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Double Consciousness and Iraqi Bloggers

Page history last edited by Miriam 11 years, 12 months ago

Salam Pax : Double Consciousness in Iraqi Blogs?

 

Before, during and "after" the Iraq war many people started blogging their experiences in so called war-/milblogs. Some of them are soldiers, some of them are the soldiers' family members and of course there are Iraqis among the bloggers, too. Working on blogs especially the iraqui blogs captured my interest. The people experienced (and still do) the war from another perspective we did or the soldiers and their families did. Whether the content of those blogs is credibel or not should not be the topic of this paper. For all my writing below I take the blog as being credible. But the Iraq War is not the only "event" the Iraquis had to suffer from. After 9/11 the whole world blamed Muslims to be responsible for all the dead people. We will get to know some opinions of those muslims being blamed for 9/11 and we will see whether the opinions given by "European" Muslims differ from muslims staying in their home countries.

The author of the blog, Salam Pax, lived for a long time in Europe as we will get to know later in this paper. Therfeore it is interesting to examine whether this part of his life had an influence on his opinion to the war: is he more Iraqui or more European? In order to get an answer to this question I will examine Du Bois' concept of "Double Consciousness" with regard to 9/11 and the resulting opinion about Muslims. Therefore I concentrate on the following question:

Is the concept of Du Bois' "Double Consciousness" applicable to Iraqi bloggers and how can it be identified within the blog?

 


 

 

 

  • The Blog
  • The Blogger
  • W.E.B. Du Bois
  • The Concept of "Double Consciousness"
  • Analyzing the Blog

                 - Prejudices against Muslims after 9/11

                 - Double Consciousness in "Where is Raed?"

  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

 

 

 


 

 

The Blog (8)

 

 "Where is Raed?" is a warblog written by Salam Pax (pseudonym) in order to reach his friend Raed, who didn't answer his emails promptly. Pax describes the time before the outbreak of the war, the time during war, and the time "after" the war.

 

The blog started on December 17th 2002 with an entry describing the situation in Iraq. On Auguat 18th 2004 the blog ends without any further posting. In the following I will try to summarize the blog's content and depict its structure.

 

The blog starts with the description of the situation before the war broke out:

  • the severe price changes, including the inflation rate
  • the situation of the people living in Iraq
  • introducing his family and friends
  • depicting his feelings and emotions during the time

 

During the war he depicts some more facts:

  • the bombings
  • comments on news reports
  • the situation of his family and friends living in "Hotel Pax"
  • the danger of being a blogger in Iraq

 

Parts of his blog were published under the title "The Baghdad Blog", containing blog entries from September 2002 to June 2003. During this time span Pax had no internet access and thus wrote a kind of "diary" which he later sent to Diana Moon who blogged those entries for him.

 

For the later analysis I will focus on some of the entries from before and during the war being representative for the whole blog.

 

 

 

The Blogger (1,5,6,7,8)

 

 

http://dear_raed.blogspot.com/

 

Salam Pax is a pseudonymous blogger from Iraq. As a child he lived for a long time in Vienna where his father worked as a businessman. For about eight years, until 1996, he studied there, before his parents called him back to Iraq.

The name Salam is Arabic for peace and the name Pax is also another word, this time from Latin, for peace. What can be said about him is that Salam is his right first name. He is a very famous blogger and he also worked for Peter Maas and the Guardian as an interpreter.

Many tried to identify the man known as the Baghdad Blogger and finally Peter Maas succeeded per accident in doing so. Nevertheless, he did not reveal any personal information about his interpreter except for his first name. Salam is a 34 years old architect.

Except for his blog "where is Raed?" Pax has opend up "shut up you fat whiner!" and "Mind the Globe". Furthermore there are interviews, videos and articles about him available in the internet:

 

Interviews

Videos

Articles

 

 

 

W.E.B. Du Bois (10)

 

 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._E._B._Du_Bois

 

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born February 23 1868 and died August 27, 1963. He was an African American civil rights activist, public intellectual, Pan- Africanist, sociologist, educator, historian, writer, editor, poet and scholar.

