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The Cupolog

In north america to promote my first book

Leaving Istanbul, Leaving the Muslim World
Massive residential complexes rose into the skies as endless rows of construction cranes hung overhead as we left Istanbul for Europe. Until that moment, I had thought such large-scale development only existed in China, but then again, Istanbul’s population rose by one million in the last four years and nearly doubled in the last 20 years.
With Istanbul booming and Turkey poised for a leadership position in the Middle East, one is compelled to wonder what the future holds for the war-torn region. After spending time in the Muslim world and trying to define my experience on the Syrian border, I found some valuable insight on the “war on terror” by Mehran Kamrava in his book The Modern Middle East: A Political History Since The First World War. I provide an excerpt below.
Mehran Kamrava: At least among a significant segment of the population, hopelessness and despair abound. Add to this the crushing poverty that pervades most urban centers of the Middle East and unresponsive and autocratic rulers, and a fertile breeding ground emerges for extremist ideologies and movements. Political groups that preach and practice the most brutal forms of violence – Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, the Gama’a in Egypt, the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, and the followers of Osama bin Laden in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere – are a product of, and are in turn fueled by, the dire socioeconomic and political predicaments of their larger environments. For these and other similar groups, the potential pool of recruits is endless. The less a person has to look forward to in this life, the more likely it is that he or she will fall for promises of eternal glory in the afterlife. That such promises are based on blatant corruptions of Islamic precepts matters little to those who are desperate for quick remedies. The yearning for immediate action leaves little room for reasoned discourse over Islam or any other ideology. The realities are harsh, and state terror is ever-present. The best solution, the only solution, is to strike hard at the state or, better yet, at its powerful patron, the United States.
Suicide bombers, plane hijackers, and self-described holy warriors do not come out of thin air. Nor are they, despite what some in the West believe, manifestations of an ongoing or impending “clash of civilizations.” And again, despite what some in the West think, they do not represent supposedly innate violent tendencies within Islam. For a fringe but vocal minority in the Middle East, terror has become the only viable outlet. It has become an instrument of both political expression and self-actualization.  The reason it often assumes an Islamic tinge is that the enemy – that is, the state – is secular and non-Islamic.  The politicization of Islam dates back to the 1960s and 1970s, when one secular leader after another turned out to be corrupt, repressive, and incompetent. The state’s continued repression of Islam, as in Egypt and Algeria, or its shameless manipulation of the religion, as in Saudi Arabia, has only further inflamed those whose religious sensibilities are offended. These individuals have in turn manipulated Islam for their own purposes, this time toward violent, antistate ends.
The manifestations of political violence in the Middle East are often both dramatic and tragic. And as demonstrated by the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., on September 11, 2001, they now have the potential to spill over into other parts of the world. But the problems that gave rise to the violence in the first place are rooted deep in the politics and economies of the region. Waging “war on terrorism” must entail addressing the economic and political problems that give rise to the likes of Osama bin Laden. Unleashing the full force of the state to combat terrorism, and even worse the full might of the American army, is only likely to perpetuate the cycle of violence.
Photo: Istanbul, Turkey - © Diego Cupolo 2013

Leaving Istanbul, Leaving the Muslim World

Massive residential complexes rose into the skies as endless rows of construction cranes hung overhead as we left Istanbul for Europe. Until that moment, I had thought such large-scale development only existed in China, but then again, Istanbul’s population rose by one million in the last four years and nearly doubled in the last 20 years.

With Istanbul booming and Turkey poised for a leadership position in the Middle East, one is compelled to wonder what the future holds for the war-torn region. After spending time in the Muslim world and trying to define my experience on the Syrian border, I found some valuable insight on the “war on terror” by Mehran Kamrava in his book The Modern Middle East: A Political History Since The First World War. I provide an excerpt below.

Mehran Kamrava: At least among a significant segment of the population, hopelessness and despair abound. Add to this the crushing poverty that pervades most urban centers of the Middle East and unresponsive and autocratic rulers, and a fertile breeding ground emerges for extremist ideologies and movements. Political groups that preach and practice the most brutal forms of violence – Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, the Gama’a in Egypt, the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, and the followers of Osama bin Laden in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere – are a product of, and are in turn fueled by, the dire socioeconomic and political predicaments of their larger environments. For these and other similar groups, the potential pool of recruits is endless. The less a person has to look forward to in this life, the more likely it is that he or she will fall for promises of eternal glory in the afterlife. That such promises are based on blatant corruptions of Islamic precepts matters little to those who are desperate for quick remedies. The yearning for immediate action leaves little room for reasoned discourse over Islam or any other ideology. The realities are harsh, and state terror is ever-present. The best solution, the only solution, is to strike hard at the state or, better yet, at its powerful patron, the United States.

