A reader asks, “Is anyone else getting bored with Iraq and Islam?”
I am. I am getting bored, quite bored, with Iraq and Islam. In fact, I’ve long been bored silly with the whole business of Iraq and Islam. It is not terribly interesting in itself, except as a case study offering a rich variety of different kinds of willful ignorance, sentimentalism, and avoidance of the obvious — as well as of sheer stupidity in so many different, and differently unappealing, forms. It must have been the same for all kinds of people who encountered similar phenomena, although perhaps it was not boring for Winston Churchill to have to again and again say the obvious things (or obvious now) about Adolf Hitler, about the Storm Troopers, about Nationalsozialismus, and about how Mein Kampf was meant seriously and should not be dismissed.
Or it may not have been similarly boring for all those who wrote about Japanese militarism and emperor-worship, that is Kodo, in Japan beginning in the 1920s, with the full menace already clear to some by 1930: one Western student of the subject laid it all out, and even predicted the exact places the Japanese would attack.
And don’t you think the members of Giustizia e Liberta would have preferred to do other things in southern France then have to worry about being picked off by the secret police of Il Granitico, with those endless harangues matched only by the crazed speeches of Hitler? Imagine having to watch those speeches, or having to read anything written by either one, or having to solemnly study, for example, the kind of thing Kremlinologists used to have to study: what went on at the First Party Congress in Minsk, and what Comrade Lenin wrote about Renegade Kautsky, and when Comrade Stalin first started airbrushing that wrecker Bukharin out of those photographs of the Soviet leadership.
Who in his right mind could stand it then? Who in his right mind can stand it now?
And why would we want to follow, day by day, what general or admiral in the Japanese Imperial War Office is in, or out, or on his way up, or on his way down, and the ideological origins of Emperor-worship and bushido-cults and all the rest, when one would much rather, if one were reporting on Japan in those days, write about the cherry-tree ceremony, or Murasaki Shikibu, or possibly that nice exhibit of wazikashi blades in the Japanese War Ministry’s museum?
We’re all bored, just as bored, even more bored, than you are with Islam, and Jihad, and with having to listen to solemn parsing of speeches by Bin Laden, or Ahmadinejad, or Mahathir Mohammed, or with having to analyze some promise made by Hosni Mubarak or Pervez Musharraf or Mahmoud Abbas. Why should primitive peoples with primitive belief-systems take up our time? Because they can. Because they must. Because the Western world made a big mistake, over the past four decades, and now it is paying for it. And the Western world will, if something is not done, pay much more for that big mistake of letting into its midst, at the moment of maximum sentimentality and softness in the collective Western brain, people who do not and cannot wish that Western world, its legal and political institutions, well.
And politics, just writing about anything involving large numbers of people — so that one writes, actually writes and can’t quite believe it, such phrases as “the Iraqis” or “the Arabs” or “the French” or “the Israelis” or “the Hindus.” One writes, and then still has to look at oneself in the mirror to keep from cutting oneself when shaving. One simply has to agree to the rules of the public game, in an age of the degradation of the democratic dogma. What else can one do? No one in the world could be as bored with Islam as I am, not even you, given my natural bent and interests and hierarchy of values. But it has to be discussed, until enough people understand what the whole thing is all about, and by helping them make sense, they can be helped to come to their senses.