He was born on Church Street in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois, where he grew up and went to school. In 1888 he got a degree from Fisk University and entered Harvard University after having received a $250 scholarship. Only two years later he had his bachelor's degree. Du Bois also studied in Berlin. Finally, in 1895 he became the first African American to receive a Ph. D. from Harvard University.

During his life he wrote many books, among them "The Souls of Black Folk", which will be important for our later analysis of the blog. In 1963 he became a naturalized citizen of Ghana, where he lived due to being refused a new US passport.

 

Comapring the lives of DuBois and Pax we can see that both got to know different cultures. Insofar DuBois' concept of Double Consciousness, being explained below, might also fit for Pax.

 

 

 

The Concept of "Double Consciousness" (2,9)

 

The term Double Consciousness was coined by Du Bois and is used to describe an individual whose identity is divided into several facets(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_consciousness), meaning that one person who got to know and perhaps grew up in atleast two different cultures may have problems to decide about his/her own culture. These people often try to apply the facet of their identity fitting the situation best:

 

"After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and the Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second sight in this American world, - a world which yields him no true self- consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness, - an American, a Negro: two soul, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."

(W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk;http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/DubSoul.html)

 

 Furthermore, Du Bois explained in his essay "Of Our Spiritual Strivings":

 

"The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, - this longing to contain self conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face."

(W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk; http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/DubSoul.html)

 

The term Double Consciousness as interpreted by Du Bois explains the way Black Americans felt due to white stereotypes. Moreover, black Americans were excluded from the mainstream of society through racism against them. The most important effect of double consciousness is however the internal conflict of being African and American simultaneously.

Double Consciousness means being aware of one's self as well as being aware of how others perceive one self. Thus there is the danger of changing one's identity into that perceived by others.

 

 

 

Analyzing the Blog (1,3,4)

In this part of the paper I try to find out whether Du Bois concept of Double Consciousness is applicable to the blog and whether the events after 9/11 as well as the prejudices against all Muslims after 9/11 may have contributed to this awareness.

 

     Prejudices against Muslims after 9/11(3)

 

 

www.danzfamily.com/archives/blogphotos/06/348-cox-forkum-islam-pr.jpg

 

 

After the terrible events from 9/11 life of Muslims, especially Iraqis, changed (10). They were or sometimes even are treated as if they were the ones having flown the planes into the Twin Towers. The above comic shows the prejudices the Western "civilized" World had and even has against all Muslims. For some people Muslims today do still have a hard stand in society due to 9/11 and the stubborness of those who are not willing to see that we cannot lump together all Muslims.

My leading questions for the analysis of the blog are:

  • Does Pax know about the prejudices and if yes how does he react?
  • Pax lived and studied in Vienna. How does he feel about the war knowing more than one perspective?
  • How does Pax realise his people/himself?
  • Can we identify some aspects of Du Bois Double Consciousness in Pax's bloggings?
  • How is it possible to identify those aspects?

 

 

     Double Consciousness in "Where is Raed?" (1,4)

 

For the following analysis I will focus on blog entries from January 30 2003 to May 9 2003 as this part contains life before, during and after the war and thus offers many points for analysis. The first thing one gets to see visiting the blog is the following: 

 

 

----------

"the West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."

----------

(Samuel P. Huntington, Clash of Civilizations)

 

When seeing the picture I wondered about its meaning for Pax and his blog. Analyzing the flag we can see that it contains the colours and symbols of the Iraqi falg as well as some Western elements like the statue of liberty- like man. Can we already see a form of Double Consciousness in this picture? Having a search on "support democracy in Iraq" I could find the following web- entry:

 

"The war begins

03/17 2003 - Bush just delivered his speach, giving Saddam Hussein and his sons a 48 hour notice to leave the country. He gave the Iraqian army a chance to give up and promised to re-build a new Iraq to replace the old.

 

Support Democracy In Iraq Loads of you-know-what of course. Saddam and sons are dictators. They won't leave. Has he, as president of the U.S. any right to require for another country's leaders to leave the country, dictators or not? No, of course not. Saddam should be kicked out of existense, but it should be done by Iraq's own people. Help them do it!