Suicide bombers, plane hijackers, and self-described holy warriors do not come out of thin air. Nor are they, despite what some in the West believe, manifestations of an ongoing or impending “clash of civilizations.” And again, despite what some in the West think, they do not represent supposedly innate violent tendencies within Islam. For a fringe but vocal minority in the Middle East, terror has become the only viable outlet. It has become an instrument of both political expression and self-actualization.  The reason it often assumes an Islamic tinge is that the enemy – that is, the state – is secular and non-Islamic.  The politicization of Islam dates back to the 1960s and 1970s, when one secular leader after another turned out to be corrupt, repressive, and incompetent. The state’s continued repression of Islam, as in Egypt and Algeria, or its shameless manipulation of the religion, as in Saudi Arabia, has only further inflamed those whose religious sensibilities are offended. These individuals have in turn manipulated Islam for their own purposes, this time toward violent, antistate ends.

The manifestations of political violence in the Middle East are often both dramatic and tragic. And as demonstrated by the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., on September 11, 2001, they now have the potential to spill over into other parts of the world. But the problems that gave rise to the violence in the first place are rooted deep in the politics and economies of the region. Waging “war on terrorism” must entail addressing the economic and political problems that give rise to the likes of Osama bin Laden. Unleashing the full force of the state to combat terrorism, and even worse the full might of the American army, is only likely to perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Photo: Istanbul, Turkey - © Diego Cupolo 2013

Hollywood: Terrorismo Cultural
Buenos Aires, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2012

Hollywood: Terrorismo Cultural

Buenos Aires, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2012

Back in the U.S.S.A
First thing I see is a homeless man with a pillow preaching about September 11th in the middle of a bus station.
"I’m not the problem, you’re all the problem," he said. "If you were paying attention before the first plane hit the tower you would’ve known it was coming."
He then raised his right hand in the air and rambled about flying houses and clergy men.
South Station, Boston
© Diego Cupolo 2011

Back in the U.S.S.A

First thing I see is a homeless man with a pillow preaching about September 11th in the middle of a bus station.

"I’m not the problem, you’re all the problem," he said. "If you were paying attention before the first plane hit the tower you would’ve known it was coming."

He then raised his right hand in the air and rambled about flying houses and clergy men.

South Station, Boston

© Diego Cupolo 2011

Day 33 – Part 2: Sand to Snow in Three Hours

Inside the airport it was all business. Remove you shoes, your belt and your dignity. The security people wanted me to go through the full-body scanner, but I opted for the pat down.

It was my first time. How exciting.

I was ordered to stand on a rubber mat with two footprints on it. The TSA officer spread my legs and nervously explained everything he would be groping before any actual groping occurred. What a shitty job.

He ran his fingers between my balls and my thighs. Both sides.

“Sorry, this is just procedure,” he said.

“It’s alright, your hands do less harm to my balls than that human-sized microwave over there,” I said.

I passed inspection like a Grade A mule and was the last person to board the plane. I looked at my ticket and realized my seat was in first class. American Airlines must have made a mistake.

I sat down in a beige leather chair wide enough for two people. We took off smoothly and I was showered with complimentary beer, wine, salad, tortellini, chocolate chip cookies, warm nuts and warm towels. The coach class passengers got nothing.

Classism. Divide and conquer.

I spent the rest of the trip looking through Sky Mall’s latest edition. Many items were geared towards pets. For only $70 you could order an Ultrasonic Barking Dog Deterrent that claimed to “quickly and humanely restore peace and quiet for those vexed by dog’s barking.” The device was disguised as a birdhouse that you put in the yard and emits ultrasonic tones when it detects dog barks.

There was also a $400 dog cage for sale. They called it a Luxury Pet Residence, “masterfully assembled from fine mahogany-finished hardwood … this furniture-quality residence satisfies you pet’s need for comfort and privacy. Outfitted with integrated roller shades on three sides, raised base to protect floors, removable PVC tray, and washable microfiber and orthopedic foam mattress.”

The magazine is always good for a laugh, but it’s there because someone is actually buying that crap.

We landed at JFK airport at 5 p.m. It was dark, cold and everything was covered in snow. I didn’t have much to return to. No bed. No apartment. No job. 

My stay would be temporary.

© Diego Cupolo 2011