Over the past few weeks, a number of prominent people have called for Pervez Musharraf to “take off his uniform”:
â€œThe President will call on President Musharraf to take off the uniform as he said he would do.â€ â€“ Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, Nov. 5
â€˜â€™My message was that we believe strongly in elections, and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform.’â€™ â€“ President Bush, Nov. 7
â€œHe was willing to take off the uniform, he said, and have a civilian government.â€ â€“ Former Senator Fred Thomspon, â€œMeet the Press,â€ Nov. 4
â€œThe overarching concern is making sure President Musharraf takes off his uniform and holds elections as soon as possible,â€ â€“ Geoff Morell, Pentagon spokesman, Nov. 13
â€œWho cares if General Musharraf takes off his uniform? Itâ€™s time for him to go.â€ â€“ Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, Nov. 7 (source)
It’s highly tempting to read all these people demanding that Musharraf take off his uniform slightly… against the grain?
On the one hand, it makes me think of this; only too obvious.
On the other, I can’t also help but think of the French philosopher Roland Barthes, who wrote a famous essay on the art of the striptease (and how it implicates the spectator) in 1957:
It is only the time taken in shedding clothes which makes voyeurs of the public; but here, as in any mystifying spectacle, the decor, the props and the stereotypes intervene to contradict the initially provocative intention and eventually bury it in insignificance: evil is advertised the better to impede and exorcize it. French striptease [and Pakistani politics] seems to stem from what I have earlier called ‘Operation Margarine’, a mystifying device which consists in inoculating the public with a touch of evil, the better to plunge it afterwards into a permanently immune Moral Good: a few particles of eroticism, highlighted by the very situation on which the show is based, are in fact absorbed in a reassuring ritual which negates the flesh as surely as the vaccine or the taboo circumscribe and control the illness or the crime. (link)
(Anyone else have Musharraf jokes… or references to French theory… to share?)