Transcript: Ian Buruma on Death of Metropolis | Jun 29, 2003

Ian Buruma stands behind a lectern on a small stage in an auditorium and addresses an audience of people in their fifties and sixties.
Ian is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with receding brown hair. He's wearing rounded glasses, a gray suit, white shirt, and orange tie.

He says THE CITY, UM,
PROBABLY SOME OF YOU READ THIS,
THIS NEWS AS WELL AT THE TIME,
THAT, UH, A FEW DAYS AFTER, OR A
WEEK OR SO AFTER, THE ATTACK ON
THE, UM, WORLD TRADE CENTRE IN
NEW YORK, ON, UH, THE NINTH OF,
UM, SEPTEMBER, THE 11th OF
SEPTEMBER, THE CHINESE, UH, PUT
ON SALE IN, UH, BIG CITIES IN
CHINA, VIDEOTAPES, UH, OF THIS
EVENT, UM, AND WHAT WAS CURIOUS
ABOUT THEM IS NOT THAT JUST THAT
THE SHOWED THE ACTUAL ATTACK,
BUT THEY WERE SPLICED TOGETHER
WITH SCENES FROM HOLLYWOOD
MOVIES SUCH AS
THE
TOWERING INFERNO
AND SO
ON.
AND A LOT OF PEOPLE BOUGHT THESE
TAPES, UM, FOR, FOR AMUSEMENT, I
MEAN, THEY THOUGHT IT WAS GOOD
ENTERTAINMENT, IT WAS
SPECTACULAR.
WHICH IS IN SLIGHTLY ODD, BAD
TASTE, TO BE SURE, BUT IT DID
REFLECT, I THINK, A KIND OF
SCHADENFREUDE THAT, UM, WAS NOT,
UM, CONFINED TO CHINA, BUT THAT
WAS, UH, FAIRLY GENERAL IN MANY
PARTS OF THE WORLD.
NOW ONE REASON, I THINK, PEOPLE,
UM, TOOK A CERTAIN, UM, MORE OR
LESS GUILTY PLEASURE IN THE
AMERICANS COMING A CROPPER, UM,
IS CLEARLY BECAUSE AMERICA'S SO
POWERFUL AND THERE IS A LOT OF
RESENTMENT AND ENVY.
UM, BUT I THINK THAT THE ATTACK
ON, UH, THE TWIN TOWERS AND IN
NEW YORK WAS NOT JUST AN ATTACK
ON A PHYSICAL BUILDING, IT WAS
AN ATTACK ON A PARTICULAR IDEA,
UM, THE CITY, OF AN URBAN CIVILIZATION.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Ian Buruma. Journalist and Novelist. Death of Metropolis. Recorded May 15, 2003."

Ian continues AND I THINK THAT THE, UH, ATTACK
ON THAT, WHICH WAS REAL AND
MURDEROUS, AS WELL AS SYMBOLIC,
NEEDS TO BE EXPLAINED, IT'S AN
ATTACK ON AN IDEA OF THE WEST,
AS WELL AS AN ATTACK ON, ON
AMERICA, WHICH GOES WELL BEYOND,
I THINK, AMERICAN FOR-FOREIGN
POLICY, PEOPLE WHO SAY, WELL, WE
SHOULD UNDERSTAND THIS BECAUSE
BY LOOKING AT AMERICAN FOREIGN
POLICY MISTAKES, I THINK
SLIGHTLY MISS THE POINT.
UM, IT'S, IT IS -- WAS, WAS A
PROFOUNDLY SYMBOLIC ATTACK AND
PERHAPS, UM, BEFORE GOING --
SORT OF COMING BACK TO THE
CONTEMPORARY WORLD, ONE, UM,
SHOULD GO BACK TO ANCIENT DAYS
TO EXPLAIN SOME OF THE, UH,
RESPONSES TO AN ATTACK LIKE THIS
OR SOME OF THE, INDEED, SOME OF
THE, THE REASONS FOR THE ATTACK
AND I, I WOULD EVEN GO BACK AS
FAR AS THE STORY OF THE TOWER OF
BABEL.
UM, AFTER ALL, IT WAS BABEL,
BABYLON, THE FIRST CITY, UM,
THAT CAME IN FOR THE KIND OF
OPPROBRIUM THAT SOME PEOPLE FEEL
FOR, UM, NEW YORK.
UM, PERHAPS IT WAS BECAUSE OF
THE RELATIVE SEXUAL FREEDOM OF
BABYLONIAN WOMAN, BUT PIOUS JEWS
DESCRIBED, UH, THE CITY OF, OF,
OF BABYLON AS THE MOTHER OF
PROSTITUTES AND OF THE
ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
UM, THE PEOPLE OF BABYLON
ALLEGEDLY, UH, LUSTED AFTER
WORLDLY FAME AND WEALTH AND SO
ON IN THE SAME WAY THAT THEY DID
IN 14th CENTURY FLORENCE OR
INDEED, UH, 20th CENTURY NEW
YORK.
AND ONE OF THE THINGS, UH, ABOUT
BABEL, I THINK, WAS NOT JUST
THAT PEOPLE LUSTED FOR WEALTH,
BUT THEY ALSO LUSTED FOR
KNOWLEDGE, OR LUSTED IS AN ODD
WORD, BUT THEY, THEY, THEY HAD A
THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE AND THE
TOWER OF BABEL WAS PROBABLY A
ZIGGURAT, UM, A BUILDING WITH A
CIRCULAR STAIRCASE, FOLLOWING
THE SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC, WHICH
SUGGESTS THAT PEOPLE, UM, THAT,
THAT BABYLONIANS WERE KEEN
ASTROLOGERS, THAT THEY WERE
TRYING TO FIND OUT HOW THE WORLD
WORKS AND NOT JUST RELYING ON
THE REVELATIONS, UM, OF GOD.
AND FOR THIS HUBRIS, FOR THIS
IDEA THAT THEY COULD, UM,
CHALLENGE GOD, IN THE SEARCH FOR
KNOWLEDGE AND SO ON, THEY HAD TO
BE PUNISHED, OF COURSE, AND GOD,
UH, SCATTERED THEM, UH, ALL OVER
THE EARTH AND MADE THEM SPEAK IN
MANY TONGUES.
