Wednesday, March 9, 2016

From Falsity Everything Follows: Readings and Thoughts about Bitter Lake

From Falsity Everything Follows:  
Readings and Thoughts about Bitter Lake

About the Documentary:

“Bitter Lake” is an alternative media documentary directed by Adam Curtis and it  was first aired at BBC iplayer on January 25th, 2015. The documentary talks about the relationship of Afghanistan with the West represented by USA, Middle East represented by Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

The Origin

The West, as most of civilizations, is striving on to depict the version of reality that it wants to spread over the world. A reality that is, to no surprise, adapted to fit the framework of the millennium objectives many USA-related institutions are tinkering with. Within the context of this legacy,  Adam laboured to do that in a form of new model of hybrid reality TV show he called Bitter Lake that represents Great Bitter Lake, a site where The King Abdulaziz met with Roosevelt in the aftermath of Second World War. In Bitter Lakes, Adam Curtis tries to approach Afghanistan affair from an existentialist way where the world that affects our thinking is no longer meaningful and we, the viewers, doers, onlookers, suffer from that disorientation on deciding what is true and what is not. In this project, he also sets aims to infantilize the reductionists outcomes who simplify world’s problems; he does that by offering a mesmerising music background  and offering a novel paradigm of power play dynamics.

Existentialist Heroes

No sense.jpg
❝I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world❞_Albert Camus

Adam stated in the beginning of the  documentary that “we live in a world that nothing makes any sense”. By that, he sets off his journey in dissecting and musing these existentialist heroes:

  • Saudi Arabia that was depicted as irrational, seeking out wealth with all the means, and also in the setting of the documentary it was pejoratively described as a country that is asking more than it can hold. This can be felt when the reporter challengingly addressed the Then Minister of Oil as he said that “  the developing nations like you “ hinting that the country’s economy is entrenched in petrodollar dynamics but has  neither technology nor audacity to stand near or against USA. Saudi Arabia was in these times  a key role in Middle East rest and unrest and it was also aware of its confidence that can be induced in the confident smile and dramatic pauses of Sheikh Zaki Yamani when he commented on the matter of sudden raise of petrol as a reaction to Arab/Israeli conflict “ well, you have to adapt to the new circumstances and we have to sit and talk seriously”.

sit and talk.jpg
A snap from the documentary: Sheikh Zaki Yamani
❝you have to adapt to the new circumstances and we have to sit and talk seriously❞

  • The second character is Afghanistan in which westernization has affected society even at lower levels of thoughts. This can be seen in money that have been naively or deliberately pumped into the country that only turned  a solution into a problem in which Afghanistan stands as model for international aids that  didn’t only corrupt individuals but government institutions. In one his interviews Hafizullah Amin, the fourth president of Afghanistan reflected this status quo when he  replied to the ex-Foreign Minister of the Ex-Soviet Union on reaction to his abusement of power against his opponents “ Did Stalin make revolution in white gloves?”. Given these symbiotic failures, there had to be an antagonist where hero  soldiers can be conjured up in heroism and where a story can temporarily makes a sense.Taliban was born. Adam anachronistically gives us a puzzle of cuts and edits expecting us to restore the events of Afghanistan. This underlies an unclaimed truth that The West may have perceived  Afghan people as some second people who are  embryonic development, or rather it tries to proselytize them in the western thinking model that can be seen in the scene of the art instructor teaching participants the importance of a piece that belongs to Duchamp (the fountain). A wrong piece for the wrong people in the wrong time that even if it can explain the origin of the world, it only represents a perception of a western world for these people.  The prejudices given by the west towards Afghanistan were cleared out by the journalist who visited them as she confessed  :”My heart was given to these people who believe so much in their God”,Joanne Herring who ,in an interview, said about the Middle East “ You don’t know until you have lived in that country”

Mirror of Joanne.jpg

❝You don’t know until you have lived in that country❞

  • The third main character in Bitter lake is USA that allegedly, according to Adam, decided to change the world and worse to do what Ronald Reagan said when he was running for presidency in 1979: “we have it in our power to begin the world over again. The quest in the exotic Middle East was not free from blunders committed by the US politicians who funded what would be their enemy in the upcoming years. Tapping into that, Hilary Clinton clearly brought it to the spot when said:”the people we are fighting today, we funded 20 years ago”

Subjective denominations:

According to the documentary, among the plans of Saudi Arabia was to take away the dangerous fundamentalist members toward Afghanistan. While this maybe true to some extent; however, the argumentation Adam has based his premises upon fell to some extent in the realm of  arbitrariness and  it was rather one-sided historical narrative. Certainly, we can see that in the problem we encounter at the coherence of this jigsaw narrative. This was corroborated by the scenes accompanied by acid  music that reminiscent of seventieth science fiction movies surreal soundtracks along with other music of minor scale to reflect the tragical sad and the incompleteness as these scales are meant to be used in such moods. Interestingly, what you feel is that you’re in a hypnosis session with this kind of music. The tone of the documentary is of dystopian nature that reflects that everything is a complete fiasco and nothing can be restored.This blend of existentialism, acid music, and  mysticness have something in common with the novel of Paulo Coelho “ the Zahir” where the protagonist goes on a global mission to search for his lost soul and lost beloved one and the irony strikes here as the name of the Shah  Zahir, the Then king of Afghanistan, was in fact  the first brick of Kajaki dam project.

