Exile and the prophetic: Google Palestine

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This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Google has recognized Palestine.  The virtual state is now on Google’s virtual map. 

Perhaps I misread the Arab League, Israel, Washington triangulation as all fluff and unreal.  If Google is on your side, who can be against you?

Let’s not forget the United Nations and almost every country in the world.  You’d think a real Palestinian state isn’t far behind.

Meanwhile, American retailers scramble to disconnect from the horror in Bangladesh.  Every year or so, the spectacle of disassociation occurs.  One morning we awake to find the disaster simply relocated somewhere else.  Or never went anywhere.

Now the problem is retailers are scrambling to get out of Bangladesh.  According to reports over 14 million families depend on the garment industry.  What in the world will Bangladesh do if it doesn’t supply the affluent with cheap labor?

But with all the yelping among the affluent for worker protection in countries like Bangladesh, let’s get real.  Organic food connoisseurs and Fair Trade supporters – Google explorers like us– fool ourselves when we down the average Wal-Mart shopper.  For some reason, we think we live apart from the masses of unwilling dupes.  We don’t. 

If you think the whole thing is American, that’s foolish too.  Like all developing economies in history, the rise of China depends on exploiting its own people and resources around the world.

Remember the exposes last year of Chinese iPhone workers just as we were beatifying Steve Jobs?  My hunch is that the work goes on pretty much as it had.  With minor changes, it will be the same in Bangladesh.

Check out China in Africa.  They’re following the USAID model squared.  If you want to know what that portends for Africa, read Africa’s history over the last fifty years.

Think Google in China.  What difficulties Google has had dealing with the emerging global superpower.  Over the years, though, perhaps Google will help establish virtual freedom in China.  Modeling Palestine, the Chinese can be virtually free without having political freedom. 

The whole global system of exploitation is interconnected. Our cell phones and computers – Google Universe – are every bit as exploitive as the global clothing manufacturing business.

The choice we face is between a well-deserved cynicism and the struggle against the powers that be until the end. 

Though the decision seems easy enough to make, the casualty rate is high.  Even small victories are elusive.  When you’re on the other side of history you’re fated to swim against the tide.

That’s why almost every organizer projects the tide of history to be in the people’s favor.  There doesn’t seem to be any other option.  Why struggle if losing today means losing tomorrow?

Should we then celebrate Google’s recognition of Palestine as a small victory?  Sure, if we keep the distinction between virtual and real.  The problem is that the distinction is increasingly blurred.  In Google Universe there may be no distinction at all.

The debris of history keeps piling up – this was Walter Benjamin’s understanding of history.  What is our view of the long range.

If we place our faith in Google Universe, we’re in for a big surprise.  We might end up virtually recognized without a real place to stand.

Contra Google, Israel/Palestine is getting worse.  The various peace plans on the table are recipes for further displacement and war.

China is an ecological, industrial and exploitative nightmare. 

Bangladesh is due for some retail window dressing.

Those on the side of justice and peace are not immune.  Just look at the internal struggles of justice and peace folks around the globe.  So many utilize sharp elbows to achieve higher positions and the prestige we criticize in others.  Or use distance and advantage to abandon our fellow justice seekers for the greener pastures of scratching someone else’s back.

C’est la vie!  It’s a dog eat dog world. 

We often embody the very kind of world we argue against.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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