This way Bush is creating a marture of somebody the world has any reason to detest.

It feels like shit. I'm very unhappy. I've changed the colors of the site accordingly.

Saturday's rallies will be massive."

(Lindquist, Nikke. "The War Begins" 17 March 2003. 11 August 2008.)

 

In form of content and meaning the two quotes (Huntington and Lindquist) are very similar to each other if not even the same. So, did Pax see it the same way as some Westerners did/do or was it the other way round? For me, this fact shows that Pax really knows the mentality of the West and its attitude and imagination of Iraq and other poorer countries. Thus in my opinion he is showing us how we perceive them.

Another possibility of interpreting this accordance is applying the concept of Double Consciousness: Pax, knowing the Western mentality, took the Huntington quote and the flag to introduce his blog. We do not know whether he knows about LIndquist's version or not, but we can speculate about the reasons for it:

 

  • Pax was fully aware of merging the Western and Iraqi opinion about the war
  • Pax did not want to blame any of the nations he "belongs" to →Double consciousness
  • Pax stated his opinion without thinking about others

 

Without knowing the real reason we can give no true answer about this question. Knowing about Pax's background and his life I would rather say that we can talk about Double Consciousness in this context. This interpretation is strenghtend by the blog entries, too. In the following I will take entries from before and during the war showing aspects of DuBois' concept.

 

When focusing on the blog entries before the war we can find the following:

 

Friday, January 31, 2003

"a car ride to al-mansour to get sandwiches, late at night.

10 new sandbag protected trenches seen on the way. appetite totally ruined by thoughts of who will use them and what will happen along these roads.

maybe exploration journey tomorrow to see what else is being done to baghdad.

I am either angry or scared i can't make up my mind. "

 

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

"The Adha eid is tomorrow, Haj is over and time will be ticking out. The streets are full of people buying Eid treats for kids and preparing for the Eid feast. My parents, because they are from two different environments, have separate traditions for eid I get to choose where to go for the big lunch, which should be after the Eid prayer in the mosque but since I don’t do that I get a couple of extra hours of sleep.

I will most probably spend the first day with my mother’s family. Tastier food, our favorite caterer Abu-Karam is making the stuffed lamb and he will, as always, drop by to see how well his lamb has been received and have a drink with my uncles, besides, around 30 people and 4 generations make a good party. Big family gathering food fest. Yay.

The war will just have to wait."

 

Friday, February 14, 2003

"I wasn't going to blog until after Eid, but there is this whole "authenticity" thing going on concerning this blog.

the people who have been reading this blog for a while know that we have been there and done that. [the link is old, Al of the Culpepper Log and I are super cool now, he smacks my butt whenever i do something stupid] and I don't really want to go into it again.

To the people coming from WIRED, please always rememebr that I am no authority on anything, quoting me like the journlist did there makes me a bit nervous, salam says this salam says that. big media scares me, trouble is never far away. i hope the article is not part of the print edition that would scare me.

and i am just super grumpy and will regret this post later."

 

Thursday, March 6, 2003

"Human Shields Bashing #124

"Basically, they said we are not going to feed you any longer," said John Ross, an American who has been active in radical causes since he tore up his draft card in 1964.

Excuse while I wipe the tears from my eyes. Outoutout. He could have at least say something more in line with his “radical cause”. This is a bit insulting actually for some reason I feel offended. FEED YOU? Why does the Iraqi government have to friggin’ feed you, you have volunteered to “help” in country which can’t feed its own population properly (well it could if it spent a bit less on itself and on people like you). There is another good bit:

The activists accused the Iraqi authorities of trying to use them as pawns in the war with America.

oh, shockhorror, what a surprise. Back to where you came from. Don’t wait for thank you speeches, outoutout.

The bitter flight from Iraq follows a showdown with the Iraqi authorities who demanded that they decamp from their hotels in central Baghdad and take up their self-assigned roles as civilian protectors.

No no, just stay in your hotels, buy souvenirs and make fun of the backward ways of these Iraqis, hope you sent all your friends postcards telling them about the pita and tahini you have been eating while strolling around Baghdad, you tourists. Did you take enough pictures of children begging in the streets to show your friends back home how much you care about the plight of the poor in the third world. Bet they were all shaking hands and promising to see each other at the next “worthy cause” party."

