what the fundamentalist believes
January 7, 2015, 9:04 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , ,
Mitra Tabrizian | Iran/England | City, London 2008

Mitra Tabrizian

The most dangerous fundamentalism today is banking. Nevertheless, there are other fundamentalisms that harm us, as there always will be: religious, political, racial etc. Salman Rushdie has a beef with the religious variety; he wrote a book which caused a fatwa and sent him underground for at least a decade. He wrote the sentences below.

Fundamentalism comes from fear and increases it. The fundamentalists I have known are fearful; some see the world – and themselves – as hopelessly sinful, and act out of this corrupted, helpless milieu. They learn codas and truths – which are perfectly useful for moderate lives – but eventually make them too inflexible, too hard, to be useful for real life with real living people. The effects of fundamentalists in our communities are legion. They’re not just killing with bullets. The net effect is reduction of freedom and joy. We can all testify no doubt – to a different degree than Mr. Rushdie – to this loss.

The solution is to allow joy to reenter our lives; joy will stamp out fear; joy is our normal state of being which has been usurped by fear. Rushdie makes a short list to start us off below; it’s expandable of course: don’t believe what they tell you, love the world, act out, dance, say what you think, wear what you like, demand justice, indulge, flirt.

Here is Rushdie:

The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute certainties, while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences. To prove him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong. We must agree on what matters: kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches, disagreement, cutting-edge fashion, literature, generosity, water, a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources, movies, music, freedom of thought, beauty, love. These will be our weapons. Not by making war but by the unafraid way we choose to live shall we defeat them. How to defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized. Don’t let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.

Salman Rushdie


3 Comments so far
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Great entry! I have been teaching youth for a while now that philosophizing is “the willingness to be uncertain and the will to ask questions.” This view keeps us open to the very thinking that gives rise to scientific knowledge, artistic creativity, and profound spirituality.

Fundamentalism flies in the face of openness. It shuts down and–as you rightly say–does so by way of fearfulness. As that little green philosopher once said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Or to borrow a bit from the somewhat less aphoristic philosophy of Henri Bergson, fundamentalism can be understood as one of those vicious reductionisms that closes down our empathetic/sympathetic responses. Specifically, with no ability to put myself in the place of the other, I cannot be humble. Getting to humility is a “qualitative progress.” In such an open up, the suffering of others becomes my own possibility. Humility ultimately allows me to acknowledge my uncertainty. Being uncertain, I do not resent possibilities posed by others. I go through a “transition from repugnance to fear, from fear to sympathy, and from sympathy itself to humility.”

Comment by Keith Wayne Brown

A lot to think about here thanks! I’ve not read Bergson but will now that you mention him. Humility is difficult to pull off in the neoliberal age. You get eaten alive. But I agree an essential state to reorder yourself and to escape fear and anger.

Comment by Peter Rudd

Reblogged this on Reason & Existenz and commented:
Fundamentalism: A closing down that separates us from the ability to be humble toward our fellows.

Comment by Keith Wayne Brown

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