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On watching TV

Mostly, this last week I’ve been perfecting the fine art of coughing. My doctor diagnosed a touch of asthma following a chest infection in January. Fair enough, but the timing of it and the way it developed didn’t seem to fit properly. In the last few days, though, I’ve had a remarkable turnaround in health having worked out that the asthma was caused by an allergy of which I was previously unaware. House free of allergy-causing items: no asthma. Items reintroduced: instant return of asthma. And so forth. So having worked out what was going on, I’m now pretty much returned to full health, feeling better and stronger and with a sense of humour returned.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching TV and surfing the internet looking at stuff on Tunisia, then Egypt, then in correspondence with someone who’s just returned from Yemen, and then watching developments in Libya.

I’ve been to various Middle Eastern countries for varying amounts of time and at various times, and noted that pretty much all of them have had some level of political repression for decades. And it extended beyond their boundaries. When I was a student, which was back in the 1970s, I can remember knowing both Iranian and Libyan students in the UK who were very closely monitored by their countries’ respective secret services, just in case they engaged in anything subversive or unpatriotic. Indeed once we knew what was happening it was fairly obvious that there were guys around who were (a) not students and (b) following our friends. (It also wouldn’t surprise me if they’d recruited informants, etc., but I can’t vouch for that.)

Anyway, in pursuit of information I’ve been looking not just at the BBC but also Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya English language news feeds. I don’t know why they should have surprised me – they’re regionally based so don’t have the full span of international coverage you find on the BBC, but what they do, they appear to do extremely well and professionally. In terms of political commentary they look to be moderate/liberal. However, while many Western commentators note that Western countries have facilitated various dictatorships and accepted that hypocrisy has some place in realpolitik, the Arabic news sources rather refreshingly recognise hypocrisy for what it is.

If you haven’t yet looked at these Arabic stations’ coverage of events, I’d recommend it. An hour checking over those sites is an instructive and educational experience.


  1. February 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I use to say, nothing that happens in politics surprises me, until the Egyptians overthrew their government without too much bloodshed. That was truly stunning.

    I have met numerous people from foreign cultures, and being an ex-journalist and writer I tend to question them on many things. Not generalizing, but of the ones that I’ve met, most of them do not know why they do certain religious rituals and believe in certain bits of propaganda with no real knowledge of the truth. Examples:
    A German who firmly believed that American was mostly black, because that’s all he saw on the news.
    An Indian girl who had her baby daughter circumcised because that was the decent thing to do.
    A Middle East woman who believed her husband was justified in killing their daughter because she had a boyfriend.

    Alas, it is most difficult to overcome those things that are taught at the cradle. It makes me ask myself, what do I do and believe without really knowing, what propaganda have I fallen into without questioning it.

  2. February 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I’ve been around long enough to be genuinely surprised by a few things in politics. Like you I’m relieved that the Tunisian and Egyptian (and possibly Bahraini) situations were able to progress without massive bloodshed. It seems there always has to be some but it was nowhere near as bad as it could have turned out. I’m hopeful that it will work out the same in other countries and fearful that it won’t.

    I’m sure we all have ‘blind spots’ in which we proceed on the basis of received values and assumptions because we don’t have better information to base our views on, or make us think about how we’ve arrived at our views.

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