NOW LATER, RULER OBABYLON,
NEBUCHADNEZZAR, WHO CONQUERED
JERUSALEM, WHICH WAS THE CITY OF
GOD, UNLIKE BABYLON, WHICH WAS
REGARDED AS THE CITY OF MAN,
ENSLAVED THE JEWS AND HAD
VISIONS OF A, OF KING, OF A
KINGDOM OF GOLD.
UM, AND HE WAS PUBL -- HE WAS,
UH, PUNISHED FOR THIS HUBRIS AS
WELL AND DRIVEN AWAY, UH, TO EAT
GRASS LIKE CATTLE.
UM, IT'S NOT THE LEAST OF
HISTORY'S IRONIES THAT THE JEWS,
WHO WROTE THIS TALE OF
VENGEANCE, UM, AGAINST THE CITY
OF MAN WOULD, IN LATER
CENTURIES, THEMSELVES THEN BE
SCATTERED AROUND THE WORLD,
SPEAK MANY LANGUAGES AND BE
DESCRIBED BY THEIR ENEMIES AS
ROOTLESS COSMOPOLITANS, UH,
ADDICTED TO VISIONS OF GOLD.
NOW WHAT IS THIS, THIS
BABYLONIAN IDEA OF THE CITY,
WHAT IS IT THAT PEOPLE, UH, WHO
WISH TO ESTABLISH THE CITY OF
GOD LOATHE ABOUT THAT IDEA OF
THE CITY AND THAT IS WHAT WE'RE
TALKING ABOUT, AN IDEA OF THE
CITY.
I THINK IT HAS A LOT TO DO WITH
TRADE, THE IDEA OF THE CITY AS A
MARKETPLACE, WHERE EVERYONE AND
EVERYTHING, UH, IS THEORETICALLY
FOR SALE, THESE, UH,
PROMISCUOUS, MESSY, UM, PLACES,
UM, WHERE PEOPLE MIX AND WHERE
PEOPLE CAN, CAN, UH, HAVE
ANONYMOUS RELATIONSHIPS BASED
ON, ON, ON MONETARY
TRANSACTIONS.
PEOPLE CAN, UH, BUY NEW
IDENTITIES AND MAKE THEMSELVES
UP AND SO ON AND SO FORTH.
AND THIS IDEA OF THE CITY,
AGAIN, THE, THE CITY AS A
MARKETPLACE, GAVE RISE TO, UM,
IMAGES, IN THE EYES OF, OF THE
ENEMIES OF SUCH CITIES AS PLACES
WHERE PEOPLE LIE, WHERE PEOPLE
ARE INAUTHENTIC, PARASITIC EVEN
AND, UM, TO MOVE ON TO A LATER
PERIOD IN HISTORY, UM, AN, AN
AMUSING ATTACK, UH, ON THIS KIND
OF CITY, WERE -- ARE JUVENAL'S
SATIRE ON ANCIENT ROME, WHICH HE
SAW AS A CITY OF FLATTERERS AND
ROBBERS AND TRADERS FROM ALL
OVER THE EMPIRE AND WE THE
FOLLOWING SENTENCE IN IT, "WHAT
CAN I DO IN ROME?" HE ASKS,
JUVENAL, THAT IS, "I NEVER
LEARNED HOW TO LIE."
AND ROME, TO JUVENAL, JUVENAL,
WAS A CITY WHERE ALL, AGAIN I
QUOTE HIM, "OF ALL GODS, IT'S
WEALTH THAT COMPELS OUR DEEPEST
REVERENCE, A CITY WHERE
FOREIGNERS MIXED FREELY WITH
NATIVES," AGAIN, HERE'S JUVENAL,
"FILTHY LUCRE IT WAS THAT FIRST
BROUGHT LOOSE, FOREIGN MORALS
AMONGST US, EFFEMINATE WEALTH,
THAT WITH VILE SELF-INDULGENCE
DESTROYED US OVER THE YEARS."
AND JUVENAL RESERVED HIS
GREATEST BILE, UH, FOR THE
GREEKS, THE MINORITIES THAT
INEVITABLY GATHER IN
MARKETPLACES, FOR THE GREEKS AND
THE JEWS AND FOR WOMEN.
"HIGH-BORN OR NOT," I'M QUOTING
JUVENAL AGAIN, "WOMEN WHO WOULD
DO ANYTHING TO SATISFY THEIR
HOT, WET GROINS."
AND AGAIN, WE SEE HERE THIS
IMAGE OF THE CITY AS A WHORE, AS
A PROSTITUTE, WHERE PEOPLE, UH,
NOT ONLY LITERALLY PROSTITUTE
THEMSELVES, BUT WHERE, UH, HUMAN
RELATIONSHIPS BASED ON MONETARY
TRANSACTIONS, BASED ON THE
MARKETPLACE, HAVE THIS, CREATE
THIS IMAGE IN THE, IN, IN THE
EYES OF, OF THE ENEMIES OF THIS
KIND OF THING, UM, OF
WHORISHNESS, OF PROSTITUTION.
THE OTHER ASPECT OF THIS, WHICH
IS OF COURSE LINKED AND AGAIN,
GOES BACK TO BABYLON, IS THAT IN
THE CITY, UM, AS MARKETPLACE,
WHERE PEOPLE PURSUE WEALTH AND
HAPPINESS IN, IN, IN RELATIVE
FREEDOM, UM, MAN TURNS AWAY FROM
GOD, IN THE CITY OF MAN, GOD,
UH, LOSES HIS POWER, WHICH IS OF
COURSE THE POINT OF THE STORY OF
THE TOWER OF BABEL.
AND WE FIND THAT COMING BACK
OVER AND OVER IN LITERATURE, UH,
AS WELL, UM, I THINK WHEN, UM,
BLAKE'S JERUSALEM IS PERHAPS
SLIGHTLY MISUNDERSTOOD WHEN
PEOPLE SEE THE DARK, SATANIC
MILLS AS A KIND OF ATTACK ON,
ON, ON THE INDUSTRIAL
REVOLUTION, THAT'S PROBABLY TOO
SIMPLE A READING, BUT HE'S WENT
HIS IDEA OF JERUSALEM
CERTAINLY WAS, UH, TO RESTORE,
UH, THE CITY OF GOD IN, IN, IN,
UM, IN ENGLAND.
MORE MALICIOUS, UH, A MORE
MALICIOUS VERSION OF THE SAME
YEARNING, UM, COMES INTO T.S.
