewhere, there is a subtle critique of the West through its food, served linearly, it lacks the pleasures of heterogeneity, simultaneity and mixture. Eaten individually rather than communally, it does not provide the occasion for the crossed hands of family and friends as they reach for different mezze items. Eaten in progression, western food offers a punning parody of western progress, moving with relentless single-mindedness from appetizer to dessert in a way that symbolizes the western preference for structured order, which the passage tells us is threatened by the refusal of structure in the mezze. Yet here as elsewhere, Berberian is appreciative of what the West also offers, and his appreciation is consistently expressed in terms of food. He does this in a tactfully oblique manner.

rjrpat said...

My best friend use to say "You can fight with me when I’m away from the dinner table, but when we are here were friends." Food is a common thing that every person no matter their religion, sex, age, ethnicity, or even race has to consume. Of course food changes with types of people and place, however strong our desire is for a certain taste, the most important thing is the nutrition. My question is does he use this food as an aesthetic? Is this a cover up on the nutrition we should be getting from life? Of course we see this nutrition in food but we can also get it from life as well. For instance, with friends and family in times of tragedy, times of holidays, and other special events.