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09.25.2003

Edward Said Has Died

The great Columbia professor Edward Said is dead. Steven Johnson has an appreciation.

I knew nothing about Said except what I read in his essays, other than noticing that he came in for a lot of political flak. One of his pieces is up online at the NITLE Arab World site - it's a rumination on the psychological and social effects of 1948 on the Palestinians. Said knew how to be compassionate without avoiding hard truths:

 The overall tendency throughout the Arab world was to think of military solutions to that scarcely imaginable country, with the result that a vast militarization overtook every society almost without exception in the Arab world; coups succeeded each other more or less unceasingly and, worse yet, every advance in the military idea brought an equal and opposite diminution in social, political, and economic democracy. Looking back on it now, the rise to hegemony of Arab nationalism allowed for very little in the way of democratic civil institutions, mainly because the language and concepts of that nationalism itself devoted little attention to the role of democracy in the evolution of those societies.

Read the whole thing. We've lost an articulate voice and a great man.

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