ELIOT'S POETRY, UM, AND I QUOTE,
UM, ONE BIT FROM "THE ROCK,"
WHERE T.S. ELIOT WRITES, UM, I
MEAN, HE WRITES IT VERY
BEAUTIFULLY, BUT IT IS, UH, PART
OF THE SAME, UM, MINDSET, I
WOULD SAY, "THE WORD OF THE LORD
CAME UN, CAME UNTO TO ME,
SAYING, OH, MISERABLE CITIES OF
DESIGNING MEN, OH, WRETCHED
GENERATION OF ENLIGHTENED MEN,
BETRAYED IN THE MAZES OF YOUR
IN-INGENUITIES, SOLD BY THE
PROCEEDS OF YOUR PROPER
INVENTIONS."
AND WHAT HE'S SAYING, I THINK,
IS THAT, IT IS A COUNTER-
ENLIGHTENMENT IDEA AND I THINK
THE ATTACK, THE, THE, THE HATRED
OF THE METRO, METROPOLIS, THE
PLACE WHERE PEOPLE -- THE
MARKETPLACE WHERE PEOPLE MIX IN,
IN, IN FREEDOM AND, AND, AND,
UM, AND TRADE, UH, IS VERY
CLOSELY LINKED TO A SORT OF
COUNTER-ENLIGHTENMENT IDEA AND
I'LL COME BACK TO THAT A BIT
LATER.
THE QUESTION HERE IS, SINCE I
BEGAN WITH, UH, LINKING THE
ATTACK ON NEW YORK CITY TO AN
ATTACK ON AN IDEA OF THE WEST IS
WHEN THE METROPOLIS, IN THE EYES
OF ITS ENEMIES, UM, BECAME
ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY LINKED TO THE
WEST, WHEN THE METROPOLIS REALLY
COMES TO STAND FOR, FOR THE
WEST.
AFTER ALL, UH, THE ORIENT OR
ASIA, UM, HAS HAD MANY GREAT
CITIES AS MARKETPLACES, UM,
ITSELF, I MEAN, BAGHDAD, UM, AND
SO ON AND PEKING, UH, EDO, THE
CAPITAL OF JAPAN, WAS ACTUALLY,
UNTIL THE 19th CENTURY, A BIGGER
CITY THAN, UH, THAN LONDON AND
SO THE METROPOLIS IS NOT A
WESTERN INVENTION, BUT IT DID
BECOME ASSOCIATED, UH, WITH,
WITH THE WEST AND WITH AN IDEA,
UM, OF THE WEST.
AND INDEED, THE, UM, ATTACK ON
THE CITIES, THE, THE, THE
LOATHING OF IT, UM, I THINK IS
ALSO ROOTED IN THE WEST, EVEN
THOUGH YOU NOW FIND IT IN THE
RHETORIC OF ISLAMISTS AND, AND,
AND OTHERS IN THE NON-WESTERN
WORLD.
AND AS ONE EXAMPLE, I WOULD
QUOTE RICHARD WAGNER, UM, WHO,
UH, WROTE THAT, THAT VENUSBURG,
THE SEDUCTIVE, UH, AND DANGEROUS
PLACE WHERE HIS GERMANIC HERO,
TANNHAUSER, UM, GETS ENSNARED
FOR A WHILE AND HE, HE SAID, IN
A LETTER TO A FRIEND OF HIS,
THAT VENUSBURG, UM, WAS, OF
COURSE, UH, PARIS.
UH, PARIS, EUROPE, THE WEST, AS
HE PUT IT, "THAT FRIVOLOUS,
COMMERCIALIZED AND CORRUPT WORLD
IN WHICH FREEDOM AND ALSO
ALIENATION ARE MORE ADVANCED
THAN IN OUR PROVINCIAL GERMANY,
WITH ITS COMFORTABLE
BACKWARDNESS."
SO THE, THE, THE ATTACK ON THE
WEST ITSELF, I THINK, WAS BORN
IN THE WEST AND THEN LATER, UM,
GOT TAKEN OVER BY NON-WESTERN
ENEMIES, UM, OF THE WEST AS
WELL.
NOW WHEN DID THIS IDEA OF THE
METROPOLIS BECOME ASSOCIATED
WITH THE WESTERN, I WOULD HAVE
TO SAY, I MEAN, YOU CAN GO BACK
TO THE DUTCH REPUBLIC, PERHAPS,
BUT I WOULD SAY IT IS THE AGE
OF, OF EMPIRE.
AND NOJUST ANY EMPIRE, NOT SO
MUCH THE EMPIRES, UH, BASED ON
MILITARY CONQUEST OR, UM,
SPREADING GOD'S WORD, UM, TO THE
HEATHENS, BUT THE COMMERCIAL
EMPIRES THAT REACHED THE HEIGHT
OF THEIR POWERS IN, IN THE 19th
CENTURY.
THE TIME THAT WHEN, WHEN THE
GREAT METROPOLIS, THE CENTRE OF
THE WORLD, THE IMPERIAL CENTRE
OF THE WORLD, UH, WAS LONDON AND
THE GREAT SATANIC MILLS, OF
COURSE, WERE LOCATED IN
MANCHESTER, THE CENTRE OF
INDUSTRIALIZATION.
UM, PARIS WAS A RIVAL METROPOLIS
AND, UH, BERLIN WAS ALWAYS, UH,
SOMEWHAT ENVIOUSLY, UH, TRYING
TO CATCH UP.
AND INDEED YOU HAVE DIFFERENT
CONCEPTS, UH, OF EMPIRE, THE
COMMERCIAL EMPIRE WAS DESPISED
BY GERMAN ROMANTICS WHO
FOLLOWED, UH, RICHARD WAGNER IN
HIS, UM, IN HIS, IN HIS
REPULSION TO THIS IDEA OF THE
CITY, UM, AND I THINK IT WAS
KAISER WILHELM II, UM, WHO WAS
DEEPLY ENVIOUS OF THE BRITISH
EMPIRE AND WANTED A GERMAN
EMPIRE TO RIVAL IT IN POWER, BUT
HE MADE THE POINT, I MEAN,
LITERALLY FOLLOWING RICHARD
WAGNER'S THEORIES AND, AND THOSE
OF OTHER, UM, THINKERS THAT GERM
THAT ALTHOUGH -- THAT THE BRITISH EMPIRE WAS ALL ABOUT
MONEY AND TRADE AND MATERIALISM
AND GREED AND SO ON, THE GER-
GERMAN EMPIRE WOULD SPREAD
GERMAN COUTURE AND THESE ARE TWO
DIFFERENT, VERY DIFFERENT IDEAS
OF EMPIRE AND IT'S THE ONE
THAT'S BASED ON TRADE THAT IS
THE, THE OBJECT OF THE HATRED
THAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.