 

Sunday, March 9, 2003

"A BBC reporter walking thru the Mutanabi Friday book market (again) ends his report with :

“It looks like Iraqis are putting on an air of normality”

Look, what are you supposed to do then? Run around in the streets wailing? War is at the door eeeeeeeeeeeee! Besides, this “normality” doesn’t go very deep. Almost everything is more expensive than it was a couple of months ago, people are digging wells in their gardens, on the radio yesterday after playing a million songs from the time of the war with Iran (these are like cartoon theme songs for people my age, we know them all by heart) they read out instructions on how to make a trench and prepare for war, that is after president saddam advised Iraqis to make these trenches in their gardens.

But in order not to disappoint the BBC; me, Raed and G. put on our “normal” faces and went to buy CDs from Arassat Street in a demonstration of normality."

 
These are some entries from before the war. The closer the war gets the more sarcastic and ironic Pax writes his entries. And more and more I got the impression that he tries to tell the world that things are different than we imagined. He tries to fight against the feeling of double consciousness until he writes about him, Raed, and G. buying CDs "in a demonstration of normality". There he did what was expected after the BBC report.
However one could also argue that all Iraqis fought against the feeling of double consciousness by just keeping their "normal" lifes and not showing their fear.
In all of his entries so far Pax tries to argue that Iraqis, their life, an the country are different from what is perceived by the others. Though Pax is a Muslim he doesn't tell much about his religion, except for some feast going on,  or the prejudices against Muslims. Maybe, until this point he does not know about them, but I think he rather ignores them. Pax knows what is going on in Iraq and in the media and thus he tries to tell the reader of his blog at least his truth. By focusing on telling the truth about the ongoings in Iraq he tries to stay as neutral as possible and thus I think he does not speak about prejudices or his feelings. We can only recognise him being angry when having a closer look at his writing style.
However, within these entries Pax is on the Iraqi side. He defends his culture, his land and his people against insulting and offending comments by Americans. When defending his culture (see last quote) he talks about "them" and not "us" or "we". Throughout the blog he goes on takling baout Iraqis and Americans. His place seems to be somewhere in the middle as if he does not belong to one of the groups.
 
While the war takes place we can find the following blog entries being similar to what he wrote above:
 
27/3
"Basra on the other hand is in deep shit. One more word by Americans on TV about “humanitarian aid” will make me kill my television. They have the audacity to turn us to beggars while we will have to pay for the research and development of the weapons they are field-testing on us and they do as if they are helping us with their “humanitarian aid”. Excuse me, but it would help much more if you would stop dropping those million dollars per bomb on us, in is cheaper for us in the long run. As much as I don’t like him but al-Sahaf did say it: “crocodile’s tears”, indeed. One thing made me really laugh with delight, as the Red Crescent cars (Kuwaiti, and I would rather not say what I think about that) stopped at safwan and started unloading, it got mobbed. People just went into the trucks and did the distributing themselves while the US/UK soldiers stood watching. And what did the Iraqis shout while they were around the trucks? “bil rooh, bil daam nafdeek ya saddam” – we will sacrifice our sould and blood for saddam. Catastrophic, and just starting."

 

 
30/3
"No good news anywhere, no light at the end of the tunnel and the Americans’ advance doesn’t look that reassuring. If we had a mood barometer in the house it would read “to hell with saddam and may he quickly be joined by bush”. No one feels like they should welcome the American army. The American government is getting as many curses as the Iraqi."
 
2/4
"Two hours ago we could hear the rumbling of the planes over us and it took them ages to pass. Afraid is not the right word. Nervous, edgy, sometimes you just want to shout out at someone, angry. I wish the Iraqi and the American governments would stop saying they are doing this for the people. I also want to hold a “not in my name” sign."
 
These entries again show that Pax is trying to tell his readers what Iraqis, except for their government, really think and feel about the war. Moreover, we can examine  that he only talks about "we" or "us" if the happenings had an effect on him and his family. In all other situations he keeps staying apart from both the Iraqi and the American point of view. He tries to post as neutral as possible, except fore some passages using swear words or describing his feelings.
 