Chronicles of Wars: Pride and Prejudice

By going forward, the documentary tucks in the war chronicles and Adam at the very beginning takes sides by catalysing some people in calling them insurgents which  is really biased because it only reflects one-sided view since unless corroborating  arguments are present there is no way to know  whether to label them insurgents or a freedom fighters. After that, we move on to another scene where soldiers are doing ritual-like act and confessing to each other about going against the order and unmercifully  killing villagers where the quantity doesn’t matter for them since they are only “a bunch of people;  there, the human has no value but it’s rather a number in a digital system. Worse than that is when one of them praised them by saying “we really need born killers like you”, killers who can be bred up by psychoanalytical tricks.

Going back to Saudi Arabia, Adam depicts in one the videos when The king of Saudi Arabia discusses with Roosevelt saying  that he wanted technology and money and stressed that his faith is to be left alone. At these times, Saudi Arabia was ( as it is still) in its crazed rush to be armed and one of the most records for that  was what Thatcher announced what would be known as the biggest arm deal in history for Saudi Arabia, that did but nothing with these arms it bought thanks to The King’s wisdom. A king who, according to historical records and archives mentioned in the documentary, was brought to royal seat by warriors whom he has ruthlessly killed later on.

At some point in the documentary, Adam strikes us with his conspiracy flavor twists, by creating the image of Afghanistan, a pandora’s box that hides more than it reveals, a wilderness of mirrors where you think that you can see everything surrounding you but in fact nothing can be seen with your bare eyes. You can compare this to what literary critics call it recognition a sudden frightening moment of discovery of ourselves.This is what Adam was likely trying to depict In one of the footages by creating a link between Solaris the movie and the US soldier who was frightened by a some kids sitting while he was walking by. He goes on with his hidden messages when he commented on the visit of Afghan King to UK that  “in the world there are kings and queens and where dogs behaved obediently…”. This secrets away a statement that commoners are supposed, by and large, to blindly, whether  with or without their will, obey the order of the Elites in the crown, a sect that processes the world world differently and they may not necessarily compete for money since they already have the keys, but they are likely to have a lust for power and control.

The dove and the Kid

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Figure 01: a snap from the documentary

In the footage of the soldier who miraculously found a dove which is a sign of peace, the dove was in fact a little that could barely fly. This scene rhymes with the old Arabic Muwashah about love “ like a bird in the hands of a boy; neither the boy feels sorry for her nor the bird has wings to fly away” . After flashingly ending that scene, Adam travels to Russia and starts talking about its involvement in Afghanistan affairs although in this documentary it was not really among the main characters. Here I wonder whether Afghanistan was the main reason for the Soviet Union to fall apart since what they thought to be their last sanctuary of building up their communist model nation was in fact the dumping pool where they witnessed the beginning of their end and maybe manipulated by the effects of the Afghan ocean as it was the case in Solaris the movie. This was elaborately expressed by a  Russian reporter who  framed it as follows:“ we thought that we were civilizing a backward country, but we rarely stopped to think how Afghanistan would influence us”.
Adam also ventured in claiming that Medresa’s were very closed to Wahhabism, but the fact that Wahabi disciples condemned them to be going astray and accordingly calling them anathema.

Politicians Surrender to Bankers

Bitter Lake is in fact a chaotic world Adam Curtis decided to draw for himself and wanted us to see it through bird eye view. It is a way of expressing his understanding of what surrounds him and his perception of Politics where he wanted to convey the message that once the politicians gave away their power to the banks they stopped being able to change the world even they wanted to do. Thus, you cannot change the world when you don’t have the financial power to do that.

Is Bitter Lake Still Bitter?

Bitter than bitter.jpg
❝What we don’t know keeps hurting us❞

By the end of the documentary Adam leaves us with some rhetorical thoughts and wonders of whether America has faced the same ocean Russians have faced before in Afghanistan, a dumping pool that lures great powers into undermining the effect of such country that would affect them in a way they don’t realize in the short term; Russia is an example. What we can imply is that Adam took the multi-layered perception of enmity that Afghan have adopted,  seeing the world as a bunch of interrelated choices that affect each other. While the west perceived the conflict in Afghanistan as a binary basis in which the problems of the world are merely a matter of right and wrong, locals and people in afghanistan perceived it as a matrix where right answers are not the one that are true but the one that are useful. Russians and Americans know for sure that there is something out there boiling and mumbling, yet they didn’t find the apparatus to detect it or tame it.  
Britain went there with a false knowledge, Russia was there with a false hope, USA was also there with false claim; they all went there starting from falsity, false premises; however, all of them were not really there; and therefore, Bitter Lake is still bitter, simply because from falsity anything  follows(ex falso quodlibet).

What are the stories that await us?


1. "2014 Texas Women's Hall of Fame Joanne Herring - YouTube." 2014. 19 Feb. 2016 <>.

2. "11/13/1979 Speech - Ronald Reagan Presidential Library." 2016. 18 Feb. 2016 <>.

3.  "Hillary Clinton : We created Al-Qaeda - YouTube." 2011. 23 Feb. 2016 <>.

4. "Kajaki Dam - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." 2011. 18 Feb. 2016 <>.

5. "لطفي بوشناق - لو كان لي قلبان/ يا من هواه أعزه وأذلني ..." 2010. 19 Feb. 2016 <>.


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