NOW THE KIND OF, UH, THE, THE
METROPOLIS BASED ON -- THAT IS
ALSO A GREAT MARKETPLACE IS, OF
COURSE, NOT SIMPLY A
MARKETPLACE, IT IS, IT ALSO HAS,
IT'S THE PLACE WHERE INDIVIDUAL
AND CIVIC FREEDOMS, UM,
FLOWERED.
AND THIS WAS EVIDENT LONG BEFORE
THE 19th CENTURY.
VOLTAIRE, WHO, UH, CAME TO
LONDON AND SPENT SOME YEARS
THERE, UM, IN THE 18th CENTURY,
UH, RECOGNIZED THIS VERY WELL.
AND HE WENT TO LONDON FROM PARIS
BECAUSE, UM, HE, UM, WELL,
BECAUSE HE GOT CHUCKED OUT OF
FRANCE, BUT ALSO BECAUSE HE, HE
CAME AS A GREAT CRITIC OF THE
ABSOLUTISM OF THE, UH, OF THE
FRENCH MONARCHY AND THE CATHOLIC
CHURCH AND HE WROTE A BOOK ABOUT
ENGLAND WHILE LIVING IN LONDON
AS A KIND OF POLEMIC AGAINST,
UH, THE ABSOLUTE MONARCHY AND
E CHURCH, UH, IN FRANCE.
AND SO HE WAS NOT AN ENTIRELY
OBJECTIVE OBSERVER, HE WAS A
POLEMICIST, BUT HE, HE MADE
VARIOUS VERY INTERESTING
OBSERVATIONS ABOUT, UH, LONDON
AND HE SAW THE MERIT OF THE
MARKETPLACE, NOT BECAUSE HE WAS
GREEDY FOR WEALTH, WHICH HE MAY
ALSO HAVE BEEN, I MEAN, HE WAS A
GOOD BUSINESSMAN, BUT BECAUSE HE
S -- HE, HE LINKED TRADE AND
EMPIRE TO, UH, THE INDIVIDUAL
AND, AND CIVIC LIBERTIES THAT HE
SO MUCH ADMIRED.
AND HE SAW AS THE GREAT, UM, AND
HE MEANT THIS POSITIVELY, HE SAW
AS THE, AS THE, AS THE, THE
SYMBOL OF LONDON'S GREATNESS, IN
THE 18th CENTURY, THE ROYAL
EXCHANGE.
AND, UM, THE, THE FOLLOWING
SENTENCE, WHICH IS, IS, IS
FAIRLY OFTEN QUOTED, BUT IT'S,
IT'S SUCH A GOOD ONE THAT IT --
I DON'T MIND QUOTING IT AGAIN,
HE, IN, IN DESCRIBING THE ROYAL
EXCHANGE, VOLTAIRE SAID, "IT'S
THE PLACE WHERE THE JEW, THE
MOHAMMEDAN AND THE CHRISTIAN
TRANSACT TOGETHER AS THOUGH THEY
ALL PROFESSED THE SAME RELIGION
AND GIVE THE NAME OF 'INFIDEL'
TO NONE BUT BANKRUPTS."

[Laughter]

Ian continues UM, THIS IS, IN,
IN A WAY, IT'S A PROFOUND
STATEMENT, BECAUSE, OF COURSE,
WHAT HE WAS SAYING IS THAT IN
TRADE, WHEN, WHEN TRANSACTIONS
ARE DONE IN MONEY, UH, RACE AND
CREED NO LONGER MATTER, WHAT YOU
AND NOR DO RELIGIOUS LAWS,
WHAT YOU NEED IS SECULAR LAWS TO
PROTECT, UH, PROPERTY AND, AND
PROTECT, AND PROTECT THE
MARKETPLACE, SO THAT PEOPLE CAN,
UM, TRADE IN FREEDOM.
BUT OF COURSE WHAT, UM, WHAT,
UH, VOLTAIRE ADMIRED, UM, WAS
ABHORRENT TO OTHERS, WHO SAW THE
STOCK EXCHANGE AS A SYMBOL OF
THE, OF, OF, OF VERY DIFFERENT
THINGS, OF SOULNESSNESS AND
MATERIALISM, OF GREED, UH, AND,
AND, UH, AND PARASITES.
AND OTHER TRAVELLERS IN LONDON
IN THE, IN THE 18th AND ALSO 19t
CENTURY, UH, TOO HAD A VERY
DIFFERENT TAKE ON THIS.
UH, ANOTHER GERMAN WRITER, UM,
WHO SPENT TIME IN LONDON AND
ACTUALLY WAS RATHER AN
ANGLOPHILE, BUT HE SAW LONDON,
HE WROTE THAT THE CULT OF THE
GOLDEN CALF IS THE DISEASE OF
THE ENGLISH PEOPLE.
AND HE SAW IT AS A, AS A PLA --
AS MANY OTHERS DID, AS A PLACE
THAT WAS SOULLESS, WHERE
EVERYBODY WAS SIMPLY INTERESTED,
UH, IN THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH,
RUNNING AROUND IN A RESTLESS
HUNT FOR GOLD, AS HE PUT IT,
THIS YELLOW FEVER OF GOLD, THIS
SELL-OUT OF ALL SOULS TO THE
DEVIL OF MAMMON, AGAIN, YOU SEE
THE SENTIMENTS HERE OF THE, UH,
BABYLONIAN STORY, COMING BACK
AGAIN IN THE 19th CENTURY AND
IT'S ALSO INTERESTING THAT THE
ANGLOPHOBES OF THE 19th CENTURY
AND EARLY 20th CENTURY, UH, ARE
VERY CLOSE IN THEIR SENTIMENTS
AND THEIR -- THE WAY THEY
EXPRESS THEMSELVES ABOUT ENGLAND
TO THE, UH, ANTI-AMERICANS OF
TODAY AND ANGLOPHOBIA AND ANTI-
AMERICAN SENTIMENTS INDEED ARE
VERY SIMILAR.