Regarding all this it is hard to say whether the concept of Double Consciousness can really be applied to this blogger and his blog. On the one hand we could say it is possible because:
 
  • Pax talks to both cultures with the Huntington quote and the flag
  • he tries to understand both cultures
  • he tries to live up to expectations of both cultures →he neither really blames the one or the other
  • his background would allow the conclusion that he does not really know to which culture he belongs, he stays in between two cultures

 

On the other hand there are as well several reasons why this concept might not be applicable to Paxand his blog:

 

  • he seldomly states his own opinions on the events
  • he quotes other people (reporters, family members)

 

In the last part of this paper I will now try to summarize the findings in order to answer the question posed in the beginning.

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

Is there any evidence for double consciousness in the blog?  Within his blog Pax tries to be as neutral as possible. Thus he just describes what is going on, his feelings and "his truth" about the war and the media. However, every reader can easily recognise whether he is angry or sad.

In my opinion Pax separates from the Americans as well as from the Iraqis when he says "I also want to hold a "not in my name" sign." Moreover, he does not reveal any information about his religion or the prejudices against Muslims. For me it is hard to imagine that he didn't come across them while surfing in the internet searching for informations or when answering  his emails from readers. Didn't they really ask him about that?

I cannot imagine that the war did not have any effects on Pax concerning him knowing more than one culture and perhaps understanding both points of view. On the one hand, admitting a feeling of double consciousness could have made the blog even more interesting for his readers but on the other hand it might have been less credible.

 

 

However, the concept of Double Consciousness is recognizable throughout the blog. Pax is srtandingin between two cultures and for me it seems as if he does not know to which one he really belongs. This can be seen in his language: He only talks about "us" and "we" when he himself and his family are directly affected by the war. Otherwise he talks about "them" whether "they" are Americans or Iraqis does not matter.

 

Of course Salam Pax is Iraqi and thus has feelings for his home country, but he also studied and worked abroad and got to know a different culture and friends there. Thus I think that sometimes he has a feeling of double consciousness which he fights in his blog by trying to be as neutral as possible.


 

 

Bibliography

 

 

(1) Pax, Salam. "Where is Raed?". 18 Aug 2004. 05 June 2008 <http://dear_raed.blogspot.com/> 

 

(2) Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk.University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center. 29 July 2008 <http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/DubSoul.html>

 

(3) Handwerk, Brian and Habboo Zain. "Muslim Students Talk About Life in U.S. Since 9/11" National Geographic News 10 September 2002. 11 August 2008 <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/09/0910_muslimkids.html>

 

(4) Lindquist, Nikke. "The War Begins" 17 March 2003. 11 August 2008. <http://images.google.de/imgres?imgurl=http://www.lindqvist.com/kitSiPub/bilder/20030317142712.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.lindqvist.com/index.php%3FkatID%3D167&h=232&w=214&sz=32&hl=de&start=4&tbnid=C6J9-uN7Ir22nM:&tbnh=109&tbnw=101&prev=/images%3Fq%3DSupport%2BDemocracy%2Bin%2BIraq%26gbv%3D2%26ndsp%3D20%26hl%3Dde%26sa%3DN>

 

(5) Maas, Peter. "Salam Pax Is Real" Slate Magazine 2 June 2003. 29 July 2008 <http://slate.msn.com/id/2083847>

 

(6) Mc Carthy, Rory. "Salam's Story". The Guardian 30 May 2004. 29 July 2008 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/may/30/iraq.digitalmedia>

 

(7) Pax, Salam. "The Baghdad Blogger goes to Washington: day one". The Guardian 22 October 2004. 29 July 2008 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/oct/22/uselections2004.iraq>

 

 

 

(8) Wikipedia. "Salam Pax" 29 July 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salam_Pax>

 

(9) Wikipedia. "Double Consciousness" 29 July 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_consciousness>

 

(10) Wikipedia. "W.E.B. Du Bois" 29 July 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._E._B._Du_Bois>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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