Tuesday, July 13

LET THE MIDDLE EAST MUDDLE

The day will soon come when the Middle East will no longer be of geo-strategic importance.

The West will have weaned itself off of the industrial heroin that is oil, and will proceed to prioritize other precious resources--like water.

So, what will befall the muddle of the Middle East without the West?

What will the severance of the military-economic integration of the U.S. and Israel mean for American taxpayers and Israelis?

Peace, probably.

Surprised? Without the American occupation of an Arab state, and--as America's proxy--Israel's occupation of Palestine, there is, at least, a chance of peace.

Moreover, without the effect of suppression, there is greater moral credibility and authority for the West.

It's easy to talk about peace when you're an occupier, when you have all the cards. "Peace" is really code for compliance, acquiescence, submission--whether it's in Iraq, Vietnam, Palestine, or Chechnya. At least, that is how the have-nots in the military power game feel.

Self-determination has never been a reward for good behaviour. But does that mean suicide bombers should prey upon civilians? No. But that is the context. Far too often the term "terrorist" is employed to denigrate the substance of the other guy's political argument.

Without the West, without the American bail-out, Israel would have to form regional alliance patterns of its own.

There may be a India/Pakistan-like stand-off with Iran, but that will be the natural course of events in the region anyway.

Iran will get the bomb. No one will be able to stop that.

Ultimately, the best security for Israel is a secure and independent partner in Palestine.

Why? With the advent of portable nuclear weapons, all the fences and walls in the world can't stop the hate.

An oil-free world, with a regionally marginalized Middle East, will find its own balance, and with it, its own peace.

An absent American shadow will not be as dark as some in Israel fear. It may, in fact, be brighter.

Monday, July 12

YOUNG WOMEN: FOLLY THEY ARE NOT

When Erasmus wrote In Praise Of Folly in the 16th century, he was addressing notions of virtue and the imagination; that reason alone was not enough to attain either virtue or perfectibility.

There is a false reason afoot that places blame on age and experience with regard to women.

The facts are that, increasingly, women in their thirties, with their biological clocks waking the neighbourhood and their own neurotic natures, are marrying abruptly. Then, just as abruptly, they are ditching the sperm donors.

The men are left with their heads and cheque books spinning.

Younger women have their own problems, but psychopathic nesting isn't one of them.

I have found that the same men who roll their eyes at my callow pussy plight, sanctimonious in their notion of identifying youth itself as the culprit, the feeble link in the romantic chain, are themselves only a soft, pubic hair away from romantic eviction--somewhere between the fourth and fifth level of Dante's shitstorm.

My friends who are working on their first or second divorce will, when pressed, tell you that they really don't know a goddamned thing about women.

But it's nice to pretend.

Hugh Hefner told me to rejoin the battle, and keep them young, they're more idealistic that way. And less likely to be fixedly circumspect.

After all, there's plenty of time to be a battle axe. Don't believe me? Just look across from the kitchen table and tell me what you see.

Then invite me over for dinner to meet your daughter--if she's still in college ...

Sunday, July 11

THE HUFF OF HEF: REQUIEM FOR A REPROBATE

Incipient mortality is not an awareness I would immediately ascribe to Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. Yet, on the printed page, there it is.

He seems timeless: Forever gazing through the opaque glow of a Highball at a pool adorned with naked centrefolds.

In a word-averse, but suprisingly intimate, autobiography, Hefner's Little Black Book, the pajama-clad Don of Debauchery waxes as his body, and legacy, wanes.

At the end of his book, Hef tells a story of the Grim Reaper coming to his mansion, only to be seduced by drinks, pools, food, and women: "With so much life, death wasn't welcome."

Hefner is an interesting artifact of Americana. A clear iconoclast 40 years ago; today, the man is simply a self-exiled cultural pioneer.

Hef always was self-exiled. He rarely left the Playboy Mansion. He still doesn't.

Last week, I spoke with Hefner from California about his thoughts and experiences.

And while it's easy to take a shot at the old war horse, there is a dignity, sensitivity, reflectiveness, and a refinement about him. Not a stilted refinement of consumerism, instead a refinement born of understanding.

"Don't cut off ex-girlfriends if you can help it," says Hef. "Otherwise, you cut yourself off from a part of yourself."

More wisdom: "Always wear your heart on your sleeve ... women remember kindness and recognition more than money."

A complex man, there are contradictions: In marriage, Hef was entirely conventional. He says he never cheated. (Maybe that is unconventional.)

In interviewing Hef for the second time, I don't doubt his sincerity regarding romantic idealism. Nor do I doubt his ability to dream big and contest conventional boundaries--and self-limitation.

Perhaps that will be Hefner's heftiest legacy.