THIS SOMETIMES COMES FROM THE
RIGHT, UH, IT CAME FROM, UH,
FRENCH DEFENDERS OF THE DEFUNCT,
UM, MONARCHY AND OF THE CATHOLIC
CHURCH, REACTIONARIES WHO DIDN'T
LIKE, UM, BRITISH TRADE, BUT IT
ALSO CAME FROM THE LEFT AND
FRIEDRICH ENGELS, UH, SAW -- WAS
REVOLTED BY WHAT HE SAW AS THE
PROMISCUITY OF, UH, DIFFERENT
CLASSES AND DIFFERENT PEOPLE,
ALL, UM, RUNNING AROUND IN
ANONYMOUS CROWDS, UM, IN, IN
LONDON, WHICH HE SAW AS AN
ATOMIZED SOCIETY OF INDIVIDUAL
ALIENATION AND SO ON AND SO
FORTH.
UM, THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION,
OF COURSE, WAS, WAS PARTLY TO
BLAME FOR THESE TEEMING CROWDS
THAT HE SAW, WHO WERE OFTEN POOR
AND EXPLOITED, OBVIOUSLY.
AND, UM, THIS IS RATHER A JUMP,
BUT THINKING ABOUT, UM, THE
ABHORRENCE OF PEOPLE FOR, UM,
THE RESULT OF THE INDUSTRIAL
REVOLUTION AND THE PEOPLE COMING
FROM THE COUNTRYSIDE TO THE
CITY, UM, I, I THINK THAT -- AND
THIS IS WHERE, UH, THE NON-
WESTERN WORLD, I THINK,
ASSOCIATES THE CITY WITH THE
WEST IS, OF COURSE, THAT PROCESS
WHICH TOOK PLACE IN THE 19th
CENTURY IN, IN EUROPE IS TAKING
PLACE IN THE 20th -- TOOK PLACE
IN THE 20th CENTURY AND IS STILL
TAKING PLACE IN THE NON-WESTERN
WORLD.
AND YOU SEE THIS IN, UH, MANY
FILMS, UM, MADE IN, IN, IN
PLACES LIKE THAILAND, THE
PHILIPPINES AND, AND, UH, AND
INDIA AND SO ON, IT'S A STOCK
STORY, THE COUNTRY BOY, UM,
GOING TO TOWN, GOING TO THE
CITY, THE CAPITAL, USUALLY,
ATTRACTED BY THE, THE BRIGHT
LIGHTS, UH, THE, IN HIS MIND,
THE EASY WOMEN AND, AND, AND
WEALTH.
OF COURSE, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE
COUNTRY BOY GOES TO THE CITY IS
THAT HE QUICKLY GETS
DISILLUSIONED, HE GETS TRICKED,
HE LOSES HIS MONEY, I MEAN,
DICKENS ALREADY WROTE ABOUT
THIS, OF COURSE, BUT YOU SEE
THESE THEMES COMING BACK IN, IN,
IN THIRD WORLD MOVIES, LOSES HIS
MONEY, USUALLY GETS, UH, ENDS UP
IN SOME CRIMINAL GANG AND THE
FILM AND FIL -- THESE FILMS VERY
OFTEN END IN SOME CATACLYSMIC
ACT OF VIOLENCE, SORT OF A
REVENGE OF THE COUNTRY BOY
AGAINST THE CITY THAT, THAT
BETRAYED HIM, A BIT LIKE, UM,
PERHAPS, SAMSON PULLING THE
PILLARS DOWN, UM, AGAINST THE
PHILISTINES.
AND -- BUT WHAT, WHAT IS
INTERESTING ABOUT THESE FILMS IS
THAT THE -- YOU USUALLY HAVE
GOOD GANGSTERS AND BAD
GANGSTERS, YOU SEE THIS IN
JAPANESE, JAPANESE GANGSTER
MOVIES, WHICH, OF WHICH I'M VERY
FOND AND THE GOOD GANGSTERS, WHO
ARE TRADITIONAL, UM, IN THEIR
WAYS, UM, WEAR KIMONO AND ONLY
FIGHT WITH SAMURAI SWORDS AND,
AND HAVE SORT OF THE OLD CODES,
OFTEN IN AN EXAGGERATING WAY,
THE BAD GANGSTERS ALWAYS LOOK
LIKE PHONEY WESTERNERS.
THEY'RE WEST -- THEY'RE DRESSED
IN SORT OF LOUD PINSTRIPED SUITS
AND DRINK WHISKEY AND FIGHT, UH,
FIGHT WITH GUNS, THEY'RE
COWARDLY AND, AND ONLY THINK OF,
OF, UH, OF, OF THE PURSUIT OF
WEALTH, OF MONEY.
UM, SLIGHTLY SIMILAR THEME, I
THINK YOU FIND IN AMERICAN
WESTERNS, THAT, THAT THE
AUTHENTICITY OF THE COUNTRY, UM,
IS THE, UH, IS, IS USUALLY THE
OUTSIDER WHO COMES INTO THE
VILLAGE, UH, THE GARY COOPER
CHARACTER WHO COMES TO THE TOWN
AND THE BAD GUYS ARE THE, ARE
THE, THE MEN FROM THE EAST, WHO
USUALLY WEAR THESE SUITS, WITH
WATCH CHAINS AND THEY'RE THE MEN
WHO LAY OUT THE RAILROADS AND
THAT KIND OF THING AND THEY'RE,
THEY'RE THE CITY SLICKERS WHO
ARE, UM, THE, THE EVIL
CHARACTERS, WHEREAS THE, THE
AUTHENTIC PEOPLE ARE THE PEOPLE
OF THE SOIL, NOW THIS IS IN, IN
AMERICAN WESTERNS, BUT THE SAME
THING IS PLAYED OUT IN, IN NON-
WESTERN MOVIES AND IT'S VERY,
IT'S VERY CLEAR THAT THE, THE
CITY SLICKERS ARE ASSOCIATED
WITH THE WEST, THE BAD GUYS, UM,
HAVE WESTERN MANNERS.
IN EUROPE, UM, IN THE 19 -- IN,
IN THE 20th CENTURY, THE BAD
GUYS, THE CITY SLICKERS, UH, THE
ENEMIES OF AUTHENTICITY AND SO
ON, WERE, OF COURSE, UH,
TRADITIONALLY, UH, THE JEWS.
