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Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Listen! What's that sound, that distant rumble? Could that be, finally, the turning of the worm?
That's Martin Amis's long and digressive Observer essay, "The Age of Horrorism". Touching on a variety of seemingly-unrelated topics (his daughter, an abandoned novella, the liquor laws of Greeley, Colorado in 1949), it has the feel of a long walk in a meadow with a vicar who reveals, in between pointing out the interesting flora and fauna, that he has become a Moonie. (Or a Muslim, Mormon, atheist, Zoroastrian, neo-pagan...whatever you find most shocking. Or a Christian, for the truly jaded.)
Perhaps that's the reason for the nature walk, to reassure you that he hasn't gone off his rocker, that he's still the same thoughtful, tolerant, gently-contemptuous, fashionably-ironic fellow we've always known. It's just that these chaps want to kill us all, you see. And for the most illiberal of reasons! True, the Americans are ghastly, but these Muslim chappies are even more ghastly, if you can credit such a thing.
On his rambles, Amis touches on something we of a more direct (and ghastly) nature have realized (and said) for years: that terrorism is less a product of American foreign policy than of the pathologies of the Islamic world.
(Note the distinction between "Islamists" and "jihadis", suggesting that the latter are more numerous than the former.)
And (regarding suicide bombings during the "Second Intifada"):
(Amis's quotes are from Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism.)
These are ideas that his Guardian audience would reject, coming from neocon warmongers like Bush. Will they take them any better from kindly padre Amis?
Perhaps they will, since he washes these bitter truths down with a few teaspoonfuls of sugar in the form of obligatory genuflection to the Other...
...swipes at the vulgar cowboys we are saddled with...
...and ritual self-flagellation:
These reminders may comfort those who would flee from sharing any cause with the "mortifying" Bush.
However, this essay will likely give his reluctant audience the wrong ideas. His recounting of Sayyid Qutb's exile to the bubbling fleshpot of Greeley, Colorado is fascinating, for those who don't know the story. (Short version: Qutb decided America was Satan at a dance in a church basement in Greeley in 1949, which was at that time a dry town.) While Amis is no doubt correct that the horror of the female is one of the major psychoses of the Muslim (more likely, the Arab) world, his history will probably give unneeded support to those who believe that Bush's nasty bellicosity results from his unsatisfactory sex life. (And, yes, I have read lefty blogs where this was seriously suggested.)
He also blames religion, all religion, not just Islam or its extreme forms. I might be on board with that, if not for the previous example of fascism and Communism.
Anyway, it's possible this is the first step to at least some of those who claim to cherish liberty to wake the hell up and start defending it, if only with words.
The other day, Scrappleface had a post on ABC's special on the fiftieth anniversary of 9/11. At the risk of spoiling the joke:
But that's not how it's going to go.
No, in 2051 9/11 will be remembered as a heroic time when the entire country woke up to the peril, thanks to the pleading of liberal intellectuals who alone recognized the barbaric, implacable nature of Islamofascism. The country rallied behind the President, the news media supported his policies, and patriotic celebrities cheered up the troops and the public. And so America united to whip yet another totalitarian ideology, and gained the eternal gratitude of the world.
(Speaking of implausible alternate histories, see here.)