The Full Mushy, or The President Has No Clothes

Over the past few weeks, a number of prominent people have called for Pervez Musharraf to “take off his uniform”:

“The President will call on President Musharraf to take off the uniform as he said he would do.” – Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, Nov. 5

‘’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.’’ – President Bush, Nov. 7

“He was willing to take off the uniform, he said, and have a civilian government.” – Former Senator Fred Thomspon, “Meet the Press,” Nov. 4

“The overarching concern is making sure President Musharraf takes off his uniform and holds elections as soon as possible,” – Geoff Morell, Pentagon spokesman, Nov. 13

“Who cares if General Musharraf takes off his uniform? It’s time for him to go.” – 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?)

13 thoughts on “The Full Mushy, or The President Has No Clothes

  1. It takes the ingenuity of an advanced French intellectual to philosophize edifyingly about the striptease–and many other things which simpler folk take at face value. The commonsense English temperament is quite different. Dr. Johnson’s response to Bishop Berkeley’s theory of idealism (that objects do not exist and are a mental construction) was to kick at a stone and say, “I refute him thus, Sir.”

  2. as always, mark twain as something to say on this:) (whether one agrees with him or not).

    “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

  3. Got an SMS joke a while back:-) Begum Musharraf is shocked and concerned about Benazir Bhutto’s statement which goes somewhat like this – ” I am ready to accept Musharraf without his uniform!”

  4. 2 “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society”

    Mahaveer wore no clothes. Gandhi wore little. Not in the same league but lingerie models have a lot of influence on one half of the human populace ;)

    3 Hilarious :P

  5. now that Mush is shirt(uniform)-less will he add to Ms. Bhutto’s strength?

    No, nothing changes. The state of emergency continues, the sham supreme court continues — nothing is really going to be different.

    Neither Bhutto nor Sharif have a chance. If they condemn Musharraf too stridently, or attempt mass protests, he’ll shut them down. If they don’t condemn him very strongly (or express a willingness to ‘compromise’), they become his puppets. I’m now beginning to think they walked into a kind of political trap when they came back.

    Which is partly why I find this whole spectacle of “removing the uniform” kind of comical. It’s black comedy, to be sure (people are still in prison; some of them have been tortured, as Anna’s post on Monday discussed).

  6. “Mahaveer wore no clothes. Gandhi wore little. Not in the same league but lingerie models have a lot of influence on one half of the human populace ;)

    hence the disclaimer “whether one agrees with him or not” :)

    then there’s the other side of the coin: “sometimes the clothes do not make the man (or woman).”

  7. As Americans or Indians, why do we care? It’s all the same to us whoever is at the napak helm.

    As Americans, the “War On Terror” will continue.

    As Indians, the proxy war (jihad) in newly Islamic territories in India will continue.

  8. No, nothing changes.

    As NPR was discussing this morning, he has made vulnerable to coup d’etat from middle-higher military. He given up his position of influence over them in some ways. Also, religious hardliners in Pakistan may doubt his ability to get military do his bidding no questions asked.

  9. Slightly off-topic, but some right-wing forum nuts noted a great facial resemblance of Nawaz Sharif and Al Gore. Just imagine, Nawaz Sharif and Al Gore, TWINS!!!

    I see a movie here …”The Peshawarian Candidate”. His handler whispers “onion kulcha” in his ear and he goes on a hippy slappin rampage through Berkeley

  10. he has made vulnerable to coup d’etat from middle-higher military.

    So nothing really changes – Pakistan will be ruled by the military.

  11. Okay, I don’t have my copy of David Lodge’s Small World with me now. But if I did I would quote Morris Zapp’s analogy between striptease as the perpetual deferment of the spectator’s pleasure and the perpetual deferment of meaning in structuralism (one decoding is another encoding)and that Musharraf’s struggle-filled disrobing is but another robing.