AGAIN, TO QUOTE ELIOT, IN A
FAMOUS POEM, "MY HOUSE IS A
DECAYED HOUSE AND THE JEW SQUATS
IN THE WINDOWSILL."
AND JUVENAL'S, UH, JUVENAL'S,
UH, PREJUDICES, UH, RESURFACED
IN THE 19th CENTURY, HIS IDEA OF
THE, THE INAUTHENTIC, LYING CITY
DWELLER.
AND, UH, AGAIN YOU FIND A LOT OF
THESE PREJUDICES COMING BACK ON
THE LEFT, I MEAN, ENGELS IS ONE
EXAMPLE, MARX WAS, ALTHOUGH THE
GRANDSON OF A RABBI, WAS A RABID
ANTI-SEMITE, UM, AND, UH, A
FRENCH SOCIALIST THINKER OF THE
19th CENTURY, PIERRE-JOSEPH
PRUDON, BELIEVED THAT THE JEW
WAS, AND I QUOTE, "BY
TEMPERAMENT AN ANTI-PRODUCER.
HE IS AN INTERMEDIARY, ALWAYS
FRAUDULENT AND PARASITIC, WHO
OPERATES IN TRADE AS IN
PHILOSOPHY, BY MEANS OF
FALSIFICATION, COUNTERFEITING
AND HORSE TRADING."
SO THIS KIND OF ROOTLESS
COSMOPOLITANISM, UH, TO, TO USE
A LOADED TERM, WAS ASSOCIATED
WITH LONDON, LATER WITH AMERICA
AND WITH JEWS AND I, I THINK
THAT IT'S NOT FOR NOTHING THAT
ANTI-SEMITISM AND ANTI-
AMERICANISM AND, INDEED,
ANGLOPHOBIA, IN A SLIGHT -- IN
AN EARLIER PERIOD, ARE VERY,
VERY LINKED.
IT'S, IT'S THE SAME, UH, HATRED
OF, UH, OF THE, OF THE PARASITE,
OF WHAT SEEMS INAUTHENTIC,
MATERIALISTIC, GREEDY AND, AND
SO ON.
UH, THERE'S EVEN A FA -- NOT A
FAMOUS, BUT THERE'S EVEN A
STRANGE BOOK I ONCE CAME ACROSS,
WRITTEN IN 1895, THE YEAR OF THE
DREYFUS TRIAL, BY A FRENCH
REACTIONARY, WHO -- AND THE
TITLE OF THE BOOK WAS
L'ANGLAIS EST IL Y'UN
JUIF
MEANING THE, THE,
THE THESIS OF THE BOOK WAS THAT,
UM, BRITAIN, AS HE HAD --
ENGLAND, AS HE PUT IT, HAD BEEN
JEWIFIED SINCE EARLY ANGLO-SAXON
TIMES, INDEED, HE EVEN OPINED
THAT THE WORD "ISAACSON" CAME
FROM "ANGLO-SAXON" AND SO THIS,
THESE ARE, THESE ARE OLD
PREJUDICES.
NOW OUTSIDE EUROPE, THE SAME
CLUSTER OF, OF, UH, OF, OF
SYMBOLIC HATREDS, UM, WAS OFTEN
REFERRED TO AS "AMERICANISM."
AND, UH, THERE WAS A FAMOUS
CONFERENCE IN KYOTO IN 1942 OR
3, I THINK IT WAS, OF JAPANESE
INTELLECTUALS WHO CAME TOGETHER
TO DISCUSS THE THEME OF
OVERCOMING THE WEST, HOW WESTERN
MODERN -- WELL, WHAT HAD TO BE
OVERCOME WAS NOT ENTIRELY CLEAR
TO THEM, SOME, SOME SAID IT WAS
MODERNITY, SOME SAID IT WAS THE
ENLIGHTENMENT, SOME SAID IT WAS
AMERICANISM AND SO ON, BUT WHAT
THEY REALLY, UH, WANTED TO
OVERCOME, UM, WAS THE WHAT THEY
SAW AS A DISEASE THAT CAME FROM
WESTERN MODERNITY, FROM THE
WESTERN METROPOLIS, FROM THE
WESTERN METROPOLE.
A DISEASE LIKE SARS REALLY AND,
UM, THIS SAME THEME, WHICH, I
THINK, STARTED OFTEN WITH THE
GERMANY ROMANTICS, UM, AND WHAT
WAS, WHAT REALLY STARTED IN THE
WEST WAS TAKEN OVER BY
INTELLECTUALS IN JAPAN AND IN
THE MIDDLE EAST, UM, TO EXPRESS
VERY SIMILAR, UH, PREJUDICES.
I MEAN, IF ONE OF THE, THE MOST
INFLUENTIAL ISLAMISTS, WHO IS
STILL READ BY, UM, ISLAMISTS
TODAY WAS SAYED KHUTAB, AN
EGYPTIAN WHO WAS EXECUTED FOR
SEDITION IN, IN, IN THE '60s,
BUT HE CAME TO AMERICA AND SAW
THIS SORT OF -- AND LOATHED
EVERYTHING HE SAW, HE SAW IT AS
A, AS A, AS A CIVILIZATION
WITHOUT SPIRITUALITY, WITHOUT,
WITHOUT FAITH, IT WAS ENTIRELY
DEDICATED TO A SORT OF
MACHINELIKE PURSUIT, UM, OF
WEALTH, BUT WHAT THESE PEOPLE
REALLY HATE, THEIR REAL TARGETS
WAS NOT SO MUCH NEW YORK OR
LONDON OR PARIS, IT WAS, OF
COURSE, THE CITIES IN THEIR OWN
SOCIETIES, WHICH THEY SAW AS
DEEPLY INFECTED BY THIS DISEASE,
ONE IRANIAN, UH, ISLAMIST COINED
THE PHRASE "WESTOXIFICATION" FOR
THIS.
NOW ANOTHER -- AN IMPORTANT
ASPECT OF THIS, OF THIS IDEA OF
SEEING THE WEST AS THE SORT OF
THE METROPOLE AND THE NON-WEST
AS THE PERIPHERY THAT IS
EXPLOITED BY, BY THE BIG, THE
BIG CITY IN AN, IN AN, IN AN, IN
EMPIRES IS THIS CLASH BETWEEN
WHAT IS SEEN AS SORT OF LOCAL
AUTHENTICITY AND, UM, CLAIMS OF
UNIVERSALISM.
AND EMPIRE, LIKE GLOBAL
CAPITALISM, OR, UH, COMMUNISM,
DOES OFTEN CLAIM TO HAVE SOME
UNIVERSAL, UM, ANSWER, A SET OF
UNIVERSAL VALUES WHICH SHOULD,
COULD APPLY EVERYWHERE AND, IF
NECESSARY, HAVE TO BE IMPOSED,
UM, WITH FORCE.
IT'S THE KIND OF RHETORIC, SOME
OF WHICH THIS KIND OF RHETORIC
IS CURRENTLY FASHIONABLE AGAIN,
UH, IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
AND, UM, THE, THE PROBLEM, I
THINK, FOR -- WHICH IS A GENUINE
PROBLEM, IT'S NOT JUST SOMETHING
I WANT TO RIDICULE AS, AS, UH,
THE PRODUCT OF, OF FANATICISM,
IS HOW, UM, THE PERIPHERY CAN
PROTECT, UM, ITS OWN SENSE OF
ITSELF AND ITS OWN CULTURE AND
TRADITION AND SO ON FROM THESE
CLAIMS TO, UH, UNIVERSAL VALUES
AND UNIVERSALISM, WHICH COME
WITH EMPIRE AND, AND, AND, UM,
AND, AND, INDEED, WITH
GLOBALIZATION, WITH CAPITALISM.
UH, THE CHINESE HAD AN ANSWER TO
THIS IN THE LATE 19th CENTURY
WHEN THEY WERE FIRST CONFRONTED
BY THE WEST, BY THE METROPOLE,
UH, WHICH WAS AN INGENIOUS ONE,
BUT IT DID -- WHICH WAS IMITATED
BY THE JAPANESE AND DIDN'T, OF
COURSE, QUITE WORK, BUT THE IDEA
WAS THAT THEY WOULD SEPARATE
WHAT WAS ENTIRELY USEFUL, WHAT
WAS USEFUL, WHAT WAS UTILITARIAN
FROM THE WEST, IN OTHER WORDS,
WAYS TO BUILD MODERN CANNON AND
RAILWAY ENGINES AND THAT KIND OF
THING FROM WHAT THEY CALLED THE
ESSENCE, WHICH HAD TO BE
CHINESENESS AND CHINESE
TRADITION AND ETHICS AND SO ON,
SO YOU SEPARATE KNOWLEDGE
FROM -- YOU SEP -- YOU SEPARATE
OUT THE PURE, THE, THE
UTILITARIAN FROM THE, THE
SPIRITUAL.
IT DIDN'T QUITE WORK, BECAUSE
YOU CAN'T, I MEAN, YOU FIND, UH,
AGAIN, UH, A MODERN PARALLEL TO
THIS, WHEN TUNG XIAO PING WAS
STILL THE PARAMOUNT LEADER IN,
IN CHINA, HE TALKED ABOUT
SPIRITUAL POLLUTION.
UH, WHAT HE WANTED WAS, WAS, UM,
WHAT WAS USEFUL FROM THE WEST,
BUT HE DIDN'T WANT ALL THE IDEAS
THAT CAME WITH IT, YOU FIND IT
TODAY WHEN, UH, THE CHINESE WANT
ALL THE BENEFITS OF THE INTERNET
AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, BUT
THEY DON'T WANT THE IDEAS THAT
CAN COME IN WITH THE INTERNET.
AND THIS SEPARATION OF, UH, THE
UTILITARIAN FROM THE SPIRITUAL,
UM, DOESN'T WORK, BUT IT
REINFORCES, AGAIN, THIS IDEA IN
THE MINDS OF ITS ENEMIES OF THE
WEST AND THE WESTERN, THE
WESTERN METROPOLE AS SOMETHING
THAT'S MACHINELIKE AND SOULLESS
AND ENTIRELY RATIONALISTIC,
PURELY UTILITARIAN, ONLY
INTERESTED IN THE PURSUIT OF
MONEY AND WEALTH.
NOW IT IS, AS I SAID, LEGITIMATE
TO TRY AND PROTECT, UH, ONESELF,
ONE'S OWN CULTURE AND SO ON, TO
SOME EXTENT, AGAINST BEING
COMPLETELY SWAMPED BY
CIVILIZATION'S CLAIM, UH, OF
UNIVERSAL VALUES, WHERE IT
BECOMES VERY DANGEROUS IS WHEN
THESE DREAMS TURN TO UTOPIAN
VISIONS OF PURITY AND
AUTHENTICITY AND BLOOD AND SOIL
AND SO ON, I MEAN, THIS HAS BEEN
SHOWN OVER -- OVER AGAIN IN
HISTORY, HOW DANGEROUS THIS IS,
UH, THE BLOOD AND SOIL THEORIES
OF, OF GERMANY IN THE 1930s
DON'T NEED TO BE REHEARSED.
UH, THE, UH, ATTEMPT TO BUILD,
TO BUILD SOME UTOPIAN VISION OF
THE CALIPHATE IN THE MIDDLE
EAST, WHICH NEVER REALLY EXISTED
IN THE FIRST PLACE, COULD TURN
OUT TO BE EQUAL -- ALMOST
CERTAINLY WILL TURN OUT TO BE
EQUALLY DANGEROUS.
WHAT WE SEE, THEN, IN THE LATE
19th CENTURY, IS THE -- OR THE
MIDDLE 19th CENTURY ALREADY, IS
THE COUNTRY, UH, FIGHTING BACK,
THE COUNTRY STRIKING BACK AT THE
CITY, AT THE METROPOLE AND, UM,
MAOISM WAS A, A, A, AN EXTREME
EXAMPLE OF THIS IN HIS CAMPAIGNS
TO STAMP OUT THE URBAN
BOURGEOISIE, TO -- LITERALLY IN
CAMPAIGNS WHERE LITERALLY
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF, OF
PEOPLE IN -- WERE, WERE TORTURED
AND MURDERED, UH, POL POT IS AN
EVEN MORE EXTREME VERSION OF THE
SAME THING, UH, PHNOM PENH, UH,
WAS, AS IT WERE, THE TWIN TOWERS
OF, UH, OF THE KHMER ROUGE, I
MEAN, THE ATTACK ON, ON, ON THE
CAPITAL CITY, WITH ITS
MINORITIES, WITH ITS TRADERS,
UH, AND SO ON, THE CHINESE BEING
THE JEWS OF, OF CAMBODIA, UH, SO
TO SPEAK, WAS AN ACTUAL,
PHYSICAL ATTACK ON PEOPLE,
WHICH, UM, WHERE PEOPLE -- ALL
THEY NEEDED TO DO WAS SPEAK
FRENCH OR WEAR GLASSES TO GET
MURDERED, UH, BUT IT WAS ALSO A
SYMBOLIC ATTACK, IT WAS AN
ATTACK ON THE SAME IDEA OF THE
CITY, I WOULD SAY, THAT WAGNER
AND ENGELS AND, UM, THE PEOPLE
WHO WROTE THE OLD TESTAMENT, UM,
WERE ALREADY ON ABOUT.
NOW THE TALIBAN, AGAIN, THE, THE
ONE OF THE MOST SYMBOLIC
ACTS, WHEN THE TALIBAN TOOK
OVER, UM, KABUL, WAS TO KILL,
UH, THE, THE, THE FORMER
COMMUNIST LEADER NAJIBULA, WHO
WAS THEN HANGED BY A LAMPPOST
AND AS A SORT OF SYMBOLIC
GESTURE, THEY STUFFED DOLLAR
BILLS INTO HIS POCKET AND A
CIGARETTE INTO HIS HAND, AS A
SORT OF, AS, AS, AS, UM, SYMBOLS
OF WHAT THEY WERE AGAINST.
NOW THE -- IT'S ACTUALLY FAIRLY
RARE THAT THESE, UM, INSTANCES
OF THE COUNTRY STRIKING BACK AT
THE CITY ARE CARRIED OUT BY
COUNTRY BOYS.
THEY WERE, IN THE CASE OF THE
KHMER ROUGE, PERHAPS, EVEN
THOUGH POL POT HIMSELF HAD
HATCHED HIS PLANS IN, IN, IN
PARIS, INFLUENCED BY THINKERS
SUCH AS..., BUT, UH, MOST OF
THESE ANTI-URBAN PREJUDICES
COME, ARE BORN IN THE CITY AND
ARE THE BRAIN CHILDREN OF CITY
PEOPLE.
AND, UM, PERHAPS I SHOULD END
WITH ONE OF THE MOST CHILLING
EXAMPLES, AND AGAIN, COME BACK
TO THE WEST, JUST TO SHOW THAT
IT'S NOT A QUESTION -- IT'S A
NOT A HUNTINGTONIAN, UM, CLASH
OF CIVILIZATIONS I'M TALKING
ABOUT, IT'S NOT THE WEST AGAINST
THE REST OR THE WEST AGAINST THE
EAST OR ISLAM AGAINST
CHRISTIANITY, THE, THE
PREJUDICES AND HATREDS I'M
TALKING ABOUT ARE ROOTED IN THE
WEST AS MUCH AS ANYWHERE ELSE,
PERHAPS EVEN MORE SO AND ONE OF
THE MOST CHILLING, EVEN THOUGH
NOT QUITE AS MURDEROUS AS POL
POT OR, OR, UM, OR MAO, BUT
EXAMPLES OF WHAT I'M TALKING
ABOUT, IS THE DESTRUCTION OF
SARAJEVO.
SARAJEVO IN YUGOSLAVIA REALLY
STOOD FOR EXACTLY THE KIND OF
IDEA OF THE CITY, UM, THAT I
WOULD WISH TO DEFEND, IT WAS A
PLACE, IT WAS A GREAT
MARKETPLACE, BUT ALSO A PLACE OF
GREAT LEARNING, WITH A FAMOUS
LIBRARY.
IT WAS A PLACE THAT HAD -- WHERE
MUSLIMS, EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE
QUITE SECULAR MUSLIMS, BUT WHERE
MUSLIMS AND JEWS AND CHRISTIANS
OF VARIOUS DENOMINATIONS HAD
LIVED TOGETHER FOR, UM, HUNDREDS
OF YEARS.
AND IT WAS DESTROYED, QUITE
DELIBERATELY AND, UH, ONE OF THE
SONS OF SARAJEVO WAS A MAN
CALLED NICOLAI KOLYAVITCH, WHO
WAS WELL KNOWN AS A SHAKESPEARE
SCHOLAR.
HE'D LIVED IN LONDON WHERE HE'D
STUDIED AND PLAYED PIANO IN, IN,
IN PUBS, HE'D LIVED IN, UH, IN
THE UNITED STATES, HE HIMSELF
WAS A, A, A MODERN, CIVILIZED,
URBAN MAN.
HE WENT BACK TO YUGOSLAVIA AND
BECAME PART OF THE REVOLT
AGAINST THE CITY, THIS GREAT
SHAKESPEARE SCHOLAR AND HE
WATCHED FROM THE HILLS, FROM
PARLEY, UM, AS SARAJEVO,
INCLUDING ITS LIBRARY, WAS
SYSTEMATICALLY DESTROYED.
AND, UH, IN THE NAME OF ETHNIC
PURITY, NAME OF, UH, A HORRIBLE,
UTOPIAN VISION OF PURITY AND,
UM, THE ORDER TO DESTROY
SARAJEVO, TO SHELL SARAJEVO WAS
SIGNED BY NICOLAI KOLYAVITCH,
SHAKESPEARE SCHOLAR.
UH, HE WAS NOT A SUICIDE BOMBER
LIKE THE PEOPLE WHO DESTROYED
THE TWIN TOWERS, BUT WHEN, UH,
HE WAS OUT OF FAVOUR AND, UH,
THE SERBIAN ATTEMPT TO TAKE OVER
GREATER SERBIA WAS CLEARLY LOST
AND MILOSEVIC HIMSELF GOT INTO
TROUBLE, KOLYAVITCH SAW THE,
THE, THE EXTENT OF THE FAILURE
THAT HE'D MADE OF HIS LIFE AND
ENDED UP BLOWING OUT HIS BRAINS,
NONETHELESS.
AND ON THAT UNHAPPY NOTE, I SEE
I'VE REACHED, UH, THE LIMIT OF
MY TIME, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

[Long applause]

Watch: Ian Buruma on Death of Metropolis